Archive for the ‘Personal Accountability’ Category

An executive announced in a senior team meeting I was attending that he decided to eliminate outdoor smoking accommodations for employees and customers that use the facilities. The first response from a team member was “other companies to it.”  The second response was “we’ll have to arrange for the company to provide cessation products.” Notice that the responses are in support of the new policy without knowing the specific reason for the policy. The implication seems to be about not wanting people to smoke, including helping them quit. Okay, it must be for health reasons, which impacts health care costs (my inference).

In an attempt to better understand the reason, I asked, “How about moist smokeless tobacco (MST), where people have to spit?”  The response was, “No that’s not allowed either.”  Okay, so far it feels like a tobacco ban but not a nicotine ban.  Next question, “How about compressed tobacco pellets like Arriva and Stonewall from Star Scientific (a company that existed at the time) that don’t require spitting?”   No answer.  These are tobacco products that were recently declared by the FDA to not fall under the jurisdiction of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.   “How about electronic cigarettes? They don’t contain any tobacco; they have vapor but no smoke, and no smell. They are, however, regulated by the FDA under the Tobacco Control Act.” Figure that one out.

Snus, strips, sticks?  All the products mentioned have varying levels of exposure, reduced risk, and potentially reduced harm. If you consider that nicotine gum and patches are also used as substitute products, then appropriate guidelines become even more difficult to establish. Is nicotine harmful, or is it something more?

On Saturday, September 17, 2011, the World Anti-Doping Agency, also known as WADA, took the first step toward classifying nicotine as a performance-enhancing drug. WADA can monitor a substance ahead of inclusion on the prohibited list if it meets two out of three criteria for inclusion – enhancing performance, damaging health and breaching the spirit of clean sport.

The effects of nicotine were brought to WADA’s attention after a year-long study by its Lausanne lab which concluded that nicotine increased “vigilance and cognitive function”, and reduced stress and body weight. The laboratory reported that “WADA and sport federations should evaluate the inclusion of nicotine to the Prohibited List or/and Monitoring Program.” The Lausanne lab’s study followed initial research involving players at the 2009 ice hockey world championships played in Switzerland, which showed nearly half were active nicotine users.” Nineteen percent of athletes worldwide use tobacco compared to 25% of the adult population. According to WADA, “It is not our objective to catch athletes who smoke, but those who use nicotine as a means of enhancing their performance.”

It should be noted that nicotine was not included on the list of prohibited substances for 2012, but WADA says that nicotine sanctions are discussed with increasing regularity.

For more details, see

So given the controversy and confusion around exposure levels, regulations, and effects, what’s an organization to do? Perhaps there should be a World Workplace Banned Substances/Behavior Agency that would evaluate substances and lifestyle choices based on established criteria.  If the cost of health care was on the list of criteria, obesity and factors that contribute to it would be at the top of the list with smoking a close second.  Or, organizations could understand that their workforce is a representation of the larger overall workforce, which is the goal of all Diversity initiatives, and focus on the aspects of organizational behavior that improve performance and commitment (with the exception of mandatory nicotine use).

Some people may find this post inciteful from an emotional perspective and could easily argue another point of view, as I could if I chose to.  But why not take a moment to challenge your assumptions and consider a different point of view, a different possibility?

For those in positions to create workplace policies that ban substances, behavior, or attempt to influence life-style choices, I simply propose the following. Let your reasons be directly related to organizational values versus personal; know the topic, the implications, and be clear on what is allowed and what is not allowed, and be able to logically explain the reasons for each.

In other words, know what you’re saying no to.

Disclosure: I do not use tobacco or nicotine products.


Inspired by Seth Godin’s June 27, 2011 blog: Writing naked (nakeder than Orwell)‏

Why is most business writing so awful? The simple answer is fear. Organizational structures represent levels of power and privilege. Your rewards are not in your control. They reside within the minds and decisions of others.

The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy—the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men.  A weird life it is to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could become real.  ~ Thomas Merton

Language is the primary encoder of our messages, between our thoughts and the minds of others. Ineffective language weakens and distorts ideas.

People are afraid to say what they mean, because they might be criticized for it. Afraid to be misunderstood, to be accused of saying what they didn’t mean, because they might be [wrongly judged]  for it. ~ Seth Godin

George Orwell had a passion for clear, simple writing.  Below is his guidance from the Remedy of Six Rules.  The rules have been edited by Seth Godin using Orwell’s own rules.

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.  You don’t need cliches.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.  Avoid long words.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.  Write in the now.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.  When in doubt, say it clearly.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.  Better to be interesting than to follow these rules.

This example illustrates that clear, simple writing is not easy. Orwell acknowledged his own shortcomings and once wrote, “Look back through this essay and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against.”

I am sure I have done the same in this blog.

If the goal is to communicate, then say what you mean. Say it simply and clearly. Say it without fear of misunderstanding or negative feedback, and say it without being boring.

But when it comes to complex ideas, don’t forget Einstein ’s advice. “Makes things as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”

You may have to use Rule 6.

Incite:  What would you call the fear that exists in the presence of power within an organization?   Does it really affect how we communicate?

Our perceptions, our knowledge, our beliefs, i.e. our mind sets, are the result of patterns we have created in our brains over time.  On one hand they are a good thing because they are efficient and they require little thought.  Imagine having to pull out a map or use your GPS every time you wanted to drive home from a familiar location.  On the other hand, according to Dr. Edward Miller, Dean of the medical school and CEO of the hospital at Johns Hopkins University, 90% of people who have coronary bypass surgery do not change their lifestyles.  Why is this?  The patterns we create in our brains are wired, eventually hard wired, and difficult to change – they can become mental traps

What’s the key to avoiding restrictive mental traps? Pattern-switching – it’s the ability to switch over and see things in a different way and create new connections.  It is the basis for insight, learning, and dare I say wisdom – eventually. Pattern switching is much more difficult for the “close minded” person.  The “open minded” individual who is also open to influence has greater success.

I used to have an open mind, but my brains kept falling out.  ~Steven Wright

So let’s get back to the original question – what is the most powerful  mind changer?  Humor – it’s the most straightforward and obvious expression of the ability to switch patterns. It’s one we seldom resist. With humor, we suddenly see or think of something in an unexpected new way, and it makes us laugh, or at least chuckle.

I think the power of the mental process that underlies humor trumps logic and reason. Logic and reason help us explain things and figure them out –  humor changes them.

Note: For a more deliberative approach to pattern-switching, see The Medici? Effect.

Incites: Many managers have an open door policy. To be effective, they also need an open mind policy. When you have a different point of view, do you ask other people about the thinking, the experiences, the story behind theirs?  How can you connect the two different perspectives to create a new connection. For example: A physicist speaking with a minister – If heat rises, wouldn’t Heaven be hotter than Hell?

For the past eleven years, Interbrand has been scoring and ranking the world’s brands to determine the Top 100.  While obvious, it’s worth noting that the rankings can change from year to year.  Visit this link to see the full report including last year’s biggest winners and losers.

These are the Top Ten for 2010.

Interbrand’s Brand Strength Score is comprised of 10 components, all of which play an important and equal role.  Because I believe these components can also be applied to Brand You, I have personalized the wording of each to reflect that application.

COMMITMENT – A measure of your internal commitment to or belief in your brand. Commitment is the extent to which you support your brand in terms of time, effort and investment.

PROTECTION – This component examines how secure your brand is across a number of dimensions – business, social, public, and on-line.

CLARITY – Your brand’s values, positioning and proposition must be clearly articulated and shared.

RESPONSIVENESS – This component looks at your brand’s ability to adapt to changes, challenges and opportunities. You should have a desire and ability to constantly evolve and renew yourself.

AUTHENTICITY – This component is about how soundly your brand is based on your internal beliefs. Authenticity asks if your brand has a defined heritage and a well-grounded value set, as well as if it can deliver against expectations.

RELEVANCE – This component estimates how well your brand fits with existing business and organizational needs.

UNDERSTANDING – Not only must others recognize your brand, but there must also be an in-depth understanding of its distinctive qualities and characteristics.

CONSISTENCY – This measures the degree to which your brand is experienced by others without fail or deviation.

PRESENCE – This measures the degree to which your brand feels omnipresent and how positively others discuss it in both traditional and social media.

DIFFERENTIATION – This is the degree to which others perceive your brand to be distinct from others or your competition.

So given the ten criteria, how do think you measure up?  Are you a Top 100 Brand?

Incite: Is maintaining, protecting, and building your brand a priority?  What are you doing to ensure your “ranking” either remains the same or increases every year?  If you manage others, how can help your direct reports with their personal brands?  What about your department or function’s brand?

It’s a new year,  your organization has become a stock market and everyone now has their own ticker symbol.  Each person also has $10,000 to invest in others, but not themselves.

Who would invest in YOU and why?  Who would you invest in and why?

The concept of “Brand You” is not new, but now the focus is on performance and adding value.

What is your product or service, how much will you charge for it, and who will pay you for it?

Will your revenue exceed your costs?  Are you a “profit center” or a “cost center?”

What measures will you report to your shareholders in your quarterly reports?   What will your EPS (Effort Per Share) look like?

What will the business analysts ask you? What will they write about you?  What will their stock recommendation be?

Incite: There are many questions posed here using the stock symbol as a metaphor. Few if any people will actually try to answer these questions.  Hopefully, they will at least stimulate your thinking about who you are, what you do, and how you show up.

My original intent was to post original material.  I received this blog post on December 4, 2010, from Seth Godin and I just couldn’t resist.  A while ago IBM conducted a study and found that the average worker was productive 90 minutes a day.  So let’s ask the question, who is…

The World’s Worst Boss?

That would be you.

Even if you’re not self-employed, your boss is you. You manage your career, your day, your responses. You manage how you sell your services and your education and the way you talk to yourself.

Odds are, you’re doing it poorly.

If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much as your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.

I’m amazed at how often people choose to fail when they go out on their own or when they end up in one of those rare jobs that encourages one to set an agenda and manage themselves. Faced with the freedom to excel, they falter and hesitate and stall and ultimately punt.

We are surprised when someone self-directed arrives on the scene. Someone who figures out a way to work from home and then turns that into a two-year journey, laptop in hand, as they explore the world while doing their job. We are shocked that someone uses evenings and weekends to get a second education or start a useful new side business. And we’re envious when we encounter someone who has managed to bootstrap themselves into happiness, as if that’s rare or even uncalled for.

There are few good books on being a good manager. Fewer still on managing yourself. It’s hard to think of a more essential thing to learn.

Incite: If you had to describe yourself as the boss of you, what would you say?  Are you supportive, critical?  What do you do well, what do you need to do differently, and what do you need to stop or start doing today?