Tag Archives: Teams

321…Watch You Back!

Why 1/3 of Your Team May Be Out to Get You!

My experience leading teams has been (select one):

  • An uplifting, collaborative exploration of what’s possible?  
  • A soul-crushing, lonely exercise in futility?

Unfortunately, your chances of selecting either of these answers is about 50/50.

A friend of mine has recently taken the reins of an international sales organization. Despite the fact that she’s seasoned, capable and world-class smart — she’s starting to question herself and her team leadership experience could go either way.

My advice?

Think 3, Win 2, Turn 1…. 

Think 3: Think of your team as having 3 sub-groups (which one are you?)

  • People that make things happen. Positive optimists, willing to give you a try
  • People that stop things from happening. Nay-saying pessimists, programmed to resist change
  • People that wonder what happened. Neutral observers, that go with the flow.

Win 2: Focus on winning the hearts and minds of 2 sub-groups

  • Make a list of which team members belong in each group
  • Solidify your base by aligning with visible, vocal and influential optimists
  • Find social and political links to start bringing neutrals into your new coalition.

Turn 1: With the balance of power shifting to your favor, it’s time to put it over the top

  • Identify the most visible, vocal and influential nay-sayers
  • Move nay-sayings into the “pro-you” column by authentically helping her/him become successful
  • Nay-sayer support has a cascading effect that will shore up your support for fence-sitting neutrals.

In a nutshell:
If you want to make a mark.
If you believe there has to be a better way.
If you think today’s best is simply a starting point for tomorrow.
Make the 321 Rule part of your leadership strategy.
If your goal is stay below the radar.
If you desire to keep doing exactly what was done yesterday.
You don’t need to worry too much about the 321 Rule,
but remember to
Watch Your Back!

Personal note: to my new-sales-leader friend halfway around the world, you are such a ROCK STAR! Now go 321 your team so the rest of the world can see it too!

As always, don’t hesitate to share your own thoughts and experiences about team leadership with me, directly at Jeff@jeffkaplan.com

Stay connected,


Instantly Sexier, Smarter & Richer:

The math of having it all…

Recipe for Organizational Wealth

Ingredients: Carefully mix the following:

  • A 23,000 line spreadsheet documenting the savings earned from instituting a ban on business travel, eliminating pay raises and implementing a hiring freeze
  • An unnecessarily long, unnecessarily complex strategic plan
  • A PowerPoint deck with enough slides to ensure the owner of the local print shop can maintain his country club membership, and
  • A jargon filled conference call/town hall combo meeting to give the troops their marching orders that for many, if not most, won’t connect to what they do/should do every day.

Mix well, cross fingers and if the numbers don’t hit, hope for some limiting market factor that will justify your sub-par performance…

Maybe…but doesn’t it sound like the playbook for too many organizations?

Just as focusing on transactions limits the developmental speed and depth of relationships, focusing on the transaction components of business operations may get you over the financial hump this month or this quarter, the strategy is a long-term loser that alienates your customers, discourages employees and focuses precious resources on the wrong things.

I’ve spent my career writing about and researching great companies and I’ve learned that truly great organizations keep the math simple and keep the processes human.  I get the conservative appeal of cost cutting; austerity policies make us look large and in change, like we don’t need adult supervision but, in my experience, shutting down the economic engine of an organization makes little long-term sense to anyone but those that view shareholder value at a this-quarter-at-all-costs proposition and those whose performance bonuses are time bound to now. I’ve seen more organizations save their way into bankruptcy; or worse, irrelevance, than save themselves to prosperity.

If you want your company to succeed, the math is really very simple:

  1. Keep Your Base Solid: The vast majority of your business, the 90% or so of customers/donors/constituents, the ones that that aren’t your biggest or most profitable clients; provide the foundations for operational scale and the revenue you need hunt for big game.

For this group, focus on:

  • Deepening relationships with key contacts
  • Broadening relationships across the client organizations, and
  • Continuously adding value.
  1. Pick Six: No matter the size of the organization, whether for profit or not-for-profit; regardless the industry, geography, or ownership structure, one thing generally holds true. Six or fewer deals will make or break your year– and the fewer the number the greater the risk!!! Win your ‘Pick Six’ and you’ll win the performance period lotto; everyone in your organization will become instantly sexier, smarter and richer. Lose the ‘Pick Six’ and in your mirror will appear a group of people that are not as sexy, as smart or as rich as they should be.

So, with Q4 planning season just around the corner, consider something new. This year, set yourself free from analysis paralysis, prohibit death by PowerPoint and focus on gassing your economic engine by investing in the ‘Pick Six’ deals that will make your year. Done well, this recipe is better than any diet or workout plan and is the surest way to making you and all your coworkers sexier, smarter and richer.

Now if I could just figure out how to lose 10 pounds by 5 o’clock tonight…

Until next week, this is Jeff Kaplan saying, “Stay Connected“….


Abusive Leadership?

Abuse me?


Why did I cough up $125.00 for The Bass Handbook of Leadership?

My graduate professors insisted the book was the last word… now I have a 10-pound, 1,500-page book that may be incomplete.

People talk about leadership every day. They throw the word out there and accept it from others as if we were really communicating an exact meaning. But there are literally thousands of definitions of leadership.

Is leadership a personality trait or a behavior, an attribution, the foci of a group process, a symbol, a maker of meaning, a thought, a purposeful or persuasive action, the initiation of structure, the exercise of influence or a discretionary influence? Are leaders born or made?

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology examines a little discussed negative aspect of the oh-so-admired-and-researched topic – Abusive Leadership.

The study examined the impacts of verbal abuse and demeaning emails of team leaders in leader-follower dyads (YES, I actually used the word DYAD, I paid a lot of money for grad school and learned several words I can’t seem use anywhere but Scrabble).

Basically, they studied what happens when a bad boss is mean to a subordinate and how the behavior impacts the broader team.

The study was conducted in China and the findings were replicated in the USA.


  1. As you might have guessed, abused employees felt demoralized and undervalued and their productivity decreased,
  2. Surprisingly, cases of abuse correlated with higher levels of team conflict and lower productivity across the team unit.


Traditional interventions into workplace abuse generally focused on the affected parties (the abuser and the abused). This study suggests that we may want to address the impacts of the abuse across the entire team unit.

Luckily, none of us has ever had to work for one of THOSE leaders.

Fortune Cookie Bottom-Line:

When your bad boss is a bully and zaps all of your steam, remember this study and turn to your team.

Source: Crystal I. C. Farh, Zhijun Chen. Beyond the Individual Victim: Multilevel Consequences of Abusive Supervision in Teams. Journal of Applied Psychology, 2014; DOI: 10.1037/a0037636

Schmoozing, Boozing & Teetotaling!

The holiday party season is in full gear and that means lots of opportunities to meet new people, have some fun and expand your network. For those of us that revel in the reveling, it’s time to get out your ‘formal lampshade’, which, unlike those ‘skinny jeans you still have in your closet, should still fit nicely.

Shuttering at the thought of another room full of strangers or letting down your hair with your co-workers?

You are not alone!

Few people are born with the power to ‘schmooze’. When faced with the discomfort of interpersonal interaction, some of us rely on a little ‘social lubricant’ to get our people skills primed – a little “liquid courage” to amp our networking fortitude.

But what does the teetotaler do during this festival of festivities?

A new study by North Carolina State University explored mechanisms non-drinkers employ during liver-punishing social situations. For example:

  1. Tell people you are on a diet (kinda bah ‘humbug but it may work!)
  2. Suggest that you are not drinking because you’re taking antibiotics (it may not enhance your reputation but few will inquire further!)
  3. Simply carry a drink around all night without taking a single sip (if you are noticed… remember plants like a drink every now and again too!)
  4. Become the life of the party by getting everyone else blasted. Buy the whole group a round of shots (…repeat as necessary!)

Satire aside, there is absolutely nothing wrong with abstinence. In fact, the morning after a bender the vast majority of drinkers wish they’d steered clear. But the study begins to shed a light on the challenges that organizational leaders and individuals face when it comes the etiquette of social gatherings and liquid libations. At work our cultural norms largely guide our interactions and determine what’s ‘socially acceptable’. After hours off-site, the lines blur.

For now, let’s file it in the stack of organizational behavior issues. When it comes to people, products and processes; people are by far the hardest code to crack.

Fortune Cookie Bottom-line:

One need not drink to make a link but those that do may make two — they just won’t remember who!

If you have other practical ways to abstain this holiday season, write me and I’ll share them with our readers…

Source: http://www.newswise.com/articles/unhappy-hour-non-drinkers-devise-strategies-to-navigate-booze-centered-work-events

Are you politically correct? It may affect your productivity…

  1. Political correctness sometimes gets a bad rap by people who think that it is just a way to censor their right to free speech; however, Cornell University has proven that it can actually increase the creativity of work teams that are comprised of both men and woman.
  2. This is challenging the idea that in order to have a truly creative team, everyone should be allowed to speak their minds, whatever the consequence.
  3. Political correctness is shown to help people feel more comfortable while sharing their creative ideas, because it reduces the insecurity they might feel while interacting with others, especially those of the opposite sex.
Can you tell the difference between being politically incorrect and being candid? 
Source: http://www.newswise.com/articles/this-just-in-political-correctness-pumps-up-productivity-on-the-job

Want a to create a great team or marriage? …Then bring on the PAIN!

Have you ever wondered why you choose the friends you choose, like the people you like, marry the people you marry?

Instinctively, we’d probably answer by thinking about all the good things we see in those we hold closest – personality, values, interests but what about the bad stuff? Can negative feelings or experiences bond us?

  1. New research suggests that pain may actually bring people together and act as “social glue” for groups of people who have suffered the pain together. And this conclusion actually makes sense—think about the relational bonds soldiers create from common experience.
  2. 54 study participants were assigned either a painful or non-painful group task, like submerging their hands in cold ice water to locate and deposit medal balls into underwater containers (painful) or doing the same task in room temperature water (no big deal).
  3. Post task, the participants were asked to rank how close they felt to the others in their group.  And while the two groups didn’t show a difference in positive or negative emotion, they did show significant difference in feelings of group bonding.
  4. A continuation of the study showed that the groups that went through pain together were much more motivated to cooperate, as a group, during other subsequent challenges as well.

Can’t wait to hear how you feel about this topic…
What do you think?
Is your job painful enough as is?

Source: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/shared-pain-brings-people-together.html?utm_source=pressrelease&utm_medium=eureka&utm_campaign=sharedpaincohesion

Are you a Giver or a Taker?

Studies have shown that personality plays an important part in exchanging knowledge. Adam Grant at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, created a personality measure to determine people’s natural tendency toward interpersonal knowledge exchange. He found that most people can be classified into one of three groups: givers, matchers and takers:Givers: not only share more information they also tend to share more important information,
Takers: tend to keep important information to themselves,
Matchers: (you guessed it) are in between and see information exchange as a tit-for-tat strategy.WHICH ONE ARE YOU?


Salespeople: Mastering this model might come in handy when trying to get info from clients…

Managers: May realize that it’s not enough to simply provide knowledge management tools, but to also keep in mind the personalities and interaction styles of their employees…

Husbands & Wives: I’ll leave those implications to you…

Until next time…Stay connected!
-JeffSource: http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=144301&CultureCode=en

Older Adults… When Will They Pay Attention to You?

  1. A study in the journal Psychology and Aging has shown substantial differences in brain function throughout the day for older adults.
  2. A group of younger adults (aged 19-30) and a group of older adults (aged 60-82) participated in a series of memory tests with built in distractions.  During the test, each participant’s brain was scanned to show which areas were activating.  During the 1-5pm test, older adults were 10% more likely to get distracted.  However, they performed noticeably better during the morning test and were even shown to activate the same areas of the brain that the young adults did.
  3. This information shows that as a person ages, they are better able to focus and ignore distractions in the morning than in the afternoon; suggesting that more mentally-challenging tasks be scheduled earlier in the day.

Food for thought regarding when and what you talk about, at what time of the day, and with whom–depending on age (started sounding like Dr. Seuss there for a minute!)

Source: http://www.baycrest.org/research-news/older-adults-have-morning-brains-study-shows-noticeable-differences-in-brain-function-across-the-day/

Group Opinion and Personal Judgment

  1. New research out of China suggests that if people know what the average opinion on a given subject is, they will change their personal opinion to be closer to the average opinion
  2. They will do this even if there is no social pressure to hold an opinion similar to the average opinion
  3. Interestingly, this effect only lasts for 3 days or so—after that people tend to revert back to their original opinion
Source: Y. Huang, K. M. Kendrick, R. Yu. Conformity to the Opinions of Other People Lasts for No More Than 3 Days. Psychological Science, 2014

Entitlement and Sexism

1. Research from Case Western Reserve University suggests a linkage between entitled attitudes—how much individuals think they deserve “special treatment”—and sexism

2. Entitled men are more likely to endorse hostile views of women

3. More surprisingly, entitled women are more likely to endorse views of women as frail and needing extra care

Source: Joshua B. Grubbs, Julie J. Exline, Jean M. Twenge. Psychological Entitlement and Ambivalent Sexism: Understanding the Role of Entitlement in Predicting Two Forms of Sexism. Sex Roles, 2014