Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Are you daring to disagree?

Last night's TV news footage of the team back at base celebrating the touchdown on Mars by the Curiosity Rover was a great sight to see. 
A whole room full of people with their 8-years' of hard work culminating in a successful and previously unthinkable landing with celebratory high-fives and relieved smiles all round. 
However, one man in the team did everything possible to sabotage its success  - for example by cutting radio signals to the control room and trying to poke holes in the fuel system.  
Why wasn't he caught and punished? 
Because, as chief engineer for the mission,  Rob Manning's sole purpose was to try everything possible to to enable his team to be able to handle any worst-case scenario. 
“Being a gremlin allows me to soul-search and look at all the things that I missed,” Manning told the Chicago Tribune in the days before last night’s landing.
In a really thought-provoking TED Talk, Margaret Heffernan extends the idea of creating collaboration by embracing conflict, rather than by avoiding it and increasing creativity and thought processes by engaging with thinking partners who are more than just echo chambers. 
According to Heffernan, in a recent survey of US and UK executives, 85% of particpants surveyed admitted to having issues or concerns at work that they were afraid to raise. 
85% is a pretty big number in my book of statistics. What is happening for people that they are so afraid to be open?
One of the reasons for my passion for the work of Will Schutz and FIRO® Theory is that it is unfailingly effective at developing authentic dialogue and openness in individuals and in teams.
As Heffernan suggests in her talk - openness is not the end, it is the beginning. 
Do you disagree...? 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

What kind of noise are you making?

It has just crept into my awareness that I seem to have been living and working with a theme of noise lately.

In my personal life, while I write, my son is currently revising for his end of year exams and the "kaboom kaboom" bass of his music from another part of the house is penetrating my peace. I don't know how anyone can learn anything while that is going on - but I also know that my own parents said the same thing about me so many years ago, as I stacked LPs and various vinyl versions on my portable record player whilst cramming my head full of seemingly useless facts!

As so often happens when I allow the glorious power of coincidence into my life, I was recently very taken with a certain TED Talk by Julian Treasure about how sound affects us. (See link below)  I must have been unconsciously looking for this nugget of wisdom - although I didn't know until it revealed itself to me...

In 5 minutes, he effortlessly and skilfully explains the impact of noise on us in four ways: psychological, physiological, cognitive and behavioural. In my professional life, with working groups and individual coaching clients, I am used to the unconscious choice of language being used and how it frames the perspective. But this particular TED Talk caused me to consider further and deeper than the cognitive impact of the words themselves and to consider the quality of noise that we create in communicating with others.

He also proposes that, when we are unaware of it, our relationship with sound and noise is often accidental and unpleasant. Actually, in my experience with unawareness in general, our relationship with ourselves and others becomes accidental and can become pretty unpleasant - especially in some work teams.

It is true that our human bandwidth for auditory input is very small - so both the quality and quantity of the message matters when we are trying to communicate effectively. This is especially relevant in a team or leadership context when it is important to be both heard and understood.

For sound to be incorporated into branding in a commercial or retail context (think of the Nokia ring tone), Treasure explains that it is important to consider 4 key criteria:

  • Make it congruent
  • Make it appropriate
  • Make it valuable
  • Then test it
If, like me, you are a leader, trainer and/or coach, these criteria might be useful for considering how the sound we make  influences our "personal brand" - in terms of authenticity, integrity and outcome. 

I am planning to live in my question for a while and see what happens for me and in the meantime, I invite you also to consider:

What kind of noise are you making?

P.S. And as another proof of the power of coincidence, literally while I was writing this blog, my daughter returned my long ago borrowed IPod - which I thought was lost for ever. So now I can play music again at my next workshop. Is that just co-incidence? Or proof of what the universe will deliver if we listen to the sound it makes?