Benefits of Business Team Solutions

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Consider a man in his 30s, the CEO of a company that was doing well. He sees profits are not rising as fast as they were. His concerns are likely to be

  • how to stop further decline;
  • how to regain lost profits
  • how to get enough additional profit to protect against future drop.

We at Business Team Solutions (BTS) have found the most likely cause of the sluggishness is an internal conflict.

  • If so, resolving the conflict will likely stop any future decline.
  • It is likely to help regain lost profits.
  • It may help increase profits even further.

What do we do?

  • Often, a company’s C-Suite and Board are too close to the problem to see the conflict.
  • BTS comes for a day or two.
  • We first find out the CEO’s or Board Chair’s to view of what is happening
  • We ask them about additional possibilities.
  • We spend the day talking to managers and staff to explore what may be going on.
  • That evening, we meet again with the CEO or Board Chair
    • to discuss our findings
    • to decide together with them how best to
      • improve matters
      • and resolve the issue.

While each internal conflict is unique, in our experience they usually fall into one or more of 9 categories.

  • Non-productive Board meetings:
    • Circumventing egos makes meetings productive
  • Emotional situations:
    • an excellent technician
    • who is promoted to manage the team
    • needs to learn to recognize emotions
      • when the team comes with problems at home
      • when the team comes with problems at work
    • Polarized disagreements in Executive Committees:
      • The more the two sides argue
      • The more each side digs in its heels.
    • Unproductive teams:
      • New teams can’t decide what to do
      • Established teams have lost their way
    • Mergers:
      • Everyone worries.
      • Some disagree with their new peers
    • Splits:
      • Who will be fired?
      • What will the new companies be like?
      • How will customers react?
    • People who stop contributing:
      • Some causes and reasons are easy to resolve
      • But hidden agendas
        • are dangerous to the organization
        • are more difficult to resolve
      • The beatings will continue until morale improves:
        • The neurological basis for staff shutting down
        • When managers disdain them
          • Accidentally
          • Deliberately
        • Gaps in culture:
          • Why these must be addressed
          • How to recognize them
          • How a specialist team
            • Analyzes them
            • Collaborates with you to improve them

BTS only stays

  • Until you tell us the issue is resolved.
  • We are not going to be a permanent burden on your budget.

Other issues are likely to arise at your company in the future – at any company.

  • We offer to teach your leaders how to resolve this themselves.
  • Our fees for teaching are a fraction of the cost
  • Of BTS returning to resolve a new issue.

 

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com

 Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation.

Pieter Kark, MD, Central Florida (near Orlando)

 

Blog 10B. Finding and Resolving Gaps in Culture

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[This continues the discussion from Blog 10A]

The Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) is done twice by the leaders of the company: 1) how do they perceive the company? 2) where they would like the company to be?

OCAI measures

  1. Dominant Characteristics
  2. Organizational Leadership
  3. Management of Employees
  4. Organizational Glue
  5. Strategic emphases
  6. Criteria of success

This delineates four types of culture:

  1. The Clan Culture held together by loyalty or tradition.

Leader Type: facilitator, mentor, team builder.

Value Drivers: commitment, communication, development.

Theory for Effectiveness: human development and participation.

Quality Strategies: empowerment, team building, employee involvement, communication.

  1. The Adhocracy Culture being at the leading edge.

The organization’s long term goal is growth and acquiring new resources. Success means gaining unique, new products or services. It’s important to be a leader in products or services. It prizes individual initiative and freedom.

Leader Type: innovator, visionary.

Value Drivers: transformation, agility.

Theory for Effectiveness: innovation, vision

Quality Strategies: surprise, new standards, anticipating needs,

continuous improvement, creative solutions.

  1. The Market Culture hard-driving competitiveness

Leader Type: competitor, producer

Value Drivers: market share, profitability

Theory for Effectiveness: aggressive competition and customer focus

Quality Strategies: customer preferences, improving productivity,

external partnerships, competitiveness.

  1. The Hierarchy Culture formal rules and policies.

Leader Type: monitor, organizer.

Value Drivers: efficiency, consistency, uniformity.

Theory for Effectiveness: control and efficiency

Quality Strategies: measurement, control, problem solving, quality tools.

The discussion will continue in Blog 10C.

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation.

Pieter Kark, MD, Central Florida (near Orlando)

 

Blog 10A. Finding and Resolving Gaps in Culture

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This blog is based on summations by Eric Doner, President of AchieveCorp.com, with his permission. AchieveCorp resolves cultural gaps in companies.

Dean Richard Lyons at UC Berkeley points out that resolving gaps in a company’s culture is expensive. Dean Lyons emphasized:

  • Culture is the opportunity for differentiation.
  • Your culture is your product.
  • Great companies are intentional about culture.
  • Your culture reflects guidance to individuals and of teams.
  • Leaders set culture.
  • Team leaders set their team’s sub-culture.

The first step in resolving gaps in culture is a Gap Analysis. AchieveCorp analyzes cultural gaps when its experts visit a company. The team looks at the company as a whole (Corporate CultureMapTM ); at its major silos, levels, and teams (Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument); and at the workgroups and working teams (WorkTraits). Each tool is well validated.

AchieveCorp’s team have expertise in improving culture. The executives and managers of companies we work with are the experts on the company and its business.

The Corporate CultureMap™ measures ten dimensions of culture:

  1. Compelling Purpose.

2.Authentic Leadership

3.Clear Objectives & Expectations

4.Adequate Skills & Resources

5.Energizing Environment

6.Pervasive Productivity

7.Joyful Engagement

8.Cooperative Teamwork

9.Rewards and Recognition

10.Development Opportunities

 

The discussion will continue in Blog 10B.

 

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com

 

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation.

 

Pieter Kark, MD, Central Florida (near Orlando)

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Blog 9E. “The Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves”

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[This continues the discussion from Blog 9D.]

Managers and executives beware. The more people perceive threats, the worse. The more dysfunctional executive teams are, the worse. The more executives ignore Goldsmith’s warnings, the worse.

The worse? Behavior deteriorates throughout the company. It takes longer to restore brains to neutral, let alone to a creative state.

You can protect yourself and your subordinates from automatic fight-or-flight by learning tools of consciousness, as I discussed in earlier blogs.

Neurology implies executives, managers, and companies should create and preserve a positive atmosphere. Encourage people to explore, try things out, enjoy; encourage them to work as teams of friends. It means being sure supervisors at all levels support the best efforts of those who report to them, ask – even demand—honesty and integrity even if it hurts the supervisor’s feelings.

And when a supervisor makes a mistake and precipitates fight-or-flight in subordinates? Apologize as quickly, sincerely, and thoroughly as possible. This will go a long way to restoring peoples’ creativity and productivity.

 

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com

 

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation.

 

Pieter Kark, MD, Central Florida (near Orlando)

Blog 9D. “The Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves

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[This continues the discussion from Blog 9C on how the brain deals with threats]

Threats signal a group of nerve cells deep in each side of the brain. The group, a “nucleus”, is called the amygdala (see Figures 4, 5, and 6).

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Fig. 4. Drawing to show the deep nuclei of the brain in relation to the outer surface of the hemisphere. The amygdala is largely concerned with recognizing danger and foes. The thalamus largely handles sensory input. The putamen and caudate handle preparation for movement and setting up movements of muscles close to the backbone (like those of the upper arms and trunk) to support movement of muscles further out (like those moving fingers).

 

The amygdala on each side triggers reflexes for survival. The survival mode is all of these functions and symptoms together:

  • When a threat signals the two amygdalae, they start reflexes for “fight-or-flight” mode. Fear and anger arise (temporal lobe, see Figures 1, 2, 3, and 6), as do memories of being afraid or angry (hippocampus, Figure 6), and also feelings of disgust and nausea (the insula, see Figure 6).
  • Intuitive abilities shut down.
  • The only active thinking is in the pre-frontal cortex (see Figure 3, Blog 9C) which gives only linear, logical behaviors: nothing else.

Fig 5 (above) and Fig 6 (below). Relations of the amygdala to the sense of smell (olfactory bulb and front of temporal lobe) and to emotions and memory (cingulate gyrus and hippocampus). The cingulate gyrus is on the mesial or middle surface of the hemisphere on either side. It continues backward and downwards as the hippocampus of the temporal lobe.

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Fig. 5 shows the structures in relation to the hemispheres. Fig. 6 shows the structures more clearly because the hemispheres aren’t drawn in.

 

You can’t avoid the survival mode. When we are trying to survive we cannot deal with non-linear problems. We cannot be creative. We cannot think out of the box. We cannot work out new ways of doing things. We cannot use intuition.  We cannot be kind to others. Survival is everyone for themselves. Teamwork and social abilities disappear.

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Fig 7. Slice of brain perpendicular to the groove between the hemispheres, towards the front half of the temporal lobe. Purple-blue represents grey matter (cortex, various nuclei). Orange represents white matter (axons connecting one area of the brain with another). The temporal lobes are the lower bulges on either side. The frontal lobes are the bulges above. The white inverted triangle in the middle illustrates the two lateral ventricles (full of spinal fluid) covered by the (orange) connection between the two hemispheres (corpus callosum). The area of the cingulate gyrus and the areas of the amygdalae are labelled. So is the insula, the cortical region involved with the sense of taste and with disgust and nausea.

 

[Blog 9E, will conclude the discussion about the brain and its influence on creativity}

 

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com

 

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation.

 

Pieter Kark, MD, San Mateo, CA 94401-2238

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Blog 9C. “The Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves”

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[This continues the discussion from Blog 9A and Blog 9B]

An abrupt manager may go against Goldsmith’s advice or undercut Rock’s SCARF traits without knowing it. It’s his subordinates’ feelings that react.

Most of your brain deals with subconscious reflexes. Nerve cells and connections that get you out of danger ensure we avoid enemies and threats. This is survival.

Fig 1. Drawing of brain from the left side

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The brain reflexes for survival outweigh those for gratification because survival is critical.

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Fig. 2. Lobes of brain and their functions. Frontal lobe: controlling movements (motor and pre-motor strips); motor output of language; higher intellectual and executive functions, including “pre-frontal cortex” (tinted brown). Parietal lobe: sensations from skin, joints, tendons, much of the body. Occipital lobe: various aspects of vision. Temporal lobe: hearing, balance (nearby: taste), putting together and interpreting language; interpreting vision; memory, emotions, sense of smell.

 

The parts coding for survival are small, on the front surface and sides of the brain’s hemispheres: nerve cells in part of the ¼-inch-thin outer layer, the “cortex”. The area for survival, called the “pre-frontal cortex,” deals with linear, logical thinking (see Figure 3).

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Fig. 3. Mesial (middle) surface of brain, cut from back to front, top to bottom, and looked at from the middle surface. The pre-frontal cortex, at the very front, is tinted brown. The limbic system (see text) is tinted dark blue. The visible portions of the major lobes are marked, as is the cerebellum (balance, smoothness of movement, repetitive movements), the midbrain including the pons, and the hind-brain or medulla. Grey matter is tinted light blue. White matter (pathways of axons) is tinted orange.

 

Reflexes work in fractions of a second. Anything that opposes Goldman’s or Rock’s advice stimulates the reflexes to deal with threats.

[The discussion of how the brain reacts to threats will be continued in Blog 9D]

 

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation. 

Pieter Kark, MD, Eustis, FL 32726

Blog 9B. “The Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves”

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[This continues the discussion from Blog 9A.]

In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith considers flaws in behavior that damage relations within a company. These include needing to win too much, needing to add too much value, needing to show how smart one is, making excuses, clinging to the past to deflect blame, refusing to express regret, and demanding to be “me”.

They include executives or mangers beginning sentences with “no,” “but,” or “however”; explaining why whatever won’t work, withholding key information, and “speak[ing] when angry: using emotional volatility as a management tool.” Destructive comments, sarcasm, cutting remarks, and falsely claiming undeserved credit are also damaging. So are passing negative judgments, not giving proper recognition, making excuses, refusing to express regret, failing to express gratitude, passing the buck, playing favorites and punishing the messenger.

Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” concerns management consulting, “organization development.” Lencioni’s a pyramid of dysfunctions is based on Absence of Trust: needing to feel invulnerable. The members of the team are suspicious of or afraid of each other.

Fear of Conflict is fear of open, free-flowing discussion. The lack of mutual trust produces a meaningless, superficial, harmony.

The members Lack Commitment. They’re ambiguous about it, afraid to decide. They try to please everyone — which never works!

Avoidance of Accountability: being afraid to point out errors. They’d rather let things slide and lower their standards.

Inattention to Results is upholding personal ego rather than the worth of the team. They don’t pay attention to their results. They can’t, because they are in “fight-or-flight” mode.

Fight-or-flight mode? This brings us to a neurologist’s perspective of leadership. Largely the remarks below are based on my own knowledge of the brain. I practiced neurology and studied brain diseases for 40 years to learn what diseases could me tell about the normal brain. In part, the remarks are based on Rock’s work on “SCARF” traits. I’ll begin there.

Rock described traits for creativity and people doing their best [The Neuroleadership Journal 1 (2008)], a sense of having the “SCARF” traits

  • Status,
  • Certainty,
  • Autonomy,
  • Relatedness,
  • Fairness

The traits foster increase comfort, creativity, and intuition to improve productivity.

If a manager counters one trait, just one, it shuts down effectiveness and productivity of subordinates in a fraction of a second. Correcting this takes hard work over weeks!

“Status” is social or intellectual status; a sense of honor and worth in a company.

“Certainty” means always knowing how actions will influence outcomes or avoid errors. Certainty is a subconscious state of the brain when planning or carrying out complex tasks.

“Autonomy”: freely choosing between possibilities. The person or group know they  control what they’re doing.

“Relatedness” means feeling part of a friendly group.

“Fairness” means feeling that superiors treat you like all others: no favoritism, no insiders, no prejudices.

We all like working under the SCARF traits. We all know when they’re gone. At least we do as subordinates. Our executives or managers, good or bad, usually don’t feel them.

 

The discussion will continue in the next Blog, “Blog 9C”

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com 

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation.

Pieter Kark, MD, San Mateo, CA 94401-2238

 

 

 

Blog 9A. “The Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves”

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Paleontologists say respect for the dead and need for closure started at least 2 ½ or 3 million years ago. Our nature hasn’t changed much in the past several hundred thousand to 2 million years. We’ve always enjoyed people who

led by example, praise, and allowing us to be creative. There’ve always been “leaders” who were the opposite, who inspired the phrase “the beatings will continue until morale improves”.

Some of the poor behavior may be evil. A lot is likely from people abused in their youth who as adults, abuse others.

History and literature have many examples of rulers who were kind, generous, and fostered creativity; and of others who were violent, authoritarian abusers.

Abraham Maslow wrote about good companies and bad:

“People like to be self-determined, to control their own fate and economic and social movement; … They like responsibility … and taking initiative…”

And, “People avoid being a ‘no-thing’. …detest being regulated … as an object…Their psyche is harmed if … unappreciated, manipulated, dominated, pushed around, exploited, used, ‘screwed’, controlled, laughed at… Executives of enterprises [with] this …culture make their people more paranoid, more hostile, more nasty, more malevolent, more destructive”.

“…Taxpayers provide the schools, roads, sewage removal, transportation, government, police departments, fire departments, and public health… for a healthy society. Society provides …excellent managers and high quality workers [for] humane [companies] and the domineering ones.”

“…. Companies that …improve society should be rewarded… [for] improve[ing] the people in their region and thereby improve[ing] democracy.”

“Some …penalty should be assessed against enterprises that undo the effects of a political democracy, of good schools, etc. … and that make their people more paranoid, more hostile, more nasty, more malevolent, more destructive, etc. This is like sabotage against the whole society. And they should be made to pay for it.”

Marshall Goldsmith, Patrick Lencioni, and David Rock address these two ways to lead. Each points out successes of a good leader and the disasters a bad leader causes.

The discussion will continue in New Blog 9B.

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation.

Pieter Kark, MD, San Mateo, CA 94401-2238

 

Blog 8A. People Who Stop Contributing

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People with valuable traits sometimes stop contributing to their company. The reasons fall into several categories.

  • The person has burnt out. They need rest or a change of task. They may need help dealing with burnout.
  • The person is upset by a perception that her or his advice is no longer valued. Discussions and coaching help.
  • The person misses a colleague who has left or has a problem away from work that uses up attention. Mentoring often helps.
  • The person has to care for a sick relative but worries that telling the company means a younger person will take the job. Reassure the person that experience, skills and wisdom bring value.
  • The person resents the company’s goals. They have a hidden agenda. Many a company has been destroyed by one person with one hidden agenda.

You or a facilitator should explore causes with the non-contributor.

[The discussion of a person with a hidden agenda will continue in Blog 8B.]

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Blog 7B. Mergers and Split-Ups

 

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[This continues the discussion from Blog 7A.]

When conflicts between people in a merger affect key members, the conflicts should be resolved quickly. Explore critical details. Explore the old beliefs, the new ones, and the new culture and structure of the merged companies. Explore the personalities in the clash. Will the people change perspectives? Can they be inspired to change? to experiment? to try for six months an approach a neutral party suggests and then decide?

The Palo Alto Red Cross chapter merged with the San Jose chapter to become the Silicon Valley chapter. Palo Alto’s volunteers, retired CEOs, were always asked by staff if they’d handle a problem. The volunteers decided what to do and did the job, getting wherewithal from staff.

At San Jose, staff made decisions, did the work, and told the volunteers ( all blue-collar) how to help.

The executive director for the new Silicon Valley chapter and members from the former Boards sought the best from each chapter A senior staff member from San Jose couldn’t imagine volunteers handling problems. Volunteers from Palo Alto didn’t want staff telling them how to do what they were experts at. Using tools of consciousness, I suggested the volunteers work with the staff person if he’d try a different approach for six months? Yes.

Would the staff person experiment, and for six months let these volunteers do what was needed but keep the staff member informed hour by hour? Yes.

After three months, both sides were happy with the method and made it the new chapter’s standard operating procedure.

I ignored something critical. Because I did not suggest a meeting like Lencioni recommended, volunteers from San Jose took a year to work through the change and many left.


Split-ups generate conflict the instant they’re announced. Executives, managers, and staff worry about who will be fired and who will be kept, what the new companies will be like, whether the split will succeed, who will lead, and how the original clients and the public will react.

The different worries affect creativity and productivity. Fear makes neuron groups called the amygdala, to shut down the parts of the brain for creativity. The only part of the thinking brain that is active is the one that merely reacts, activating “fight or flight” responses.

Ralph Stacey pointed out the complex problems and uncertain outcome of split ups. He believes people look creatively and in detail at the complexity. Be creative when the amygdala has shut off so much of the cortex? Meetings like those of a merger help.

 

 

Illustrations in my blogs are either my own drawings or courtesy of pixabay.com

Contact me at 650-762-6755 or pieterk@post.harvard.edu for more information or to start a conversation. 

Pieter Kark, MD, San Mateo, CA 94401-2238