Archives January 2023

Be A Better Leader By Asking Better Questions – Get Your Own 51 Powerful Questions

Powerful questions & silence can put a halt to evasion and confusion.

Asking powerful questions invites clarity, action, and discovery.

Using the power of silence (Read more about the power of silence) to allow people to talk creates the possibility for learning & fresh perspective.

(Click here to download your copy of the 51 Questions!)

(Click here to download your copy of the 51 Questions!)

(Click here to download your copy of the 51 Questions!)

Four Frequently Overlooked Risks in Change Management

Whether your organization is implementing a new hybrid workplace model, merging with another company, or executing a new strategy, change management is critical to successful organizational transformation.

Leaders often focus on communicating the end state’s vision and benefits when leading organizations through significant changes. However, many additional risks to a comprehensive change management plan should be considered.

I have worked with many clients to help identify the risks and craft a strategy to address them – to arrive at the organization’s new end state faster.

From my experience, here are the most common barriers to transformational change.

Lack of an Enduring, Focused Communication Strategy

When asked whether they believed their organizations’ strategies were actionable, middle managers and individual contributors consistently scored lower than executives. Leaders know the importance of communicating change, but they frequently overestimate the impact of their efforts.

Regarding your communication strategy, an organization-wide email cannot be your only change management communication. A recent Microsoft study on email rates showed that only 40% of employees would read more than 30% of any given internal email.

Another critical factor in driving buy-in and engagement to organizational strategy changes is ensuring individual teams understand how their goals contribute to overall organizational success. Leaders must communicate corporate strategy in a way that helps teams tie their goals to organizational outcomes while leaning on managers and network influencers to reinforce those messages.

Read more about being the Chief Reminder Officer

Inadvertently Excluding Network Influencers

Ensuring that your organization’s leaders are aligned and bought into the organizational change is critical to successful change management – but what about informal leaders?

Network influencers can be found at all levels of an organization and frequently fly under the radar of executive leadership in large organizations. Because network influencers often act as information brokers and influence how others perceive the organization, they should be identified and considered in your change management efforts.

Identifying key influencers and collaborators to determine who should be prioritized for in-office return can also help drive productivity and ramp up the success rates of your organization’s change efforts.

Read about informal leadership.

Failing to Establish and Clarify New Team Boundaries

Failing to establish new working relationships, ownership, and cultural norms often presents one of the largest sources of frustration in organizational change. Depending on the nature of the transformation, teams can experience massive changes in processes and working relationships that are difficult to predict and coordinate.

From a risk perspective, poor coordination can lead to frustration, damaged relationships, and, ultimately, mistrust in leadership.

To prevent your organization from being blind-sided by operational risks and missed handoffs, consider running a decision space exercise or a red team exercise with subject matter experts and leaders in the divisions changing.

Not Collecting Bottom-Up Feedback

In all large organizations, frontline employees have valuable insights that are frequently overlooked.

During times of transformational change, your frontline can serve as real-time resources and feedback mechanisms to monitor the progress of your new initiatives or efforts. However, many organizations need more capability to provide frontline employees with a way of escalating and delivering insights to leadership.

Failing to consider your frontline potentially slows your reaction time to challenges such as new competitors and threats, and overestimating your company’s ability lulls you into false security.

In the long term, the risk is that your people will lose trust in leadership, and you will experience lower productivity, low psychological safety, high turnover, and stifled innovation.

Read about eliminating Top Down supervision

While these four risks are the most common barriers to organizational transformations, the challenges you will encounter will be unique to your organization.

An organization transforming, by definition, changes over time – being vigilant in monitoring risk should go hand-in-hand.

Is It Time To Get Rid Of Top-Down Supervision

Leadership is not for a select few people at the top of the organization; a healthy Organization has leaders at every level.

I hear it all the time, supervisors griping that their employees lack ownership in their work and projects. But the very same supervisors do not realize that they take actions that take ownership away from their people every day.

Hoping people take ownership is not a plan; leaders of healthy organizations implement systems and mechanisms that give ownership and eliminate mechanisms that inhibit a sense of ownership.

Read more about accountability.

Top-down systems rob people of their sense of ownership, so the more you can do to eliminate them, the better. I am not talking about monitoring data and results, as these should make the invisible visible.

The systems I am speaking about are where senior management determines what their subordinates should be doing and then holds them accountable.

I have experienced that people do their best work when they are accountable to themselves and their teammates.

When it comes to processes, adherence to the process frequently becomes the objective, as opposed to achieving the goal that the process was put in place to achieve.

It drives people crazy when the process becomes the outcome.

Edward Deming, who explored the principle of Total Quality Leadership, said that systems to monitor efficiency improved efficiency.

But processes that monitored the process caused the organization to become inefficient.

Monitoring processes, or how employees do their job, sends the message that we do not trust you.

And in the end, it drives employees away from taking ‘ownership.’

If you are clear about your intent and what employees are not allowed to do in carrying out your intent, you will drive ownership.

Read more about leading with intent.

Consider these questions:

How are you underutilizing the ideas, creativity, and passions of your mid-level managers responsible for their departments’ results?

Which monitoring systems can you hand over to mid-level managers and department heads?

What are the top-down monitoring systems in your organization? And how can you eliminate them?


What are the Four levels of Accountability Systems?

Level 1 – Chaos: People are not told what they are accountable for and therefore don’t do their jobs

Level 2 – Inefficient: People are told what they are accountable for but don’t do their jobs because of overwork or focus on the wrong things. This is most inefficient because resources are invested in monitoring, but work isn’t getting done.

Level 3 – Compliance: People understand what they are responsible for and do their work because there are systems to hold people accountable. People often feel forced into doing their jobs. This is where most organizations are and work towards, but this is top-down leadership.

Level 4 – Healthy: People are not told what to do because they have figured it out independently. And they hold themselves and their peers accountable for results with a minimum of monitoring systems. This is a highly engaged, energized, and healthy organization where people have engaged and ownership of their work.


In top-down organizations, accountability processes are designed with the idea that you, the employee, cannot hold yourself accountable for your work; therefore, your boss needs to do it for you.

In a Healthy Organization, people hold themselves and their peers to account for their performance.

Leaders in a Healthy organization are not to hold employees accountable but to help them keep themselves accountable.

Read more about organizational health.


How wonderful would it be if people did not have to attend dreaded accountability meetings? How powerful would it be if people felt safe enough to ask others, ‘Can you help me stay on track.’


This would inspire accountability and efficiency, creativity and energy.

Why would anyone follow you if they don’t believe you have the courage?

I have received hundreds of performance reviews over my career.

There is one that sticks in my mind.

It wasn’t remarkable because of the content or the score.

It was remarkable because of one sentence. “You are courageous.”

I have been called many things in my life, but courageous?

She meant that I was willing to take calculated risks. That I stood up for what I thought was right, even if it was at a great personal cost.

Another boss from another career and another life once told me, “If you can’t explain it to your grandmother, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

I have learned courage from my heroes – men and women who stood firm against the slings and arrows.

And, when given a chance, did not choose the more comfortable, morally ambiguous path.

A Stony Nation teaching says that in the face of a coming storm, most animals will try to outrun the weather. The buffalo turn headfirst into the storm, keep the herd together, and walk out the other side.

Courage allows you to build trust.

It gives you a license to lead.

Why would anyone follow you if they don’t believe you have the courage to lead them through the storm?

The Best New Year Letter An Employee Could Ever Write You

Mrs. CEO,

I am one of your employees.

I work in operations, and I don’t have a fancy title.

I like working here, I like what I do, and I love my career. My role here has grown in ways I never expected, and I am thrilled with my job’s direction.

I wanted to write you because I only saw you at last year’s Zoom Christmas party or on the website, but I never had the chance to talk to you.

I understand that you are super busy running the company, travelling, and keeping stakeholders & shareholders happy.

And I didn’t want to come off as a whiner, but I wanted to share a few of the things that I see, but you might not notice:

Corporate Strategy – I know your executive teams think about Strategy from time to time.

But at my level, I know my tasks, but I have no idea how I contribute to the company’s success. When I asked my supervisor, he threw his hands up and said It didn’t matter because Corporate had no idea.

Read why your employees don’t give a rat’s $%^# about your precious Strategy.

Company Values – Our corporate values look good on the banner and the website, but it doesn’t seem to impact me.

There are roadblocks everywhere to getting our work done.

And it seems better to keep our mouths shut than try to tell a supervisor about problems.

Read about values and keeping employees.

Performance – I have been passed over for a promotion several times. It never seems fair because nobody has ever taken the time to explain why.

I want to get promoted or get a raise, but the process seems mysterious, and nobody knows how the system works.

Read about avoiding performance management fails.

Town halls & Teleconferences – I think I know what you are trying to do, but they are hours long and full of last year’s numbers and technical jargon.

Read about how not to screw up talking to your employees

The company you describe in your presentations sounds like Google, and as much as I want to believe your description, it doesn’t feel that way.

I struggle to know why you see a different picture of the company than we do.

I try to have a positive attitude and look for ways to contribute more, but the people I work with are frustrated and discouraged. No one seems to know what is going on, the reorganization a few months ago was nerve-racking, and we are all a bit scared.

I want success for the company because I like it here. But I must admit, I am struggling to understand why our managers are not trained to help us get there.

Maybe you, or some of your executives, could stop presenting to us, stop by the shop floor, talk with us, and listen to us. You might learn that there seems to be something missing because things are not going well at my level.

We like you, the company and our jobs and only want the best for everyone. We need to understand.


Your Worried But Loyal Worker

Written with credit to several online examples