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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Mindset Works

Trend Watch: Truthful Consumerism

The Trendwatching organization released a 4 minute video that provides helpful insights about emerging trends which are impacting our businesses. In it, they address rising societal concerns related to globalization, inequality, mass migration, and technology. More importantly, they provide some suggestions of how organizations should respond in order to succeed in this shifting environment. Watch the video below to find out some tips which will help you succeed in the future.


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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Trendwatching.com

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com

3 Things I Learned About Leadership At My Golf Lesson

At a recent golf tournament, my goodie bag had a coupon for a free golf lesson. If you’ve watched me play, you would strongly recommend that I use the coupon! This week I took Mike up on his offer and spent an hour with him on the driving range. As often happens, I was amazed by the parallels between what I learned as a golfer and the leadership principles that I use with clients. So, as you prepare to unplug and relax over the Christmas holidays, allow me to share three leadership lessons that Mike taught me while swinging a piece of metal at a little white ball.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know. My lesson was enabled by incredible technology. A video camera, a computer and a swing analyzer tablet recorded and analyzed what happened when I swing a club (called ‘Trackman’ for you curious readers). After hitting 12 balls (and far too much turf) Mike told me that he had seen enough and we sat in front of the computer. He then introduced me to about 25 different metrics of my swing. There were terms I had never heard of like smash factor, spin rate and attack angle. But more importantly, Mike also told me that we were only going to focus on 2 of these 25 metrics because they were the most important fixes that would improve my game.

Leadership Application: Are you brave enough to admit that you don’t know? We all have blind spots – in fact, research tells us that you have an average of 3.4! It takes humility to admit you don’t know a lot of things? Are you actively working to lower your leadership handicap by trying to know more about what you don’t know?

  1. Multiple perspectives give perspective. Being able to observe my swing on video from two different angles gave me a perspective on my golf game that I’ve never had. Mike’s on-screen swing diagrams gave me a baseline to measure against. Now when I swing my club, I can visualize my posture, my club angle and work to avoid my turf-digging hip slide. I can’t tell you how many little things I have attempted to teach myself over the years as I have worked to improve my game (watch the elbow, check the stance, are my wrists open or closed…). I suspect that many of them helped. However, in retrospect, they were a lot of little things. In contrast, a lesson with a knowledgeable coach provided me with the big picture. Now I know what to work on first (and it’s not my elbow!).

Leadership Application: Few of us are good at asking for help and I praise those of you who do so! While you can improve your leadership game on your own over time, your perspective is based on your own personal insights. And some of them are not even correct! An outside perspective (or several) will provide you with a different look at your leadership. Others can help you differentiate between the little things and the big things. Do you intentionally get perspective on your leadership from others?golf-swing-2

  1. Practice. Practice. Practice. I only got to hit the ball for about 15% of my golf lesson. The rest of our time was spent watching my swing on video, learning how to balance my posture and swinging my upside-down club at a giant beanbag. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t nearly as sexy as I had hoped. However, Mike’s coaching reminded me that playing the game well is a byproduct of a lot of practice. In fact, by the time we were done the lesson Mike had me hitting 130 yard shots with one hand! Just imagine what will happen with practice.

Leadership Application: Whether it is taking time for education, being a voracious reader of asking a lot of questions, your leadership success is also contingent on practice. What are you doing to practice and improve your leadership game?

To conclude, I’ll also offer a plug for Michael Maggs – he is very good at what he does. If you’re in the desert and you need some coaching to help you get rid of your slice or add a few extra yards send him an email and tell him Jeff sent you (mike@maggsgolf.com or his website). Merry Christmas!


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Dr. 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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Cover Photo: Jeff Suderman (PGA West TPC, La Quinta, CA)

Leadership Lessons: Emotional Intelligence 101

During a meeting with a prospective client this week I was asked how I identify leadership potential. There are many good answers to this question, but to my surprise, I quickly blurted out “self-awareness” before I had even given the question thoughtful consideration.

Socrates is reputed to have once taught his students a simple lesson – “Know thyself”. This theme lies behind the principle of self-awareness. Self-aware people know what they are good at. More importantly, they know what they are not good at (and surround themselves with people who are good at these things!). People who lack self-awareness think they are good at tasks they do not excel at. As a result, they often repeat mistakes and cover up deficiencies.

My best employees have consistently been self-aware people. Conversely, those who have caused me the greatest frustration usually do not ‘know thyself’ very well! This is why I am a fan of the concept of emotional intelligence. It is a principle which reminds us that effective leadership can be learned and is not reserved for those born with the right skills. The infographic below is sourced from Davitt Coroporate Partners and provides a great introduction to emotional intelligence. Developing emotional intelligence is a great way to get to ‘know thyself’ better and increase your leadership capacity.

emotional-intelligence-what-you-need-to-know-infographic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Head ShotJeff 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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Infographic Credit: Davitt Corporate Partners

Leadership Lessons: Thinking Gray

A friend recently introduced me to the wisdom of Steven B. Sample and his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership. I have been pondering his lesson about how effective leaders need to train themselves to think. His model also provides some helpful insights about recent US political events (relax – this will not be another political rant!).

Sample teaches that we all have a choice of approaching complex matters with one of two mindsets:

Binary Thinking: Being bold, decisive and making decisions quickly. Approaching issues as black or white.

Gray Thinking: Not forming an opinion about an important matter until you have heard all the relevant facts and arguments, or until circumstances force you to form an opinion without access to all the facts.

As we assess these definitions we learn that binary thinking is much easier than gray thinking. However, when we use binary thinking as we contemplate complex matters we are prone to make these leadership errors:

  1. Close mindedness: Closing our mind to facts and arguments that will come to our attention later.
  2. Flip-flopping: We flip-flop on issues because we made premature decisions with inadequate information.
  3. False Security: We believe that which we sense is strongly believed by others (Sample).

In psychological terms, point number three is labelled “false-consensus bias”. If we continually listen to only one point of view, our minds begin to subconsciously believe that this view is right (“I keep hearing the same thing, therefore it must be true”). This binary approach limits our ability to think gray on matters we often know very little about. The 2016 US election is full of examples of false-consensus bias (as evidenced by the shock of many about the presidential election results).

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald once stated, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”. Every issue does not need to be approached with gray thinking. However, most of us default to binary thinking more than we should.

As I age, I am finding that I know less than I ever had. I suppose that technically, my repository of knowledge is growing. However, to quote an old adage, ‘the more I know, the more I know that I don’t know’. Perhaps this is what gray thinking looks like in day-to-day life. As a result, I believe we all have a few matters where we need to shift from binary to gray thinking. So what are they? Find your journal and write down two or three things that need to move from your binary column to the gray column.

Thinking gray is a characteristic of great leaders. How gray is your world?


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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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Sean Blanda – The other side is not dumb

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.

5-types-of-conflict

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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

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

Photo Source: FreeImages.com/LisaKong

Hot or Not? Understanding Innovation

One of the benefits of blogging is that it provides me with a steady source of new ideas. Over time, some of these ideas fade while others become even more poignant. One of my biggest ‘aha’ moments was the discovery of something called The Hype Cycle (even the name sounds sexy!). So what is it and what does it teach us?

The Gartner organization makes a living off the Hype Cycle. Figure 1: The Gartner Hype CycleTheir model helps us (and their clients) understand how new innovations move from inception to application. It identifies several distinct phases that an innovation morphs through as it progresses from an idea to something that is productive (see chart). In other words, it teaches us that good ideas take time before they actually become useful.

For example, my teenage son began speaking of the Oculus Rift several ago (the inflated expectations stage). This virtual reality (VR) system was an early leader in the development of VR headsets. However, almost three years after Kaden introduced me to Oculus Rift, we are just entering the zone where VR is becoming a relatively mainstream product (a search for VR headsets on Amazon reveals we are moving towards the plateau of productivity). Therefore, the Gartner Hype cycle equips us with information by which we can recognize the distinct phases that products go through before they are useful.

e-learningSo what does the Hype Cycle concept mean for you? While Gartner uses this model to assess innovations in technology, I believe that this idea is equally valuable with ideas or services as well. For example, the chart on the right uses the Hype Cycle to assess eLearning innovations in higher education. I use the Hype Cycle principle when I assess new businesses, new products, new pop music artists, election campaigns, new services, and even when I meet new people in my networking activities. If you have heard someone speak of an idea that ‘is ahead of its time’ you have also heard an indirect reference to the Hype Cycle. 

The Hype Cycle is a helpful way to help understand the pattern of acceptance for things which are new. While you may not have the science or research backing that an organization like Gartner does, I encourage you to use this model to begin to assess new things.

One can only wonder where hipsters fit on the Gartner Hype Cycle!

Postscript: The chart below outlines the 2016 Gartner Hype Cycle. It will introduce you to some ideas that you have never thought about. I can hardly wait until I can tell someone about smart dust!

Gartner Emerging Technologies 2016


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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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Gartner and WebCourseWorks

Courage: How Do You Fill Your Tank?

This week a client emailed me something that was refreshingly honest:

I am having ‘one of those days’! Do you have any ‘this is why we put up with this crap…the ultimate outcome will be worth it’ blogs that I could read?

I pondered this idea for a while before concluding that I didn’t have a magic blog which addressed this. However, I became fully convinced that we all need things that can get us through the tough times! As I continued to consider this idea, I found myself focusing on the word encouragement. We all need it and few of us receive too much of it. So where do you and I find this vital source of strength? Where do we go to build courage?

The word encourage is derived from two French words:

en (meaning ‘in’) + corage (meaning ‘courage’)

This simple etymology reminds us that encouragement is something that helps us build courage within ourselves. Have you ever thoughtfully considered your need for courage? We need courage to try something new. I need courage when I face uncertainty. You need courage when you are afraid.

I began to realize each of us has an invisible courage tank. Like your vehicle’s gas tank, the level of your courage tank will vary based on life’s circumstances. Sometimes it will be full, perhaps even brimming over. Yet at other times, it will be so empty that you feel like a hitchhiker with their thumb in the air begging for just enough courage to get you by. This metaphor reminds us that you and I must regularly fill our courage tanks!

Lesson 1: We all must obtain courage! You cannot thrive without it.

The next step in my mental journey was pondering where we obtain courage. If we all need it, where do we get it from? My conclusion was that the source of courage is both internal (yourself) and external (others). As an example, there are times when I alone muster the strength needed for a tough meeting or to make a difficult decision. I must draw courage from my own courage tank! There are other times when I rely on others for courage. My mentors, friends, spouse, and even authors I have never met have all made deposits to my courage tank. These deposits and their advice equip me with courage. In fact, my ability to make courage deposits in the lives of others is one reason that I am hired as a business coach. Therefore, in our quest for courage, we have two sources and we must learn to access both.

Lesson 2: Courage can and should be obtained from both internal and external sources.

Finally, I considered the different encouragement needs that I have, If we are having ‘one of those days’, what exactly will encourage us? I believe that a well-balanced courage diet is derived from more than one source. Just as my sources of courage are different (internal and external) my encouragement needs are also different.

Lesson 3: Courage development is fostered mentally, physically and spiritually.

If we only rely on only one source of courage, we will develop imbalance. During your time at the gym have you ever seen someone with a well-built upper body but the legs of a stick-man (I have!)? This same imbalance will occur if we only build courage in one area of our life. Education will build mental courage but it won’t equip your body to fight a heart-attack. Running each week will develop your physical courage but it won’t provide the same peace that time watching ocean breakers will. Like eating a nutritionally-balanced meal, we must also practice balance in our courage-development.

My client’s question may or may not be answered by this blog. No matter, I value the personal lessons that her email evoked. As you seek to maintain a full tank of courage, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. If your courage tank had a full/empty meter, how much is in the tank right now?
  2. Do you intentionally spend time filling your own courage tank? How?
  3. Who are the people in your life that are equipped to fill your courage tank?
  4. Are you filling your tank with a well-balanced blend of courage (mental, physical and spiritual)?

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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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

 

Image Credit

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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

An Exposé: Grading & the God-Complex

As a part-time professor, I have the responsibility and privilege of grading dozens of student papers each year. My best estimate is that I have graded over 500 papers in the past twelve months. It is a privilege to work with so many bright minds!

However, I have noticed a troubling pattern when I get enter ‘grading mode’. I have discovered that the more I grade, the more I tend to embrace the qualities of a god-complex. As a reminder, a god-complex “is an unshakable belief characterized by consistently inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege, or infallibility”. Perhaps this sounds annoyingly familiar to you as well?

For me, grading is a natural catalyst for this problem. Telling dozens of people what they need to improve is a simple way to induce the onset of god-complex. And in turn, it also spills over into other areas of life as well.

I get a bit picky.

I judge things I have no right to judge.

I give opinions about things that are none of my business.

And this is not a good thing!

So now that I’ve bared my soul, I’ll ask you to do the same. You see, I also have friends that demonstrate the symptoms of god-complex. In fact, you may be one of them! You see, I think we all suffer from this disease at times. And left unchecked, it causes all sorts of damage. So in the spirit of improving your health, I want to remind so about some of the places you can catch the god-complex:

  1. Graduation – A classy sheet of paper covered with calligraphy and signatures is often also accompanied by a case of ‘know-it-all’.
  2. A promotion – That nice salary bump, a new office and added responsibility often cause an inflated ego – a tell-tale sign of the god-complex.
  3. Being a parent – Preaching at your kids about all those lessons that you learned the hard way when you were a kid is often evidence of a runaway god-complex.
  4. Compliments – Mismanaged compliments can quickly lead to rapid swelling of the ego.
  5. Marriage – When you live with someone it’s really easy to identify their weak spots. This can easily turn into god-complex. Unless it is diagnosed early, it is a sure-fire way to kill a relationship!

Tim Harford, an economist and journalist sums it up well:

I see the god-complex around me all the time in my fellow economists. I see it in our business leaders. I see it in the politicians we vote for – people who, in the face of an incredibly complicated world, are nevertheless absolutely convinced that they understand the way that the world works.

Several weeks ago I blogged about the opposite of the God-complex, something called humility (see My Favorite Leadership Quality). Humility is the antidote to a God-complex. While we can liken the God-complex to a virus that we catch, humility is more like a muscle that we develop. While the God-complex can be caught, humility is not. Instead, humility is nurtured. It is something you must intentionally grow, develop and strengthen over time. So if the God-complex is a virus, the antidote – humility – is a muscle which must be stretched and exercised. Doing so provides the best antidote for the God-complex that I know of.

My in-box is full of papers that need grading so I must go. However, there is no need to be concerned for me. Writing this blog will be a healthy antidote for my god-complex for a few weeks. However, I know I’ll need another booster soon. How about you?


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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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com