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Did you know…

8 Jun

Most days I get to eat dinner with my three young children, two attend school, one not yet. The frequent conversation, like many homes, is how was school today? What did you do? What did you learn? The answer of course is I don’t know. But, every so often, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a “Daddy, did you know…” sneaks out to reassure us that there is life and growth there. This is what someone says when they have discovered something. When they are engaged and learning. When they are connecting. When they are opening up and sharing. Something that wasn’t expected was found.

Why the need to share? Why is it such a surprise to learn?

All things flow from creation to stasis. This entropy or decay is the norm for most of us, most of the time. Significant energy is consumed by maintenance to keep things within control. Maintenance and compliance with control mechanisms drains our energy and requires no creativity. When we don’t use it, we lose it – or at least forget how to access it.

When things go as we expect them to, we are more or less on autopilot. We spend energy. Things don’t go wrong. We’re not disrupted or surprised. To make our days more engaging, more energizing and more memorable, it would seem that two things need to happen:

1. more new and different things need to happen – more sparks of creative genesis

2. we must be more observant of the positive effects of continuing to exert energy towards things that are not new.

What progress has been made? What level of performance has been achieved or surpassed? What benefits have been realized from the efforts expended?

It must be a combination of both. Becoming addicted to the thrill of something new and different, but failing to follow through on anything to develop breadth and mastery is not a formula for success. Neither is mechanistic routinization driving everything to a checklist task. Engaging our creativity to learn and make change combined with continued development with feedback as we progress towards mastery is the ideal.

Are your days aptly disrupted with surprise and wonder? Do your continued efforts leave you reflecting on the importance and significance of continuing to strive? Try the approach above to gain some energy and satisfaction.

A Thinking Process for Solving Problems

3 Nov

I was asked to develop the problem solving capabilities of a group of staff. The group, like many of us, had members who were zealous about various steps, tools and forms they used somewhere else and now advocated for. The leaders were completely agnostic about the philosophy underlying the methodology. They liked how I helped them solve problems and wanted me to help their teams.

Most problem solving methodologies are limited to the task of cause analysis; a very important task, but not the only task. In the end, I prescribed the framework below – a thinking process – to guide the group through solving problems that honors the existing knowledge of the people involved and allows them to use any tool at their disposal.

**Two ways to apply these steps: (1) deductive – solving repetitious problems (2) inductive – designing the problem / risks out (opportunities in). It’s all cause and effect – either what did cause or what would cause an effect.

1. Awareness: How do we know there’s a problem to be solved? What is the importance / value of intervening?

  • Collect data and relevant information.

2. Team: Who should be involved in solving the problem? Involve Stakeholders (aim for representation from each group that touches or is impacted by problem) to:

  • Build problem solving skills
  • Improve understanding of process and interdependencies
  • Increase support and sustainment of outcomes
  • Transfers ownership to team for thinking and doing.
3. Contain – How can we manage loss while we identify the cause and correct it?
  • Band-aid over a bullet hole or finger in the dam. If we stop here, we’re firefighting and nothing ever gets fixed.
4. Define the Problem: What outcome or effect is problematic?

  • “We want an outcome that is…”
  • “We want an outcome that is not…”
  • Reach agreement of what the problem is. If you can’t agree on the problem, you won’t agree on the cause or solution.
  • Tip:
Say “so what” until everyone on the team cares.

5. Identify cause(s)

cause [kawz]: 1. the producer of an effect.

6, Action Plan: Identify, select and implement best solutions to the problem.

  • Identify countermeasures or corrective actions to prevent and/or control each potential cause.
  • Leverage Lessons Learned: search of all possible locations and resources for information that may be beneficial.
    • have experienced / addressed a similar problem.
    • have consistently avoided the problem.
  • Prioritize Actions
  • Assign accountability for execution.
  • Tip: When something is really important, bring in outsiders to critically analyze the plan.

7. Verify: Each solution on the action plan should have an expected outcome; how will you verify it?

  • Follow-up to determine if corrective action(s) have been effective in resolving problems.
  • Verify that training updates, use of updated standards and accountability audits are occurring.
8. Share: What needs to be communicated? With whom? Why?
  • Communicate results with stakeholders.
  • Scan for opportunities to prevent occurrence of the same or similar problems and leverage learning throughout the organization.

The Environment Always Wins

4 Jun
“The group to which an individual belongs is the ground for his perceptions, his feelings, and his actions.”

An area that we (you, me, and our groups and organizations) have the greatest gap between what we know and what we do is our understanding of the effects of environment on our behavior and results and how we account for it. We apply a bias so consistently it’s called THE fundamental attribution error. Things that go well, I likely give too much credit to myself and factors within me, while things that do not, I find factors that are outside of me (“not me”) to blame. You do to. It serves our interests and some theories of motivation suggest it protects our most fundamental needs.

From 2004 – 2009, I had the privilege of ministering at the Oakland County Jail Boot Camp on most Thursday evenings. Men, and some women, with remaining sentences of one year could earn a sentence reduction to 8-weeks if they could complete the intensive and challenging program. While in the program, the trainees were subjected to challenges that forced them to adapt to a military-like physical and social regimen. For example, they had to immediately refrain from using pronouns (not easy). It was a very rewarding experience to be involved in the lives of these trainees as they committed to healthier self-disciplines. However, after attending my first graduation ceremony, it became clear that when the trainees graduated, they were met at the ceremony by a social system that knew them as they were and had not changed with them. When we would visit the men and hear about how they were earning their GED’s and gaining skills to secure employment upon completion of the program, they would share how they looked forward to a new life after the program and how they weren’t sure they could make it in the program. I would quickly share that having seen many groups of men come and go, we worry more about their well-being after the program. We tried to ready them for the culture shock they and their loved ones would experience when they were reunited. Most found it difficult to follow through on the changes they planned for their lives. Those that were successful returned to a social system that supported their changes or they changed the social system they lived within.

Is this so different from what we experience in industry?

Main Idea: To learn and change, we need to do more to ensure the environments where we will perform (do what we’re attempting to do differently) support the new behavior. Before assuming the cause of a problem lies in individuals’ knowledge, skill, capability or motivation, we need to look beyond the individual to the environment they will act within. As we as individuals plan to make improvements in our own lives, we must look beyond our individual ability and motivation and ensure we support the changes we want for ourselves in our environment, social systems, and the structured ways we do things that form our habits.

There are many fascinating and counter-intuitive studies around this topic. Below are several I’m happy to share.

In the summer of 2009, I was blessed to attend a week-long program with Edgar Schein at the Cape Cod Institute where he lectured following the release of his book Helping: How to Offer, Give and Receive Help. Dr. Schein presented extensively on “the coercive nature of the social order and the deep impact of culture.” All relationships are governed by the cultural rules of interaction and for change (learning) to occur, these rules have to be suspended to enable safe passage from here to there.

Seth Godin provided creative reference to the culture rules of interaction Dr. Schein describes (Social Economics, Social Theater and Situation Propriety) in his blog Extending the Narrative.

The socialite walks into the ski shop and buys a $3000 ski jacket she’ll wear once. Why? Not because she’ll stay warmer in it more than a different jacket, but because that’s what someone like her does. It’s part of her story. In fact,it’s easier for her to buy the jacket than it is to change her story.

Recent studies published by the NeuroLeadership Institute and it’s affiliates are providing evidence of how the brain functions that illustrate just how social the human brain is. From Your Brain on Facebook by David Rock

Here’s how social the brain is: the brain network that is always on in the background is a region involved in thinking about yourself and other people. This network is so ubiquitous it has been labeled the “default network.” When not doing anything else, the brain’s favorite pastime is to think about people. We actually turn this region down when we do any active processing, such as doing math. One study showed that inactivity for just two seconds switched the default network back on.

Many studies have emerged in the last few years about the importance of human social interactions to our well-being. We know that social rewards light up the brain’s reward circuits more than non-social rewards, and that social threats, such as feeling lonely or ostracized, light up the threat center more than non-social threats. We’ve even seen that social pain, like being left out of an activity, lights up the same regions as physical pain. And that taking Tylenol can reduce social pain more than a placebo.

Just recently we learned that where you are in the pecking order of a group of people taking an IQ test has an impact on your own IQ score. We even know that positive social habits are more important for health than diet and exercise. (Surprisingly, moderate drinking is likely to have you live longer than being a non-drinker, probably due to the social benefits.)

A recent Freakonomics Radio Podcast Episode titled The Truth Is Out There…Isn’t It? shares an engaging account of a study that illustrates how the supremacy of social acceptance is not just for the weak. A study was conducted to understand the effect of scientific literacy on decision making around controversial topics. Common thinking would suggest that the more “rational” scientific types would be less impacted by their social systems, right?

Key points from studies presented:

  • numeracy …should help you to better understand information. And that kind of comprehension is a basic building block for good decisions across a variety of domains. …should also help you process the information more systematically and help you to get to better decisions that are more in line with the facts.
  • however, studies referenced show people who are highly numerate and highly scientifically literate, they seem to actually rely on preexisting beliefs, on these sort of underlying cultural cognitions (how public sentiment about issues is shaped by cultural values) they have about how the world should be structured more than people who are less scientifically literate, or less numerate.
  • So, the more education a culture gets, the more likely we are to have intense polarization at least among the educated classes. High scientific literacy and numeracy were not correlated with a greater fear of climate change. Instead, the more you knew, the more likely you were to hold an extreme view in one direction or the other — that is, to be either very, very worried about the risks of climate change or to be almost not worried at all. In this case, more knowledge led to … more extremism!
  • Why on earth would that be? Our individual beliefs on hot-button issues like this have less to do with what we know than with who we know.
  • While my activities as a consumer, my activities as a voter, they’re just not consequential enough to count. But my views on climate change will have an impact on me in my life. If I go out of the studio here over to campus at Yale, and I start telling people that climate change is a hoax – these are colleagues of mine, the people in my community—that’s going to have an impact on me; they’re going to form a certain kind of view of me because of the significance of climate change in our society, probably a negative one. Now, if I live, I don’t know, in Sarah Palin’s Alaska, or something, and I take the position that climate change is real, and I start saying that, I could have the same problem. My life won’t go as well. 
  • People who are science literate are even better at figuring that out, even better at finding information that’s going to help them form, maintain a view that’s consistent with the one that’s dominant within their cultural group.  
  • it’s actually more important that I align my life with that belief not because of anything I can do, but because it helps me fit in better in my circle, there’s more currency to my belief there. 
  • We like to think that we make up our minds about important issues based on our rational, unbiased assessment of the available facts. But the evidence assembled shows that our beliefs, even about something as scientifically oriented as climate change, are driven by a psychological need to fit in. And so we create strategies for doing this.

Finally, something applied for us practitioners. The model below (Gilbert’s Model) segments the performance factors into three different areas: Information, Means, and Motivation; and two levels: what the organization can provide (Data, Methods & Processes, and Incentives) and what the employee brings to the job (Knowledge, Capability, and Willingness to Work).

If given the options 1 – 6 below for areas to place emphasis to improve your learning and performance as an individual, where do you think your organization should invest? What choice would have the greatest leverage to improve outcomes?

In my experience using this tool when working with leadership teams, about 2/3 of responses prioritize acting on the organizational level (#1 – 3) to improve performance. Research shows that the greatest leverage — the best return of improved outcomes for the least effort—is produced when an organization ensures employees have good data, effective work methods and processes, and fitting incentives. These items also tend to be under the direct control of the organization and lowest cost to change. In contrast, less leverage for driving improvement and greater cost go with change focused on what the person brings to the work situation.

In presenting field theory, Kurt Lewin wrote “all behavior change results from learning – norm reeducation – at the group level.” Change requires action at the group level and should be a participative and collaborative process. If you’re a leader, what change are you making personally to support the changes you want in your organization? If you’re a consultant, what are you doing to ensure environmental support for change following your interventions?

Fighting Gravity ~ an inspired rant

26 May

When I use the cliché “you’re fighting gravity” usually followed by “and gravity never has a bad day,” I am expressing that something is being pursued that will be challenging, even futile, to sustain. In other words, I’m commiserating or sympathizing with the frustration of trying to make, or sustain, a change…or the pursuit of an ideal. Many of our virtues are against our very nature.

Reset: We should be fighting gravity. Gravity gives weight to objects with mass and causes them to fall. It must be fought. To move, to rise, to progress, we must overcome inertia and the forces that create our current state. To become, to develop and to grow, we strain, push and overcome resistance. This is the process that makes us strong. Without gravity, we atrophy and settle into a useless pile.
Work worth doing, art worth making, ideals and virtues worth pursuing are full of paradox. But, the path of least resistance is an ugly tourist spot full of people living a victim’s story where games are played for garish prizes that no one really values.

We must fight gravity. We must push towards the asymptotes of our values, dreams and purpose. As we progress and approach, we’ll meet others who once labored and have come to rest. They’ll explain gravity to us and how it never has a bad day. They’ll tell of their work and how much harder it will become if we continue. They’ll share the stories they’re telling themselves and anyone who will listen that it’s okay to settle. Chasing the asymptote is so risky. But as we continue, falling and getting up, some who have settled at rest will see us progress and join again in the chase. Likewise, when have stumbled or become discouraged, we need a new champion to endure to shake us up and show that we can do more if we’ll fight again.
Choose “fights” worth fighting. Fight gravity and you will fall and fail…closer and closer with each stride.

The survey results…you really don’t know what they mean

11 Apr

When you’re presented with survey results, do you know how to “read” them? Do you show a great “bias for action” and jump to action planning? Maybe you’re a great communicator and you promptly pull everyone together to explain how they responded and how the organization is reacting. Perhaps you’re skilled in data analysis, use SPSS, remind others that correlation doesn’t mean causation, etc. You likely know what the data is, but most of us can only speculate what it means.

A lesson I learned from Dr. Kathie Sorensen of The Coffman Organization is when you’re collecting information from a group of people to try to understand something of importance, it’s not smart to review data and then tell the organization what their responses mean. When working with Kathie, before leaders received survey results in a report, they were instructed to “Raise your right hand and repeat after me: I will not tell my team what their survey results mean.”

When measuring social factors – why people do what they do, make the choices they make, feel how they feel, believe what they believe – I’ve found it effective to follow a process to share what the results are and use questions to seek to understand in more detail what they mean from the people who provided the responses. I’ve never seen this process fail to drive improvement just through the process itself, independent of any action that comes from it. I’ve also, never seen a leader do this and not be surprised by how much they learn. It’s an exercise of empathy.

When Dr. Sorensen first delivered the “Raise your right hand…” message to our leaders, many of them struggled. They scoffed at the idea that they couldn’t interpret and plan actions against such simple surveys. The very idea of presenting a set of data – some of which wasn’t that positive about their leadership and the environment they were responsible for – and then asking for help with what it meant was threatening. Results come from action, not talking and deliberation, right? We were stuck until I presented an analogy to tip the group back to support by showing similarities to a concept they were more familiar with – a key investment the organization made in manufacturing – the condition monitoring systems.

Me: We’ve made some significant capital investments in condition monitoring systems for the plants right?

Leaders in group meeting: Yeah. Those systems keep our plants delivering the product we sell to make money. What does that have to do with these surveys.

Me: I think they’re similar.

Leaders (laughing): You do? How?

Me: How do the condition monitoring systems work? They don’t actually tell you what to do to the machinery, right?

Leaders: No, the condition monitoring systems measure things like temperature, vibration, and volume. When the machines are going to fault, there are changes in these factors that you can see leaving their normal levels well in advance of the machine failing. This allows us to plan maintenance or repair at a time that works best for us and not shut down production while product is scheduled to run and labor is on the clock.

Me: Exactly what we’re trying to do too. The survey results don’t tell you what the problem is. They tell that something is vibrating or hot and you should work to figure out what it is before it causes a system failure that will be expensive and uncomfortable.

Another analogy that may work better for you if you’re not in manufacturing is measuring your vitals (blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, pulse, weight, blood sugar, etc.) to monitor health.

Related posts:

What is Engagement, Really?

There’s no such thing as a great organization

There’s no such thing as a great company

10 Mar

There are great teams and not so great teams. The best companies are networks of great teams. When you look at organizations, there is a huge range in performance team by team by team. There are differences within high performing teams compared with underperforming teams. These differences impact not only business outcomes, but lead measures like the ability to attract and retain talent that create the valued product or service that customers trade money for.

In 1994, a HBR article titled Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work (J. L. Heskett et al.) introduced a model that is widely referenced and used. This year, DDI published their DDI’s 2011 Global Leadership Forecast. In it, they illustrate an adapted version of this value chain based on their huge biannual leadership study. Integrating the two looks something like this:

I do this to illustrate a (simplified) sense of cause and effect. The best companies are made up of great teams. Great teams have high quality leadership that build a uniquely positive work environment / climate. This leadership and context supports team member engagement in work that allows them to contribute their strengths. While the local leader exists within a system – enabled or confined by talent systems and process, as well as the broader management culture – it is the leadership of the local manager that has the greatest impact on the engagement and performance of their team. While leaders are as much a product of this system as they are nodes within it, positive deviants exist and they make the most significant difference. Most team members’ knowledge of and beliefs about the organization are driven by how the organization is presented and exemplified through their local leader’s words and behavior.

Curt Coffman and his partner Kathie Sorensen have taught me a lot about how local managers drive engagement. Most engagement research consists of reporting data collected from a large sample of employees from a broad set of teams and organizations – how do a broad range of factors impact engagement. Coffman’s research surfaced drivers of engagement by finding the correlation between employee responses to questions and team performance. For example, while a question like, “I’m fairly compensated…” is a highly rated hygiene factor that individuals rate as highly influencing their level of discretionary effort and intent to stay, It’s important to everyone regardless of performance level. However the question “My manager really knows me” is rated significantly higher on high performing teams than low performing teams. This research shows that highly engaged teams delivering superior results are different and the key differences are under the control of and most influenced by the local leader.

Despite more than a decade campaign to refocus leaders on achieving greatness through allowing talent to contribute those things they are truly great at, we remain fixated on being “not-bad” by trying to put in what’s not there or improve what we are remedial at. Good is not the opposite of bad. It’s entirely different.

“We all have a vast number of areas in which we have no talent or skill and little chance of becoming even mediocre. In those areas a knowledge workers should not take on work, jobs and assignments. It takes far more energy to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

There’s no perfect job. The ideal for most people, when they are asked to describe it, is an enriched and empowered variation of what they are doing now.

SO WHAT?

Glad you asked. Leadership matters. How we feel about our contribution at work matters too. Focusing on these two things will make you and your organization more effective.

Leaders – Focus on leadership drivers of engagement. How would those you lead respond? Ask them?

  • What are the outcomes that you are accountable for?
  • Do you feel that you really know me? Is there anything you’d like to know?
  • Do you see additional opportunities where you could contribute your talents and abilities?
  • What’s the best (most meaningful) recognition you’ve ever received at work?
  • What are you doing when you’re doing what you’re best at?
  • Who was the best manager you’ve ever had? Tell me about what he or she did that you liked so much?
  • How do you feel you best add value to the organization?
  • What are the strongest teams in our organization? Tell me about the strongest team you’ve ever been a member of?
  • When have you grown most professionally in your career?

Each of us must better understand our strengths and use them more. This will serve our personal interests, benefit our organizations and the stakeholders we impact – family, community, etc.

What, in your experience, causes an organization to be seen as great?

Do You Moneyball?

25 Feb

I recently saw Moneyball for the first time on a flight and was jumping out of my seat. There are so many clips in the movie that parallel how OD & Talent processes can enable performance. My favorites:

1. GM, Billy Beane confronts his scouts about the subjective discussion of perspective talent – “…you’re just talking…”
2. Near the end of film, the Owner of the Red Sox invites Billy to Boston. Over coffee, there’s a brilliant series of lines where he say’s to Billy that anyone that’s not using his system the following year is a dinosaur.

I’d love to (plan to) use these clips in a session with leadership to frame up the talent system improvements that most organizations are working to implement. I knew immediately that I wanted to write on the topic, but David Almeda beat me to it with his post Hitting a Home Run in Talent Management: The Value of HR Analytics. The key point to me is somewhat buried in the middle – “Doing this work effectively requires an understanding of the organization’s value chain: How does the workforce help the organization make or save money? It also requires a clear understanding of the company’s future strategy” (or in how we will make or save money in the future). This same thinking applies to organizations with a purpose other than making money as well.

Baseball games are won when your team has more runs than your opponent. In Moneyball, they show how the Oakland Athletics moved from static score watching and individual performance analysis to analysis of the dynamic process of run creation and then systematically build a team, as closely as possible – given present constraints, around effectively performing this process of run creation.

How do you and your organization win? Do you view it as static through lag measures and a “great man or woman” profile for talent? Or, do you manage and enable performance in those things that actually build performance with individuals positioned in area of strength to “get on base” to enable the organization to score?

Five Questions to Reflect

12 Feb

Build reflection into your processes to increase learning and improvement. Use these simple questions to facilitate an actionable planning session:

What is my (our) role and purpose?

What am I (are we) doing well that should continue or even do more of?

What am I (are we) doing that requires improvement?

What should I (we) start doing?

What should I (we) stop doing?

Expected results:

  • everyone learns something
  • innovative ideas are developed as people play off each others contribution (aka Catchball)
  • plans are better aligned
  • the team is more engaged in and committed to the plans that are made (and question the leaders’ awareness of what’s really going on much less)

Some Practical tips, should you try it:

  1. The goal is learning – the tone should be set by the leader. Prime the group with an idea of your own for each of the questions. Express your value for the activity and the good you expect to come from it. Praise some things that others are doing well, point out something under your own control you recognize needs improvement, an opportunity you’d like to see the group capitalize on, etc. Some of the leaders I’ve helped thought it was best to leave the team to work on the exercise and then return after 90 – 120 minutes to discuss their ideas.
  2. As a facilitator, I find it works well to project a document for recording notes and summarizing key points for each question. The participants reading the idea seems to stimulate more questions, clarification and conversation as they see the ideas summarized.
  3. End the session with a recap and summary of the key points and any agreements made. I have found it effective to ask members of the team to lead this.

More broadly, discussions with the word “review” in the title (also, debriefs) should honor this same reflective intent. The idea – there are lessons here that should guide our future plans and actions. Don’t limit your conversation to only the misses and opportunities. Ask, why are we experiencing the success we are having and how do we make sure it continues?

Come on down

28 Jan

“Being charismatic and wrong is a really bad combination.” – Jim Collins

This post is about questions. There aren’t enough questions being asked and those that are asked are often really statements disguised as questions. I don’t hear (or say) “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” nearly enough. Answers and solutions are praise worthy; questions to ensure a problem is defined, not so much. I’ll share a few different ideas related to questioning in posts to come.

A lesson I learned from Jim Tull has really influenced how I think about learning, persuasion and influence. Jim presented Argyris‘s Ladder of Inference as a way to model situations where you’re trying to reach agreement. Imagine an issue you have very strong beliefs and opinions about. If you apply the Ladder of Inference to your situation, when it comes to this topic, you are at the top of your ladder. You act based on these beliefs and you feel good about it. You’re living your values. Then, you’re confronted with a person or situation that challenges your “position” on the issue. They’re on the top of another ladder. To reach agreement – which yields benefit you want – you need to get on the same ladder. So if an agreement is to be reached, either someone’s changing ladders or you’re both going to move to a third ladder. Otherwise, no agreement. So how do you go about this process of determining who’s switching ladders, where to build a shared ladder, or deciding that your position is more valuable than the benefit?

Questions of Inquiry vs. Questions of Advocacy

It turns out that most people try to accomplish this challenge from the top of their ladder – using advocacy – the equivalent of suggesting the person leap from the top of their ladder to the right ladder, your ladder. Advocacy develops a position (or moves up the ladder) and consequently, strengthens the attachment of other parties to their position(s). The skill is to go down the ladder – using inquiry. Inquiry is based in questions about what others believe to move down the ladder. This is not a new obscure idea. Stephen Covey has popularized the principle (Habit 5) “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Once you’re down you’re ladder, you can learn and understand their “data,” interest, rationale, etc. and also review your own. Without inquiry, we cannot empathize. Without feeling understood, you are much less likely to find mutual purpose. And, without mutual purpose, you’re not likely to reach an agreement or solution. If we have no agreement on the problem (shared purpose), we will most likely not agree on the solution (shared benefit).

Curiosity of how others form their positions and how their interests are served by maintaining these positions is undervalued and underutilized. It really doesn’t follow the social order, making it that much more powerful and differentiating for the skilled. Why is inquiry not practiced more? Perhaps:

1. an attempt to appear confident and of strong conviction in your position due fear of being taken advantage of or belief that seeking to understand will bring you to a less powerful position (fear or lack of confidence)

2. seeing situations at hand as zero-sum (bad logic or bad motive)

3. lack the skill to explore your and others’ positions and seek mutual benefit (ignorance)

Being interested is often more persuasive than being interesting. When someone truly feels that you understand them, yet still do not draw the same conclusions and agree with them, the natural response is curiosity. What additional information do you have? How are you ending up somewhere else? This is the time for advocacy. You are now serving their need and not your own. You don’t concede your position (or values / beliefs) by working to understand others’ positions and how they arrived at them. You can always climb back up. Though, be forewarned, you may learn something that will cause you to choose not to.

Additional Reference:

http://www.solonline.org/pra/tool/inquiry.html

http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Yes-Negotiating-Agreement-Without/dp/0140157352/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240334060&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Difficult-Conversations-Discuss-what-Matters/dp/014028852X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1240334517&sr=1-1

TPOV: Good News Fast, Bad News Faster

16 Jan

Today, I was reminded of an impacting Teachable Point of View (TPOV) from Mike Wells, CEO of Wells Enterprises – makers of the worlds best, Bluebunny, ice cream. When introducing the company’s updated “Fundamentals,” Mike communicated a principle for communication that resonated with me immediately as one that I share, support and advocate. I read it on the handout provided at the all employee meeting I attended as he said the words, “Good News Fast, Bad News Faster.” I can’t remember the words he used. I left knowing that he meant the organization believes in recognizing, celebrating and rewarding success, but it also depends on each person to confront reality and make problems visible to allow the team to provide support, problem solve, and act accordingly. It agrees completely with a couple of ideas I regularly express to my teams and colleagues:

1. never, EVER, hide a problem

2. If I have to take a hit now or later, I’ll take it now

An example: A high performing consultant from my team sent an email to a group of managers with an excel spreadsheet as an attachment that he learned minutes after sending was a pivot table that contained confidential information. He immediately called my cell phone and told me directly what happened and who it went to. I then called my boss and IT. Within about 10 minutes we had surgically removed and destroyed the message and attachment from each recipient’s mailbox, identified who had opened the email and whether a copy had been saved locally, and replaced the message with an attachment including only the information intended to be sent. The next day, I took the opportunity to recognize the employee that made the mistake for modeling our values. His response – “I made the mistake and wanted to make sure you (me) weren’t surprised and that we got it fixed before it got out of control.”

We will make mistakes. We will form imperfect plans and then imperfectly execute them. It is certain. This does not and should not limit our drive for excellence, even as Toyota states it in their Lexus brand – the pursuit of perfection. If you are a purpose driven person that acts on ideals, you are pursuing an asymptote. This principle that tells employees bad new faster is an expectation that is liberating. Do not play not to lose. Do not waste valuable time and resources hiding information and strategizing how to skirt ownership or place blame because you are afraid to share what is now reality with your team. The message is also clear that when bad news is presented to you, don’t punish the informant to teach them to fear making mistakes and keep them far from you.

Though not common, I’ve witnessed great individuals, relationships and teams that are truly safe and open. When something happens, there is little or no inhibition to discuss it. It may be a lucrative opportunity, a total disruption to the status quo, or a threatening mistake made by the team. They are able to lay the issue out, walk around it and look at it from various points of view and assess:

  • is this real?
  • what is happening here? how does it work? how did it happen?
  • what does it mean to us? who does it impact?
  • is there a lesson to be learned? is there a weaknesses that is revealed?
  • is there an opportunity to exploit?
  • what will we do?

The environment is engaging with heightened arousal in focus and curiosity. There is ownership and accountability. There’s no burying your head in the sand and hoping it will go away. Run to the issue. Assess what it is, does and means. Own it. Move forward.

This TPOV creates competitive advantage and is a fundamental to a learning organization. It takes what most organizations fear and run from – their richest lessons – and uses them as fuel for success and growth for talent and the organization.

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