Why do people go looking for evidence that supports their point of view?

Change in the workplace can take people out of their comfort zone and make them feel uncertain, powerless and, even, angry.

In this podcast, Rob and Ricky discuss why people look for evidence that supports their perception that change is difficult and undesirable. They also offer suggestions about how leaders and managers can help their teams to navigate and embrace change.

Resistance to change is a natural reaction in most of us. We like doing things the way we’ve always done them, and we don’t like having to learn something new or do something in a different way. It makes us feel like we’re not in control.

So when change is foisted upon us, we look for evidence that supports our deep-held belief that things were fine the way they were. We don’t like being made to accept someone else’s point of view and we want everyone to conform to our perception of the world. It’s classic ‘comfort blanket’ behaviour!

Change in the workplace is often viewed by employees as inconvenient and detrimental to their ability to carry out their job effectively. They’ve made that assumption and they go looking for proof to back it up.

Managers can address these concerns by helping their staff to see change as an opportunity. They can ask people to look for evidence by all means – but evidence that supports the positive outcomes of change. Explaining the reasons why things have changed can also be very effective: perhaps it has helped eradicate a problem, streamlined a system or opened up new opportunities. Usually change is about progress. Give people the answers they need. Explain how change might help them to do their job more effectively or simply. Show them the bigger picture.

By turning a problem-orientated mindset into a positive one, we can understand that change may mean different, but it doesn’t have to mean difficult or bad.

Why do some managers allow people to opt out of change?

Change can mean upheaval for everyone in a team. But why is it that, while some people engage and do their best, other people simply opt out and carry on as if nothing has happened?

In our latest podcast, Richard and Ricky discuss the reasons why these situations arise – and what can be done to tackle them.

There are several reasons why a manager would allow certain team members to opt out of change. It could be that the manager doesn’t have the skills to challenge the behaviour of the team members resisting change, or that the manager views this team member as a crucial player in the team and tackling them could reduce their productivity or even make them leave.

Whatever the reason, Richard and Ricky say allowing some people to get away with this creates a two-tier system, where some team members are allowed to do things in a way that other team members are not able to get away with.

So how do you tackle it?

Richard and Ricky discuss how to engage with resistant team members and get them to want to be part of the solution. Giving them some responsibility that will mean they have to behave in the right way and show those behaviours to others can be crucial, as Ricky describes through one of his own experiences.

They talk about sitting down with the person and talking through the reasons for the change, as well as their concerns. By unpicking their thinking and talking about the impact of their behaviour on the team, you can better understand their thought process and help them to see that they do need to engage with the plans.

If you can’t engage with them and they won’t change despite your efforts, you need to be clear about what that means – is this the right role for them? Even the highest achievers need to be team players, otherwise the benefit of their achievements can be undermined by the negative impact of their attitude.

Why do some people think that change can be bad for their career?

When workplace change is announced, some people assume it will mean their career progression is taken off course – but is that always the case?

In our podcast, Ricky and Richard discuss how combating your initial reaction can help you to embrace the opportunities that change presents and even use them to benefit your career.

Change often means uncertainty – what if the change that’s coming doesn’t match up to how you see your career mapping out? Perhaps you’re happy with where you are, or you know the steps you need to take to reach your career goal. Change may take you in a different direction and leave you feeling unsettled.

Fear of the unknown triggers an emotional reaction and can lead to soul-searching. But instead of allowing your emotions to take hold, Ricky and Richard discuss how you can take control of your reaction to what lies ahead. If you feel confident in your own ability and where your skills lie, you can find a way to have a positive impact.

Essentially, instead of seeing change as a threat, look at it as an opportunity.

Recognise that your initial reaction will be concern, which is only natural. Depending on the scale and nature of the change, you may feel shock or fear. Our brains are programmed to feel comfortable with the status quo and, when something disrupts that, we fear loss – losing colleagues, losing the type of work we’re used to and so on – rather than anticipating gain.

Ricky and Richard remind you to have an open mind to what is being proposed, rather than making negative assumptions and looking for evidence to back them up. Embrace the ways in which you can be part of the change and even benefit from it. The steps you need to take may not be the ones you imagined, but you can plan out new steps and even find a better goal than you had initially.

Why do some people think an emotional response will get them what they want?

Emotions are a normal part of change but in the workplace some people believe an emotional response will allow them to get their own way. In our podcast, Richard and Rob explore why this happens and how managers can respond when emotions are running high.

There are times in the workplace when some people think stamping their feet and shouting loud enough will get them what they want. In the podcast, Richard and Rob discuss how change can often trigger an emotional reaction and this is completely normal. In some cases, it can even be helpful as it may be a way of releasing the pressure people feel they are under.

They go onto explore how given time most people will arrive at a more considered and rationale response where they can start to make sense of the situation. Richard explains how it’s useful to get clarity about what is happening and to surround ourselves with people who are a positive influence. It’s helpful to recognise an emotional reaction as normal, write down everything that’s going through the mind and then question whether our perceptions are real. An emotional response might be triggered because our view of the future has been threatened and is different to our imagined version.

Rather than stewing in an emotional state, Richard and Rob examine how we should seek out answers to any questions and gain greater clarity about the situation. By bringing back a level of control, we can make plans, help to re-direct things and search for meaning.

The pair summarise their discussion by exploring how leaders and managers have an important role to play when it comes to being aware of other people’s behaviours and offering support.

Psychological Safety and Routine Thinking

In Transformation with a Capital T (McKinsey & Co) the article begins with the statement: “Companies must be prepared to tear themselves away from routine thinking and behaviour.”

This is a provocative way to open an article, but it’s an idea I can’t help agreeing with. What we like to ask is how and why. But first let’s focus on what:

What is routine thinking?
Routine thinking is based on regular procedures and is often set within the parameters of expected norms. There is a safety in routine thinking: if something has worked in the past, allow it to work in the future too.

The problem here comes in the question of progression. What can be enhanced when we are confined to our way, or our organisation’s way, of thinking.

How do we tear ourselves away from routine thinking?

Now it’s all too easy to create debate. Poke a few holes in a theory and see if it is robust enough to pad out the gaps. If we want to move away from routine thinking, what would be the exact opposite of the routine; how feasible would that be to do?

To carry out this line of questioning through each procedure you have would be impossibly long-winded and ultimately demotivating for your team. So, instead of interrogating a new way of thinking at a process-level, the mindset has to be adopted at an organizational, or team, level. If you are to unlock new thinking and new behaviours in your people, you need to create an environment in which your people can thrive and truly think and behave differently.

Why should we do this?

Simple answer: for efficiency and effectiveness.

Detailed answer: In their Case Study, Project Aristotle, Google sought the perfect formula for creating effective teams. Routine thinking might suggest that effective teams are the result of effective management and leadership. But the results of Project Aristotle showed something else. In their research, over 180 teams were studied but no patterns emerged. They extended their research to review the traditions, behavioural standards and unwritten rules that govern how the team functions.

As no two teams appeared alike, Project Aristotle uncovered that a team’s norms are unique to that particular team.  Something has been established within a team to make it different from themselves. I believe the key to norms is through an emotional connection, and this is echoed in Project Aristotle’s findings that psychological safety is an essential component of an effective team. Teams were found to perform well when certain conditions exist; interpersonal trust, mutual respect and comfortable being themselves.

Key evidence is in the way they allowed others to fail safely, there was respect for divergent opinions, there was freedom to question the choices of others in a supportive way, and they never undermined the trust. This meant that they could do away with routine thinking and rely on the trust of their colleagues.

My primary takeaway from the Google research is the need for psychological safety. Charles Duhigg explores this further in his enlightening book Smart Faster Better.

Can this be more than Silicon-Valley Fantasy?

When I reflect on my own experience, I have only ever felt psychological safety twice in my 30-year career, and they happened simultaneously.

I was part of two teams. I had my own team and was a member of a senior team.  We outperformed all expectations this particular year.  Morale within my team was immense and that gave us a feeling of safety to encourage our colleagues to continue outperforming expectations.. We were unaware, however, of the merger talks happening at the same time.  After the merger was announced, I spoke to a board member about the decision. They spoke ruefully of our success, that “if we knew then how you were going to perform this year, we would never have agreed to merge”.

The psychological safety felt quickly turned illusory, and I wonder now how I would’ve felt if that year we plodded along in our routine thinking; would we have been more accepting of the merger? Was the news devastating in contrast to the high team spirit?

As leaders, there is an interesting choice

…do you:

  • Break the mould and create an environment where people can take a chance, fail safely, learn then grow on the back of it?
  • Accept the safety in routine thinking, play it safe but miss out on potential innovation?

Do you know leaders who sit somewhere between the two? Those who say that they are up for the challenge but revert to type at the first signs of trouble?

It is difficult to embed a different way of thinking to your working life. But to establish an environment of psychological safety offers Googleable advantage.

I accept this is simplistic but business today runs at such a pace. You only have to look at the media to see failure in businesses, large and small. Leaders make commitments to stakeholders on best information available that means results are then demanded. We look to blame others for failures which are then punished and, worse, the opportunity to learn is missed. When you add to this personal agenda and vested interest is it any wonder that performance and people suffer? However well intentioned leaders might be, when it all hits the fan, they revert to type to get stuff done. It is this behaviour that undermines psychological safety and essentially leads to any business running with the handbreak on. People hold back.

When faced with the pressures of today, it takes a brave (or clever) leader to tear themselves away from routine thinking and behaviour.

If you’d like to explore psychological safety in your organisation let’s have a conversation. Email me at ricky.muddimer@thinkingfocus.com and we’ll arrange a time to chat.

 

So, what’s holding YOU back?

In May 2016, my world turned upside down.  The business I worked for collapsed financially leaving 19 people and me out of work.

Left with little option and no job to go to, three of my colleagues and I set up Thinking Focus.  Now, eighteen months on, I can’t tell you what a blast we are having.

We work all over the globe with our clients to change their world for the better; we turn light bulbs on, we get such satisfaction knowing that we play a small part in their success.

The thing is though, what was it that stopped me from doing it sooner?  I can come up with a whole host of reasons or excuses, some circumstantial, such as a young family, maybe a lack of confidence, comfortable in the corporate world, a need for security but in short, I didn’t have the kahunas!

I recently listened to a podcast; it’s by NPR and a series called How I Built This.  A series of inspiring stories from entrepreneurs and how they turned their business idea into hugely successful businesses.  One episode, in particular, really resonated with us. Jim Koch, co-founder and Chairman of the Boston Beer Company, explains how he left his uninspiring cushy corporate job and went on to help kickstart the craft beer movement in America.  Jim shares his mindset behind a pivotal decision which most people saw as a high-risk decision.

Jim uses a lens of scary versus dangerous; he uses a climbing analogy to explain as he contrasts them; scary is when you repel from a cliff, but the fact you are secured with a belay rope which can hold a car doesn’t make it dangerous.  He then compares that to walking over a 35° snowfield in late May where the melting snow could easily cause an avalanche – not scary but highly dangerous.  He sums up by saying that not leaving his corporate job was dangerous, the risk of looking back at retirement, having spent that time doing something that made him unhappy, that sense of OMG, I have wasted my life was to Jim, the most dangerous of all.  I wish I’d spoken to Jim earlier in my career, but hey, I am now doing what I love!

Jim’s story inspired us to develop our Scary or Dangerous model.  Our clients find it useful when making decisions, they can qualify their understanding behind their hesitation.

scary dangerous

We use it too. We ask ourselves the same questions when we are hesitant about a key decision.

Comfort Zone

  • Does this feel scary or dangerous, if neither, we are likely to be in our comfort zone, where’s the fun and opportunity in that?

Reckless Zone

  • What is the level of risk, really? This is a test of delusion, we will know in our heart of hearts the level of risk, are we equipped to do this; do we have (or can we get) the funds, the knowledge and/or skills? If in doubt get a second or third opinion.  Are we in the reckless zone?

Crazy Zone

  • What level of discomfort are we feeling about this, is this both scary and dangerous? If so, we need to calibrate this in some way to reduce the discomfort.  You are officially crazy!

Growth Zone

  • Does this offer opportunity to develop and move forward, it may feel scary but is it dangerous, a little scary is good, it means we try and test to understand our limits to build confidence and accelerate.

Another year is almost complete and if you, like me, use this time of year to reflect on your year and think about where you’re headed, do you feel a sense of clarity, fulfilment and excitement or are you caught in that scary versus dangerous dilemma holding you back from what you really, really want to be doing?

Now imagine you are about to retire, go ahead, ask yourself the killer question; did I do what really makes me happy?  If not, you get a do-over to make the change but do it, you won’t regret it!

 

 

Why do some people think that if they ignore change it will go away?

 

Some people don’t like change but ignoring it won’t make life any easier.

In our podcast, Rob and Rich discuss how it’s possible to deal with change in a positive way.

When it comes to change, it’s common for people to pretend it’s not happening and carry on regardless. In the podcast, Rob and Rich discuss how change can be uncomfortable and disconcerting but it’s often the uncertainty of the situation that is the route of the problem.

Asking ourselves if we see change as a negative or as an opportunity can help. Rob explains if you find yourself in a position where change is afoot, the best approach is to try to separate fact from fiction. We should aim to discover the facts to achieve greater understanding and certainty. Getting the right information and clarification in a proactive way is important. After all, uncertainty really means that we have questions on our minds which need to be answered.

Rob and Rich go onto explore the role leaders have to play in an organisation. Many people are naturally unsettled by change and it’s possible to support them by asking the right questions. Consideration needs to be given to communicating the right information in the right way and repeating it a number of times if necessary.

The pair conclude their discussion by looking at how we can try to achieve a mind shift when the issue of change arises. Essentially, the key is to embrace the opportunities change can bring rather than focusing on the negative aspects.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

Isn’t it time you changed how you recruit?

Recruiters are lazy!  There, I have said it.  It is all too easy to fill your vacancy with the same type of person, same skills and knowledge that you had before – but is that really what you want?

Recruiting for change

I would argue that the current pace of change in business renders technical knowledge and skills redundant all too quickly. On the other hand, if you recruit for attitude, behaviours and mindset, these will stand the test of time.

The challenge faced by businesses who adopt a rinse and repeat approach to recruitment is that they retain the same thinking, same actions and – you guessed it – the same results!

If all that sounds familiar, you’re hopefully thinking that the way you recruit needs a bit of a shake up.

So, how can you change the way you recruit?

I am currently working with a client that is really struggling to recruit the right individuals. It’s easy enough to decide that you want to recruit for attitude and mindset and even easier – I hope – to understand why you would want to do that and how your business will benefit.

I developed a series of questions to help my client explore how an applicant demonstrates how well they adapt, their strength of resilience and most importantly how they learn (and grow) from failure.

If you would like a copy of them, just email me (ricky.muddimer@thinkingfocus.com) and I will gladly send them over.

As Apple’s Dan Jacobs once said: “You are better with a hole in your team than an asshole!”

 

The boss who took responsibility

This is a story about a head of operations who had lost control. If you’re wondering how bad it was, I can tell you that she was on the verge of walking. Worse still, so were most of her team.

Gill felt her team was bordering on unmanageable and she was feeling less and less motivated to deal with them.  She had lost her mojo.

Her track record was good and she’d always been a high performer who had built and developed teams that performed and delivered consistently.

So what had beaten her this time?

She came to me in search of help. We explored the background and discovered that it wasn’t straightforward. The business was successful, built by an owner-manager.  The entrepreneurial spirit had created a culture built on individual strengths rather than standardisation and consistency, however, which is a nightmare for an operations expert.

Her role was to organise a group of lone wolves and somehow operationalise the business.  This dynamic was made worse by the owner cutting non-standard deals that were hard to resource and fulfil, let alone deliver cost-effectively.

Gill was at the end of her tether. How was she ever going to change things? Could they even be changed?

Her team was also frustrated with that they perceived as lack of control and direction, with duplication of effort and everyone in it for themselves.  Gill, by her own admission, had done little to address this, choosing to deliver hard messages by email and expecting it to land.

We explored the brutal facts but with a growth mindset.

We started by talking about what she wanted, exploring what was important to her and why.  She had a genuine passion to deliver and most of her frustration was with herself.

She also had a get out of jail card – there was another job offer on the table.

It was at this point that Gill took the decision to succeed.

Now that she was focused on delivering a successful outcome, we explored what had gone wrong and why she had succeeded in previous roles. It turned out that she had missed some of the lessons she had learnt in the past because she had adopted the cultural norms of the new team. It turned out that she’d known how to fix things all along.

There was a big but. Would the team go on the journey with her? We worked through the scenarios and explored reactions.  She decided on a reboot.

By reboot, we mean a fresh start.  Gill went back and literally, a couple of days later, sat down with each member of the team individually and apologised for her behaviour. She took responsibility.  She also set out what she wanted the future to look like; she agreed with the team what they should expect of her and encouraged them to call her out if she fell below the standard.  She took the opportunity to agree on expectations of the team, asking them to define what good should look like before getting them to commit to that standard.

The impact was instant, a fresh start. The team still slip into old habits but the new ‘contract’ enables Gill to take action and tackle the issue with confidence.  The team has responded positively and now Gill can address the operational challenges and progress with the system and process improvements that will make the business more consistent, efficient and effective.  Most pleasing of all for Gill is the way the team has engaged, taking on sub-projects to improve key operational areas.

I am so proud of Gill. She stood up to the issue, accepting she was the problem and took action that transformed the team and their behaviours.  The team now focuses on the collective good for the business and not individual agendas.

What I learnt from Gill

Grit – Gill showed real determination to stand up for what she believed and backed herself.

Growth Mindset – Gill was prepared to listen to feedback, albeit brutal in places and was prepared to ask herself “what could I do differently?”

Ownership – Gill could have walked away but decided to take it on, which was ultimately more satisfying.

What if?

If left unresolved, the impact on the business could have been huge.  If Gill had left for that new job there would have a time and cost implication to replacing her with no guarantee that a new person could ‘fix’ the team.

What if the new person adopted the cultural norms and felt like Gill did, following the same vicious circle?

What if the team felt more and more disengaged, become less productive and started leaving, adding to an already high attrition rate?

High cost situations like this can be resolved with support, feedback and coaching.

Do you need a reboot with your team?  

You might not need a hard reboot like Gill’s, but a different way of thinking could tackle some unhealthy cultural norms that have developed.

Think about this: What might it be costing you right now? What could it cost if left unresolved?

 

How do you turn thinking to your competitive advantage?

Most companies do the same things, with access to the same resources, making the people, and the way that they think one of the few differentiators left.

In this podcast Ricky questions Rob, exploring how we can turn thinking into a competitive advantage?

Harnessing thinking in a team and encouraging collaboration can undoubtedly be advantageous to an organisation. In the podcast, Ricky and Rob explore how critical thinking skills enable people to understand the importance of goals and gain real clarity about what they and the business are trying to achieve. It also enables us to make critical choices based on likelihood, risk and balance.

The pair go onto discuss what happens if people don’t believe in the set business goals or objectives. After all, belief and confidence are two essential elements if goals are going to be achieved. Rob outlines how creating an environment where there is so called ‘helpful’ and ‘unhelpful’ thinking enables us to clarify the goal and create a gateway to success. By being open to ‘unhelpful’ thinking, any issues can be tackled and dealt with effectively. It gives the team the opportunity to share and boosts collaboration which in turn benefits the organisation.

Rob and Ricky examine how ‘unhelpful’ thinking can provide an opportunity to grow, learn and accelerate performance because people are able to participate. By thinking a little bit differently and being open to ‘helpful’ and ‘unhelpful’ thinking, people will gain a level of confidence when it comes to achieving the organisational goals and objectives.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.