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

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:

[Infographic] Gen Z Just Graduated from College! So What Are They Like?

Over the past year two of my students have taught me a lot as they have undertaken thesis work related to generational differences in the workplace. A few of my blogs have addressed this theme in recent months (The Millennial Way and Defining Workplace Generations). Today I am continuing this topic by discussing a generation that has not received as much press as it should. But Gen Z is about to get a lot of attention!

You see, we have just entered the zone where Gen Z’s are graduating from college. Most demographers define this generation as those born between 1995 and 2010 which means that the first wave of this cohort just graduated. You can expect to see many of their applications and resumes in the months ahead. And as we have learned with previous generations, they will bring some changes!

The content below is courtesy of Richard Madison, a marketer at the Brighton School of Business (U.K). It provides some very practical insights about Gen Z. I trust it will help your organization prepare for yet another wave of unique expectations in our increasingly multigenerational work environments.



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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, Gen X’er 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: Brighton School of Business and Management

Defining Workplace Generations: Infographic

A common theme in my work relates to the complexities of leading an inter-generational workforce. We use different terms to describe these collections of unique mindsets and values – the younger generation, Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers to name a few. However, sometimes we sling around these terms without fully understanding who they really apply to. Are Gen Y and Millennials synonyms? What do we call those born before Baby Boomers?

A recent article in The Atlantic revealed that much of the confusion about generations is merited because there aren’t definitive terms. Since generations are simply artificial monikers that we use to describe a similar group of people, there is no legal or official version of what years these so-called generations span (with the exception of Baby Boomers – they are the only official generational category used by the US Census Bureau – source: Bump). In fact, most of the definitions we use find their origins in popular media.

However, I have co-created the following chart as a means to provide some common language around this issue. So here are seven generations and their approximate time spans.

Generations with Suderman

While a lot of talk is still focused on Gen Y and Gen Z, I am personally very interested in the generation which will follow them. “Futurist, demographer, and TEDx speaker Mark McCrindle is leading the campaign to call anyone born after 2010 a part of Generation Alpha. According to him, 2.5 million Alphas are born around the globe every week” (Strebenz). Everyone born since 2010 falls into the Alpha category (as will anyone born until 2030).

Effective organizations learn to harness the collective strengths of all the generations they have in their workforce! Contact me if you would like to discuss how to lead lead an increasingly inter-generational workforce!

In an upcoming post I will discuss more details about how different generations impact our workplace. Subscribe to my blog to stay in the loop!

Head ShotJeff Suderman 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 Future-Readiness (and he loves great customer service!). He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email:


Bump, Philip (March 25, 2014). Here Is When Each Generation Begins and Ends, According to Facts. The Atlantic on-line.

McCrindle, Mark (March 22, 2016). Gen Z & Gen Alpha Infographic. The McCrindle Blog on-line.

Strebenz, Christina (Dec. 5, 2015). Here’s who comes after Generation Z — and they’ll be the most transformative age group ever. Business Insider on-line.


Customer Service – The Ritz-Carlton Way

Today’s blog contains a summary of a recent presentation about customer service. These ideas were delivered by Donald Lenahan, the Director of Hotel Operations at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Rancho Mirage, California. Mr. Lenahan provided some great insights and I know you will enjoy them.

Customer service.

We know that great organizations do it well! Each of us has received it and we have also provided it. We know what good service feels like and tell our friends about “that amazing time when…”. We also know what bad customer service looks like! In fact, statistics reveal that we tell our friends about bad customer service experiences more than we speak about the good ones! So how can we ensure that our organizations’ customer service efforts create positive experiences?

Effective customer service is something that the Ritz-Carlton has built their business on. It is not simply a core value – it is their core value! And this is why we often think of the Ritz-Carlton as a world class organization. The following seven principles provide insights about how you deliver customer service the Ritz-Carlton way.

  1. Define it. Clear expectations about customer service provide your team with the ability to know what matters. At the Ritz-Carlton, employees understand that their goal is to create happy customers. Exceptional customer service begins with exceptional attention to defining what it is, what it looks like, and what it feels like.
  2. Hire it. “Effective interviewing is about early talent identification”. The Ritz-Carlton has a rigorous and demanding hiring process which involves several different stages. This attention to screening for customer service ability on the front end helps minimize service issues after they are hired.
  3. Train it. “You have to build a service culture. This means training, training, training! We must set clear expectations early on!” The Ritz-Carlton has a thorough training program for new employees. However, what sets them apart may be the retraining they continually do with their current employees! Training ensures that they are continually reinforcing the customer service values of the Ritz-Carlton with all of their staff.
  4. Communicate it. “All of the people in our company are talking about the same thing every day”. The Ritz-Carlton reinforces excellence with weekly reminders which reinforce key customer service themes. Repetitive use of tools such as their training matrix, the 12 service standards and their employee promise all work together to continually reinforce service priorities.
  5. Empower it. “Customer service mistakes will happen. So how do you equip your staff to handle mistakes? At the Ritz-Carlton, “All staff are expected to ‘move heaven and earth’ in order to make customer service occur and correct problems”. When a guests luggage gets lost, or a meal isn’t right employees are empowered to serve their guests.  In this way, customer service failures can become opportunities because they create retention and brand loyalty.
  6. Reward it. Lenahan continually spoke about ways that they recognize and celebrate good customer service. It is done in simple ways such as using thank you cards, sharing positive guest comments, and weekly awards. His comments revealed that employee engagement is related to far more than our paycheck.
  7. Measure it. ‘Delivering effective customer service is a journey of continuous self-improvement”. The Ritz-Carlton has a strong commitment to enabling effective service with data. A customer database is used to track guest preferences. This equips employees with knowledge they can use to provide you with things you want – a room on the ground floor, a bedtime cup of tea or early check-in.

There are some principles which are timeless. Mr. Lenahan revealed that this is the case with effective customer service! The success at the Ritz-Carlton is not a result of a silver bullet or the ‘secret-sauce’ of customer service. Instead, we learned that the Ritz-Carlton standard is achieved through customer service standards are a result of blending intentionality and thoughtfully executed principles.

“Listening is a key ingredient of solving customer service problems”.

Head ShotJeff Suderman 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 Future-Readiness (and he loves great customer service!). He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email:

Showing Email the Door: Why Atos Origin is Striving to be a Zero-Email Business

Today’s guest post is from David Burkus and is an excerpt from his upcoming book, Under New Management, which will be released on March 15. You can find a link to pre-order his book and learn more about him below.

Could you imagine banning email entirely from your business? It sounds incredible, even crazy in this digital age, but to Thierry Breton, CEO of the France-based information technology services firm Atos Origin, it was an essential tool for increasing his employees’ productivity. What follows is the story of one CEO, one company, and one radical solution to a growing problem – email pollution.

When Breton realized that the constant stream of emails was distracting to both him and his employees, he took steps to eliminate what he believed were negative effects on company productivity. In February 2011, Breton announced that he was banning email. In three years’ time, he wanted Atos to be a ‘zero-email’ company. “We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives,” Breton said in a public statement released through Atos’s website. “We are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organizations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution.”

That statement seems surprising coming from the CEO of a technology company employing over 70,000 people in more than forty offices around the world. But perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising. Breton actually adopted a zero-email philosophy for himself long before he announced it to the company. He’d stopped using internal email nearly five years earlier, when he was working for the French government, because he found it hampered his productivity.

Atos polled a sample of 300 employees and monitored the volume of their email. In just one week, the 300 employees sent or received over 85,000 messages. When the company surveyed the participants, it found that the majority of them felt that they couldn’t keep up with their emails, that the time spent trying was time wasted, and that the effort to stay current with email kept them from dealing with more important tasks. Breton found that his employees were experiencing the same issues he’d discovered years before. So he simply banned email.

Atos’s massive size would seem to preclude the banning of email, but in reality it was the size of the company that Breton saw as the reason for the communication bottleneck. “The volume of emails we send and receive is unsustainable for business,” he said. “Managers spend between 5 and 20 hours a week reading and writing emails.” Despite his seemingly radical thinking about email, Breton isn’t exactly the model of a rogue start-up founder testing out wild new ways to work. He’s a middle-aged former minister of finance for France and a former professor at Harvard Business School. Needless to say, he’d put a lot of thought behind his assertion that “email is on the way out as the best way to run a company and do business.”

Of course, Atos didn’t ban electronic communication outright. Instead, the company tried to find a more efficient tool for managing internal communication. The company bought a software firm called BlueKiwi and used its technology to build a social network for the entire enterprise. The network was organized around 7,500 open communities representing products, internal programs, and myriad other projects requiring collaboration. Like email, conversations are threaded so that newcomers to the community can see the past history of the discussion. Unlike email however, conversations are not automatically ‘pushed’ to employees’ inboxes, interrupting their focused work time. Instead, employees can choose to enter the discussion on their terms and their schedule.

The social network improved the sharing of knowledge across the enterprise, made it easier to locate subject matter experts, and most importantly, allowed for more efficient collaboration. The new system has also dramatically cut down on internal email. To help its managers adjust, Atos created training programs for more than 5,000 managers to teach them how to lead their departments and projects in a zero-email environment. The company also trained 3,500 ‘ambassadors’ to provide training and support to their peers as they adjusted to the new system. Now fully converted, the company certifies projects and communication processes as ‘zero-email.’

As radical as it seems, the initiative appears to be working. Although Atos didn’t hit its zero-email target, a study conducted in 2014 by an independent firm showed that by the end of 2013, the company had certified 220 programs as ‘zero-email’ and reduced overall email by 60 percent, going from an average of 100 email messages per week per employee to less than 40.

Possibly of greater significance, employees now report feeling far more productive and collaborative. Collaboration has been enhanced by the internal social network, which doesn’t distract employees by pinging messages to their inbox and actually provides a better-designed platform for group communication. Atos employees post in the company’s internal communities almost 300,000 times a month, and those messages are viewed nearly 2 million times per month. Most importantly, all of those views are by choice.

These email reduction efforts have been good for the company as well: Atos’s operating margin increased from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent in 2013, earnings per share rose by more than 50 percent, and administrative costs declined from 13 percent to 10 percent. Obviously, not all of these improvements were the result of banning email, but the correlation is certainly strong. So is the empirical evidence.

Increasingly, research is exposing the limitations and even the deficiencies of email in modern business. Whether or not companies decide to restrict email, or ban it entirely, both the research and recent experiences of a growing number of companies make a strong case that email may no longer be the most effective tool for communication in the 21st century and beyond.


David Burkus

David Burkus is passionate about leadership, innovation, and strategy. He is the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies Generate Great Ideas and has just released his newest book, Under New Management.  In addition to writing and speaking, David is an associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University, where he teaches courses on organizational behavior, innovation, and strategic leadership.

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



Half-Marathon Leadership Lessons: Perseverance & Push

On Sunday, January 24 at 9:18 a.m., I was dragging myself across the race finish line. Technically, I was running. However, I believe most people could have walked faster than I was running at that point.

At the end of a 13.1 mile half-marathon my energy tank was empty. The first 8 miles of the race was probably the best run of my life! I was in the groove. Adrenaline provided a nice runners high. However, my run began to change between miles 8 and 10. The race guide prepared us for a ‘slight uphill climb’ but it felt significantly slight and my runners high quickly disappeared. By mile 10 my body began telling me to stop.  By mile 11 it was yelling at me to stop. At mile 12 it was screaming! Somehow, the last 1.1 miles felt longer than the first 8 and it required concentrated mental effort to keep my body parts moving.

But I finished! In fact, I even set a personal best time.

I am not telling you this story for self-glorification (if you look up my race results, you will see that they were nothing to brag about!). Rather, life experiences, like running a half-marathon, often provide great insights into leadership and success. In today’s blog I want to share four lessons that I learned as I traversed 13.1 miles.

  1. Leadership will empty your tank. As we begin new jobs, new projects or a new life, we often begin with something akin to a runners high. Like my first 8 miles, it begins pretty well. Until you hit that unexpected uphill stretch. That unproductive employee. The micro-managing boss. At some point, your natural energy will subside and you will need to dig deep. You have untapped reserves but until you push yourself, often one mile at a time, you will not realize or experience the depths of those reserves.
  2. Leadership takes practice. In preparation for this race, I have run many miles. You cannot jump onto the start line and expect to succeed without preparation. Effective leaders grow into their roles. They don’t begin with half-marathons. Place yourself in leadership situations that allow you to run a bit longer than last time as you practice and develop your leadership endurance.
  3. Leaders push boundaries. Sometimes, these boundaries will be pushed by others. The idea to run my first half-marathon was not my own. A few years ago my wife decided it was a great New Years Resolution (yes, she set my New Years Resolution!). I would not have run this race apart from her willingness to push my boundaries. Sometimes, the push must be generated from within yourself. My progress from mile 10 to mile 11, to mile 12, and to mile 13.1 required me to push my running capacity harder than I ever have. My body told me to stop. My mind was encouraging me to stop. Sometimes, the only way leaders finish is because they are willing to push boundaries.
  4. Your leadership environment matters. In fact, it your environment matters a lot! We need to be surrounded by good people to help us be our best. They help us on the days we don’t feel up to the task. Race training is something my wife and I do together. We have discovered that the encouragement and accountability of running with each other makes a huge difference. It motivates us to keep going on the days we just don’t care. I can think of these kinds of people over my career as well. They encourage us to be a better person and to finish what we start, especially during the times when we feel like we are out of gas at mile 12!

My half-marathon experience helps me understand leadership a little bit better. You have your own metaphor that helps you understand leadership in deeper ways. So what’s your metaphor?


Head ShotJeff Suderman is an amateur jogger, 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:

2015 – A Year in Review

As I conclude my second year of blogging I wanted to reflect on the topics that interested you, my readers. In fact, many of my musings are inspired by you – so thanks!

Here are three of your favorite posts from 2015 and one of mine!

  1. The Best Jobs for All 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types. This simple infographic is a wonderful reminder about the enduring truth of Socrates ancient advice – know thyself!
  2. Four things Star Wars Teaches Us About Cross-Cultural Leadership. This excellent post by one of my students will teach you The Chewie Principle, The Jar Jar Lesson, The Ewok Strategy and The Yoda Factor.
  3. 19,739 Definitions of Leadership (or Baking a Cake with One Ingredient). This article reminds us of the wonderful complexity of leadership – one which defies simplistic definitions!
  4. The WOW Factor: Increasing Employee EngagementThe Blue Jays Manager, John Gibbons, teaches us a valuable lesson about leading others.

As I look at the above list I realize that the most read content is re-purposed ideas from others. In fact, this is a wonderful lesson to close the year with! Most of my (and your) moments of brilliance are found in the DNA of others ideas! Here’s to many more re-purposed ideas in the year ahead!

Happy New Year!


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is an educator, futurist, consultant and pracademic 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


Is Leadership a Noun or a Verb?

We often use the words ‘leaders’ and ‘leading’ interchangeably. However, I believe there is a significant difference between these two terms. So what is this difference? At the heart of this answer lies a simple lesson in grammar.

You see, one of these words is a noun (leader) and one is a verb (to lead). If you are rusty on your grammar (as I am), here is a quick reminder:

A noun is the name of a person, place, thing, or idea.

A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence.

When we bestow the title of ‘leader’ on someone, we are referring to a person which makes it a noun. The noun leader describes a role, a position or an office. When we use the word leader as a noun, we focus on the title of leadership. This may be earned (such as a President), it may be bestowed by others (when you are asked to be a team leader) or it may even be inferred (when everyone at the boardroom table looks to you for an answer). Leader is a noun.

However, a person who is a leader (noun) does not necessarily lead (verb). Just because you have been granted a title does not mean you are actually leading. When we use the verb ‘leading’, we focus on the actions of leadership and not the role. Leading may be through our words (Jesus telling his disciples “come follow me”), our actions (standing up to a bully) or our thoughts and visions (Martin Luther Jr. stating “I have a dream”). Leading is a verb.

This means that a leader may not necessarily be leading (because a title and our actions are different). It also means that leading will not always occur by someone who is a leader (because our actions and our title may be different).

As I brushed up on my grammar, I discovered another interesting lesson;

Any English noun can be verbed, but some are more resistant than others.

I cannot read this statement without thinking of the names of people that I have worked with over my lifetime. Some of them seemed to effortlessly use their roles of leadership to accomplish amazing things. They were very good and verbing their noun! However, I can also think of others who held wonderful positions but were inadequate at acting on their duties. They had difficulty verbing their noun. Their verbing process was resistant.

This simple reminder about nouns and verbs, leaders and leading, boils down to the important practice of execution. No matter what title they hold or how knowledgeable they are, the only way a person can lead is by verbing their noun. Effective employees become leaders by verbing their noun! In other words, a title does not make a leader a leader – the act(s) of leading make a leader a leader!

So is leadership a noun or a verb? You can make the choice. But in my world, I know that I look for the verbing process!


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman an educator, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He is actively working to verb his noun. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman