Leadership: Passion In The Workplace – Why Does it Die?

August 7th, 2010
It is 10.30 in the morning. Candidates are being interviewed. Later that day a candidate is selected for the role subject to reference checks. References are excellent. The successful candidate is strong in the areas required. The candidate’s passion for the organisation and for the role is very high.

Eighteen months later, despite passion for the organisation and the role, this employee resigns. What went Wrong? Let’s examine possible causes for the resignation. First, we must understand the meaning of passion.

What is passion?

Passion is strong emotion, strong enthusiasm for a thing, for doing, (The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary).  In the workplace, passion is being very enthusiastic about what you are doing.

However passion without self-control, discipline and determination results in failure. Why? Because in the workplace enthusiasm needs to be focused on meeting performance requirements on a day to day basis. And it is at this point that passion can deteriorate into job dissatisfaction and conflict.

Why does passion die?

I am often asked “What can leaders do to create passion in employees?”. This is the wrong question. The question should be “Why do employees lose their passion?”.

Just as a tooth ache can be caused by many things, there can be many causes for employees losing their passion – the passion they had when they were recruited. Some typical causes include:

  • Poor leadership processes
  • Lack of recognition for achievements
  • Unclear role requirements
  • Strange pay structures
  • Strange organisation structures and reporting lines
  • Workplace conflict

 These factors drain away the positive energy of employees. Eventually they have only sufficient energy to meet minimum performance requirements, or they resign and move on.

Leader’s attempts to repair the damage rarely succeed. It is too late. Organisation performance declines and employees are no longer a competitive advantage, instead, they become a millstone around the organisation’s neck.

© Dallas Burgess PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2010

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People: The Key to Sustained Success is Discipline and Rigour

March 12th, 2010

Management literature constantly tells us that the quality of the people determine an organisation’s success. If this is true then the decline or failure of an organisation is due to a decline in the quality of its people.

This management maxim also means that the life cycle of an organisation is not inevitable ie start up, growth, maturation, decay. Because if an organisation implements effective people processes it can continue to attract, manage performance and retain high quality people and continue to be successful.

If an organisation fails to implement effective people processes, and particularly if it is growing, it will become over reliant on external recruitment. Since talented people are rare, this will result in the organisation having to compromise on talent to fill roles – this is particularly the case in the current environment of significant skill shortages.

The key to an organisation’s sustained success are effective people processes driven by rigorous and disciplined analytics.


Understand roles across the organisation

A rigorous disciplined analytical approach starts with getting a clear and comprehensive picture of what the roles look like across the organisation. This goes far beyond the traditional standard job description approach, particularly the classic one page wish list of duties.

For each role it is critical to understand:

  • What needs to be achieved
  • What achievement looks like
  • How people need to perform to achieve objectives
  • What psychological and knowledge resources people need


The only way that these factors can be clearly understood is by rigorously analysing the complexity embedded in each role.


Understand the interlocking career paths across the organisation

 The interlocking horizontal and vertical career paths must be rigorously analysed to ensure:

  • Critical task commonalities and differences between roles are identified
  • Critical differences in complexity of roles are identified and career path steps properly reflect differences in complexity. This ensure sufficient remuneration incentive for people to want to progress in their career within the organisation


Providing a comprehensive picture of careers across the organisation encourages top performers to stay. Many of the top global CEOs stayed with the one company and eventually became the CEO because they had opportunities to perform in a diverse range of roles across a number of career paths within the company.


A disciplined and rigorous approach to the management of remuneration

 This can only be achieved if there is a clear, comprehensive and valid picture of the roles across the organisation including differences in the complexity of the work across the roles. Without this picture the organisation will match apples with oranges rather than apples with apples when comparing remuneration with published remuneration surveys. Moreover unless there is a clear picture of the roles within the organisation it is impossible to identify roles in the published surveys that are poorly matched and therefore give an incorrect picture of actual pay levels in the market.


Develop disciplined and rigorous performance management and development processes

 Unfortunately too many organisations treat performance management and development as yard work. Human Resources Managers are busy and under pressure from the CEO and senior executives to fix up pay and focus on compliance. In these circumstances performance management and development often gets perfunctory treatment. Forms are quickly developed and distributed, management is given minimal preparation and training and then the performance management/development system is implemented.

Not surprisingly the result is little or no change in performance levels and HR loses credibility.

A disciplined and rigorous approach requires:

  • Position Descriptions to be prepared at the appropriate level of complexity
  • Clear and agreed Key Result Areas and Performance Indicators
  • A simple performance and development cycle which is understood by managers and staff.
  • Performance feedback to be separated from performance appraisal for pay adjustment purposes
  • Learning and development action plans to be developed and there is a direct line of sight from the complexity level of the role to the complexity level of the Learning and Development actions.

Sustained success is the result of the right kind of hard work. The keys outlined above will get you started on the path to an effective disciplined and rigorous analytical approach to people processes in your organisation.

Dallas Burgess

© PeopleAdvantage 2010  All rights reserved

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People: Are Your Team Members Typecast and Stereotyped?

April 14th, 2009

Many team members have been typecast and stereotyped. Usually their personality type has been compressed into four characteristics. This often happens during team building exercises. When people are typecast they are also stereotyped. This can reduce the effectiveness of individuals and teams. Why?

Team Effectiveness

When a person has been stereotyped other team members have a set perception of that person. This can result in misunderstandings and in people no longer listening to what a team member has to say. Often the underlying logic of the viewpoint is missed, and other team members dismiss the team member as simply behaving to type.

Typecasting can actually reduce communication effectiveness between team members. In extreme cases a team member may refrain from expressing a view because of fears of being pigeon holed and misinterpreted.

Individual Effectiveness

At the individual level a person’s career development can be stunted because, not only can other team members stereotype the individual, but the individual can stereotype themselves. Their self-perception and self-efficacy can be severely limited resulting in a failure to fully realise their potential.

Alternative Approach to Team Building

Taking a dynamic systems approach to team building avoids the problems of typecasting and stereotyping. A dynamic systems approach helps team members to understand:

  • How teams develop and change over time
  • How individuals grow as team members
  • How team identity develops and ways of facilitating effective team identity
  • How to understand the music behind the words – this is about meaningful communication and the blockages to meaningful communication

A dynamic systems approach treats people as mature adults rather than a small set of typical characteristics. Telling people they are mature adults is more powerful for enhancing team performance than all the typecasting and stereotyping in the world.

For more information call Dallas Burgess on +61 2 99573511 or visit: www.peopleadvantage.com.au

Dallas Burgess

Organisational Psychologist

Copyright PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2009. All rights Reserved.

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Socio-Technical Systems: Users are the Kings and Queens of Information Technology

March 17th, 2009

Users are the kings and queens of information technology. One research model, Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davis, 1989), predicts that approximately 40 percent of a system’s use is determined by what people think, and what their peers think about the system. People will use an information system if:

  • It helps them achieve their work objectives
  • It is easy to use
  • The quality of the system, particularly response time
  • Social pressure is positive to the use of the system

These factors are not sufficient to ensure full use of a new system. Effective change management is a critical factor (Al-Mashari & Al-Mudimigh, 2003) including addressing the needs of key stakeholders. This research highlights the critical need to develop strategic implementation frameworks that focus on key cultural and social factors.

So what does all this mean? Users are the kings and queens of information systems. Information technology groups that ignore this research risk implementation budget blowouts, non-acceptance of new technology, alienation of the IT group from mainstream culture and social systems, loss of credibility and unnecessarily high costs for maintenance and ad hoc fixes.

Davis, F. D. (1989). Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of Information Technologies. MIS Quarterly, 13(3), 319-340.Dallas Burgess

Al-Mashari, M., & Al-Mudimigh, A. (2003). ERP implementation: Lessons from a case study. Information Technology and People, 16(1), Business module, 21-33.

Organization Psychologist

Phone: 61 2 99573511

Website: www.peopleadvantage.com.au

© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2009 All Rights Reserved

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Leadership: The Connection between Self-Awareness and Effective Leadership

February 20th, 2009

Self-awareness is critical for effective leadership. Why is this so? What is the connection between self-awareness and effective leadership?

When a leader has poor self-awareness they project their own prejudices, beliefs, problem solving methods and emotional state into the situation or onto a direct report that has a problem. An unaware leader does not know they are doing this. They are part of the problem rather than the solution.

A leader with good self-awareness is able to (metaphorically speaking) draw a mental border around their own feelings and prejudices, step back and recognise that their ideas and feelings are not necessarily appropriate and may not help to solve the problem. The leader is then able to listen, understand the dimensions of the problem and assist in developing solutions. The leader is part of the solution rather than the problem.

Dallas Burgess

Organisation Psychologist

PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited

TF 61 2 99573511

Website: www.peopleadvantage.com.au

© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2009

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Leadership: It’s Time to Review the Role of Executive Intelligence Factors on Effective Leadership

January 24th, 2009

The current global economic crisis demands a critical review of how executive potential is identified and what criteria is used to select, assess and evaluate the performance of executives.

In my letter to the editor published on 22 January 2009 in the Business Review Weekly (BRW) I suggested that:


“… While a high level of general intelligence is important, the crucial

issue is the nature of the intelligence. The difference at the chief

executive level is the ability to identify and understand complex and

ambiguous factors, rearrange and reinterpret those factors, and

construct a qualitatively different clear picture of what the future

looks like. This ability is a differentiator between average and

top-performing chief executives. This is the strategic planning

capability that boards need to look for …”


When testing people for executive roles scientifically researched and proven personality questionnaires will often place a heavy weighting on the intelligence factor. This reflects research that shows how both the quantum and nature of intelligence impacts on many of the remaining personality factors measured by these questionnaires. For example, a leader with a reasonable level of intelligence is likely to more easily accommodate feedback about his ineffective leadership style – although this is not always the case!.

Alternatively, a leader who is struggling to cope with the intellectual complexities of the role, and is stressed, may find it more difficult to understand then adopt new ways of influencing people.

Caution – Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

I am not suggesting that organizations abandon the current emphasis on leadership styles and transformation leadership. However I am suggesting that there is currently a gap in the identification, selection, assessment and evaluation of executive performance. That gap is a failure to map intelligence related factors.


It is critical that organizations select, assess and evaluate executive performance holistically rather than simply focusing on leadership style. The context complexity at each organization level of work needs to be mapped. It is then necessary to identify the impact of the complexity of each level work on the psychological resources that executives require to effectively perform at that level. This methodology is also the key to identifying executive potential, particularly within the context of executive succession plans across the organization.

For more information on how to identify executive potential, select, assess and evaluate executive performance call me on 61 2 99573511.


Dallas Burgess

Organization Psychologist

& Executive Director



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Over-Estimating the impact on Organization Performance of Individual Leadership Styles.

December 11th, 2008

Individual leadership style is a significant factor in organization performance. There is evidence that when the organization has performed well above expectations the CEO’s leadership is often considered to be the major factor accounting for the performance. When the organization has performed significantly below expectations the CEO’s leadership is also considered to be the major factor for the performance outcome. However when organization performance is consistent with median expectations there is a more balanced attribution of causes. In this regard there is less emphasis on the CEO’s leadership and a greater emphasis on factors beyond the direct control of the individual leader.


The total organisation context is very complex.  Some people cope with this by filtering out as much complexity as possible and focus on a single factor – often that factor is the current preferred organisation intervention. Currently leadership coaching is the fastest growing preferred performance intervention.


When considering the impact of leadership, and how to improve the leadership culture, it is important to take a holistic approach and consider all the critical factors that impact on organisation performance – particularly those factors that are beyond the control of individual leaders.


Factors that may be outside the direct control of an individual leader include:


  • Economic environment
  • Organization culture – a leader is both informed by the culture and acts on the culture
  • Industrial environment
  • Employee’s behaviour outside the control of the leader (eg, a key group of old-timers who cannot be dismissed actively undermining the leader)
  • Industry competition
  • Financial health of the organisation (eg, non-profit charity organisations with limited financial resources to attract and retain top performers)


In previous posts I have discussed the problems created by Change Silos (How to Avoid Change Silos – posted on 18th July 2008).  Leadership programs need to be considered and implemented within the total context of the organisation. This means all the factors that inform individual leadership styles need to be evaluated.


Moreover, consistent with organization renewal principals, the leadership program needs to be ongoing and continually adjusted and synchronised with the ongoing adjustments and synchronisations of the other components of the organisation’s internal and external environment.



If you would like more information on how to develop an effective leadership program within an organization renewal framework call Dallas Burgess 61 2 99573511 or visit www.peopleadvantage.com.au and send an email to Dallas.




© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Below I have shared several of the articles listed in the newsletter, along with a few more that I searched out, and i’ve provided a little insight into each view there of them


How to Manage Dysfunctional and Destructive People

November 28th, 2008

Here are some tips on how to manage some types of dysfunctional and destructive people.


It is important to understand that this article is not concerned with isolated and/or one off behaviour.  Behaviour is considered dysfunctional only when there is a clear pattern of behaviour, which is systematically and well documented over time.


Passive Aggressive Behaviour


Behaviour Includes:


·         Passive resistance, covert, angry

·         Controlling, undermining, manipulation

·         Resistance, Stubborn, inertia 


 Some Tips:


·         Be careful, don’t blame yourself, use self-talk, be rational, be cool

·         Document the behaviour for yourself; including the experience of other people and/or reports

·         Don’t play the game – this means don’t allow the passive aggressive person push your buttons

·         Be assertive – try to avoid getting angry, or at least displaying anger, and make sure you get the facts right

·         If you manage the person; ensure they understand that you will not tolerate their behaviour

·         Don’t lose your cool; passive aggressives get a “kick” out of you losing control and playing into their hands

·         If they are your boss; aim to get contracts, written agreements, protect yourself!


Bullying Behaviour


 Behaviour Includes:


·         Dominance, humiliation

·         Intimidation, exploitation of power imbalance

·         Behaviour will lack empathy 


Some Tips:


·         Don’t let bullies win; report them to management

·         Talk to your peers and other people, bullies like to divide and conquer and isolate people

·         Respond in a calm non-emotional way, avoid eye contact

·         In a group just ignore the person

·         In a group, you and other members walk away; bullies need an audience; they believe an audience confirms their behaviour

·         Bullying is a complex problem; requires effective organisational policies and procedures to deal with it

·         Dismissal is the only answer for repeat offenders


Workplace Psychopathic Behaviour


Behaviour Includes:


·         Amoral, exploitative, unprincipled

·         Deceiving, dishonest, remorseless

·         Anti-social, lack of guilt

·         Narcissism – very self-centred

·         Bullying behaviour (see above)


It is estimated that 3 to 4 percent of males and 1 percent of females are psychopaths


Psychopaths are very destructive to the organisation and very damaging to individuals.


Some Tips:


·         Psychopaths do not change

·         If you identify a pattern; warn others, collect facts – as many as possible

·         Look for unprincipled patterns; but remember, one unprincipled action does not make a psychopath – it may be inexperience, immaturity, lack of knowledge about organisation policies and procedures etc

·         Don’t cover for anyone you believe is behaving in an unprincipled manner; also copy documents and ensure minutes of meetings outline concerns about decisions, advice received etc

·         Talk to a senior member of the organisation about your reservations and concerns

·         Psychopaths are successful because they “divide and conquer” – it is difficult to get the full picture; each person really only gets a “bit of the picture”. There will be many victims across the organisation.


·         Generally, psychopaths can only be effectively dealt with if they are revealed or there is a threat that they will be revealed

·         So the strategy is to take actions that reveal the unprincipled behaviour pattern

·         This needs to be followed by dismissal




The source for much of this material is “Difficult Personalities – A practical Guide to managing the hurtful behaviour of others” Dr H McGrath & H Edwards: 2000, Choice Books


Also, the following books are good for learning about psychopaths:


“Working with Monsters – How to Identify and Protect Yourself from the Workplace Psychopath”: Sydney, Random House Australia


“Snakes in Suites – When Psychopaths Go To Work”: Paul Babiak Ph.d & Robert D. Hare Ph.d; 2006, Harper-Collins


You can purchase these books at our Organization Renewal Online Store. Go to Blogroll and click onto the store.



© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All Rights Reserved

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Technological Change: It’s Time to Revisit Socio-Technical Systems Approaches to Technological Change

November 16th, 2008

“There is nothing so practical as a good theory” Kurt Lewin

 Both technology and people are critical to the delivery of strategic objectives in organisations. However the balance seems to be in favour of satisfying the technological imperative to the neglect of harnessing the full potential of people to effect significant change across the organisation.

 It is time to revisit the application of socio-technical theory in leading change in organisations.

 This is the first of a series of articles on the critical role of socio-technical approaches to change in the complex modern world of organisations.

 What is a Socio-technology System?

 The free encyclopedia “Wikipedia” states:

 “ The term socio-technical systems was coined in the 1960s by Eric Trist and Fred Emery, who were working as consultants at the Tavistock Institute in London.

 In organizational development, socio-technical systems (or STS) is an approach to complex organisational work design that recognises the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. The term also refers to the interaction between society’s complex infrastructures and human behaviour. In this sense, society itself, and most of its sub-structures, are complex socio-technical systems.”

 The dictionary of sociology published by Oxford University Press in 1998 extends the working definition of Socio-technical Systems:

 socio-technical system A term devised to avoid the rather simplistic technological determinism in much mainstream organization theory. It was coined by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in Britain, and used in the theory of organizational choice which guided their programme of applied research.Though accepting the conventional wisdom of industrial sociology and the

Human Relations Movement


that in-plant technical factors affect the quality of social relationships at work, the Tavistock researchers argued that technology merely constrains human action, rather than rigidly determining behavioural outcomes. Conscious choice can build good human relations into the technical workflow. Indeed, for any productive problem there is typically a range of technologically equivalent solutions, with differing implications for human relations.By emphasizing the element of choice, and the mutual influence of technology and the social systems of the workplace, the Tavistock researchers sought to move away from technological determinism towards greater appreciation within management of the need for consultation, innovation, flexibility, and an open mind in the design of work processes and procedures. The consultancy and action research work which led to the formulation of socio-technical systems was carried out in the coal-mining and textiles industries in Britain and India in the 1940s and 1950s, and seemed to show that work teams which operated a flexible allocation of tasks and jobs achieved higher


, lower absenteeism, and fewer accidents than work teams with a rigid division of labour and inflexible ‘segregated’ task groups.The Tavistock studies were criticized for underestimating the difficulties of reconciling economic, technical, and social efficiency. However, the idea of the socio-technical system (though not the term itself) has passed into conventional thinking about work organization, flexibility issues, and the impact of technical change. “



© A Dictionary of Sociology 1998, originally published by Oxford University Press 1998.

The Dominance of Technological Determinism

 People often feel dominated by the technological imperative. Experience suggests this is a major cause of resistance to change. Moreover they believe technological change is techno-centric – change is implemented as though the organisation exists only as a technical system – devoid of people.

 This is particularly the case where centralised IT groups, with “Expert” cultures, impose technology on the wider organisation without any in-depth engagement with the people impacted by the new technology. People are instruments for interrogating and manipulating databases. Any people work eg satisfying customer needs, is considered separate to the core work of the organisation – which is satisfying the needs of multiple and diverse information technology systems.

 In-Depth People Engagement

 There is a paradox in many modern organisations. If IT groups are asked to explain their philosophy on change the discussion will inevitably revolve around some form of socio-technical systems approach. Similarly, if the same questions are discussed by HR groups, again the discussion will revolve around some form of socio-technical systems approach to change. Yet when feedback surveys are administered across these same organisations there is often considerable dissatisfaction expressed with the way technological change is implemented. Why is it so?

 Is it possible that technological change is just so complex, coupled with significant time and budget constraints, that it is simply not possible to ensure quality engagement with the people impacted by the change? And is this compounded by the dominance of technological determinism whereby technology is King and people are mere instruments of the King?

 Can organisations continue to just pay lip service to the implications of socio-technical systems? Or has the time arrived whereby organisations have no alternative but to tackle complexity head on and undertake in-depth engagement work with people. Rather than deny complexity it is not better to work with people to capture the whole complexity – people who know can help break down complexity into manageable chunks.

 These questions and others will be explored further through references to research and the experience of practitioners in the field. Suggestions for new ways of tackling technological change within the context of the socio-technical systems framework will be discussed in future articles.

 Dallas Burgess


 © PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All Rights Reserved

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Leadership Coaching: Why Some Executives Resist Change

October 26th, 2008

Some executives over-estimate their leadership effectiveness. Other executives are not ready to change.

 Over-Estimation of Leadership Effectiveness

 There is evidence that the more an executive over-estimates their leadership effectiveness compared to the ratings of others, the less likely they will improve with coaching. This is supported by the research literature.

 For example Atwater and Yammarino (1992) found a negative correlation between over-estimators and predicted leadership improvement outcomes. It is suggested that over-estimators use the information to reinforce their opinion that he or she is doing well and no changes are needed.

 In my coaching practice, using 360º Leadership Feedback, I have found that when a leader’s effectiveness self-rating is significantly higher compared to the ratings of others, there is often only minimal improvement made by the leader. In extreme cases the leader’s self-perception of their effectiveness will border on delusional thinking. As a result the leader will not see the need for change and is not motivated to change.

 Readiness for Change

 A second area of resistance centers on an executive’s readiness for change.

 The Transtheoretical Model of Change (Grant 2006) sets out the stages of change as:

 Precontemplation: The leader has no intention to change in the foreseeable future.

  1. Contemplation: The leader is considering making changes, but have not yet made any changes.
  2. Preparation: Increased commitment to change , intend to change in the near future, and are making small changes.
  3. Action: The leader is practicing new behaviours, but has only been doing for a short period of time, say six months.
  4. Maintenance: Consistent practice of new leadership behaviours for at least six months.
  5. Relaps: often there is a return to ineffective leadership behaviours.

 It is very important for the Leadership coach to quickly determine at what stage the leader is at in their development. If it is the Precontemplation stage then a key strategy for the coach is to broaden the leader’s self-awareness of their actual leadership effectiveness. My experience is that the best way to do this is through 360º leadership feedback. In my opinion the best researched, most valid and reliable instrument for this purpose is the Multi-Factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ).

 It is a waste of time and money if the coach attempts to facilitate a leadership development program if the executive is not ready for change.


 A leader’s over-estimation of their leadership effectiveness, particularly if it is significant, will reduce or prevent the leader moving from Precontemplation through the stages to Maintenance. The challenge for the coach is to find ways to broaden the leader’s perception about their effectiveness.

 If you would like to read further about how leaders can deceive themselves click Organization Renewal Online Store (see Blogroll) and read the reviews for:

 “Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box: Published by The Arbinger Institute.”

 I also recommend:

 Evidence Based Coaching Handbook: Putting Best Practice to Work for Your Clients; See below for reference – This book can also be purchased through our Organization Renewal Online Store


 Does self-Other agreement On leadership Perceptions Moderate The Validity Of leadership and Performance Predictions?: Personnel Psychology 1992, 45; Leanne E. Atwater, Francis J. Yammarion.

 An Integrative Goal-Focused Approach to Executive Coaching in Evidence Based Coaching Handbook – Putting best Practices to Work for Your Clients; Dianne R.Stober and Anthony M. Grant; 2006; John Wiley & Sons.

Dallas Burgess


© PeopleAdvantage Pty Limited 2008  All rights Reserved.














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