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Working Matters

The Working Cultures Blog

August 9th, 2012

Even Olympians Respond To Pressure Differently

The Olympics is a fascinating study in performing under pressure.

Here we have the most highly trained athletes in the world doing in one moment of time what they have done thousands of time before.

No problem, right?!

But the Olympic moment is a different sort of moment.

The entire world is watching. The performance will be meticulously judged and graded. Their only chance for a medal depends on this one, single performance.


Even highly trained Olympians vary in how they respond to pressure.

Some experience the pressure negatively.

They have to calm their nerves. They need to intentionally focus. They can become uptight, self-conscious, and over-think their performance. And they can make mistakes as a result.

Some athletes experience the pressure positively.

Their energy level rises. They rise to the moment as if it were a great adventure. All the attention, all the eyes watching are gifts of encouragement. And they often perform better than ever before.

Aly Raisman (pictured) was a key example in her gold medal floor exercise. While almost every other gymnast who preceded her had one error lead to another as their spirits deflated, Aly chose to lead out with the most complicated series she knew. A run that she had been eliminating up until that moment due to a disastrous landing in practice.

But when her gold medal opportunity was on the line, she embraced it, went for it, put everything into it, and performed it flawlessly.

What about you? Do you experience pressure negatively or positively? Is pressure a gift or a curse?

If you experience pressure negatively, what positive interpretations can you come up with that would be equally (if not more) valid than your current negative ones?

How might the pressure be a gift? How might the pressure be an opportunity? How might the pressure be a tool?

Watch the athletes closely as the games come to their conclusion. Compare their responses to the pressure. Compare their abilities to perform. See if you observe any correlation.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards

August 8th, 2012

Listen In -> Employees… What Are They Good For? #4: The Problem of Poor Employee Performance

I’d venture that for 90% of employee performance problems, supervisors focus their solution efforts on the problem employee.

Helping the employee change. Demanding that the employee change. Talking to the employee. Writing up the employee. Training the employee. Disciplining the employee.

What if, though, the employee was not the problem?

What if problems elsewhere in the company were creating a situation in which no employee would look good?

What if their negative attitude was a self-protective response to your harsh, arbitrary and/or imperious leadership style?

What if their uncooperativeness was a response to the competitive bonus program in your compensation structure?

In this week’s podcast discussion, Claudia and I take a closer look at the problem of poor employee performance.

When acceptable performance becomes a problem, are we jumping too quickly to blame and punishment?

Could there be aspects of your corporate structure, culture, or your own leadership methods that might be setting the stage for poor performance?

Listen in.

Just now joining the conversation? Catch up on the entire series here.

August 7th, 2012

Karl’s Library: Business Model Generation by Osterwalder and Pigneur

Some books are as fun to read as they are helpful.

Laid out visually, Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur is just such a treat.

Instead of long, winding verbiage filled with technical jargon that no one (not even academics) understand, Business Model Generation stays grounded, simple, and practical.

The book is divided into five sections that outline the process of business model generation:
Canvas -> Patterns -> Design -> Strategy -> Process

They offer nine helpful building blocks of a healthy business model:

1. Customer segments
2. Value Propositions
3. Channels
4. Customer Relationships
5. Revenue Streams
6. Key Resources
7. Key Activities
8. Key Partnerships
9. Cost Structure 

If it’s beginning to feel a bit overwhelming, you need to flip through a copy of the book itself.

It is fun. It is visual. Brief, articulate explanations. Structured around the process itself.

I think you will find it an empowering tool for you and your partners.

Click here to see its Amazon.com page.

Karl’s Library is a weekly column highlighting my favorites from my professional development library. “Always learning” is one of the pillars of my personal mission statement. Explore past columns here.


If you’re a Kindle fan like I am, it is available for the Kindle.

Don’t have a Kindle? Get one! You’ll love it.

August 6th, 2012

Loving Monday: Create Your Own Fresh Start

loving_mondaySometimes you just need a fresh start.

Where’s the reboot button for that problematic project? Who’s hiding the eraser for that series of unfortunate mistakes?

This Monday, why don’t you and I create our own fresh starts?

No, the problems on the project aren’t going to disappear. No, there aren’t any erasers to make mistakes go away.

But it is always possible to start over. To begin again. Begin anew.

Begin anew on a small scale. Approach this week with a different attitude or from a different perspective. Shift your approach or your responses.

Begin anew on a large scale. Admit to the team that you were wrong. Let go of a cherished strategy. Go back to the drawing board.

A fresh start doesn’t ignore the problems and stumbles to date, but learns from them. The difference I’m suggesting lies in making a perspective shift.

As the new week begins, do you perceive yourself going back into the fog, the mire, the problems and difficulties? Or do you perceive yourself choosing to create a new beginning in spite of the fog, mire, problems and difficulties?

The shift in perspective will shift how you choose to deal with all that bedevils you.

When life gets extra complicated, messy, and/or difficult, one strategy worth considering is to create a fresh start for yourself.

Let me know if you’d like some help.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards

Loving Monday is a weekly column designed to encourage us to step into our weeks with an intention to show up authentically, engage fully, and choose to make it a good week for ourselves. Explore past columns here.

August 1st, 2012

Listen In -> Employees… What Are They Good For? #3: The Problem of Retaining Good Employees

Fact 1: People are growing, developing, changing creatures.

Fact 2: If you’re going to employ these growing, developing, changing creatures, you might want to design job descriptions that grow, develop, and change with said creatures.

Obvious, right? NOT!

Most job descriptions are highly focused (a good thing) yet uncritically rigid (a problematic thing) documents. We aren’t taking into account the facts of human development in how we structure our roles.

Furthermore, many supervisors do not want to “lose” their best employees to promotions or department transfers. As a result they squash, quench, and otherwise reject requests for growth, development, and change.

Are you afraid of losing your best workers if you promote them? Fighting their development will only result in either losing them to a competitor or losing their enthusiasm so that you wished they worked for a competitor.

In this week’s podcast discussion, Claudia and I look at the problem of retaining good employees.

Are you losing your best and brightest because there is no way for them to grow, develop or change?

Listen in.

Just now joining the conversation? Catch up on the entire series here.

July 28th, 2012

Quote to Consider: More United Than You Think

quote-to-consider“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne

July 26th, 2012

Karl Shares Six Words… #74

Boss hints voluntary participation is mandatory.


Karl Edwards