news2use | April 2019

In 1990, Elizabeth Newton earned her PhD at Stanford University for the study, analysis and conclusions of a communication game she called “Tappers and Listeners”.

Tappers were given well-known songs and asked to tap the tune of the song to a listener, to see if they could recognize the tune.

What percentage of songs do you think the listeners got right?

The listeners, on average, got three songs right, out of 120 well-known tunes. That is 1 out of 40 and the exercise was far more challenging than the listeners expected.

Even more interesting and revealing was what the tappers predicted. The tappers predicted that the listeners would get 50% of the songs right, when in fact they only got 2.5% right.

Tappers could not believe the results; some even accused the listeners of being stupid for not being able to pick out a well-known tune.

The difference between having something in your head, like a clear tune and trying to transport that tune into meaningful understanding for another is an everyday leadership task.

Implementing strategy is similar to the tappers and listeners communication exercise, especially when we see that only 10% of formulated strategy is translated into successful strategic execution. Somewhere, somehow, people are lost in translation.

All too often, leadership teams (tappers) express surprise and disbelief that so little of their “thoughtful strategy” is implemented in meaningful results by the organization (listeners).

Make sure that this does not happen in your business. Encourage everyone involved in the strategy formulation, implementation and execution process to use “strategy check-ins” to ensure that the listeners (the people doing the work) understand the tapped out strategy.

Here is a short video where I share how to use strategy check-ins to close the understanding gap and ensure that everyone is on the same strategy page in your organization.

Enjoy your April read, and do not stop tapping and listening, it is part of your strategic success.


“Relevant & pragmatic ideas, tools and insights to play at your best.”

For You

Do you have team members that talk about another person behind their back but not to their face?

Even if you are not doing the talking, you are supporting this behavior just by listening. Behaviors like this destroy trust in a team, and a team without trust struggles to perform. Sometimes the leader is aware of such behaviors, and others times she might not be aware of it.

Strive to create resilient relationships with people in your team. We often speak about resilient people, not so often about resilient relationships. Yet in my work with leadership teams, it is one of the most important characteristics that lead to high performance teamwork.

Resilience is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. A resilient relationship is one that can withstand misunderstandings and stay connected throughout difficult situations and conversations.

Teams that insist on resilient relationships display four characteristics.

  1. They get the unsaid, said – in other words, sacred cows and hidden agendas are on the table for discussion.
  2. People feel comfortable and capable to share frustration or disappointment with the person in question instead of talking to others about them.
  3. Team members seek regular feedback from each other about what is working and what is not working in their relationship.
  4. People accept ownership for their actions and apologize where appropriate, in a sincere way.

The conversations and feedback are forward looking; meaning that people look for good practices and improvement for the future and are not anchored in the past and with who said what in an endless cycle to blame others for something that is now long gone.

Seed your team with resilient relationships and enjoy the atmosphere and profits you create through your efforts.

For You & Your Team

Here is a good follow-up example of the it’s not my dog story that I shared in February’s news2use. I explained the differences between responsibility, accountability and ownership, and what that means for employee engagement. Now let me introduce Liam Wildish, a 21 year-old window washer from Retford, England.

Wildish voluntarily cleans road signs in Nottinghamshire County and the surrounding area, because he feels that visible, clean road signs help people drive more safely.

The BBC did a short news clip on Liam, and millions of people have viewed the video on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. See Liam in action for yourself:

Liam is ownership in action as he fulfills his mission to clean road signs, alongside of his normal job. He is not responsible or accountable for this, that task belongs to the Nottinghamshire County Council. Here is what they say at the end of the BBC clip:

“All our signs are inspected at least once a year

and any sign which becomes obscured or illegible

are picked up in this process.”

Responsibility and accountability will get the job done, at least once a year in this story, but it does not get it done when it needs to be done, or Liam wouldn’t have any signs to clean, which isn’t the case. The Nottinghamshire County Council cleans the signs because they have to, it is their obligation and Liam cleans the signs because he want to. His voluntary effort is an expression of ownership in action.

Why are millions of people watching Liam clean road signs?

It can be summed up in one word: Passion.

Passion is contagious. Passion is the emotional expression of ownership in action. Passion attracts people. Passionate people draw others to them and they do not know the difference between work and play.

How does passion play out in your workplace, in your team and throughout your organization?

Practice a little passion and you will be surprised what you attract. More than likely, you will find yourself surrounded by more passion and more passionate people. Perhaps a few more road signs in your neighborhood will be mysteriously washed clean as well.

For You, Your Team & Your Business

An executive coach approached me last week about a leadership challenge he faced and wanted a second opinion. This consultant was coaching a CEO who was struggling with a sensitive issue. The CEO learned that someone who worked for him for many years had committed some “questionable behaviors” that were on the wrong side of the ethical line. This CEO was not sure how he wanted to respond to this performance and discipline this long time, loyal member of his senior team.

The consultant asked me what I thought, how should the CEO manage this and how should he document this as a matter of performance, in the performance review?

What would you advise in such a situation?

It is important to be sure of the facts, to be confident that you have a good understanding of the situation and behaviors in question. If the allegations are true, then the CEO, in my opinion, has no recourse other than to dismiss the person in question.

“What about the years of loyal service to this CEO?” the other coach asked. “Shouldn’t that count for something and instead give this person a performance warning letter?”

Ethics and integrity are not performance issues; it is a condition of work. You cannot discipline poor ethical judgement, in this case. In my view, you must dismiss the person in question, respectfully, legally, yet clearly.

People, Places & Technology

Are you longing for a good read over the Easter holidays? The Monk of Mokha is a wonderfully entertaining and inspiring true story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a 24 year old doorman in San Francisco, who learns to combine his love for Yemen coffee with his entrepreneurial dreams. It is an adventurous story, written by Dave Eggers, a story that I simply could not stop reading.

Thought for the Day

“It doesn’t take a genius to see what makes people different,

but it does take wisdom and patience to see what

different people have in common.”


Contact Information

Dan Norenberg
Wensauerplatz 11
81245 Munich
Phone: +49 172 862 5123

About Dan Norenberg

Dan Norenberg improves leadership performance and organization results through Executive Ownershift®, his transformational growth process for executive teams. As a trusted advisor, consultant and professional speaker, Dan’s mission is to enable executive teams and their organizations to play at their best.