Does the Humble Inquiry have a place in a culture of collaboration?

This is a guest post by @Gemma_Lelliott


I joined the
@Doers_Improvers in Autumn 2019, after connecting with some amazing, passionate and engaged people at GovCamp Cymru. The group are interested in ‘wellbeing, sustainability, doing things differently & improving stuff … learning & sharing together’.

When the group chose Humble Enquiry as their December read I had no opinion on the book – I haven’t read any of Schein’s other books and I am always interested in learning and improving my communication skills, so I was happy to get stuck into it.

I was surprised to find I had quite a visceral reaction to the book, almost physical. I found the language and tone of the book a challenge – words like subordinate, respect, and hierarchy litter it throughout. I am lucky to have experienced very few examples of an autocratic, dictatorial management style of what Schein refers to as ‘the culture of tell’. Being managed by people who use this approach has universally left me feeling like I need to find a new job!

I found it quite hard to make myself read beyond the first few chapters. I felt that Schein was encouraging readers to use Humble Enquiry as a way of manipulating relationships, to feign an interest in the other person’s point of view in order to complete a transaction – if I humble myself to you then you will feel more positively disposed towards me, you will feel more inclined to help me/do what I want/tell me what I want to know.

Speaking to those working in more process-driven environments I find that my reaction to the language and the approach is not universal – other people don’t have the same visceral reaction to the word ‘subordinate’ for example, seeing it purely as a descriptor rather than as a pejorative term. While I find the implied power dynamic problematic, for others it simply describes a chain of command which makes clear where the responsibility lies and who allocates tasks.

Living and working in Wales, there is much more of a culture of collaboration, of community, and of shared purpose than the author describes in America. I am also very fortunate to have largely worked in environments and for managers who have seen and expressed the value of collaborative approaches to tackling problems, and have worked with me in a way which recognises my knowledge, experience and value. Perhaps part of their strength as managers was down to their effective use of Humble Enquiry?

On reflection, once I had discussed the book with the group and others I was able to pull out some useful things to think about – if nothing else, I have taken some time to reflect on my preferences around language and how that might differ for other people. I also took some time to think about how I could use some of my natural curiosity in a more purposeful way, to help others feel more comfortable and to ensure I understand their perspective – potentially even improving relationships along the way.

Finally, would I recommend the book? Maybe, if you work in a very process-focused role or traditional hierarchy model. I’m not sure I would go out of my way to read Schein’s work again personally. I might, however, revisit an old favourite, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits – I feel like ‘seek first to understand, before seeking to be understood’ might have tackled this question in a way that sits more comfortably for me and could help me in my quest to communicate more effectively!

 

 3minuteleadership.org

 

Why a bit of ‘warm & fuzzy’ is important for motivating teams

How to motivate people has been a topic of conversation which has come up several times for me over the last couple of weeks.

Previously, I have written about the principles of autonomy, mastery, purpose which Dan Pink promotes in his book ‘Drive’. The theory set out in the book is one I believe in strongly but talking about it with others has made me realise that there is a further aspect that needs to be considered.

I’ve also written before about the value and importance of the ‘cuddle’ hormone oxytocin and I think there is something important here that helps to motivate people to come to work and give their best.

It’s a complex environment we are working in today and technology has sped up the pace of change. News is instant and we are expected to be able to respond and change direction very quickly. Certainly, working with lots of small charities, I see leaders and staff delivering in tough conditions, trying to push on forward despite high levels of uncertainty.

It takes a lot of resilience to keep going under these circumstances and I think that there is some ‘warm fuzzy stuff’ that leaders can easily implement which helps to keep people motivated.

Recognition – firstly, when people work hard, they want to be recognised for their efforts. This doesn’t have to take the form of big awards but just something to show that they have been noticed, whether that is an individual or the whole team, sometimes both probably, just let them know they have been seen.
Appreciation – say thank you! In whatever form you are most comfortable with and preferably often. A common view seems to be that work is transactional i.e. people come to work, do the job and get paid which should be thanks enough. It isn’t enough though if you want a motivated, high performing team. For that, you need to give a bit more which means saying and doing things that make people feel appreciated.

Celebration – celebrate often, let staff enjoy being at work and feel good about what they have achieved. Far too often, we finish one thing and move straight on to another with no looking back. If your team works hard and delivers success, encourage them to take time out to reflect and celebrate their achievements however small.

Whilst I believe these things are important all year round, I also think that Christmas is a point in the calendar where we should take a moment to reflect on what’s gone well, thank people for their contribution and celebrate the achievements of the year gone by.  So this year, why don’t you think about how you use these ideas to ensure you have an empowered and motivated team for 2020.

 

Like this article? Have your own experience to share? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

How to create an environment where your staff to lie to you (or how to make sure you don’t)

I’m going to let you into a secret… most employees want to work hard and do well.  I don’t think there are many in the workplace who would lie to you for malicious reasons.  However, the best employees might lie to you if they think this is the best course of action.

How can that be? I hear you ask.

Imagine this…

You have done an excellent job of hiring talented and highly-skilled people.  Across your organisation, there are people who bring a wide range of expertise and are committed to using this for the good of the business.  And yet you find out that they are keeping things from you or feeling the need to ‘spin’ the truth.  Your first reaction might be to think that they are stupid and incompetent.  Or you might think that they are being insolent; deliberately lying to because they think they know better than you do.  But how dare they, right?  I mean, you’re the boss for a reason and they should do what you say, yes?

The thing is, you might want to consider if there is something you have done to create an environment where, for good reasons, they think it’s better to lie to you than generate problems by telling you the truth.  The alternative to this could well be silence which is another clear indication that all is not well in the ranks.

Here are some instances where your actions might be encouraging your staff to hide the truth:

1)      When you make the job more difficult than it needs to be – they are getting on with something they know is valuable for the business and they have planned their time proportionately.  Then, you find out about it and decide it’s not the way you want it done even though your way will take a lot more time and resource that they and others should be spending on other things.  In an attempt to avoid that, they try to get the work done ‘under the radar’ because it’s easier than raising their head to get it blown off.
2)      When you take work off them because you think they have ideas above their station or think someone else could do it better – You find out a member of staff is working on something you think should be done by someone else so you tell them off an take it off them without asking any questions.  This is upsetting for them because they have worked hard on something they were interested in or felt they were good at.  If they felt that you would be encouraging and supportive, they probably would have been glad to involve you in the first place.
3)      When you dismiss something they are confident is a good idea – let’s say you have someone who has experience of delivering  certain type of activity and is confident that it’s a good idea and they can do it well.  It’s in line with organisational priorities but you want it doing a certain way, they think you are missing a trick but you won’t listen to them.  It’s understandable that they might try telling you just enough to get on with it the way they think is best.
4)      When you pull their work apart – they have identified a clear opportunity within the organisation’s objectives without any risk.  They would love to speak to you about it to ensure it’s how you want it to be and get your advice but they’ve shown you something before and you’ve ripped into it, giving criticism that is disproportionate and far from constructive.  Ultimately, you’ve knocked their confidence and destroyed their trust. They are not keen to come back for more so they keep it to themselves because they think it will allow them to get the job done more easily.
So hopefully, you’ve realised that if good people are keeping things from you, it’s worth reflecting on whether you have created an environment where they think that’s the best course of action.  In terms of what you can do about it, I’d advise that you start listening carefully and understanding how you can help rather than hinder.

My approach is always to think about how I can support my staff to do their best work.  I try to ensure clear direction from the beginning and offer pointers where I think they might help.  Questions are also a useful tool for helping them to think things through and hopefully bring them around to your way of doing things.  Ultimately, if you are critical, judgemental or heavy-handed, they won’t tell you what’s going on and I’d say understandably so.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

 

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑