Monday, February 27, 2012

You don't 'have' to do anything. Period.

"I have to submit this project tomorrow.
I have an assignment I have to complete tonight.
I have to go to a dinner with my partner.
I have to attend my child's performance.
I have to prepare for a meeting tomorrow.
I have to. I have to. I have to."

Guess what. You don't.

You don't "have" to do anything.

Sure there are consequences for not doing these things. There are also consequences for doing them too.

Which brings me to my point. Think about how differently you would apply yourself to the above activities if you actively chose to do them or decided that you are doing them because you want to do them rather than you "have" to do them.

Think about all the things that you are doing because you believe that you "have" to do them. What would happen if you didn't do them?

Maybe the consequence would be that you would miss out on something that you really want, such as your partner feeling that you really do love him/her. Or maybe you would miss out on a promotion that you really want.

What if you were to switch from the perspective of "have to or else...", to "want to because..."?

When you understand why you are doing what you are doing in the moment and how it will help you to achieve what you really want, it is amazing how much happier you are right now when you fully apply yourself to the activity whatever it may be. This also increases the chances that you'll also be happier in the future.

This is one of the key success strategies when you plan and action personal success.

Try it out and let me know how you go. I'm confident that you will be positively surprised.

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to use illustrations to create Conversations That Matter®

Creating Conversations That Matter® is a key skill for organisational leaders. Amidst forecasting, attending to meetings and writing reports, the development of this skill is often neglected. Think about it, how do you stimulate Conversations That Matter® with your peers, direct reports and your leaders? How do you stimulate them with your key stakeholders and clients?

Conversations That Matter® are conversations where people are able to speak from the heart, speak their truth (whatever it may be) in a safe environment where there will not be negative consequences for speaking their mind. This does not mean that people lose responsibility for what they say. Rather, their responsibility increases as respect is a core requirement for a conversation that matters to be conducted.

So how might a leader create a conversation that matters, especially when there may be a level of distrust present amongst team members?

One way is to use illustrations to catalyse your conversations. For these conversations to be successful, the leader must be prepared to do the following five practices:

1. Be prepared to 'listen to understand' to what is being said, rather than listening to defend/justify
2. Guarantee that no negative consequences will result to people as a result of the conversation
3. Listen more than speak - a good rule of thumb to follow is to speak 30% and to listen 70% of the time
4. Be prepared to ask open questions (see The Art of Skilful Questions)
5. Judge the quality of the conversation by the level of truth that is present in the conversation (see the video Transparency - How leaders create a culture of candor)

If you are able to follow the five practices above, then determine the focus of your conversation, then select an image that you could use and give it a go. As an example a great friend of ours Jock MacNeish has been creating such illustrations for the best part of his life. Over time Jock has created many illustrations for us and the 0 to 10 Relationship Management body of knowledge. As Licensed Elite Trainer Facilitators in 0 to10 Relationship Management, Andrew and I are able to use Jock’s illustrations.

The 0 to 10 Relationship Management Culture Survey illustrations are very powerful catalysts for enabling people to have a conversation that matters. If you were interested to know what your team members thought about the level of autonomy that they had in their jobs, you could place the illustration below on the table and ask them to mark on the scale where they believe the level currently sits.

When people place their finger on the scale that they believe represents their view, simply say, "Thank you for your honesty. What examples do you have that would help me to understand what this score means to you?"

Their answers will be powerful and enable you to identify what you should keep doing, start doing and stop doing. If, of course, you have tried this technique and no-one in your team spoke up, then you may have your answer anyway!

On the other hand if you've never tried this technique before please give it a go. Either print the illustration from this article or select a different onee for your team and create a conversation that matters. Please let us know how you go!

Finally, if you like this concept but aren’t sure what illustration to use, please provide a brief description of your issue in the comments box and I’ll help you find an appropriate illustration.

As a leader a significant part of your success is driven by your capacity to create and stimulate conversations that matter. Is this a skill that you possess? What are you currently doing to develop it?

Please feel free to ask questions and/or to make comments about this article.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Usefulness is more important than complete accuracy when using Personality Profiling tools for teams

There are many personality profiling tools. Myer-Briggs (MBTI), DISC, OPQ and Wave are a number of the more commonly used approaches. Technically they are hard to separate although the Wave (to which I am licensed) is able to provide evidence that it is superior to the rest.

From a personal development perspective I advocate the use of any one of the abovementioned tools. I strongly encourage that they be used with support from experts.

Where I don't advocate the use of these tools is with teams.

I don't say this because I think the tools are poor - rather they are too complex for most people to make them useful from an ongoing perspective.

When I conduct team development programs I ask the participants if they have ever completed any personality profile assessments. A large percentage of people indicate that they have completed assessments, but their memory of what the results meant is limited.

"I did the MBTI and I think I was an extravert..." is as much detail as most people can muster.

When I ask how the tool was used to improve the performance of a team people struggle to provide clear examples. However they add, "...but I thought it was really interesting and learnt a few things about myself."

The issue here is that we need to use team profiling tools that are memorable and useful. It is for this reason that I use the What Makes People Tick Personality Profile tool. I'll be the first to admit that the science behind the tool is nowhere near the sophistication of a DISC or the OPQ. What is important is that the tool is easy to remember and therefore apply. You don't have to be an expert on the tool to be able to apply its lessons within your team.

This is a significant problem I find with a lot of the other tools. You virtually have to be an expert in them to be able to apply them in a team setting. Most people are too busy being experts in their own fields and simply don't have the mental 'space' to become an expert ion personality profiling tools.

A case in point. When recently facilitating a team development program, the youngest person in the room (a 26 year old) was able to provide a detailed description of the What Makes People Tick approach. He was able to accurately remember and describe the four personality types as well as how they were used to help improve team performance. This person was not university qualified yet he knew more about the practical application of techniques to manage personality differences that the vast majority of university graduates with whom I have worked.

This was despite it being a full two years since he had worked with the team where he had been exposed to the tool. No one else was able to provide any examples regarding the practical application of the tools they had used.

What Makes People Tick uses only two sets of dimensions from which a person's profile is derived. They are:
  • Introversion/extraversion
  • People focus/task focus

The combination of these dimensions result in a people having a combination of four preferred 'windows' through which they make sense of the world. These four windows are:
  • Introversion/people focus
  • Extraversion/people focus
  • Introversion/task focus
  • Extraversion/task focus

The memorability aspect of this tool derives from the descriptions that Des Hunt, the creator of the profile then added to each of the above windows.
They are:
  • Dove
  • Peacock
  • Owl
  • Eagle

The majority of people are able to describe some of the key behavioural characteristics of these birds without being an expert on the tool. They are able to do this because of the differences that the images of the birds demonstrate. When the characteristics are applied to humans people have a lot of fun but are also able to make sense of how the personality differences can generate unhealthy conflict within a team. Conflict that is often hard to 'pinpoint' yet makes complete sense when the 'bird' profiles are discovered.

More importantly people are able to quickly identify strategies for managing the differences.

For examples, 'Peacocks' are ideas people who like to follow their gut instincts. Owls, on the other hand are conservative and like data to support decisions. It's not hard to imagine how such differences in preferences could generate problems.

Armed with this knowledge the Peacock could engage another Owl to do some research for them to find some facts to support their idea. Armed with the facts the Peacock could then present the idea to the Owl. Similarly the Owl can choose to be more forgiving of the Peacock. They might also choose to do their own research on how often the Peacock's ideas have been useful. Upon discovering a high percentage the Owl could use this data to support the Peacock in going with their intuition. The simplicity of the tool enhances its functionality.

What tools have you used and how useful have they been from the perspective of helping to improve team performance?

Monday, February 6, 2012

A structure for creating Meetings That Matter

Ron Ashkenas, author of The Boundaryless Organization reports that most managers believe that the majority of meetings are inefficient. Despite 'knowing' how to conduct effective meetings they continue to practice ineffective ones.

Ashkenas offers three reasons for this behaviour:
  1. Meetings offer the opportunity for social interaction
  2. Meetings are a practical way of keeping everyone in the loop
  3. Meeting can represent a certain level of status having been attained
He provides the basic tenets of an efficient meeting to be:
"Be clear about what you want to accomplish; invite the right people; send out pre-reading in advance; have an agenda and follow it with discipline; send out notes with key decisions and action steps."

From my experience one of the problems with the prescribed successful meeting process is that people are too busy to do the required pre-reading. In fact, most managers have reported to me that they don't have the time to pre-read the prescribed agenda. This is something they do on the way to the meeting or when they first get there.

Managers have also reported to me that they don't focus on the content of the meeting "...until I am there.", especially when they are travelling from one meeting to the next.

In this context it seems near impossible to create efficient meetings. Thankfully there is a way, but it will take some of you some time to get used to the 'instant formality' that the process creates.

Step 1: Provide an opportunity for staff to 'check in' at the start of the meeting (keep it short)
Efficient meetings require all present to be 'present' during the meeting. Wandering minds don't aid efficiency. The purpose of the 'check in' is to allow team members to psychologically separate from what was going on before the meeting to focusing on the meeting that is happening 'now'.

A 'check in' can be a single word where everyone is asked to share how they are at that moment through to just those feeling the need to share a recent experience that may be on their mind (e.g. I nearly had a car accident on the way here).

Step 2: Clarify the purpose of the meeting
Even if this is a regular meeting, remind people why it still matters. If the meeting no longer matters then you shouldn't be wasting your time conducting it!

Step 3: Collectively set the agenda
Publicly create the agenda. A whiteboard is perfect for this task (remember there is power in the whiteboard marker, so while you are teaching people this method it is best to be the 'scribe')
Accept all suggestions from all team members. Then select the most important items that need to be addressed today. It is okay to use your positional authority as necessary when completing this task.

Literally place numbers beside each item as you prioritise them.

Next allocate approximate time slots for each agenda item that you have agreed to talk about.
These time slots do not need to be equal - they need to be relevant to the importance of the agenda item and how long (in the available time) you have to discuss the item.

Step 4: Set a time keeper
A team member will need to take on the role of time keeper. It is amazing how often the simple statement that we have used our available time on an item results in the discussion ending. Please note that this role can (and probably should) move around the team members from one meeting to the next.

Step 5: Make a record of the meeting
Create meeting notes that highlight the agreed agenda and any actions that result from each item. Share the meeting notes in a timely fashion. Keep the notes as short as possible; they need to make sense but they don't need to be War and Peace.

Step 6: Reflect on the meeting skills displayed throughout the meeting
This step spends a few minutes providing the opportunity to team members to talk about their thoughts about how well meeting skills were displayed by the team members. Comments such as, "Joan asked a lot of powerful questions today. Especially when she asked me about the most powerful benefits for the organisation that my suggestion would provide. It really made me stop and think more clearly about why this project matters." provide an example of what might be said during the reflection.

That's it. Like anything new this six step approach will feel strange at first, but you will get used to it.

Please feel free to ask questions about any of the six steps outlined above.

Please note that this article was catalysed by a recent conversation with one of my Executive Coaching clients. Thanks Elise!