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As you are aware Change is all about people, and it starts with us. This is an exploration of some of the ideas and issues that I've encountered along the way. I've created this also to enable a dialogue to begin around this subject and hopefully produce a forum where we can all learn something.

Four lessons from our self-talk: lesson 2

March 19th, 2015

Lesson 2I  don’t like them (or that)

When you hear yourself saying or thinking this you should pause and ask:-

What exactly is it that you don’t like about them?

  1. Does something they do remind you of yourself?  Perhaps something you don’t much like?
  2. Does what they do or who you perceive them to be remind of someone else? 
  3. Do you not like them because you envy them?
  4. Are they ‘making’ you feel in the shade?

The thing is our perceptions tell us as more about ourselves and how we see our world as they do about the other person.  We label people, often on little real evidence and the don’t bother to re-evaluate these judgments.  If someone is too like us we often see them as potential rivals, but perhaps they could become friends and allies?

We all have comfort zones which we are reluctant to step outside and let ourselves be challenged, it is easier to say “I don’t like that..”  We maybe right, but if we aren’t what new doors could be opened to us, what new pleasures could we enjoy?

Four lessons from our self-talk: lesson 1

March 12th, 2015

Lesson 1I can’t do that or “I’m too lazy

When you hear yourself utter or think either of these phrases you need to pause and reflect.  It is easy to say them in a self-depreciating way and think you are joking, but it is worth asking what is really behind this convenient cop-out.  Ask yourself:-

  1. Why don’t you want to do this?
  2. What are you seeking to avoid?
  3. What would happen if you tried and failed?
  4. What is the worst that could happen?
  5. What is the next actionable step?
  6. What are you doing that is more important?
  7. What would you gain by doing this?

It maybe it is perfectly sensible to choose not to do it, but if that is the case, say so, it is much more empowering.  And take a moment to explain your choice. 

It has been said, if you want something doing, give it to a busy man (or woman!)  The (kinda) converse of this is the quote mistakenly ascribed to Bill Gates “I choose a lazy man to do a hard job, because a lazy person will the easy way to do it” and I can relate to this as I always look for the easy way to achieve a task, and have always explained as due to my loathing of hard work!

Some thoughts on measurement

March 9th, 2015

I have often told my clients that whilst it is crucial to measure the things you want to change, you also need to be careful what you measure (and how you measure it.)  Think about the experience in the National Health Service, it is an object lesson of how not to do it.  They decided to improve efficiency by introducing professional managers and measurement systems.  Years later we find that people are being discharged prematurely to ensure that the turnover numbers meet target. 

jawbone-up-movescalesRegular readers will know that know that I set myself a target of losing weight and getting in better shape (literally).  I found a key tool was using data to track what I was eating; my daughter suggested I try My Fitness Pal, which I found very helpful.  I had been a rather unaware of the calorific content of some of my eating habits.  It also allows you to track exercise, which was another strand of my regimen.  I found myself making better decisions because I knew the consequences of my choices, and the fact that I was recording what I was doing kept me on track.

I bought a Samsung Note 4 before Xmas that has a fitness monitor built in that measure the steps you take amongst other things, and I also found that both motivated and slightly shamed me.  It was more data but it didn’t talk to my other data sets, so recently I invested in a fitness tracker.  I have tried both the Misfit Flash and the Jawbone Move (which I will probably review a little later).  They are relatively basic as these things go now, but I felt this was all I required at present.  They do feed into My Fitness Pal and now I have one dashboard of my goals and progress. 

It is true that there are many things I am not measuring, like perhaps the my investment in terms of both time and money (although I could if I wanted), but these things are not crucial in my life.  You will make progress in the areas that you attend to and this whole process is part of keeping my goals in the front of my mind so I am less likely to be diverted.  If you are embarking on a Change project, you need to monitor and review the key factors, discuss them and you will make progress

It’s all in the mind… Only it isn’t!

March 2nd, 2015

This a useful TED talk by Dr Guy Winch.  He is a psychologist who is worth a listen.  He sensibly posits the thought that despite all the evidence that mental issues affect our physical state and health, we constantly ignore them.  Young children are schooled in the importance of looking after their bodies, but we tend to ignore psychological wounds, simply because we can’t see them. People will happily offer the ‘advice’ (especially here in the UK where we are still great believers in the ‘stiff upper lip’!) “Snap out of it!  It’s all in your head..” even though life is essentially a subjective experience in a unique self-created reality.  Imagine how daft it would seem to offer similar advice to someone who had broken their leg, “Walk it off… it is all in your leg!”

Failure, rejection and loneliness are all subjective judgments and states and they materially affect our quality of life, our health and our performance.  A little time listening to someone, taking them seriously, not trivialising their self judgements might be the best investment you can make as both a human being and a boss or co-worker.

9 signs of a really good company culture

March 2nd, 2015

This blog is adapted from Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace by Tim Stevens.

When I first heard the phrase “company culture” it was over 20 years ago, and I was working for a global  pharma corporation whose cultures mainly produced yeast!  Back then few people, including me, would have known what it meant.  I was told it was “The way things get done around here” and I still like that definition as it is based on what really happens not on the aspirational phrases used in the company values, it is realpolitik.

What you notice in your work place tells whether you have a healthy culture or not.

  1. People want to join you.  Not because you are paying more but because of who you are and your reputation.
  2. Similarly, you don’t lose many people other than for good reasons, like pregnancy, promotion, retirement etc.
  3. The leader isn’t defensive and protecting his/her power, rather  he/she encourages others to lead.
  4. Leadership comes from all levels in the team, not just those in positions of power
  5. The team feels good about what they do, and believe in and understand their ‘mission’
  6. People know and feel that they matter and they are smiling
  7. They are happy to speak their minds and unafraid of making mistakes.  A good team must make mistakes and learn from them.
  8. There is good communication, upwards, downwards and sideways, but gossip is not needed or tolerated
  9. Change is normal and not something to be feared.  It isn’t just driven from the top but evolutionary

Bogtrotters beware!

February 23rd, 2015

bogtrotters2I 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

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

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

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

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