Memory, empathy & the pathway forward.

It’s said that every time you recall something you change the memory. So in fact our memories are never an accurate reflection of what happened, precisely. They a version of our truth, but not the ultimate truth. It becomes the story that we tell ourselves; not the reality to which we have experienced.

But the abstract connection with reality doesn’t lessen the impact of the story (or the memory) on us as people. So that’s where it get’s complicated.

If this is indeed all true, then challenges we face at work (or in any part of our lives) to resolve conflict and come to a common understanding of a situation can seem impossible. How do we reconcile two stories that while similar, are nuanced with slight differences?

I’ve sat in what I call the middle of the table, between a manager and employee; listening to two people argue about essentially the same thing, searching for the pathway forward.

The pathway forward would be easier, had the relationship been founded in empathy and compassion, long before the conversation being had in that moment.

A foundation where there is a common understanding that each of us are unique individuals battered and bruised in someway by life’s daily joys and turmoil. That while we see things differently, different isn’t bad. Where we are compassionate enough to recognise intensity of emotions and feel safe enough to know that when there is a problem to overcome, that we ourselves are not the problem. It’s not about blame – it’s about understanding.

We all come with a story. The story we have crafted for ourselves about our life which casts a shadow or a light over every interaction we have.

Understanding that there is another side to the coin, a blind spot, a perspective that we can’t see – having the patience to hear it and explore it.. well that’s the pathway to a better relationship – with whoever is on the other side of the table.

** If you’re feeling like some brain food, this video about Empathy vs Sympathy is one I find particularly insightful.

This blog post from Seth Godin is also intriguing when it comes to exploring our inner narrative.

This article in the New Yorker is longer form and explores memory even further and its connection to emotional responses.

Image credit: Nancy Kamergorodsky

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Can we create the workplaces we deserve?

I think it’s a good process to challenge your assumptions about what you believe.

I believe that if we create better workplaces, with more understanding and empathetic people, then we can shape better communities and a better world. People go to work, have a terrible day and come back and redirect that anger at their family, friends or even themselves. That’s the impact right there that a great workplace has on the community.

I believe in a world that has workplaces that allow people to thrive. What that looks like varies from geography to culture. But fundamentally we can change the world..

Or can we?

Is this an unrealistic vision, that exists in direct opposition to a capitalist agenda?

Is the current popularisation of open workplaces simply another fad? It seems like a set meaningful path, but sooner or later we will grow weary of the consistent efforts to “make people happy” that leaders toss in the towel and opt for the command and control?

Big questions, no small answers.

Beliefs do not have answers, sometimes they don’t have proof. Often it’s just heart. A feeling or a calling.

I had an opportunity to hear from a founder of a business that I really believe in this week. He believes as I do in his own way that we can change people’s lives through the opportunities that work provides. So here is what I took away from the experience.

If you want to see something in the world then you have to get the courage to do it and just screw what other people think, everyone wants you to fail. Get over it.

You need to work on your vision, everyday. There are going to be incredible lows, where you will want to quit. But that’s the moment that tests whether its worth fighting for. It’s okay to lose motivation, energy and grow tired. But when you lose the vision, game over.

Opportunity is everywhere, you need to put yourself out there. If you don’t ask the girl to dance you’ll always be a spectator.

Can we create the workplaces we deserve?

Maybe with this thinking, we might just be foolish enough to succeed.

Find the source image here: http://bit.ly/2zZJxq1

Being Wrong, Fast Drawing, Culture Fit, Recruitment & Mindset #cherishcurates

#cherishcurates – where I summarise the top 5 bits of content I came across this week that have added to my thinking on all things people, performance and how we work.

This week the top 5 (in no particular order are) are:

  • What makes a good leader – Gary Vaynerchuck
  • Fast drawing for everyone – Google
  • Culture Fit – Thrive Global
  • How To Answer Six Tricky Interview Questions – Liz Ryan

  • The nature of mindsets – Ash Buchanan

***

What Makes a Good Leader – Gary Vaynerchuk

This week Gary Vaynerchuk dropped episode 206 of the Daily Vee. If you don’t know him or this series google it – he’s not for everyone and my guess is that you will love him or hate him. I’m the first. In the later part of the video he drops this statement:

…when you have the full bravado and leadership and you’re a leader the number one thing to feel comfortable with is saying you’re wrong, changing the course, having that humility to go along with that ego… 

When I heard this I was like YARRRSSSS but then I was like… why I am I reacting to this like it’s a new fact, like it’s some kind of wisdom that’s been bottled in a jar away from human ears. I look back on myself, leaders I have worked with and maybe the reason for the response is that we don’t see this behaviour enough. The humility to say “that didn’t work” and the courage to try again – in public.

Fast Drawing for Everyone – Google

Ahhh this is so cool! Google are amid developing a product that helps you create simple graphics on your phone, tablet or desktop. I see this as particularly useful to the L&D all-rounder who might not be an illustrator or designer at heart, but in spirit and needs to get their hands on some clean graphics for presentations, digital environments, activities – you name it! From the blog:

Drawing on your phone or computer can be slow and difficult—so we created AutoDraw, a new web-based tool that pairs machine learning with drawings created by talented artists to help you draw.

Culture Fit – Thrive Global

This article was really interesting, it challenged the reader to think about what it means to say “hmm I just don’t think they are a culture fit” .. really what the heck does that mean? The ‘hard data’ of their article draws from a survey by Cubiks… Regardless of the accuracy of the data the question remains..

…..when you say ‘culture fit’ what do you mean?

In recruitment, I use it to describe that holistic assessment of the candidate. They might have the right experience, qualifications – they might even be able to predictably perform in the short term. But will they get results the way that we want to achieve them, that aligns to our values and defined behaviours; what will they add to our culture that compliments and positively challenges what we do. If I can’t see that link then it’s a red flag. One quote of the article really stood out for me:

“I don’t optimize for fit with our existing culture, because over time that will lead to uniformity and irrelevancy. Instead, I try to envision a future where this person’s unique point of view has shifted how we work and what we value. I hire for an individual’s potential cultural contribution.”

The article mentions breaking down ‘culture fit’ into cultural contribution: what will this person bring to the team that will challenge us and help us; and values fit: does this person share our goals and aspirations.

It’s a good article – get’s you thinking about the impact of the language you use and culture fit within your business.

How To Answer Six Tricky Interview Questions – Liz Ryan

I first came across Liz Ryan about 5 years ago. Something I love about her articles is her no BS approach to advice. Recruitment I feel these days can be a soulless business. There are some improvements, but I think in general for job seekers it is a tough game to play and that’s before people even get to the interview.

Ryan talks about the interview questions we all ask and gives coaching tips on how to answer, noting that some of the questions are just down right bad form from recruiters. Here are the questions that got me thinking..

What’s your greatest weakness? To be honest I gave this question up a while ago, I usually ask things like “what are some areas you’d like to grow in”. I’m not overly interested in what people think they are terrible at. More interested in how they see the process of life long learning.

Why do you want this job? Guilty sometimes I find myself saying, only my version is this “you could work anywhere tell me your story”. I need to think this one over a bit more.

The nature of mindsets – Ash Buchanan

This post is long and detailed. Best consumed if you have a 30 minute window and are feeling like some brain food. It unpacks the importance of mindsets, mindset states and provides further reading on the topic. From the 8 principles that underlie mindsets, here are my top 3:

  • Mindsets are unique to everyone
  • Mindsets are imperfect models of reality
  • Mindsets are self-protective

I think about some of the coaching conversations I have had quite recently. In those moments you are trying to alter or persuade these mindsets to rewire and this article provides some great language for coaches to support their managers or clients through the process of a mindset change for improved performance.

This is a good one to reflect on. Worth the time if you have it, which I know you do. I’ll leave you with this.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Image Credit : Wait, but why  (one of the greatest blogs on the internet!!)

Why should anyone be led by you?

I recently heard this statement at a leadership course I went to – click here if you want to know what course I attended, highly recommend.

Why should anyone be led by you?

Well sheeeezyyyy,  when you say it like that..

Brings it back into context that leadership isn’t about you. Well that’s what I believe anyway. I’m not alone in my thought’s many a great leadership influencers talk about leadership being a privilege, a sacrifice, not necessarily a one way trip to glory (gives me some grounding that I’m not crazy). 

From what I have seen from my …what 13 years of working, even back when I was a McCounter chick, was good leaders going bad. What did we do? Well people respond to their environments, put good people in poor conditions and sad things will happen. Put great people in positive workplaces and see the fire spark alive.. you get my drift.

We incentivize self-centred leadership, maybe accidentally (or on purpose). The minute you make budgets the greatest incentive (cut X% of the wages) you have put money before people, and many leaders will begin putting themselves first. Imagine that you’re not the saint you are perhaps pretending to be, if you were out in a position where the formula was: hey, if you save $15,000 in wages you’ll get that promotion – your entire leadership experience has become about you.

That was an overly simplistic example, but it brings me back to the words..

… why should anyone be led by you…

Because people have options, they aren’t bound to your business – why should anyone stick around and be led by you? What do you offer… is it…

  • impossible deadlines
  • a workplace with immense pressure to impress shareholders
  • being too busy to really care about your team, so you forget what’s important

or..

  • a workplace where people are treated like people, not transactions
  • a team where achieving goals with a purpose matters
  • opportunities for development including the tough, uncomfortable feedback
  • a relationship with you that includes you saying the words “i’m sorry, I stuffed up, how can we fix this together”

I don’t expect the leaders I work with to be perfect. Far from it, kind of like in any relationship, it’s the imperfections and the flaws that draw you closer, it’s the honestly and the candid conversations that build a connection. Pretending your perfect does nothing, because we know you are pretending.

So, why should anyone be led by you?

 

Further reading.. love this excerpt from HBR – https://hbr.org/2000/09/why-should-anyone-be-led-by-you

We all know that leaders need vision and energy, but after an exhaustive review of the most influential theories on leadership–as well as workshops with thousands of leaders and aspiring leaders–the authors learned that great leaders also share four unexpected qualities.

The first quality of exceptional leaders is that they selectively reveal their weaknesses (weaknesses, not fatal flaws). Doing so lets employees see that they are approachable. It builds an atmosphere of trust and helps galvanize commitment.

The second quality of inspirational leaders is their heavy reliance on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions. Such leaders are good “situation sensors”–they can sense what’s going on without having things spelled out for them.

Managing employees with “tough empathy” is the third quality of exceptional leadership. Tough empathy means giving people what they need, not what they want. Leaders must empathize passionately and realistically with employees, care intensely about the work they do, and be straightforward with them.

The fourth quality of top-notch leaders is that they capitalize on their differences. They use what’s unique about themselves to create a social distance and to signal separateness, which in turn motivates employees to perform better.

All four qualities are necessary for inspirational leadership, but they cannot be used mechanically; they must be mixed and matched to meet the demands of particular situations. Most important, however, is that the qualities encourage authenticity among leaders. To be a true leader, the authors advise, “Be yourself–more–with skill.”

 

You’re complacent and that’s why your engagement sucks

Employee engagement is endlessly chatted about; as a HR professional I find myself in a constant chatter about how we can “move the dial” on employee engagement results. How do we get people to “live the values” and feel connected to their work. Then come the ideas about wellness and team building – activities HR can roll out in the hopes of making people feel better about their work.

But this is only one of the many components and until we get that then we are going to go in circles. Engagement comes in three parts and it’s the third part that for the most part we can all say, we arn’t so great at..

Hygiene

You need to pay people accurately, administer their entitlements and keep them safe. If you don’t do this (or have some focus on improving these areas) then what the hell are you doing.. Seriously, why are you in business?

Team

You need to give people a sense of shared purpose and connection – not because HR said so, but because let’s get real people like to know what the heck they are doing and why

Teams need to get along, understand what they are doing and why it is important. You need to hire the right people, have sound people and task managers (note I mention ‘sound’ you don’t need the worlds best leaders, just people who arn’t evil and want to be good at their job).

Individual

Okay, this is where we become unstuck. This is about the one-on-one interactions with team members by managers. These interactions are more that task driven directions, it’s about reverse engineering motivations to get what you need out of that person. This isn’t soft and fluffy. This is legit – if you know what someone wants, what they value you will get more out of them.

If Sally has 5 kids and it means a lot to her to be able to leave at 4.30pm during the holidays and you make that happen for her, then you have won the type of loyalty money can’t buy. You provide her with the benefit and then you engineer to get something in return, maybe it’s discretionary effort on a project.

If Jenny is just motivated to grind away and get a promotion, then early finishes don’t mean anything to her, she wants coaching and stretch assignments – so you get her to help you on a project you are stretched to complete.

You’ve got to know what people actually want. Often it’s not things, it’s an experience. It’s cheap as chips, but it takes time and attention and that’s what we don’t have enough of.

How do we get managers to give it time and attention?

Senior managers, HR whoever it is for you need to engineer a workplace where it is natural for the time and attention to be spent in that way. That’s pretty broad, but an example is roping it into a performance review / management framework. You can’t guarantee  that they are going to execute, but you have created the attention and time for it to take place, so you are halfway there.

How do I get managers to reverse engineer motivation?

Ask you managers to go on a treasure hunt. Over a month or two they need to find what motivates each employee (that directly reports to them) within their team. Then phase two is workshopping how they can use that to their advantage. It’s not overly complicated, but it requires time and attention, the two things we are really short on these days.

What about my corporate wellness program?

Nothing wrong with that, it’s a tool, a branding opportunity, seeing how common it is, it’s almost a hygiene factor these days – we expect it. Discounted health insurance and memberships show you ‘care’ enough to have them, but not all people get a kick out of it, it’s not an individual you get me program. So don’t toss it, you need it, it’s just not going to solve anything overnight.

 

The below diagram sums up my feelings on the topic at midnight last night. 

IMG_2942

4 tips to being the worst manager you can be

Why be a great manager, when you can literally be the worst. In fact, some places make it hard for you to be a good manager. So, I’m here to do you a solid favour, here are my top tips to be straight up terrible. 

  • Tell your team how important their ideas are to you and how much you want to talk more about it, then ghost the absolute heck out of them.
  • Check your emails and answer calls when they are in the middle of telling you something they consider important. Bonus points for answering mid sentence and giving them the ‘talk to the hand’ gesture.
  • When your team member tells you a great idea, tell them to get back in their box and shush. Take their great idea and sell it as your own.
  • Cancel their annual leave just before their holiday because “something urgent” came up. Then go on leave yourself.

writers note: don’t do these things, if you laughed, smirked or even had a twinge of “oh yeah I know that one” then do the world a favour and either quit it or tell that evil manager where they can stick it!

You can’t sit with us anymore – giving people the boot. 

Sometimes people turn into sour grapes. They start shiny, they are amazing but it goes to sh%*. Maybe it was you, maybe it was them. 

Whatever the case the fit is all wrong and it’s time for them to move on.They are miserable, you are grumpy – but they aren’t a terrible performer. What do you do? You can’t fire someone for having a “bad attitude” that’s not really substantial.

You start to see the writing on the wall, the manager is getting more hands on, said grumpy employee gets the point and eventually, one way or another the employee departs or sabotages their own opportunities.
Everyone is left with a bad taste in their mouth.

What if we helped people to leave, what if that was the norm. What if we had services internally which allowed people to confidentially access career coaching in a broader sense.

They could get reasonable flexibility to go to interviews, free resume feedback, interview coaching and LinkedIn advice.

What if we were honest and said “yknow what, you hate it here, I can see it in everything you do, so let us help you leave before it goes down a path that neither of us want to be a part of”.

This isn’t revolutionary, I believe company’s who are a bit more forward thinking have similar programs. I want to know why it isn’t the norm.

Nobody wants to work with people who don’t want to be there. So why not give them the option to leave, help them do so. It might even turn around people who realise the grass isn’t greener.

Managers spend a lot of time “managing out poor performers” – why don’t we just call a spade a spade?