Articles in Category: Blog

Is There Such a Thing as “Leadership Commonsense”?

Posted in Blog, All Posts

4 Things to consider when leading others to find their own “leadership commonsense”

I was recently coaching with a leader who was frustrated with one of their first line supervisors. The complaint was stated like this: "He just doesn't have commonsense when it comes to leading people".

What do we mean by commonsense leadership? Commonsense is defined as sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence. Webster describes commonsense as "the unreflective opinions of ordinary people". Therefore, would we define commonsense leadership as the leading of people from our individual "native intelligence". I thought about this for a few minutes. So, we could have leaders that run the gamut of Michael Scott from "The Office" to maybe a Warren Buffet! That could be like rolling dice with your leaders. Is that a risk that you're willing to take?

The problem with commonsense is that in the best of times, it is our "red flag" detector, the little spot in our brain that says "That doesn’t seem right." In the worst of times, though, it’s that little spot in the brain that says "That seems right" when it isn’t. And if commonsense comes from experiences and experience is the great teacher. Why are we still in a mess?

Duncan Watts, who authored Everything is Obvious - Once You Know the Answer, states that "commonsense is a hodge-podge of accumulated advice, experiences, aphorisms, norms, received wisdom, inherited beliefs, and introspection that is neither coherent nor even internally self-consistent". As evidenced by these famous commonsense quotes: " Two minds are better than one vs. too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth" or Try, try again vs. stop flogging a dead horse". And if "experience is the best teacher", when should one also "maintain a beginner's mind"?

Back to my leader's complaint about the supervisor lack of commonsense. In reality what the leader was saying was, "Why isn't this supervisor doing what I do?" But when you ask some to use their commonsense, you are asking them to do what is common and makes sense to them. If you want people doing what you would do then you must train, mentor, coach to that. A word of caution - trying to pass along your commonsense is going to be very difficult and (I know that this will be hard to hear) your commonsense approach may not be the best in every situation.

Here are four things to consider when leading others to find their own “leadership commonsense”:

1. Commonsense is individual - drawn from personal experience. And often that personal experience is not common nor consistent. What we gain is impacted by our interpretation of that experience at that moment in time coupled with our past experiences. Research states that we pick and choose what we remember about experiences and that our memory tends to forget details that are less favorable. And those different interpretations will give inconsistent and sometimes uncommon sense. An organization and/or teams need a common, consistent approach to problem solving. Creating an environment of collaboration and shared experiences that connects to a shared vision will produce better results.

2. Commonsense accepts obvious answers - because commonsense always has an answer. You immediately dig back into your past experiences looking for commonality or at least similarity to the question/concern at hand. The answer seems obvious because you have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt. Leaders should never overlook the obvious but we too often want a quick answer. We don"t allow time for the not so obvious. Instead of always having the answer - we may need to ask a question. Leaders need to ask the "Why". Why is this an issue? Why is this happening again? Why is the team struggling? Why are our results inconsistent? To find the answer you need to understand the why and the why may not be obvious.

3. Commonsense can be vague - because you're following your "gut". When you are following your "gut", it may be hard to give concrete direction or advice. We say things like "Just trust me on this." or "We don't have time to discuss the details, just do it". Often it is precise actions and directions that are needed. It is a must for any successful organization to have a strategic plan with specific goals that is communicated widely and often.

4. Commonsense produces inconsistent results - each "commonsense" leader sees his role and responsibility differently. We find ourselves deep in the "If onlys"..if only we had the right people leading, if only we could find the right incentives, if only they were more competent. All this actually proves that common sense is not that common. To get the desired results an organization must know what will take to produce the desired performance every time. The only way to know this is to have specific processes, personal accountability, and measurable outcomes that align with the strategy and goals. This requires hard work and time but so worth the investment.

I agree that commonsense is good at making the world seem sensible - by allowing us to reject explanations that don't coincide with our experiences and ignoring counterfactuals. In reality, commonsense may be less about a way to understand our world but more of a way just to survive without having to understand. This is possibly one of the reasons that we don't learn and grow from our and other's experiences. May I suggest that perhaps its time to view our organizational struggles like how medical science views finding cures. No one in the science community is throwing up their hands just because finding a cure is complex and hard. Let's apply that same admirable resolve to our organizations - do the hard work! The reward will be a healthy, productive organization.

What are your thoughts on “leadership commonsense”? We would love to hear your feedback and/or answer your questions. If you are interested in learning more about working with a coach for yourself and/or someone you work with please contact us today at 804-502-4319 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also contact JoAnn directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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People are Motivated by Passion not Money

Written by Michelle Braden, CEO Posted in Blog, All Posts

It is an interesting and a false understanding that people leave their jobs for money. In fact, people are motivated by their passions and not money. People will spend all kinds of money on their passions. If you don't believe me, look at people's hobbies and recreational spending. One thing is for sure, money follows passion, and passion does not follow money. If you can tap into your people's passions, you will find them making money for you and themselves.

Here are a few questions you can use to help you tap into people's passion:

  1. Are your employees in the right job position?
  2. Do they need extra training, feedback and/or coaching?
  3. Is there an opportunity for advancement or continued learning?
  4. Do they feel unappreciated, devalued, or are their opinions respected?
  5. Do they have poor work/life balance, and do they trust their leadership?
  6. Is stress a factor (stress can sometimes stunt creativity and passion) involved?

I encourage you to meet with your team and find out what they think needs to be done. Get them involved with the recovery plan. People buy into what they create, so let them help to create the solution.

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To Plan or to Transform? “Strategic Transformation Series: Part 2”

Written by Stasia Rice Posted in Blog, All Posts

Thanks for joining us again for the second entry in the Strategic Transformation Series. In the first entry we talked about The Strategy and Engagement Connection. We look forward to your comments and questions as we dive into how strategic planning can not only enhance your company’s bottom line, but the engagement of your employees as well.

Let me ask you a question. When is the last time you read your strategic plan? If you are like most leaders, you read it when it was published (if you even read the entire plan then…). If you didn’t have anything to do with creating it, you most likely felt one or more of the responses below:

  1. Confused
  2. Infuriated
  3. Amused
  4. Motivated for about 10 minutes before you put it on the shelf to collect dust

Now some of you may have answered the first question with “I read it last year at performance time; our goals and objectives were tied to the plan.” But I’m willing to bet that that hasn't gone so well for you or your team members either. What we often see is that the new goals and objectives aren't clear, or it’s not obvious how your current job objectives should be aligned to the goals/objectives. It’s also very possible that you aren't in agreement with the priorities or approach to the objectives.

Most of us will go about doing our job anyway, even when we do not understand or agree with the strategic plan. However, I encourage you to ask yourself this question, “Are you really making a difference toward executing the plan?... Do you care?... Do you feel that sense of contribution and purpose that you want in your job?”

Most leaders agree that a strategic plan is necessary. You invest your time, money, and resources to develop the plan, so why are so many strategic planning binders sitting on the shelf collecting dust?

One would think that an organization that has invested time, financial resources, and mental effort into strategic planning surely intends for it to launch a transformation of the organization. As engaged and effective leaders, we want to do better than the typical stagnant and abandoned strategic plan documents that do little to align, engage or create change in an organization.

You may now be asking, “How can I create this transformation?”

At MSBC we believe that HOW we lead and execute the planning process is just as important as what comes out of it.

Simply put, strategic planning, when done well, is an opportunity to engage in creative thinking about the possibilities of the organization, and develop stronger leaders and teams while defining the future and how to get there. Lastly, it must also include integrated implementation throughout the operational divisions to drive buy-in and commitment to the goals of the organization so that it doesn't just collect dust.

As an engaged leader, would you like to see this kind of transformation and alignment in your organization?

We will continue our dive into “Strategic Transformation” next week as we explore the “HOW” and discuss important components of what will help your organization transform itself with the help of your powerful and engaged workforce. I hope you’ll join us and give us your thoughts and feedback.

MSBC brings an innovative approach and a team with extensive experience to guide your leadership through this Strategic Transformation process. Let us know if you like to learn more at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Tips For Better Company Reviews

Posted in Blog, All Posts

  1. Steer clear from annual reviews, they don't work. Historically they bring too much anxiety and take up too much valuable time. There is also too much time between reviews to measure progress or work on developing anything.
  2. Do monthly or quarterly reviews depending on the size of your staff.
  3. Have each team member set quarterly goals that are smaller and easily evaluated and are attainable.
  4. Have team members complete their own review and bring it to the meeting. The leader will then assess the review, giving their thoughts and feedback to how to reach their goals and steer the team member towards helping the company reach it's goals.
  5. Use behavioral tools (assessments) such as EQ and DISC or Emergenetics to help you connect with your team member. Strength Finder is good too.
  6. Ask team members what motivates them. Help each team member to discover their own flow and internal motivations so their work is inspiring and not drudgery.
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The Strategy and Engagement Connection

Written by Stasia Rice Posted in Blog, All Posts

“Strategic Transformation Series: Part 1”

The Strategy and Engagement Connection

It’s no secret that MSBC is on a mission to create engaged workforces. And we know you are just as concerned about the lack of truly engaged employees and leaders that are working together to grow the businesses or move forward the missions of your organizations as we are.

No matter what your mission is, it is critical that your employees understand how they contribute to the overall goals as well as vision. Most leaders (and team members) want to feel part of something bigger than yourself and that your contribution is valuable. The best way for everyone to understand the vision is through strategic planning.


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