Showing posts from 2013

People vs Results? There is no choice

Effective leaders use the skills of high engagement to create the conditions for people to perform with excellence.

Today’s overworked managers want to know what it takes to be successful. In my view, the key is to stay laser-focused on the two most important things, Results & People. Why? Because there is a vital connection between the two:

~ Your people deliver the results you desire. ~

If there is a secret to effective management, this is it!

Let’s dissect this formula into three component parts, People, Deliver, and Results.


The most effective managers develop their leadership capability. Leadership, by definition, requires Followers. You can’t be a leader alone. Your people are the means, the strategic channels, by which your organization reaches its goals. Therefore, your job is to do everything in your power to help your people succeed. At a high level, do what John Maxwell advises when he says: “A leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” And sometim…

Gewisto - a consulting fable

A plant manager was beside himself with worry because one of his machines was broken. As a result, the entire plant was idled. Several of his operators had labored in vain for hours to get the machine going again. Finally one of the plant manager's advisors whispered to him, "Better call Gewisto." Gewisto was an old retiree who used to work there and knew the machines inside and out.

Exasperated, the plant manager called Gewisto at the old folks home and explained what was going on. "I really need your help," the plant manager said.

In a short time, Gewisto's old beat-up car sputtered into the plant parking lot and out he came. Not looking like much, old Gewisto walked over to the machine, pulled up a stool, and leaned his head against the side of the apparatus and listened for a while.

Then he reached into his baggy pants pocket and pulled out a small piece of chalk. With the chalk, he made a little "X" on the machine at a certain place. He then …

LearningVoyager's Year-End Blog Round-Up for 2013

As we approach the end of another year, it's time to take a look back at some of the highlights of this writer's output.

At this my main blog, Here We Are. Now What? there were a number of posts that resonated with audiences, including:

The Six Success Factors model which I am thinking of expanding into my next book.

This synthesis of two conference talks on Service Excellence and Leadership

A piece on Fearless Leadership

My 3-part series on Transformation and Change: Part 1, 2, and 3.

My 4-part series on a spirituality of business, service, and change: Breaking Bread, Love Made Visible, Only Serve, and Surf the Change.

My interview with Nick Heap where we talked about Core Process.

My interview with Robin Cook where we talked about Organization Development and innovation.

And a couple posts from December of 2012 that I want to sneak in because they are well worth another look...

My interview with Marcella Bremer where we talked about culture change.

My interview with Art …

The Gifts of Mandela

With the passing of Nelson Mandela, many writers have posted columns about his life, his struggle to defeat apartheid, and the significance of his accomplishments.

One of the things I have been thinking about is the fact that he spent 27 years in prison. How did he do that? Could I survive such an ordeal? In a Dickensian work of fiction, such an incredible injustice would warp and twist a man.

I think that in Mandela's case, it did change him. But it changed him for the better. He once said: "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."

There is so much to learn from his life. Here are a few quotes from Nelson Mandela that show what he was made of.

On courage: &…

The Six Success Factors Model

In early 2011, Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson published some of her research on the characteristics of successful people. With the immediate acclaim that her article generated, Dr. Halvorson went on to establish a "science of success" by studying what successful people actually do.

She says that "successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do." Which includes such practices as getting specific about your goals and "knowing exactly what you want to achieve." This, Halvorson says, "keeps you motivated until you get there."

Looking further into Halvorson's fascinating research findings, a few other nuggets gleam, including:

Successful people focus on getting better - Successful people never rest on their laurels. Rather they are constantly pushing themselves to find ways to improve their game.

Successful people are great finishers - They take decisive action. And they stay with it to th…

Surf the Change

VUCA is a great concept for organizations to adapt from the military. But we may want to adapt it even further.

Change in organizations these days is stressful, unending, relentless, and a fact of life. So how about SURF?

In 2012, I wrote that stress will continue to stay at a heightened level.

Why? According to news reports on the U.S. economy, hiring will be slow in 2012, and many employers are planning further headcount cuts. Workloads, however, are likely to keep going up. "Doing more with less" will continue.

This is the main driver of workplace stress! When you combine workloads, pressure, and time shortages, with uncertainty and chaos, much of it due to organizational change, watch out: stress will increase. As decades of stress research has taught us, the more stress, the greater the negative effects.

Should managers care? In short, Yes. Stress takes a big toll on employee engagement, on performance, and on health. In today's whitewater working environment, mana…

Service Excellence and Leadership

Yesterday I was a guest speaker in Atlantic City at the 30th annual conference of the Association of Community Providers here in New Jersey. Their theme for this year's event was "Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities." The reason for this theme, and the focus of the convention, was Change. A great deal is changing in their industry. Ground-shaking change caused by the transition to "fee for service," as well as the Affordable Care Act.

While many of the other speakers were subject matter experts, I was asked to address leadership and service excellence. Here is a synthesis of the main points I shared.

S = Set the bar high. Customers in all segments, from banking to air travel to community care, are expecting more from their service providers. When customers have a choice of provider, the firms that set their bar higher and strive to raise their standards of quality, will gain the competitive advantage.

E = Establish the customer as the center of your dashboard. T…

On Fearless Leadership

On LinkedIn, someone asked the question, What type of leadership is most needed by HR leaders?

Here's a type to consider: Fearless Leadership. I got the name from my colleague Bettina Neidhardt who used it as the title of her blog for a few years.

Without speaking for her, what I like about the idea of Fearless Leadership, especially for HR, is the idea of guts. How many HR leaders have you known in your career who had the courage to take an unpopular stand?

Here are a few more aspects of Fearless Leadership:

Have chutzpah: An HR leader has to have the chutzpah (Yiddish for insolent audacity) to speak truth to power and tell the emperor he has no clothes on.

Be true to your self: An HR leader has to stand for something. What are the values of the organization? What is HR's role in seeing to it that the values are referenced in all critical business decisions?

Don't let the SOBs get you down: During one's career, you will encounter people who resist change, who test eve…

Transformational Change - Part 3

A talent acquisition pro was recently grilling me over the phone about my background and capabilities. She didn't know it but I was probably blushing as I "tooted my own horn" about my accomplishments in transformational culture change.

For some reason (maybe it's my destiny, or my reason for being), in my 30+ year-long career, I have often been "where the action is" for an Organization Development practitioner: that is, "in the eye of the storm" of Change.

Mergers. Acquisitions. Takeovers. Re-organizations. Turnarounds. Downsizings. And yes "Culture Changes" too.

I have been there and done that.

So, you may ask, What have I learned? Here are a few lessons from the front-lines of change.

Change is rough - Even when it's the sexy stuff, like leadership development, employee engagement, and culture change, change can be rough. Change always generates stress because it destabilizes things and creates uncertainty. You've got to bec…

Transformation and Change - Part 2

So let's return to this topic of transformation and change.

In the last blog post, I asked, If one is to truly transform one's self and one's life, where would you start? What changes could you begin to make now?

Let's step back and look at this term "transformation." Transformation is a type of change. It's change that moves you "beyond the current form" so to speak. The dictionary puts it this way: to transform is to change form, shape, appearance, structure, or character. Even to metamorphose (as a caterpiller into a butterfly) or to convert (as a believer to an atheist).

So in sum, transformation is a much more fundamental type of change than a new coat of paint or moving the deck chairs around.

Transformation, then, is something like alchemy. Alchemy comes from the Arabic al + kimiya meaning 'the transmutation.' The myth of the alchemist that we learned in Western Civilization class went like this: the alchemist was searching for…

On Transformation and Change - Part 1

Today at the end of the 12:00 o'clock Mass, Fr. Nick's closing prayer included this: "May what you have consumed here transform your life."

As Roman Catholic Christians, we believe that the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, is the bread from heaven that nourishes like no other. Spiritually, we subscribe to the saying "You are what you eat."

And the meal is not only comprised of the communion bread that we partake in, but also the Word of God that we hear in the scripture, and even the community present in the congregation that becomes "the eyes and hands and feet" of Our Lord in today's world.

So by full participation at Mass and beyond, we "become what we eat." We become strengthened in our faith to live the Good News and make the world a better place for all.

Yet that is not our only meal. From Monday to Friday, we are stuffed full by other "food" that comes to us via society, especially the mass media. By consumerism, by r…

Monetize Your Passion

My son Dave is an actor, a singer, and a budding teacher. I'm happy to say, he is also a very active networker in the Theater and Film realms of central New Jersey. Like his older brother Kevin, Dave is an entrepreneurial type of Twenty-Something, juggling multiple creative projects all at once.

Recently he related this story to my wife and me.

He was networking with someone in the TV commercial voice-over business in New York City. Let's call him Guy. In the course of a lively conversation, Guy asked Dave two questions:

"Dave, What is your passion? And, How will you monetize it?"

From the little I know about Guy, he has a passion for acting and found a way to monetize it via voice-over work in TV commercials.

In Dave's case, his passions include acting, singing, and composing music for movies. He is already working on ways to turn his passions and talents into an income stream.

This story got me thinking about my situation. So I have decided to monetize my blog!

Change for the Better: The Leader's Guide to Change

My third book has finally arrived!

Called Change for the Better: The Leader's Guide to Change, it is now "on the shelf" alongside my first two, To Your Success and Lead the Way.

Here is the press release now being sent to a wide audience of friends around the world:

NEW BRUNSWICK NJ - OCTOBER 4, 2013 - New Brunswick-based writer Terrence Seamon has published his third book, entitled Change for the Better

Change for the Better - The Leader's Guide to Change is now available. Change for the Better is a practical guide for organizational agents of change. Whether you are a manager, parent, coach or consultant, if you are helping people through change to reach success, this book is for you. Anyone who is taking a leadership role in a change project, from an executive to a team leader to a subject matter expert, can use Change for the Better as a handy guidebook to more effective implementation of change.

Much is written ab…

Only Serve

Many of my clients ask me for help on stress and time management. The fact of the matter is we live in incredibly stressful times. What I say to them is that they must take good care of three things: Self, Others, and Place.

First is Self. Borrowing a concept from Dr. Kathleen Hall, I teach the SELF model: Sleep (get enough), Exercise (get moving), Love (give and get), and Food (eat right). There are many other ingredients in self-care, but these four are basic.

Second, take care of Others (especially family, friends, neighbors, and customers) that you care deeply about.

And third, take care of this Place, particularly locally where you live and work. It's all we have.

Recently, I was inspired by a friend named Charlie who has really embodied the second and third aspects.

At his invitation, I attended a neighborhood meeting at a coffee house called Hidden Grounds (what a cool name for a coffee spot) here in my town of New Brunswick, New Jersey, home of Rutgers University. It w…

To See the Future

Thinking a lot lately about change. Change management. Change leadership.

It's incredibly hard to predict the future with any degree of certainty. But I am convinced that you can create the future you desire.

What we need in changing organizations is a vista on the future.

The word vista means a pleasing view or prospect, a vision of the future (from the Latin videre "to see")

V = Vision of the desired state

I = Improvement-based culture

S = Situation assessment of the current state

T = Targets identified for the improvements

A = Actions aligned to the aims

With a positive vista on the future you desire, you can create the energy to make it happen in your organization.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on MOnday September 30, 2013

Love Made Visible

So, continuing the line of thought in my last blog post called Breaking Bread, if the idea of a company is for people to be in a relationship where bread is broken and shared, then what?

My friend and OD colleague Lucille sent me this quote from the philosopher and poet Gibran:

"Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy."

Can you work with love so that your work is "love made visible?"

In her note to me, Lucille added this final line: "How fortunate we are to be in a field that brings such continual satisfaction."

It's true. She and I are in the field of Training and Organization Development where we help people in organizations to be more adaptable, more resilient, more productive, and more effective. We guide, we coach, we train, and we mentor.

This is the key, I think. To work with love re…

Breaking Bread

Some of you reading this may have been attracted by the similarity between the post title "Breaking Bread" and the amazing AMC TV show "Breaking Bad" which is about to end its five year run next Sunday night.

As great a TV show as Breaking Bad is, this blog post is NOT about the misguided attempts of a pathetic Chemistry teacher to provide for his struggling family by "cooking" and dealing crystal meth.

No, this post, called Breaking Bread, is about community. The kind of community that is so vital, yet sorely missing, in our organizations today.

First, some etymology. The word "company" means, when you break it down to its component word origins: com = with + pane = bread. Word origin experts have traced the word back to a meaning that should give us all pause: "One who eats bread with you."

So a Company should be a place where we share a meal. Where we feed and nourish one another.

If that is not too far-out for you, let's go a b…

The Goals Workout

Ever since her initial publication in the Harvard Business Review online, the findings of Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson on success have been on my mind and in my work with clients.

In particular her finding that successful people get very specific when setting goals.

She wrote:

"When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. “Lose 5 pounds” is a better goal than “lose some weight,” because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you’ll “eat less” or “sleep more” is too vague — be clear and precise. “I’ll be in bed by 10pm on weeknights” leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do, and whether or not you’ve actually done it."

Get specific. Anyone who is into goal setting has already known this. It is part of the old SMART formula where the S means Specific.

But in the…

Change Agents: Your most important credential

Have you ever been fired?

Have you had the personal experience of significant disappointment, setback, and loss?

Can you genuinely relate to what your clients are feeling?

After being "let go" several times in my career, I am convinced that this is the most valuable life experience for anyone calling himself a Change Agent or Change Manager.

When you go over a waterfall in your work or your life, you are thrown into the whitewater of change. You are forced to stop and think: OK. Now what? Where to from here?

I have found that it's very useful is to reclaim your sense of purpose, your inner compass, that you can consult to regain your bearings and decide on your next course of action.

For an organizational change consultant, trying to make sense of the change experience, there are a lot of possible handles for one's purpose. The one I selected is CHANGE:

C = Communicate openly and often

H = Help folks through the transition

A = Align around your core process and your m…

What Inspires Me? Creative Facilitation Challenges

I love facilitating! When (with the help of Dick Richards' wonderful book Is Your Genius at Work?) I discovered that my calling is to facilitate group wisdom, I realized why I find facilitating so inspiring. It's my core process, as Nick Heap would say.

Back in 2008, I developed ALOHA Facilitation. Here's the story.

I was facilitating a meeting of the pastoral leadership council at my church. While developing my plan, the Hawaiian word Aloha surfaced in my mind. Aloha, in the Hawaiian language, means affection, love, peace, compassion, and mercy. What a great container for some ideas for facilitation:

A = Ask questions

L = Listen to all voices

O = Observe the group energy

H = Help discern the path

A = Activate next steps

It was one of those deeply resonant moments for me as I suddenly realized that this was both my way of facilitating, and my suggested way for the participants to actively play their part in the meeting.

It worked beautifully. Blending Aloha with the shared…

Everything Changes. All the Time.

In response to my last blog post, LinkedIn member Neil Meredith wrote: "...everything changes all the time and effective change is managed."

Let's pursue the question: "What are the implications for Change Managers?"

If everything changes all the time, one might ask, What do we need Change Managers for then? Maybe it's the term 'managers' that we need to replace. What other words could we substitute?

One of my favorite people in the career transition space is Hannah Morgan of Her motto is: "Expert in navigating extreme career terrain."

According to wikipedia, the term Sherpa refers to people who are employed as guides for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalayas. "They are highly regarded as elite mountaineers and experts in their local terrain."

She says:

"Embarking on a job search is like preparing to climb a mountain. Maybe not Mt. Everest, where sherpas are found, but you will still need a guide to sh…

We may have change all wrong...

On LinkedIn, a lot of recent threads, in the ODNET group and other similar groups that I participate in actively, are focused on the problem of change.

Maybe we have change all wrong?

Maybe change is totally natural and ordinary. Look at your fingernails. Do they need to be clipped again? Soon perhaps?

Look at a photo of yourself as a child. Have you stayed the same? In my case, I won the prize (a bottle of wine) at my 40th high school reunion for being "The Most Changed."

Or more to the point, look at your organization when it was first founded. Is it different today? Of course it is!

Change is Life!

It is the air that we breath. It is the blood in our veins.

One of my favorite texts in college was a slim paperback called "Living With Change" by Dr. Wendell Johnson. He wrote:

"You have to start out with something you are rather fundamentally thinking about your problem, something that begins with the demonstrated fact that you are changing all the time and so …

Seven Elements in Organizational Culture

Often I am asked by my clients to help strengthen or even change the culture of their company. Where do you start?

While there are many entry points for such an effort, it helps to have a model of organizational culture in mind. Such as this.

C = Customer, Commercial, Commitment, Conflict, Creativity, & Communication: The letter "C" carries the most weight in this model of organizational culture. Is there a clear bias toward the customer in all that you do? Do members have a high level of commercial awareness including how the Company makes money? Is there a high level of commitment to core values? Are conflicts resolved in a healthy way? Do members feel free to bring creative ideas to the table? Is there open and honest communication across all boundaries in the organization?

The C also stands for Change. Are the members of the organization "change ready?" Are they open to change? Are they adaptable?

U = Unified Effort: Every organization, from a "mom and…

Need to change? Get FRED

As an OD and career transition consultant, I work with organizations and individuals who are surfing the transitions of change. Because of this, and because I have had a life-long obsession with the nature of change, I am attuned to change stories. Luckily such stories abound if you are ready for them.

A friend of mine has been leading a change effort since last year. He and a small group of others have been creating a brand new non-profit organization. Their efforts were born out of a disaster I won't go into here. Suffice to say, they were angered enough by what happened, that they decided to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the debacle they experienced. They made the decision to start working on it a year ago and have been striving toward this goal with determination.

The most adept transitionists I know, like my friend, seem to have FRED. FRED stands for focus, resilience, energy, and drive.

Focus - Focus is the fixation on goals that matter, that are meaningful, and that…

Leaders, Can you RELATE?

I started teaching a series on leadership today for one of my client companies. Thanks to synchronicity, there was recently an article about relational skills for leaders in Forbes.

Called "Leadership Is A Relational Skill," the author made some very good points about what leaders must do to connect with their teams.

The article, and today's class discussion, has inspired me to create this acronym for leaders, using the word "relate:"

RELATE for Leaders:

Respect - Effective leaders have a deep respect for their followers. They show it by asking for input, by listening, by speaking the truth, by keeping promises, and by building trust.

Engage - Effective leaders practice lively engagement with their people, seeking their involvement in change initiatives, seeking their ideas and opinions on improvements, having frequent two-way conversations, and making them feel like they are part of the very heart of the business.

Listen - Effective leaders are great listeners,…

Grouping: A core OD competency

Many of us in the Organization Development field have had experience working with teams. Project teams. Committees. Boards. For the most part, team building interventions designed to improve how these teams function. But teams that are already there.

Have you ever started a group? From scratch? From nothing but a felt need and an idea?

When the tsunami wave of the Great Recession, washed millions of people into unemployment, many felt totally adrift in the deluge, lost and in need of connecting with others for support.

But in many cases, when they looked around in their local areas for such support groups, they found none. So some started to think about forming their own support groups.

I was one of those. Many years before, I would sometimes say that groups were not for me. That I was "not a joiner." Well, life has a way of teaching you lessons. As a result of organizational and societal upheavals, I changed my tune.

At my church (St. Matthias in Somerset, NJ), we started …

Train with PODER

My new model for training is called PODER. I introduced it this week in a Train-the-Trainer class with a new client in the Newark, NJ area. Most of the class were Hispanic by heritage. As soon as I introduced the model, two of them said, "In our language, 'poder' means 'power,' you know."

I was pleased to hear that. If training is effective, it does em-power people to do their jobs well and achieve the results they are after.

Here's my new model for training, designed for trainers to guide them through the entire process.

P = Plan the training. This includes analyzing the need for the training. Setting objectives for the training. Assessing the audience for their knowledge and readiness. Creating the lesson plans designed to teach the skills needed.

O = Organize the training. This includes the communicating, the scheduling, the materials, the channels (e.g. classroom, e-learning, job aids, etc), and everything else required to execute the training.

D = De…

On Real Leading

There is so much written every day about leaders and leadership that you can't keep up with it. It's overwhelming at times.

Then something good appears in the feed. Here is a blog post featuring some leadership wisdom from Herb Kelleher, the legendary founder of Southwest Airlines. Kelleher was a real leader. He did things that a real leader does such as paying attention to people, engaging them, trusting them, getting out of their way, striving always to improve, and building more leaders.

You could build a leadership course around the example of Herb Kelleher.

But we have to be careful when we start looking at examples like Kelleher. When we look at leaders, we tend to stay focused on CEOs and others at the top. The truth is, there are leaders at all levels and in all corners of organizations.

In fact, leadership is not about level. It's about leading. And leading is the courageous choice to identify a problem or a challenge and say "I will take a stand. I will …

A Conversation with "The OD Guy" Robin Cook

Robin Cook is a distinguished Organization Development professional based in Arlington, Virginia. The creator of the Organization Diagnostic Molecular Model, he is a George Land World Class Innovator Award recipient and an Innovation University Fellow. Robin is trained and highly skilled at implementing Dee Hock’s Chaordic Theory (one of few OD consultants in the world with this distinction).

I've known Robin for years, mostly through the Organization Development Network, and am happy to feature him on my blog.

In this interview, Robin talks about his work in helping organizations through challenging and often complex change.

Q Robin, Please give the readers a thumbnail description of your background.

As you know, Terry, I am a seasoned organizational development practitioner and change agent.

I'm proud to have been a key player on teams that developed and led processes that included complex change initiatives operating on many levels. I have led large and small scale turnarou…