What Is In Your Unspoken Contract?

When 300 technical professionals at a major utility were told to re-apply for jobs in their department as part of a major reorganization, they were livid.

"I've been here 18 years."  (Longevity means immunity to change)

"I hired the idiot who's running this thing." (If I gave someone their job, they won't mess with mine)

"They already know what I can do." (I only have to prove myself once)

"No other utility has ever had to go through this." (This place isn't being run according to the norm)

"No one told me this could happen when I was hired." (This wasn't part of the deal)

"My wife and I have planned our retirement for 23 years." ('They' are responsible for my cradle-to-grave existence)

Danger: The "Invisible Assumed"

When you signed on with your current employer you probably discussed:

Icebergforpost Salary, benefits, corporate vision, the marketplace, performance expectations.

Chances are you won't  become really upset as a result of any of those items changing a bit. It's the ones you assumed to be true that will come back to haunt you.

You'll become disenchanted as a result of someone breaking the implicit contract .

The contract that you created in your own mind. Visible only to you.

In the real-life example above, the implicit contract had to do with the unspoken nature of Utility companies: Stable, Secure, Lifetime Employment, Methodical Career Progression...

No one ever said those things out loud. They were just "known."

Q: Do you and your spouse get upset about what you talked about before you got married or what you assumed would be true?

Tips for Employees and Employers


1. Before you sign on the dotted line, check out your assumptions.

2. Make a written list.

3. Check out their validity with your prospective company or boss.


1. Before introducing a change, take a look at the culture.

2. What is it that drew people to your company in the first place?

    Security? Action? International travel? Work close to home?

3. If one or more of those traditional characteristics (the unspoken attraction) will change, then help neutralize the impact by discussing it openly.

Tell what is going to happen and why. Explain the reality of implicit agreements and that you realize this might be one such example. You'll give people a mental model to understand what they are experiencing.

Finally: What happened to our 300 techies?

a. They had been told before the process started that no one would lose a job with the company. They would hopefully be better matched as a result of the process. And, everyone did remain employed.

b. The department as a whole was more effective.

c.  About 10% chose to retire rather than  make the change.

What is your unspoken, implicit contract? How did your employer's reputation and industry culture contribute to that?


Six Things To Pay Attention To In Groups

We're always part of some group

You and I pretty much spend our entire lives in groups. We start off in a family, play with groups of friends, attend classes, and work in groups and teams. So, woudn't it make sense to learn as much as possible about the dynamics associated with groups?


 Some years ago, organizations spent a fair amount of time educating people on the fine points of group dynamics. The research was new and fascinating. New is good. Now that that body of work has been around for a while, it's no longer "what's happening." The human condition--and certainly the organizational mind--is always looking for what's new. The world of advertising slaps the word "new" on packaging and products for a very good reason: new is good. Old isn't bad--it just gets ignored even though it's valid and useful.

There's no ignoring the importance of understanding groups. So here are some things to ponder when you are leading, or part of, a group or team.

Pay attention to these

1. Whenever one person leaves or one person enters a group, the dynamics change. Why? We learn how to function in our groups based on the roles people play, how they play them, and the balance of power and influence that results. 

2. That means that each time the group composition changes, it's a signal to sit down and talk. When a new member enters, the first two things that person thinks about are:   

Why am I here? (Task/Role)

Who are you? (Getting to know more about the other members and vice-versa)

3. If you skip this step, it will only be a matter of time before you notice that something is not quite right with the group.  That's the indicator to stop, get together, and clarify #1 as well as spend time doing #2).

4. When a reasonable amount of comfort and trust is established, you enable the group to be able to make decisions together. The question then is: how will we make decisions? Which ones are left to the group, which are the purview of the leader, and why?

5. Now you are in a place to implement and actually get the work of the group done. That means  you need to agree on "how" things will happen. Note: "How" is important because implementation is the element of group work that allows individuals to use their talents and uniqueness. People lose interest and morale can plummet when they don't feel as if they are uniquely part of the "how."

6.  If you've attended to all of the steps so far, then high performance should be the result. That might mean a great performing team at work, a terrific volunteer organization, or a healthy, well-functioning family.

Food for thought: If you find your group struggling, go back one step and see if you paid appropriate attention to the relevant issue. Keep going back until you take care of the business at that step and then start moving forward again.

Groups are such a huge part of our lives, isn't it worthwhile to develop the related knowledge and skills that will make group life effective?


Keep It Simple Like Einstein

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler."

--Albert Einstein

If Einstein was into simple, then why aren't we?

Whether you're an entrepreneur, coach/consultant, or someone slugging it out every day in corporate life, you know how complex things can become. But why?

3 Reasons Things Become Complex When They Don't Have To Be

1. Complexity can indicate a lack of clarity. When nothing is number one, everything becomes number one--all at once.

2. Many people view complex explanations and business presentations as indicative of superior intelligence.

I've not seen that proven to be true. Instead, they are often indicative of lack of focus and preparation, or an attempt to overwhelm the listener(s) into thinking that what is being said can't really be understood by the “unwashed.” Therefore, the speaker should be granted carte blanche to proceed with the proposal or project, whatever it is.

Note: From now on this should raise a red flag for you. Why? Because you are about to learn

Roesler Rule of Life #27:

Truth comes in sentences. B_ llS_it comes in paragraphs. If you can’t say it with a noun, verb, and object, you aren’t clear about your thought. Or, you may be about to commit #2 above.

3. We are bombarded with so much new information and imagery that our senses are overwhelmed . Our immediate reaction is:

    a. Trying to make sense of all of it in the midst of what we've already begun to do for the day.

    b. Multitasking to deal with all of it.


Einstein Gave Us The Answer To This One, Too. 

One of the principles within the Theory of Relativity is this:

"It is impossible to detect the motion of a system by measurements made within the system."

(What a great sales line for coaches and consultants!)

As individuals, we can't sort out our blind spots from within. We need a relationship with someone who will tell us the truth, give us another perspective, and with whom we are accountable to follow through.

It's an issue of honesty.

Corporations have an even more difficult time. Systems, procedures, and programs built from within are understandably (given human nature) protected and defended by those who are attached to them. Yet the only way to clearly see the reality of a situation is to have someone stand up and tell the truth about it, good or bad. That can be a career-limiting opportunity for the keen observer. Yet to make changes that mean something, successful companies will have to promote that kind of candor or shrivel and die.

It's an issue of honesty.

With ourselves and our companies, the only thing we can decide is what we will do, personally:

Will we speak the simple truth, ask for the simple truth, or claim that our lives are so complex that we can't know the truth?

And then lament the fact that nothing has changed.

3 Ways To Help Make the Complex Simple

1. Before you start the day, answer this question:

"If I can only have one result today to the exclusion of all else, what must it be?"

Pay attention to that. Let go of the rest.

2. Edit your professional language--in length as well as terminology--so a 9 year-old can understand it. Then everyone around you will know that you understand it, too.

3. When you catch yourself multi-tasking, see how you are coming along with #1. Then go back to #1.


5 Ways To Be More Coachable

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?).

The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

Coachable Cats


Five Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.


2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.


3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.


4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.


5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.


Communication: Where to Find the Meaning

"We see things not as they are, but as we are."
   --H.M Tomlinson

Meaning is in the Response You Get

We often deal with new ideas, with changing how things are done, with trying to persuade others about our point of view. The longer you've lived, the more you realize the number of obstacles to people automatically accepting and absorbing your information.

Maybe the greatest single stumbling block to real communication is the one-sided nature of speaking.

I know that you already know about this: intellectually. But let's face it:  Most of us concentrate on what to say and how to say it. In our zeal to  get our message across we forget that at the other end of our message is a real, live person with her own zeal, goals, and concerns. These may not coincide with ours, especially at the moment when we are about to start communicating our new ideas.

Inluence Blog Graphic.001

So, Do This:

1. Openly acknowledge the areas of similarity first.

2. Re-state why you are together and what you hope to accomplish.

3. List the areas of disagreement or fuzziness. Don't discuss them yet, just list them.

4. Identify and work through the items that have the least value or emotional attachment. This creates a quick track record of successes.

5. Get to the tougher ones, with this important element:

Explain why it is important to you.

It's a lot easier to work together when you understand the deeper issues involved. Without this, you aren't really operating at a human level--you are just exchanging information whose underlying realities may be much more sympatico and understandable than the statement given on the surface.

Remember: Meaning is in the response. The deeper, more honest the response, the more chance you have of understanding the truth of each other's reality.

How do you approach these kinds of situations?

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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