It seems to me as though organisations seem to be polarising in to those that follow a traditional "people are resources" model, and those that describe that "people are humans first and foremost".
Did you know that on any given day, at least 1 in 10 of the workforce is experience a bereavement.
We recently conducted some research into the impact of bereavement and grief on productivity. The results were fascinating...
Let's talk about feelings - sometimes managers shy away from discussing feelings, because it makes them, well, feel uncomfortable.
And yet feelings drive us at work just as much as elsewhere:
Collective dreaming is an opportunity for a group of people to construct a vision of their future. With its roots in positive psychology, and appreciative enquiry, it shifts the focus away from problems to be solved, and on to doing what works, and doing more of what is already working. Recently, I was working with a team who had been through a tough time lately. A great deal of organisational change, a couple of formal complaints and high staff turnover risked making this team of exceptional people become disillusioned. They were ready for some positive thinking.
Through a guided visualisation, I had the team envision a point in time one year on, and to think themselves into it, as if it were now. They explored questions like what the environment looks like and sounds like; how it feels to work in this team; how they are behaving towards one another and towards their customers; what they are saying to one another; what a fly on the wall would notice about the team; what skills and capabilities they are drawing on to be successful; what new opportunities are arising to further develop their skills; what the team’s core values are; and how their own personal values are being met by being part of the team.
I asked them each to come up with a metaphor for the team in a year’s time, when it is operating just as brilliantly as they want it to be. The results were richly varied. One person chose a German automobile company as their metaphor, identifying characteristics such as efficiency, innovation, expertise in each unique component part, brought together skilfully to make a high-performing result. Another chose a beaver, because it is industrious, works together with others to maximise resources, collaborates, is organised and at the same time a cohesive social unit. Another chose Brains from the Thunderbirds, because he is the communication hub, with his finger on the pulse, accessing and utilising all the other members of the team to get the best results. The picture above was one person's tree metaphor.
The team needed no further guidance to start to extract the common themes from their wide-ranging metaphors, to create their shared vision of the future. Further thinking created an inventory of resources within the team to generate the planning and momentum needed for the immediate actions. Stimulated by one person choosing Google as their metaphor, they realised that the staff turnover could be re-framed as a positive thing – the natural consequence of being a team of intelligent, talented, young, ambitious professionals. Inevitably such people would be highly employable and much in demand; and the loss of one team member would give the opportunity for the others to step up to the plate, learn new skills and extend their experience.
The day ended with the team buzzing with excitement and a palpable increase in their self-worth. Collective Dreaming may sound like an intangible concept, but it can deliver absolutely tangible results.
In the last few years, the use of YouTube, webinars and podcasts has created a very credible rival to class-room based training. For a long time, many people engaged in soft-skills training (communication, leadership, management skills etc.) fought a defensive battle arguing that these skills could only really be delivered face-to-face, since they are, at the core, skills to do with people interacting with one another.
However, as we work more with distributed teams and use these technologies to communicate, lead and manage, then surely our training environments can, and should, adapt in line with these new methods of communication? I look at my own team, which includes a network of many associates, none of whom are co-located with me. We rarely meet up in person, doing the vast majority of our interactions through a mixture of media and communication channels including Skype, telephone, email, webinars, teleconferences, video-conferences, Facebook etc.
There is a place for both face-to-face training AND the use of new media to deliver soft-skills training. I personally took some persuasion. As a self-confessed Luddite I have long resisted the use of YouTube as a learning vehicle. However, increasing evidence of its importance to those around me convinced me that if I am to appeal to all learning styles effectively, then it was time to stop my ostrich impression and start to embrace the possibilities that are constantly emerging.
In our recent programme, From Crisis To Clarity, designed for professionals facing a career change, we created a fully-blended environment, involving:
- live interactive webinars including both teaching new material and live coaching of participants.
- recordings of the webinars made available to listen to offline.
- discussion forums to allow participants to interact with each other.
- confidential real-time messaging to allow participants to discuss their personal progress in private with the tutors.
- face-to-face meet-ups to allow participants to work together in person.
- a variety of video recordings of interviews with relevant experts.
- audio recordings of coaching exercises so that participants could listen and work through the exercises at their own pace and in their own time.
- written material available on-demand to support the learning process.
For a technophobe, I've certainly come a long way! What new ways of learning and communicating have you integrated into your own leadership and management? I'd love to hear about your experiences.
In a recent post on LinkedIn, Daniel Goleman offered up advice for dealing with untrustworthy people. The premise of the article was that untrustworthy people habitually lie to you or let you down, and that it is possible to develop strategies to work with them whether they are subordinates, colleagues or your boss. So far, so good.
The comments to this article included many personal testaments of having to work alongside untrustworthy people. What struck me was the completely unspoken but consistent assumption that "being untrustworthy" is a permanent and irreversible condition, on a par with having blue eyes, or being colour-blind.
Is that necessarily so? I'd like to offer some defence of untrustworthy people.
So what is it that compels us to label someone as "untrustworthy"? Because to be untrustworthy is not a condition that we are born with, nor should it be a permanent label.
Let us think of the impact of using a similar label with children. If a teacher tells a child "you are a bully", then this is creating a label for that child's whole identity, which leaves no room for all the other good and valuable things about their identity. What happens to "you are kind", "you are smart", "you are funny", when you've just been told "you are a bully"? And when you've just been told "you are untrustworthy" what happens to "you are loyal", "you are hard-working", "you are talented" or simply, "you are human"?
Typically, a number of examples of a certain behaviour type that can be labelled as untrustworthy have been generalised by the observer into being the defining characteristic of the whole person. This then deletes all the other observable behaviours which of course will include the normal human range of helpful, neutral and unhelpful behaviours. But the person labelled "untrustworthy" is then only seen through the blinkers that filter out anything else that is true about them and about their other behaviours.
A second, and even more damaging issue when labelling someone as being "untrustworthy" lies in the complete absence of any consideration given to the reasons which underlie the behaviour. If most of us are completely honest, we can think of examples when we might have appeared to be untrustworthy. I know it's true of me.
For example we might be guilty of forgetting a commitment; misleading someone; not doing something we had promised; failing to pass on a piece of information. In each case we know the reason behind it. Maybe we were stressed or overworked at the time. Maybe a matter of a higher priority (to us) arose which took precedence. Maybe we made a promise in order to please someone even though we knew we lacked the skills or resources to deliver. Maybe we felt backed into a corner. Maybe we simply forgot. Who knows?
So before we are quick to judge someone as being untrustworthy, we should take a moment to consider. Firstly, it is not the whole person, but the behaviour that we should be examining. And secondly, what might be true for that person to behave that way with a good, dare I say trustworthy, intention?
Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the wisdom of Plato. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
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A miscellany of articles and opinions on communication, leadership and management topics.