Are you sick and tired of listening to excuses, stories and explanations when tasks are not fulfilled on time? Do you constantly listen to complaints, whining and negative comments? Does your staff exhibit the behavior of apathetic victims? Do they only do the minimum amount of work to get by and not show any initiative? Is there no sense of urgency or accountability? Then you have what we call a Stage Two Culture. If you have traveled recently and been stuck in long lines waiting to get through airport security while you see dozens of officials standing around doing nothing, you have experienced this type of culture. If it happens in your workplace, you are not alone. According to an extensive 10 year study, 25% of employees are in this category. This article will give you some strategies that you, as the leader, can take that will result in dramatic increases in productivity. 

1. Work with the Living
In any group of people, you will find that there are a few who are more ambitious than others. You want to work with those who want things to be different. Don’t start with the most cynical person on the team. The rest of the group will be watching, so choose someone with potential.

2. Help them to See Their Strengths
Work with them on a one-to-one basis rather than in a group. You can start by letting them know that you see potential in them and that you want to assist them. Show the employee how their work does make an impact. In particular, show them where they are competent and where their strengths are. You can use tools such as Marcus Buckingham’s book, Now, Discover Your Strengths, to teach them about their talents. In the same meeting, point out abilities they have that they have not yet developed, but be careful to make the tone of these discussions positive. Your goal is to build trust and have them develop confidence in their abilities. 

3. Give them projects where they can succeed.
Don’t be insulting but don’t give them projects that are overly complex. These assignments should not require “nagging” as this will reinforce insecurity. You want them to succeed so that their confidence can become stronger.

4. Track and Acknowledge Their Success
Create training checklists and competencies so you (and they) can track their progress. Encourage them to finish an educational program, such as a certificate, online training program or degree. You want to help them obtain some concrete achievements and recognize them for their accomplishments. This is why Zappos gives small incremental promotions every six months and offers increased pay for completed training and certification. They found that employees are much happier when they have an ongoing sense of progress.

5. Help Them to Get Organized.
Many people have never been trained in organizational skills and can become overwhelmed with keeping track of tasks, trying to prioritize items, and knowing when there are deadlines. If you offer them time management tips to get control of their time & lives, you will see marked improvements in productivity and confidence. David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, is good in this regard.

In summary, your objective as the leader is to help those at Stage Two to grow to the next level. You will know that you have succeeded when they begin to brag about their successes and compare themselves with their coworkers and ask, “What’s wrong with them?” The success of the ones you work with will shift the culture of the others that have given up the possibility for change. They will have witnessed it happen to one of their own. Then, you will choose the next one that wants things to be different. This is how you can create a cultural revolution in your organization.


Mark delivers workshops, keynotes, and retreats for companies that want to facilitate corporate change based on the models and processes of Tribal Leadership. He is the Chair of several New York City “think tanks” composed of successful Manhattan CEOs focused on “outperforming” their competition. Mark applies his 35 years of experience as an accomplished CEO & corporate manager towards transforming the workplace so that all people can experience the joy that comes from making a difference. Mark holds a MBA, is certified coach, and Approved Tribal Leader. Visit his blog,, or contact him at 212-867-5849 or