Being SMART may not be so smart after all. 

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? If so, I’m guessing that some of them are still in the works, such as those involving goals for the entire year. Are they making you frustrated? It’s no secret that, along with performance evaluations, goal setting is one of those things people never quite learn to love. And yet, setting goals is one of those things everyone (particularly authors and bloggers) expects successful business people to do, despite the fact that successful business people often hate doing things other people expect of them.

But tradition is tradition, so on January 1, I sat down, pen in hand, to jot some notes. And all I could think of was the old organizational command to make your plans SMARTSpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. Back in the day, these were supposed to be the delimiters of sure-fire goal setting. If your goal couldn’t stand up to those, it just wasn’t making the grade.

But this is now, and now is the age of innovation. And, being a lover (and creator) of innovation, I asked myself whether I should still be following the processes of an earlier era. Here’s what emerged…

Specific stayed, because if a goal isn’t specific, how do you ever figure out where you’re headed?

And I kept Measurable, because although I don’t like rating systems, I do like to have some idea of how far I’ve come, and whether I’m still on track.

Relevant made me think hard. When you have a very broad range of applications, or you’re trying something completely new, then relevance may not be known at all during the planning stage, and can only emerge from the process. (For the fashion-aware, consider the problem of ‘orphan’ accessories. I once had a fabulous, but useless, beaded belt that I kept around for ages. Then one day an ensemble appeared in my closet that just screamed for turquoise beads.) Sometimes a thing will make itself relevant just by chance, which is a good reason for having a looser definition of the word.

Then there was Time-bound: a no-brainer because I was thinking ‘goals for 2016’ rather than the next decade or millennium.

Which brought me back to Attainable. That, too, seemed obvious…until I did a quick check in an online dictionary and learned that Attainable things are within your reach.

‘Within reach’ suggests that you can get what you want without a whole lot of stretch or effort. Now, if you keep a scoreboard that you like to decorate with a lot of wins, put plenty of ‘attainables’ on your to-do list. But if innovation and change are what you seek, then SMART goals need a warning label: DANGER: Attainable goals may be damaging to your organization’s ability to innovate.

Focusing on attainable goals could also be a turn-off to the very people who are most capable of handling risk, making discoveries, and creating innovation! Those are the people who rarely ask if something is possible or not. They just go for the goal – asking bigger questions, covering more ground, trying harder, and stretching further.

In Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ books, there was the White Queen who said, “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!” No one would accuse her of SMART planning – and yet, believing the impossible to be possible is a sure way to bypass the barrier of achievability. Can you imagine what might happen if your goals didn’t need to be achievable? I can.

  1. You’d have nothing to lose. With no one expecting sure-fire success, you could feel free to take some wild-ass swings. Sure, some will be whiffs, but you might just knock the ball out of the park. (Believe it or not, fear is the biggest cause of failure.)
  1. You can still go for simple solutions. If they don’t work, you’ll be right: your goal wasn’t achievable. But you’d be primed to succeed, so you’d try an alternative path. And another, and another. And should you eventually get there, so much the better! (Being right and winning are not the same – but they’re not mutually exclusive.)
  1. You’d forever leave the ranks of the narrow-minded; the people who put the ‘no’ in innovation, joining instead the ones who bring positive change and brighter futures.

May your ‘impossible’ of 2016 become your successful innovation of 2017!

Management – Like Love – Means Letting Go

I usually address bright, big picture topics, but this time circumstances have brought it very close to home. I hope you won’t mind.

In the early evening of Sunday, August 30, after many years of declining health, my husband of 33 years went gentle into that good night.

Those who were close knew Barry as an incredibly loving person, but he was still quite able to rage against social inequalities and injustices – whether big (think slavery, 9/11, or Rwanda), or small.

He had no way to address holocausts, but he did have a constructive response to the slights and rudeness and dismissive behaviors he observed against those who could not fight back. And the fact that there were good reasons for not fighting back – potential loss of livelihood, or even life itself – is what truly raised his ire.

These days, a management consultant might praise Barry’s approach as ‘scalable, repeatable, and sustainable.’ He simply showed people he cared. He modeled respect; not just tolerance. Even the most downtrodden would have his full engagement for as long as civil discourse continued, after which he would politely withdraw. And that, it turns out, was the greatest management lesson I ever learned: to withdraw. To be silent. To let go.

How often are management problems – like personal relationship problems – caused by the inability to just let go?

Case in point: I know someone who works in the innovation department of a huge company. The job description is, basically, find exciting and cool stuff, and report on it. So when I found an exciting and cool article on a very respected website, I sent this very hard worker the link.

I got an immediate response…but not the one I was expecting. It went something like, ‘<expletive deleted!!>, they won’t let us access that site. Actually, most everything is blocked. Makes it really hard to do my job.’

At some point – who knows when or why – someone decided that the company needed to control where people go, and what they see, on the web. Now that choice is obsolete and obstructive to the company’s own desire to innovate and grow. And yet, no one is letting it go.

Just saying.

Personal relationships are much the same. Really, if you have to hold on tight to control your partner, how whole can they be? And how good is that for you?

A very wise person said to me, “when we are infants our hands are curled up; when we grow old, they are relaxed open.” When I heard it, I thought, that is equally true of our maturity as managers.

In the end, there was no holding Barry back from his final journey. Even if there was, it’s not the way he would have wanted me – or him – to manage it.

Timing Isn’t Everything. Teaming Is.

Some days I have so many ideas that I despair of ever seeing anything come of them. You see, to me, all my ideas – like my children – are precious. They just need someone to raise them. Like the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, there are so many, I rarely know what to do.

That’s what made it so wonderful to be asked to speak at TEDx-Bedminster*. Not only would this be a platform for my ideas, but in the process I would get to hear other timely and beneficial ideas as well.

The first TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) conference took place in 1984. It was the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, a Philadelphia architect who decided he would rather ‘architect’ information than bricks and mortar. Wurman envisioned it as an annual forum for “ideas worth spreading.” Today, topical TED conferences and TEDx (regional) talks are happening around the world year-round, and TED videos online get millions of views. There’s even a TED Channel on Apple TV!

Getting back to my situation, I realized this was a Very Big Deal. And so came the hard part: the Sophie’s Choice. Which of my many ideas was the one most worth spreading?

As I attempted to sort and evaluate and cast off, it felt like I was abandoning parts of me. And then I remembered an idea (NOT one of my own) that I had let go of many years ago, when Teamability® was in its infancy. It was the idea that people are made of parts and pieces, and can be understood as discrete systems. This letting go happened in a New York City diner while I was trying to explain the essence of teaming by comparing it with a plate of fried eggs.

I realized that point in my life had truly been a turning point, and so I chose it as my idea for TEDx.

Naturally, I turned to my team. They shaped and formed it. And they shaped and formed me.

I hope you find ‘Timing Isn’t Everything. Teaming Is.’ to be an Idea Worth Spreading, and that you do just that!

Team Well and Prosper!

DrJ

* Big hugs to the Richie Etwaru and the TEDxBedminster team & attendees, Glenn Zimmerman and team (www.madbearproductions.com), video coach Laura Walton (www.trustwinning.com), designer Jamak Khazra (www.bluesuitsonline.com), and the TGI team who made this possible!

Make Failing a Daily Habit

If you’re looking for a rah-rah success read, you’re on the wrong page. However, if you stay, I promise you won’t be sorry.

I love failure. And I am an expert at it.

I fail every single day. Sometimes I do it more than once, which makes me even happier.

So now you may be asking yourself, has DrJ slipped a gear or what?

Nope. You’re getting, as they say on Twitter, #TRUTH.

Because if you are not failing, you are not trying hard enough.

Or, as the poet Robert Browning, suitor of the elusive Elizabeth Barrett, wrote: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” (Spoiler alert: He did marry her despite robust parental interference, and apparently the result was quite heavenly.)

So, what’s your excuse for not failing?

In an informal survey I just completed, I found that the reasons for not failing fall into three bins.

Some people just don’t see their failures. Or shortcomings. Or, for that matter, reality, in its many shapes and forms. Now actually, this is failing, but in such a way that it does no one any good. You can’t learn from something you never noticed, so it doesn’t count in my book. Also, in the long run, it makes for a lonely life. Sharing our frailties is a great way to make friends. How cool is it to have the freedom to share who you are, warts and all, with someone, and to know that they’ll still want to hang out with you?

Then there is the Bizarro World strategy, where everything is opposite. Instead of ‘You can’t win if you don’t try’, they recite ‘You can’t fail if you avoid participating.’ At work, these are the folks who clock in; drink a lot of coffee; grouse about office politics or the weather or any of the million other things that add no value, and over which they have no control. By the end of the day they might have managed to fit in some modestly productive activities. But maybe if they attempted something big, or at least new, and failed at it, and repeated the cycle a few times, eventually they’d discover what really living is about.

The third group is made up of those who do participate, but never bite off more than they can chew. And swallow. And digest. (How is this possible? Maybe it’s genetics, like curly hair or funny shaped toes.) Pristine resumes that show ‘progressive levels of responsibility’ and other things that HR managers love, are carefully cultivated by these folks. They would never, ever get involved in anything so messy as multiple career changes, startup ventures, or traveling to the steppes of Central Asia to study the history and culture of yurt-dwelling Mongolian nomads.

Becoming an entrepreneur is how I discovered that failing isn’t nearly as bad as people think. You can fail and do better next time. You can fail in one area while making huge progress in another. You can fail, and in the process, discover that your true meaning in life is totally not what you’ve been doing for the past X number of years, and be utterly grateful for that life-changing fail. And I’m pretty lucky, because that’s what happened to me, and now I get to work every day with a bunch of awesome people who have no fear of failure.

We accept failure willingly because the heaven we’re reaching for is really, really far from our grasp. And we’re not going to be satisfied by lowering the goalpost. In fact, we’d like to raise it even higher.

The fact is, getting there may only be 10% of the fun. The other 90% is in the striving, the sharing, and the everyday satisfaction of beautiful teamwork.

May I?

I grew up in New York City, specifically The Bronx. (Yes, that uppercase T is part of the official name of the borough that’s at the top right of the NYC map.) There, at a certain age, we played a street game called ‘May I?’ It involved making a creative request to move forward by hops or skips or steps, and accepting an alternative order from the leader. But first, you always had to ask ‘May I,’ or you would be sent back to the starting line.

Well, unlike my young colleagues, I didn’t do well at this game. I enjoyed the creative part, but would forget the ‘May I.’ Still, it was a good experience for a pre-entrepreneur, or a pre-rainmaker, or anyone who would eventually have a greater need to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

But still, there is a cosmic question for which we all need an answer:

When should I start with ‘May I?’ and when can I safely fly into action?

After a lot of thought, and asking a few wise folks what they think, I have concluded that it comes down to one key point: Where does the other person draw their personal boundary line? If you stay outside that line, the ‘May I?’ is optional. But once you cross that border, it’s an imperative.

So, how do you apply this to the creative arts of business?

Just remember that although you have a pretty good idea where your own boundaries are, and you have an idea about the other person’s boundaries, you just don’t know where they really draw the line. Therefore, it’s best to get their permission before launching into your pitch. This leaves a lot of territory in which to introduce yourself via a topic that is related to your ultimate intention, in hopes of encouraging them move their boundary lines just a little closer to you.

And one more point, if I may…

A great deal of that open territory is actually inside your own space. That’s where you can get creative with your questioning, and where you can give yourself permission to move ahead. And that’s how you start becoming great at selling anything from grand ideas to Ginsu knives. Because the first person you have to sell… is you!

Yes, you may. And yes, you can. It’s all your game to play and win!

Happy May!

Teaming Dynamics for Digital Transformation

More than half of the companies that were in the Fortune 500 at the turn of this century have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, ceased to exist, or have fallen from the ranks of the 500. All of this disruption was happening as the number of Internet users was tripling, but the challenges (and opportunities) for business were far greater than proliferating websites and e-commerce.

Increasingly, the key factor in a continually accelerating pace of change is the digitalization of business concepts, models, and operating platforms. The process is completely overturning the competitive landscape, even for early winners in the race to web-based business. In some markets, barriers to entry traditionally enjoyed by market leaders have virtually collapsed, and in others it has become more difficult than ever to survive, scale, and eventually dominate a market.

It’s clear: business success increasingly demands digital transformation. And digital proficiency is the gateway.

Stages of Digital Proficiency

When you consider the stages of digital proficiency, some interesting parallels with human development begin to emerge. From birth, socialization starts with our developing sense of the meeting place between self and other, which is really our first foray into teaming. This development happens in four distinct stages, and digital transformation – or at least, our experience of it – is comparable in the way that it unfolds. You might think of digital transformation as representing a new level of consciousness for business, collectively represented by the will of the team to drive the change needed to dominate its industry.

The first stage, pre-digital awareness, is analogous to the earliest stage of life, from birth through the first month, when – to the newborn – there is no mommy and no me. (This is called autism. At the beginning of life, it is the natural state, not a disability.) When the development of an organization is limited to this state, it is as if there is no awareness of anything outside itself. This leads to no identified cause and effect in customer acquisition, relationships, or retention, as well as little or no use of the digital environment. And, since everything is essentially self at this stage, outreach (teaming with others or collaborating with channels) is not consciously considered.

The second stage is digital competence, which maps to human symbiosis. This is the way we view the world until we are about nine months old. In essence, ‘mommy and me’ are one, in the infant’s mind. Consider the way some people react when first introduced to a marvelous new technology. It’s as if they are thinking, ‘Wow, this technology reads my mind and knows what I want.’ Without the ability to rapidly navigate and take control, their experience is analogous to an infant’s creeping and crawling. They learn bit by bit, without a coherent overview. This lack of independence supports the feeling that ‘we are one,’ and thus technology continues to seem magical. In an organization at this stage, even when technology is used, it does not necessarily map to outcomes. True collaboration is not required, only processes, so there is little conscious sense of teaming, either with other people or with the technology.

In the third stage of human relationship development, roughly corresponding to ages 10-18 months, the emphasis is on the child’s emerging understanding of cause and effect. Here the parallels with digital literacy have to do with a temporary illusion of power that comes from the first taste of independence. Indeed, it’s that same heady feeling you get when first able to navigate your environment on your own steam, whether that means getting from the living room to the kitchen, or generating a list of prospects from your new CRM. However, in both cases, the connections between action and outcome have only begun to be made. In organizations, this phase of development is often stalled by the emergence of silos. In a highly siloed organization, self-interest is elevated above the best interests of the team. Attempts at change can produce anger, resistance, or even sabotage.

And, just as parents must provide clear and consistent boundaries as they guide the development of young humans, clear requirements regarding the current and desired states of interaction and team dynamics are essential to all Digital Transformation initiatives. In this fourth stage, which occurs at the latter end of the second year of human life, there is a full realization that the individual is, essentially, alone, and that comfort, connection, and even survival are only possible through interaction with others. Appropriately, in human development this is known as rapprochement: it ushers in the growth phase often called ‘the terrible twos.’ (We prefer to think of it as the ‘terrific twos’ because – other than the fallout than happens due to shortages of parental understanding and/or patience – it’s very important to learn to say no and assert your independence!)

Organizations in a state of rapprochement have gained awareness that the digital world is much more complex than it seemed to be. In response, the organization begins to focus on relationships between people who are critical to the success of change and growth. Today, this includes attention to the idea state of digital disruption, and it marks the beginning of understanding that complex systems require sustainable, high-quality teaming. In fact, we would argue that sustainable teaming is a prerequisite for digital disruption.

The fifth and final stage – Digital disruption – aligns with social maturity in humans. It features a constant awareness of self-in-the-team. The organization has developed a transformational business vision that integrates present disruptive technologies, and is prepared to integrate future disruptive technologies as they arise in the marketplace (and/or, as they are developed in-house.) This requires a sustainable, coherent culture and teaming capabilities that are resilient enough to address and process future unexpected and unknowable business disruptions and resulting opportunities.

The Seven Rules for Digital Business and Digital Transformation

Ray Wang** has given us The Seven Rules For Digital Business and Digital Transformation. Each of Ray’s Rules presents a specific challenge to organizational Coherence and team dynamics, and for each one, we see a linkage to organizational needs for more resilient, productive, and meaningful teamwork. These needs are precisely what Teamability®, a completely new technology of teaming, was engineered to fill. The technology not only identifies and organizes person-to-person teaming behaviors, but also the different ways that people seek to serve the team itself, as a living entity. As such, it can provide strong planning, development, and decision support in any transformational situation.

Rule 1: Digital disruption is more than just a technology shift. It’s about transforming business models and how organizations engage.

First movers need visionary leaders who can create transformational business models, and who can lead effectively through challenging situations. Teamability can absolutely identify the correct teaming behavior and the ability to withstand the ordinary and extraordinary stresses and ambiguities of change.

Rule 2: We move from selling products and services to keeping brand promises.

Keeping a brand promise isn’t just a directive or a script. A cultural example needs to be built and maintained. There is a certain kind of leader, called a Vision Former, who embodies the conscience, the ethos, of an organization. He or she need not be the CEO, but one or more will be essential on C-level teams. Sadly, that is not always the case – but in the course of Digital Disruption, the absence will be a serious liability.

Rule 3: We serve five generations of customers and workers, by digital proficiency, not by age.

The divides between millennials, Gen-X, Gen-Y, baby boomers and others are certainly relevant in some ways. But the urge to team with others is fundamental to human nature. How well a team interacts with a given technology is related to the way a person seeks to serve team needs (which we call Role, with a capital R) and Coherence (which is the orientation to teaming for a common purpose, no matter the level of stress). How well we share what we know is related to the integrity of the human infrastructure and the Coherence Ratio of the organization.

Digital disruption doesn’t happen around the campfire. It happens across time and space. The teams that make it happen need to be able to work that way.

Rule 4: Data is the foundation of digital business. Every touch point, every click, every digital exhaust is relevant insight.

The clarity and relevance of the data at the foundations of digital transformation, plus the analytics derived from data systems, will only be as reliable and useful as the development of a human infrastructure allows.

Information drives insight, but the use of insight depends on team awareness (the team being the organization, which includes the elements of teaming it needs to serve its mission, meet customer needs, create brand ambassadors, etc.) The Vision Movers and Vision Formers in organizations focus on applying information that is big picture and long term, while Action Movers and Action Formers focus on applying tactical information. And, incidentally, both will apply what they learn more effectively and productively when the Coherence ratio within their teams (and the entire organization) is strong.

Rule 5: If 20% of your revenue is not an insight stream by 2020, you won’t have a digital biz model.

Transforming an insight stream from information source to revenue will require organizations to develop a solid Vision Mover/Vision Former culture that can anticipate and answer the questions of differentiated customer experiences, data brokerage, and other insight-oriented business opportunities.

Rule 6: You need more than a Chief Digital Officer to infuse digital into your organization. You need a broad bench of Digital CXO’s.

The Chief Digital Officer may be leading the charge, but without a broader bench of Digital CXO’s, any digital initiative is in danger of having to fight for resources. It takes more than a General to battle digital stagnation!

At minimum, the C-level team needs to include both Vision Movers and Vision Formers. Vision Movers connect with the vision and drive it forward forcefully, but without a strong Vision Former somewhere on the team, the charge may go in the wrong direction. Someone needs to be the high level arranger /refiner of disruptive strategies, so that they can be rolled out in elegant and efficient digital initiatives.

But wait, there’s more… because planning a fabulous digital strategy doesn’t get you there without the help of the right people, the ‘digital artisans.’

Rule 7: We must invest in digital artisans.

Once the strategic plan is completed, and funded, the digital artisans take over. They not only manage the development cycle and provide the content, but it’s also their job to sell everyone on using the value created. This, of course, requires a team, because digital artisans, like their pre-digital forebears, are specialists. And, this is the challenge that organizations will continue to face: the attraction, development, engagement, integration, and retention of these digital artisans. Their value has not previously been fully recognized, but as more organizations vie for them, the market will respond. There will be scarcity, and especially there will be scarcity of the best in their digital crafts.

To a significant degree, digital artisans who are convinced that organizations do not understand or appreciate their value will exacerbate the shortage. Many of these will have had experiences in larger organizations where they felt, like Dilbert, that they were working for a Pointy Haired Boss. (Understanding someone’s Role gives you management insights, especially on how to respect, appreciate, and communicate with them, so they don’t experience you as a PHB.)

Key among these digital artisans will be the Explorers, who bring new technologies, methods, and ideas into the organization. Expect a serious shortage of Explorers in your organization – unless you can figure out how to keep them. (Explorers search for treasures and bring them back to benefit their team.) Expressing a sense of wonder and gratitude when they present you with treasure is the appropriate way to show thanks and respect to an Explorer. Failing to do so is tantamount to inviting an Explorer to find a new giftee!

Communicators, those lovable people who feel that their mission is to build communities, online and off, may be easier to retain. However, you will need to identify the right ones – not just for where your organization is now, but also for where you’re expecting it to go.

And so on and so forth, because digital artisans are not of a single stripe.

Assembling teams in which the Roles are a particularly good match to the mission of the team will automatically improve team coherence, and is essential when team members are virtual. Having great Role-fit and Team-fit supports retention efforts too, (demonstrated by the total elimination of a 30% rate of new-hire turnover at Preferred Sands, recognized by a 2011 Supernova Award.)

Balanced teams, with a coherence level appropriate to the amount of stress and challenge and contextually useful Teaming Characteristics, will recognize and support each team member while integrating their value into the whole. The results: positive engagement, productive collaboration, resilience, quality, and exceptional productivity.

The Many Roles of Digital / Social Technologies

As an aside, good digital/social technology can fill or support a specific Role – just like people do – on a team. Truly great digital/social technology can fill and support more than one Role. Here are some examples, and the Role-support they provide:

  • Waze, as Explorer and Curator, and it can also function as Communicator;
  • Evernote, in support of everyone, but especially the Vision Roles, acts as Action Former and/or Curator, depending on how you primarily use it;
  • Twitter can function as your Conductor, with its quick give and take, which connects you to crowdsourced quick fixes;
  • LoseIt is a Watchdog that minds best interest of your health, as do similar Internet of Things technologies;
  • Just about any to-do list app is the Action Mover’s best friend, almost as good as a real live Action Former; and
  • Any community-building app, such as LinkedIn, ultimately functions as a Communicator.

Using Teamability to Build a Culture of Digital Artisans

Prior to the emergence of Teamability, you could measure what occurs inside people – what they think they’re thinking, what they think they value, what they think they’re like, and how they think they will behave. But, you often needed a licensed psychologist to sign off on it.

Teamability is disruptive technology in the form of a deceptively simple serious game. It doesn’t ask you what you think you know or what you think you feel or value. It puts you in a situation – a simulation of teaming – and as you interact with other characters in the scenario, the boundaries between your world and the digital world begin dissolve. This makes it possible to directly access and measure teaming behavior.

The end product will be a coherent human infrastructure, achieved through the Teamability experience and proprietary team analysis and management methods. It will guide the selection, development, and nurturance of digital artisans, engaging them in work that aligns with their deepest desire to make a meaningful team contribution, and virtually ‘gluing’ them in place.

 

** Ray Wang is the Chairman and Founder of Constellation Research, and author of Disrupting Digital Business: Create an Authentic Experience in the Peer-to-Peer Economy, HBR Press, 2015.

Three Ways to Fail at Managing Teams

I grew up in a home where both mom and dad were active union members, and it gave me a clear message about working life: there is labor, and there is management. Labor’s job is to make stuff happen. Management’s job is to oppress labor.

I was fine with that worldview for a long time. But eventually, I grew up and, somewhere along the line, I became management. I even got to like being management. The funny thing is that my parents, the union loyalists, are the ones I have to thank for that. Here’s why: they didn’t just teach me that oppression was a bad thing. They also made me realize that it can be just as bad for the oppressor as it is for the oppressed.

Oppression is the hallmark of bad management. It’s the butt of Dilbertesque jokes about pointy haired bosses and evil functionaries, and it’s the bane of workers at all levels of organizations. Typically, oppressors are actively engaged in doing what they do, so it’s easy to vilify them for committing crimes against the workplace.

Sins of commission by management are many. Sins of omission are few, but they can be every bit as demoralizing. Here are three that I will address ad seriatum. (That’s Latin for, ‘I’m going to do this one at a time, because hitting you with all three, and no breaks in between, would be seriously uncool.’)

First, there is failure to observe. You might remember something like this happening early in your working life. It happened to Stacy on the very first job.

The team had a serious problem. Stacy was new, and bright, and identified a solution. It was simple, and it would have worked, but the manager couldn’t see it. Boss only saw Stacy, barely 21 years old, too new to know the score, and without a resume to provide credibility. Being laughed at and chided for offering such a naïve opinion was deeply humiliating, and to this day Stacy is reluctant to make suggestions.

Second: failure to nurture. Ari works as an analyst in the innovation department of a huge maker of scientific products. Ari applied three times for the company’s ‘high potential’ program, but the manager never followed through, and Ari was passed over each time. Ari is creative, smart, and well liked. The manager is not. Did the manager feel threatened, or was it just laziness? No matter. Ari has given up.

And third: failure to acknowledge. And herein lies a particularly sad story. Morgan has been in a supervisory position in a critical function of an organization for over two years. If you ask the team members, you’ll get nothing but glowing reports. But the manager gives no recognition, or support, or praise of any kind. Morgan feels unliked, weak, and fearful of job loss. Despite having opportunities to leave, and to move up, Morgan stays. Why? Because Morgan is there to serve the team and does not give up easily. And also because, in leaving, the team would no longer have a shield from the icy chill of the boss’ indifference.

Many failures are just learning experiences, but the failure of management to team well – as exemplified here – causes real damage.

So, if your work experience resonates strongly with that of Stacy, or Ari, or Morgan… or their managers! – then beware. When leaders fail to team, they eventually lead a business to fail.