February 24, 2018

Who’s more conflicted—us or them?

Man thinkingOne day he says one thing; the next another. He just doesn’t seem to “know his own mind.” If only he would stick to what he said.

Frustrating, but are we really any different?

It’s a curious thing…

We’re well aware of our own uncertainty about our choices. We know we compromise in the face of complex circumstances, often inconsistently. We know we can be conflicted about issues in our lives, and moreover that it’s a lifelong journey to work these out.

And yet…

We somehow imagine others will be clear in their own minds; that they will be congruent in their behavior, and that they will have sorted out their inner conflicts, despite the evidence of our own experience. Then we’re surprised when it turns out they aren’t.

What changes when you allow people in your world the same scope for inconsistency you experience within yourself?

How congruent do you think we really are, day-to-day, and are others more or less conflicted than you? What do you think?

Is individual learning enough to deliver organizational learning?

You’ve heard it before. You might even have said it yourself…

“Training doesn’t work.”


“When I get back to the workplace, I find it very hard to apply what I’ve learned.”

These can be opposite sides of the same coin – a disconnect between individual learning and organizational learning.

The thing is…

We can train as many individuals as we like in new skills, but if the organization doesn’t learn anything, the organization’s overall behavior and performance won’t change.

So what has to happen for an organization to learn?

Peter Senge, a leading authority in this area, would say there needs to be a shared vision of a compelling future; shared models and understanding of how things work; unbiased dialogue; an understanding of the systemic and dynamic nature of things (in which cause and effect may be separated in both time and space); and personal acceptance of both responsibility for outcomes and the need to improve personal performance, which he calls “personal mastery”.

In balder terms, the leaders of the organization need to go on a learning journey together and take a critical mass of the workforce along with them.

Peter’s prescription shows why “gaming” the system can be so damaging to progress because it makes learning by the organization and the wider enterprise impossible. His conditions are not met when players manipulate things for their own ends. Examples are all around.

He also says that the key enabler of the conditions for organizational learning is the quality of the relationships amongst the participants.

So you might like this reminder…

Take care to distinguish between individual learning and organizational learning. If you want the latter to occur, you might need to deliver more than just the former.

And you might like to apply your skill in relationships to the organizational learning on which we all depend.

How strong is the connection between individual learning and organizational learning in your world?

Personal reflections on relationship skills 1

The CEO (my boss) called me into his office. The room was airless, the atmosphere tense…

Hang on, I’d better explain:

I’ve decided to tell the story of how I got involved in the subject of interpersonal skills, and introduce the 12 Relationship Skills for Success, one at a time like on Twitter.

Let’s go back to 1999…

The story really begins then (or 1963). I was a program director with a UK government contractor, working on the formative stages of a major capital project – “ambiguous” and “jungle” don’t quite cover it. I was effective in the role, but… The shortfall wasn’t engineering or project expertise, or management or leadership; it was certain inadequacies in the way I handled relationships with bosses, partners, peers, other involved parties. I didn’t realise I was making mistakes, of course, (you don’t) and by the time people started telling me, it was really too late.

And so arose the meeting with the boss, and my particular interest in the skills we use with other people.

Over the weeks to come, I’ll tell you what the mistakes were and what happened next.

I’ve had the chance to learn some insightful approaches from great teachers – hard to convey the power if you’ve no experience of them: Powerful ways for getting teams and organisations (large and small) working together, increasing sales, and enjoying family life, all with comparative ease.

Our collective outcomes could be much better if we made more use of what’s available. Relationships and the ability to form them are often the missing piece. We tend to regard that as something we can’t work on, but that’s wrong. We can, with the right approach. The techniques are there, so why wouldn’t we use them? Not to is like going about in the dark when you could have switched on the lights. I can tell you: You bump into things.

Next time: What the boss said, and the first bit of learning.

(This post was first published as an email update from the LinkedIn Group: Relationship Skills for Professional, Business and Personal Success, which you can join here.)