Game of Thrones Lesson #2: We're All a Little Bit Sansa

Hear me out...

As we grow up we are all told about "how life works." Sansa was told in many different ways that:

  • Knights are strong, honorable, and handsome. They protect people.
  • Lords are wise and honorable. They protect people.
  • Ladies are kind, beautiful and have perfect manners. They marry Knights and Lords and are protected.

This is told to her directly by her parents and her teachers. Her mother and Septa teach her the rules and skills of being a proper lady so that she can some day fulfill this life of the Noble Lady. These lessons are also taught indirectly through countless stories and songs of handsome Knights who save beautiful Ladies who are in trouble. Growing up in the distant North, nothing in her life gives her reason to question that life is this way.

When Sansa leaves the North and goes to the capital she finds handsome Knights, Lords and beautiful Ladies. The Ladies are, on first blush, kind and refined as she has been taught. However, she quickly learns that they use their beauty, kindness, and manners as tools to gain power and position. After her father is betrayed, Sansa becomes the beautiful Lady who is in trouble. Unfortunately she finds out that there are no handsome Knights willing to protect her. Instead, the Knights and Lords are dangerous, motivated by power and position, and willing to let her suffer if it means their gain.

Following the rules of the system of Nobility unquestioningly ends up being the cause of her downfall when she tells her father's secrets to the people she was taught to trust. Further, in trusting that an Honorable Knight would save her if she was ever in trouble, she never learns the skills to save herself. Like Sansa, the limits of the worldview we are taught could be our downfall unless we learn a few lessons from Sansa:

Workplace Lesson: Question Reality

Workplace Worldview 1: Consistent service to your employer means you are guaranteed a good job with adequate compensation and benefits going forward. All you have to do is reliably show up and do your job.

Unfortunately most of us know at least one person who had been with a company for many years and was good at their job who was in the initial waves of layoffs in 2007/2008. Budgets needed to be cut dramatically and personnel was the biggest line-item. The employees working there the longest made more money than newer employees, so laying them off had the biggest budget impact. If their skill sets happened to be falling behind the technology change curve, it became an easy choice.

The rule of loyalty based on years of employee Butt In Seat Time is gone. We have to stay up-to-date with the changing landscape of our field if we want to keep our jobs, especially with changing technology. We also know to keep our resume` up to date just in case it's time to move on (See Lesson #1: Never Be Sean Bean).

Workplace Worldview 2: Number of hours spent at work = Productivity. Speaking of Butt In Seat Time, this old school way of thinking about employee productivity is also a thing of the past. It made sense for the Industrial Age where you had to be at the factory in order to make the widgets. That day has gone (overseas) and we are now in the Idea Age. Our primary economic product is the generation, collection, management and dispersal of information/data.

Anyone who generates ideas and information for a living know that the brilliant ideas rarely come on command and not reliably between 8am and 5pm. In addition, much of the work to manage and disperse information is done through the internet, which means it can be done from anywhere and at any time. 

We need to question the assumption that we all need to be in the same place and the same time to be productive. Productivity needs to be measured by actual results, not hours spent at a desk. Otherwise, you may just be measuring time on Facebook or just staring blankly at a computer as those ideas refuse to come when called.

Being flexible about work hours and location would force us to be intelligent and intentional about how we measure actual productivity. In my mind, its worth the effort. You might find that "those darn Millennials" are productivity superheroes when arbitrary restrictions on when and where work is done are history, just like the Industrial Revolution. 

And who wouldn't mind skipping rush hour...

Workplace Lesson: Save Yourself

Workplace Worldview 3: Good things come to those who wait.

Don't sit around waiting to get that well deserved promotion, choice project, or timely raise. Like Sansa waiting for a handsome, honorable Knight to save her, you are likely to be waiting a long time... 

If you want to advance your career or upgrade your lifestyle, you are going to have to put in some serious effort. Maybe that means building your skills in your field by taking a class. It could mean brushing up on those networking and leadership skills through mentorship or coaching to show your managerial merit. It will absolutely require the assertiveness to stand up for ourselves and ask for what we want.


These are just a few of the Workplace Worldviews that don't work anymore. We need to keep going in asking ourselves which of the old ways still work, which are holding us back, and which might betray us. Questioning what we have been taught to assume about life in the workplace isn't necessarily easy, but it's become clear that trusting the old rules of doing business is a luxury we can't afford. Sansa has finally started to learn this lesson in Game of Thrones. We should too.

Never be Sean Bean, and Other Lessons from Game of Thrones

Depending on your workplace, you might find yourself empathizing with characters from the Game of Thrones. Toxic, fear-based workplaces can make it seem like every word and deed needs to be a well crafted power play. They can make it seem like there is no place for mutually beneficial collaboration; and don't even think about showing vulnerability. Even workplaces that are relatively functional can have a few characters you would swear were crafted by George R. R. Martin himself.

In honor of the start of Season 6 of Game of Thrones, I'm going to point out some lessons that can be taken from Game of Thrones to help us be more savvy in the workplace.

Spoilers: If you aren't up-to-date on the HBO series and plan on watching it, you may not want to read further. If something I write here doesn't line up with the show, it's from the books.

Lesson #1: Never Be Sean Bean

Nothing against the actor, but his characters die... a lot.

His character, Ned Stark, in Game of Thrones is no different. I love Ned Stark. He is my favorite character. He's honorable and just with family, friend, and foe. He takes his responsibilities as Warden of the North and then Hand of the King for all Westeros seriously. He is also a loyal father and husband. So, when he gets caught up in the game of thrones while in the capitol of Westeros, he is in a difficult spot. He needs to fight against powerful, corrupt, deadly political forces for the sake of the realm, but he also has to protect the daughters who go with him to the capitol.

Unfortunately for Ned, the treachery and toxicity of the court is more widespread than he could have imagined. Every seemingly honorable person he tries to enlist to help him has their own agenda. Many are more than happy to sell his secrets to the highest bidder. Even after being warned of the danger he and his daughters are in, he stays and fights the corruption in Westeros until it's too late to escape. They've stayed too long and Ned loses his head, literally, to the power-crazed young new king. Talk about the worst "Bring your Daughter to Work Day" ever. 

Workplace Lesson: Ask yourself if this is really the hill you want to die on.

All of the traits that make me love Ned Stark also make him stay too long. Like Ned, those of us who love our careers or love the mission of our company can be our own worst enemy when the workplace becomes broken, toxic or outright corrupt. We stay and we fight to restore its former glory, or the glory that we perceived from the outside. This is a good thing up until the point that the cost to ourselves outweighs the positive impact we can realistically have on our workplace.

None of us face beheading (hopefully). For us, the negative consequences tend to be more subtle. This makes it difficult for us to determine how much we should endure for the impact we can possibly make. Here are a few consequences to think about:

Damage to Professional Reputation

One possible outcome is that your power-hungry, egotistical new workplace "rock star" or boss finds a way to make their least favorite co-worker take the blame for their failure. If you've been the one speaking out about the flaws in their plans, that could be you. Hopefully, if you are aware of the problems to begin with, you can at least make an informed decision about whether your efforts are having an impact. You can then do pre-emptive damage control if you are seeing evidence of improvement, or find another place to work. 

In more extreme cases, the tarnished reputation of the company can tarnish your reputation by association. If you start seeing reputable negative press in your trade media or local media, it's time think really hard about that cost-to-impact ratio.

Damage to Psychological and/or Physical Health

Long hours and chronic stress have serious impacts on psychological and physical health, such as decreases in cardiovascular health, ineffective emotion management, and even Depression and Anxiety. Ask yourself: is the impact you are having in trying to save your workplace worth trading years off your life or significantly reducing your quality of life? If not, it's time to start looking for a new workplace that will fully utilize your talents and energy.

Collateral Damage

Are there people who rely on you who could be hurt by your mission? By the end of Season 5, the consequences of Ned's death include the death of his wife and at least one of their children (I personally think we haven't seen the end of Jon Snow). His living children are separated from each other and in danger.

Again, it is unlikely that the people we care about are in mortal danger as a result of our workplace drama. The harm they may realistically experience is more subtle. The stress, exhaustion, emotional instability, anxiety and depression we experience in our workplace don't magically go away when we walk in the door at home. It can result in us being irritable, emotionally unavailable and/or too tired to do anything with the people we love. Over time this can damage our relationships with the people who are most important to us. 

From one workplace warrior to another, I commend your bravery and loyalty in trying to fix what's broken before cutting and running. But don't be Sean Bean. It's not worth damaging the rest of your professional life, the quality of your actual life, and the people you care about. Time to update that resume`.


Stay tuned for my next post: We're All Just a Little Bit Sansa

You Can Be A Superhero too

I've been asked, why use Superheroes and other fictional characters when talking about real-world issues like workplace effectiveness and team building. I love answering this question:

#1) To Promote Growth: Merriam Webster Online offers two definitions for Superhero: a) a fictional character with extraordinary or superhuman powers; and b) an exceptionally skillful or successful person.

There is no requirement in this definition that a person needs to be able to break the laws of physics to be considered a superhero. You don’t need to be able to fly. You don’t need to be able to bend space/time. You just need to find ways to be exceptional, which is something each of us can achieve. 

#2) Help People to Deal with Weaknesses: Even Superman has weaknesses. Using a comic book metaphor for weakness, kryptonite, and showing that a nearly perfect character can still fall short, can reduce the sense of immediate threat when addressing our own shortcomings. It can also help us to keep an eye out for the weaknesses of employees whose flashier strengths already seem almost supernatural until they fall short.

#3) It makes Professional Development Fun

Here are a few examples of how we can re-image everyday strengths to better appreciate our contributions as well as our colleagues, and to keep an eye out for possible kryptonites.

Looking for natural, everyday exceptional qualities can help to highlight the workstyles of the unsung heroes of the workplace.

Unsung Workplace Heroes

Samwise Gamgee

Samwise Gamgee carries Frodo up an active volcano to complete their mission. 

Samwise Gamgee carries Frodo up an active volcano to complete their mission. 

Super Strengths: Loyalty, Dependability, Protection, Perseverance

Kryptonites: Difficulty adapting to change and standing up for their own needs when in conflict with the needs of others.

At work this may show itself as the quiet anticipation, and carrying out, of whatever needs to be done to keep everyone happy and/or safe.They may get overlooked because they are often the folks that keep the system running day after day without fanfare.


Tony Stark: Iron Man

Super Strengths: Creativity, Speed, Agility,

Kryptonites: Boredom can come quickly and easily, especially with routine. May get caught up in a new exciting project before dotting all the i’s and t’s on the old one.

They excel in openness to new ideas, involvement in multiple projects (even when not asked), and the ability to speak off the cuff on a variety of topics of interest. They probably won't get overlooked, but are often evaluated poorly in workplaces where routine is highly valued and suggestions for improvement of old methods are considered “rocking the boat.”


Frequently Perceived Workplace Heroes

This person is logical and action oriented. They are socially outgoing and tirelessly work towards their goals often getting others to join the mission. The nickname given to this preference combination is The General.

Super Strengths: Focus, Control, Strength, Leadership

Kryptonites: They can move too quickly towards immediate action before considering bigger picture consequences. They might not handle resistance or non-compliance well.


Malcolm Reynolds


These folks can be highly charismatic and don’t take much convincing to throw their talents and energy behind a project that they believe in. The nickname sometimes given is “The Campaigner” and they are often highly visible as they enthusiastically promote their causes.

Super Strengths: Energy, Charm, Speed, Heart

Kryptonites: May overlook practical limitations of a plan before moving forward on it. Potential for bouncing from one mission to another before making sure the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed on the last one. 

We all have the potential to be exceptional, to be mighty in our own ways. Why wouldn't you want to know more about your potential for dashing heroics?

Let me know. What kind of super hero are you? 

Why It Takes All Kinds

I want to take a break in my systemic breakdown of work styles to address why this knowledge is important and the barriers that keep us from using it. After all, we all like to think of ourselves as unique. So why do we insist on treating everyone the same in the workplace, education, and society at large?


Every workplace has spoken and unspoken rules for how we are supposed to perform our job. This goes beyond the job skills specific to our position such as code writing skills for computer programmers or spreadsheet skills for accountants. These are performance rules that cover every day things like written and face-to-face communication, how you structure your time, how you behave in meetings, how you arrange your work space, etc. It is possible to perform our role specific job skills superbly, but have our performance considered unsatisfactory by failing to follow the other rules, regardless of whether they are spoken. 

All the spoken and unspoken performance rules combine to reflect the Workplace Personality: the information are we expected to pay attention to, the decision making process we are supposed to use, how we are supposed to manage our energy, and how we are supposed to manage our work environment. These are the same as the Work Style Personality factors that I've been addressing on the individual level in my recent posts. They have a direct impact on how we communicate, structure our time, behave in meetings, arrange our workspace, etc. 

Individual interactions work the best when each person is able to bring the best of their personality to the table while still being flexible so that the other has the space to bring the best of their personality. The most effective and productive worker-workplace interactions have the same flexibility. 

So why do so many workplaces have a one-size-fits-all approach?


  • It's easier.
  • It's fair.
  • We don't have a good way to systemically understand difference.
  • We don't have a good way to systemically act even when we do understand of difference.


Let's start at the beginning...

It's Easier

A single package for everyone is so much easier. We don't have to think. Everyone just does the same thing, the same way, at the same time and signs on the dotted line. We live and work in a world where there is often more to do than there are hours in our day. So keeping everyone in line makes things easier for everyone...

Not Really

I've been laying out systemically in the last several posts the fundamental differences between people. That means people don't work the same way.

This is more than touchy-feely, free to be you and me stuff. It's about productivity. Ultimately it takes more time and energy to work against your natural Work Style. The greater percentage of the day that is spent working against your natural Work Style, the lower the percentage of your energy that goes into doing your actual job skills. This is your Effectiveness Ratio. It is reduced and your life is more difficult. Not easier.


The idea is that if we make everyone act the same, then we are treating everyone the same, which means we are treating everyone as equals. No one gets more special treatment and therefore no one gets less. So, everyone has the same chance to advance...

Not Really

It would only be fair if we were all the same. Which we aren't. If we choose one way of doing things and strictly force everyone to do it the same way, we are actually favoring those whose Work Style Personality matches the Workplace Personality. Their Effectiveness Ratio gets a boost that is independent from the quality of the job specific skills and work ethic of that individual. 

This means that a chance of advancement is greater for those whose Work Style Personality matches the Workplace Personality. Those whose Work Style Personality is different will have to expend more energy if they hope for advancement.

Rigid adherence to performance rules that favor those whose Work Style Personality matches the Workplace Personality reinforces the status quo as the people who advance to leadership are the ones who match. They then go on to promote others like them, and so on. 

Unless you are applying for a tree climbing job...


No Systemic Understanding of Human Differences

The idea that people are different is acknowledged, but then it takes a hysterical turn. After all, there are an infinite number of factors that go in to create each unique human being, including intelligence, values, skills, and life experiences. Then there's gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. You can't consider everything! It's a slippery slope! Because I can't accommodate every single detail for every single person, everyone has to be treated the same.

Not Really

Work Style factors directly, fundamentally, and systemically impact how we work. We have tools and assessments, like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, that can help us understand these factors as they are reflected in workers and workplaces. You can read my last five blog posts for a brief outline of Work Style Personality types based on the Myers Briggs Typology. My upcoming blog posts will show how the factors work together to systemically influence workplace behaviors such as time management, communication, and leadership.


The System Can't Manage Differences

This is tough for highly controlling, hierarchical workplaces. Creating one prescriptive Standard Operating Procedure that takes different Work Styles into account is difficult. And for some the thought process is that you must keep the reins tight, holding everyone to this one true way at all times otherwise people will slack off and/or mess up. Productivity will suffer. The numbers for the quarter will suffer. Etc...

Not Really

There is a fair amount of research that shows that in the modern American workplace giving people the freedom to use their expertise in their area to determine the best way to do the job results in greater productivity and innovation. Ideally, a person with expertise in the job is hired for the position. Right? Then let them do their job. Then, if you give those people the tools to understand their natural Work Style Personality and the space to maximize their approach to their work, they will further increases their productivity.

Could there be people who take advantage of this freedom and slack off at work instead of improve? Sure. And now you know more about their true work ethic. So document their performance, tell them the consequences for poor performance, and then fire them if their performance does not meet your needs. Now you can replace them with someone with a better work ethic.

In my mind dealing with one or two performance problems is still less work than micromanaging an entire company.

Stay Tuned for my upcoming blog posts as I go into detail on the ways that Work Styles and cultural differences can be used to maximize our performance in key workplace performance areas. The next blog is on Time Management. 

It Takes All Kinds: Where does your energy go?

Thanks to pop(ular) psychology our society has a big misunderstanding of Introversion and Extraversion. We tend to confuse Introversion with shyness and Extraversion with social skills and popularity.

That’s not necessarily the case. I know many socially savvy Introverts and some socially anxious Extraverts. So let’s start over…

There is an internal world full of thoughts, feelings and sensations, and an external world full of stuff and sensations. We all live in both worlds. It’s just that some of us are more tuned-in to our internal world (Introverts) and some are more tuned-in to the external world (Extraverts). Not surprisingly that preference influences where we find much of our energy.


Preference: Internal World

Introverts get much of their energy from and give their energy to their internal world. Part of their internal world is their internal processor through which they run information from the outside world, combining it with their thoughts, feelings and/or values. As a result, they spend more time considering information before responding to their environment. In everyday life this looks like the person in meetings who doesn't speak up until the very end. In the realm of relationships they tend to prefer meaningful connections with a few trusted others. When in the company of those trusted individuals they may let loose and be the life of the party, possibly looking like a stereotypical Extravert. However, at the end of the day they need their alone time to hear themselves think and recharge their batteries.

Fun Fact: A recent study showed that in preparation for an unpleasant or stressful task Introverts tend to seek calm and quiet. They may even clean their room/house before starting in on the task, which can look like procrastination, but is just a way to channel their energy by creating an orderly and calm environment.*

An Introvert, Rory loves Amy and even The Doctor, when he eventually earns it. He does his part in their adventures, but his goal is living a good life helping people in his town as a medical doctor and as a husband to the woman he loves.

An Introvert, Rory loves Amy and even The Doctor, when he eventually earns it. He does his part in their adventures, but his goal is living a good life helping people in his town as a medical doctor and as a husband to the woman he loves.

Preference: External World

Extraverts get much of their energy from and give their energy to the external world. As a result they tend to be sensitive to what is going on in the world around them. They also tend have a more direct connection between the Input and Output in their internal processor. So, in meetings and conversations they tend to take in information and respond to it quickly. I’ve compared conversations between highly extraverted people to ping-pong matches: ideas fly back and forth very quickly.

This can look like neither one is listening and they are just waiting to talk next. However, Extraverts may be demonstrating their interest by contributing the next idea relevant to what the other person said. People with a preference for extraversion get energy from conversations like these and also from interacting in larger, high energy groups. It is part of the reason why they tend to have larger groups of friends and are more at ease in social situations.

Fun Fact: The same study mentioned above found that in preparation for an unpleasant task, Extraverts tend to seek out energetic fun. This can look like procrastination, but it’s a way to charge the energy banks before diving in.

As Extraverts, The Doctor and Amy are constantly seeking out new, interesting experiences out in space and time. They bounce ideas off each other, often completing each others sentences (and neither are bothered by this).

As Extraverts, The Doctor and Amy are constantly seeking out new, interesting experiences out in space and time. They bounce ideas off each other, often completing each others sentences (and neither are bothered by this).


How to reach a person who is focused on the inner world: Give them space and time. If you ask a question, wait three seconds before moving on or adding information. You will be rewarded by a more thoughtful answer. Ask them follow-up questions instead of telling them the next thing. It’s not a ping-pong match. If you want to be one of their close, trusted few have some extended one-on-one time with them doing something important. 

How to reach a person who is focused on the external world: Give them some energy. Because they are sensitive to the external world, the attitude you bring to them will have a big impact on the attitude you get from them. If you want to have a conversation, don’t wait for them to ask questions to further the topic. Instead, add your perspective. If you want to go deeper, ask pointed questions.

It Takes All Kinds: Managing our World

We’ve all seen that office that is “neat as a pin” because there is a “place for everything and everything is in its place.” On the other end of the spectrum we have all seen that office that always looks like a hurricane went through. Clearly it must be a matter of laziness if someone doesn’t put the paper in its alphabetical slot the second they are done with it... right? Possibly. More likely, the different organizational styles are symptoms of how a person naturally prefers to manage the world around them.

Preference: Dynamic

People who prefer a dynamic management system love new situations and the surprises they bring (e.g. troubleshooting). When things are happening they like to go where things take them. As a result, they are less likely to create extensive plans. After all, if you focus on the plan to go left, you won’t even see the potentially better options available if you go right. Also, for people with a dynamic management preference, when they are in the flow of the moment it feels natural to stay there unless something more dynamic (interesting, important, etc.) changes their trajectory. Think Newton's First Law of Motion. This is why they don’t put the paper away, in its alphabetical slot, across the room, the second they are done with it. They are too busy going straight into the next step of the project. Not so lazy after all.


Preference: Structure

People who prefer a structured management system like to have a clear understanding of how the world around them is working. So, they bring their own with them. They carry with them an organizational system or a plan that they can use in every situation, including new situations. Their plans are based on their ideas about how the world should work. It might be based on personal values, prior experiences, facts, or care for the wellbeing of others. They take this idea of how the world should work and determine whether or not the world, the people around them, and they themselves adequately meet their expectations. If it doesn’t meet muster, they will happily come up with a plan to fix the problem. System failure or straying too far from the plan tends to create anxiety.



Things to consider when you would like someone with a dynamic preference to use a more organized process:

  1. Make your case and make it impactful. If you need them to change trajectory, make sure they understand why the thing is important now or in the near future.
  2. Dynamic folks work better with some structure to direct their energy, but you may need to relax on your idea of what structure looks like. For instance, Strategic Piles can work as part of an organizational system as long as the only person who needs to find something is the person doing the piling. If you regularly need to find something that a piler also uses, the most sustainable option is to ask them to regularly set times for filing, cleaning, etc. whatever they’ve been using.
  3. If you would like a more sustainable organization system that actually work for those with a dynamic preference, stay tuned. My next blog series is going to be time management and organization tips that work for those with a dynamic preference!

Things to consider when you would like someone with a structure preference to stay more open and flexible:

  1. Give as much warning as possible.
  2. Give as much information as possible.
  3. If you are dynamic, use your talent for troubleshooting to come up with a new plan based as closely as possible on the original plan that will allow you to include the new factors (or awesome opportunity available to you if you turn right).
  4. If a rapid significant departure of the plan is needed, make sure you create a complete and compelling argument for change.


It Takes All Kinds: What do you know?

"Let's start at the beginning, the very best place to start." When it comes to cognitive processing the information sources that we focus on are going to have a huge impact on how we understand the world. Differences in preference for information can result in very different views of the world. Understanding those differences is key for working effectively with others.

Preference: Detailed Hands-On Data

Some people focus on the data from their immediate surroundings that they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Not surprising, in Myers Briggs terminology it is called a preference for Sensing. Being physically close to the information they prefer means that they are usually pretty good at remembering the details of their surroundings. It also means they have a better sense of practical causes and effects, and the appropriate application of this information. As a result, they tend to trust experience over some vague seeming theory. This close-up view of cause and effect means these folks also tend to be good at developing and following Standard Operating Procedures. 

One practical way of thinking about the preference for sources of information is how we think about directions when we drive. This sensing preference is like having turn-by-turn, street level view instructions. You know to turn left at... then right at... etc. Having taken that road before or getting your directions from someone else who has, you might even have important information about potholes and other problems.


Preference: Big Picture Pattern Data

Some people focus on the larger map of how the world works. They tend to mistrust any data, including their own experiences, until they find where it fits in a pattern, or theory. The immediate connection of data to a patterns allows them to make leaps of logic. (Think of the alphabet. If I say “ABCDE” you will already be thinking F before I say it.) By extending established patterns a step or ten, they can anticipate potential problems down the road and imagine new, innovative ways of solving problems. In Myers Briggs terminology it is called a preference for Intuition, due to those characteristic leaps of logic.

Back to the driving analogy. This intuitive preference is like having a large map of the area you are trying to navigate. Having this big picture provides a sense of how the system of streets and neighborhoods work together. With this knowledge you know to drive north, and that this street will take you within a mile or so of your destination, at which point you need to head east, etc...

Working with All Kinds

The frustration tends to come in when we don't understand these differences. The person with a preference for hands-on experience may often see the leaps of logic as baseless, reckless, impractical, and even dangerous. In contrast, the person with a preference for patterns and theories may often see the focus on past experience and daily practicalities as short-sighted, limiting, slow and even dangerous.

It takes both kinds to to be successful. In this fast paced world, we need new possibilities as much as we need practical considerations. We need to attend to details so we don't fail before we achieve the big picture. Understanding these preferences is the first step towards effectively bringing both mindsets together. The next step is to find ways to work better together on a day-to-day basis.

So, if you have a preference for big picture processes, how do you work with a hands-on, detail person to incorporate their knowledge of the practical with your big picture?

  1. Be aware that leaps of logic come to you like breathing to the point that you may not realize it was a leap. Other people may not make the same leap.
  2. Communicate: stop and connect the dots, and give facts that support your leaps of logic.
  3. Engage: once you have anchored the details/facts of the present situation that you are already aware of to your big idea, ask them to help you fill in the gaps with practical considerations that you missed. 

Also, if you are going to change a Standard Operating Procedure, then state the real world benefits of changing the current procedure and how it’s better than maintaining it. “I just want to try something different” probably won’t be seen as a compelling reason to change something.


If you have a preference for hands-on, detail processes, how do you work with a big picture person to incorporate their zest for anticipating future possibilities with your real-world goals?

  1. Be aware that the past and present factors that seem so obvious to you, don't always catch the eye of others.
  2. Communicate: ask whether they have considered factor X and factor Y, and tell them why and how a detail is important to achieving the larger goal.
  3. Engage: find your common goal and ask them what could be done over the next year, or two, or ten, to maximize success. 

If they want to change a Standard Operating Procedure that you would prefer to keep, let them know the specific drawbacks of doing so. “This is how we’ve always done it” won’t be seen a compelling reason not to change something.

So, now you know that the data that we are aware of can be different without our realizing it. And you have some initial steps for helping people (or yourself) to gain awareness of the data they (you) may have missed. In the next article I'm going to focus on differences in the type of information we prefer to rely on to make the best decisions.

It Takes All Kinds

It can be incredibly frustrating to deal with someone who “just doesn’t get it.” When you’ve explained something five times and they still do it wrong. When there’s a problem and they are focusing on the wrong thing. Maybe they are missing the big picture. Maybe they missed an important detail. Or maybe they just don’t care. 

There is always the possibility that you are dealing with someone with “substandard intelligence.” There is also the possibility that they have some kind of mental disorder...

Most likely, it’s a matter of a conflict between a few basic individual differences. Cognitive types are based on four sets of orientations:

  1. What information we prefer to take in.
  2. What information we rely on most when making decisions.
  3. Where we direct most of our energy.
  4. How we prefer to interact with our environment.

These orientations combine to create cognitive styles and personality styles, and they each have benefits and blind spots. 

There are many benefits of having a systematic understanding basic personality and cognitive style differences, including:

  • Maximizing our own strengths.
  • Helping others to maximize their strengths.
  • Anticipating, overcoming, and/or planning around our own blind spots.
  • Anticipating and planning around the blind spots of others.
  • Effective communication
  • Effective collaboration
  • Building teams in which each member's strengths fit the team's tasks, and compensate for each other's blind spots.

Unfortunately we usually only think about these differences when there is a problem. Someone "drops the ball" due to a blind spot. Someone's has a preference that clashes with ours. Or their strengths don't line up with the environment they are in. So, over the next 3 posts I will highlight each of these basic personality and cognitive style differences. 

Finding your path through the Work style/Personality Assessment Jungle

Lions, and Zebras, and Purple Bears...oh my!

I love a good Buzzfeed quiz as much as anyone else. What city are you meant to live in? What Doctor Who character are you? What kind of animal are you? Well, make that love/hate. I never thought that much about it until I started consulting. To offset the risk of alienating colleagues I respect, I'm not going to point fingers at specific business personality/work style assessments. I love a good metaphor, and if someone comes into your workplace and tells you that you are a Trout and that means things that help you improve your productivity, good. If you find out that your colleague is a Zebra and that means something that helps you, as a Trout, work more effective with that colleague, great. Right?

There are a lot of these tools out there in professional settings. They can be helpful in giving a team or organization a common language for communicating needs and differences. Hence the love.

They can also create problems. I just worked with an individual who refused to take a valid work style measure because she has already done "a ton of them" over the course of 15 years in the workforce. She knows she is a Lion and her color is Red, and half a dozen other things. (I will forever remember her as a member of House Lannister.) They told her she is a natural leader, which she already knew. Nothing else really stuck with her because it didn't give her any longstanding useful information. She has now decided that all of these tools are useless.

Think of it like overusing and misprespcribing antibiotics. Eventually the medicine loses its potency and is no longer helpful to the population. It may seem harmless in the short term, but we all suffer in the long run... even the Consultants.


How can you know whether one of these assessments is going to give you accurate and useful information?

The answer can be as simple as whether or not they have been Researched. Have they stood up to psychometric scrutiny? Examples of measures with psychometric support are the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), FIRO-B, and Strengths Finder. Here is what the researchers look for in good assessments:

1) In the world of psychometrics (psychological test development) we look at test Validity. In other words, does the test actually measure real characteristics? And does it measure the characteristics it claims to measure? Many commonly used tools claim psychometric validity by association with validated tests such as the MBTI and the Big 5 personality measures like the NEO. Many use questions based on questions used in the validated tests. However, you can't claim the same validity of the originals based on association. The only thing that is valid is the full original assessment tool. I can’t state this strongly enough: the validity of the original measure doesn’t extend to spin-offs.

2) We also look at Reliability. That means that if you take the same test on different days or at a different workplace your results are similar. It’s possible that one or two of your top 10 Strengths have changed. Maybe one of your MBTI letters have changed. And even the best assessments aren’t immune to a client having a very bad day. But if you get a completely different answer from one day to the next, it is highly likely that the test is measuring your temporary mood or attitude.

Thats all fine for a Buzzfeed or Cosmo quiz. However, you are paying to have a professional consultant help you understand your ongoing work patterns. You and/or your team want make actual improvements. So, you should make sure that the information you are basing your decisions and actions on is accurate in the longterm.


There are countless assessments out there, how do you know which ones have gotten good research results?

The best assessments are going to make information about validity, reliability and the studies done in the process of refining the tool available to the public. Your consultant should have that information. If that data isn't forthcoming, it's not a good sign.


Additional factors for good assessment is whether they are being used properly: 

1) Failing to properly prepare employees to take an assessment can cause invalid results. A “here’s the link, the boss wants you to take it by the end of the week” email by harried HR staff can impact the results.

2) Sometimes good assessments can get bad reputations due use of bootleg versions. Many people search the internet for resources and get lured into websites that claim to offer assessments like the MBTI for free. It ends up being a dozen or so questions, not the actual assessment. But its close enough...right? You get four letters. And it's FREE! In the case of the MBTI, there are a lot of people with half a dozen different MBTI results due to taking bootleg versions. Not truly understanding psychometrics, they call the Validity of the test into question. If enough people have this experience, the larger population becomes resistant to using a valid test. Like my Lannister. 


In conclusion, as someone who is a bit of a Psychometrics Geek, and definitely a Psychology Geek, use of bad assessments and misuse of good assessments are on my naughty list. I hope this post creates awareness of their consequences. Please join me in being a good consumer of professional assessments. Also, have fun with Buzzfeed, I do.


For the sake of transparency, I think my color is Purple, but I’m not sure which workplace color tool was used. I'm also pretty sure my animal is a Bear.

I don’t remember what any of that means. 

(Then there is Google, in which case I’m a giant Squid. Happy Earth Day!)

"Preparation is Everything...

The third step in creating sustainable Change is the Preparation phase. This may be the most straight-forward of the phases. As the name suggests, you make whatever adjustments you need to improve your ability to act on change. Specifics include factors already considered in the Contemplation Equation. In a structural sense there are three key areas that need to be checked off to fully prepare for change:


1) Knowledge - What do you know about the change being made? Do you have all the necessary facts? Did you go to the meetings? Are you reading the emails and any other literature provided? Is there a process or a timeline? What is your role? As the leader, did you provide enough information?

It may be tempting to just say “people will know what they need to know, when they need to know it.” However, an understanding of how change fits the larger goals can help people internalize the desire for change. Knowing how the process will impact others can be important for continued productivity during change. For instance, if there is a progressive roll-out, it may help me to know when other departments are going to be at risk for decreased productivity. I can then adjust my work flow to decrease delays on my projects. Speaking of planning...


2) Plan - Different people have different ideas about planning. All I want to suggest in this post is to take some time to think through the change process now that you have the facts. Are there specific targets you have to hit? Is there a certain process that needs to occur? This must include some contingency planning for the most likely challenges.

If you are a leader, create a plan and share it with those involved. Having a sense of the bigger process will help your people find change-relevant solutions to unexpected challenges. Otherwise they will likely fall back on an old stand-by solution that may no longer be relevant and could impede a step further down the line.


3) Resources - Now that you have a solid understanding of the factors and a sense of the change process, put the necessary resources into place. Do you have all the necessary tools? Do you have the necessary time/energy? This includes buffer time to deal with unexpected challenges.

Just as important as tools and time, do you have the necessary Support? Sustainable change is difficult. An individual looking to create change should find one or more positive, change-oriented people to help them. This help includes reminding you of the positive elements of change, bolstering your confidence, and sympathizing when challenges occur. ("Get back in there Tiger! You can do it!") It can also include some creative problem solving in the face of unexpected challenges.

In a team or a workplace, colleagues would ideally provide each other with mutual support. That will not always be the case. For instance, if the change is unfavored by a team, or the team does not have a secure dynamic. In these cases a strong leader and/or external support may be required. External support could be in the form of a Consultant or an Employee Assistance Program.

Preparation is as complicated or simple as the change being made. Either way, it is necessary. Most attempts to change fail due to lack of forethought and preparation. Think about all those New Years Resolutions. Did you do your research? Did you plan for challenges? Did you gather resources and support? Or did you dive right in on January 2nd relying on Willpower, and a pair of blown out running shoes to get you there? If that didn’t work, then relying on Willpower, and a misunderstood piece of software or a new cubicle arrangement won’t work in the workplace either.

...until the battle begins."

Next time: Action   

Group Thinking

As I mentioned in my last post, an individual can look at the decision to change as balancing an equation:

Desire+Opportunity+Reward > Effort+Barriers+Cost

But what if we are talking about a team managing change? A good leader will use the equation to take a look at both the Team (e.g., team, office, department) as a singular entity, as well as the smaller role groupings or individuals. Am I asking the CEO of a large company to consider each employee individually? Of course not. Though a good CEO will gather information on the impacts of the change on the different segments of their company. I’m talking about heads of departments and small businesses.


  • Desire: a group may not have a singular feeling, so it makes more sense to ask if there is a natural benefit to the Team? (Will it make the Team more effective?)

  • Opportunity: does the Team have the resources and time necessary to carry out and adjust to the change?

  • Reward: are there rewards that aren’t implicit to the change?

  • Effort: how much of the Team’s time and energy will go into doing the new thing and/or other adjustments?

  • Barriers: are there external forces that impede change? (For instance, are there other institutional processes won’t work well with the change?)

  • Cost: what is the Team sacrificing in order to do something different?

Individuals or Role Groups:

  • Desire: what are the levels of internalized sense of benefit of change for each role/person?

  • Opportunity: what are the different levels of resources available for accomplishing the change?

  • Reward: are there rewards? Implicit desire is a better motivator for effective change, but sometimes a token of appreciation for dealing with difficulty is welcome.

  • Effort: what are the different levels of effort and/or different levels of adjustment required? (For instance, one role uses new software extensively and has more to learn than one who rarely uses it.)

  • Barriers: what are external factors that impede change for each role/person? (For instance, the new software is coming online at the end of the fiscal year. This is going to be difficult for the accounting department.)

  • Cost: what are the levels of sacrifice by different roles/people?


Lack of Choice

Often in workplace settings the change has already been decided on by others with authority. This is often called "Change Management." What role does the Contemplation stage play in forgone conclusions?

Good leadership and good team communication are even more important. Communication should not start with “Because I said so.” To be effective in change management the conversation should start with the analysis of the facilitative and impeding factors. Then leadership and the team must address adjustments needed to balance the equation towards change:

  • Desire: Be explicit about the ways the change benefits the team, whether directly or through greater effectiveness for the larger company.

  • Opportunity: Be creative to find needed resources (including time) that are currently lacking.

  • Reward: Find ways to add tokens of appreciation for teams successfully implementing and integrating change.

  • Effort: Be creative to find ways to offset additional work.

  • Barriers: Identify and neutralize external impeding factors.

  • Cost: Be creative and find ways to mitigate some of the costs of change.



Members of a small, tight-knit, well-functioning department were told by their Vice President that there would be a reorganization effective in less than two weeks. Two of the team members would be moved under the direction of another major department.


  • Desire: No benefit to the effectiveness of the team addressed.

  • Opportunity: Fair, the change occurred during a month that regularly had lower workload.

  • Reward: None.

  • Effort: Moderate. The original Team will have to make workflow adjustments to compensate for lost teammates’ impact on projects and shared office tasks.

  • Barriers: Non-significant.

  • Cost: Loss of the supportive, well-functioning Team.


  • Desire: No sense of benefit for most of the people. One employee finally got his own office. As an introvert, this helped him improve his personal productivity by decreasing distractions.

  • Opportunity: Fair, the change occurred during a month when everyone had lower workload.

  • Reward: None.

  • Effort: Moderate to Significant. The change in department would require the two employees to adjust to a different workflow system, and to take time to move offices. The Office Manager and the Supervisor in the original Department had to take up the extra work on shared office tasks. The other four employees split the extra project work. No adjustment was made in anticipation of the following month’s increased project load.

  • Barriers: The two leaving the department will be in an office location 10 miles away. This impacts one of the employee’s commute and Day Care planning.

  • Cost: Loss of the supportive, well-functioning team.

A good leader will look at these factors and work with their employees to find ways to adjust the equation. In this situation, desire may not be possible, but addressing company-wide benefits of the change can’t hurt. There may be ways to increase other positive factors like adding a token of appreciation for successful transition. You can decrease negative factors. For instance, creating greater opportunities for cross department collaboration may reduce the sense of loss of the Team and increase effectiveness of the company. Also, anticipating solutions for the increase in workload on the original department.

This example is a combination of two real workplaces scenarios. Unfortunately, in the real scenarios, the leadership did not attend to change factors. The employees interpreted the management of the entire situation as callous and indicating a lack of basic respect for the employees. In the context of other management mistakes in both workplaces, their trust in upper management and their sense of security in their smaller teams decreased significantly. As a result, several of the employees started looking for new jobs, including one of the supervisors.


In conclusion, Change Management in a team or department needs to involve the whole team and the leadership, even at the thinking/motivation stage. Too often, Change Management is placed fully on the shoulders of the employees who have the least power to adjust their work environment. Further, Change Management is also often reactionary to a change that is already taking place. As I have just pointed out, a lot of important Change Management work happens at the very early stages. The next stage we will address is Preparation, when we make adjustments in the factors that we need to create change.

Consider This

The last blog addressed the first step towards sustainable change: developing awareness. This blog is about the next step, Contemplation of change. This is when you decide if the benefits of changing your behavior provide enough motivation to deal with the costs. 

Sometimes this process is barely conscious, with no deliberation. For instance, your boss comments that it would be helpful if you returned emails faster. So, you quickly decide to set aside 10 minutes, three times per day to devote for checking for, and responding to, emails from your boss.

At the other end of the spectrum this step may never end. Adopting healthy habits is a common example. You know you should be more active. You want to start a regular exercise program. You even set a New Years Resolution to go running before work three times a week. But… 5:30am is early, dark, cold... and it cuts it close for getting the kids to school and getting to work on-time… and running shoes aren’t in the budget right now... and… and the change never happens.


Contemplation Equation

I approach this phase as balancing an equation for motivation. In order to create sustainable change the pros on the left side of the equation need to outweigh the cons on the right:

Desire + Opportunity + Reward  >  Effort + Barriers + Cost


Let’s break it down by asking some important questions:

Desire: Is this something I (client) actually want? It may seem like a silly question, but when change is initiated by others’ needs/values instead of our internalized needs/values, it is harder to accomplish.

Opportunity: Do I have the time and resources available to make this change?

Reward: What benefit am I going to get as a result of making this change? Also, is this a reasonable expectation? Example: “If I show up an hour early for work and leave an hour late, I will definitely get the next promotion.” What evidence supports this conclusion?

Effort: How much additional energy will I need to expend to make this change? Switching out of habit and into deliberate action takes energy, even in the best circumstances.

Barriers: What external factors in my life could impede my efforts to change?

Cost: What am I sacrificing by giving up my old behavior? After all, we did things the old way for a reason.


Example: Factors

Lets go back to the example in the last blog in which an employee would benefit from improving their collegial relationships. I would like to add that the employee has good relationships outside of work. They also have a preference for Introversion.

Desire: Collegial relationships aren’t an inherent need/value for this person.

Opportunity: The workplace has features that promote collegial interaction such as a pleasant lunch room, company sponsored social events, and non-mandatory department-wide innovation meetings. Although the employee is busy, getting away from the desk for lunch or optional meetings is possible.

Reward: Improved personal effectiveness and increased chance for promotion. The evidence comes from feedback from the team lead who has addressed team cohesion, and concerns about instances where the employee was clearly out of the loop on important changes that affected the team.

Effort: With a natural preference for Introversion, additional interactions with groups are going to require expending additional energy.

Barriers: The employee’s workspace is in a more secluded area of the office.

Cost: Depends on the adjustments made by the employee. For instance, a reduction in recharge time lunch, or loss of boosted productivity when everyone is in the de-wide meetings.


Right now there are two factors that facilitate change: Opportunity and Reward. There are three factors that impede change: Effort, Barriers and Cost. Change is unlikely. Adjustments need to be considered to tilt the equation towards change.


Example: Change Adjustments

Desire: The employee could look for ways to directly connect collegial relationships to personal work values (e.g., Competence, Preparedness).

Effort: A natural preference for Introversion is not likely to radically change. However, one-on-one lunches with colleagues may require less energy than going with the group to the lunch room.

Barriers: Is workspace location negotiable?

Cost: The employee could talk with the team and/or team lead about other ways to decrease distractions in exchange for attending the optional meetings. Instead of sacrificing solo-lunches, make an appearance at an occasional work sponsored event.

Final Decision: The employee expands their definition of workplace Competence to include collegial relationships. They decide to talk to the team lead about exchanging some distraction-free time for attending company-wide meetings. The employee also identifies two members of the team with whom they have easier rapport. They decide to invite one of them to lunch once a month. They are also considering making a brief appearance at the company picnic... maybe.


Now the facilitating factors include Desire, Opportunity and Reward and the impeding factors are Barriers and a smaller amount of Effort. The motivation equation has shifted to favor change.


The next stage is Preparation, in which actual steps are taken to adjust problematic factors in our equation. However, I'm going to wait for a week, so that I can address Contemplation in a group context. Next week, team change motivation.

Knowing is 1/5 the Battle

As I mentioned last week, I decided to do a series of blog posts on Change.


Nope, not that kind of change.

I’m talking about behavioral change. I am using Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model as the backbone for these posts. Today’s post focuses on the first stage: Precontemplation.

Precontemplation is the lack of awareness that change needs to be made. In order to create change we need both awareness of our behavior and the desire for something to be different. How does this happen?

1) Awareness

Anyone who has been in a relationship with someone has found out that there are things they do that they didn’t realize, or that they didn’t realize were annoying (or damaging) to others. We learn about these behaviors when someone calls us on it. In our personal lives, this could be an argument or a scathing text. In a work setting this may come in the form of a closed door meeting with a colleague, a formal employee performance review, or an email.

Another way we can become aware of our areas for change is by comparing ourselves to others. A person looks at their officemate and realizes that they always seem to get their projects done on time, instead of always down the the wire, and sometimes late. Another person looks at a co-worker and notices that they seem to get along better with the entire team.

2) Desire

A person may become aware of a behavior and not leave Precontemplation. To move to Contemplation, you must have some sense that something could be better if you changed something. For instance, if you aren’t someone who needs to have personal relationships with people at work, you may not care that your colleagues don’t talk to you much. So, you may not want to act differently towards them. However, there are some professions and workplaces where this could significantly impact your effectiveness in your role, or your ability to advance in the organization.


Helping someone move past Precontemplation:   

Too often we assume that others realize they are being annoying, disrespectful, or are significantly impacting the productivity of the team. My suggestion is to never assume.

One of the best workplace tools for addressing lack of awareness and/or desire to change problematic behavior is regular employee (or team) performance reviews. This tool can help leaders (and teammates) address a wide range of behaviors including problems with productivity and team disruptions. Paradoxically, they are especially helpful for people who are extremely uncomfortable with confrontation. If a formal system is set up and all employees are subject to it, then you reduce the risk that someone will feel singled out and attacked as you bring up problems. To further decrease defensiveness a) connect the employee's workplace behaviors directly to their effectiveness in their role, and b) approach it from a Professional Development angle. A growth framework will be better received than a punitive framework. (That being said, there may be times when punitive responses are required.)

*One caveat: Formal feedback should be limited to behaviors that truly impact the effectiveness of the workplace, including the effectiveness of others. If you can’t link an employee behavior to workplace processes, that is a hint that its a case of annoyance due to personal style differences. These are natural and inevitable, and are not appropriate for something that goes into an HR file.

It’s also a topic for another blog post.

Change, Change, Change

    Happy New Year! It’s January, which makes me think about change. The kind of change where people intentionally take stock of how they are doing in life and decide to upgrade. New calendar years, new fiscal years, and birthdays seem to bring about this taking of stock for a lot of people. Its almost to the point where I wonder if there is something innate about it. Just Google “change quotes” to see my point...

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.
— Martin Luther King Jr.
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
— John F. Kennedy

    I love these quotes, but they seem to have different takes on change. One alludes to the inevitability of change. The other points out how difficult change can be, suggesting it is not inevitable. Maybe it just  seems like change is inevitable when I want things to remain the same, and then difficult when I want things to change.

    The phrase “I want things to change” encapsulates the crux of the difficulty of change. I have worked with many people who have desperately wanted change, but struggled to do so. Even the New Years Resolution, and its almost inevitable failure, has become a widespread running joke.

    We all have reasons for doing what we do, and the ways that we do them. So, when it comes time to make change we find ourselves battling internal habits and external environmental pressures. We may be unaware of alternatives to our ways. Then, even when we are aware of alternatives, we may lack resources necessary to make that change. Sometimes even when changes are being made, the people in our lives have a difficult time adjusting to our new behavior and try to get us to change back.

    Psychologists have proposed different theories addressing change. My personal favorite is by Prochaska, who looked at many studies of the therapeutic process and found similarities in how change was, or was not made. He titled it the Transtheoretical Model of change (TTM). He and his colleagues identified 5 stages of change:

  1. Precontemplation: the person lacks awareness that something needs to change.

  2. Contemplation: the person is aware of the need for change and is thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of changing.

  3. Preparation: a decision to change has been made, now the person works on pulling together the resources needed to make it happen.

  4. Action: effort is being made to do the new behavior(s) needed for change.

  5. Maintenance: new behaviors have been carried out with some success. Now the person works on keeping them up until they become the new habit.

    As with any theory, it has its proponents and its critics; situations it has worked for and situations in which it didn’t work. (See my prior post about no one theory that works for everything.) Aware of its limitations, I still like TTM because it provides a systematic way to think about change, readiness for change, and whether a person has the resources they need to change. My next five posts will address the different stages in more depth, including how they might look in action in workplace scenarios.


Prochaska, J.M., Prochaska, J.O., Levesque, D.A. (2001). A transtheoretical approach to changing organizations. Administration and Policy in Mental Health Services Research, 28(4): 247–261.

Pat Answer need not apply

        I love living in a world where different is normal. Each of us is an interesting combination of raw materials and experiences. This was what made my experiences as a therapist both interesting and challenging. With each client there was a new combination of factors. Working in an university environment meant my clients came in with needs ranging from time management tips to overcoming mental illness. There was no place for pat answers anywhere in that spectrum. There is no One Right Way to organize your time, overcome Depression, or anything else.

     The biggest thing that has held me back from publishing my thoughts is the concern that people would see PhD and take something I write as some universal truth. Not because I think I hold some especially compelling authority, but because we humans tend to prefer simplicity. Our brains automatically look for overarching patterns that we can apply to as many situations as possible. Look back on the histories of religion, science and philosophy (and Facebook), and you will see people seeking universal truths. You will see the Great Thinkers battling to prove  their concept was the One universal truth.

    Things are changing and I’m glad to be a professional in psychology at this time. More and more of my colleagues are working against the basic nature of their brains. We are taking the patterns that the Great Thinkers in our field observed, assessing them critically to find their best elements, and integrating them to create more comprehensive ideas about how people work.

    Unfortunately there is a lucrative market for simple truths. The Self-Help genre is full of books, articles and blogs touting simple fixes for complex concerns. Just like the writings of the Great Thinkers of history, there are useful elements in many of them. Sometimes the right person finds the right book that addresses the right underlying problem in a framework the person can use. Maybe that person would never have sought help otherwise. However, there are a lot of books, articles and blog posts, and many people don’t have the necessary knowledge to be critical consumers of this multi-billion dollar industry.

    Touting simple solutions can cause harm. It could be small: wasting $20 on a time management book when the problem is you overcommit so much you would have to alter our physical universe to add two hours to every day to get everything done. (Or challenge whatever is keeping you from saying “No” on occasion.) It could be large: developing assumptions of hopelessness and helplessness, or feelings of shame after repeated failures to “change your life with these 4 simple steps.”

    So, no pat answers from me. Each person who reads this blog will bring different raw materials, experiences and concerns. What would help one, wouldn’t help another. Instead, I will do my best to take useful knowledge from the field I love, and write about it in an useable, informed and balanced way... Guaranteed.