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Paul Greiner

Letting Go of “The Wrong People”

When engaging with a new or prospective client, one of the first things I ask for is a verbal assessment of what’s stopping his/her business from performing at the level to which he/she is committed. What’s in the way? Or to phrase it in its most casual and common form, “What’s the problem?” At some point in the conversation that follows, we come across some longstanding, persistent complaints.

When that person is in a leadership or management position, it is extremely common for one of the complaints to be about the lack of performance of those that they manage or lead (the same tendency shows up with the front-liners, but in reverse: they complain about lack of effective management or leadership). What frequently follows is how they know that what there is to do is to find the “right people”, and once that finally happens, their business will work as it’s supposed to.

In fact, I’ve recently been working with an upper-level manager of a medium-sized contracting services company who had just this issue. As it turns out however, getting the “right people” wasn’t the issue at all.

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Keeping Commitments Alive

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution? Did you this year? How’s that going?


Personally, I tend not to make them at all, at least in the common interpretation. See, once upon a time I did, though I’d usually cave on them or forget about them. Over time, I stopped making them altogether- I mean, what’s the point of setting myself up for that inevitable disappointment, right? Now, I make commitments; in the weeks surrounding the holidays, I take a conscious approach to my work and my life to discover, and create, what would make a real difference for me and others in the coming year.

But really that’s the easy part. Sure, I can commit to something- to take some action, or produce some result- all it takes is for me to open my mouth and say I’m going to do it.


But have you noticed how quickly new commitments seem to disappear, to actually vanish from your awareness? That is what I’d like to discuss: What does it take to have a commitment persist over time?

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Creating a Blank Canvas: A Christmas Story

“So this is Christmas… and what have you done?” –John Lennon

Here we are in the holiday season, approaching the end of one calendar year and the dawn of a new one. However, just because something is ending, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s truly complete.  Surely you’ve experienced something being finished, maybe a project or a certain relationship, about which there still remains something unresolved for you. I know I have.

I’m inviting you to look with me and see if that’s the case with this year- and if it is, to clean the slate and give yourself the opportunity to create 2012 from a blank canvas.

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Creative Communication: Learning to Listen, Part 3

So far in this series, we’ve confronted the degree to which the way we listen to (and interact with) people is shaped and limited by certain developed filters, and explored some of the most common types of filters. Now, I’d like to take a look at what this all makes available, and how we can “upgrade” our ability to listen.

When we are unaware of our own filters, the constraints on our ability to listen are invisible to us and we are left mistaking “our world” for “the” world. In this condition, we are likely to be ineffective in our actions, not to mention completely confused about the actual source of the problem. So our efforts to change are inevitably unproductive, and sometimes counterproductive, as they are cultivated from symptoms instead of the root cause.

So what does it take to free ourselves up from all this?

The first part is simply to notice it as it’s happening; simple awareness is the access point. See, what we don’t distinguish, what stays hidden in the background, runs us. When we see these self-imposed limits in action, when we see them for what they are, their grip is loosened and we are freed up and able to interact with life naturally and effectively.

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Creative Communication: Learning to Listen, Part 2

In our last segment, we began to notice the “filters” that constrain our ability to really listen in a conversation. If you took it on, you had a chance to see the degree to which we don’t actually listen, but rather receive, process and distort information through an already-always-there filter of assumptions, beliefs, concerns, frame of reference and overall worldview.

This phenomenon has a very real impact on our ability to communicate and act appropriately and effectively in the situations we find ourselves in, whether they be in business, social situations or anywhere else. The basic idea here is that you can’t act appropriately if what you’re dealing with is not the actual circumstances at hand, but instead some distorted version of your circumstances. If you’re missing something that is happening, or adding something that isn’t, you will be left ineffective- AND upset, frustrated and confused about the source of the problem. So let’s explore some types of these filters further.

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Creative Communication: Learning to Listen, Part 1

It is well-known that in business and organizational effectiveness, clear communication is key. There’s a substantial amount of information and training available on how to communicate: books, articles, workshops, seminars, the list goes on and on. Have you noticed that the bulk of these resources are predominantly focused on what’s said or not said, speaking powerfully, public speaking, persuasion, influence, negotiation, etc.?

In other words, it’s all about talking.

Any focus on the other side of the equation, on listening, is largely relegated to tactics and strategies that are intended to set you up well for your turn to talk. Even the classic “active listening” approach is speaking-heavy: repeat back what they said to (at least appear to) confirm that you heard it, and then take your turn to talk.

What if your listening is just as crucial as your speaking? I assert that it is. More relevantly, what if what we think is real listening actually isn’t? What if you could create a whole new level of clarity, relatedness and power in your relationships and interactions- and the pathway to that result is being willing to see and acknowledge the degree to which you haven’t been listening? I assert that you can.

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Ask The Consultants- Eliminating Problems 1

The game we are playing in my business is creating powerful performance. I keep finding myself dealing with crisis and breakthrough at the same time; it seems that some aspect of our infrastructure or culture or both limits our capacity for consistent performance. How do we make the switch to being high performing always?”

Thanks for being in communication. Let me address your first question right away: You don’t. Breakdowns happen. If you’re running a business with the standard and expectation of 100% high performance all the time, you are setting yourself up for frustration and upset. Can a team be reliable for extraordinary performance more often than not? Yes. Can you create a system that effectively predicts impending breakdowns such that you’re not repeatedly blindsided, leaving that experience of being in “crisis”? Yes.

But as far as counting on or expecting all good all the time, I’d recommend against it. In this respect (and many others), business is like life; there are going to “problems”.  So far as I can tell, the only place to be to avoid having problems is six-feet under. No more problems then! All handled. Same in business: being an entrepreneur is risky. Life is risky and business is risky. Period. The question is not one of getting rid of problems, but choosing which problems we will dedicate ourselves to. And don’t worry, there are plenty to choose from! It’s your life, your business, your choice.

If you really look, you may find the operating premise “I should always get what I want, when I want it” running in the background- not even as an actual thought necessarily, but as a place that your thoughts, emotions and behavior come from. It’s a context: the world shows up inside it, and we operate from it- without even seeing that it’s there. It seems to be there for all of us, from VERY early on in life, and still has that infantile quality to it. Just picture yourself when something doesn’t go how you want it to go. Whether it’s getting stuck at a traffic light, or a major sale falling apart at the last moment, look at the reaction: frustration, sadness, anger, maybe even a tantrum? Why? Because obviously everything should go how you want it, when you want it to!

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Ask The Consultants- Following The Plan 2

“Our route drivers are not following our vending machine fill diagram. We’ve had multiple classes, individual interactions and reviews on it and generally have made it a point of emphasis, yet we find in our site inspections that it continues to not be done (right). How do I get my people to follow the plan?”

I will start with the same question as my colleague, “Why should they?”-though with a different idea in the background: I’ll take it from the world of freedom, choice and accountability.

I operate from the premise that human beings are extraordinarily developed and/or evolved, and that when we act (or don’t act), it is because that action produces some benefit, or payoff. Even when we can’t see what that payoff is (a blind spot), or don’t want to admit what it is (deception/ self-deception), there is one. It is when our perspective shifts and we are able to honestly acknowledge the payoff that we’re getting, as well as honestly acknowledge the real cost and consequences of our action, that we have a natural opening and ability to shift our patterns of action. Being accountable for our actions is the key.

Now, in this situation, I see two levels of this occurring: The first (and most obvious) one is with your drivers. Simply put, in their view, the benefits of doing it their way clearly outweigh the consequences and costs; that is why they continue to act that way despite repeated trainings, classes, etc. It is clearly not the know-how that is missing here.  What’s missing is perspective and accountability.

The other level, maybe not so obvious but far more relevant to our conversation, is with you. What is it that you’re getting out of this situation? What if it’s your blind-spot or even self-deception that is keeping this issue in place?

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Ask the Consultants- Fear and Commitment

This month’s question comes from Tim Vanini, PhD, owner and partner in multiple businesses in the area of professional and residential turf and grass development, research and project management (

“So far 2011 has proven to be a fruitful year with record profits!  Even so, fears have set in about producing the amount of residual income that my partners and I are committed to in 2012 and 2013.  How do I move past this?”

Tim, thanks for your question.

Fear can be a big part of leadership, of committing oneself (with others) to something unpredictable and even unheard of. Depending on the context we have for it (the way in which and through which the situation occurs to us), it can be embraced and empowering or counterproductive and even debilitating.

It can be easy to, in our immediate reaction to experiences like fear, uncertainty and anxiety, seek whatever way we can most quickly “survive” the threat present. In the face of the gap created by the act of committing, we act- often automatically and blindly- to fix, change, avoid or tolerate our experience of fear. Consider that, counter-intuitive as it may seem, the access to transcending the fear and creating power and freedom is not to get out of it or conquer it, but to accept it and embrace it fully.

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The World of Expectations, Part 3

(This is the 3rd part of a 3-part series, if you haven’t yet, I recommend you read the first 2 parts to set the context for yourself)

So far in this conversation together, we’ve seen the startling degree to which how we see the world, our behavior, actions and results are all shaped, filtered- really given by our expectations. A simple, if oversimplified, cut at the idea would be: who we are is a function of our expectations.

Now that we’ve explored this in-depth from the perspective of our own expectations, let’s shift the view one more time and take a look at the critical importance of the expectations of others in our performance and quality of life. From there, we’ll create direct access to actionable ways to elevate our performance.

In business and in life, action calls for coordination. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur, a manager of 20 or the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, your very ability to produce- your opportunity to perform- is dependent on the performance of other people, organizations and entities. Just to be clear, this is the case even when you “work alone”. We make promises, take certain actions, and avoid certain actions based on the expectation that the people and entities with which we participate will perform a certain way.

For example:

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