Thursday, September 23, 2010

Using the CASE Method: How HR and OD Can Improve Performance

On one of LinkedIn’s Organization Development groups, a member asked for responses on this question: “How do you determine the most critical priorities for OD and HR? What process do you use to ensure that your team is addressing the issues most critical to organizational success?”

I answered, use the CASE method:

C = Customers – All organizations exist to serve a customer. Take a good hard look at your organization. How customer-focused are you as a team? Do you know your customer’s business, including their goals and needs? Are you adding value? Are you easy to do business with?

A = Adaptability – All organizations must constantly adapt to their ever-changing environments. It’s Systems Thinking 101. To adapt continuously, they need to learn and change and improve. Learning and Change are two strategically critical processes that OD and HR can have a major role in via the Training & Development, and Organization Development, functions.

S = Strategy – Speaking of strategy, how strategic are you as a team? Meaning, are you business-focused in everything you do? Do you operate like a business? Is the “voice of the customer” part of every decision and new undertaking? Are you adding value in the work you do? Are you systems and process-oriented?

E = Employees – Nothing happens in an organization without its members doing what needs to be done. How employee-focused are you as a team? Do you know your employees, especially their goals and needs? Are you engaging people and adding value via communicating, training, coaching, team development, and mentoring? Are you training your Managers to coach, energize, and engage their teams?

The CASE method is simply a heuristic, a way of looking at, and into, something so that you can see what is happening, what is working, and what could be working better. Feel free to adapt it to your own needs or style. For example, the "C" can also be Culture or Communication. The "E" can be Engagement. Or come up with your own acronym if you prefer. The main thing is to have a lens for looking at the organization that helps you to see what is going on.

Then, combine it with the Start-Stop-Continue method and you will have an engine of success in your OD and HR functions.

A version of this blog entry was first published by Terrence Seamon at HR Blognotions on Sept 21. For more insights on organizational development, visit Terry's website and invite him to your organization.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

Fellow blogger Jen Turi recently blogged about cognitive dissonance as it relates to customer service and organizational performance.

In her blog entry, Jen writes about a customer service rep who is trained to take good care of the customer, but at the same time, she is told to get customers off the phone fast. The faster, the better. And faster was rewarded vs really taking the time to listen to customers and determine how best to help them.

Until seeing her posting, I realized I hadn't thought about cognitive dissonance in quite awhile. Coined decades ago by social psychologist Leon Festinger, the concept is simple: sometimes we find ourselves with two conflicting thoughts. When we experience this disturbing discord of thoughts, what do we do?

In his classic study, When Prophecy Fails, Festinger describes the solution hit upon by a group of people waiting for a spaceship to pick them up as the world comes to its end. When the date comes and goes, and they are still stranded on planet Earth, they are faced with a dilemma. Their fervent expectations had been dashed to pieces. Their solution: they revised their prophecy and went on believing.

In another classic, The 3 Christs of Ypsilanti, psychiatrist Milton Rokeach assembled three patients who each believed they were Jesus Christ. He wondered if confronting them with each other's conflicting claims would create enough cognitive dissonance to produce a psychiatric breakthrough. Unfortunately, this effort did not lessen the patients' delusions. The three Christs maintained their claim on their divine identity.

These cases say that, when it comes to cognitive dissonance, we believe what we want to believe. And even in the face of persuasive evidence, we hold fast to beliefs that may in fact have no basis in reality.

In the case of the customer service rep, faced with two conflicting organizational messages --take care of customers vs rush customers off the phone-- the rep landed on the side where the organizational rewards were greater. Quite sane, if you ask me.

But sad too. The message about caring for the customer was nothing but lip service.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on September 21, 2010. For more tips on communication, culture, and customer service, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your Managers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Designing a Positive Workplace Culture

I recently had the opportunity to offer ideas to a large global organization on how to design a positive workplace culture.

Knowing something about the organization, I suggested that they establish a Positive Workplace Practices "center of excellence," i.e., a small team of internal consultants that would provide expertise on such issues as engagement, respect, and organizational justice.

At this point, I have no idea how far this idea will get, or whether it will ever see the light of day in that organization.

But I must say, I feel exhilarated. There's something so exciting (at least to me) about envisioning what an organization can be.

If you are interested in envisioning the best for your organization, let me know. I'd be happy to dream with you.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Sept 16, 2010. If you would like more ideas on visioning, culture, and ways to design a positive workplace, contact Terry and invite him to your organization.

This blog is now on alltop careers!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On 9/11.

On the morning of September the 11th, I am pondering whether we have learned anything about finding ways to live together in peace since 9-11.

Like many, I am following the news stories every day, such as the Florida pastor who intends to burn the Koran, the release of the American hikers in Iran, and the controversial Islamic center near Ground Zero.

Have we learned anything since 9-11?

Here are some examples of wisdom that I am pondering:

~ Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.- Martin Luther King Jr.

~ You can't shake hands with a clenched fist. - Indira Gandhi

~ Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. - Rumi

~ And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8

~ Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of this place. - Motto of many peace schools

So how about You? What are you learning as a result of 9/11?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sept 11, 2010

Footnote on the Photo: That is the 9/11 Memorial in Bayonne NJ, given to the U.S. by Russia as a gift in remembrance of the terrible day. Go see it if you can. It is situated in a scenic spot on the end of the Military Ocean Terminal, looking across the water at Manhattan. Go soon because it will be disassembled soon and moved.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Five Lessons of Leadership

Do you consider yourself to be a leader? I hope you do. Because being a leader is not something esoteric. It's not something reserved for a small elite.

Rather, as Stephen Covey once said, leadership is a choice. It's something anyone can choose to do, though it's not easy, and takes courage. And in choosing to lead, you learn what it takes, and begin a journey that unfolds throughout your life.

There are many lessons in leading. Here are five lessons from my leadership journey.

The Choice - Stephen Covey said "Leadership is a choice, not a position." But many choose not to lead. Rather, they look down at their feet and wait for someone else to stick their neck out. Yes, leading is a risk. It takes courage. Once my dad said to me, "You've got moxie." Moxie is the ability to face difficulty with spirit and initiative. I like that. When my dad complimented me, saying that I had moxie and was proud of me for a brave thing I did, I felt great.

The Vision - Warren Bennis once said that leaders have the ability to turn vision into reality. So leading starts with a vision, a dream of a better way, better than what exists now. This is the starting point of inspiration.

The Team - Leaders know you can't get there by yourself. If a leader can convey his vision to others, and get them excited about it, he can mobilize others and start a movement toward the desired state.

The Idea - Some leaders are highly intelligent and might qualify as "the smartest guy in the room." But other leaders recognize that everyone on the team has ideas. Truly smart leaders seek the input and ideas of others. They listen and invite others to speak up. When the ideas surface from the team, rather than from the leader, there is a greater feeling of ownership.

The Bench - Leaders understand their own limits, and their own mortality. So they look for talent and build bench strength. They coach and mentor. At some point, the leader will tap his successor and say "Now it's your turn."

Along the path of your leadership journey, you will experience successes and failures, gaining wisdom as you go. And with leadership wisdom, you will be in a position to guide others who are also choosing to lead.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, September 6, 2010. For more tips on leadership development, visit Terry's website and invite him to your organization.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Lessons from the Van Cliburn Winners

I recently watched a documentary on TV about the finalists in the 2009 international Van Cliburn piano competition held every four years in Fort Worth, Texas. These young virtuosos were incredibly talented, the best pianists in the world from many countries including the U.S., Japan, Russia, China, Italy, South Korea, and Bulgaria. Extraordinarily competitive, hard working, and driven to be the very best, these world class musicians are top performers. And they thrive on performing, practice, coaching and feedback.

We have all known top performers. Some of us have even been top performers at one point or another. Top performers, such as the Van Cliburn pianists, your top salespeople, or a rising star with “hi-potential,” can benefit by coaching as much as anyone. Perhaps even more so if you look at the parallel to the world's top athletes, e.g. Olympians. Every skier, skater, swimmer and diver that competes in the Olympics has a coach and receives coaching. Although these athletes are the very best in their respective sports, they are driven to stay on top, to enhance their performance, to learn new things, and to stay mentally tough and focused. So they "get" the value of coaching.

In business organizations, Managers are often at a loss as to how to coach these "stars," especially those that seem arrogant and immune to influence and change. Yet those employees need coaching as much as anyone. The key is to understand them, especially their needs and drives. And apply such principles as:

Communicate and Connect – The only way to know what your top performer needs is to connect with her and open a channel of honest communication between you. Get to know the top performer. Learn about her goals. Ask how you can support her. Build trust.

Ask for their ideas – Top performers get to the top by consistently delivering superior results. They are also constantly improving what they do. Seek their ideas for improvement. When you are faced with a thorny problem that has no obvious solution, ask the top performer for their thoughts.

Utilize their capabilities – If there is one thing that top performers hate, it is to be under-utilized. Challenge them and push them. Keep raising the bar.

Show your appreciation – Do you want to retain your top performer? If so, let them know you appreciate them and the contribution they make to the team and to the organization.

Expose them to new – Top performers love to learn new ways, especially if they sense that the new approach will enable them to stay at the top in their field.

Recently on LinkedIn, someone asked: What do you do if a top performer is resistant to being coached? Should you simply get out of the top performer's way? Should you "carry water" for them? Cater to them in order to keep them happy and prevent their jumping ship?

There is always a need for coaching, in my mind. But it’s vital to assess what the performer most needs. Without a clear and agreed upon need, this star performer may just get irritated with you. And they may resist your coaching. Ask yourself: Could the behavior that seems to signal "resistance" be something else? Could it be impatience? Could it be arrogance? Maybe the performer is unconvinced that the coach has anything of value to offer.

Coming back to the Van Cliburn winners, the three medalists were selected from 12 finalists. As the documentary unfolded, the filmmakers gave us a profile of each competitor. While nearly all fit the profile outlined above, there were a couple who did not. Yes, they were incredibly talented and Olympian in stature on the world classical music stage. But they were full of themselves. They wouldn’t listen. They were resistant to coaching. And they lost.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on September 4, 2010. Originally published at Carter McNamara's Personal & Professional Coaching blog. For more tips on coaching and performance, see Terry's website and invite him to speak at your organization.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"I Just Graduated. Where's My Job?"

My eldest son graduated from college last year and went right to work for a media company. My wife and I were so thankful and relieved.

Unfortunately, there are many others, graduating with four year degrees (and more) from good schools, who are moving back home with mom and dad, unable to find meaningful work in the field they had hoped to enter.

While there are many reasons for this sad state of affairs, including the terrible job market in many areas, there are things that rising seniors can be doing right now to improve their chances come graduation day.

Recently, Wake Forest University published ten tips for seniors, including such good points as “Register with the university’s career office” and “Make an appointment with a career counselor.” Makes sense to use your school’s resources.

Here are five more suggestions from a parent who has seen his son make a successful transition from school to work:

1. Start working while you are still in school. If possible, start working in your field. Find an internship that is relevant to your career goal. Or go to work part-time for a company you’d like to work for post-graduation.

2. Set up a profile on LinkedIn. Start creating your professional image now. Start building your professional network.

3. Scan craigslist for job leads. That’s how my son found his job. Put the word out that you are looking, and what you are looking for. People will look out for you.

4.Step forward. Don’t be shy. Though you don’t have a long resume, you do have your goals, your energy, and your enthusiasm. Employers are looking for people with a positive attitude, good interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and vigor.

5. Go for it. Don’t wait for the perfect job. Take a job and start doing, start learning. And keep looking.

These are the things my eldest son did. His younger brother is now starting his senior year. I can see that he is already implementing these points and more.

Moving from school to work has always been a momentous transition in a person’s life. Today it’s more fraught with uncertainty than ever. So be sure to start thinking about it ahead of time and start taking action steps now that will position you for opportunity later.


Originally published on For more tips on careers, transitions, and success, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your organization.