The A to Z of OD: H is for Human

Thanks to OD Practitioner Dorothy Matthew, who challenges organisations to put ‘human beings’ as opposed to ‘human doings’ at the forefront matters… and then make the shift; Human was also suggested by Perry Timms.  H is for Humanising workplaces.

“Are we human, or are we dancer?”

Human is a thought-provoking song by The Killers. In it, frontman Brandon Flowers suggests being human is to have agency.  To be a dancer is to be a puppet, controlled by others.  This is a song about emancipation from those who would seek to control us.  In a work context, this is the organisation for whom we work.  It strikes me too many organisations still choose to do dumb things to people: by over-rationalising business processes, over-engineering restrictive policies and infantilising their people.

For me, OD is about humanising workplaces.  Technology, robots – thus far the antithesis of humanity – were supposed to give us humans more leisure time.  Yet we are working more and harder than ever.  We haven’t managed to systematically humanise workplaces yet.  Perhaps what we choose to delegate to the robots will enable us to humanise the work we keep for ourselves?  Perhaps we can humanise how we choose to lead the robots?

“Take a look in the mirror and what do you see?  Do you see it clearer or are you deceived?”

Human is a thought-provoking song by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.  The lyric is about taking responsibility for yourself and not trying to pass blame onto other people.

I use psychometrics in my OD practice to help people understand themselves and others better, so we can all play to our strengths and achieve more together by choosing to take responsibility for furthering the purpose of the organisations where we work.

We can’t go through life blaming others and we also can’t go through life using the excuse “I’m only human”.  Give yourself permission to make mistakes AND choose to take responsibility for your own behaviour.

Humanising workplaces

The results we get when know the dynamic between people and, in the future, know the dynamic between the humans and the robots – the ‘aha!’ moment I look for when working with my clients – is palpable.  It manifests as more collaboration, more empathy, more generative work practices, more humanised workplaces.  It takes time.  There is no magic potion.  There are no superheroes.  Just humans choosing to make a difference.  Practising some fundamental principles of human processes and relationships – the doings and the beings – of a humanised organisation.

American entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious.  Success is the natural consequence of applying the basic fundamentals.”  Never truer than when choosing to be human, never truer than when humanising organisations.

OD Thought Leader: Jerry B. Harvey

On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene (53 miles north) for dinner. The wife says, “Sounds like a great idea.” The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, “Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go.” The mother-in-law then says, “Of course I want to go. I haven’t been to Abilene in a long time.”

The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.

One of them dishonestly says, “It was a great trip, wasn’t it?” The mother-in-law says that she would rather have stayed home but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, “I wasn’t delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you.” The wife says, “I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that.” The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.

We fail to manage agreement and end up doing things nobody wants to do.  In the original anecdote above where Jerry Harvey established the Abilene Paradox, this happened at the expense of choosing to #JustBe.  Why are we programmed to find stuff to Just Do, when we often find our greatest breakthroughs come from choosing to #JustBe?

The paradoxical nature of Change: Oh, Sweet Irony!

Recommended reading: Jerry B. Harvey (1988) The Abilene Paradox and Meditations on Management, New York, Wiley.

Next time: I is for the Ice Cube theory of change

The A to Z of OD: E is for Energy – Managing Energy

Suggested by Perry Timms, Simon Daisley and – notably – Dorothy Matthew, who suggested to me that time management is outdated, and the focus today needs to be on managing energy as opposed to time, and Russell Harvey, who reminded me leading change means checking in with others to see how they are managing their energy for change.

Managing time is out

I remember attending a training course on time management when I first started out in my career.  We were encouraged to schedule important tasks in our diaries and treat them as of similar importance to meetings, for example.  At the end of the course, the delegates paired up to check-in and support each other with our agreed actions.  I can’t remember the name of the chap I paired with.  Let’s call him Dave.  So, a couple of weeks later, I dutifully phoned Dave…

“Hi Dave, it’s Jez.  How are you getting on with managing your diary?” I asked, politely.

“I’m far too busy to start with any of that crap!” he retorted, paradoxically.

Perhaps even then, the concept of time management was outdated.  Dave was living on adrenaline, managing all the tasks he needed to, performing adequately, perhaps, surviving, just.  But for how long is such an approach sustainable?

Managing energy is in

Fast forward a couple of decades or so and I now work with groups of senior leaders who are coping with gnarly transformational changes in their organisations.  My work is concerned with how to lead change so that it sustains.  I’m struck that today’s rapidly changing world gives rise to rapidly changing pressures on leaders.

I’ve said before that leading change starts on the inside.  We all react to change when it happens to us from the outside-in.  Learning to recognise our own emotional response means we can make more active choices in how to respond, rather than react.  How we can maintain our own energy for change, so we can help others cope with it too?  How we can internalise the change, so we work with it from the inside-out?  This, I believe, makes us better change leaders.

The way we are working is not working

I am reminded of the words that describe working in different zones as articulated by Tony Schwartz in The Way We work Isn’t Working.  Schwartz suggests we tend to operate in one of four zones:

  • Performance Zone, when our energy and activity are high, and we feel optimistic
  • Survival Zone, when our energy and activity are high, but we are running around doing so much. In this Zone, our emotional state is negative, we become pessimistic about work, we retreat into silos, protecting ourselves from the outside world.  We are just about surviving
  • Burnout Zone, when our energy dips catastrophically and it all becomes too much
  • Renewal Zone, when we find time to recover from the pressures of work, energy remains low (we are recovering after all), however we regain our optimism and become ready to move back to the Performance Zone.

So, what?

When the pace of work and change becomes too much, our performance slips, we can find ourselves operating in the Survival Zone.  We might find ourselves feeling lonely or moody, we may become narcissistic and unpredictable.  We might also become apathetic, appearing to others as stubborn or intense.  These are the signs we are moving towards the Burnout Zone.

The trick is to find ways to move freely between the Performance Zone and the Renewal Zone, so that we remain optimistic and enthusiastic, while slowing our energy and activity to recover, and then using our renewed energy to keep our performance high.

And so, the question becomes: what can you do to maintain your energy for change?  To find time in your routine to recover from the pressures of work – where the pace of change is ever-increasing – and keep your performance high?

Three tips to maintain your energy for change

  1. Find your own words to describe the four Zones. Then, notice when you are feeling that way, it is probably an indication you are already in that Zone, or moving towards it
  2. Work out what renews your energy – this might be mindful meditation, sport or exercise, social activities, hobbies or clubs. At work, it might simply be finding time to leave your desk and go for a walk or have your lunch with others away from the office.  It might be finding time to #JustBe.  Outside of work it might be reading, listening to or playing music, painting or simply have a long soak in a hot bath.  This tip helps you discover your own Renewal Zone.
  3. Mindfully choose to spend time in your Renewal Zone. Schedule it in your diary if needs be.  Dave, are you listening?  I was listening, I have time blocked out in my diary entitled #JustBe.

You might find you start to spot the signs of the Survival Zone or Burnout Zone in others.  If so, you might want to encourage them to think about their own Renewal Zone.  You may also find you can spot the signs of the Performance Zone or the Renewal Zone in others and choose to appreciate them, to celebrate their achievement!

OD Thought Leader: Chester Elton, “The Apostle of Appreciation” (1958 – )

Chester Elton is one of the masters of employee engagement.

Elton and his co-author, Adrian Gostick, conducted research with 200,000 managers and literally millions of workers to evidence the thinking behind their ‘Carrot Principle’.  The research found that feeling appreciated is one of the highest ranked (top three, worldwide) workers’ motivations.

They propose, “a carrot is something used to inspire and motivate an employee. It’s something to be desired… Simply put, when employees know that their strengths and potential will be praised and recognised, they are significantly more likely to produce value.”

Their research has spawned an industry of formal employee recognition schemes. But it is the informal, cultural aspects that often have the most impact. A carrot does not need to be monetary. Simply being thanked or publicly recognised is enough for many.

If I may borrow from another great thought leader, Nancy Kline, “people do their best thinking in the presence of Appreciation.” I’d suggest ‘their best thinking’ translates readily into ‘their best work’. And so, managers showing their honest appreciation improves organisational performance.

Creating a climate of appreciation enables organisations to sustain what Elton calls a ‘Carrot Culture’.

And if, as I believe, Engagement is one of the engines of organisational effectiveness, this can only help to humanise the workplace in a systemic way. And that, dear readers, is what OD is all about.

Recommended reading: Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton (2009): The Carrot Principle, London, Simon and Schuster

Next time: F is for Facilitation

The A to Z of OD (Part I)

This is the first part in a series of articles that will set out the A to Z of organisation development.  The series will consider the principles and practices, the tools and techniques and the past and present thought leaders that have shaped the field.  I don’t know exactly what will be included under each letter of the alphabet.  That will emerge.  If you have any thoughts on what you think should be included, get in touch and we’ll discover together where this goes!

But first, we must discover what is OD.  And to do that, we must first decide what is an organisation.

What is an organisation?

An organisation is a group of people who come together to achieve a common purpose.  They establish a collection of systems and processes that produces more together than the sum of their parts.  These components continually impact on each other, depend on each other to thrive and collectively contribute as a ‘whole system’ towards achieving the organisation’s purpose.

Different parts of any organisation perform different functions and can become highly specialised.  This specialisation creates a need for coordination at a ‘whole system’ level, i.e. the need for more and more sophisticated leadership and organisation.

What is organisation development?

Organisation development is an ongoing, systematic process of implementing sustainable change that recognises and draws on this ‘whole system’ thinking.  It also uses applied behavioural science to understand organisational and team dynamics.  After all, organisations are human systems – they only exist as a collection of people coming together to achieve a common purpose.

The goal of organisation development is to maximise the organisation’s effectiveness at serving its purpose.

A is for Action Learning

Action learning is a process whereby participants study their own actions and experiences to improve their performance.  You do it in conjunction with others in small groups called action learning sets, typically using the services of a facilitator.

Action learning propels your personal development further and faster in the real world.  This is because your peers are helping you reflect on your interactions with other people and the learning points arising.  This guides future action and develops real-world wisdom rather than traditional educational processes that focus purely on knowledge.  It is particularly suited to leadership development in organisations, where participants are working on real problems in the real world that affect real people.

OD thought leader: Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris (1923-2013) was a founding father of organisation development.  He is known for seminal work on developing learning organisations.  He pioneered Action Science – the study of how people choose their actions in difficult situations.

Action Learning and Action Science are related.  There is a risk the former may inadvertently encourage ‘single-loop’ learning: you act, you reflect on the outcome of that action and then make practical adjustments so that you revise the action you take next time.

Argyris argued that humans are overwhelmingly programmed to act based of defensive thinking.  Organisations reinforce this defensive behaviour through institutionalised routines.  Such routines prevent individuals expressing concerns, encourage avoiding behaviour and promote a lack of authenticity.  It is hard to break this vicious cycle.

Argyris proposed a double-loop of learning.  Double-loop learning means to be reflective in-the-moment, to continuously pay attention to the present to make your positive future intention a reality.  We must continue to learn, and we must continually relearn how to learn.  For me, reflective double-loop learning is one of the cornerstones of organisation development.

Recommended reading: Argyris, C. (2000). Flawed Advice and The Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They’re Getting Good Advice and When They’re Not. New York, Oxford.

Next time: B is for Behaviours

Street Wisdom at Leeds Wellbeing Week, March 24, 2018 – FREE (booking essential)

Discover the wisdom of the streets

We are running Street Wisdom at Leeds Wellbeing Week, March 24, 2018 – FREE (booking essential)

“[People] must necessarily be the active agents of their own well-being and well-doing… they themselves must in the very nature of things be their own best helpers.”

–      Samuel Smiles, author of Self Help , 1859

What is the purpose of being if not to discover truths and insights that are obscured by day-to-day concerns?  Street Wisdom gives participants the skills to see the urban environment in a new way, ask a question and use the answers they discover to move forwards in life with a greater sense of wellbeing.

“The concept of creativeness and the concept of the healthy, self-actualizing, fully human person seem to be coming closer and closer together and may perhaps turn out to be the same thing”

–      Abraham Maslow, Psychologist

What is the purpose of being if not to be happy and inspired in our own lives?  Street Wisdom is a global, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to bring inspiration to every street on earth.

“Recognising that you are not where you want to be is a starting point to begin changing your life”

–      Deborah Day, Author of Be Happy Now, 2010

Led by Jeremy Lewis, an experienced coach and professional Street Wizard, Street Wisdom will enable you to find inspiration by wandering through the City’s streets.  Why wait for escape to exotic destinations when inspiration can be found on your own doorstep? Street Wisdom shows you how.

How it works

It’s very simple – that’s because Street Wisdom have been refining the process for years.

Tune Up. Quest. Share.

  1. First, your Street Guide helps you and your group tune up your senses so you can pick up much more information from the urban environment that you would normally.
  2. Then you’re off on a journey by yourself – your street quest – where you ask a question and see what answers present themselves.
  3. Finally, you gather together again to share what happened and, more often than not, wonder at how magical an ordinary street can become when you’re really aware of those hidden messages, chance meetings and unexpected discoveries.

 

The whole event lasts three hours.  Meet on the steps of Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, at 13:00.

Book now

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/street-wisdom-at-leedswellbeingweek-tickets-42527718551

http://streetwisdom.org               www.leedswellbeingweek.co.uk

Understanding the public service leadership challenges

The challenges

The public service leadership challenges of cuts, confusion and change have become the norm.  The basic elements needed to lead through this ever-changing landscape are: clarity over direction; adequate support to adopt change (preferably in the form of budgets for resources and development) and positive consequences for delivering the change without damaging services.

There is now a growing realisation amongst public sector leaders that each of these elements is irrevocably threatened: confusion has replaced clarity; cuts have replaced adequate support and negative consequences have replaced any semblance of positivity.

For too long, individual leaders have sought the answers unilaterally, while the pressure to retain accountability mounts daily.  They have done this while struggling to have influence that the right things get done within an evolving democratic Political process.

Individual leaders cannot be expected to have all the answers.  The solution requires whole system leadership.  This means that learning to collaborate is essential, both within organisations and between partners in other public organisations, and in the private and third sectors.

Evidence-based recommendations

Recent research supports the need for leaders to balance collective leadership and accountability with changes in the Political process:

In The 21st Century Public Servant, the University of Birmingham  asked questions around what is the range of different roles  and requirements on  those responsible for delivery 21st century public services and what are the support and training requirements for these roles.  In a 2016 report, the Institute for Government undertook a study on the impact of elected regional mayors on ministerial and local accountability, reporting that “success of local collaboration and innovation will depend on the strength of local accountability.”

The latest leadership research, Leadership: all you need to know, (Pendleton and Furnham, Palgrave, 2012), suggests that individual leaders cannot be expected to have all the answers.  Leadership requires strategic focus, operational focus and a focus on developing relationships.  Leaders are probably strong in one or two of these and very rarely all three.  The answer is of course to develop collective leadership where the top team has access to all these capabilities.

This evidence points to the need for public sector leaders to understand more deeply their own leadership strengths and development areas and consider how to build collective leadership to face the challenges of cuts, confusion and change.

Supporting leaders to rise to the challenge

In 2013, in association with the LGA and Skills for Government, Solace published Asking the right questions following consultation and a number of interviews with serving CXs to understand the key challenges they faced and the skills and behaviours they believed were required by their peers and those aspiring to such roles.

Working with CMdeltaConsulting, Solace have now adapted the thinking from both sets of research to suit a broader leadership population and develop collective accountability for public sector leadership – the Leading in Context Framework

The framework can be accessed by individual leaders taking a free self-assessment diagnostic questionnaire, available here.  The tool works by presenting you with 30 statements relating to your experience at work.  Once you have selected the responses that most closely represent your experience or usual way of working, you are immediately presented with a brief report that shows your strengths and development areas against the Leading in Context Framework

Next steps

We can build the solution to the current challenges together.  Using the free diagnostic questionnaire and report, individual leaders can deepen their own understanding of their leadership strengths and development areas, build a shared understanding of the leadership challenges and perhaps increase their collective accountability to develop as leadership teams and across multi-agency partnerships.

 

Trudy Birtwell – Head of Leadership and Organisational Development at Solace

Jeremy Lewis – MD at CMdeltaConsulting and Solace Associate

Note for editors

Solace (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers) is the representative body for senior strategic managers working in the public sector. We are committed to public sector excellence. We provide our members with opportunities for personal and professional development and seek to influence the debate about the future of public services to ensure that policy and legislation reflect the experience and expertise of our members.

CMdeltaConsulting is a specialist consulting, coaching and facilitation firm that focuses on whole system leadership and collaborative partnering.  We are committed to making a difference in helping senior leaders and the teams they lead thrive.  Working directly with public sector leaders, we support and challenge them to ensure the changes they need to make stick, partner and coach them throughout their change journey and build the skills they and their teams need to face tomorrow’s challenges.  We support public sector organisations in Local Government, Health and the Police.

Your help needed: participate in some research and discover your preferred ways of working

I need your help.  I have an amazing opportunity for you to benefit from some research into personality types and behavioural preferences.  But first, some context…

Developing your understanding of personality types and thinking styles is a useful way to improve your knowledge of motivation and behaviour in the workplace.

Millions of people across the world have undertaken assessments to determine their personality type.  There are a plethora of behavioural and personality type psychometric instruments out there.  However, the psychology of Carl Jung, as adapted and interpreted by one Isabel Briggs-Myers and one Katharine Cook Briggs (aka the Myers-Briggs thing), is one of the most recognised and commonly used.

Personality types

Here comes the “science”.  In a nutshell, your personality is determined by four dichotomies.  Firstly, how you take in (or Perceive) information.  This you can do in a detailed, sequential sort of way (Sensing) or a big picture, snapshot sort of way (iNtuition).  Then, you need to consider how you make decisions (or Judgements) based on that information.  This you can do objectively (Thinking) or empathetically (Feeling).  One of these Perceiving or Judging dichotomies will dominate your approach to dealing with the world.  Finally, you will put your energy into your dominant approach either by focusing on the external world (Extraversion) or by internalising it (Introversion).  The answers to these four dichotomies yield 16 personality types, each identified by a four-letter acronym.  Only it’s not “science”.  Rather, it’s a metaphor for observable behaviour, just like the Native American Medicine Wheel or even Astrology.

How these four dichotomies apply most often to you determines which of 16 personality types you have, which in turn determines how you are likely to respond to stimuli.

I sort of have a problem with this.  People are, well, people.  We are just trying to categorise certain observable behaviours.  Neuroscience now shows that our rational and emotional minds are quite able to be trained to respond in whatever way we choose to any given situation.  So why straightjacket us with a “type”?  And why make that type so darned complicated?

The concept of preference

What if some of these types were viewed simply as behavioural preferences?  What would these preferences be?  It turns out four such behavioural modes will suffice – Driving, Analysing, Organising and Energising.

What if we could recognise we already have relatively easy access to more than one behavioural mode, say two or even three of these modes?

I’m told I have an ISFP personality type.  I know I extravert my perceptions and introvert my feelings.  Apparently, this means I work with bursts of energy and makes me a P. Yet I am quite able to plan out my day too (J).  I’m also happy taking in information in different ways (S and N) and applying both rational thinking and emotional feelings (T and F) to make decisions.  I spend long periods of time focusing on others’ needs and taking in others’ perspectives (E) and I spend long periods of time on my own reflecting and making sense of that data (I).

I am all these things and more.  Perhaps we need a behavioural psychometric that understands people and I believe I have found one such tool. I use it a lot in my organisation development consulting, coaching and facilitation practice.  I’m so excited about I, I have become accredited to provide training to others to become MiRo Practitioners.

If you’d like to find out more about your behavioural preferences, and those of your teammates, I have something that might interest you.  MiRo Psychometrics are currently undertaking some research into benchmarking their model with the Myers Briggs model.

Your help needed

That’s why we need your help. We need 25 groups of 20 people to take a MiRo Assessment and another Myers Briggs assessment so that we can benchmark one against the other.

In return we can give you 20 free bespoke reports and a team report, plus up to a free day of practitioner time.  This package would normally be worth £2,500 in total.

We can take your team through the reports and help you to understand them and your team better in the context of your business or your situation. We want this to be a positive and rewarding experience for you.  And we hope that when it’s over you’ll want to know more about MiRo and want to do even more with the tool. However, if you simply want the free reports and the free training and consultancy that comes with them, then it’s all yours and we’ll leave it at that.

All we ask in return is that you spend a few minutes completing a very short questionnaire.

If you’d like to be considered to take part in the research or just want to know more, I’d love to hear from you.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

Take Alan’s advice: a three-step approach to become a trusted business adviser

First published on LinkedIn July 13, 2016

To paraphrase Alan Partridge, “Lynn’s not my wife.  She’s my accountant.  Hard-worker, but there’s no affection.”

The work of corporate support functions has changed.  This applies to accounting, human resources, learning and development, legal services, risk, IT, corporate strategy and planning, financial and systems analysis, project and change managers and more.  In fact for anyone who has professional experience, limited direct authority over the use of their expertise and the desire to have some impact at an organisational level.

Regardless of Alan’s view, the traditional role of hard-working expert represents only half the story.  You must be able to have that expertise listened to and used.  To do this, you require a commercial ‘business-like’ mindset, a collaborative partnering approach and the skills to develop trusted adviser relationships.  Dare I say it, to develop a certain affection?

The most effective way for professionals in corporate functions to gain respect, lead change and add value to their organisations is to develop these skills.  I have helped the corporate functions of B2B and B2C private service sector clients and clients in the Health sector do this.  Whilst each of the organisations I’ve worked with is unique, with its own unique set of circumstances, they often share similar challenges, i.e. how to:

  • Find the time to cut down on doing the work in order to build relationships?
  • Get business managers to take accountability for its finances, people, IT investment, etc?
  • Prevent the professionals from ‘going native’?
“Knowing me, Alan Partridge; knowing you, my trusted business adviser; Aha!”

You start by adopting a new professional mindset (‘Knowing me’), and go on to develop deeper relationships (‘Knowing you’) and then consistently apply these fundamentals in your role (‘Aha!’).

Knowing me

Professionals are increasingly anxious within organisations.  Two examples of the risks corporate functions face from their customer-facing colleagues are continual downsizing of the ‘back office’ and the democratisation of information through technology.  Professionals in corporate functions must continually demonstrate their worth to the organisation.  And be seen to do so.

Unfortunately, professionals have an unconscious tendency to pay more attention to their own discipline than the direct strategic goals of the organisations they work for.  We call this ‘basic-assumption’ mentality.  In this mode, the corporate function’s directs its behaviour at meeting the unconscious needs of its members by reducing anxiety.  However, professionals have been trained to use their basic-assumption mentality in a sophisticated way that supports the organisation’s strategic objectives.  This sounds confusing, so let me give a few examples[1]

Finance

Chartered accountant firms require their junior staff to be dependent on senior staff while they are training.  This approach delivers a qualified accountant who insists on being independent and behaves hierarchically to juniors.   They review all their subordinates’ work and hold on to decision-making.  This is the basic assumption of dependency, which is sensibly deployed to manage risk.  Remember the partners of the accounting firm are personally liable and stand to lose their all their worldly possessions if things go wrong.

There is a high risk of this behaviour degenerating into an insistence for freedom for its own sake.  This leads to a lack of accountability to the organisation.  It can lead to a culture of subordination and hierarchical power requiring unquestioning obedience from juniors (and business managers).

Human Resources

The HR professional deploys collaboration with management as the best way to deliver change.  We call this the basic assumption of pairing.  Pairing is a psychological coping strategy where a helpless person assumes two other people will come together to create a messiah baby to save their world.

If overplayed, such a collaborative approach can lead to colluding with the business, whilst simultaneously refusing to examine whether HR interventions help or support the organisation’s strategic objectives.  This can lead to a culture of ‘soft’ HR outputs without the requisite action required to make the change.  For example, creating future-oriented organisational vision and values statements that end up merely as posters on the office wall.

Information Technology

IT professionals have the capacity for sophisticated use of the fight/flight basic assumption mentality.  They sell their proposed technology solutions to clients whilst defending against alternative solutions with doomsday premonitions of catastrophic outcomes if they are not heeded.

Frustratingly often, IT projects do not deliver the purported benefits.  When that happens, the fight/flight mentality degenerates into denial of responsibility, assertion that the IT professional is still right and that the business managers need to change to exploit the technology in full.  Projecting responsibility in this way disables the professional/client relationship from productively devising a course of action to resolve issues.  This can lead to a culture of paranoia and aggressive competitiveness.  It can also lead to a preoccupation with the ‘enemy within’ as well as perceived external enemies.   And it can lead to the promulgation of complex and bewildering rules to control these dangers.

Professionals really need to look at themselves and recognise the approach they are prone to taking.  Only then can they choose a new professional role and identity.

Knowing you

When professionals have gained a deeper understanding of themselves, they can choose a productive professional identity (i.e. one of collaborative business partner).  They are then better placed to notice what drives and motivates the business managers they are seeking to partner.  Developing relationships is probably the most important single thing a professional can do.  In this way they can avoid the dual risks of (a) being treated like a ‘pair of hands’ to do the tasks their business colleagues cannot or do not want to do and (b) being treated like a specialist expert who sits outside the workgroup and can only comment from the sidelines.  Importantly, avoiding these risks actually saves time.

Not only can professionals avoid these risks, but they can transcend them to become a trusted business adviser.  They do this by sitting within the workgroup and operating collaboratively (read: high support and high challenge).  This allows them the opportunity to help the business take accountability.

It also allows them to develop into the strategic partner that not only turns data into insight, but also brings perspective and commerciality.  This enables them to retain their professional integrity without going ‘native’.

Aha!

These skills are neither magical nor mysterious, but come about by mastering the basics of ‘knowing me, knowing you’ and practising the skills needed to deepen relationships.

I often run business simulations and action learning sets with clients so they can practise and reflect on their progress in developing their collaborative partnering skills.

And so the penny finally drops.  As Jim Rohn once said, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practised every day”.

And I agree.

And even, I suspect, would Alan Partridge.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

[1] These examples have been adapted from the work of Jon Stokes (1994). The Unconscious at work in Groups and Teams: Contributions from the Work of Wilfred Bion, in Anton OBHOLZER and Vega Z. ROBERTS (Eds.) The Unconscious at Work. London, Routledge.

 

I am not a four-letter acronym, I am a free man

Updated copy of a post first published on LinkedIn July 6, 2016

The 1960s TV series, The Prisoner, invited viewers to consider the psychological implications of being labelled and conforming to collectivist ideals, versus being a free-willed individual.  “I am not a number, I am a free man,” proclaimed protagonist Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan).

Well, I have decided I am not an ISFP, or whatever my personality type says I am.

“An ISF-who’s-doing-what, now?” I hear you cry.

Millions of people across the world have undertaken an assessment to determine their personality type.  There are other behavioural and personality type psychometric instruments out there.  However, one of the most recognised and commonly used is the psychology of Carl Jung, as adapted and interpreted by one Isabel Briggs-Myers and one Katharine Cook Briggs (aka the Myers-Briggs thing).

Personality types

Here comes the “science”.  In a nutshell, four dichotomies determine your personality.  Firstly, how you take in (or Perceive) information, which you can do in a detailed, sequential sort of way (Sensing) or a big picture, snapshot sort of way (iNtuition).  Then, you need to consider how you make decisions (or Judgements) based on that information, which you can do objectively (Thinking) or empathetically (Feeling).  One of these Perceiving or Judging dichotomies will dominate your approach to dealing with the world.  Finally, you will put your energy into your dominant approach either by focusing on the external world (Extraversion) or by internalising it (Introversion).  The answers to these four dichotomies yield 16 personality types, each identified by a four-letter acronym.  Only it’s not “science”, it’s just a metaphor for observable behaviour.  you might as well refer to the Native American Medicine Wheel or even Astrology to determine your personality.

Confused?  You should be!  Yet we are told how these four dichotomies apply most often to you determines your personality type.  This in turn determines how you are likely to respond to external stimuli.

The problem with all of this is that people are, well, people.  We are just trying to categorise certain observable behaviours.  Neuroscience now shows that our rational and emotional minds are quite able to be trained to respond in whatever way we choose to any given situation.  So why straight-jacket us with a “type”?  And why make that type so darned complicated?

The concept of preference

What if we viewed some of these types simply as behavioural preferences?  What would these preferences be?  It turns out four such behavioural modes will suffice.  It seems having 16 types really does seem excessive.

What if we could recognise we already have relatively easy access to more than one behavioural mode, say two or even three of these modes?  Would personality typing continue to be appropriate to define us?  I suggest not.

I know I extravert my perceptions and introvert my feelings (apparently this means I work with bursts of energy and makes me a P), but I am quite able to plan out my day too (J).  I’m also happy taking in information in different ways (S and N) and applying both rational thinking and emotional feelings (T and F) to make decisions.  I spend long periods of time focusing on others’ needs and taking in others’ perspectives (E) and I spend long periods of time on my own reflecting and making sense of that data (I).

I am all these things and more.  We need a behavioural psychometric that understands people.  I believe I have found one such tool, called MiRo.  I use it a lot in my organisation development consulting, coaching and facilitation practice.  I’m so excited about it, I have recently become accredited to provide training to others to become MiRo Practitioners.

If you think there’s a better way to help people understand and adapt their behaviour, then I’d like to hear about it.  Get in touch to share your thoughts.  Alternatively, click here to find out more about the MiRo behavioural psychometric.

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

A two-step programme to give yourself time to #JustBe

First posted on LinkedIn March 16, 2016

Busy, busy, busy

It strikes me that we fill our lives with stuff to do: reports to write, meetings to attend, emails to send, phone calls to make, presentations to prepare, endless lists of things to do…  And when we’re not at work, there’s endless lists of things to do too: our fitness regimes to maintain, our food to cook, our homes to clean, our children to drop off, our children to pick up, other people’s children to pick up, …

We allow ourselves to self-persecute; we allow our diaries persecute us; we allow our to-do lists persecute us.  I know people who love making to-do lists.  Their to-do lists even include “Get up” and, “Have breakfast” so that they can tick them off with a sense of achievement.  This I fear is a step too far.  You know it’s really gone too far when you start off a new to-do list with the item, “See other to-do list”.

Striving for efficiency

And even when you know this self-persecutory doing behaviour has gone too far, the only solutions out there appear to be aimed at doing things more efficiently: Smart Phone Apps that get you organised so you can do more, books that help you create an efficiency programme so you can do more, methods to take control of your email inbox so you can do even more…

I remember one of those personal efficiency type training courses I attended as a junior manager many years ago; we were shown how to categorise tasks into three types: ‘A’ tasks – those that our performance was measured against, ‘C’ tasks – those that were just stuff that came across our desks and ‘B tasks, which covered pretty much everything in between.  Then we were told that personal efficiency sprang from scheduling ‘A’ tasks into our diaries.  Who knew?  A colleague and I were paired up at the end of the course to keep in touch and check in with each other to see how we were getting on with scheduling ‘A’ tasks into our demanding work schedules.  So, I rang him a few weeks later to inquire into his progress.  “I’m far too busy to start with all that crap,” he replied.

We become victims entirely of our own making.

Finding time to #JustBe

What if you could find a way to balance all this doing with more of the being we need to rediscover ourselves.  It is said we are human beings after all, not human doings.  What if you could find the time to #JustBe.  Then you might just discover your life’s purpose, your Dharma.  This requires us to reject being a victim and to choose being vulnerable instead.  To choose our own potency over self-persecution.

And this starts with giving yourself permission to #JustBe.  There is a time to do and a time to be.  I like to think of each day as having three parts – a morning, an afternoon and an evening.  That’s 21 parts to a week.  Many of us are contracted to work for 10 of those, that’s less than half.  In reality, many of us are conditioned into working a lot more of them.

Step 1: Make a list of the things that help you #JustBe.  My list includes go for a walk, take a bath, play music.  Then schedule some #JustBe time in your diary.  Your diary will still be full of things to do, but now there’ll also be space to be too.

Step 2: Here’s the biggie.  Clear your diary.  I dare you.  Just thinking about doing it can be scary, vulnerable.  Liberating, isn’t it?  Your diary becomes an ocean of space to #JustBe.  You now have the choice to schedule in some things to do.  A choice.  All life is a choice.

Choose wisely.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig