Archive | May, 2010

Communications: Situational Shyness

26 May

Last week I was at a reception for the annual Fastest Companies Award in the Corridor, and had an interesting experience. A young, very capable woman I have worked with mentioned to me and my social director that when she met me the first thing I said was that if she continued to use tanning machines she would surely get skin cancer.  My lady later reminded me I often make such social faux pas in some situations.  OMG

By coincidence, the same day there was an article on this subject in the Wall Street Journal titled “Blush, Babble, Cringe: The Shy Social Butterfly.” Apparently research by psychologists shows 95% of people report this happens to them (the other 5% are probably lying) and many people are aware of the conditions that elicit this behavior.  As 95% of you may have had this self-inflicted experience here are the suggested techniques to help you immunize yourself against future social blunders:

Mentally prepare for such events, think about what to say, have a sentence or two to introduce yourself, practice talking to strangers in the grocery store, have quirky social  rules (say hello to everyone in blue) for yourself at such events.

Make statements – don’t ask questions.  It may seem a polite way to draw others out but it makes them do the work.

Don’t beat yourself up if you are uncomfortable or conversation doesn’t flow, chances are others are also feeling shy and will not be focused on you.

For more on this go to the WSJ.  It is a fun and informative article.

Listen to an interview with John about Beyond Luck.

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Marshmallow Challenge: More On Group Process

18 May

Last week, you may have checked out the TED link to the Marshmallow Challenge (7 minutes) (build a tower – build a team).  I don’t much care for warm-up games in meetings, but this is one that is worth considering. It comes with an interesting bundle of data analysis on who does and does not do this well. In fact, it has been a topic of discussion in two leadership meetings I was in last week.

It’s always fun when data on performance show that kindergarten grads are the best at this whereas new Biz School grads struggle.

The best take-away from the analysis is the power of iteration in a group process such as this one.  However, because the folks who did the analysis were not expert on management or organizations they missed a feature equally as important as iteration.

Heterogeneous groups do better than homogeneous groups. A mix of people with different perspectives is likely to do better than the opposite.  The easiest-to-see example is gender. Mixed gender groups perform better in most cases than single gender groups (see Managing Task vs. Relationship)

Katzenbach and Smith, in their outstanding HBR Classic “The Discipline of Teams,” begin their rigorous definition of teams with “A team is small group of people with complementary skills who…”

Why I Like Aretha….

11 May

Last summer in the middle of the worst business downturn in my experience, I fired a client.  Why?  He sent me the most disrespectful email I have ever received.  I wasn’t surprised as we were working on his management style and he had a reputation for needing to always have a scapegoat.  For several days I asked myself had been disrespectful to him before I did the deed.

In almost 26 years of consulting I have learned about five very important things.  The foremost is: Almost all people in all settings want to be treated with respect.  Always make this your default setting when working with others: Treat people with respect.  It’s usually easy to spot respecters; they use words such as please and thank you.

Every aspect of your life will be better if you surround yourself with such people.  Never forget what you give is what you get.

If you live or work with dis-respecters; try kindness, a special form of respect.  It will either change them or drive them bonkers.  Remember, people who are disrespectful basically don’t like or respect themselves.  This is why they seek to aggrandize themselves at your expense.

Last week I introduced TED.  The next day I found “Build a tower, build a team” to TED.  It’s fun and informative.  Try it on and see if it fits.

Listen to an interview with John about Beyond Luck.

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Small Kindnesses & Leadership Development

5 May

Imagine a young boy 35 years ago in the eighth grade from a blue-collar family.  His dad, a factory worker, taught him to read by reading comic books to him when he was very young. His teacher gives him a copy of Time magazine and tells him to read it cover-to-cover and look up every word he didn’t understand. He followed the teacher’s advice for the next 20 years. Even later, as a successful professional, he realizes this small kindness opened new horizons to him and changed his life.

This story was shared in an organizational interview. Asking people to tell their story occasionally produces such fascinating outcomes. A theme emerges in many of the stories. These small kindnesses often happen in a time of emotional turmoil. Such events are crucibles and force us to re-examine our lives and take actions to improve ourselves. They also may improve our perceptions of the relative value of other people.

In these events, the person often took the initiative to ask for help. Many people never realize that if you ask for help almost everyone will assist. This is a common element in the lives of successful people. People are really not self-made, but develop with the assistance of others.  Food for thought

For a more in-depth look at this issue go to the Corridor Business Journal

Listen to an interview with John about Beyond Luck.