Category Archives: Developing managers

Aligning expectations will help to reduce misunderstandings and conflict


By Elisabeth Goodman, 16th July 2018

If we don’t know what is expected of us, it can be hard to deliver it!

No matter how informal the management practices may be in your organisation, there will come a point when someone will query what it is that you are there to do and whether you have delivered it.  That someone might be you, in a conversation with your line or project manager, or your line or project manager in a conversation with you!

We work with fast-growing Biotechs, and also with more Library and Information groups in more established organisations.  The formality of their management practices varies enormously in both, but discussions invariably arise which reflect some lack of clarity about expected roles.

Such lack of clarity might result in:

  1. Expected tasks not being completed, or not being completed on time
  2. Unnecessary work being done on tasks that are not required
  3. Lack of recognition of work that exceeds what would otherwise be expected of someone
  4. Stress for and conflict amongst any of the parties involved

There are a number of tools available to help manage expectations

Tools for managing expectations

Aligning expectations will help to reduce misunderstandings and conflict. Slides from RiverRhee’s courses for those who are new to management.

Job descriptions define baseline expectations for roles and responsibilities

Job descriptions used to be a standard tool in organisations to define the expectations of someone’s role at work.  They are still generally used as the basis for recruitment, but are not always maintained as a reference point for ongoing roles.  So it’s not unusual for delegates on our courses not to have a job description, or for it to be out-of-date or not specific to their role.

Those with an HR role in small Biotechs often struggle with having the time or expertise to document all the roles in an organisation – so we often suggest that individuals and/or their managers have a go at drafting their job descriptions.   Those without job descriptions in larger organisations could also consider doing this.

Even a draft job description can act as a starting point for agreeing expectations.

Objectives document and facilitate discussions about more transient responsibilities

Again, the organisations that we work with have variable practices around objective setting.  Done well, they can be used for managing shifting expectations during the course of a year.

Whereas job descriptions define broad areas of responsibility for an individual, objectives reflect new areas of activity, opportunities for improvement, and more transient responsibilities that may come and go.

So, for example, a scientist with responsibilities in a particular therapeutic area, or for particular types of assays, may have an objective to investigate the feasibility of moving into a new therapeutic area, to develop new or improved assays or to develop relationships with a new client

Similarly, an information scientist with responsibility for supporting a particular customer group may have an objective to identify good practices for extension to another customer group, or to develop a new type or product or service.

How objectives are defined will vary from one organisation to another, but some form of the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) acronym is commonly adopted.

Whilst setting objectives can be challenging, as they generally evolve over the year, not documenting them will create even more challenges in terms of meaningful discussions about expectations and what has been achieved.

Project charters ensure that individuals, their line managers and project managers are all aligned on expectations

This RiverRhee newsletter (A second look at Project Management), also referenced the use of project charters.  Such charters can take a variety of forms, but the key is to include unambiguous details of who is expected to do what, and by when.

Again, these details are likely to change over the course of the project, but they act as an agreed starting point to facilitate conversations amongst all those involved.

Notes

This is the second blog in a series that will be covering all the different modules of RiverRhee’s management courses, in the run down to our next courses in September 2018. (You can read the first blog – Management is about more than just getting the job done! here…)

Keep an eye on RiverRhee’s website for details of our upcoming courses for managers and teams.

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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Managing your productivity in a collaborative climate


By Elisabeth Goodman, 14th July 2018

Collaboration_HBR JulyAug2018

Harvard Business Review, July-August 2018, pp134-137

Collaborative working is on the rise – at the cost of individual productivity

Speaking from experience

This will not be news to people who are continuously wrestling against the demands of their e-mails, meetings, phone calls and interruptions from colleagues.

Matrix working, multi-tasking on projects and interacting with colleagues, customers and suppliers across time-zones is very much the model for many of the people that we work with at RiverRhee.

The consequence is that people struggle to find time for their ‘own work’: to focus single-mindedly on tasks that need to get done, to read and reflect, to make good decisions, to do their strategic thinking, to be at their most creative if they do this best on their own.

The statistics

Rob Cross et al in “Collaboration without burnout”, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2018 (pp.134-137) have some statistics for us.  According to the Connected Commons, the demand for collaborative interactions such as those described above has increased by 50% in the last 10 years; and most managers spend at least 85% of their time doing them.

It doesn’t have to be like this

“Collaborative overload” (as defined in a 2016 HBR article by one of the co-authors) is not inevitable.  We can readjust our individual mindsets, habits and the expectations that our colleagues have of us, so as to enable us to achieve a healthy approach towards collaborative working and individual productivity.

How mindsets affect “collaborative overload” vs collaborative efficiency

Not being able to, or not wanting to say “no”

We already know that some people find it harder to say “no” than others.  It can feel unhelpful or even selfish to refuse requests from others.

Another mindset that can make it difficult for us to say “no” is where doing more gives us a sense of achievement, of credibility, of being a top performer, or of being at the centre of things.

The consequences of not saying “no”

The consequences of all of this behaviour on ones workload, priorities, stress levels and ultimate productivity can be very damaging.

In fact, taking everything on that we are asked (or that we offer ) to do may not only be damaging ourselves, but could also damage others in terms of lost opportunities for their learning and development.

It could also be damaging the organisation in that the right people (ourselves included) may not in fact be doing the right jobs.

What’s different about efficient collaborators

According to Rob Cross et al, efficient collaborators make an informed choice about what they do and don’t do.  This is aligned to their areas of expertise, and to where they can add the most value in the organisation.

Efficient collaborators’ self-worth comes from their ability to focus on what matters, and from helping others to learn, develop and gain visibility and recognition for what they do.

Tips for achieving a healthy approach towards collaboration and individual productivity

Find your “north star” objectives

In our RiverRhee course and module on managing your time, we’ve taken Stephen R. Covey’s  second “habit” of “beginning with the end in mind”, and Brian Tracy’s recommendation (in Eat that Frog) to focus on the unique contribution that you can make.

If you can define the unique contribution that you can make to your organisation’s goals then, according to Rob Cross et al, this “north star” can guide you in your collaboration with others.

It will help you to have meaningful discussions with your managers and colleagues about where your areas of focus should be, and what would be best delegated or left to others.

Protect your productive time

Finding your “north star” will also help you to decide, and clarify to others which meetings, discussions and decisions you should be involved in, and which ones you are not the best use of your time and expertise.

You can also block out time in your calendar for your ‘own work’ and protect it in the same way that others would protect a meeting.

Influence collaborative working practices

Rob Cross et al remind us that we can encourage good working practices amongst our colleagues for the use of email such as:

  • clear and concise formats for communication
  • avoiding the use of “cc” and “reply to all”
  • using collaborative working tools (such as Google docs) for complex discussions or work
  • switching to face-to-face or phone conversations when the email thread is starting to get too complicated

And we can influence efficient use of time in the meetings that we do attend by such practices as ensuring that:

  • there is an agenda and that it is circulated in advance
  • the right people are in the meeting
  • decisions and actions are documented and circulated after the meeting

Use your network effectively

According to Rob Cross et al, focusing on the quality of interactions rather than on the quantity of relationships, will have a beneficial impact on collaborative working.

They suggest that in high quality interactions, there is a sense of purpose and energy in the discussion.  Both parties are aware of each other’s goals, there is trust, and a mutual desire to support each other, and a respect for each other’s time.

This approach can be applied to all discussions that take place with members of a manager’s network: peers, direct reports (in one-on-ones) and higher managers!

Conclusion

Discussions about time and productivity management traditionally focus on what the individual can do to better manage their time.

Rob Cross et al’s article provides a useful perspective on how the context for that is so inter-twined with the current culture of collaborative working.

Their suggestions are valuable additions and reinforcements of concepts that other authors such as Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), Brian Tracy  (Eat that Frog) and Graham Allcott (Productivity Ninja) have to offer us.

NOTES

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Respect!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 6th July 2018

Respect HBR article

One of the challenges we have at work is the expectation that we not only get on with, but achieve our best outcomes with people that we might not necessarily like!  When delegates on our RiverRhee training courses ask me what they can do about that, I suggest that the best thing is to discover each other’s strengths, and so find ways to respect each other.

So it was with great interest that I read Kristie Rogers’ article “Do your employees feel respected” in the July-August issue of Harvard Business Review (pp. 63-71).

“Show workers that they’re valued, and your business will flourish”

This is the sub-title of the HBR article.  Apparently respect was ranked top of the most important leadership behaviours in a Georgetown University survey by Christine Porath, of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide.

Kristie Rogers quotes the book Crucial conversations:

“Respect is like air.  As long as it’s present, nobody thinks about it.  But if you take it away it’s all that people can think about”

Her research suggests that respect is “an important feedback mechanism and catalyst” for individual growth – so that they are more likely to be open to learning and to experimenting with new behaviours and ways of working.

Employees who feel respected are more likely to:

  • feel satisfied in their work
  • be loyal to their company
  • be resilient
  • cooperate with others
  • be more creative
  • perform better
  • take direction from their leaders

There are two kinds of respect – it’s important to find the right balance for your organisation

According to Kristie Rogers, there is owed and earned respect, and the balance of these will deliver different results to an organisation.

Owed respect is like a baseline that relates to our universal need to feel socially included.  It’s about being civil to each other, and demonstrating that each individual is of value to the organisation.

Earned respect recognises the distinct strengths, capabilities and achievements that people contribute to their work.  Rewards and recognitions do not have to be purely financial.  Just acknowledging people’s achievements and making them visible to their colleagues in some way may be enough.

If there is lots of owed respect, but little earned respect – there is little incentive for people to strive beyond the minimum expected performance.  They may feel motivated to work well together as a team, but feel less motivated to take accountability for going beyond that.

Conversely, an emphasis on earned respect, at the expense of owed respect could create a very cut-throat competitive environment, with little cooperation or collaboration between individuals.

Each organisation will need to find the right balance for their goals, and for creating their desired culture

Creating a culture of respect requires some attention

Kristie Rogers includes a case study in her article on Televerde, a marketing firm staffed mainly by prison inmates – a great challenge for creating a culture of respect that is distinct from what the individuals will have previously experienced.

Rogers’ case study and research suggests that:

  1. Owed respect is everyone’s responsibility in the work place.  It can be demonstrated in such simple ways as acknowledging each and every individual.  Greeting them. Listening to them.  Offering praise where it is due.
  2. How respect is conveyed may be organisation dependent. The right ways of demonstrating respect need to be identified, established, reinforced according to the organisations culture and social norms. It’s important to find out what works best in each case, so as to avoid the risk of seeming patronising, embarrassing, or underwhelming.
  3. Leadership role-modelling of sincere respect will establish behaviours that will extend throughout the organisation and to interactions with customers and partners.  Any lack of sincerity will be rapidly spotted and lead to scepticism and cynicism.
  4. Respect is infinite and not a time waster – it will never run out: giving respect to one employee will still leave plenty more for others.  Making respect a natural way of working will “oil the wheels” of every interaction and so save time that would otherwise be wasted in fixing the effects of a lack of respect.

Conclusion

Kristie Rogers’ article goes way beyond the basic suggestion that we should show each other respect at work in order to get on well with each other.

Establishing a culture of respect, and finding the right balance of ‘owed’ and ‘earned’ respect would seem to be crucial to the growth of individuals, and to the growth of organisations as a whole.

The approach for demonstrating respect, and finding the right balance is likely to be organisation dependent – but it need not be complicated.  It can be based on behaviours role-modelled by the leadership and adopted by and towards everyone throughout the organisation.

Notes

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

 

Some insights on emotional self-control


By Elisabeth Goodman, 1st July 2018

I’m picking my way, as the mood takes me, through Daniel Goleman et al’s twelve “Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence”.  My latest read is “2. Emotional Self-Control”.

Emotional self-control

Each of these little booklets (or primers) has little nuggets of insights which I frequently find helpful for myself, as well as for generating ideas to weave into my RiverRhee courses for managers and individual team members*.

Why self-control is important

As Goleman points out, emotional self-control is not about denying our emotions, rather it’s about choosing when and how we express them so that they don’t get in the way of, and actively support the results we want to achieve.

We will all have experienced situations where one person’s mood (whether negative or positive) has affected our own, or that of other people’s in the room – whether that person .  Or situations where we’ve had to work hard to keep our own equilibrium when the person we’ve been with has been angry or upset.  Moods can be contagious and, without self-control, we will ‘catch’ each others.

So Goleman reminds us that it is a leader’s responsibility to be aware of and to regulate their mood, so that they can ensure that the one they bring to their team’s day, and to individual situations is as conducive to positive and constructive interactions and results as possible.

Similarly, any individual wanting to influence a situation or another person, will want to regulate their mood so as to be able to interact and perform in the best way they can.

Vanessa Druskat talks more about the importance of self-control at a team level, and how certain team norms as well as leadership behaviours will be conducive to that.

Team norms

Illustration summarising key points from the Teamworking primer in “Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence”.

A lot of this rests on ensuring that team members feel included (social belonging), understood and valued.  I’ve written more about these team norms in my review of the Teamworking primer.

Interestingly, I’ve just read Kristie Rogers’ very good article “Do your employees feel respected” (pages 63-70) in the July-August 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review, where she shows how respect is the key to ensuring that team members feel included, understood and valued.

The neurological basis of self-control (or the absence of it!)

Richard J. Davidson has a chapter in the primer devoted to this topic.  He reminds us that the amygdala is the part of the brain that is very involved with emotion; whilst the prefrontal cortex is associated with rational thought.

There is a major pathway between the emotional and rational thinking part of the brain which is the uncinate fasciculus.  The trick, with emotional self-control, is to be aware of what is happening (in the amygdala), to prevent the amygdala “hijacking” our logical thinking (in the prefrontal cortex), and to then actively influence the amygdala to get the result we want!  All of this emotional and logical sensory flow will be going on via the uncinate fasciculus.

Uncinate fasciculus

Apparently, the more we work on this, the more we will strengthen our neurological capability for self-control.

Some strategies for generating self-control

Emotional self-control relies first on being aware of our emotions, and then on developing strategies to help us regulate them.

George Kohlrieser encourages us to start engaging in an inner dialogue to recognise and label our emotions – and to work out what they are connected to: what has triggered them.  Building this awareness will be instrumental in helping us develop the strategies for regulation.  He suggests that we can also enlist trusted colleagues, family members and friends to help to alert us when we are displaying emotions that we want to be aware of.

Emotions will also affect how we feel physically – so we can mitigate the stressful effects of nervousness, anxiety, anger, depression by physical means such as breathing techniques, how we stand or hold ourselves, by going for a walk, by looking at the things around us.

As Davidson reminds us, mindfulness or meditation can help us to acknowledge how we are thinking and feeling, and then to just ‘let these thoughts and feelings go’.

He also describes how we can ‘re-programme’ our minds, for example as in cognitive therapy, so that our intellectual responses to the context that triggers our emotions changes.  We might do this by realising that something that happens is not personally directed at us – it’s just something that has happened and we can choose how we respond to it.  We can put it into a larger or different perspective.

Notes

*The RiverRhee courses this primer is going to be most helpful for are:

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

Management is about more than just getting the job done!


By Elisabeth Goodman, 28th June 2018

Management is about more than just getting the job done!  Opening slide from RiverRhee’s courses for those who are new to management.

A manager’s responsibilities involve balancing the individual, the team and the task

A manager’s responsibilities cover so much more than just getting the job done!  For scientists, information professionals and others who are new to management, this can be one of the most daunting aspects of making that transition.

As John Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership model so aptly demonstrates, a manager’s responsibilities involve giving the right attention, and finding the right balance between getting the job done, and the people aspects of their role.

I remember one of my own managers telling me that as much as 80% of what we managers need to do is about the people, and only 20% is about the task!  If we don’t look after the individuals in our teams, and the dynamics between them, then we will never be able to get the task done.

Delegates at the June 2016 RiverRhee Introduction to Management course

That can be very daunting for scientists, information professionals and others who have up till now focused on their technical expertise and on executing their tasks as proficiently as they can.   It is certainly something that I remember very well from my early days as a manager!

 

developing the individual

“People are messy” and there are no set ways for how we manage them.  As new managers, we will find ourselves focusing more on understanding the individuals for whom we are responsible:

  • what motivates them
  • how to provide constructive feedback
  • working out what authority we actually have – especially if we are managing people who were recently our peers
  • how to delegate
  • how to generally help those who report to us be the best that they can be

Building the team

And, as new managers, we will be grappling with how to ensure that the members of our teams are working well together:

  • making good use of their diverse strengths
  • being productive, innovative, continuously improving the quality of their work
  • and how to deal with the conflicts that will almost inevitably arise

resources for the new manager

Luckily there are lots of resources available to those making the transition to a new management role.  We can learn from books, online resources, talking to and observing others, and reflecting on our own experiences of managers we have known.  And there are courses available too…

This blog is the first of a series that will be covering all the different modules of RiverRhee’s management courses, in the run down to our next courses in September 2018.

 

Keep an eye on RiverRhee’s website for details of our upcoming courses for managers and teams.

NOTES

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Storytelling for business (Part 2)


By Elisabeth Goodman, 5th May 2018

My Knowledge Management colleague from my days with NetIKX , Stephen Dale, recently alerted us to John and Joann Girard and Co’s new book “Knowledge Management Matters – words of wisdom from leading practitioners.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 15.00.06

The editors very generously offer the book as a free pdf, although one look at the contents convinced me that I needed the convenience of the printed book.

It’s the chapter entitled: “Putting stories to work: discover”, by Shawn Callahan that has caught my attention first.

Storytelling in a business environment is a topic I am fascinated by and would like to add into my CILIP on-site course on Good Practices for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration.

I started to explore this topic in an earlier blog on Telling stories at work and am always keen to learn more.

Shawn Callahan has written his own dedicated book on the subject: “Putting Stories to Work: Mastering Business Storytelling”.  He is an evident expert on the subject, and I picked up lots of useful tips from his chapter here which I’ve combined with some of my own insights in this blog..

Why use storytelling in a business environment?

We may not realise it, but many of us do this already!

We seem to be genetically programmed to listen to stories. They engage us emotionally and make us pay attention.  They help us to learn and remember.  As soon as someone begins to tell us about something that happened to them or to someone else, almost subconsciously, we are ready to listen to what unfolds.

So, in a business context, stories can have a lot of potential for a variety of situations, for example:

  1. At a staff meeting, to get people engaged in the vision and goals of a team or of the whole organisation
  2. When going through organisational change, to build buy-in to and commitment for the new way of working
  3. During activities relating to learning and development – to help the new knowledge ‘stick’

However, storytelling does require some skills and techniques, and this is where Shawn Callahan and others can help us.  His chapter in “Knowledge Management Matters” focuses on how to discover good stories – so I’m cheating a little here in extending this blog to the wider aspects of storytelling.  Perhaps I’ll get hold of his full book next…

What are the basic constituents of a good business story?

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 15.40.45

In my previous blog on storytelling I highlighted what Christopher Booker had to say about how the seven basic plots resolve themselves into some common characteristics: a character, an event, some conflict and uncertainty, some form of resolution.

Shawn Callahan has a framework which is not too dissimilar – there should be:

  • A time and/or place to set the scene
  • A series of interconnected events (preferably connected by “but” or “however” which are more dramatic than “and then”)
  • Two or more characters in dialogue
  • An unexpected twist

As we know, fairy or children’s stories usually have a moral lesson.  For a business story, there needs to be some link with the business point that you want to make.

What makes for an attention grabbing story?

A business story does not have to be about business!  In my previous blog on “Telling stories at work”, I describe how we learnt, during my NLP practitioners’ course, to use metaphors as a way of getting a point across. We also learnt that a story will be more powerful if we draw on the senses: what we see, hear and feel.

The metaphor I created, in the NLP course, drew on my husband’s research on the fruit growing industry in South Cambs.  My main character was a magnificent elderly greengage tree in our garden, a possible remnant of the orchards that used to fill this part of South Cambridgeshire.  It is in full delicate white bloom at this time of year and at the mercy of determinedly pecking pigeons, and of sudden snaps of late spring frosts.

Greengage treeIn the summer, downpours of rain will swell and split the fruit, and wasps will burrow into it, so that the gages fall rotting to the ground.

However, come August, I still manage to make rich green jam and succulent crumbles, and sometimes still have surplus to put in the freezer.

Despite this constant challenge and adversity, the Cambridge gage has continued to survive, appearing on the stalls in the Cambridge market and further afield. It has deservedly earned a reputation for its rich golden green colour and unique flavour.

My story was an illustration of the constant change that we experience, at work as in life, and of enduring resilience to it.

Shawn Callahan suggests a few pointers for attention grabbing oral stories in a business context:

  • They should be about topics that your audience can relate to.  So my story linked to nature, food, and (for a Cambridge audience), local to Cambridge might work. Apparently anything relating to our reptilian brains i.e. stories about power, death / near death, children’s safety, and stories about sex (though perhaps not in a business environment) will be effective too.  Power can be about position, education, money, celebrity, beauty – and of the misery or joy that they can cause!
  • Using photographs (in a presentation setting perhaps), especially if they feature people, will add to the effectiveness of a story.  Artefacts can also help with eliciting and sharing stories – a technique I’ve used for example in the adult French conversation group that I lead, where I’ve asked people to bring something that has some sentimental value to them to talk about.  That resulted in some very powerful stories.
  • And oral stories need to be shorter, less detailed and more evocative than written stories.

Where to find your stories

Shawn Callahan’s chapter is on discovery, and he has lots of suggestions for us for where we can find our stories for business.  They don’t all involve making them up ourselves.  We can:

Listen in to what we hear work colleagues talking about in cafés, restaurants, corridors, and in the informal part of meetings before they start or after they have finished.  We can then tell the story as we saw or heard it.

Reflect on an experience we’ve had, and then connect it to a business idea (as I did above with the greengage tree).

Do something unexpected at work, which then creates a story for others to tell to illustrate a business point.  (Shawn Callahan tells one about a CEO quietly replacing a light-bulb during a meeting to illustrate his value of being prepared to ‘muck-in’).

Be aware of stories that we find ourselves telling, especially those that make us feel some emotion, and that we can attach a business meaning to (as I did in my previous blog in talking about a personal experience of change).

Retell other people’s stories – but make sure we acknowledge them. I  have one that my friend Tim told us about his washing machine when we visited him and Harriet a few weeks ago.  Tim and I got quite excited about his story as he worked it up over lunch after he and I had been talking about how he could get started in storytelling.  It’s a simple story, with an unexpected outcome, and I will be using it, with his permission, to illustrate how it’s possible to start telling stories, and to find them from unexpected sources!

Victim survivor navigator

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change

Draw on scenes from films, especially films that others might have seen.  I have for example used a scene from The Shawshank Redemption, where the characters are sitting in the prison courtyard, talking about their attitudes to imprisonment and how they for me depict different responses to change: the ‘survivor’ (played by Morgan Freeman) who accepts his fate (at least initially) as being in the hands of others, and the ‘navigator’ (played by Tim Robbins) who is always looking for ways to take control of his own fate.

Conclusion

Shawn Callahan had lots of useful tips to enhance those I have previously collected about storytelling.

I am starting, as he suggests, to keep a storytelling journal.  I may or may not, as he also suggests, set myself a regular time to reflect on what has happened or what I have heard during the day that might make for a good story.  I will certainly continue refining and practising the stories  I do have, so that I can draw on them when I need them.

And I am looking forward to exploring this whole topic with my delegates in CILIP’s on-site course on Good Practices for Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration.

NOTES

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

 

 

Conflict is “the lifeblood of high performing organisations”


By Elisabeth Goodman, 28th April 2018

I’ve just been reading booklet number 10: Conflict Management, in the “Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman et al.

The authors have some powerful insights on the benefits of conflict and how to address or facilitate it constructively, both as an individual participant, and as a team leader.

The benefits of conflict

George Kolrieser is the originator of the quote in the title of this blog: conflict is the “lifeblood of high performing organisations”.

He and Amy Gallo give a great overview of the benefits that conflict can bring to groups as well as to individuals.  Their views are a confirmation of why “storming” is such a vital step in the stages of team development.

Stages of team development_Elisabeth Goodman

Stages of team development, adapted from Tuckman

Conflict is the result of the discussions and disagreements that arise from diverse points of view.

For a group, when conflict is handled effectively, people will have the courage to speak up, take risks and listen to and consider other’s perspectives.  In such a climate, conflict will generate energy, creativity, change, improved performance, innovation and a more strongly bonded team.

For individuals who accept conflict as something positive, it will give them:

  • better results – because they are considering others’ viewpoints
  • learning and development – through self-reflection on their reactions to conflict as well as understanding of others’
  • improved relationships – through being open to conflict, and the strength they gain each time they respond positively to it
  • job satisfaction – through not feeling worried or stressed about conflict at work

“Put the fish on the table”

This metaphor is also supplied by George Kolrieser.  It comes from Sicily, where fishermen will lay their catch out on a table and deal with all the messy preparation of it together. (The opposite metaphor would be to let the fish rot under the table.)

catania160

“Put the fish on the table” – photo from http://galenf.com/Sicily/catania160.jpg

In this situation, as George Kolrieser describes, the people involved are openly raising and discussing the issues involved.  They are seeking a win:win resolution, without aggression or hostility.

This approach to conflict resolution is founded on achieving a common goal, or, as Richard Boyatzis puts it, an “overarching objective”.

The people involved are able to feel and demonstrate respect for each other – although they don’t have to like each other!

How individuals can address conflict

The following approach is my take on those described in the booklet by Amy Gallo, George Pitagorsky and Matthew Lippincott.

Addressing conflict

  1. Be self-aware.  This is about taking time to assess how you are feeling: your emotional response to the situation; stepping-back.
  2. Adjust your mindset. Considering the conflict as an opportunity rather than a problem; one where you can help others as well as yourself.
  3. Consider the other’s perspectives.  Show your interest in what they have to say; ask diplomatic questions; empathise; treat it as a learning opportunity.  Be aware that the organisational context may have some bearing on their perspective.
  4. Prepare your response.  Think about what the common goal might be.  Choose an appropriate time and place to have the discussion.
  5. Achieve closure.  Make sure that both parties reach agreement on a decision and on the resultant action, and that they follow-through.

Amy Gallo has some additional useful tips on how an individual can help themselves by unloading their emotions before having a discussion – perhaps with a ‘neutral’ third party.  They can also practise the discussion with a third party.  And of course it’s important to know when to take time out to deal with your emotions and calm down.

How leaders can facilitate conflict resolution

George Kolrieser’s “secure base leadership” concept is about providing individuals with both a safe and challenging environment to work within.  This applies to how they help their team members deal with conflict, as well as to day-to-day management.

Leaders can create a climate for positive conflict by:

  1. Positively promoting the differences within the team
  2. Helping people to get to know each other in a deeper way (which is why face-to-face team building activities are so valuable)
  3. Encouraging and supporting people to speak up
  4. Personally accepting conflict, risk-taking and failure as promoters of growth

They can facilitate discussions to deal with conflict by:

  1. Recognising when conflict is happening, and acting on it early
  2. Learning to put their own emotions aside (keeping their emotions “under wraps”)
  3. Tuning in to what the individuals are experiencing emotionally, their ideas and perspectives
  4. Facilitating the conversation – using all the strategies described for the individual in the section above

Conclusion

Dealing with conflict is not easy!  So much of it is learning to separate automatic emotional responses from the issues involved.  Those issues may be to do with the relationship of the ‘protagonists’ and/or with a particular topic.

However, like just about anything in life, the more we learn to deal with conflict, the more we will learn about ourselves and others, and the better we will get at reaping the associated benefits!

And sometimes… it may just be about choosing the battles we want to fight, as well as when and how to do so…

Notes

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) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.