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Principle-Based Management

hockey-hitA couple of weeks have passed since Ben Fanelli, a 16 year old rookie defenceman playing with the junior Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, was seriously injured by a viscious hit.   Hits like this one occur just about every game in amateur and professional hockey.   It’s part of the “code”.  Hockey is a macho sport and hitting is a tactic used to intimidate, in particular the skilled puck-carrying players on opposing teams; the end goal is to make these players think about something other than slick, efficient puck movement and thereby force errors.  In the eyes of sport officials, you cannot eliminate hitting from the game and retain the inherent nature of the sport.  Therefore,  responsibility lies with the player about to be hit to keep his head up and protect himself at all times; God forbid that a player is seriously injured, then officials will point a finger at the offending player who through some convoluted interpretation of the rules must be held accountable for the injury.    The issue here: a principled approach to responsibility for the consequences of hitting in the game is absent.

Since the beginning of the NHL hockey season, a number of star players have been seriously injured, mostly with concussions; and Ben Fanelli came close to losing his life.  He still has a major battle in his future to restore his health, let alone the possibility of returning to serious hockey.  The trend towards  serious injury has been increasing in recent years as players are bigger, faster, stronger, their equipment harder and their training better.  There used to be an unwritten rule that protected the best players; however, this has vanished with the respect for life and limb of opposing players.

Since this form of intimidation has become an important tool for coaches, each team recruits and trains a number of players best suited to this style.  League officials, miopic in their view, can only see the hitting in the narrowest context.  As a result nothing is done to protect the immediate or long term health of players.  In the short term, league brass need to protect valuable marketing assets; in the long term, officials need to consider the impact of serious hits on the health of players who will become fathers and husbands.

Given this context — an absence of appropriate rules to control the impacts of hitting — it is not surprising that the junior league needed a scapegoat to bear the brunt of the Ben Fanelli injury; Michael Liambis, a 20 year old veteran of the Erie Otters who delivered a hit arguably within the rules of the game has been outrageously suspended for a full year — a length of suspension which is unprecedented in the sport and which effectively ends his junior career.  What a burden to place on a young man!  He must deal with the suspension and the guilt, because the league says that he did something wrong and should be punished.  I hope he has found a competent therapist to help him through this ordeal.

To reinforce this picture of ambiguity, in professional hockey, if a hit does not result in an injury, it will usually go unpenalized.  If an injury results from the hit, the “offending” player is removed from the game pending a hearing by the league.  Usually a suspension results.

I agree with the junior league that someone must bear responsibility for the Ben Fanelli hit and, in my view the needless injury of this young player.  I disagree with the league that that the message should be sent at the expense of this boy’s junior career.  Clearly, responsibility lies with the league itself and for that matter all professional hockey leagues.  Ambiguous guidelines result in arbitrary decisions.

Come on hockey officials!  It is time to “fess up”.  With this kind of hitting in the game, you are quite fortunate no player has been killed.  You are quite lucky that more players have not suffered brain injuries.  It is surprising that more players have not been paralysed.  Are you waiting for the worst?

The Ben Fanelli hit is a wake up call.  “WAKEUP” before more serious injuries occur.  Extricate this abyss of ambiguity and confusion and replace it with a well thought out principle based solution.  Stop blaming players and show solid leadership in this area.

In closing, how about a little justice for Michael Liambis?  It would be appropriate to see the Ontario Hockey League relent on its severe punishment of Michael Liambis and allow this young man to finish his junior hockey career.  Michael, I am in your corner.

Do you know of situations in your workplace where ambiguity is used to advantage by your employers?  What should the principles be in this area?

Dealing with Workplace Tests Effectively

A person who chooses not to address tests constructively can become isolated from relationships and organizations.

A person who chooses not to address tests constructively can become isolated from relationships and organizations.

Last night my wife and I watched “Anger Management” for about the fifth time; it is one of those staples in our movie collection that never seems to tire.  The script, the direction and the impeccable performances of Sandler and the “Godfather” of Hollywood (Nicholson) achieved perfect alignment conspiring to produce a movie of destiny — one that will endure.  At different points during the viewing, each of us either giggled quietly or erupted into hysterical laughter.

Last night we were in the mood for something light, something funny, something fun.  On the surface this production delivers on this checklist and more.  You see what was marketed as humour,  actually is a powerful teaching tool on many fronts.  The director and writers have left us with a great deal of thought provoking content.

Most importantly, how are we doing with the management of our lives; and are we even aware of how our learned and acquired behaviour influences our decisions and the quality of our lives.

In life, there are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who say “what happened”?

Being oblivious to the life we are living and the tests that we are facing is the greatest of sins; that is allowing the tail to wag the dog, allowing others to make the major and minor decisions in our lives without emotion or consequence or a sense of responsibility is simply a waste of a life.  Why do I speak of this with such disdain?  Well, I’ve been there; in retrospect, I have extravagantly wasted opportunity and I mean huge opportunity.

The next greatest sin is to be aware but to lack the permission, the empowerment to take control of one’s life.  In this scenario, we tend to defer to the apparently superior decision-making capacity of the “players” in our lives; these could be decisions about the workplace (policy, products or even personal careers).  Or they could influence our personal lives (decisions about who to marry, whether to have children, how to relate to relatives, who to befriend).

And yes, I know what this feels like as well.

I could go into a lot of depth about why this occurs and who is responsible; however, I prefer to focus on how to move forward, in spite of the baggage and influences that have cluttered our thinking.

Obviously, the first step is awareness.  If we lack awareness, change is less than impossible; without awareness, we don’t know what we don’t know and so change cannot happen.

For these people, a severe test often can kick start the process of enlightenment.  If you feel that you would like to be proactive and launch into a process of awareness on your own terms, you can work with a life coach to begin a structured awareness diagnostic that connects you to your strengths, challenges, passions and links into the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual parts of your life.

With regard to the latter sin, the answer is to systematically take charge of your life.  By systematic, I mean act consciously to constructively address all test that you face.  By consciously I mean becoming aware of when you are being tested; your body will always be the first to know.  The most common signal can be felt in your chest — your body telling you that something is not right.   Use this prompt as a call to action.   An immediate and reactive stance will not usually produce positive results.  A systematic and constructive strategy usually will.

A strategy that produces growth must analyse the events that led to the angst in the pit of your belly.  It must establish whether there are related events that preceded it, say over the previous year.  This assessment must be integral in that you must honestly ask yourself whether you should shoulder all or part of the responsibility for this impasse.  And finally,you need to devise a solution to the problem that will build bridges, strengthen relationships and overcome obstacles.

This approach may sound overwhelming and idealistic; however, the reverse is true — it is the straightest line to restoring equilibrium and is quite realistic.  Working with a life/executive coach will provide a clearer demonstration of how these tools can be used effectively.

Please let me know what you think.  A dialogue on these issues can produce awareness and enlightenment.  Have a great week.

On Being an Authentic Manager

In the absence of trust, it is difficult to find our authentic selves.  The new born child has absolute trust in the world; hoever, over time our innocence is protected by an increasingly thick veneer that also erodes our true sense of self.

In the absence of trust, it is difficult to find our authentic selves. The new born child has absolute trust in the world; however, over time our innocence is clouded by an increasingly thick veneer that simply causes us to behave differently.

What does being authentic mean? You are the real thing, you are integral, you are true to yourself, you are on contract with yourself, you are what you appear to be.

Although I am focusing upon the manager in this article, this article is relevant for both managers and line workers. Why?  Because being true to yourself is absolutely essential.  Think of yourself as the manager of the work you are currently doing, and with the right career planning and attitude to your work, you will one day aspire to a management position.

A side comment:  I find it absolutely fascinating how the rate of change in the world is so dramatic that we cannot envision the new paradigm required to address a change before we embark upon the journey intended to implement it.  Hmmm!

When I first started working, I was just happy to have a job. Imagine they chose me! And I will do all that I can to reinforce their belief in me. To my managers, what I can do is important. Who I am and how this can strengthen performance over time is not even on the screen in most organizations.  This post addresses this issue — how “who I am” can profoundly influence “what I and others can do”.

I came across a TED presentation that helped me to put into words how the business environment is evolving. This talk by Joseph Pine, entitled “What Consumers Really Want” (February, 2004) helped me to put into words the evolving relationship between managers and employees .

In the early years of my career, management was an extremely unsophisticated concept.   There was little consideration about manager capacity or how to develop managers.  They seemed to be the best, usually based upon their ability to deliver product and so they were accorded the right to oversee a group of employees.  They knew little about people so they focussed upon supplying product and controlling costs. If they were found to be wanting they were fired or returned to their previous duties.  If they seemed to be good deliverers of product, quite independent of what happened to their employees, they were anointed and rewarded.

In the 1980’s,  when efficiency became essential for business survival, the new business approach targetted the quality of services and products.

In the technology age, generations X and F are quick to tell us that the failure of organizations to adapt to the burgeoning social networking frontier will quickly make dinosaurs of their businesses.

Everything in an organization will be strengthened if managers invest in the experience of reinventing product delivery. Edward de Bono in his book entitled  Sur/petition also speaks about the evolution of the marketplace; he mentions three stages: product or service, competition and integrated values.  Just as product or service was supplanted by competition in the 80’s, competition was later trampled by the capacity of “outlier” organizations who found a formula for distancing themelves from their previous competition.  To paraphrase de Bono, would you rather run with the pack or lead the pack?  Coming from the world’s foremost creativity guru, it is truly about your organization’s capacity to out think and then use this new knowledge to breakaway from the competition.

This is where our authentic capacities kick in.  I believe that our authentic capacities would allow us to see, understand, accept and act with authority to create authentic organizations.  The problem, of course is that many managers resist or deny the need to be authentic.  They have allowed their allegiances, their training, their backgrounds and their fears to influence their thinking and as a result the success of their organizations.

It is worth noting that de Bono, in “Sur/petition” has focussed on the business environment, although the need for his “integrated values” methodology is just as vital in other sectors.  In business, if you fail to keep up, you disappear; in the public sector, as an example, failure is easier to disguise.

Here are three suggestions for the evolving authentic manager:

  • Take some time to think about what your organization is doing. Ask yourself if you are competing or if you are an outlier?  If you decide that you are merely competing, then there is room for innovative thinking.  Typically, organization’s reflect on their corporate documents once per year.  Make review an open file.  Remain committed to the delivery of product because you are a team player; however, keep sending those ideas to the top.  I can assure you that the authentic CEO will notice and appreciate your commitment.
  • Shed your protective veneer. So you can’t open up yet?  Join the club; let’s face it — we are all products of our lifelong experiences.   You have probably been scarred by deception, persecution and disappointment; you have learned, particularly on the job, that survival is job one and trust is a commodity in short supply.  I hear your pain and your anger; however, this is no way to manage your life or your career.  The usual response to these painful emotions is to surround yourself with a veneer, a bubble of protection, a safety zone. “As long as I do my job and I don’t upset anyone the world will evolve as it should”. Not.  The world will evolve correctly if you are true to yourself and others.  Shed your veneer.
  • Monitor your authentic behaviour. The nice part of being an authentic manager is that you know in your heart that you are making integral decisions.  Quite simply you are doing the right thing.  The best part of this equation is that it feels good and you are having fun.  Take the time to observe how your behaviour is affecting others.  In most cases, you will find that this form of leadership will become infectious.  As the word spreads, employees in other parts of the organization will look for openings in your area.  Other managers will solicit your views on their management challenges and you will become mentor and coach.  It may also be wise to monitor those in your organization who perceive you as a threat.  Still you decision to be authentic has been affirmed by other employees and managers.

The authentic manager is a vital resource for organizational “thrival” — the one who searches for truth and behaves will absolute integrity. Novel concept.  Please let me know what you think.

The Perfect Manager is No Accident

Reflections of Workplace Perspective…..

Those who follow my writing know that I am in search of the key, the portal, the yellow brick road of managing people. There has been a great deal written about optimal management practices; and in spite of this affluence of solid reference material, there continue to be blatant and very public examples of managers who chose to rebuff accepted best practices, either out of ignorance or mulish indifference.  Who are the victims of this folly?  In every case, it is the employees; however during this global recession we are experiencing in our living rooms examples of large corporations embarrassed into humble submission; their senior managers, exposed at long last like the “Emperor’s Clothes” also being forced to relinquish their power, their status and their elite positions in a society that values wealth and power above all else.

The perfect child is an untouched canvas reaching out for colour, texture and composition.  As parents, it is our intention to manage this process with love and absolute dedication.  After all it is our nurture the perfect child.
The perfect child is an untouched canvas reaching out for colour, texture and composition. As parents, it is our intention to manage this process with love and absolute dedication. After all, we would love to  nurture the perfect child.

Still, I am in search of the “perfect manager” or, if you wish, the baking powder of management.  On this fine day, I intend to try a little “Milton Erickson” on you.  Instead of the literal, the blatant, the direct and the conscious, I am going to try the not so obvious, starting with an article that seemingly has little to do with management.

If one is interested in the perfect manager, where would one go?  Some might consider management gurus or management books.  Others would consult with mentors in their organization.  These sources have worked for many, but not for all.  So where could we go?  May I suggest that we consider the case of the perfect child? Charles Lewis, in his newspaper article entitled “The Perfect Child” (The National Post, Saturday, March 21, 2009), raises a couple of points that may be helpful in this regard.

First, he cites Michele Borba (How to Raise a Moral Child) who says, “A person who raises a moral kid does not do so by accident”. We know from the research that children are hard-wired for morality; however, we also know that effort is required, in particular from parents to ensure that a positive charge is connected to this wiring system. A failure from parents to repetitively teach and reinforce these values will produce children and ultimately adults who are morally bankrupt.

Similarly, an organization that develops an ethical manager does not do so by accident. It takes a conscious effort to identify the kinds of attributes you require in your managers and then use various mechanisms to teach and reinforce these characteristics.

A second interesting point relates to the work of Alan Jacobs (Original Sin: A Social History). He says, “Modelling your beliefs for your children is a huge piece of the puzzle”.  In essence it is not enough to talk the talk, but you must also walk the walk; unless you invest in your own moral development and model this behaviour for your children, you teaching efforts are wasted.  Your children will simply behave the way you are behaving.

What is it about the perfect child that has relevance for the creation of the perfect manager?

  • First, this process is no accident.  The effort to create the perfect child is derived from the parents innate need to nurture;  the parent has a passion for their own child and as a result is committed to this as a process of life.  Similarly,as a senior manager that craves a powerful management environment, I have a passion for nurturing the best managers possible.
  • Second, there must be a plan.  In terms of moral development, the parent must be clear on what morals should be taught and how they should be manifested.  Organizations must establish what is critical for the development of strong managers and articulate this in a plan.
  • Third, the child will learn more from what they see as opposed to what they are taught.  The parent must be a model of moral behaviour and understand why these behaviours are important.  I must also invest in my own development as a manager so I naturally behave in a manner consistent with the behaviour I am nurturing in my managers.

The perfect child helps us to understand the motivation, the perspective and the standard that would lead to the development of “perfect managers”.  Is your organization committeed to the development of incredible managers?