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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Accountability: Are We Looking in All the Right Places?

Un-Game Principle: Accountability is often victim to our belief in falsehoods masquerading as truths.

13-04-24 AccountabilityThe recent national tragedy in Boston is yet another of the many wake-up calls we’ve had to ask “Just what IS happening to our world? And what are we to do?”  At the very least it’s another of a constant stream of values clarification moments. Many things which seem important…the car broken down…the expected great performance review turned mediocre…pale when we’re faced with threats to our greater primal needs of survival and relationship.  In moments of great tragedy we remember what matters.

Then we ask “How could this happen?” And we agonize over answers. Guns. Our failing mental health system. Poverty. Lack of education. Our justice system that overwhelmingly incarcerates the poor and minorities. Run-away corporate power.  Technology. The digital divide. The economy.  Fights over oil, toxicity in the environment. Impending fights over water and food.  Over-consumption. Answers abound, and they are probably true. True but partial. And as soon as we think we have an answer, we tend to stop looking. And when we stop looking, we disempower ourselves.

What questions would empower us? How do we keep accountability where it belongs? And can we translate the power into our day-to-day life as leaders, managers, and citizens?

We might ask: “Are these alienated people who commit unspeakable acts the canary in the mine? The first ones to signal the danger that affects us all.”  But that’s hard to do. We want to externalize the causes and attribute them to the individuals who are exhibiting the eerie behaviors. Yet we could ask:  “Who are WE being and what are WE doing as a society that allows these things not only to happen but to persist?” And of equal or greater importance, “Who am I being, and what am I doing?” (In Australia politicians passed gun control laws, choosing to value the public good over their political careers…and are well-regarded for it.)

Are we looking for accountability in all the right places?

We don’t ask the fundamental questions because those are uncomfortable. If we inquired…and inquired deeply…we might have to change. And change fundamentally. It’s so much easier to suggest others ought to change, or that change is not really needed. Or that technology will save us. There is something in human nature that has us recognize, if we’re honest, the truth of biologist and novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s statement in her new book, Flight Behavior, in which she says “We all have a special talent of believing in a falsehood, and believing it devoutly when we want it to be true.”

There are people more brilliant and better educated than I who are forcefully making the case for the necessity of paradigm shifts that are at present beyond the average caring citizen’s imaginings. But here’s what’s not beyond our imaginings. The average citizen, leader, manager can begin to recognize that things are not black or white at home and at work but both black and white and infinite shades of grey in between. We can begin to live into the statement “It’s true, but partial.” We can begin to be less certain and more curious. We can develop our capacity to inquire instead of fasten on to a point of view and defend it at any cost. Either/or thinking is not made for this new world. Learning to live with paradox is. And it is urgently, urgently, urgently needed.

For example,  among the many “truths” in our day-to-day work life which hold many of us captive but which can be challenged are:

  1. If you want it done right, do it yourself (feel like a gerbil on a wheel?).
  2. I can rest later. Now I have to push through (and the rest never comes).
  3. If I work just a little bit harder, I can get it all done (burnout anyone?)

I’m sure you can think of more “truths.” Are you willing to look if there is any “truth” that’s making your life hard for you and/or the people you care about…your family, your team, your co-workers, that you are willing to examine with a critical eye? It may be hard to see on your own. When we’re in the midst of living such “truth,” we don’t see anything else is possible. No different from not seeing alternatives to life as we know it. It’s just the way it is. It’s the way it has to be, right?

So don’t just count on yourself to start challenging the truths you hold to be self-evident. Ask others for feedback. For example, if you’re a manager you could ask your team: “What should I do more of that would support you in doing your work excellently?” “What should I do less of or stop doing?”

If your relationship with your team is solid, you’ll get some good answers that will help begin a good inquiry. If not, you may get some bland answers. But that, too, is good information.  It can lead to the inquiry of “How must I be to create the space in which my team can speak freely to me?” Notice that in all of the examples I’ve given, the power is always with you. It’s always about who you can be and what you can do. You don’t give into your knee-jerk instinct to look to others to make it right. You go where the power…and the accountability ultimately rest…you begin with you! When more and more of us do this more often, we might get to deeper and deeper inquiries which may lead us to greater and greater authenticity, courage and power to look at the hard questions of the day that we need to live into in order to meet the challenges which continue to present themselves more and more persistently.

Beware of our human tendency to believe in falsehoods masquerading as truths.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

The Three Most Dangerous Words in Management

Un-Game Principle:  Adaptive learning, that is, learning that leads to changes in behavior, depends on continually enhancing our ability to observe accurately.

How You Doin'?“I already know” has sunk many a relationship…personal, professional, and even our relationship to ourselves. I would consider them the three most dangerous words in the English language, but let’s stick to management (Everyone is a manager somewhere).

Let’s face it. Management has changed. The old command and control model of management is dead, but many places just don’t know about it yet.  Its proponents are the worst perpetrators of “I already know” and its cousins “We’ve always done it this way,” and “There’s one right way to do things.”

What happens in the mind when we think we already know? Test it out.

  1. You’re not curious. What spirit of inquiry?
  2. You’re closed to influence from someone who is hoping to influence you.
  3. You literally gather information only to confirm your established bias. Other information doesn’t make the cut.

I sometimes laugh when I hear “I’m open-minded, but.”The ‘but’ is a tell-tale sign that the speaker has come up against information s/he needs to dismiss in order to stay in their comfort zone (aka confirming established bias). In other words, “I already know,” and what the other person is saying doesn’t fit. Therefore I will discard it.  The little word ‘but’ is a great indicator that the words that precede it are at best only partially true. The speaker in this case is not open-minded.

In management as in all relationships, “I already know” wreaks havoc. Employees who have an omniscient manager aren’t motivated to propose innovative ideas, much less implement them. They wait to be told what to do and in many cases how to do it. The creative people eventually leave. They aren’t valued. They suspect that their highest potential is not going to be realized in such an environment.

For managers who ‘already know’ the work is much harder because they’re doing  too much of the work. In this day of increasing complexity, mind-boggling information overload, and changes occurring at the speed of light (OK, so I exaggerate), we can’t afford to NOT use the whole team to add their voice. Empowering employees by supporting decision-making at point of customer contact only makes sense. With the technology at their finger- tips, employees can get just- in- time information that may be necessary for a really good decision. With the tech-savvy millennial generation, this can give them an advantage that older, wiser, more experienced employees don’t necessarily have. The whole team is needed.

“I already know” is antiquated and dangerous.

In terms of solving solution-resistant problems, “I already know” is even more insidious. Consider that the so-called problem may resist solution precisely because it has been approached with “I already know.”  Look at the number 1 impact of this stance. It shuts down your curiosity and therefore inquiry. Inquiry is the most important action to take in problem-solving. Unless you have a good problem definition, you’re likely to solve the wrong problem (Einstein said it first). And the solution either doesn’t fit at all or it’s not sustainable.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

A wise manager will recognize “I already know” when they see it in others (To see it in yourself is harder, and you’d have to foster the value of feedback…of course also not valued by the “I already know” manager). He or she will confront it in their employees. However, this is not easy because we generally don’t value inquiry. If anything, we value debate, the antidote to the spirit of inquiry. It’s a jockeying of my “I already know” against your “I already know.” And I suspect you have an opinion from lots of experience where that’s going to end up. People are likely to be minimally influenced at best. You’re threatening each other’s confirmation bias which is precious to you so that you can stay in your comfort zone.

You’re probably noticing where I’m going with this. “I already know” is a dead end.

“I already know” is so embedded in our culture that it’s hard to interrupt its vicious cycle. But there’s hope, and we don’t have to look far to see changes. The digital age is living proof of a suspension of “I already know.” We can learn the lessons we need to learn from our fabulous and proven approach to technical learning. The challenge is to apply the principles to

massive adaptive learning we need to do. By adaptive learning I mean the learning we need to do in terms of changing our thinking, our attitudes, and therefore our behaviors which grow out of our new thinking. And you can do no adaptive learning with an “I already know” firmly rooted in a therefore closed mind. And this sad fact in the midst of an age of massive paradigm shifts which make it imperative that we become exquisite learners. . What would it take for you to give up “I already know?”

I’m interested in hearing about your successes in trying to deal with “I already know” in yourself and others. Let me hear from you.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.