Leadership On the Edge


leadership links

  1. Google has become Alphabet. Legal tricks and fresh perspectives.
  2. An important negotiation tool…silence.
  3. Why Baby Boomers get pink slips.
  4. Having difficult conversations starts with culture.
  5. Speaking of culture…can it be scaled successfully? Perhaps.
  6. Are passwords enough to protect your security? Probably not.
  7. Foster an innovation culture by using these four tips.
  8. Good advice isn’t always…good advice.
  9. Mentor’s help elevate and propel leaders.
  10. Lastly, understand the “frenzy” over high-tech talent.


In Leadership On the Edge BLG presents thought provoking articles, videos, and news from the world of leadership.

Hints From Academia

Hints From Academia: Teams & Creativity

team work innovation

In an organizational setting much of creativity occurs in the context of a team. Therefore, how individuals relate to others on their team may be very relevant to their own creativity. Interestingly enough, while we make a lot of assumptions about this, there is not a lot of concrete research. But two particularly interesting articles in this area come to mind and offer excellent insights.

In the first piece, Why Seeking Help From Teammates Is a Blessing and a Curse: A Theory of Help Seeking and Individual Creativity in Team Contexts, the authors, Jennifer S. Mueller and Dishan Kamdar, explore whether help seeking is positivity related to ones own creativity. Using data collected from a large multi-national corporation they find that while seeking help from team mates can result in creative performance, creativity is sometimes limited because people often feel the need to reciprocate help. Clearly seeking help is both a blessing and a curse.

In another article What Goes Around Comes Around: Knowledge Hiding, Perceived Motivational Climate, and Creativity, the authors, Matej Černe, Christina G. L. Nerstad, Anders Dysvik, and Miha Škerlavaj, examine an unfortunate reality of organizational life: employees often retain information from their coworkers rather than offering help. This creates a distrust loop. It has major negative implications for organizational creativity and innovation.

Taken together these pieces provide real hints as to why it is essential for innovation leaders to create a team environment of safety and trust.


Hints from Academia is BLG’s effort to highlight those academic pieces we feel offer special insights and guidance to the world of practice. 

BLG Leadership Insights Features

Book Review: Leading Outside the Lines

There’s always a thin line between books that have mass appeal and those that are considered serious in their academic insight. It takes a unique voice to walk along the thin border between trivia and irrelevance. Those authors that can walk this line and find this sweet spot are few and far between. In my opinion they include, among others, such writers as Edgar Schein, Peter Senge, and Jon R. Katzenbach.

Katzenbach’s work stands out because it has the ability to operate in the world of what academics call, “the mesa level,” that combines individual psychology with organizational structure. More specifically, it explores the social psychology of teams and groups. In his recent work, Leading Outside the Lines, written with Zia Kahn, Katzenbach continues this tradition of examining the meso level with good writing and sharp academic insight.

Organizational writers can roughly be separated into two groups. One group adopts the position that organizations should be structured and formal in order to become optimally productive. The other group declares that formalism kills creativity, random-interaction, and off-the-cuff action. They feel that organizations should be informal in order to boost performance. In Leading Outside the Lines Katzenbach and Kahn take a different stance. They argue that an organization should adapt both formal and informal strategies to get the best results.

Walk into Home Depot with a question and chances are you’re going to leave with an answer. It’s the “Home Depot Way” and it is what made Home Depot the most “successful building materials chain in history.” The Home Depot Way is an outcrop of what Katzenbach and Kahn believe to be the right mix of both formal and informal organizational design. Workers were given a formal structure to work within, but were encouraged to draw on their own experiences and knowledge to help customers. They were told to problem solve and help, not sell and worry about targets. The atmosphere created a dedicated, highly-social, team of home repair experts. Staffers relished the opportunity to solve problems autonomously while working within a formalized retail structure. It’s a nice example of how formal and informal strategies can motivate people to do a good job.

Balancing formal and informal methods isn’t always easy and isn’t always the obvious solution. Katzenbach and Kahn know that leaders need to push change at both the individual and organizational level and oftentimes the path isn’t clear. Leaders frequently have to ask themselves if they should stress formal or informal policies. They know that their decision could be the difference between failure and success. It’s not a simple call.

Katzenbach and Kahn offer real strategies, exercises, and compelling case-studies to help leader’s best resolve the formal-informal question. They push for autonomy while stressing peer-to-peer review and formal discussions. They embrace the problem solving abilities of informal organizational cultures and propose guidelines that can keep everyone on course. They welcome formal orders if they are leveraged with informal networks and get people talking organically.

It would have been interesting of Katzenbach and Kahn looked more at social media and its role in creating formal and informal organizational networks. In a world where many organizations are developing their own social media bases, it would be relevant to look into ways leaders can motivate performance and get things accomplished in a famously informal framework. Still, leaders who work with these problems can still learn a lot form Katzenbach and Kahn.

If you’re interested in learning the concrete steps you need to take in order to create a mixed organizational culture Katzenbach and Kahn won’t let you down. Their compelling thesis is presented clearly and backed up with illuminating case studies, stories, and interviews. It needs to be read by leaders who are endeavoring to adapt their organizations to new, ever-changing, realities.

Picture Credit: / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

BLG Leadership Insights Managerial Competence

Culture & Negotiations: 6 Rules To Follow and 5 Hazards to Avoid

I’ve spent the past few weeks in Israel where I’ve been training a group of leaders and working with people from different cultural backgrounds. I was struck by two things:

  • Culture is important.
  • People have a misunderstanding about how culture comes into play in negotiations.

Negotiations occur in a context, be it situational, personal, or cultural. When you are negotiating with a party from a different background, you need to understand their culture and how it may affect their view of the world and their behavior. You’ve got to understand where they are coming from….literally.

While personality, interests, and issues are important to anticipate, you also need to consider the culture of the individual you are negotiating with.

Consider the following the 6 points when anticipating culture’s impact on your next negotiation:

1. Cultural pride determines whether and how negotiations occur.

2. Culture determines not only what is negotiated, but also what is not negotiable.

3. Cultural pride and status might form a wall that’s impossible to climb.

4. Culture determines the importance of personal relationships–in some cultures it’s critical to test personal relationships before you get into the details of negotiations.

5. Culture influences the type of response you get.

6. Culture governs whether power games are important.

So, keep culture in mind.

What’s Culture?

Culture results from psycho-social factors that shape values, establish a sense of collective and a sense of ideology. Understanding culture requires the ability to interpret ethnicity, region, and nationalism. It’s knowing what factors influence certain groups.

But there’s a difference between understanding culture and using culture in order to achieve your goals.

So you think you understand me because you know something about me? Do you think you have the upper hand in negotiations because you know think you know something about my culture?

Not so fast.

Culture Only Goes So Far…

1. Culture is only a frame. Sensitivity to culture may eliminate obstacles to communication, but not necessarily give you the upper hand.

2. Negotiations may be smoother if you understand the culture, but understanding does not ensure a more favorable outcome. Knowing culture lifts the fog between you–not the differences.

3. You’re dealing with individuals. Be careful not to generalize.

4. Understand your own cultural context and how others from different cultural backgrounds may regard you.

5. Don’t bet your farm on your ability know it all. Don’t bet your farm because you know what all Russians think like or what all Japanese enjoy. Don’t bet your farm on being a cultural expert.

Remember, it’s one thing to appreciate culture so you can be sensitive to the context in which relationships emerge and continue; it’s quite another to use it to gain the upper hand.