Posts

Creating a Culture Strategy — On Purpose — For Today and Tomorrow

By Suzanne Mayo Frindt & Dwight Frindt – Excerpt from Cracking the Business Code

Is your company culture and your leadership practices designed for success in today’s world?

By Brian Hefele

By Brian Hefele

In the face of unrelenting change and increased complexity of issues facing us in business today, our past based practices and structures may not be sufficient to succeed in this new paradigm. Let’s take a look at how company cultures and leadership must shift to respond powerfully to the circumstances we are currently experiencing.

People don’t really fear change itself; they can become afraid that they won’t be successful in the new paradigm. It is the job of leadership to create conditions, a culture, where people can learn, grow, and adapt to be successful in today’s world.

Change and Change Again

Our world is rapidly shaping in many amazing ways:

♦ As the video, Shift Happens has pointed out to the millions of YouTube viewers who have seen it on the Internet, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, who will be using technology we haven’t yet discovered, to solve problems we don’t even yet know about yet” (Shift Happens video, created by Karl Fisch and modified by Scott McLeod).
♦ The quantity of information, its availability, and speed of delivery are increasing at an exponential rate as costs are approaching zero.
♦ The number of people accessing and using this information, and the many ways it is disseminated, has exploded since the advent of personal computers and the Internet — which in turn exponentially speeds up the rate at which new technologies are developed.
♦ Women are stepping into leadership roles at all levels, in diverse venues and in unprecedented numbers all over the world.
♦ Awareness that our global environment cannot continue to withstand a collective human consumption race is spreading quickly.
♦ Our children are being born into and growing up in a world that is so different than the one we grew up in, that it requires a new way of being for them to lead successful lives.
♦ More people over 65 are alive today than have ever lived to that age, so that group will be looking for whole new models for leading healthy, successful lives.

The list of changes that we have already experienced is inexhaustible. And as soon as you read this article, there will be even more changes that have occurred. Accelerated change has become the new normal. At the same time, we hear many clients say “as soon as it slows down or gets back to normal.” Those who think there will be a return to the “good ole days” are in for a great shock.

Our cultures, leadership, and structures have to shift from top down to valuing learning and expanding capacities to problem solve in the face of uncertainty, mining all available wisdom and creativity.

Culture…What’s That?

By rekre89 (Flickr)

By rekre89 (Flickr)

Excellent companies have Financial Strategies, Operational Strategies, Marketing and Sales Strategies, and commensurate Resource Allocation Strategies (including People, Time, Money, Equipment/Assets, etc.). How many companies actually have a Cultural Strategy? Yet all companies have a culture, implicitly if not explicitly. They have been developed on a historical basis and impact productivity, success, and health for generations. And, they can be experienced differently depending on one’s position within the organization.

Our first conversations with executives about Culture and Culture Strategies begin with a definition — a shared definition. Since so much of what comprises a culture is often accidental and somewhat invisible, some people have a hard time accepting that there is one, or that it can be defined or even changed.

Once we work through a few of the definitions below, most CEOs and executives agree they do have a definite culture. Then comes the question of whether it is the most productive culture given their purpose, values, and the changes we are experiencing every day.

A company culture can be defined as:

♦ A cognitive framework consisting of attitudes, values, behavioral norms, and expectations. (Greenberg and Baron, 1997)
♦ The collective thoughts, habits, attitudes, feelings, and patterns of behavior. (Clemente and Greenspan, 1999)
♦ The pattern of arrangement, material, or behavior, which has been adopted by a society (corporation, group, or team) as the accepted way of solving problems. (Ahmed et al., 1999)
♦ Includes the organizational values, mission, norms, working language, systems, beliefs, and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving and even thinking and feeling. (Wikipedia)
♦ A set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for certain situations. (Ravasi and Shultz 2006)

From this collection of definitions of culture, it becomes clear that a group or an organization’s culture is foundational to the success or failure of all other strategies, and yet little, if any attention, is consciously placed on the care and feeding of a productive culture. It is the invisible glue that binds together ever more diverse workforces, including people from many cultures and generations. Since it is invisible, most executives are not conscious of culture or of the implications of their decisions on the development of, or the degradation of, culture. Organizations in a high growth or acquisition mode are at a high risk of failure due to culture clashes. It is very unusual for us to see organizations that understand the criticality of this dimension of an acquisition, or adding lots of employees in a short period of time. Without a clear and intentional culture strategy, along with the allocation of resources to be sure that it is communicated and very well understood and incorporated into every day business interactions, the culture is drastically impacted by whatever the acquisition brought with them, or what the large numbers of employees bring with them. The sad reality is that productive organizational cultures often suffer a demise due to an unconscious neglect by leadership.

What people often complain about is usually a description of the unproductive aspects of the culture, at least from their perspective. We have heard from executives: lack of accountability, defensiveness, competitiveness at the expense of the company, or customer outcomes. In an organizational 360 tool that we use, we have heard from the workforce: micro management, lack of trust, no clear direction, compensation, and reward systems that emphasize individual results rather than company success. This was all within the same company!

Many organizations that we have encountered through our leadership development firm, 2130 Partners, have had what we call “accidental” cultures. Perhaps it was generated initially by a founder entrepreneur, mirrors other cultures in the same industry, or was created by a particular hiring practice or compensation structure. Nonetheless, most cultures develop by accident.

Cultures can be designed on purpose, and existing productive cultures can be maintained and enhanced intentionally.

Leadership — Replacing Commands with Vision

In this evolving new reality, successful leadership will have a very different nature than traditional approaches.

By Aadi Sing

By Aadi Sing

It was quite different to be a leader in simpler economic times and when the world moved at a slower pace with less connectivity. There were successful models and practices in place as well as more easily identifiable and attainable goals. Patterns of entitlement offered at least the illusion of security, and there was more time and predictability in producing results. However, now — when previous business models and assumptions have been turned on their heads, when people’s livelihoods are changing and disappearing regularly, and when successful businesses are being transformed for the new realities — the leadership required is radically agile, proactive, and creative.

Leaders who will be effective in this time of incredible opportunity are those that lead as if they are in a dance with reality — that is, they look to create exciting new paradigms, processes, and even companies based on creating the next game while being responsible for the current and unfolding global economy. They are not simply waiting until the economy gets back to normal or using past experiences to map out current pathways. Being in a dance demands conversations appropriate to dancing. Think about it — when you get out on the dance floor, do you tell your partner, “I need these four steps from you in the next minute, followed by a repetitive pattern until I tell you otherwise”? If you have done that, perhaps you have found that it leaves you with very few dance partners. How then do you engage with others in this new reality?

We call the management model we use to replace the old “command-and-control” paradigm, Vision-Focused Leadership, which is an approach grounded in shared vision and built through collaboration.

Vision: A mental image produced by the imagination

Vision-Focused Leadership as a mental model shows how thinking, listening, speaking, and actions — most importantly those that you employ to lead others — are focused and informed by a shared vision. Focusing on your shared vision allows you to make choices; orient your creativity, energy, and resources; and correlate your thoughts and actions and the actions of people working with you on your shared intention. In the absence of shared vision, it is easy to become victims of or be distracted by circumstances, worries, and fears, and to react based on instant, automatic, unconscious, and unexamined thoughts, beliefs, and judgments stored in your mind. Without necessarily realizing it, the past winds up driving your bus.

When we talk about leadership here, our intention is to stress that leader- ship can be evoked anywhere in an organization — that is, every person can exhibit leadership qualities, no matter what his or her job description may be.

If you and your team members have done a good job developing and sharing the vision, then creating powerful actions will flow much more naturally. People will be able to individually source their ideas, actions, and interactions from the shared vision. If you replace commands with shared vision and broaden the source and responsibility for creativity to the entire team, you will maximize creativity, ownership, collaboration, and velocity in fulfilling the shared vision.

We use the term “Yonder Star” to include shared vision, goals, objectives, and strategies to obtain it. It can be applied at any level from a strategic corporate vision to your vision for the outcomes you intend to produce in a single conversation or meeting. The Yonder Star is the ideal, out in front of you and up above the path you are currently traveling, that provides a common focus and inspires your actions. Rather than hanging onto sacred past-based activities and processes (i.e., “what did we do and how did we do it last year?”), priorities, plans, and milestones are designed from a focus on the Yonder Star. From this mind-set, actions are prioritized by their value in fulfilling the Yonder Star. All members of the team are inspired to explore their own integration of the goal with their passion to contribute and the specific role their work will play in its fulfillment.

From shared dedication to the overall outcome, a pervasive attitude of “I’ve got your back” naturally develops within each member of the team. Dissent, one-upmanship, and agendas fueled by self-interest tend to fade to the background.

Collaboration Requires

Connection, Alignment, and Focus

Yonder Star clipartThis graphic is our shorthand illustration of this notion. Here we show a group of people who are interacting from a solid foundation of mutual trust, respect, and safety to reach their mutual Yonder Star. In this case, a collection of aligned Yonder Stars, shown in a stack of different sizes, depicts the many intermediate goals that lie between your current situation and fulfillment of your Yonder Star. To sort out which actions will be most productive on your route to your Yonder Star, look back from your fulfilled Yonder Star and ask, “What’s missing in our current reality that, if we work on it, will accelerate fulfilling our Yonder Star?” From your list, determine the decisions and actions that will be most leveraged in closing the gap. By leveraged, we mean the actions that produce the greatest impact while requiring the fewest resources and taking the least amount of time to accomplish. Get started, monitor results, recalibrate with new position updates, and continue on your path or make adjustments as necessary to stay on course.

Collaboration — New Ways of Working Together

As we go forward, those who lead will be the ones taking advantage of the creativity and productivity gains available by focusing on the human, collaborative dimension, while laggards will suffer in the face of unrelenting change.

The extremely affordable, and nearly instant, access to vast amounts of information and ways of interacting with whole communities that are becoming available, combined with a productive attitude toward change and the new realities it brings, creates huge opportunities for you and your leadership. However, leading effectively will require a new mind-set to unleash potential and creativity and to capitalize on opportunities.

The challenges lie in strengthening your ability to choose the direction, form the goals, and then communicate and enroll others so that you build groups and organizations that can collectively navigate shifting realities. This means improving your ability to communicate, work together collaboratively, and lead others to do so as well. If you learn how to identify and utilize the navigational guides to traversing this uncharted territory, you will experience higher productivity, more rapid innovation, and greater organizational agility. Additionally, responsiveness to the needs of customers and other stakeholders in the organization and more rewarding relationships will become something you can rely upon.

Building Collaborative Capital — It Begins with Me

To effectively change our outer reality requires being willing to shift our inner reality.

Today, talented, educated people who know how and are motivated to work interactively with each other are the key to success for more and more businesses. This new collaborative approach means many more minds are put to work on the opportunities and challenges facing us whether in business, in our organizations, or even in our families.

When we were born, we came equipped with the most powerful computers on earth (although Shift Happens cites projections that the quantitative computing power of a supercomputer will pass that of the human brain by the year 2013). These innate computers serve us well in producing new ideas and dynamic solutions — as we can see in all that has happened just in the past twenty years of technological growth. The core thought processes that guide our reactions and interactions were mostly loaded into your brain and ours when we were children and have been chugging along ever since, functioning as an unconscious and unexamined operating system.

Don’t change the world, change worlds…starting with your own.
Adapted from St. Francis of Assisi, Catholic patron saint of animals and the environment

Being able to think in new ways requires challenging the very basis of your own thinking — your self-concept, worldview, and automatic ways of interacting with others.

What Is a Productive Culture Anyway?

By Anne Davis (773 Flickr)

By Anne Davis (773 Flickr)

We don’t use terminology such as “good” or “bad” cultures, which is a binary and simplistic assessment. We consider the organization’s purpose, or vision and mission to determine if the existing culture supports the achievement of that purpose while calling forth the best from the people within the organization. Does it call forth high performance and productivity on a sustainable basis? Does it reward Self-Generated Accountability and Productive Dialogue? Does it foment gossip, jealousy, politics, CYA, or individual success over company success?

What is productive in a culture is what people are proud of about their company or their work. When shared values are demonstrated and memorialized in great stories, people tell about “the time when…”

What If You Created a Learning Culture?

A Learning Culture is one where the individuals and teams consciously invest in growing and developing themselves. In a Learning Culture, executives are conscious and purposeful about the impact of decisions and strategies on the fabric of cultural development. There is a purposeful focus on reducing friction and waste in communications and developing productive working relationships. People know there is an expectation for growing and learning. Hiring decisions are made with an interest in an individual’s ability to learn, adapt, grow, and shift outdated mental models, as much as their past-based, functional experience. An atmosphere of curiosity, forward thinking and ‘how can we learn from this’ thinking permeates. It becomes the foundation or platform on which everything else is built.

What Are The Payoffs of a Learning Culture?

For an organization, this type of culture provides much more innovation, creativity, flexibility, agility, and expedited problem solving capabilities. It also affects retention and even hiring decisions of individuals in the firm.

For individuals, it provides opportunities for learning and growth; enhancing marketability and value to this or other organizations. It also provides forums to be challenged, to add value, and to contribute at a high level. Some CEOs have actually expressed concern that growing their people will make them more vulnerable to their best people leaving. However, if looked at from the individual’s perspective, why would they leave unless they have fully used up the growth opportunities where they are right now? Why would someone leave a position where their value and contribution are recognized, supported, and rewarded?

How Can We Develop a Learning Culture?

There are many books and articles about learning organizations including work by Senge and Argyris that explain in depth about the what and how of learning organizations. Our 2130 methodology (and terminology adaptation in some instances) ties to the 5 aspects of a learning organization that are generally accepted by leadership “gurus” as follows:

1. Systems Thinking: Understanding how things influence each other as a whole. Our view is that executives and organizational leadership are accountable to the entire organization and all stakeholders for this larger view. This includes strategy development, planning, implementation, review, and adjustment. This is a level above what most executives contribute on a day-to-day basis from their functional expertise (Finance, Operations, Sales, Marketing, HR, etc.). In addition to a responsibility for systems thinking on an individual executive basis, it is also critical that the entire executive team itself operate as a productive, learning system. Most organizations develop a Vision statement, Mission, and Values that constitute the overall framework, (we call it the ‘Yonder Star’), and then on a regular basis develop strategies, initiative, goals, and actions in the dimensions of finance, operations, marketing, sales, resource allocation, and to a lesser degree, culture. Our methodology, “Vision-Focused Leadership” is designed to support systems thinking. We work with top executives — the CEO, President, or entrepreneur — in a trusted advisor or executive coaching assignment to create a learning culture. We also work with the team of top executives to support the development of and focus on all the strategies required to be successful. Our Operating Principles create a platform for a productive, learning culture with the executive leadership team and then the entire organization.

By Gerd Altmann

By Gerd Altmann

2. Shared Vision/Values: “A vehicle for building shared meaning” from Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline. Unfortunately, this often looks more like the version from Dilbert: “A long meaningless statement that proves management’s inability to focus.” Over the last 20+ years we have worked with organizations to develop Vision, Mission, and Values using our “Vision-Focused Leadership” methodology. Leadership gurus have been espousing for at least two decades the value of a shared vision to focus and align resources. Absent a shared vision, individual agendas rule the day and gaining personal power becomes a major executive focus. Shared Vision/Values encourage a learning culture by emphasizing the gaps toward our Shared Vision/Values, what is missing and what is next, versus what is wrong from the past.

3. Productive Mental Framework: We talk about busting mental barriers, increasing mental agility, and increasing capacities to deal with the unrelenting pace of change and increased complexity of issues facing leadership today. It requires skills at reframing for ourselves and others, and developing focus in chaos and high emotional states. Past-based arrogance and rigidity undermine productive cultures. It is critical to become aware of our blind spots and biases to be able to think clearly in the present to make the best decisions in a complex business environment. We use our Operating Principles and Essential Notions, developed and validated over the past 20 years to help build a learning culture platform and equip leaders and man- agers with the mental and collaborative skills needed in today’s world.

4. Personal Mastery: This is the commitment of every person in the organization to improve, develop, and challenge themselves to be more than they are today, and to proactively challenge themselves inside a framework of contribution and collaboration. Individuals who insist on status quo and structural barriers to communication usually self-select out of a Learning Culture. In our book, Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World, we say that when individuals develop themselves they have increased their collaborative capacities. We will get older automatically, however to grow as we age requires a conscious choice. In our work, we describe conscious choice as the Leadership Choice Point. Every moment of every day presents an opportunity for choice. Will I relate to the world around me, the circumstances of my life as the defining parameters, or will I choose to use the circumstances as an opportunity to grow toward the Yonder Star?

5. Team Mastery: In addition to individual learning and development, organizations must realize that groups of people, (of any size of two or more), creates yet another “entity” with its own dynamics and productivity levels. Two or more people, who may be very developed individually, when put together in a group or team may not be as productive together as the sum of their individual productivity. The question becomes: will we synergize our efforts where 1+1=3 or more, or will we diminish productivity potential with friction and waste to make 1+1=1.5 or less? There are numerous examples of sports teams that have all “star” players, yet a team of “average” players can beat them because of the way the average players have developed their team effectiveness. The sum of what the players produce together is much greater than adding up individual skills — and so it is for organizational groups and teams. There are group skills and developmental opportunities that build on, yet are distinct from individual capacities. When groups develop these capacities we call that increasing their collaborative capital.

So What Will You Do Now?

1. Take stock of your culture. What are the stories being told about your organization by employees, clients, and vendors? What stories would you like to be told? What attributes of this powerful, invisible platform are important to you? Where are the gaps? What will you commit to taking on, challenging the status quo, and BEING as an example of the cultural aspect you are committed to developing? (We use an online organizational assessment to gather objective and confidential data to understand the present condition in an organization).

By Skeeze (Pixabay)

By Skeeze (Pixabay)

2. What cultural “artifacts” do you have in place? (We call the collection of these items, all on one page, your Strategic Focus.)
a) Compelling Vision, Mission, and Shared Values (We also use our Operating Principles as a key piece of culture definition because they are design principles for productive conversations.)
b) Business strategy that fulfills the Vision and Mission
c) Bold Goals that clearly take ground toward the strategy and mission, and are consistent with your vision and values

3. Is your Leadership and management team aligned behind #2 above?

4. Has your Strategic Focus been clearly communicated? Does your team know how to communicate it to their folks?

5. Are your departmental and individual goals lined up with the Mission, Vision, and Strategy?

If you are missing any of the above, fill in the missing pieces immediately! If your Vision or Mission statements are a paragraph long or no one remembers them anymore, throw them out! Vision and Mission statements have a positive influence on culture only when they really “live” inside the hearts and minds of people in the organization. It is not a job for the marketing department or your PR firm to “word smith.” It is the role of leadership to capture and communicate and nurture the Vision and Mission and Values. Each executive and management team member must be willing to have their leadership and management practices be guided by these major cultural influencers you create. When the actions or practices of people in management positions are contrary to what have been espoused as values and the mission then there is a huge disconnect for individuals in the organization, resulting in cynicism and resignation.

If you need help, consider hiring a professional facilitator to work with you and your leadership team to help define the existing reality, clearly define each aspect of your Strategic Focus and identify the gaps. Accomplish this first, before working with the balance of your organization, to develop thinking and behaviors consistent with a learning culture and self-generated accountability.

Above all, keep growing and learning and Accelerate your Leadership.

If Leadership is not consciously strategizing, designing, and developing culture, what is left to form it? Culture exists and is alive in the stories employees, (and vendors and customers), tell about what it is like to work there, how people get treated, how to get ahead, whom to hold your tongue around, whom to please, whether merit or seniority count to a greater extent, what happens if you are ill, what are the opportunities for development, promotion, raises, learning. What stories are being told about your company? What stories would you like to be hearing? How does leadership affect those stories? What are the payoffs? These are the questions to ask to get conscious about the affect of your culture.

by Devanath (pixabay)

by Devanath (pixabay)

References:

Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World by Suzanne and Dwight Frindt – to order go to www.2130partners.com.

“Developing a Corporate Culture as a Competitive Advantage” by Golnaz Sadri and Brian Lees .

Peter Michael Senge is an American scientist and director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is known as author of the book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization (originally 1990, new edition 2006).

Chris Argyris is an American business theorist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, and a thought leader at Monitor Group. He is commonly known for seminal work in the area of “Learning Organizations.”

Suzanne Frindt is a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners, an executive leadership development and education firm that launched in 1990. She is also a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™, speaking to organizations around the world. She is also a Group Chair for Vistage International, Inc. an organization of CEOs and key executives dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 12,000 members. Each month she facilitates groups in Orange County, California, and Seattle, Washington, while also regularly contributing entrepreneurial creativity and management experience to several companies through service on their advisory boards.

Dwight Frindt is also a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners. Since 1994, Dwight has been a Group Chair for Vistage International facilitating groups of CEOs and senior executives. He has received many performance awards for his work at Vistage and in 2009 Dwight became a Best Practice Chair and began mentoring the Chairs in the South Orange County area. Since then he has added two additional Best Practice Chair regions; the Puget Sound and the Greater Pacific Northwest. In 2011 Dwight received the Best Practice Chair of the Year Award – Western Division. Combining his work with 2130 Partners and Vistage, Dwight has facilitated more than 1,000 days of workshops and meetings, and has logged well over 13,000 hours of executive leadership coaching. In addition to working in the for-profit world, Dwight and Suzanne are very committed to working with non-profits and have been investors and activists with The Hunger Project for many years. To reach them, please visit www.2130partners.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2016 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement. To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

Are You Prepared To Lead The Way – Part 2

Excerpt from Cracking The Personality Code book

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]O[/dropcaps]ur friends and colleagues, Suzanne and Dwight Frindt shared the following ideas in our book, Cracking The Personality Code. The Frindts are the founders of 2130 Partners, a leadership development and education firm that facilitates focused vision, inspired teams, and sustained commitment for its clients.

Understanding the Role of Your Body

Studies have shown that to learn a new physical skill takes 300 repetitions for muscle-memory to be developed and 3,000 repetitions for the skill to be “embodied.” In a similar way, the Frindts believe that for intellectual learning to take root, it must be practiced repeatedly. In addition, there are key physical components that impact intellectual learning, bus man on bombespecially when someone is faced with stress.

Without awareness of these physical components, it’s almost impossible to learn to address distress differently. The Frindts are finding that the physical aspects of being in an emotionally distressed state are as important as the feelings themselves. These two elements are inextricably linked. Ignoring or overlooking the physical manifestations of emotion limits our ability to manage emotional distress.

Research into brain physiology is now giving us valuable understanding of the physiological dimension of our emotional reactions. This fundamental information is extremely useful for business leaders. For example, let’s look at a physical process sometimes referred to as “limbic hijacking.”

The limbic system is the part of the brain associated with emotion and memory. Within the limbic system are the amygdalae, two almond-shaped clusters of neurons whose primary responsibilities include scanning for danger and warning us of impending threats. A limbic hijacking occurs when the amygdalae are triggered, producing physical sensations of distress. Some common signals of the amygdalae’s work include sweaty palms, tense shoulders, dry mouth, and “butterflies in the stomach.” As the intensity of distress rises, the strength of the physical signals increases—and our rational, cognitive powers diminish.

A Biological Early Warning System

In their role as instinctual guardians, the amygdalae are part of our biological early warning system. They help ensure our physical survival by triggering four simple reactions: fight, flight, freeze, or appease. They respond instinctively, with lightning speed—much faster than the thinking portions of our brain.

For our early ancestors, who were dealing with a natural world that presented many real, life-threatening dangers, this function was essential to survival. But in today’s corporate workplace, amygdalae reactions can often hinder instead of help.

Here’s why. The amygdalae react instinctively, nearly instantaneously. Unfortunately, they can’t differentiate between a real or imagined threat. They also can’t distinguish between a physical threat and one generated by words or our own thoughts. And when the amygdalae send their warnings, they set powerful forces in motion throughout the body. Adrenaline and cortisol are released, raising heart rate and blood pressure. Blood drains from “less important” areas (such as our thinking brain) and goes to those areas needed for physical defense. We become a reactionary machine: on guard, on edge.

“Not the best state for thoughtful discourse, creative problem-solving or associative collaboration,” notes Dwight Frindt.

Post-Stress Mess

That’s just the beginning. There are also the after-effects. If we were running from a bear in the woods like our ancestors, that extreme physical effort would consume much of the excess adrenaline and cortisol released by the amygdalae’s warnings of danger. Because of that, soon after the danger had passed, our heart rate and blood pressure would drop, man and parachuteand we would return to a more relaxed, thoughtful state.

In the office, this doesn’t happen. On a typical working day the amygdalae may perceive many “threatening” situations. And even though these “dangers” take the form of spoken words or private thoughts rather than outside physical threats to our survival, they still trigger the same biological reactions. We get hyped up in self-defense mode with nowhere to run off the floods of adrenaline and cortisol.

Without a release, our heart rate and blood pressure stay high, other physical sensations continue, and we experience protracted stress. At a minimum, we’re frustrated, distracted, and unproductive; we’re certainly unable to be our most creative. In high-stress environments where perceived threats occur even more frequently, people may end up missing work altogether due to physical illness or needing a “mental health day.” Under these conditions, the risk of burnout is high.

The amygdalae and limbic system, along with the brain stem, form what is commonly called the “old brain.” In fact, the brain stem is sometimes referred to as the “reptilian brain” because it can be found in all vertebrates, including reptiles and mammals. It has to do with our most basic functions: breathing, sleeping, blood circulation, muscle contraction, reproduction and self-preservation. Coupled with the limbic system’s early warning system of danger, the reptilian brain provides a powerful image and an important clue in how behavior manifests during distress.

“Picture the angry team leader raging in a team meeting,” says Dwight Frindt. “It doesn’t take a great leap from there to imagine everyone around the table instantly transformed into iguanas, geckos, and gila monsters, each caught in their own reaction and defensive/offensive posturing. It is hard to imagine that many executives actually intend to have their companies managed by a group of reptiles. Yet this kind of behavior is regularly triggered and allowed to persist.”

Given the primitive, instinctual physical reactions associated with being upset, it’s no wonder that all those advanced conceptual-learning approaches are not very helpful in reducing the effects of emotional distress. The information we learn in those training workshops are accessed and processed in the cerebral cortex, the “new,” rational part of the brain. But as we’ve seen, when we get upset we begin functioning from an entirely different place, a different part of the brain.

So how do we bridge the gap between the thinking and feeling brain? How do we make use of both our higher reasoning and our emotional passion that fires so much of our inspiration and creativity? How do we do so in a way that minimizes reactivity and distress while increasing productivity and shared pride of ownership?

Leaders can use the answers to get more of their own thoughtful time back and enhance their ability to focus on critical business issues. Team members can use the answers to raise their individual and collective productivity in ways that enhance their lives rather than increasing their stress. In both cases, people are able to move from an experience of trying to survive to one of thriving.

The Frindts propose that leaders start by working on themselves. The truth is organizations look to their executives to set the tone. If those executives are highly reactive, in all likelihood their organizations will be, too. On the other hand, if leaders learn to identify and clear their own emotional distress first, they’ll be more productive, they’ll trigger less stress within their teams, and they’ll be much better equipped to support team members in navigating their own emotional reactions.

Dwight and Suzanne Frindt have seen it time and again. As leaders begin to experience the benefits of their increased ability to “de-stress” emotionally, it becomes an obvious investment to train others. Just as mounting stress can create its own snowball effect in a team, team members can begin to build a new kind momentum of converting distress to eustress (healthy, productive stress—as in the excitement of pursuing a challenging goal). The more individuals there are who can identify and clear their own emotional distress, the easier it becomes for other colleagues to join them in maintaining a balance of thoughtful productivity and emotional engagement. It’s a process that, when fully committed to, can transform a culture.

While lasting change takes time and continuous practice, there are a few simple, critically important steps that can begin to immediately repair the damage of emotional distress. These diagnostic and intervention steps are both conceptual and physical. They give your intellect the information and your body the tools to change both experience and behavior.

5-Step Recipe for Identifying and Clearing Distress

  1. Learn to observe and identify body sensations that signal a “limbic hijacking” is taking place. It sounds obvious, but many people have no awareness of their physical state when they’re upset. Yet this information is critical to implementing lasting change. So practice. With a bit of self-observation, most of us can say (for example), “I feel pressure in my chest,” “I feel blood rushing to my neck,” “I stiffen up,” “I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach.” It’s essential to develop the skill of recognizing your physical buildingsymptoms. It’s so important, in fact, that this physical in-formation comes before anything else in the intervention process. Practice this step until you have a clear understanding of your reactions.
  2. Exhale and slow down your breathing. After you’ve learned to identify that you’re in a “hijacked” state, you can incorporate the practice of altering your breathing. The quickest and most effective method to immediately calm the “fight or flight” response is to take long, slow, deep breaths. When stressed, it’s common to hold your breath or to take very shallow breaths as part of your defensive response. Exhaling fully and slowing down your breathing is simple. It’s also quite possibly the most important and powerful antidote to emotional distress.
  3. Identify your amygdalae-triggered reaction. Learn to observe your automatic defense. Are you doing fight (assertiveness/attack), flight (mentally checking out or even physically leaving the room), freeze (deer-in-the-headlights, unable to think of what to do next), or appease (“sucking up,” e.g., “Oh, yes, I know exactly what you mean,” or “I’m with you on that.”)? Depending on the circumstances, you’re likely to have one reaction that triggers as your default defensive position. As you realize what your reaction is, you’ll also start to see its limits and its impact on others. This awareness actually builds the capacity to choose different behavior that gets you more of what you intend.
  4. Stop trying to drive your agenda. When under emotional distress, you’re more likely to make statements that you’ll later wish you could eat (and may have to). One of the most productive steps you can take in a moment of upset is to stop talking, breathe, and observe. Allow your-self some time. Is there really a reason to rush? If you can learn to step back and observe your own distress, or simply stay calm in the face of another’s distress, there’s an opportunity for a positive outcome.
  5. Ask yourself a “brain-switching” question. The amygdalae can only respond to a perceived threat, such as “Is that a bear, and is it going to eat me?” Unfortunately, since they cannot tell the difference between a physical threat and a threat in language, they go off frequently in the office or home where there hasn’t been a bear sighting in years. You can reactivate your thinking capacities by coming up with a reminder question. Use this question consistently (almost like a mantra) to activate the cerebral cortex of the brain. For example, ask yourself something that brings you back to a big-picture perspective: “What is the purpose of this meeting?” “What are we committed to here?” The relative sophistication of such a question will refocus your thinking and energy and will allow your system to relax.

One Last Thought

Next comes practice, practice, and more practice. You (and everyone else) have had decades of practice with your specific defensive reactions to distress. These reactions can be triggered by so many kinds of comments, tones of voice, and even facial expressions that you’ll have to work hard to refine your “brain switching.” In the beginning, it may not be possible to catch yourself before you’re already in the throes of a defensive, stressful conversation. However, with practice it’s possible to read the symptoms of defensiveness in your body and to mitigate the oncoming emotional reactions. If you commit yourself, it will become a lifelong discipline, and it will be well worth it.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

Suzanne Frindt is a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners, an executive leadership development and education firm that launched in 1990. She is also a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™, speaking to organizations around the world. She is also a Group Chair for Vistage International, Inc. an organization of CEOs and key executives dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 12,000 members. Each month she facilitates groups in Orange County, California, and Seattle, Washington, while also regularly contributing entrepreneurial creativity and management experience to several companies through service on their advisory boards.

Dwight Frindt is also a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners. Since 1994, Dwight has been a Group Chair for Vistage International facilitating groups of CEOs and senior executives. He has received many performance awards for his work at Vistage and in 2009 Dwight became a Best Practice Chair and began mentoring the Chairs in the South Orange County area. Since then he has added two additional Best Practice Chair regions; the Puget Sound and the Greater Pacific Northwest. In 2011 Dwight received the Best Practice Chair of the Year Award – Western Division. Combining his work with 2130 Partners and Vistage, Dwight has facilitated more than 1,000 days of workshops and meetings, and has logged well over 13,000 hours of executive leadership coaching.

In addition to working in the for-profit world, Dwight and Suzanne are very committed to working with non-profits and have been investors and activists with The Hunger Project for many years. To reach them please visit www.2130partners.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order our books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Are You Prepared To Lead The Way – Part 1

Excerpt from Cracking The Personality Code book

How to Become a Vision-Focused Leader

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]T[/dropcaps]he answer is leadership. It is time to become a vision-focused leader around whom issues can be raised and resolved productively. That’s the view of Suzanne and Dwight Frindt, the founders of 2130 Partners, a leadership development and education firm that facilitates focused vision, inspired teams, and sustained commitment for its clients.bizmen with telescopes world

Ask yourself these questions:

• Are your conversations with your team generating the results you want?
• Does your team successfully raise and resolve issues relevant to business success?
• Can you identify and deal with emotional upsets, in both yourself and others?

Exactly what is this leadership that is vision-focused? “We love Warren Bennis’ definition: ‘Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it,’” says Suzanne Frindt. “Our approach is the same whether we are working with individuals or with en-tire leadership teams. We believe the greatest opportunities are created by the development of people and action in a coordinated direction. We assert that the only sustainable strategies engage the heart and soul and are simultaneously grounded in sound business practices.”

Suzanne Frindt co-founded 2130 Partners with her husband Dwight in 1990. She is a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™(www.2130partners.com), speaking to various organizations around the world. Suzanne is also a group chair for Vistage International, Inc., an organization dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 14,000 CEO and executive members in sixteen countries.

Dwight Frindt established 2130 Partners on an idea that has become the cornerstone of the firm. The guiding methodology of Vision-Focused Leadership was born from his years of hands-on executive experience and from his thirty-year affiliation with The Hunger Project, an organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger. Dwight has integrated his knowledge of managing operations, acquisitions, and turn-arounds with insights he has learned through the work of The Hunger Project in rural villages around the world. Dwight also serves as a group chair for Vistage International and monthly facilitates CEO and executive groups in Orange County, California.

In their leadership programs, through their firm 2130 Partners, the Frindts train participants to utilize a new paradigm and methodology to shift the way they listen and dialogue. This critical approach enhances fundamental skills and abilities to have successful interactions—the corner-stone of effective leadership.

Power of Shared Vision

In a 1996 article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Building Your Company’s Vision,” Jim Collins and Jerry Porras said that companies that enjoy enduring success have a bizpeople seeing sunrisecore purpose and core values that remain fixed while their strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. The rare ability to balance continuity and change—requiring a consciously practiced discipline—is closely linked to the ability to develop a vision.

Vision provides guidance about what to preserve and what to change. Suzanne Frindt calls vision a “Yonder Star.”

“Without a vision, what is the point?” says Suzanne Frindt. “A Yonder Star unleashes the energy to galvanize yourself and your employees so you can achieve phenomenal things.”

When group members share a vision, it creates an opportunity for totally different conversations between a manager and members of their team. Focus on the shared vision creates alignment and provides a powerful context for creating mission, strategic initiatives, objectives, goals, roles, and finally all the way down through action plans.

Being a manager means making choices. At any moment in time you have a decision to make. Suzanne urges that when it comes time to make a decision being present in the moment, not on automatic pilot, is essential to the quality and relevance of the decision. You can then make the choice based on your Yonder Star, your shared vision of something to which you aspire, versus more of the same or your fear of some worst-case scenario.

“Worries are about envisioning a worst-case scenario, what you fear most,” says Suzanne Frindt. “Whatever we envision is affecting us right now. What we envision impacts us in this moment. There are consequences for managing based on fears that you may not want. Your Yonder Star is the shared vision you aspire to. The star is what you envision, and what you envision shapes both the present moment and the quality of your choices about your actions.”

Something else she recommends avoiding is being past-focused. This is when you make decisions based solely on what you have done in the past. Instead of having an inspiring vision for your team, all you are working for with a past based focus is attempting to minimize perceived risk and making incremental improvements.

“Many companies are past-focused when they do strategic planning,” says Suzanne Frindt. “What did the company do last year and then let’s add 10 percent or 20 percent. We are all tempted to try hard to make yesterday look like today. Or if we didn’t like yesterday, then we try to make it different or better.”

She adds that only by having a vision, a Yonder Star, can teams create breakthroughs to unprecedented results. Equally important is that it is a shared vision, one that is based on shared values and shared operating principles. This is how you create an environment for real collaboration.

The Frindts also advise their clients to learn to shift from being monologuers to dialoguers. As Margaret Miller once said, “Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of witnesses.” A monologuer manager is driven by proving they are right rather than engaging in a conversation for creative problem solving. This monologuing manager often gets surrender and appeasement from their team members rather than enthusiastic engagement.

Dialogue is the opposite. The three Cs of dialoguing are connect, con-verse and create. It has been said that the purpose of dialogue is not to share information but to create information. The focus is on the issue and your shared purpose rather than each other. As a manager, your ability to model and encourage listening that is curious and open dramatically increases your effectiveness. The dimensions that become possible are creativity, connection, alignment, focus, and collaboration.

“You create your vision, honestly assess where you are, and then get to work on the gap,” says Suzanne Frindt. “On the road there will be road-blocks and potholes. As a manager you work with your team to get around the roadblocks and fill in potholes.”

Overcoming Emotional Barriers

“The ability to identify and clear upsets, in myself and others, is the single most significant key to productivity gains in our economy today,” says Dwight Frindt. “We have asked our executive-leadership clients a simple question: ‘What time could you go home if everyone in the company simply came to work, did their jobs, and went home?’ The answer used to men with ladders and wallsurprise us until it kept being repeated. On average, our clients say, ‘Between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.’”

That begs a second question. If so many executives claim they could go home before lunch if everyone just showed up and did their work, what’s taking so much of our leaders’ time? The Frindts’ clients tell them flat out: distress, commonly known as upsets. The most time-consuming part of their job is managing the distressed interactions within their teams so that those teams can actually get to the business at hand.

“Okay, let’s assume there’s gross exaggeration at play here, fueled by frustration and wry humor,” continues Dwight Frindt. “But even if executives will never be able to consistently leave by noon, it is entirely reason-able for them to expect to save at least two hours of their time, every day. Alternatively they could increase their productivity 15–30%”

That’s nearly 500 extra hours a year leaders can devote to creative thinking, visioning, and strategizing rather than on repairing relationships and soothing bruised egos. At the opportunity cost of most executives’ time, that amounts to very substantial savings. Of course, the same can be said for everyone in the organization. An inordinate amount of productive time and payroll dollars and worse yet, opportunities, are lost daily, monthly and annually to the distraction caused by unresolved emotional distress.

Replacing that time, energy, and resource loss is of paramount importance. Doing so can create a culture that is both highly productive and emotionally resilient and rewarding. It requires a fundamental, transformative shift in two steps: 1) fewer emotionally driven issues in the workplace; and 2) leaders and their team members becoming self-sufficient in handling emotional distress issues when they occur.

“Let’s clarify what we mean by emotional distress,” says Dwight Frindt. “We’re using the term to summarize a wide range of reactions that temporarily disable people with regard to thoughtful and productive behavior. These reactions can vary from mild frustration to full-blown anger, and include embarrassment, sadness, impatience, agitation, worry, and fear. In each case the person is left in a condition where, whether realized or not, they are acting as if their very survival is threatened.”

The Causes of Emotional Distress

The Frindts’ studies and their clients’ experiences make it clear that the most common root causes of workplace emotional distress are 1) the perception that a promise has been broken (usually by leadership); 2) when positive intentions “fail”; and 3) when commitments seem thwarted. In addition to these three internal triggers, there are many times when busman and sharkpersonal distress is brought to the workplace from the rest of the person’s life. These other sources can be especially difficult to address, due to varying perspectives on what constitutes personal-professional boundaries.

The impact on the productivity and organizational effectiveness of people attempting to work while “stressed out” (or surrounded by others who are) is enormous. Yet it’s been the Frindts’ observation that most leaders overlook this as the place to start any efforts in business improvement. Most are far more comfortable with cost cutting, process development, process improvement, reorganizing, or some other business change that does not directly address the human dimension.

To help disarm this apparent reluctance to actively engage when emotional distress is present, the Frindts began several years ago to bring their clients a variety of expert presentations, books, and other training opportunities for building communication and issue-resolution skills. Even though there are many excellent resources available in this field, they were disappointed in the results. Their clients’ progress after exposure to all this material fell significantly short of what had been anticipated. The clients’ ability and skill in powerfully addressing emotional, distressing situations didn’t dramatically change.

So what went wrong? Why didn’t all that training and exposure to skill-building help when emotional distress was triggered? The problem is not in the content of the material. It’s in the limitation of its focus. Most of this highly regarded material addresses and is received by the intellectual part of the mind. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but too often the audience comes away with a conceptual understanding while gaining little or no real skill at changing behavior. Providing access to new information and a broader intellectual understanding is a good start, but it’s only a start. The Frindts found that unless this information is somehow deeply absorbed and embodied beyond the intellect, it vanishes when people are challenged and faced with intense emotion—their own or that of others.

In part two of this article, we will provide further ideas as well as the “5-Step Recipe” for identifying and dealing with emotional distress that can prevent vision-focused leadership.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

Suzanne Frindt is a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners, an executive leadership development and education firm that launched in 1990. She is also a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™, speaking to organizations around the world. She is also a Group Chair for Vistage International, Inc. an organization of CEOs and key executives dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 12,000 members. Each month she facilitates groups in Orange County, California, and Seattle, Washington, while also regularly contributing entrepreneurial creativity and management experience to several companies through service on their advisory boards.

Dwight Frindt is also a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners. Since 1994, Dwight has been a Group Chair for Vistage International facilitating groups of CEOs and senior executives. He has received many performance awards for his work at Vistage and in 2009 Dwight became a Best Practice Chair and began mentoring the Chairs in the South Orange County area. Since then he has added two additional Best Practice Chair regions; the Puget Sound and the Greater Pacific Northwest. In 2011 Dwight received the Best Practice Chair of the Year Award – Western Division. Combining his work with 2130 Partners and Vistage, Dwight has facilitated more than 1,000 days of workshops and meetings, and has logged well over 13,000 hours of executive leadership coaching.

In addition to working in the for-profit world, Dwight and Suzanne are very committed to working with non-profits and have been investors and activists with The Hunger Project for many years. To reach them please visit www.2130partners.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order our books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Are You Prepared to Lead the Way – or Has Fear Got Your Focus?

By Dana & Ellen Borowka

Recently, we have had a number of conversations with CEOs and key executives regarding what they are planning for their businesses for the new year. We have found two categories of individuals. Those that have a vision through listening to others in the market place, reaching out for support, gathering industry data, looking for trends and opportunities. The other group is totally focused on overhead reduction, darting around and focusing on the bad news in the world, taxes, health man buried in paperbills, and any information that they can grab onto to help justify why they are so scared.

Here is the Question for the Day

Which category do you fit into? Your answer will determine how your company is doing today and will be doing in the future. Those that think they know everything are closing themselves off from amazing opportunities.

Certainly all companies need to be constantly looking at overhead and keeping up with the news. However, when the focus is fear driven then our thoughts begin to justify our fears. That wastes time as it creates the continual loop of fear, depression, anxiety, etc.

The group that is forward thinking has a completely different outlook on life. That’s not to say that they don’t have concerns but rather they are using this time to plan ahead, remain clear headed and open to ideas. That is the key – to be still enough in order to listen. Then act on what we are seeing as immediate and future potential for new products and services, improvement in retention of current business as well as ideas for gaining additional market share.

Your focus will tell you immediately where you stand! First, we will explore leadership and how to deal with the fear. Then we’ll share what a group of business owners did that has separated them from many other companies.

How to Become a Vision-Focused Leader

The answer is leadership. It is time to become a vision-focused leader around whom issues can be raised and resolved productively. That’s the view of Suzanne and Dwight Frindt, the founders of 2130 Partners, a leadership development and education firm that facilitates focused vision, inspired teams, and sustained commitment for its clients and co-authors of Accelerate: High Leverage Leadership for Today’s World

Ask yourself these questions:

• Are your conversations with your team generating the results you want?
• Does your team successfully raise and resolve issues relevant to business success?
• Can you identify and deal with emotional upsets, in both yourself and others?

Exactly what is this leadership that is vision-focused? “We love Warren Bennis’ definition: ‘Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it,’” says Suzanne Frindt. “Our approach is the same whether we are working with individuals or with entire leadership teams. We believe the greatest opportunities are created by the development of people and action in a coordinated direction. We assert that the only sustainable strategies engage the heart and soul and are simultaneously grounded in sound business practices.”

Power of Shared Vision

In a 1996 article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Building Your Company’s Vision,” Jim Collins and Jerry Porras said that companies that enjoy enduring success have a core purpose and core values that remain fixed while their strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world. The rare ability to balance continuity and change—requiring a MC900297401[1]consciously practiced discipline—is closely linked to the ability to develop a vision.

“Without a vision, what is the point?” says Suzanne Frindt. “A Yonder Star unleashes the energy to galvanize yourself and your employees so you can achieve phenomenal things.”

When group members share a vision, it creates an opportunity for totally different conversations between a manager and members of their team. Focus on the shared vision creates alignment and provides a powerful context for creating mission, strategic initiatives, objectives, goals, roles, and finally all the way down through action plans.

Being a manager means making choices. At any moment in time you have a decision to make. Suzanne urges that when it comes time to make a decision being present in the moment, not on automatic pilot, is essential to the quality and relevance of the decision. You can then make the choice based on your Yonder Star, your shared vision of something to which you aspire, versus more of the same or your fear of some worst-case scenario.

“Worries are about envisioning a worst-case scenario, what you fear most,” says Suzanne Frindt. “Whatever we envision is affecting us right now. What we envision impacts us in this moment. There are consequences for managing based on fears that you may not want. Your Yonder Star is the shared vision you aspire to. The star is what you envision, and what you envision shapes both the present moment and the quality of your choices about your actions.”

Something else she recommends avoiding is being past-focused. This is when you make decisions based solely on what you have done in the past. Instead of having an inspiring vision for your team, all you are working for with a past based focus is attempting to minimize perceived risk and making incremental improvements.

“Many companies are past-focused when they do strategic planning,” says Suzanne Frindt. “What did the company do last year and then let’s add 10 percent or 20 percent. We are all tempted to try hard to make yesterday look like today. Or if we didn’t like yesterday, then we try to make it different or better.”

She adds that only by having a vision, a Yonder Star, can teams create breakthroughs to unprecedented results. Equally important is that it is a shared vision, one that is based on shared values and shared operating principles. This is how you create an environment for real collaboration.

Overcoming Emotional Barriers

“The ability to identify and clear upsets, in myself and others, is the single most significant key to productivity gains in our economy today,” says Dwight Frindt. “We have asked our executive-leadership clients a simple question: ‘What time could you go home if everyone in the company simply came to work, did their jobs, and went home?’ The answer used tomen with ladders and wall surprise us until it kept being repeated. On average, our clients say, ‘Between 10:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.’”

That begs a second question. If so many executives claim they could go home before lunch if everyone just showed up and did their work, what’s taking so much of our leaders’ time? The Frindts’ clients tell them flat out: distress, commonly known as upsets. The most time-consuming part of their job is managing the distressed interactions within their teams so that those teams can actually get to the business at hand.

“Even if executives will never be able to consistently leave by noon, it is entirely reasonable for them to expect to save at least two hours of their time, every day. Alternatively they could increase their productivity 15–30%” says Dwight Frindt.

That’s nearly 500 extra hours a year leaders can devote to creative thinking, visioning, and strategizing rather than on repairing relationships and soothing bruised egos. At the opportunity cost of most executives’ time, that amounts to very substantial savings. Of course, the same can be said for everyone in the organization. An inordinate amount of productive time and payroll dollars and worse yet, opportunities, are lost daily, monthly and annually to the distraction caused by unresolved emotional distress.

Replacing that time, energy, and resource loss is of paramount importance. Doing so can create a culture that is both highly productive and emotionally resilient and rewarding. It requires a fundamental, transformative shift in two steps: 1) fewer emotionally driven issues in the workplace; and 2) leaders and their team members becoming self-sufficient in handling emotional distress issues when they occur.

“Let’s clarify what we mean by emotional distress,” says Dwight Frindt. “We’re using the term to summarize a wide range of reactions that temporarily disable people with regard to thoughtful and productive behavior. These reactions can vary from mild frustration to full-blown anger, and include embarrassment, sadness, impatience, agitation, worry, and fear. In each case the person is left in a condition where, whether realized or not, they are acting as if their very survival is threatened.”

The Causes of Emotional Distress

The Frindts’ studies and their clients’ experiences make it clear that the most common root causes of workplace emotional distress are 1) the perception that a promise has been broken (usually by leadership); 2) when positive intentions “fail”; and 3) when commitments seem thwarted. In addition to these three internal triggers, there are many times when personal distress is brought to the workplace from the rest of the person’s life. These other sources can be especially difficult to address, due to varying perspectives on what constitutes personal-professional boundaries.

The impact on the productivity and organizational effectiveness of people attempting to work while “stressed out” (or surrounded by others who are) is enormous. Yet it’s been the Frindts’ observation that most leaders overlook this as the place to start any efforts in business improvement. Most are far more comfortable with cost cutting, process development, process improvement, reorganizing, or some other business change that does not directly address the human dimension.

Long Term Vision & Working the Plan

Back in 2006/2007, a group of business owners saw the writing on the wall regarding the long term economic change. While some people thumbed their noses at the possibility and buried their heads in the sand… purely out of fear. The forward looking group sought feedback from others who had been through similar business cycles and discovered the following ideas:

  1. Create your vision: The goal is to have a long range vision for your company.man on ladder peeling sky
  2. Think outside your box: What else can you provide? What other opportunities can you look at? What are some other possibilities that will help others to fulfill their vision?
  3. What is needed: Listen to the market place and offer valuable services.
  4. Know your numbers: Where are you and where are you going?
  5. Work the plan: Develop measurable marketing, sales, financial, internal operations plans then execute and don’t wait. This avoids waste and preserves valuable resources. Through proper planning the dollars can be used to gain market share while other organizations could be financially drained and in a constant state of fear! The forward business group took a three year outlook and developed various action plans and worked the plan.
  6. Be on the lookout for top “A” and “B” players for hiring top people who have vision.
  7. Team vision: Have clear goals and objectives for all staff members.
  8. For new hires at all levels do the most thorough interviewing based on 30-60-90-180-12 month goals.
  9. Do in-depth work style and personality assessment testing to get a clear picture of who you are about to bring aboard to best manage the individuals so they can be successful.
  10. Maintain a collaborative team environment where everyone can provide input to create internal efficiencies, all are listening to customer and market needs, and respond in a timely way so your company is always engaged as the business environment has needs.

This is the time to be moving forward by offering fresh ideas, solutions, and support that will add value to all those you come in contact with and in return your business will thrive!

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

Suzanne Frindt is a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners, an executive leadership development and education firm that launched in 1990. She is also a recognized speaker on the topics of Vision-Focused Leadership™ and Productive Interactions™, speaking to organizations around the world. She is also a Group Chair for Vistage International, Inc. an organization of CEOs and key executives dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of more than 12,000 members. Each month she facilitates groups in Orange County, California, and Seattle, Washington, while also regularly contributing entrepreneurial creativity and management experience to several companies through service on their advisory boards.

Dwight Frindt is also a co-founder and principal of 2130 Partners. Since 1994, Dwight has been a Group Chair for Vistage International facilitating groups of CEOs and senior executives. He has received many performance awards for his work at Vistage and in 2009 Dwight became a Best Practice Chair and began mentoring the Chairs in the South Orange County area. Since then he has added two additional Best Practice Chair regions; the Puget Sound and the Greater Pacific Northwest. In 2011 Dwight received the Best Practice Chair of the Year Award – Western Division. Combining his work with 2130 Partners and Vistage, Dwight has facilitated more than 1,000 days of workshops and meetings, and has logged well over 13,000 hours of executive leadership coaching.

In addition to working in the for-profit world, Dwight and Suzanne are very committed to working with non-profits and have been investors and activists with The Hunger Project for many years. To reach them please visit www.2130partners.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order our books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.