Category Archives: Training & Development

Video: Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

In this video, Patrick Lencioni author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” talks about behaviors that derail teams.

Summary of the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (from PDF on Lencioni’s website):

Dysfunction #1: Absence of Trust
This occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.

Dysfunction #2: Fear of Conflict
Teams that are lacking on trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, causing situations where team conflict can easily turn into veiled discussions and back channel comments. In a work setting where team members do not openly air their opinions, inferior decisions are the result.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Commitment
Without conflict, it is difficult for team members to commit to decisions, creating an environment where ambiguity prevails. Lack of direction and commitment can make employees, particularly star employees, disgruntled

Dysfunction #4: Avoidance of Accountability
When teams don’t commit to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

Dysfunction #5: Inattention to Results
Team members naturally tend to put their own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) ahead of the collective goals of the team when individuals aren’t held accountable. If a team has lost sight of the need for achievement, the business ultimately suffers.

Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Note: If you have trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on YouTube.

I want to thank WorkplacePsychology.Net reader Chris Webb for sending me a link to this video about Dan Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.”

What’s so impressive are the visual illustrations done by the artist (also called a “graphic facilitator”) at Cognitive Media to visually capture what the author is trying to verbally communicate about motivation.

The video is a great complement to two earlier posts, 3 Primary Goals of People at Work and What Really Motivates Employees.

If you are like me, someone who loves to “think visually,” you’ll love this video. Thanks again Chris!

The Mechanic in the Organization


In “Organization Development: The Process of Leading Organizational Change” (2010), professor Donald Anderson talks about a model of organizational consulting called “Mechanic Model.” Imagine your car causing you problems (e.g., making a strange noise, surging and stopping, has trouble starting, etc.). So you take it into the nearest car shop (or one you trust) and ask the mechanic to troubleshoot the problem or problems and then fix them. As a consumer relying on the mechanic’s expertise, you don’t care about the technical or detailed explanations of how or why something works or doesn’t work (and you really don’t want to get your hands dirty), you simply want it fixed.

“The mechanic is responsible for figuring out what is wrong and fixing it. If the repair does not successfully solve the problem, the responsibility is the mechanic’s, not ours” (Anderson, 2010, p. 86).

When organizational clients have neither the time nor the patience to deal with problems, they often look for mechanic model solutions. But, Dr. Anderson cautions, this is not a good role for consultants to put themselves in because it’s rarely successful.

Why? Dr. Anderson says that this mechanic model gives consultants such wide latitude and responsibility over both the “problem” and the “solution” to the point that the clients (i.e. the organizations) “relinquish both accountability and responsibility for the problem” (p. 86).

By not getting their hands dirty (i.e., involved), organizations do not recognize their role in the problem and thus fail to gain the “insight into the process of assessing and implementing solutions” (p. 86).

This is a more complex way of saying that they never learn to “fish for themselves” by relying on others.

When I worked overseas consulting to education professionals, I sometimes found myself in this mechanic role. As a young and eager crisis management consultant, I wanted to do all that I could to help the schools, the administrators, educators, and students. However, after several months of repeating, re-teaching, and/or re-implementing strategies I finally realized the limitations of this Mechanic Model mentality.

By being the “go-to guy” or the “specialist,” I inadvertently made the system and employees dependent on an outsider to solve or fix their problems. In psychology, we say this is enabling. It’s a strange predicament to be in because, on the one hand, you want to be recognized for your skills. On the other hand, however, you also want to work to make things better so that when the time comes for you to move on (in my case I relocated back to Dallas to be closer to my elderly parents), the people and organizations are still able to firmly stand on their own without relying on assistance.

Thus, what you want to do is: Work to empower and not to enable.

It took listening, insight, and collaboration with a very capable team of professionals to start the process of empowerment and then later implementing change strategies. I think consultants before me failed to recognize this systemic mindset and found themselves in the mechanic role (just like I initially found myself in).

But the difference between how I eventually succeeded, and others did not, were these things:

  1. Understanding the difference between empowering and enabling.
  2. Believing in those who will take over the helm. Your consulting role is to help people and organizations guide their own ships.
  3. Equipping people with the right tools for their roles within the organization.
  4. Never accepting “I can’t” as an excuse.
  5. Showing people that you care about and respect them.

If I were to pick the top two reasons I believe change occurred, they are: (1) respecting people and taking an interest in their well-being, and (2) giving them the right tools they need to succeed.

Reference

Anderson, D. (2010). Organization Development: The Process of Leading Organizational Change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

6 Steps to Guide Employees Through Change

In a previous post titled, “Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance,” I talked about Kotter’s 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change.

In this post, I’ll pass along another gem from Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange and the suggestions for creating a guiding vision to help employees through change.

6 STEPS TO GUIDING EMPLOYEES THROUGH CHANGE:

  1. Describe a desirable future, one that people would be happy to have right now if they could. Include specifics about how the change will improve the business and how the improvements will benefit employees.
  2. Make the vision compelling. The benefits of the change must be clear and the vision must be better than the status quo so that people will gladly undertake the effort and make the necessary sacrifices.
  3. Ensure that the vision is realistic. It must be perceived as achievable.
  4. Focus on a manageable and coherent set of goals.
  5. Build in flexibility so that if the circumstances change, the vision can change, too.
  6. Make sure the vision is easy to communicate. Managers at all levels of the organization need to be able to communicate the vision to their people.

Though some items on this list are similar to those on Kotter’s 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change, it’s still a nice summary.

Reference

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Managing Change: Pocket Mentor Series, Harvard Business Press

Do All Employees Want a Challenging Job?

In their classic text, Organizational Behavior, Robbins & Judge (2009) posed and answered an interesting question about employee motivation. The professors asked in a blurb titled, “Myth or Science: ‘Everyone Wants a Challenging Job?’”

In response to this question, Robbins & Judge (2009) say the answer is FALSE! While many employees do seek and desire challenging, engaging work, some employees do not. It might surprise some to read this because it certainly sounds contrary to what we often hear from the media and even some academics. Instead, Robbins & Judge (2009) contend that “some people prosper in simple, routinized work” (p. 219).

But what exactly is it that explains those who prefer challenging work and those who prefer simple, routinized work? Robbins & Judge (2009) maintain that the “strength of an individual’s higher-order needs” is the key. They assert that “[i]ndividuals with high growth needs are more responsive to challenging work” (p. 219).

No current data exist but an older study from the 1970s estimate roughly 15% of employees seek higher-order need satisfaction (i.e. challenging, engaging work). “Even after adjusting for technological and economic changes in the nature of work, it seems unlikely that the number today exceeds 40 percent” (p. 219).

“Many employees relish challenging work. But this desire has been overgeneralized to all workers. Organizations increasingly have pushed extra responsibilities onto workers, often without knowing whether this is desired or how an employee will handle the increased responsibilities” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 219).

Reference

Robbins, S.P. & Judge, T.A. (2009). Organizational Behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

6 Steps to Manage Resistance to Change

6 STEPS TO MANAGE RESISTANCE TO CHANGE:

Understand why people are resisting the change. Reasons may include:

  1. They believe the change is unnecessary or will make things worse.
  2. They don’t trust the people leading the change effort.
  3. They don’t like the way the change was introduced.
  4. They are not confident the change will succeed.
  5. They feel that change will mean personal loss — of security, money, status, or friends.
  6. They’ve already experienced a lot of change and can’t handle any more disruption.

Encourage employees to openly express their thoughts and feelings about the change program.
Listen carefully to their concerns, explore their fears, and take their comments seriously.
Engage them in the planning and implementation processes.
Identify those who have something to lose, and anticipate how they might respond.
Help them find new roles either in your group or somewhere else in the organization—roles that represent genuine contributions and mitigate their losses.

Reference

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Managing Change: Pocket Mentor Series, Harvard Business Press

3 Primary Goals of People at Work

In “The Enthusiastic Employee” authors Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer (2005), working under Sirota Consulting, surveyed 2.5 million employees in 237 organizations in 89 countries about what they want from their jobs.

Contrary to wide and unsubstantiated claims made about worker attitudes, the authors found through their research that the overall satisfaction of workers with their work is strong and consistent across a wide variety of industries, occupations, and cultures. Furthermore, these researchers maintain that there is no evidence that younger workers are any more or less disenchanted than older workers.

The majority of the responses fall into three factors. The authors call this the Three Factor Theory of Human Motivation in the Workplace. They are: equity, achievement and camaraderie.

  1. Equity: To be treated justly in relation to the basic conditions of employment. These basic conditions include physiological (e.g., safe work environment), economic (e.g., job security, fair pay), and psychological (e.g., treated respectfully & fairly).
  2. Achievement: Employees are enthusiastic working for organizations that provide them with a clear, credible and inspiring organizational purpose – “reason for being here.” There are four sources of employee pride. In essence they reflect the idea of excellence:
    • Excellence in the organization’s financial performance.
    • Excellence in the efficiency with which the work of the organization gets done.
    • Excellence in the characteristics of the organization’s products such as their usefulness, distinctness and quality.
    • Excellence in the organization’s moral character.
  3. Camaraderie: Employees want to work collaboratively. They get the greatest satisfaction from being a member of and working on a team to achieve a common goal. In fact, the authors assert that cooperation, and not job descriptions or organizational charts, is the unifying force holding the various parts of an organization together.

Sirota, Mischkind, and Meltzer (2005) say that one key to overcome conflict and encourage cooperation is to build partnerships. The parties involved do this by collaborating to work toward common goals.

However, they caution that in order to build partnerships within and throughout the organization,

“[A]ction must begin with, and be sustained by, senior management” (p. 283).

It is only when senior leadership has the foresight to see what can be, not just what is, along with the perseverance and hard work to translate philosophy into concrete daily policies will partnership organizations emerge. Above all, it requires “seeing and treating employees as genuine allies in achieving change” (Sirota, Mischkind, & Meltzer, 2005, p. 301).

Reference

Sirota, D., Mischkind, L.A., & Meltzer, M.I. (2005). The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing.

5 Reasons Why Employees Stay

Earlier in 2010, the Conference Board surveyed 5,000 U.S. households and found that only 45 percent of those surveyed say they’re satisfied with their jobs. It notes that this number is down from 61.1 percent in 1987.

According to Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board, “[w]hile one in 10 Americans is now unemployed, their working compatriots of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy.”

John Gibbons, program director of employee engagement research and services at The Conference Board, believes that challenging and meaningful work is important to engaging workers and that “[w]idespread job dissatisfaction negatively affects employee behavior and retention, which can impact enterprise-level success.”

These findings offer valid concerns and serve as a wake-up call to organizations of employee discontent and why they ultimately leave.

Ok, so we know why employees leave. But, why do they stay?

I’m sure there are lots of good reasons, but I like what the editors of Harvard Business Review’s Answer Exchange (a forum to ask questions, get answers, and engage with other business professionals) say about why employees stay.

5 REASONS WHY EMPLOYEES STAY:

  1. Pride in the organization. People want to work for well-managed companies.
  2. Compatible supervisor. People may stay just to work for a particular individual who is supportive of them.
  3. Compensation. People want to work for companies that offer fair compensation, including competitive wages and benefits as well as opportunities to learn and achieve.
  4. Affiliation. People want to continue working with colleagues they respect and like.
  5. Meaningful work. People want to work for companies that let them do work that appeals to their deepest, most passionate interests.

References

Originally posted on HBR Answer Exchange (now defunct); Adapted from the book Harvard Business Essentials: Guide to Hiring and Keeping the Best People, Harvard Business Press

I Can’t Get No…Job Satisfaction, That Is: America’s Unhappy Workers. Research Report #1459-09-RR. The Conference Board.

Gender and Leadership – Does It Matter?

I come across the topic of gender and leadership quite a bit and thought I would share what I found after researching this subject. The questions are always the same and it goes like this,

“Does gender (being male vs. female) affect your leadership styles/abilities at work?”

I want to help in dispelling the myths that are perpetuated throughout both the Internet as well as some (not so well-researched) literature. The following is a piece I researched and wrote about a month ago.

Overview

According to “Work in the 21st Century,” 99.6 percent of all top executives of Fortune 500 companies are men, while just 0.4 percent are women. Interestingly, the book “Leadership in Organizations,” states that there are no consistent findings on gender differences in leadership.

Considerations

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that women comprise 46.5 percent of the total U.S. workforce and are estimated to account for 47 percent of the labor force in 2016.

Leadership Styles

Frank Landy, Ph.D. and Jeffrey Conte, Ph.D., maintain in their book, “Work in the 21st Century,” that women tend to favor a democratic and participative leadership style, while men prefer an autocratic leadership style.

Misconception

Alice Eagly, Mary Johannesen-Schmidt and Marloes van Engen, in the July 2003 issue of “Psychological Bulletin,” argue women have an advantage over men in competing for leadership positions, and even suggested that women would make better executives.

Warning

Gary Yukl, Ph.D., cautions in his book, “Leadership in Organizations,” that research on differences in gender and leadership effectiveness has been inconclusive. For this reason, he contends that gender is not a good predictor of leadership effectiveness and does not impact employees or the workplace.

Expert Advice

According to Gary Powell, Ph.D., in the August 1990 issue of “Academy of Management Executive,” there are no differences between male and female managers. In addition, Dr. Powell says that any “sex differences that have been found are few, found in laboratory studies more than field studies, and tend to cancel each other out. (p. 71)” In short, gender does not affect leadership in business.

References

  • “Academy of Management Executive”; One More Time: Do Female and Male Managers Differ?; Gary Powell; August 1990
  • “Leadership in Organizations”; Gary Yukl; 2010
  • “Psychological Bulletin”; Transformational, Transactional, and Laissez-Faire Leadership Styles: A Meta-Analysis Comparing Women and Men; Alice Eagly, Mary Johannesen-Schmidt and Marloes van Engen; July 2003
  • “U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics”; Employment and Earnings, 2008 Annual Averages and the Monthly Labor Review; November 2007
  • “Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology”; Frank J. Landy and Jefferey M. Conte; 2007

7 Reasons Why Employees Leave

In “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave (2005),” Leigh Branham outlined seven reasons why workers quit or leave their jobs:

  • Reason #1: The Job or Workplace Was Not as Expected
  • Reason #2: The Mismatch Between Job and Person
  • Reason #3: Too Little Coaching and Feedback
  • Reason #4: Too Few Growth and Advancement Opportunities
  • Reason #5: Feeling Devalued And Unrecognized
  • Reason #6: Stress From Overwork and Work-Life Imbalance
  • Reason #7: Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders

Branham asserts that there are two distinct periods when an employee thinks about leaving. The first period is the time between his or her first thoughts of leaving and the subsequent decision to leave. The second period in which the employee considers leaving is the time between his/her decision to leave and actually leaving.

Branham shares three tips that leaders can do to avoid losing employees:

  1. Inspire confidence in a clear vision, a workable plan and the competence to achieve it.
  2. Back up words with actions.
  3. Place the leader’s trust and confidence in the work force.

Reference

Branham, L. (2005). The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. Broadway, NY: AMACOM.

High-Performing Organizations

The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) has a nice article on what separates high performing organizations from low performing ones. i4cp’s research consistently indicates that companies that excel in the following five domains are typically high performers:

Note: Each point starts with i4cp’s research & wording, followed by my comments & analysis in italics.

1. Strategy

High-performing organizations have strategies that are more consistent, clearly communicated and well thought out. They are more likely than other companies to say that their philosophies are consistent with their strategies and their performance measurements mirror their strategies.

I’ve discussed before about John Kotter’s 8-Stage Change Process, one of which is developing a vision and strategy for your organization.

2. Leadership

High-performing organizations have leadership that is clear, fair and talent-oriented. Those leaders are more likely to promote the best people for the job, to make sure performance expectations are well known and consistent with the strategy, and to be committed to developing their people.

Gary Yukl (2010) in “Leadership in Organizations” shares 10 essences of effective leadership. Among these, Dr. Yukl says some effective leadership functions include developing and empowering people, promoting social justice and morality (the idea of fairness & compassion), and creating alignment on objectives and strategies.

3. Talent

There is a commitment to the right talent within the organization, and while employees are treated as unique individuals, the organization takes a holistic approach to managing and making decisions based on data-driven information. This begins with a strategic approach to workforce planning. It entails looking at the organization from an outside-in perspective that identifies the business model components and areas that drive value and then determines what the organization needs.

It’s not surprising research has found that staffing practices are related to organizational performance (Landy & Conte, 2007).

4. Culture

The culture is strong in all the right ways, and employees are more likely to think the organization is a good place to work. Employees not only adapt well to change, they embrace it. High performers also emphasize a readiness to meet new challenges and are committed to innovation.

In “Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance,” I talked about the culture within an organization. Organizational culture has a strong impact on employees, and in some cases the leaders.

In fact, with older, more established organizations, the organizational culture affects the leadership team rather than the other way around (Yukl, 2010).

5. Market

High-performing organizations have a strong market focus and go above and beyond for their customers. They are organized internally around what’s best for the customer, they think hard about customers’ future and long-term needs, and their strategy is based on customer data. And they are more likely to see customer information as the most important factor for developing new products and services.

In an earlier post titled “3 Tips on Leadership,” I shared sage advice from leadership expert, Warren Bennis. Dr. Bennis says that leaders need to have contextual intelligence. That is, they need to understand their own organization (from the inside out) as well as the larger business industry.

References

Bielaszka-DuVernay, C. (2009, April 13). Avoid mistakes that plague new leaders: An interview with Warren Bennis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://hbr.org

Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). New i4cp Study: The Five Domains of High-Performance Organizations. Retrieved from http://www.pr.com/press-release/206443

Landy, F. J. & Conte, J. M. (2007). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology (2nd Ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Oakes, K. (2010, January 29). The Five Domains of High Performance. Retrieved from http://www.totalpicture.com/shows/trendwatcher/kevin-oakes-high-performance.html

Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Prentice Hall.

Evidence-Based Training: Debunking the Myth of Learning Styles

In “Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals,” Ruth Clark (2010) states that one of the biggest myths perpetuated by training professionals is accommodating different learning styles.

“The learning style myth leads to some very unproductive training approaches that are counter to modern evidence of what works…The time and energy spent perpetuating the various learning style myths can be more wisely invested in supporting individual differences that are proven to make a difference—namely, prior knowledge of the learner.” (Clark, 2010, p. 10)

In her book, Dr. Clark cites a research study (by Kratzig and Arbuthnott) conducted with college students about learning styles. A group of college students were asked to do 3 things: (1) Rate their own learning style as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic; (2) Each student took a learning style test that puts them into the visual, auditory, or kinesthetic category; and (3) Each student was administered three tests to measure visual, auditory, or kinesthetic memory.

If the idea about learning style were true, we would expect someone who considers himself a visual learner to score higher on the visual part of the learning style test and have better visual recall.

“However, when all of the measures were compared, there were absolutely no relationships! A person who rated themselves an auditory learner was just as likely to score higher on the kinesthetic scale of the learning style test and show best memory for visual data. The research team concluded that ‘in contrast to learning style theory, it appears that people are able to learn effectively using all three sensory modalities’ (Kratzig & Arbuthnott 2006, 241)” (Clark, 2010, p.11).

Another example she provides is in explaining how something works. We normally think that a video or animated cartoon would be the best way to show how something works, but Dr. Clark says we would be wrong. Instead, according Dr. Clark, evidence shows that “when teaching how things work, a series of still visuals can be as good as or better than animations for learning (Ketter, 2010, p. 56).

Dr. Clark explains that the reason for this is because animation overloads our brains because there’s just too much visual information for us to process. “[But] a series of still visuals…can be reviewed and revisited at the learner’s preferred pace” (Ketter, 2010, p. 56).

Fad or Fact: Individuals with visual learning styles learn best from lessons with graphics.

FAD. There is no evidence for the prevalent myth of learning styles such as visual learners and auditory learners. Perpetuating this myth detracts resources from more productive proven training methods.

Source: “Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals” (Clark, 2010, p. 22)

Wow! I love solid evidence to dispel the misconceptions we sometimes hold onto. As a trainer, I’m thankful for Dr. Clark’s evidence-based research.

References

Clark, R.C. (2010). Evidence-Based Training Methods: A Guide for Training Professionals. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Ketter, P. (2010). Evidence-Based Training Methods: Toward a Professional Level of Practice. T+D, 64(4), 54-58.

Divisive Leadership and Uncivil Followership

Here at WorkplacePsychology.Net, I don’t take political sides. What I am interested in is examining effective leadership. The Center for Creative Leadership’s Bill Adams recently wrote a piece called “Crisis in Leadership: The Healthcare Bill.” It’s a well-written and balanced perspective on leadership in Washington.

The Center for Creative Leadership describes leadership using the acronym DAC, direction, alignment and commitment. Effective leaders are able to set the direction, create alignment, and secure commitment from their followers.

Back in February, I wrote about “Implementing Change and Overcoming Resistance” (it is one of the most visited posts on WorkplacePsychology.Net). In that post, I shared professor John Kotter’s 8-Stage Process to Creating Major Change. I also cited Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn’s (2005) tips for overcoming resistance to change.

Like many Americans, I have been following the healthcare debate and (unfortunately) all the uncivil debates and actions (from both sides and from angry politicians and passionate Americans). Though there was much talk about gathering support, the healthcare vote became very one-sided as its passage included not one Republican vote in Congress.

From a leadership perspective, I wish leaders in Washington had followed Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn’s (2005) advice in gaining alignment and overcoming resistance. To overcome resistance to change, make sure that the following criteria are met (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2005):

  1. Benefit: Whatever it is that is changing, that change should have a clear relative advantage for those being asked to change; it should be seen as “a better way.”
  2. Compatibility: The change should be as compatible as possible with the existing values and experiences of the people being asked to change.
  3. Complexity: The change should be no more complex than necessary; it must be as easy as possible for people to understand and use.
  4. Triability: The change should be something that people can try on a step-by-step basis and make adjustments as things progress.

I believe the two biggest obstacles which contributed to and exacerbated the strong disagreements and hostilities are compatibility and complexity. Somehow, I think the leaders in Washington forgot these little gems of leadership.

By strong-arming the healthcare bill through Congress using solely Democratic votes, the leaders have failed to see that this was not an effective solution in getting buy-in from the general followership. With the healthcare debate still ongoing (albeit very heated, discourteous, and even violent), the leaders decided to bypass the compatibility step in overcoming resistance.

The other piece that certainly did not help was the complexity of the healthcare bill, which totaled nearly 2000 pages. I highly doubt that anyone sat through and read it cover to cover. By the time a 2000-pages document gets translated and explained, something is bound to get lost in the translation. Politicians talk politics and sugarcoat or conveniently skip important facts and details. Special interest groups have their agendas, and so on. Throughout this maze of complexity, few have been able to (1) clearly explain what the healthcare bill is and (2) how the average American can use it (due to the many caveats).

What is equally alarming is that people upset over the healthcare bill’s passage have taken such extreme and sometimes violent displays of dissatisfaction, while those responsible for its passage turn a blind eye.

My hope for all Americans (those for, against, and indifferent to the healthcare bill) is to honor one another even as we disagree. When members in Congress yell out “you lie” to a sitting American President and another shouting “baby killer” while a fellow Congressman is talking, we have sadly forgotten the civility & decorum that is required and expected of all adults. It is sad (at least to me) that adults need to be reminded to practice polite & courteous behaviors.

When I worked as a behavior specialist in the school system, I certainly expected discourteous and rude behaviors from children. But, when I see adults (leaders and role models) behave worse than children, it makes me ashamed to call myself a “grown-up.”

Reference

Schermerhorn, J.R., Hunt, J.G., & Osborn, R.N. (2005). Organizational Behavior (9th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Adopting a Child’s Perspective Helps Adults Regain our Inborn Talents

My niece is so adorable and creative. She can turn something as simple as a blank sheet of paper and transform it into a game of checking into a plush hotel with concierge service. Kids are amazing because they see the world not as it is but what it can be. Unlike adults, children have a natural gift of creativity and imagination.

The 1988 movie “Big” (starring Tom Hanks) is a story of a 12-year old boy named Josh who got his wish to be “big.” He wakes up the next day to find that while his physical body had grown and aged to that of a man, he was still the same 12-year old kid on the inside.

The heart-warming story follows Josh as he finds work at a toy company. Unlike the other executives and managers who conduct market research into what kids like about toys, Josh actually plays with them. In a meeting on bringing a toy robot to market, a manager stated that research with children of a certain demographic indicated that the toy robot would be successful. As the manager is showing how the robot works (it’s a robot that transforms into a house), Josh raised his hand to ask,

“What’s so fun about that?”

Imagine if we could bring the candid outlook of kids into the workplace as Tom Hanks’ character did in the movie! Instead, we conduct research and analyze things so much (e.g., SWOT analysis) that we sometimes miss the golden opportunity to act.

Arnold Lazarus, a psychologist who founded multimodal therapy, shared a story of a friend who (by profession, a dentist) was “an absolute natural when it came to understanding people and showing genuine warmth, wisdom, and empathy” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352). The dentist friend was so good that many people confided in him with their troubles.

Due to his natural talents, this dentist friend decided to pursue training in psychology and eventually obtained a Ph.D. in social and clinical psychology. Ironically, Lazarus observed that “as my friend learned more and more psychology, as he took more and more readings and courses in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, it seemed to me that his natural skills eroded” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).

Shortly after Lazarus’ mother died, Lazarus opened his heart to this friend, someone who Lazarus had previously considered a “naturally great therapist” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352). But, instead of the natural warmth, support, and understanding that the—former dentist now psychologist—friend once exhibited, this now trained psychologist responded to Lazarus’ sorrows with psychological clichés and labels (Lazarus, 1990).

“The formal psychology and psychotherapy courses he had received were tantamount to taking a can of spray-paint to an artistic masterpiece” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).

What happened to the dentist-turned-psychologist friend made Lazarus question, “whether formal training causes most of us to undergo a similar truncation of our helpful inborn capacities” (Lazarus, 1990, p. 352).

Now don’t get me wrong, education, training, and experience are great, but…

Has “growing up” and being indoctrinated with formal knowledge and training hindered our natural-born skills of creativity, curiosity, and common sense to be a better worker or leader?

Reference

Lazarus, A. (1990). Can psychotherapists transcend the shackles of their training and superstitions? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 46(3), 351-358. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(199005)46:3<351::AID-JCLP2270460316>3.0.CO;2-V

Leading in a Crisis

“A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” -English proverb

The recent earthquake in Chile is a grim reminder of what it takes to lead in a crisis. Unlike the situation in Haiti, Chile has both a functioning government and the infrastructure in place to respond to the disaster. However, the Chilean response has not been fast enough (MSNBC, 2010). Chilean leaders are immobilized from not knowing what to do and their actions in disarray.

In Chile, survivors said they had little warning about the coming tsunami. Furthermore, they’re angry that the government’s response, in providing aid and support, has been slow. Looting has resulted as people desperate for food and supplies say they’re not getting any help (MSNBC, 2010).

In “7 Lessons for Leading in a Crisis” (2009), Bill George said that a crisis is like being at war. Crises test a leader’s ability to lead an organization through and out of a crisis. “There is nothing quite like a crisis to test your leadership. It will make or break you as a leader. Crises have brought down many leaders and their organizations with them…” (George, 2009, p. 1).

George (2009) maintained that leaders who are never tested (i.e. have never gone through a crisis) may be unable to handle crisis situations. Instead, under such emergencies, these untested leaders may buckle under pressure or freeze.

This is akin to an emergency room doctor who has just graduated from medical school and doing his internship. Although he may have learned what to do via textbooks, he has never been in a real crisis situation before.

From my experience conducting crisis management workshops, I have seen this first-hand. During the didactic (teaching/lecturing) portion, professionals will appear to be learning the required skills about what to do in a school or classroom emergency (e.g., when a student becomes violent). In simulated exercises, they’ll seem a bit less skilled. And in the final phase of the training, in testing (applying knowledge to simulated scenarios), they are the least proficient.

Finally, after these workshops and without a chance to apply what they’ve learned, their skills level decrease and sometimes disappear altogether.

My recommendation, based on my experience teaching crisis management, is to practice, practice, practice for emergencies. Just as police SWAT teams practice, just like firefighters practice, just like nurses and doctors practice to stay sharp during emergencies, so too should organizational leaders practice. They need to develop an emergency plan, get stakeholders involved, practice and then practice some more.

References

George, B. (2009). 7 lessons for leading in a crisis. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

MSNBC (2010, March). Lots of anger, some aid, in disaster zone. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35657707/ns/world_news-chile_earthquake/