Why people disengage

First day in the new job….
I’ve never been responsible for so much before. I wonder what the new boss will be like.
Better make a good impression or they’ll think they’ve made the wrong hiring decision. Better make a good impression or they’ll think I’m no good at my job.
Must look like I know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about. I’m meant to be in charge of all this. Must look like I know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about. I’m meant to be in charge of this department.
OK, let’s do this. OK, let’s do this.
[Step into the office, shoulders back, head up, eye contact, confidently greeting people] [Steps into the office, looking around]

Is he here yet?

[Conversations in flow – listening deeply] [Conversations in flow – speaking passionately]
Wow I’m learning loads. Wow I know more than I realised, and he seems to be really listening. This is going well!
I have so many questions. These questions are really getting me thinking. I love this!
These people really know their stuff. I feel like I know my stuff even better than I did before this conversation!
They seem so engaged with what they’re doing and keen to change things for the better. I love this job and this new boss seems great!
I’d better show that I know stuff too [adds knowledgeable stuff to conversation]. And he has insights to add. That’s so useful to have a new perspective.
A few months later…..
[Amount of knowledgeable stuff added to conversations grows….] [Amount of knowledgeable stuff added to conversations is dropping, confidence is dropping]
Hey, I’m doing great!   Look at all this stuff I know now. I’m not sure I’m as good at this as I thought I was.
I can add so much to conversations. I don’t feel I can share anything he doesn’t already know.
I have so many ideas.  I’m thriving on sharing them with everyone! I don’t know where to take this next.  I can’t get a word in edgeways anyway.
6 months later….
I get all this now. I’ll wait to be told.
I’ve got a clear plan of what we need to do and how we’re going to get there. It’s always his opinion first so no point thinking first.

 

Why is this person saying this again? We went over this already? If he’d only listen he’d hear what I’m really saying. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t care what I have to say.
I asked for that last week. What are they doing? What’s the point, it won’t be exactly what he wants anyway.
I have this amazing idea – I’ll go and tell the people who need to make it happen. It must be done yesterday! Instructions received.   Robotic task-completion mode engaged.
Nobody has anything to say around here. …..
I wish people would just get on and do instead of seeking permission from me! Given he knows it all I need to check this first or it’ll be wrong.
Why does nobody interact in our meetings or bring ideas?

It’s like they’ve all just disengaged.

…..

We’re taught our whole lives – from school and through work – to show our brilliance.  Have the ideas.  Show you know things.  Demonstrate capability.  Do stuff and do it well and quickly.

All through school, university and work we’re rewarded and praised for knowing and doing.

Then we reach leadership and we keep knowing and doing.  And people disengage, switch off their brains, and do the basics or go elsewhere.

We need to just be.  To listen.  To allow space for others to grow into.  And yes to add insight.  To provide a broader context or set a vision higher than anyone might believe can be reached.  But all the while involving and listening to others.

How are you doing at being?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why don’t they take responsibility??

A couple of weeks ago it was CIPD NAP – an amazing event on the CIPD calendar! All organised from start to finish by volunteers, all of whom have a huge passion for making work better, and created for a community of generous, friendly, positive and helpfully curious delegates. But no event is perfect. Nothing in life is. And something which wasn’t so perfect on the Friday night prompted a connection for me back into work and a challenge I often hear from leaders…….

Why don’t they take responsibility??

At the gala dinner on Friday night there was some serious squealy feedback from one of the mics. And it went on for quite some time. It was really unpleasant!

In response to that, the majority of the room sat with hands over ears, screwing up their faces, giggling at the ongoing discomfort.

One person (thank you David D’Souza) got up and helped to solve the problem and make it stop (i.e. turn off the mic!).

So why didn’t anybody else do this? Why did we all just sit there in discomfort?

One part of it might have been connected to this fable…..

A man walking down the street encountered folks sitting on their porch and a dog lying on the porch whining and groaning.

He asked the folks why the dog was acting that way . . .

“Because he’s lying on a nail” they replied.

“Why doesn’t he get up?” the man asked.

“Because it’s not hurting bad enough” they replied. . . . . read more

Stress Test Your Foundation – Ask for Feedback Every Day

On the final day of entries for the #cipdldshow #blogcarnival I’m delighted to host this piece from Melissa Sabella who shares a powerful personal story which emphasises why – if we want to learn every day – we need to seek feedback and create environments where it’s given without fear……

 

I had this manager, early in my career, who always got the best out of me. I didn’t realise how rare this was at the time, but I actually looked forward to her emails. I didn’t quite get why I worked so well for her and struggled with other managers until she gave me some advice: don’t ask a question unless you are genuinely interested in the answer. Suddenly I realised why I always looked forward to our interactions – because I felt my expertise and opinion were valued. Importantly, I also never felt like she was testing me or trying to ‘catch me out’ These days we call that psychological safety and it’s one of the few research-backed ways to create a high performing team.

Creating psychological safety formed the foundation of my management and leadership philosophy. I was 100% confident that I was executing it until an offhand comment from a member of my team. He told me that when I asked a difficult question he felt I was looking for a particular answer, and judging him until he got it right. Shocked, I interrogated everyone.

It turned out I was making a face. A face known to my team as “the Melissa face” or “The Eyebrow”, which intimidated my team into talking until they got the answer they thought I wanted. I was oblivious to something completely obvious to everyone around me and I was driving behaviour completely counter to my intentions.

So, I asked for help. I told them to let me know every time they saw the Melissa face.

Turns out there was some psychological safety on my team, because the next time I did it I had fingers pointing at me in triumph and shouts of “there it is.”  And because I had real time feedback I had an epiphany – this face was my thinking face. I made it when someone challenged the way I thought about things. Ironically, the moment I was most impressed with someone’s input and wanted them to continue…they were reading as negative feedback and shutting down in response.

This shook me to the core but also thankfully helped me correct something very important to me.

Critically, it made me realise the importance of 1) creating an environment where critical feedback is given and taken in good humour 2) asking the right question – people have no idea what you are trying to do and can’t tell you whether you’re successful unless you ask and 3) always asking the follow-up questions – have I become better?

My unsolicited advice? There is no shortage of learning to be had – it comes at us through a fire hose of well meaning vendors, personal learning networks, social networks and the publications we follow. But the most valuable learning happens when you ask the people around you for feedback on the things that are most important to you. Do it daily.

 

[Image credit : www.fastdecals.com]

The Chinese Buffet Effect

As I write this I feel like David D’Souza who’s an expert at these analogies with life (as an example, you can read about Chicken and Business Plans here). I hope mine hits the mark. It’s not rocket science, or brand new information (HT Phoebe), but it’s something I re-noticed while working with a leadership team this week – and I don’t think I’d ever previously made the broader connections of this effect in other activities.  Plus I love Chinese food!!

So here’s what started it. The leadership team I was working with were creating their collective underpinning beliefs for effective meetings, and then the tangible actions they’d display to live those beliefs.

What they noticed was that, in the two distinct sections of the morning, they worked more effectively and efficiently in the part where they had more structure to their discussions, where they had time limits applied to how long they spoke or discussed for, and when they began by getting all their ideas out on the table first to then distil, prioritise and refine.

And lo, the Chinese Buffet Effect was born.

Imagine you’re at a Chinese buffet restaurant. You’ve looked at the dishes available and taken what you want to eat. Then towards the end of your meal the chef brings out a new dish. By this point you’re already full or nearly full and you find yourself with two options – decline this new dish – even if it is the one you love the most! You’ve had enough already. Or push on through and indulge in the final dish so you leave feeling so full that you don’t know what to do with yourself.

What would be ideal is if the chef had brought out all the meal options from the start so that you could have chosen the right amounts of each one based on your favourites and appetite.

The same applies to so many aspects of work:

Meetings to generate ideas – get them all out on the table (thank you chefs!), choose which you want to go with (your favourites) and keep to the time available to make decisions (your appetite).

Personal time effectiveness – write out all the things you could possibly do with the next hour, prioritise the things that will make the biggest difference (your favourites) and decide how long you can spend on each (your appetite).

Creating a marketing, training, or any other similar plan – generate all the possible ways you could communicate, train, etc and then prioritise the activities that will make the biggest difference (your favourites) within the restraints of time and budget available (your appetite).

Create an agenda (for a meeting, group learning, regular 1:1, coaching, mentoring) – get out all the things that people could talk about (favourites) and then prioritise what’s most important for these people in this meeting and within the time limits available (appetite).

As well as being an effective way of working individually, when others are involved you also get the chance to hear from multiple perspectives which leads to greater engagement and commitment to the plan.

Plus rather than keeping on eating, and eating, and eating – adding more and more topics or ideas in – which saps your energy as your belly (or brain) swells, you start with everything you need on your plate and eat your way through what’s there, getting to a point of decision or closure – or leaving the restaurant.

And there’s a balance with this – you can’t stand in the restaurant until your favourite food comes out – you could be waiting a long time if they’re not serving it that day. So also know when to cut your losses. Know when to say – we’ve spent enough time getting the options / topics / tasks out on the table, there’s a “good enough” selection – we now just need to start distilling, prioritising and refining – or eating!

When else could you apply this Chinese Buffet Effect in your own or your team’s life?

When will you give it a go?

Bon appetit!

How well do you influence others?

At the start of May I attended a course in Team Coaching, taking coaching from one-to-one to a team brings a whole different set of challenges and opportunities to improve organisational performance…

One of the topics we had some debate around was that of power in work. Power so often has negative connotations. In the same way the word conflict does. If I’d used that word instead of “debate”, what image would have come to mind about our conversation?  How would you have felt about it?  And what about “power”?  What do you think and feel when you hear that word?

Despite our emotional responses to these words, both conflict and power are essential in the workplace. Healthy conflict based on strong trust and with an intent to improve the organisation – not to have a personal dig at someone (see Patrick Lencioni’s work). And influencing through power, again with the intent to improve things for the collective – rather than for personal gain.

And no matter what influencing style you use, you will influence people in your life right now. You will have power over somebody, somewhere. That’s how things change.  This theory of the 5 Forms of Power might help you start to recognise your preferred approach and what you might benefit from doing more of.

 

Having been at the CIPD Learning & Development Show a couple of weeks ago there were lots of conversations about influencing the business agenda, about getting L&D the attention it needs from senior leaders. Chatting to Peter Cheese, he told me that he believes a shift has begun with organisations realising that their success relies on people. And I also hear more people professionals talking about knowing their business to be able to provide solutions that deliver the strategy.  This is all good.

However I’ve also had lots of conversations at the show and since, with colleagues continuing to struggle to get the people stuff taken seriously.

Leaders who say they believe in this people stuff but don’t follow through with commitments to make decisions at board meetings. Or who keep the people stuff until the end of the agenda so that it’s squeezed into the remaining minutes or left off completely. Or who say they want to do things but then don’t support their teams with conversations about it, or who don’t support them to re-prioritise so they can invest their time in it.

Leaders and unions who are so caught up in their own priorities, and protection of their position, that they aren’t open to others’ ideas or insights in case it shows up their knowledge gap or shows them something they don’t want to see. Putting their proverbial fingers in their ears and la la la’ing.

Fingers in earsa

Businesses so focused on task and deliver, deliver, deliver that they’re afraid to stop to look at another way in case everything comes crashing down in the meantime, therefore impacting on shareholder / owner value and their own career prospects.

Because often this behaviour we see isn’t through malicious intent. It’s often just because it’s the way things have been done for ages, or because there’s a lack of understanding and therefore a fear of being found out, or a fear of business failure and fingers being pointed and careers ended.

 

So what’s the solution? Well, that’s what Learn > Connect > Do is about on the 16th June. It’s a relaxed, interactive, conversation-based event to work together and figure out challenges we all face.  For June, the focus is how to influence effectively and, starting with this event, all profits go to an East Midlands charity.  The first to be chosen is LOROS who are a fantastic Leicester-based end of life hospice – so not only do you get great personal development and meet great people, you’re also doing good for others at the same time!

So what’s bothering you in work?  What’s not happening that’s feeling hard work?  What needs to change but isn’t?  Do you feel like you’re talking to yourself?  Do the people you need on side not ‘get it’?  Bring your challenges with you in June and we can collaborate together so you’ll leave with a way forward that works for you in your context.

To start your thinking, here’s a blog post from the L&D Show and a session where we heard from ATS Euromaster and Rackspace about how they’ve influenced leaders to embrace the modern learning agenda.

And here’s what we did at Learn > Connect > Do in December and March.

Book your place before they all go (only 20 people can join us!)

And we look forward to seeing you there!

IMG_0140

Founded by Helen Amery (owner of Wild Fig Solutions Ltd), the Purpose of Learn > Connect > Do is to bring together people professionals who care about work being better. And we do that by focussing on a different topic each quarter, facilitated with a different tool or approach each time. Aiming for maximum learning – both about the topic and about the approach. Plus getting to meet other professionals who care about the same things as you. And giving to charity too!

#learnconnectdo

#CIPDNAP16 : Join me for a walk

Last week at the CIPD Learning & Development Show I attended one of the free exhibition sessions with David Pearl of Street Wisdom.

Street Wisdom is an amazing way of using your surroundings to help you answer a question you hold. Getting out into the streets either somewhere you know, or somewhere new, looking up, paying attention, and seeing what thoughts appear from what your attention is drawn to.

I first discovered Street Wisdom in November 2014 at the Annual Conference. You can read about my experience here.

Since then I’ve learnt about the brain benefits of getting out and walking, and especially of walking in nature-filled surroundings. When our brain feels well we build our resilience.  We think better, process and sort through priorities better and make better decisions. It means we’re focused on the right stuff instead of operating on auto pilot or plodding through a to-do list.

If you and those around you could do with these kinds of benefits, join me on the 18th of June when I’m speaking at the annual and very brilliant CIPD Northern Area Partnership event about walking, why it helps us from a brain perspective, and you’ll also get to experiment with walking on the day to see what you discover and can take back to work. It’ll be the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs from the gala dinner the night before!

If you’ve not booked for the event yet you can do that here, and I’d love to see you at my session so that we can do some experimenting together.

#CIPDOD15 Beyond OD Orthordoxy: dialogic and networked change approaches

This is with Prof Cliff Oswick of Cass Business School at City Uni London.

It’s going to be a fairly quick look at moving away from problem-centred change and to discursive approaches to OD.  Shifting from top-down to emergent, network forms of change.

Traditional vs Dialogic vs Emergent OD

1900s to present – orgs as machines.  1960’s to present – orgs as systems.  1980s to present – interpretive meaning-making systems, 1990s to present – complex adaptive systems.  The last 2 acknowledge the complexity, subjectivity, emergent, chaotic nature of OD.

We’ve come to realise that it’s the discursive construction and context of something that frames what we think of it.  It’s how we frame the problem that matters.

New dialogic OD is solutions-driven, proactive & rhizomatic (that means non-linear!), generative, complex & emergent, abstract & intangible, multi-directional (not constrained by hierarchy).  In the past OD took a problem-centred, concrete & tangible, reactive, linear approach.

All new CEOs come into an org and restructure within 6 mths.  Even though they won’t really know enough about the best structure to create.  All you do is move the pieces around.  Mark their territory.  Prove to the shareholders that they’re ‘doing’ something.  We still like to hold onto tangible.  But who you report to doesn’t really matter.  The power isn’t located in the hierarchy.  However people are structured won’t change the culture.

If interested in OD practices – book recommendation – Dialogic OD: a theory of practice (G. R. Bushe)

Traditional OD – change as a scentific process, great for linear, tangible problems and solutions, top-down e.g. job design, teamwork and structural intervention

Dialogic / Diagnostic / Contemporary OD – change as a discursive process, emergent, fluid, focus on positive and future – always trying to create better e.g. AI, Future Search, World Café

Emerging OD – change as a political process, a neutral focus on change – what will be different now rather than what will be better in the future, turbulent & socially connected, change with employees e.g. Employee activism, Constructive deviance

Talking about a play where the audience can choose to follow different characters acting out different scenes which shows the characters for who they really are.  Doesn’t work now because people tweet it / text it / fb message it so the other audience members find out about the back story they’d never have found out about before.  Just like in work.  There’s nowhere to hide your true self!

Bottom-up is the way forward!  Hierarchy will become less important and leaders will emerge at all levels – they’ve always been there but they’ll now be overt.  Internal crowdsourcing with leaders facilitating the conversations (not heroically leading) will increase into the future.  Decisions made outside of the boardroom – engages and brings people with you. Co-creating change.  Viral change – start by infecting one or two until everyone’s caught the bug!

This post has been live-blogged from #CIPDOD15.  I’ve done my best to represent the content accurately and fairly but some errors may exist.  Most of it is the speakers’ content and I aim to show the bits that are my opinion.