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We Can't Afford That!
Stephen R. Balzac, Leadership Development Expert Stephen R. Balzac, Leadership Development Expert
Stow , MA
Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stephen Balzac
Video Clip: Click to Watch
7 Steps Ahead, LLC

Organizational Psychology for Managers is now available for pre-order. According to one reviewer, it "should be required reading in MBA programs, military leadership courses, and needs to be on the bookshelf of every Fortune 1000 VP of Human Resources."

How do you make sure that the work gets done when the boss is away?

Why is it so hard to deal with Jerks in the office?

If there's no "I" in team, how does the team see where it's going?

Sometimes it's not about how big the problem is, but what it is preventing you from doing.

What does a team and an amazing serve in tennis have in common?

Here's what Bank of America has to say about how leaders impact high performance teams

What can you do when you feel you don't fit into a new organizational culture?

Some comments from my recent talk on Making Change Work at the Computer Measurement Group International Conference in Las Vegas.

Trying to build a creative, innovative culture? Check out this short article from Investors Business Daily.

Job feeling stressful? Here's how to relax at work.

If you want a motivated workforce, check out this article from Fox Business

Learn the secrets of Mastering Your Schedule on Time Tamer Talk Radio.

"The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development" was listed by Amazon.com as one of the top 100 books on organizational behavior.



Publications and Announcements

Click here for the full list of publications

Are You Speaking to Me?

in Corp! Magazine

When the Solution is the Problem

in Corp! Magazine

The Paradox of Perfection


American Business Magazine

Flawed Execution? Don't Lose Your Head Over It

in Corp! Magazine

The Destroyer of Cultures

at ERE.Net

Help Star Performers Ramp Up The Whole Team

in Corp! Magazine


The Secret to Productive Staff Meetings   

in Medical Office Today 

 Don't Let Dracula Decisions Roam Your Business  

in Corp! Magazine 

The Blame of Phobos Grunt  

in Corp! Magazine 


 The Four Horsemen of Business Failure  

in MeasureIT

Of Cats and Unwanted Prizes 

in Corp! Magazine

Who Betrays One Master 

in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership


My Hovercraft is Full of Eels

in Corp! Magazine


Using the Force: What Every Exec Can Learn From Darth Vader

in the Worcester Business Journal

"Balance the Individual and the Team for Top Performance"

in Corp! Magazine

"Real Science Fiction"

in Corp! Magazine

"Shaky Ground"

in Lab Manager Magazine

Zen and the Art of Leadership

Talk presented at Infotec 2010

Recent Interviews

Tell About Mistakes and Failed Projects

in Investors Business Daily

A Bad Work Environment Can Make You Sick

on CareerBliss

How Much Does Motivation Matter? 

  in CSI International


Profiting from Your Performance Review  

in NASDAQ Careers News


 Motivating Small Business Employees to Work As Hard As You  

in the Phonebooth


 Relax at Work? Ha! 

in the Jewish Exponent


The Mobility Morass  

in Specialty Fabrics Review


HR Mistake of the Week: Why Hiring for Emotional Intelligence Gets You a BFF Instead of a Star Employee

in The Grindstone

Using Games to Build Your Team

on the Talking Work Podcast

How to Use Sports to Advance Leadership and Organizational Development

on the Full Potential Show with James Rick

Hiring Mistakes

with Todd Raphael,

Editor, Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership

Organizational Development on

The David Lush Show, WNIX 1330 AM

Innovation and Corporate Culture

on KKZZ Brainstormin' with Bill Frank

The Startup Business Coach

The CEO and Organizational Development



How to Motivate Your Employees

on Fox Business

Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Move

in The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Art of Branding Your Career 

in Psychology Today

Prepping for Your Annual Review

in the NY Times


Making Pay Decisions Transparent 

in Human Resource Executive


Don't Like Your Job? Define One You Like 

in IT World


Computer Measurement Group Announces Keynote and Plenary Speakers for CMG'11 Taking Place December 5-9, 2011 at Gaylord National Hotel in D.C. Area  


 Career Focus: Engineering Management in Today's Engineer, a publication of the IEEE



4 Ways to Log Off on Time Off 


 About Creating Visions and Organizational Goals 


Researchers Find 'The Paradox of Meritocracy' 

in Human Resource Executive 


Game Changer 

in SHRM India


How to Stay Motivated on the Road to ITIL Expert  

in ITSM Watch


To Be a Leader, You Must Be a Follower 

in Oregon Business


 Incentivizing Employees

in Advance for Medical Laboratory Professionals

Tips for Making, Keeping Business Resolutions

at Fox Small Business

The Evolution of Leadership

Getting Results: Performance vs. Putting in the Hours

How to Self-Promote Without Being Obnoxious

on CNN

Hiring Headaches

in the IndUS Business Journal

Identifying Your Future Leaders

in IndustryWeek Magazine

Natural Born Project Managers: Myth or Reality at Project Manager Planet


How to Survive a Bad Team Leader

at Yahoo! Careers

Books and CDs

Contact Us

 We Can't Afford That!




"Where are the computers?"


"We can't afford computers."


"How can we write software without computers?"


"You'll figure out a way."


It's hard to imagine a conversation like this happening in any company. The truth is, it's hard to imagine because it basically doesn't happen. No manager is crazy enough to tell his team to write software without computers. So let's posit a slightly different scenario:


"Hey, the computers aren't working."


"I can't get the lights to turn on."


"It's getting hot in here. What's going on?"


"Oh, we decided to save money by not paying the electric bill."


Sorry, that's still pretty ludicrous. Let's try another scenario.


I was recently at MIT giving a talk on organizational development. In response to a question about maximizing team performance, I explained that the secret is to have a manager whose job is to be a coach: just like on a top sports team, the manager's job is to encourage the players, brainstorm with them, push them to achieve more than they thought possible, and make sure they don't forget to stop and take breaks. It is, after all, the manager's enthusiasm and sincerity that sets the example for the team, and transforms a team of experts into an expert team.


The immediate response from one member of the audience was, "We can't afford to have someone just sitting around and watching."


Now, if they'd left it at that, I would have let it go. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, since it led to this article, they didn't. They went on to say that the manager needs to do the work of the employees: sales managers should be selling, engineering managers should be doing engineering, and so forth. Resisting the urge to point out that they clearly hadn't heard a word I'd said to that point, I observed that a manager sits around and watches in the same way that a coach sits and watches. This needs further explanation.


As any Olympic coach can tell you, building a team and keeping it operating at peak performance is a full-time occupation. No one ever says, "These are professional athletes! They shouldn't need a coach!" If the team wants to compete at a serious level, it needs a coach. If all you care about is playing in the D leagues, well, then perhaps you can get away without the coach. Of course, if that's what you think of your business, why are you bothering?


When the manager is doing the work of a team member, you have a conflict. Salesmen try to outsell one another; sales success is their currency of respect. Engineers will argue over the best approach to solving a problem; being right is their currency of respect. When the manager is also doing the sales or the engineering or what have you, that shuts down the team. How can the members of the team compete with the manager? While it is a comforting thought to argue that professionals will compete with one another in a respectful manner, and a manager will respect the employee who out-competes him, it just doesn't work. Comfort thoughts, like comfort foods, may feel good but can easily lead to fattening of the brain.


Athletes trust their coaches in large part because the coach's job is to make the team successful: the coach is measured by how well he builds the individual athletes and the team. If the coach were being measured on how well he did as an individual competitor, few indeed are the athletes who would trust his advice.


Thus, when a company hires a "manager" who is nothing more than a glorified individual contributor who also signs time sheets, the results are often disappointing. At Soak Systems, it led to constant conflict and eventually to the loss of half the engineering team. If nothing else, the team will never achieve the level of performance that it could reach with a skilled manager.


Further guaranteeing that this problem will occur, most companies hire managers based on their technical, sales, marketing, and so on, skills. They do not hire, or promote, based on their coaching skills. They don't provide them the training or coaching they need to succeed. Putting someone with no management training into a management role will, at best, produce someone who sits around and watches. More likely, it'll produce someone who is actively harmful to the team. No wonder companies want "managers" who are also individual contributors: at least they are getting some work out of them and keeping them from causing trouble! Such "managers" really do look like an unnecessary expense. Since most people have never experienced really competent management, they also don't realize just how much opportunity they are missing.


It's quite true that you can't afford to have an untrained manager sitting around and watching. There is also no point in buying computers if you won't use them or paying for electricity if you don't have anyone in the office. But if you want to write software you can't afford to not buy computers. If you have people coming into the office, you can't afford to not pay for the electricity. If you want to achieve top performance, you can't afford to not train someone to sit around and watch.





Like to get your organization unstuck? Contact us for a free initial consultation  


Stephen R Balzac

About 7 Steps Ahead 
Stephen R. Balzac, "The Business Sensei," is a consultant, author, professional speaker, and president of 7 Steps Ahead, specializing in helping businesses get unstuck and transform problems into opportunities.

Steve has over twenty years of experience in the high tech industry and is the former Director of Operations for Silicon Genetics, in Redwood City, CA.

Steve is the author of The 36-Hour Course on Organizational Development, published by McGraw-Hill and a contributing author to Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play. Steve's latest book, "Organizational Psychology for Managers," will be published by Springer in 2013. He writes the monthly business column, "Balzac on Business."

He is the president of the Society of Professional Consultants (SPC) and served as a member of the board of the New England Society for Applied Psychology. No stranger to the challenges of achieving peak performance under competitive and stressful conditions, he holds a fifth degree black belt in jujitsu and is a former nationally ranked competitive fencer. Steve is an adjunct professor of Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has given talks at MIT and WPI.


About Steve Balzac

Stephen R. Balzac, "The Business Sensei," is an author, consultant, and professional speaker. He is the president of 7 Steps Ahead, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in helping businesses get unstuck and turn problems into opportunities.

Steve's background in engineering, management, psychology, martial arts, and competitive sports makes him a popular speaker on topics ranging from leadership, motivation, team building, interviewing skills, and sport performance to computer game design. He was a guest lecturer at MIT and WPI. His articles have appeared in a number of journals, including The Journal of Interactive Drama, The IBM Systems Journal, Mass High Tech, Enterprise Management Quarterly, The CEO Refresher, The Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership, Analog SF/F and the Worcester Business Journal.

Steve is a contributing author to Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play and the author of the 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development published by McGraw-Hill and the forthcoming Organizational Psychology for Managers. He is a frequent guest on radio shows including Motivational Minds and Leadership Radio, and is frequently quoted in a variety of publications including The New York Times, IndustryWeek Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Business Journal.

For further information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Stephen R. Balzac
7 Steps Ahead, LLC
Stow, MA