December 13, 2017

Fear

Three people in a meetingFear is an inhibitor, for the most part—an inhibitor of evolution and innovation. Sure, sometimes a bit of a fright helps us get moving, but if we’re too scared to take risks, we can’t develop.

So…

If fear is part of the climate you create, you might get higher productivity but you won’t get innovation. You’ll need to make those calls about direction and strategy yourself—quite a responsibility really.

Might be better to create a climate of trust, and, yes, high expectations, but not pervasive insecurity, not unless you want to shoulder the whole leadership burden yourself.

The more fear you create, the more you’re in sole charge (for a time), and the more you’re alone.

Bullying in the workplace – often due to weak relationship skills?

The onlookers hold their breath…

Frank has worked in the organization for years. He’s just queried the young, new manager’s request to undertake a task in a particular way. Frank doesn’t think it’s the most effective approach. In fact, he doubts it’ll work at all. The rest of the team knows there’s going to be an explosion and every one of them is suddenly engrossed in something else entirely.

The manager practically screams at Frank, “Do what I say or I’ll have you fired!” Frank controls himself with difficulty and sets off to do as he is bid, telling himself that’s the last time he’ll try and keep the boss out of trouble. Who was right? Who knows?

We’ve probably all seen it – perhaps even been guilty of it ourselves – shouting at somebody to get something done when we can’t cope with their reactions to what we say.

We call this bullying, usually.

Interventions tend to focus on eliminating the behavior, but that’s generally not an effective approach. We need to displace the problem behavior with something that is wanted instead.

As Robert Dilts says in one of his books, it’s better to respond to the positive intention behind a behavior rather than the behavior itself. The positive intention of the “bully” is usually to achieve an outcome that is wanted by all or at least most, but they don’t have the ability to handle relationships in a resourceful enough way in extreme situations. Few set out for work planning who they’ll be unpleasant to today. The problem stems from a lack of skill in dealing with people.

So to eliminate bullying, work on relationship skills, would be my suggestion.

What about you? How do you deal with bullying behavior in your organization? How many perpetrators are just simply uncaring and how many “lose it” because they run out of skills to deal with challenges resourcefully?

(May you outwit the bully wherever he or she may be found.)

Is our instinctive, defensive response to competition the right one?

When the going gets tough, when markets contract, when budgets decline, when promotion is rare, our instinctive response is to retreat and defend what we have. Parts of our brain that kept us alive in a more dangerous world respond vigorously to the threats we perceive. They compel us to withdraw from any circumstance where we could be vulnerable, such as a situation where we share our knowledge and resources in collaborating with another.

This response to threat can be so strong it’s barely a conscious process at all. The strength of our defensive reaction leaves us with a certainty that it’s unquestionably the right one.

But is it? Does our hasty retreat from collaboration serve us?

Perhaps the most effective response to scarcity and threat is the exact opposite, to collaborate, to share what we have, to form new teams, to focus on our strengths, and allow others to do on our behalf what they do best, even though that requires sacrifice. Then the whole may succeed on the bigger stage and our individual outcome may be better than if we’d acted alone.

Suppose it does serve us to collaborate: How do we make this happen? How do we take our people along with us?

One key is articulating a compelling future so that the long term gain seems worth the short term pain.

We need high levels of integrity and to seek that quality in others. To be trusted and so involved in the best opportunities, we need to be seen as a mature and honest collaborator.

We need the skills to work intelligently with the interests and values of all and balance these to optimise the whole for the ultimate gain of all.

Are our defensive responses to increased competition with colleagues, other departments, other organizations, other countries, the responses that should guide us? Or are we better to resist our primitive instincts and collaborate rather than defend? And if so, how?

How do you respond to competition?

“Flexibility and weakness are completely different” – Aung San Suu Kyi

“A steel wire is strong because it is flexible; a glass rod is rigid but may shatter.” Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised alternately for being too flexible and too rigid, but her continuing appeal and influence suggests she has the balance right.

She has not achieved her objective, you may protest. What is her objective though? If it is peaceful change without bloodshed and saving the people of Burma from great violence, perhaps she is succeeding. Meanwhile, note the Burmese general’s fear in the face of a slight 65-year old woman of integrity.

What is the source of Aung San Suu Kyi’s peaceful power?

Picture of Aung San Suu KyiHow is it that the Burmese generals with access to so much military might fear Aung San Suu Kyi – a slight 65-year woman? OK, so their fear has diminished enough for her to be released, for the moment anyway, but still she enjoys tremendous popular support at home and abroad. Why?

And how is this relevant to the more mundane?

Joseph Jaworski has something to say about this in his book Synchronicity, where he quotes Francisco Varela (coauthor of The Tree of Knowledge and The Embodied Mind) in talking of “a commitment that can only come from someone who has changed his (or her) stance from resignation to possibility. We need to learn how to internalize that capacity.” Varela went on: “When we are in touch with our ‘open nature’, our emptiness, we exert an enormous attraction to other human beings. There is great magnetism in that state of being which has been called ‘authentic presence’.”

Jaworski adds that Varela warned “There is great danger if we consider these people to be exceptional. They are not. This state is available to us all.”

We frequently think of commitment as being to do with level of effort, about how much we do. Jaworski makes clear that he learned commitment is more about being – a choice of state.

So Aung San Suu Kyi’s authentic presence is as potent as the Burmese generals’ military might – a principle as relevant to the everyday as to the achievement of democracy in a benighted country.

As the comittee chairman for the Nobel Peace Prize said “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11685977.