Category Archives: Building strong personal career paths

Dealing with the dark side of our personalities!

By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th November 2017

Current approaches to management put emphasis on identifying and developing our strengths.  And rightly so.  Our individual strengths give us the opportunity to make significant contributions in our home and work lives.  The diversity of strengths within a team contribute to the success of organisations.

Personality tools such as Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and others likewise put an emphasis on understanding and developing our strengths.

However, we also have a “dark side” to our personalities!

In Belbin language these are our “allowable weaknesses”, in MBTI language it is our “blind spots”.  The Hogan Development Survey (HDS), described by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in the September-October 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review (see note 1 below), focuses entirely on eleven of these “dark side” traits.

From weaknesses and blind spots to the dark side…

The HDS survey is based on the work of Robert and Joyce Hogan, two psychologists who, about 20 years ago, identified aspects of personality that, if unchecked, can derail interactions at work, individual careers, and the effectiveness of teams and organisations.

Dark side traits taken from the Hogan Development Survey

The eleven traits are categorised under three headings:

  • Distancing traits – ones that push people away by making it hard to build trust
  • Seductive traits – ones that pull people in but, if overdone, can then have negative or destructive consequences
  • Ingratiating traits – that can impress others, but result in self-harm through being too submissive

It can be difficult to know where to focus our attention with so many personality tools out there.  The HDS traits have some echoes of the Belbin Type Roles and their “allowable weaknesses”, and of the MBTI personality types and the “blind spots” that people might experience.

Word cloud generated from words used to describe Belbin “allowable weaknesses”

But the most important take-home lessons from all of this are probably to:

  1. Be aware of when the “dark side” of your strengths may be having a negative impact on yourself or on others
  2. Develop some strategies for minimising these negative effects

Strategies for minimising the negative effects of our “dark side”

The Harvard Business Review article references a few strategies which could apply to any definition of personality weaknesses.

The first thing is to be aware of our actual or potential negative traits and the impact it may be having on others.

Resources available to us are:

  • Reflection on situations that did not work out as well as we would have liked and whether our own behaviour triggered that
  • Ad-hoc feedback from others
  • More formal feedback e.g.
    • 360 degree questionnaires
    • Observer input available through Belbin questionnaires
    • The HDS survey

The MBTI personality type descriptions also provide a rich source of information about some negative characteristics that might emerge when we are feeling mildly stressed or severely so (“in the grip”).

All of these are ways to build your emotional intelligence (self and social awareness) about yourself and your interactions with others.

Identify and practise some new strategies to help you deal with your “dark side”

As with all endeavours to do something new or different, it’s a good idea to start small and build from there.

Pick something you feel most motivated to do something about, and something you can relatively easily put in place.

So, for example, using some of the words above, if you have a tendency to:

  • Be overly sceptical (an HDS trait, the allowable weakness of a “Monitor Evaluator” in Belbin Team Roles and a characteristic of MBTI “extraverted thinking” types). The impact of that on others is that they may feel discouraged or defensive about sharing ideas with you.  You may want to choose an area of your work, or a specific occasion, to deliberately demonstrate greater openness to others’ views.
  • Lose touch with reality (Belbin “Plant”, HDS “Imaginative” trait), MBTI “extraverted intuition”).  The impact of that on others is that they may get impatient with you, or not pay attention to you. You could identify a typical situation when this might happen, perhaps a weekly team meeting, and focus on demonstrating greater collaboration with others.

You could also ask a helpful colleague or friend to alert you when they see you demonstrating one of your negative traits, and support you in whatever corrective action (“self-management” or “relationship management”  in emotional intelligence terms) you’ve identified.

Don’t be shy about asking for help from others

There are a few suggestions above about how feedback and support from others could help you detect and address your “dark side”.

Coaching is also an option.  The MBTI coaching and emotional intelligence resources are rich with tips on how to deal with “blind spots” and developmental challenges associated with the MBTI Types.


  1. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.  Could you personality derail your career?  Harvard Business Review, September-October 2017, pp.138-141
  2. About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

    She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.


Living in the moment

By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th May 2017

Flowers in the Haut-Languedoc

Taking a moment to enjoy the wild flowers in the Haut-Languedoc, France, May 2017

I’m enjoying a delightful few days in the Haut-Languedoc, trying my best to live “in the moment” in accordance with the principles of mindfulness, and meditation, and, inevitably, it has got me reflecting…

Living in the present is more rewarding than waiting for gratification from success

I passed the time at the airport on my way here watching a very funny, heart-warming and thought provoking video of Shawn Achor giving a TEDx talk.

Shawn Achor - the happy secret to better work

His 5 simple exercises for creating a positive mind-set are indeed very simple and I can confirm, from my own experience, that they are very effective.

(These simple daily exercises include reflecting on 3 good (different) things that have happened; considering one of these in more detail; saying or emailing something nice to a different person; taking at least 15 minutes exercise; concentrating on your breath in and out for 2 mins.)

What struck a chord though, was Achor’s reminder of something that I had also read recently in a Harvard Business Review article (more on this below), that, too often, we wait to succeed at something as a milestone for being happy.  “I’ll get this project completed and then I will be happy” or “I’ll just get these tasks done and then I’ll be satisfied”.

The tasks or projects could take a few moments, a day, a week or several months.  It seems a shame to defer our happiness until then.  They might not even happen, or be transformed into the next thing before we get a chance to finish them.  Better surely to find a way to enjoy and gain satisfaction from the moment, from work in progress?

Perhaps we could pause periodically and ask ourselves: “What am I enjoying most about what I am doing now?”; “How could I make it even more enjoyable?”.  We may be able to find satisfaction in even the most mundane, repetitive or stressful task.  In fact this awareness, and self-awareness, will also help us to identify ways in which we could continuously improve our work and ourselves.

We may even be doing the thing we most enjoy, in which case we should definitely be celebrating, even if only with an inner smile!

Reaching for ever-deferred ideals of perfectionism is a recipe for unhappiness

The Talent Curse - HBR May-June 2017

Illustration from HBR, May-June 2017 article “The Talent Curse”


In their excellent article in the May-June issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Jennifer Petriglieri and Gianpiero Petriglieri, discuss the stresses experienced by people at work who have been identified as talented “future leaders”.

The first moments of recognition past, they find themselves driving themselves, and being driven by others, to conform to some ideal image of the future leader that they will become.  (By the way, everything they say in the article could relate to any talented person, not just a future leader.)

Opportunities to explore and experiment, to perform in any more individual, divergent, way to this ideal, become few and far between.  It becomes increasingly difficult to reveal the more rounded aspects of their personality, or anything that might be perceived as “weakness”.

Not surprisingly, the author’s suggested remedies include valuing the present.  In fact, they suggest that this is the most important remedy for “breaking the curse”, and that individuals must make what they are doing now matter.

Their other two suggested remedies are to be authentic i.e. bring your whole self to work, rather than just the aspects that are supposed to reflect your talent; and to “own your talent” in such a way that you recognise it as something to be developed in ways that can include help from others.

Concluding thoughts

There is definitely happiness to be found from living in the moment, rather than waiting for deferred gratification from something that may or may not happen.

Which of the above approaches have you tried, or will you try?  What other approaches you have found to be successful?


About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she is a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Developing your coaching skills as a manager

By Elisabeth Goodman, 18th January 2017

There are so many resources available to help managers perform at their best.

We teach coaching skills in  RiverRhee’s Introduction to Management  course and just one of several frameworks available for that.  We also apply these skills ourselves as coaches. The result is a double benefit: it enhance managers’ performance and it gives them a tool to develop their direct reports’ performance.

I’m always looking out for new resources to develop my own performance as well to pass these on to the scientists and managers that we work with.

I recently wrote about Appreciative Inquiry and how this could be applied to the GROW model of coaching.

I’ve been re-visiting Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do more great work”, and it seemed a very good fit with the Discover phase in the 5-step model that I learnt about in Appreciative Inquiry. (This phase equates to the Options step in GROW.)  I tried some of this out with someone I was coaching and really liked the result.  This is how a couple of Stanier’s tools could be used in the Discover or Options steps.

Make sure you have helped the person you’re coaching articulate what it is they want to achieve

This the Define step in Appreciate Inquiry, or the Goal in GROW.  In particular, help them to articulate this in positive terms: what they want to move towards, rather than away from.

Ask them to think about what’s currently happening: find the great work and their values

They might dwell on the things that are going OK, or the things they are not happy about.  (This by the way equates to the Reality step in GROW).  What you’re after are the instances of great things that are happening, even if only once!

Getting them to jot down their thoughts can be a good aid to their reflection.


Illustration of the tools in Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do More Great Work” for exploring great work.

Exploring why the individual has selected that or those examples of great work will reveal what they value most about their work, what motivates them, what their particular strengths are that they would like more of.

What to do once you’ve discovered what makes your work great!

I also like Stanier’s 4-box grid which compares and contrasts things the individual cares and does not care about, with those that their organisation do or don’t care about and thought it could be usefully super-imposed with the 5-Ds’ from the MindGym’s book “Give me time”.

So this becomes a useful tool for discussing what options the individual has in relation to their aspiration for doing more great work.


Michael Bungay Stanier’s ‘caring’ 4-box matrix overlayed with the 5Ds (in blue text) from the MindGym

The ideal is of course the dream scenario, but the reality is that we tend to have a mix in our work – and we may need to decide what we want to do about that.

(The dream scenario fits nicely with the Dream step in Appreciative Inquiry.)

At this point, the person you are coaching may be ready to consider what they will do…

These are the Design / Deliver steps in Appreciative Inquiry or the Will step in the GROW model.

…as always, I’d be interested in hearing what readers think of these tools and approaches…

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.



Finding the leader within ourselves

Why yet another article about leadership?

I’ve had an unusually busy few weeks so the gap between my blogs has been greater than usual. However the magical combination, for me, of coming across an inspirational article, engaging with enthusiastic people, and listening to others’ ideas at a conference has finally triggered my own reflections!

So, this blog is about leadership.  As Julia Hordle, a speaker at this week’s Perfect Information 2014 (#PIC2014) conference, pointed out, there is already a lot of literature on this topic.  So, like Julia, I’m not making any claims to be an expert, nor am I going to try to cover the whole area.  These are just a few points that have struck me in what I heard from her and others this week.

Everyone in a team is a potential leader

I can’t remember who said this during the years that I was working at GlaxoSmithKline.  It may have been one of the values that informed our performance review discussions. The idea was that everyone within a team had a particular area of expertise and a particular strength, and by exercising leadership in those, could really add value to the work of the team.  (This was often referred to as ’empowerment’.)

It was whilst I was at GSK that I was also introduced to ‘Lessons from Geese‘, inspired by Milton Olson, and beautifully captured in the video by Breakthrough Global.  Amongst the several lessons is that of everyone taking a turn at doing things, rather than expecting the team leader to do it all.

Some of the lessons from geese for high performing teams

Some of the lessons from geese for high performing teams

Julia Hordle shared another video, Lord Digby Jones’ 5 tips to business where he encourages leaders to train their teams to do the simple things well so that, when they are faced by challenging tasks, their intuition can kick in and so, by implication, exercise leadership in what they do.

As my co-speaker, Steve Boronski, pointed out during our joint workshop at #PIC2014 on “Project Management through a knowledge and information management lens”, when everyone within a team is clear on what they are expected to do, and has the training to do it, then the team leader’s role is ‘simply’ that of managing by exception: providing the support and direction to deal with the unexpected.

Also on this point, the article that has inspired me to write this blog is the one on Blue Ocean Leadership, by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, in the May 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review (pp.60-72), pointed out by my business colleague Sarah Hillman.  There are some terrific insights in the article on the behaviours of ‘to-be’ as opposed to ‘as-is’ leadership.  I particularly liked the concept of “inspiring people to give their all as opposed to holding people back”.

Leadership is about daring to do or say what others might not

A member of the audience during Julia Hordle’s presentation at #PIC2014 quoted some recent figures, one of those bold generalisations, to the effect that women will only consider taking on a new position when they are 80% sure of their capabilities to deliver it, whereas men will do so when they are 50% sure.  The delegate wondered whether this might have a bearing on the behaviour of leaders.  I, like many others, dislike such generalisations but they can also be food for thought.

Another member of the audience (a man) responded that there might be some truth in this because he does not hold back, as a leader, from voicing opinions that others might consider stupid.  The discussion continued along the lines that leaders, and indeed any team member, should be confident enough to air their views.  This will benefit the team in the long run and, although it may carry risks for the individual, being true to yourself does ultimately deliver benefits to you too.

Which brings me to the particularly enthusiastic people that have inspired me this week.  I spent a very enjoyable hour with some young entrepreneurs on the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy course at Cambridge Regional Centre.  We were exploring the topic of team make-up and leadership.  At a certain point I asked them to write out their personal strengths on individual post-it notes: the strengths that they might bring to a team.  About 60% of the notes carried the word ‘confidence’!  They certainly came across as a very confident set of people.  At least 3 of them had already set up their businesses, in such areas as luxury goods and organising musical events, and many of the rest were looking forward to doing so as they moved on to their business degrees.

And yet…

Leadership is also about communication and empathy

What made those young entrepreneurs so enjoyable to speak to was that not only were they very vocal and articulate, they were also clearly listening to and reflecting about what we were discussing.  Amongst the many post-it notes about confidence, there were also several with the words ’empathy’ and ‘listening’.

Julia Hordle and Lord Digby Jones had a lot to say about the importance of a leader’s communication skills (as listeners as well as conveyers of messages), and their ability to inspire trust.  A leader’s ability to empathise is something I’ve explored in a previous blog.

I came away from my interaction with the PJEA students feeling quite enthused about the qualities that many of them would bring to their future roles as leaders.


Elisabeth Goodman is the owner and Principal Consultant of RiverRhee Consulting and a trainer,  facilitator, one-to-one coach, speaker and writer, with a passion for and a proven track record in improving team performance and leading business change projects on a local or global basis. 

Elisabeth is an expert in knowledge management, and is accredited in change management, Lean Six Sigma and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  She has a BSc in Biochemistry, an MSc in Information Science, is a full member of the Chartered Institute of Information and Library Professionals (CILIP) and of the Association for Project Management (APM) and is also registered as a Growth Coach and Leadership & Management trainer with the GrowthAccelerator.

Elisabeth has 25+ years’ Pharma R&D experience as a line manager and internal trainer / consultant, most recently at GSK and its legacy companies, and is now enjoying working with a number of SMEs and larger organisations around the Cambridge cluster as well as further afield in the UK and in Europe.

Banishing the Monday morning blues: Being Exceptional

Holidays are an excellent time to catch-up with my reading, so I have just had a very stimulating week reading Rob Yeung’s “E is for Exceptional”.  I’ve previously enjoyed Yeung’s books on networking, and emotional intelligence, and picked this one up at random, not really knowing what to expect.

It’s a gem!  Like his other books it’s extremely readable – with anecdotal illustrations from the many exceptional people that he has interviewed, backed up by references from the literature, exercises to start developing our own capabilities for being exceptional and summaries at the end of each chapter in case we missed anything.

I would strongly recommend everyone to read this book, but in the meantime, here’s my own interpretive summary.

(By the way, the key capabilities in this book are aimed at individuals, but many would apply to businesses or teams – so I’ll be writing the next issue of my company newsletter based on this too.  Look out for ‘Creating Exceptional Teams’ on

Banishing the Monday morning blues (authenticity)

I’m always sad when I come across people who feel glum or worse at the start of the working week.  I’ve wondered if I’m naïve to think that people have a choice: that they could take the plunge and go for something different.

Rob Yeung backs me up: he calls this ‘authenticity’ and suggests that we should absolutely be true to ourselves and find work that is inspiring: what we enjoy most and are good at.  It’s what will help us feel fulfilled and, whilst doing it, put us ‘in the flow’ – where time just goes by without us noticing.  If we find and do what is authentic to us, Yeung maintains that the money will follow!

Being ‘authentic’ does not necessarily mean completely changing what we’re doing – it may be possible to craft a current job or role to bring it closer to what we enjoy doing the most.  This relates to other blogs that I’ve written about taking a self-employed attitude when working for an employer.  Fostering this may also lead to greater employee engagement and empowerment.

Having a vision

The idea of writing a business or team vision is well established – that of writing one for ourselves as individuals is less so.  Yeung makes a strong case for both developing and writing down our personal vision.

A vision acts as a framework for our ‘authenticity’.  It helps us create work-life balance so that we give enough time to all the things that are important to us: family, friends, physical health, social activities or anything else, as well as our work. It helps us enjoy the ‘here and now’ and avoid ‘destination fixation’.  And it puts our shorter term goals into a longer term context so that we can make sure we don’t get inappropriately side-tracked.

Up till now my personal vision has been very much in my head – but I’ll be writing it down, referring to it and refreshing it as Yeung suggests.  I’ve written my first draft.


I’m following a different order in describing these capabilities than the one in the book, because I believe that finding our area of ‘authenticity’, and then putting it within the context of a personal vision gives us the focus from which everything else can flow.  Daring is then all about taking action: pursuing opportunities that come our way even if they’re scary, but with the conviction that they’re the right thing to do – as I did in starting my own business!

Being daring is about doing things that we would otherwise regret not having done.  But it’s also about articulating these daring activities as individual goals, with specific measures (so we know when we’ve succeeded), timelines (to avoid procrastination), and a series of steps that we can follow one at a time and so maintain and build our motivation as each step succeeds.

I love Yeung’s suggestion of having a ‘setback manifesto’, so that we can constructively review what’s happened if things go wrong, identify actions to take to reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence, and know how to behave if something similar happens again!

All the ‘C’s

Yeung describes 5 other capabilities of exceptional people, which would seem to ‘feed’ and sustain our authenticity.

Curiosity or ‘awe’ enables us to develop our knowledge, pick up new ideas, be more creative.  In a work situation this is what enables us to ‘work smarter not harder’: solve problems more effectively and innovate.  Yeung encourages us to read widely – not only in our area of expertise, but across disciplines too.  Incidentally he challenges the group approach to brainstorming, saying it is less effective than individual brainstorming and suggesting a new (4-tier) model, which combines the two.  I will definitely be trying this different approach with teams.

Connecting with people to achieve diversity in our contacts, but with an emphasis on ‘netfriending’ rather than ‘networking’ so that we build relationships with the people that we get to know.  Yeung talks about ‘seeking the spark’ with people where connecting comes easily rather than forcing ourselves to try building relationships with everyone we meet.  He also reminds us that making connections with people can come through speaking at and running events or courses, writing, joining committees, going to conferences etc. not just attending pure networking events.  For those working within an organisation, connecting can come from going to lunch with people, joining task forces, or simply stopping by to say hello to colleagues.

Cherishing is about building that rapport with people; having the emotional intelligence to put ourselves in other people’s shoes; really listening to others and giving them space to express themselves.  Yeung also encourages us to look for the ‘3rd way’ in conflict situations in that both people could be right in their views, and the way forward could build on both views, rather than on only one or the other.

Centredness is also a form of emotional intelligence.  In this case it’s about developing our inner calm; cultivating more positive than negative inner thoughts; recognising that ‘thoughts are just thoughts’; and developing a mindfulness or focus on the here and now.  Yeung has some very helpful exercises on how we can help ourselves feel better about both short-term and more serious emotional setbacks.

Citizenship is all about integrity, being a responsible member of our community, and respecting the environment (sustainability).  It’s about focusing on our personal legacy and managing our reputation.  Without it, all the other efforts we might make at being exceptional could be wiped out!

Closing thoughts

“E is for Exceptional” has been an inspirational book.  There are lots of ideas that I have taken away for developing my own capabilities, and I’m looking forward to exploring how these ideas can be applied to ‘Creating Exceptional Teams’ in my RiverRhee Consulting newsletter.  Hopefully some of you will also pick up Rob Yeung’s book, and/or follow my newsletter.

I do hope that anyone suffering from Monday morning blues will discover a way to banish them forever, and will be daring enough to follow it through!

[Footnote.  It’s interesting to compare Rob Yeung’s “E is for Exceptional” with Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness” – there is a strong overlap in the capabilities covered between them and I may re-read Covey’s books in that light on my next holiday!  I would also mention Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do more great work” as another easy to read, exercise based approach for helping you to find your ‘authenticity’.  I wrote a blog some time ago (Building Strong Personal Careers)  inspired by “The 8th Habit” and “Do More Great Work” which readers might also find interesting.]


Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.

Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.

Why is employee engagement such an important topic?

By Elisabeth Goodman

My blog on employee engagement (Employee engagement – some interesting data and perspectives for Lean and Six Sigma practitioners) is, of all the blogs that I have written since 2009), the one that has attracted the most attention.  I wrote it in response to an article I read in the business section of the Sunday Observer1 – a very informative study that the Observer had commissioned, rich in case studies and data from FTSE 100 companies.  So why has this blog attracted so much attention?

Employee engagement is the key to organisational and team effectiveness

The Observer article caught my attention because employee engagement, or involvement is intrinsic to business process improvement through such techniques as Lean and Six Sigma.  If people are not engaged, they won’t be committed to the organisation’s goals, won’t be able to communicate those goals as part of building strong customer relations, and won’t be looking for ways to achieve those goals through efficient internal processes.

People also need to be engaged in order to achieve effective business change.  Participants in my Change Management courses sometimes find it a revelation to hear that resistance from those experiencing change is a good thing, something to be welcomed.  Resistance is an indication that people are actually beginning to engage with a change:  that they are considering what the impact will be on them, rather than oblivious to or ignoring it.

And without engagement, people will find it impossible to identify and share the learning and insights, which are essential to healthy and thriving teams and organisations if they are to learn from their mistakes and build on their successes.

As I wrote in the December 2011 version of my RiverRhee Newsletter, “The answer comes from within… with the help of others”, it’s only possible to have an effective team or organisation if people are engaged.  Employees have the key!

‘Empowerment’ and ‘Intrapreneurs’

One of the big themes in my life as a corporate employee was ‘empowerment’: encouraging employees to appreciate and act upon the idea that they had ‘the power’ to make decisions and carry them out without necessarily referring to their managers.

As someone who is now self-employed and runs my own business, the idea of acting otherwise makes no sense at all!  I work in teams in an associate relationship, and we collaborate in our decision-making and actions.  I meet a lot of entrepreneurs, and have often wondered what it would be like if people took an ‘intrapreneurial’ approach to working within organisations.  In a 2010 newsletter (‘Finding our voice’ – a route to greater employee engagement and empowerment?), I suggested that what might help people to do this is to take a more active perspective of their careers – so that they view their current job as one that they have chosen, and are in control of, rather than something that they are being subjected to (to put it a bit bluntly!).

What if there weren’t any managers?!

I really enjoyed reading the case study of Morning Star in the December 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review.2   Hamel describes a leading food processor, with revenues of over $700 million and 400 full-time employees, which functions entirely around the principles of self-management.

At Morning Star, no-one has a manager, each employee negotiates responsibilities with their peers and is responsible for finding the tools that they need for their work, everyone can spend the company money, there are no job titles or promotions, and compensation is decided between peers. The only ‘boss’ is the overall mission of the company.

This model works at Morning Star because it combines an individuals’ responsibility (and freedom) for managing their work within the context of the overall mission, and collaboration between peers to define and review individual roles and expected performance.

The article goes into a lot more detail, but one of the many interesting aspects of this model is that engagement and empowerment are not issues at all in this kind of scenario.  As a result of this approach, every individual inevitably has to:

  1. Use their initiative
  2. Continuously develop their skills to enhance the quality of their work
  3. Display flexibility to respond to the changing environment of the organisation
  4. Work in a collegiate way to fulfill their role in relation to their peers
  5. Make decisions that directly affect their work

These are wonderful illustrations of process improvement / Lean and Six Sigma (1,2,4,5), Change Management (3), and Knowledge Management (2, 4) in practice.

Some final thoughts about thriving

I love my work, and welcome Monday mornings as the start of another week of new discoveries, opportunities to work with others and practice and develop my skills.  I meet many others running their own business that feel the same.  It sounds like the employees at Morning Star may also feel like this.

Another Harvard Business Review article3 suggests that giving employees a chance to learn and grow will help them and the organisation to thrive.  This time the managers are in charge again, but some of the themes re-occur:

  1. Providing employees with the discretion to make decisions directly affecting their work
  2. Ensuring that people have the information they need to understand how their work relates to the organisation’s mission and strategy
  3. Encouraging good (civil) behaviour – positive relationships
  4. Offering performance feedback

The authors suggest that these 4 mechanisms will foster vitality (or energy in individuals and in those with whom they interact), and learning (or growth from new knowledge and skills).


It seems that, unless people are running their own business or are self-managing themselves in an organisation such as Morning Star, employers need to study and support the mechanisms that will enable employee engagement and so help individuals and the organisation to thrive.  We’re obviously not there yet.

Why are you interested in employee engagement? It would be great to read your comments.


  1. Are more firms listening to their staff or are they just paying lip service? Observer, 22 August 2010, pp38-39
  2. Gary Hamel.  First, let’s fire all the managers. Harvard Business Review, December 2011, pp49-60
  3. Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath.  Creating sustainable performance.  Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012, pp93-99

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

Building strong personal career paths – do you have a case study to share?

Readers of my blogs will know that I am an avid reader.  I’ve just made my way through ‘Do more great work’ by Michael Bungay Stanier.  It’s a misleadingly small book!  It looks small, and from the outside could be mistaken as the kind of book that you can wiz through.  But it’s taken me about a month to read!  In the process, I’ve been discovering some strategic and tactical things I can, want and will do differently, and looking back over my notes, realize that I have even implemented some of them already.

So many of us could do with some help in determining our ideal career.

Helen Chapman, of Pelican Coaching & Development, recommended the book to me in the first place, and I have found myself recommending the book non-stop to people I’ve been talking to:

  • Participants in a NetIKX seminar on Information and Knowledge Management competencies that I chaired – where we got onto how people could and should think about what career path they wanted to steer in life – and engage their line managers in personal review & development discussions accordingly.
  • Someone I met at the DIA conference that I spoke at in Nice last October, that I’ve kept in touch with and who inspired me by the innovation she brought to her work.  I know she reads my blogs: ‘R’ you will know who you are J
  • Two of my local LinkedIn trainees, experience consultants and trainers, who are bravely re-examining what unique offering they can bring to their clients in order to represent that effectively in their LinkedIn summaries and other marketing activities.
  • One of my ex-colleagues who is being made redundant and, like me at that point, realized he’d never thought closely about what he could do in his career, if he had a complete choice, and how difficult it is to begin to do so.

Re-thinking our careers is both scary and exhilarating but there is help available.

Michael Bungay Stanier’s book is a very good, exercise-filled guide to discovering what’s important to you in your work and how you might get to do more of it.  There are other books too that have helped me and that I’ve recommended to others: Steven Covey’s ‘8th Habit’ that I’ve referred to in previous blogs, and ‘Book yourself solid’ by Michael Porter which also has exercises to help you discover what’s important to you and how to get there.

An important piece of advice in many of the books is to find someone, a ‘buddy’ that you can test your ideas with and who can encourage / support you as you embark on this journey.  Sometimes it’s easier to find someone who isn’t your partner or a close member of your family, as they may be finding your re-thinking as scary as you are!

I have found some seminars / workshops quite helpful as well, as they are often safe places to explore new ideas for what you want to do.  In the UK, the government sponsored BusinessLink seminars are examples of these, although the range of seminars has recently been cut back.  I also was fortunate to attend very good ones organised by DBM; I particularly enjoyed ‘Start your own business’ by Andrew Halfacre of Lighthouse 365

Local networking groups can also be great places to explore new ideas about your way forward: many of the people attending are going through similar soul-searching! Though if you are in full time employment, finding the time to attend can be a challenge.

Re-thinking our careers is worth doing whether an employee or self-employed

The extra year that I had with my employer following which I knew I would be made redundant was a tremendous opportunity for me to mentally prepare for my new life.  As I already had some idea of what I would like to do, it also changed my attitude towards my day-to-day work: I could approach it with a ‘self-employed’ attitude.  I believe that people who have consciously re-thought their careers, and decided to pursue them within an organisation, bring so much more to their work, and can gain so much more personal satisfaction from it.

I would be really interested in learning of case studies that people would be willing to share.

I’d like to collect some case studies from people who have re-thought their careers, or are in the process of doing so, and hear your experiences of what has or has not helped you in your personal journey.  Do get in touch if you would like to share your case study with me, and, with your permission, I will share your case study, or the approaches you have found effective, either anonymously, or with your name.

Related Blogs & Notes

1. Taking control of your working life as an employee;  a first 100 days approach?

2. Personal reflections on living through change and… reaching ones potential

3. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, using process improvement, knowledge and change management to enhance team effectiveness.

Follow the links to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, and about Elisabeth Goodman.