I spent time in prison, a long time ago. Before you delete my contact details from your address book, let me explain.
I studied psychology and criminology. As part of my criminology degree, I worked on a program called “Scared Straight” with my professors.
We took young criminals (males between the ages of 18-24) into the Anamosa State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison, located in eastern Iowa.
Criminal researchers and practitioners believed that when young criminals saw what prison life was really like, it would be so unpleasant that they would change their ways. Robbing small stores, stealing cars, and carrying an unlicensed firearm were some of their offences.
It was a tough setting, six to eight prison inmates, sitting in a circle with me, my professor, and some not so seasoned, young criminals. In each corner of the room, a prison guard stood with a high-powered rifle, ready to neutralize situations that escalated. The older men (many of them in for life sentences) taunted the young criminals with a lot of profanity. They told these young men to change their ways before it was too late.
The program was effective for some, others not, and here’s the important distinction.
As profound as these experiences were, many of the men went back into the environments they came from. Back to an environment of drugs, violence, gangs, and few of them had both parents at home. These young men returned quickly to their old habits. Some of them were fortunate, however, and were placed in foster homes, away from their old neighborhood, old connections, and old habits.
Those in new environments did vastly better, stayed out of trouble much better than the group that “returned home”.
My Anamosa prison experience reminds me how difficult individual change efforts are if the people around you, the environment or system around you, does not change.
Business is a team sport, in my eyes, which means learning and development creates the most impact when it’s done within the team, project or organizational unit.
Too many leaders are still being coached in isolation. Sending a coached leader back into an uncoached team will not be as impactful as the leader and her entire team learning, improving, and committing to change together.
Enabling individuals might keep you in the game, while enabling teams means you will dominate the game. You don’t need to spend time in prison to learn that lesson.
Enjoy your March news2use.
“Relevant & pragmatic ideas, tools and insights to play at your best.”
Leverage your language.
Imagine you have a challenging situation in front of you. You feel the pressure to do the right thing and you think hard about what you should do. You may be able to create more and better outcomes for these wicked challenges when you replace “what should I do with what could I do”, according to a study titled “Does Could Lead to Good? On the Road to Moral Insight” by Ting Zhang, Joshua D. Margolis, and Francesca Gina.
You can read the entire study or listen to Daniel Pink, US Vice-President Al Gore’s former speech writer as he consolidates this study in one of his recent Pinkcasts.
For You & Your Team
Willie Sutton wouldn’t have spent much time these days in Denmark.
Willy Sutton (William Frances Sutton Jr.) robbed over 20 US banks, starting in 1927. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton replied, “That’s where the money is.”
Bank robberies have disappeared in Denmark, at least in 2022. Dropping from a peak of 222 robberies in 2002, bank robberies dropped to zero in 2022 largely because Danes have become a cashless society. (The Danish Central Bank data shows that cash withdrawals have dropped 75% in the last six years.)
So what does this mean for you, the modern manager?
Willy Sutton wouldn’t come to Denmark because he wouldn’t have any chance to succeed if he tried to rob a Danish bank. Yet time and time again we see people pushing projects that have no chance of making a profound influence in the customer experience or value creation for the company – so why continue to work on them?
Apply the Willy Sutton principle to all of your projects, just ask, “Is this where the money is?”, and if you can’t answer yes, get out of Dodge (stop the project in other words).
For You, Your Team & Your Business
I recently met a CEO and her head of strategy. They were frustrated because they couldn’t get the leadership team to effectively discuss their future and their strategy. They said they weren’t making any progress and didn’t know what to do about it.
This leadership team dramatically shifted and lifted their strategic conversations by using a framework I introduced to them called the “Three Roads to Rome”. The essentials of the “Three Roads to Rome” are highlighted in this episode of Norenberg’s Ninety Seconds.
How do you and your leadership team make the most out of your strategy discussions?
People, Places & Technology
No Exit – Zeitenwende in China, is a recently published book by Markus Arnold about his personal experiences as a European expat in China. Together with his family, he lived in Shanghai from 2019 to 2021, witnessing the famous “zero-Covid policy” and many features of daily life in contemporary mainland China on the group.
His observations, combined with many anecdotes and with snapshots from government propaganda, provide insights into a society full of contradictions, between economic progress, old-style Maoist renaissance and aggressive nationalism. Neither a management book or travel guide, this book offers valuable insights for anyone considering working or doing business in China, or who is simply interested in looking behind the headlines. This resource is only available in German at this time and is published by Novum Verlag, ISBN 978-3-99131-766-1.
Thought for the Day
”If you want something
you’ve never had,
you must be willing
to do something
you’ve never done.”