How to soar like an eagle (in a world full of turkeys)

Technically, tonight’s video presentation was entitled “Beyond Excellence,” a very well done 1-hour (plus) seminar by Rob Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson also happens to be the author of “How to Soar Like an Eagle,” ergo the blog title for what will probably be the last entry for this class, Organizational Behavior.

He began his presentation with the story of Larry Walters, known in some circles as “Lawnchair Larry” because in 1992 he took flight over Los Angeles in a lawn chair, with the help of 45 weather balloons. He was determined to fly. He was determined to constantly improve. Well … he was determined.

When asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied, “A man can’t just sit around.”

Maybe that’s what inspired the Disney Pixar movie, “Up” …

Speaking of Disney, Stevenson talked about how at Disney, it’s always “showtime” and all members of the Disney team are cast members who are always on stage. He talked about how in our professional lives we always need to be on stage, because you really never know who it is that you’re dealing with. He shared the example of a commercial real estate agent who was asked for help leasing a 500 square foot space, and because he handled it so well he ended up winning the business for Coca-Cola and ultimately a commitment to lease about a million square feet of space.

Speaking of Coca-Cola, Stevenson then shared the story of how a company lost a 100-truck order that they had “in the bag” with Coca-Cola, right up until the moment that the truck driver rolled up at the Atlanta headquarters and the senior Coke executive saw a Pepsi can on the dashboard. Oops. The company lost the order for the other 99 trucks.

He recommended reading the book, “Good to Great,” and reinforced the point of getting the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off … he also alluded to the possibility of how some people end up in organizations having something to do with the timing of when they were hired. A strong culture will work to get rid of the people who don’t belong there.

How do you create the WOW effect? Astonish people, have a great reputation. Hire for excellence. Example of WOW, Harley Davidson tattoos on the human body.

Stevenson shared the “8/16 rule,” where if you do a good job people will tell 8 others, if you do a bad job people will warn 16 others

MOT = moment of truth. (every point where you come in contact with a customer)

At the beginning and the end of the presentation, Stevenson talked about the importance of a FUBAR list … a list maintained by the company that has the mistakes people have made so others can avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Control, cope or capitalize – CHANGE

CARE trumps everything … care more about the customer than about the sale, commission, etc.


Stevenson used the image above to reinforce the point, “We are what we perceive ourselves to be.”


From “star system” to “goat pen” …

Tonight, Shelton led our “Ropes” discussion, which was essentially a number of chapters discussing power, formal and informal, within an organization. Shelton described upward mobility in the terms of a marathon versus a tennis tournament; in a marathon, as long as you can finish, your successful in completing the marathon. In a tennis tournament, once you lose, you’re out. He then shared with us a number of examples where he had watched people that had been identified as stars in organization, but then, as things do, something happened in the organization that tarnished the star and put them in the “goat pen.”

We spent some time discussing the different sources of power, including examples of the informal power, such as an administrative assistant who, because of proximity to leadership, has access to information, gatekeeper authority, and a perceived level of power.

One of the examples, in chapter 47, talks about how people’s reputations can be placed in the balance when they’ve recommended someone for a job and that person is not performing to expectations.

In another example, in chapter 48, the author discusses the perils of working in an organization where a family calls the shots, and people who are related to the leaders get the choice jobs.

Shelton shared with us the example of a manager in an organization who is no longer on the career ladder, and therefore can take a stance were in the past they would have been forced to be compliant. In this instance, in chapter 50, Ben Franklyn simply refuses to attend and 8 o’clock meeting on a Friday night and knows that there will be no repercussions.

In chapter 52, people at The Company simply cannot bring themselves to ask Mr. Marsh what he meant by this statement ” exercise on this” … consequently, the staff go through unnecessary turmoil trying to make their best guess as to what Mr. Marsh actually needed.

All this CHANGE is stressin’ me out, Doc!!!

Tonight we watched the video “Managing Change and Transition,” featuring Dr. Ben Bissell and his guidance on the physical and emotional toll of change.  He explained the two categories of a so-called Significant Emotional Event (SEE):

  • Professional, such as a reorganization, layoffs, relocation, or
  • Personal, such as marriage, the birth of a child, illness, loss, divorce

Upon experiencing a SEE everyone will go through five stages:

  • Shock or denial—the “I can’t believe it” phase
  • Emotional reaction—predominantly anger
  • A bargaining period—the change is sinking in but you are trying to alter its effects
  • Depression (clinically known as “grief”) because all change produces loss and all loss must be grieved
  • Acceptance, both emotional and intellectual, of the change

On average, one should expect it to take up to 1 1/2 years to work through these five stages.

Dr. Bissell shared the four signs of trouble that could have life-threatening implications:

  1. troublesome body part,
  2. short breathing,
  3. faster eating pace, or
  4. poor sleeping pattern

So, to stave off this outcome, it is vital for organizations to recognize that employees need to “go through” the stages without, however, sacrificing job performance.

Some other insights from the video include:

  • employees will mirror the behaviors of their managers
  • all low morale is really unresolved anger
  • information is minimized and perceptions get distorted during a SEE
  • an organization should keep as much of the familiar as possible during a SEE

I found this interesting graphic that shows what happens next after people move through the five stages … with the goal of moving on to new beginnings. In any case, “moving through” is important!

Who Moved My Cheese?

Tonight’s feature presentation (without popcorn) was a 20-minute video of the Spencer Johnson “classic” book, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

For the record, I did not like this book when I had to read it 10 years ago as part of my undergrad work, and I wasn’t thrilled with this cartoon either. But, okay, I get it: change happens, and we need to be prepared for it when it comes.

The main point of the book, and of this movie, is that people in the workforce need to learn to deal with and embrace change, as today’s work environment is one where change is often the only constant.

Here are the main points from the movie, as shared by Haw in his scribbles:

Change Happens
They Keep Moving The Cheese
Anticipate Change
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move
Monitor Change
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
Move With The Cheese
Enjoy Change!
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again & Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.

We can never assume that things will just remain the same, so we need to avoid becoming complacent. By moving beyond our comfort zones we can remain flexible and adaptive to new conditions, new rules, new procedures, and new cheese. Cheesy!

Easy as P.I.E.

One of the very early points that was made is that the behavior you reinforce in an organization is the behavior you get, hence the premise for the entire class, organizational behavior, or in other words why do people do the things that they do in organizations.

The organizational culture addresses the value system of the organization, what gets rewarded, how people interact, and the diversity of the organization itself. It also points to the answers to the following questions: how do you succeed? And do you fit in?

We learned the PIE acronym for success in an organization:

P is for performance

I is for image (and is that image consistent with the culture)

E is for exposure and visibility