Sunday, October 7, 2012

Overcoming Short-Termism: Understanding Cognitive Biases In Times Of Uncertainty

John Hagel, co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge, shares incredible insights on his blog about the world we live in and our natural responses to facing times of high uncertainty.

He has painted a picture of hope and collaboration, and I would like to share it with you here, in form of an actual picture.

For more information, please visit the original text at http://edgeperspectives.typepad.com/edge_perspectives/2011/11/cognitive-biases-in-times-of-uncertainty.html.


Overcoming Short-Termism: Understanding Cognitive Biases In Times Of Uncertainty

The Taboo Against Being Real In Management

A young man was appointed as a manager of a team of software specialists. One team member was a woman in her twenties who was very competent but discourteous towards her new boss. She did not greet him in the mornings, and she would continue to work on her computer when he tried to talk to with her. The manager felt hurt and angry, and worried about how to change their relationship. This one relationship added greatly to his stress in the new job.

An invisible part of organizations is the stress and pain associated with learning the role of manager. For many people the transition from specialist to manager is a rough road which stretches them to develop new competencies and to shift attitudes at the core of their personality.

It is entirely normal that a manager may have anxiety about confronting an employee, anger towards a resistant group, or fear of a project falling apart. However, the stress and emotional distress involved in learning to become a manager is largely disregarded as something which individuals should cope with on their own. That these emotions can be important to their learning is generally not recognized. Management training programs usually offer no forum for such discussions. In fact there seems to be a taboo against people being candid about these experiences. Consequently, they do not have support to talk over such episodes and feelings in a constructive way.

This is in marked contrast to the experience of training for psychotherapists. In this professional culture it is accepted that psychotherapists need to integrate emotional and cognitive learning. It is expected that trainees will experience their training as distressing at times. They take it for granted that they should work with their distressing emotions. They assume that the pain associated with learning is significant for development, and that painful episodes and emotions should be actively explored for their meaning and their contribution to the individual’s development.

Admittedly psychotherapists and managers work with different populations, for different purposes, and with different contracts. However, the manager’s role has significant elements in common with a psychotherapist, especially a group psychotherapist. Managers’ work is largely with people, and their competence in relationships is important. Managers work with group dynamics. The manager’s role induces projections and transferences which distort communications with employees.

This contrast in training approaches led me to research the significance of emotions in learning to become a therapist, which I anticipated would throw light on management training. My paper "Emotional Pain in Learning" describes the nature of the work on emotions that psychotherapists do during their training and explains why they see this work as important. See Emotional Pain in Learning

Several of the reasons psychotherapists described for working with feelings apply directly to the manager’s situation. They reported that they gained:
  • Support for and release from the feelings (anger, guilt, shame, etc.) that drained their energy and affected their ability to function.
  • The ability to convert their emotions into an articulate language which helped them develop the concepts they needed to understand the situations they encountered and to be less hostage to their emotions.
  • The ability to distinguish their own emotional issues from their client’s. e.g. Are they empathizing with the client or are they projecting their own feelings on to the client?
With little guidance in managing painful emotions, managers are handicapped in gaining fluency with the feelings their work relationships stimulate in them. They often fall back onto gut reactions and dysfunctional attitudes and models for their roles. For instance, the first impulse of the manager mentioned at the opening of this paper was to retaliate in some way. Another manager worked with a deputy who disagreed with a number of her policies and approaches. She experienced his criticisms as a personal attack. At one point, he sent out a memo with alternative suggestions for a particular project. The manager was offended, felt that the deputy had not shown her the respect due to her, and responded with a letter of reprimand. He lodged a formal complaint of harassment as a result.

Negative emotions are part of a manager’s experience, and the way he or she handles them is critical to success. Organizations can help their management trainees through:
  • accepting and supporting trainees’ emotional experience.
  • building time for personal development into training programs,
  • providing regular supervision of case material from the trainee’s practice.
Provision of this support can be a straightforward matter. One international corporation provides a leadership development program that helps its managers deal with the emotional stresses of their roles. Professional coaching helped in the two examples given earlier. Coaching groups for managers are another useful approach.

Unfortunately the dominant ideology within corporations denies the significance of emotions in management learning. There have been some shifts in this ideology in recent years as companies have recognized the need to support managers who lose their jobs with downsizing and communities understand that victims of disasters need counseling and other emotional support. However, the overarching belief remains that emotions do not matter in management learning. As a consequence much that has been learned about professional development in the field of psychotherapy is excluded from or pushed to the margins of the management training discourse.

Reference Nichol, B., (1997), Emotional Pain in Learning: Applying Group-analytic Experience in Non-clinical Fields. Group Analysis, Vol. 30, 93-105. Emotional Pain in Learning

About the author:

Brian Nichol, Ph.D., principal at the Business Coach Institute (BCI), has worked in the private industry, university teaching, and independent consulting. He is co-founder and director of the North Carolina State University Business Coaching Certificate Program, which provides training for people who want to become a professional coach. As an executive coach he has coached executives, business owners, management teams, and HRD professionals. He also has interest in group psychotherapy and is an active member of the Carolinas Group Psychotherapy Society. Brian holds a Ph.D. in organizational psychology and has taught graduate courses in Organization Development (OD) and Human Resource Development (HRD) at the University of Manchester in England and North Carolina State University. In industry he was a training specialist with Kodak (UK) Ltd. and the Beecham Group (now GlaxoSmithKline). In 2000 he was President of the Triangle Organization Development Network.

Transparency Is The New Objectivity

A friend asked me to post an explanation of what I meant when I said at PDF09 [Personal Democracy Forum Conference] that "transparency is the new objectivity.” First, I apologize for the cliché of "x is the new y.” Second, what I meant is that transparency is now fulfilling some of objectivity’s old role in the ecology of knowledge.

Outside of the realm of science, objectivity is discredited these days as anything but an aspiration, and even that aspiration is looking pretty sketchy. The problem with objectivity is that it tries to show what the world looks like from no particular point of view, which is like wondering what something looks like in the dark. Nevertheless, objectivity — even as an unattainable goal — served an important role in how we came to trust information, and in the economics of newspapers in the modern age. 

You can see this in newspapers’ early push-back against blogging. We were told that bloggers have agendas, whereas journalists give us objective information. Of course, if you don’t think objectivity is possible, then you think that the claim of objectivity is actually hiding the biases that inevitably are there. That’s what I meant when, during a bloggers press conference at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I asked Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Walter Mears whom he was supporting for president. He replied (paraphrasing!), "If I tell you, how can you trust what I write?,” to which I replied that if he doesn’t tell us, how can we trust what he blogs? 

So, that’s one sense in which transparency is the new objectivity. What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position. Transparency gives the reader information by which she can undo some of the unintended effects of the ever-present biases. Transparency brings us to reliability the way objectivity used to.

This change is, well, epochal.

Objectivity used be presented as a stopping point for belief: If the source is objective and well-informed, you have sufficient reason to believe. The objectivity of the reporter is a stopping point for reader’s inquiry. That was part of high-end newspapers’ claimed value: You can’t believe what you read in a slanted tabloid, but our news is objective, so your inquiry can come to rest here. Credentialing systems had the same basic rhythm: You can stop your quest once you come to a credentialed authority who says, "I got this. You can believe it.” End of story. 

We thought that that was how knowledge works, but it turns out that it’s really just how paper works. Transparency prospers in a linked medium, for you can literally see the connections between the final draft’s claims and the ideas that informed it. Paper, on the other hand, sucks at links. You can look up the footnote, but that’s an expensive, time-consuming activity more likely to result in failure than success. So, during the Age of Paper, we got used to the idea that authority comes in the form of a stop sign: You’ve reached a source whose reliability requires no further inquiry.

In the Age of Links, we still use credentials and rely on authorities. Those are indispensable ways of scaling knowledge, that is, letting us know more than any one of us could authenticate on our own. But, increasingly, credentials and authority work best for vouchsafing commoditized knowledge, the stuff that’s settled and not worth arguing about. At the edges of knowledge — in the analysis and contextualization that journalists nowadays tell us is their real value — we want, need, can have, and expect transparency. Transparency puts within the report itself a way for us to see what assumptions and values may have shaped it, and lets us see the arguments that the report resolved one way and not another. Transparency — the embedded ability to see through the published draft — often gives us more reason to believe a report than the claim of objectivity did. 

In fact, transparency subsumes objectivity. Anyone who claims objectivity should be willing to back that assertion up by letting us look at sources, disagreements, and the personal assumptions and values supposedly bracketed out of the report. 

Objectivity without transparency increasingly will look like arrogance. And then foolishness. Why should we trust what one person — with the best of intentions — insists is true when we instead could have a web of evidence, ideas, and argument?

In short: Objectivity is a trust mechanism you rely on when your medium can’t do links. Now our medium can.

Creative Commons License


About the author:

Dr. David Weinberger has a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently a Senior Researcher at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab at Harvard Law School, and a Franklin Fellow at the United States State Department. He has written for the "Fortune 500" of business and tech journals, and writes an influential business technology newsletter and a well-known daily weblog, Joho the Blog. His latest book, Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder explains how the new rules for organizing ideas and information are transforming business and culture. David turns his experience and knowledge to the important question facing businesses today: How is technology changing the way my employees, partners and customers are putting themselves together, and how is that changing the basics of my business... and beyond. You can learn more about David here and connect with him on twitter @dweinberger.
Photo by Leah Weinberger

Stuck In The Drama Triangle

Drama

A manager’s job is inherently stressful – that’s what makes it fun; an opportunity; a challenge. But it can also be an emotional rollercoaster.

My husband once worked for a manager who repeatedly called his employees at home to discuss… nothing. I think it was his way of sorting out all the ‘clutter’. (I kept wanting to grab the telephone and ask, "What Do You Want From Them?!”)

When emotions run high and ‘thought clutter’ dominates my brain, I have learned that it’s time to make a change. A change that starts with me and the way I think. 

You know how it works; you are aggravated because a rude, opinionated customer complains to you - until you realize that his or her feedback helped you solve a problem or improve a process.

Marlene Chism writes: "The drama is the situation. Your drama is how you react to it.”
I recently read her book Stop Workplace Drama and discovered how relevant the topic is for managers. I learned that a drama-free workplace is ‘peaceful and prosperous’. 

That’s a matter-of-fact way to think about management, too: Great managers create peace and prosperity.

Getting Stuck

Business is about relationships. Relationships that prosper. If you’ve ever dealt with people, you know that not all encounters with other humans end on a high note. Marlene describes the three roles people play in dysfunctional relationships: rescuer, victim and persecutor (the drama triangle).

Illustration
Me stuck in the drama triangle:
● Lending an employee money (rescuer)
● Feeling sorry for myself because I am overworked (victim)
● Chewing someone out while feeling superior (persecutor)

In the picture above, empowerment describes the life outside the triangle. But I’m not a big fan of it. It’s like the word leadership – not very practical.
A New Perspective

Marlene makes the concept of empowerment actionable:
"The path to developing a great team and positive workplace is empowerment. Leaders must be able to develop other creators. Creators take responsibility. They don’t blame the economy, another person, or a situation. […] ‘Become a creator’ is a fancy way of saying take responsibility.”

It gets even better:

"Responsibility is the recognition of choice."


I love that.

When emotions run high, I can identify the choices I have made, own them, and move forward.
Check out an excerpt from the book here: Setting boundaries and turning employees into problem-solvers.

Our Strengths And Weaknesses Are Known

This is one of my guiding beliefs and I invite you to take it on, too. This belief has the power to reduce stress, improve clarity, and make your likeability skyrocket. Really! 

Our strengths and weaknesses are known. Leadership is a social act. It occurs in conversation. It is visible. And because leadership is visible, what we are great at and what we stink at is known. If we are a control freak, everyone knows this. If we tend to become defensive when people offer alternative ideas, everyone sees this. If we meet our time lines, this is known, If we routinely miss deadlines, people have learned this about us. The ways in which we ADD to the team are known and the ways in which we REDUCE team effectiveness is known. 

And we all excel at some things and not at others. We are beautifully flawed leaders, even the best of us! The reason that adopting this belief – that our strengths and weaknesses are known – is freeing is that this means that there is no downside to being open about our challenges and fatal flaws. Our employees will not respect us less if we acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses. In fact, if we are open and show an interest in reducing derailing factors, peers and employees will respect us more. 

Your strengths and weaknesses ARE known. Make sure you are not the last to know and that you use the power of this belief to grow while improving your reputation.

About the author:

Lisa Haneberg is the Vice President and OD Consulting Practice Lead at MPI Consulting. She has over 25 years experience providing consulting, training and coaching solutions for large and small companies, and government and nonprofit organizations. Lisa has written several business books and speaks on a broad range of topics of interest to leaders and managers. She joined MPI after running her own successful consulting practice for several years. Prior to this, she held internal leadership positions in companies such as Black & Decker, Mead Paper, Intel, Amazon.com, Cruise West, and the Beacon Hotel Corporation. Lisa is the author of the popular blog Management Craft. You can follow her on twitter @lisahaneberg.

Why Isn’t “Thinking Time” Part Of Your Standard Work?

I'm continually struck by the relentless, frenzied pace that people maintain at work. Whether it's an engineer at a high-tech startup in which speed is part of the company's DNA, or an attorney at a law firm who insists she has to respond immediately (if not sooner) to a client's call, or the head of a non-profit focused on building community support for the organization's mission, everyone is obsessed with speed and responsiveness.

But does a myopic focus on one aspect of performance really lead to the best results? Are we sacrificing quality on the altar of speed?

[A] Corner Office interview in the NYTimes was striking for the assertion — once again — that there's nothing more important than taking time away to (gasp!) actually think. John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, says
I take days away. This is the only phone call I’m taking today, because it’s a thinking day. It’s a day to just get away and step back and reflect. And I find that very hard to do in the office or in a familiar environment. I find that if I don’t schedule a little bit of structured time away, where there’s no interruption, that it’s very hard to get the kind of thinking time and reflection time that I think is so important.

He goes on to explain that even though he takes one of these days every two months, he thinks he should take more of them — at least one per month. As it is, he uses long flights where's there's no email or cellphone service to give himself some pure, uninterrupted thinking time.

Donahoe also maintains that email can be a real problem. He points out that
On the one hand the BlackBerry’s a productivity tool. On the other hand, it can be a very fragmenting thing. If I’m spending all day checking my BlackBerry, by definition I’m reactive. And so I try to only do e-mail first thing in the morning or in the evening, because I find if I check e-mail during the day, I go from being proactive about what I want to get accomplished that day to being reactive, and that’s a bit of a trap. Being reactive is a lot easier than being proactive, and e-mail and the BlackBerry are natural tools to facilitate that.

I think that Donahoe has really nailed it here: email leads us to become reactive, rather than proactive. If all you're doing is responding to new, incoming messages, by definition you're putting out yesterday's fires. And further, you're implicitly placing greater importance on the newest thing (by giving it attention) rather than what you're currently doing — which is patently ludicrous.

Some people think that it's all well and good for a CEO to unplug himself — when you're the big cheese, you make the rules — that's just not possible for the folks in the trenches. But I think that's a lie. Unless you're in a sadly dysfunctional organization (and if you are, feel free to stop reading now and go to ESPN.com for the latest baseball scores), you're being paid to create value for customers (internal or external). You're not being paid to respond to every random thought or idle question in 8 nanoseconds. And to create value, sometimes you have to actually stop and think.

Action without thought leads inevitably to one of the seven forms of muda. It's very hard to actually stop doing and start thinking, but that's the real way to eliminate waste and create value. There's a [recent] story about a computer room at Toyota's Torrance headquarters that was getting too warm. Most people would get that email and immediately turn up the air conditioner. You know, respond immediately to the email. But these guys did a root cause analysis and found that the real problem was a blocked air duct. The symptoms didn't go away immediately, but the real problem was actually solved. It just required some time to think.

Here's the challenge for you: build some of this thinking time into your week or month. Make it part of your standard work. It's easy to be lulled into the safety of immediate action. But thinking is critical to ensuring that the action you take is actually of value. Donahoe knows that. Toyota knows that. You should know it too.

About the author:

Daniel Markovitz is president of TimeBack Management, a consulting firm specializing in the application of lean concepts to individual and group work. He is a faculty member at the Lean Enterprise Institute and teaches at the Stanford University Continuing Studies Program. He also leads a problem solving workshop at the Ohio State University’s Fisher School of Business. He is the author of the forthcoming book, "A Factory of One," to be published by Productivity Press in late 2011. You can reach him at dan@timebackmanagement.com or via twitter @timeback.

Where Are the Rewards for Reflection?

One of the definitions of the word reflection is "the bending or folding back of a part upon itself”. In a way, when we reflect, we fold back upon ourselves. The act of reflecting can us to become aware of our past actions in order to impact the future in a positive way.

Leadership requires a great deal of reflection in order to improve and change; yet we resist the idea of doing something that feels stagnant. We don’t get obvious and immediate rewards for doing it. Nobody is out there giving us high fives for reflecting. We don’t get paid for it. It takes time. And sometimes reflection makes us cognizant of our imperfections, and that doesn’t feel very good.

Besides, we’re really busy and seem to be hard wired for action. There are organizational goals to be made. Children to raise. Volunteer activities to be involved in. These things make us feel like we’re moving forward; and the action we take makes us feel good. It gets our adrenaline going, and may also release a few endorphins or serotonins to reinforce busy-ness.

We get rewarded from the external world for moving forward. So that’s what we do. We move forward. We stay busy. We take action. And…..we resist reflecting.

What are the rewards for reflection?
The rewards for reflection are subtle and less than obvious (when was the last time you received a bonus from your organization for excellent execution of reflection?). However, if you notice, you may observe some rewards when you make reflection a regular practice: 

Improved action: When you ask yourself what you did well and what you could have done better following a specific action, it can help to improve future similar actions. It’s also possible that by reflecting on specific actions in light of your values, your organization’s vision or strategic goals – that you’ll be better prepared to take the right
actions in the future.

Better decisions: Similar to improving actions, decisions will get better as you reflect on them. For every decision, there are often positive results and less-than-positive results. If you spend some time reflecting after a decision, you may be able to understand what the good and bad outcomes were in order to be able to make your future decisions better.

Increased intuition: Intuition involves a "knowing” based on learning from past experiences and is often described as a gut feel. Learning to "go with the gut” provides a definite advantage for leaders in fast moving organization. Reflection can build up your intuitive abilities as you regularly spend time reviewing past performance and apply what you’ve learned to current and future situations. 

Healthier relationships: When you reflect on your actions and decisions, some of our thoughts may be around how you’ve treated others. As you reflect and practice new and better ways of interaction with others, what you’ve learned can be applied to developing healthier relationships.

Reflection may very well be one of the most impactful actions you can take as a leader. The rewards are not always immediate, but the effort that you invest in reflection will pay off over the long run.

What other rewards have you reaped from reflection?

About the author:

Mary Jo Asmus, founder and president of Aspire Collaborative Services, is an executive coach, writer, and business consultant who partners with senior leaders and teams to support them in achieving their goals. Her Fortune 100 background as an executive in global business areas as diverse as human resources; research and development; organizational development; and business strategy allow her to provide valuable insights about individuals and organizational systems. Mary Jo delivers keynotes and workshops for leaders at regional and international conferences on the topics of leadership, coaching, and organizational communication. You can read Mary Jo's blog at www.aspire-cs.com and follow her on twitter @mjasmus.

Interpretation: Creating Leaders – An Ontological Model

Werner Erhard, Michael C. Jensen, Steve Zaffron and Kari L. Granger have created a fascinating course that teaches leadership. Teaching is probably the wrong word since they use an ontological approach (ontology is the science of being and their model "reveals the actual nature of being when one is being a leader and opens up and reveals the source of one’s actions when exercising leadership.”)

         Erhard          Jensen        Granger

I would be way over my head trying to summarize or fully understand this model. But I’d like to write about it; it helps me to think and discover. (Read the paper here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1681682 via HBS Working Knowledge: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/6570.html)
Why did this research fascinate me?
  • I personally experienced that knowledge about leadership was an obstacle when trying to be the leader I needed to be. Knowing about leadership and being a leader are two different things.
  • It answered many questions that I had.
  • It’s executable.
As I’m exploring the concept further, this shall be my playground to make sense of what I’m reading. In an attempt to wrap my head around the ideas, I’ll share what I’ve digested/perceived/thought this far. (Access the course materials here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1263835)

BECOMING A LEADER
The course, first taught at the University of Rochester Simon School of Business, consists of three parts.
I. Foundation – master the factors that form the foundation for being a leader.

The three factors are integrity, authenticity, and being committed to something bigger than yourself.
Three of my favorite quotes:

Integrity is achieved by "honoring” your word when you will not be keeping your word.
The only actionable access to authenticity is being authentic about your inauthenticities.
Leaders are ordinary people who are given being and action by something bigger than themselves.

II. Framework – build a framework that becomes your context for leadership situations; your leadership lens.
The framework has four aspects. When you have built the framework for yourself, it becomes the context that uses you (as in: you can drive a car without thinking about it).
It is essential to realize [that you might be on Shutter Island]: "The way a situation occurs for me is colored and shaped by my context for that situation, and my way of being and acting is correlated with the way that situation occurs for me.”
The four aspects of the framework are illustrated here:



Now it gets complicated. In essence, your leadership lens needs to be clean to be effective. What these four walls mean to me (thoughts to myself):
1. Possibilities – don’t let leadership knowledge/ideas/speculations get in your way/limit your actions or being. In this realm of possibilities, you are free to be and free to act.
2. Perceptions – how leadership "is lived”. Leadership is experienced in the sphere of language: speaking, listening, thinking ("a certain mastery of language is required”). For example, "authentic listening leaves the speaker with the experience that he or she has actually been ‘gotten’”.
3. Future – ‘spend more time’ in the future and create a new context for the present that is not derived from the past, but from the future. Leaders create new realities so that a shared vision will be the output value. "Being a leader and the exercise of leadership is all about realizing a future that wasn’t going to happen anyway.”
4. Definition – leadership defined as a term:
Bring into being as a reality a future that,
in the prevailing "context” was not going to happen,
that is, did not occur as an authentic possibility
(did not call into effective action those required to act
in order to realize that future),
which future fulfills (or contributes to fulfilling)
a matter of fundamental interest or importance
to the relevant parties
including those who granted the leadership
(those who lead you and those you lead).

III. Constraints – remove or manage what limits or distorts your natural self-expression (so you can respond spontaneously and intuitively as a leader).
This is where you have to dig deep and find out what gets in your way; learn what runs you. Three categories: physical perceptual constraints (‘you see what your brain sees’), ontological perceptual constraints (‘your frame of reference constrains your perception’), ontological functional constraints (behavior triggered by threats real or imagined).
Yes, all this sounds highly abstract and I don’t understand a lot of it. But it seems that this model can give you access to who you are as a leader. That’s pretty cool.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Is your foundation already poured? Do you know what integrity, authenticity and being committed to something bigger than yourself feels like? Do you know someone who is authentic and complete as a person?
Have you started building your framework? Tossed out concepts that limit you? Learned to perceive information untainted? Eliminated patterns from the past to make room for the future? Spent time in the future? Do you know a leader who has achieved mastery of his/her leadership framework?
Do you know what runs you? Are you aware what can delude your perceptions and behavior? Do you know someone whose ‘being and acting’ is in-a-dance-with ‘how a situation occurs for them’?
Fascinating.

You can't be somebody that you're not.

What are your impressions/thoughts/corrections? Is the model too abstract to become popular/too lengthy to be taught at Hamburger University? Can/should it be said simpler? Which of these (foundation, framework, constraints) feel most distant to you?

Managing All (Psychological) Types Of People

If you have gone to business school, I am sure at least one professor stressed to you the importance of self development. I graduated in 2006 and remember that personal growth tools were a popular topic at the Langdale College of Business. My sales management teacher had me hooked on John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership video tape series and Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I learned to ask many questions, listen to people, give compliments, and to theoretically make people think that my idea was their idea... Five years later, my concept of self development is quite different. It is now a concept of developing one’s awareness and understanding of the self and others.

Awareness of Self

Self-Awareness means ‘catching yourself in the act’. As in: "At this present moment I am angry and not thinking straight.” It also means learning how you come across to other people. Imagine you were part of a reality TV series – which ‘character’ would you be?

It helps to ask other people how they perceive you. When I was an exchange student in eleventh grade (from Germany,) I was surprised to learn that my new American friends described me as rude, manipulative, selfish and arrogant. Self-awareness 101.

With more experience comes more self-awareness. My first few resumes included phrases like Fast learner and Excellent time management skills. For me, that is and was never true.

Understanding of Self

Here are the four preferences that make up a person’s personality type, according to the theories of Carl Jung and the personality assessment tool developed by the mother-daughter team Myers and Briggs. Can you determine what your four-letter personality is?


Where does your energy lie? Extraversion/Introversion

Extraverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence.

Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator

Are you an E or an I?
 

How do you gather information? Sensing/Intuition (Function 1)

Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible and can be understood by the five senses, while those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical and can be associated with other information by seeking a wider context or pattern.

Sensing individuals prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, individuals who prefer intuition may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in how the data relates to the pattern or theory.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator

Are you an S or an I?



How do you make decisions? Thinking/Feeling (Function 2)

Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules.

Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it 'from the inside' and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator

Are you a T or an F?


How do you prefer to interact in the outside world? Judging/Perceiving (judging here does not mean being judgmental)

Some people interact with the outside world when they are taking in information (function 1), using the Sensing preference or the Intuitive preference. Other people do their interacting when they are making decisions (function 2), using a Thinking preference or a Feeling preference.

People who prefer the judging function seem to favor a planned or orderly way of life, like to have things settled and organized, feel more comfortable when decisions are made, and like to bring life under control as much as possible.

People who prefer the perceiving function seem to favor a flexible and spontaneous way of life, and like to understand and adapt to the world rather than organize it.

Read more: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/judging-or-perceiving.asp

Are you a J or a P?


You can put your letters together, for example, ESTJ, and learn more about your personality profile here: http://www.personalitypage.com/html/portraits.html

 

Understanding of Others

There are sixteen ‘possible’ personality types. They each have different preferences. Not one type is right or wrong.

As a manager, it is your job to decrease drama and increase profits. Don’t create an army of introverted salespeople or offer Lady Gaga a job as an accountant.

Most importantly, learn to understand other people’s language without passing judgment.

"XYZ is a great idea,” can mean two different things coming from two different people:

Person 1: Let’s do this. Where do I start?

Person 2: I like that possibility. Let’s make a plan.

If you want to become good at managing all (psychological) types of people, start with knowing and understanding yourself and your weaknesses, then learn to acknowledge, accept and appreciate other people’s differences and strengths.

PS: A personality type does not have to define you indefinitely. Interesting video on Ted.com: What makes you, you?

Managers Eat Uncertainty

Uncertainty makes people nervous*. The fear of not knowing can cause stress and anxiety, and decreases our ability to make rational decisions. I was trying to understand why the fear of not knowing is so intimidating, and this is what I found (source: Dan Gilbert's TED talk):

When thinking about the future, we tend to overrate differences.

Example: At some point in your life you were probably really anxious about taking a test. Years later you realize that the outcome (good or bad grade) was not a life changing event. This tendency when thinking about the future to "believe that different outcomes are more different than in fact they really are” is called impact bias (Dan Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University).


Managers work to reduce uncertainty.

Managers are prepared to eat uncertainty and swallow the impact bias when and where they can. By deciding on a course of action (creating a future that the business unit is going to ‘live into’) they shield employees from unnecessary worry.

Managers take in uncertainty and swallow the impact bias.


A manager still has to deal with the ingested uncertainty and may experience discomfort. Uncertainty (the impact bias) can make you believe that scenario A will save the world and scenario B will destroy it. Being aware of your natural tendency to blow future events out of proportions can help you keep your cool when dealing with uncertainty (here are some other techniques).
Don't go too crazy with your efforts to gain control (try not to rationalize, lie or cheat to make something come true). Ask yourself if your efforts and worries would still sound reasonable/be warranted fifty years from now (pretend someone will publish an article about your actions in a history book…).


Uncertainty can cause discomfort. Managers may worry about possible outcomes, entertain toxic thoughts (rationalize, lie or cheat to gain control) or feel the desire to take the easy way out.

Alternatively, a manager might choose not to reduce ambiguity – Kris Dunn describes this as Manager Pass-Through. Manager Pass-Through is "what managers of people do when they don't want to own tough or difficult news with employees.”
For example, instead of doing some research and confirming "You will get paid three days late next week because Friday is a holiday,” a manager does not want to be the bearer of bad news and may choose to say to an employee, "I am not sure when you will get paid,” or "I am not sure how they (HR) will handle payroll next week.”


Don't be a chicken - Delivering bad news can be great news
By choosing certainty ("You will get paid exactly three days late next week"), a manager creates an environment in which an employee can synthesize happiness. Everyone has the ability to manufacture happiness, no matter if a situation is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and the more certain a situation is, the likelier people are to synthesize happiness.

We incorrectly believe that synthetic happiness is not as good as natural happiness.
Example: You watch a story on the news and see people smiling in the midst of a catastrophe. You discredit their positive emotions – "that kind of happiness is not real.” It is difficult for us to believe that not getting what we want can make us just as happy as getting it (Dan Gilbert).
Delivering ‘bad’, but certain news can take pressure off your employees.

In the illustration below, the condition "under which synthetic happiness grows” is represented by a flower pot.
When properly digested, uncertainty turns into an environment in which synthetic happiness can grow.


When you digest uncertainty and create an action plan, you produce a flower pot.
It’s easier for your bosses, customers, suppliers, shareholders, and for yourself to operate within the boundaries of the certainty you create.

Next time you eat uncertainty, remember:
● When it starts making you sick, ask yourself if your present efforts and worries would still sound reasonable/be warranted fifty years from now.
● Don’t be afraid to make a decision (maybe the situation is not as complex or important as you think).
● Uncertainty is an acquired taste; over time you develop a mental framework that will help you not to turn green when eating uncertainty.


*Unless all possible outcomes are positive. I guess then it would be anticipation.
More information: Gilbert, D. T. (2009). What you don't know makes you nervous, The New York Times, May 21.
Watch Daniel Gilbert’s talk on happiness at TED.
Related video: What it takes to be happy.


Consciousness: Left vs. Right

What perfect joy comes from being happy! What contentment we garner when the pure act of consciousness takes over for the over worked ego! It is almost a mystery; yet, it is made up of such common sense. We possess a divided mind. We are of two hemispheres connected by sinew and tissue and neurons and electrons and pure blood & guts. As metaphor, the ego resides in one hemisphere and the more primitive, more essential self resides in the other. The left is the uniquely human, uniquely logical, calculating, mastering egoic self. The right is the seat of consciousness, the primitive, simple, awareness of life. It is the location of quietude, simplicity and gratitude and awe. One is not better than the other. It is just so spectacular when we discover that not everything needs to be reported on by the running commentary of the egoic mind.

The nature of dualism almost instinctively, intuitively competes for attention. Like two siblings of nearly the same age, it is impossible for them to interact without one attempting to be Alpha–dominant. In the development of the human infant into a "mature” organism, the process of compiling data necessary to interact with the world, is stored in one arena. And, the process of cooly, simply, being resides in the other half of who we are, or who we see ourselves to be.

This divided nature is the source of conflict until we have awakened to the simple "idea” that the experience of ourself is not a "one-thing-thing,” but rather, we are a "two-thing-thing.” Although we grow up with the two sided brain, we tend to think of ourselves as one organism. And, indeed, we really are one organism, but the manner in which we experience ourselves is, if we awaken to the consciousness, clearly in two very alternative manners.

For some of people, despite the fact that they have lived with the voice in the back of their heads forever, they can either ignore the voice, or the voice is so loud and so critical that they can hardly put themselves to sleep at night. This super loud voice speaks to someone, doesn’t it?

"Damn it! I should not have taken that left turn. Stupid, pay attention! What is wrong with me?”

To Whom is that voice speaking, and from where inside of us does the voice emanate ? Is it not a clear, experiential indication that the nature of internal conflict manifests itself in this divided experience of the self. What is particularly interesting about the division is that the voice that we hear, the super-egoic voice is almost always critical and almost always talking to us out of fear or worry. The voice carries messages about the past, be it immediate past, or the future. It hardly ever is situated in the moment. That is because in the moment–there is no language. There is no need for linguistic competence in the moment, because the moment is experienced. The minute we want to analyze it, or reveal it to someone else, or the minute we want to store it for some future use–then the egoic part of the mind is activated and the experience of the moment is NO LONGER THERE.

It may be a dramatic over-simplification, but the clinical fact is that one side of the mind experiences life and the other side reports on it. Where we frequently run into conflict with our egoic, language oriented background voice is when the reporting begins to happen as if the experience had not already felt the moment. Let me give you an example. While I am writing this piece, I am also drinking a cup of coffee. I was very involved with the moment, with the experience of writing and there was no need for the background voice to say anything to me. However, when I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts, I reached for my cup of coffee, put it to my lips and became aware that the coffee had gotten cold. But, rather than simply experiencing that fact, my egoic brain had to comment. I heard it say, "oh! The coffee has gotten cold.”

Why did it need to tell me that fact? Who was it talking to? I apparently knew that it was cold the moment the cup touched my lips. My lips were comfortably smart enough to know that without my having to be told that fact by the other half of me. This is the experience of over-drive that I find needs to be confronted in ourselves if we are to joyfully be experiencing more of life rather than forever be reporting on the experience of life to ourselves.

No harm is done in the example above. We have become quite use to both experiencing life and simultaneously reporting on it. But let me use another example where I think that the super-egoic side of us might actually be destroying moments of joy and calm to the need for reporting.

It is 5:15 in the afternoon, the sun is setting on a clear winter day. Snow had fallen earlier and the lake was covered by a fresh blanket of light, white snow. As the sun set the yellow, rose, and orange the coloring in the sky was being absorbed by the scene in front of me, just outside my window beyond my deck. Glistening, glittering and fading all at once.

I want the voice to shut-up. It is about as useful to me as someone behind me in a movie theater commenting on every thing that is happening on the screen. I want to tell the person behind me to kindly shut up as I am not interested in their running commentary on the movie. In like manner, I want to experience the sun-set in a more mindful and a more meditative manner. The running commentary, in this case, is not only commenting, it is actually destroying the experience of the moment. The egoic mind is not a bad event. I do not mean imply that it is not useful and, indeed, the very condition that allows for language and perception and motility are al egoic, executive functions of the mind.

However, the aspect that needs to be retold to most of us, is that we can discover ways to shut off the voice, shut down the egoic principles and allow for a greater freedom in creativity, spirituality and humanistic concerns. Simply put, my ego can not meditate, but I can.

About the author:

Dr. Albert L. Dussault is a psychoanalyst by profession and a photographer and watercolorist by hobby. Having worked as an English teacher, drug counselor and Certified Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Rhode Island, he was introduced to modern psychoanalysis in 1986. Albert took on the study of narcissism and aggression with a vengeance. In 1994, his major professor and mentor in chief, Dr. Phyllis Meadow, signed his dissertation, Language, Biology and Psychoanalysis: an interface between linguistics and a modern psychoanalysis. You can follow Dr. Dussault's blog Free Association On The Ego And The Self at freeassociations.wordpress.com and visit his website at www.aldussault.com.

Should leaders NOT be brand loyal?

Should a business leader be completely loyal to his or her firm's products?

That may seem like a stupid question. You might think that it's obvious that they should be loyal. After all, if they aren't dedicated to their own products, why should customers be?

However, if leaders want to keep their thumb on the pulse of the competitive marketplace and stay in touch with key trends, they must purchase and consume competitors' products on a regular basis. They can't just observe those products from afar. They need to dig in and understand the purchase process for those products, and then they need to understand what's it like to be a typical consumer of that product. That means you have to do more than just casually handle the product once or twice. You need to become a regular user of some competitors' products or services.

Regular use proves critical, because you often do not understand the key benefits and disadvantages of a product or service at first glance; you may learn the key advantages, as well as pain points, as you consume the product or service over time.

About the author:

Michael Roberto is a professor of management at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. He joined the faculty at Bryant after six years as a faculty member at Harvard Business School. His research, teaching, and consulting focuses on strategic decision-making processes and senior management teams. Michael's recent book, Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen, offers practical insights for managers based on this research. The book focuses on how leaders can become more effective "problem-finders" - hunting down the festering issues that could erupt into major catastrophes in their organization. You can read Michael 's blog at michael-roberto.blogspot.com and follow him on twitter @michaelaroberto.

Are Your Ducks In A Row?

It was my first week on the job as a new manager.

My management training program had lasted three months. During that time, I learned how to be a decent grill operator and was proud of my progress. When I took over my own store at the age of 23 (the youngest person in my unit), I wanted to show the more experienced workers that I knew my stuff.

We didn’t have assistant managers or shift supervisors and I was responsible for everything and everyone. It was great; I felt really important.

During the first week, a cook cut his finger with a knife. Immediately, two waitresses stormed into my office asking for a band-aid. Oops. There was no first aid kit.

I didn’t know what to do. It was clear to me: my staff will lose all faith in my managerial ability. I look incompetent. Surely I should have thought about having band-aids on hand.

I really wanted to be perfect – I wanted a report card with all A’s.
I thought I had been up for the task of managing employees who know more than me – my plan was to wow everyone with my management savvy. After all, I was great at statistical analysis and knew how to do payroll.

In retrospect, my thinking was ALL WRONG.

I love how Marshall Goldsmith explains this: "[Y]ou have to look at leadership through the wants and needs of the worker as opposed to the skills of the leader."

Yup, this pressure of having to prove myself as a new manager would have been almost non-existent had I focused more on the needs of my team instead of worrying about myself.

So next time your ducks are out of order, stop for a minute and think about everyone else in the pond.

The Rise Of Female Leadership

"A mythical bird that never dies, the Phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration." - Lam Kam Chuen

A TIME FOR CHANGE


Organizational leadership is like an exothermic reaction that releases energy when new bonds are formed.
Unfortunately, some organizations have stopped creating new bonds.
They try hard not to be criticized. They try to script customer service. They attempt to run like well-oiled machines.
Forget the ‘well-oiled machine’ metaphor.
"That was then. Today many pundits and theorists describe [successful organizations] as living beings.” – Wally Bock
Living systems have an inner life, react to changes in the environment, grow and evolve.
The way we do and think about business has changed and is changing: Companies can adapt or become extinct

How will organizations stay competitive?


CHALLENGE DIRECTION

Pied Piper’s magical melody lured all the rats out of the city of Hamelin and into the Weser River where they drowned. The townspeople, though happy Pied Piper had rid them of the rats, decided not to pay him .


A few weeks later, Pied Piper returned. This time, he was playing a different melody; one that attracted all the children of the town - who followed him and were never seen again.

~ German legend

The Pied Piper was a magnificent leader if you define leadership in terms of getting people to follow you or exerting influence. He was action-oriented and had a firm sense of direction. But he was clearly misguided. So were the townspeople. What they thought was a marvelous idea (keeping their gold) turned out to be a disastrous decision with dire consequences.

Leadership in the 21st century is not like that. Directions won’t be fixed, focus won’t be static.
NOW Leadership principles are based on values, not preferences or linear results. 

We need to balance the Pied Piper in all of us with awareness, introspection, inclusion and kindness. And yes, these happen to be signature female traits.


NURTURE DIVERSITY

Goldman Sachs named 110 Partners in November 2010 (a prestigious title that comes with lots of money and shares of stock).

"These appointments recognize some of the firm's most valued senior professionals and acknowledge their leadership and contribution to the firm's culture of excellence," say CEO and COO Blankfein and Cohn.
Sadly, only 16 out of the 110 new partners were women, roughly 15%.SOURCE

What an outrage! But who am I kidding? No one seems to be grossly offended. News like this is far too common.
To a certain extent, we all do it - discriminate.
If you’ve grown up eating potatoes for dinner, you are likely to prefer those, passing up other alternatives that are theoretically just as good

In business, we cannot afford to eat potatoes every day. We need to consciously practice inclusion so we can adapt quickly and seamlessly when necessary (it's live or die).

Diversity is a strategic advantage. Darwin would call it an organizational fitness signal marking health and intelligence.


INCREASE RECEPTION


The effectiveness of a group is dependent on the decisions that are made.
It’s no secret that more information leads to better decisions

I would guess that about 35 percent of the decisions I make are bad, probably more. There are many reasons we make bad decisions, but one stands out: impaired reception.
Case in point: When I first heard about the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I felt supportive of a neighborhood BP gas station boycott. Later, I learned this: 

"Ron Rybacki has owned the Cotswold BP station on Randolph Road for six years. Before that, the father of his brother-in-law owned the station for 25 years. […] ‘It's a locally owned and family owned business,’ Rybacki said. ‘We don't need anything like that.’”
"Local BP station owners are just trying to make a living […]”Charlotte Observer


From a multitude of bits and pieces of information, we develop what matters.
How can we increase our chances of making good decisions? By being less scared of uncertainty and strengthening reception.

So should managers embrace ambiguity?
Not at all. Managers should strive to deal in certainties/minimize risks (adapted from Mike Myatt), but must keep their three eyes and ears open, and not jump to conclusions for the sake of escaping ambiguity.

Tomorrow's leaders listen today with a sharp ear and open heart. They practice to include and discard, surrender and resist.

Using peripheral vision and perceiving nuances of change, they remain curious and receptive (women are naturally great at this).




OPPOSITES LEAD THE WAY
A few weekends ago, my husband and I watched La Vie En Rose, my movie pick for the night, followed by Above The Rim, my husband’s pick. You probably couldn’t find two movies much different, yet they told a similar story: life is tough.



That’s what makes it beautiful.

Focus meets possibilities, diversity finds unity, complexity turns into simplicity. New bonds form.
Can organizations be headed in the wrong direction? Can they be unhealthy? Fall to temptation? Absolutely. We have seen and learned that dangers don’t have to be external; they can lurk within. It’s time to adapt.

Women leaders bring unique skills and perspectives into an organization that are necessary for it to survive.

Female leadership represents "our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it.”
Women leaders are not better than their male counterparts, only different. And we need them.
Just like every bird needs two wings to fly.





Here is a small selection of great women leaders I follow online:


A few great blogs written by men who (I think) do a great job of balancing their masculinity (?):

Bradley J. Moore Matthew Polkinghorne Dan McCathy
Tony Schwartz John Bishop Tom Peters
Wally Bock Jim Stroup Mitch Ditkoff
Mark Graban Scott Gould David Everitt-Carlson