Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Month: October 2012

Big Company Team Building Events

This blog post is about what Big Companies do for team building events and the kinds of programs for team building and organizational development that exist. It is also about Big Events for companies, I guess, and focused on some key thoughts about making events more effective. Frankly, there seem to be a lot of strange and sometimes seemingly irrelevant things done in the name of team building and organizational development.

Hang out at a large hotel and wander about the meeting area and you will see a lot of people sitting, just sitting there inactive when the doors are opened. It gives rise the notion of Death By Powerpoint, or at least death by non-involvement. One wonders why there are not warnings about deep vein thrombosis for some of these sessions!

People at came across my blog while researching Team Building and sent me a link to one of their articles. The title was, “How the Top Companies Take On Team Building” and I liked the way it started, since I pretty much agree with this:

Few corporate-culture business phrases are as potentially groan-inducing as “team building.” Visions of cheesy performances and “inspiring” activities like coal walking and trust falls immediately spring to mind.

I’ve posted up before on some of the more ridiculous or hard to seriously consider team activities such as golf, paintball or fire walking — maybe there are some positive individual impacts from that but I just do not see the team aspects unless we get into the discussion about peer pressure forcing people to do things that they don’t really want to do. (Sorry, I meant “encouragement” instead of coercion or force in the above…)

Heck, even Dave Berry weighed in on Burger King’s toasty experience with that firewalking kind of activity — see my blog post on that here.

But the OnlineMBA article mentioned above is a pretty good one. It talks about some different activities that DO have positive organizational impacts, many of which are not costly. Some are a bit off the wall, like hiring a comedy troupe to come in and cause people to laugh. I have actually seen that backfire but that is a whole ‘nother conversation. And they talk about doing Personality Tests as a team building exercise — I guess that could work but it does not sound like a lot of laughs. Maybe they could let the comedy troupe do the testing?

Me, I will just stick with offering games such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine or Innovate & Implement that are fun, controllable, inexpensive and actually link directly to workplace collaboration and performance improvement. We know that it has a lot of long-term impacts on participants and gets everyone involved and engaged. AND, it can be used for very large groups of 200 or even more.

Team building exercise, Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine

You can find user review survey about Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine impacts here. The feedback about the effectiveness of the exercise is pretty amazing,

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

You can reach Scott at
Connect with Scott on Google+

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Co.
LEGO® is a trademark of The LEGO Group


Motivation and Dis-Un-Engagement

I got engaged in a discussion on LinkedIn, on a discussion page for HR professionals, where the question focused on, “How one can keep an employee motivated.”

The comments, again from HR people, focused on motivating employees through appreciation and recognition, having “a good environment,” having good morale where motivation, environment, management and employee relations affect things – and also having monetary benefits, having a speech to inspire them (and that they cannot always be motivated), and that they should be happy to work for your company (I am not sure if the latter meant that they should he happy to have a job or that they should be happy while working for your company).

The contributors also thought that one should also analyze each person personally and be sure that the employee is properly placed according to their strengths and expertise and that they should be assigned, “challenging work that would keep the passion burning.”

Lastly, I thought that this was also an interesting comment:

“Motivation sparks from self. A self-motivated person enjoys everything in life. Other people can just inspire the person. A person who enjoys his or her work can only stay motivated. Money, appreciation, recognition, environment along with work & personal life balance are some factors which helps only after the person is self-motivated. Its my personal view.“

All this is fine well and good. And it makes sense. BUT, will any of these thoughts actually impact work and productivity or quality or anything? My response was as follows:

There is a really great short video by Dan Pink on the theme of defining INTRINSIC motivation — it is animated and 11 minutes long and you can see it here:

So, motivation is one thing that is actually pretty well understood. The issue is that organizations tend to focus much more on EXTRINSIC (applied) motivators rather than create a workplace that is engaging. Much of this comes from the work of BF Skinner on animals during the 60s and 70s and those who followed him (like me). It got into schedules of reward and all sorts of things, including superstitious behavior (blowing on the dice to roll a 7, for example).

People like Alfie Kohn (Punished by Rewards, etc.) showed many of the downsides, but businesses today spend about 1% of revenues on such extrinsically driven “reward systems” that half of the employees do not even know exist. Obviously, there are mixed levels of effectiveness.

A better approach is to focus on improving the workplace to do a better job of NOT de-motivating workers. Much of my recent writings have been on themes like Dis-Un-Engagement and Dis-Un-Empowerment, focused on getting “leadership”  involved to do more to REMOVE those things that workers and work teams find de-motivating.

This kind of initiative can help generate alignment and teamwork and motivation and engagement / involvement to make things better for each and all.

The research shows that people are not engaged, in general. Spending money on a survey that tells you that you have a problem seems a bit foolish — if I were to ask four or five people the same questions, the dis-engagement would be obvious (either theirs or that of others they work with).

A LOT of this stuff ain’t Rocket Science and HR ain’t gonna fix it.

Some things need to be accomplished locally, at the interface of worker and manager; only there will improvements be made. (The exception might be if the feedback and measurement system were changed, since that helps drive behavior. Feedback drives results.)

YOU simply cannot MOTIVATE ME or anyone else. People motivate themselves and offering some “reward” for improvement is going to be a very short-term solution for maybe half of the workers.

As a joke, I could also offer them 10 cents if they were to reply, just to see if I could make my point!

A lot of people think that this is how things work in the workplace, insofar as motivating people for performance:

Needless to say, it might work in the former case until people want and expect even more, and it will certainly work in the latter (until the boss turns his or her back). The latter also generates Compliance, which translates to “very average” performance and there is no motivation to excel.

What we need to do is to remove the things that the people see as getting in the way of them excelling. Almost everyone WANTS to succeed. Let them.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny: Thoughts on Successful Implementation

“Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny” is a famous (although somewhat flawed) framework from old-school biology that actually offers a useful perspective and framework on how to successfully implement any organizational or personal improvement process. As Statistician George Box stated,

All Models are Wrong. Some Models are Useful.

This is quite useful from my standpoint. And I will get to how it relates to successful implementation of improvement strategies in a moment, after this lesson in the history of biology…

The concept of the title asserts that the embryonic developmental stages of a living organism (ontogeny) mimic and demonstrate the evolutionary history (phylogeny) of that organism’s ancestors. (Recapitulates meaning “repeats” in this instance.)

John Moore, an eminent historian of science, attributes the statement to Ernst Haeckel, in his book Generelle Morphologie, published in 1866. To a certain extent, the idea seems true prima facie. (see the corollary, below)

For instance, the embryos of all vertebrate animals include gill slits (or gill bars, at least) in their necks at a certain stage of development. This, of course, reminds us that their ancestors were fish and only fish actually use these slits in the adult condition; other animals modify them for other uses. (In humans, for instance, the gill bars become bones of the inner ear.)

Back in the 19th century post-Darwin, it was believed that nearly all of the sequence of embryonic developmental anatomies were a true recapitulation of evolutionary stages of overall species development.

We now know that it just doesn’t hold true that faithfully, even though most species do share a lot of chromosomes. Nevertheless, there is a kernel of truth in the idea; certainly evolution rarely makes a totally new structure without modification from some previous structure.

Well, So What? — (You may be asking!)

Well, consider the developmental stages of your new project and its requirement for initial success as well as long-term implementation. Most programs fail — we know this from lots of statistics as well as experiences. My restatement of the principle for organizational development would simply state that:

The successful development of any NEW program of performance improvement or change is most likely to recapitulate the successful development of your organization’s PAST successful programs.

If you are implementing a NEW program, it would make very good sense to study and understand the factors that made the older (and successful) programs work instead of trying to invent or implement a totally new way of doing things. People and organizations are more comfortable with the old established parallel styles and practices and are more likely to reject the new untested ideas, schemes and frameworks. (Think old, comfortable slippers…)

comfortable old shoes of Scott Simmerman

At the same time, a study of the unsuccessful programs and failures can be educational in that it can identify factors that lead to the death of the initiatives (and occasionally the torture of the participants!).


Would you like to hop and pop in a pair of shoes such as this? Well, your new program might look like this to many of the people who have worn those same shoes in the past and got blisters and worse from the experience. Making your “new” improvement program look and feel like the “old successful” ones will be of great benefit.

I hope this helps — step back from the wagon before running forward and spend a little time discussing the frameworks and key parts of some of the past successes. The past impacts the future, for sure, and we can certainly learn from those experiences. This concept has repeatedly helped me when the goal was assisting some organizational transformation. By identifying the critical success and failure factors, one is almost guaranteed a more successful implementation.

Remember that the most common stages of a Project are generally:

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Disillusionment
  3. Panic about Progress
  4. Search for the Guilty with a Blame Frame
  5. Punishment of the Innocent
  6. Praise and Honor for all Non-Participants

(Please note that the above 6 phases are a joke….maybe!)

 And then there are the Six Phases of a 2nd Project:

  1. Mild enthusiasm combined with unexpressed general concern
  2. Search for volunteers
  3. Avoidance of involvement
  4. Search for anything positive

Please note the following:
Discussion of 3rd project tabled for later discussion. Much later… 

In reality, the General Success Factors involved in the successful implementation of programs often include, but certainly aren’t limited to:

  • Top management involvement (direct and visible)
  • Development of trust among all participants
  • Active engagement and involvement of participants building to a sense of ownership involvement
  • Linking to previous successes of the organization, the department and the individuals
  • Perceived low risk of implementation (actual and perceived)
  • Low cost / exposure of a trial implementation
  • Understanding of need for continuous continuous improvement
  • Focuses on a critical factor necessary for the organization’s success
  • Lots of involvement of personnel, cross-departmental
  • Hoopla, catchy name, fun, visibility, etc.

 (Nah, no cute little words spelling out anything… I was just kidding on that last one. If the program is to be a serious effort at performance improvement, it should have a serious name!)

* A corollary to the idea is that all vertebrate embryos are very similar in their earliest stages, and that they then diverge to individual shapes in later stages. That also is nearly true. But recently there has been an attack on the original proposer of the idea, that same Haeckel. He made now-famous comparative drawings of fish, amphibians, birds, mammals at comparable embryo ages, depicting the remarkable similarity they seemed to show in earlier stages. If you open a biology text, there is a good chance of seeing these drawings. It is now believed that Haeckel deliberately mis-drew these, to emphasize the similarity and downplay the differences that are truly present. The whole idea isn’t baloney, but Haeckel apparently went beyond normal science to make his point more acceptable. (For more on this, see Science, Vol. 277, page 1435, for Sept. 5, 1997).

(Thanks to John Snyder for his input on the scientific basis and history of this model. John is a retired Professor of Biology at Furman University. I have taken liberally from John’s ideas. This last paragraph is from John’s note to me about the biological information.)

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:
Scott’s quips and quotes on Poems on The Workplace is here.



Dis-Un-Engagement and The Lesson of The Monkeys

Ah, the Internet. And StumbleUpon. And Research on behavior. And Creative Genius. I love it when it all comes together…

My curiosity caused me to click on this “Cognitive Science” link on StumbleUpon because it showed the following (copied without permission, but the whole thing is found on the website below, so I think this would be “permitted use” — I will also contact the author directly)

…and the story continues.

The key point is behavior and how it gets started and how it is maintained. The behavior of a group of monkeys is sustained by the organizational culture around it, and not even by any consequence system that still exists. Read the whole thing by clicking on this link – The Lesson of the Monkeys

Jason Wells talks about the concept of filiopietism, or the reverence of forebears or tradition carried to excess, but prefers another term: the tragic circle.

I agree. And while he links the idea to societies, I think that the concept also links to workgroups. There are many such practices in workgroups that get carried on long after the original event. The techs at the car dealership would yell, “What?” when one of them would yell out, “Hey, Stupid!” My guess is that a manager, once upon a time, was calling for one of them and yelled out the phrase and it just got established as a little “reminder ritual” for all of them (including the manager?).

Most people in most workplaces are UN-Engaged. Why? We do not know, precisely, even though we look at it from all different kinds of angles. My take on it is that dis-engagement is caused by something, maybe something that is inadvertent, but it is still a causal factor. And until we address the root cause, it will continue. Nothing will improve and little will change over time.

Sure, one “Senior Corporate Leadership Answer” to the Monkey Problem is to get all NEW monkeys and start all over but that is a costly and difficult solution to implement. Some organizations may actually do that, moving from one place to another to shake things up.

But a simple alternative is to engage them (the people participants) in some discussions about what and why and look for new alternatives that can be implemented or problems that can be addressed that simply reinforce the situation at hand. So, “Yes, we have no bananas” (audio – vocal starts at 1:10, from 1923 (history) ), but we do have people who have a level of commitment to performing.

We need to do some serious Dis-Un-Engagement in the workplace, working with teams to identify the things that are getting in the way of people being engaged and actively removing them from the situation. Doing the precise same things, introducing one new monkey after another, will not make any difference.



For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Ph.D. CPF, CPT is managing partner of PMC and collaborating with the team at PMC LLC, but also sort of retired…

Scott is developer of the incredible Square Wheels® tools and images
and the board game version of The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Scott has presented his concepts in 47 countries and collaborates with consultants and trainers worldwide.

You can reach him at and you can see his profile at LinkedIn



Performance Management – what it is (and isn’t)

WAY back in 1978, I started consulting after a short career as a psychology professor. It just seemed that the college teaching was not what I really wanted to do, so I took 9 months and rolled around the USA in my 1973 yellow Volvo 145 station wagon. And, 26,000 miles later, I wound up in Westport, CT working for Ed Feeney and doing BEST.

Behavioral Engineering Systems Training was written by Tom Roth, who graduated from Allegheny College a few years earlier than me and who took some of Tom Gilbert’s ideas and made them into a very understandable and usable three-binder training system.

Binder one was full of analysis stuff, defining “outputs” and qualifying them into different categories and comparing current level of average results with exemplary levels of performance as well as impacts to generate some priorities. Module Two was about designing feedback and measurement systems and Module Three was a very Skinnerian-focused extrinsically-focused reward-focused reinforcement design program.

Most people found Modules One and Three to be the most interesting, while Module Two focused simply on implementing. My view and experiences over the past 30 years has consistently been by far the most important.

In the early 80s, after formally founding my business in October of 2004, slowly but surely, “Performance Management” became  an increasingly used euphamism for performance APPRAISAL. Appraisal was a bad word, implying judgement and judging people, grading on curves, focusing on the negative and all those things. So, instead of calling it appraisal, they called it “management.”

Well, I guess it was management in a way, but it still retained appraisal as its main focus and technique. It has been a while since I have looked at these kinds of “performance management systems” but I sure do not like how they took a good concept of working to make the environment more productive and obliterated it with the much-disliked appraisal metaphor.

My company will always be, Performance Management Company even though many people will not understand that it is about people and performance, engagement and best practices, feedback systems and innovation.

Ah well…  Think I should rename it? Something like

  • Games and Frames
  • The Square Wheels Company
  • The Round Wheels Company
  • Teambuilding Games and Square Wheels Company
  • Scott Simmerman & Associates (how awful is that!)

Nah. Just remember that MY understanding of Performance Management isn’t what they think it is!

Have fun out there.

The Benefits of Telecommuting and working from home

I was one of those “early adapters” of a home-based business and still remember a bunch of us at a conference program I led laughing about how many of us put something like “Suite 101” on our business cards and letterhead (yeah, those sure are two old concepts, business cards and letterhead, huh?).

Home businesses were most definitely NOT a cool thing in those days and we wanted to hide it from people, thus pretend that we were in an office business. It has been so long ago that I am not even sure what year I moved from a rented office to the office in my house (built as a library, with paneling and built-in shelves and all that). Maybe 1998 or something like that?

But working from home did make good sense, and it still makes good sense.

At that conference, I presented a paper called, “Working Home, Selling Globally” — I posted that up in another blog if you want to take a look at those thoughts and even download a paper. Many different factors converged to make it more and more doable over the past 10 years.

I just now saw a post on telecommuting that I wanted to share, since I think that this concept is making more and more sense and the numbers and data that support improvements in work productivity, health, and business-related factors, along with the most certain impacts on family and time and lifestyle also make good sense.

See the post and information here:

That post makes key points like:

Although half of the employees in the U.S. have the option of working from home part of the time, only one in ten opt to telecommute or work remotely. We’ve already heard that remote workers are more engaged and more productive, and that commuting costs almost $1000 per month. But in case those aren’t enough reasons to drive home the advantages of telecommuting, the infographic (by below nicely lays out and reinforces information we already know, including benefits such as

  • Reducing consumption of oil and reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Recovering 109 hours per year per typical worker with a 25 minute commute

and goes on about all the benefits.

Hope you find it interesting and can make the case to your employer, if that is the situation.


As an addendum to this, Marissa Mayer at Yahoo has just slammed the door on their people’s abilities to work at home. She made this decision relying on data that seemed to indicate that her organization had productivity difficulties in the way that they were managing their people, that there were not enough management and supervision and that many people were taking advantage of the situation.

The most enlightening comments were these:

“The employees at Yahoo are thrilled,” says one source close to the company. “There isn’t massive uprising. The truth is, they’ve all been pissed off that people haven’t been working.”

THOSE comments reinforce my thinking that most people DO want to do a good job and that many of the good and average workers are frustrated with no one addressing performance problems. There are few secrets in big organizations and most people could probably tell  you who was taking advantage of things. My guess is that, in a few months, people will be back to working flexibly and will be satisfied that the abuses were handled effectively.

There are way too many advantages to working remotely. But like any other workplace situation, it does need to be managed!


And here is another update, a bit more unnerving. With different kinds of sensors, it is possible for companies to track people working at a workplace or even at home. We’ve been doing it with truck drivers and delivery people for a few years, using GPS to track the time and location of vehicles, speed, delivery time on site, and even lunch. GPS can be useful for plotting driving directions to optimize speed and minimize distance.

But now we take monitoring to the workplace.

Sensors are now tracking office productivity

Not only are businesses turning to big data to improve the customer experience, they’re using it to improve office productivity.

The Wall Street Journal reports that companies are equipping employees with sensors (from an ID badge, smartphone, or office furniture) to get a better sense of how employees work — how they move through the office, and how they interact with coworkers.

Here’s what one company, Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., did with data from a sensor study that tracked how employees moved through the office, along with their voice levels and conversational patterns.

Cubist discovered a correlation between higher productivity and face-to-face interactions. It found that social activity dropped off significantly during lunch time, as many employees retreated to their desks to check emails, rather than chatting with one another.

In response, the company decided to make its once-dingy cafeteria more inviting, improving the lighting and offering better food, to encourage workers to lunch together, instead of at their desks.

They also implemented a 3 p.m. break to get workers through the afternoon doldrums.

A similar study by Bank of America found that taking measures to get employees mingling boosted productivity by 10 percent.

The challenge with sensor studies, however, is gleaning insights from the data to make smart business decisions. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, for example, used big data to decide to ban telecommuting. The decision got a lot of push back from telecommuting proponents, using data of course.

The real message here: big data is insightful, but its meaning isn’t always clear.

The above taken from Smart Planet:

Big Brother and his boss may soon be watching what happens in the workplace and even monitoring conversations between people.

Don’t mess around! colors

Does this have a logical end, somehow?

Do try to have more FUN out there, if you can!



Close to one out of four employees within the United States now perform at least some of their work at home. Home-office workers were seven times more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than those with minimal levels of formal education.

(from )

These are some of the findings of the “American Time Use Survey,” conducted and released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau’s survey of 150,000 workers found on days they worked, 23 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at home.

Among workers age 25 and over, those with a bachelor’s degree or higher were more likely to work at home than were persons with less education – 38 % of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher performed some work at home on days worked compared with 5%  of those with less than a high school diploma.


Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest:

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Moron Engagement – The Concept of Dis-Un-Engagement

Dis-Un-Engagement? Really? Yep!

I was reading all the comments on a long LinkedIn thread – “I’m looking for ideas on how to improve employee engagement? Any ideas will be greatly appreciated” and saw Judi Adams’ starting comment, “As you know, each person has different needs so there is no one bullet solution” and I had one of my occasional “odd thoughts.”

“Bullet” reminded me of a gun which linked over to Bob Mager’s work on performance and one of his test questions as to the need for training or something else:

“If you put a gun to their head, could they do it?”

The context of Mager’s thought is that if they COULD do it, then it is not a skill that needs to be trained but a behavior that needs to be “motivated.”

Thus, I wonder if we could “put a gun to the heads” of the “dis-engaged” and come up with THE relevant and actionable list of all of the things that would need to be present for people to feel more involvement, engagement and ownership. And we should do ONE list for each supervisor of a workgroup or each manager of a department get their people together to brainstorm ideas. Having HR generate an overall list of these things for the company would be totally inappropriate and would actually work against the un-engagement process that I suggest, Let each workgroup have the ownership – involvement of putting their list together. No other way will really work; they need some “sweat equity” involvement in this initiative to become engaged in the process and involved in the implementation.

Doing things TO them will not get them involved. Do things WITH them.

I do something similar with my concept of Dis-Un-Empowerment feeling that one cannot empower people, that many people feel “un-empowered” and that managers can do many things to address and remove perceived and actual roadblocks and, thus, “Dis” them into irrelevance. Thus, Dis-Un-Empowerment.

The approach serves to get the “bad” ideas of the dis-engaged mixed in with the good ideas of the top performers with the result that we build in a lot of peer support among the group for making improvements along with getting involved because we have made improvements and visibly addressed those issues brought up as dis-engaging. Thus, we involve and engage the un-engaged!

I am wondering if a similar approach might be taken with the Un-Engaged, asking them what kinds of things are getting in the way of them feeling more ownership involvement and commitment and then using that list as a “To Do” list for the managers to address and change or improve.

Why can’t we simply be direct with the issue(s) and ask people for the Square Wheels that are not working smoothly and the Round Wheel ideas that already exist in the wagon?

I posted up something last June on this idea and wonder if anyone else has supporting ideas about how to accomplish this. I see it very closely aligned, from a facilitation standpoint, to our Roadblock Analysis process.

The idea is to get the whole list, process the list into actionable categories (sometimes having to delegate upward in the organization to solve) and generate the energy and involvement of the individuals to form teams and address, suggest and even implement ideas and solutions. It is a facilitated, group-oriented process that is involving by its very design.

By going onto the website and searching for “roadblock,” you can find all sorts of information, articles, tools and similar. See more that way.

On Managers, Competencies, and Skills — Some Square Wheels

I’ve been working with a colleague on developing a few “train-the-manager” courses that would involve teaching front-line managers how to better involve and engage people in their workplaces for ideas on organizational improvement or issues of teamwork. It is pretty straightforward stuff, teaching them some basic facilitation and idea-capture skills and showing them how the Square Wheels illustration tools can be used to improve communications, innovation and things such as problem solving.

After all, the Square Wheels images lend themselves to involving and engaging teams of people in identifying issues and opportunities and then generating ideas for implementing improvement. They engage and transfer ownership involvement better than anything I have seen anywhere.

So, as part of my research, I went online and typed in the words “manager competencies” — OMG. Reading any of these lists of things reminds me about how awful I must be as a human being and manager. One list from said I should be skilled at:

  •  Analysis
  • Customer Service Orientation
  • Individual Leadership and Influence
  • Initiative
  • Oral Communication
  • Delegation
  • Developing Organizational Talent
  • Empowerment
  • Follow-up
  • Judgment
  • Managing Work
  • Organizational Awareness
  • Quality Management
  • Teamwork
  • Maximizing Performance
  • Negotiation
  • Written Communication

And these are just the bullet points — the description and details that accompany the above list goes 16 descriptive explanatory pages (as a downloadable pdf file). From, I get this list and the related descriptions:


  • Ethics
  • Accountability
  • Equal Employment Opportunity
  • Sexual Harassment Awareness
  • Technical Credibility


  • Managing Financial Resources
  • Managing Human Resources
  • Managing Technology
  • Strategic Planning
  • Managing Diversity
  • Managing Change


  • Leadership Skills
  • Team Building
  • Supervision Skills
  • Evaluating Performance
  • Coaching and Mentoring Techniques
  • Encouraging Creativity and Innovation
  • Motivation Skills
  • Morale Building


  • External Relations
  • Developing Congressional Testimony
  • Managing the Writing of Others
  • Presentation Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Influencing / Negotiating
  • Conflict Management

This list from was not so bad — I felt that I might actually be competent in a couple of these:

Employee – Key Leadership Competencies

  • Values and Ethics – Serving through integrity and respect
  • Thinking Things Through – Innovating through analysis and ideas
  • Engagement – Working effectively with people, organizations and partners
  • Excellence – Delivering results through:
    • Initiative and the design and execution of their own work
    • Relationships with colleagues, clients, users and superiors and
    • Responsibilities for resources, budgeting and use of assets

And this one from was okay in my view:

  1. Interviewing and hiring
  2. Delegation
  3. Supervising
  4. Conflict resolution
  5. Emotional intelligence
  6. Communication skills
  7. Team building
  8. Motivating
  9. Coaching
  10. Performance management
  11. Problem solving
  12. Agent for change

Okay, granted that ALL OF THESE are relevant to performance as a manager of people in the workplace and that there are dozens of these kinds of lists. And one also understands that our supervisors need to be multi-skilled and talented to manage the diverse workforce with complicated systems and processes in a low-motivational, low-promotability situation faced by so many people in so many workplaces.

So, I sometimes wonder if things don’t appear like this when one reflects on skills and skillsets:

Either one of the above situations produces workplace issues. The left might be the issue of confidence, while the image on the right might have different impacts.

I think that a lot of positives will result when managers have their people reflect on how things work and what might be done differently. This builds teamwork and involvement and engagement and there are all sorts of Round Wheels in our Square Wheel workplaces…

We need to give our people the opportunity to reflect on how things are working and to look for possibilities that might exist for improvement.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Some interesting points to ponder about CEO performance

Okay, let’s start with a simple question:

You are in a race and you overtake the second person.
What position are you in?

Well, if you overtake the second person, then you would be in second, right? Not so hard. So, if you are in that same race and you overtake the last person, what place are you now in? Well, the reality is that you cannot overtake the last person since you would be that last person when you would have overtaken them. How can you overtake yourself?? …

Okay. This kind of thinking will now help us understand some of the issues around CEO performance as summarized in a post called, “The Morning Briefing: CEO Lifestyles” by Charlie Osborne on the site. I thought that the points were interesting.

1.) Lavish CEO pay doesn’t work as intended.
 The arms race in CEO pay doesn’t help performance or retention, according to a new study.

2.) Bosses feel less stress than underlings.
 It’s good to be the king. In news that will shock no one who’s ever had a boss, a new study finds that leaders are far less stressed than their minions.

3.) Doing the math on CEO pay.
These days, there’s ample outrage about continuously skyrocketing levels of CEO pay. Lately, though, corporate managements and boards as well as CEO pay apologists have started angling to persuade us that CEO pay isn’t that badly out of whack.

4.) How much do bad bosses cost American businesses?
According to a new movement, three out of every four people report that their boss is the most stressful part of their job. Bad bosses are bad for employees, bad for business and bad for our communities.

Each of the above is linked to a source and the overall picture is that we need to look carefully at leadership style and performance at all levels of all of our organizations. I thought that this was interesting and that last link takes you to a page on positive psychology.

Michelle McQuaid is taking on workplace bullying, one boss at a time. She says improving leadership behavior will save our economy $360 billion in lost productivity each year. For harassed employees, it’s also likely to save their health and family relationships, which are all too often strained by this increasingly bad situation.

You can read that stuff yourself. Interesting and thought provoking. Me, I focus more on the organizational structural stuff and the behaviors of people in teams and between teams.

I have said many times that, “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world” and that, “Boss spelled backwards is self-explanatory.”

I do NOT think we can change much in the upward direction.

But I also DO think that we can improve workplace performance and morale by solving more of the Square Wheels issues and problems that exist. Taking on bad management is a whole ‘nother animal, altogether.

In times of rapid change with demands for continuous continuous improvement in productivity and innovation, learners are the ones who have the opportunities to grow and change. These people often find themselves thumping and bumping along in systems and processes that used to work just fine. But they are now working in a world that no longer rewards past successes. Those that ask are those that succeed. Continuous continuous improvement is the requirement for organizational and personal change.

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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