Good Mistakes: All Mistakes Are Not Created Equal!

Do you (or your organization) have permission to make mistakes?

Your answer to this question not only reveals your risk tolerance, but likely provides insights into your personality and innovative abilities as well. In a recent workshop with some great staff of the SoCal Ronald McDonald Houses, a key theme was the reality of constant and ongoing organizational change. Working in an organization in flux is challenging. But the increasing pace of societal change means that constant flux is the new normal.

Constant change means that mistakes are more likely to occur. So how can we teach our staff to be happy and healthy amidst change? Furthermore, how can we help them make mistakes that matter? Eduardo Briceno has published a very helpful model which we can use to help employees understand good and bad mistakes. 

This model is effectively simple so I’ll bet you are already drawing your own lessons from it. However, let me illustrate three points to help equip us with reminders about change and mistakes:

  1. No matter the mistake, the learning opportunity is always high! One of my contracts recently dropped the ball and forgot to complete a task by a stated deadline. This mistake cascaded to about 20 other people who were unable to do their work as a result of this error. However, the apology email I received the next day was impressive. The individual owned the problem (on behalf of one of her staff), outlined the root causes and went on to explain three things she was doing to both fix the problem and keep it happening again! I often tell people that I don’t mind mistakes. However, I do mind how people respond to mistakes. When we own, fix and learn from mistakes, we become better as people and as organizations.
  2. Sloppy mistakes can be minimized. Sloppy mistakes happen because our intentionality is low. Stated more simply, sloppy mistakes happen because we don’t care (or forget to care). Repeated sloppy mistakes are often the sign of a disengaged or under-skilled employee. We all get sloppy, but repeated sloppy is a big red flag!
  3. We need to teach and coach our team members differently based on the type of mistake they make. Stretch mistakes should be praised, high stakes mistakes should be thoroughly debriefed (often in ways where others can learn these expensive lessons as well) and ‘aha’ moment mistakes need forums in which to be shared. As my title states, all mistakes are not equal. Wise leaders will identify the type of mistake made and then ensure that their response to mistakes matches the need. And in the midst of a busy-work day, this takes intentionality.

Good teams have leaders who give them permission to make mistakes. Excellent teams have leaders who help their team dig deeper and understand the type of mistake they made, and how they can leverage it into something that will benefit both them and the organization.

After all, pobody’s nerfect!

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source: Mindset Works

5 Ways We Respond to Interpersonal Conflict

A benefit of my consulting work is that it requires me to learn on a regular basis. As I prepared for an upcoming workshop about organizational conflict I was revisiting some books to refresh my memory. While doing this, I re-encountered a wonderful model about the different ways we respond to interpersonal conflict (Rahim). Five different approaches to conflict are illustrated in this Johari window.


Response 1 – Avoid [low concern for self and low concern for others]

  • Avoid the topic or situation causing the conflict.
  • Example – An email is sent to your team informing them that there is one gourmet cupcake left in the kitchen. Since several of your team want it, you just avoid the conflict and keep working.

Response 2 – Oblige [low concern for self and high concern for others]

  • We give in to what others want when there is conflict.
  • Example – You reach for the final cupcake at the same time your colleague does. You graciously withdraw your hand and say ‘go ahead, you deserve it’.

Response 3 – Compromise [moderate concern for self and moderate concern for others]

  • Find a solution which is acceptable to both parties.
  • Example – Instead of giving the final cupcake to your colleague, you suggest that one person cut the cupcake in half and the other person choose their half first.

Response 4 – Dominate [high concern for self and low concern for others]

  • Attempt to dominate the conflict through power, coercion or force.
  • Example – You tell your colleague that you saw the cupcake first so you deserve it.

Response 5 – Integrate [high concern for self and high concern for others]

  • Find solutions which are acceptable to both parties.
  • Example – You discuss the problem with your colleague and decide that if you sell the sought after cupcake and split the proceeds, you can each buy a whole cupcake at another store on the way home.

This research also has significant cultural nuances to it. For example, cultures that highly value ‘saving face tend to use obliging or even avoidance styles as a means to accomplish this. Rahim’s model is a useful way to identify responses to conflict because it is so easy to remember. Specifically, I appreciate how it reminds us that conflict avoidance is usually a lose/lose situation. So how about you – what’s your go-to style?

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source: A. Rahim (1983). A measure of styles of handling interpersonal conflict. Academy of Management Journal.

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Foresight: The Organizational Alternative to Fight or Flight

It has been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. While I believe this statement to be trite and overused, I am also annoyed by how true it is. Today’s post provides two examples of companies who prove this idiom contains truth you should heed!

The Bad – Failing to Plan

The story of a Nevada power company exemplifies what occurs when we fail to plan. When the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino completed installation of 26,000 new solar panels, they told their power provider (NV Energy) they were leaving the grid. NV Energy’s inability to foresee the impact of solar use (in the sunny desert!) led to them losing 7% of its revenue when Mandalay stopped using their services. And it gets even more interesting! This energy company took them to court and Mandalay ended up having to pay $87 million to NV Energy so their losses would not be passed on to existing NV Energy customers. “This is what happens when disruptive technology becomes popular: the monopolies fight back” (CBC).

The emergence of solar as a clean energy alternative is not new, especially in sunny desert regions! States have been legislating changes which require companies to use more clean energy for many years. However, many utilities have neglected to plan for these changes. As a result, this example reveals what occurs when we fail to plan.

The Good – Anticipatory Planning 

In contrast, UPS, known for their logistics solution, is branching into something unusual and new – 3D printing. While this may seem like a stretch, this decision is a result of intentional foresight work. Foresight is the ability to anticipate and respond to trends and key external forces which have the ability to disrupt the way we do business. Here is how UPS used foresight to respond to disruptive technologies in their environment:

‘Aside from its main package delivery service, UPS gets an undisclosed portion of its revenue from storing and shipping parts for manufacturers. If those customers were to switch to 3D printing their own parts, that business would face a drastic reduction. To counter that threat, UPS has chosen to get on board the 3D revolution, and is now looking to offer a service in which UPS will print out plastic parts – anything from nozzles to brackets to prototype soap dispensers or multi-faceted moving parts – around the world and deliver them’ (Freuters).

Foresight also explains why UPS is investing in companies that make drones and an upstart one-day delivery company (Frueters).

As a futurist and strategic foresight junkie my heart is warmed when I read stories about companies like UPS. In contrast, my blood begins to boil when I read examples about the electricity industry (because I pay for their ineptitude on my monthly bill). So even though the statement may be overused, failing to plan is indeed planning to fail.

If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy. Alvin Toffler

In times of rapid change, a crisis of perception – the inability to see an emerging novel reality by being locked inside obsolete assumptions – often causes strategic failure, particularly in large, well-run companies. Pierre Wack

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source: Reuters, CBC

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Assessing Organizational Opportunities: The Sigmoid Model

In the past month, a surprising amount of my consulting discussions have focused on something called the sigmoid curve. This is unusual because the sigmoid is actually a mathematical principle, an area that is not my specialty! However, this math concept provides organizations with some rich insights about what they can expect on their organizational journey.

The term sigmoid means ‘S-shaped’. It is derived from the sigmoidGreek alphabet letter sigma which is in a shape that is similar to an ‘S’. The illustration on the right reveals what a basic sigmoid curve looks like. While this model has strong math applications, it has evolved in its use in many other areas of life. Specifically, my recent discussions have focused on how sigmoid ‘S’ shape reveals business insights about the life-cycle of organizations.

The core lesson from the sigmoid curve is that all good things end. For example, the chart on the right applies the sigmoid to business development. It reminds us that our organizations go through various phases. It begins with relatively Sigmoid Businessflat progress when a company is launched (the inception stage). However, over time, a well-run organization will eventually reach a period where growth occurs. This will continue as organizations reach maturity in their processes. However, at some point, organizational decline is inevitable.

Successful organizations learn to launch a second sigmoid curve when the company is in the maturity stage. Adding a new product, acquiring a competitor or shifting strategy are some common ways that this occurs. The chart on the right demonstrates what launching Sigmoid 4a second sigmoid looks like. In fact, successful organizations will launch several sigmoid curves over their lifetime.

For example, Kodak was once heralded as the global leader in photography. However, in 2011 they filed for bankruptcy after 123 years of operation. The key to their demise was an inability to adapt to digital photography. Their business model had quietly matured to a point of decline that could not be halted. Their inability to launch a new sigmoid curve during their mature stage led them to a point of no return. In contrast, their competitors learned how to launch another sigmoid curve before they hit the decline stage.

Once you are aware of this concept, you will find that our business world is full organizations that are launching sigmoid curves. Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality as they believe that this will be a key to their future success. As I ordered my morning coffee at Starbucks a sign invited me to come back for a glass of wine and an appetizer after dinner – another sigmoid curve is being launched. In the 2008 election, President-elect Obama used social media to redefine the political campaign process and created a sigmoid that is still being replicated.

Sometimes sigmoid curves work (the Carl’s Jr. hamburger franchise began by purchasing a hot dog cart) and sometimes they do not (anyone remember McPizza’s?). However, you can be confident that your organizational plans will decline at some point. The key to avoiding the decline stage is planning change when things are going well. Unfortunately, the maturity stage often creates a false sense of security and an unwillingness to change. But as Kodak reminds us, not changing is even more costly than the pain of change.

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Leading Change Infographic

When I ask people to define effective leadership I get a wide array of answers. However, they often share a common them and it is something called change. Change is a catalyst that seems to require a bevy of leadership skills; communication, courage, concern for people and strategy (to name a few). This principle was recently revisited when I spent time with a talented group of people.

Last week I was privileged to spend a day leading a workshop for the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce. This newly formed entity is a result of the merger of three separate Chamber of Commerce offices in our valley. It is a progressive and logical decision to amalgamate three similar, small-sized enterprises. However, the logistics and leadership involved in this merger is no small feat! During their first formal post-merger board retreat, much of their time together focused on various aspects of leading change.

For many participants, a key ‘aha’ moment of the day occurred when I presented the chart below. It outlines five fundamental ingredients which are required to lead change. Similar to baking a cake, if an ingredient is missed, the cake won’t bake properly (see Baking a Cake with One Ingredient).  From a change leadership perspective, this chart helps us identify what will occur when we fail to include all of the necessary ingredients in a change process. It is also a simple means by which to diagnose change efforts that are not going well!

Leading Change Chart

While it is tempting to spend time describing the content of this chart, it really needs no explanation. This is why it resonates so quickly with people when I use it. However, the diagnosis is often easier than the remedy. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and lasting change will require a lot of time and intentional leadership.

I’ll conclude with a few simple questions. In your experience with change, which of these ingredients is most often missed? Which one is the most challenging to provide? Which one is your ‘sweet spot’ (the easiest)? Finally, which one is your ‘sour spot’ (the hardest)?

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:



Going Tribal: When Globalization Fails

Much ado about globalization has occurred over the past two decades. Spurred by technology, the ease of travel and our never-ending appetite for cheap products, our globe has seemingly grown smaller as more and more cultures connect to do business.

However, trends are often accompanied by counter-trends. This simply means that a segment of the population pulls in the opposite direction as a means to counter a trend they do not like. For example, the modern trend of ever-present technology is increasingly facing a counter-trend of ‘unplugging’. There are vacations designed to help people unplug and even recovery groups for those addicted to technology (similar to AA).

Europe is currently in the midst a major counter-trend against globalization.  It is called tribalism and I believe that its’ impact will signal a major change in the globalization norms we have experienced in recent decades. Tribalism refers to a way of thinking or behaving that places your loyalty with your ‘tribe’ (a group with whom you share affinity) rather than to your country, social group or friends. While globalization has quietly turned us into a global village, tribalism seeks to ensure that we take care of the needs of our own little village first! Here are two examples of how tribalism is currently manifesting itself in Europe.

  1. Immigration. There is tremendous backlash in many parts of Europe as a result of the major influx of refugees that many countries have experienced. A country like Germany has been welcoming millions of immigrants with open arms (an example of an attitude that embraces globalization). At the same time, we see other countries closing their borders and citizens mounting protests against immigration (an example of tribalism).
  2. Brexit. On June 23, British citizens will vote to determine if their nation will leave the European Union (EU). This issue is closely related to many of the issues noted above regarding immigration and perceptions that leaving the EU will protect British financial interests (consider the recent monetary bailouts for Greece). To loosely quote Shakespeare, this referendum can be summarized as,”To be globalized or to be tribalized. That is the question“.

The counter trend of tribalism also manifests itself in our workplaces. For example, business departments that seek their own needs ahead of the company they work for are demonstrating an aspect of tribalism. Concerns about members of the same family working for the same company or department (typically called nepotism) also relates to concerns about tribalism.

Globalism and tribalism and complex issues that I cannot adequately debate in this short blog. However, awareness about this tug of war between global and tribal priorities is something that we each need to develop. Expect it to continue to increase in significance in the decade ahead.

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:


27 Charts of Leadership Communication Styles Around the World

Earlier this week I shared a great infographic about differences in global leadership (24 Charts of Leadership Styles). It used the amazing work of Richard Lewis and his work on global leadership and culture. Today’s content is a follow-up infographic from Mr. Lewis. It focuses on differences in global communication styles.

As a Canadian who lives in America and occasionally teaches in Europe, I have had my share of communication mishaps. I have learned that the need to develop cultural agility is a critical skill for 21st century leaders. Take a look below and see if you have experienced any of these differences. Or more importantly, assess how others view you!

communication patterns charts_03

Interested in learning more about global leadership? You may enjoy some of my past posts about leadership norms around the word: Gender EqualityAssertivenessFuture Orientation, Power DistancePerformance Orientation, Human Orientation and Individualism

When Cultures Collide by Richard Lewis is available for purchase on Amazon.

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

24 Charts of Leadership Styles Around the World

Today’s content was originally posted by my colleague Paul Sohn. It contains a fantastic overview about global leadership styles and he graciously allowed me to recycle it for your enjoyment. 

I had only been in Lithuania for an hour when a store-clerk looked me in the eye, shook her finger under my nose and forcefully said, “No! No! No!” in broken English. This unusual experience quickly taught me that things work differently in Lithuania! From a legal perspective, I learned that you cannot buy beer at the grocery store after 10 p.m.! This brusque statement was an actually an act of someone doing her job! From a leadership perspective, I learned that blunt and forceful communication is a norm when you are working with someone who grew up in Lithuania during the Soviet occupation.

We encounter vastly different leadership situations depending which patch of earth we stand on. The following infographic provide 24 insightful ways to understand leadership differences across the globe. They were developed by Richard D. Lewis in his book When Cultures Collide.





Interested in more about differences about global leadership? Later this week I will post part II (another infographic) which provides valuable insights about cross-cultural communication. In the meantime, you may enjoy some of my past posts about leadership differences around the word: Gender EqualityAssertivenessFuture Orientation, Power DistancePerformance Orientation, Human Orientation and Individualism

When Cultures Collide is available for purchase on Amazon. You may also be interested in Paul Sohn’s recent book, Quarter-Life Calling: How to Find Your Sweet Spot in Your Twenties.

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

How Do Leaders Deal With Disappointment?

Prior to some business travels I arranged for three people to help me with some small projects while I was away. As my trip was an extended one, it was helpful to lighten my load by downloading a few tasks. However, upon my return I discovered that none of the tasks had been completed and I had to play catch-up with things I thought had been taken care of.

Does this sound familiar to you? Can you recall the emotions you had to manage as you handle the disappointments of your professional (and personal) life? As a result of this experience, I have been pondering a question which lies at the crux of this story:

How do leaders deal with disappointment?

As I have pondered this question my mind was drawn to some work from a colleague, Dr. Catharyn Baird. She has developed an ethical decision making model which is a helpful way to understand the different approaches that we use to make moral choices. By adapting her framework, I have developed a means by which we can assess our disappointment response styles. Here are the four leadership approaches to disappointment.

Head: This mindset takes a logical approach to disappointment. It deals with the facts, assesses alternatives and then acts on them. The inner voice of this perspective says, “Be logical. Define the problem, determine options, select the best option and deal with it. Don’t focus on the things you cannot change and deal with the things you can.”

Heart: This perspective takes an empathetic approach to disappointment. It may focus on the emotions that this challenge causes you (frustration, anxiety, anger) or it may try to assess the heart of the other person (what is going on in their lives that led to this outcome?). The inner voice of this perspective asks, “How does this make me or the other person feel? What are the issues that caused this disappointment? How can I positively (or negatively) respond in light of these emotions?”

Me: This approach considers how disappointment personally affects you. The inner voice of this perspective asks, “What did I do that caused this? Were my requests unclear or unrealistic? What could I have done differently to achieve my goals? How can I respond in order that this doesn’t happen to me again?”

Them: This approach considers the other person and minimizes your own personal disappointment. The inner voice of this perspective asks, “What are the issues in the other person’s life that caused this? Did they see my requests unclear or unrealistic? What do we need to do to ensure that this doesn’t occur again?”

I believe that leaders must learn to use all four of these perspectives in order to make well-thought out conclusions. Each perspective has questions that are salient and helpful. However, each perspective also carries a bias which naturally excludes consideration of some other useful perspectives.

Disappointed leaders who only focus on themselves (me) are apt to stomp on others. Those who only focus on others (them) they will have a tendency to place the needs of others above their own. The heart approach can focus on feelings instead of action. The action-oriented head approach can be a means to avoid the relational efforts required to work with others.

Effective leaders know themselves, their biases and their blind spots. Your disappointment style is one more way by which to understand your leadership style. Do you know your bias? Which of these four perspectives – head, heart, me or them – do you gravitate to most quickly? Which disappointment perspective do you find the hardest to use?


Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email:

The content of this article was influenced by the work of Dr. Catharyn Baird and her work on the Ethical Lens Inventory.

Photo Credit – Lithuanian beach via @jlsuderman (Instagram)

A Zuckerberg Sized Conundrum: Assessing a Leaders Motive

If you pay attention to pop culture you will have noticed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla, recently gave birth to their first child (a daughter named Max). Along with this life-changing event, Mark and Priscilla also decided to announce another momentous decision – the donation of approximately 99% of their wealth to a charity.

Sort of.

This is where the story gets interesting and complex. The donation was not given to the place we expect donations to go – a charity – something with official government status and a bevy of regulations and guidelines to keep ensure ethical operations. Instead, they created another company by which to accomplish their noble goals of improving global education, health and community development. This technically means that this charitable gift is free from any of the guidelines that we typically consider – well, charitable!

As you have likely noticed, the media has jumped all over this issue and turned it into something that feels scandalous. I’m sure you also have your own opinion about the Zuckerberg’s decision (and I trust it is informed by more than your Facebook feed!).

Wherever you stand on this unusual event, I believe there is an important principle at work. At the heart of this issue is one of the most important matters of leadership. It is called motive. If Aretha Franklin believes that love boils down to R-E-S-P-E-C-T then leadership boils down to M-O-T-I-V-E. Most of the media stories about the Zuckerberg’s are simply guessing at the motive behind this decision.

So how does one measure motive? Initially, by our words. But more importantly, over time, our motive is measured by our actions. This is why I believe that most of the diatribe about this donation is premature. Over time, Mark and Priscilla’s actions will reveal the true motives of this decision. It will be shown through choices about how they establish accountability, who they place on their board, how they prioritize efforts and how they manage operating costs.

A leader’s motive can be stated but their true measure is best discovered in practice. Mother Theresa is appreciated because she told us that we need to love the poor. Mother Theresa is loved and honored because she spent her life doing it. Her actions revealed her motive.

The Zuckerberg conundrum should also make us look at ourselves and ask some hard questions. While it may be easier to point your finger and judge others, what are you doing with your money that isn’t simply for your own good? During this Christmas season, a time for giving, where are your gifts directed? Are you using a charity to channel your giving or are you donating directly to your own priorities (as the Zuckerberg’s did).

So Mark and Priscilla, I laud your donation gesture. It is a wise first step to wealth management. I strongly believe that wealth is entrusted to us rather than bestowed upon us. However, time will tell whether this non-traditional approach is effective. Because, over time, the motives of our leaders will become clear. And in the same way, yours will too!


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman an educator, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He regularly donates to charity but has not yet set up his own company to do this. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman