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Workplace Playbook II Connect

CONNECT is a system in how to think when communicating in the workplace. It programs you to gain the respect of peers, superiors, and subordinates.

Module 7: Walking on Eggs

Skillstation


The Workplace Playbook

Copyright 2010, Ara Bouloutian. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be photocopied, reproduced, or translated into another language without the prior written consent of the author.

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Walking on Eggs

THE SCOREBOARD CONNECT Pre Game Breakdowns Minimizing The Process Tool Box Managing Conflict Walking On Eggs Common Tasks Playing the Game End Game

Copyright 2010 Ara Bouloutian. All rights reserved.

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Walking on Eggs

WALKING ON EGGS Frequently people may want to tackle an erroneous point of view but will not for a variety of organizational reasons, usually because the other person is a superior and there may be fear of the consequences. Now the question is how do we handle this situation without creating serious relationship problems. On the other hand, if nothing is said what will be the consequences affecting everyone? The problem is, the more serious the issue, the more important it is, which means the consequences will be significant and like it or not, something needs to be said. This section provides an exercise with some thought provoking questions to help in these delicate situations.

"A man's intelligence does not increase as he acquires power. What does increase is the difficulty of telling him so. " -- D. Sutton -Most of the information and thinking in this section is from Chris Argyris‘ work, Overcoming Organizational Defenses--Facilitating Organizational Learning. Allyn and Bacon, 1990. And from the work of Rob McNeil, a Corporate Consultant.

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ORGANIZATIONAL PLANS THAT FAILED We‘ll start with the bottom line...performance. Have you ever asked yourself why performance doesn‘t improve even when certain the root causes have been identified and action has been taken? Here are some real examples. EXAMPLE 1: A volunteer organization spends a lot of money to help clarify their vision and improve processes. The initial work is done with a consultant. The follow up work is not addressed. Result: the organization has minimal gains. A few years later another consultant, is engaged with the same poor results. CONCLUSION: The volunteer organization was sure they could improve their work processes and their performance. RESULTS: Continued poor performance.

EXAMPLE 2: A company does a climate survey and receives an incredible amount of feedback, which would enable the company to address its morale issues. A team of high-level managers is given the responsibility to disseminate the information and implement solutions. The departments get their results and six months later, not one solution has been implemented. CONCLUSION: The climate survey indicated a clear direction. RESULTS: Continued poor performance.

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EXAMPLE 3: Two employees in different departments are unable to work together effectively. They have a history of petty infighting, competition and formal communication. Their problem gets bumped to their managers‘. A meeting is held where all parties agree to work cooperatively. The end result is, the employees meet less often and have less communication. Cycle time is not reduced, in fact, increases. Neither manager is willing to address the issue. CONCLUSION: The managers of the employees held what each thought to be a very effective meeting. RESULTS: Continued poor performance.

EXAMPLE 4: How is it that potential problems with the breast implants produced by Dow Chemical were known, but the people involved were afraid to confront the issue? Result: $11 billion lawsuit. CONCLUSION: How could Dow Chemical‘s research not have known about such a huge deficiency? RESULTS: Continued poor performance.

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EXAMPLE 5: How is it possible the engineers responsible for getting the Challenger to fly knew beyond a doubt that the O-rings would not operate effectively in cold weather and cause a disaster? Explain it in light of the fact that the primary concern of their organization is the safety of astronauts. How is it possible the ―can do‖ attitude at NASA led everyone to become focused on operational objectives only? Explain it, considering the disaster occurred after new safety and control measures were instituted to prevent such an occurrence. CONCLUSION: NASA‘s event tracking system is known to be legendary. RESULTS: Continued poor performance. In the examples, the ideas from the best performance management theorists were implemented, and yet they failed. Think about seemingly good plans that failed within your organization and consider why they failed. Finally, if you knew the reasons before implementation, why didn‘t you or someone speak up? Or, if you did not know, did others know? If they did, why didn‘t they raise the issues?

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Here is a theory describing what may have prevented successful performance in the examples. Common to all the examples is the concept of ―Defensive Routine‖. Strangely enough, these routines usually end up producing results that neither party wants. Chris Argyris says Defensive Routines involve shaking off criticism as ―it‘s not our fault.‖ New or opposite points of view are discouraged. The organization becomes geared toward protecting itself through cover ups and the covering up of cover ups. Misunderstandings escalate. Prophecies become self-fulfilling. Defensive Routines and the related behaviors are played out very skillfully. In fact the term ―routine‖ is used because the behavior happens so fast it is difficult for people to discover they are acting to prevent themselves from learning and changing. People are not conscious of how their actions produce results neither party wants. Defensive routines are based on a model of communication that seems reasonable - ―seemed to make sense at the time‖. This makes it difficult for either party to question ones actions and is easier to blame the issues on someone else.

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Here is another related example: Ellen, the managing partner of a medium sized radiology practice, spends little time with patients these days. Most of her time is spent on administrative matters and growing the practice. However, she still does a full share of ―on call work‖. She takes calls because early in the practice the partners decided that taking a rotation on the night shift was a requirement to share fully in the profits. Her skills are no longer sharp because she has not kept current. She makes mistakes, which are sometimes serious. She has committed several blunders that have been ―covered up‖ by others. Her partners will not confront her for a number of reasons: they don‘t want to hurt her feelings, they fear her retribution, they like her, they fear she can‘t handle the feedback, they don‘t want to take on her night work, and so on. As a result, they do not confront her. In fact, they assist in covering up her mistakes. And then they cover up the cover up. In the example, the partners‘ behaviors are based on self-repeating defensive routines. Referring physicians will not refer cases when she is on call. Everyone has the data, and knows what is going on, and yet no one confronts the issue. In this situation, the defensive routines prevent Ellen from learning about the consequences of her behavior and from learning how to change a potentially life threatening process. Performance is lower than standard and unable to be improved.

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This kind of behavior is also referred to as the creation of ―Undiscussables‖ Ellen‘s competence is undiscussable, her effect in the practice is undiscussable, and the undiscussables are undiscussable! This entire discussion on defensive routines can be reasoned to be all about ―fear‖; fear of change, fear of losing a job, fear of what someone will say, fear of being rebuffed, fear of being attacked, and all in all the fear of facing up to the everyday realities of life. In all jobs from top to bottom, people fall into comfort zones and anything interrupting that zone produces enough fear to cause people to avoid confrontation, even when the outcome would make life better. It‘s the few who speak up that can make a big difference.

"It is better to risk being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in listlessness for fear of what might happen." —Herodotus— Greek Historian (485-425BC)

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Walking on Eggs PLAYING THE GAME

Here is an exercise for illustrating how difficult it can be to achieve gains in performance in difficult situations. Complete items 1 and 2 below. When completing the items, select a problem that is close to you. It should be something you faced in the recent past. Give special attention to item 2, identifying the strategy to be used. 1. In one paragraph, describe a key organizational problem as you see it.

2. Assume you could talk to whomever you wish, as a way to solve the problem. Describe in a paragraph or so, the strategy you would use in this meeting.

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When finished with the prior two items complete the right hand column on next page. Write a blow-by-blow dialogue of the conversation you would have with the person you selected and described on prior page. Write how you would begin meeting; what you would actually say. Then write his/her response to your statement(s). Next write your follow up response – as if writing the dialogue to a play. Continue writing this scenario for about two pages, or whatever you like. IMPORTANT! Be very, very honest as you write the dialog. Write what you would ACTUALLY say, NOT what you would really like to say, but won‘t or can‘t. Otherwise the exercise will be entirely useless. As you complete each set or more of ‗you said‘ ‗I said‘ statements of what you would actually say in the right hand column, look at it (or them) and ask yourself, ―Is this what I really would like to say?‖ If the answer is ‗yes‖, continue writing going down right hand side. If your answer is ‗no‘, then stop to think about what you would really like to say in the interest of total honesty but won‘t, regardless of your reason for not doing so, and then write exactly that in left hand column. Continue the process down the right hand column creating your ‗you said‘ ‗he said‘ dialogue with the person. Whenever what you would really like to say is different from what you actually wrote in the right hand column, write those very thoughts in the left hand column (across from what you wrote on the right). Continue using the left and right-hand columns to capture the differences between what you would say and what you would like to say, but won‘t. START YOUR SCRIPTING.

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WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY

WHAT YOU WOULD SAY YOU S/HE:

YOU

S/HE:

YOU S/HE:

YOU

S/HE:

YOU S/HE:

YOU S/HE

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WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SAY

WHAT YOU WOULD SAY YOU

S/HE: YOU

S/HE:

YOU

S/HE: YOU

S/HE:

YOU

S/HE: YOU S/HE

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CONTINUE BELOW WHEN FINISHED WITH SCRIPTING If you are doing this exercise with others and feel uncomfortable sharing what you wrote in the left column it can be a sign of a defensive routine. If so, have no fear; everyone is defensive from time to time. Think about your thoughts in the left column—the things you would not or could not say. Study your comments carefully. Within those comments are the answers to solving the problem(s). Consider these questions: Why do the results in the left hand column exist so universally? What purpose could it be serving? Why is it so prevalent? Why are people willing to engage in such self-defeating activity? As it turns out, people seldom seek or value direct feedback even though they may say they do. Most people have difficulty being direct, particularly within an organization. Defensive Routines are part of a Defensive Mindset, which is learned over time and prevents people from dealing with the truth. It is an old system of communications based on self-preservation -- control and protecting ones turf. NOTE: It should be noted that ―being direct‖ should not be confused with someone who might be direct but unabashedly rude and/or crude.

“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant." -- Horace (65-8 BC) Roman Poet --

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PRODUCTIVE & DEFENSIVE MINDSETS Chris Argyris says there are two dominant mindsets in the world of business or anyplace for that matter — a productive mindset and defensive mindset. Productive Mindset Seek out open conversations to understand what one is thinking in the interest of seeking valid knowledge. Conversation is crafted in such a way so the validity of one‘s claims can be tested. Truth is fundamental to managing others. Defensive Mindset Seek out valid knowledge, but only if the knowledge protects oneself, the organization or department. This is a defensive mindset. From a defensive mindset point of view, truth is a good idea when it isn't threatening. If it is threatening, massage it. But if you do massage it and spin it, you're violating the theory of good management. When spinning, there is need to cover up the spinning. And for a cover up to work, it too has to be covered up. The Defensive Mindset is one characteristic behind what are referred to as corporate silos.

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." -- Sir Winston Churchill --

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THE DEFENSIVE MINDSET Here is how the Defensive Mindset thinks. It is a universal model and applies to all cultures. It is based on competition and results in collusion, dependency, paternalism, low trust and high defensiveness.

DEFENSIVE MINDSET CHARACTERISTICS I feel the need to compete with others in conversation. I seek to win in conversations with others - in fact, I prize it. In my communication, I express myself positively. I smile, look cheerful even though I may not feel that way. I do not let others know if I am feeling down. I make rational arguments. I appeal to reason. I use linear thinking in my conversations with others. I reward agreeing with my way of thinking and praise others subtly or outwardly when they agree with me. I equate agreement with respect and respect those who agree with me. I tend to agree with those who respect me (meaning, I agree with those who agree with me). I assume strength equals accomplishment. I never appear weak or vulnerable. I avoid situations, which might compromise these assumptions. 17


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PRODUCTIVE MINDSET In comparison, here is how the Productive Mindset thinks.

PRODUCTIVE MINDSET CHARACTERISTICS I seek valid information. I value creating choices and I prize this behavior in others. I test my and other‘s assumptions and expect them to test mine. Commitment means creating choices, taking actions and monitoring accountability. I ask hard questions and encourage others to confront me, themselves, and the system. I seek out and value individual and organizational feedback. I encourage inquiry into my thoughts and actions, and the reasons behind them. I try to say what needs to be said and discuss the undiscussables. 18


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Walking on Eggs COMPARING SOCIAL VALUES

DEFENSIVE MINDSET VALUES

PRODUCTIVE MINDSET VALUES

HELP AND SUPPORT Give approval and praise to others. Tell them what you think will make them feel good about themselves. Reduce feelings of hurt by telling them you care, and if possible, agree that others acted improperly.

HELP AND SUPPORT Increase the others‘ capacity to confront their own ideas, to create a window into their own mind, and to face their unsurfaced assumptions, biases, and fears by acting in these ways toward other people.

RESPECT FOR OTHERS Defer to others and do not confront their reasoning or actions.

RESPECT FOR OTHERS Attribute to others a high capacity for self-reflection and examination without becoming so upset they lose effectiveness and sense of responsibility and choice. Keep testing this attribution openly.

STRENGTH Advocate your position in order to win. Hold your position in face of strong advocacy. Feeling vulnerable is a sign of weakness.

STRENGTH Advocate your position and combine it with inquiry and self-reflection. Feeling vulnerable while encouraging inquiry is a sign of strength.

HONESTY Tell no lies. Tell others all you think and feel.

HONESTY Say what needs to be said and encourage others to do the same. Minimize what would otherwise be subject to distortion and the cover up of the distortion.

INTEGRITY Stick to your principles, values and beliefs.

INTEGRITY Advocate your principles, values and beliefs in a way that invites inquiry into them and encourages other people to do the same.

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RESOLUTIONS Now that you experienced the exercise and the Defensive and Productive Mindset personalities, you might review the two-column exercise again and focus on your remarks in the left hand column. Hopefully you were up front and clear with your remarks. See if you can improve them using the communication tools. You should be able to say exactly what you want to say without offending. The person may feel some pain because your remarks mean some change is necessary. But chances of being rebuffed should be minimal because you will have presented your thoughts in a rational and helping way. The objective of the tools in your Connect tool-box is attaining ―good chemistry‖. The better the chemistry between people the better the honesty, which means the better the chances of ―constructive push backs‖, which protects you and others from making serious errors in judgment.

"A 'no' uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble." --Mahatma Gandhi

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REVIEW In your own words, describe the essential differences between the Defensive and Productive Mindset communication styles. ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ Considering that the ability to change and adapt is one of the most difficult things for people to do, can you change to the Productive Mindset way of communicating? If you said ―yes‖, make a list or check off those parts of the Productive Mindset you can accept and practice. ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ Make notes of any parts that might be difficult to accept and practice. ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________

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TAKING ACTION If you agree the Productive Mindset will help improve conditions, create a contract with yourself to discuss the undiscussables (the left column) based on the Productive Mindset with the person in the two column exercise. Prepare yourself by focusing on the barriers standing between you and the Productive Mindset. It‘s these barriers that keep you from producing change. Consider taking one part of the Productive Mindset model and use it every day. Keep practicing until you feel comfortable. Then select another one and follow the same process. In time the Productive Mindset will become part of your nature. Once you feel comfortable, meet with the person from the left hand column exercise and express your views using all the skills in your arsenal. If you can do this you will be another step forward in your personal fitness program for winning in the workplace.

"Nothing lowers the level of conversation more than raising the voice." —Stanley Horowitz—

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THE SCOREBOARD CONNECT Pre Game Breakdowns Minimizing The Process Tool Box Managing Conflict Walking On Eggs Common Tasks Playing the Game End Game

"If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably leads nowhere." —Frank A Clark— Author

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End of Walking On Eggs

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