I’ve been running a number of workshops recently that revolve around enhancing participant’s influencing skills – for those in matrix management situations and those in technical or professional advice roles. I’ve been struck by the difference between what I call ‘service oriented’ people and ‘professionally / technically oriented’ people. The professionally / technically oriented participants value and are rewarded for being “right” while the service people are valued and rewarded for establishing relationships.
What seems to happen is that technically oriented people, confuse being “influenceable” with giving in and so resist the message that they can become more influential by being prepared to be influenced by others.
I’ve worked with two separate management groups recently, both of whom had the words, better or best in their goal statements, e.g. we want to be the best in market X. When I challenged the groups to explain what better or best would look like, there were different views that had to be talked through. The intention to drive achievement seemed to have the opposite effect and there were at least a couple of people in each group who expressed a view that sounded more like “good enough” when pressed to explain how best would be measurable.
It reminded me of Barry Schwartz’ book The Paradox of Choice. Here for the first time I fully understood the implications of being a “maximiser” (aka perfectionist) – someone who is constantly looking for the best solution, option or performance. The trouble is that we can never know for sure that we’ve become the best and in today’s world of expanding choices, better or best may only last a moment.
Schwartz’s hypothesis is that it is easier to be a “satisficer” – setting a standard or level that you will be satisfied with.
I’ve been enjoying the creativity and innovation discussion on the Creative Skills Training Council list, so I was very intrigued to see a short piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, stating that ?What If!“ who bill themselves as the world’s largest independent innovation company – is closing down its Australian operation because “Australian businesses aren’t very innovative and that translates into a lack of preparedness to pay consultants to help them innovate” according to MD Tim Pethick.
My ten cents worth is that everyone is creative can create to a greater or lesser degree. Like the theory of multiple intelligences, there are multiple forms of creativity in the workplace – from new product ideas, to new process ideas, to new ideas for working together. There’s even creative accounting – though that’s a bit on the nose these days!
A while ago at our monthly Sydney Facilitators Network meeting I ran an introduction activity which was powerful in connecting me to the members of the group.
We asked everyone to share what they did for work, what brought them joy at work and what brought them joy outside of work. I got great insights into the passions of the people I’ve known for years and I offer this idea as a powerful way to get a group talking at a much deeper level than usual. I now use it as a regular introduction to sessions on team building.
I toyed with whether to answer just “what brings you joy?” but I found the combination of asking about joy at work and outside work, gave more information from which to make a connection with people. It also pre-supposes that joy is possible at work, which can be a good frame for a difficult team session.
I’ve just come across a good webpage by consultants Lawrence Poole and Suzy Ethier called the Thinking Toolkit. I like their concept of using nature simulations to expose manager’s thinking patterns – and their heuristic thinking page has some good ideas about how to practice creative thinking.
Well Monday started well and continued to get better. The theme of growth and renewal repeated itself at lunch where we had a wonderful taster of the work of Miha Pogacnik, violinist and inspirational activist. In less than an hour Miha showed us the traditional corporate pathway vs the alternative – of letting go and letting come – using Bach’s music as an example. So much passion for his topic. I can’t wait to hear more.
It’s 6am. I can’t sleep, so I’ve gone online to look for articles on Transformational Leadership, my latest topic of study. I find an inspiring interview with Robert E. Quinn, author of the Competing Values Framework, among other great books.
He reminds me that as an educator “when we look only at the thinking, behaviors, and techniques, we are missing the most important thing, the being state. That is the origin of greatness. Is the teacher outside the normal state? Is the teacher fully committed and living in the creative state?”
I already know that when I am doubtful, my participants doubt me. When I am proposing practices that I don’t practice there will always be questions about “how do we do that?” But when I practice what I preach, then I am both inspired and inspiring because I am modelling what I am asking others to attempt.
This is what I understand of Quinn’s message, that the challenge for leaders in all roles is to work from the inside out, to live the practices we teach and the vision we are espousing to others – to be the first to “walk the talk”. And as I said to a group of newish leaders last week, sometimes you have to fake it first – by acting more confident than you believe, until you walk yourself into your talk, because the essence of visionary leadership is to create in the workplace something that is initially just an idea in people’s minds.
My vision is for workplaces where everyone is “enjoying making progress”, so my call to action is for us all to think about our vision for how our organisation can be “a better place to work” and then to take one or two small steps in that direction every day this week. And if you don’t know what your vision is, then listen to how you complain during the week – and do something to change the complaints.
Enjoy your week! I know this interview has helped me to start well.