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

Advertisements

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.”

 

Looking back and forward 2014/2015

In 2015 I’m going to investigate more about….

  1. Communication design principles. Colour, layout, design, writing style, advertising and connection through visual media – I have to know more! I think there is a real gap in the skill set of HR practitioners in this space. Knowing how to craft communications with excellence beyond a boring poster format and policy speak, I think is the most important skill I will continue to learn this year.
  2. Performance Review Cycle Success – that old chestnut. Generally the feel is that people hate completing them, managers hate running them, the administration is a headache and most models don’t scale well.. there has to be a better way.
  3. Photography. This connects with number 1, but I am going to become really good at taking my own photos to communicate my message and the message of projects I am working on.
  4. Mastering Personal Knowledge Management. I think I have a handle on these principles but I want to get really clear on what this means and looks like in practice, then see where I can take it at work and play.
  5. How to find where top performers come from and what (if any) similarities there are between them. I want to go beyond just identifying top recruitment strategies and training and development pipelines. I want to look at top performers and see what they are made off and what similarities there are between them. Maybe it will be a simple finding, maybe not. Either way I am excited for what knowing this information can bring .

In 2014 I learned…

  1. If you haven’t clearly articulated your Vision, Mission and Values the going will get tough. This applies to work and play, if you can’t articulate what you are about, getting stuff done right will be a challenge. I watched the VMV being crafted for multiple businesses this year as well as the articulation of my own. You can’t make the decisions you need to and it’s difficult to make a bold and courageous move without knowing what they are either.
  2. The power of Vision, Mission, Values and “Getting It”. This year I heard the statement “getting it” become part of how we describe performance. People getting it, not getting it for example “they are technically excellent but they just don’t get it”. Getting it is about someone’s ability to really hook into and feel the vision, mission and values of a business and design their ideas and the way they work to fit into that model. Those that Get It are your future leaders, the ones that you will inspire and will continue to inspire you.
  3. Being resilient ensures growth and success. Keeping your cool in tough situations, managing set backs, being told you can’t or that you are not good enough are constants in every part of your life. If you are able to keep going in the face of danger, uncertainty and “haters” it will make you a force to be reckoned with.
  4. The job you do and the boss you work for will be equally as important. My experiences and the stories of others have highlighted this fact this year. Some people can tough out the agony of a great position and a terrible manager or vice versa – but I think fundamentally you will leave or become vey unhappy… sooner or later
  5. Intellectual and creative pursuits will make you better at your job. This year I went on my first overseas holiday and had a raft of other experiences that changed my priorities and energised me to think differently. I read more widely, watched movies not found at your local cinema, played with design principles and made a bigger effort to explore the world around me. Indeed this (I think) has made me better at my job and better in life in general.

Happy New Year!

Making your employees use social media

It seems that every smart employer has a social media strategy of some sort. We acknowledge that communicating with our customers is what strong brands are all about these days.  More and more we are seeing employers involving their team members on social media, asking them to engage with hashtags and share what’s going on at the company. I completely advocate for this approach. Get your team involved on social media, it’s good for your recruitment brand and your culture if you get it right.

But can you mandate your employees to be part of your strategy? Can you wake up one day and decide it’s going to be part of everyone’s job to post to Twitter and LinkedIn. Sure you can draft a policy that makes it so, but does it really? Social media is about freedom. Freedom to connect, express your opinion and who you are. If your employees choose to engage in your strategy then that is great, but you shouldn’t place any direct or indirect pressure on them to post and share content about the company on their personal profiles.

If you want to go down this path you should consult your team members about the change. Remember these are their personal accounts you want to influence. These accounts that are attached to their names and internet identify for life, consultation is key.

Social media is a bit of unchartered territory and we are all learning and growing with it. But we must never lose sight of what makes social media valuable – the freedom and power to express our voices.

Image credit: Jason Howie | Flickr