You may have a bold vision of the best way forward - but does your team share it?
Will they follow you?
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Supporting organisations to bridge the gap between strategy and action at moments of change, making sense and shaping conversations with Big Pictures.
Filtering by Category: Behaviours
You may have a bold vision of the best way forward - but does your team share it?
Will they follow you?
This picture was inspired by a recent conversation with a client. They were describing the behaviour of two people in a meeting. They were facing off against each other on opposing views on what needed to change, and which was best for the organisation. This my interpretation of the metaphors they used.
When change is scary it’s natural to want to stay safe, stick to your point of view and not listen to others. Change can brings up feelings of anxiety, which I often try to deny, avoid or defend against with my ego armour. My ego wants to be certain and right and on its own familiar ground. When we are under threat, its job is to keep us safe from harm. But to adapt to change we need to risk letting go of what we are sure about, and move towards something new. If we’re going to lead change, and genuinely serve people, there’s no place for unconscious ego if it’s getting in the way. We need to be willing to drop the defences and to go first into the unknown...
How do you see this happing in your organisation? How do you work with it?
People embarking on a project together can be equally invested in achieving a successful outcome yet be out of step if they lack a shared understanding of their respective capabilities, or have different expectations of each other.
Establishing clear and aligned roles - either as individuals, as teams or as whole organisations - can help to harness complimentary strengths that will make the partnership greater than the sum of it’s parts, bringing value and a sense of purpose to the collaboration.
This builds a stronger relationship based on having not just a shared goal - but also a shared approach to reach it.
Have you come across a HiPPO in a recent meeting? This acronym stands for ‘The Highest Paid Person’s Opinion’. This refers to the impact of rank or hierarchy in a meeting where people will often fall silent, deferring, for various reasons, to the opinion of the person with the most power and highest salary.
HiPPOs can get in the way of good decision-making. Having a HiPPO in the room can dominate a meeting as it often carries a lot more weight than other voices. People may feel too scared to challenge a dominant opinion, even though they may fundamentally disagree with it, while others may pay lip service and be eager to please and toe the line. The owner of the dominant voice runs the risk of believing they alone have the best ideas and miss the opportunity of hearing the valuable insights or ideas that come from different voices in the room. A leader may be aware of the impact they have on others but it’s not easy to create a culture where people feel its safe to question a HiPPO without fear of reprisal.
The interesting thing for me is that HiPPOs only exist because of the relationships in the room, with everyone in a sort of collusion in keeping them present. It seems to me that it is vitally important for everyone to be aware of the impact they have on others and how one reacts in silencing oneself in these dynamics.
Taking ownership of the parts we play in creating HiPPOs is the only way to stop them turning into elephants.
Was there a HiPPO in the room today? What was the part you played in keeping it alive?
We like to believe we’re collaborative - yet it’s all too easy to lose sight of other people you should be having more collaborative relationships with. Do you know how they feel about it? Are you really listening to your people?
Power relationships can make it almost impossible to speak up to someone in charge. As a leader, if you’re not hearing feedback then you're missing an opportunity to learn and demonstrate the new behaviours you want to see in the culture. Just by saying you’re going to be collaborative doesn’t mean you will be, and there may be no one with the courage to hold you accountable. How collaborative do those working around you really think you are?
The Change Curve is a well-known model that tracks the typical behavioural stages we can pass through when reacting to change. From initial shock, through gradual steps of understanding until the change can be fully comprehended and adapted to. It’s often visualised as a graph that charts the emotional ups and downs of change as a curving line - but it may be hard to appreciate this bigger picture viewpoint when you’re deep within it.
At Delta7 our process of evolving a visual narrative through conversations and creativity is well suited to the challenges of the Change Curve, particularly because of the way that people react to change differently. A group can be at a variety of stages along the curve, and this throws up contrasting perspectives of view that make for richer, more enlightening conversations. People in the early stages of the curve who are struggling most to make sense of change can find helpful meaning from the observations of those who may be further along. Insights that arise from these conversations have the potential to carry everyone forward to a better position, both for digesting the implications of the change and for considering what they can do to respond to it effectively.
Transformation programmes can be challenging and disruptive, especially when staff are expected to get on with their business as usual efficiently throughout. Hunkering down to try to focus on what they need to get done, with a dull ache of change fatigue, they’re not at their most receptive.
To break out of this defensive position people must feel that they are actively involved in a programme, not merely on the receiving end of the latest salvo from the leadership. A chance to be listened to, to contribute, to influence. That the issues they have experienced personally can be recognised more widely, and addressed. In that way they can become active participants, playing a part in driving a change rather than just being observing passengers.
Without this meaningful involvement a transformation programme risks being hobbled from the start - regarded by employees as the latest attack on the order they’d carefully established, and something to be resisted or quietly subverted.
It should be an opportunity to embrace, as the route to changes that could make a positive difference for them and their organisation. One way or the other they will find a role to play: it all depends on whether the transformation is done with them, or to them.
When change is poorly communicated it can often create discomfort, and people react to that discomfort in different ways. In that state important strategic messages are unlikely to land because people’s minds are focused on their own fears and concerns.
Panic, denial and avoidance are common reactions which are often interpreted as resistance to change. It’s easy to judge these reactions as resistance, though they are natural, largely unconscious responses to what can feel threatening, overwhelming or scary. I know that when I’ve been worried or concerned about my future, I’m not usually in the best state of mind to listen to other people’s helpful advice. Emotional responses to change often go unvoiced if there’s not enough safety or trust to share them with someone.
In this situation it’s really important to find an opportunity for catharsis - which is the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.
We believe that by acknowledging the emotional impact of change and allowing space for it’s expression, conversations can become more productive. Then there is more chance of creating a shared story that everyone cares about and feels part of - because they feel cared about too.
Today, almost everything is up for sale. So says Michael J Sandel in his book “What money can’t buy”. The question is, says Sandel, do we want to live like this? Are there some things where it just isn’t appropriate to pay money for them? How about buying a prison cell upgrade (apparently a nicer cell costs you $82 a night in Santa Ana, California)? Or buying the right to shoot an endangered black rhino (yours for $150,000 in South Africa)?
Sandel makes the case that whether or not something should be up for sale depends on how we value it. Would buying and selling it somehow corrupt or degrade its nature? If so, then maybe it shouldn’t be traded for money.
The book got me thinking about the things that money can’t buy. In our work we get a privileged look into the world of our clients and the relationship between employer and employee. When employees “go the extra mile” it’s not because of their pay cheque. You can’t pay your employees to give something that is, by its very nature, discretionary.
I’ve recently been thinking about how important self-disclosure is in building relationships, and how I can learn to make it more of a part of my personal development. What started me thinking about this was a recent inspiring story about how England’s football squad learnt self-disclosure to build the trust and cohesion in the team we saw this summer in Russia.
In a recent Guardian article about the England football team’s sports psychologist, Pippa Grange, has been credited with their relative success in the 2018 World Cup by, amongst other things, encouraging self-disclosure amongst team members. As part of their training before the tournament, they regularly sat together and shared some of their intimate experiences and feelings, particularly around their fears about failure. The point, Southgate has said, is to build trust, “making them closer, with a better understanding of each other”.
Yet it can often be confronting to take of the armour off and share feelings and experiences at work. A lack of trust can mean that it’s not safe enough to reveal personal truths such as fear of failure. When you create a safe space to share its possible to learn about each other’s experiences, and in the process change our stories about ourselves and each other. As with the England team’s example, self-disclosure fosters stronger bonds between team members, uniting them around a common task or purpose and so improving performance.
In our experience we find that the most meaningful and motivating narratives are co-created through sharing stories. When people have opportunities to share how they feel, what they value and what motivates them, the shared narrative that emerges builds a stronger sense of belonging and common purpose. It’s common in organisations these days for leaders to want to create a new strategic narrative. Developing a shared narrative helps groups make sense of change, linking personal experience and identity to the organisation purpose and its wider context.
In the 2014 World Cup, it was reported that some of the England players were actually questioning whether they wanted to play or not, such was their fear of failure. Compare that to 2018. When Fabian Delph’s wife was about to give birth, his team paid for a chartered jet to allow him to be there for it and get back in time to play Belgium.
This is a wonderful story about Pippa Grange’s vision and commitment for creating a new team narrative of belonging and cohesion, nurtured through taking risks and encouraging the self-disclosure that led to a more effective team that we can all be proud of.