Take the Shape Quiz to learn about yourself and colleagues

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Communication, Conflict, Creativity, Effective conversations, Leadership, Self-awareness, Teams | 3 comments

This fun quiz is designed to get you thinking about how different we are.  It’s important to understand that you approach your work with a style and perspective that varies from your colleagues.  Understanding and appreciating the strengths within those differences allows you to become more successful.  You can start to work with the differences rather than against them.  It’s not meant to be a label – people are far too interesting and multi-dimensional for that.   Still, for the purposes of the quiz you’ll pick from four shapes. If it isn’t apparent already, there is no value judgment connected with which shape category people fall in. None of them are better than the other ones. Each one has qualities that are good for certain purposes and it has qualities that aren’t so good for other purposes. So here’s the quiz:  pick the figure you like most of these four shapes – a square, a triangle, a circle or a squiggle.  Then you can scroll to the bottom for a description of that type, including tips for your own improvement and tips for others to work better with you.  For a more complete picture you can even pick the figure you like the best and then the figure you like the second best.     The purpose of the quiz is not just self-understanding, but better communication.  You need to orient toward the style of the other person. A square will want specifics or perhaps details in writing. A triangle won’t appreciate indecisiveness. You may have to remove distractions before getting a squiggle’s attention. A circle needs to connect and have a conversation. In handling conflict, circles tend to accommodate or compromise. Triangles tend to compete, or, if they see how they can gain, compromise. Squiggles may not even perceive there’s an issue, but they can be competitive in defense of an idea. Avoidance is characteristic of squares because they don’t like dealing with emotion, or they may dig in until they get more information. Groups tend to take on a personality of their own.   Good teamwork needs all the shapes – triangles to focus on decisions and results, circles for harmony, squiggles for ideas, and squares to create the systems to get the details done. THE SHAPES QUIZ SQUARE:
 Details & Data & Systems People Characteristics: Hardest workers; task oriented Loyal Structured; organized Think sequentially, logically May be stubborn with opinions based on their data Value details and data; analytical Know policies & rules Not fond of change, prefer a stable environment Prefer to working alone to teamwork May see fun as unnecessary or a luxury Trouble saying “I’ve got enough information” Conservative, regular, orderly Meeting behavior:  well prepared, lots of notes, gets right down to work Motto: “Give me a job and a deadline and I’ll get it done” If you are a square it might help help you to: Be less picky with people Create your own routines Allow yourself to make a few mistakes so you...

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In-Groups and Out-Groups At Work

Posted by on Mar 5, 2015 in Conflict, Teams | 0 comments

In groups and out groups aren’t just a bad memory from high school.  They are ever present in the work place, often subtle, and incredibly easy to create.  Unfortunately, they often diminish effective performance and limit collaboration. In most organizations I work with, there are still functional silos.  Manufacturing doesn’t talk to sales.  Clinical doesn’t like administration.  The commercial loan folks don’t like the mortgage folks.  It’s not that they don’t like each other as people – they just see each other as “different.” Unfortunately that perceived difference has grave consequences. Our history as humans trying to survive has made us very attuned to “in groups” and “out groups.”  We relied on those closest to us to help us and couldn’t trust those we didn’t easily recognize. The brain evolved to process information about those close to us in the same way we process information about ourselves – in the same part of the brain.  So we have more empathy, more acceptance, more intention to understand. On the other hand, when we see those in an “out group” do something, we process that behavior in a different part of the brain.  Therefore, we tend to assume they are motivated differently than us, so we have less understanding, less ability to process their pain.  And we are much more likely to misread our impact on them or miss it entirely. Let’s say marketing is a close group and the sales team is a close group and someone in the marketing department makes a mistake.  The sales team are less likely to be empathetic, to think “oh, I could have made that mistake,” and more likely to think, “they are so incompetent.”  The next time marketing needs to collaborate with sales, they will have less success and perhaps be met with hostility, even though in any organization marketing and sale need to work together. Here are three ways leaders can help break down barriers and build a collaborative environment. Having some relaxed social time together builds connection – a pizza lunch, for example.  Casual time that includes some humor (fun) promotes a sense of relatedness. Expressions of gratitude build a communal sense on both sides that can last long afterward. Creating shared goals is particularly important and can re-integrate the groups so the barriers break...

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Organizational Tangles: Use a SCARF to untangle them

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Change, Conflict, Self-awareness, Teams | 0 comments

I have a client in an  “organizational tangle,” as Dr. Marcia Ruben titles a business challenge with multiple causes, diverse stakeholders, conflicting agendas, and charged emotions.  We’ve been using a the SCARF model of understanding five motivators to find a way to untangle the situation. SCARF is an acronym for a relatively new model of human needs developed by David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute (where I’m pursuing certification in NeuroLeadership) based on the last ten years of neuroscience.  It is based in part on the research that the brain feels social pain as intensely as physical pain, and we have more memory of our social pain than physical pain.   Research has also shown that our brains are primed to move away from threat or pain and toward reward or pleasure.   So at work, we are motivated to join in or avoid situations based on five domains that our brains have evolved to value for survival purposes. These five social drivers described by SCARF are S:  status (our social standing compared to others) C:  certainty (our ability to anticipate, predict, and prepare) A:  autonomy (our sense of control) R:  relatedness (our connection to others – be they friend or foe) F:  fairness (our perception of the equity of a situation) We’re all different so we have individual SCARF profiles.  There is even an initial assessment so you can discover your rating of the five (although the assessment has yet to be validated.)   Click here if you want to try it.  About 46% of the thousands of people taking the assessment have rated Certainty as their dominant domain, so see how you compare. My client’s role gives him high status in the organization, which can blind him to the impact of his decisions on the status of others in the organization.  Similarly he has a low need for certainty, having lived an entrepreneurial life with a high tolerance for risk and change, so he didn’t foresee how the uncertainty of the change he implemented would impact his staff. Furthermore, since the change was initiated as a top down process, the staff is struggling with a lack of perceived autonomy. The research on the SCARF model shows that the domains interact and  improvement in one domain can offset another.  My client has made use of this as a strategy.  He’s been spending a lot more time walking around his facility, talking with people, jumping in to help with even mundane tasks such as emptying recycling bins holding town hall lunches – building an increased sense of relatedness and reducing the status differential.  He’s created a temporary team of volunteers from each department to bring forward everyone’s ideas about how to implement the details of the change – building an increased perception of autonomy.  (And it’s the perception, not the actual control, that is what matters to the brain.) Using the SCARF model is helping him untangle the tangle.  In the future he will be able to use it in...

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Hard Conversations of Managing Up – 10 Guidelines

Posted by on Nov 8, 2013 in Communication, Conflict, Effective conversations | 0 comments

What do you do when it feels like your boss (or your board chair or whomever may be “above you”) isn’t managing you effectively?  What if they are  micromanaging?  Or eroding your authority?  Or constantly changing your priorities?  Here are some ideas to help you examine the situation, and then tackle the issue directly if the conditions are right. Much as it’s easy to just blame the other person, interactions between people are created by all involved so you need to look at the component pieces.  Start where you hopefully have the most control:  with yourself. When anyone’s behavior evokes your emotion, ask yourself what might be triggering the emotion in you – your past work experience, other life events, stress, etc.   Be honest with yourself, and maybe talk with someone you trust. Then explore your own behavior and performance, again trying to be honest.  What are you doing (words, actions or behaviors (or “perceived” behaviors)) that could be provoking your boss’s response? Once you’ve fully examined your side, shift to trying to see the situation from the other side.  What might it look like through the eyes of your boss?  What concerns could be a trigger for your boss, either current or past?  (Occasionally it’s stuff left over from the person who had your role before you.) What does the bottom line look like? For example, micromanagement can come from a boss who knows your role too well, and finds it easy to see it in detail and from their own intimate experience.  It can come from a personal passion for the issue.  The same micromanagement can also come from distrust or fear.  Maybe you, (or someone you represent) has made tactical or strategic errors that have made your boss gun shy.    Perhaps your boss is under extreme pressure to produce and is just acting out that stress by increasing their involvement and control. Once you’ve looked at motivations for your response, and motivations for your boss’s behavior, look at structural or organizational issues.  Close management, or apparent erosion of your authority can come from unclear definition of roles and responsibilities.  Are your expectations of your authority and accountability in alignment with your boss’s expectations?  In many organizations, there is “dotted line” accountability, or “matrix” management which can allow for fascinating collaboration and cross-functional work, and can very often complicate and cloud boundaries. Once you feel you’ve clearly and honestly examined the situation from multiple perspectives, what to do?  How do you have the hard conversation with your boss?  First you have to decide if it’s worth the risk.  Is your boss someone who might be open to feedback?  (Often leaders lose opportunities for feedback as they move up the ranks so perhaps the boss isn’t aware of the impact of his or her behavior.) Your goal should be to create the conditions in which your boss gets interested in what you have to say rather than defensive, or closed.  While you can find tips for being heard...

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Leadership lessons from my trip to South Africa

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in Conflict, Decision Making, Leadership | 0 comments

I just returned from South Africa, a country of extremes.   Extreme beauty, extreme wealth, extreme poverty and cultural divides.   It took the extreme skills of leadership of many but particularly Nelson Mandela to have transformed it from an apartheid culture.   What can we learn? In trying to understand more, I found a copy of Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom,  I was struck by the importance he attributed to the lessons he learned as a child because he was the heir to the position of advisor to the throne. Learning Consensus Leadership:  As a boy, he sat at the feet of the regent of the Thembu tribal nation watching him discuss matters of great importance with his people. The regent would listen to each in turn, never arguing or defending himself regardless of the attacks or complaints until all had been heard.   How different from the political campaign we’ve all just experienced. “Only at the end of the meeting, as the sun was setting, would the regent speak,” remembered Mandela.    “His purpose was to sum up what had been said and form some consensus among the diverse opinions.  But no conclusion was forced on people who disagreed.  If no agreement could be reached, another meeting would be held…. “As a leader, I have always followed the principles I first saw demonstrated by the regent at the Great Place.  I have always endeavored to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion.  Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion.  I always remember the regent’s axiom:  a leader, he said, is like a shepherd.  He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” What Mandela describes is so different from what I observe in many leaders today who feel they must always be advocating, always talk first.  Throughout his autobiography you see this again and again.  How Mandela was willing to listen to the many extremely divergent opinions of the varied people of South Africa who were at times living in extreme fear and hatred of one another. Courage to step out alone:  And yet, later in the book, he also talks of the point where he gets separated from his fellow political prisoners after decades in jail.  It is at that point that he decides he must initiate movement toward talks between the African National Congress and the government.  He does it without consultation or cooperation from the rest of the ANC leaders, showing the other extreme of leadership – when you must stand alone. “I knew that my colleagues upstairs would condemn my proposal, and that would kill my initiative even before it was born.  There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the...

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Know when to hold ’em; Know when to fold ’em

Posted by on Jun 1, 2012 in Change, Conflict, Leadership | 0 comments

Why is it so hard to let go?  One leader had to let go of an employee that they’d really hoped would work out.  Another leader had to make a decision to pull the plug on a project in which significant resources had been invested. In both cases, they admitted they’d waited too long. The office where the employee should have been let go many months ago was already contaminated with pessimism and negativity.  There was a drop in revenue and lost opportunity because of mis-aligned priorities.  Two employees had been put in place as a “work-around” –  instead of dealing with the real problem, circumvent it by adding extra people that will be easier to deal with.  Both employees, valuable in their potential, left. Why do we hang on so long? Relentless Hope:  My colleague Stuart Simon calls it relentless hope.  He uses the analogy of the Peanuts cartoon strip in which Lucy is always pulling the football out from under Charlie Brown’s kick but Charlie Brown continues to try, hoping she won’t.  Why does he keep getting disappointed?  Because he can’t let go of his expectations.  Hope is getting in his way. In the case where the client had to pull the plug on a project, there was a substantial investment in software, hardware, and the important resources of time and energy.  They all kept hoping success was just around the corner.  Just tweak this or that. “We’re just starting to gain momentum so we can’t get out now.  We’ll waste all the resources we’ve already invested.”  So the client kept pressing ahead until the evidence was clear the project wasn’t going to be worth the continued investment. Conflict Avoidance: In some cases I surmise that it’s not just about expectations and hope of success but also about reluctance to face the problem.  I worked with an organization that laughingly formed a 12 Step group called Conflict Avoiders Anonymous (CAA).  In their case, it was easier to put a “work-around” in place than face the conflict head on.  They hated difficult conversations and tended to beat around the bush in giving tough news or making tough decisions.  Then there’s the whole emotional baggage of admitting mistakes. In the book Thinking, Fast and Slow,which I mention in another blog post on right-sized optimism author Daniel Kahneman Kahneman also asserts we are more focused on avoiding loss than on achieving gain so therefore the gain has to be perceived as large enough to compensate for the potential risk. He also claims that “in bad choices, where a sure loss is compared to a larger loss that is merely probable, diminishing sensitivity causes risk seeking.” In the case of the client who had already invested XXX,XXX dollars, to pull the plug meant the sure loss of that total investment.  A risk of continued investment with the hope of success is perceived as worth it because the loss of that additional investment is just a possibility compared with the sure loss...

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