Really: How Many Choices Do You Want?

The rallying cry of sales reps, product managers and politicians is "Choices! We offer choices!"

My observation? 

We really don’t like having too many choices. It makes us a little nervous. Every option leads to a chance to foul something up. Heck, a lot of people are more worried about not being wrong than about being right. So, we allow our experiences and habits to narrow our options to just a couple of familiar ones. It reduces the anxiety and relieves stress.

Choices

So, how do you make genuine changes faced with the siren song of habits?

The first move is to re-capture your sense of conscious choice in place of habitual reactions.  This leads to new options and frees you up from repeating the mistakes that have risen from repetition.

Be aware: it's not a single event, but a way of life.

More Good Options Than You Think!

You can choose how to respond, regardless of the situation and circumstances. Here are some possibilities that can change your world today. None of the options is confusing and you have permission to pick just one to get started:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try something new and different, and don't worry about getting it wrong. People who never made a mistake never made anything else.
  • Caught up in your emotions? Over-enthusiasm, revenge, or frustration will each whisper lousy advice in your ear. Wait until they stop talking, chill out, and re-visit the decision.
  • Listen longer before you respond to someone, at work or at home. The other person will feel more respected and you're just liable to see something from their viewpoint--in which case, you may end up in agreement. At the least, you'll learn something new.
  • Eschew snap judgments. It's easy to take a stand; the workplace smiles upon "strong"people. But when it comes to who is right and who is wrong, a knee-jerk reaction can wreck relationships. Besides, do you like it when someone makes a judgment about you?
  • Stop the self-talk about what you can’t do. Once you start doing that, you'll make it come true. Give your idea a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? Really. So what? If it does work, think about how you'll feel.

Now there's only one option: Will you choose to try doing something differently?"

Four Ways Leaders Can Impact Learning

Leaders, managers, and heads of projects constantly seek ways to grow talent and make a difference in organizational success.

More and more, job candidates are asking the question, "What will I learn here?" If they don't like the answer, chances are they'll keep looking.

So, I began reflecting on some recent speaking and workshop experiences. Four distinct factors came to mind as I thought about the give-and-take that led to learning for all of us. I hope you'll find these useful.

Learn_iStock_XSmall 

Four Ways to Impact Learning

Impact Curiosity: For every action there's a reaction. When we say or do something, people want time to react to it, talk about it, and understand what it means to them.

Practical Application: Allow  time for questions and answers. The give-and-take after you speak is where people actually learn and where they begin to develop an affinity for, and commitment to, the topic. Even if you're an expert, the learning takes place as a result of people wrestling with the information or idea rather than being the recipients of a data dump--no matter how eloquent you may be.

Impact self-confidence: How you deliver and discuss the information impacts how people feel about learning it. People with position power--managers, supervisors, team leaders--all have the ability to build confidence in the learners or create a defensive atmosphere.

Practical Application: Tell the group at the outset that you value their questions and that you hope they'll jump in when they experience an "Aha!" or a "Help me, I don't get it." When someone asks a question, throw it back out to the group to give someone else a chance to form an answer that may be framed in a way different than your own. Thank people whenever they ask a question or offer an answer.

Impact motivation: Even as youngsters, we knew who the teachers were who made learning exciting, interesting, and engaging. Why not be the "managerial version" of your best teacher. And remember this: Managers Are The Mediators of Motivation.

Practical Application: Take some time to develop questions and break people into groups to address them; if you're talking about a new marketing approach, give people a block of time to do a concept and present it to the group. You know the content. The time you spend designing the right approach will pay off in engaged learners and, ultimately, effective learning.

Impact Creativity: Unless you're involved in safety procedures, accounting rules, or a regulatory issue, people want to be able to offer their own "variation on a theme." One of the reasons to bring people together is to capitalize on the collective creativity and varying viewpoints in the room.

Practical Application: Give people latitude to take the discussion in directions that you never thought of. Remember, you're in charge--but to try to be in control will shut down the kind of learning that the group--and you--have an opportunity to experience.

Bonus: When the noise level goes up and people start debating, discussing, and delving into a topic, you've been successful. Let it go until the energy begins to die down. Then, capture the points that they were making with their co-workers and discuss next steps.

When learners sit passively, you may feel more relaxed because you feel in control not having to respond to questions or manage the group. What it may really mean is that they aren't engaged, aren't learning, and are waiting "until the bell rings" so they can go back to their workspace.

So, pick one of the four and impact someone's learning today. You can.

 

What Happens When Leaders Coach?

You may already have the right people to enable your company to "win"--however you define the word.

A couple of years ago I was involved in designing a leadership program to develop the top talent in a global company. We created a model that used the senior management team as coaches for the structured learning activities. First we coached the coaches on how to coach; then we turned them loose. It's been the most effective learning we've experienced in nearly 30 years of leadership development and design.

What's happening that works? Coaching2

  • The top leadership learns a lot about their own abilities.
  • They learn about their people while developing closer relationships with them.
  • The high potential participants receive coaching and company insight from the leaders who know it best.
  • The participants also "step up" their game. How often do you see the top leadership in a company totally dedicate two full days to the talent beneath them?

You Can Do It, Too

Leaders are the natural lighting rods for developing talent. Coaching isn't another job--it is their job.

Companies are always looking for ways to develop people economically but effectively. Every research study on the planet shows that employees are most influenced--pro or con--by their immediate boss. That's exactly why leaders at every level have the ability to make the most difference when it comes to grooming people for the future.

The mission: Give them the capability. 

Three things leaders can start now:

Appreciate: Focus on identifying the very best in others.

Encounter:  Seek the truth, wherever that path will lead.

Improve: Insist upon personal responsibility for performance growth.

When leaders coach, we get "two personal bests" for the price of one.

What Is In Your Unspoken Contract?

When 300 technical professionals at a major utility were told to re-apply for jobs in their department as part of a major reorganization, they were livid.

"I've been here 18 years."  (Longevity means immunity to change)

"I hired the idiot who's running this thing." (If I gave someone their job, they won't mess with mine)

"They already know what I can do." (I only have to prove myself once)

"No other utility has ever had to go through this." (This place isn't being run according to the norm)

"No one told me this could happen when I was hired." (This wasn't part of the deal)

"My wife and I have planned our retirement for 23 years." ('They' are responsible for my cradle-to-grave existence)

Danger: The "Invisible Assumed"

When you signed on with your current employer you probably discussed:

Icebergforpost Salary, benefits, corporate vision, the marketplace, performance expectations.

Chances are you won't  become really upset as a result of any of those items changing a bit. It's the ones you assumed to be true that will come back to haunt you.

You'll become disenchanted as a result of someone breaking the implicit contract .

The contract that you created in your own mind. Visible only to you.

In the real-life example above, the implicit contract had to do with the unspoken nature of Utility companies: Stable, Secure, Lifetime Employment, Methodical Career Progression...

No one ever said those things out loud. They were just "known."

Q: Do you and your spouse get upset about what you talked about before you got married or what you assumed would be true?

Tips for Employees and Employers

Employees:

1. Before you sign on the dotted line, check out your assumptions.

2. Make a written list.

3. Check out their validity with your prospective company or boss.

Employers:

1. Before introducing a change, take a look at the culture.

2. What is it that drew people to your company in the first place?

    Security? Action? International travel? Work close to home?

3. If one or more of those traditional characteristics (the unspoken attraction) will change, then help neutralize the impact by discussing it openly.

Tell what is going to happen and why. Explain the reality of implicit agreements and that you realize this might be one such example. You'll give people a mental model to understand what they are experiencing.

Finally: What happened to our 300 techies?

a. They had been told before the process started that no one would lose a job with the company. They would hopefully be better matched as a result of the process. And, everyone did remain employed.

b. The department as a whole was more effective.

c.  About 10% chose to retire rather than  make the change.

What is your unspoken, implicit contract? How did your employer's reputation and industry culture contribute to that?

 

Six Things To Pay Attention To In Groups

We're always part of some group

You and I pretty much spend our entire lives in groups. We start off in a family, play with groups of friends, attend classes, and work in groups and teams. So, woudn't it make sense to learn as much as possible about the dynamics associated with groups?

Groups

 Some years ago, organizations spent a fair amount of time educating people on the fine points of group dynamics. The research was new and fascinating. New is good. Now that that body of work has been around for a while, it's no longer "what's happening." The human condition--and certainly the organizational mind--is always looking for what's new. The world of advertising slaps the word "new" on packaging and products for a very good reason: new is good. Old isn't bad--it just gets ignored even though it's valid and useful.

There's no ignoring the importance of understanding groups. So here are some things to ponder when you are leading, or part of, a group or team.

Pay attention to these

1. Whenever one person leaves or one person enters a group, the dynamics change. Why? We learn how to function in our groups based on the roles people play, how they play them, and the balance of power and influence that results. 

2. That means that each time the group composition changes, it's a signal to sit down and talk. When a new member enters, the first two things that person thinks about are:   

Why am I here? (Task/Role)

Who are you? (Getting to know more about the other members and vice-versa)

3. If you skip this step, it will only be a matter of time before you notice that something is not quite right with the group.  That's the indicator to stop, get together, and clarify #1 as well as spend time doing #2).

4. When a reasonable amount of comfort and trust is established, you enable the group to be able to make decisions together. The question then is: how will we make decisions? Which ones are left to the group, which are the purview of the leader, and why?

5. Now you are in a place to implement and actually get the work of the group done. That means  you need to agree on "how" things will happen. Note: "How" is important because implementation is the element of group work that allows individuals to use their talents and uniqueness. People lose interest and morale can plummet when they don't feel as if they are uniquely part of the "how."

6.  If you've attended to all of the steps so far, then high performance should be the result. That might mean a great performing team at work, a terrific volunteer organization, or a healthy, well-functioning family.

Food for thought: If you find your group struggling, go back one step and see if you paid appropriate attention to the relevant issue. Keep going back until you take care of the business at that step and then start moving forward again.

Groups are such a huge part of our lives, isn't it worthwhile to develop the related knowledge and skills that will make group life effective?

 

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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