Monthly Archives: January 2016

constrictor

Telling tall tales in a tie (or trouser suit)

A businessman is having breakfast when one of his children looks up from their cereal with widening eyes and asks, “What’s that spotty thing strangling you, Dad?”

No, our hero hadn’t been attacked by a boa constrictor: he was going for a job interview.

The job interview.  That little cocoon of altered reality we share with the interviewer and little else of the known universe.  Where we get rewarded for hamming up our strengths, stretching the truth to breaking point, and, with faux-humility, admitting to tiny frailties that actually enhance our flattering self-portrait.

Where we laugh indulgently with the interviewer at the follies of others, and at the absurdity of organisational behaviour, as if we somehow exist on an island of sanity apart from all that nonsense.

And engage in a playful dance of niceties that comes nowhere near the tension and frustration of the moments in the job (that we’re applying for) that will actually define our effectiveness.

All an interview really calibrates is our ability to tell tall tales in a tie (or trouser suit.)

I know, I know, I know: often there’s more to a selection process than interviews – like testing, profiling and assessment centres.  But how close do these processes really come to bringing to life the organisational edges upon which the new appointee will trip – poor decision-making, inefficient meetings, parochialism and status-consciousness?  How will the new hire respond to what their boss is really like – fair-minded and empowering, or a controller who deals poorly with challenge (neither style, by the way, is without its downside)?

This year’s shiny new thing becomes next year’s damaged goods because both the candidate and the hiring organisation squeeze themselves into a tie (or trouser suit) that they wouldn’t normally wear, and cannot re-adjust when they don’t recognise each other six months down the line.

To remedy this situation, we can start by insisting that all those who are involved in the selection process receive training – interviewing, like management, seems to be a skill that we often assume everyone is born with.

Next, we can ensure that all selection processes somehow replicate the dysfunctionalities of our particular organisation.  Like getting the candidate to prepare a presentation for their next interview at the last minute – see what they come up with in the time available, and, more importantly, if they respond to the imposition of an unreasonable deadline as a challenge or an affront.

And my third suggestion for now (to avoid misfiring hires) is this: rather than treating your new recruits with kid gloves for the first three months after they join, put them under as much pressure as you can.  Within reason of course, but there’s a case to be made for allowing your new recruits to make as many mistakes as possible (the best way to learn) whilst it’s still okay to make them.

Unless there’s already one out there that I’ve failed to notice, I think I might set up a ‘real world’ recruitment agency – Inadvertent Saboteur® recruitment services, here we come!

 

 

I have an entirely new perspective, one that allows me to view my Inadvertent Saboteur as a colleague. Whereas before I may have just given up, I now feel I can work with my ‘little helper’, and find solutions together.  As a direct result of this, my business is now on a new commercial trajectory!

Feedback from a participant currently attending a Glorious Day, 6-month commercial breakthrough programme (feat. the Inadvertent Saboteur®)

 

Because we can still be so much better at business

 

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The Fearless Post

To fear is human.  It’s mandatory.  We need fear to survive.  It drives us.  It’s incredibly powerful.

A force this strong is impossible to hide.  However smart the suit, strong the cologne, savvy the jargon, offhand the manner, big the car, steely the gaze, or jutting the lower jaw.  What we think we are keeping locked away in our own, personal, fear chamber is actually on display for everyone else to see at work.  Because it ends up twisting our behaviour out of shape as we try to keep it hidden.

We hide our fear because we think that fear has no place in business – because business is a logical undertaking, requiring a strong hand, a firm will, and decisiveness.

However, to fear is human, it’s mandatory, we need fear to survive.  Fear exists, so, to pretend it doesn’t is neither logical, nor sound, nor likely to contribute to effective decision making or the appearance of strength.  In short, to deny fear is to suppress your own humanity.

It may have been okay in the past, pre-2008, buoyed up by ever-rising markets, not to worry about this sort of thing.  After all, it’s not easy – embracing your humanity as a leader means that you have to do that most difficult of things, and, in full view of your colleagues, rise above your contradictions.  But, as growth in the marketplace gets harder and harder to come by, staff satisfaction more and more of an imperative, and social and environmental concerns increasingly pressing, it’s entirely possible that we will all have to learn how to leave the confines of our fear chambers in order to become fit for purpose leaders for this century.  Whilst it’s safe in there, if you stay in your chamber, you’ll never experience the exhilaration of passing out into the fearless world, where you can achieve all of your achievements, and fail all of your failures.

And that journey starts by working out what it is that you are afraid of in the first place.  Of being overlooked, left out, misunderstood, not needed, not wanted, unfairly judged, undervalued, not smart enough?  Unsuccessful?  Fired?

For me it was fear of being wrong.  Only recently have I learnt to lead without having to be right all the time – not that I was right all the time, and in trying to cover my tracks I often made a fool of myself.

Whatever your fear, everyone around you can already see it, so the idea of keeping it hidden is vaguely absurd.

And whatever your fear, letting it drive your behaviour is what got you this far, but it won’t necessarily be what takes you all the way.

Do you want to pour your talents into avoiding failure, or achieving success?

Do you want to leave all your ships in the harbour, and never set sail, because at least you’re sure that they won’t sink there?

Or, do you want to re-define your relationships with your colleagues, but this time, for real?  Having stepped out from your fear chamber into the fearless world, where you can achieve all of your achievements, and fail all of your failures.

Feedback after a Fearless Organisation speech made by Laurence in 2015:

“The inadvertent saboteur methodology provided a simple and clear model for understanding basic psychological defense mechanisms and how they slow down change. And I appreciated that the presentation was with so much humour!”