What to Try When Two People Aren’t Getting Along

In the 1970’s, the Army launched a study to identify where, in their organization, race relations were the best.  The answer:  In a foxhole under fire.  It doesn’t matter who another person is; when you’re both under attack,you have to depend on each other to stay alive.

I’ve used that story many times with clients when two people in their organizations don’t get along well.  You can put them in a ‘foxhole’ by assigning them a project to work or a result to achieve — one where they have to rely on each other for successful.  It’s important that one person alone can’t get it done.

Most times, not always, but most times they will find new respect for each other.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

What to do About Individual Performance Problems

I am often asked to look at people in key positions who are not performing at the level expected.  Often, management already has in mind the solution:  “He needs training,” or, “She needs coaching.”

Before jumping to an alternative solution, it’s important to understand the cause of the performance issue.  The key question to ask is this:  Could the person do the job if he/she absolutely had to?

  • If the answer is no, then you have either a training/development issue, or an inability to learn the job.
  • If the answer is yes, then it is an issue of volition — the person could do it, but doesn’t want to.

Those are two very different situations, each requiring very different solutions.

Be careful about how you diagnose performance issues.

I Don’t Want to Hear “Hopefully”

The foundation of accountability is commitment.

When one is committed to accomplishing something, the hesitation and fear are replaced by resolve and energy.   When one is not committed, they tend to produce long stories and excuses.

During one of my senior executive stints, a manager who reported to me had a standard reply when I asked when a task or result would be completed.  She would say, “Hopefully….”   She was not committed, nor was she accountable.

Sometimes a person will say, “I cannot be accountable for that because I don’t have full control over it.”  He or she is confusing being accountable with being in control.  Hardly anyone is fully in control:  A sales person does not have full control over buyers buying, but they are still accountable for the result.  A manufacturing manager does not have full control over efficiencies or safety, but is still accountable for both.  The challenge of accountability is to take whatever actions are necessary (within the values of the organization) to get the result.

Accountability is being answerable for results.  Responsibility is being answerable for actions and behaviors.  Both rest on commitment.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

5 Key Levers for Successful Strategy Execution

Most strategies fail to achieve their objectives, not because the strategies are faulty, but because the implementation is weak.  It’s like building a beautiful jet airplane requiring 5000 feet to take off, but having a runway of only 2500 feet for it.  The examples are all over the place and it doesn’t matter if it’s an organic growth Jetstrategy, a merger, an acquisition, or any significant strategy involving change; if your implementation is weak, the odds of failing is high.

What makes for strong implementation?  The top five success factors are these:

  1. Articulating a clear direction forward. A leader who clearly articulates a vision of the future, or a compelling mission, or a distinctive strategy, or all three.  Sometimes a clear vision of the future and the strategy to get there work the best.  Other times, especially when the future cannot be seen so clearly, a compelling mission statement such as Jack Welch’s “Be number one or number two” provides the best direction.  For a long time “Beat Benz” was the mission of Toyota.
  2. Building a culture and process of accountability at all levels of management beginning at the top. If the senior executives aren’t actively demonstrating sponsorship for the strategy, if they aren’t making priority decisions and modeling the right behaviors, then prepare to fail.  One utility became a client when their strategy was failing and they realized they needed much better implementation.  When I told them that they were the primary problem because they were more interested in their own functional objectives than in furthering the strategy, they didn’t like it.  In fact, they argued for a while, but in the end stepped-up their game and the strategy was a big success.  The real key here is the productive use of metrics.
  3. Creating employee ownership of the strategy – helping them feel a part of the business. T-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, and strategy presentations can help, but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re missing the point entirely.  You have to help employees feel a part of the business, to know that the organization’s success translates into success for them at some level.  Being a great place to work is not the same thing as aligning the organization’s best interests with your own.  Focus less on what motivates individuals and more on making the connection between what’s in it for an individual to have a stake in the organization’s goals.  The difference is passion.
  4. Communicating continually where the organization is headed and what progress has been achieved. This includes injecting energy and rejecting diversions.  My rule of thumb is that when the time comes that you are you’re sick and tired of communicating the strategy, that’s when you are beginning to get through.
  5. Putting all forms of bureaucracy, procedure, policy, reporting, and meeting on trial for their lives. Find out what gets in the way of people doing what they need to do, and clear the way.  Bureaucracy only develops in cultures that value safety and risk avoidance,  abhor responsibility and accountability, and derive satisfaction from wielding limited power to control others.  Peter Drucker once said, “Much of what we call management is making it difficult for people to do their work.”  That, and not valuing the knowledge and skills of the people you have, are shortcuts to creating a low-performing organization.

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

When Poor Performance is Caused by the Boss

When analyzing a performance problem, I’ve found it often pays to look at the supervisor or manager and how they manage their people.  Examples:

  • Micromanaging
  • Unclear or no accountabilities
  • Weak communications
  • A lack of performance standards
  • Ineffective or no key processes
  • No performance reviews
  • No performance plans
  • Not addressing performance problems
  • Not addressing development needs
  • Gaps or overlaps in accountability
  • Consistently hiring the wrong people, and so on.

In fact, it’s astounding how often it’s the boss who is enabling performance problems, and with some help, he or she can significantly improve the performance of an individual, a department, a division, or even a company.  Many  times the boss is not aware that this is happening and is very receptive to guidance or coaching.

Do you have supervisors or managers who can be more effective?  What are you doing to help them?

© Copyright 2016  Bob Legge

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Bob Legge provides organizations with the ability to exceed their most ambitious goals.  I work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, small and mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. Together, we drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.  Contact him at  bob.legge@leggecompany.com

Do your people talk about results — or activities?

During the many years I’ve been working with companies, the characteristics of high-performing and ineffective organizations is stark.  In high-performing companies, people talk about the many ways to achieve significantly better results.  They are energized by improving the way they do things, solving problems and learning.

In ineffective companies, the talk is all about tracking and monitoring activities.  They tell stories and give excuses for why something didn’t happen, and it’s always something other than themselves that causes weak performance.

Where’s the focus in your company?  What are you doing to make results, not activities, the topic of conversations?

For Best Organizational Performance, Don’t Benchmark

Benchmarking is a tried-and-true approach for operational processes, but it should not be used to determine how best to structure or lead an organization.  Yeah, I know, finding out what Google and Apple and Zappos do is all the rage, but when it comes to organization design and leadership practices, there’s no evidence that copying what other firms do improves results.  Skip the off-the-shelf solutions and focus instead on these:

  • Your company’s strategic imperatives
  • What your organization needs to do extremely well to execute the strategy
  • The 20% of processes that drive 80% of your value
  • The kinds of talent you need, particularly in key positions
  • And the structure that will best leverage the organization’s capabilities to deliver the strategy.

A flexible operating model is by far the most important attribute to capitalize on strengths and seize new opportunities.

How well is your organization delivering for you?