A Brief Q&A

Q: How do you build a motivated team?
A: Hire people who are already motivated.

Q: How do you build an energized and creative accounting firm?
A: Hire energized and creative accountants.

Q: How do you create a dynamic and responsive customer service team?
A: Hire dynamic and responsive customer service professionals.

Recruiting and hiring is everything. There are no examples I know of where the wrong people ended up creating the best thing.

Yes, there are times when you can’t hire the level of experience you want. But you can always train for competence. What you can’t do is motivate someone who doesn’t want to be motivated or expect people to be energized, creative, responsive and dynamic when they have demonstrated none of those qualities in their interview.

I believe in development as much as anyone. And I have learned first-hand that investing in development is a decision to play a long game. If you don’t start with the right ingredients you will be waiting forever.

And you don’t have that kind of time.

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Elements of Systemic Health

An organization is a living system. Within that system exists the dynamics that live within each individual as well as the dynamics that exist when each individual interacts with the other individuals, in whatever number of combinations is possible. It’s a lot, probably too much to keep track of. It’s definitely too much to “manage” (part of why management as a concept is dated and ineffective).

Instead of attempting to manage this swirl of human dynamics, effective leaders establish guardrails – boundaries – within which the team can govern themselves. These boundary markers include the primary elements of culture: why we exist (mission), what we hope to achieve (vision), how we choose to behave (values) and how we talk about our progress and our challenges (accountability).

Well-established and well understood, these markers create an environment of self-governance, where individuals do not wait to be managed but act instead on their own initiative, from their resources of competence and confidence. This means, of course, that effective recruitment and hiring are sacred responsibilities, so essential is it to bring the right people into such an environment.

The right people in the right system understand themselves not as component parts of a larger, mysterious whole but as intersecting agents of change charged with the responsibility to help the system move from where it is to where it needs to be. These intersecting lines can, from a certain perspective, look like fractures that threaten to break up the whole. In reality, they are points of flexion, providing the system with the ability to adjust and adapt to that which it cannot predict but that is, of course, inevitable.


The Wisdom of Simplicity

“Is he a good hang?”
{Cal Harrah}

One of my professional mentors, and one of the finer human beings I’ve met in my life, is also one of the smartest.

And so, when it came to making a hiring decision for my team I was confident that Cal would provide me with the kind of thoughtful and well-reasoned commentary necessary for such an important choice.

In other words, I assumed he would have a lot to say.

He did not.

Instead he asked a very simple question: “Is he a good hang?”

As in, is he the kind of person that you want to be with, that makes you better, makes life a little more interesting, a little more fun, that helps you learn at least a little – maybe a lot – more?

If we are, as is often said, the sum total of the five people we spend the most time with (and some have suggested that it’s an even larger group than that) it’s worth taking that group – and how we add to it – much more seriously.

Work is full of enough challenges to stress our days and invade our nights. The least we can do is make sure that we surround ourselves with people who help us keep our perspective and who help us smile once in a while at the craziness of it all.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Rethinking Organizational Intelligence


As a parent of three children I’m often amazed that three extraordinarily different human beings could come from the same source. In raising our kids – one now in college and the others in late middle school and early high school – we have been front row attendees in a crash course on the appreciation of widely different aptitudes and interests and the necessity to adapt our approaches so that each receives the best possible support.

I know that we’ve done well but I would gladly take a few do-overs!

We discovered along the way a son whose intelligence is in the bodily-kinesthetic and interpersonal, a daughter whose domains are musical and intra-personal and a daughter who thrives in the spatial and logical-mathematical areas.

The adjustments we’ve made haven’t been radical or deeply insightful on our part. They’ve come from paying attention to clear and concrete evidence that different needs require different resources. Doing so promotes confidence, encourages experimentation and cultivates a greater sense of ease that can only emerge when realities are acknowledged and acted upon as they are.

The traditional education system is predicated on a sameness that today seems ludicrous but back in my formative years was assumed. If you didn’t fit the model there weren’t charter schools or homeschooling or the myriad support mechanisms available today. There was a “portable” classroom for the kids with “special needs.”

We’ve come a long way in recognizing this diversity of intelligence and creating venues and systems to support it.

What if our workplaces also moved in this direction? More specifically, what if those in supervisory positions educated themselves on the multiple intelligences and then spent time with team members discussing what domains best describe them? What if they had thoughtful conversations about how they saw themselves and the kinds of contributions they would like to make?

What might be possible if, instead of slotting people into prescribed roles, we reconsidered organizational design through the lens of the types of intelligence we need access to and then found people who bring that intelligence to the table?

This kind of flexibility is the key to sustainability over the long-term. The organizations thriving a decade or two from now will be the ones who move away from the traditional recruiting practices of job descriptions and job postings and to a more holistic perspective on who this organization is and where it is trying to go.

When that becomes the conversation, the diversity of intelligences will no longer be just interesting to consider but the foundation on which organizational future’s are built.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.