Archive for February, 2015

Bogtrotters beware!

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

I was out walking the other day in an area which was pretty boggy, and where I have been caught out before.  We had had heavy rain and though most of the paths were dry, in places they were flooded.  So, as I approached one of these sections I was confronted with a path that was at least 3 or more inches deep in water for some 20 feet.  There appeared to be drier ground off the path though it gave way to grass tussocks amidst deep puddles.  At first sight, there appeared more dry ground than puddles, so it seemed like a better way.  At this point in my tale, I suppose I should own up to having faced similar dilemmas in this place before and made the wrong choices.  Still, I thought I’d be smart and try the seemingly drier ‘short-cut’ rather than the certain wet path.  The thing I neglected from my reckoning, is that it was pretty certain the water on the path was never deep than my boots, whereas the other root was an unknown and unknowable factor.  Well, in fact I made it without getting too wet but it was a mighty close thing and I resolved next time to learn my lesson and stick to the path, because it nearly got very unpleasant.

So why am I telling you this tale?  Yesterday I was talking to a long term client and with whom I have been working on a big project, that apparently has run in to problems.  These are real world, gnarly  problems, the sort that don’t have easy, smart answers. They have decided that in the middle of these issues, that they can take some ‘short-cuts’ and I fear they will come to a similar fate as I nearly did on my walk.  Sometimes, when confronted with a flooded path, that is going to be uncomfortable and unpleasant, you are better to stick to the path than risk unknown and unknowable consequences in the bog.

Hints and tips: Be more persuasive – bonus Tip No 7

Monday, February 16th, 2015

A Harvard Professor in the 70’s, called Ellen Langer, conducted an experiment, in which she got an actor to barge into a queue of people waiting to make photocopies.  In the first experiment he said “Excuse me, I have 5 pages, may I use the copier?” and 60% of the time he was successful.  When he added the following phrase “Because I need to make some copies”  he was allowed to do it 93% of the time.  Why?  Because we need a reason, even if it is a very poor one.  A reason allows us to give our permission to something (even when we are programmed to say “No”) as it enables us to better maintain our self-respect.  We don’t want confrontation, but neither do we wish to appear powerless.  This social device enables us to pretend that it was ok to accede to something which transgresses our social code. 

Pushing in is an alpha behaviour, and we have to choose whether we want to challenge this alpha claimant or not, effectively we are being offered a choice between fight and flight.  Fight is always risky; flight is damaging to our egos and status.  The device of a ‘reason’, the use of the word “because..” enables us to escape from the twin evils of flight or fight with our dignity intact.  So if you want to be more persuasive, give people a reason to go along.  This lack of challenge disarms people’s instinctive resistance, and is another application of Aikido.

Hints and tips: Dealing with awkward people–Tip 6

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

A pair of psychologists called Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD, and Neil J. Lavender, PhD surveyed more than 1,100 employees and captured their thoughts in a book called “Toxic Co-workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job”.  This is the sixth in a series of short blogs with  tips based on their work.

6.  Realise that you aren’t going to like everyone:  Whilst it is much nicer to like who you work with, it isn’t strictly necessary.  We also have a deep seated need to be liked and if we feel that somehow they don’t like us, then we either tend to work too hard to change this or turn aggressive towards them as we feel slighted.  Often these kind of judgements are projections and not real.  All people have to bring to work is professionalism and courtesy, anything else is a bonus.  So take the pressure off yourself and them and let friendship flower where it will, and work together to find out what you both need to work together comfortably.  Engines seize up without oil to lubricate them, and relationships need lubrication too… you just have to find out what type of ‘oil’ is required by each of you and when and when it needs applying.

The rest of this series:

  1. Tip 1
  2. Tip 2
  3. Tip 3
  4. Tip 4
  5. Tip 5

Hints and tips: Dealing with awkward people–Tip 5

Monday, February 9th, 2015

A pair of psychologists called Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD, and Neil J. Lavender, PhD surveyed more than 1,100 employees and captured their thoughts in a book called “Toxic Co-workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job”.  This is the fifth in a series of short blogs with  tips based on their work.

5. Ditch Assumptions:  Rather than assume you are on the same page as the other person, check.  Don’t assume because something appears obvious to you that they know it too and have chosen to disregard it.  People’s priorities are determined by their circumstances, and what may be crucial to you may not be so important to your colleague.  This may change if you explain your situation and feelings (and listen to theirs!)  You may feel vexed that they are doing something else but you are missing a vital piece of data that explains why they need to do so.  A theme running through this set of tips is setting aside judgement and taking time to gather information and substituting negotiation to find a win:win instead either attack or defence.

The rest of this series:

  1. Tip 1
  2. Tip 2
  3. Tip 3
  4. Tip 4

Hints and tips: Dealing with awkward people–Tip 4

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

A pair of psychologists called Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD, and Neil J. Lavender, PhD surveyed more than 1,100 employees and captured their thoughts in a book called “Toxic Co-workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job”.  This is the forth in a series of short blogs with  tips based on their work.

4.  Recognise your Triggers:  We all have things that drive us crazy, or things which we find hard to tolerate.  Again, we need to not only know ourselves but take ownership of these responses.  If we would never miss a deadline, then we tend to view those who do so poorly; if we always greet everyone with a cheery “Good Morning”, we may feel slighted if others fail to do so.  Who is right and wrong in this step is irrelevant; the advice here is is to note who / what tends to provoke these responses and to ensure that you don’t speak from an irate, judgemental place.  They will feel attacked and thus use their energy and attention to defend themselves rather than listening.  If I can put my point over in a non-aggressive manner, then the other person is much more likely to engage with me and consider the value of what I am saying (this is another Aikido principle in action.)

The rest of this series:

  1. Tip 1
  2. Tip 2
  3. Tip 3

Shoulder-to-shoulder

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Have you noticed that mostly in business we sit opposite the people we are meeting with?  We put great store by looking the person in the eye.  In the animal kingdom, this is a challenge to assess who is the stronger, and if the other is a challenger for power… In business, it’s not so different!  I don’t imply that is the only reason for this.  We communicate a lot with our faces and also our furniture is set up, we usually face each other across a dividing table or desk. 

However, one of the basic precepts of aikido, and perhaps one that gives it much of its power, is “Put your self in the other’s (your partner’s) place.”  This means you are shoulder-to shoulder with them and looking at the world from their position.  This enables you to see as they do and to lead them forward to a different place. 

Leading is about making a difference, about helping facilitate Change; too often we follow the American model of alpha male leaders who dominate their company, rather than the softer, more subtle and infinitely more powerful path of enabling others to move to a new place, supported by your vision and faith.

Also, we all have different lead senses with which we take on board information.  If we prefer to listen to what is said, being side-by-side enables us to not be distracted by what we see.  Another tip is if you are walking side-by-side with a person, or even driving next to them, you are quite literally moving forwards together and in my experience this greatly facilitates progress in difficult conversations.

Hints and tips: Dealing with awkward people–Tip 3

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

A pair of psychologists called Alan A. Cavaiola, PhD, and Neil J. Lavender, PhD surveyed more than 1,100 employees and captured their thoughts in a book called “Toxic Co-workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job”.  This is the third in a series of short blogs with  tips based on their work.

3.  Check your expectations:  Cavaiola, who teaches psychology at Monmouth University in New Jersey, says it’s also not uncommon for people to have unrealistic expectations about co-workers. We may expect them to act just as we would or say what we might have said but this simply isn’t realistic…it isn’t even desirable.  We all bring our own strengths and weaknesses to work and every situation we enter and we deploy those differently.  If it results in what we perceive as a ‘win’ then we don’t complain, but if the reverse is true, there can be a problem.  So, check whether your expectations are reasonable before deciding to confront anyone.  Were they properly briefed?  Have they been appropriately trained?  We can only start our journey from the place we are now…

The rest of this series:

  1. Tip 1
  2. Tip 2