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Dan McCarthy

Steve –
Just catching up on some of my reading, and as always, I slow down when I get to your blog. Too much good stuff! I love the persuasion tips post – this is a job aid for any leader, salesperson, or anyone that has been frustrated because they have good ideas but no one seems to listen to them.
Great post on norms too. I think the peer mentor approach is the best way to learn norms. It seems that when organizations or teams attempt to make them explicit, it ends up being only the stuff suitable for publication. A mentor can help you read between the lines and fill in the blanks.

Steve Roesler

Dan, I'm writing this while sitting on the back porch laughing out loud (by myself). While you were adding your comment I was reading your Carnival invitation and submitting this post. Now, I'm waiting for Rod Serling to step out and do a Twilight Zone intro.

I have to concur on the peer/mentor thing. That's a way of life for most Japanese companies yet still seems to be something we have to work hard to make happen here. At the risk of going down memory lane, I do recall a time when it was very common for long-time employees to take a new employee under their wing and explain the ropes. "Onboarding" was simply a lifestyle and a social grace extended to new workers.

Are you having a successful go with the peer/mentor approach up there?

Mary Jo Asmus

Hello Steve,

Excellent post, thank you. A comment and a question from me: I am finding, at least in the organizations I work in, that the idea of having a mentor is gaining speed. Many of my clients are high potentials who are in the middle of the organization, and recognize that it is their responsibility to find someone who is more experienced to help them figure out many of the "implicit" norms, if not the others.

If I were a mentor I'd want to put myself in my mentee's shoes to understand what they might be missing. What questions do you think a mentor ask that might get at the "implicit" norms that the mentee is observing?

Gary B. Cohen


Good post well stated. I like the work of David Whyte the Poet/philosopher. He talks about the CEO as the chief conversation officer. He suggests that a leader has to bring forward those conversations that others can't or will not bring forward. It is the responsibility of the leader. As for me I agree with this, and it requires an objective view of the world - without it the leader will see these conversational issues subjectively and will lose the value of beginning the conversation with openness, adaptability and flexibility.

Steve Roesler


A question I often ask is: "If you could take the wrapper off of your corporate candy bar, what would you really see inside?'

Sounds hokey. It works.

Steve Roesler

Hello, Gary

Thanks for offering up that resource.

The idea of CCO certainly has appeal and would be useful to leaders everywhere as a reminder of the importance of that role. I've never worked in an organization where truthful conversations were the norm if the person at the top wasn't initiating them or participating in them.

Dan Erwin

Hi Steve, Great post and a really important issue. I talk about norms as norms, rules, rules under the table. Especially when going into a new firm, one of the questions that always drags out the norms without asking the question directly is "How will I (or, how do you) get in trouble in this place?"

I never ask it too early on, but wait until the end of the first hour and I'm certain about the trust. It always, always takes a person a while to answer, but in the interaction the norms surface.

Steve Roesler


Actually, I have a manager friend who does this activity periodically and asks your question directly. He can do it easily because the group knows the context: The manager is trying to find out the difference between what was intended and what really happens.

Thanks for weighing in.

Michael Lee Stallard

Great post Steve!

This is so important in mergers. The excellent book "Blue Blood and Mutiny: The Fight for the Soul of Morgan Stanley" shows how Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter had different values when it came to meritocracy and debating issues before they were decided upon. The differences over these implicit norms resulted in a bitter internal war that sabotaged post-merger performance for years following the merger.

Steve Roesler


Glad you tossed in the importance of this in mergers. In fact, I think it should be part of the due diligence process in the form of a diagnostic. Not something that would necessarily make it a no go, but would pinpoint underlying ways of doing business that need to be put on the table straight away.

Am in the midst of a merger right now that started a year ago. Because they were on their corporate honeymoon, they didn't think it was necessary to take the time to sort these things out. Now, they want to have a meeting next week to address those implicit norms that have slowed down their progress.

Good to see you!

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Love those! I enjoy following your posts on facebook and rss!

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