Humans Are Not Robots! Really? Wow!

In a recent report sponsored by the SAP institute, Human Capital Media released the dramatic headline: Humans Are Not Robots.”

OMG!  Really???  And here, for nearly a century, we’ve been treating them like they are!

Shaka RobotWhat are we going to do?

The SAP article was talking about the implication of having to accommodate individual differences that are not problematic when coding application software – but just imagine!  Eventually, we’ll have to treat everyone as unique individuals with their own skills and experiences and histories and capabilities and – good heavens! – emotions!

We’ll have to start actually discussing how people can use their unique value to contribute to team efforts in a collaborative, innovative way.  We’ll have to use a common language to describe those skills (for efficiency, of course – since we can’t completely lose sight of that!), and management will have to actually change from what Ordway Tead described in 1935 as, “getting people to do what they ordinarily wouldn’t want to do” to helping people grow, aligning their strengths and capabilities and passions with corporate interests which – come to think of it – might actually address real customer problems.

Now, of course this post is jestful hyperbole.  But think about it!  What are we really doing when we treat everyone in the company as some sort of conglomerate entity?  We might, of course, differentiate between roles or levels in the organizations (Nurses vs. Doctors, Management vs. Workers, etc.) – but we still bunch all these folks together as though we could establish one approach that might successfully eke out the most productivity we can from them.

Now, we’ve even added age differentiation into our vocabulary.  It’s really discriminatory ageism – but it sounds niftier when we call it “Millenials” vs. “Gen Y” vs. “Boomers.”  Cute titles make it ok to segregate, I guess.

How do we end this descending spiral into a day when our workforce really is simply an automated resource?  By honoring and respecting each other as individuals who are of inherent value – not just because of what their job title is, or their rank in the organization, or their education or age or ethnicity or any other factor – besides the value in being who they are.  From there, we can appreciate history and education and circumstance and experience and passion, and help each other evolve a workplace – and a world – worth living.

Honda Asimo Robot
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Intersection of Transformational Leadership and Humanity

Intersection of Transformational Leadership and Humanity

As originally referenced by ASTD, an article in The Hindu claims that Transformational leadership boosts employee well-being.  Isn’t that a bit like saying, if you listen to people, help them grow, and find meaning in their work, they’ll be happily more productive?  Or, maybe, if you turn on a light in a dark room, you’re more likely to see.  Kinda goes without saying; but it is gratifying that research, conducted in Germany, bears out this most reasonable assumption about human nature.

So, then, the link between Transformational Leadership and Humanity has been scientifically verified.  Maybe Dignity Health can add an image of that in their next commercial.  They are recreating their brand – with their new name (nee Catholic Healthcare West) – and now have a television commercial that contrast lack of humanity (well, certainly lack of civility) with folks who are compassionate, ready to help, and are responding to turbulence in a calm and sincere manner.  One might say, “equanimously.”

Reaching the competencies of Transformational Leadership requires studious, practiced effort.  TL mapped to DiSCTo some, TL seems to come more “naturally” (see the image, for instance, of the qualities of a transformational leader overlaid on the DiSC-like profile map), while others need to learn to adopt the characteristics of a transformational leader (see chart).TL chart  The images, by the way, are courtesy of c2e consulting (image) and Catalyst Consulting (chart).

One of the charts reviewed (but not posted) integrates the leadership and management functions (intersecting Venn circles), which is a necessary perspective on Transformational Leadership.  At Workforce Equanimity, WE distinguish between the management function as the relationship between managers and direct reports (including all of the operational decisions that need to be made to reach departmental goals) and leadership, which entails vision, alignment, and enablement aspects needed to set and maintain direction.  Since leadership can occur at any level of the organization, this includes named leaders, managers, and individual contributors who demonstrate these characteristics.

How do you define “Transformational Leadership?  Have you experienced these results, in your workplace?

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Management as “opportunity to help people become better”

Clayton Christensen Wants to Transform Capitalism | Wired Business |

Clayton Christensen first came to industry/national notoriety though his observations about why smart, successful businesses fail.  He saw a pattern of current, successful product lines (or services, but usually products) being usurped by competitors – some of whom had not even been on the radar prior to their disruptively innovative entry into the market.  So, as Andy Grove adopted for Intel (with the Celeron) as a response to competition for a less-expensive version of their successful microprocessors by AMD and Cyrix, companies have been encouraged to disrupt their own successful product or service by anticipating customer needs and even cannibalizing some of their own market share with the new product or service. (See, The Innovator’s Dilemma).

constructive conversation

Ten years later, Christensen now is challenging – as WE are – the value of 20th century management practices in the 21st century.  “Management,” he says in the recent interview with WIRED, “is the opportunity to help people become better people.  Practiced that way, it’s a magnificent profession.”

Hierarchical management structures, with only the tools of “carrots and sticks” to promote what Ordway Tead (1935) cited as the Art of Leadership – “to get people to do what they ordinarily do not want to do” – is not only passé, but inhibits effectiveness, innovation, and employee retention.  Conversations based on the alignment and further development of individual strengths are essential to the new management.  To do that, workers and managers need the insight into their capabilities using a reliable and consistent vocabulary, and training and coaching on how to have those constructive, meaningful conversations.

What do you think?  Disruptive enough?

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Hiring for passion over skills

In his recent blog post on Upstart, Definity Partner’s Ray Attiyah talks about the benefits of hiring for passion as opposed to (strictly skills) for startups.  WE might argue that this would hold true for any hire.  Certainly, requisite skills cannot be ignored, especially when the job role calls for technical capability that no amount of “passion” will supplant.  However, the point is that, given a choice between hiring someone with basic skills and lots of passion for the corporate goals, versus someone who has more refined skills yet little interest in the overall vision and mission of the company – go for the passion.

MC910217451Skills can be improved and learned; passion for the vision is more difficult to instill.  Sure, one might acquire it over time; but if someone is interested in something else, they will always be scanning for opportunities (whether they know it or not) to pursue them.  It is better to get a good fit – passion, work style, personality (with respect to fitting into the team/company climate) – than a highly skilled square peg for a round hole.

Your thoughts?

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Respect for People

Respect for People

In his article on the Lean Blog, Mark Graban illuminates the problem of the lack of respect for others at work and how – in this case within the Healthcare Industry at Virginia Mason – how that impacted customer (patient) care.

MC900070973In order for people to feel enabled at work, they must be respected by their managers, leaders, and peers, to be effective and engaged.  Besides being a basic human principle of civility, respect (at a minimum) and appreciation (more desirably) for others’ unique skills and energies is key to creating a highly-functioning team.  Recognizing the value and strengths of others – even though they are different from our own – is essential to this process.

Equanimity is achieved by a mutual knowing, acknowledging, and valuing of each individual’s strengths and how they are aligned with team and corporate goals.  Having a common vocabulary and leader-sponsored fora for sharing and leveraging those strengths facilitates this process.

Diversity is not just about race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or culture of origin – diversity occurs in skills and strengths.  As these are recognized as attributes that are assets – and not something to be “accommodated” – the team’s capabilities and the company’s business results will concomitantly grow.

As the organization’s goals are aligned to their needs, the customers certainly will benefit as well.


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Modes vs. Types vs. Styles?

Modes: A New Model for Leadership Development | LinkedIn.

In this piece, Daniel Goleman (of Emotional Intelligence fame) contrasts modes of behavior – especially behaviors and “mindsets” that are triggered by particular environmental circumstances – with “personality types” that are connoted to be more fixed and pervasive across situations.

That started me thinking about DiSC styles, in that WE use DiSC extensively to 1) provide personal insight into styles of thought and behavior and 2) provide a common platform for discussion and understanding among collaborators in companies, on teams, etc.  Are DiSC styles more like “modes” or “types?”

Everything DiSC Workplace MapAs I’ve often mentioned elsewhere, having (previously) used personality typing instruments like the MMPI, MBTI, and Enneagram with clinical clients, I have found them useful to enhance personal insight, especially when the client needs to develop a vocabulary and insight to engage in the therapeutic process.  However, I have found them to be less useful in the context of organizational development, primarily because, without the long-term intensive facilitation by an expert for each individual and the team, the surfacing of personality characteristics can become too revealing (without adequate interpretive context) and leads to labeling and stereotyping.  By contrast, work environment-oriented tools like 5 Dynamics, DiSC, et al. are framed in the context of the workplace by their very terminology and the idea that they are measuring how a person’s energy “naturally flows” when in particular work situations.  This understanding, with a modest dose of facilitation, can lead to marked improvements in the assembling and functioning of teams.  As Kurt Lewin may have put it, this deeper understanding might accelerate the process of storming, forming, and norming in work groups.  Hence, DiSC styles are differentiated distinctly from personality types.

The modes that Goleman posits are (as I interpret from this referenced blog-length treatment) highly situational – “When this happens, I respond in this mode, as opposed to when that happens and I respond in a different mode.”  There is a distinct element of, “…and, I’d like to change my usual response to be more like that mode than this mode,” leading to integrity of thought, emotion, and behavior.  Which, in our (Workforce Equanimity’s) concept of Mindful work, is consistent with an equanimous state of responding in a calm, thoughtful, appreciate manner (mode?) to an ever-changing environment.

DiSC styles are akin to personality types in that they are descriptive of a set of characteristics that one typically prefers to use as responses; yet, DiSC styles are assessed situationally (the workplace, usually) and are contextualized (when properly facilitated and coached) in a flexible frame – i.e., “Your energy naturally flows to this style; but you are capable of responding with characteristics of any style at any time, if you so choose – it just might take a little more intention and energy.”

So, to answer my own question, I offer that DiSC styles are more like modes than types; but I’m interested in what you think.  Please respond below…

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Attention! Retention! Interaction!

Are you looking for ways to engage your learners with interactive learning activities that promote attention and retention? SimbolsGreen549Join us in Sacramento on Monday 8 April for the Enablement Expo, where you can elect to attend the entire day, a half-day (Leadership in the AM, Innovation in the PM), a top-of-the-hour session, or just browse and chat with global leader Graham Cook from RSVP Design in the UK, or with experts from Workforce Equanimity. See the details in this flyer, and follow the link to register at the Eventbrite site.

Facilities provided by Sutter Health University, 2700 Gateway Oaks #2600, Sacramento, CA 95833

See you there!  Cheers!

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Mindful Leadership: ASTD T&D (2013)

Mindful Leadership: ASTD T&D (2013)

Practicing Mindful Leadership.

mindfulnessThis is a well-written article about a topic that is gaining meme momentum: mindfulness at work; and, more specifically, how practicing mindfulness contributes to positive, effective leadership.

To learn more about Mindful Leadership, schedule one of our “Experiences” for your professional group, or (more thoroughly) arrange for one of our in-depth workshops on bringing mindfulness into your routine.

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Intersection of Physical Proximity and Effective Teaming

In her article on Merissa Mayer’s recent call for Yahooligans to return from work-at-home to the office, Esther Dyson says:

It’s important to be physically present, so important that she will bring her son to work. Almost precisely because it’s easy to work remotely, the advantage a company has over a collection of home workers – or a set of outsourced workers assembled through Task Rabbit – is that people can accomplish more when they work together, with a common culture and the benefit of serendipitous connections.

Businesspeople in MeetingI agree that teams are more effective when they effectively communicate. What does physical proximity have to do with this? Probably a great deal. We are, after all, a tribal species. Gathering together, eating together, bumping into each other, sharing the funny as well as the sad moments of our lives, are all significant components in feeling as though we can trust each other, and communicate openly and productively. We rely on non-verbal cues to determine how and when to best approach another with an idea, a request, or a concern. We learn those signals by being around others on a regular basis.

Can technologies provide adequate channels of relationship development to substitute for having to be “in the office” at all times, with everybody? Well, here we need to differentiate a bit; because not all relationships require the same level of interaction. For instance, a customer service representative or inbound telesales person – who would not normally come into direct contact with the customer, anyway – would not necessarily benefit from working a shift in a cubicle adjacent to a hundred other such employees, any more than by working from the kitchen table or the neighborhood Starbucks.

But, excluding those kinds of tele-roles, employees who need to collaborate on projects will absolutely benefit from the higher-bandwidth communication that face-to-face (F2F) interaction allows.

Some companies have used technology to help offset the gap between F2F and virtual interaction, particularly when F2F was prohibitive due to costs of distance (and evenTwo Men Talking in Restaurant real estate). During one of my tenures at IBM in the late 2000s, office spaces were intentionally down-sized to the point where all of the employees assigned to a branch office would not have even been able to sit throughout the generic workstations installed in the minimalist space, all at one time. A declared intent of this move (besides reducing real estate costs) was to encourage employees to be in proximity to their customers more frequently, which would (according to this same theory) result in more trusting, more collaborative relationships with customers, too. And, employees found that the flexibility facilitated greater work-life integration. I recall several occasions of debriefing a colleague on project status, while she was taking in her son’s recreational (but competitive) baseball games; did her son, who was focused on the game and chatting with teammates, think any less of his Mom as she chatted with me on her BlackBerry? Probably not.

Teleconference systems (even cheap ones like Skype), mobile phones and devices, email, IM/chat/twitter/social sites, and a slew of other tools help fill that gap. And, certainly, the benefits of not commuting – as well as the benefits of not being distracted by office politics – also offset the value of being “in the office,” all the time. It will be interesting to see if this first oh-so-public backlash against the WFH (working from home) trend will blossom into a full-blown retrenchment into the hallowed halls of the venerable office, or if it’s an outlier without a tail.

But, for sure, enhancing communications among collaborative teams is a basic tenet of effectiveness. Providing folks with insight into their strengths, and the vocabulary to negotiate positioning those strengths to support the team in reaching its goals, will always be successful strategies – whether F2F or WFH, or some blend of both.

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Intersection of KM, Executive Education, and Disruptive Innovation

Intersection of KM, Executive Education, and Disruptive Innovation

Executive Education Is Ripe for Online Disruption – Morten T. Hansen – Harvard Business Review.

innovationDisruptive innovations are those that consume (even “cannibalize”) previously successful and even sustained products and methods, in favor of a markedly different device or way of doing things.  Disruptive innovation is occurring in K-12 education, by way of Massively On-line Open Curricula (MOOCs, with variations on the exact wording), like the Khan Academy, among many others.  Still, workplace training – and as featured in this article, especially executive education – remains formal; largely classroom based with a smattering of eLearning and some work experiences/shadowing/stretch assignments.  There are pockets of innovation; but nothing yet globally disruptive.

Why is this?

You might say that there’s not the need; but a citation from a colleague the other day refutes this: she says that over the next few years, her company (a major utility) is estimated to lose 46% of its current management team to retirement.  Imagine that!  Nearly half of your experienced leadership will be making their way to Maui in a matter of months!  Hers is not an isolated outlier – this trend is being anticipated in nearly every industry in every region.  So it’s not that executive education is not needed.

Now, you might think that those responsible for remaining half – who are the ones ultimately responsible for raising the replacements out of the ranks – are not yet committed to the cause.  And you’d be right.  But why?  Is it the scarcity of resources?  That could certainly be a part of it, recognizing that the “recovery” has been fitfully slow.  Yet the data also warn that replacing these leaders will be costly – in the neighborhood of 1.5 to 2 times the annual salary of the departing exec.  Delaying the inevitable by not looking for a disruptive solution (to bring down that cost) is a recipe for disaster.

Dr. Hansen suggests hybridizing the current classroom model of executive education with some targeted eLearning – and this is a good step.  But it is not disruptive.  The reason the Khan Academy is disruptive is that it “flips” the classroom and homework experiences – out-of-school study time is when didactic learning takes place, accommodating the students style, pace, and current level of knowledge.  The classroom, then, is for rehearsal, practice, supportive mistake-making, and corrective guidance in a collaborative atmosphere (more aligned, by the way, with the post-modern workplace – a bonus!).

Applying this methodology to executive education, then, involves:

  • Flipping the experiences of didactic learning and practice, by relying far less on classroom experiences and formal eLearning courses, opting for continually-updated bibliographies, extensive reading and research, participation in discussion fora, and exploration into a variety of information resources (which, as a side benefits, helps build one’s lifelong learning skills).  Practice becomes a series of guided, meaningful, structured exercises in an environment in which it is safe to fail, and consistently builds confidence in the student’s ability to envision, align, and enable.
  • Incorporating mentoring (around specific competencies) and coaching (for general support while progressing through the learning experience) as fundamental aspects of the program (teachers and more advanced students fill this role in K-12  environs).
  • Clearly articulating the set of competencies and skills that will drive the behaviors and attitudes that are necessary for successful leaders.  This should be done, anyway, to support everything from hiring to performance reviews – but it is essential to constructing a viable training program that will be measurable against organizational goals (see Kirkpatrick, especially, for rationale and explanation of this dynamic).

Disruptions are risky.  It is much easier to try to eke out “just a little more” out of tried-and-true structures (such as classroom training).  Yet, the horizon is fast approaching and it is clear.  The economics will not support traditional models of training, and the next generation of learners is already well beyond this modality of learning (try as the existing educational institutions might to keep it relevant).  Are you bold enough to try?

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