Jim Clemmer's Leader Letter

September 2003, Issue 6 ~ Printer-Friendly Version ~ View PDF Version ~ www.clemmer.net

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I hope you had a great summer! It's time to head back to work, and some parents are cheering as kids head back to school! As our pace picks back up again, I have decided to shorten each issue of the Leader Letter. I am reducing the number of items and reducing the length of each item. I would sure appreciate your feedback on what you've found most useful in the first six issues of this newsletter.

Help to Shape Things to Come

As we redesign and shorten up the Leader Letter, we really need your input to rank order what you find most useful and what's less valuable. Please complete our on-line survey at [the survey has been completed - view the results here: www.clemmer.net/newsl/survey0903.shtml]. What's in it for you is a more succinct and relevant Leader Letterand a chance to win a set of my books and CD.

Tips, Tools, and Techniques for...
Taking Responsibility for Choices

Following are a few "how to" steps from the Responsibility for Choices section of the new workshop I have designed around The Leader's Digest: Timeless Principles for Team and Organization Success. You might want to share and discuss them with your team.

  • Identify common "victim speak" used within your team. This might include blaming other departments or groups, "we have no time/budget," "'they' won't let us," "it's not our responsibility," cynical or snide remarks, and the like. Naming this learned helplessness is the first step to reducing it.

  • Develop a more "leaderful organization" of Navigators by giving people more responsibility, involving them in key decisions that affect them, openly sharing information and the big picture, lots of face-to-face open dialogue, training and support, identifying barriers or frustrations and working together to remove them, and the like.

  • Challenge, involve, or problem solve with those people who are making negative comments and living in Pity City. Managers who let those comments go (or even worse, join in) allow the naysayers and cynics to set the organization's emotional tone.

  • Brainstorm a list of issues or changes you and your team need to make in your organization. Cluster similar ones together until you have no more than seven clusters or groupings. Identify which ones your team directly controls, which clusters it can influence, and which clusters or issues it has no control over. Set action plans to tackle those issues you directly control. Set priorities and action plans for those things you can influence and how you will do that. Agree on how you will all let go of those issues over which you have no control.

  • Help a team member infected with Victimitis by listening and empathizing. Look for specific things you can analyze, comment on, or reframe their perception. Focus discussions on solutions and the future, not the past. If needed, tell them that complaints without solutions are unproductive and harmful to the team. If they insist on remaining a victim, you might offer to help them find another job.
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When Team Members Don't Pull Their Weight

Within a few days I received two e-mails asking for help dealing with a team member who was unmotivated and a loner who doesn't care about the team, doing the minimum required to get by. In one case the person writing to me was a peer of the team member. In the other case, he was the supervisor.

I gave similar advice to both readers. Both situations called for a similar approach that starts with a one-on-one conversation about how his behavior is affecting you and/or the team. Ideally the conversation starts with some kind of link to original objectives/mandates/goals of the organization or team that he has bought into in some way. He may need a few concrete and objective examples of how and where his behavior has hampered progress or created resentment among team members. Expressing how you feel might make sense as long as you focus on your own feelings and aren't judgmental or making sweeping, broad-brush statements.

The tough part will likely be getting him to acknowledge that there is a problem. It may take more than one meeting or you may need to leave it with him for awhile and come back to the conversation again. Once there is some type of acknowledgement, you'll need to set out some plan or strategy for making changes, some type of progress indicator(s), and a follow-up/review process.

The keys to these sorts of conversations are:

  • Focus on the behavior, not the person. This can be a tough one. Avoid words like "always" and "never" or global statements that raise defensiveness.

  • Try to understand why he is behaving this way (without becoming his therapist) and what you or the team can do to support him.

  • Try to connect to any personal aspirations or ideals that you know he holds for this work, the team, or the organization.

  • Search for a misalignment problem. Is there a way to get him doing work on the team or elsewhere in the organization that might better fit his strengths/interests?

When faced with these kinds of situations, we have three options:
1) Work around this individual and minimize him as an obstacle;
2) Try to move him along or deal with the situation; or
3) Leave this team or remove the individual from the team.

The second option takes leadership courage and skill. But some people can't be reached and ultimately there may be no choice but to revert to the other two options.

Reprint this e-newsletter!

Permission to Reprint: You may reprint any items from the Leader Letter in your own print publication or e-newsletter as long as you include this paragraph:

"Reprinted with permission from the Leader Letter, Jim Clemmer's free e-newsletter. Jim Clemmer is a bestselling author and internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, workshop/ retreat leader, and management team developer on leadership, change, customer focus, culture, and personal growth. His web site is www.clemmer.net."

Improvement Points Subscribers' Top Picks for August

Improvement Points are short quotes from one of the articles on our web site that are sent by e-mail three times per week. Each quote comes with a heading that corresponds with my core models and frameworks (click here to view those). Subscribers have the opportunity to click on the title of the article that the quote was taken from and go read the entire piece. Of the quotes/articles sent out in August, the three most popular were (you can click on the article title to read it):

Here's another comment from an enthusiastic Improvement Points subscriber. These keep us energized to continue sending out these tips!

"Improvement Points are great. I'm going on a year educational leave of absence and didn't want to miss them - which is why I asked you to send them to my home address. They help me to keep focused on my goals and remind me that in order to move forward I have to do something every day towards those goals. Thanks."
- Deb Marshall, St. Catherines, ON, Canada

To sign up for this complimentary service, go to www.clemmer.net/improvement.shtml.

Book Review: The Essential Drucker
The Extraordinary Leader by John H. Zenger, Joseph Folkman

Too often people ask "what's new" rather than "what's working." That's why so many organizations have 'fad-surfed' from one popular wave to another while wasting time and money. And in the process, they have "Dilbertized" their workplaces with a "high snicker factor" of cynicism and resistance to management's next change program. Research continues to show that one half to two-thirds of initiatives like e-whatever (commerce, government, business, etc.), technologies like CRM or ERP, service improvement, Six Sigma, supply-chain management and such, are failing or have seriously missed their original targets.

That's why I continue to write and speak about "timeless leadership principles." We can repackage and rename leadership or management programs and initiatives. But inevitably we rediscover underlying themes and approaches that are the enduring keys to success.

That's also a big reason I have been a Peter Drucker fan since I first began my management and training career in the mid-seventies. For over 65 years (!), Peter Drucker has been cutting through the rhetoric and complex formulas to define the core essence of successful management and leadership. The Essential Drucker is a selection of twenty-six of his writings on management/leadership, personal effectiveness, and society. While I think the editors missed a few essential pieces of his, most of the ones they selected represent his timeless wisdom.

Here are a few passages that highlight critical truths we need to constantly work at applying to leading ourselves and others:

Success always makes obsolete the very behavior that achieved it. It always creates new realities. It always creates, above all, its own and different problems. Only the fairy tale ends, "they lived happily ever after." (p. 26)

All businesses have access to pretty much the same resources. Except for the rare monopoly situation, the only thing that differentiates one business from another in any given field is the quality of its management on all levels. (p. 36)

One does not "manage people." The task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of each individual. (p. 81)

The starting point has to be what customers consider value. (p. 86)

In an organization that manages by drives (programs), people either neglect their job to get on with the current drive, or silently organize for collective sabotage of the drive to get their work done. (p. 117)

Making the right people decisions is the ultimate means of controlling an organization well. (p. 134)

A well managed organization is a "dull" organization. The "dramatic" things in such an organization are basic decisions that make the future, rather than heroics in mopping up yesterday's mistakes. (p. 237)

The final requirement of effective leadership is to earn trust. (p. 271)

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Coming Events (Public or Open Sessions)

Over 95% of my presentations, workshops, or retreats are tailored, in-house sessions. Below is a rare opportunity to attend a public session.

September 23, 2003 – Winnipeg, Manitoba - Leadership @ the Speed of Change

I am running a one-day, condensed version of our very popular Leadership @ the Speed of Change workshop. During this intense, fast paced day we'll look at the integrated approach to sustained personal, team, and organization effectiveness that I have developed over the last few decades. Copies of both The Leader's Digest and Growing the Distance along with an extensive application workbook are included. Click here for the full agenda, registration, and other details: www.hradvantedge.com/jim_clemmer.html.

If you would like to explore having me run this or other sessions in your organization, please contact Heather at (519) 748-6561 or heather@clemmer.net.

Please take a few minutes to participate in our Leader Letter survey at www.appforce.net/phpESP/public/survey.php?name=LL0903F. I would sure appreciate your feedback on the first six issues of this newsletter.

I also welcome conversations exploring how I might help you or your team/organization with a keynote presentation, management team retreat, or workshop.

Send me an e-mail at Jim.Clemmer@Clemmer.net or call me directly at (519) 748-5968.

I hope to connect with you again next month!

Visit www.clemmer.netAll the best,



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Phone: (519) 748-1044 ~ Fax: (519) 748-5813 ~ E-mail: service@clemmer.net


Copyright 2003, Jim Clemmer, The CLEMMER Group