Leadership Partners Blog

Culture Change Management

In the book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance Louis V. Gerstner, CEO of IBM during its dramatic turnaround in the 90′s, talks about the importance of culture as it relates either to the success or failure of companies.  When he took over IBM the culture was such that people moved slowly, didn’t think of new ideas, and were reluctant to change.  By the end of his tenure, the culture was described as fluid, dynamic, creative and energized.  Gerstner himself had a large impact on the culture but we clever in involving others so that the culture was adopted by people at all levels.  Culture driven from the top down, as many executives have experienced, often results in failure.  Gerstner learned how to involve people at all levels so that the new culture was their own.

Organization Culture Change Management refers to engaging people at all levels in the change but only after having provided them with the necessary skills and perspectives so that their ideas and suggestions have the same fundamental basis and include elements that improve both the conditions for people as well as the level of organization performance.  Cultures that are supportive and not productive -OR- cultures that are productive and not supportive fail to fully address the needs of people and organizations. Finally, such cultures must be created by the people who implement them rather than being handed down from the top.  Otherwise, no matter how good, the culture will encounter significant if not terminal resistance.  When given the right training and fundamentals, people are capable of creating a culture as good as any created by top level executives.  Having created this culture themselves insures the necessary levels of commitment for a rapid turnaround.

The Roger’s Group, Inc. was headed by an executive open minded enough to involve people at all levels in a culture change effort.  This effort began with the IT department and with their successes both in higher levels of commitment and measured performance spread to other areas of the company.  Within a period of two years, the company had moved from middle of the pack to top 5 on all critical financial indicators and the results obtained by the IT department were detailed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Organization Culture Change can be managed.  We know how to manage it in a way that consistently delivers increases in financial performance and levels of engagement by people throughout the organization.  With a mid-West utility, our culture change efforts resulted in engagement scores by Gallup in the low 80′s, leading Gallup to conclude that they could do

nothing to improve the current culture at the company.  Having a methodology for managing culture change is important.  A track record of successful culture change management across a number of companies is also required for companies and their top executives to be willing to take what many consider as great chances/risks.

Read our case study on culture change management by clicking here.

Leadership: The Benefit and Price of Open Communcation

Initially most people focus on the price to be paid for open communication, leaders especially.  Leaders and people focus on the additional time required to listen to others fully, to get things into the open, for reaching conflict resolution.  When compared with having others do just what leaders say it is certainly less time efficient.  However, once people adapt to open, specific exchanges and the candor level associated with the exchanges rises then people can engage each other about wasted time, the need to move ahead.  When communication gets to this point the benefits of open and honest exchanges begin to be realized.

These benefits are:

  • getting a variety of ideas into the open,
  • having those ideas quickly evaluated for relevance and contribution,
  • elevating the quality of decisions based on the variety of opinions that are offered,
  • reaching conflict resolution that is sustainable rather than temporary, and
  • elevating the level of commitment within the group to the decisions that are made.

As is the case with everything, if we are willing to pay the price early in terms of the frustrations associated with distractions or taking a little longer than in the past, people benefit from this sort of open exchange by having a greater pool of ideas, by greater levels of commitment and ultimately by achieving far better, higher quality decisions.  Regrettably, few people have the insights, the patience and dedication to excellence to achieve this sort of decision making quality.

Open communication is something that people intuitively know is right, but most lack the discipline as the demands for immediate results are so great that we override our own intuition.  We lack the courage to bridge the faith gap, lack the faith in ourselves and our instincts. Few people have the commitment to excellence to pursue decision making in this way and there are many pressures for short term results so as to easy  justify not pursuing open communication.  This is where leadership comes into play.

All that is necessary to overcome people’s reluctance to invest the time is a set of skills and an understanding of how instincts and the pressures to rush decisions operate in those circumstances.  These skills and insights are our specialty.  Contact us!

Check out our article, It Always Gets Back to Leadership.

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Impact of Customer Service: What does it say about your company?

Customer Service is to a organization as eyes are to an individual.  Customer Service is a view into the soul of your organization, a snapshot of the way management relates to the individuals they employee.  We hold that customer service representatives (CSR) reflect their organizations treatment of the employees.  Great customer service is a reflection of respect and trust placed in the employees hands by management.  CSR who are free to actually resolve problems must be treated with respect as they are given some authority.

“I will have to check with my manager” or “That’s not what we do” are statements of lack of faith by the managers.  Is this due to a general belief that their employees are not qualified?  Is this because the CSR have not been completely trained?  Is this because management wants total control?  There are any number of questions that can be asked, but the bottom line is that management does not believe the CSR can/will handle the situation in an acceptable way.

Given respect, CSR are capable of effectively resolving any issue in a way that is acceptable to the customer and the organization.  Why doesn’t this happen more often?  Courage and Respect.  Managers must have respect for the individuals they employee and the CSR must have respect for the organization and the customer.

Now courage, CSR must have the courage to face customers with confidence.  CSR must also have the courage to face co-workers in an effort to resolve the issue.  If Bob didn’t do something correctly while creating this custom widget, Bob should be given the opportunity to correct the problem as well as prevent the problem from reoccuring.  All issues should also reflect respect.

What are the benefits of Customer Service Improvement?  The list is long and detailed, but the short version is:

happy customers = return customers

return customers = higher profitability

Check out our white paper on the benefits of customer service improvement.

Now for the fun part.  Watch the video.  I can’t tell you how often I have felt like this was happening to me!

3rd Party Critique

“Establishing a culture that promotes high performance through openness and honesty definitely requires courage, time and energy. It is worth the effort. Such a culture returns great benefits in profit, productivity, employee morale and customer satisfaction.” –The Brutus Dilemma (page 118)

Anyone who has read our blog, seen our website, or talked with us knows that we have a book in the works. The idea for creating this book has been rolling around in Tory and Doug’s minds for years. They had many scholarly discussions about 3rd Party Critique and the effect on organizations. As these scholarly discussions developed over time, they realized that the problem of 3rd Party Critique has no limits, it exists in all companies, between almost all employees at one time or another and is destructive to productivity. Think about it.

If you cannot approach your boss with a simple issue, how will you approach your boss about a serious, impactful problem? If you fail to approach your boss, what are the repercussions?  Similarly, as the boss, do you approach your employees? Failing to address issues with those lower than you on the corporate ladder is daunting. Failing to approach them stifles ideas, lowers productivity and limits the success of your organization.

We have asked several executives to read it and provide us with feedback. We talk A LOT about analytic feedback in the book. You should ask for it, you should provide it, you should learn how to use it. These three simple steps (ask, provide, apply) will change you and your organization. How? Let’s use the book as an example.

We asked a few trusted executives to provide us with analytic feedback at various stages of book writing. These executives had been clients of ours at various times and were acutely aware of our belief in providing valuable feedback. Each relayed an opinion concerning the text, layout, content and/or voice of the book. We listened, processed and applied their analytic feedback to the book. By doing this, free of concern regarding their intention, we produced a book that is dramatically different from the current business books, a book that talks to the audience as an intelligent, willing student. A book that focuses on the interactions between individuals, liberating the reader/student to reach full potential themselves and help those around them do the same.

Now, we would prefer you to judge for yourself. Download a chapter of the book and give us your feedback.  “Analytic Feedback is one of the most powerful tools for bringing about change,” The Brutus Dilemma (page 183). And we want you to practice. Start with us!

Fear & Candor: Find the connection & Organization Culture Solutions

As spring draws closer we are diligently working on our book Resolving the Brutus Dilemma, a book about 3rd Party Critique and candor.  Of all the information, training and change we bring, one of the most important pieces is candor. Candor, used properly, is a source of power that many people at all levels within organizations fear.  Fear, you ask…  Yes, fear, though we often don’t view it as fear.  Imagine these three examples:

(1) We hesitate to share information with our boss regarding an omission on his proposal to a client, (2) We are not sure how to approach employees in evaluations, (3) A co-worker who you routinely visit with at lunch and break has begun hanging out at your “cube” while on the clock and you aren’t sure how to encourage him to move along.
(1) Will my boss blow up, ignore my input, or fail to make an adjustment and hold it against me, (2) I have to tell him that his wardrobe choices are affecting management’s perception of his ability, (3) I don’t want to hurt his feelings… but I have to get to work!

These are simplistic examples of candor, but no less valid.

Removing fear is simple, yet complex.  There are many factors that contribute to the behaviors but the bottom line is trust, earned with mutual respect and common goals.  When discussing the principles of our work, we mention that these principles are not new, we are not the flavor of the week, which can leave us to be viewed as old fashion.  While not new, these principles are the very foundation of good business.  A client pointed out that gravity isn’t new either and it is undeniably relevant.

Tired of the fear?  Call us! 205-870-0031

Quote of Note
“Today’s employees demand more personal relationships with their leaders before they will give themselves fully to their jobs.  They insist on having access to their leaders, knowing that it is in the openness and the depth of the relationship with the leader that trust and commitment are built.”

-Bill George, Authentic Leadership

Post Merger Integration

80% of all mergers and acquisitions fail to meet the financial projections pre-merger.  Ouch!

The way a business expands its portfolio is a decision made by a person, or group of executives, who spends time looking at numbers and graphs and spreadsheets and financial documents.  Questions include how the operating systems will be affected, how the equipment will be transferred, how this will affect the stock price, how the computer systems will works.  These are all valid, important questions.  BUT, what about people?  Unless you live in a science fiction movie, people carry out the work.  The effectiveness of that work is a factor of their interactions, or relationships.

Questions that we ask during a merger and acquisition include: How do the employees of each separate company interact?  Is this effective?  Where is there a need for improvement?  How do the employees and the customers interact?  Is this effective? Where is there a need for improvement?  How will employees of the newly formed company interact?  Are we overlooking any issues?  Who else needs to supply input?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg.  We said above that 80% of all mergers and acquisitions fail to meet the financial projections pre-merger.  Why?  Because the organizers failed to ask how interactions or relationships would impact the merger.

Need help with this?  Check out our case study:

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype

Hello Cyber World!

Look for Leadership Partners and Tory Herring on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  We have joined the social media surge.  Look us up!  These tools allow us to hear from you in a casual setting.  You can post questions and comments.  If you have the questions, odds are someone else has wondered the same thing.

Need to talk to Tory, Patrick, Doug or Lucean?  You can reach us through Skype at:




These are all in addition to email






and US mail (2700 Highway 280 South, Suite 240E, Birmingham, AL 35223.

We look forward to hearing from you all.

Gravity Still Works: Disagreement Resolution

Just because it isn’t new doesn’t mean it won’t be the best answer to a problem.  Gravity is an old concept, one that is generally accepted as constant and undeniable.  How to resolve disagreement falls into the same category, undeniable.  When solutions are dictated, disagreement remains.  When solutions come in the form of compromise, disagreement remains.  When solutions are accepted simply as a means to move forward, disagreement remains.  So, what is the solution?

True, effective, productive disagreement resolution comes in the form of gathering involved parties, committing to resolving the issue in a productive manner.  Once the commitment is made, the issue is discussed, the most productive and effective solution is accepted and people move forward.  This commitment to resolving the issue is the basis for disintegrating the issue.

Is it really that easy?  Sure!  Let’s put it in context…

Steve and John have had a rather loud discussion while in the weekly staff meeting regarding how to solve a problem requiring immediate attention.  Steve and John don’t have a history of trouble and this is an isolated incident.  In a culture where the principles of i5 leadership have been established another team member would simply step in, realizing this affects more than just Steve and John.  The 3rd member would remind Steve and John of their previous commitment to the best answer.  Both men would advocate their solutions, in a reasonable tone of voice, without finger pointing.  Once each had expressed their solution, provided supporting evidence regarding the validity of that reason, and a time frame for completion an ideal decision can be reached.  Because the culture supports these discussions, individuals would be able to hear each other, process the information, and make the right decisions.  Furthermore, the men would accept this decision as what is best for the primary goal of the organization and progress would continue.

Had Steve and John worked in an environment without this underlying commitment, it could easily become a shouting match resulting in a deep divide between these two men.  Odds are they would return to their departments, tumble into 3rd Party Critique, discussing this with their team members, and create a bias within their teams making it difficult for the teams to make progress in the future.

Commitment and discussions may not seem like a new way of solving problems, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.  The latest, greatest trends are worth exploration, but sometimes the tried and true are all you need.  Gravity, it’s not new, but it still works!

Expanding the Way We Communicate

They say that our brains are able to continuously grow and expand, regardless of age.  Challenging ourself by expanding the way we communicate with each other, be it in person or in the electronic realm builds ability, actually changes our brain.  Developing new talent expands our capability.  Just like lifting weights changes our muscles.

I am challenging that assumption by advancing my knowledge of electronic communications.  I am repeating procedures, but the time between the repititions might be too great.  I imagine if I repeat the procedure daily I would more quickly build the synapsis.  Right now it’s once a week.  But I am working on it.

Have a question you want answered?  You now have many ways to contact us.  Good old telephone (my favorite), email, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Skype and US Postal Service.  Now, I am not sure how quickly I will respond.  It took me like 10 rings to answer Skype the other day.  Be patient, I will figure out which button to hit!

Call me, I am up for the challenge!

Reaching Conflict Resolution: Don’t Be a Robert

Reaching conflict resolution can seem like a daunting task. Even more so when the conflict occurs between two team mates who have become friends. Many years ago I worked directly with the executive

management team.  There were two team members named Robert.  Robert and Robert were buddies at work and their families socialized on the weekends.  They didn’t work directly together, one in sales the other in production, but they often consulted with each other when questions arose.  Every Monday morning there was an executive team meeting to discuss pressing matters, it lasted until noon.

One Monday morning the men didn’t look at each other during the meeting they didn’t speak to each other unless required.  They men didn’t visit after the meeting, or go to lunch which was usually the case after Monday meetings.  At first we were curious in a gossip-y way.  We examined all the

possibilities and potential issues and focused our discussions on what seemed likely.  They were the talk of the water cooler for a couple of weeks.

Because this is an instance of gossip, rather than 3rd Party Critique (we were in it for entertainment) does not mean there was no real conflict to resolve.  In fact, the conflict was more troublesome as time passed.  Individually executive team members approached one Robert or the other, inquiring about the events.  Neither Robert would comment beyond “It’s personal.”

Where there was once a highly productive and efficient team filled with light banter; there was now a group of people who sat in uncomfortable silence unable to engage each other effectively and the productivity of the ENTIRE team suffered.  The “Big Boss” told them that the conflict was affecting work and they must get over it.  Dictating behavior rarely works (ask any mother of bickering children) but is often employed.  Did it work?  Nope.

HR couldn’t fix the problem either… it was over an undisclosed personal matter.  The men were each heads of major departments with specialized knowledge and years of hands on experience.  What to do?

We didn’t know who to call or how to reach conflict resolution.  I have since moved on and hear that the team slowly increased their productivity but have yet to reach their previous levels and Monday meetings are awful compared to what they once were.  Consequently, the organization is suffering.

Don’t be like the Roberts.  Call us when the team suffers!  We will help your team get past barriers, move forward, focus on common goals.  You might not like each other for personal reasons, but you can still respect each other and accomplish great things.