Communication

Why Don't Organizations Pay Attention to Processes? by Karen Martin

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Clarity First is the new book by Karen Martin. She addresses the pitfalls that leaders make in organizations in making change and bringing clarity to the company and teams. Here is a guest post from her new book. If you want clarity within your organization then pick up Karen’s book to get started down the right path.

Effective processes create such a dramatic boon, and broken processes such a significant bane, that I have long reflected on why process design and management as a discipline doesn’t get more attention. Over time I have discovered myriad reasons, subreasons, and sub-subreasons why, which together come down to a hard reality: most leaders lack foundational skills in process design and management, and don’t view them as institutionally important enough to learn. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. There are three reasons why.

First, many processes are invisible. They happen behind the scenes or beneath the visible aspects of the business. Most of them function well enough that problems are like a pin leak in a larger pipe. The loss immediately affects those close to the leak, but is less visible at the end of the line. People acclimate to that kind of slow leak.

The second reason why leaders and the organizations they work for have not invested more in having clear, high-functioning processes is lack of experience. Building proficiency in any endeavor—whether golf, guitar, or gastroenterology—requires practice, experience, and knowing what good looks like. Yet gaining that experience can be challenging because the models are few and far between. Process design and management are not part of the core business curriculum offered at most universities and graduate programs. When young professionals graduate into the workforce, the organizations they work for likely aren’t process-centric enough to fill in those education gaps. Fast forward 10, 20, 30 years and those young professionals have become leaders who have never thought much about processes and don’t know what well-designed and well-managed processes look like, let alone how to create them.

Career-long lack of exposure metastasizes quickly to produce the third reason why organizations pay less attention to processes than they need to for clarity: they have a specialist mentality. Leaders’ lack of direct experience has led them to believe that process design and management must be complex and difficult, and thus requires a specialist to do well.

Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc., is a leading authority on business performance and Lean management. Her latest book, Clarity First, is her most provocative to date and diagnoses the ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance.

Differentiation Increases Complexity By Sunnie Giles

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I'm honored to share a guest post from Sunnie Giles author of the new book The New Science of Radical Innovation - The Six Competencies Leaders Need to Win in a Complex World. Her insights and big-picture thinking focusing on the complexity around us is fascinating. 

According to complex systems theory, differentiation increases positive (internal) complexity. By allowing more variation, each differentiated agent in a system can make different connections with other agents and systems, which adds more variety and strength to the quality of connection. This additional connection increases the probability of natural selection and evolution because the organism’s variations (i.e., mutations) facilitate better adaptation to the environment. Complexity increases when differentiated parts are connected. This increased internal complexity, in turn, enables an organism to respond even more effectively to unexpected challenges from the environment and increases its chances of survival.

My church choir provides a simple example of how differentiation increases complexity. When we learn a new song, the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices practice their parts by themselves. When each part is sung in unison, the resulting music doesn’t sound very rich or complex. When the four parts are finally combined, they produce a rich tapestry of beautiful, complex music.

Let’s take another example. Fruit flies and humans share 60 percent of their DNA—a surprisingly high number. One would be right to question how the remaining 40 percent could account for the much higher complexity of humans. The key is in the number of interactions in many-to-many networks among the genes. Humans have about twenty-five thousand unique genes; fruit flies, about fourteen thousand. The number of protein interactions among the genes in humans is about 650,000—ten times as many as that of fruit flies. Each additional differentiated gene produces exponential growth in the number of genetic interactions. The network effect, which we discussed in chapter 2, resulting from the interaction among genes explains how a small difference in the number of genes can create an enormous difference in the complexity level between humans and fruit flies. The same pattern of exponential growth we see in the relationship between the number of genes and the gene interactions.

The highest level of internal complexity can be achieved by developing optimal differentiation, connecting the differentiated parts, and replicating that connection on multiple levels. If you have just undifferentiated parts, there is nothing to integrate, which results in suboptimal complexity. Once the foundation of safety is in place, Quantum Leaders facilitate differentiation in each of their team members, as well as the whole team as a unit, maximizing each member’s unique talents, skills, and perspectives.

Differentiation is so important to the optimal functioning of the human race that a differentiation mechanism is inherently built into the human development phase—it’s called pruning, and it takes place in the teenage brain. At birth, neuronal synapses in a child’s brain are more numerous than in an adult’s. Synapses multiply rapidly during childhood, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. This is why it’s much easier for children to learn foreign languages, musical instruments, and sports. As a child matures into a teenager, the brain prunes away underutilized synapses, so the synapses used most often can work more efficiently. The long body of the retained neurons get myelinated in a myelin sheath, which accelerates the conduction speed of the ions between neurons a hundredfold. This increased speed is made possible through the process of saltatory conduction, in which ions jump between nodes instead of steadily traveling along the axonal length of the neuron. In addition, myelination accelerates the resting period between neuronal firings—the refractory period—thirtyfold. The combination of these functions makes pruned synapses three thousand times more efficient than unpruned ones.

The pruning process produces unique patterns of neuronal synapses manifested into unique strengths and talents. This evolutionary mechanism highlights the importance of differentiating individuation before integrating with another differentiated person (e.g., a spouse or a team). Once parts are fully differentiated, connecting differentiated parts and replicating these connections to the next level (in this case, raising the next generation of children or leaders) increases internal complexity. All complex systems strive to increase internal complexity by nature because higher complexity means better chances of natural selection.

About Dr. Sunnie Giles:

Dr. Sunnie Giles is a new generation expert who catalyzes organizations to produce radical innovation by harnessing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA).

Her research reveals that applying concepts from neuroscience, complex systems approach, and quantum mechanics can produce radical innovation consistently. Her expertise is based on years as an executive with Accenture, IBM and Samsung. Her profound, science-backed insight is encapsulated in her leadership development program, Quantum Leadership.

An advisor to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, she also is a sought-after speaker and expert source, having been quoted in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, and Inc.

Dr. Giles’ latest book, The New Science of Radical Innovation, provides a clear process for radical innovation that produces 10x improvements and has been endorsed prominent industry leaders such as Jonathan Rosenberg, Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Sean Covey.

 

Knowing the Self Who Leads by Shelly L. Franci

Have you ever found yourself wondering where inner wisdom and courage come from? Have you been in a situation where your real leadership blooms because you know what you value and believe in?

Shelly L. Franci's new book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity offers soul searching and a path you can take to find your authentic self and bring out your true gifts to impact others. Here is an excerpt from Shelly's new book.

The underlying premise of the Courage Way is that we all have a trustworthy source of inner wisdom that informs our lives and leadership. It is our identity and integrity, the sum of our shadows and light, our true self. Without knowing our true self, we cannot be an authentic leader.

Just as Ed came to recognize, leaders must find clarity about what they value, what unique gifts they have to offer, what contribution they wish to make. Strength and resilience as a leader come from knowing the ground on which you stand, the convictions you will act on with courage. But that’s not all. Resilience comes from being aware of and accepting your limits and what problems your shadows are causing. That is wholeness—and that comes from knowing your true self.

Otto Scharmer, author of Theory U, acknowledges this inner life: “We observe what leaders do. We can observe how they do it, what strategies and processes they deploy. But we can’t see the inner place, the source from which people act when, for example, they operate at the highest possible level, or alternatively, when they act without engagement or commitment.”

This inner place Scharmer speaks of is more than intellect, ego, emotions, and will. In the inner work of leadership, it is a light behind the eyes, the energy that animates us, or, as Howard Thurman puts it, “the sound of the genuine in you.” Instead of true self or soul, you could say inner wisdom, essential self, or even trusting your gut. Poets, musicians, and mystics have given words to the essence of who we are—our human spirits—when we take off the trappings of our resumes. John O’Donohue calls it the dignity somewhere in us “that is more gracious than the smallness / that fuels us with fear and force.”  William Stafford appeals to “a voice, to something shadowy / a remote important region in all who talk.”

Although Parker Palmer often refers to his inner teacher, he often says that what you call this core of our humanity doesn’t matter, “but that we name it matters a great deal. It’s important to recognize it: If we don’t name it anything, we start to lose the being in human being. We start to treat each other like empty vessels or objects to be marketed. When we say ‘soul,’ or ‘identity and integrity,’ there is something to make a deep bow to. There is a word for it in every wisdom tradition.”

Beyond being the sum of your life experiences, the true self is a mystery that simply is. How do you get to that underlying mystery of knowing people deep down? Intimacy is not necessarily the goal of every relationship in community, especially in the workplace. But respecting that each person has an essential core self, an undeniable dignity and humanity—now that is worthwhile.

But seldom, if ever, do we ask the “who” question. Who is the self that engages in leadership? How does this self impact the practice of leadership, for good and for bad? How is the self continually honored and renewed as we lead?

—Parker J. Palmer

About Shelly L. Francis

Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals.

The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. Her latest book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage in personal and professional aspects of life.

 

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Women Need to Break a Few of Their Usual Rules - Jill Flynn

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Women continue to drop out of the workforce in large numbers because of the barriers that we face. Unfortunately, we don't help ourselves any because we are often our own worst enemy. We need to collectively take back control of our careers and use our strengths to become the influential leaders that we really are deep inside. Here is a guest post from Jill Flynn one of the authors of the new book The Influence Effect. 

There is almost nothing more crucial to success in any organization than developing excellent leaders. It is a no-brainer. But, although there’s no shortage of ambitious people with executive aspirations, what threatens the strength of your leadership pipeline may be a scarcity of senior-level women.

You may have seen the stats: Women are entering the global labor force in greater numbers than ever before; they earn more undergraduate and graduate degrees than men in many countries; yet, just 13 of 500 CEOs running Fortune 500 Global companies are women. In addition, the gender wage gap across the world remains significant. Some of this can be attributed to the type of age-old gender stereotypes and traditions that take generations to eliminate. But there are other culprits to consider—ones that are within our control to address right now that will significantly strengthen women’s chances of rising to the top of organizations.

Over the past decade, my colleagues and I have coached and trained over 7,000 professional women, traveled across the globe and to Africa to speak with women, and interviewed over 3,200 senior executives to find out how they believe women can be more successful. What we’ve found is that for women in middle management, and particularly those approaching the top, continued career momentum is not about adding technical skills. Many women are taught as children to behave in certain ways that don’t help them succeed as executives. What women need to do in order to succeed at higher levels in global business is to think differently.

The New Rules

In essence, we’ve found that women need to rethink the conversations they are having in their heads and tell themselves a new story. They need to challenge some of their outdated expectations and attitudes about themselves and the workplace. These are the rules women need to break:

1. Take Center Stage (Instead of focusing on others):  Many of the smartest women around the conference table focus too much of their attention on other people’s needs. They are assisting others, pitching-in and volunteering to pick-up other people’s slack. This leaves precious little time and energy to allow themselves to thrive professionally and personally. The instinct to put others first can work against women by keeping them from focusing on their own career goals.  The result is that too many women let their careers “happen to them” rather than putting themselves in the driver’s seat. We tell women to invest in themselves and have a written plan for their career. Women who have a clear vision for what they want to achieve are much more likely to own their ambition and work in ways that allow them to succeed.

2. Proceed Until Apprehended (Instead of seeking approval): In our coaching sessions we’ve worked with countless women executives who are exceptionally collaborative leaders. They like to be liked, but the desire for consensus can slow them down. In order to succeed, women need to retain that core strength of collaboration while at the same time acting creatively and decisively to make things happen. They need to stop “asking for permission” and instead demonstrate behaviors that exhibit leadership. In terms of career success, we tell women that remaining silently behind the scenes is much riskier than putting forward bold ideas and proactively campaigning for the big assignments.

3. Project Personal Power (Instead of modesty): We’ve found that many women who are motivated to move into leadership positions are ambivalent about projecting power. Modesty and self-deprecation come more naturally. In fact, some women act downright apologetic in the face of success—as if it doesn’t suit them or they don’t deserve it. To exude confidence and power, women need to pay attention to their non-verbal messaging. Stance, eye contact, tone of voice, and facial expressions all send a message to others about confidence. In addition, women need to take credit for their many ideas and accomplishments. Taking credit for their success and being assertive will help women move more quickly into the jobs they want.

4. Be Politically Savvy (Instead of working harder): Many women are disappointed when their hard work and long hours don’t seem to pay-off in terms of career advancement. They dislike politics and try to remain above the fray. Yet, being politically savvy is actually about building relationships, achieving consensus and networking—women are great at these things. We coach women to build their careers as if they are running for office: create a platform of ideas, line up sponsors, put together a coalition – and then do it over and over again as their agenda and goals change.

5. Play to Win  (Instead of playing it safe): We hear in our interviews with senior executives that women need to get out of their comfort zones, be bold and take risks. Women can make themselves visible in this way by taking the lead on high-stakes projects and bringing in new business. Putting themselves out there means getting comfortable with risk and the possibility of failure. It may seem safer to let someone at a higher pay grade take the risks, but it is the major decisions that offer women the best opportunities to establish their credibility as leaders.

6. Have a Both/And Perspective (Instead of all-or-nothing thinking):  One phrase that has crept into dozens of our coaching files over the years is the notion of having it all. It’s no coincidence that many of the women who are trying to have it all are also the ones who get burned out. There’s no one right way to succeed, but avoiding black and white thinking – and remaining flexible – can help women establish leadership credibility. Because complexity and constant change are everywhere today, dealing with ambiguity has become skill that all of us (not only women) need to master.

As these new rules illustrate, we’ve found that most high-performing women don’t need to make major changes in order to give themselves a better chance to succeed. Small adjustments in how they think about themselves can have a big impact on their everyday behaviors and lead to visibility and continued career momentum. And that outcome will be good for everyone.

From a bottom line perspective, paving the way for more women at the highest levels in leadership is a net positive for business. Women are natural consensus builders and collaborators, so they are well suited for the nimble, less hierarchical workplace of the future. And research proves that companies with more women leaders have a higher return on equity and a better return on sales. There’s no doubt about it: when women get ahead it is good for business.

About Jill Flynn

Jill Flynn is a founding partner at FHHL and a co-author of Break Your Own Rules and her latest co-authored book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders. Jill previously served as Senior Vice President at the nation’s fourth largest bank, First Union (now Wells Fargo), where she established their leadership development, diversity, organizational consulting and employee satisfaction initiatives. As the corporation grew exponentially during her tenure, Jill and her team prepared a cadre of high-potential leaders to assume senior positions. Within a three-year timeframe, the number of women in these roles increased from 9% to 26%.

 

Tackling Workplace Conflict: Research and Best Practices to Stop the Drama by Nate Regier

Nate Regier is the author of the new book Conflict Without Casualties. Nate's work sheds some new light on the conflict in the workplace and the costs that arise when we don't address it. If you have ever avoided conflict or don't understand how to deal with it pick up Nate's book today. Here is a guest post from Nate to help you start taking on conflict at work this week.

 

Tackling Workplace Conflict: Research And Best Practices To Stop The Drama

By Nate Regier

On average, employees around the world spend about 2.1 hours per week, or over one day per month, dealing with workplace conflict in some way. In the US, that number is higher (2.8 hrs/week) equating to approximately $359 billion in paid hours. Non-profit sectors experience the most workplace conflict, with nearly 48% of employees reporting conflict at work.

What is the actual prevalence of conflict in the workplace, what causes it, and what opportunities are there for positive changes? To answer this, I’ve studied the most comprehensive workplace conflict research I could find, a 2008 study commissioned by CCP Inc., one of Europe’s leading business psychology firms, and Fellipelli, one of South America’s leading business psychology firms. The study included survey data from 5000 employees at all levels of their companies in nine countries around Europe and the Americas and remains some of the most comprehensive and useful research available. Here’s a summary.  

Costs of workplace conflict

Conflict often escalates into personal attacks, insults, or absence from work.

  • 2.1 hours per week spent dealing with conflict (Belgium was the lowest at 1.3 hrs/wk. Germany and Ireland, the highest at 3.3 hrs/wk).
  • 90% of respondents experienced a conflict that escalated, most often into personal attacks and insults, sickness or absence from work, and cross-departmental problems.
  • Feeling demotivated, angry, frustrated, nervous, and stressed are the most common psychosocial consequences.
  • Negative conflict with customers is risky since it is less costly to keep an existing customer than to replace one who has left dissatisfied.  

Causes of workplace conflict

Personality clashes are the number one cause of workplace conflict.

  • Personality clashes and warring egos top the list at 48% overall, but much higher in Ireland (66%), the US (62%), and the UK (59%).
  • Stress, too much work without enough support, and poor leadership are also significant (around 30%).

Who is responsible to deal with it?

  • Everyone! 62% of respondents believed conflict is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Surprisingly, only 15% felt that HR should be the ones to deal with workplace conflict.  

What should leaders do to improve how conflict is handled?

  • Identify and address underlying tensions before things go wrong (54%).
  • More informal one-to-one conversations with direct reports (42%).
  • Act as mediators (40%).

Research reported in Harvard Business Review revealed that 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees.

  • Provide more clarity and guidance over healthy behavior (40%).

* Twelve key leadership behaviors were highlighted by respondents in this study. Our PCM and LOD training and certification programs target all 12 areas.  

What have companies tried and how did it work?

  • Less than half of the employees surveyed (44%) have received any formal conflict training. Belgium and France have the lowest level of workplace conflict training (28% and 27% respectively).
  • 27% of those receiving formal training said it helped them feel more comfortable and confident in handling a conflict situation. Confidence is one of the biggest predictors of success (which is why our trainers use NEOS to measure changes in self-efficacy for their conflict communication training programs).
  • The most frequent positive outcomes of training were better understanding of others, improved work relationships, and finding a better solution to a problem.
  • 39% said training provided no help at all. We concur with the researchers that many conflict-communication training programs do not target the right issues and skills, especially personality differences and communication skills.
  • Conflict can generate positive outcomes. Three quarters (76%) of respondents had seen conflict lead to something positive.

In a nutshell

  • Conflict is costly.
  • Personality and ego clashes are the top cause.
  • Everyone is responsible.
  • Coaching and mentoring through daily conversations is the key to improvement.
  • Conflict can be positive and requires targeted training at all levels of an organization.  

Best Practices

Companies will make the most gains around workplace conflict by following these guidelines;

  1. Implement formal training targeted on understanding and communicating with different personalities.
  2. Focus not just on individual competencies, but skills to coach, facilitate, and mentor others during difficult conversations.
  3. Adopt a pro-active approach that recognizes conflict is inevitable, and is a source of energy for positive outcomes.

 Train these Core Competencies

Search for training programs that assess, develop, and measure these competencies:

  1. Self-awareness and recognition of positive and negative conflict in self and others.
  2. Awareness of personality, communication, and motivational differences in self and others.
  3. Ability to assess and respond to individual differences in and out of conflict.
  4. Ability to lead self and others out of drama and into positive conflict conversations.

About Dr. Nate Regier
Dr. Nate Regier is the co-founding owner and chief executive officer of Next Element, a global advisory firm specializing in building cultures of compassionate accountability. A former practicing psychologist, Regier is an expert in social-emotional intelligence and leadership, positive conflict, mind-body-spirit health, neuropsychology, group dynamics, interpersonal and leadership communication, executive assessment and coaching, organizational development, team building and change management. An international adviser, he is a certified Leading Out of Drama master trainer, Process Communication Model® certifying master trainer and co-developer of Next Element’s Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching. Nate has published two books: Beyond Drama and his latest work, Conflict without Casualties.