Monthly Archives: October 2019



For managers, positive communication is the key to building a comfortable work environment in which employees can produce their best work. When employees are not caught up in unpleasant situations, they can focus on the projects at hand. Managers should therefore strive to form good working relationships among all team members.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 6.48.06 pmFirst, it is important for managers to define the type of work relationship they want to have with their employees. This can range from casual acquaintance level to deepened relationships that extend into friendship. Some managers may be intimidated by the prospect of building relationships, but according to the author, effective work relationships do not require large amounts of time or weighty personal investments. At a minimum, they may come down to simply being respectful and friendly.

Individuals in the workplace are brought together in pursuit of a goal, and it is up to each person to decide the level of relationship they want to develop with others. Managers should understand that some employees may not want to develop personal relationships with their colleagues and superiors. In such cases, it is in a manager’s best interest to listen closely to what employees have to say and respond according to how much trust that employee has placed in them. Allowing employees to be themselves and caring for their individuality as human beings gives them the impression of being emotionally safe. This makes employees feel positive about their work environment and excited to contribute to an environment of collaborative results.

Regardless of the exact type of relationships that are developed, the important task for managers is to create an environment of trust and communication in which everyone can work collaboratively and accomplish their goals. The author suggests three ways that managers can build and preserve work relationships:

  1. Communicate with words, silence, availability, and absence – Communicating with words is clearly important, but effective managers also communicate with silence. Silence in a trusting relationship may be interpreted as good listening, but in a less trusting relationship it may come across as indifference or arrogance. Managers who make themselves available demonstrate that the work of their employees is important to them. Conversely, absence can suggest a lack of interest.
  2. Spend quality time with everyone – Having regular meetings with direct reports to discuss expectations or concerns is always beneficial. It is important that everyone is treated fairly and feels supported in their efforts.
  3. Encouraging laughing moments – Laughter is a good way to relieve stress, so opportunities to laugh create a more positive and relaxed work environment. Laughing together at small mistakes may contribute to an environment of learning and build trusting relationships.

Another important component of effective communication is being able to preserve relationships by recognizing conflict as it arises. Managers must be able to open discussion swiftly in order to eliminate potential problems and ensure open communication. At the same time, managers must frame their own statements carefully so as to avoid potential conflict between employees.

While managers can help resolve conflict stemming from misunderstandings, it is inevitable that employees will run across people they simply do not like or who make them feel uncomfortable. Such situations can also result in an ineffective workplace. Carroll offers a five-point system for employees to use to overcome prejudices and overlook bias:

  1. Look for positives – Try to find at least one good trait in the other person.
  2. Concentrate on that one positive trait – Do this until you accept it.
  3. Offer a compliment to this coworker – The compliment should be based on job performance and their importance to the company.
  4. Identify another positive trait – Focus on positive qualities.
  5. Get together with that person – Make an effort to understand their point of view. Paraphrase their opinions, and do not dismiss them outright.

Leaders Job


In order for leaders to create the inspired, participative communities essential to open organizations, they must first understand the three requirements of the open organization management system:Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 5.34.53 pm

1. Motivating and inspiring. This is the bottom of the pyramid, the foundation of the management system. Leaders inform open organization participants why their contributions are important, ignite their passion, and build engagement.

2. Getting things done. The “how” can be described as the practices that facilitate successful decentralized collaboration. This part of the management system requires leaders to establish a meritocracy and encourage debate.

3. Setting direction. Also known as the “what,” this part of the system involves leaders acting as catalysts of directional change and involving others in their decision-making processes.


Igniting Passion

Purpose is not what an organization does, but rather the reasons behind its actions. For example, the purpose of the J.M. Smucker Company was not to only create jams and jellies, but to bring families together around memorable meals. Similarly, Red Hat’s purpose is to create better technology the open source way. As both these companies demonstrate, purpose is important because it provides employees with a reason to contribute to their organizations that is far more compelling than the profit motive.

Once leaders discern their organizations’ purposes, they must seek out passion–the fuel necessary to take their organizations to the next level of achievement. Without passion, it is impossible to build the participative communities necessary to driving open organizations. Consequently, leaders must dismiss the antiquated idea that being professional is synonymous with being unemotional and dispassionate; instead, they should encourage people to express their emotions, including inspiration, enthusiasm, motivation, and excitement. To create more passionate workplaces, leaders must ensure that their employees’ job functions are connected to their organizations’ bigger purposes.

There are several practices that can help leaders foster passion within their organizations, including:

*Hiring passionate people. To identify passionate people, leaders can ask potential hires to describe what inspires them and what they feel passionately about.

*Recognizing and reinforcing passion. Leaders must find unique ways to publicly celebrate their employees’ accomplishments, passion, and hard work. Red Hat does this by thanking its contributors for their accomplishments through internal messages, emails, and rewards programs. Additionally, the company creates a quarterly video called “The Show,” which often highlights the achievements of different Red Hatters around the world. Acknowledging good work and passion is an effective reinforcement tool.

*Keeping the fires in check. As emotions can cause people to lose sight of the facts of a situation, leaders must learn how to guide and balance emotions so they do not become destructive.

Building Engagement

Contrary to popular belief, workplace engagement is not the result of perks like free sushi in the break room. Instead, it is the byproduct of leaders who are available to others for constant dialogue. Constant dialogue may seem time consuming and unnecessary to most executives; however, its benefits are too good to ignore. Not only does engagement drive innovation, but it is also the key to attracting and retaining the best talent. Furthermore, engagement enables open organization members to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace. This is because engaged employees are people who not only understand their organizations’ directions, but also see how their own work contributes to the accomplishments of their organizational goals. Therefore, engaged employees are better equipped to observe, orient, and decide if a marketplace change is a threat or an opportunity before taking action. This is crucial to open organizations, where members are expected to act independently rather than push information up the executive ladder and then wait for orders to trickle down.

To cultivate engagement, leaders must ensure their people feel listened to and appreciated. Additionally, engagement requires leaders to always communicate the good and bad news to everyone. Whitehurst learned the value of this practice when working as the chief operating officer of Delta when the airline filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He made the decision to tell the mechanics the bad news in person since they would be facing layoffs and cuts in their pay and benefits. By being completely honest with them and sharing the details of the company’s turnaround plan, Whitehurst engaged his audience. Instead of being upset, employees began asking questions about how they could play a role in Delta’s turnaround plan. This story demonstrates that in order to drive engagement, leaders must always:

*Deliver bad news in person.

*Give people context and details.

*Be accessible, answer questions, admit mistakes, and apologize to build authenticity and credibility.

At Red Hat it is believed that a culture of accountability is essential to engagement. The logic is that when people are accountable for their decisions and actions, trust and loyalty grows. As being accountable requires consistent, clear communication, Red Hatters make a point of regularly using the following communication vehicles and tools:

*Topic-specific lists: Organized discussions and debates about relevant topics.

*Blogs: In-depth, online posts about topics related to the organization.

*Wikis: Collaborative online message boards that promote structured dialogue and feedback.

*Instant messaging: Messages that provide an easy way to get a quick answer and stay in touch.

*Elluminate: A web-conferencing program that keeps recorded copies of presentations.

*Etherpad/Social Intranet: Tools that allow online collaboration on documents and notes.

*Video conferencing: A virtual meeting tool that promotes global collaboration.


Choosing Meritocracy, Not Democracy

Although Red Hat has an organizational chart, its decision-making process does not solely rely on that structure. This is because, like the ancient Athenians, open organizations exercise meritocracy. In a meritocracy, the people most capable of making decisions are the ones who ultimately make the most decisions–regardless of their rank. While everyone has a right to speak and equal access to the tools to be heard, a meritocracy differs from a democracy in that not everyone ends up being listened to equally. Instead, each person has to earn his or her own level of influence. The people who typically achieve the most influence in deciding the direction of projects are thought leaders–individuals who consistently contribute meaningful work and excel at getting others behind their ideas.

According to Whitehurst, thought leaders in the open organizational context can be thought of as thermostats. Unlike their thermometer counterparts, thermostats do not reflect their organizations’ temperatures–they set them. In order to create meaningful change in their organizations, leaders must identify thermostats and get them on board with new initiatives. Thanks to their insights into operations and influence among their peers, thermostats can make or break new initiatives.

To build a culture of thermostats, Red Hat:

*Respects people with consistent, selfless track records.

*Rewards those who are sincerely committed to the organization’s purpose and work to fulfill its goals.

*Provides people with opportunities to grow their scope and influence without having to change jobs.

*Enables both careers of achievement and advancement.

*Utilizes peer recognition to fuel meritocracy.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, leadership is essential to meritocracy. Managers must not only step in to build, support, and moderate a meritocratic environment, but it is also their duty to engage thermostats and determine what is the best way to harness their influence to drive innovation. To effectively lead in a meritocracy, leaders must gain the respect of others by:

*Showing passion for their organizations’ purposes and open sourcing.

*Demonstrating confidence.

*Engaging people through openness, honesty, and effective teamwork.

Letting the Sparks Fly

Contrary to popular belief, leaders cannot demand that others be creative and produce solutions to complex problems. Instead, they must embrace the fact that the best ideas occur when team members hash things out in a friendly environment. At Red Hat, debates are viewed as a productive byproduct of a collaborative culture. This is largely due to the company’s four values of freedom, courage, commitment, and accountability.

Studies show that when people are encouraged to challenge one another’s ideas, more ideas are produced. This is called creative abrasion, a process that involves disagreement, contention, and argument between people with shared values. Creative abrasion can only take place in a healthy creative culture where people feel free to share their ideas. Consequently, leaders must work to make room for spirited debates and help people not take feedback or criticism personally.

Leaders must work to remove the myriad barriers that ultimately prevent people from speaking freely. One inhibitor to healthy, creative debate is hierarchies within the workplace. Leaders can remove chain-of-command atmospheres by eliminating executive perks like designated parking spaces and corner offices. Leaders can also promote casual dress codes and ensure debates take place in neutral locations.


Making Inclusive Decisions

The traditional approach to decision making within an organization is often inefficient. Typically, this process requires a designated team to gather relevant information that is then channeled up the chain of command for the executive with the highest pay to eventually make the final call. This does not always lead to the best decisions. Not only is the process too slow, but the information that is ultimately delivered to the sole decision maker has been filtered along the way by the opinions of others.

It is not surprising then that most change plans developed in the traditional decision-making process have a great risk of failure. Instead of improving their decision-making processes, however, most organizations just continue to spend money on change management. The reason open organizations have higher success rates in implementing change plans is because they integrate the people who will be affected by the decisions into the actual decision-making processes. This is known as inclusive decision making. Red Hat takes inclusiveness to the extreme by ensuring that all associates are involved in developing solutions and making decisions, often using technology to reach out to those in international locations.

Although decisions are not always unanimous and there are still incidents where leaders have to make unpopular decisions, inclusive decision making is powerful because it provides leaders with the opportunity to explain their rationale and ensure that everyone feels included in the process. Inclusive decision making is about letting the best ideas win by working collaboratively and transparently. Consequently, leaders must always keep an open mind, listen to the feedback they receive, and continually reevaluate if the final decision is the right one. They must remember that although the process is slow, it will ultimately lead to stronger decisions, quicker adoption, and better execution. This has been confirmed in research as studies show that the three elements essential to the successful implementation of new projects are:

  1. The involvement of both management and frontline employees.
  2. Clearly identified contributor responsibilities.
  3. A widespread understanding and acceptance of the reasons behind the projects

Emotional Connect


The term “emotional intelligence” first surfaced in the early nineties, and has become one of the most useful (and used) words in the management lexicon. fullsizeoutput_5c08

Managers should work to identify and develop emotional intelligence in their employees, or “the ability to recognize [their] own emotions and the emotions of others.”

However, it is emotional competence which produces superior performance, and this is “the application of emotional intelligence (emotional understanding) in a way that produces a positive outcome.” Those who possess emotional competence are aware of their emotions as well as those of their coworkers, and can manage their emotions in a way that is beneficial to everyone involved and to the bottom line of the company. Emotionally competent individuals understand relationships, and are thus able to employ strategies that positively impact both their own emotional state, and those of the people who surround them.

Managers should work to identify and develop emotional competence in their employees. The work of identification can be done by using a number of tools. Blakesely focuses on the Multiple Health System’s EQi developed by Ruevon Bar-On, which measures numerous emotional competencies, such as:

  • Intrapersonal Skills – A set of competencies defining self-understanding.
  • Self-regard – The ability to respect and accept one’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Assertiveness – The ability to express feelings, beliefs, and thoughts in a non-destructive way.
  • Independence – The ability to be self-directed and free of emotional dependency on others.
  • Stress Management – A set of competencies that describe an ability to manage stress
  • Adaptability – A set of competencies that allow one to adapt to the needs of the environment.
  • Reality Testing – The ability to accurately assess the correspondence between what is experienced and what objectively exists.
  • Flexibility – The ability to adapt and adjust one’s feelings, thinking, and behavior to change.
  • Problem Solving – The ability to solve problems of a personal and interpersonal nature.
  • Optimism – The ability to be positive and look at the brighter side of life.
  • Happiness – The ability to feel satisfied with oneself, others, and life in general.

Individuals who possess these competencies should be identified, developed, and put in positions where their abilities can be put to use in the service of the company, and their own personal development. The smart manager will do everything in his power to facilitate this process. For more details contact write or follow her @

Change Model


Change is a necessary part of doing business, yet approximately 70 percent of change models fail even in organizations that appear to be well-prepared for success. The emerging change model which, since it is continually evolving, means that success is always possible from some perspective.


Team interviewed 50 people who had experience working in complex change scenarios, asking them to relate instances of change that went well, as well stories of times that it did not. As a result, he developed an emerging change model (ECM), which offers a perspective on how change occurs. The model categorizes important influencers of change, such as dialogue, listening, voicing, reflection, perspective and purpose, and power and politics. It also addresses themes that emerge within and across most organizations when encountering change, such as authenticity of leaders, resistance to change, and systemic thinking. The ECM is fluid and evolves throughout the change process.


Communication will take place between all members of an organization in the process of change, and the change leader’s most important challenge is to ensure that it is positive, inclusive, and empowering. Simply sending out a directive with no attempt to seek feedback or suggestions is the wrong way to begin. The successful change leader gets out and talks to people well before the change is announced, creating a dialogue with stakeholders who help shape and refine the plan and identify potential problems. This practice brings everyone on board from the start. Leaders who are willing to really listen during these conversations and to consider other people’s perspectives will gain their trust.


A major element of dialogue and communication is effective listening, which means more than just being quiet when the other person is speaking. Good leaders realize that they cannot possibly know everything, even about their own organizations. They are not threatened by honest feedback because it adds detail to the total picture. Leaders must also adjust and correct their listening skills if they can only interpret what they hear from their own perspectives. Developing a deep interest in other people and an openness to differing perspectives leads to authentic listening, which is an effective communication tool.


While hearing what others have to say is important, an effective change leader must also ensure that everyone within the organization knows what the leader is thinking at all times. The leader acts as the focal point for communication, and realizes that others look to him or her for a continuing message that will help them make sense of the process. Being open, honest, and clear about what is occurring instills confidence in employees and encourages cooperation throughout the organization.


While busy people are well-regarded in most organizations, the change leader should not get so bogged down with work that there is no time to think about how things are going, to identify what is working well, and to contemplate adjustments that may be needed in areas that are not working. Stepping back to look at the overall situation is important for the leader, but is also helpful for teams and other groups and individuals. It should be encouraged in the form of retreats, end-of-week recaps, or end-of-day sessions.


People within an organization are likely to have differing perspectives on elements of the change process. These perspectives may change and evolve during the process. When people are given the opportunity to express their perspectives and willingly listen to the perspectives of others, they become less resistant to change. Sharing their visions leads to the formation of a common purpose, an identity, which is further defined by engaging the perspectives of competitors, customers, and even former employees. The change leader must keep all this dialogue going, incorporating each individual identity into the change process.


Fifty-six percent of those interviewed by Lawrence said support from the top management of the organization is essential to successful change. That said, the traditional top-down change model proved inadequate in most situations because it did not engage enough people in the decision-making process.

In addition to the executive team being deeply committed to the change, the support of middle management is vital. The people on the front line are used to working with and most apt to trust middle management, who are often the crucial facilitators of change. Change leaders must also take into account the other powers-that-be, such as resource suppliers and experts in the field, and acknowledge the networks of power within the organization.


All leaders are not alike, and most change and grow along with their activities and challenges. Authentic leaders who know themselves and understand what makes them tick, and whose actions reflect their beliefs, are excellent change leaders. They are not afraid to listen to others, and therefore they find it easier to see the similarities between people and bring them to consensus.


People are sometimes labeled “resistant to change” when, in fact, they may simply be ambivalent. There may be several reasons people in an organization are not embracing change: They may be out of the loop and feel isolated; they may not understand the change and therefore withhold their allegiance to it; or they may believe that the change will mean they will lose their jobs. Open dialogue is the best way to help these employees gain a better understanding of the situation. Involving them in the change gives them the opportunity to see their parts in the vision.


Systemic thinking, as opposed to systematic (top-down and linear) thinking, looks at the big picture and takes into account the complexity of the world as well as the need for flexibility during the change process. Lawrence equates systemic thinking with being able to view the ECM from various balconies, each providing a different view of the process. A problem manifesting in one area of the project, for example, is often affected by a totally different challenge in another aspect of the work, and that issue might need to be addressed in yet another platform in order to solve the problem. The effective change leader continually engages with people in all areas of the project and remains part of the meaning-making process, all while paying attention to who is saying what to whom and what organizational dynamics come into play.


The ECM proved effective for a medium-sized manufacturer/distributor/retailer in Australia, with retail operations there as well as in China, Europe, and the United States. The problem was rapid growth combined with a paucity of new executive candidates who would be ready to step into larger roles. The organizational development manager discovered that employees did not think there was sufficient room for individual growth within the company, and turnover was high. He initiated a “coaching culture” by training the management team, creating a continuing dialogue with coaches, and using workshops and reflective sessions to evaluate how the system was working out. He even involved the CEO. Though the development manager eventually left the organization, as did other leaders and coaches along the way, the program was successful because a coaching environment had prepared employees to deal positively with these changes.


Leaders are often tasked to maintain control and discipline while leading unpredictable change. Smart change leaders realize they cannot do all of this work by themselves. It helps if they can occasionally stand outside the moment to take an objective look at progress, and then report their observations to other stakeholders, who need to understand how the change is proceeding and what might need to be addressed down the road. At each juncture, they must listen to others’ viewpoints as detours or intersections arise. It is impossible to prepare a leader for every situation that could crop up. In place of tools and models, change leaders must rely on practical judgement, which is developed by authentic listening, reflecting on what is heard, and then becoming a curious leader bent on learning and passing on what has been learned to others.


Helping people along the road toward change requires a holistic approach. In addition to other leadership skills, change agents must adopt a social presence and the ability to mix and manage dialogue between groups. Lawrence believes that workshop learning and team focus groups are integral to the future of change. They should not, however, be packed with content, but rather focused around dialogue and reflection. Establishing a clear purpose helps small groups to learn together, and continual evaluation of progress fosters systemic thinking within the organization.


Today’s systemic coaches do not just talk; they listen. They are effective because they can verbalize company strategy and offer guidance to individuals or groups without being didactic about their expectations. By listening, reflecting, and suggesting, they help people make sense of organizational needs in the context of the individuals’ own needs. Coaching helps people discover how to use their skills and abilities to maximize their value for the company, the project, and themselves. Seventy-five percent of those interviewed five years after receiving successful coaching said they had benefited by gaining increased self-awareness, reflection, and confidence. They also had more productive relationships and the ability to see the bigger picture.