February 21, 2018

Stating the position or actually addressing the issue?

Four business people in a discussionIt could be that I’m noticing this more for reasons that are particular to me. That said…

It seems to have become more and more common for representatives of some corporate bodies and local and national government to respond to a new question or challenge with a flat assertion of the current position or policy, failing completely to address the issue raised by the stakeholder.

For example, I saw a news report about the case for some individuals in a certain age range and category to be screened for asbestos-related diseases because it would potentially improve outcomes. The official response stated that the relevant advisory authority hadn’t recommended it, therefore, nothing needs to be done. Meanwhile, if you have symptoms, go to your doctor (and hope it isn’t already too late)… matter closed.

I could quote other examples.

I think we’ve got rather too good at this.

It might be a successful short-term defence from the organisation’s point of view but it’s very costly in terms of longer-term goodwill. The disrespect involved is very damaging to the relationship “capital.” No wonder we don’t trust organisations and governments much.

How do you see this?

And is it a mode you employ?

It’s rather easy to dead bat something… Harder to address the issue, though much more commanding of respect.

Enabling learning—it’s all about the egos

Group of professional peopleRead the literature on organizational learning and you’ll find convincing descriptions of how fear or embarrassment impedes learning by individuals and teams. When something doesn’t turn out as expected, it’s a very human reaction to seek to cover up the failing—to step past it somehow—and then cover up that we’ve done that.

Repeat the process a few times and we enter the territory of what some people “skilled incompetence,” artful ways of consistently protecting ourselves from threat at the expense of inhibiting our learning. (This is Chris Argyris country.) Sure we might really be in danger, but usually, we overdo the fear and the embarrassment beyond the likely consequences.

In short…

Our egos make us defensive and get in the way of our learning. Now, we need our egos, because if we didn’t have them, we couldn’t function.

But they need managed…

Much of the literature advocates process approaches to overcoming these difficulties i.e. thinking head stuff—clever intellectual and conversational techniques to address the problem.

Really there’s an easier way…

Get the human connection right with your team and you’ll assuage the egos and neutralize the fear and embarrassment, thus enabling the learning they truly need.

Get the humanity right with yourself and you’ll sooth your own ego, and let in the learning you truly need.