Welcome All!

If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Trust building, collaborative phrases for your conversations

We all have those conversations and collaborations that seem challenging because intentions are misunderstood, parties rush to judgment, styles are clashing, or objectives are misaligned. Other relationships are strong and secure yet you may still experience an unexpected twist in the conversation, one you didn't see coming. And there are situations in which trust and credibility are harmed and you have to move forward together. For any of these scenarios, whether in a group setting or a personal meeting, the following sentences, from Covey's Trust Action Cards, I find very helpful. Give them a well-intentioned try and add your own examples - there are many more.

You see things differently from me. I want to learn more about your perspective.
When you do this, the impact on me (the team, the client) is …

Let me make sure I understand what you are trying to say.  

What are you not saying that needs to be voiced?

I respect you and I want to be candid with you.

What is it you'd like to see me do differently?

I’d like to share what I have observed.

This is what I feel strongly about ...

What is the ‘undiscussable’ here?
Where and how can I get better?

I need to listen before I respond.

I want to acknowledge you for …

How can I make this right?

From my perspective …

We need your opinion.

I was wrong about …

I apologize for …

My intent is…

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Plea for not-doing

We love to act, get on with things, and work on solutions. In school, in business, and in other contexts we are rewarded for being active and busy. Yet … have you ever heard of the expression ‘Too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing?’ Our action bias is supposed to be in service of meaningful achievement, which it often accomplishes. Yet in a world in which everything and everyone is super connected, the pace is high, change is the new normal, and the environment is complex, it is wise to make time for slow thinking, reflection, and contemplation.

You highly likely know this. You highly likely don’t practice it enough.

Regular reflection practices ensure that you take deliberate pauses. These pauses can help you free some of your cluttered mind, adopt an open perspective, and facilitate deeper thinking. If you use reflection practices strategically, you will strengthen your capacity for metacognition, meaning you will become better at monitoring, understanding, and controlling your reasoning processes. So you basically improve your thinking about your thinking, which limits the effects of hasty conclusions, limited perspectives, and cognitive biases that too often lead to misreading people and situations.

So if you are one of the many people who find themselves busy fighting fires, moving from problem to problem, switching between a variety of events, with little time for thoughtful, quiet reflection, please try this:

1.  Journaling about experiences, thoughts, doubts, feelings, progress.
2. Asking reflection questions starting with whereto, what else, why not.
3. Actively inviting people who think differently for feedback and input.
4. Monthly reflection session with someone who guides the introspection.
5. Mindfulness training to which many books and websites are dedicated.

A little more on mindfulness or training the mind: It is an intervention in the neural networking of your brain and a simple way to become more present, focused, and effective in the moment. Mindfulness helps you to face people and events with an open mind, greater creativity and flexibility, and more freedom from your habitual thought pattern while experiencing less stress.

For examples of reflective questions think about questions such as:
- What do I/we really know?
- What if I am (partially) wrong?
- What may I be projecting onto others?
- Which are my assumptions in this situation?
- What is it that I/they a really need or fear right now?
- Which perspectives may I not be soliciting or entertaining?

You can also use the “What – So What – Now What” model. 
The ‘What?’ is descriptive and about facts, ‘So what?’ is a shift from descriptive to interpretive, what it all means, and involves feelings and lessons learned, and ‘Now what?’ helps you to see the situation in it’s context, to get a big-picture perspective, and to mine wisdom from experience to set future goals and create or adjust a plan.

Socrates may have said it best: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Strategic self-reflection can help you pause and contemplate, expand your viewpoint, acknowledge alternative beliefs, create a bridge between information and wisdom, and improve your decision-making capability. As stated in the Talmud, one of the central works of Rabbinic Judaism: “We do not see things as they are; but as we are.” So make sure you add other people’s perspectives, especially those of contrarians. Many people fail to look through the lens of opposing viewpoints. This limits the quality of your decisions since you are projecting your own thoughts, insights and experiences into a situation, without acknowledging alternative assumptions or angles.

In a January 2018 Harvard Business Review article called “Self-awareness can help leaders more than an MBA can” by Hougaard, Carter, and Afton, the authors take a very similar perspective on doing and awareness and reflection.

And this is the end of my plea for not-doing, at least for now.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Peer-to-peer accountability - How to Conduct an Accountability Conversation

Peer-to-peer accountability is a challenging task. You may work in a cross-functional team, a virtual team, a matrix situation, or in a more traditional, stable team setting. In each of these situations, holding each other accountable to team goals and commitments is challenging, especially since you are not the person’s boss. Even though these conversations may are difficult, below suggestions address how to conduct an accountability conversation with a team member in a structured, respectful, transparent and problem-solving manner.

Preparation for an accountability conversation – 5 tips

1.    Assess the level of safety for this conversation, defined as: Do we both perceive the relationship as respectful? Can we speak our minds freely without concern about damaging the relationship or other possible negative consequences? If not, you have trust building work to do.

2.    Assure that the timing of the conversation fits you both. Overly strong emotions and feeling time-pressured will most likely negatively impact the interaction. Be present there and then and be ready for anything, expected or not, that may come your way.

3.    Keep an open mind. First about how the conversation may develop and what the emotional intensity might be. Regardless of your preparation, positive intent, and approach, you never know nor control what’s going on at the other end of the table. Second, be open to the idea that you could be wrong. Ask yourself: What may I be missing or misinterpreting?

4.    Know your internal chatter. Ask: What story am I telling myself about this person, their intentions, and the circumstances? Is it a victim story, a villain story, a helplessness story etc. Where’s the proof? How do I know? Could I be totally wrong? Will this story help or hurt the conversation?

5.    Reflect on your own possible role in the present situation: What may I be not willing to address myself? How may I be contributing to the performance / delivery gap?

Execution of the accountability conversation – 5 tips

6.    Describe the situation: ‘What happened as I see it.’ Focus on the gap between expectation and reality as you see it. In this stage separate ‘What happened’ from ‘Why’ it happened. Refrain from speculation and judgment. Move away from blame and focus on understanding and analysis.

7.    Ask for the person’s response, for their version of what happened. Remain focused even if you are confronted with an emotional response. Respond empathetically yet keep focused on the facts. Be ready to listen intently and ask questions to clarify. Refrain from jumping to conclusions and from judgment – for many the hardest thing to do. Work towards agreement on where the stories align and where they do not.

8.    Identify impacts - Explain what you see as the consequences of not meeting expectations. What are the results of what happened or didn't happen and of what was not accomplished? Ask/address: What’s the impact? Ask/address: Why does this matter? Ask/address: What are some potential implications? Also consider which of these consequences may the person care about most?

9.    Explore the barriers – What is getting in the way of this person delivering and performing up to expectations?
a.    Content – Knowledge – Information
b.    Ability – Skills – Coaching
c.     Motivation – Drive – Values
d.    Relationships – Influence – Style
e.    Processes – Procedures – Resources – Tools

10.Collaboratively explore possible remedies and move to action:
a.    How can barriers be removed?
b.    What does the person need to improve?
c.     Who can help, support?
d.    Is the person truly committed to the changes?
e.    What is the time frame?
f.     How will you both know there’s improvement – success?
g.    How will you follow up? When?

Lastly, but actually firstly, a safe and transparent climate where fact finding outweighs fault finding, where learning from mistakes prevails covering up mistakes, is the only way for people to openly admit to and share near misses, small mistakes, and big failures.

This will be the topic of one of the upcoming blog posts.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Nothing to lose

Ever feeling busy? Tired? Unfocused? If not, please contact me so I can listen to you, mine your wisdom, and share it with family, friends, and clients.

If your answer is ‘yes’, try the following four easy practices for 7 days straight and see what it does for you. They each take 30 seconds or less:

1. Every time you realize you’re frowning, switch to a smile and hold it for at least 30 seconds.

2. Every time you feel rushed, pause for 15 seconds and either close your eyes or look at something pleasant.

3. Every time you detect a negative thought, switch to a credible constructive thought and repeat the thought silently 4 times.

4. Every time you feel upset with someone, before you address the person, send her or him a silent, not spoken, ‘I wish you [name] well’ message (with credit to Mayo Clinic’s dr. Amid Soot.)

These practices are examples of what I call ‘taking out the head trash’ and of relaxing just a little more.

Do it, experience it – that much you owe yourself. And you have to admit, it’s impossible not to have a couple of 30 seconds in your day to spend on something healthy. Lets just agree: You have nothing to lose.