We-Centric Workplace

By Judith E. Glaser | Leadership Excellence
Published October 2004

Practice letting go and releasing.

Our least developed skill is the ability to confront each other face to face, say what is in our hearts and on our minds, and at the same time build and strengthen our relationship with others. Confrontation takes most of us to the edge of our comfort zone, and so we tend to avoid it.

Having difficult conversations scares most people into thinking they will lose a friendship, and so they avoid confronting the truth. When we feel frustrated or angry at someone who we feel has stood in our way of success, or undermined us and caused us to lose face, we get so upset we just can’t find the words to express ourselves. We end up pushing, not pulling, expressing our worst behaviors, or we may hold it all inside until we boil up with frustration and then blast someone.

Much of what goes on in situations with high emotional content takes place primarily in our minds. This is our “story” and how we put words to the drama of our experience. Much of our frustration comes from the words we use to tell the story. How do we communicate with each other when we feel pushed to the edge? How do we deal with these challenges in a way that builds relationships rather than erodes them?

How do we masterfully walk ourselves down the ladder of conclusions instead of climbing the ladder of assumptions, inferences, and stories about each other that only serve to reinforce our separateness rather than our connectivity?

Living Your Worst Nightmare

Imagine that you have just been recruited onto a project team, only to discover that among your team members is someone you worked with in the past and did not get along with at all. She was one of those people who talked about people behind their backs and couldn’t hold confidences.

You start to remember what it was like working with her, and your blood starts to boil. You wonder how she could have been chosen for this project. You know it’s not healthy to carry baggage, but you just don’t trust this person. You feel that she’s out to win for herself at all cost. Your dreams about being on an exciting project team, and working with people who will work creatively with you, are crumbling.

In an ideal world, we get to choose the people we want to work with. It starts with choosing a company, a boss, and teammates. Yet today, as teams are formed, we are often dropped into an ongoing drama where there is baggage to deal with. You may know some people from previous situations or heard about them from colleagues and friends. They may remind you of your father who you never got along with or of your roommate from college. You have so many memories to connect with that you rarely enter a team environment with a clean slate.

Searching for Comparables

When traveling from one situation to the next, you bring your past along to guide your way. You tap into points of view, know-how, rules of conduct, likes and dislikes, giving you the conceptual tools to decide what to do and why.

Rather than entering a new situation with an unbiased and open mind, you search for comparables. You go into your memory bank of similar examples and bring them up to uncover the rules, interpretations, and understandings you need. You have a dialogue with yourself, and perhaps others, about what this new situation will be like, drawing on your past knowledge, insight, and wisdom to help you out.

Your self-dialogue takes you down a path of familiar streets and signs, telling you what you might expect will happen. Your mind can process the situation faster than you can put words to it. Patterns from the past invisibly surface. You may call upon comparables from your experience or from things you’ve read or heard to help you navigate new terrain. Data from the past can either be valuable or get in the way.

For example, following an acquisition, one leader wanted to launch his team with the best resources and wisdom possible so that his team would be a model of success. Yet, it’s hard to predict how individuals will respond. Acquisitions and mergers trigger every territorial instinct we have— from who will get the best and biggest office, to who will be promoted, demoted and let go. We quickly shower the new situation with baggage from the past.

So, the leader decided to run a Team Journey to ensure that the team members brought forward the wisdom they needed, and let go of the past that was standing in the way of their success. He designed a Learning Journey to preserve the best of what their team had been, and let go of the obstacles and limiting beliefs that would no longer serve them in the future. Within seven months, they produced results that exceeded their year-end expectations.

Holding on and Letting Go

The consequences of your interactions are filed daily in your memory bank, either as “feel good” or “feel bad” experiences. You file memories in mental buckets from which you can later retrieve points of view, opinions, and interpretations that help you to navigate the terrain. Memories with strong emotions linger, since the brain more easily files and calls up memories attached with strong sensory data. Smells, tastes, and emotions attached to a memory give it distinctions that enable you to call it up more easily. And these experiences are hard to control. With little provocation, we can call up a bad experience in a moment’s notice.

Haven’t you ever had a bad experience with a boss—an experience where the boss wouldn’t leave you alone about something you did? If you’re really upset, you’ll talk about it forever, complaining to your friends and colleagues, whoever will listen.

Emotional trauma or experiences that threaten our ego, well-being and self-esteem, or just push our hot buttons tend to linger and create toxic effects that, over time, become the stories everyone wants to tell.

Culture develops through story telling, and stories are a primary “currency” for entering each other’s space of intimacy. We exchange stories about who did what to us, and become part of our inner circle. We share our wounds and hope for a compassionate response back. On the other hand, letting go of the past and embracing the future frees energy that has been bound up in feelings of the past that are creating patterns of behavior that negatively impact relationships in your environment. Letting go of the past is freeing yourself to forgive others and yourself for what happened. Harboring bad feelings about others, and building cases about experiences long gone, only limits our ability to experience our own vitality. Bad feelings bring us down. Negative spirals produce more negativity in our lives. Letting go is the ability to interrupt and let go of the past and embrace the future.

What About You?

Think about the people on your team. Think about emotions that you experience when you’re with different team members. Based on how you are feeling, are you encouraging engagement and healthy conversations— or territorial or unhealthy conversations?

Mark the relationships in which you may be participating in triangulation and case building. What tools and resources can you draw upon to give you insight and clarity into how to work more productively with team members?

ACTION: Think about your team.

Bosses Create Problems If They’re Too Secretive Or Divulge Too Much

By Carol Hymowitz | The Wall Street Journal

Toxic bosses come in many shapes and sizes, but two types are almost mirror images of one another: the secretive boss who withholds information from others and the blabbermouth who says too much, often spilling confidences.

In both instances, these bosses are preoccupied with their own status and power. Secretive bosses believe the information they don't share makes them more important than subordinates and peers, while the blabbermouths think that what they divulge demonstrates their clout and membership in the inner circle. But both kinds of bosses hurt their employees' and companies' performance. "They marginalize and invalidate employees, or manipulate them for their own advancement and cause them to make bad decisions," says Dory Hollander, a psychologist and president of WiseWorkplaces, an Arlington, Va., executive-coaching firm.

The managers who conceal information tend to be more prevalent. Dede Haskins, vice president of enabling technology at Cigital, a Dulles, Va., software professional-services company, says that several of the nearly 30 bosses she has had during her 22-year career were withholders. "They disable you from being able to be successful," she says.

One boss at a prior employer knew Ms. Haskins had placed a marginal employee on probation and was moving toward firing him. The boss supported her decision. But he became enraged when he learned that, on a day when he wasn't at work, she had gone ahead and dismissed the employee.

"He blew a gasket," she says. Only then did she learn that the company was about to merge and would have to cut staff by about 15%. Her boss had wanted to dismiss the unproductive employee later and save another person's job, but he hadn't divulged any of this to Ms. Haskins.

"He didn't have to tell me about the upcoming merger, but he should have said, 'make sure you let me know before you dismiss this employee,' " she says. "Then he could have asked me to wait awhile."

Since then, whenever Ms. Haskins interviews for a job, she tries to gauge whether a prospective boss is a forthcoming team player or likely to be too secretive. "If I click with someone and we have an open discussion, I trust that they are going to want to keep me in the loop," she says. "But if I don't click, I know this is a potential risk area, and I may say during the interview that I only want to work for a company where information is shared." On at least one occasion, she says, she walked away from a potential job because she worried that wasn't the case.

Secretive bosses are also less likely to give credit to those to whom it's due. A marketing manager at a consumer-products company gave several strategic ideas to her boss, who then passed them along as her own to higher-level executives. The boss also didn't tell the manager that a product launch was being delayed, causing the manager to give misinformation to advertisers and her own staff.

"This boss is a gatekeeper with a gate that never swings open to her staff," says Ms. Hollander, who is coaching the marketing manager. She says she has advised the manager to tell her boss, "your lack of communication is bad for me and the company," but to look for a new job if the boss doesn't change within six months.

Michelle Zelsman, a consultant and writer in Washington, says she's learned that you can't necessarily change a secretive boss's behavior. She once worked for an entrepreneur who had established one successful technology company and was launching another. But after hiring several people to work with him, "he kept everyone in the dark about his strategy and goals and just issued day-to-day orders," she says. "I would tell him, 'you need to let us know the markets you want to chase, your business plan and tap into our creativity,' but he wanted to control everything." Within a year, she and the others had quit and the business had folded.

Blabbermouth bosses, meanwhile, fall into several categories. If they are underhandedly competitive, they may spread information that a colleague has shared confidentially, which may be damaging to the colleague. They may gossip about other executives and complain about directives they've been asked to carry out. Or they may divulge their own career or personal problems. As a result, employees may think of their boss as a friend rather than the person who judges their work, and they're more apt to question the boss's decisions or imitate his or her gossipy behavior.

When talking about work projects with her staff, a senior executive at a large consumer-products company embellished her directives with anecdotes about private discussions she had had with other top executives. "It was always 'he said this' and 'she said that,' " says Judith E. Glaser, CEO of the coaching firm Benchmark Communications, New York, who is coaching the executive.

The executive "did the same thing with me as with her employees, so I'd interrupt her and say, 'I don't need to know that, and there's a better way to communicate this that gets to the point,' " says Ms. Glaser. She advises managers who have blabbermouth bosses not to mirror their behavior. "You won't be viewed as a leader if you do," she says.

Showing Your Worth Without Showing Off

By Cheryl Dahle | THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: September 19, 2004

Q. You've begun to suspect that the importance of your stellar contributions to a big project is eluding your boss. How do you lobby for the credit you deserve without seeming like a smarmy self-promoter?

A. For starters, don't put the burden on your boss to keep tabs on your accomplishments. A boss who adequately recognizes and rewards employees is harder to find than a good sushi bar in Wyoming. ''In today's environment, many people are stuck doing the equivalent of two jobs. They don't have time to notice your performance,'' said Peggy Klaus, author of ''Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It'' (Warner Books, 2004). ''Your boss isn't psychic. You need to take matters into your own hands.''

Q. What's the best way to promote yourself?

A. Regular progress reports are a good basic approach. Ideally, you've got a list of specific goals that came out of your last performance review, or a set of project objectives that you can tick off. If so, you can send memos to the boss letting her know as each goal is accomplished, said Judith Glaser, an executive coach and the chief executive of Benchmark Communications, an executive coaching and management consulting firm in New York City. Even if you don't have that list, you can send reports. But list outcomes rather than tasks. No one cares that you spent 70 hours last month on business development, but they do care that you landed three new clients and paved the way for a fourth. You can adapt your reports to whatever format your boss prefers — e-mail, written memos, voice mail — as long as you keep a written copy for your annual review, Ms. Glaser said.

Q. Is there a more artful way to approach it?

A. A more subtle approach is to find a way to have regular, informal conversations with your boss that trumpet your work without grandstanding, Ms. Klaus said. The secret, she said, is to refine your storytelling: think of talking about yourself the way you talk about others you admire.

''When we talk about the accomplishments of someone that we adore and are proud of, we tell a story,'' she said. ''We include the context, the drama, the challenge, all these interesting tidbits. And then when we go to talk about ourselves,'' she added, we forget these skills. ''We slip into a monotone and deliver a laundry list.''

Hallie Hart, 37, a financial adviser in San Ramon, Calif., often uses her accomplishments in conversation. Ms. Hart says she'll often seek her boss's opinion about a decision as an excuse to update him on a project. She recently let him know that she had organized a high-profile networking dinner honoring Shinae Chun, director of the Women's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor, by inviting him to the dinner. ''I don't think of these conversations as bragging,'' Ms. Hart said. ''I think of it as sharing with people around me who I am and what I'm passionate about. The accomplishments are part of the larger picture about my enthusiasm for my work.''

Q. Are there any taboos about promoting your work?

A. It's rarely appropriate to toot your own horn in a team meeting, Ms. Glaser said. One of her clients, a senior executive at a pharmaceutical company, thought the best way to have his achievements recorded was to slide them into any group meeting or conversation. He thought he was ''supporting'' his team's work by relating progress. Everyone else thought he was an egomaniac.

''He really had to work on noticing how often he was chiming in with information about himself, or taking credit, as opposed to contributing something more neutral or complimenting someone else,'' Ms. Glaser said. ''Once he adjusted that balance, people saw him as more collaborative and were more willing to give him credit.''

Q. Is it better to be explicit or indirect?

A. Ideally, you want a mixture. But Ms. Glaser says the subtlest, most effective way is to make broadcasting what you're doing inextricable from the work itself. Last year, she coached one client, an employee of a financial services company, who managed a large project spanning many departments. The woman enlisted many senior executives by explaining the project and how it could help their work. At the end of that year, she was one of a small, elite group of employees not on the senior executive team to be invited to the annual executive retreat.

Q. Is there a way to enlist your colleagues in singing your praises?

A. What goes around comes around, Ms. Glaser said. If you want to create an environment in which others talk up your achievements, do that for them first. You may also lend your expertise or time to colleagues as a way of highlighting your skills in that area. ''The best thing in the world is to never have to sell yourself,'' Ms. Glaser said. ''The accolades come out of referrals and people's gratefulness for your contribution.''

Q. But can you go too far in praising others instead of yourself?

A. Sure, and people whose primary responsibility is to lead teams are most at risk. There is a danger of passing all the credit along to those who execute the plans, without highlighting your own skills and talents in managing. Ms. Glaser coached one senior pharmaceutical executive last year whose chief executive didn't think he had the chops for a promotion because all he talked about were the accomplishments of the team. He had to learn to include himself in the story and to make clear what insights, research or work on his part had helped the team.

''If you are always eating humble pie,'' Ms. Glaser said, ''you're much less likely to get to taste the promotion pie.''

Gender Consciousness

By Judith E. Glaser | Leadership Excellence
Published August 2007

Hitting the 'nodes' in a new way.

Are women more emotional, men more logical? Are women more focused on relationships, men more focused on tasks? Are men smarter, or are women smarter? These questions are now being addressed by neuroscientists, who are revealing ways to leverage the strengths of men and women at work so that new thinking will emerge.

Using a Gender Lens to See Clearly

The meeting was over, and everyone felt like this was one of the best decisions that they had ever reached. What made this meeting better? First, the men and women in attendance were gender-aware. They’d studied the natural ways that men and women process information, make decisions, discuss and listen, and they applied this knowledge to their conversations. While the challenge being addressed was fraught with conflict, they opened the space for the rich exchange of ideas; and out of this, new perspectives emerged—those that neither the men nor women had ever entertained before.

Neuroscience is opening up a new gender lens that gives leaders a way to dispel old myths, and gain insight into how to draw on best on men and women’s strengths. These studies enable us to examine how men and women think. They even give us startling insights that will change how we innovate, decide and converse at work.

As we combine women’s with men’s way of thinking and conversing, we create an emergent system, with new ways of perceiving and new possibilities. We’ll be hitting nodes in a new way and opening up new pathways.

Let’s look at what we’re learning about gender differences in order to cause “great music to be played.”

Differences that Matter

Listening: Women and men listen differently, in part due to our brain differences. Men and women listen differently based on how their brains respond to problem-solving, decision making, innovation, and relationship building, to name of few factors.

  • How Women Listen: By nature, women are more interested in the journey—the conversation and the process of getting to the destination. They listen by connecting more data points, listening with a larger frame of reference, processing context, connecting data points, and listening for implications. Why? Women’s brains have a larger corpus callosum in the front where the frontal lobes reside. This may enable the greater verbal skills. The corpus callosum connects left and right hemispheres, enabling the two hemispheres to communicate rapidly and efficiently with each other.
  • How men listen: Men are more interested in the destination. They often see the end point more quickly and want to get to the conclusion more quickly. Men listen with a more focused attention to solving a problem, making a decision or taking action quickly. Why? Men have more gray matter tissue in certain regions in the back of the brain where the visual spatial capabilities reside. Men have more compartmentalized listening—using the left-brain— while women have more web-based listening using both their left and right brains. Men listen to make a decision, to get the answer, or to fix a problem, while women listen first to get the broad context and explore the dynamics so they can make the decision with a broader perspective.
  • What matters for women and men: Women have more white matter in their brains, men more gray matter. This structural difference—one focused on more connectivity, the other upon discrete processing nodes—appears to map to some interpersonal styles. There appears to be two different models for brain structure— each model adding important information and skill-sets to innovation, decision-making, and communication style.

Differences that Don’t Matter

In cognitive abilities, the differences between men’s brains and women’s brains is very small. So, both men and women, on average, are equally smart. Men and women’s IQs do not differ much—they just get there in different ways. Men’s brains are 10 percent larger, but the size does not equate to 10 percent greater intelligence. Men’s brains may have more redundancy of structure built in, perhaps to protect the male brain. Women’s brains, having less exposure to traumatic damage, appear to be more efficient; yet these structural differences do not translate into more cognitive abilities—or higher IQ for men.

Strengths Can Become Weakness

Your brain is built to masterfully handle complexity and to adapt to changes. Three things, common to men and women of all ages, make us human and give us our edge.

  • We are masters at pigeon holing. We give labels (words) to things quickly. We define, we make meaning, and we do this rapidly. Since we have to generalize, we can assign incorrect labels. Yet labels are so powerful that they can blind us from seeing anything but the label we have assigned.
    • Gender bender: Blindspots can cause us to stereotype others incorrectly. By stereotyping, we force people to conform to the labels and stop treating them as unique. Labels such as emotional or chatty or buttoned down can be gender biased labels that get in the way of us appreciating and leveraging each other’s real differences.
    • Gender consciousness: To break out of generalizing and labeling, we need to interact with and work with a more diverse group of people. Inclusion and diversity practices breakdown the tendency to stereotype and create a forum for cross-gender collaboration, which builds respect into the culture and honors gender diversity in teams and relationships.
  • We are a massive pattern-recognition mechanism. We classifying people into bins so that we can move through the complexities. We form comparables that give us a sense of safety and confidence. And we create patterns in our minds of how things work—patterns that give us roadmaps for navigating the complex words of decision-making. From this we can move forward with confidence.
    • Gender bender: The risk with pattern- making is that we stop seeing what is taking place around us, and form male-centric or women-centric strategies and action plans that miss picking up the reality of changes. While these are our comfort zone ways of working, we may start to stereotype men and women thinking, “this is who they are all the time.” Old-boy and old-girl networks reinforce this way of thinking.
    • Gender consciousness: To break out of habitual patterns, we need to bring men and women together to draw out the best of each when creating practices—building on the strengths each has to offer. The result will be more innovative and creative— as well as diverse workplace practices.

Becoming Gender Aware

Some of the differences in men and women’s brains are stereotypical and prevent us from performing at our best; others are real, and by understanding them, we can leverage the best we have to bring at the best time in the decision process. Knowing the real differences enables us to create an culture that leverages the strengths of both genders. In this “third eye” perspective, we can apply the science of gender at work, and catch ourselves when we are stereotyping or labeling and interrupt the pattern.

Being aware of possible Gender Benders, and interrupting the patterns, gives men and women a new sense of freedom and creativity to bring their best selves to work.

The highest state of being is to live as Dynamic Adaptable Systems—where we constantly form new connections based on new information. Stereotypical thinking—relying on assumptions—inhibits us from being the best leaders we can be.

When we’re gender aware, we create the best environment for the dynamic emergence of new thinking, sustain a state of dynamic resilience, and constantly update and refresh our brains with new information. In essence, we become incredibly resilient and adaptable. Like a jazz quartet that starts with a few notes and rif, we can honor the differences between the sexes and hit the nodes in a new and better way.

Leveraging assets makes the difference between success and failure. In fact, the ability handle complexity and ambiguity is most clearly correlated to profitability and success. Leveraging the strengths of men and women at work models the best way to leverage gender differences at work.

ACTION: Become dynamically adaptable.

Precision Listening

By Judith E. Glaser | Leadership Excellence
Published August 2007

Ask questions to communicate better.

For a manager, listening is the basic tool for collecting information needed for timely and effective decision making. Whether your talents are in sales, systems engineering, administration, a support center or headquarters staff, gathering and effectively assessing relevant information is key to your success.

The listening mind is never blank or impartial. Our listening is influenced by events, relationships, and experiences—all adding to what we hear and changing the meaning. As objective as we would like to be in our listening, we are subject to the effects of our physical and emotional states. Being tired, angry, elated or stressful predisposes us to selectively attend to what we hear.

Recall a recent situation where you were a listener—perhaps a speech delivered by an executive or a discussion with a coworker. Did you listen to facts or to specific words? Did you paraphrase these words in your mind? Did this lead to new impressions? Were you affected by the speaker’s voice, dress, demeanor, mood, or attitude? Were you evaluating the speaker’s effectiveness? Were you judging his or her ideas? Or, were you so preoccupied that you didn’t listen at all?

Since we can’t attend to everything we hear, we listen selectively. But what guides our listening? Why do people who hear the same speech often walk away with different impressions? Obviously, they didn’t “hear” the same thing.

We hear one-sixth as fast as we think, and so the mind has the time to construct questions, inferences, and associations. Do we use this time wisely? Do we recognize that ineffective listening is a management problem?

Listening Behaviors

Consider these four types of listening behavior in business:

1. Noise-in-the-attic listening. We may think that being a good listener is merely sitting silently while others talk. Outwardly, we appear to be listening. Inwardly, however, we are listening to the “noise in the attic.” When we listen with this posture, we are disengaged from the speaker’s ideas and involved in our own mental processes.

Noise-in-the-attic listening tends to develop from childhood experiences. As youngsters, how many of us heard: “Don’t talk while I’m speaking!” “Don’t interrupt me!” “Don’t ask so many questions!” “Why? Because I said so!”

Conditioned by these warnings, many of us turn off our minds and habits of inquiry. Instead of clarifying the speaker’s intent, we are preoccupied with our own internalizations: “Who does she think she is?” “I can do his job better than he can.” Or, we may find ourselves planning a trip, remembering a pleasant experience, or even completing a thought— returning from time to time to listen to what is being said. Sound familiar?

2. Face-value listening. We think we are hearing facts, when the words we are hearing are interpretations. In face-value listening, the listener isn’t mentally “checking back” into the real world to see whether the words explain what they purport to explain. Words are heard more for their literal meanings, not as tools for understanding. This explains why executives, managers, and staff can differ dramatically in their perceptions. Children use face-value listening, since their experiences are so limited. Our experiences should add depth to our listening. Sadly, many of us hear, rather than listen. Good listening requires guided thought.

3. Position listening. Business has its own listening problems. Employees, alert for clues to their performance, are often victims of position listening, a highly partial form of listening. For example: A manager might listen to her president’s annual report to determine whether her division will be growing. What she hears in that talk could easily affect her performance during the year as well as her relationships with coworkers. She will listen to immediate superiors to determine her role. Obviously, position listening can lead to faulty assumptions and destroy the morale of a high-performing team.

4. Precision listening. Precision listening is the art of knowing how to listen and how listening affects performance. Listening is not an end in itself, but part of a chain of processes that end in a decision, strategy, or change in behavior or point of view.

Why we listen determines the type of information we listen for. Salespeople listen for customer concerns. Lawyers listen for the opposing speaker’s faulty logic. Psychiatrists listen for unconscious motivations. These bits of information are important for the listeners to do their jobs successfully.

Training has taught them not to listen at face value, and to use the time lag between their hearing and speaking to evaluate what is said. At the same time, they don’t dismiss their emotional response to the speaker, their “feel” for the situation, or their hunch of what might happen next. A framework telling them how to influence a person also guides these professionals.

In sales, the marketing rep wants to influence a customer from a point of no interest to a commitment to buy. The lawyer tries to influence the jury to his or her point of view. The psychiatrist works to influence the patient toward new insights about personal behavior, motivations or view of the world.

Executive as Precision Listener

Business executives need to focus on interpersonal influence. Who is being influenced and why? What ideas, beliefs, and behaviors need to be influenced for the person to be more effective?

What do I know about this person that will help me better understand her and what is being said? Are her problems or concerns such that we can effect real changes, or are they out of reach in the business context?

The executive examines the way she or he answers the employee. Will the person listen better if the answers are short and sweet or will listening improve if these statements contain more background information?

In practicing precision listening, the executive listens carefully to the employee’s answers—to phrasing, context, and words used to get clues to the real meanings behind the words. To reduce the ambiguity of meaning and intent, the executive will ask questions, rephrase and restate what was heard.

Precision listening helps us peer into the minds of others, enabling us to set more helpful, meaningful, and satisfying objectives for action.

When we adopt the framework of navigational questioning and use precision listening as a tool, we improve our ability to communicate and make more timely and better decisions.

Navigational questions include: What is the situation? How are you approaching it? What outcomes do you want to create? What are you focusing on? What resources do you need? What assumptions do you hold? What does success look like? How will you measure success? What is holding you back? What are your strategies for moving forward? How will the desired outcome impact you and others? How will you prepare everyone for the potential changes? How will you reduce fear? What new ideas and approaches are you considering? How will you introduce them to others? How will you engage people in creating the new outcomes? What would you like to see happen? How important are these changes to you? What would happen if these changes did not take place? What are the implications if they do take place? Who will benefit from the changes? How can you ensure the right people are engaged?

ACTION: Improve your listening behavior.

Good Managers Are Good LIsteners

By Judith E. Glaser | AMA Magazine
Published: July, 2004

For a manager, listening is perhaps the most important component of communication. It’s essential to move ideas from one person to another.Done well, it will enable you to collect information for timely and effective decision making.

ON YOUR MARK, GET SET

Unlike this page before it was printed, the listening adult’s mind is never blank or completely impartial. Our listening is influenced by events, relationships and experiences—all adding to what we hear and its meaning.As objective as we would like to think we are when we listen, we actually are not.

We are also subject to the effects of our physical and emotional states. Being tired, angry, elated or stressful predisposes us to selectively attend to what we hear.

These two forces—history plus emotional state—make up our listening capability at any point in the day.

THINK OF YOURSELF AS A LISTENER

Try to recall a recent situation when you were a listener. It may have been a speech delivered by an executive, a discussion with a subordinate or an explanation from a peer. Did you listen to facts or to specific words? Did you paraphrase these words in your mind? Did the situation lead to new impressions, feelings and ideas? Were you affected by how the speaker stood, the volume of her voice or her appearance?

Did the speaker’s emotional tone bother you? Were you evaluating his effectiveness as a communicator? Or were you so preoccupied with your own problems that you didn’t listen at all or only hear a little of what was said?

Still another question: What guided your listening? Individuals who hear the same speech often walk away with different impressions of what they heard.

THE UNTRAINED LISTENER

We hear one-seventh as fast as we think. While our mind has the time to listen, evidence suggests that we don’t always use that time well. Traditionally, ineffective listening has been viewed as a hearing problem. However, as we gain important new information about the effects of this uniquely human process called listening on the effectiveness of an organization, we can recognize that ineffective listening is much more.

Consider some of these common types of listening behavior in business.

“Noise in the Attic” Listening. Like many people, some of us think that being a good listener is merely sitting silently while others talk. Outwardly, we appear to be listening. Inwardly, however, our mind is elsewhere or we are making judgments about earlier comments.We end up preoccupied with our own internalizations.

“Face Value” Listening. Sometimes, we think we are hearing facts when actually the words we’re hearing are our interpretations of situations or figures. This explains why executives, managers and staff sometimes differ dramatically in what they think they hear. Interpretations are influenced by our experiences. The more experiences we have, the more we should be able to interpret what we hear from the speaker’s perspective. Unfortunately, many adults hear only what they want to hear.

“Position” Listening.We interpret the messages we hear by our position in the organization or concerns as a member of the organization. Employees, for instance, are constantly alert for clues to how their performance is being rated, reading their own interpretations into messages. A manager might listen to her president’s annual report to determine whether her division will be financed to grow further. What she hears in that talk could easily affect her performance during the year as well as her relationships with co-workers.

In business, executives need to focus on the interpersonal influencing process.

Precision Listening. This is the style of listening that can make us better executives. It accepts that listening is not an end in itself but a part of a chain of processes that ends in a decision, strategy or change in behavior or viewpoint. When driving to some place new, we think nothing of stopping at a gas station for a map so we can navigate in unfamiliar territory.We need the map to drive efficiently and with less chance of an accident. If we get lost, we need only refer back to the map to find our way. Listening can be approached the same way.

CREATING THE MAPS

Why we’re listening determines the type of information we listen for. Salespeople listen for customer concerns. Lawyers listen for the opposing speaker’s faulty logic. Freudian psychiatrists listen for unconscious motivations. Training has taught all of them not to listen at face value, and to use the time lag between their hearing and subsequent speaking to properly evaluate what is being said. At the same time, they don’t dismiss their emotional response to the speaker, their “feel” for the situation or their hunch of what might happen next.

A framework telling them how to influence a person’s thinking from Point A to Point B also guides these professionals.

In sales, the marketing rep wants to influence a customer from a point of no interest to a commitment to buy. The lawyer tries to influence the jury to his or her point of view. The psychiatrist works to influence the patient toward new insights about personal behavior, motivations or a view of the world.

THE EXECUTIVE AS PRECISION LISTENER

In business, executives need to focus on the interpersonal influencing process. Who is being influenced to move him from Point A to Point B and why? Where is this conversation going? To what ideas, beliefs and behaviors is this person most committed in his life? Which of these ideas, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors need to be influenced for the person to be more effective on the job?

What do I know about this individual that will help me better understand her and what is being said? Are her problems or concerns such that we can effect real changes, or are they out of reach in the business context?

The executive examines the way he or she answers the employee to see how these answers affect the listening process.Will the employee listen better if the answers are short and sweet (“yes” or “no”) or will listening improve if these statements contain more background information? What kind of information will be helpful?

In practicing precision listening, the executive listens carefully to the employee’s answers—to phrasing, context and words used to get clues to the real meanings behind the words.

The First 100 days

By Judith E. Glaser | Leadership Excellence
Published June 2004

10 steps to a we-centric workplace.

WE-Centric leaders engage in enterprise-wide conversations that trigger vital instincts, tapping deep wisdom, strong commitment, rich relationships, real insight, innovative creativity, and earned trust—all necessary to drive cultural success. We-centric leaders share their inner thoughts. They help transform deep thoughts and feelings into dialogue that directs people toward bold action.

As relationship circles build among colleagues, customers, vendors and resource partners, a web of interconnectivity forms. Using a common language and story-telling process, the organization becomes a dynamic system of positive transformation. Egocentricity (I-centric behaviors) gives way to humility, and we-centric engagement fills the space. The collective will for action becomes a driving force, moving the brand and organization forward faster. The energy of action is not reactivity, which leads to territorial behavior (I-centric), but generativity and cocreativity, which leads to synchronous behavior and action (we-centric).

10 Steps in 100 Days

To build your team in 100 days, follow these 10 steps:

  1. Build your executive team. Decide who will be on the team. Gain alignment with the key executives and develop productive relationships with them. If there are issues with relationships, philosophy, history, misunderstandings, clear them up; don’t allow them to fester. Have one-on-ones with your key people regularly. Clarify the roles of each executive.
  2. Unveil your visions and strategy as a shared vision. Project your strategic thinking clearly. Share the details; have forums for dialogue to create an enterprise-wide vision. You clarify your message every time you say it. People need to hear it, and you need to speak it consistently.
  3. Build momentum and energy from top to bottom. Each executive, not just the CEO, must hold the vision. Every one-on-one helps clarify the picture. Make sure you and your team sees the same view. They need to be onboard with you and build the vision with you.
  4. Appreciate the value each person brings. Ensure that people feel valued, solicit their points of view, and note their contributions. Discuss where the business is going and how they can contribute to its success.
  5. Communicate intimately and globally. Every conversation is a chance to build trust and respect and strengthen relationships. To build trust, give people a chance to be heard. Circle back more than once during the conversation. And let them get to know you.
  6. Set priorities for 30, 60, and 90 days. Select key priorities that show actions are being taken and decisions made and engage your top team in building the 30-60-90 day agenda.
  7. Communicate the small wins. Communicate the small wins toward achieving transformational goals.
  8. Celebrate success. Every success is important; so, celebrate when it counts.
  9. Capture symbols of change. Capture cultural symbols of change as they emerge and make them explicit.
  10. Make requests, promises, and commitments. Ask for what you want. Keep your promises. And build a commitment culture by walking the talk.

Leadership is being redefined from power-over others to power with others. Executives are awakening to new beliefs about what drives people to be productive and what it takes to engage their energy, commitment, and creativity.

Leaders turn fear into hope, caution into courage, and resistance into a powerful energy for creating the future.

ACTION: Take these 10 steps.

We-centric Leadership

By Judith E. Glaser | AMA Magazine
Published: Fall, 2003

We are experiencing unprecedented changes in the world. Businesses are more challenged than ever before, and it feels like there has been a sudden and profound interruption in business continuity. I call this The Edge.

At the edge—our moments of greatest challenge—we often feel like we are losing control and are unable to see a clear path to success. It’s a crossroads we arrive at when we are faced with decisions too difficult to make, when our resources are few, and our old approaches no longer produce results that yield success. Our energy feels depleted, we discover pockets of insecurity, and we are afraid to let others in.

At the edge, we can turn away from others and try to handle the challenges from our own vantage point, or we can turn to others for help.

Old-style leadership suggests that a leader should have the answers and direct and guide the organization to solutions. Old-style leaders expect solutions to come from the top of the organization and be given to the employees for implementation.New-style leadership says that a leader doesn’t have all the answers, and therefore needs to learn how to involve the entire organization in successfully coming up with the strategies for success. I call this new inclusive approach “We-Centric” Leadership.

ASK YOURSELF: WHAT KIND OF LEADER AM I?

  1. When you don’t know what to do, do you become arrogant?
  2. Do you always need to be the center of attention?
  3. What does vulnerability look like to you?
  4. When was the last time you were vulnerable and welcomed direction?
  5. Do loved ones and co-workers tell you that you are stubborn and controlling?
  6. When people criticize you, do you punish them for their honesty?
  7. Do you really listen, or while others are talking do you mentally prepare how you are going to defend yourself?

GETTING TO WE

We-Centric Leaders come from diverse industries around the world. These wonderfully insightful executives realize that “we” is the most powerful ingredient for growing companies. They know how inclusive behaviors and attitudes can radically shift the power dynamics in a company, thereby positively influencing productivity and quality. We-Centric Leaders are tuned into what happens when people feel disconnected, rejected and alone. They understand that behaviors such as rebellion, resistance and conflict are often signs that the bonds of trust are broken among people and must be reconnected.

This new leadership is based on inclusivity, and this new breed of leader will no longer tolerate separateness and silos. They instinctively know that we do our best work when we feel connected, and thus they create ways for employees to interconnect and work synergistically. Organizations value and reward these leaders because they bring a new type of power and prosperity wherever they go. They create incredible positive changes in how work gets done, changes that shift energy in profound ways and draw out the talent and wisdom of their employees to create extraordinary business results. At the start of the 21st century, these newstyle leaders are redefining the nature of organizations and are shifting the fabric of the workplace.

DON’T DERAIL YOUR TRAIN

As we rise up the corporate ladder, leaders are required to become more We-Centric. And as business challenges grow bigger and more complex, leaders are expected to set the tone for mutual success.We-Centric Leadership can be learned, and the key is to go beyond your own ego and live through practices of inclusivity.

Leaders derail, and fail to achieve inclusivity, for three reasons:

1. Leaders who fail to build mutual relationships with others. Those who seem to manipulate others to serve their own ends create a backlash and lose both trust and respect.

Examples:

  • Leaders who exhort employees to work hard, and then take all the credit.
  • Leaders who promise promotions in order to get employees to work harder and conveniently forget the promise.
  • Leaders who are extremely directive and controlling, and act that way for their gain and benefit (self-importance) rather than for organizational purposes.

Sometimes, leaders become so incredibly focused on their own agendas and creating their own success that they do so at the expense of others. When it becomes clear to others that these leaders are out for their own self-interest, these leaders lose the support of the people who can help get them to their next leadership level, not to mention help them succeed.

2. Problems occur when leaders make themselves the center of attention rather than make the company the primary focus.When leaders are out solely to protect their own future, they fail to consider the organization’s goals and objectives. After a while employees will see that they are not an organizational person but are out for themselves.

Examples:

  • Leaders who encourage employees to hide information from other departments because it makes their department look better.
  • Leaders who promote their own division’s work to gain attention from the top brass, knowing it will make others look bad.
  • Leaders who are constantly acting or speaking in a self-serving way publicly.

3. Leaders fail when they do not manage their own bio-reactive behaviors. We all react to emotional triggers. That is part of what makes us human. But to succeed, one needs to learn how to transform reactive behavior into proactive behavior. Without control over our own reactions, we are carriers of potentially lethal negativity and reactivity.

Examples:

  • Leaders who react to conflict by avoiding it, rather than learning to deal with it properly.
  • Leaders who react to fear with aggression rather than by being assertive.
  • Leaders who react to power struggles by acquiescing rather than by direct confrontation.

Managing these three dynamics is the key to your success. Too often I am called in to coach senior executives who do not get along with others, are out to achieve their own agendas and are so reactive to others that they cause harm. By the time I arrive, such leaders have already created great havoc in their wake. If you learn to manage your own reactions, to put your ego behind you and to build healthy, open relationships with others, your ability to drive your organization to success will increase exponentially.

With these three principles in mind, your most important job is to establish a positive context for change by engaging employees, customers and your management team in an ongoing conversation to develop into the best company “we” can become in our industry.

We-Centric Leaders understand what they do to engage employees, and what they do to disengage employees.

THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE

Our tools and technologies as a global community are expanding exponentially, enabling us to dissolve physical boundaries and interconnect country to country, business to business, in exciting new ways. In the face of a technology explosion, we are still faced with the more important human challenge: to dissolve boundaries, build trust and access our powerful people resources.

This new breed of leaders is willing to look inside and learn what they are made of. They commit to exploring the dynamics of their own human nature, and are willing to address the impact they have on their organization’s culture. In doing so, they learn what it takes to create environments that enable employees to be fully engaged and motivated, to challenge and be challenged, and to face the difficult competitive issues together.

This new breed of leaders understands human nature. They realize that people become reactive when they feel rejected and disconnected from the conversations about corporate strategy. They realize that when people feel out of the loop they project their anxiety onto others and create more fear in the workplace. They realize that when employees feel powerless they blame other people for what is missing in their lives.When employees are rejected, they reject back.

We-Centric Leaders understand what they do to engage employees, and what they do to disengage employees. They learn to gauge their responses based on the results they create. The result is nothing less than a profound impact on bottom-line, top-line and organic growth. More importantly, the impact of these leaders creates a cultural atmosphere which supports an ongoing commitment and enthusiasm to achieving the company’s far-reaching goals.

Judith E. Glaser is chief executive officer of Benchmark Communications, Inc. This article is abstracted from her new book Discovering the Power of We.

Are You Feeling Unappreciated? Griping May Make Things Worse

By Joann S. Lublin, Staff Reporter | THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Few people ever feel adequately rewarded and recognized for their work achievements. But how can you gripe about such mistreatment without being branded a whiner — and possibly sabotaging your job? It's an especially tricky question at a time of scant raises and promotions. Many persistent complainers try to whine their way to success, says Judith E. Glaser, a New York executive coach. But they "have no idea how close they are to serious career harm.''

Complaining apparently helped derail Warren Lieberfarb. The Warner Bros. video chief was forced out of the AOL Time Warner movie studio in December. He said he was let go over policy differences. But he also told colleagues he felt bitter at not receiving enough money for his pivotal role in introducing and popularizing digital videodiscs. AOL Time Warner leaders were tired of his constant grousing, people at the company have said.

"If you express discontent in a culture that doesn't want to change, you run the risk of being seen as disruptive,'' concedes Mr. Lieberfarb, who now owns a digital-media consulting firm in Los Angeles.

Different grievance tactics might enhance your chances for greater rewards and job security. For starters, determine your manager's performance measures, provide objective evidence of your relevant accomplishments, and regularly confirm that your boss agrees you're a star. "Make it easy for people to give you what you're asking for," and don't expect "performance to speak for itself," advises Deborah Kolb, a Simmons College management professor.

That's what Cindy Haas Davis did during five pay chats over 12 months. Early last year, she advanced to program manager at a Bryna, Texas, nonprofit. Her boss said she wouldn't get paid more, and initially she didn't object. Two months later, though, Ms. Davis demanded a 10% raise for performing well. Her superior not only agreed but increased the raise to 20% a week later after she divulged a pending job offer.

In December, Ms. Davis learned a male program manager with the same duties made about 25% more than she — thanks to his 10% cost-of-living increase. But her boss said her raise made her ineligible for an inflation adjustment.

Through a group called Business and Professional Women/USA, the 44-year-old Ms. Davis then researched the federal equal-pay law. She wrote her supervisor citing the pay disparity as a possible violation. When Ms. Davis again met with her boss, he said, "You didn't have to come on this strong.'' But she had done her homework, and he granted her proposed 17% inflation adjustment. She now earns $42,000, twice her starting salary four years ago.

Inadequately recognized individuals can aggravate their predicament by reminding underlings about their situation. A well-paid executive at a big New York human-resources consultancy says she's sometimes frustrated because her undemonstrative superior rarely praises her in person. He prefers emails that read, "Great month!"

In turn, the 45-year-old executive alienates lieutenants because she whines so much, according to Ms. Glaser, her coach. "They all know she is smart, makes the most money [and] brings in the largest sales. She rubs it in their face,'' the coach says. "They don't want to work with her.'' The client agrees she hasn't seen "the level of collaboration that there should be'' because some staffers believe she's a showoff.

Yet supportive colleagues can bring you wider appreciation for your achievements. A Latin American managing director of a major U.S. financial-services concern felt her remuneration didn't match her impressive results. There was a reason. Subordinates had complained to a personnel manager about her insensitive manner and excessive expectations.

The managing director forged an alliance with the personnel manager by accepting responsibility for her attitude and soliciting his advice in crafting corrective steps. He became her ally with her employees and boss.

The upshot? The managing director's region is performing better, she won a bigger bonus — and she moved "to a high performers' list with better career possibilities,'' says Paul Winum, an Atlanta psychologist for the executive-coaching firm RHR International who counseled the woman last year.

Similarly, the HR consultancy executive discovered she wins greater plaudits and satisfaction when she praises co-workers. Senior management recently sent her a congratulatory e-mail after she and several associates nationwide landed a significant client assignment. "I couldn't have done it without those folks,'' she replied, because "it was really a team effort.'' Then she e-mailed team members — and some of their bosses — copies of both messages.

Senior management complimented her for that gesture, too. While the executive enjoys kudos for acknowledging others, "I don't do this just to get praise,'' she says. "It's very exciting … to be working on a team and achieving more than I could individually. There's plenty of glory to go around.''

In Choosing the Right Management Model, Firms Seesaw Between Product and Place. One System Is Based on What a Company Makes, the Other on Where It Operates.

By Joann S. Lublin, Staff Reporter | THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Published: June 27, 2001

Last year, Robert A. Lutz, chairman and chief executive of Exide Corp., launched a master plan to help turn around the money-losing battery maker and solve a thorny business problem.

Exide's structure — built around 10 separate country organizations — was encouraging its managers in Europe to undercut one another's prices. They were "driven to maximize their own results — even if it was at the price of their next-door neighbor, who also was Exide," says Mr. Lutz. "The guys were poking each other in the eye.''

So, Mr. Lutz spent about a year and $8 million crafting a new structure for the $2.4 billion company. In place of the geographical fiefs, he formed global business units to manage the company's various product lines, such as car batteries and industrial batteries for high-tech gear.

But that gave rise to new problems. Half of Exide's top European managers resigned. And when Exide made an important acquisition, it worried that a top executive it wanted to keep would be miffed if his turf got swallowed up by one of the new units. Soon, Mr. Lutz was tinkering with Exide's structure again, tilting the organizational seesaw back toward the geography plan.

Dawning Realization

As companies grow more global, they keep running into the same basic management dilemma that bedeviled Mr. Lutz: Is it more efficient to organize by product line or organize by geography? NCR Corp., Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and several others have spent fortunes transforming themselves from one to the other. But taken too far, each model can cause its own headaches.

In the product model, businesses can reap efficiencies by standardizing manufacturing, introducing products around the world faster, coordinating prices better and eliminating overlapping plants. Yet, companies typically find that tilting too far away from a geographic model slows their local decisionmaking, reduces their pricing flexibility and can impair their ability to tailor products to the needs of specific customers.

Under "Ford 2000,'' the No. 2 U.S. car maker's most sweeping management redesign to date, Ford sought to forge its functional departments — such as new-car development — and its geographical fiefs into a single global automotive operation, pursuing the product-based model. A Ford spokesman says the reorganization, begun in early 1995, saved $5 billion during the first three years, primarily through swifter product development and the adoption of world-wide manufacturing standards.

Lost Ground

However, it cost Ford some of the ground it had gained in Europe. By January 2000, the company's European market share had slipped to 8.8% from 13% five years earlier. Between 1996 and 1999, four different executives oversaw its European operations.

Early last year, Ford shuffled senior management again, restoring some of its regional executives' lost authority. They gained more power to decide what kinds of cars and trucks to make and how to market them. Ford called the partial retreat a "refinement'' of Ford 2000.

Exide Unit Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges Stemming From Role as DieHard Supplier (March 26)

P&G's "Organization 2005" plan replaced separate country organizations with global business units tied to product categories, such as paper goods, feminine protection and beauty care. The 1999 realignment sought to bolster sales and globalize the maker of Tide laundry detergent, Pampers diapers and Crest toothpaste.

Unanticipated Results

But P&G's switch failed to anticipate the tremendous upheaval involved as thousands of employees shifted into new jobs. More than half of the company's executives were assigned to new roles. The company transferred about 1,000 European staffers to Geneva, causing an influx sudden enough to push up residential rents in the staid Swiss city. The company's goal of cutting 15,000 jobs world-wide, or 13% of P&G's work force, over six years also alarmed many employees.

European managers complained to some of P&G's ex-chairmen, who remained close to company directors. Such middle-management griping — on top of unexpectedly weak earnings — helped trigger the abrupt departure of CEO Durk I. Jager last June after just 17 months in the top job. Like Ford, P&G has since partly reinstated its geographic focus, hoping to get closer to customers.

Shortly after his arrival at Exide in December 1998, the outspoken Mr. Lutz, a former Chrysler Corp. president, became convinced that the company's geographical focus no longer made sense. Exide, the world's biggest producer of automotive and industrial batteries, was facing mounting losses, a depressed share price and a heavy debt burden. It also faced allegations in the U.S. that it had sold many used auto batteries as new ones. (In late March, an Exide unit pleaded guilty to separate criminal charges involving the sale of defective batteries and agreed to pay a $27.5 million fine.)

Exide's once-booming European business missed profit targets for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1999, and U.S. losses widened. Exide's European country managers blamed falling prices. Competitors and clients blamed Exide. "They said, 'Your country managers are exporting into each other's countries,' " recalls Mr. Lutz. "The prices we had to meet were our own.''

Many of those executives had headed local businesses that Exide had acquired, and they could earn sizable bonuses for hitting local profit goals. They "acted like barons," says Mark Stevenson, the company's managing director for Britain.

So, to a degree, did Mr. Stevenson. He once clashed with German colleagues over batteries that the British unit sold in Austria for 10% to 15% less than what Germany Exide charged there. He felt his prices fairly reflected the market.

Seeking to build consensus for an organizational overhaul, Mr. Lutz held five management retreats between June 1999 and January 2000. "Where does our future lie?" Mr. Lutz asked 30 senior executives assembled for the first retreat at a downtown Madrid hotel. "Does it lie in country management? Or in global business units?"

At first, Albrecht Leuschner, then head of Exide's six-factory German operation, doubted Exide needed to shift to the business-unit model, organizing by product lines. "My region was in good shape,'' he says. "I was afraid we would destroy structure and that would damage the [German] business.''

Resolving Dilemmas

Between retreats, managers working in teams were assigned to grapple with various Exide dilemmas, using existing and alternative organizational models. In assessing Asian expansion strategies, one team realized that Exide's geographic focus encouraged construction, even though "it was not profitable for [Exide] to keep putting plants up,'' says Judith Glaser, a New York consultant who helped run the retreats.

The teams reported their findings during the first two days of their third retreat, held in September in a castle-like hotel in the hills near Florence, Italy. The tentative consensus: Only a product-line structure could cure Exide's ills.

On the last morning of the three-day retreat, the executives arranged their chairs in a semicircle around Mr. Lutz and hotly debated the proposed management structure for more than two hours. Finally, Mr. Lutz stood and announced, "We don't have 100% consensus yet. … But I'm going to make a decision, and we are going to go to a global business unit structure.'' Santiago Ramirez, then in charge of 1,500 executives and about 8,500 rank-and-file production and sales workers as head of Exide's European operations, "looked disappointed,'' Ms. Glaser recalls.

Several Ramirez lieutenants made sour faces.

"Why don't you give it a try?" Mr. Lutz says he asked the frowning Eduardo Garnica, Exide's managing director for Spain.

"No, I'm out of here,'' Mr. Garnica replied, according to Mr. Lutz.

Mr. Garnica couldn't be reached for comment. Nor could Mr. Ramirez, who left the company six weeks after it implemented its reorganization.

Other country managers got even more upset during their December 1999 retreat. In a windowless room of an Amelia Island, Fla., resort, Mr. Lutz displayed tentative organizational charts for the global business units.

The charts distressed Giovani Mele, a managing director for Italy. At dinner that evening, Ms. Glaser noticed him huddled with two equally morose-looking European associates. "Being a country manager is my life,'' Ms. Glaser recalls Mr. Mele telling her in a choked voice. "It's something I've worked for my whole life. I don't see how I'll have a role going forward.''

Mr. Mele also dreaded the personal sacrifice that the reorganization would require. Exide moved him to Frankfurt, where he presently makes less money than before. "They said, 'this or nothing,' '' he says. His family refuses to leave its home in Naples.

Exide, which is based in Princeton, N.J., initially formed six global business units primarily around its product lines. Most of its remaining country managers were demoted to the post of local coordinator. A few gained power. Dr. Leuschner, for instance, took charge of the global network-power business unit, which makes standby industrial batteries for phone systems, computers and the like.

A Six-Week Tenure

But the new structure didn't last long. "For six weeks," Dr. Leuschner recalls, "I was emperor of the world." In May 2000, however, Exide agreed to buy international battery maker GNB Technologies Inc. for about $368 million in stock and cash. The deal offered a chance to regain a significant and profitable presence in the North American industrial-battery market that it had abandoned more than a decade earlier.

Mr. Lutz feared that Mitchell Bregman, the well-regarded president of GNB's industrial-battery division, might bolt once Exide folded his operation into the newly created global business units. So, just before both sides signed the accord, the Exide leader corralled Mr. Bregman at the company's Chicago law firm and assured him a significant role in the combined operation. "If we had been rigid about our organizational framework, we would have broken up GNB,'' says Mr. Lutz, whose offices are in Ann Arbor, Mich. Instead, Mr. Lutz tilted the structural seesaw back somewhat toward a geographic model by letting Mr. Bregman keep control of the North American industrial-battery business.

Initially, the move triggered a turf battle. Last summer, Mr. Bregman and Dr. Leuschner, his soon-to-be colleague, clashed over who should run China for Exide. Mr. Bregman, whose company's revenue in China had recently doubled and exceeded Exide's there, wanted to form and direct a Chinese subsidiary. Because China represented his unit's fastest-growing market, Dr. Leuschner lobbied to form a local joint venture there under his command.

Mr. Bregman says he finally gave in under pressure from Exide President Craig Mulhauser. In return, Mr. Bregman was put in charge of South American operations while keeping Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

'Industrial Bad Guys'

These days, Mr. Bregman says he gets along well with his European counterparts, Dr. Leuschner and Neil Bright, who directs Exide's motive power global business unit, which makes batteries for forklifts, electric vehicles, submarines and other equipment. The trio confer face-to-face once a month and show such a fierce esprit de corps that Mr. Lutz nicknamed them "the industrial bad guys.''

There are other signs of progress from Exide's latest approach: blending the geography and product-line models. As a result of its partially restored geographic focus, Exide still employs separate industrialbattery sales forces on both sides of the Atlantic. But in recent months, the teams have begun making joint pitches to global customers, such as Ford. And Exide has just signed a three-year agreement with Emerson to be the St. Louis-based company's primary world-wide supplier of certain large lead-acid batteries. Mr. Lutz believes the deal never would have happened under the company's old structure.

Exide's operating results started to recover in the second half of the fiscal year ended March 31, reversing first-half operating losses. For the fiscal fourth quarter, Exide posted income from operations of $500,000, or two cents a diluted share, though a large nonrecurring charge left it with a net loss for the period of $144.7 million. That compares with a year-earlier loss from operations of $1 million and a year-earlier net loss of $127.3 million, after a nonrecurring charge. Operating profit for its industrial segment more than doubled during the quarter. Exide attributed the improvement to the GNB acquisition and strong growth in its network power and motive power businesses.

The reorganization "is definitely working far better than what we had,'' Mr. Lutz insists. Yet no one views it as a permanent solution. And Mr. Lutz vows to seesaw again if conditions warrant.

"Come back a year from now and we will look different,'' says Mr. Mulhauser, his second-in-command. Indeed, Exide is exploring ways to combine the separate operations run by Dr. Leuschner, Mr. Bright and Mr. Bregman. "We were searching for the Holy Grail. But there isn't one.'' 5