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Comments on Article about Trust & High-Performing Teams

Recently a peer sent me an article by David Carboni called, “Activating High-Performing Teams: Connection eats control for breakfast“. 

I thought on this after reading the article. The wisdom is there and yet I was troubled by the primary quote in the article. I knew what I did not like but needed the words to articulate it even though it is a small differentiation and not elegant. The difference however is critical to show a more precise direction on how good leaders interact and why it matters. Here is how I would modify the quote:

“The contradiction of leadership is that people say ‘yes’ and feign cooperation because they do not feel safe in their relationship with leadership and/or with their ability to contribute. They do not feel safe to say, ‘That won’t work because…’ or in the more extreme of leadership missteps do not want to risk their job to say ‘No that unwise, because…’.”

The lack of safety comes from a deep form of management insincerity (and not necessarily an ignorant or abusive company) and the lack of a process that makes the contradictions between what we need to do on the market end of things versus with what we need internally to make that work and with individual employee needs. Oh, and let’s not forget the shareholder and the community.

  • These contradictions are multi-headed hydras
  • Many problems never get solved because we stop too soon.
  • Most companies do not have a process to transition from the board room to management and to interact to create a seamless strategy to tactical plan.
  • Many individuals feel fear because of lack of trust in management or in self.
  • We know we must be team and company oriented but companies generally ignore the needs for employees to protect their families and personal interests and many employees won’t go the extra mile at work.
  • Shareholders usually have a singular interest in financial growth.
  • The “because…” is critical to demonstrate trust that I, as an employee or leader, have a legitimate reason for saying “No”. I am collaborating in the highest sense of leaving an open for solving the next problem.

The original quote is pithy and conveys a deep meaning about the role of management and trust; however, feeling “safe” alone does not actually improve cooperation.

Within companies that provide a clear policy on the relationship between employees and management I have seen many abuses by both management and employees leveraging the rules of engagement because they know the margins of safety for their job. They do not cooperate and often sabotage each other. What they lack is: trust in the other’s desire to sincerely represent the interests of the other.

Of course, in the end, this is what I perceive to be the deepest meaning of the original quote.

Thus to make my final modification more elegant I would not modify it this way:

“The curse of leadership is that people say ‘Yes’ until they feel trust enough in management to say ‘No, because…’.”

I found the article useful. I hope these musing are helpful for you as well.

Social Innovation and the Theory of Change

I just read an interesting article by Kathleen Kelly Janus on the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The title of the article is

Demystifying the Theory of Change Process: Why the process of creating a theory of change matters, and a five-step guide to success.

Here’s the link to the article.

SUMMARY:

The idea is that nonprofits should develop a theory of change 
articulation because they powerfully and efficiently explain why 
programs will lead to strong, measurable results. Developing a 
theory of change really is a means of assuring that your 
organization is actually doing the right things in the right ways
and actually making a difference. The problem is that many 
organizations don’t do it well and many leaders struggle with the 
process. She gives five steps to help ensure that the process is 
successful.

MY COMMENTS ON MS. JANUS’ ARTICLE:

Your five points will be useful for social innovators because those five points help “grease the skids” of change and because humans resist change for many reasons.

Social innovation is mostly about doing things differently – disrupting the status quo – creating change to make things better. But big change means big resistance to the social innovator’s plan. That’s why a theory of change process is useful. It may help the social innovator grasp the reality of the resistance they will face.

Many social innovators cannot tolerate this backlash and so they compromise their plans to make small changes – incremental changes over time to disrupt the resistance to their goals. The bad news is there will be a corresponding small benefit to be garnered. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the dangers of gradualism, especially for social change.
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What Serial Innovators Know about Fear

I read a blog article at the Huffington Post by Judith E. Glaser called, “Innovate or Evaporate“. This is a good article about innovation,  but I have one disagreement her statements about fear limiting innovation. In a nutshell she says,

"When fear 'owns our brains' we cannot think creatively... All we think about is how to protect ourselves."

There are indeed processes that happen consistently within the human brain. We have responses to inputs that travel in ‘ruts’ or along strong synapse paths. In these cases inputs create a cascade of reactions. Fear can cause a cascade of reactions that does indeed ‘close down’ the creative parts of our brain and get us stuck in protection mode. But, and this is a big ‘but’, it doesn’t need to. A person can train their brain to respond differently to fear – interrupt the cascade – deflect the automatic response – and react more usefully and creatively. Serial innovators train themselves to be able to change states.
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Rear Admiral "Amazing" Grace Hopper

Serial Innovators – what type of person are they?

Contrary to popular belief, genius innovators are not one particular type of personality. If you want a clear example of this, compare Thomas Alva Edison and Nickola Tesla!  In fact, innovative people come in all personality types. And I’ll even go one step further.

Innovation can happen within any environment. You don’t need to have a specific type of culture, space, support, management, local, proximity to, or anything outside of yourself to invent repeatedly.
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Solar Energy Creates Quite a Firestorm

Wow, my comments on solar energy really upset some people.

They thought I entirely bypassed the largest single issue related to the viability of solar power as a significant contributor to our “power portfolio”, which was:

“how much energy per square meter is even available?”… the flux density of solar radiation at Earth’s orbit around the sun is a FIXED VALUE… people need to accept it… And no degree of engineering prowess can alter that fact. No technological leaps can change that. Nothing, short of altering the sun itself, or relocating the orbit of Earth… can alter that… You’re treating this like a PSYCHOLOGY ISSUE. It’s not. It’s a “cost/benefit analysis” issue, plain and simple… It will never become anything more than a “marginal” addition to the overall power generation pool…

The rest of the conversation got nasty, condescending, and increasingly irate. LinkedIn is usually more professional than that, but I had to respond even though I knew it would upset folks further because there were some glaring mistakes and I couldn’t let them be marginalized or dismissed as unrealistic, uneducated, or stupid.
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Innovator’s View of Best Practices 1

PART ONE IN A SERIES – Let’s start with the basics.

Survival is a human’s main motivating force.

Note: Survival is an organization’s main motivating force, too. Like humans, organizations do what they must do to survive.

Because humans are social creatures, our most foundational survival tools revolve around interactions/relationships. It starts when we are born, helpless and weak. If other people didn’t meet our needs, we would die. As we develop competence, power and knowledge, we apply those skills within and against our social structure. This, in turn, causes our environment to adapt. The most foundational aspect (underlying process) of human survival is to interact in ways that are, overall, beneficial.
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In large & fragmented orgs how can you embed an innovation culture?

Recently the question went out: In large organisations (i.e., with more than 10,000 employees working in a wide range of departments and functions) how can you truly embed an innovation culture?

The best answer I read was by Richard Campbell (Business Innovation Consultant at Jekkub Design Management, London, United Kingdom). (My responses to his ideas are in brown.) He said, “There are as many authorities on innovation as there are ways to foster such cultures. Which of these that will work for your company depends on the existing culture…” This is absolutely true. Because innovation must be useful to the company, it must be ‘customized’ (for lack of a better word) to that culture. To miss out on this important concept means the solution will probably not stick.  Then he said, “who is the innovation champion, how engaged are your staff currently (have they seen lots of pointless change recently)…” This I partially agree with. People are willing to engage if they feel their opinions are heard and if the new idea fits with their understanding of the situation. The reason pointless change is pointless is because it fights the existing culture.  (All of what Richard said is powerful, but I’m just going to focus on this starting idea.) When you understand your company’s culture, you will understand why the company is stagnating in certain areas, which will be the areas that need innovation and will give the best ROI.
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Pioneer Thinking versus Entitlement

Avatar Picture of DaynaPioneer Thinking (.wmv)

I know I often write about psychological inertia (PI) and the problems it creates, but today I want to talk about how PI can be beneficial in some cases and detrimental in other cases.  As Americans, we used to embrace some PI that was great (the pioneering spirit) and I fear we are in danger of losing it – replacing it – overwriting it with something new (a system of entitlement).

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