People love to give help. Some of the most active posts I see on Facebook are those that are tagged “asking for a recommendation.”
But, when it comes to our job, sometimes we can be hesitant to ask for help. This hesitancy can be caused by our own personal beliefs, or it can be caused by the culture that we are part of. We covered the personal beliefs about asking for help in Episode 77 and I encourage you to go back and give that episode a listen.
Today, we are going to talk about the cultural aspects of companies that can lead us to resist asking for help when we need it.
Asking Can Be a Roadblock at Work
A lot of times, someone who wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help on a personal matter – anybody got a plumber you would recommend? – will hesitate to ask for help in a work setting because we underestimate our coworker’s willingness to help.
Or, you may think to yourself – ‘why would they help, it isn’t their responsibility?’
I challenge you to think about it if the tables were turned when a coworker comes to you asking for help, how do you feel?
I almost always get a positive boost of energy from it. Either I’m happy to have been able to lighten someone else’s load, or a lot of times what they are asking for help with is something that falls within my strengths – within my happy place – so the time I spend helping them is really a welcome diversion.
Don’t bring your pre-conceived notions about their willingness to help with you. The worst thing they can do is say no, and you are in the same position you were already in.
We Feel Asking Makes Us Look Incapable
Sometimes we don’t ask for help because we fear looking like we aren’t capable. If I ask for help I look weak. Or, if I ask for help, I look like a slacker. The thing is – people are smart.
They know the underlying motivator for your request for help. If your motivation is learn and grow then they know that you are coming from a positive place and are not going to have negative thoughts about your capabilities.
If your motivation is to get somebody else to deal with it so you don’t have to – then to be honest, the reputation is likely well-deserved.
But, chances are, if you are hesitant to ask for help because you are concerned about your reputation, then the likelihood you are actually operating from a motivation that deserves that reputation is pretty low.
People do not jump to the conclusion that somebody is not capable just because they ask for help. Again, think about when someone asks you for help. Do you automatically make an assessment that they are incapable? I really doubt it.
Design a Culture of Asking
Sometimes, we are part of a culture designed without obvious mechanisms for asking. If there is no built-in way to ask questions – or to forces us to ask questions – we can just get into a routine where we don’t.
Software developers are really good at building in mechanisms that encourage asking for help. They created the concept of the daily stand up where the entire purpose of the meeting is to touch base every day and tell your team what you did yesterday, what you will do today, and where you are blocked. The 1st two items are about communicating status, but the 3rd makes it ok to ask for help.
It doesn’t just make it ok – it makes it mandatory.
It makes it normal.
It makes it just another part of the day.
Think about your department. Are there built in processes to make asking for help a regular part of the job? Could you add something to your existing process that would help trigger people to ask? It doesn’t have to be a daily stand -up. Lots of departments have some kind of team meeting already established. This could be added to the agenda: ‘Is there anything that anyone needs help with or is stuck on?’
A quick round-robin of the team would give everyone a chance to surface their issues.
Even if you aren’t in charge of the agenda for the meeting you can send a note to the owner of the meeting with a suggestion. You can totally blame it on me. Tell them that you list to the podcast and thought this was an idea that could benefit the whole team and you just wanted to offer the suggestion for improvement to help the team uncover areas where one person on the team is blocked and another person on the team might be able to help. The worst that could happen is they say thank you but no thank you.
Know What You are Asking For
Sometimes we don’t ask for help because we don’t know how to ask. The 1st part of knowing how to ask is to make sure you are clear about what it is you are asking for. That seems really obvious, but the reality is that sometimes we aren’t so sure ourselves.
Do you need help to think through a problem?
Do you need help for a certain skill set that isn’t in your wheelhouse?
Do you need help getting a specific task done?
Do you need advice?
Or a different perspective?
Do you need an editor?
Do you need someone to take ownership?
If you make your request for help too general, it makes it harder for the other person to assess whether they can help you.
We have a tendency to assign mind-reading skills to those around us. Rather than assuming someone else can read your mind and magically solve your problem, spend some time getting clear about what it is you need from them.
So, what I want you to take away from this week’s episode is that asking for help should be a normal part of your day. Don’t stress yourself out because you aren’t asking for help when you need it. Challenge those reasons in your head for not asking. Don’t assume what others may or may not be willing to do to help and don’t assume others are mind readers and should know what you need help with. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, you can create a culture of asking by becoming a person who asks.
Every job has a process – whether it is well documented or not, effective or not, enforced or not. And, whether you are the kind of person who likes process or not, you still follow a process. For those of you who get itchy when talking about a process, we might also call it guidelines. You have some set of guidelines you use to get yourself from point A to point B each day.
I have a saying that I say frequently to my team: trust the process.
What I mean when I say it is that, when you question why something is the way it is, you must trust that the process handled it appropriately, and therefore there is a good reason for it.
Trust that there are rules and guidelines in place to help get each process from point A to point B in a manner that results in the best possible solution given the situation.
Trusting the process doesn’t mean that there is no room for improvement. To design a process you can trust, there are a few guidelines you can follow.
Apply the rules at decision points
First, make sure the rules or guidelines that are applied at decision points are at the right decision points. In other words, in any process there are going to be critical decision points and not critical decision points. In order to be effective, rules should only be applied at the critical ones.
Make the rules specific to the audience
Next rules or guidelines need to be tailored to the people who will use them rather than being too general. Many times, rules get designed – or I should say over designed – because the designer wants to cover every possible scenario that could ever occur. This dilutes the importance of the rule and inevitably people start to ignore it or have trouble understanding how to apply it in their situation.
Make sure the rules stand up to scrutiny
Good rules in a process are built on a foundation that stands up to scrutiny. The reason that rules are put in place is because:
So, think about your process and the rules or guidelines that help ensure that you can trust the process. Are the rules at the critical decisions points.? Do they help navigate situations where there isn’t a clear right answer? Are they specific enough to give direction or have they been diluted to try and account for every eventuality?
Building in rules that allow you to trust the process will make everyone involved more efficient.
There is one thing that will, without a doubt keep you from being successful in your career. If your coworkers and bosses don’t have trust in you, you will be like Sisyphus, pushing your career up the mountain only to see it slip back down.
Mahatma Gandhi said it very well, “The moment there is suspicion about a person’s motives, everything he does becomes tainted.”
A lack of trust is something you can’t afford in your career. And, the thing is, trust is something other’s get to decide. Do they trust you or not? Of course, it is based on your actions, but the decision to place trust is still theirs.
So, how do you increase your chances of ending up in a place where your coworkers and bosses make a decision to place their trust in you? On this episode, we are going to talk through the different components of trust. By understanding the components, you can determine if there are any levers you can pull that may help you improve your trustworthiness in other’s eyes.
A lot of the basis for this is based on the book “The Speed of Trust – The One Thing that Change Everything” by Stephen MR Covey.
How Do You Define Trust?
First, think about what it is that you consider when you decide to place your trust in others. Think about someone you trust. What makes you trust them? Now, think about someone you don’t trust. What makes you lack trust in them? What would they need to do to build a reputation with you that would lead to you trusting them?
Even the most trustworthy person you can think of can lose your trust in a given situation. It is hard to make an argument that Mother Theresa was untrustworthy.
But, would you trust her to fix your car? No.
Would you trust her to treat your cancer? No.
Trustworthiness is relative because one component of trust is competence. In your career, your level of trustworthiness can not be separated from your competence.
Obviously, you are not going to ever gain competency in all areas. Nobody is. This is why trust is relative. Your goal is to build your competency in your particular area of focus. If you find yourself struggling to gain your bosses trust, you should consider whether or not the lack of trust is driven by a competency issue.
Competency is made up of: capability, results, and your track record. It takes all three to build trust.
Capability is your skill level for a given area. If you are in finance, it is your skill level understanding financial models, data modeling, your ability to manipulate a spreadsheet. If you are in customer service, it is your ability to solve problems, to stay calm under pressure, and to learn your company’s product or service well enough to answer questions from customers. If you are in sales, it is knowing how to read the room, how to build a business case, and how to listen for what your prospective client really needs.
Whatever role you are in – what you need to do is understand the skills that are core for your area and determine how you increase these so that you become known as competent.
By the way, if you are a Scale My Skills subscriber, you’ve got a guide in your inbox that will walk you through this process.
We don’t trust people who don’t give us results. You need to be seen as someone who gets things done.
Keep your promises.
Do what you say you will do.
Under promise and over deliver.
Are you someone who delivers results? More importantly, are you someone others see as delivering results?
We build trust by delivering results consistency over a long period of time. Trust deepens each time you deliver, and you build a track record that becomes a foundation of trust with someone. We will give someone who breaks our trust the benefit of the doubt if they have a track record with us. We see the episode as out of character for them and we think to ourselves “this isn’t like Jim – he usually delivers on his promises. Something must be going on.” Someone without a track record won’t get that same level of benefit.
So, one side of the trust equation is your competency – your skill level, the results you achieve, and your track record over time. If you feel like you aren’t getting the respect you deserve at work, take a good hard look at these areas and see if there is something you can work on.
The second side of the trust equation is character. Whereas competencies are situation, character is constant. Character is made up of integrity, motive, and intent.
Integrity is honestly, congruence, humility, and courage. Are you telling the truth and leaving the right impression. Are you acting in harmony with your values and beliefs? Are you concerned more about what is right than about being right? And, do you have the courage to do what is right even when it is hard?
Having integrity is foundational to building trust. Can you imagine trusting someone who has no integrity? It is table stakes. Without integrity, it’s a non-starter.
Intent is also important when it comes to trust. Intent is your reason for doing something. When your intent is in the right place, but you screw up anyway, people are likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. They won’t penalize you as much for the violation. Its like you just got off with a warning instead of a speeding ticket. Having a positive intent is character building.
Character is also influenced by your agenda. People will determine whether or not they can trust you by whether they feel your agenda is self serving or seeking mutual benefit. How often do you operate with an open agenda versus one where you maybe have an alternative motive? When you catch yourself in alternative motive mode, remind yourself that you are not acting in accordance with building trust.
And finally, character is built on your behavior. Behavior is simply the manifestation of your intent and agenda. People can see when your behavior is not trustworthy. Behaving out of alignment with intent is a sure fire indicator of a hidden agenda.
We’ve all been involved with situations where something didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen because of a lack of clearly defined expectations. A customer gets mad because the repair guy didn’t show up when he said he would. The repair guy is stressed out because the appointment scheduler is scheduling him into appointments with no time for driving from one place to another. The scheduler is trying to meet metrics set by the boss.
Think about your own situation. Is there an area where it seems like everything isn’t lining up? Where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing? Is someone making decisions or taking action without considering how it impacts others in the process?
Today, we are going to talk about a tool that can be helpful in these situations. Its called the RACI (race-eee) matrix. It is a project management tool that you can adapt to your job.
At its core, the RACI matrix is a responsibility matrix. You simply list tasks down the left side and people or departments across the top to form a matrix. Then, at each intersection of a task and person, you list the role the person plays from a responsibility perspective.
The R in RACI stands for responsible. If the person is responsible for performing the task, then you put an 'R' in the cell. Responsible for the task means they physically do it. They are the boots on the ground, the hands on the keyboard, or the person who actually shows up at the client’s home to make the repair.
The A in the RACI stands for accountable. This is the person who ultimately makes sure the task gets done. They are the ‘buck stops here’ person. They are the person who makes sure something happens – even if they don’t actually perform the task. This is the VP of Customer Support in our repair example.
The C in RACI stands for Consulted. If the person has specialized knowledge or is going to be impacted by the task, they may be consulted as part of the task. This is someone whose input adds value even if they aren’t going to be responsible or accountable for making it happen. In our example, our repair guy may make a call to the product engineering department to get an answer about a product specification in order to be able to properly resolve the issue. The product engineering department has no responsibility for customer repairs. But, they do have specific knowledge that can contribute to the process when the situation calls for it.
The I in RACI stands for Informed. This means the person would know about the task but they don’t have input into it. This is one-way communication whereas C – Consulted - is 2 way communication. The accounting department is informed that the repair has been completed so that they can bill the customer for it. They weren’t responsible for making sure the repair got done, accountable for making sure the repair guy showed up, or consulted in the process of making the repair. But, they need to know it happened so they know to send the bill.
So – RACI. Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed.
Benefits of a RACI
Any process benefits from a RACI because it helps to clearly define the roles played by each person involved in the process. It helps clarify who does what so that everyone is on the same page. It helps you think through a process more thoroughly to ensure that you have fewer unintended consequences to decisions or actions taken within a process.
Having a RACI matrix is a way of forcing you to think about the process and all of its stakeholders. It is a way of planning for different scenarios by proactively identifying who does what for each process.
Because each of us tends to get focused on our own day-to-day job, it is easy to just do what we do and lose track of the stakeholders to the process. The RACI gives you a chance to take a step back and think about the impacts you have on others within the process.
We’ve got 2 episodes that would make a great companion to this one – one about the difference between Systems and Processes, and one about Stakeholders.
Cross Functional Processes
There are very few processes in modern business that are isolated. Almost any process you can think of is cross functional – meaning it involves people from across departments. When you involve people from across departments, you are bringing together people with different objectives, different skills, and different focus to solve a specific task.
Because there are so many variables, having clearly defined roles helps take away one variable.
If I know I’m a C – Consulted – in the process, then I know my role is to give input, but I also know I don’t have to actually deliver anything. I also know that the other people involved know my role is limited to consulting, so there shouldn’t be confusion about who is doing what. When something doesn’t get done the way it should, everyone knows that the right person to go to is the person listed as 'responsible' on the matrix. And, if that person doesn’t get it done then the issue is escalated to the person listed as 'accountable.'
This about one of your processes that could use a RACI and spend some time to put one together. I think you'll find that the process helps identify potential areas of problem in the process and will help you resolve them quickly.
If you are a subscriber to Scale My Skills, our weekly newsletter, you’ve got a RACI matrix in your mailbox. If you aren’t, you can sign up here.
Our topic today is a little bit unusual – it is definitely something you don’t learn in school. But, surprisingly, I have found it to be a very useful tool in my career.
You know what an inside joke is. It is something between you and another person that you share and only understood because you have a shared context. You can talk about It in front of other people, and although they can understand all of the words you are saying, because they don’t have the context, they don’t get the deeper meaning. Inside jokes are usually funny, and can sometimes border on mean or cruel if the joke you share is at someone else’s expense.
What I want to talk about today is like an inside joke, but not funny or mean. I’ll call it a verbal shortcut.
A verbal shortcut is something between you and another person that you use to quickly communicate a full idea using shortened words. You’ve established up-front a specific context for the short cut that means that everyone understands the underlying context when the agreed upon short cut is spoken.
You probably already have some that you use without even realizing it. But, by thinking about it as an efficiency tool, you may find that you could purposefully implement more of these shortcuts into your work and find an improvement.
Let me give you some examples that I’ve used over the years.
One of the most recent ones I’ve learned is the verbal shortcut “Left Hand Column.” If you aren’t familiar with this one – hearing those 3 words may not mean much to you. But, when I say those words to one of my coworkers who has been initiated into the use of the phrase, they know exactly what I’m getting at. The phrase “left hand column” means – “here is what I’m really thinking and I’m about to tell you something you may not want to hear.”
By giving this idea a short cut term, we’ve normalized it as part of our culture. Because we have established a protocol that has established the use of this short cut term as an acceptable way to voice our negative thoughts, we are more effective.
Another favorite example that I use all the time is the shortcut “blue car.” This is something I say when I’ve gotten way off topic. It is the same idea as the dog who gets sidetracked by the squirrel in the Movie Up. It is used to tell people – ok, we have gotten completely sidetracked by this unrelated and off-topic discussion and need to come back to the original purpose of the meeting.
These shortcuts don’t work if the others aren’t indoctrinated into the meaning. If I’m in a meeting with a group of people who don’t know what “blue car” means and I say “ok, this is a blue car and we need to move on,” then they all just think I’ve lost my mind.
But, by introducing these verbal short cuts to your department, or the people you work most closely with, you can make an impact on effectiveness.
There are a lot of factors that contribute.
Where Verbal Shortcuts Come From
How do these short cuts come about? A lot of times, they develop over time and out of a situation or context that occurred. For example, I was talking with a colleague when his daughter came into the room and asked him if she could have ice cream. He told her no, but she could have a frozen grape.
I don’t have kids, so frozen grapes may be new to me for that reason, but I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. What kind of a substitute is a frozen grape when what you really want is ice cream? To me, this sounded like bait and switch.
But, my colleague told me his kids love frozen grapes. So, for them, although it may not quite be ice cream, it was an acceptable compromise.
Now, when my colleague and I are talking about how to come up with a solution everyone can live with, we say it is a frozen grape. The client asked for us to assign a project manager to their project full time at no additional cost. That’s not going to be possible, but maybe we can give them the PM at cost as a frozen grape.
I’ve been using blue car for so long that I don’t remember how it came about, but I’ve taken it with me from company to company. It means that I sometimes have to explain it to my new team, but because I use it frequently, they eventually get used to the term.
And sometimes, the short cut gets introduced more formally. For instance, Left Hand Column came about from a training session that all of the managers in my company went through.
So, verbal shortcuts can come in many forms. Over the coming days, keep your eyes out for them. You probably have some in your life already. Look for places where you might be able to introduce a shortcut that would improve efficiency or effectiveness for your work.
It may be something small – a way to communicate to your coworker that you can’t be disturbed, or that although you’d love to catch up, you just done have time. It might be a way to communicate with your manager that you are stressed and just not at your best. Or, it might be with a team you are part of that could use a short cut to deal with a certain recurring theme.
There are a lot of different opinions about brainstorming. As with just about everything, you can find people who think it is the best thing since sliced bread and people who think it is the devil incarnate.
I believe it is an important tool to have in your toolbox, but not that it is the right solution for every scenario. What I want to do today is to give you an idea about a variety of brainstorming that I find to be a great option. It uses a combination of traditional brainstorming tactics with some aspects of agile development methodology and a good dose of individual problem solving.
I’m going to start by describing the process end-to-end and then we’ll go back and examine the steps in more detail with an example.
So, that is an overview of the process. Now, let’s go back through it using an example.
Start with a Problem You Need to Solve
Let’s say your company has been growing fast and things that used to work fine when you were small aren’t working anymore. It is starting to show up in reduced customer satisfaction. Your customer satisfaction ratings have started to decline and you recognize the need to take action, but you aren’t sure what needs to be done. So, the problem you want to solve is improving your customer satisfaction rating.
Start by finding 5-7 people who want to help solve the problem.
They are not signing up to implement the solution identified. They are signing up to participate in the process of identifying a solution to the problem. Their time commitment is something less than 8 hours. Their commitment is to the brainstorming process only.
You want to find people with different points of view. You’ll want to think about customer satisfaction for your company and identify people from different departments that could have an impact on the client. Client satisfaction issues could stem from your product or service, from the delivery process, from the ongoing support process, from the payment process, etc.
A good reference for helping you with this is our episode on System vs. Process. I suggest you go back and listen to it to help you identify the potential people to include in your team.
Educate the Team
Once you’ve identified your team, you are going to define the presentations you want to have the team exposed to. These presentations should help the team understand the problem from different perspectives.
In our example, we would want someone from customer support who could talk about the types of complaints they’ve seen lately. You’d want someone from the product group who could talk about how they take customer feedback into account when they decide on features. Ideally, you’d hear from a customer about what they’ve experienced as you’ve grown as a company. Depending on how bad this customer satisfaction issue has become, maybe you need someone from accounting to present the impact to sales or past-due accounts receivable.
Again, this is not an in-depth analysis of the problem. You want your project team to hear accounts of the problem from multiple angles that they may not have otherwise considered.
Identify Interesting Questions
As the presentations are being made, the team is writing down questions that come to mind. For example, as the person from customer support is presenting, he mentions that he’s noticed more calls are about the increased delivery time. You might write down “how can we reduce delivery time?” I might write down “how can we better set client expectations about delivery time?”
By the end of the presentations, each person might have a dozen questions. If you are doing this exercise in person, the best option is to write them on post it notes. If you are doing it virtually, you’ll need to look at the tools you have available. You could use a shared document and have everyone add their questions to it. Or you could use a virtual whiteboard app like Miro that has electronic post it note functionality.
Vote on the Question The Group will Tackle
Each person in the group gets 3 votes. Give everyone 5-10 minutes to vote on their top 3 questions. Then identify the questions with the most votes.
You may need to do some consolidation. For example, your question and my question about delivery time may have each gotten a couple of votes. Since they are both about delivery time, you may combine them into a single item. Individually, they may not have been top vote getters, but combined, they may.
The point is, a set of questions will rise to the top as the ones the group believes are important for solving the problem. From there, you will have a group discussion to identify which questions the group thinks is the right one to tackle.
One thing that is important to note – it is likely that every question asked is legitimate and could contribute to the solution. Certainly, there will be several questions that are very important and need to be solved. But, for this session, you are just landing on one. The others won’t be lost forever. They just won’t be the focus of this session. You are identifying the question that the group is going to tackle.
Once you have agreement, the groups gets their homework. Go off on your own and draw out your own personal solution to the problem. In our case, each person is going to draw out their ideas about how to improve delivery time.
The guidelines are pretty simple – don’t limit your ideas. Think of this as fantasy land. If you had no constraints on budget or headcount, org structure, or company politics, what would your solution be?
The other guideline is to stay at a high enough level that your solution isn’t tactical – its theoretical. Again, you aren’t solving the problem as a team. You are brainstorming ways to solve the problem.
The timeframe for this exercise should be pretty limited – no more than 48 hours between the 1st session – identifying the question, and the 2nd session where everyone presents their homework.
Identify Potential Solutions
When the group reconvenes, each person presents their drawing and idea. Make sure they mention the assumptions they made and any big questions they still have. This should be time boxed to about 10 minutes per person to keep everyone from getting too far into details because there will be a tendency to try and solve the problem.
After everybody has presented, you will go through another round of voting. Again, each person gets 3 votes. They can vote on a solution in total or part of the solution they find compelling.
Again, you’ll look at the top vote getters and go through a process of consolidating similar ideas.
Once you’ve identified the top vote getters, you will narrow in on which solution the group thinks is the best place to start. Again, all of the solutions may have merit, but given resource constraints at all companies, you’ve got to prioritize down to the one you feel will give you the best return for the effort.
Identify Next Steps
Once you have that, you need to figure out the next step. This team is disbanding. So, you’ll need to figure out how to take the idea forward.
What you’ve done in a very short period of time is gotten a lot of good questions that could help you solve your problem, and narrowed in on a great solutions to take forward.
This brainstorming process is really good because of the diversity of opinions that come out of the “together but apart” nature of it. You are together as a team, but writing down your questions individually. You decide on the question to solve together, but put together a solution on your own. That means your solution isn’t influenced by someone else on the team as would happen in a traditional brainstorming scenario.
I encourage you to give this a try the next time you are faced with a problem to solve that maybe seems too big or overwhelming to tackle.
“What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I can not hear what you say.”
Do you work with someone that you don’t trust and so, no matter what they say to you, you don’t believe it? Who they are is blocking out everything they say. No matter whether what they are saying is true and genuine – your interpretation of what they say is going to be colored by your opinion of them.
I once had a boss who would spend a good portion of every conversation bad mouthing someone else. Whether or not I shared his opinion about the other person, the only thing I could think of what “how much time does he spend bad mouthing me when he talks to others?” Regardless of the fact that he would tell me that he thought I was doing a good job – I couldn’t believe that he genuinely thought that. How could it be that I was the only person he thought positively about? I didn’t trust him, couldn’t trust him, and it didn’t matter what he said, his actions drowned out the words.
By the way, I didn’t work for him for very long. I knew that there was no up side for me in that relationship. Only downside.
Today, we are going to talk about paradigm, and how it has a profound impact on your career.
A paradigm is a model, theory, or frame of reference. It is the way you see the world. Each of us has a different frame of reference because each of us brings a different set of experiences and values to our perceptions of the world. This fact has really come to the forefront recently with the global discussion that is going on about equality in the world.
It isn’t a political statement to say that my paradigm as a white, middle-to-upper class woman is very different than the paradigm of a black middle-to-upper class woman. It is simply a fact. Her experiences and my experiences are different and as a result, we bring a different frame of reference to our interactions.
My paradigm is influenced by the fact that I grew up in the restaurant business because my dad owned restaurants. Chances are good that you don’t have that same experience.
I grew up with a stay-at-home-mom, which gave me another piece of my paradigm. I went to public school, and was in the band. I’ve never been robbed or broken a bone. All of these things combine to make my paradigm – my frame of reference - different than yours.
Recognizing, and being conscious of the fact that you have a unique paradigm is important because it colors everything you do.
Stephen Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “to try and change outward attitudes and behaviors does very little good in the long run if we fail to examine the basic paradigm from which those attitudes and behaviors flow.”
Each of us tends to think we see things as they are – that we are objective. But, this is not the case. We see the world not as it is, but as we are – as we are conditioned to see it.
If everyone you interact with throughout the day is seeing the world as they are conditioned to see it, what does that mean for you?
It means that you can easily be misunderstood, or your actions can be misinterpreted. Whether the other person realizes it or not. Whether you realize it or not.
It also means that you can easily misinterpret or misunderstand someone else. Before you react to something, stop to consider if the person may be using a different paradigm than you.
These different paradigms could easily be seen as a problem. If everyone is walking around misunderstanding each other because of different frames of reference, how will we ever get anything done?
But another word for these paradigms is diversity. This diversity helps form better solutions to a problem because when everybody comes to the table with a different frame of reference, you end up with more insights and a more complete solution is the result.
Embrace the different paradigms
The key skill that I want to help you develop this week is how to embrace these different paradigms. As I already mentioned, the 1st step is to recognize it.
Spend some time thinking about the paradigm that you have. What circumstances and life experiences have you had that have an impact on how you view the world? Get comfortable with the fact that everything you do is done through the unique lens.
Next, you need to become cognizant of the fact that everyone else is coming to the party with their own lens, and you are likely never going to know all of the things that form the lens.
For instance, I’m never going to know what experience led my old boss to a place where he thinks it is ok to spend so much of his time bad mouthing others. Somewhere in his past, something occurred that allowed him to form an opinion that this is ok behavior. My guess is he doesn’t even recognize that he is doing it. But, it is certainly part of him and definitely colors everything he does. I will never know how that came about.
So, recognizing the fact that we each have our own paradigm is step 2. The reason it is important is because, when you find yourself in a tense situation – either you are having a disagreement, or it doesn’t have to be that dramatic – maybe you are working through a problem at work and seem to be getting stuck – not making progress toward a solution. When you get into a situation like that, it can be helpful to kind of take a step back and say – ok what is it about our paradigms that are contributing to this situation?
This will help because it automatically makes you more curious about the situation. Curiosity is not confrontational. It is open and starts to engage other parts of your brain that will start making connections to things that may have been previously unrelated.
For example, I’m a rule follower. It is part of me and although I don’t really think about it, my natural tendency is to follow rules. Worse than that, I tend to impose rules that aren’t even really there. The result is a lot of times, I don’t think of options for solving a problem that others see. I may overlook an option because it is going to cost money and I have this rule in my head that you shouldn’t spend money unless there is no other alternative. So, I’ll ignore a solution and search high and low to find another solution. I don’t even realize I’m doing it until someone else I’m working with says “well, if we just bought this thing, it would solve the problem.”
My paradigm about spending money colors the way I solve problems. When someone else comes with a different paradigm, I automatically start to think more creatively because a whole new set of options become available to me.
Another tool for getting the most out of differing paradigms is listening. Now – this ain’t easy folks! Especially when you are dealing with something highly emotional.
Let’s say your manager comes to you and says your performance is not meeting expectations. You think you’ve been doing a great job, so there are obviously 2 different paradigms here. Once you get over the initial shock of it, you can recognize that you and your manager are coming to your interaction with 2 different world views.
You can get curious “I wonder what her perspective is and how it can be so different from mine?”
And then you can listen. Really listen to her point of view. Don’t judge. Don’t defend. Listen. Listen to understand. Listen to empathize. See if you can understand her world view. See if you can recognize how all of her life experiences have added up to a different perspective than yours. Look for areas where your world view may be limited by your experiences and behaviors. Ask yourself if your world view could use an update as a result of this experience.
So, back to Emerson. “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I can no hear what you say.”
Your homework for this week is to get to know your paradigm. Think about how you show up, and what lens you bring. Because to be successful in your career, people need to be able to hear what you say.
Stakeholder analysis is a good tool to have in your tool belt because it can be used to solve a lot of different problems. Stakeholder analysis is the process of identifying your stakeholders and analyzing them to understand their unique position.
The value of this tool is that it walks you through the process of identifying your stakeholders and their positions in order to make informed decisions. It helps you open your eyes to the different actors in the play and forces you to think about each one as a separate, unique person.
Who are stakeholders?
For any given situation, stakeholders are anyone who has a vested interest, or a stake, in your process.
When you want to get something done, you need to have your stakeholders onboard. In order to do that, you need to understand who they are and how you can best influence them. To do that, you should understand:
If you’d like to get a free Stakeholder Analysis Map, you can sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll give you access to it, and all of our other tools.
Being successful in corporate America means being good at teamwork. You aren’t going to be able to work effectively without basic teamwork skills.
Teamwork is something that you never master, so today, we are going to cover 5 things you can do to improve teamwork.
To new ideas, perspectives, people. When a team is working well, it is because of the openness of the team members to bring their ideas to the table without worrying about any negative consequences.
Everyone on the team needs to be transparent. This is tricky because some people, by nature, are not comfortable with transparency.
Teams are transparent when they say what they mean, when they listen to what others have to say, and when they don’t gossip.
Sometimes the mission gets lost because each department has their own objectives. But, every team in a company should be supporting the overall mission of the company. Great teams remember this.
Many companies fall into the trap that they go to the same people over-and-over. You should purposefully include people from adjacent departments to ensure you are getting different perspectives.
Good teams have a culture of accountability. They build into their framework tools that help with accountability because they recognize that it isn’t everybody’s strength.
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