Friday, February 10, 2017

"I AM"

The Warrior Sage will deviate some today to explore a deeper philosophical issue: The Impact of Individual False Core Beliefs on Organizational Behavior. So if you are not in the mood for a long read, "ta ta" or "come back later." I will draw extensively from If the Buddha got Stuck by Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D.
We bring to the workplace individual core beliefs that emerged in infancy and took shape as we grew. These beliefs further form as a result of "millions of interactions over the years with our parents, families, and social system." These interactions include that which we perceive, that which we feel, and that which we conclude. We humans, turn them into realities. Dr. Kasl reminds us that these are false core beliefs. A sample includes:
  • I am defective
  • I am shameful
  • I am unlovable
  • I am powerless over my life
  • I am unwanted
  • I will always be abandoned
  • My body is defective or shameful
  • I am worthless
  • I am inadequate
  • I don't exist
  • I am alone
Pick any one of these beliefs that resonate and you won't feel so good about yourself. Naturally, humans want to avoid pain and anxiety. So we transform our false core believes into a course of action and behaviors that "provide an illusory escape from the dreaded feelings associated with our false core beliefs." No, I am not going to turn this into some therapy session but let's play out one of these false core beliefs in the workplace:

If someone's fundamental core false belief is I am worthless, compensating behaviors include things like:
  • Being achievement oriented to the point of overachievement
  • Needing people to notice "me;" being the center of attention
  • Being right all the time; being the "smartest"
  • Wanting more money
  • Working on and accomplishing more tasks
  • Saying "yes" to every request for help
Stephen Wolinsky reminds us, "the problem is that they don't work because concepts such as lovable, worthwhile, powerful, and shameful are mental constructs based on conditioning and are not who we really are. In other words, you don't disprove something that doesn't exist to begin with."

We are born without these beliefs. We are born in a state of being, "I Am." "BE" in a moment without language, without mental description and we are without ego. We are without the need to be praised, without the need for more money, without the need to feel loved or important. Shhhh. Shh. Shh. Shh. Shh. This is not a moment to say "but...." or "quip..." or ...that is your mind playing with you. This is a moment without your false core beliefs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Have You Done for me lately?

By this time of year, managers will have finished writing performance evaluations and assigning some kind of rating to employees' annual performance. Those employees who receive high performance ratings think the system is fair. Those who don't ...well they will think the system or to be more precise, the manager, is not fair. There is such controversy over this process especially if there is a lot of subjectivity associated with measuring performance in today's organizations.

In the simplest business, performance will be rewarded by repeat business, increased sales and efficient work processes: I bake a great biscotti, price it right, sell it with a smile and I am likely to pay back the cost of making it and pay myself for having made it. But when you work in large corporations where there is a lot of distance between what the employee does and profits, what performance is measured, how do you measure it and how do you reward it?

Managers get themselves into a lot of trouble when they are not clear on performance expectations and ways to measure performance. There are managers who "know it when they see it." I actually heard a manager say as he was preparing to write his evaluations at year end, "What have they done for me lately?" My guess is, his employees know this and spend the weeks leading up to performance evaluation sucking up to the boss and making him or her look good.

At the end of the day, I am not an advocate of performance appraisal or annual reviews because I think the process perpetuates a parental approach to work. It reduces ownership. It gives managers unfair power over employees. It turns employees into victims. But you might ask, how will you reward performance? Without the reward, how will you keep employees committed and engaged? All good questions. So let the debate begin.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Sound of Silence

Click on link to listen while reading.

The Warrior Sage has been silent these past few months-in reflection and anticipation. Saying goodbye to 2009 and gearing up for 2010, the last year in the first decade of the 21st century. Consider:

  • In politics: The U.S. started the decade with George W. Bush at the helm and ended with the first African-American president, Barack Obama.
  • In terrorism: There was 9/11; Bali, Istanbul, Madrid, Amman, Russia, Mumbai....
  • As for conflict: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, the Congo, Lebanon, Israel-Gaza, Somalia...
  • And then there have been natural disasters: From Gujarat, India' earthquake in 2001 where 12,000 lost their lives to the nearly 200,000 lost in the 2004 Tsunami in Southeast Asia to Hurricane Katrina, the Burma/Myanmar cyclone...and now Haiti.
  • And let us not forget the economy: The world's economy doubled in size between 1998 and 2008 but the decade is ending with the crushing realization of how interconnected are the economies around the world. Remember the Dot-com bubble? The housing bubble? Both of which burst, big time.
  • How about energy: Is the world heating up or cooling down? Do we have enough fuel or not? For what? At what cost? Oil was slightly over $30 during 2003 and reached $60 in 2005 and peaked at $147 in 2008.
  • And in technology: At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000, we breathlessly awaited the adverse impact of Y2K only to be rewarded with a decade of revolutionary advancements in technology. Who would have thought then that today's 10 year olds would have ipods or iphones, their own pc's and accounts on something called MySpace or Facebook. (Who would have thought then that you could "unfriend" a friend?)
  • Are we alone or what? The Hubble Space Telescope was repaired....maybe we really are not the only ones in this universe. Throughout the decade, exploration of Mars continues to reveal important discoveries. Let us not forget though that we lost 7 in the Space Shuttle Columbia's disintegration in 2003.
  • Read more:
This may be heavy stuff. Personally, I loved these past 10 years for all its ups and downs but in the end, 2009 was a year to forget. I suspect there are a lot of people who would like to forget 2009 as well. So let's say goodbye to it and press on. Let us not carry the burdens of a world but carry our neighbors' groceries; carry laughter in our hearts; hold a child's smile in our mind's eye. Let us not cocoon. Let us not bury our heads in fear of losing them. Let us move past self-preservation - hope for and envision a new future.

Let us turn this "sound of silence" into a time of re- creation, re-storation, and re-newal.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Didn't you HEAR what I said!???

Today I am processing conversations with two different executives whose recent requests have frustrated the hell out of me. In each case, each request was for something that I have suggested several times over as many months. Interestingly, or frustratingly, the request made no reference to our previous discussions. It is as if the idea that each had was fresh and was their own.

On the one hand, I want to scream - WERE YOU NOT LISTENING TO ME? I'VE BEEN SAYING THAT FOR WEEKS! I've been summarizing the data in bullet points in powerpoint. I've shown the data in spreadsheets and described the information in white papers. Each mode of communication was met with distracted or glazed over eyes or fake, polite, plastered smiles. Now suddenly they are asking for the same information in the same formats that I have presented in the past.

Well, after I checked my ego at the door...yes our job requires us to leave our egos behind, I should rejoice that my clients FINALLY get it. When they think it is THEIR idea, I should be happy. When they are ASKING for the information, I should be excited. Hard as that is for me to digest, change will happen when they think it was their idea. Hey it only took 6 months.

Any advice on how I can leave me ego at the door?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Aspire to Mediocrity

I heard an executive deliver a message recently in a town hall meeting with his employees: "Don't deliver the Mercedes when all they want is a Volkswagon."

It gives one pause, doesn't it?

Here's what ran through my mind:
  • He just demotivated a group of very bright and talented employees who get up in the morning ready to do their best work.
  • He thinks that using cliches will connect him more with his employees.
  • He thinks little of the client groups.
Indeed clients may only want the Volkswagon solution to solve their business need. To be sure that we deliver the most suitable and best solution, we seek a deeper understanding of the need, diagnose the problem, identify potential solutions, understand the constraints and propose options to the client. This kind of diagnostic is often something clients don't have time nor expertise to conduct. (Think about taking your car in to check on the noise coming from your exhaust and telling the mechanic to use duct tape to correct the problem.)

The point is, practitioners customize the solution to the client's needs and the client's capability to embrace, implement and maintain the solution. Practitioners deliver their best work, their best solution. Whether at the end of the day it is a Mercedes or a Volkswagon, it will be the best product to meet the client's need. The ultimate outcome is to take the client group's performance and capability to the next level.

To inspire one's employees, avoid using cliche's. They are subject to a host of misinterpretation which leads to disengaged and demotivated employees. Otherwise, consider including a Nissan 350 next time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Move to New Zealand (A Way to Control Change)

William Bridges' masterfully explains change as transition from what was to what will be; moving from the known to the unknown. Transitions can be filled with excitement, fear, anxiety, joy...or all of the above. It all depends upon the change and the choice to change. Becoming parents for the first time; starting college; that first job, or second job, or seventh job, etc. We change everyday...another day older. How smoothly we transition from the old state of being to the new one is about a combination of choice, control and perception. I don't choose to get old but I can manage my perception of aging and I can control how I age.

In the work place, changes include simple things like moving from one office to another office....ah how territorial we humans become when the company decides to reconfigure office space. We return to our caveman and cavewoman roots - maybe not with the physical clubs but with modern clubs of resistance...or complaint. The more complex changes include new systems, new procedures, new policies, new organizational structures. You know the types of changes where employees feel like something was "done to them." The changes where employees feel as though they had "no choice."

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are the toughest changes. I worked with one company during a time when M&A were a strategy to improve the balance sheet. It was purely an accounting exercise. Employees didn't find out about the acquistion until they showed up to work where the sign over the door registered a different company name. M&As are riddled with simple to complex changes and the mother of all changes: cultural change. That illusive thing, culture change, you know the one to which neanderthal executives' classic response is: "Don't be such a baby..."

So how do you best bring together two similar yet different cultures and integrate the systems, processes and procedures? Involve them in the change in as many ways as you can. (duh!) And don't just involve the top layers of the organization - involve all levels. Bring the users of the new technologies, procedures together. Assign them the task of finding the best way to make the change, communicate and implement the change to their colleagues. Agree on what to keep and what to throw out and let everyone know why.

Now as far as those life changes - some of which we have no control...well we can remain in the space of being victims:
  • I inherited the genes
  • The economy prevents us from our family entertainment plans
  • Congress made the decision to.....(fill in the blank)
To controlling what we can control:
  • I exercise and eat right to override my genes
  • I took my family to an enjoyable movie in place of that expensive broadway show
  • I can always move to New Zealand.... on a retirement visa.
Transitions can be managed.... by creating a positive vision of what will be and can be that is within our control. New Zealand is looking pretty appealing these days.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

I grew up in an era of protest: protesting "the establishment," protesting the war, protesting our parents' generation. My generation spoke out in the form of demonstration. Our publications were limited: we did not have laptops, cell phones nor portable electronic devices. We didn't have blogs back then. But we always had free speech; then and now. We remain able to have a "voice" and a say in our democracy. We may not always like the outcomes but our system is designed to allow everyone equal rights and equal voice. On this Independence Day, I celebrate those freedoms.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who do YOU trust?

Who is the most trustworthy person you know? What makes him or her trustworthy? What actions can you pinpoint that demonstrate trust? I posed these questions to several employees recently. Often times the most trustworthy person identified was a family member or a life long friend. The actions included:
  • When I am struggling with a problem, this is the person whom I can talk; this is the person who will listen and will not judge me.
  • A trustworthy person will support me when the chips are down. He will not abandon me in the bad times.
  • This is a person who will also push me to think about things differently and in a very respectful way.
  • This is a person who will seek my ideas and opinions and treats me equally.
It takes a long time to develop and build a trusting relationship but only a split second to bankrupt trust. I developed a deep friendship with my college roommate. And I blew it in our senior year, when I seriously flirted with my roommate's heartthrob. We have not spoken since. Breaking trust in our personal relationships leads to tensions, separations, divorce. At work, "divorcing" ourselves from our peers or supervisors may be a bit different. We generally don't walk away. We come to work, put up walls, don't talk to each other and gradually, we drive a deep wedge which impacts our commitment to the group and to the organization. I've observed professionals who face each other with smiles and head nods only to turn around behind closed doors and deny any agreements. On simpler terms, breaking promises is breaking trust. Not delivering on time; not keeping current in your work; stealing others ideas all damage and indeed destroy trust.

If the distrust is pervasive in an organization; that is, if employees get away with any distrust no matter how small and it becomes standard and acceptable behavior, then the organization has a serious problem. If employees cannot trust their leaders at the top of the organization, the consequences can be devastating but at the very least you have a population of disengaged employees who don't speak up, don't give it their all; they just do the minimum. There is no energy and no excitement to the work.

I've seen distrust in organizations so deeply entrenched that the employees are completely unaware. They don't know any better. At present distrust is rampant in our society....can you trust your financial advisor? can you trust the government regulator? can you trust public leaders? Who can you trust? Who do you trust?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Is Balance Bogus?

As practitioners, we must remain neutral and balanced when we diagnose behavior in organizations. There are many sides (perspectives) to every story. When I was a teaching assistant in graduate school, I asked one of the drama students to burst into my class feigning our break up and accusing me of cheating. The drama student was very believable. The students in my class were sucked into this performance like viewers of a TV reality show. At the end of this "performance," I asked the students to write down what they had witnessed...just the facts. The students moved beyond reporting the facts to filling in the blanks with inference. Clearly there was an imbalance; there were biased views. Sides were taken and the story was filled out:
  • Some students thought that I indeed was cruel and harsh for having abused the relationship. Clearly I had cheated given the emotional state of the "victim" (the drama student). This group actually imagined me on a date, entwined in a lover's embrace.
  • Some students came to my defense in writing as well as in reality. This group was clearly influenced by how calm I was during the "victim's" rant which came close to ending in a physical charge. If it were not for a group of "football" students who lept from their chairs to protect me, I might have been physically attacked.
Do employees, managers and leaders have unbalanced views of each other? Indeed, as humans we are fundamentally flawed in our ability to fairly assess situations and people. We hold onto our personal views to such a degree that we allow them to cloud our a point where we sometimes do harm - sometimes physically, sometimes psychologically. We damage careers and reputations. To what end? What will it take for us to be respectful of our differences? What will it take to be balanced and fair in our judgments?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It's History

There is a dramatic sculpture referred to as The Future that sits in front of the National Archives with the inscription, "What is past, is prologue." Soak on that for a moment.

The phrase comes from Shakespeare's, "The Tempest" and is a metaphor that is spoken in Act 2 referencing actions that were described in the prologue of the play. Both the prologue as well as the actions referenced in the prologue are in the past.

Some interpret it to mean the past affects the future....more precisely, the past is just the precursor of what's to come. Wished I'd known that when each adolescent high school romance came to a crashing halt. Indeed, they served as a way to develop my future relationship skills.

What in the past is prologue to our current economic situation? Have the decisions of previous administrations led to the fall of the mortgage industry, for instance? Some would say absolutely and point to the Bush administration. How far in the past is prologue? In a recent issue of Investor Business, a journalist traced decisions as far back as the 1920's during the Hoover administration, that have impacted where we are today. Who would have predicted then that the past was a prologue to what we are experiencing today?

What is happening in our organizations today, that will serve as prologue tomorrow? During this economy, when jobs are being lost and few companies (excluding the government) are hiring, are organizations taking advantage of their employees: overworking them, cutting learning and development opportunities, eliminating benefits?....all in the name of fiscal responsibility. What is this prologue telling us?