Archive for the ‘Aligning the Misaligned’ Category

Effective Delegation Tool for Busy Leaders

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Early Saturday morning I went to the Long Beach Fire Department’s Training Center to attend a traffic control class for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. The CERT program manager, Firefighter/Paramedic Jake Heflin, a highly respected and nationally recognized expert in emergency preparedness and response as well as a sought-after FEMA-certified trainer, came in a few minutes later. The look on his face suggested he hadn’t slept in days. Professional that he is, he rallied to get the class started by introducing our Long Beach Police Department trainer.

During the break, I asked Jake how things were going. He had just returned from a week-long trip to Phoenix, the White House had called him to request that he write a letter explaining how emergency preparedness would affect one of its initiatives, his work had piled up in his absence, and he was worried about the funding for his position, which ends in September. Plus he hadn’t seen his family in a week, and Sunday was Mother’s Day in the U.S. No pressure!

“Pat,” he said, “I need to be operating at the 50,000 foot level. Instead, I’m down here in the weeds. I need to learn now to delegate.”

“Jake,” I replied, “I have just the tool for you. It’s a very simple question that provides immediate clarity. Ask yourself, ‘Am I the only person who can do [the task at hand]?’ If the truthful answer is ‘Yes,’ then do it. Otherwise, delegate it.”

Though the question is a simple one that cuts to the chase, I find that leaders have a hard time actually releasing tasks they should be delegating. Sometimes there is no one to whom they can hand things off. However, even that “excuse” often can be overcome with a little creativity. Most of the time, there are beliefs that hold leaders back. See if either of these rationalizations resonates with you:

“No one else can do it as well as I can.”

“I can do it faster myself.”

Although these statements may be true, here’s why allowing such beliefs to prevent you from delegating tasks is problematic on three levels:

1. Organization: you are not serving your organization well because you are misallocating scarce resources, namely your time.

2. Employees: you are failing to develop your staff by withholding opportunities for them to learn and grow.

3. Self: you are hurting yourself because you unnecessarily are increasing the amount of stress you face, which has a negative effect on your health as well as on your performance.

So please – do yourself and everyone else a favor: stop making excuses and start delegating! By releasing those tasks that others can do and focusing on those that you are uniquely qualified to do (or that you love to do), you will experience a dramatic increase in well-being. As a bonus, those to whom you delegate the tasks will appreciate the trust you are showing in them.

© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.


Setting Priorities Need Not Be an Elusive Competency

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

The ability to set and, perhaps more importantly, to implement organizational priorities is a critical success factor for leaders. When there are dozens of things to be done, someone must step forward to bring order out of chaos. Too often, however, workplaces are filled with employees who feel discouraged because they are spinning their wheels, or frustrated by the lack of clear and consistent direction, or burned out because everything should have been done yesterday.

Here are some reasons why people find it difficult to set and implement priorities:

Indecisiveness due to fear of making the “wrong” choice.

Reluctance or inability to make hard decisions.

Mistaken belief that good intentions are enough.

Low level of importance or urgency.

Lack of accountability – i.e., there are no consequences for non-performance.

Consider these facts:

Priorities involve choices about how to use time.

There can be only one “top” priority: by definition, there is a rank order to choices.

Priorities are what you DO, not what you SAY you will do.

When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Here are ten ways to improve your ability to establish and implement priorities:

Establish priorities:

1. Realistically determine importance and urgency by asking and truthfully answering two questions: (1) “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I do/don’t do XYZ?” And (2) “Can I live with that outcome?”

2. Only people, things, and tasks that are directly aligned with achieving the mission or goals can be priorities.

3. Treat the setting of priorities as a resource allocation issue: develop realistic, WRITTEN time lines and schedules that indicate when you will accomplish what is needed to achieve each priority.

4. Use effective, easily utilized and understood decision-making tools (e.g., ranking, paired comparison, matrices, other forms of analysis).

5. Specify decision criteria BEFORE you start making choices.

Implement priorities:

6. Have someone hold you accountable for achieving your stated priorities.

7. Set your priorities BEFORE you make commitments that require your time.

8. Focus on the end result or “big picture.”

9. Identify a reasonable number of priorities at any given time; add others as you complete them.

10. Find a process that works well for you and follow it consistently.

If you could do only one thing to increase the quality of your life, it would be this: make self-care your #1 priority – not “one of the top” priorities or “a” top priority, but THE top priority. Why? Perhaps counter-intuitively, tending to your own needs enables you to do a much better job of taking care of others. There’s a very sound reason why airline flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before trying to assist others: if you pass out, you are no good to anyone, including yourself. In fact, you have just become part of the problem.

As an added bonus: the techniques suggested above work just as well in personal situations as they do in the workplace.

© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Not Everyone is Capable of Being a Manager – Are You?

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

If you have worked for nearly any organization in any capacity for any length of time, no doubt you have learned this fact: not everyone is capable of being a manager. Often employees are promoted to a supervisory/managerial position because they were really good at the job they were doing. Unfortunately management requires different skills, abilities, and competencies that they may not have. Sometimes the people who are hired or promoted have great potential, but their organizations don’t invest the resources in helping them be fully successful managers. In other cases, people are promoted to manager despite the fact that they don’t want the job: although they’d rather continue what they were doing, for some reason they felt compelled to accept the new, unwanted responsibilities.

Chances are very good that during your career you have had the misfortune of working for someone who never should have been a manager, or you’ve observed others (employees or supervisors/managers) in that situation – or perhaps you have been that person yourself. It’s not a pretty sight. And the results of this type of mis-match between person and position cause harm to the manager, the people he/she supervises, customers, vendors, and ultimately the organization.

So how do you know who is or is not capable of being a manager? Recently I saw a question on this topic posed by a journalist: what are some signs that people are NOT cut out for management? Although I prefer to answer questions from a positive perspective – in this case, pointing out signs that people ARE capable of being managers – I think there is some value here to identifying the characteristics that ought to disqualify candidates for managerial positions. Below are my answers to the original query. You are not cut out for management if you:

don’t like people.

don’t like working with others.

don’t have passion for the business.

are unwilling and/or unable to delegate tasks and responsibility.

are unwilling and/or unable to give and receive constructive feedback.

are unwilling and/or unable to act like a manager.

are unwilling and/or unable to take on management tasks instead of doing whatever you used to do.

are unwilling and/or unable to take responsibility for your employees’ poor performance.

are unwilling and/or unable to develop your employees.

need people to like you.

need to be one of the “guys” instead of the boss.

are a poor communicator.

are inflexible.

So what about it? Are YOU capable of being a manager? If not, let others be the boss. You are better off pursuing a career path that allows you to be fully successful using the talents and competencies you DO have.

© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions November 20, 2013

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013


Alignment solution: To assess the likelihood that your employees’ efforts are fully aligned with the organization’s goals, ask them, “What’s your job?”

If you ask your employees, “What’s your job?,” what percentage of them would respond by listing the tasks or functions they perform? What percentage would tell you how their efforts contribute to achieving the organization’s mission or goals?

And why should you care about how they answer?

An organization cannot optimize its performance unless all of its people, processes, systems, and programs are aligned with its mission and goals. Thus the difference between a workforce with a task-oriented view of its efforts and one whose perspective is results-oriented can have a dramatic impact on organizational success. My experience as a FedEx employee during the company’s early years was that no matter what tasks or functions we performed individually, we viewed our collective job as ensuring that every package was delivered “absolutely, positively overnight.” The company’s success speaks to the effectiveness of alignment between the organization’s mission and employees’ perspectives of how their work supports it.

The first step in ensuring alignment throughout your organization is to assess how your employees view their work. Asking staff at all levels, “What’s your job?” is an easy, quick way to determine where their attention is right now so you can decide whether, or to what extent, you need to re-direct it to the desired end results.

To see examples of the striking differences between task-oriented and results-oriented perspectives, and to learn six steps you can take to improve your organization’s performance dramatically by changing your employees’ perceptions about their work, take a look at our article The Transforming Power of Asking, “What’s Your Job?”

To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at and my blog at

Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

19 Lessons from the Affordable Care Act’s Roll-out

Monday, November 18th, 2013

There seems to be widespread consensus that the Obama administration’s roll-out of its signature Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a nightmare. Although one may say that “hindsight is always 20/20,” the fact is that this debacle could have been avoided – or at least mitigated significantly. Simply stated, it seems that the people in charge failed to think through this enormous undertaking.

Organizations cannot optimize their performance unless they execute their projects successfully. Toward that end, here are nineteen lessons that leaders can learn from the ACA’s experience and apply to the implementation of virtually any large project:

    1. Create a clear “big picture” of the desired outcome, including users’ expectations of what it will do. Work backwards from that picture.

    2. In advance, gather ALL the people with relevant knowledge and expertise and have them collectively think through what it will take to develop and implement the project successfully. Don’t wait till things fall apart before you go back to ask the experts for their advice.

    3. Insist that ALL players/stakeholders be actively engaged and that everyone’s voice is heard.

    4. Make sure the end result is user-friendly by hiring “interpreters” who can speak the language of both the end users and the experts who are charged with creating the system or process.

    5. Conduct a pilot program with a small sample of the end users. This allows you to get valuable feedback, work out the bugs, and maximize your resources.

    6. Communicate truthfully, fully, and in a timely manner to clients and stakeholders before, during, and after implementation.

    7. Ensure the decision-makers are fully informed about short- and long-term consequences of the project as well as potential pitfalls.

    8. Test the system before rolling it out. Address the deficiencies and re-test. Do not go “live” until the system truly is ready for its debut.

    9. Have one or more experts or nay-sayers play the devil’s advocate role to poke holes in the implementation process.

    10. Create an implementation plan (vs. an action plan).

    11. Assign responsibility and create meaningful, timely consequences for non-performance.

    12. Set realistic timelines for progress and completion. Monitor them continuously and investigate promptly if they are not met.

    13. In the face of evidence that the implementation is not on track, stop and address the problems; do not insist on moving forward anyway.

    14. Make the roll-out process transparent to all stakeholders.

    15. Justify the costs at all stages of the project, beginning with the initial estimates and including any bid amounts. Closely scrutinize cost over-runs as they occur and take immediate action to stop or mitigate them.

    16. Make sure the costs are realistic: not extremely high or low.

    17. If you use a bid process, weigh expertise more heavily than cost. The lowest bidder is not necessarily the best choice.

    18. Don’t tell the experts how they must do the work. Tell them what outcome you need and let them determine the best way to achieve it.

    19. Put the right person in every job.

The above lessons can save you time, energy, and significant resources, not to mention keep your organization’s reputation intact. Many of them cost nothing to implement; others are likely to have a large ROI (return on investment). Why not apply them when developing your next large project?

© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

How to Mitigate Resistance to Change

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Resisting change is part of human nature. Given that change has become the new “normal” in today’s world, helping employees embrace change, or at least not oppose it, has become a critical success factor for organizations. Here are nine things you can do to reduce employees’ resistance to change:

1. Create a common “big picture”

Ensure your organization has a vision or “big picture” that everyone can relate to, AND make sure every employee can articulate the contribution he/she makes. Why? When human beings feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves, they tend to focus on ACHIEVING that picture rather than on resisting it.

2. Appeal to people’s enlightened self-interest

The biggest motivator I know is enlightened self-interest. You address the “self-interest” aspect when you answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) up front, from each employee’s perspective. Since people don’t always know what’s good for them, educating them is critical if you are to be successful in inspiring them to take action.

3. Walk the talk

Don’t expect employees to embrace change if their leaders don’t do it themselves

4. Ask, “What’s your evidence?’’

When employees make statements that represent speculation or opinion, request that they back up their claims. Asking them what evidence leads them to draw their conclusions opens the door for a discussion of the issue.

5. Develop excellent framing skills

“Framing” means to put things in perspective. The most common example is the proverbial glass: is it half empty or half full? Because our frame affects the way we see the world, the way we think, our beliefs, and our actions, leaders can teach employees that they have a choice in terms of how they experience change.

6. Provide supervisory skills training

Providing leaders with the tools they need to be successful in counteracting resistance (and other negative behaviors) is one of the most effective ways to mitigate resistance to change. This is particularly true at the supervisory level, which is where the tone of the work unit is set.

7. Don’t try to square a circle

In this context, this phrase means that the “good old days,” whatever they meant for your employees, are gone, never to return. The world has changed, and so must we. Continuing to do things the old way, especially when they clearly don’t work anymore, is a form of organizational insanity.

8. Incorporate procedural fairness into all decision-making

While leaders often cannot control decision factors or outcomes, they can control the process by which decisions are made. Research shows clearly that if people perceive that the process by which decisions are made is fair – i.e., free of bias, non-discriminatory, transparent, and offers an opportunity for meaningful input by those affected by the decision – then they will accept it even when they don’t like or agree with it.

9. Remove the elephant from the living room

The “elephant in the living room” refers to an issue or topic or problem that everyone knows is present, yet no one will talk about. It causes dysfunction and all sorts of negative behaviors and outcomes, including resistance to change. Escorting the elephant out of the living room, and making sure it doesn’t come back, will help you address the issues behind resistance to change.

What are some of the ways you have found that effectively reduce resistance to change in your organization? Let us know!

© 2013 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

14 Common Mistakes Made by New (and Not So New) Fire Chiefs

Monday, October 29th, 2012

After working with four new fire chiefs over the last six years, I’ve noticed some dysfunctional patterns of behavior that, if not corrected, have a significant negative impact on the new chiefs’ ability to create and maintain their departments’ forward momentum. Based on my observation and experience, here are fourteen of the most common mistakes:

    1. Setting a poor example by making self-care a low priority

    2. Answering the questions asked (e.g., “How will you cut your department’s budget?”) instead of changing the conversation by asking their own questions (e.g., “What is the level of public safety you wish to provide the community?”)

    3. Missing opportunities to educate the community and decision-makers about the impact of budget cuts on public safety

    4. Communicating what the department does rather than focusing on the value it provides

    5. Creating time management nightmares for themselves by consistently scheduling back-to-back meetings

    6. Reverting to their firefighter training and instincts when they feel overwhelmed

    7. Maintaining a task focus instead of developing a strategic orientation

    8. Trying to accomplish too much right away

    9. Responding immediately to all requests

    10. Failing to identify and enforce clear boundaries and priorities

    11. Neglecting to schedule regular time for reflection and strategic thinking

    12. Delegating ineffectively or not at all

    13. Not holding others accountable for lack of results

    14. Maintaining a rigid command and control structure in a dynamic environment that requires situational agility and the widespread sharing of information among all employees

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

The Paradox of Self-care Teleseminar

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Would you like to be able to focus your energy and attention in ways that enable you to inspire greatness in yourself and your organization? Paradoxically, it is only by taking care of ourselves first, by religiously making ourselves our top priority, that we are able to shine, to provide exceptional service to others, and to achieve our purpose in life or our mission at work.

Recently I addressed this topic in a one-hour teleseminar called “The Paradox of Self-care: Inspiring Greatness in Yourself and Your Organization.” During the call we covered topics such as:

    o Creating a YOU-centered life
    o Developing and sustaining the mindset required to make yourself your top priority
    o Using language to transform your world
    o Breaking through obstacles that prevent you from living your passion
    o Inspiring yourself and others to greatness

If you are interested in learning how to make YOU your top priority so you can inspire yourself and others to greatness, I invite you to listen to my teleseminar. Then let me know what you think!

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Language Leads to Results – But Maybe Not the Intended Outcome

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

This morning’s L.A. Times reported that so many Los Angeles city employees were watching the streaming video of yesterday’s Olympics on city-owned computers that administrators feared the system would crash. In response, the city’s chief technology officer sent an e-mail “imploring” employees to stop watching the Games on-line. Specifically, she was quoted as saying in an e-mail sent to city employees, “We are experiencing a high volume of traffic due to people watching the Olympics online. I respectfully request that you discontinue this as it is impacting city operations.” (Emphasis is mine.)

What was she thinking? Aside from ignoring the fact that taxpayers don’t expect to pay city employees to watch the Olympics (as was pointed out by some City Council members who saw the memo), the language she used was all wrong. Why? Because when you “request” someone to do something, you are giving him/her the option to NOT comply. In this situation, not only is there a real danger that the City’s “struggling” computer system could crash if the on-line viewing continues, but allowing employees to watch the Olympics on the taxpayers’ dime is unethical if not illegal. So why would you ask someone “respectfully” to perhaps consider stopping behaviors that have such potentially dire consequences?

If the intention is to have city workers stop watching the Olympics on the city’s computers, then administrators need to tell them to stop it – immediately. The language must convey the urgency of the message and the degree of choice (if any) the recipients have, and it must specify the desired action. For example, “Effective immediately, all City employees must use their computers for work-related purposes only” conveys a high degree of urgency, removes any element of choice about whether or not to comply, and describes the desired action.

The bottom line: if you expect people to behave the way you want or need them to, you have to communicate clearly and specifically exactly what you want. Otherwise you may be waiting a long time for a result or behavior that will never happen.

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

The Paradox of Self-care

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

In today’s busy world, people often feel overwhelmed with the demands of day-to-day living. Things seem to move faster now than they used to, we live in a global world now, technology has blurred the lines between work and non-work, and we have so many more choices than we did even ten years ago. As a result, people often find themselves reacting to individuals, things, and situations outside themselves – e.g., family members, friends (those who are virtual as well as those that are physically present), co-workers, customers/clients, employees, the work environment, the economic environment, neighbors, community issues – whose needs seem to be more immediate and/or more important than their own. Over time, they become more focused on satisfying others’ needs than their own. First responders and those in helping professions are trained to put others’ needs first – especially in life and death situations – and their own needs last. In some cultures, deference to others is the norm.

Except possibly during a literal emergency, living an “others first” lifestyle is a huge mistake. Why? Because unless you make yourself your top priority, taking care of your needs before turning to those of others, you cannot possibly do and be your best. By not taking care of your needs first, you are shortchanging others as well as yourself. Paradoxically, you must make the time to take care of yourself in order to serve others (and yourself) well.

Here are some of common outcomes that people experience when they do NOT make themselves a high priority. They:

    – short-change the important people in their lives.
    – find themselves doing things they really don’t want to do (e.g., travel too much for business, take on commitments they’d rather not).
    – feel paralyzed because everything is a “high priority” and they don’t know where to begin.
    – feel like they have no control over their lives.
    – worry that they’re not up to the challenge of “doing more with less” in a workplace constrained by scarce resources.
    – have trouble making decisions.
    – spend a lot of time and energy unnecessarily worrying about whether they’re meeting others’ expectations.
    – find they’re not doing the things that make their hearts sing.

Why would anyone choose to live this way? Contrary to what you might believe, you do NOT have to suffer through the negative outcomes that result from misaligned priorities. How different would your life be if, instead, you experienced outcomes like these?:

    – A renewed sense of personal purpose or organizational mission.
    – A life characterized by ease rather than struggle.
    – A healthy, joy-filled life.
    – The serenity that comes from knowing you are making the world a better place.
    – The ability to serve others in a more profound way.
    – Dramatically reduced stress levels.

YOU are the only person preventing you from achieving positive outcomes such as these. You have a choice about whether you go through life experiencing the types of negative outcomes listed above, or positive outcomes. The difference in the quality of life when you make yourself your top priority, vs. putting others first, is incalculable.

And that is the paradox: by changing your priorities so that you focus first on yourself, you are able to do greater things for others – as well as yourself.

If making yourself your top priority is of interest to you, I invite you to join me on August 2nd for a free teleseminar called The Paradox of Self-care: Inspiring Greatness in Yourself and Your Organization. During this one-hour call, you will learn how to:

    – Create a YOU-centered life
    – Develop and sustain the mindset required to make yourself your first priority
    – Use language to transform your world
    – Break through obstacles that prevent you from living your passion
    – Inspire yourself and others to greatness

Whether you’re ready to embrace positive outcomes such as those listed above but don’t know how to claim them, or you’re skeptical that focusing on self-care truly can make your life easier and more joy-filled, doesn’t it make sense to invest one hour of your time in learning HOW to lead a healthier and more inspired life?

Click here to register or to learn more about how you can re-focus your energy and attention so you can inspire greatness in yourself and your organization.

© 2012 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.