How About "Design" vs. "Work"?

Right now, you are either thinking about or designing an idea, product, service, or process.

Yet  most of us don't view ourselves as designers. It sounds like a specific, creative field in which we don't have formal education. But we do.


 Earlier today I sent off a consulting agreement. As I proofread it I realized that 3 of the key elements were "Design': a workshop...learning materials. . .executive planning session.

So I looked over previous proposals and agreements and discovered that "design" is a huge part of my work.

I admit, I'm a design freak in general. Elegant design grabs my attention faster than usability. Elegant design plus usability gets my money.


Here's my point: Start thinking of yourself as a designer. Look at your work and your life through that lens and see what happens.

  • Are you designing new leadership and management approaches to a critical situation?
  • Is your suggestion for changing administrative work flow an example of great functional design?
  • What about your IT solution for simplifying internal communication?

Gotcha! You're a designer.


photo attribution:

Leaders: Beware Comparisons

When we were kids, my younger brother had to put up with teachers comparing the two of us throughout his school years. He was a star athlete, I was more of an academic. He didn't like the comparisons and neither did I. Most of all, the comments did nothing to change either of our lives for the better. To this day, he doesn't care much about "A's" and I still can't kick a field goal.


Adults at work hate those kinds of comparisons, too. "When Kris was in your job, she always contacted the sales managers to get the monthly updates. I think that was a better way than how it's being done now." These kinds of remarks don't prompt positive changes or win over employees. When you get the feeling to compare one person's work with another, simply stop and think about one or more of these:

What To Do?

1. Compare performance and behavior against agreed-to goals and expectations

2. Compare performance against the standards set to earn a bonus or reward

3. Compare performance against some desired goal that your employee has expressed

"He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help."

--Abraham Lincoln

Do You Use Verbal White Space?

Note: I was prompted by the recent political debates to re-publish
this popular post from the 2012 archives. Hope you enjoy it!

Graphic designers know how to focus your attention.
They frequently communicate through the use of white space.


Less is more. The message is clear. There's no clutter.

Use Verbal Whitespace

You can increase your verbal impact  the same way. How many times have you wished that someone would just "say what they mean?"

Boss says: "We finished the senior level meeting and it looks as if we have to increase our numbers. We've been working hard on that project for a long time. I told the management team about the obstacles, how much overtime people have been putting in, and what the client has been saying. You know how much I appreciate your...."

Boss means: "We have to increase our sales by 10% and decrease our expenses by 5%. It's not really negotiable. I want to decide before the end of the meeting  how we can do that."

Father: "You know, son, there are a lot of people out there who could get you into trouble. I know that you are really a good kid and don't want to get into trouble. Man, when I was your age, there were a lot of kids in my class who were doing things that their parents never knew about. One of them even ended up going to jail for awhile. We live in a tough world. When..."

Father means: "Son, I love you. I found out for sure that John on your soccer team is taking drugs. I don't want you to do that or even try it. You can die. And I love you."

The Power of Noun-Verb-Object

We think that piling on extra words somehow makes our communication more palatable and therefore, better. More than likely it will make it confusing and incomprehensible. Which can lead to "Uh, just what am I supposed to do?"

Start thinking the way your fourth grade teacher taught you: Noun-verb-object.

"Please (you) give me the first draft of your report by 5 o'clock on Thursday."

"We will meet on Tuesday at 10 am."

"Let's (us) start a new marketing campaignI want to announce the kick-off in March."

Your brevity will be appreciated. Really.

Your message will be clear and understandable.

Your trust level with others will go up because your verbal packaging will go down.

Roesler communication principle #1: Truth comes in sentences. Bull**** comes in paragraphs.


Photo Source:


Caution: Invisible Assumptions

When 300 engineers at a major East Coast utility were told to re-apply for jobs in their department as part of a major reorganization, they were livid.

"I've been here 18 years."  (Longevity means immunity to change)

"I hired the idiot who's running this thing." (If I gave someone their job, they won't mess with mine)

"They already know what I can do." (I only have to prove myself once)

"No other utility has ever had to go through this." (This place isn't being run according to the norm)

"No one told me this could happen when I was hired." (This wasn't part of the deal)

"My wife and I have planned our retirement for 23 years." ('They' are responsible for my cradle-to-grave existence) 

The Danger of The "Invisible Assumed"

When you signed on with your current employer you probably discussed:

Salary, benefits, corporate vision, the marketplace, performance expectations.

Chances are you won't become really upset as a result of any of those items changing a bit. It's the ones you assumed to be true that will come back to haunt you.

You'll become disenchanted as a result of someone breaking the implicit contract.

The contract that you created in your own mind. Visible only to you.

In the real-life example above, the implicit contract had to do with the unspoken nature of Utilities:

Stable, Secure, Lifetime Employment, Methodical Career Progression...

No one ever said those things out loud. They were just "known."

Q: Do you and your spouse get upset about what you talked about before you got married or what you assumed would be true?

Tips for Employees and Employers


1. Before you sign on the dotted line, check out your assumptions.

2. Make a written list.

3. Check out their validity with your prospective company or boss.


1. Before introducing a change, take a look at the culture.

2. What is it that drew people to your company in the first place?

    Security? Action? International travel? Work close to home?

3. If one or more of those traditional characteristics (the unspoken attraction) will change, then help neutralize the impact by discussing it openly.

Tell what is going to happen and why. Explain the reality of implicit agreements and that you realize this might be one such example. You'll give people a mental model to understand what they are experiencing.

Finally: What happened to our 300 engineers?

a. They had been told before the process started that no one would lose a job with the company. They would hopefully be better matched as a result of the process. And, everyone did remain employed.

b. The department as a whole was more effective.

c.  About 10% chose to retire rather than  make the change.

What is your implicit contract? 

If you have to act on it, will it match the explicit reality?


What Are You Paying Attention To?

There's an incongruity between  time and money devoted to leadership development and the number of articles about bad bosses.  Maybe its' time to re-visit the definition of "bad."

Here's why:

People do that for which they are rewarded. Period.

RewardsI've seen very few organizations care about bad bosses who "make the numbers." In fact, the very people described by employees as "bad bosses" may be the very bosses who keep the shareholders happy.

We all pay attention to what our bosses pay attention to. When people get rewarded solely for behavior that produces profit, then that behavior becomes acceptable--even if it's bad. You can send those folks to ten different leadership development programs that model respectful practices. But you're still going to get the behavior that is actually rewarded.

What's getting rewarded in your organization?________________________________________

A little help for job seekers (we receive no compensation in any form--hopefully this will help someone):

Starting today (September 1st) is running a contest for those looking to get hired. The prize is not only the chance to find your dream job, but LinkedIn Advertising and potential interviews. Take a peek at the contest here:


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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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