Posts tagged with ‘emotional intelligence’

14 jul

OperationsRx: Change and the High Cost of Conflict

MichelleKerrigan“Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.”—Thomas Carlyle

I live and lead by this quote, especially during change, which, in today’s workplace, is often an everyday event. I have led teams through 20 years of change, and have learned that the most important thing you control is how you react to it. Your reaction is key to your success as a leader because it’s vital to the success of your team. An open mind can break barriers; a resistant one can break companies. To coin another phrase: you reap what you sow.

Conflict doesn’t just come in color, gender or sexual orientation, it comes in generations X, Y, and BB, industry, corporate hierarchy, even area of expertise (think marketing vs. finance, production vs. creative, creative vs. legal, technology vs. everyone—at least in this story).

Case in point: When I led operations for a startup, our chief technology officer created enormous conflict between his management team and just about everyone else. He ran his division tightly, and spent most of his time criticizing what other departments were doing. Here was an officer of the company who was intelligent, articulate, and expert in his field, but who disputed everything, so couldn’t learn from anyone. His intolerance and uncooperativeness were a huge drain, and were often reflected in his senior managers. It was easy to see he wasn’t a leader to help an organization grow.

Our marketing team had launched a premium product a month before I started, a high-ticket item for our VIP elite that included a custom card (similar in look and feel to a credit card), that gained them access to entertainment events, and special backstage access at concert venues. Orders were pouring in, but only the first batch went out, with incorrect information, no less. Why?

In any company, especially a startup, new processes need to be walked all the way through during implementation to ensure all the dots are connected, including who does what and when. This is where I come in. It’s painstaking and detailed, but it’s necessary and worth it because it’s where barriers to productivity are found, and where revenue can be made or lost. In this case, there were about $500,000 worth of reasons to figure out what was going wrong.

I spoke with our fulfillment partner, who had yet to receive any new or corrected files, and worked my way through every department responsible until I found the problem: data was being generated, but not being delivered. All these new members, and not one file had left the building. The files were stuck fast in the technology department waiting for someone to pull the trigger. Extraordinary!

I also discovered that certain people knew the files were still on our side of the fire wall, but they felt it wasn’t their responsibility to push past it and help resolve our problem. What???

The fulfillment house told me they could make up lost time if they received the files that day, but organized the correct way. Our support tech told me it would take only an hour to do, but warned of repercussions from the CTO and his VP. I gave the go-ahead, and got the VP on the phone. All I heard was concern over how the CTO would react…..but no realization of how our customers would react.

The CTO was, of course, furious, and wasted even more time arguing his point with anyone who would answer his call. Yes, I did speak with him. Unfortunately, his was a reaction that would repeat itself often, and looking back, quite possibly, cost us the company.

Growth means change, which means the ability to learn, adapt, and shift gears quickly. Resistance impedes progress—you want a corporate culture that reflects your best strengths, not your worst nightmare. You need all the positive energy you can muster when you’re poised for growth and change. Just think how different things would have been if the CTO’s negative energy was channeled in a positive direction.

How often does this happen in your organization? How often is a line drawn in the sand that stops the flow of progress? How often are business leaders unwilling to yield, making decisions based on resistance rather than revenue?

The chief technology officer was my superior, and I did learn from him. I learned that some managers are not leaders: they over react, don’t set the right tone, and are incapable of creating a sense of unity. I learned that leaders need to grow, to be invested in expanding their own capabilities, as well as their team’s.

I learned that an open mind is the fast track to change. It’s not about who makes the final decision, but why it’s made. I learned that you get the behavior you tolerate, and if you expect to have a global dialog in this world of change, you have to learn to be open to (and communicate with) all those X,Y, BBs, designers, lawyers and tech people sitting right in front of you.

One final note: an interesting thing happened when I ran this article by some people I know, prior to posting. When they read the opening quote, they focused on the word “man” which sent up a red flag right away. I learned from this too…if you only focus on what you don’t like, you may miss the big picture. Wow.

Copyright 2010 Michelle Kerrigan.

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping organizations and individuals improve performance and productivity in the day-to-day workplace. A trusted expert who uniquely combines extensive leadership and operations experience with powerful coaching and organizing techniques, Michelle helps clients develop skills and confidence critical to the bottom line. More at

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Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on July 14th, 2010 in Global/Social Change, Uncategorized | 2 comments Read related posts in , , , , ,

03 feb

The End of Average

JayForteLife is not a dress rehearsal – we get one great ride around the sun. And if this is my one shot, I intend to approach it with the most love, enthusiasm and energy I can muster. I don’t want a life of coulda’s, woulda’s and shoulda’s. As George Bernard Shaw’s says, “I want to be all used up when I die.” Nothing left undone. Excited and fired up each day. No regrets. And definitely not average.

But I find most people don’t share this mindset. Most people are stuck in bland, boring and average; they want better but don’t know how. As the humorist Erma Bombeck said, “Normal is just a setting on a clothes dryer.” There should be nothing normal or average about life. Since our time on Earth is limited, our focus must be to learn enough about ourselves and our world, to determine how we “fit” – our way to be great in the world and live a life that is extraordinary.

Our world has actually set us up to have a great life; we are in the age of customization. Today, we can have our food, cars, music, houses, and virtually everything else our way. We personalize and customize. There should be no need for average.

But what amazes me most is we are so quick to customize our food, but so reluctant to customize our lives. Most of us do what others do, or let others tell us how to work and live. The problem is we spend too little time getting to know our inner self – our unique personality, talents, strengths and passions; we are not very self-aware. And when you don’t know yourself, you don’t know how to maximize your impact or the quality of your life. You accept average.

Each of us is born with a unique set of neural pathways (brain responses) that ultimately form our natural response, abilities talents and passions. Some are artistic and social. Others are empirical, detail-focused and analytical. Some can sing and others can solve puzzles. Some are moved by constant communication, others are most passionate when connecting in quiet with nature.

These natural abilities represent our core thinking – we are good at these and happiest when doing them. Management psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “People who learn to control (understand) their inner experience will determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”

The key to ending average is to connect, communicate and understand the internal hardwired “true you” and to answer the questions, “How self-aware am I?” and “What do I really know about me?”

Here is how I explain it to my audiences: we have two ears and one mouth. Though the expression says we should listen twice as often as we speak, I add another perspective. To me, one ear should be directed out – to listen to your world – to know and understand your world. The other ear should be directed in – to listen to you – to understand your particular and unique talents, values, interests, and passions – the true you.

When you know you and your world, you can focus on “fit” – your place in this world. You can focus on working and living in areas that play to your strengths. You have choices. You can customize your life.

So here are my five steps to customize your life and develop your end of average plan:

  1. Listen inward to identify your natural abilities and talents – list what are you good at. Don’t be humble; be honest. What are you great at? What comes naturally? Many times you will need to check with others who know you well because your talents are so closely tied to your thinking that you don’t perceive your abilities as talents. List everything that comes to mind; get acquainted with your true self.
  2. Listen inward to identify what you love to do – list what you are passionate about. What gets you out of bed; what could you do all day and never be bored or tired of? List everything that comes to mind; get acquainted with your true self.
  3. Find your fit. Now review what you are good at and passionate about. Then, knowing what you know of your world, start to identify what jobs, communities, activities or projects allow you to use what you are good at and passionate about doing. Here’s an example. You love working with precision and details and are passionate about helping animals. You may identify the ideal job is working as a veterinarian, animal rescue staff, dog walker, scientist or breeder. Your hobbies may include volunteering for an animal shelter, become an dog trainer or connect the elderly with pets to improve their lives. Know yourself and then determine where you fit in work and in life – where you play to your talents and passions. You work strong and live stronger. You end average.
  4. Sculpt on daily basis. Get good at adding small meaningful things to your day. It may be volunteering for a museum, a homeless shelter or a hotline. It may be cooking for your office, organizing events in the workplace or teaching your fellow employees how to use IPhone aps. When you add small things you love to your work and life, you respond in a more engaged and passionate way. You customize. Life is better. Work is better.
  5. Commit time to stay connected to the “true you.” Life pulls you in many directions – even when you personalize and customize a great life. Build connection time in your days to stay tuned into the true you. You will constantly determine new things about you – more talents, more passions – because this is a lifetime dialog. Don’t be in a rush. Gather information. Stop and think. Include more of the true you in your work and life.

No one can do this work for you. You are unique and no one shares your exact talents, strengths and passions – your personal hardwiring. Only you can connect to the true you. Commit the time and effort to know yourself. Commit the time and effort to know your world. Find your fit. Sculpt daily to keep the energy high. This is how to make the most of this life and to put an end to average.

Jay Forte is a motivational speaker and performance consultant. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, The Hunt for Opportunities Success Manual and the on-line resource, Stand Out and Get Hired. He works to connect people to their talents and passions to work strong and live stronger. More information at

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Posted by Jay Forte on February 3rd, 2010 in Career, General, New Directions, Personal Stories, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,