LearnShareProsper logo Boosting Business_Performance Adele Sommers
by Adele Sommers, Ph.D.
 www.LearnShareProsper.com Adele@LearnShareProsper.com 
In This Issue

October 2021
Volume 17, Issue 10

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Note from the Author

What If You Could Hear What People Are

In previous newsletters, I've offered offered my time-tested formula for pumping up productivity in an organization by identifying and removing “burning hassles,” and thereby blasting away obstacles to success.

Man thinking, "This organization really doesn't walk its talk"What are some typical sources of obstacles in your organization?

In many work environments, subtle and insidious boondoggles take the form of mixed messages. These are classified as “hassles” because they produce highly unpredictable and problematic outcomes for all.

To address these particular hassles, we need to carefully calibrate our communications.

That way, people won’t be confused by what we are asking them to do, or by the actions we take in response to their failures and accomplishments (the subject of today’s newsletter).

I hope you enjoy this month’s features, and please be sure to join the ongoing conversations by leaving your comments on my Facebook page!

Here’s to your business prosperity,

Adele Sommers, Ph.D., business improvement specialist, author, educator, and award-winning instructional designer

P.S. If you missed any previous issue, please visit the newsletter archive!

Special Message

How Clear Are Your Signals?

Creating a stellar organization involves setting the conditions to help people do their best work. The better you set the conditions for success, the more profitable your enterprise will be! To accomplish that goal, however, you’ll need to become an astute observer of cause and effect, and then be on the lookout for any clues that might indicate that something is amiss.

Man with a bullhornThat’s because no matter how well you think you may have set the conditions for success, you really won’t know for sure whether they’re set correctly until you monitor how those conditions are shaping or influencing what people are doing, saying, and feeling.

For example, when people try to follow confusing directions and receive uneven, unfair, or arbitrary rewards and punishments, the combination not only causes confusion, but also dissolves camaraderie, esprit de corps, and productivity like corrosive acid.

So what can you do about it? Read on to find out how focusing on the link between expectations and outcomes can make an enormous difference in the atmosphere of your organization. You can alleviate stress, reduce attrition, and boost the bottom line!
Feature Article

Does Your Organization Walk Its Talk?
by Adele Sommers

Businesses often overlook many critical opportunities to be sure their talk and actions are congruent. If the management says one thing but does another, it’s sending mixed signals, and will likely experience mixed results. Mixed messages communicate to people that they can’t trust what they hear, so they are unlikely to put forth their best effort. Casualties in these situations include motivation and morale.

It’s not difficult to imagine why leading by example and setting clear expectations are important to an organization. You might be wondering, though, “Why should managing consequences be so important? Is that really such a big deal?”

This article explores the reasons why they matter, and reveals four crucial keys to aligning consequences with expectations. But first, let’s look at an enlightening story that can help us expose the answers.

Alert: You will be asked to step in and analyze the situation after everyone else runs out of ideas!

The Story Background

In this sequence of events, ABC Company’s Publications Department decides it wants to improve its customer service to the other departments in the company.

The organization as a whole strongly endorses the idea of teamwork. So naturally, the department manager assumes that a team approach to achieving this goal is the ideal means by which to do it.

The department soon establishes its new customer service team. The team then embarks on its mission and sets to work.

Team members having a discussionYet after the team convenes several times, it stops meeting regularly and halts production on its team proposals. Why?

Management believes that perhaps the team has not received enough training. The manager asks the Training Department to intervene.

The Training Department researches the situation and discovers that the team has already received plenty of training. The team members seem to be up to speed on meeting protocols, brainstorming, and problem-solving techniques.

So, what else could be the team’s problem?

Confusing Rewards and Penalties?

You are assigned to investigate by speaking directly with the team members. After holding a few key conversations, you can confirm that the team’s skills and methods do not appear to be lacking. In fact, the team already has evaluated several types of customer service improvements.

What you finally discover after probing a bit further, however, is that some team members are being penalized for working toward the goals of the team, while others are being rewarded for working against the goals of the team.

These mixed signals seem to be emanating from management, yet are so subtle that no one can easily spot them. They become evident only after you put the pieces of the puzzle together.

What is happening? You ultimately learn that the team had initially received a charter to meet on company time. However, once the team had started meeting, some members began hearing perplexing warnings from their supervisors, such as, “Just because you’ve been given a charter to meet doesn’t mean you can let your workload slip!”

While not intended as such, those caveats sound like threats. The members feel very torn between their team projects and their workloads. The lukewarm, or even slightly negative, signals about team meetings come across like punishments.

Woman looking contriteNext, you learn that some of the supervisors are inadvertently rewarding the members who are having to miss meetings because of urgent work requests. Those members are receiving praise and thanks for putting out fires.

Meanwhile, the rest of the members feel guilty for attending team meetings!

Finally, you determine that the team is receiving little management support after submitting customer-service-improvement ideas.

With several levels of decision-makers, and a lengthy coordination process needed to approve even the simplest procedural change, most team members are feeling too discouraged to continue.

The bureaucracy alone is daunting!

You ultimately come to the conclusion that these symptoms reveal a critical need at ABC Company: To align expectations and consequences in the enterprise. You believe that if leaders pay close attention to these crucial interrelationships, they will send clearer signals about the actions they supposedly encourage or discourage.

You recognize that if managers transmit confusing messages, give muddled or inconsistent responses, or simply ignore what people are doing when they should be paying attention to them, any goal they’re striving for will begin to unravel, or never get off the ground.

One of the insights you’re aiming to send back to management is that even mildly confusing messages can discourage people from putting forth their best efforts. That’s why “walking the talk” means the organization will want to ensure that:

  • Business manager walking a tightrope No one discourages people from doing what does need to be done (and that people have been given clear guidelines and authority for doing it), and that...
  • It also encourages the behaviors, actions, and attitudes it does want to see, and rewards people accordingly!

As you’ve observed, these situations don’t always reveal themselves in black and white. Any misalignments can appear in shades of gray, where they are difficult to detect.

That’s where vigilance, awareness, and looking at a situation from all angles come into play.

How to Be Sure Your Organization Walks Its Talk

Here is your final recommendation: To determine whether the organization’s expectations and consequences are congruent, leaders must earnestly consider the following questions. If all of the answers are “yes,” everyone can take credit — but also must remain alert for future inconsistencies.


Do we consistently recognize (for example, do we acknowledge or reward) the desirable things people do? Do we also avoid penalizing or punishing people in subtle ways for doing what we’ve asked them to do?


Do we consistently discourage the undesirable things people do?


Do we consistently pay attention to things we should be monitoring?


Do we make the work rewarding? That is, do we offer incentives that will motivate people to do the work well? (Although there is much more to the recipe for motivation, if consequences are not aligned, all of the incentives in the world cannot correct the resulting imbalances!)

In conclusion, aligning consequences with expectations is easier said than done. But by becoming aware of and applying these cause-and-effect relationships, you’ll encourage the very best results from your colleagues and staff. By focusing on the link between expectations and outcomes, you will ensure that people aren’t receiving unclear signals about what to do — and how, when, or where to do it!

Copyright 2021 Adele Sommers

The Author Recommends

“Guide to Boosting Productivity and Effectiveness”

"Guide to Boosting Productivity and Effectiveness" by Adele Sommers
Are you looking for a cookbook of great ideas for boosting your staff’s capabilities, eliminating hassles, streamlining procedures, and developing cutting-edge processes?

My Productivity Success Kit offers a compendium of “how-to” techniques for increasing your organizational effectiveness.

This comprehensive special report includes 36 pages of tips, best practices, checklists, and worksheets that will help your business gain a potent competitive advantage!

About the Author

"Straight Talk" Special Report
"Straight Talk" Workbook

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of “Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance” — an award-winning Special Report and Workbook program.

If you liked today’s issue, you’ll love this down-to-earth overview of how 12 potent business-boosting strategies can reenergize the morale and productivity of your enterprise, tame unruly projects, and attract loyal, satisfied customers. It’s accompanied by a step-by-step workbook designed to help you easily create your own success action plan. Browse the table of contents and reader reviews on the description page.

Adele also offers no-cost articles and resources to help small businesses and large organizations accelerate productivity and increase profitability. Learn more at LearnShareProsper.com.

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