Archive for category: Of interest

Lost in translation: 3 lessons from the term “assessment”

I am writing this from Atlanta Hartsfield Airport (ATL), returning from a delightful session with approximately 40 faculty members at Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (UTFSM) in Valparaiso, Chile on “From I Know to We Trust & Beyond: Deep Faculty Development in an Uncertain & Creative Era.”  The program was sponsored by LASPAU at Harvard, and this was the second time I had worked in this program at UTFSM. One of the nice things about working in another country is it helps you notice the assumptions built into your own culture and language.  The session was translated simultaneously from English to Spanish (and vice versa), and an issue came up around the Spanish term for assessment

Assessment was being translated as evaluación (or evaluation), and the distinction that I was trying to make was the usual coaching and speech acts distinction between an assertion, a speech act committed to expression of truth, and an a assessment, a speech act expressing an opinion, interpretation.  There was a trained coach among the faculty attending the course and he wondered whether a better translation wouldn’t have juicio (judgment).  This led to a fairly lengthy clarification of the intended usage of the terms, which was helpful to the group in pursuing our work together.

In reflecting on the episode, I think there are three lessons to be learned, and here I move from particular to general.

Lesson 1: Separating assertions and assessments is critical to improving communication.  The main intent of the session was to help the group understand how assessment-laden our speech and stories are and that understanding that others may have other interpretations of what’s going on is an early awareness that can help improve communication, fairly immediately.  The session reinforced this lesson, and the additional emphasis brought about by being slightly “lost in translation” for a time was helpful to increasing understanding, I believe.

Lesson 2: Distinguishing between assessments and judgments is also a communication-improving move.  Discussing the translation of “assessment” as juicio was also useful part of the episode.  All judgments are assessments, but not all assessments are judgments.  Judgments contain a sense of correctness (right/wrong) and prescription that ordinary assessments need not have.  As Marilee Adams points out in her choice map, once we are in judgment it is difficult to be open enough to learn or gain additional perspective.  This doesn’t make judgment a bad thing; it simply suggests judging is a choice, and if has become a reflex, it may not be serving us as well as a more judicious spectrum of assessment.

Lesson 3: We attach our normal sense of term to others’ usage at our peril.  As this episode unfolded, I was a bit puzzled at first.  I had been fairly careful to define my terms fairly carefully and give the sense of the terms assessment and assertion that I intended.  Nonetheless, language is loaded, and we all use and interpret terms according to our own sense of them.  Within a particular discipline this can be a useful shortcut to mutual understanding, but if we are learning something new outside of the boundaries of our usual experience and knowledge, assuming that our private sense of a term can be a prescription for misunderstanding.  In a coaching setting, a coach will almost always ask a client what they mean by the particular usage of a term, rather than assuming the coach understands the sense of a term.  In a multidisciplinary setting or in a learning setting, being curious about how language is being used is an important step toward accelerating understanding and achieving shared meaning with others.

As the methodology of coaching migrates from corporate practice to the university and the classroom, these three lessons will become increasingly salient and important as ways for students and faculty to understand each other.

The university as Apollo + Dionysus: A bureaucracy with stars & status amplification

gods-of-managementThere are many challenges in navigating the transformation of education in the 21st century.  Key among these is the movement from an educational culture of expertise in which disciplinary lecturers impart their knowledge to obedient students who listen, to a more collaborative community of learners in which broadly aware and educated coaches trust and unleash self-motivated learners in service to the learners’ educations and lives. This would be challenging enough, but in making such major shifts in educational culture, the organizational cultural challenges of university life are themselves remarkably daunting.

The Gods of Management

One of my favorite organizational books is Charles Handy’s 1978 text Gods of Management
 (nice summary here). In it he talks about the importance of culture in understanding organizations, and to make his point, he calls out four cultures:

  • Club or Zeus
  • Project (Problem solving) or Athena
  • Bureaucratic or Apollo
  • Existential (Star) or Dionysus

In a club culture, a single figure, the Zeus, often the founder, has great knowledge and knowhow about how to get things done.  VC firms and private equity firms are often organized around Zeus.  Members of the organization have one question to answer in making decisions about their own contact: “What would Zeus do?” Zeus cultures are effective in fast-moving environments where good-enough decisions must be made quickly and well.

The culture of Athena is a project or problem-solving culture.  Teams of experts work together to find and solve problems.  Engineering firms and other consultancies worship at the altar of Athena. They are fairly costly, but they are effective at tackling a discreet challenge.

The culture of Apollo is a culture  that excels at doing routine tasks.  A culture of rules and procedures, it can seem impersonal at times, but it will help yesterday happen today and tomorrow and the next day fairly reliably.

The culture of Dionysus is the star or existential culture.  In Hollywood and hospitals, for example, movie stars and doctors are treated as the central and valuable figure they are.  They aren’t particularly coherent cultures,  and they tend to spend a fair amount of effort assuaging the egos of the stars; they do, however, effectively utilize the stars in the special roles they play. 

What Gods Universities?

When we look at this typology, and think about universities, it’s a fairly interesting exercise to reflect about the Handian culture of universities.  Apollo comes to mind immediately.  Anyone who has worked 15 minutes in a university is struck by the rules and regulations, governance, & concern with process to the point, sometimes, that it is hard to understand how much education or research gets done.  

But another few minutes of reflection and we realize that the culture is far from pure.  Universities, are concerned with hiring and assuaging star research professors, and our minds drift to Dionysus and the star culture.  

This is an interesting hybrid (hospitals are also this hybrid), and many of leadership breakdowns of universities can be understood as the culture clash between Dionysus and Apollo.

Stars vs. Rules -> Status Amplification

There are many ways in which this culture class can express itself, but here let’s focus on just one.  The rule following part of the culture is relatively insensitive to status, and goes about its business, enforcing its rules and procedures, but the dynamic thereafter is interesting.  Stars perturbed by some impersonal enforcement of the rules believe they are exceptional and demand special treatment, usually from the department head.  And herein is the interesting part.

A main function of a department head is to determine which of these demands should be accommodated and which can safely be ignored. Nowhere does it say in department head training that this is the case, but much of the limited discretion a department head has is in this domain (and in hiring the stars).  The functional result is that certain faculty members receive special treatment outside what the bureaucracy routinely offers.  The end result is a heightened status hierarchy with a greater sense of privilege and entitlement for those chosen to receive the special treatment, and a greater sense of resentment among those who do not.  And given that the backdrop for those who don’t receive special treatment is impersonal treatment by a callous bureaucracy, the contrast can be stark. 

Implications for Administrators & Change

Simply having a model of the culture class may be helpful to effective administration of the institution.  In what ways can the bureaucracy be better trained to understand the importance of all the stars? In what ways can rules be modified to promote smoother operation and respect for the stars?  In what ways can the bureaucracy undergo continual improvement to be more efficient and effective in support of the larger culture?  In what ways can the worst effects of the status gradient be ameliorated.

Moreover, the post started by talking about change, and in trying to mount an educational initiative, a third god pops into the picture: Athena.  All initiatives are projects and to move from Apollo+Dionysus to Athena requires special care.  This issue will be taken up in a subsequent post. 

Is it time to strengthen your professional brand?

 What’s your brand at work?

And why does it matter? 

brandThere’s you, the essential person you are. 

 Obviously related, but not quite the same, is you — the professional who shows up on the job and makes a contribution.

 And then there’s your professional brand.

Originally a “brand” referred to a word or symbol indicating the owner or producer of a product.  Ranchers used hot irons to brand cattle.  And back when soap was usually just called “soap,” Pears Soap was named after the barber who invented a gentle cleaning bar.

As it’s used today, the term “brand” isn’t the same as a “brand name.”  In a branding effort, marketers try to distinguish a product, highlighting how its attributes differ from those of competitors. But a “brand” is an even broader concept than that, because it encompasses not just the qualities of a product but also how customers perceive those qualities.

Your professional brand is a reflection not only of you and what you do, but also of others’ assessment of your expertise, your work product and your character. Your brand can greatly impact your career opportunities and satisfaction.  And yet it might be quite different from either the real you or the high achiever you strive to be when you are on the job. 

In other words, even if you are a good person, and you work really hard, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a strong brand that differentiates you from the competition and brings you the career success you deserve.  So smart professionals manage their brands, using strategies like these:

  • Do research. When marketers want to pump up a product brand, they start by getting a handle on how the product is currently perceived.  They may conduct surveys or find other ways to collect customers’ views.  If you want to gauge your brand, gather feedback from other people.  On the job, this might take the form of a “360 review” in which your bosses, employees and colleagues are quizzed by a third party about your performance.  A simple approach is for you to simply ask people who rely on your work for suggestions about how you might be even more helpful. Or you might find a way to have one of your work products evaluated by the people who use it.  
  • Promote your work.  It is not enough to build expertise and do good work.  The next step is sharing the news about what you’ve been doing and learning.  This might mean giving speeches, writing articles or sending out progress reports. Or you can show what you know in more subtle ways, like by offering your services to someone who needs your help.  If you become more collaborative, you may have more opportunities to show off gracefully, by shining a light on the achievements of your whole team.
  • Look in the mirror.   People are more likely to regard you as successful if you present yourself as a person who is doing well.  In a professional world, your aura of success is impacted by your personal style. Whether you like it or not, people are influenced by the way you dress, and speak, and carry yourself.   Others notice if you resist change, have a bad attitude, or put your workplace look together like you don’t really care. If you feel like it’s time for a bit of a makeover, look around for people who appear energetic, polished, positive and powerful.  And consider small steps that might help you acquire some of their gloss.
  • Shape your online presence. The way you show up in an online search has become vital to your professional reputation.   If you want to set up a meeting or call, you must assume the person you’re trying to reach will Google your name.  You can’t get around this by doing nothing.  Your employer, your university and maybe your competitors have mentioned you somewhere.  And your absence from the blogosphere and other professional arenas may be regarded as saying a lot about you.  So if you don’t have a social media strategy, consider these starting with these basics:
    • Set up your LinkedIn profile.  If you can’t bear to share, you don’t have to complete everything.  You can project your brand to the world simply by typing in a few sentences in the summary section.
    • Post your work.  Do a little writing about your area of expertise.  Finding places to show off your work and share your insights has never been easier.   Online groups are eager to attract comments and many blog sites welcome guest posts.
    • Curate.  You can show what you know without creating original work.  If you choose to be a “curator,” it’s considered legit to collect and republish others’ articles, photos and info-graphics on a site like (of course with full attribution).

Building your professional brand does not mean being fake or manipulative.  In fact it’s the opposite.  It means becoming better attuned to how your work impacts other people, and more adept at understanding and displaying your best self.

For more reading, consider these archived items:

Strengthen your career by building your leadership brand

Code Blue: Sound like an oldster? Do you want that as your brand?

Your style is a career changer within your control


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


Have goals? Measuring progress gets you there faster!

 Step 1: Set clear goals.

Step 2: Choose metrics.

 measureDo you have professional and other goals in mind for the year?  For the future? So what’s your plan?

 It can be motivating to have a broad, enticing vision, but it can also be daunting.  Sometimes people put off their biggest objectives and most exciting projects because they don’t even know where to begin.

 To get started and keep moving toward your goals, think about ways to establish specific benchmarks and measure your progress.  For example, if you propose to write a book, you might commit to writing a certain number of words each week or month.

Maybe you are one of those folks who have heard about the power of measurable goals more times than you can count. But you’re still not convinced.  Maybe metrics strike you as time-consuming or boring, or you think some values can’t be quantified?  Before you give up on the idea of making your goals measurable, consider these points:

  • Measuring creates awareness.  If you regularly measure something, you tend to keep it in mind.  So if you’re trying to develop a habit, coming up with and applying a metric will help you to keep on the path.   For example, research says that if you decide to eat less in order to lose pounds, you are more likely to stick to your diet if you regularly weigh yourself and chart your weight.   And it’s the same for organizations.  Studies suggest that, in businesses, government units and non-profits, attention tends to focus on the things that get evaluated.
  • Quantity can lead to quality.  When you count positive steps, you are likely to take more of them.  And the more you practice an activity, the better you get at it.  One of the first in a series of books focused on the power of practice is Geoff Colvin’s ““>Talent Is Overrated.”  Colvin examined research about “what really separates world-class performers from everybody else.”  He concluded that great performers — whether in music, sports or business — are the ones who practice intensely.  Quantity doesn’t always lead to quality, but often the more times you do something, the more you learn.  And when learning is involved, quantity leads to quality.
  • Measurement can foster self-control.  “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”  That quote is often attributed to management guru Peter Drucker, but his take on measurement in the workplace was actually more nuanced.  He saw a danger that measurement “could be used to control people from the outside and above — that is, to dominate them.”  He suggested that the better use of measurement is to “make self-control possible.”  He thought metrics should be used by every manager “to appraise his own skill and performance and to work systematically on improving himself.”
  • Measurement can replace micro-management.  As a coach, I’ve encountered many situations where managers want to delegate but can’t seem to do it.  Sometimes they hover annoyingly over a project because they want a better sense of how it’s going.  But when the manager and the project leader are able to come up with the right metrics, suddenly the problem disappears.  A good measurement and reporting system can create transparency.  Then it becomes easier both to solve problems and to recognize progress. And, when you begin to demonstrate your achievements, it’s easier for your manager to let go.

At times we are slow to create a measurement system because we don’t know what to measure.  It is not always easy to quantify the impact or value of your work, but the process of selecting metrics can contribute to your ultimate success.  Choosing your approach to keeping track requires you to ask important questions.  The first step may be to break a large goal into pieces.  Then you’ll want to consider which factors actually matter.

Suppose your New Year’s Resolution is to get to the office earlier.  You start to build a picture by recording your daily arrival times.   And then you begin to wonder: why is it harder to be prompt on some days than on others?  So you expand your log to record your bedtime, your hours of sleep and whether you lay out your next day’s clothes before going to bed.  You notice the patterns and eventually you change your evening routine.  You start getting out of the house sooner, and your commitment to arrive at work earlier is reinforced by that ping of pride each morning when you record the time you hit your desk.

It can be useful to experiment a bit as you choose data to show how you’re doing.  As you explore options, consider these three approaches to measuring progress toward your goals.

  • Measure progress toward actually completing the mission.  Some goals can be framed in numerical terms, which makes progress easy to chart directly.  Suppose, for example, that you want to raise your profile by energizing your blog.  It’s a simple matter to set numerical targets, like the number of posts you intend to publish this year. 
  • Count important activities.  Often major factors impacting completion of your mission are beyond your control.  So observe the things you can control.  Determine which activities are most likely to contribute to your success, and start measuring them.  For example, perhaps you are trying to attract new donors for your foundation, but economic trends may limit your success.  Get moving by identifying the most important fundraising steps toward your goal, like calling supporters and hosting events.  A direct measurement approach would count outputs from your work process, like the number of dollars raised per month.   But the measures that kick you into gear might be those that track your inputs to the process — your actions — like the number of people you call and the time you spend talking with prospects.
  • Create capacity.  Complex goals may require a staged approach to measurement.  Often you can’t start racking up actual results until you put the tools, systems and resources in place.  If your goal requires something big, like creating a task force, map out key milestones, like recruiting the team.  Your first stage of evaluation will be to monitor completion of the capacity build-out.

Want to be more strategic as you set your goals?  From the archives, here’s an ezine on thinking strategically as you set your goals.


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


Your style is a career shaper within your control


Personal style still matters

& dress can boost success

 Did somebody tell you that if you work hard and do a great job it won’t matter what you wear to work?  They were probably wrong.  

 The way you present yourself to other people has an impact on how they evaluate your accomplishments and potential.  And your personal style – your clothes and your grooming – influences how you show up, and how you’re perceived.

Among the situations when your style is obviously important are job interviews and presentations.  Thinking about these occasions, I went to an expert, my sister, Libby Vick.

Libby spent 10 years in politics and public relations, and for more than 20 years has been on the faculty at Northern Virginia Community College. In her Business and Professional Communication classes, students of all ages and backgrounds explore how they come across on the job or in the job market.

Whether you’re making a speech or trying to make a good impression, she says, “your audience may focus less on your words than on your non-verbal message.  In addition to things like posture and facial expressions, personal style is a part of that message.”

Having great personal style doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money, Libby says.  You look stylish when it’s evident you thought about how to put yourself together.  For example, if your budget is tight you can still be stylish if you wear mostly black, making sure your clothes are always clean and pressed.

You’ll feel better about yourself when you know you look good, and you’re likely to perform better. Libby says that in her early teaching days she didn’t require students to dress up for presentations.  But then she realized, “the speeches students give when wearing sweats or ripped jeans to class are nothing like the speeches they give when they know they look good.”

But everything comes back to understanding your audience and recognizing that all good communication is audience-centered.  So give some thought to what you want to communicate and how it might be best expressed to the people you’re trying to reach.

You might want to kick your style up a notch if you:

  • Work with younger people.  If you still dress like you have for years they may assume your thinking is back in the 90s, as well.  Notice what your hipper young colleagues are wearing, and adapt their choices to create a style that suits a person your age.  If you don’t know where to begin, ask for advice from a friend or personal shopper.
  • Work with older people.  It won’t help your career if you look like a kid.  Get rid of the flip-flops if your colleagues think casual dress means you don’t mean business.
  • Interact with clients or customers.  You won’t make much of an impression if you’re dressed like you don’t really care.  You’ll be more credible if you look like you considered all the details, including what to wear.
  • Should be a good example.  In today’s tough market, young job seekers “need to have every little thing on their side,” Libby says.  And knowing how to look good in a work environment is part of being competitive.  If you teach students, mentor interns or work with young people, your style might be the one they learn from.
  • Are making a speech.  Libby says it’s tougher than ever to make a presentation, with audiences yearning to check their phones and tablets.  And no matter how well you know your material, you’ll lose your audience at the start if you look sloppy, uncertain or unprepared.  Dress up a bit, in an outfit that makes you look and feel good, and you’ll get off to a strong start.
  • Want to move up.  If you’re hoping for a promotion, dress like you’ve already moved up the ladder.  Instead of blending in with your peers, take a cue from your bosses, or their bosses, and dress as if you’re one of them.

Many factors shaping your career are way beyond your control. So it’s smart to take charge of all choices that are clearly within your reach.  Even if your clothes aren’t all that important to you, why not develop a style that delivers the right message?

Libby Vick teaches students of all ages to take control of the way they show up at work.

Libby Vick teaches students of all ages to take control of the way they show up at work.


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


Bev’s Tips on Reciprocal Mentoring

Want powerful mentoring?

Make it reciprocal.

The classic concept of a “mentor” is someone who’s older and more experienced.  That idea of a wise, generous senior advisor leading us along a career path is wonderful and soothing, and makes us all want mentoring. But the image is so limited, and so dated.  Here’s what can make mentoring really hum: fostering relationships that are reciprocal. 

I was thinking about the nature of mentoring during a recent long weekend, as I dropped in and out of a three-day conversation between my husband and one of his much younger professional pals.  

Andy Alexander has run an international news operation, won prizes and served a term as Washington Post ombudsman.  Once a classic newspaper guy, these days his work includes consulting, speaking, teaching and fostering media innovation at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication.  

Andy’s mid-20s friend, Ryan Lytle, has racked up an impressive resume as a multi-media expert in just a few years.  An outstanding 2010 Scripps College graduate, today he’s a rising star at, a leading source for news about social media.

Aside from the issues they touched upon, what fascinated me about the interaction between the two men was the way each listened intently and seemed to be learning from the other.  When I asked about it, Ryan said one thing he learns from veterans who grew up in a very different news business is how to build organizations and grow leadership.  Andy said, “Everything I do professionally is about the future of journalism.  And part of being engaged is staying in touch with the people who are creating that future.”

Neither Andy nor Ryan would use the term “mentor” in describing their relationship, and they didn’t think of this as a mentoring discussion.  But they both enjoy and benefit from their talks, despite their age differences and career situations. And their dialogue illustrates the benefits of an emerging concept: reciprocal mentoring, where each partner is both teacher and student. 

Actually, I think even traditional mentoring works both ways when it’s truly successful. At first glance it may seem the mentee benefits the most, getting advice and sometimes even the support of an informed advocate at critical moments.  But when the relationship clicks, the mentor gains just as much. 

Initially the joy of mentoring includes ego strokes.  It’s nice to have someone listen to you, and it can feel good when they follow your advice.  Then, as the relationship grows, the mentee’s questions and feedback can give the mentor a chance to pause and gain a new perspective.  Eventually, the conversation becomes truly two-way, with both partners seeking advice, sharing insights and exploring delicate career questions in an environment of trust.

But, as Andy and Ryan illustrate, there’s no need to wait for mentoring relationships to mature over the years into bilateral dialogues.  Why not seek relationships, or create programs, which from the very beginning are dedicated to reciprocal mentoring?

Initiating a reciprocal mentoring partnership is easiest when both people have strengths and expertise, but in different areas.  These days, when generations have such diverse skills sets, reciprocal mentoring across age groups has immense appeal. Perhaps a Boomer with leadership experience but meager social media skills might be partnered with a Millennial who understands IT and staying connected but doesn’t know how to manage people.

 Whether you want to recruit reciprocal mentors to support your own growth, or are interested in introducing the concept to your organization, here are points to consider:

  • The match is key.  Not every partnership is successful, and it can take a few tries.  Both parties should feel like there’s something to gain, and mentoring works best when both people enjoy the other’s company.  If you’re on the hunt for possible mentors for yourself, whether reciprocal or otherwise, you’re more likely to spot possibilities if you have broad social and professional circles.  So pump up your networking and find groups and activities that allow you to meet new people.  If you want to structure some kind of program, consider using social tools like as part of the matching process.
  • Require commitments.  Sometimes protégés chill their mentoring relationships by taking offense at the very advice they sought.  Partners who ask for guidance or feedback should agree to listen carefully and put aside defensive reactions.  It’s a good idea to set some ground rules at the start of a partnership. Touch upon issues like confidentiality, agree to maintain a positive tone and promise to avoid time wastes, like whining.
  • Identify specific requests. It’s not enough for partners to begin with a vague sense they’d like some career help.  Each partner should enter the process with clear ideas about issues to explore and forms of assistance that would be welcome.  Later, when the relationship is successfully launched, it might grow in surprising directions.
  • Consider logistics.  It’s great if you find a mentor in your neighborhood and can meet over coffee or lunch.  But what if you go through your professional or alumni group and find an ideal partner who lives across the country?  Explore options like phone calls, Skype or social media chats, and set a schedule that’s comfortable and convenient for both of you.

If you are looking for way to get started, think about your college alumni groups.  One way Andy and Ryan are reaching across professional generations is through their active participation in the Scripps alumni network.  

New media guru Ryan Lytle, Scripps College of Communication, Class of 2010.

New media guru Ryan Lytle, Scripps College of Communication, Class of 2010.


Journalist Andy Alexander, 2013 Ohio University Commencement Speaker, and Scripps College Class of 1972.

Journalist Andy Alexander, 2013 Ohio University Commencement Speaker, and Scripps College Class of 1972.


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


Habits & Time Creases

In a recent move, I noticed that two longstanding habits were being performed intermittently, and I was curious what was wrong.  These habits related to exercise, were well established, and I was having trouble understanding why they weren’t getting done.

When I noticed what was happening, I realized that in moving, the habits’ normal time of performance was interrupted by the change in time zone,  and a new pattern of sleeping and staying up somewhat later.  As a result the habits lost their time crease, that time slot when they can be done routinely without interruption from other activities or habits.  Earlier in designing the habits, the habits had been inserted into time slots or creases where they could be reliably performed, but in moving, those creases were interrupted.

Once understanding the problem, it was a pretty straightforward matter to examine where new creases existed and insert the habits there; this reflection follow by action restored the habits to regular routine performance.  

Designing and establishing habits is a multifaceted business, but my recent move reminded me how important finding a viable time crease can be to a habit’s establishment and regular performance.

Revisiting “Up the Organization”

up-the-organizationFor the writing of  the forthcoming book (2014) “A Whole New Engineer: A Surprising Emotional Journey” I was reflecting on the management and leadership influences in my life, and I had almost forgotten about Robert Townsend’s little book, Up the Organization.  I went onto Kindle and ordered it (here), reread it, and renewed my acquaintance with an old friend.  

In its day, the book was almost singlehandedly responsible for popularizing Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y (here).  Here’s part of what he says in the section on People:

Get to know your people. What they do well, what they enjoy doing, what their weaknesses and strengths are, and what they want and need to get from their job. And then try to create an organization around your people, not jam your people into those organization-chart rectangles. The only excuse for organization is to maximize the chance that each one, working with others, will get for growth in his job.You can’t motivate people. That door is locked from the inside. You can create a climate in which most of your people will motivate themselves to help the company reach its objectives. Like it or not, the only practical act is to adoptTheory Y assumptions and get going. It isn’t easy,

Townsend, Robert C.; Bennis, Warren (2011-01-06). Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits (J-B Warren Bennis Series) (Kindle Locations 1425-1430). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Yes, in places it is dated, but there is an authenticity and an energy the book emits that makes it worth a read today (here).   

Scarce Time versus Creating Time


In working as a coach, a topic that comes up frequently with clients is time. It comes up in different guises and claims.  “I don’t have enough time to spend doing X,” where X may be something at work, a hobby, a project.  “I don’t have enough to spend with Y,” where Y is a loved one, a relative, a friend, a new acquaintance.  Oftentimes there is a request from the client to work on “time management” skills so the “scarce” resource of time can be managed, prioritized, and allocated to things that matter more.  In the past, I have often approached the move to the skill development of conventional time management with some caution as it often has seemed that there was something much deeper at stake for client; thinking of time as a scarce resource that can only be allocated can mislead clients that this is their primary (only?) option. A book recommended to me by a client helped put this into clearer perspective.  

Marney Makridakis’s delightful book, Creating Time (here)makes the point that time is as much about perception and framing as the passage of hands on a clock.  The book is divided into three sections.  The first section explores time as something that can be treated subjectively and creatively, not necessarily objectively.  The third section considers applying the book’s lessons in real life.  The second section is, for me, the real meat of the book, and it creatively reframes time in 7 different ways:

  1. Flow time
  2. Gratitude time
  3. Love time
  4. Ritual time
  5. Stillness time
  6. Visualization time
  7. Permission time

Each of these perspectives is valuable.  If only one of these is helpful to you in thinking about your days, weeks, months, and years differently, it will be worth the price of admission.  Give Creating Time a scan here


4 Reasons Universities Don’t Invest in Organizational Development & Why They Now Should

An Engineer in OD/HR Wonderland

When I took training as a leadership coach at Georgetown University, many of my colleagues in cohort 30 were in human resources (HR) or organizational development (OD).  As I had just resigned my tenure as an engineering professor at the University of Illinois, learning amidst these people was disorienting on at least two fronts.  First, engineering is more technology and thing oriented and HR/OD is more people and organization oriented, and routine discussion of social, emotional, and personal matters in a classroom setting seemed a bit weird.  Second, my colleagues all belonged to organizations that believed in the importance of investment, staff, and concerted effort to improve their organizations & I had belonged to an organization that invested almost nothing in its improvement as an organization.  I had expected the first of these going in, but the starkness of the significant investment that many if not most organizations make in themselves as organizations was bracing when compared to the almost non-existent expenditure of universities in this area.

And as I have continued to reflect on this contrast, I remain more than a bit puzzled.  Organizations in the private sector understandably grasp the importance of organizational excellence and think of it as an investment that delivers a reasonable return, and expenditures are calibrated accordingly on such things as leadership development, teamwork training and facilitation, executive coaching, and so forth.  Many of my Georgetown colleagues were attached to or consultants to organizations in the Federal government, and even there, substantial sums were expended to improve organizational effectiveness in the alphabet soup of Washington, DC.  Why was it that my university–for that matter, almost all universities–spend so little on developing their organizations qua organizations? 

4 Reasons Universities Don’t Invest in OD

As I thought about this point, I was puzzled, but in thinking about it, there are a number of reasons why universities have not invested in organizational development to this point:

University life has been stable for a long time. Universities go back to the University of Bologna founded in 1088.  Although universities have changed over the years, they have been quite stable, and traditional governance and structure have appeared to serve the institutions for a quite a long time.

The university has been viewed as an assembly of experts. Over that period of time, the university has been viewed largely as a loose assembly of  quasi-independent experts.  Yes, departmental specialization was a relatively recent invention of the 19th century, and specialization intensified around the time of World War 2, but professors have been hired for their academic excellence and expertise for nearly 10 centuries.  The primary tool of “development” of the university is sabbatical, and each of the experts is supposed to renew him or herself professional several times over the course of their academic career, but no team or institutional development takes place among faculty, by and large.

Faculty members would resist OD methods if they were introduced.  Elsewhere (here), I have written about how universities may actually retard faculty development, and if this is so, fairly early stage faculty would tend to resist OD methods if they were introduced.  In engineering, for example, hard-core “rigorous” engineering professors would reject methods coming from less technical fields as being too soft or “not rigorous” regardless how much they were needed or useful.  It is reasonable to imagine that other disciplinary experts would reject out-of-discipline expertise out of hand (except for HR/OD faculty members perhaps).  

Universities are not led and managed, they are administered and governed.  And the language that we use surrounding the university is interesting. Professors and the university require governance and administration, not management and leadership.  In coaching, we distinguish between administration, management, and leadership as a distinction between past, present, and future.  Those selected to take a place in the university hierarchy are called “administrators” and their job is to bring forth a somewhat smoother version of the past going forward. Faculty members expect to be involved in “governing” the university through committee work and quasi-democratic process.  To accept OD methods in the university is tacit admission that the university needs leadership and management and to risk diminishing faculty voice in governance. 

This helps us understand why organizational development is not being used in universities, and interestingly, the list also helps us understand why OD is needed, badly and now.

The Times They Are a Changin’

bob_dylan_by_daniel_kramer1Although universities have not used organizational development methods because of their stability, their nature as an assembly of experts, resistance from faculty members in early stages of adult development, and because of their leadership structure and culture, universities now face exogenous forces that flips the logic of previous times.  This blog has written about each of the matters, and so we simply summarize the counterpoint to each of the 4 points of the previous section:

  1. MOOCs & the democratization of research are destabilizing a 10-century consensus of the nature of the university.
  2. The notion of expertise is under attack in the classroom and the laboratory. Returns to expertise are diminishing rapidly.
  3. Faculty members need exactly the kinds of deep development and coaching that OD methods can bring to the organization and to individuals within it.
  4. If the notion of a residential university is to survive, it needs more leadership and management, less administration, and reforms to permit innovation and maintain faculty governance, both.

As such, I predict that organizational development methods and coaching will increase in usage as these forces are faced.  Bringing OD to the university without provoking a faculty reaction requires sensitivity to the culture of the university, an understanding of the importance of faculty governance, and a respect for the traditions of the faculty and the university.  ThreeJoy Associates brings those things to its work.  Write me at to understand ways in which these methods may be helpful in promoting innovation and effective change in your organization.