What happened to civil discourse?

What happened to civility? Where is the compassion in pursuit of truth? Constructive and honest debate are healthy and necessary, but personal attacks and incivility erode our humanity. – Jannell MacAulay, PhD

Incivility can ruin the trust and impede the proper functioning of a team. Similar to the effect of condescension, spite, and simmering animosity have in a relationship, derision and cutting words erode the bond that holds a team together.

When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency. – Samuel Johnson

That is one of the reasons it is so important to root out problem employees and make sure that they are properly counseled and, if as appropriate, managed out of the organization. Civility, politeness, acting toward one another in such a way that would engender trust and belonging and feelings of empathy and compassion should always be striving for.

I imagine that you have been in a situation, especially a group setting, where someone uses derisive and demeaning language to describe another person. That fracturing of the social contract encourages you to lose respect for the person being talked about and the person talking. If you’re in a group setting with another leader and that leader does not speak up to stop the negative talk, chances are good that you will not think so highly of that leader in the future either.

Team cohesiveness is a key aspect to performing in group settings. Mannerly behavior may not be involved in our hive fast-paced high-tech world, but it is part of the core social fabric that defines good human behavior and allows us to interact with one another in a respectful way that supports our shared humanity. Social media and 24/7 news networks spread hatred and incivility lightning fast. It is difficult to stand firm as a respectful and polite person with those influences so near at hand.

Social media and talking heads have the effect of reducing nuanced concepts and discussions to the most basic (and typically wrong) level. When you are given only a few hundred characters to describe a scenario, much less to debate a weighty ethical topic, you cannot do it justice. When we use ‘react’ buttons or write quick remarks in a comment section on social media, we are not able to have a coherent, synchronous conversation about a given topic. We tend to use inflammatory language and simplify issues.

Logical fallacies are all too common on social media and on talking head ‘news’ programs. A false dilemma or false dichotomy is a good example. You’ve probably heard the “you’re either with us or against us” argument often. This is the sort of gross oversimplification that Brené Brown argues against in Braving the Wilderness. When your position on a given issue must be either A. or B., you are not given any other options. That is intellectually disingenuous at best and intentionally unethical and manipulative at worst. You can support our troops and still disagree with drone strikes in sovereign nations, for example. Try discussing hot-button issues on a platform like Facebook or Twitter and see what happens in the comment section. I guarantee it will not be a civil or pleasant experience.

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. – Albert Einstein

From a practical perspective, you, as the leader, must inculcate an atmosphere of respect, stability, and politeness with the underlying characteristics of care and compassion in your leadership team and your subordinates. This will allow for a more cohesive and high functioning team; one that is innovative and generates ideas absent an atmosphere of judgment or casual derision.

Professionalism and leadership demand that we follow Patrick Swayze’s advice in the 80s classic, Roadhouse, “Be polite.”

Get on the “change train”

It’s rolling down the tracks and you don’t want to be left behind.

For any of you who know me well, you know that I hate metaphors. They tend to break down and when they do, they are worse than useless. That being said, there is a time and place for the limited use of metaphors. Especially with concepts like change, comparing our ubiquitous evolutionary imperative to make things better and thrive in our constantly changing environment in our lives and in our workplaces to a frog in a pot of boiling water or a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly are meaningful and they spark creative and enduring mental models to frame the change process.

In-line with concepts like Moore’s law, that technological growth doubles every two years, we understand the change is inevitable and is occurring at a faster pace than ever in our digital society. As a young Air Force officer, I used to read histories about the evolution of Air Power in conflicts starting with the use of balloons as spotting platforms and evolving to the hi-tech computer-integrated and stealth capabilities that we have developed in the last few decades. Taking a step back and looking at change over a larger span of time shows us that there were decades, even after the industrial revolution, where things just didn’t seem to change very much. The typical command and control style of leadership worked just fine. Overweening bureaucracies were the way things got done.

The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades. – John P. Kotter

It would be an exercise in understatement to say that things change often now. Change is constant and inevitable, as Benjamin Disraeli described it. Any leader unable to adapt to change and indeed, to lead to change efforts with magnanimity, optimism, perseverance, and strategy will not experience success. Anyone unable to change will be left behind, unlamented.

Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection. – Mark Twain

There’ve been so many psychological studies done on change fatigue. It is real, but it is something that simply put: must be lead-through. The leader must energize her team, presenting them with a compelling vision, working to make sure that the need for change is understood. Putting people first is addressed in the five imperatives for transforming organizations that Jim Hemerling addresses in his TED Talk.

Not every leader is prepared to be an outspoken catalyst for change. Being willing to lead change efforts, to embrace the necessity for change, and empathize with a team that is experiencing change are all key components modern leadership philosophy.

The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change. – Bill Clinton

Sometimes it is easy to create a compelling argument for the need for change. In healthcare, for example, access and affordability are two of the key ingredients to a successful and thriving organization. No one needs to be convinced that these two objectives are not being met universally. Nearly any business or clinical unit must experience well-planned change efforts in order to increase access and affordability. Documented and validated procedures that improve key areas are the results of these efforts.

In order to better understand the ways to plan and manage change, I chose to pursue my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt with my continuing professional focus in healthcare administration. I’ve had the opportunity to lead regimented and experimental change processes across organizations and have noticed, both when I am a direct control and when I am acting in my role as a consultant, that a company culture that embraces change is one of the main differentiators that determine success in long-term and short-term change efforts. Organizations that embrace continuous change are more likely to adapt, willing to embrace a new vision, and eager to abandon less effective practices.

Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win. – Max McKeown

You don’t have to be wildly charismatic in order to effectively embrace and inculcate a change culture in your organization. Empathy and rationality are required, however.

Hop on that change train, then. It is pulling out of the station.

Find your mentor

$6C5C365EB06A03D5When I talk to managers I get the feeling that they are important. When I talk to leaders I get the feeling that I am important. – Alexander Den Heijer

Where would any of us be without our mentors? The most famous and successful people in the world have individuals standing behind them who propped them up on their shoulders and said, “You can do it” while pointing the way.

I had an enlightening experience yesterday while speaking with one of my mentors. The type of mentor that I look for display attributes that align with my self- leadership/servant-leadership philosophy. That person is typically experienced in my field, empathetic, and willing to invest time in me; they see potential where other see limits.

Get away from these two types of people: the ones who think you can only go as far as the situation you were born into; and the ones who think you can only go as far as the current situation you are in. – Dee Dee M. Scott

I’ve had excellent mentors in the past. During my time as a military officer, I spent a lot of time ‘picking the brains’ of my commanders. It was not always a fruitful endeavor, but when I encountered a strong and willing mentor, I was hooked.

Through others we become ourselves. – Lev Vygotsky

Development of self, of the leader within, has been a passionate pursuit of mine since I was introduced to leadership theory in college. Recognizing, through reflection and feedback, the potential within us and the character traits we need to enhance is an essential aspect of self-leadership.

Seeking the advice of others is a step that many people neglect. Perhaps we are afraid of being rejected, maybe we are shy, or perhaps we don’t really know what we are looking for in a mentor. Whatever the reason, mentors provide that nudge we need, the guidance to become more.

I think it is important to have people in your life who will take an interest in you and your career and help guide you.former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

I’m grateful every day for those few people who have taken the time and invested the effort into mentoring me. I would not be the person, the leader that I am without their example and support. Becoming a mentor to others, either formally or informally, is a constant source of motivation for me.

©2015 Perficitis Consulting Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

How does your organization handle email communications?




It is not uncommon to have major mishaps and misunderstandings based on poorly thought-out emails. Email is the workhorse of most company communication and, despite the volume of emails you send and receive on a daily basis, you should never lose respect for the power of that communication platform.

An email is composed of the written word. Experts suggest that up to 85% of our perception of communication is through non-verbal cues. These cues are absent in email communication.

While it is not practical to take an excessive amount of time to compose each and every email you send, the following are guidelines that will assist in sending cogent and coherent messages; saving your company time and increasing communication efficiency.

*  Compose a pertinent, brief subject that conveys the content of your message
* Use *confidential or [Action Required], as necessary. This allows the recipient to determine more about the contents of your message without having to read the body text.
*  Keep ‘To’ recipients to a small number and only those that need to take action on the subject
*  Keep ‘Cc’ recipients to only those that really need to be informed.  Don’t copy upper management if they have no action to take or don’t need the update.
*  If the subject is controversial, contains bad news or is addressing a performance issue, don’t send it.  This is better addressed in a conversation so that complete and meaningful communication can take place.  Face to face conversations about sensitive topics minimize misunderstandings, misdirected information, and opportunities to mistakenly include uninvolved parties.
*  If responding to an inflammatory email, type your response and read it multiple times, go to bed and read it again in the morning and then send. Perhaps it doesn’t merit a response or the response would be better addressed in-person.
*  Use appropriate salutations to set the tone. First names are common, but when addressing C-Suite-level individuals, it is not typically advisable.
*  Keep emails short and to the point (Brevity breeds clarity) I prefer to use bullets when listing events, actions, and key points.
*  If you expect a response, let the reader know that. Also include information regarding deadlines.
* Proofread! Reread the email at least once to make sure all spelling and grammatical elements are correct.
* Do not Assume Privacy. Ever. Email can be forwarded and reread by others.  Do not write in an email what you don’t want your mother or your CEO to see.
* Always respond promptly. Nothing is more annoying than someone who takes a week to get back to you. Even if you cannot respond fully right away, let the sender know that.
* Email signatures should be standard in the company. You will typically want to see the name, title, location, and basic contact information included in a professional signature block. Avoid cute sayings, links to surveys, and flowery pictures.


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Why you need a leadership development program.

Leadership Development Training


I’ve been asked more than once why we chose this niche market for our consulting company.

Leadership training is one of our core competencies at Perficitis Consulting Group. As Dr. Vadell and I work on our book, developing our unique theory of leadership, we have been inspired to re-define the way that leadership training should be accomplished.

The first question is often tied to ROI for companies large and small: why pay for leadership development?

Starbucks is not an advertiser, people think we are a great marketing company but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising. – Howard Shultz, CEO, Starbucks

The answer seems obvious from our perspective: leaders make things better. They are motivated, have skills to influence change, and are strategic thinkers; leaders drive an organization to success. With the growing popularity of programs like six sigma, LEAN, PMP, etc. there is recognition of the need for training in the “project management” sphere.

Without denying the value that those programs provide an organization, one of the components they have in common is the “leadership” component of the trainings. Whether it is called “stakeholder influence,” “customer expectation management,” or any of the other various euphemisms for leading people, the “soft skills” involved in leadership are invaluable tools if you, as Starbucks and other leading companies, acknowledge that people are your greatest asset.

The ability to lead people, to influence them toward your strategic goals, is a skillset that is not easy to quantify in terms of ROI, whereas trainings that include a nod to leadership, but focus on project management/improvement typically have a lot of relevant literature and hard figures to justify their value.

Imagine you have a business unit:

  • Full of individuals who went through leadership training. They are intrinsically motivated and working to vertically align the company’s vision all the way from the C-Suite to where the rubber hits the road, or
  • A select few individuals with project management-focused training working with willing, but untrained employees to make specific improvements in the department.

Qualitatively speaking, the business unit that has received leadership training will be more likely to develop into a high performing team, working in solidarity, whereas the other will continue on in similar fashion, but will likely save some money along the way.

Food for thought; feel free to check out our offerings here.

You aren’t in the military anymore.

General George S. Patton, Jr.For any transitioning veteran, this is a phrase you have more than likely heard in your new civilian role. There are times when a ‘military-style’ approach is not called for, though it may be ingrained in your leadership style. By ‘military-style,’ I mean a command and control-centric, authoritarian style of leadership that requires compliance and swift action that is directed, rather than arrived at through consensus.

I’m not a military apologist; far from it. I have studied leadership for the last 14 years and found that there are times and places for the leadership styles most commonly taught and exercised in the military (or the perceptions that people may have of military leadership and decision making styles)…

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way” – Patton

In the corporate environment, those opportunities are few and far between. That being said, there is a reason that many officers and enlisted soldiers, sailors, and airmen leave the service and take jobs in the corporate world. Chances are, they have prepared, done the research, studied and graduated with degrees in appropriate fields, and are the first to adopt the company’s modus operandi when it comes to corporate culture.

A colleague recently related a scenario that happened in his workplace that involved an ongoing change initiative they had been spearheading. The executive leadership had critiqued his performance in a perfunctory fashion by admonishing him that, “you aren’t in the military anymore, you can’t just tell people what to do.” Naturally, he was hurt. This individual is a high-performer. He’d chosen to separate from the service voluntarily to pursue a civilian career and had embraced the differences in the cultures willingly. After speaking to him to get a better sense of the situation, I had to agree that the criticism was unwarranted; my friend had followed the process outlined by the company for the change effort, held the appropriate meetings, and not made any decisions without molding consensus (please understand that this is not always the case; stereotypes do exist for a reason).

That single off-the-cuff remark is a disheartening and demoralizing judgment call on the part of a person we (separated/transitioning veterans) should be able to look up to for advice and leadership.

Many times, those quick words are a simple reaction; one that the leader does not realize will have a tangible negative effect on the veteran. That executive leader has many concerns; this one project is not on the top of her priority list, so she renders a snap judgment (never a good idea) and harms the veteran’s self-efficacy beliefs in the process.

Advice for the transitioning military or veteran already in the corporate world: don’t immediately fight the stereotype. Allowing yourself to react puts you on the defensive and that is never a good place to attack from. Take the time to understand the perception of your executive leader. What did s/he mean by the statement? What feedback had reached her/him that could have colored her/his perception of your leadership style? Have you been communicating appropriately (managing up)?

By working calmly and intentionally to change the perception of former military, you are helping yourself and the rest of your veteran brothers and sisters by easing an outdated stereotype.

Mentor the ambitious; don’t accept mediocrity


07.01.2012 - His Hand

There are strategies to deal with all kinds of employees: the ambitious, the unmotivated, the motivated, the over-sharer, the timid…the list goes on an on. In this scenario, you have two main types of employees, the ambitious and the lazy. For the sake of argument, let’s define ambitious as the type of employee who exerts him/herself every day, taking on extra responsibilities, but will keep an eye out for something better. We will define the lazy employee as the person who does the bare minimum required. S/he may not ever blip on the radar, but don’t expect anything of them.

Your life may be easier with the flies-beneath-the-radar employee, but is that the type of organization you want to have? Mediocrity is the standard in that scenario.

Your life may be complicated by the ambitious employee because s/he will ask you questions, expect mentoring, and push you to make decisions that will make your business better.

I would suggest that a major failing of our larger and more stagnant businesses is that they do not have systems in place to reward high achievers. In point of fact, it has been my experience that it is more likely to have ‘award and recognition’ programs than it is to have effective processes in place to either 1. encourage better performance or 2. discourage mediocre performance.

It is relatively easy to discourage poor performance in most companies. Perhaps based on the difficulty in identifying mediocre performers, perhaps based on the difficulty in time management (spending 90% of your time on 10% of your employees), but the mediocre seem to slip through the cracks.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Regarding those ambitious, high-performers: MENTOR them. Speak to them honestly about their desires. Find meaningful projects for them to accomplish. Don’t just heap responsibilities on them that others could (and likely should) be doing. These are the value-added individuals that will make your organization thrive.

It is up to you, Leader. Decide what kind of organization you would choose to build, then hire, mentor, promote, fire, punish, as appropriate.


Don’t neglect your studies

College student studying in ParkI recently read an article that addressed whether leadership can be learned though study. It was a disappointing article to someone writing a book on leadership and one that I regret has gotten quite a bit of alacrity for its author’s praise of practice over study. I would never presume to discount experience, life’s greatest teacher (quotes like this are often attributed to many people including Caesar, Cicero, and Pliny the Elder).

“We can teach from our experience, but we cannot teach experience.”  Sasha Azevedo

I would say, however, that discounting study in favor of practice is a short-sighted strategy. You won’t know if a person is a good leader simply by what books they’ve read. You will know them by their actions.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” – 1611 King James Bible, Matthew 7:20

How are we then to continue to improve, without avid study? I would say that improvement through practice alone will yield a poor leadership harvest. Mentorship/modeling are valuable tools. Vygotsky’s theories on scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development and Bandura’s Social-Cognitive Theories both show the value there. Consider this: what can a mentor teach but her own learning and experience?

“Is it what the teacher teaches or what the student learns?” -Vergere in “Star Wars, The New Jedi Order, Traitor”

As leadership practitioners, students, and teachers, it is incumbent on us to verify our understanding of the theories that we apply in practice. Only a mindful approach that incorporates robust leadership feedback mechanisms will guard against haphazard application of leadership principles that may easily occur in an organization.

One of the major benefits of study and practice is the intentionality of the act of leadership. We are able to develop as leaders by absorbing best practices through study and contemplation of acknowledged leaders and pioneers in the field and then applying those principles in the practice of our leadership activities. Developing a learning culture ensures that an organization (or a leadership team) will not stagnate, but will continue to thrive and grow.

Servants by example

charleyalchrismissyI met Charley on my first day of high school. Standing outside the door to our Spanish classroom, I was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and he was carrying a Star Wars book (or vise-versa, I really can’t remember anymore). It was nerdy-friendship at first sight. I met Al (Alexis, we all used to call her Al) at church youth group shortly thereafter. We three spent a lot of time together those four years at church events, high school classes, and after school shenanigans; you couldn’t have asked for better friends. Al and Charley got married shortly after Missy and I did back in 2004. They chose to donate a kidney each, first Charley, then Alexis. They are the only married couple in America to have done so.

To my mind, these two epitomize the “servant” portion of “Servant-Leadership” (for more on SL, visit https://greenleaf.org/). Christ led by serving: that is the foundation of the leadership model. While donating a kidney might not directly correlate to workplace activities, I can’t imagine that a comparison can’t be drawn from that selfless act to valuing employees.

Giving of yourself to an anonymous person who desperately needs your help might take the concept of Servant-Leadership to an extreme that many people are unwilling to consider, but I urge you to think on what you are willing to give of yourself to the people who look to you for guidance.

This from Alexis: “Australia has around 300 non-altruistic kidney donors a year and the US around 6,000. So based on populations there are about as many donors in both countries. And that’s not enough but numbers in both countries are on the rise as awareness and education spread. Australia doesn’t have kidney chains, just direct swaps, so Charles being able to explain how it works will hopefully open some doors too.”

Philippians 2: 3-4 (NIV): Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

True to their sense of self-deprecating humor, Alexis also adds this: “…now that we have done a few interviews I think our stage names of twitchy (I never know what to do with my hands or face) and zombie (Charles has the opposite problem) are solidified.”

Please take a moment to watch the video here: http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/video/watch/19565164/the-gift-of-giving/

Coping as a young leader

Business Baby Pointing

I’m sure many of you have experienced it; the feeling that you are being scrutinized and perhaps looked down upon based on your age. I’ve been leading outstanding individual contributors and have managed supervisors for most of my professional career and, more often than not, my subordinates and peers have been older than me.

I love working with experienced individuals. Experience teaches invaluable lessons about your function, your industry, and helps employees mature as people. I also like working with “newbies.” The potential that new employees bring to the table, coupled with their willingness to be molded and their initial optimism is a powerful combination. Working for older people is, by and large, normal. Most bosses are older than their employees. When you are a fast burner, however, you might encounter resistance where a more “experienced” person wouldn’t.

I’ve been fairly lucky, since separating from active duty military service, to supervise some excellent technicians, work with educated and considerate peers, and work for mature, understanding bosses. This has not always been the case.

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example…” -1 Timothy 4:12 (KJV)

When I encountered (what I considered) age-based discrimination, I was not shy about saying something about it. This was often received with surprise and disbelief and was often a mistake. The negative reaction by my peers and supervisors might be at least partially explained by the fact that “the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said federal law prohibiting age discrimination applies only to people age 40 and older” in a statement captured in this article. It is rare for anyone to consider a younger person to be considered in an age-related discriminatory situation.

Though not necessarily easy to capture in statistics, my personal experience has been that when a well-spoken, politically astute, educated younger manager appears on the scene in a workplace, there is a certain level of unease in the “older” and “more experienced” crowd. In more hierarchical organizations, my experience has been that the effect can be amplified.

That begs the question: What is a young, ambitious leader to do? I advocate an approach that emphasizes humility and competence. Getting upset or calling attention to unfairness can lead to the perception of a lack of self-confidence in the person making complaints….whereas…working hard, meeting goals, and treating everyone around you with respect, while holding yourself to high standards of personal and professional conduct allows you to be an example, as Paul points out in 1st Timothy; to earn the acceptance and respect that all people desire (see Maslow’s hierarchy).

photo by: the UMF