Workplace Dynamics – organisational behaviour

Managing Organisational Behaviour

One of the great privileges of owning your own business is you get to decide who you work alongside. You have the right and responsibility to select the people with whom you will spend huge amount of your time. And every time you make a change by removing, adding or replacing a team member you are altering the dynamic mix of the whole organisation.

There is a theory (social constructionist) that states an organisation does not exist per se, but is merely a manifestation of the relationships within the structure. When the relationships are positive and productive, so is the organisation. When the relationships are soured by greed, power plays, malice, bullying or perceived inequity (just to name a few examples), the organisation is weakened.

Selecting team members is critical to achieving your organisational outcomes whether they are measured in dollars or quality of service (and these two are most often linked). Putting a new human into the existing team introduces a variable to what may have been a stable situation. A candidate’s resume and interview presentation is no predictor of the social interactions that will follow an appointment.

The question is, to what extent can organisational behaviour be managed? And secondly, what might be a useful strategy to accomplish this?

The responses are – Yes it can be managed and re-framing may be a simple strategy for your business.

Bolman and Deal (1991) expanded on Senge’s initial work of reframing organisations enabling the dynamics of a team to be viewed through more than one perspective or filter. Each of us has a preferred way of viewing the world, some of us (like me) take a structural view, others are more in tune with relationships and are often descibed as ‘a people person’. Others may operate in the political frame pursuing their own best interests,  and the fourth frame is the cultural one concerned with vision, stories and symbols. It appears that if you use your preferred frame to analyse and guide your team you may be filtering out up to three other ways in which your team members contribute or complicate the organisation. Being a structural sort of bloke, I am really good on systems, analysis, measurement, organisational charts, reporting lines, hierarchy and so on. But less attuned to office politics (power), the pull of the past (culture) and relationships (human resource frame).

Bolman & Deal’s Four Frame Model





Task allocation








Allocation of resources

Control of agenda

Human Resource














To fully understand what is happening in my business I need to consciously remove my structural analysis glasses, and don each of the other three filters in turn to complete a full diagnostic of each person, unit or the entire organisation. It is not easy, and requires self-understanding and discipline on behalf of the leader.

What are the benefits of such an analysis in a small business team; what might make the effort worthwhile?  Here is a story from my own experience – I engaged a new staff member as a clinician and she was quite talented in her field. She understood our organisational hierarchy and goals (structure) but operated chiefly in the political frame where she cultivated power over other staff members and influence beyond the organisation. Relationships were tools to be used as she increased her political position and the organisational culture and vision was irrelevant.  As a clinician she was effective with her clients, but her divisive strategies were undermining the capacity of the organisation to pursue our objectives. The performance of other staff members deteriorated and the necessary cooperation between divisions became difficult then impossible.

Analysed from a purely structural frame, which suited me fine, she was doing well – meeting targets, getting good client feedback, completing records accurately, etc. But when I approached her performance review from each of the other three frames her true organisational misbehaviour became apparent. By altering some of her key performance indicators to include elements from the human resource frame and the culture frame I could then measure her true contribution. Subsequent education and counselling proved fruitless and after repeated failure to meet her KPIs I ‘freed up her future’ by letting her go. I think I heard a collective sigh from the rest of the team….

For more information, any of the writings of Bolman and Deal will be most helpful.

Rebuilding Genetic Health following Prostate Cancer

In a small but important study researchers in the USA have found measurable improvements in a health related tag on the end of chromosomes in response to lifestyle and nutrition discipline amongst men who have biopsy diagnosed prostate cancer. Here is a summary from Medscape (Sept 20, 2013)

A comprehensive lifestyle intervention might help prostate cancer patients live to be longer in the tooth and in the telomere, suggest results of a very small pilot study reported online in The Lancet Oncology.

Among 35 men with biopsy-proven, low-risk prostate cancer who opted for active surveillance, a comprehensive lifestyle intervention including diet, activity, stress management, and support was associated with lengthening of telomeres over 5 years compared with a loss of telomere length among controls, report Dean Ornish MD, director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, in Sausalito, California, and colleagues.

Telomeres, complexes of DNA and proteins at the end of linear chromosomes, have been shown to be essential for cellular health. Telomere shortening has been associated with increased risk for prostate cancer recurrence in patients who have undergone radical prostatectomy, and it’s theorized that telomere maintenance and lengthening may be associated with better health and longer life.

“This study is the first controlled study to show that any intervention may lengthen telomeres in humans, but it’s not in a vacuum,” Dr. Ornish said in an interview with Medscape Medical News. “There are other, cross-sectional studies showing that people who are under chronic emotional stress tend to have shorter telomeres in direct proportion to the amount of stress they have, or that people who are marathon runners tend to have longer telomeres than those who aren’t.”

The active intervention group included 10 men who were participants in the GEMINAL (Gene Expression Modulation by Intervention with Nutrition and Lifestyle) study. The participants ate a diet low in fat and refined carbohydrates and high in whole fruits and vegetables; exercised aerobically for at least 30 minutes 6 days each week; engaged in stress management programs; and took part in a 1-hour weekly support group. Controls were followed with active surveillance only.

Sure, these guys were supervised and offered support and programs at no charge (I suspect) – but the results show any financial, time or energy sacrifice can help you rebuild genetic integrity which reflects a more robust state of health. This is yet another piece of research evidence demonstrating the value of disciplined indulgence.

She Changed My Life

Who would have thought such a trivial, throw-away line could make such a difference. My whole approach to dental self-management was transformed in an instant from a chore to, well, just doing it.

I knew deep down that flossing my teeth was a valuable health routine* but just couldn’t get into the habit of doing it daily after cleaning my teeth. Yes, I read of the short and long term benefits, and tried lots of different flossing apparatus (tape, string, flavoured, waxed, loaded on a plastic stick, tiny bottle-brushes) thinking I would surely find the perfect bit of kit to establish my habit. No luck.

Flossing is a manual skill, it needs to be practiced regularly to become and maintain high performance. The ability to get a couple of fingers and some string or tape into your mouth and manipulate it between each pair of teeth to massage the gum and dislodge food residue is complex and it takes time. Maybe up to a couple of minutes. Time I have not  reckoned into my health/grooming routine because flossing wasn’t invented when I started cleaning my teeth. Not in my world, anyway. In fact teeth brushing was usually the final act before departing for work (in a rush, who can spare extra two minutes) or heading for bed (another activity not to be delayed).

Then she changed my life. My dental hygienist (also not invented way back) was preparing me to see my dentist one day and noted that my flossing needed work as I was missing some gaps and told me it actually works better if you floss BEFORE brushing your teeth. This now was a whole new concept. My habit was to leave the bathroom immediately after brushing, so flossing was just a nuisance, but if I had already flossed….

Then it got even better – Julie (the hygienist) said it doesn’t even have to be immediately prior to brushing!  She changed my life right then.

Now I floss immediately after a shower and it is no longer a chore, just part of the ritual. I shower, I dry, I floss, I shave, I moisturise, I tell the bloke in the mirror he is holding up pretty well and I might brush or I might not – depends what is happening next.

The advantages to flossing after a shower are immediately obvious: you hands are really, really clean. Poking your man-fingers into your mouth is best done when they are clean and after shampooing and soaping they are at their best.

Changed my life and changed my dental health. Double bonus.

*Floss Test – If you are not sold on the value of flossing try this simple test.

  • Complete your normal end of day dental care routine (clean, rinse, spit).
  • First thing in the morning, prior to any eating, floss your teeth thoroughly.
    Any food debris you dislodge has been there at least 12 hours and survived the last brushing.
  • Do this for a few mornings to get an idea of what residue remains overnight.
  • Then start flossing before going to bed AND first thing in the morning.
  • You will see the amount of residue in the mornings will drop considerably, which means your teeth and gums are not exposed to decaying food waste overnight.

It will change your life too.

Drink, Chew, Breathe

Experiencing gastric reflux or pain is very unpleasant and can be a health risk over time. Changes occur to the lower end of the oesophagus as stomach acid provokes changes in the lining of the lower gullet (Barrett’s Oesophagus). Having experienced this I gave some thought as to how I could manage it without the prescription medication (proton pump inhibitors such as Zoton, Losec or Somac). The answer turned out to be very simple: Drink, Chew, Breathe.

read more

It Has Another Purpose

A man’s penis is a marvellous bit of gear: it is an indicator of health problems long before the symptoms may become apparent.

The Massachusetts Male Aging Study showed poor quality erections were a significant predictor of an adverse cardiovascular event during the next five years.  Meaning, a heart attack is more likely in men who are having difficulties initiating or sustaining a firm erection. This is most likely due to poor blood flow in the penile arteries as a result of fatty plaques narrowing the bore of the arteries and limiting flow. Exactly what happens in the heart leading up to an ‘adverse cardiovascular event’. Apparently these fatty plaques can’t tell the difference between a coronary artery and a penile artery – they just clog it up.

Here is the message – if your health wand is sending out it’s warning, you need to address the underlying lifestyle risks causing the fatty plaques to gum up the plumbing. These include smoking, obesity, diet, cholesterol, blood sugar control and blood pressure. It would also help to undertake regular exercise.  If you don’t, getting an erection may be the least of your problems down the track.

Here is some other warnings your penis can alert you to:

  • If you can’t see it – you are too fat
  • If you cant reach it – you are way too fat
  • If it won’t pee straight – you may have an obstruction
  • If it won’t start peeing – your prostate may be enlarged
  • If it won’t stop peeing – you may be drunk
  • If it dribbles when you think you are done – you are not alone
  • If it burns when you pee – you may have an infection

See how useful it is? No wonder the girls wish they had one.


Don’t Get Stressed About Dying Younger

Despite western men getting more physical activity (on average) than women, we still manage to die 5 to 10 years younger.  So obviously exercise alone isn’t the answer to a longer life. Other research shows the fitter you are in your mid life (using aerobic fitness factors) the lower your risk of developing degenerative diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimers and heart disease (Arch Int Med. Published online August 27, 2012). So perhaps exercise does help quality of life (not being sick).

Genetic factors (including testosterone and the associated aggression and risk taking behaviour, read: dumb decisions) apparently account for around 30 per cent of the longevity equation while environmental factors kick in for the rest.  These include smoking, food decisions, alcohol, exposure to pollutants and toxins and stress.

Stress is the interesting one on the list because it is not the stress itself that can shorten your life, but how you react or deal with the stress.  Women tend to involve other people (usually women) by sharing their problems and seeking solutions. Whereas blokes tend to deal with it solo, either fighting on or moving on.  The Fight or Flight Response. This reaction is fueled by testosterone, especially in your younger years, and perhaps becomes your habitual default position later on even when your testosterone has waned.

However it works, it isn’t working very well. As one who is prone to sweating the small stuff I can tell you changing how you initially respond to stress (gut churns, focus narrows, rational thought ceases, breathing becomes shallow, heart rate increases) is an uphill battle.  Deep breathing, centering, counting to ten, imagining being bathed in a healing white light – these are very simple to practice in the absence of stress, but darned hard to program when the excrement hits the ventilator.

I don’t have a magic answer, but I do understand the importance of the social aspect of dealing with stress.  So even if you feel like strangling someone or kicking the garden hose (never ends well), hold off and try and explain to someone (perhaps even yourself) why the situation is so challenging and what might be the worst possible outcome.  Usually it is not too drastic, and by the time you have considered this, the initial testosterone surge is easing and the other strategies can help smooth out the remaining bumps.  Not sure about the white light, however.

If you get good at this, you will have more years to practice it even further.

Healthy is the new Safety

While giving a presentation last week as part of National Men’s Health Week, it occurred to me there were parallels between safety culture in the workplace and the strategies of healthful living. I wonder if my men’s health education work would be more ‘sticky’ if I pursued this line of thought by helping men to adopt the safety cultures they are immersed in at work as a tool for managing their physical and mental health more effectively.

For example, the concept of ‘procedural drift’, the phenomenon of  what happens when nothing happens. Detailed industrial safety protocols provide guidance to avoid injury and death, and are usually followed to the letter when commencing a new task or process.  However, with time the workers may start to take some shortcuts in the interest of perceived efficiency (or laziness), safe in the knowledge that no injury or death has befallen them. They start to drift from the procedures as written.  This can be minimised by regular safety audits and training. But humans being human, and the laws of entropy, suggest the drift will start again.

Here is an example from agriculture. A primary producer I know told me when he started working with a particular chemical he followed all the recommended safety procedures when transferring the chemical from drum to dispenser.  He gloved, masked, used a well ventilated space and had a hose handy for any spillage. With time, however, the mask, gloves and hose were gradually dispensed with as he never had any problems… until. But that is another story.

Lifting technique is another example.  Following my workshops on manual handling, it is apparent the workers think and act differently when lifting. For a while. Then they tend to drift back to their previous habits because, well, nothing felt any different with the new procedures.  Interestingly, those workers with a history of back pain or injury tended to continue the new approach longer than those who had never experienced difficulty.

So back to men’s health behaviours. Whether it is dental checkups, nutritional advice, activity guidance, relaxation or mindfulness training, any fresh information or behaviours may well gradually morph back into previous habits because there is no observable short term benefit. Think about gym memberships – the reason for enrolling persists long beyond the regular attendances because no short benefit is seen.

Health outcomes are not short term benefits. Just as health failures (heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, lung disease) are long term outcomes of poor decision making; health improvement is a long term outcome of better decision making. Procedural drift makes it very difficult to experience the long term benefits of behaviour change because of the short cuts and failure to follow the program.

Regular audits and training in the form of check ups with your health professional, information or activities to reinforce the message and the benefits and maybe even utilising a health coach to keep an eye on you and hold you accountable (the personal equivalent of an Occupational Health & Safety Officer) will improve your chances of success.

All the best,

Craig Allingham
Sports Physio and Health Educator

PS: Just as nagging from your boss won’t improve your attitude toward safety procedures, nor will nagging from your life partner improve your attitude toward better health decisions and behaviour. Just saying, that’s all.

Value Adding or Value Giving?

I was talking with a friend recently about his business and plans he has to sell it.  He told me he hasn’t been drawing income from this business for a while (he has other streams) but has continued to work on the business to prepare it for sale.  In fact one of the reasons he has not drawn income is to decrease the wages bill to make it more attractive to a buyer.

There is no doubt that hiding expenses from the profit and loss statement makes a business look stronger.  And you could argue he is hiding nothing, as he really is not an expense to the business. Quite true. However, his input to the business is undeniable. All that has changed is he is working as a volunteer – he is donating time and expertise to keep the business looking profitable. He is not hiding expenses from a prospective buyer; he is hiding unpaid labour.

During my workshops with physiotherapists and other health providers, I walk them through an exercise in determining their actual worth to their business. Both their worth as a clinician and as a manager of the business. And we put a dollar value on both streams and calculate how much income they should be drawing if every hour of their contribution was included on a wages time sheet.  Then we compare that figure with the money they are actually taking from the business in terms of salary, drawings, dividends, superannuation top ups, vehicle use, etc.

Ideally, they should be taking more dollars from the business than they are actually entitled to based on their exertional entitlements. Money taken beyond your work value into the business is called profit. And profit is good, perhaps essential, for a business.

Many times, however, once we factor in the administrative hours worked by the owner and attribute a dollar value to those hours, we find the owner is actually drawing less money from the business than they should earn if they simply paid themselves to do their various jobs at an appropriate remuneration rate. In other words they are donating time (and expertise) to their business and not being paid for it.  They are underpaying themselves.  They own a job that doesn’t pay them what is actually earned – let alone a profit on top if it!

This figure – unpaid work by owners – doesn’t show up in the usual financial reports such as profit and loss statements or balance sheets. So there is an under estimate of the real expenses of the business making it look stronger on paper than it might be in real life. Of course a buyer will discover this later on when they find the only way to match the promised cash flow is to repeat the mistake of donating unpaid time to the business. I guess the hope is to improve the ultimate resale value to compensate them for volunteering.

Knowing if you are paying yourself (as an owner) more, less or exactly what you are entitled to based on the hours and talent you contribute to your enterprise is important. But only if you can face the possibility that not only do you not own a business (ie. it makes no profit), nor do you own a full paying job (as you are under paying yourself), but you actually donate your time and thus are fulfilling a vocation for the sheer joy of helping people.

My friend is helping improve the selling price of his business, but he has to really, given the hours of unpaid labour he is donating to keep it looking strong. I hope he isn’t confronted by a savvy purchaser who discovers the ‘hidden’ expense not reflected in the profit and loss statement.

If you want to participate in my business workshops where we do this exercise (and you get software so you can redo it as your business grows) simply enrol in any BizFizz or Red Hot Business event at the Redsok International website. If I am not coming to your area, keep a watch out for any online events which will be listed in the newsletter (to which you can of course subscribe for no cost).

Craig Allingham

The Art of Coaching

A couple of weeks ago there was  a great interview in the national press with one of the most respected sports coaches in Australia.  A man who has a long record of successfully bonding men, guiding them and more often than not achieving their combined goals.

The interviewer asked him directly, ‘What is the secret to your coaching technique?’ Characteristically he rejects the whole concept of him being a master coach with a system for success. The men he coaches play a fierce game demanding courage and pain. Every week, every season. 

It was a long article, many column inches, but hidden amongst the analysis was his answer.  Well, it was the answer that rang true for me as the measure of a successful leader of men.  Another coach who had worked with him for years commented that he ‘genuinely cares for his players’.  He almost nailed it, but missed the essential element.

He doesn’t care for ‘players’, he cares for men. His secret strategy is to help them be better men,  a strategy he has observed over the years actually makes them better footballers. Some coaches try and turn men in to players, this guy turns players into men and in turn they become better players.

Great coaches turn people into better people, and from that they both gain.  Let alone a company, a community, a society and a football team.

Who have you helped to be a better person recently?

Oh, the coach? A bloke named Wayne Bennett.  You can google him.


Speaking – Lessons from the School of Hard Audiences

I heard recently of a conference at which speakers were banned from using PowerPoint.  The reason given was to give speakers an opportunity to show their skills at, well, speaking. 

I got thinking about the difference between a speaker and a presenter. They are both legitimate roles and I have filled them both.  I have given keynote addresses to large audiences both with and without PowerPoint, depending on what I was attempting to accomplish in terms of an outcome. Some outcomes were best achieved with a story, others were enhanced by images and text alongside the spoken word.

On occasions I use a flip chart or white board and produce the visual aids in real time as the journey is taken. Is this different from using a prepared slide presentation? Of course – it is more agile and interactive, yet infinitely less entertaining given my limited artistic skills. Unless, of course, participants find my primitive art amusing.

But enough about me; what about you? Does your job or some other interest occasionally or frequently involve making a presentation to colleagues?  If so, let me offer several hints that I have learned from bitter experience.

  • Never drink alcohol before your gig. Especially if you are nervous. No good ever comes of this and if things go well there will be a chance to celebrate later.
  • If you are speaking after a meal, eat lightly, slowly and thoroughly.
  • If you use visual aids, ensure they are relevant and simple to understand.
  • Let the visual aids make you look good, not overpower you or your message.
  • Be cautious using charts or tables if the audience is not accustomed to them.
  • Three strong and related threads braided to arrive at the conclusion you have pre-determined are usually sufficient.
  • Don’t open with an apology, unless it is part of  the bigger story.
  • Never apologise for poor quality visual aids – you prepared them

That is plenty to consider at first.  Some other hints relate to trying to control your autonomic nervous system: breathe, relax, move, pause, think, make eye contact with someone and smile. Simple really.