Sunday, June 22, 2008

Understanding the 80/20 Rule

Stop, Think, Reflect…

What is the biggest issue facing most teams to becoming successful?

What does it mean to ‘seek to understand before being understood’?

How does your ideology affect your conversations with others?

Why is rapport critical to creating relationships?

What is common among all of us?

How do you prefer to interact with others?

The components and complexities of understanding

If I do not want what you want, please try not to tell me that my want is wrong. Or if I believe other than you, at least pause before you correct my view. Or if my emotion is less than yours, or more, given the same circumstances, try not to ask me to feel more strongly or weakly. Or yet if I act, or fail to act, in the manner of your design for action, let me be. I do not, for the moment at least, ask you to understand me. That will come only when you are willing to give up changing me into a copy of you.
Please Understand Me II, David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, page 1

Many times during assessing and discovering the “pinch-points” of a team’s performance, poor communications appears as a major issue.

Communications is a subset of understanding. All behavior is communication. Body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and even seat selection at a meeting table are all forms of communication. Communications involves channels, patterns and connections. Communications uses tools.

Understanding is a process and capacity for clear thinking. Understanding becomes a condition and requires empathy. Understanding is a lifestyle.

Eighty percent of what we are, how we function and behave is similar and common among all of us. Human blood can be transfused to any other human being of the same blood type whether black, white, red, yellow, young, old, male, female, straight, gay, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, American and Chinese. Every human being feels and experiences pain at some threshold. Every human being has fear at some threshold.

Twenty percent of what we are, how we function and behave is in our individual preferences based upon nature, nurture and social constraints. Each of us perceives the world through our five senses as well as our intuition. Our threshold for sensitivity is unique for each of us. For some of us a hot bath is 88 degrees, for others the temperature had better be over 95 degrees.

It is important to know our own preferences so we can better understand other’s preferences and how we react to them. Do I prefer to work with people or to work alone? Do I prefer to analyze information through logic or impact on people? Do I prefer to be organized or spontaneous?

Our brains process incredible amounts of information. To keep us from going crazy we incorporate assumption (we assume fellow drivers will take turns at a four-way stop), selective listening (if working in a big city, one may tune-out the sounds of traffic) and distortion (a snake phobic may picture a snake many times larger than reality).

Each of us has communication preferences from our sensory system. Some of us prefer to communicate by what we “see.” Others of us prefer to communicate by what we “feel.” Still others of us prefer to communicate by what we “hear.” To better understand others, it is important to push the personal pause button and try to tune-in to his/her communication style. By pausing, you suspend assumptions, selective listening and distortion by asking critical questions leading to better understanding.

Multi-tasking causes many misunderstandings and fosters poor communications. In a multi-tasking situation (e.g. laptop or Blackberry open and on during a meeting) people speaking do not get full attention. Words are not heard, body language is not seen and the emotion of the speaker is not felt.

Another cause of misunderstanding comes from the use of abstract words (buzzwords) like empowerment, coterminosity, and stakeholders. Business acronyms like SWAT, SKU and ROI can cause a breach in understanding. Many times, we assume others know the meaning of these words and acronyms as well as how these are being used. Buzzwords tend to be over-used thus tuned-out due to selective listening. Have you ever played Buzzword Bingo at a meeting?

To better understand

- Suspend judgment and assumptions and ask better questions. If a co-worker says, “This team does not respect me!” Respond, “Who does not respect you?” Another response might be, “What if you asked yourself, ‘Who don’t I respect on this team?’”
- Avoid micromanagement. Un-micromanaged people are more trusting, more open and less fearful.
- Fully listen. Do not share your story, thoughts or ideas until you fully understand the other person. Practice asking questions for clarity. Great talkers are great listeners.
- Avoid criticism. Criticism builds walls. Focus on what is going well. Build on the positive. Praise builds bridges.

Experience Understanding

Create a “doodle” as pictured to the left. The “doodle” can be created in such a way that when it is pulled apart the out come has no knots or has knots.

People gather around the “doodle” and individually “noodle” on the outcome. Contact with the "doodle" is not allowed. If the individual believes the outcome will be knot(s), then they stand on the right. If the individual believes the outcome will be straight, stand on the left. No fence straddling!Once people have made a decision, one person from each side meets to form a pair and discuss why each believes in the outcome. Not only listen to the words, listen for tone of voice, watch body language and watch eye movement. After pairs discuss, people move back to belief out come positions.

Before the facilitator pulls the “doodle” apart slowly from both ends, tell all participants that anytime during he process of pulling the “doodle” apart, individuals who believe in a different outcome may move to a different position.

After the “doodle” is pulled apart and reveals the final outcome – knots or no knots, there are several critical questions to ask. First, why did people choose to stand where they did before the “doodle” was pulled apart? Did the paired discussion change your thinking and position? Second, did people move as the “doodle” came apart and why? Third, did people stand firm even though the outcome was completely the opposite of their decision at the beginning? Why? How did people who were on the correct outcome side treat those who remained on the wrong outcome side? How does this initiative connect back to work, meetings, brainstorming sessions, problem-solving and significant others?

Suggested Reading

Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, 1998, ISBN-10: 1885705026

Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People by Joseph O'Connor and John Seymour, 1993, ISBN-10: 1855383446

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, 2002, ISBN-10: 0071401946

Six Thinking Hats by Edward DeBono, 1999, ISBN-10: 0316178314

egonomics: What Makes Ego Our Greatest Asset (or Most Expensive Liability) by David Marcum and Steven Smith, 2007, ISBN-10 1416533230

True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society By Farhad Manjoo, 2008, ISBN-10: 0470050101

Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, 2005, ISBN: 978-0-385-72170-7

Suggested Movies

Abilene Paradox (2nd Edition) – see (1984) “The in ability to manage agreement, not internal conflict, is the most pressing issue facing modern organizations.” Dr. Jerry Harvey

Changing Lanes – (2002) – “Whatever drama you've gotten yourself into, it's just the kind of thing that always happens to you. And it never happens to me unless I am in your field of gravity.”

Crash – see - (2005) – “It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert, May 7, 1950 – June 13, 2008

I read Tim Russert’s book, Big Russ and Me, in the summer of 2004. His book touched me as I recalled many memories of my own father including his sacrifices, his courage, his accountability and his enduring love for his wife, children, family and friends. I wrote a book summary reflecting on similarities and differences between Big Russ and my father. I emailed the summary to Russert expecting nothing and received more than I could ever imagine including a personal thank you!

I got an email from Bill Novak, Russert’s associate, explaining how many others were moved by Russert's writing and how many had shared stories of their own father’s. Novak invited me to be a part of Russert’s new book, Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons.

Apparently, what caught the attention of Russert and Novak in my summary of Big Russ and Me were my father’s inspirational quotes. Novak asked if I could find a picture of my father and me when I was young and send it to them. They wanted to use the picture and one of my father’s favorite quotes in the new book under the chapter, Honor.

With the help of my mother, I sent an old black and white photo taken back in the mid fifties of my father and me. That photo is on page 35 of Wisdom of our Fathers along with my one my father’s favorite quotes, 'He who stands for nothing will fall for anything.'

In return for sharing this photo and quote, Russert sent me a personal note and autographed copy of the book. I consider the book an “artifact” and I use it with groups when I facilitate the initiative, Meet My Artifact. In fact, I had just shared it with a group I was facilitating this past Thursday evening, June 12.

Tim Russert was one of the few news people I trusted. Spin was not part of his questioning or delivery. He treated interviewees with dignity and respect, a reflection of his humility exemplified by upbringing. For me, Tim Russert made sense and connected-the-dots of the news and news-makers.

In Big Russ and Me, he wrote about visiting Pope John Paul II. Outside the Pope’s apartment was a plaque with the Pope’s motto, a Latin phrase, Totus Tuus – translated “totally yours.” I believe this motto also fits Tim Russert.

Tim Russert’s wife, Maureen Orth, has lost a wonderful partner. Tim Russert’s son, Luke, has lost his father. Big Russ has lost his son. NBC lost a wonderful anchor and staff member. The nation has lost a trusted patriot. I have lost a friend who made a difference in my life.