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Required Behaviors – Culture

Elliott’s Four Absolutes, required for success in a role (any role, no matter the discipline), here is the list.

  • Capability (measured in Time Span)
  • Skill (technical knowledge and practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion (value for the work)
  • Required behaviors

Required behaviors, with three strings.

  • Contracted behaviors
  • Habits
  • Culture
  • Today is about required behaviors and culture.

    Culture is that unwritten set of rules that governs our required behaviors in the work that we do together. If the rules were written, that would be our standard operating procedures (SOPs). Culture is typically an unwritten set of rules, often more powerful that our SOPs.

    If there is a conflict between our SOPs and our culture, which wins? Culture wins every time.

    Culture is that behavior which is tolerated. I know we all think that culture is that lofty set of values like integrity and teamwork, but the baseline is what we tolerate. You stand for what you tolerate.

    It is what it is.

    Whether interviewing a candidate or coaching a teammate, have you ever hired anyone who had the capability for the role, possessed the skills, had interest and passion for the work, but they did not fit your culture? What happened?

    You either fired them, and they left.
    Or they quit, and they left.
    Or they quit, and they stayed.

Just Try Harder

Emily was nervous as she entered the classroom. She knew that I would not allow her to be a passive observer, but front and center in the crucible. I turned to greet the other folks streaming in.

“I would like everyone to meet Emily. She has an interesting problem at work. With our help, she is going to walk us through some solutions.” Emily looked at me sideways. It would take her a bit to trust this group.

Up at the front, Emily stood. “I really don’t know what kind of problem I have,” she started. “Our manufacturing line is not meeting its daily quota and the reject rate is at 11 percent.” Emily continued to describe the circumstances, considering morale, motivation and working conditions. Then the questions came from the group.

“Who decides the daily quota?”
“How is the daily target communicated to the line?”
“Who tracks the number of completed units?”
“How does the line know if they are falling short or getting ahead of the target?”

Emily responded crisply, “The daily quota is determined by the sales forecast and what we need in stock, but the people on the line don’t need to know that. They just need to build the units faster. When the QC people pick up the units for inspection at the end of the day, they count them and it’s on my report the next day.”

Ernesto raised his hand. “So, the line doesn’t know how far they missed Tuesday’s quota until Wednesday?”

“Not exactly,” Emily replied. “I don’t want to discourage them, so I just tell them they were a little short, that they are doing good job and to try harder. I am worried about morale getting lower.”

Ernesto tilted his head to directly engage Emily. “You are treating this issue as a morale problem. Morale is only a symptom. You have to treat the root cause of the problem, not the symptom.”

Randy dragged a chair up front for Emily to sit. We were going to be there a while.

What Do You Personally Know?

“Let’s talk about the truth,” I floated. “Your project manager told your ops manager that everyone on the team thinks he manipulated the schedule. Did the project manager speak on your behalf?”

“Well, he didn’t get my permission, but I sort of agreed with him,” Deana said.

“Tell me what your truth is about this project schedule. Tell me what you personally know happened. And, please, avoid talking on someone else’s behalf. Tell me what you personally know.”

“Well, everyone agrees we are behind schedule even though the schedule shows we are on-time.”

“How do you know that?”

“Everyone said it.” Deana was getting exasperated.

“I asked you to speak only for yourself, what do you personally know about the schedule?”

“I don’t really know anything about the schedule. I mean, I have a copy of the updated schedule, but I don’t know who updates it, or how often. And, I don’t visit the job-site, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge of progress.”

“What do you know, first-hand?” I pressed.

“Okay, I got a call from the client, and they were worried that we were behind schedule. That’s what I know, and I know that first hand,” Deana insisted.

“Now, tell me, as if I am the ops manager in front of everyone else in the meeting, about your phone call with the client. And, speak only for yourself.”

Deana took a breath. “I got a call from the client about the project schedule and we were all wondering…”

“Stop,” I interrupted. “Speak only for yourself. Try it again.”

Deana had to gather her thoughts. She slipped into “we” mode unconsciously. “Okay, I got a call from the client about the project schedule. The client told me she was worried and I am worried, too.”

“Keep going,” I prompted.

“What do you mean?” Deana thought she was finished. Off the hook.

“Tell me what you know, what is your truth about the project schedule. Start over.”

“I got a call from the client about the project schedule. The client told me she was worried and I am worried, too. I got a copy of the updated schedule, but I don’t know how it is updated or how often, so I can’t tell if we are really on schedule or if we are behind.”

“So, what was different about what you said compared to what the project manager said?”

“When the project manager said everyone on the team thought the ops manager manipulated the schedule, it sounded like an accusation. You made me speak for myself, so it sounded more like…” Deana paused to think. “It sounded more like a search for the truth.”

“So, the problem in the team has nothing to do with the schedule. It has to do with the way the team searches for the truth.”

States of Thinking – Cumulative

From the Ask Tom mailbag – Part 2 of 4

Cumulative State

  • S-I (1 day – 3 months) Declarative (Concrete)
  • S-II (3 months to 12 months) Cumulative (Concrete)
  • S-III (1 year to 2 years) Serial (Concrete)
  • S-IV (2 years to 5 years) Parallel (Concrete)

If declarative thinking cannot connect the dots, cumulative thinking can. Cumulative thinking sees patterns and makes connections. A cumulative thinker can learn, not only through trial and error (declarative), but through the documented experience of other people. This documented experience could be an article in a trade journal or magazine, a book, research on the internet or perhaps a conversation with a colleague.

Standard operating procedures (documented SOPs) can be a powerful source for cumulative problem solving. Given a problem to solve, a cumulative thinker can see the pattern in the problem, connect it to a documented best practice, problem solved.

This works really great, as long as we have solved the problem before and documented the solution. This is the land of best practices. Best practices is an S-II cumulative problem solving strategy.

But, there are some problems we have not solved, some problems we have not seen. The cumulative thinker wakes up one morning and sees not just the connection between two elements, but the cause and effect relationship between those elements, the emergence of serial thinking. -Tom

It’s Over, TRUMP WINS!

Earlier this year, two sharks entered the water, complete with the most sophisticated tracking ever witnessed by the human race. And sharks do what sharks do. We watched, and we wondered, and we watched some more. But it’s over and TRUMP WINS.


On Monday, Sept. 26, as the human candidates took the stage for their first debate, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) researchers starting tracking the Clinton Shark (motto – “Swimming Stronger Together”) and the Trump Shark (motto – “Mako America Great Again”) as they did what mako sharks do, they swam, like sharks.

After logging mile after mile from September 26 through noon, Fri. Nov. 4, 2016, the Trump Shark beat the Clinton Shark 652.44 miles to 510.07 miles. TRUMP WINS!

The project is the brain child of NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. They have a web-based tracking map so you can track each candidates surrogate shark throughout the race.

Florida has the largest reef system in the continental United States and the third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world. Last Friday, five universities met in Fort Lauderdale to create a new Marine Research Hub based in South Florida. #makoprediction is a project to draw attention to this conservation effort. And, to lighten things up a bit before everyone votes tomorrow. -Tom

Working Leadership Program Kicks Off Sep 9, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale

Sep 9, 2016 kicks off our next Working Leadership Series in Fort Lauderdale Florida. This program contains twelve modules in six classroom sessions. The program instructor will be Tom Foster (that’s me).  

Who Should Attend? – This program is designed for Stratum III and Stratum IV managers who are currently in leadership roles.

If you would like to pre-register for the program, use the Ask Tom link, tell me a little about yourself and we will add you to the pre-registration list.

Schedule – Curriculum details below.
Session 1 – Fri, Sep 8, 2016 – 1-4:30p Orientation – Role of the Manager – Time Management
Session 2 – Fri, Sep 16, 2016 – 1-4:30p Working Styles – Communication
Session 3 – Fri, Sep 23, 2016 – 1-4:30p Positive Reinforcement – Team Problem Solving
Session 4 – Fri, Sep 30, 2016 – 1-4:30p Planning – Delegation
Session 5 – Fri, Oct 7, 2016 – 1-4:30p Decision Making – Accountability
Session 6 – Thu, Oct 13, 2016 – 8:30a-12n Effective Meetings – Coaching

Location – All classes will be held at Banyan Air Services in Fort Lauderdale FL in the Sabal Palm Conference Room.
Banyan Air Services
5360 NW 20th Terrace
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309

Tuition – $1600 per participant. Vistage member companies receive a $100 discount per participant. This includes all books and participant materials.


Session One
Orientation. During the initial Session, participants will create both a company and a personal framework, setting expectations and direction for this program. Participants, through directed discussion, create the connection between the program course material and their day-to-day management challenges.

Role of the Manager. Introduces the distinction between supervisor and manager roles. Clarifies the specific goals necessary for effectiveness. This module creates the foundation on which rest of the course material builds. Incorporates source material from Requisite Organization – Elliott Jaques.

Communication. The largest challenge, for most managers, centers on issues of communication. This Session will introduce participants to a new level of conversational “reality.” Introduces the text, Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott, as reference material. (Text included as part of this program.)

Session Two
Working Styles.
 Participants will complete a DISC survey (DISC is an online instrument published by TTI) and report on their own identified strengths and working style.

Time Management. Introduces the textbook Getting Things Done by David Allen. (Text included as part of the program).

Session Three
Positive Reinforcement

This segment reviews the management research of Elliott Jaques and Abraham Maslow regarding “why people work.” Explores the role of positive reinforcement outlined in by Aubrey Daniels – Getting the Best Out of People.

Team Problem Solving. Expands Fierce Conversations to the group setting. Designed to move a group into “real work,” using a team problem solving model. Demonstrates how to build a team through problem solving.

Session Four
 This segment introduces a results-oriented planning model, based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which participants can quickly use in any situation where planning would be of benefit.

Delegation. Participants are introduced to a specific model of effective delegation. Most managers hold certain mental blocks to delegation that prevents them from using this powerful developmental tool. This delegation model challenges these mental blocks so the entire team, manager included, can benefit from delegation.

Session Five
Decision Making
. This segment introduces three decision models that participants can use to make decisions in specific circumstances. All models can be used in a team setting or for an individual decision.

Accountability Conversation. Introduces a results-oriented method to hold individuals and teams accountable for desired results. This combines concepts of Time Span, QQT Goals and Management Relationships.

Session Six
Effective Meetings.
 Moves from theory to the practical application of team dynamics. How to run a more effective meeting.

Coaching. This segment takes the communication models we have previously used and integrates them into a conversation specifically designed for coaching subordinates.

If you would like to pre-register for the program, use the Ask Tom link, tell me a little about yourself and we will add you to the pre-registration list.

Tom Foster will be the instructor for this program.

So, Easily Turned Away

“There must be a trick to hiring,” Janice announced. “My manager always seems to find good people.”

“You feel your manager is better at hiring than you are?” I wanted to know.

“Better track record. He only hires one or two people a year, and they seem to stick. They are really smart, know how to do the job from the first day, they are confident, in control. How does he find these people?” she grimaced. “I’ve tried, I know how hard it is.”

“Have you ever asked him?”

“Yes,” Janice explained. “He just grins, says I will catch on, and then leaves me to twist in the wind.”

“Oh, really?”

“Once, just once, I wish he would take the time to help me. He just says, your team, your responsibility. But, he sees my struggle. He sees the turnover on my team.”

“So, you are so easily turned away?” I challenged.

“What?” Janice leaned back.

“You know, as a manager, that you are accountable for the output of your team. The same holds true for your manager. He is accountable for your output.”

What’s Your Point
When we understand that it is the manager accountable for the output of the team, everything changes. Janice’s manager is accountable for the quality of Janice’s decision, yet Janice is so easily turned away. This is a two way street. Janice needs help (we all need help and coaching makes us better) and she should actively seek that coaching from her manager.

“I need help. Here is the decision I am struggling with, and here are my two alternatives.” Powerful words.

All In a Row

This post was originally published Dec 23, 2005.

As Matthew looked across the manufacturing floor, the machines stood silent, the shipping dock was clear. Outside, the service vans were neatly parked in a row. Though he was the solitary figure, Matthew shouted across the empty space.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”

He reached for the switch. The mercury vapors went dark. He slid out the door and locked it behind.

We hope you all have a wonderful holiday. As we cross into our 12th year of publishing, we will take a short break. Management Blog will return on January 4, 2016.

Watch for the release of our online program – Hiring Talent 2016, scheduled for Jan 15, 2016.

How to Interview for Human Relations Skills

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Okay, we got integrity, customer care and individual initiative. The last value we want to interview for is our people. By that, I mean respect for others, support for others, collaboration and cooperation.

Same model as the past couple of days, interviewing for an attitude, a characteristic or soft skill.

  1. Identify the behavior connected to the attitude or characteristic.
  2. Identify a circumstance where we might see that behavior.
  3. Develop questions about the behavior.

Your description identifies some behavioral things, like collaboration, cooperation and support. That’s a good start. Your team can likely come up with more related behaviors to the value you have in mind.

Connected behaviors

  • Collaboration, or cooperation on a team
  • Support for another teammate
  • Respect for a manager, or respect for another team mate

Behavior – Collaboration or cooperation in a team.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project that required multiple steps and multiple people to solve a problem?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the problem?
  • How many steps involved?
  • How many people on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • To solve the problem, how did the team have to work together?
  • When the team worked well together, what happened?
  • When the team did not work well together, what happened?
  • When the team did not work well together, what was the impact on the project?
  • How did the team know when it was working well together and not so well together?
  • When the team did not work well together, what did it do to start working better together? What steps were taken? What was said?

Behavior – Supporting another teammate.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project where another team member was taking the lead, but some team members disagreed with the work method or sequence of work?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the purpose (goal, objective) of the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How many on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • What was the leader’s role on the project team?
  • What was the disagreement about?
  • What words were said?
  • Which side of the disagreement were you on?
  • How was the situation resolved?

Behavior – Respect for a manager, or respect for another team mate.

  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a project where you disagreed with the manager about a work method or sequence of work?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How many people on the project team?
  • What was your role on the project team?
  • What was the disagreement about?
  • How did you approach the disagreement?
  • What words were said?
  • How was the situation resolved?

You can interview for any attitude, characteristic or soft skill, as long as you can connect it to behaviors.

Who Drives Personnel Planning?

Management Blog is proud to announce its selection as Best HR Blog – 2015.

Loren was not happy. “I have a person on my team, a mid-level manager, who is always late on hiring. We get busy around here and she is always one person short. And we know ahead of time when we are going to be busy. But hiring is always something that can be put off, until it’s too late and you really need the person.”

“What do you think you should do?” I asked.

“I always end up jumping in. At the end of the day, I am the one who drives the recruiting process for her.”

“So, you are the manager-once-removed for the open position. You end up driving the process. Who makes the final hiring decision?”

Loren (MOR)
Hiring manager
Open role

Loren had a puzzled look on her face. “Yes, I am the manager-once-removed. But, the hiring manager has to make the decision. Sometimes, I will make a very strong recommendation, but the hiring manager ultimately has, at minimum, veto authority on the hire.”

“And, what if I told you that was the way it works best. You are the manager-once-removed. Your role is quarterback, the hiring manager makes the final decision. So, what are you frustrated about?”

“I guess I am not frustrated with being the quarterback. I am frustrated because the process is always late,” Loren realized.

“But, if you are truly the quarterback, you just have to get your hiring manager into the huddle earlier.”

“You are really piling on the sports analogy,” Loren complained.

“I know, I know, couldn’t help myself. Football starts soon,” I defended. “So, how could you get your hiring manager to the huddle sooner?”

Loren thought for a bit. “We know when we are going to be busy. Perhaps I should draw up a personnel staffing plan, that gives us lead times to hire, so we get the new hire out of training about the time we get busy.”