Telling stories at work


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th October 2017

Why tell stories at work?

I first heard about the power of using stories at work, in the context of sharing knowledge and building learning and understanding, in the 1990s.

Stories are a powerful way to share knowledge and build learning and understanding.

David Snowden, who was then a Director at the IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, was a chief exponent of the use of narrative to convey complex messages.  (Snowden’s work has since evolved, and there is an informative and somewhat entertaining account of David Snowden on David Gurteen’s website.  Gurteen is himself somewhat of a guru of Knowledge Management.)

what makes stories so powerful?

Paul McGee tells us why stories are so powerful in his article “The power of telling stories” for the April 2017 issue of the Training Journal.  He reminds us that we have been using stories since the cave paintings 20,000 years ago, and we continue to engage with stories through books, TV programmes, film and in our day-to-day conversations.

And the reason, he tells us, why good stories are so engaging, is that they activate every part of the brain.  Not only the language processing parts, but every other part of the brain.  The more sensory and action words we include: how things look, smell, feel, and the actions involved – the more we engage the parts of the brain that would be activated if the listener was actually experiencing the event themselves.  They don’t actually need to be experiencing it for this to happen..

The result of telling a good story in this way is that it engages the emotions as well as the intellect.  Emotions make a story more memorable, more inspiring, and so are more likely to lead to commitment and to action.

When and How to tell a good story?

1.  Choose your opportunity and your topic

Stories can be shared about just about anything – but they do need to have a point to be effective!

Here are some situations I can think of – and that I have experimented with in my work with RiverRhee:

In a one-to-one mentoring or coaching situation to give a verbal example of how to do something, or not to do something based on your own experience of doing so.

In a training course or workshop, to convey some key principles, a framework or a methodology.

During a presentation, to get people’s attention and/or to illustrate some key points that you want to get across

2.  Think of a main character or characters, an event, and an outcome

As McGee says, in the Training Journal article, artistic licence is fine.  The story does not have to be true, although you might find it easier to create it, and to be convincing, if it has some basis on reality.

Christopher Booker, in “The Seven Basic Plots” (Bloomsbury, 2014), argues that these different plots (including comedy, tragedy, quests, rags to riches, encounters with monsters, voyages, rebirths) actually resolve themselves into some basic common denominators.

So, as he says, a typical story unfolds as follows: “once upon a time there was such and such a person, living in such and such a place… then, one day, something happened”.  That happening leads the main character (hero or heroine) into some experience that changes their lives.  There is conflict and uncertainty.  Ultimately there is some form of resolution.

One of my most powerful stories of this type illustrates how people can react to changes that they initially perceive as positive.  The words used in the change curve below mirror, to some extent, those for Booker’s story plot above.

Positive change curve – from “The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook”, RIverRhee Publishing, 2013

Although I can’t share the details of the change here, it was a family event that we had instigated, thinking that it was the right thing to do (uninformed certainty).  No sooner had we initiated it, than I literally felt like I had gone cold with shock (informed doubt!).  We persevered for a while, but eventually realised that the solution was not going to be as easy as we had thought, and that we had to start exploring other options (realistic concern).  Eventually we did find a way forward and are in a much better place (emotionally and intellectually!) now (informed certainty).

3.  Add some sensory detail – and try some metaphors

I learnt, in my NLP Practitioner training, about the wide range of words we can use when we talk to bring our own experiences alive, and to communicate more effectively with others.  We use some of these words automatically when we speak, and often neglect the wide array available to us.

So if we deliberately think about appealing to all of our senses, the results would be something like this:

  1. For visual language use: see, look, picture, blue, yellow, light, bright, dark, transparent etc.
  2. For auditory language use: hear, sound, loud, quiet, clank, click, tinkle, shrill etc.
  3. For kinesthetic language use: touch, feel, damp, dry, wet, sharp, hot, cold etc.
  4. For auditory digital (inner dialogue, or self-talk – this is more language based) use: understand, think, explain, process etc.

In fact, in our NLP course, we also used the power of metaphors as an aid to communication: telling a story that does not even have to directly mention the principle or method that you are trying to get across.  People draw their own inferences from the story – and the fact that they have to ‘work it out’ can make the final message even more powerful.

It can take a little courage to trust your audience to make the right inferences, and I generally err on the side of telling them – as with the ‘urban myth’ I use for explaining the importance of finding root causes to address sources of waste in Lean and Six Sigma and process improvement!

when and how will you try out stories at work?

As McGee suggests in his article, and as my own experiences show, it takes some courage to have a go with story-telling, to share perhaps personal stories, and to embellish the stories with sensory detail.

Choose a situation to begin: a one-to-one conversation, a course or workshop, a presentation.

Develop a story that you are comfortable with.

Write a list of prompts to remind you of the key points.

Test it out on a friendly audience.    Rehearse.

Remember the very long tried and tested history we have of the effectiveness of stories.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

 

 

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Addressing the challenges of “multi-teaming” in project management


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th September 2017

The nature of “multi-teaming” in project management

Many of the organisations that I work with manage projects as the essence of their way of working.  The complexity of this approach is compounded in two ways:

  1. Operating a matrix model of management – where individuals have a line manager who is not necessarily their project manager
  2. Assigning team members and leaders to multiple teams – so that they dip in and out of projects according to when their time and expertise is most needed.

Benefits

There are tremendous benefits to this way of working – such as:

  • ensuring that team members’ expertise is used to the full across the organisation
  • sharing knowledge and good practices between teams
  • fostering learning and development
  • providing opportunities for continuous improvement
  • minimising downtime and associated costs.

Risks and costs

There are also risks and costs – such as:

  • increased employee stress
  • reduced quality of team interactions (or group identity / cohesion)
  • knock-on effects from issues in one project impacting on resource availability for others.

Facts and data

The overcommitted organization_HBR Sept Oct 2017

Mark Mortensen and Heidi K. Gardner.  The overcommitted organization.  HBR Sept-Oct 2017, pp. 58-65

Mark Mortensen and Heidi Gardner’s article “The overcommitted organization” in the September – October issue of Harvard Business Review (pages 58-65) has some facts and data about the extent of “multi-teaming” in organisations.

 

They have studied hundreds of teams in a range of sectors (including professional services, oil and gas, high tech, consumer goods) over a period of 15 years.

Apparently at least 81% of more than 500 managers in global companies reported “multi-teaming” as a way of life, with people involved in as many as 6 to 15 projects in a week.

My own empirical observation in working with teams in the Life Sciences, and in Library and Information Management, is that “multi-teaming” is also a way of life, although the number of projects that people are juggling is generally not quite as high!

Tips for addressing the challenges of “multi-teaming”

Mortensen and Gardner provide some very useful tips on how to address the associated challenges of “multi-tasking”, which also reinforce the points we share in RiverRhee’s training on team and project management.

Building the team

We know that the most effective teams are those that not only have a clear idea of their purpose and individual members’ roles, but have spent time developing the relationships with the team.

Our experience that the most effective way to set the team on the right path is to have a kick-off meeting or launch, and ideally face-to-face.  This enables people to start to get to know each other, and from there, as emphasize Mortensen and Gardner, comes trust and accountability.

In fact, they maintain that having a team launch can improve performance by up to 30%.

An emphasis on building the team also helps people to feel that they “belong” to each team that they are working on – something that we know can be a very strong motivator for many people.   For team leaders, understanding what motivates each person will help them to boost and maintain motivation.

Making the most of everyone’s skills

Mortensen and Gardner also say that it is worth doing a team launch even with team members who are already familiar with each other as every new project is likely to bring new requirements and skills into play.

They advocate mapping everyone’s skills – both technical and soft, along with wider areas of knowledge.  This ensures that everyone is aware of who can bring what skills to bear, that they consult each other accordingly, and also hold each other accountable for quality.

This also builds on what we know from using personality tools such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and Belbin Team Roles to understand and optimise the interactions between team members.

Managing time and priorities

This is probably the most important issue for many team members and leaders.  We often hear of people’s frustration as the time they thought they had for one project gets squeezed by demands from another.

Screen Shot 2017-09-09 at 10.33.50

In a RiverRhee newsletter on Project Management, we shared our advice for using explicit project charters for agreeing the time that each person would spend on each project.  This is very much a starting point but it opens up the conversation, and many organisations then use portfolio review meetings to further address changes in priorities and requirements on people’s time.

Mortensen and Gardner have some other great suggestions:

  • schedule mandatory full team meetings at key milestones – making these dates clear with other teams
  • use sub-team meetings at other times to reduce the number of commitments on the rest of the team members – and supplement these with brief check-ins with other individuals
  • use electronic tools to share updates on project status, and consider using short videos as alternative to long memos
  • visual tools such as the video on Skype or Facetime for individual one-to-one check-ins can help to pick up body language cues for instance around stress, motivation, understanding etc.

Fostering learning

We put a big emphasis on the importance and benefits of sharing learning and how to do it for creating excellence in project management, so it was good to see the HBR authors highlight this too.

As they say, learning is something that can suffer when people are pushed for time.  It is also an important motivator for many people.

We stress the importance of scheduling a close-out meeting as part of the project plan to ensure that learnings are reflected upon and actions agreed for sharing and addressing them.

Mortensen and Gardner also suggest that team leaders:

  • give and encourage feedback
  • designate co-leaders for different aspects of the project to enhance the amount of contact between team members
  • pair people up (perhaps with different levels of expertise) so that they can learn from each other
  • pose “what if” questions and re-direct questions to team members to also foster cross-tutoring

What can be done to reduce risk and boost innovation at an organisational level

The HBR authors have some additional, perhaps less commonly identified, organisational strategies for addressing the challenges of “multi-teaming”, and so decrease risk, and increase innovation.

These strategies focus on ensuring a good understanding of and actively managing the spread of people across teams.

Many organisations use some form of FTE or resource management system to understand who is working on what project, and how much time they are devoting to each.  They mainly use this for accounting purposes – for example so that costs to clients can be more accurately calculated.

Mortensen and Gardner suggest that this mapping of resources should also be used to understand and manage the associated risks and opportunities from “multi-teaming”.

Anticipating shock-waves between projects

So for instance if the overlap of members between teams is large, there is a greater risk of knock-on shocks from one project to another.  With an accurate mapping of team membership, project or senior managers could anticipate these risks and develop mitigation plans.

Optimising knowledge sharing and learning

If the overlap between members of projects is small, and the organisation values knowledge sharing between projects, then the expectation (or culture) and approaches for the transfer of learnings and good practices could be made more explicit.

Enhancing team building

The authors also suggest that, if the nature of the tasks or the culture between different project teams is very different, it will be harder for members to transition from one to the other.  Understanding the overall map of resources to teams would therefore alert project, line and senior managers in these situations to put a greater emphasis on the on-boarding and team building activities.

Using dedicated resources

Organisations who have designated portfolio managers, or project management offices (PMOs) could take on many of the recommendations listed above.  However, many of the smaller Life Science organisations, and Library and Information Management services that we deal with do not have this luxury.

The HBR authors’ recommendations could be an alternative to these.  So for example there could be:

  • designated “fire-fighters” to watch-out for any of the risks identified above
  • spare resources that could be moved between teams
  • “protected” or designated resources whose role and time on specific teams could not be jeopardised

Individuals in HR or IT could also have designated roles to monitor the various aspects of “multi-teaming”.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Operational excellence can give you the competitive edge!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th September 2017

According to Sadun, Bloom and Van Reenen, writing in the Sept-Oct 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, a disproportionate amount of emphasis is put on the competitive advantage of strategic planning, to the detriment of operational excellence.

Competitive advantage of operational excellence_HBR Sept-Oct 2017

From: Why do we undervalue competent management? Neither great leadership nor brilliant strategy matters without operational excellence. Raffael Sadun, Nicholas Bloom and John Van Reenen. HBR Sept-Oct 2017, pp. 120 – 127

What is operational excellence?

Their definition of operational excellence, or good management practice, goes beyond a more traditional focus on Lean and Six Sigma process improvement techniques.  It covers four broad dimensions, and 18 specific aspects.  The four dimensions are:

  1. Operational management – which includes Lean process management
  2. Performance monitoring – which includes the use of key performance indicators (KPIs)
  3. Target setting – which includes a clear link between organisational strategy, and individual goals (aka. a clear top-to-bottom cascade of objectives)
  4. Talent management – which includes setting stretch goals, employee development and retention

What is the evidence for the competitive advantage of operational excellence?

As Sadun et al say, MBAs and management experts such as Michael Porter distinguish between strategy and operational effectiveness, and put greater emphasis on CEOs’ priority being on strategy for competitive advantage.

The authors of this HBR article have been carrying out in-depth research since 2002 on more than 12,000 organisations in 34 countries, in conjunction with the London School of Economics.

They have found that operational excellence is a massive challenge for organisations and that the large persistent gaps in these practices are associated with large persistent differences in organisational performance.

The better managed organisations are more profitable, grow faster, are less likely to die, focus on innovation as well as efficiency, attract talent and foster employee well-being.  All in all they demonstrate sustained competitive advantage.

Achieving operational excellence boils down to three things

Erroneous self-assessment, a blame culture, overestimating the costs involved and underestimating the potential benefits can all get in the way of adopting good management practices.

Managers, especially in family businesses, can worry about potential loss of control if they bring in others with greater expertise in operational management.

The workforce may not have the numeric, analytical and other skills to implement operational excellence.

And it requires a shift from working in silos, to collaborating across teams; reassurance that greater process efficiency won’t lead to redundancies; and “walking-the-talk” by management (CEOs included).

So achieving operational excellence boils down to three things:

  1. Commitment from the top: with a clear vision, visibility and role modelling by senior leaders (i.e. all key approaches for managing change)
  2. Understanding and ensuring availability of the required skills i.e. those associated with all four broad dimensions of operational excellence, as described above
  3. A shift in mentality at all levels to adopt these management practices as a way of working

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Motivation – a refresher..eight years on..


By Elisabeth Goodman, 28th July 2017

Motivation – a refresher

Eight years ago, in July 2009, Dan Pink gave an impassioned TED talk on “The puzzle of motivation”.  It was a rallying call to business to stop using a scientifically proven outmoded method for incentivising high performance – the “carrot and stick”, “if…then”, “extrinsic reward” model.  The concept is that: if you pay people more, they will perform better!  He argued that it does not work, and yet we are still using it!

Dan Pink – The puzzle of motivation. 2009 TED talk 

More recently, the June issue of The Training Journal, carried an article by Pierre Casse and Artem Konstandian on “The art of motivating”.  They state that “The ability to motivate is the beating heart of powerful, effective leadership.”

As motivation is one of the most popular topics in my management training courses with RiverRhee, this seemed like a perfect moment for a refresher on the topic.

Extrinsic vs intrinsic motivators

Dan Pink used two different scenarios for the candle problem to illustrate how paying people more (an extrinsic motivator) does not necessarily lead to better performance.

In the first scenario, candidates are given a candle, matches, and a box filled with drawing pins.  As the solution to the problem is to use the box, solving it requires, quite literally, “out of the box” thinking: cognitive skills.

 

In the second scenario, the drawing pins have been taken out of the box, so using it is a lot more obvious.  The task is more mechanistic: a simple question of using the materials as they have been laid out to solve the problem.

Offering money as an extrinsic motivator for solving the problem more quickly proves more effective in the second, more mechanistic scenario, than in the first, more cognitive one.

Dan Pink reminds us that most of the work that we do, in science, in business, in service organisations, requires more cognitive skills.  Once people have been paid enough to take this issue ‘off the table’, then paying people more has been shown to lead to poorer performance!  It dulls thinking and blocks creativity. And yet we keep on using this ‘carrot and stick’ extrinsic reward model to incentivise people.

The intrinsic motivators that Dan Pink describes so graphically, here and elsewhere, are those of autonomy, mastery and purpose.  People are motivated to do things “because they matter”.  They can direct their own work, can get better at what they do, and are doing something for a reason that is greater than themselves.

To what extent can, and do organisations provide the environment for people to tap into these intrinsic motivators?

Which brings me to the second key message for this refresher on motivation…

“One does not motivate people, people motivate themselves”

Pierre Casse and Artem Konstandian’s article in The Training Journal emphasises the role of leaders in creating the environment in which people can motivate themselves.

They suggest that leaders can create this environment in a number of ways, for instance by:

  • Making the reason why they require people to perform at a certain level: “what’s in it for me (or them)”
  • Highlighting what level of performance is expected
  • Providing the right amount and medium for recognition
  • Showing that they genuinely care about and are sensitive to their team members’ personal lives.  (Empathy is a theme I’ve explored before..)

They also put a big emphasis on trust as a motivator.  Leaders build trust through their behaviour: humility rather than egocentricity, acknowledging their mistakes and turning them into opportunities, standing up for their team, creating a pride in belonging.

Although Casse and Konstandian do not mention Pink’s intrinsic motivators (autonomy, mastery, purpose) by name, they are certainly implied by their call to leaders to give employees the space and conditions to develop and be at their best.

What are you and your leaders doing to promote trust, and to create the space and conditions for people to motivate themselves?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Simple tips for giving an effective ‘pep’ talk


By Elisabeth Goodman, 12th July 2017

HBR The Science of Pep Talks.JPG

The Science of Pep Talks, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2017

I wrote in a recent RiverRhee newsletter about Inspirational Leadership, and posted a LinkedIn article about Achieving Resonance in our Communications, so it was fascinating to read an HBR article that somehow combines the two!

David McGinn is the author of “Psyched Up: How the science of mental preparation can help you succeed”.  His article in the July-August 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, “The Science of Pep Talks” (pp. 133-137), is based on that.

Like all good HBR articles, this one comes with a check-list of elements that will help anyone seeking to inspire and motivate their audience towards action.  There are three pointers:

  1. Direction giving. Include a very clear message on what you expect people to do and, if appropriate, how they should do this.  This will also reduce any uncertainty or confusion.
  2. Empathy.  Connect with your audience by acknowledging what they are experiencing and feeling.  Give individuals and teams appropriate praise for their achievements, and express gratitude for their contributions.
  3. Meaning making.  Link the overall purpose of what you are seeking to achieve, with the audience’s own.  This connects your organisation’s or team’s purpose with individual motivation whatever it might be. It combines the why with the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

McGinn suggests also that, in an effective pep talk, the speaker will adjust the balance between the three elements depending on what people need.  If they are very clear on what is expected and why, then it may be mainly empathy that’s needed.  If they are already very motivated, then perhaps just a bit of direction giving.  And so on…

The article includes a nice case study to illustrate this too.

Concluding thoughts

These are all familiar messages in terms of effective leadership and effective communication.  They certainly resonate with me.

It will be interesting now to listen to people giving motivational talks with these three elements in mind.  To what extent do “pep” talks actually combine all three?

These will be interesting points for me to consider as we deliver a couple of RiverRhee’s newer courses in the autumn on Transition to Leadership, and Presentation Skills.

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Neurodiversity – an organisational advantage to be valued and supported


By Elisabeth Goodman, 4th July 2017

2017-06-22 09.37.32

Delegates at RiverRhee’s June 2017 Introduction to Management course demonstrating a diverse approach to one of the challenges that we set them.

What is neurodiversity, and why value it?

I’ve been reading and thinking about neurodiversity for a while, as it is something that we value and support in young people at the Red Balloon Learner Centre in Cambridge, for which I am a Trustee.

It is something that is sometimes attributed to ‘gifted’ young people, or to our ‘cleverest thinkers’ .  And it is something that is described by John Elder Robinson, the co-chair of the Neurodiversity Working Group at the College of William and Mary as “the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome”.

The quote above is cited by Robert D. Austin and Gary P. Pisano in “Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage.  Why you should embrace it in your workforce.”  HBR, May-June 20217, pp. 96-103.  In fact, neurodiversity also includes Asperger’s, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other natural variations.  The authors assert that this neurodiversity is not something to be cured, but rather to be embraced as bringing valuable new perspectives to an organisation.

Similar points are made by Carol Fowler, in her blog on Neurodiversity for One Nucleus, and by Sally Moore, of Top Stream, an organisation that “works to get the best from brilliant minds in the workplace.”

All these practitioners argue that recruiting and supporting such neurodiversity in our organisations will enhance creativity, innovation, problem solving.

Sally Moore and the HBR authors cite typical applications of neurodiversity to IT related roles in SAP, HPE, Microsoft, EY such as software testing, cybersecurity, business analytics; and also scientific and engineering research and development.

However, neurodiverse people can also bring enhanced people interaction and social skills.  The HBR authors cite companies that have experienced advantages for product management and development, HR support and interfacing with customers for software consulting and support.

Hiring neurodiverse people can have other unexpected benefits, as the HBR authors also discovered, in enhancing the people skills of the managers and of other members of the teams that work with them as they seek to support them more effectively.

What managers and teams need to do to recruit for and support neurodiversity

Personality tools such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and Belbin Team Roles go some way to help us recognise and appreciate the diversity of soft skills and strengths that people can bring to an organisation.

However our recruitment and performance management and development processes tend to be set up for more “neurotypical” people.  According to the HBR article, they put an emphasis on “solid communication skills, being a team player, emotional intelligence, persuasiveness, salesperson-type personalities, the ability to network, the ability to conform to standard practices without special accommodation” etc.

Many neurodiverse people do not interview well – for example they may have difficulty with eye contact, be prone to going off on a tangent, and can be over-honest about their weaknesses.  Making presentations can also be particularly challenging.

In addition, the general emphasis on open plan working makes no allowance for people who may be oversensitive to noise and to light.

Pioneering companies are using a range of approaches to overcome such obstacles for example:

  1. Teaming up with ‘social partners’ who have expertise and can help companies find and work with people from neurodiverse backgrounds.  The HBR article’s examples are mainly in the US and also in Australia and Germany.  I don’t know if we have anything similar happening in the UK.
  2. Using non-traditional, non-interview-based assessment and training programmes. Examples cited include the use of “hangouts”, comfortable half-day gatherings that enable candidates to demonstrate their skills in casual interactions.  Lego Mindstorms are robotic construction and programming kits used for project work, both individually and in groups.  “Soft skills” modules help candidates get first-hand experience of a professional environment.
  3. Training managers and existing co-workers in how to better support neurodiverse colleagues.
  4. Setting up a support ‘ecosystem’ – simple support systems for new employees which could include a team buddy, a job and life skills coach, a work mentor and more..

Concluding thoughts

It seems we have some way to go to value and support neurodiversity in our organisations in the UK.  It would be interesting to hear of examples that already exist and/or of endeavours being made to do so.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

Living in the moment


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th May 2017

Flowers in the Haut-Languedoc

Taking a moment to enjoy the wild flowers in the Haut-Languedoc, France, May 2017

I’m enjoying a delightful few days in the Haut-Languedoc, trying my best to live “in the moment” in accordance with the principles of mindfulness, and meditation, and, inevitably, it has got me reflecting…

Living in the present is more rewarding than waiting for gratification from success

I passed the time at the airport on my way here watching a very funny, heart-warming and thought provoking video of Shawn Achor giving a TEDx talk.

Shawn Achor - the happy secret to better work

His 5 simple exercises for creating a positive mind-set are indeed very simple and I can confirm, from my own experience, that they are very effective.

(These simple daily exercises include reflecting on 3 good (different) things that have happened; considering one of these in more detail; saying or emailing something nice to a different person; taking at least 15 minutes exercise; concentrating on your breath in and out for 2 mins.)

What struck a chord though, was Achor’s reminder of something that I had also read recently in a Harvard Business Review article (more on this below), that, too often, we wait to succeed at something as a milestone for being happy.  “I’ll get this project completed and then I will be happy” or “I’ll just get these tasks done and then I’ll be satisfied”.

The tasks or projects could take a few moments, a day, a week or several months.  It seems a shame to defer our happiness until then.  They might not even happen, or be transformed into the next thing before we get a chance to finish them.  Better surely to find a way to enjoy and gain satisfaction from the moment, from work in progress?

Perhaps we could pause periodically and ask ourselves: “What am I enjoying most about what I am doing now?”; “How could I make it even more enjoyable?”.  We may be able to find satisfaction in even the most mundane, repetitive or stressful task.  In fact this awareness, and self-awareness, will also help us to identify ways in which we could continuously improve our work and ourselves.

We may even be doing the thing we most enjoy, in which case we should definitely be celebrating, even if only with an inner smile!

Reaching for ever-deferred ideals of perfectionism is a recipe for unhappiness

The Talent Curse - HBR May-June 2017

Illustration from HBR, May-June 2017 article “The Talent Curse”

 

In their excellent article in the May-June issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Jennifer Petriglieri and Gianpiero Petriglieri, discuss the stresses experienced by people at work who have been identified as talented “future leaders”.

The first moments of recognition past, they find themselves driving themselves, and being driven by others, to conform to some ideal image of the future leader that they will become.  (By the way, everything they say in the article could relate to any talented person, not just a future leader.)

Opportunities to explore and experiment, to perform in any more individual, divergent, way to this ideal, become few and far between.  It becomes increasingly difficult to reveal the more rounded aspects of their personality, or anything that might be perceived as “weakness”.

Not surprisingly, the author’s suggested remedies include valuing the present.  In fact, they suggest that this is the most important remedy for “breaking the curse”, and that individuals must make what they are doing now matter.

Their other two suggested remedies are to be authentic i.e. bring your whole self to work, rather than just the aspects that are supposed to reflect your talent; and to “own your talent” in such a way that you recognise it as something to be developed in ways that can include help from others.

Concluding thoughts

There is definitely happiness to be found from living in the moment, rather than waiting for deferred gratification from something that may or may not happen.

Which of the above approaches have you tried, or will you try?  What other approaches you have found to be successful?

 

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.) Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. 

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she is a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.