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Posts tagged ‘Organization Behavior’

the decision to trust

One of the quickest ways to gain everyone’s focus is to say the word “trust” in any given situation: work, training, coaching – the workplace, community organization, or family. We know who we trust and want others to trust us. But we don’t spend much time thinking about how and why we trust others and how and why others trust us.

Have you ever extended trust and gotten burned? Distrust leads to anxiety, fear, and anger. These are associated with processes initiated by the amygdala – the “low road” of the brain. A judgment of distrust immediately sets up the fight – flight – freeze experience in a threat response.

How do you feel when you’ve extended trust and received trust in return? Neurological research suggests that trust is correlated with the presence of oxytocin. This hormone is associated with healthy personal connections demonstrated by reduced fear response and increased well-being. In a trusting environment of relationships, the high-level brain functions – critical analysis, logic, creative thinking, and verbal ability – are easily accessed.

From behind the desk as leaders and managers, we function every day in workplaces where there is never enough time to reach the end of the “to-do” list. We face an unending series of conflicting demands. We are forced to change priorities often, sometimes on the spot. We do not always have control over compensation or promotions. We try to be transparently honest, consistent in our actions, and caring about each person. Yet we wonder why at times people work with an air of resignation, with a lack of trust in our leaders and organizations.

Understanding trust in the workplace:
Trust in the workplace is about vulnerability. In the workplace we are vulnerable in the areas of money, role, or promotions. And vulnerable to intangible things like beliefs, a way of doing things, status, or reputation. We are vulnerable to other’s actions. When we trust, we hope their actions will support and, at least, not harm us.

Trust is the focus of safety, autonomy, and human dignity. When we trust, our reactions include: I am safe. I can be open and curious. I can handle what is happening. I communicate freely, offer ideas, and expect the best. The opposites are true for distrust: I am in danger and under threat. I need to protect myself. I can’t handle this. I complain, withdraw, and expect the worst. I experience fear, anger, and resentment.

When we choose to trust we are making a complex decision. Stating that we trust someone is based on our judgment in four areas: integrity, intent, capabilities, and results.

  • Integrity has become a buzzword. It is invisible. But at its core, integrity is honesty: telling the truth and leaving the right impression. Other qualities that are a part of integrity are: congruence – acting consistently from our values, humility – putting others first while being more concerned about what is right rather than being right, and courage – doing the right thing even in the face of challenges.
  • Intent is part of our character. At its core is sincerity and motivation. To increase trust, intent must be visible. We communicate openly about what we are choosing to do and why we are acting. We communicate that our motivation is to act for the genuine benefit of others. We seek ways to create “enough” rather than function out of stress and scarcity.
  • Capabilities are more than the traditional “KSA” – knowledge, skills, and abilities. They include “TASKS:” Talents – natural gifts and strengths. Attitudes – our map of the world and how we behave. Skills – what we do well, specifically ones that are relevant to our work. Knowledge – learning, insight, and awareness. Style – our unique approaches to work, our personality.
  • Results represent our track record in taking responsibility for accomplishing goals and getting the right things done.

Managing trust in the workplace:
Since trust is a complex decision, as leaders and managers we can begin to understand ourselves by asking, “How am I acting and communicating in ways that build trust in my integrity and sincerity? In my intent and care? In my capabilities and competence? In my results and reliability?”

We manage more successfully when we ask ourselves why we don’t trust someone before we begin having workplace conversations. What are we saying when we say that we don’t trust someone? Do we have issues with their integrity? Intentions? Capabilities? Or, results?

Then we begin the conversation with being specific about our concerns about what they have done, not focusing on what they are. Ask how they see the situation and listen carefully for issues of integrity, intent, capabilities, and results.

Ask what they would do to restore trust. State clearly what actions and attitudes you need to experience from them in order to restore trust. Close by asking how they will commit to act in a trustworthy way.

On the flip side, if we have broken trust, the only antidote is to acknowledge and apologize. Acknowledgement means recognizing the betrayal of trust from the other person’s perspective – even if it was unintentional on your part. Be specific about how trust was betrayed: by integrity, intent, capability, or result. And apologize: take responsibility and state your intent to act with good motives and care for everyone’s benefit and well-being. It always includes not repeating the action and acting to correct the problem at hand.

Practicing trust in the workplace:
Observe your co-workers and begin to distinguish between different types of trust issues. Reflect on what others you trust are saying and doing that makes them trustworthy. Ask, “What do you entrust to others in the workplace? Why? What do your co-workers entrust to you? Why?”

Inspire trust by seeking to understand yourself and your own credibility, and then consistently behave in trust-building ways with other people. Consider how you can communicate so that others do not misunderstand you. Create and hold an intention to be trustworthy. An intention will bring clarity (why I’m doing this), meaning (why it’s important to me), and purpose (why this reflects my values) to everything that happens

Trust in the workplace takes an understanding how others judge trustworthiness, observing language and actions, and setting an intention to be a trusted leader, co-worker, and employee. Relationships based on mutual trust are the foundation for health in our companies, government, communities, and families.

What do you entrust to others in the workplace? Why? What do your co-workers entrust to you? Why?

Provocative Leadership: Beyond “Best Practices” to “Next Practices”

Here is an excerpt from a longer article:

Have you thrown out your strategic plan yet? If you made one several months ago, I’m willing to guess that you have. The landscape of reality has already changed … . So now what? Here’s a story-poem, “Brief Thoughts on Maps,” to consider:

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who knew a lot about maps
according to which life is on its way somewhere or other,
told us this story from the war
due to which history is on its way somewhere or other:

The young lieutenant of a small Hungarian detachment in the Alps
sent a reconnaissance unit out into the icy wasteland.
It began to snow
immediately, snowed for two days and the unit
did not return. The lieutenant suffered: he had dispatched
his own people to death.

But the third day the unit came back.
Where had they been? How had they made their way?
Yes, they said, we considered ourselves
lost and waited for the end. And then one of us
found a map in his pocket. That calmed us down.
We pitched camp, lasted out the snowstorm and then with the map
we discovered our bearings.
And here we are.

The lieutenant borrowed this remarkable map
and had a good look at it. It was not a map of the Alps
but of the Pyrenees.

Goodbye now. 1

When faced with an unfamiliar situation, the soldiers discovered that “any map” can be useful. Why? A map leads to confidence and action. You take steps forward, re-check the map, learn, make adjustments, and take more steps. As you re-check the map, you look around, surveying the environment. You re-orient to the reality that is. You learn, assess, and consider options. You make decisions about what to try next. You embrace error and uncertainty; yet you still chose to take the next step.

Provocative leadership is not about authority. Provocative leadership is about …

Click here to read more about Provocative Leadership

What are your ideas about “best practices” vs. “next practices?”

Imagining New Maps

1Holub, M. (1977) ‘Brief Thoughts on Maps’, Times Literary Supplement, 4 February 4, p. 118.

Habits for organizations and individuals

Charles Duhigg’s new book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, uses case studies and stories along with descriptions of current research on habits and change to demonstrate the power of habits. Habits of individuals, successful organizations, and societies are held up as examples.

I discovered this book after reading the recent New York Times article: How Companies Learn Your Secrets. I was intrigued by the way companies use data analytics to market to consumers before the consumer knows what they want. The key is using the data to not only discover and support existing habits, but to target consumers who are at life-change-points. Change points disrupt routine, allowing the company to attempt to create new habits through marketing schemes. Perhaps scheme is too strong or too British a word, but the changed habits result in a big jump in the bottom line. For example: Target’s sales grew from $44 billion to $65 billion after they began a “heightened focus” on “specific guest segments” (p. 210).

Duhigg writes about organizations from Starbucks to the Indianapolis Colts to Saddleback church. He details how these diverse organizations make use of individual and community habits to create change and transformation. He looks at how leaders alter existing habits and create new ones through accident and design. He tells stories about leaders using change, crisis, and disruption to introduce new habits and behaviors into organizations.

My favorite case study is the story of Paul O’Neill, CEO at Alcoa. O’Neill focused on changing one habit across a multi-national organization: safety, . Through focusing on changing one habit, everything about Alcoa’s culture shifted. Priorities, goals, and ways of thinking changed. The focus on safety “created a climate in which all kinds of new ideas bubbled up” (p. 118).

There are three essential points on the neurological loop: the cue, the routine, and the reward – supported by belief. The opportunity to change happens when we identify a cue, routine, reward cycle. The simplest transformation happens when we simply change the routine we use, the center of the cycle. For example: cue – I’m tired, routine – surfing the web, reward – idea stimulation. Replace the routine with taking a walk around the office or around the block. The reward is the same, but the physical activity can offer even more rewards.

This is not a self-help book or an organizational blueprint for change. But if you are interested in case studies and stories of how habits influence organizational and individual change, I recommend this book.

What are the habits that influence your organization’s priorities and behaviors?

Great by Choice

An invitation to rethink teambuilding

A team is a group of people on a project with a common task and deadline. They depend on each other to produce successful outcomes, communicating constantly and usually informally. They need each other to “get it done.” When completed, the group has the sense that “we” did it! Examples of a team include a basketball team, a project team, or an ambulance crew. Organizational research demonstrates that teams increase their effectiveness and efficiency through “teambuilding” interventions.

An organization is more often a tribe or, in the case of a large organization, a federation. A federation is a collection of groups that work together to use common resources or promote common interests. The managers of individual groups protect the interests of their own group whether budget dollars, resources, or objectives. In meetings the group managers bring their own aims and perspectives. They promote their own group. A federation is often full of political lobbying and conflict, leading to a lack of consensus. It is easy to see why federation managers would ask for “teambuilding.”

A tribe is a group with a shared identity and a sense of shared mission and purpose. They may have a functional “head” and a “team spirit.” There may be smaller groups or individuals with independent responsibilities that support the larger goals. There are formal procedures and processes. Communication is a combination of formal and informal. There is an overall structure that allows work to get done. While work is judged individually, few people would put the organization at risk so that they could be successful. Usually emotional ties are strong; people care about each other and the organization. Can a tribe benefit from “teambuilding?”

Most managers are not managing teams, but rather federations or tribes. So, what do managers really want when they ask for a “teambuilding” intervention? In my experience, they want people within the group to forge a strong sense of belonging, to be willing to take the needs of the whole organization into account, to be willing to sacrifice for the good of the group. They want to be a group who attracts others to join.

Simple activities that help to forge a sense of belonging include sharing meals together and participating in community service. Informal activities could be a time of storytelling around a specific topic such as, “how I chose to become a part of this organization.” Formal interventions like a World Café or Appreciative Inquiry can increase individual’s sense of belonging and identifying with the group. Discover ways to share the inspiration that comes with increased personal connection and commitment – inspiration and energy attracts others.

I invite you to rethink “teambuilding” in your organization.

On Football and Credibility

Things we know well

According to NHTSA, 52% of vehicle accidents happen within one mile of home; 99% happen within 50 miles of home. I would argue that it is due to the quality of our attention. Whether we’re driving, typing on the computer, or playing an instrument, our skills learned through repetition become automatic.

When I see a niece or nephew for the first time in a year, I’m surprised at the changes they’re making. I say, “Wow, you’re growing up!” But with kids I see on a daily basis, growth is more easily measured at birthdays or when suddenly the kid is as tall as I am. Whether watching kids grow or noticing whether we’re clicking “Yes” or “Ok,” a familiar environment diminishes our awareness of change.

When skills become automatic and awareness diminishes, it is easier to make mistakes. Accidents happen. We have a fender bender. We delete the wrong file. How can we decrease the amount of unintentional mistakes and accidents?

One method is to create a checklist and use it. If you can, build in “undo” options  that allow you to go back a step or two. If you can’t go back, build additional options into the decision tree that allow either correction or lessened impact of the error. Encourage a buddy system, where coworkers or friends double-check decisions as you go through the checklist. Be present as you perform skills and as you run to the grocery store.

What other strategies do you use to increase your present moment awareness?

P.S. The photo is of the sky reflecting on the hood of the truck.

Excellence is a habit

The allowed list

Does your organization have an employee handbook? Do you have policies that “have someone’s name on them” – you know, the ones that were added to address one person’s behavior? Is there an invisible handbook with rules about “the way we really do things around here”?

These sentences all ran through my mind as I read Simon Sinek’s post, You Are Allowed. He has five rules that are “to do” – not “don’t do,” which I repeat here:

1. Make the decision you think is the right decision to make
2. Start something that needs to be started to help advance the cause
3. Ask for help whenever you want it
4. Help others whenever you can (even if they don’t ask for it)
5. Take time off to do something that inspires, excites and energizes you

If I could add to the list:

6. Try something new at least once a week and let everyone know what you learn

What would you add to the “allowed list”?

Stories we tell – two

We no longer obtain most of our stories from each other. We watch them on screens or listen with earphones. … Films and television teach us that a few people are central to the plot and the rest are marginal. … We would like to be main characters but we have learned that the important stories are happening to other people.
David Loy, from The World is Made of Stories

Stories we tell – one
What’s your experience?

Stories we tell – one

You get older, and you realize there are no answers, just stories. And how we love them.
Garrison Keillor

Idea for reflection – 31
My teacher got rid of my imagination
Stories that resonate

World Cafe

Mutually assured distraction

One of the questions I am frequently asked in workshops is, “How do we deal with people emailing and texting in our meetings or presentations or training sessions?” This is not easy to answer, especially when the person using the smart phone is above you in the organization. Using smartphones 24/7 to text, email, or use social networks happens constantly – and not just at work. It happens at lunch with colleagues and friends. It happens when I’m on a walk in the evening with Jon. It happens (illegally in Kansas) while people are driving.

It is a scientific fact that we cannot multi-task. We can only do one thing at a time. The more we jump from task-to-task, the lower our productivity and quality of work becomes. And yet we allow our meetings and personal conversations to be constantly interrupted – distracted by the technology at hand.

One workplace strategy is to use ground rules in meetings. One of the ground rules might be: Show respect by giving full attention to our discussion; if you have to take a call or email, excuse yourself from the meeting. In classrooms, I state that I expect students to give their full attention to the dialogue and activities; if they have to take an emergency call, I ask them to leave the classroom. During time with family and friends, I often choose to turn my phone to vibrate or off, which allows me to focus on the experience we are creating and sharing.

When any of us choose to allow constant interruptions of conversations, activities, and even decision-making processes, we are chosing to function at levels that undermine our goals and relationships. We are practicing “mutually assured distraction.”

Playing bumper cars

When I first enter into working with an organization, I attempt to interview a variety of people. My goal is to see the organization from their unique perspective. But at times, I’m not certain that everyone is even talking about the same organization. Marketing, HR, Finance, Customer Service, Engineering, Logistics – each has its view that a single truth stands above the complexity of the issues.

And indeed, sometimes it is one thing. It’s the latest social media advertising campaign. But at other times it’s employee retention. At times it is lean operations. Then again it’s the influence of internal politics. Or it can be ideas and thinking that come from outside of the organization – from Steve Jobs at Apple or Jeffrey Immelt at General Electric. Or maybe it’s learning best practices from another industry.

Amid the opinions of the “one true thing,” stands the real problem: it’s all of these things and more. All at the same time, bumping into each other like a wild game of bumper cars. Chaotic. Complex. Unpredictable.

And so the discussion begins. What is the one question that we could ask together that would make a difference today? What is so important to this organization that it should not be lost, but kept and preserved? What guides you when you don’t know the answer? What can you accomplish together that you can’t do alone?

Uncertainty as opportunity

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