Gravity Still Works: Disagreement Resolution

Just because it isn’t new doesn’t mean it won’t be the best answer to a problem.  Gravity is an old concept, one that is generally accepted as constant and undeniable.  How to resolve disagreement falls into the same category, undeniable.  When solutions are dictated, disagreement remains.  When solutions come in the form of compromise, disagreement remains.  When solutions are accepted simply as a means to move forward, disagreement remains.  So, what is the solution?

True, effective, productive disagreement resolution comes in the form of gathering involved parties, committing to resolving the issue in a productive manner.  Once the commitment is made, the issue is discussed, the most productive and effective solution is accepted and people move forward.  This commitment to resolving the issue is the basis for disintegrating the issue.

Is it really that easy?  Sure!  Let’s put it in context…

Steve and John have had a rather loud discussion while in the weekly staff meeting regarding how to solve a problem requiring immediate attention.  Steve and John don’t have a history of trouble and this is an isolated incident.  In a culture where the principles of i5 leadership have been established another team member would simply step in, realizing this affects more than just Steve and John.  The 3rd member would remind Steve and John of their previous commitment to the best answer.  Both men would advocate their solutions, in a reasonable tone of voice, without finger pointing.  Once each had expressed their solution, provided supporting evidence regarding the validity of that reason, and a time frame for completion an ideal decision can be reached.  Because the culture supports these discussions, individuals would be able to hear each other, process the information, and make the right decisions.  Furthermore, the men would accept this decision as what is best for the primary goal of the organization and progress would continue.

Had Steve and John worked in an environment without this underlying commitment, it could easily become a shouting match resulting in a deep divide between these two men.  Odds are they would return to their departments, tumble into 3rd Party Critique, discussing this with their team members, and create a bias within their teams making it difficult for the teams to make progress in the future.

Commitment and discussions may not seem like a new way of solving problems, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.  The latest, greatest trends are worth exploration, but sometimes the tried and true are all you need.  Gravity, it’s not new, but it still works!

Big or Small, Make the Effort to Change: Organization Culture Change

So often I talk about organization culture change.  Let’s broaden the lens here.  Culture change refers to more than just a team or organization, it refers to communities and cities.

What about when organizations commit to making changes?  Microsoft has always had a culture of giving, but last year was incredible!  The company participates in more than 15,000 different community organizations.  Last year (2010), they raised over $96 million.  Microsoft matches dollars raised by employees.  This matching program is a fantastic tool as it gets people out of their chairs and into the community.  Being an active part of the community raises the commitment level and therefore the effectiveness of the work.

When the mayor of New Jersey’s Newark took the lead, the city began a slow, steady change.  His actions changed the way the citizens value themselves and their city. This shift in value has raised the commitment of the residents, the police and fire departments.  Crime is down, education is up, people are living a better and more productive life by taking responsibility for themselves.  Is the job done? NO, but it’s better everyday.

Can you make a change?  Sure, evaluate your values and then do something, anything that communicated that commitment to people around you.  When their values match yours, join together.  Keep up the effort until you have made a difference.  It’s possible, just keep pushing.  From Where We Stand (sign up for our newsletter), anything is possible!

Hey, I need more to do… could you fill out our survey on 3rd Party Critique so that I can crunch some more numbers?  THANKS!

Bob, You Aren’t Worthy of the Truth: Corporate Culture

How do you obtain effective feedback about your performance?  Those under you are reluctant to be completely honest, those beside you are your “friends,” and those above you… well, you are afraid of them.  Though you shouldn’t be.

Often, companies defer to a secretive 360 evaluation when evaluating individuals or corporate culture.  Employees log on to a site and complete a survey or fill out a piece of paper about “Bob.”  The information is then tallied and provided to Bob.  These are generally multiple choice, or rate on a scale style questions.  These leave little “gray” area, and as I have mentioned before, the best information is in the “gray area.”  We advocate a different method.

While 360 serve a purpose, it is not the best way to evaluate Bob. Anonymity gives those answering questions the opportunity to vent, exaggerate. The best way to truly determine the impact of Bob’s behaviors on those around him is to engage everyone in a forum utilizing courage and respect that provides for direct, candid feedback with the intention to help. Once issues have been surfaced, working through them is much easier.

We conduct sessions where Bob’s team would determine an ideal corporate culture and then discuss the current culture culture. In the current discussion, you surface the positives and all underlying issues. Then, develop a plan for addressing any barriers and move forward.

This type of feedback not only addresses Bob, but his impact, the group behaviors, the barriers they all face and provides an action plan for improvement. Couple this with an executive assessment and coaching and you have a tool that will increase effectiveness, productivity, and profitability while reducing disagreement.

Not engaging Bob in discussions (not yelling and blame, but discussions) about the impact of his behaviors communicated an unspoken message that you do not value him or his development.  It doesn’t matter that the truth is you are protecting yourself from the uncomfortable situation, the impact is that he isn’t worthy.

Tell me, what do you think?

Organization Culture Solutions and Mob Mentality

If you work in sales, you might already be aware of some group behavior dynamics.  One of my favorite behaviors to watch is how a single individual can influence the group.

Imagine you are walking through a crowded mall.  There are little stands up and down the center walkway (at least there are here and I feel like I am being heckled much like at a state fair, “Hey Lady, let me guess your weight.”  Yeah right!).  No one is shopping the stands, people are just squeezing past.  Then, one person stops to look.  What happens next?

Another person stops.  Then another and another.  If one person sees value, another person’s interest is validated.

The same thing happens at work.  One person complains about the boss, then another and another.  The more spirited the complaints, the less likely any single individual is to say ANYTHING that isn’t in the same spirit.  This mob mentality is what makes changing culture seem difficult.

In a nutshell, organization culture solutions are a matter of changing the way people “feel” about their work environment.  The same behavior illustrated above works in reverse.  The company makes a change.  A single individual who remarks that the company is really good about “X” leads to another and another.

“Mob mentality” can work in a positive way if it is nurtured and encouraged.

Personally, I want to be in the happy mob!  How about you?

Having trouble making the switch?  Call us, it’s what we do!

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/prinzaffiro/

Organization Culture Solutions: A Simple Question to Encourage Honest Dialogue

If you manage employees, there may be times when one of them comes to you to complain about another. Wanting to be known as approachable and sensitive to our employees’ concerns, we listen to the complaint. Unfortunately, in trying to be a good boss we often become a bad boss. How?

When we listen to one employee complaining about another, we are encouraging not only childish but dishonest behavior. It is childish because it is uncomfortably similar to the “tattletale” behavior of children. It is dishonest in that it is a lie by omission when the person talked about is not told the “truth” of how this employee feels. When we as managers listen to such complaints without involving the other party, suddenly we are practicing 3rd Party Critique. Nothing can erode trust in an organization than the consistent practice of 3rd Party Critique. Several years ago I started using a simple question when an employee came to me to talk about another.

This is the question I would ask: “That concerns me. What did he/she say when you talked to him/her about it?”

This is a powerful little question. The typical responses include a blank stare, a criticism of you for “not doing your job,” or a “I just can’t talk to him/her.” But always the point is taken. This simple question makes it clear: If you come to me to talk about someone else, I want to know that you tried to talk to that person first.

Often employees will say that they just cannot talk to that person. I offer to go with them so that the three of us can practice adult problem-solving. The only exception I make for coming to me first is if it is a matter of safety or ethics. Otherwise, I would expect my employees to try to work out their differences before coming to me.

This little question can be a great tool to use in building a culture of openness and honesty. Once honest communication becomes a norm in the organization, you’ll find a much higher level of trust among your employees.

Check out our new book, or take our survey!

Ain’t It Awful: Symptoms of 3rd Party Critique

The national pastime is not baseball.  It’s not football or basketball.  It’s a game called Ain’t It Awful.  Somewhere in your organization, even as you read this, someone is playing Ain’t It Awful.  It’s a game that is played in all organizations, big or small.  The game is started when someone says something like this:

“Ain’t it awful that we have these weekly staff meetings?”

Usually two or more people are listening, and join in the game:

“And ain’t it awful that the boss let’s Higgins drone on and on and does not stop him.”

Soon others join in:

“Ain’t it awful?  Why doesn’t the boss realize what a waste of time these meetings are?”

Guess who is not present at the game?  The boss.  The very person with whom these employees should be talking.  Ain’t It Awful is one of the outcomes of an organization where 3rd Party Critique is practiced.  It is another form of the betrayal of trust caused by a lack of honest communication.  When a culture exists where employees are afraid to engage in honest dialogue with the boss or with each other, 3rd Party Critique is practiced.  Instead of talking to the person with whom there is an issue, they talk to someone else about that person.  Ain’t It Awful is an outcome of such behaviors.

How about you?  Have you engaged in a game of Ain’t It Awful lately?  You don’t have to start the game to be a player.  The game requires listeners or it cannot be played.  Right now, by the water fountain, in the teachers’ lounge, or in the parking lot, there are people playing Ain’t It Awful.  Such games are symptoms of an ineffective culture, one characterized by a lack of trust among its members.  If there’s lots of Ain’t It Awful being played in your company, organization culture solutions are possible.  Let us help you minimize 3rd Party Critique by working with you to build a culture of openness and honesty.  Contact us at Leadership Partners and we’ll talk with you about how it can be done.  Meanwhile, the game will go on in your organization.

Ain’t it awful?

Check out our case study on Organization Culture Solutions.

3rd Party Critique and Assessments

The use of the word betrayal in relation to 3rd Party Critique really brought home the potential impact of talking about someone to others rather than to the individual. And, as a psychologist who is frequently involved in assessments for selection and development, it is an ever present trap to avoid. How many times have you been involved in discussions regarding an internal or external candidate and heard comments such as, “I’m not sure if this guy is strong enough.”  ”Her impact left me feeling cold. There was no empathy.”  ”The ability is there but I am not sure about the confidence.”  It is always interesting to ask, “Did you raise that with the individual?”

On occasion, the opinion about a candidate may have formed after the discussion following reflection but we will often make intuitive as well as objective judgments as we go along. With experience I have learned to follow my intuition, not necessarily to trust it, but to use it as a pointer for further enquiry to confirm or refute judgments based on the individual’s impact. “You do not seem comfortable with this process. Do you really want to be here?” “When I raise issues with you, you push them back at me rather than explore them.” “You have described yourself as passionate, dynamic and energetic but I am just not seeing that here today.”

Feeding back the impact of behaviors observed in real time in an interview can be very powerful and encourage the individual to open up and offer real insight into their personal style. It can also encourage people to be more enquiring about their impact and achieve a form of 360 review without the need for formal processes. So the next time you are involved in an assessment and are asked, “Did you raise that with the individual?…………………..”

Try it.  Raise it. Ask.  Follow through.  You might be surprised by what you learn.

Check out our case study on Assessments:

Invisible Handcuffs: Part of the Organization Culture

Between you and me, I had no idea there was such a thing as invisible handcuffs.  Turns out there is, and it is directly related to 3rd Party Critique and Organization Culture Solutions.  Imagine the scenario:

You are talking to a colleague (#1) who essentially says here is what is happening and don’t tell anyone.  You have just been cuffed.  Immediately you realize airing this information would be best, but you committed to remaining silent.  What good is that silence?  Does it help you, your colleague or the situation?  The probable long term answer is no, no and no.  It likely serves a single purpose, protect person #1 from an embarrassing or difficult conversation.  Telling you was temporarily freeing for #1 and it jailed you.

Talk to #1, encourage the necessary conversation, offer to sit in during the conversation or rehearse the statements prior to the conversation.  Get #1 & #2 together and then you (#3) are finally free.  Are there exceptions?  Certainly.  Is it easy to kid yourself and let the silence to continue?  Yes.   Is it in your or their best interest to remain silent?  No. Does silence affect the organization culture and impact the bottom line?  Most definitely.

You can start with baby steps:  tell a stranger they have spinach in their teeth, ink on their shirt and work your way up to the big issues… telling #1 to talk to #2, approaching your boss with a new idea, speaking up in your meetings.

From Where We Stand, effective interactions between individuals must be based on courage and respect in equal balance.  Practice your candor skills, use fact and observation to back any statements and open the doors to the possibilities that are just ahead.

Check out our survey on 3rd Party Critique. http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/257484/3rd-party-critique-prevalence-and-persistence-in-today-s-workplace We depend on your experience.  Need some help, call us!

When Silence Isn’t Golden: Organization Culture Solutions

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Powerful words.

I attended a meeting that was a clear example of 3rd Party Critique and needed organization culture change.

The Senior VP was unable to attend at the last minute.  Without the VP present, a few directors reporting to him were quick to point out to the entire group all the flaws in the VP’s plans and then flaws in the VP himself.  They offered no solutions and the meeting quickly declined into a discussion about the VP’s abilities, or lack thereof.  Down the table, a new employee (let’s call him Steve) who was just getting his feet wet on the team looked distressed.  He finally asked what we were doing, a simple question that caught everyone off guard.  One of the most vocal directors glared at Steve and tersely stated that the group was discussing the flaws of the VP’s plan and did Steve have a problem with that.  Here is where Steve gained my respect and the respect of several others in the room, Steve quietly stated, “If we are discussing the flaws in the plan, why isn’t this being done with the VP present?  Shouldn’t we postpone and reconvene later?”

There was silence in the room.  The vocal director continued to glare at Steve, but the chairs were pushed back and everyone left.  In our eyes, Steve had just challenged a bull.

Later that day the Senior VP called Steve into his office.  The VP had been given minimal information about the exchange.  Steve was asked why he said anything at all.  “In my experience, if the person who is able to make changes, modify his actions or address any issues is not present when the heated discussions take place, the person cannot grow and the project will not be fully successful.  In this case, that was you.”

Then the Senior VP asked if Steve would like to tell him anything about the director.  Steve said, “Not without him here.  Would you call him?”  That was when Steve gained the VP’s respect.

The three individuals discussed the event, the lessons to be learned and made plans for how to continue in the future.  The VP learned that the culture among those reporting to him was not producing optimal results.  The VP thanked Steve for his willingness to speak to the greater good and for his focus on the work that was to be done.  The VP then retained help to find organization culture solutions that would address their specific needs.

Steve and the director never went to lunch socially, but they had a respect for each other.  This was valuable a few years later when Steve became the director’s boss.

What would have happened if Steve had remained silent?  Would the VP ever know what happened at the meeting?  Would the issues have been addressed?  Would the work been better or worse?  We can only guess, but my guess is no, no, and worse as no information means no change or improvement.

Check out our case study on Leadership Workshops, our next is November 16, 2010!

Photo thanks to:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/40358860@N04/4250115351/