Monthly Archives: August 2015

falsefamiliarity

To learn to learn (Part 1)

I rolled out a client service improvement programme across an entire organisation once, without ever meeting the trainees.

The training rooms I stood at the front of were full of people with client service roles in the company that had engaged me, but that was where the trail seemed to go cold.

At the beginning of each session, like a good trainer, I’d try and establish relevance.   So, I’d ask the delegates if they saw a need for improving client service.   If I was lucky, and I mean really quite lucky, one of them would actually say something.

Something, yes, but rarely confirming relevance.  Here’s a typical example: ‘Yes, I understand the need for periodic improvement, but as long as I’m in here listening to you, I’m not actually providing any of my clients with a service, am I?’

A small, incredulous part of me, that I’ve since learnt to suppress, would, at this point, say something like, ‘Not five minutes have passed, and already the gloves are off?’

But trying to tackle the resistance in a direct fashion was never going to achieve anything.  Nor would diffusing the resistance slowly have been effective, in my opinion – even had there been sufficient time for this.  Because the gloves had never been on.  There was something in that company’s culture that made it acceptable for this to happen.  Something in their corporate DNA that made it okay for someone to toss away the first comment of the day on a nullification of the day.

Then we’d go through the training session, and, at the end of the day, once again – only if I was having a good one, a delegate would acknowledge the usefulness of this content for someone who actually needed client service training.  As if there might be such people out there who required such a thing.  But the sub-text was clear: whoever these people are, I am most definitely not one of them.

By the time I got to the final session of the programme, a small, naïve part of me, that I’ve since learnt to suppress, was really excited, thinking that, finally, by some incredible coincidence, all the people in this company who actually needed some help with client service improvement would be there with me, in the same room, on the same day.

Like I said: a small, naïve part of me, that I’ve since learnt to suppress…

 

None of the delegates I met during that training programme, I can guarantee, turned up with the intention of learning precisely nothing.  None of them sat in their cars, on their trains, on their bikes the morning of their training, thinking, ‘Today, I’m going to waste the company’s money…Today, I will become a beacon of indifference.  Today, I will close my mind to learning.’

None of them.  I guarantee it.

So, what on Earth was going on?

The most fundamental question had not been asked, that’s what.  Namely, does our organisational culture permit learning?  Does it encourage our people to open their minds to at least evaluate new ideas – rather than instantly rejecting them, just because they are new?  In short: do we know how to adopt new behaviours – as individuals even, let alone en masse?  And, if so, under what conditions?  In homogenous groups, thrown into an unfamiliar, ‘soft skills’ improvement environment, with a punchy, external training provider, in some formula, hotel conference centre?  Really?

Before asking, ‘What are our L&D requirements this year?’, we must all consider the shocking possibility that the answer might be one, single, requirement, without which all the effort, struggle and investment are meaningless: to learn to learn, and to develop to develop.

More anon.

 

Subscribe to Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

Rome

“The Inadvertent Saboteur” by Rouji Begum-Arnold

It is always a great experience when you have worked with and helped someone and they take the time to thank you in their own way.  Thank you for the lovely words Rouji!

 

 

“The Inadvertent Saboteur” by Rouji Begum-Arnold

”We have all come across Saboteurs in our lives, right from an early age when your little brother decides to use your shoe as a doorstop (innovative on his part!) to colleagues at work who take your prints to save them time leaving you to fix the printer problems.  But, we all have Saboteurs within ourselves too.  These come from our inner strengths that backfire when we are most under pressure.  For example if it was down to me Rome would be built in a day, as my Saboteur is “Rod of Iron Rouji”.  In the meantime there will be no people to populate my city as most of them have run off scarred, leaving me unsuccessful in my objective.  Yes, I have created a city but not one that anyone wants to live in.

So, as a Business Leader how do I become effective in progressing our business to its full potential right here, right now, whilst keeping my “Inadvertent Saboteur” in check?

Well – you go to this guy: http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/the-inadvertent-saboteur/

Unlike other courses where you come away forgetting about what strategy you agreed on let alone applying any of it to your business, this presenter, Laurence Coen, actually teases you into action straight away, and all done in the most blunt and charismatic way that anyone can talk to us Business Leaders!”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/inadvertent-saboteur-rouji-begum-arnold-fcca

 

download1

Mindful the gap – how one, new word can change your life!

Speaking as someone who wants to continue to rush around with my headset on AND be more mindful, I have invented a new verb.

I urge you to stop reading now if you are in any way queasy about change, as this one is very ingenious, and there are certain things that will never look or sound the same to you again once it gets under your skin.

You still with me?  Right, here it comes: TO MINDFUL.

It means, ‘To be careful not to miss the limited profundity/wisdom/natural beauty opportunity that’s under your nose right now, but won’t be for much longer,’ which can be shortened to, ‘Timebound profundity alert!’  Or, ‘Passing wisdom window!’   Or, ‘Ephemeral natural beauty moment.’  You get the picture…

Start by using it to replace the verb, ‘to mind,’ as in, ‘to watch out for.’  For example, imagine how much more fulfilling it would be every time you got off the underground train, if the announcer said, ‘Mindful the gap!’

Or, how different an experience it would be for your tall friend as they go down the stairs of your basement to hear you say, ‘Mindful your head!’

Next, as you sense your growing familiarity and appreciation of this new approach to gaining mindfulness, you should try using your new verb to replace, ‘to mind,’ as in, ‘to dislike.’

So, for example, instead of saying, ‘I mind the way that you slurp your soup,’ to your messy eating co-worker, try, ‘I mindful your slurping.’  See, how that softens the blow and opens up new avenues of insight for both of you?  One might even go as far as to say that you can already feel yourself finding something to love in the sound and motion of the soup borne lip-wards as tiny particles on the air of each intense inhale.

Now, for the doorway into mastery: commence the frequent exchange of other verbs with, ‘to mindful.’ For example, ‘Could you just mindful me that market share data, please?’

And, when you are fully accomplished, you can replace both, ‘to mind,’ and other verbs in the same sentence with your new toy – if this isn’t enough to transport you into a heightened state of awareness, I don’t know what is: ‘Would you mindful mindfulling me a sandwich when you mindful past the bakery at lunchtime, please?’

You think I’m joking?  Well, more like having fun writing this, but there is some merit in the suggestion – try it for yourself and see!

Read more of Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

How to deal with them

Empathy is a black hole

That cartoon was a little bit of wish fulfilment fantasy for anyone who has given, given, given, only to see others take, take, take.

What follows is the not entirely unrelated story of Sceptica and Empathic, friends, colleagues, rivals and opposites.  I hope you enjoy it…

 

 

Sceptica and Empathic decided to set themselves a light-hearted challenge to work out once and for all whose style was more effective: they would both organise a party, and the winner would be the one who performed best against a pre-determined metric.  They couldn’t agree on a single, definitive metric, however, so they went into the challenge with two metrics, one suggested by each of them.

 

Sceptica was reluctant to go first, so Empathic, fully understanding his friend’s position, took the plunge and set about organising a date for the party that best suited everyone’s needs, whilst engaging in a fairly in-depth consultation exercise as to what the theme for the party should be.  Six months later, exasperated, Empathic told everyone to, “Just come as you are, this Saturday night.”  Full of goodwill towards Empathic, loads of people showed up and had a great time.  The party was judged to have been a huge success afterwards by friends and co-workers alike, but no one was quite sure if the theme had been Eighties Glam or Victorian Parents.  As for Empathic, he was exhausted from the stress of the party’s long, drawn out organisation, and the emotional fatigue caused by his involvement in several, drink-fuelled heart to hearts during the party itself.

 

Still unsure about going ahead, but loyal to her friend and the bargain they had struck, Sceptica now commenced upon the organisation of her own party.  Always lacking conviction however, she only managed to get a few people along, and Sceptica’s party was an altogether more muted affair than Empathic’s overcrowded, emotion fest had been.  There was no doubt or uncertainty over the dress code however, since Sceptica unequivocally declared herself against fancy dress in all its forms from the outset.  “I don’t see the point,” was both the beginning and the end of her argument on this matter.

 

The two friends got together shortly after Sceptica’s party to decide who the winner was.  Empathic won hands down on his chosen metric of number of guests in attendance.  Sceptica, meanwhile, came home a clear victor on her chosen metric of time spent organising per guest attending.

 

They sat there in silence for a moment as the truth dawned that there was no winner – or, as Empathic preferred to say, that they had both won.

 

Then, causing Empathic to smile inside at his friend’s turns of phrase, Sceptica said, “What’s wrong with me is that I can strengthen a plan, because I can see all the reasons why it won’t work, but I can also kill potential with too much reality.  What’s wrong with you is that you bring people with you, but progress is always too slow, and the toll it takes on you is too great.  But what if we organised a party together?  I’ll lead the planning, but you can tell me when I’m ensuring mediocre outcomes with my why this or that will never work scenarios.  And you lead the implementation, but I’ll tell you when you’re getting sucked too far into other people’s dramas.  If that works, then we can organise something else together, but you can do the planning with my support, and I’ll lead the implementation with you at my side.”

 

Empathic loved his colleague’s suggestion, and they shook on the new deal.  More importantly, Empathic realised that this model could significantly reduce the strain he was feeling at work from getting too involved with the feelings and needs of others.

 

When Sceptica got promoted ahead of Empathic a few months later, Empathic was the first to congratulate his friend, and couldn’t believe it when he heard Sceptica’s acceptance speech.  Here’s what she said…

 

“You know, I’ve learnt something very important in the last few months.  Maybe the same is true of all opposites, but my specific realisation is that the deeper purpose of scepticism and empathy is to make each other work.  Scepticism, unchecked, is a black hole into which a team’s full power and potential can disappear, never to be seen again.  But empathy is a black hole too, into which many a well-intentioned manager has fallen, never to return.  The best way to make empathy fly is to form an alliance with scepticism.  And the best way to make scepticism fly…”

 

At this point, Sceptica seemed to hesitate, before stopping altogether.  Then she smiled, picked up a plastic cup from the water cooler, and proposed a toast to her friend, and inspiration, Empathic.

 

 

Read more of Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

albert-einstein-everybody-is-a-genius-but-if-you-judge-a-fish-by-its-ability-to

The perils of fish judging

Would you play your goal keeper at centre forward and then complain that they don’t score?

So, why do you complain when the visionary people in your team are unreliable?  When the analytical ones struggle to demonstrate emotional intelligence?  When the organised ones try to control you?  Seriously, what were you expecting?

Of course, you can’t tolerate a total absence of reliability, however visionary your visionary types.

And you wouldn’t be able to function if your analytical ones have no emotional intelligence whatsoever.  Nor if the organised types turn out to be obsessive control freaks.

So, reserve your judgement when it comes to the shadow side of your people’s strengths – every strength comes at a price, and whether or not that price is worth paying depends on how often you see the strength in action.  Focus too much on improving the shadow side, and you’ll cast yourself in the unpopular role of the referee trying to adjudicate over tree climbing competitions for fish.

Management theory encourages us to homogenise our team – so that everyone is merely competent at everything.  Enlightened managers, on the other hand, know that this is a recipe for frustration and under performance.  Enlightened managers, on the other hand, delegate in favour of an individual’s temperamental preferences, whilst offering support with an eye to that individual’s shadow side.

In short, enlightened managers love their people for their strengths, and view their weaknesses affectionately and supportively in light of this.

Unless the weakness in question is an unwillingness, or an inability, to learn.  In which case, at least as far as I’m concerned, judge away.  Complain loudly, and often.  This is the only unforgiveable one.

Read more of Laurence Coen’s blogs at:

http://www.itsagloriousday.co.uk/blog/

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

The Perfection Paradigm

The Perfection Paradigm

 

Inadvertent cultural sabotage occurs when an otherwise positive aspect of a company’s culture legitimises poor followership at moments of change.  How could this be useful to you?  If you can identify the precise way in which your cultural strengths dig in to preserve the status quo, you stand a much better chance of working with those strengths to introduce new ways of working successfully.

 

‘Perfection Paradigm’ organisational cultures have taken the virtue of being smart and well prepared too far, to the point where it’s better to pretend to know an answer, or to look like you have something under control, rather than to admit to not knowing, or that a project is struggling.

In such cultures, it really does feel deeply unacceptable to say, “I don’t know,” to declare that some project or deal isn’t advancing to plan, to admit that that someone else might know better, or, heaven forbid, to utter the words, “I may have made a mistake.”

In business as usual situations, where projects are likely to be under control, answers known, and mistakes small, the positive impact of ‘Perfection Paradigm’ cultures on business performance is normally perceived to outweigh the negative aspects.

However, in business as usual at times of extreme pressure, or in any change situation, where, by definition, more is unknown, things are less under control, and mistakes more likely, ‘Perfection Paradigm’ cultures tend to encourage the curation and dissemination of staggering amounts of bullshit.  Bullshit has many downsides in the workplace that you don’t need me to remind you of, the one that’s relevant here is its detrimental impact on honesty, the rocket fuel of positive change.

The full list of unintended casualties of a backfiring ‘Perfection Paradigm’ culture is: objective evaluation (all projects are always going well), transparency (whatever is not going well needs to be hidden), and learning from mistakes (no one, in such cultures, ever makes any.)

 

The concept of inadvertent cultural sabotage underpins Glorious Day’s unique approach (The Inadvertent Saboteur®) to delivering culture change without the drama and cost you’d expect.  ‘Perfection Paradigm’ is just one example – we have identified more than thirty over the years, and a specific solution for each.

©2015 Glorious Day Limited.  All rights reserved.

School for advanced egg sucking

The Grannies’ School for Advanced Egg Sucking

When you are teaching granny to suck eggs, as the expression goes, do you really know what you’re talking about?

I mean, do you know what it really means to suck eggs, or why granny does it?

I didn’t, and, unable to tolerate my own hypocrisy any longer, I looked it up.

Apparently, it describes a practice in less fortunate times where a person would prick a hole in both ends of an egg, and then suck out its contents so as to preserve the shell.

What for, exactly, isn’t entirely clear, but perhaps it was to break it into tiny pieces to walk on, in the hope of adding further colour to the language of future generations?

It all got me wondering what us business types would attend an Advanced Egg Sucking seminar to learn. 

Here are my initial suggestions, please feel free to add, and, if any of them are any good, I promise to organise a webinar on the subject:

  1. How to receive suggestions for improvement (on obvious stuff) without getting offended.
  2. How to laugh uncontrollably (as opposed to keeping a straight face) when you, or one of your colleagues, is patently talking shit.
  3. How to throw open the doors of your mind to the possibility of improvement, as an unconditional, impulse response whenever you hear the following words in close proximity: ‘granny’, ‘egg’ and ‘suck.’ Lest, at a later date, it’s the obvious stuff that makes you choke.