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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.

Blog

Filtering by Category: Relationships

The clash of egos

julian burton

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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?

The Top Table

Delta7 Change

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When an organisation is going through a potentially uncertain period of change there can be a tendency for a distance to arise between leadership and staff. Decision-making in such volatile environments can be fraught with disagreements and ambiguities, with leaders finding themselves debating more and more on which course of action to take. Sometimes there is just too much input to consider and the temptation is to limit the options and control the situation.

From the point of view of those not sitting in the decision-making circle it can feel difficult to influence or even be heard by the top table - leading to widespread frustration. A communication void further exacerbates the situation, with people filling it with rumour and speculation about what is going on “up there”.

The onus is on the leadership to be aware of this dynamic in times of uncertainty and do what it can to include, involve and listen to employees’ concerns and perspectives. Getting a broader viewpoint on a problem is rarely a bad thing and often the solution lies with those who do the work.

Why You Can’t Afford to Ignore the Role of Relationships When Doing Business Transformation

Delta7 Change

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In today’s business context the only certainty there is, is that everything will be uncertain! To be able to deal with the complex and ambiguous nature of the challenges we face we will be more reliant than ever on the quality of the relationships and conversations that we have in organisations. More often than not these are overlooked when a strategy is being considered and generally termed to be the ‘soft stuff’ while in our experience this is actually the hardest part of any programme to deliver.

Building relationships is at the heart of any successful culture change and central to improving performance in every organisation. Businesses today cannot afford to overlook the importance of relationship building when delivering transformation and culture change programmes.

We use Visual Dialogue, Creativity and Narrative to build relationships across organisations. By creating safe spaces for people to make sense of difficult relational issues, we help co-create practical tools to start building the better relationships that underpin successful culture change.

How will we run this?

paul stroud

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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.

How can we stop HiPPOs turning into elephants?

julian burton

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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?

 

 

So, you think you're collaborative?

Delta7 Change

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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?

Self-disclosure, team cohesion and the importance of sharing stories

julian burton

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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.