Taking the coffee challenge…

Here are a few of the things we heard from the coffee challenge nudge last week.

In this nudge, people were asked to have someone else order their coffee for them.

Giving up control over my lunch choice was uncomfortable for me. Realistically, I know it’s silly. It’s only one meal.”

“The person who ordered felt bad because they could tell I didn’t really like what they ordered, even though I really didn’t care. They spent the rest of the day feeling bad.”

 I went to see [a] movie and I always end up picking the seats, because I like seating more in the back. This time I decided I would let my friend choose.”

Take the Coffee Challenge!

Some of the questions I get…

1.       Were there any repercussions to the counter culture that you created?

2.       What was your motivation for doing this?

3.       When it came to making that final decision to launch/fire upon the enemy, how do you get yourself to make that decision?

4.       Have you seen leaders not succeed and why do you think they failed?

5.       What is the role of a leader?

6.       What if people do not want control and the responsibility of making decisions?

7.       How should leaders go about communicating organizational goals and criteria for making decisions?  How can this be done without a huge checklist, which may miss the entire point of giving control?

8.       Does change in how children are taught in schools help them take their own decisions more confidently?  How would culture play a part in development?

9.       Giving the power to take decision may still not make some people do it.  Are there any ways of making/encouraging them to take decisions?

10.   Do you think that military notions of leadership are wrong and should be changed?

11.   Did the crew have a hard time taking more ownership of their roles?

12.   Do you face a lot of opposition or skepticism while changing the way the culture on the submarine works?

13.   Why did the navy put you in charge of a sub you weren’t familiar with?

14.   Although you want to give control, how do you steer the crew in the right directions without taking too much control?

15.   What leaders/people inspire you?

16.   How do you inspire people to want to have control instead of wanting to be told what to do?

17.   What action steps can be taken to move the focus of control in people who are used to being told what to do?

18.   How do you build confidence in people who are not used to making decision?

19.   How do you encourage leaders to trust their subordinates in order to allow them to build confidence in their own decisions?

20.   Was there a particular turning point that led you/inspired you to throw away the secret copy of the tickler?

21.   How do you think military experience is so valued in leaders?

22.   How did you work with the crew/officers right after the incident (2/3 order)? Were they apprehensive?

23.   Did you even meet the former captain? What was their reaction to your success?

24.   What is next for you personally?

25.   Did you have objections from below? From above?

26.   What did you try to learn about the crew/ship in the small amount of time? What was #1 priority – people or systems?

27.   Do you think you would have had the same epiphany if you had been properly trained on the ship/crew?

28.   How do we prepare for the unforeseen?

29.    How long did it take to change everyone to say “I intend to do”?

30.    How long did it take until true change happened?

31.    How do you lead when you know as little or less than the ones you are leading?

32.    What is the first most important step to take when you would like to change the culture/actions?

33.   Did you flip the script before Santa Fe?

34.   What gave you the notion and strength to work outside the box?

35.   Was there a moment you thought you shouldn’t have done something due to haste/lack of knowledge? How did you rectify it?

36.   While you were starting to make changes, how did you get the navy (supervisors) to buy in?

37.   How does a leader measure success after he has given control to subordinates

38.   Wouldn’t giving too much control to a wrong person backfire? How do you avoid this?

39.   From all of your experience, how does one best draw the line between complying with leadership out of respect for their position (as the crew on your ship) and stepping up to say something when you see a mistake or a better way?

40.   Is the reason some people just want to be told what to do just a result of conditioning? Shouldn’t the conditioning process change at an earlier stage, and how?

41.   Do you think submarine’s initial standing had an effect on your “change”? If you went to a “great” submarine, do you think crew would have responded differently?

42.   How do you balance giving control v. anarchy? You need to have some control over your crew.

43.   How do you know how much control to give without giving too much?

44.   Did you ever go to a different ship & bring this model?

45.   Are other countries’ militaries running the same way (controlling people) ?

46.   Did you try to work with those two dissenting sailors to see if they could be brought around?

47.   What are some skills that undersea warfare teaches you that other kinds of combat do not?

48.   How do you measure combat effectiveness for citizens?

49.   Do you think the navy was more receptive to this change in protocol than other branches would be?

50.   Why do you think so much of our notion of “Loyalty” + “Respect” is tied up in doing what someone asks of you?

51.   What inspired you to enlist?

52.   As a leader, when you think you know the right path and need to guide your team along that path, how do you convince yourself to give up micromanagement and let the team make their own choice? (Start teaching?)

53.   Did you find yourself with closer friends with co-workers?

54.   How difficult was it to cultivate relationships while onboard?

55.   As the captain, were you asking for approval when making these changes? did you ask first or act first?

56.   What to do with order takers?

57.   Have you ever brought back old officers to speak with the new crew?

58.   What happens when a subordinate on your ship starts acting on the idea you don’t agree with?

59.   What leaders inspire you?

60.   What are you doing now?

61.   Unclear – why was it empowering as a leader to be only one with “to do” list?

62.   Ask Charlie – What % of people just want to be fed what to do (in this experience)?

63.   What should the role of the leader be? If subordinated are the one executing, and you are letting them make decisions and give them control, what in your opinion is the role, qualities of the good leader?

64.   Changing the established power structure is frankly easy when you’re at the top.  What about those who aren’t?  How does one affect a culture from the bottom?  Is this possible?

65.   How “safe” is it to give control to everyone? How do you know how to judge who is worth it?  Control in the wrong hands can be potentially dangerous…

66.   Why is it that it is harder for us to accept responsibility/be given control?

67.   What was the initial response from your fellow leaders? Was there any friction?

68.   It’s easy to fall back to just “well tell me what to do, and I’ll do it”…How do you achieve the goal of building a business/company to go out and get things done on their own??

69.   How do you breed free thinking in a company?  Especially where people are repressed?

70.   Can this idea of changing a company culture, affecting, empowering ppl to take action be from non-leaders?

71.   Did you ever have an incident where a subordinate has put others in danger due to an uninformed decision?

72.   How do you maintain a balance between control and taking control?

73.   What kind of organizational constraints can be put in place to prevent certain individuals from taking more control than they were offered? Do these kind of constraints violate the very idea of giving control rather than executing it?

74.   How do you coerce those who are capable of taking control, but are reluctant to take responsibility?

75.   How did the US Navy react to the drastic changes being made on your sub? Did their opinion change at all as time went on?

76.   How fast did it take for the crew to adjust to the new mentality?

77.   How were you able to get the most difficult people to shift from controlled to taking control?

78.   What will the role of the Leader be if the decisions are being made by subordinates?

79.   Vulnerability as a leader – how without losing respect of your team? How do you overcome it?

80.   Do you think leadership is innate or can be taught?

  1. How do you get controlling manager to relinquish control?
  2. Do you believe accountability is an important action in developing a person?
  3. Your style seems center to the core beliefs of Navy. How did the Navy react to what you were doing?
  4. Having no ability to provide monetary rewards, what is the best award or recognition you have provide?
  5. What/how did you do to begin to build the trust you were not going to punish individuals when making mistakes (in the beginning at giving control)?
  6. Why would the Navy allow you to take command of a ship that you have very little knowledge?
  7. Do you feel your style of leadership was better than the former Commanders you reported to?
  8. Did you face any backlash for changing formalized procedures?
  9. What resources did you make from the Navy to help assist your leadership effort?
  10. Is there a point to which you can relinquish too much control and how do you recognize it?
  11. Do you have any suggestions or techniques in how to help teams rebuild trust with each other?
  12. How do you hold people accountable while empower them at the same time?
  13. If the sub was so successful, why didn’t they Navy change ALL procedures so that all subs succeed?
  14. You had success on your ship making changes. How did you have any success changing the Navy culture?
  15. How much lead time do you budget toward if you can give control without failures?
  16. What types of decisions (if any) did you decide to maintain 100% control and why?
  17. Did you experience resistance from your superiors as you changed your approach to leading? If so, how did you manage through their resistance?
  18. How did you ensure clarity and technical competence at all levels?
  19. Before your arrival, why were they performing so poorly?
  20. Did you know that up front?
  21. Was it a blessing that you didn’t know everything about the sub?
  22. Did your leadership style change with changes in the level of danger you faced? If so, how did you make sure your crew understood the reasons for the changes in your style?
  23. Was there ever a time when you changed a regulation that a higher commander had a problem with letting go of the control and letting the regulations change? How did you deal with the situation?
  24. How did you get them to change their ability to give suggestions? People are sometimes afraid to put themselves out there.
  25. Did you feel that your credibility was enhanced or diminished when you admit I don’t know? How do you maintain your authority?
  26. How long did it take to go from, I don’t know to the culture of learning?
  27. If they did individual certification, how did everyone learn what the others were doing?
  28. Do our people always know when we are faking it?
  29. Why don’t people hear or really listen. i.e. briefs
  30. Why is hiring at [company] as hard as getting leave off submarines? Too many approvals.
  31. How can I lead with all personalities and they all buy in?
  32. Were you afraid you would lose credibility by admitting you didn’t know the answer?
  33. Did you have to learn humility or were you always that way?
  34. To what extent have y our teams’ success been intentionally replicated in the Navy and other branches of the US Armed Forces? Based on your answer, why haven’t they (the Armed Forces) done more to change?
  35. What tips do you have to change a culture that makes decisions based on hierarchy?
  36. How do you engage those employees who do not want to make decisions?
  37. In our own way, we “go active” every day. How do you keep your team from experiencing burnout because they are asked to “go above and beyond” day after day?
  38. The important thing is the thinking…How do you determine (in short) the style and quality of the thinking in a person?
  39. How do you get the empowerment down into the rank and file?
  40. What did you do with people who rejected the improvement?
  41. With the success of Santa Fe, has the Navy done any training on delegation of authority?
  42. Could your method of leadership been successful on destroyers where there is not the closeness of a submarine environment?
  43. When changing form briefs to certification, was it all verbal or written?
  • What do people do if their boss/or leader wasn’t empowering them?
  • How do you get your boss/or leader to empower you?
  • Was there disciplinary action for the chief who took the easier shift and left “Sled Dog” exhausted?
    • (David) None, he was part of the system. The system had a problem.
  • Did you ever have people say you were “pawning off” your job to them to make it easier for you?
  • If empowerment is the key to effective change, what are the biggest barriers to empowering front line employees? How do you combat that?
  • How did your superiors react to your empowerment of the crew? How did they react to meeting style?
  • How did you adjust when decisions were made that you knew would have been different had you made the decision?
  • Do you see a fundamental difference between delegation and empowerment? How do you move past delegated to empowerment?
  • How different do you think your strategy would have been had you stayed on the original ship?
  • What is the best way to inspire someone to achieve the next level and yet tell them they are not ready yet?
  • In the short time you had to learn about the Santa Fe, what did you study first?
  • How do you respond to someone you’ve empowered that has a bad idea?

Smile at a stranger: You’ll be Happier

Gillian M. Sandstrom and Elizabeth W. Dunn of the University of British Colombia performed a study where they measured people’s moods after having interacted or not with their morning barista.  The study shows that those who smiled, made eye contact, and exchanged a few words with their barista were in a better mood afterwards.  The mood swings were of .5 and .6 points on a 1-5 point scale; a 10-12% improvement in mood[1].

The study further found evidence that the effects on mood were brought about by feelings of belonging.  These results suggest that, although people are often reluctant to have a genuine social interaction with a stranger, they are happier when they treat a stranger like an acquaintance[2].

When I think of this study I am reminded of how we initiated the “3 Name Rule” on Santa Fe, one of our first steps to turn the ship around.  I mention this in the animated video about the book.  This rule became an example of acting our way to new thinking – when we acted like we were proud of the ship, we became proud of the ship.

It also reminds me of how we switched from briefs to certifications.  Briefing is what the Navy does before going into an operation.  An officer stands in front of a group and briefs them on the situation, the objectives, and the means.  We’ve all seen the briefing scenes in war movies where the general points at different locations on the map, the soldiers nod and march off.  The problem with briefing is that it is not interactive.  Those being briefed are completely passive with no responsibility to study beforehand.  They simply nod and say they’re ready.

This point was admitted to me during a de-brief after a training exercise where the crew committed a lot of mistakes when one of the officers said that most people didn’t pay attention during the briefing session.  We decided to make a change.  Instead of briefs we would do certifications.  Instead of lecturing the crew, the officer in charge of the brief had to ask the crew questions to make sure they were ready for the operation.  Now the burden of responsibility was on the crew.  This change from passive to active interaction was another one of the mechanisms that helped Santa Fe turn around from worst to first.

Do You Brief or Certify?

An effective survey question to ask employees is how many minutes a week they spend learning on their own, not directed.  Typically, you will get pretty low numbers and that will be a strong indicator that your people are passively being briefed instead of actively being certified.  

How to Implement Certifications

In order to shift the mindset from passive briefing to active certifying, ask people to do specific action items before the certification.   This could be reading assignments or thinking assignments for questions to consider before coming to the certification.  Make sure your team knows that this is a decision meeting to determine if they are ready to perform the operation or procedure.   Knowing that they may well have to decide that they are not ready is a great motivator for making sure they prepare adequately in advance.

Can you see certifications working in your work environment?  What problems do you foresee facing in implementing this kind of practice?  Share your ideas in the comments section below.

[1]“Chatting with the Cashier Will Improve Your Mood.” HBR Blog Network: The Daily Stat. HBR, date last updated (30 October 2013). Web. Date accessed (30 October 2013). <http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/10/are-you-aware-that-chatting-with-the-cashier-will-improve-your-mood/>

[2]“Is Efficiency Overrated? Minimal Social Interactions Lead to Belonging and Positive Affect.” Social Psychological and Personality Science. Web. Date accessed (30 October 2013). <http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/30/1948550613502990.abstract>

Don’t thank the VIPs: How to Open Your Speech

How are you going to open your speech? I’m always a bit nervous when I get started so I like to have the opening nailed. Once I get going I’m ok. Builds on the following articles:

- How to organize your speech.

- How to do Q&A.

First, what NOT to do.

- Don’t thank some set of VIPs. That is boring, a waste of time, and insulting to those not on the list.

- Don’t start with”Let me tell you about myself…” We know your bio.

- Don’t start with a joke. It wastes time, and you probably aren’t good at standup comedy (Louis CK, disregard). If you want humor, weave it into the natural flow of the presentation.

Now, what could you start with? I’ve had success with these openings.

- You can thank the person who introduces you or the group as a whole.

- You can start by saying something positive about the previous speaker.

- You can start by asking a question.

- You can start with an inspirational story.


An Open Letter to Potential VA Secretary Mr. McDonald.

Dear Mr. McDonald,

Congratulations on your expected nomination as Secretary of the Veterans Administration. Now for the work.

Based upon my own interactions with the VA for my military disability compensation, I offer the following short diagnosis and areas of focus. (My most recent interaction was 2 hours on the phone with various VA representatives yesterday. The VA is planning on reducing my disability ratings to zero if I don’t support evidence that they still exist. I know this because I received a letter from the non-government, non-profit organization Disabled American Veterans (DAV).)

1. Close the say-do gap. All the VA representatives said “thank you for your service” then, almost as quickly, explained why they couldn’t help me. Eliminate the meaningless statement. Additionally, on one phone line as I worked my way through automated recordings, I heard “your phone call is important to us. However, due to heavy call volume we are unable to process your request at this time. Please call back at a better time.” — click. Again, don’t say the phone call is important and hang up on me, just treat it like it’s important.

2. Push authority to the people interfacing with the constituents with a mandate to help. In my case, the VA letter went to an old address that has been since updated. The representative could not send the letter to the current address of record. That required a written letter from me to the regional VA office. The representative also could not tell me the contents of the letter even though they could read it. This was after they had verified my identity. The reason? Because I hadn’t received it yet. I’m not sure the representative appreciated the irony that if I’d received the letter I wouldn’t need him to tell me what was in it. The suggested solution from 3 different representatives was to contact the DAV.

3. Say “we” not “they.” (Eliminate stove pipes.) I called to make appointments to reverify my disability conditions. I was told that I had called the VHA — the Veterans Health Administration at Bay Pines; not the VBA — the Veterans Benefits Administration at Bay Pines. But isn’t the VHA where the doctors are who see patients? Yes, but I needed to go through the VBA to schedule the appointment since the purpose of the appointment was to validate a compensation claim. Then I would need to take my records from “the VHA” back to “the VBA.” Understand that both these portions of the Veterans Administration are housed in the same Bay Pines campus in St. Petersburg.

Talking with the VA reminded me of Catch-22.

Talking with the VA reminded me of Catch-22.



How to do the Q&A in your talk

Just a short post building on yesterday about giving speeches.

I learned most of this watching Dan Pink give a talk.

For Q&A.

- Never do it at the end.

- Never say, “just one more question.”

- Never beg for questions.


- Do Q&A about 80% through the talk and control the ending.

- End Q&A when there is at least one hand still up. (usually time forces moving on)

- Give people a heads up…”We’ll be doing Q&A in 2 minutes.” If I am worried that the group will not be too active in Q&A I might say “talk at your table” or “talk with your neighbor” and come up with some questions for 15 seconds. Then you skip the deadly waiting for the first person to raise their hand.

- Speak to the person who asked the question. Usually I walk a little bit in their direction.

Answering questions in Shenzhen.

Answering questions in Shenzhen.

Give a Better Speech: Organize it Like Katy Perry

This blog is about organizing your speech. I had been working on this for over a year as a public speaker when I happened to watch Katy Perry’s Part of Me. And it hit me…organize the speech like a concert!

At the highest level is the concert, which consists of sets, which consist of songs, which consist of verses and refrain. In between the songs there is a pause.

So there you have it! I think of the refrain as the tweet that I want people to send out. I might put the actual words on a slide and I am not afraid of repeating it. These will be the only words on the slides.

Each “song” should be about 3 minutes long but I am not rigid about it. Typically I will have one or two picture slides for this and then the refrain words.

In between “songs” I have learned not to be afraid of a decent pause. I will count to 3 silently to make sure I pause. Typically, pauses feel like a very long time to the speaker.

For a single 60-75 minute keynote, there’s only set but if it’s a seminar, then there sets with breaks just like the concert.

Now, if I can just get those twirly thing on my shirt…

See this post on Q&A.

C is for Consequence

This is part 4 of 4 of the ABCs of Cultural Change.

The senior executives argued that any initiative that was not reflected in the company’s performance evaluation system wouldn’t stick. They called it accountability.

Based on Aubrey Daniels’ book, Bringing out the Best in People, we agreed and felt that the word “consequence” was a better fit. Anyway, it started with “C.” The core idea in Daniel’s book is that behaviors changes more permanent when followed by a reinforcing consequence than a preceding “antecedent.” In other words, what happens after the behavior matters more in the long run than the cajoling before the behavior.

Daniels categorizes consequences along 3 axes: immediate or delayed; certain or uncertain; positive or negative. Immediate is more powerful than delayed; certain is more powerful than uncertain; and positive is more powerful than negative. Here’s an example that explains why it is so hard to quit smoking.

When you smoke you get an immediate, certain (happens every time), and positive nicotine boost. Whereas another consequence of smoking (cancer) is delayed, uncertain, and negative. Because of the way humans are wired, the immediate, certain, and positive consequence is weighed more heavily than the delayed, uncertain, and negative one.

Applying this to performance evaluations, we thought that the way to think about it this: as we go through the year, we should document positive behaviors right when they happen. The performance evaluation, if done annually, would then be built upon all the existing documentation and not viewed as some extra additional thing that happens annually.