Leadership and Management Issues in Romania
A few articles on leadership, the crisis and Romania

Neo Taylorism and Disempowerment

For at least last twenty years, and in most corporations worldwide, there has been a growing concern about the steady decline of personnel motivation, stress in the workplace, and in some cases, outright employee burnout. Almost paradoxically, the key management buzzwords and phrases focused on these corporate issues are centered on how to empower the personnel, how to enable co-responsibility, how to foster pro-activity, how to develop ownership, how to create a learning environment, how to tap on collective intelligence, etc. 

Considering that this concern has very consistently stayed on the top of most Human Resource department’s wish list for decades, we can assume that the issue is not being solved, and therefore that it has not been approached properly.  Indeed, in spite of millions yearly allocated to diverse personnel empowerment programs, inspirational conventions, incentive schemes, motivational coaching, financial perks and bonuses, training schemes, development programs and a host of other monthly or yearly recognition exercises, significant measurable change is far from perceptible.  On the contrary, it seems that in too many companies, personnel is generally subject to more absenteeism and occupational illnesses, under stress and voicing distress, quitting, and generally expressing dissatisfaction with their immediate work environment. 

Conclusion: to deal with this generalized motivational issue, the array of means deployed by Human Resources seems to have been inversely proportionate to achieving perceptible results.   It is high time to reconsider corporate perspectives on the empowerment issue and find original strategies to really deal with developing personnel motivation. 

For one, it seems that if generalized personnel de-motivation can indeed be increasing in modern organizations, this evolution should less be considered a problem in itself and more perceived as a consequence or a symptom resting on other causes.   Indeed, if we are not solving the problem, maybe it is not correctly formulated.  

  • Notice that when one asks the question “how can we empower personnel”, it is both assumed that the issue is with the personnel and not elsewhere.  It is also assumed that the original state of those personnel is one of disempowerment. How convenient!

The very way the problem is formulated automatically drives a search for a certain range of solutions: more pay, more perks, more recognition, more bonuses, etc.  What else motivates personnel?   Over time, we have noticed that this approach is not solving the issue. We may even notice that these apparent solutions are often fostering unproductive individualistic and competitive behavior where more is to be gained in collaborative teamwork.  So the apparent solutions actually may add to organizational problems.

But let’s face it, in spite of all the apparent corporate concern and extensive Human resource programs focused on developing employee motivation, ownership and commitment, it seems to be that the corporate work environment has gradually become much more alienating.
So let us now consider that the problem was not defined correctly.  What if we are just trying to cure a symptom and not the real illness?  To approach the issue with a different perspective, it may be useful to consider a completely different frame of reference. 

For instance, we could indeed assume that most people are naturally motivated to contribute to the achievement of meaningful and stimulating individual and collective goals.  We could consider that when given a chance and a supportive environment, any normal worker or employee will spontaneously volunteer positive and constructive energy to achieve corporate objectives.   If one adopts this point of view, then the question becomes “why are employees and managers becoming unmotivated in the corporate environment, often to the point of quitting in order to become self-employed by taking great personal risks?  What indeed makes them loose their motivation for one environment and choose to leave for other horizons?

  • In this perspective, the real question today may be to simply ask: how is the corporate environment systematically de-motivating, dis-empowering and alienating their personnel?

Indeed, it seems that most corporate leaders and management are deploying an array of methods specifically tailored to limit empowerment, stifle initiatives, curb all risk taking, increase predictability and ultimately succeed in rendering their employee’s and middle management’s life utterly boring.   Indeed, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to perceive that organizations are becoming more and more controlling.  Consider:

  • The growing amount of increasingly detailed standardized operating procedures that are usually rolled out and controlled from distant centralizing headquarters.
  • The extraordinary array of complex and very detailed reporting systems that occupy many managers almost full time.  Many of these by-pass and overlap managers and are redundant, for extra security.
  • The extensive time spent in meeting presentations to inform and over-inform an increasingly inquisitive micro-managing hierarchy,
  • The widespread deployment of ISO and other so-called quality measurement systems focused more on establishing another set of procedures than on really developing client quality,
  • The very wide and continuously growing range of financial control systems,
  • The growing complexity of matrix co-management structures, where everyone reports to at least two contradictory if not conflicting hierarchies.

All these control systems, and more, are implemented in the corporate environment to achieve two very complementary objectives: minute control over any possibility of initiative, and extremely precise predictability of results.

Organizations need to face the fact that unmotivated and disempowered personnel are not the result of a world-wide and general social evolution that would have today’s employees require more perks to function normally.  The lack of interest for work in the corporate environment results from growing a form of neo Taylorism that has been gradually developed over the past thirty years. 

As a result, outstanding increases in the volume of sales or of financial results are not first in the hierarchy of executive concerns.  Leaders now what each and every person is doing and control exactly when they are doing it in a very predictable way.  This has become much more important than if the same people creatively achieve really outstanding results in an uncontrolled and unpredictable way. 

In effect, management’s priority is to justify its managerial presence by proving that it can minutely predict and control.  This is what shareholders expect.  If an organization’s personnel ever aim for outstanding goals in a fashion that escapes managerial control, then management will react in fear and establish tighter controls.   Consequently today, it is much more important to merely make a safe and sure budget than to unexpectedly deliver doubled results.

  • As a consequence, when the large majority of an organization’s personnel seems to display lack of motivation and empowerment, the real issue is that their corporate culture is primarily focused on pleasing security-oriented shareholders who prefer stable and predictable progressions over unexpected opportunist peaks and slowdowns.  Shareholders want their corporations to compensate for their fear of change with apparent stability.  Consequently, employees have to suffer a fundamentally insecure management culture focused on implementing wide range of coercive control systems designed to limit unpredictability.

In such a context, management and personnel adapt, comply, and limit themselves, slow their potential growth and minimize all risk taking.  Why indeed spend time and energy fighting more and more pervasive internal limits imposed by the corporate system if the priority is not to develop. In this context, it may also seem useless to attempt to motivate, empower and grow personnel.  One does not grow in coercive environments.  At best, one will survive by displaying apparently compliant and pleasing behavior. 

In this context, there are two possible strategies that could bring much more coherency.  

  • The first strategy is to cancel all useless expenses on training, coaching, empowering and other means that are fundamentally incoherent with the underlying corporate priority on total control.  
  • The second strategy would consist in developing a more goal-oriented management culture that would not privilege a top-down centralized micro-controlling environment.  This would indeed consist in creating a learning environment for the personnel to grow, unfold and achieve their potential for outstanding results. 

The personnel would then not need to be motivated, empowered nor indeed driven.  They would just be allowed to express and unfold their natural existing motivation in an environment that allows for their growth.  In this context, coaching and training alike have their place.

Blurred boundaries between management, training and coaching

In Romania and elsewhere, one hears about numerous programs on what is proudly called “performance coaching”, especially within sales departments and divisions. This is definitely a growing fad in pharmaceutical companies and in the larger consumer goods distribution sector. In these organizations, corporate in-house training programs originating in the US or UK summarily prepare internal sales trainers to "coach" sales people with a very clear short-term objective:  increase corporate sales.

Consequently, with so-called “coaching”, a number of managing and follow-up procedures are enforced by sales trainers to accompany salespeople to define challenging goals, follow up clients, measure progress, and achieve better results in the field. 
Now, what is surprising is that normally, sales management is also about implementing procedures to accompany salespeople to define challenging goals, follow up clients clients, measure progress, and achieve ambitious financial results.

Considering this overlap of responsibilities between "managers" and "coaches", some questions may be raised here, including the following:

  • When sales trainers are busy following up salespeople to ensure that these achieve results, what is the sales management doing?
  • Who gets the bonus in case of higher results, the coaches or the managers?
  • Is this parallel-management process called “coaching” and focused on rapidly achieving higher sales results really coaching?
  • How is this internal process participating in blurring the difference between top-down management cultures and a coaching approach that should principally rest on tapping creative energy that can emerge from the bottom up?
  • Are these trainers-coaches merely surrogate managers that will eventually replace the existing managers? 
 indeed, if they really learn how to accompany sales teams to achieve higher results, they will in effect become excellent managers.  They could then apply for the job and be paid accordingly.

Interestingly, some companies who have not wanted or not been able to develop a performing internal sales organization have externalized or outsourced their entire sales force to specialized external “mercenary” sales teams.  These often succeed in achieving excellent results.  Coaches do not manage these external sales teams. Indeed, in these external sales companies, real sales managers know how to enforce results-oriented procedures, accompany salespeople to define higher goals, follow up their clients, measure progress, and achieve very high results.  These organizations must be more motivating, somehow.

What seems to emerge out of the recent “performance coaching” trend is that some organizations have given up on developing the management skills of the people who hold management positions.  When managers don’t manage their personnel to achieve measurable results, the new strategy is to have their personnel directly “coached” by a third person to achieve results.  Interestingly, these third persons do not get perks and bonuses linked to sales results, as they do not hold management position. This seems to be quite a roundabout way to protect managers who lack management skills.

The real issue may be for companies to accept to face their reality. Too many people holding management positions are still not trained to be real managers. Most of them may indeed be good experts or have friends in the system and seniority in the organization, but they do not know how to accompany their personnel and teams to achieve outstanding professional results by motivating, enforcing procedures, defining ambitions goals, following up, measuring progress, and achieving higher financial results.  

It is quite clear that these organizations are underachieving, but bypassing management will not solve the issue on the long run.  Consequently, people holding management positions need to be trained to embody management skills and really accompany their personnel.  That is their main function. to achieve this the managers need training an probably coaching. Not their personnel.

But considering this situation, what are the real management and people skills of the managers who manage these managers? What is the strategic competency of those that design these roundabout bypassing programs?  What are the real training skills of the trainers, who should be training people to develop behavioral skills rather than just entertain with concepts originating from books?  It is indeed difficult to apply a coaching solution when all the real organizational needs have not been identified.

Now don't get me wrong. There is a lot to be done with real coaching to help clients, managers and sales people achieve very performing results. But this cannot be achieved by simply compensating for inexistant management skills nor is coaching the same as training. Coaching rests on accompanying peoples growth and development to achieve outstanding results in their own creative way, at their chosen pace.  To be sure, that can often lead to achieving much higher results than any old top-down approach withing an organization that avoids to train its management.

Typically the organization cultures I have mentioned (but not named) above are very centralized.  Their programs are directed from headquarters in other countries, who want to roll out their solutions all over the world.  They are much more concerned with controlling every person on their sales force, every minute of their professional day, than with achieving higher results. What they call internal "performance coaching" is very often just another centralizing controlling process that ends up creating more personal stress and dissatisfaction, less motivation and ownership within the sales force, and the feeling of helplessness within the internal training team.   This has to be revisited.  Then, individual team, and organizations coaching may be one of the appropriate means to accompany these professional systems to really achieve short and long-term success.

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Two current Romanian realities

On my present trip to Bucharest (summer 2010), I am experiencing a strong discrepancy between what I am hearing and observing in some environments, and what I am hearing and observing in others.   The article below, purely based on personal perceptions, is offered as food for thought. 

Both in social and economic dimensions, it seems that we are in the process of witnessing the splitting of Romania into two relatively distinct entities.  Indeed, for residents in this country, two different and sometimes complementary economic realities are in the process of dividing the country into two substantially different personal, professional, and social systems.   To name these two emerging Romanian realities, one can be perceived as mainstream Romania, or Romania of the past, and the other could optimistically be called the new Romania or the Romania of the future.

The mainstream Romania of the past is the one that is most present in peoples minds, most presented on television, most influenced by the Government, most concerned with the recent financial crisis and current economic recession.  This Romania is the one that strives within national boundaries as if the international environment was unimportant.  It principally wants to stay out of the reach of global influence while opportunistically maneuvering to attract private investment, European grants and international loans.   It lives within its own feudal coherency, is led by its historical clans and circles of influence, is strongly influenced by internal populist politics, is daily facing circumstantial ethics and rampant corruption, and is  surviving on the short term by entertaining the prospect of easy wins and immediate gratification.

This mainstream Romania is rather consequent in population size. and is the one that is most suffering from the economic downturn. It will probably continue to do so.  The people that belong to this segment are either unemployed, retired, belong to the public sector, or are people that work in companies that provide goods and services primarily to the slumping national market.  This population is very profoundly local and nationalist, to the point of appearing provincial.

Considering that in the near future, reduced retirement pay and salaries in the public sector will be seriously contained, and that added value and income taxes will most probably be raised and remain high, local consumption can definitely be expected to remain low if not depressed.  This is not about to change for at least two years or more.  To confirm this state of affairs, the official Romanian predictions do not expect any signs of local recovery until 2012.  Incidentally this prediction is made by a government that may not be in office by that time.

To make thing worse for the probable difficulties faced by this mainstream Romania, the recent Greek meltdown is provoking added international pressure.  Europe and the FMI are strongly indicating that the wild partying years are over.  Among others, the Romanian government is pressured to move beyond vague promises and really deliver within strict deadlines.  It must develop competencies and credibility to permanently reduce public expenses. This is the first no-brain decision that most companies have made at the onset of the crisis at a time that the government increased salaries by fifty percent.  Beyond this type of decision of course, the government should also focus on driving fundamental reforms in order to accompany the country’s economy and administration into the modern world.   But that will take courage. Political leaders must indeed stop populist politics and learn to invest in all areas that will ensure future growth.

Consequently, if local politicians do not significantly focus on real economic issues, financial support from Europe and the international community will be substantially restricted.   What is needed for this mainstream Romania is the courage to perceive that the past booming years of easy money and generalized 8 to 12 percent economic growth are gone, and that these will not return spontaneously.  Indeed, if the majority of the mainstream Romanian population and its leaders continue to believe that economic and social development will come from abroad, that the good easy times will shortly return, that it is just a question of patience for recovery to spontaneously emerge, then the deep necessary changes will not be implemented, foreign funds will veer off, and the downturn will linger on for many more, longer darker years.

If, however, local leaders first have the courage to model change and then demonstrate the determination to build the country’s infrastructure and implement necessary reforms in all dimensions of civil society, then there can be a hope that Romania will come out of the present local downturn more rapidly.  To make it short, Romania must make decisions similar to Greece’s, Spain’s, England’s, Germany’s, etc. in order to ensure economic recovery.   As Winston Churchill said at the onset of World War II, this mainstream Romania is facing a number of difficult years and can expect a near future of “blood, sweat and tears”.

Now there is also another more dynamic Romania that seems to be presently emerging out of the current crisis.  This Romania of the future is developing around a number of reasonably reinforced companies.  In the private sector, there are currently a consequent number of large, medium and small Romanian enterprises that are literally booming.   These are the IT companies, the equipment factories, the pharmaceutical producers, the international service-oriented call centers and all the other professional systems intimately and dynamically linked to the rest of the world.  Indeed, these champions are almost all suppliers to the reviving world economy.  These export-oriented leaders, professionals and companies are deeply connected to the present needs of a global market and are well prepared to compete within this larger environment.  Much unlike the local mainstream Romanian market, the world market is currently waking up, and some niches are even experiencing rapid growth.  

Consequently, many Romanian goods and services producers that deliver to Eastern and Western Europe and to the rest of the world are now booming.  Most are gearing up for full production if not rapid expansion.  Many of these “new Romania” companies are local branches of international groups, many others are majority-owned by Romanians.  They all seem to be experiencing a very different local economic reality.  For them the hard times are already over, or will be over very soon.  

Although until 2008, the booming decade had also lulled these “other” organizations into an illusion of comfort, the recent economic crisis has woken them up and many have used the past two years to significantly strengthen.  In those difficult years, many of them have significantly reduced payroll and operating costs, eliminated superfluous expenses, replaced ineffective top management, re-focused themselves on their core businesses, renegotiated contracts with suppliers, developed their ethics and professionalism, raised quality standards dramatically, etc.  Today, most of these revitalized local companies have already faced reality.  They are implementing the type of htough decisions that the Romanian government and other mainstream Romania companies have so far deviously avoided.

Also note that before the 2007 crisis, headquarters of international companies were very lenient with their local Romanian branches.  They were lulled by the recurrent consequential profits that they were inevitably receiving every year.  To get their Romania branches profitable again, these same international headquarters have started to manage their local subsidiaries much more professionally, and they will most probably continue to do so.   Most of these have been throurouly audited and a good part of their expat and local management has been replaced.  In some cases, the consequences have been dramatic.  The job market is overflowing with ex-top executives.  As a result however, most foreign branches in Romania are now much healthier than three years ago, and many of them are, at long last, being managed according to truly international standards. 

Consequently, of course, Romanian managers in these companies will also be expected to commit to their companies, to deliver results, to develop their people skills and capacity to work within teams, to become more focused on medium and long term strategy rather than just on opportunist quick wins, etc. In short, they will also be expected to become real managers by international standards.  To make it tougher on them, the job market for stable positions will also become tighter, except, of course for the very good managers and leaders (again by international standards).  It will be more and more difficult to pretend to be a manager by just seducing the appropriate leaders and throwing one's weight around., angling around for personal gain at the team's expense.  In these companies, humility and hard work will become differentiating qualities to get promoted.  The trend has started, and except for a few branches of international companies that have unluckily not really felt the recent crisis, the new Romania organizations are now much leaner and are becoming much readier for international competition. 

Another segment of this “Romania of the future” is constituted of more internationally minded nationals who are keenly aware of the behavioral gap between local social and political strategies and normal behavior in more mature democratic nations.  They can see beyond national boundaries, and they compare realities.  They are deeply disappointed by what they perceive of mainstream Romania and are searching for ways to provoke and accompany needed local changes.   They are truly concerned with their country’s real and ethical development.  Rather than decide to leave and live abroad (a true option for many), they choose to stay in order to find how to participate in the necessary local transformations, even if only on a small and personal scale. 

Less protected by a large corporate environment, these professional individuals and smaller companies carefully choose their suppliers, clients, partners and friends and struggle to create islands of ethical income and smaller healthy social environments.  Although life is not easy everyday for this segment of the “other” Romania, it is also facing an upswing on the much shorter term.  Indeed, their focus is not on immediate illusionary gratification but on gradual but steady and solid improvement.  Even if it takes patience, their strategy can only succeed.  Indeed, their economic environment is much more strongly linked to international standards and will consequently grow at the pace of recovery of the rest of Europe and the larger world economy.  For the time being, this group seems to be a minority, but its budding success will deliver a strong local message.

Whatever the future brings on Romania, it is important for all to make the right choices today.  It will be much more productive to accompany all endeavors that support organizations, systems, professionals and people that contribute to making Romania and Romanians true partners in the larger world economy.  Focusing on developing international standards, behaving according to international leadership ethics and humbly modeling true management skills, raising productivity levels to become competitive in Europe if not on the larger world market, and participating in building the Romania of the future is the best present and local success strategy.  In my own way, that is where I wish to contribute, and present indicators of success in my local business are reinforcing my convictions.

Hello, I'm an entrepreneur

In Romania as in many developing countries, this could be the preferred introduction for almost half of the population.  It seems that the word entrepreneur represents a desired social status, an irrational dream of exceptional success, an idealized businessman model, a range of personal and professional skills and for a chosen few, a very active and effective reality.

But what exactly is an entrepreneur?

In the present business environment, one could say that the definition could encompass all of the above, and probably more specific criteria to include a personality profile, a number of survival strategies in the business environment, a particular observable ethical stance, a range of precise personal and professional behavioral patterns.

In fact, all over the world, entrepreneurs have been studied as a particular psychological profile.  If they are just superficially classified as a slightly different type of professionals among other businessmen, entrepreneurs are also known to have a particular frame of reference or perspective on reality, a specific belief system and a range of typical behaviors.  Resting on this knowledge, the article below provides a relatively precise definition of what it takes to be an entrepreneur.  In short, it offers a more detailed inventory of their specific psychological and behavioral profile.

But let us proceed with caution.  The descriptions and reflections that follow do not apply to all the people who believe they are entrepreneurs nor to all those who have developed their own personal businesses.  This article attempts to propose a very general profile that may or not fit individuals who present themselves as entrepreneurs nor all the people who are perceived as such.

In some cases, the following descriptions may seem to present an extreme caricature.  In other cases, one may feel that the picture really fits some very precise and well-known people.  Sometimes, only a number of the characteristics proposed below will fit, but not all.   Suffice it to say that this article is not defining anyone in particular but what may turn out to be a very coherent and effective business developer’s profile.

Nonetheless, consensus characteristics of entrepreneurs are quite clear.  This type of person is deeply motivated to develop a personally owned independent, successful and highly visible business.  They want to acquire economic freedom and an undisputed control of their own lives through the acquisition of material wealth to achieve social status, economic power and possible political influence. In fact, securing the control of their immediate business environment and of all people who could positively or negatively influence the measurable results of their enterprise often becomes a central development strategy. To achieve these goals, a number of other attitudes and behaviors are often initially present or are gradually developed by entrepreneurs.


To achieve control of their immediate pertinent environment, the main communication mode and behavioral pattern entrepreneurs generally implement rests on displayed or underlying directive attitude.  When it is outspoken, this directive behavior is generally focused on achieving precise short-term tasks that need to be immediately carried out by the personnel on hand.  Whenever they are in their operational mode, whoever happens to be closest at a given time is told exactly what to do and to rapidly report back that it has been successfully carried out.

This illustrates that entrepreneurs are intensely action-oriented and highly reactive to immediate stimulus.  They are extraordinary power horses that often succeed in totally exhausting their available personnel by pushing them to produce fifteen hours day, including during power lunches and action-oriented virtual breaks.  Literally perceived as supermen or superwomen, entrepreneurs are hyperactive workaholics that seem to never rest, tire or become ill.

As a consequence to this hyperactive dynamism, entrepreneurs do not like to be alone.  They are almost constantly surrounded by a group of efficient people and personnel who are capable to immediately and effectively act on whatever directions they are given, without useless questioning and discussion.  Entrepreneurs know how to make instant decisions with the aim of immediately influencing reality in the direction they want it to evolve.

As soon as entrepreneurs get a good idea, they decide what to do and then want their decisions to be implemented without qualms.  Consequently their form of directivity is very short term and action oriented, and they expect to have rapid and positive progress reports in return.  Inherently impatient and opportunist tacticians, they also believe it is a waste of time to plan on the long term and uselessly delve on strategy or vision.

To get things done, entrepreneurs usually depend on a close circle of trustworthy and very dedicated lieutenants. The bonds between an entrepreneur and each of the members of their close professional network are very strong, intense and personal. Entrepreneurs want to know everything about whom they hire and need to trust.  They demand total availability and commitment.

It consequently seems that people who work for entrepreneurs are often required to have no demanding social or private lives.  Work and availability to cater to the entrepreneur’s wishes and needs always come first.  Calls in the middle of the night, convocations during weekends and vacations are habits rather than exceptions. Coming very early in the morning and staying late to work every night are the rule.  In return, each employee is lavishly paid and may get extraordinary treatment in exceptional situations or when in need.  Indeed, good entrepreneurs know how to protect and compensate their very dedicated soldiers.  They build their reputation on how they support their people and these are generally proud to serve them and envied by others.

Entrepreneurs who have been very successful and who head very large organizations also know how to apply this preferential system to a much larger number of well-paid and recognized elite troops.  These are placed at the heart of the organization, recognized at lavish conventions, publicly praised for their successful accomplishments, extremely well paid and very comfortably supported.  In return, of course, they are expected to be totally available and regularly deliver without hesitation.

It often seems that the bond between entrepreneurs and their preferred personnel are so strong that they are as intense or even paramount to family ties and other personal relationships.  In effect, successful entrepreneurs know how to build very powerful networks of relationships in which they are the sole and central object of admiration, if not worship.  On the long term, this may strongly contribute to building entrepreneurial egos, their impatience and intolerance for slow or mediocre results.

A very dedicated network of committed employees is central to achieving long-term goals for most entrepreneurs.  This network may in fact often be much more important to them than the fields in which they choose to invest and develop.  Consequently, if an entrepreneur decides to pull out of a given professional area and develop in a completely new arena, their troops usually follow them no matter the nature of the change.  This strong bond reveals that entrepreneurs are not only directive.  They have a very powerful power of attraction.  They seem to resonate more intensely with their organization than with their markets or clients.


In as much as entrepreneurs like to be constantly surrounded by others, they are highly interactive people and can relate with them a very frank, direct, spontaneous, friendly way.  They like to joke, socialize, eat, drink, laugh and play with full-hearted intensity.  They often have a reputation of party goers.  They also regularly organize lavish feasts in order to please and impress their troops, friends, prospects, professional and political network and potential preys.

Entrepreneurs are also often very seductive.  They have warm presence and charm, and they do not hesitate to use it to the advantage of both their businesses and personal pleasure.  This seductive capacity is often used very consciously to attract any opportunity that should arise and to interest any person or group that could be useful to achieve their goals.  They have very sharp senses that enable them to quickly evaluate people and situations they can use to their personal advantage.  They quickly and intuitively judge situations, target their preys, victims or objectives and then quickly move in to achieve results.  Should the environment present no perceptible interest, however, then they get bored and either get on their phone, clam up or get impatient to leave.  Consequently, it can be deduced that they are interested almost exclusively in people and situations from which they perceive they can get a personal or professional profit.  Even when they are appearing as a warm friend they are full-time carnivorous hunters.

Beware: even when apparently relaxing or recreating, entrepreneurs are always ready to react or become powerfully directive if the situation becomes critical, no whatever the personal or professional context.  Part of their attention is always prepared to deal with perceived danger at a pin’s drop and ensure their personal and business interests.  It is as if a permanent safety patrol is ensuring twenty-four hour surveillance to ensure immediate and powerful direction should the need arise.  One should not even attempt to catch a true entrepreneur off guard.


The seductive dimension of entrepreneurs is very much directed at new opportunities, interesting businesses, useful partners, beautiful women.  In all fields, entrepreneurs love novelty. When they have succeeded in creating a first organization, they will soon start looking around for another business opportunity, and then another venture and another project. Unable to focus on only one field of interest, they often create a network of companies.

The danger in an entrepreneur’s developmental frenzy is that they may spread their resources very thin and forget to ensure the solid stability of all their areas of development.   This could categorized as very poor risk management.  They often behave in the same way in their personal lives, moving from one conquest to another and yet another, loosing interest in each as soon as a new opportunity appears on their radar screen.  Consequently, a Don Juan or Casanova pattern relentlessly focused on achieving new conquests is inherently identical in both their personal and professional lives.

As a consequence of this constant interest in pursuing new partnerships, dimensions, directions and enterprises, entrepreneurs are perceived as creative developers and ambitious promoters.  When successful, they develop groups of companies in fields that may have no other connection between each than to have once attracted the attention of the entrepreneurial boss and owner. This constellation of organizations can sometimes develop into large holdings if not conglomerate empires.  The danger, however, in their multiple fields of interest is that when they move on to their next conquests, they may forget about their previous acquisitions, and ultimately let them go to waste.

This lack of long term constancy or commitment to clearly delimited realms of interest are linked to entrepreneur seductive patterns on the one hand and to their almost vital need for freedom on the other.  Entrepreneurs hate to feel controlled, stuck, trapped, or tied down.  Their extremely high capacity to adapt to any new situation is directly proportional to their imperative need to escape as soon as they start feeling cornered, enclosed or the necessity for commitment.  Entrepreneurs run away from anything that looks like chains.

It seems that in their formative years, many entrepreneurs have experienced growing up in multiple environments, moving from one community to another, one family to another, one school to a boarding school to another educational institution, one country to another, etc. In order to rapidly fit into strange new environments, this type of historical background tends to develop highly adaptive survival skills.  In this type of context, it is indeed useful to protect one’s self.  One needs to know how to and where to escape if the immediate environment becomes too uncomfortable or dangerous.  From this type of background, staying on the lookout and never really trusting anyone has gradually become an existential survivor’s modus operandi.  This type of past is the foundation of a real entrepreneur’s business development and survival skills.

As a consequence, entrepreneurs never really put all their eggs in the same basket.  You never know what may happen in the future, so it is strategic to have businesses in different countries, put something aside in a tax haven or two, spread wealth in different bank accounts, invest in very different ventures, partner with different people from different networks, and keep all these hermetically unrelated.  Entrepreneurs often implement this fundamental survival strategy both in their personal and professional lives. It participates in giving entrepreneurs both the necessary security to feel free the bad reputation of not knowing how to totally commit to any one person, system, idea, project etc. on the long term.

Respecting Limits

Considering the above criteria, it can be said that entrepreneurs do not like limits.  They indeed tend to cross the red lines, regularly bend the rules, freely interpret legal principles and repeatedly stretch their accounting presentations.  The name of their preferred game is “Cops and robbers”.  They firmly believe that if they can outsmart rules and regulations to their personal and professional advantage and get away with it, then they are right to take advantage of the situation.  The day they are uncovered, they first deny then hide, disappear, leave the country, and start again elsewhere.  That is when they are not caught and fined or judged and imprisoned.  Again, this can be categorized as extremely poor risk management.

To implement original tactics to bend the rules that apply to others, entrepreneurs are very creative in finding angles, flaws, loopholes, and other hidden opportunities.  They consequently know how to take advantage of situations where others only see clearly defined limits.  Note indeed that successful entrepreneurs usually hire an army of very effective lawyers and financial consultants to ensure their success, while they intensely stretch the boundaries of acceptable or ethical business behavior.  So long as they are not caught or cornered by a smarter judge or tax inspector, they consider that they are operating within legal limits.

This explains why entrepreneurs typically flourish in areas of the world where legal and law enforcement systems are still weak or nonexistent.  They actually participate in developing new territories, deserts or jungles much like the robber barons in the famed Far West.  Entrepreneurs thrive in these and other uncharted areas, often close to the outer limits or boundaries of otherwise well administrated systems, until civilization arrives to impose structure and justice.

One advice to give entrepreneurs could well be to ensure that they surround themselves with excellent lawyers and financial support systems in order to make sure they always stay within the limits of legal and financial rules and regulations and acceptable ethical behaviors.  They need also to learn to listen to these advisers.  This may become a difficulty if their rapid success ends up swelling their egos to the point of feeling indestructible.  Success makes them sometimes reckless. Entrepreneurs should always heed that limits do exist and can be imposed by society.

Another danger for the less ethical and avid entrepreneurs may appear when they unwittingly stretch the rules that apply to decent and timely pay of their employees and when they forget to respect their suppliers and clients on the market.  They are sometimes too tempted and succumb to the temptation of a useless show of force or of a quick win by regularly cheating or mistreating members and companies in their business environment.

As a result, they may gradually and unknowingly develop a well-earned negative reputation that will ultimately impede any chance of success.  In a short time, all the good employees leave and tell everyone why, and the embezzled clients and suppliers move on to collaborate with more ethical partners, and also spread the word.  Very rapidly, these entrepreneurs come to their cheap limits.  They then change environments to start again the same pattern in a field where they have no reputation, and if they do not change strategies and behavior, they achieve the same type of results within the same span of time.


There is absolutely no doubt that entrepreneurs are fundamental materialists.  Symbolically, if they are not stopped, their ultimate aim is to conquer the world or as much of it as they can within their expandable business environment, sweeping aside and sometimes destroying all visible competition.  One business after another, one area added to another, one acquisition to prepare another, piece by piece, the name of the game is territorial expansion and control.

Paradoxically for entrepreneurs, this very high focus on territorial and material conquest is elevated to the dimension of a lofty ideal.  This may explain why for entrepreneurs, the end often seem to justify the means.  Forgetting about elementary ethics, bending the rules and ruthlessly eliminating others on the way to success is just a small price for them and others to pay in order to achieve their ambitious personal goals.

Under stress and when exceptional opportunities arise, an entrepreneur’s extreme survival behavior will surface and reveal that they can be ruthless, single-minded, rugged hunters.  In these cases, they may very suddenly and brutally affect or destroy both their personal or professional environment.  “Business is business” is often the justifying motto used as a response to anyone who may challenge an entrepreneur’s disloyal tactics, deceptive strategies, social untruths, treacherous reactions, and otherwise borderline ethical behavior.

Of course, this behavior on an entrepreneur’s part can contribute to making a lot of enemies that will not hesitate to pay them back tenfold, the day they are in a weak position.  Note that this medium or long-term result is often what has destroyed many an entrepreneur’s initially successful career.

Consequently, to accompany entrepreneurs that wish to develop on the long term and as well-rounded people, an excellent strategy consists in helping them become more socially conscious contributors.  Coaching them to consider the benefits of respecting the environment, of investing in useful and visible foundations, in supporting not-for-profit associations and in developing truly sustainable business models can be an excellent way to begin their transformation.  Entrepreneurs then gradually discover that positive participation in an effort to build society on the long term is just as satisfying as selfishly accumulating personal wealth, if not more.  Luckily, numerous entrepreneurs choose variations of this path once they start succeeding.  They then invest in socially conscious businesses or decide to end their professional lives as very generous donators and philanthropists, supporting the arts and humanitarian causes.

In the same way as it is useful to accompany idealists to get both their feet firmly on the ground in order to learn to manage day to day material reality, it is useful to help entrepreneurs to truly discover the more vertical and spiritual dimensions of their lives.  In that way they can learn to invest some of their time and energy in developing themselves more profoundly.  This strategy can take the form of vision work focused on long-term sustainable business development or determining a more immaterial personal evolutionary aspiration that runs deeper than just focusing on survival and accumulation of tangible wealth.  In the course of this work, however, one must beware.  Numerous entrepreneurs may sometimes just use the marketing power of an idealist ambition to fool the masses and better achieve their selfish personal success.  That has often been witnessed in politics.

Private Life

Entrepreneurs often pair with other entrepreneurs and sometimes even seem to either hunt together on the same territory or strongly support each other’s ambitions in very different realms.  As a couple, they often both have their separate realms of interest, independent and unrelated businesses, autonomous areas of development

and expansion.  Whatever their unified or separate professional choices, they are often very visible, social and political couples, each adding to the other partner’s capacity for seduction and development in a wide variety of circles.

Sometimes the more reactive, directive or ruthless nature of their profile and behavior will result in extremely high visibility on the covers of scandal-oriented newspapers spreading news of their boisterous behavior and contradicting rumors concerning their intimate lives.  Sometimes their more glamorous dimension will regularly expose them in glossy publications displaying their social success in artistic circles, business conventions and political events.

Either way, entrepreneurs consider that the media exposure participates in creating the myth that they will use to get leverage and achieve future goals, increased celebrity and more power.  Either way, these public displays will invariably publicize their presence, status and wealth and show all that they have achieved ambitious materialistic goals and social status.  Invariably this will feed the ambitions and fantasies that participate in motivating the development of competition: future entrepreneurs.

Some entrepreneurs will be much more secretive and choose to protect the quality of their private and professional lives behind high walls or far away from paparazzi cameras and the public eye.  This generally applies to those who have learned to achieve a balance between contributing to added value for society through socially useful enterprises and investing in their private and personal development.  Among these will be found the truly fulfilled entrepreneurs who have achieved equilibrium between external material success and internal personal or spiritual growth.

To consult a workshop for entrepreneurs on risk management

Training ROI and Team Coaching

The crisis has come and settled into our everyday reality.  Of course, some say this is not a passing crisis but a permanent adjustment for the Romanian economic environment.  Crisis or adjustment, however, this period is provoking CEOs to ask themselves pertinent questions about where they have been spending their money in the past fifteen years, and particularly about the measurable results of two decades of training expenses.  Indeed, in soft skills such as management, leadership, communication, sales, team work, negotiation, time management, personnel evaluation, etc many companies have spent millions of Euros to train their managers and personnel by the hundreds.  The current question is: What are the measurable results today?

In the past, these training programs were sold to CEOs both by Human Resources and by training companies as a necessary long-term investment to develop people.  These programs were generally designed as motivating if not entertaining, and organized in locations perceived as indirect perks to increase personnel satisfaction and company loyalty, if not compensate dissatisfaction.  This goal may have been partially achieved.

But after all these years of intensive personnel training at relatively high expense, the time has come for an evaluation of the measurable effects in the development of employee and manager practical skills.  Where indeed are the well-trained leaders and managers?  Where are the good communicators and salespeople?  Where are the good team workers and negotiators?  Which organization can boast really implementing a performing personnel evaluation program?  Which managers or leaders really delegate and have definitely resolved their time management issues?  Where are the teams in which members really cooperate and achieve ambitious goals together?  When taking a close look at results in many companies, the measurable return on investment of training programs could generally be considered a dismal failure.  

  • Consequently today in many companies, both CEOs and Human Resources are questioning themselves and past investment choices.  The search is out for the really good training programs, for the really performing training companies, for methods to really measure training results. 

Now is this really different?  In the past ten years, companies have been searching for the good training programs, for the performing training companies, for methods to measure training results.  Although we all agree to the problem, it seems that all are preparing to apply the same solutions that have not worked in the past.  Today, we need to take a real step back and fundamentally reconsider the framework in which training has been delivered in the past fifteen years.

Changing perspectives

Recently speaking with a Romanian CEO about team coaching, he questioned me about the measurable results of team coaching. I asked him the following question: In his executive team, what effectiveness criteria could be measured before a team coaching process, that could again measured after, in order to measure return on investment?  The CEO was suddenly silent, as if at a loss for words.  

  • Indeed, to measure results of any action, one has to have precise measures before the action and a clear idea of what needs to be changed.  One has to define specific needs and then set precise goals for change. 

The CEO then proceeded to discuss what his needs were more precisely: His executive team meetings were disorganized, too long, too informative and argumentative.  They produced few decisions and these rarely led to any measurable actions in the field.  These meetings were not only considered ineffective, but they reflected the general way the whole organization was managed. 

Consequently in this organization, the effectiveness of a possible executive team coaching process can be precisely measured. If during or after the coaching process, this team's executive meetings become more efficient, shorter, less informative and argumentative, if they result in more collective decisions that are followed-up by implementation within the company, one could conclude that the return on investment was satisfactory.

To measure ROI, one could be even more precise.  If the meetings became half as lengthy, and if they produced twice as many good decisions, their effectiveness would then be multiplied by four.  One could calculate the expense of the time spent by all the executives, the number of implemented decisions within their deadlines, the quality of the executive team information process, etc.  Basic Euro added value could be calculated and then compared to the total investment of the coaching process.

Comparisons with traditional training

Now in the above example there are a few subtle differences that make team-coaching return on investment more measurable than more classical training programs.  The first main difference is that the above example concerns a defined local system: a specific executive team.

Most training programs are delivered to non-local groups of participants that never work together.  The focus of most training is on the training content, not on modifying on-the-job measurables before and after the training.  The measures of results of habitual training programs are also made very difficult when individual participants return to their distributed teams.

  • There are much higher measurable results to sales training, for example, if the program is delivered to intact local sales teams with a team-coaching approach, one sector or region at a time, and with their hierarchy than if it is delivered to individuals originating from very different distributed teams.

Of course, coaching real systems such as sales teams, including hierarchy in these programs, requires a very different set of skills on the part of the “trainer” than when dispensing training to a distributed group of individuals that do not habitually work together.

  • Working with real teams in a team coaching, team training or team development process will automatically address the issue of team member interfacing effectively to achieve their team goals.

This addresses the fact that most team and organizational issues concerning active collaboration between team members are totally avoided in traditional training contexts.  It is indeed impossible to address real operational issues between team members when the team is absent from the training context.  The result of this systematic avoidance in traditional training sessions is that it is very rare to find teams of individuals that really know how to work together.  Unfortunately, this is true of all the executive teams of CEOs I have met.  Individuals who do not know how to really collaborate in order to achieve collective goals are now running most Romanian organizations;

  • When a team works together with its leader to address its issues in a team coaching or development process, it can immediately decide on the changes it wants to implement and it can immediately designs methods to follow up on those changes.

The learning achieved in a team-oriented learning context is consequently immediately integrated for future application in each team’s everyday operations.  Decisions by the team leader can immediately validate and support the team learning experience.

  • The collective motivational energy developed during a team development or coaching process is kept by the team upon its return to the work environment, and consolidated as the team measures its concrete improvements and results on the field.

This is an important added value compared to the feeling of disappointment often felt after traditional training programs, when participants have to part and each return to their work environments which have not been through the learning experience at the same time.

These points illustrate that if companies want a change in the results of their investment in training, they need to operate a fundamental change of paradigm in the way they spend their training money.   The fact is that to measurably develop managers, increase sales, improve communication, increase empowerment, retain employees, improve delegation and time management, etc, the best approach is to achieve these goals through team coaching and team development.  Measures prove that it is not through the traditional training programs that have cost so much in the past.

Interestingly, individual coaching is gradually coming to Romania, but team coaching idoes not seem to be a real concern, except for some CEOs.  Individual coaching is certainly useful to develop individuals, but is this an indicator that the individualist frame of reference of training is still too pervasive in the way coaching is considered in Romania?

The Paradox of Time Management

Se intampla in coaching, consultanta sau training de cariera, sa intalnim clienti care cer solutii pentru problemelor lor de management al timpului. „Cum pot sa imi manageriez mai bine timpul?” este o intrebare importanta pentru care cei mai multi manageri ar plati greutatea lor in aur sa aiba un raspuns simplu. Tema este atat de universala incat costa milioane cheltuite pe zile de training intensiv, pe agende din piele, programe complexe, cele mai avansate tehnologii si coaching executiv foarte exclusivist.

Paradoxul managementului timpului, oricum, este ca in cele mai multe cazuri, problema nu este deloc legata de timp. De fapt, toti avem nici mai mult nici mai putin de 24 de ore pe zi. Fie ca esti CEO-ul unei companii multinationale sau managerul local al unei echipe foarte active,  poti simti ca o zi este mult prea scurta pentru a face orice ai vrea sa faci, sau ca ai o multime de timp liber pentru odihna si relaxare sau gandire strategica (Notati ca aceastea sunt des una si aceeasi).

Consideram doua criterii comune pentru majoritatea oamenilor care au probleme de management al timpului: ei, de obicei, nu deleaga prea mult si sunt perfectionisti foarte exigenti. Ca urmare, ei sunt cei care vor sa controleze strict prea multe detalii sunt in acelasi timp cei care se plang zilele sunt prea scurte pentru a face tot ce este nevoie sa faca. Intr-adevar managerii care nu au suficienta incredere in ceilalti astfel incat sa coboare stacheta asteptarilor excesiv de inalte sunt si cei care incep programul foarte devreme, il termina foarte tarziu si isi iau de lucru acasa in weekenduri.

Luati aminte ca procesul se confirma pe el insusi. Daca nu aveti incredere ca cineva poate sa isi faca treaba corect si consecvent fara prea mult control, veti ramane in echipa doar cu cei care accepta sau au nevoie in mod constant de supervizare. Daca va justificati existenta prin faptul ca gasiti greseli in realizarile celor din jur si apoi actionati pentru a repara aceste imperfectiuni, atunci ei vor gasi rapid modalitati sa va hraneasca aceste nevoi existentiale fundamentale si va vor da suficiente astfel incat sa fiti ocupat toata ziua.

Paradoxul managementului timpului este ca inseamna cu adevarat sa iti cunosti locul si sa ii lasi pe ceilalti sa isi asume intreaga responsabilitate pentru locurile pe care ei le ocupa. Sa fii un manager sau un executive nu inseamna sa faci munca angajatilor tai sau sa le repari greselile. Managementul consta in definirea clara a scopurilor, asigurarea mijloacelor necesare iar apoi sa te dai din drum pana cand este momentul sa evaluezi rezultatele. Pentru a conduce o echipa eficienta, un manager are nevoie doar sa managerieze si fiecare dintre angajatii lui are misiunea sa produca rezultate. Aceasta observatie ne duce imediat la prima concluzie evidenta: Problemele de management al timpului sunt probleme de management ale oamenilor. Ei nu stiu cum sa isi conduca angajatii, furnizorii, clientii si nici partenerii lor.

Acest paradox atunci cand managerii au probleme de management al timpului se intampla pentru ca ei fac  treaba altor oameni. Ca urmare, lipsa de timp la sfarsitul unei zile reprezinta un indicator care arata ca tu, ca si manager, nu ai fost in locul sau spatiul potrivit. Asta ar indica faptul ca in management, timpul si spatiul sunt de fapt, una si aceiasi problema asa cum Einstein a demonstrat-o in mod genial. Continuitatea timp-spatiu este intr-adevar atat de consistenta incat daca pierzi timp, atunci poate nu esti in locul potrivit, deci poate ai nevoie sa inveti cum sa delegi.

Translated by Mihaela Reese

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The Paradox of Delegation

Delegarea are loc in organizatii atunci cand angajatii au initiative inteligente, isi asuma responsabilitati si isi dau puterea de a actiona asa cum o cere situatia. Ei analizeaza in mod spontan nevoile, iau decizii, implementeaza actiuni si isi informeaza organizatia din care fac parte despre progresul pe care l-au facut spre atingerea obiectivelor.

In definitia delegarii, data mai sus, notati ca rolul liderului organizatiei nu a fost mentionat nici macar o data.

Studiu de caz: Un CEO a ceru odata sa intalneasca un coach. Avea o problema foarte comuna. Cum era o persoana foarte dinamica si care controla lucrurile destul de mult, echipa lui executiva i-a sugerat in mod direct sa isi caute un suport personal pentru a invata cum sa delege.

In prima lor intalnire coach-ul a reformulat motivatia CEO-ului: „ Deci, daca inteleg corect, nu doar ca pana acum ai fost complet responsabil pentru tot ce se intampla in organizatie, peste toate astea, vei fi si responsabil sa incepi sa schimbi aceasta organizatie si sa dezvolti o cultura de management mai delegativ.”

CEO-ul a fost uluit si a tacut pentru cateva minute. Inca blocat in cadrul de referinta al organizatiei, cu greu a putut sa inteleaga comentariul pe care l-a facut coach-ul. Ceea ce acest CEO nu a putut sa perceapa este obisnuit printre cei mai multi lideri care conduc organizatii cu o cultura de sus in jos (top-down). Intr-adevar, cand o organizatie a trait ani de zile cu convingerea ca liderul este responsabil pentru tot ce se intampla, ceea ce urmeaza este credinta ferma ca a schimba aceasta ordine a lucrurilor trebuie sa fie tot in sarcina liderului, tot pe umerii lui.

Primul paradox in aceasta situatie comuna este ca, daca liderii se asigura ca delegarea se intampla, ei vor continua sa fie facuti responsabili pentru aceasta schimbare. Daca liderii sunt facuti responsabili pentru schimbare atunci ei sunt inca responsabili, prin urmare nimic nu este delegat. Ca si consecinta, liderilor nu li se poate da responsabilitatea, si nici ei nu si-o pot lua, de a delega angajatilor. Angajatii sunt cei care, in schimb, trebuie sa invete sa isi asume responsabilitati si sa provoace delegarea.

Acest paradox foarte obisnuit pune in lumina un altul. Ca si in cazul organizatiei de mai sus, cand angajatii se sunt de acord sa ceara liderului lor sa delege mai mult, ei de fapt, isi fac liderul responsabil pentru lipsa lor de initiativa. Cum am zis, cand angajatii cer delegare din partea liderului lor, ei dau acestuia responsabilitatea pentru comportamentele lor pasive. In consecinta si paradoxal, cea mai buna cale de a delega mai sus, liderilor, este sa le ceri sa delege in jos, catre anagajatii lor. Delegarea este ca libertatea, independenta sau permisiunea. Daca nu vrei sa fii liber, atunci cere aceasta libertate altcuiva. Cerand independenta de la cineva, de fapt, renunti la libertatea ta.

Paradoxul delegarii este de maxima importanta in culturile centralizate si in organizatiile bazate pe control care au mostenit un model de lidership puternic autocratic. Aceasta atot patrunzatoare paradigma impartasita de catre toti membrii acestor sisteme sociale este ca liderii sunt reponsabili practic pentru toate aspectele din viata profesionala si personala a tuturor.

Miezul confortabil al acestei atitudini pasive este ca nimeni nu poate schimba aceasta stare de lucruri. Simpli angajati si cetateni nu isi pot schimba liderii astfel incat acestia sa devina mai participativi. Liderii, pe de alta parte, nu pot schimba nimic atunci cand toata lumea asteapta ca ei sa fie singurii reponsabili pentru o schimbare majora de cultura. Suna asta familiar?.

Studiu de caz: Solutia strategica pentru a-l acompania pe mai sus mentionatul CEO a fost sa implementam un proces colectiv de schimbare a culturii catre o orientare spre sistem in echipa lui executiva. Obiectivul acestei schimbari a fost sa modifice caliatea interfetelor de lucru dintre membrii echipei, inclusiv CEO. Aceasta a permis o crestere rapida a abilitatii fiecarui individ de a-si asuma responsabilitati si de a informa organizatiadespre initiativele personale.

Acest tip de schimbare in echipa executiva a unei organizatii este primul pas catre implementarea unei transformari culturale a sistemului mare pe care aceasta echipa il conduce. Cand executivii unui sitem au, in mod colectiv, initiative inteligente, isi asuma responsabilitati si isi dau puterea de a actiona asa cum o cere situatia, ei modeleaza un nou comportament pentru intreaga organizatie. Atunci toti ceilalti incep sa analizeze nevoile in mod spontan, sa ia decizii, sa implementeze actiuni si sa informeze organizatia din care fac parte despre progresele realizate spre atingerea obiectivelor. Aceasta este adevarata delegare.

Translated by Mihaela Reese

The Paradox of Motivation

In ultimii cincizeci de ani, intrebarile legate de cum sa motivezi personalul su fost puse la toate nivelele de catre cele mai multe dintre companiile lumii. In mod surprinzator, solutiile oferite pentru a incerca sa rezolve aceasta problema fundamentala nu au adus, in timp, nicio schimbare masurabila. Astazi, aceleasi intrebari, sunt inca adresate coachi-lor si consultantilor de catre aceleasi organizatii si solutiile propuse par sa fie la fel de ineficiente ca si inainte.

Un mare numar de organizatii sunt, intr-adevar, in fata unei realitati pe care nu o pot nega. Managerii de top si cei din partea de mijloc nu stiu cum sa creasca nivelul de motivare al oamenilor si angajamentul care il insoteste. In consecinta, ei externalizeaza aceasta problema expertilor, consultantilor, trainerilor si coachi-lor in speranta ca acesti furnizori din afara pot sa vina cu o solutie magica.

Sunt multe cuvinte care se refera la motivatie. Cateva cum ar fi „motor” si „automobil” apartin mediului mecanic. Daca percepem personalul ca fiind o simpla forta de munca, sau ca un motor, atunci intrebarea este, intr-adevar, ce combustibil sa ii dam pentru ca el sa ajunga fara probleme la destinatie.

Ca si o consecinta a acestei perspective, trainingul este aproape sistematic livrat in locatii scumpe si exotice, alese special pentrua  dezvolta motivatia angajatilor. Pachetele de compensatii si beneficii ca si alte avantaje indirecte se spune, de asemenea, ca motiveaza si retin cei mai buni angajati si manageri. Coachi-i sunt chemati sa ajute cu dezamagirea profesionala si de-stresarea indivizilor si, bineinteles, sa ii re-motiveze. In fiecare an sunt cheltuite sume imense de bani pentru a imbunatati cum arata mediul de lucru in incercarea de a imbunatati moralul si motivarea. Dar nu sunt rezultate mai bune. Poate ca ceva este complet gresit.

  • Atentionare: Cand o problema ramane prezenta de-a lungul zecilor de ani, noi nu o
    rezolvam. Pur si simplu ne adaptam si traim cu ea. Este totodata evident ca atunci cand nu putem afla un raspuns la anume problema, poate ca nu am definit-o corect.

Intr-adevar, in ceea ce priveste motivarea angajatilor, poate ca s-au cautat solutii in perimetrul gresit. Ce ce sugeram aici este ca poate e nevoie sa facem o schimbare si sa reconsideram esenta contextului in care aceasta intrebare este ridicata. Intr-adevar, daca intrebam cum sa motivam angajatii, ne asumam ca fundamental, natura lor este sa fie demotivati sau ca ei ar putea ramane fara motivatie asa cum o masina ramane fara benzina. Aceasta premisa poate sa fie in intregime gresita. Cum ar fi daca ecuatia ar fi complet inversa? Cum ar fi daca angajatii ar fi prin natura lor motivati si atasati, si doar nu ar fi capabili sa isi exprime interesul intr-un mediu de lucru secatuit.

  • In loc sa isi motiveze angajatii, organizatiile doar au nevoie sa sa opreasca din a-i constrange pana cand acestia simt ca nu au dreptul sa faca vreo miscare
  • In loc sa incerce sa isi retina angajatii, adevarata intrebare poate fi „cum putem opri alienarea angajatilor care ajung astfel sa vrea sa plece din companie?”
  • In loc sa caute modalitati de a dezvolta atasamentul (empower) angajatilor, adevarata problema poate fi doar „cum putem sa sprijinim initiativele bune pe care le au?” 

Putem sa ne oprim din a afirma ca este starea naturala a angajatilor de a fi demotivati, lipsiti de angajament si ca ei vor sa plece in alte companii pentru aproape nimic in plus? Aceasta pozitionare se auto-confirma pe masura ce oamenii se adapteaza comportamentelor si descrierilor de posturi pe care managerii lor le sugereaza.

Putem sa ne uitam in mod sincer la modul in care companiile sunt conduse si sa punem sub semnul intrebarii cum se poate transforma cultura de management astfel incat angajatii sa fie „empowered” in mod natural si sa isi foloseasca motivatia lor inerenta si totodata ei sa inceapa sa creasca, sa se dezvolte si sa infloreasca. Aceasta pozitionare este mai ieftina si mult mai eficienta. Si ea se auto-confirma. Culturi organizationale pozitive stiu cum sa atraga in mod natural cele mai bune talente si sa le retina pe termen lung. Ei doar ii lasa sa sa se dezvolte natural intr-un mediu de invatare „empowering”. Asta se intampla deseori cu mai putine nevoi de avantaje, calatorii pentru training si pachete de compensatii scumpe.

Etimologic, cuvantul „motivare” este legat de „miscare”, de „motiv” care inseamna o nevoie sau o dorinta care determina o persoana sa actioneze, si e legat si de „emotie” care inseamna a agita. Asta indica faptul ca motivarea, miscarea si emotia sunt foarte strans legate. In consecinta, emotiile sunt rude cu nevoile si dorintele, si sunt fundamentale motivarii si miscarii, cel putin atat cat oamenii pot fi preocupati de asta. In organizatii, principalul factor al motivarii individuale este calitatea operationala a interfetei operationale dintre angajati si mediul lor foarte apropiat, cu alte cuvinte, cu echipa lor sau cu seful lor direct. Ca sa ai angajati motivati este pur si simplu necesar sa dezvolti echipe performante si manageri eficienti.

Translated by Mihela Reese (Paduraru)

About the crisis in Romania

On this trip to Romania, I have been struck by the number of times I have heard leaders and managers pronounce the word “crisis” to describe the present economic situation.  Indeed, it seems almost socially fashionable for the whole Romanian population to have lengthy, discouraged and fatalistic discussions on the subject.

Note that along with the use of the word "crisis" comes a commonly accepted frame of reference: everyone pretends to believe that it is temporary.  When it will be over, everything will come back to normal. In other words, life and work conditions will soon return to what they were before the economic crash.

Consequently, a large number of people are bracing themselves to wait out the crisis, hoping it will be short. Talk about the crisis mainly serves to reassure everyone that nothing is fundamentally changing in Romania.  This is just a superficial occurence and we must be patient.  Some self appointed futurologists are reinforcing this belief by announcing probable dates for return to normalcy, such as 2010, maybe early 2011.  This is very reassuring.

For organizations to survive through this period, the main fatalistic financial strategy is very logically first to cut all expenses that are not perceived as productive.  The second very similar protective approach is to downsize production to limit personnel costs.  When times are good, priviledge quantitative development, spend in marketing and hire personnel indiscriminately.  When times are hard, cut all unnecessary expenses and fire. To be sure and for lack of real leadership, that must be the pinnacle of current strategy.

This is not a crisis but an adjustment

Imagine, however, that the business environment in Romania will not shortly return to what it was for the past decade.  Consider that the presently perceived temporary crisis is really a permanent adjustment to the larger European and global economic environment. Envision that all the market segments that have very spontaneously grown by over 20% yearly to rapidly boost Romania towards consumer maturity will never again develop in the same exceptional proportions.

This alternative frame of reference may drive individuals and organizations to radically revisit their present strategy consisting in simply cutting costs and just waiting it out.  Just passively hoping for the best while "waiting for Godot" may indeed be close to suicidal for leaders and their organizations.
If one chooses to believe that things will never be the same again and that the future will be completely different, then it is urgent to make a few courageous decisions and take action without delay.

Consequences for leaders and managers

Preparing for a deeper transition in the present economic situation calls for a completely different type of leadership and management style.  When the market grows by double or triple digits yearly, very basic management decisions are the rule:

  • Big is beautiful, so expand as fast as possible, priviledging quantity over quality. 
  • Invest heavily to diversify, just to occupy the territory. 
  • Develop visibility by intensive marketing investments
  • Pacify your personnel with lavish spending. 

Indeed, employees will be reasonably happy if they can personally benefit from the booming economy with a regular and substantial increase in their personal lifestyle.  As a result of the implementation of these obvious strategies, in Romania in the recent past, unemployment disappeared and the HR and advertizing sectors have been booming.

Exceptional growth in the past decade has permitted a large number of quick promotions. Anyone with reasonable expertise is now enjoying the status and social advantages of a managerial or executive position.  A huge surge in per capita income and the creation of a consequential middle and comfortable upper class has been the result.   This miracle has been achieved within ten years thanks to the booming Romanian economy.

Note however, that a large number of people holding relatively important leadership and managerial positions have achieved apparent professional success by simply surfing on the market and not making too many mistakes.  If nine percent growth has placed Romania in the first ranks of western developing countries, it has also lulled a large number of leaders and managers to believe their behavior was responsible for their organization's success.  In reality, this success is very often simply provoked by the market's natural expansion.  In fact, numerous companies have grown much less than what their potential market had to offer.

Personal consequences

Reinforced by these relatively extraordinary results, many are the leaders who have developed a very satisfied, individualist, sometime autocratic and oftentimes arrogant management style.  They may even be perceived as having developed something of an attitude to simulate competency and hide their feelings of imposture.  If you want a first hand experience, get in a car with anyone and observe the way they drive, respect traffic laws and interact with other drivers. You will get a personal understanding of how these people manage.  More dramatically, these relational patterns are too often taken home and affecting personal lives, influencing future generations.

Facing the impressive market and financial crunch today, these leader's reaction is talso to wait and see. They are quietly preparing to soon explain that their future results are not of their doing but just the fault of the economic slump.  Paradoxically, that is also admitting they had not much to do to provoke their past successes.  How indeed can one know how to succeed when one doesn't know how to fight when in adversity?  And how can an organization's profits be attributed to its management when its losses are attributed to the environment?  Some aware leaders are realizing that they are not as good as they made themselve believe and the awakening is very tough on them.  There, there is hope, and need for support.

Organization culture consequences

Due to this leadership behavior, numerous Romanian executive teams and top management have lost contact with what their employees really think.  Worse, some don’t even care.  In many Romanian and multinational companies, one can perceive the presence of a deep schism separating upper management from their employees.  In times of plenty, the personnel was ready to accept mediocracy and gave very little motivation in return.  In times of hardships, the truce may be broken.  This state of affairs may in fact indicate that the perceived economic crisis is in reality a much deeper and social one.  Management has lost its credibility to the point of resembling some of the worst local politicians.

To confirm this, numerous leaders are now making financially-based decisions both to cut all useless costs and reduce personnel.  What is revealed here is that the personnel is perceived as an external and expendable ressource, not as a fundamental potential that may be important to keep, in order to build the organization's immediate comeback and future.  If the slump turns around, these same leaders will soon gripe again that they cannot find appropriate and motivated personnel on the employment market.

Leadership and top management urgently need to re-establish communication channels with their personnel in order to reinstate their company’s social contract.  To do this, executives must rapidly develop their people and communication skills.  Executives need to learn to work together rather than against each other.  They need to develop respect  for their managers and for all their employees to start tapping the unused, dormant potential within their organizations.  CEOs and executives need to learn how to manage collaborating teams rather than competing individuals.  The habitual strategy to divide to conquer, so as to keep people in check is much too costly in the present context.

Today, it is no longer possible to display an attitude resting on the illusion that organizational success is the sole result of simple financial decisions made by a CEO.  The whole organization needs to be collaborating and re-geared to ensure future collective success.  CEOs, executives and the middle managers who model on their leader's behavior all need to learn to communicate with each other with respect and humility.  They need to admit they need all their personnel's help to get through the storm and prepare for the future, if not for the present.

Consequently, executives first and then their managers must start to really listen to their people.  That means they have to stop pretending they have all the solutions and alone know what needs to be done to face a very uncertain environment and a radically different future.  Developing basic respectful communication and behavioral skills and the capacity to establish collaborative relationships with the personnel is an urgent necessity.

If we believe that we are not going through a temporary crisis but that we must permanently adjust to a new global reality, then urgent operational decisions must be made and precise action must be implemented.  The focus cannot only be financial and this calls for new priorities and competencies in the decision-making process of executive teams.

New priorities

Management in general must learn new competencies.  Rather than favor individual career-oriented and ego-flattering relational strategies, it needs to develop more performing teamwork and collective performance focused on achieving measurable results.   Developing competencies should become more important than just having connections. Beyond reinforcing individualistic strategies, learning how to manage and develop highly collaborative teams is the key to success on the future markets.  Executive teams composed of ten or more key players need to learn to make concerted decisions.  The age of purely financial decisions made within a confidential so-called "strategic" and exclusive committee is to be forgotten.

Sales and support of sales in all back offices need to be geared to deliver top quality service to clients.  The sales philosophy must also evolve from a hard-selling short-term attitude to developing real win - win long-long term relationships with customers.  This calls for a major change of focus in numerous executive teams and much more respect for sales divisions and sales people.  These also should be better trained to value and develop a solid client base for their organization.  The key words here are mutual respect.

Operations and production needs to develop effectiveness to deliver the quality products of the future.  These divisions need to get excellent support from the whole organization as they focus on developing products that will speak for themselves rather than depend so heavily on marketing and price slicing to get an edge, too often based on illusionary promises.

All HR strategies previously geared to spending money to please and pacify personnel and middle management must also be redirected to keep employees for better reasons. For instance by professionally developing them on the long term.  Truly operational and practical training must help everyone focus on increasing quality levels in their field, developing effectiveness and delivering regular and measurable results.

Proud and professional employees are the biggest asset a company can ever have and should be top management's main strategic concern.  This will in turn ensure long-term financial results.  Maybe in the near future, more professional HRs will be participating in making decisions by earning their rightful place in executive teams.

Training and coaching

Presently, the training profession is also going through a very difficult period.  Lavish leadership roll-out programs focused on delivering ego-centered and leader-chic principles are being cancelled.  If you can now get two trainings for the price of one, you can be sure the measurable results will not also double.  It seems training programs are suddenly perceived as unnecessary expenses that have created very little measurable added value. 

Probably, training needs to be redesigned to very practically help develop everyday collective and professional interfacing behavior aimed at increasing operational results.  It is a significant observation that so little has been done to develop teams and teamwork.  Team building has become the equivalent of incentive-related vacations.  They have been perceived as so useless for organizations that they have often been taking place on week-ends.  Enough work on having good relationships, lets work on getting results together.

Interestingly, in this transition period, there is one profession that appears to be booming.  Coaches who are well trained in accompanying individual and collective clients towards making the necessary urgent decisions to achieve measurable results are suddenly in excessive demand.  Some of them are even fully booked.  Coaches who know how to help organizations, teams and individual clients define the challenges they really want to achieve and then accompany them while they find the means to get there are in real demand.  This trend is not about to end.

That trend may be an indication that some people have understood that the current situation signals a coming fundamental shift in the Romanian economic environment if not in the country's society as a whole.

I do hope that this transition is good news for you.
Copyright Alain Cardon, February 2008
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Why Should Managers Learn Coaching Skills?

The question should really be: What do managers need? Having a good diagnosis of a need is paramount to looking for solutions.  Different managers need different training to acquire different theories and useful skills.  Then, there is a generalization process.  What is the common need for managers for managers in a team, in a department, in a company.  There too, conclusions may be very different.  Consequently, before proposing any individual or collective solution, a shared diagnosis with the concerned manager, team or organization will help develop awareness of underlying management needs.  After that, looking for and finding solutions becomes appropriate.
To consult the program of a workshop on individual, team and organization diagnosis

The comments that follow are a personal interpretation of perceived needs for managers in general, and managers in Romania in particular.   The first question is "Do Romanian managers need to acquire more knowledge or do they need to acquire skills?"  "Do they need a another diploma attesting their understanding of a given field or do they need to change the way they manage people in their everyday organizational context?"

  • If the answer is that managers need more general knowledge and theory to understand  coaching and how it may apply to leadership, designing visions and goals, elaborating values, motivating people, etc. then practical training on coach skills is not very useful. It would even be quite redundant with existing leadership courses.
  • If the answer is that managers need to develop more practical communication and relational know-how, they need to revisit and modify their day-to-day way of communicating, or their capacity to dialogue with their employees, with their clients and with their business partners, then acquiring coaching skills and behaviors can definitely be appropriate.

Coach training workshops are paper-and-slides-free behavioral learning environments providing each participant an active context to acquire very practical and pragmatic skills.  In these workshops, participants learn by doing and practicing rather than by absorbing knowledge about practice.

indeed, workshops fundamentally differ from most seminars.  The privileged approach in workshops is not focused on theory nor on concepts but on physically or behaviorally acquiring skills by repeatedly experimenting competencies until they become a second nature: they become natural built-in communication reflexes.  To use a sports metaphor, seminars teach students theory about muscle and concepts on how to develop them.  Workshops offers active workout environments to build muscle and develop a personal style.  Workshops are practical sweatshops or work-out rooms.


Consequently, after following a workshop, the measurable result for managers is that they have acquired new muscles.  They change their day-to-day behaviors within their immediate professional environments if not in all their relationships.  After a workshop, they very practically implement what they have repeatedly practiced.  Within coaching workshops,

  • Managers develop the motivation to use coaching skills and engage in real dialogues because they personally and repeatedly experimented achieving very positive results with these skills.
  • Managers become competent in the use of coaching skills because they practice them time and again with a masterful trainer and coach in a well-designed learning environment.

In coaching workshops, however, managers also learn much more than behavioral skills.  The change they go through is much more than skin deep.  There is a paradoxical observation about learning new behaviors and acquiring very practical skills:   when managers really change how they communicate,  they also gradually change who they are. 

People often think that learning different behaviors is just a superficial process. It just takes time.  If you want to improve your service in tennis, for example, just practice serving one thousand times.  You will almost automatically achieve your goal and improve your service. It is the same with playing a musical instrument.  Practice every night and you will develop your skills. Indeed, in all fields, practice makes perfect.  In coaching workshops, managers also learn new behaviors in the same way.  Learning how to listen and then ask powerful questions, or learning the fine art of dialogue just takes practice. 

Note however that at first, learning by sheer repetition is unfortunately not perceived as very validating, motivating nor committing for participants.  It is even often very humbling for the ego.  Behavioral training is looked down upon as if it were too mechanical and not noble enough for elevated minds. Consequently, numerous managers come to skills training with the idea that they are just acquiring tools in a superficial way.  They are ready to make a small effort, they want quick results.  They are often not fundamentally ready to change their deepest habits.

One becomes what one does

in workshop situations however, there often is a quick turning point.  New awareness of expanded personal possibilities naturally comes with a little bit of practice.  Then, motivation develops.  After a little bit of experimenting, one wants to improve and the rest follows. To become a highly professional pianist, one needs to practice hours, days, months and then years. Acquiring a discipline in any domain requires minute practice, regular practice and then more practice.  Only through practice does one really achieve mastery. 

In coach training workshops, as managers espouse behavioral changes, they also gradually change their perspectives on management and that in turn may modify their more fundamental nature.   They may even change physically.  Note for example that tennis players gradually develop one arm until it is much stronger than the other. 

So any regularly practiced management activity is different and each develops very different qualities.  Just like in sports, different activities modify personal equilibrium, distribution of strength, capacity for speed, personal resilience, heart rhythms, team skills, precision in details, individual concentration, systemic strategy, will power, etc. 

The same happens in  coach training environments such as workshops. The behavioral skills that are acquired by managers help them acquire more than personal competencies. These skills gradually change how they are as managers and sometimes how they are perceived in their leadership position.  More deeply, these changes may affect how they perceive themselves and their own roles as leaders.   

Consequently, by practicing new skills in workshops, managers first learn to use them.  Then, behaving differently changes the way they relate with others.  Changing how managers relate modifies how they are perceived.  This in turn changes their perceptions of their work environment and of who their employees are.   If this process is tailored towards accompanying personal growth in the work environment by the development of how we manage people, then we become much better managers.

In coaching learning environments and workshops, managers do not only learn how to do coaching or management. They also learn how to become profound coaches and effective managers with real people skills.

To conclude, coach training environments for managers are designed to have them acquire powerful people-coaching skills to then become better managers.  These are communication competencies that can be used within a large number of other professions that deal with people such as in sales, recruiting, counseling, training, etc.   Acquiring coaching skills for professionals in any of these fields not only helps them succeed better in their profession, it also helps them develop to become better people.  That depth of development is truly priceless for most Romanian companies today.

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