moody-bluesOne of the favorite sobriquet’s I have recently received was from Alison Taylor who called me the ‘rock and roll compliance blogger’. I love to listen to classic rock and enjoy live performances even more. With that moniker and passion in mind I recently caught the Moody Blues’ gig celebrating the 50th anniversary tour. It is the Fly Me High Tour which honors the first single released after singer-guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge joined the group.

Early Moody Blues music was informed by their second album, “Days of Future Passed”; which I had always thought of as the first rock concept album. However, it is seen by many rock critics as a precursor to progressive rock music. Bill Holdship, Yahoo! Music, said that the band “created an entire genre here.” Robert Christgau noted that it was “closer to high-art pomp than psychedelia.” And, finally, Allmusic editor Bruce Eder calls the album “one of the defining documents of the blossoming psychedelic era, and one of the most enduringly popular albums of its era.”

The band had its core members of Justin Hayward, who turns 70 on Friday, John Lodge, 71 and Graeme Edge, 75; all playing at the concert and I can assure you that even in their 70s, they can still rock. There were the MTV hits such as “Gemini Dream” and “The Voice” and of course the show ended with the classics “Question” and “Ride My See-Saw”. It was great night for the Moody Blues, their fans and rock and roll.

I thought about how they are still great rockers when I read a recent piece in the New York Times (NYT) Corner Office Column by Adam Bryant, entitled “The Incalculable Value of a Good Boss, where he profiled Aron Ain, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kronos, a maker of workforce management software. It turns out that Ain was deeply informed by his parents when he said, “My parents cared deeply about people, particularly people who needed a little bit of help getting on in life. They were community activists in a very quiet way. They didn’t have a child with developmental disabilities, yet they were involved for more than 50 years with the Association for the Help of Retarded Children. They just weren’t a little bit involved; they were neck-deep involved.”

Most interestingly Ain believes a key lesson he has learned and one that he continues to try to put into practice is the following, “managing and leading people is a privilege.” He finds it so important because, “I don’t think we always understand the impact that we have as managers on the people on our teams. I talk to our managers all the time about this. Do you really understand the impact you have? And if you really understand the impact, then how do your actions reflect that you understand that?”

Moreover, his key insight is that people do not so much want to work for a nice person but a great boss. He said, “I believe that people would rather have a lousy job working for a great person than a great job working for a bad manager.” If you can achieve this as a boss, the results back to you and your organization will be the best investment you can make. Ain continued, “I believe very strongly that the single largest component of a business that adds to shareholder value is great management, and the single largest destroyer of shareholder value is bad management.”

But Ain cautioned, this will not be easy. However, I took from his comments that you can become a great business manager by working at it. He said, “being a good manager is really, really difficult. And the sooner people who are managers recognize that, the sooner they’ll start being a good manager. It takes unbelievable courage to be a good manager. It is hard to have difficult conversations with people when they’re not doing well. Who likes to do that? That takes courage. You can’t slide out of the way and hope it’s going to take care of itself.”

Ain said that at Kronos, they continually strive to engage up and down the chain. He specified, “We’ve also just introduced a new component to annual employee surveys. We’ve added about 15 new questions that are focused specifically around manager effectiveness. How does the staff truly feel about how effective their manager is at creating great teams?”

Yet Ain recognizes his role as CEO is simply more than being the boss. He said he views “my role as the keeper of the culture, and so I spend my time in a relaxed way getting to know the person. If, for example, they know someone I know professionally, I’ll say, “Let’s compare notes on that person. What’s your take?””

When hiring he believes this is a key inquiry and will “listen for whether they judge that person the same way I do, and whether we share the same values. I’ll also ask about their families, about work-life balance, about the successes that they’ve had, both personally and professionally. I want to hear how they like to work, and the expectations they have of the people who work for them.”

I found this final point not only very gratifying but an important insight into leadership. It is not only up to a business leader to set the tone but also to maintain a healthy corporate culture. He or she must ask the ‘How are we doing?’ question to a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or other corporate function which deals with culture on a day-in and day-out basis. Imagine if Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf had understood his role as the keeper of the culture at the bank instead of being the head cheerleader for the “Eight is Great!” mantra of sales.

The other key point is that you can learn to be a great boss. Leadership is not determined by genes alone. One of the reasons I founded the podcast 12 O’Clock High – A podcast on business leadership, was to communicate simply that. One can learn to be a great leader. But it does require work and as Ain reminds us, it requires constant vigilance. When you think about it, that concept is not far from any best practices compliance program. It is constantly monitoring and evolving to meet new challenges. You should be doing that too to become a great boss.

 

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2016

IMG_3310The week I am considering the passion compliance professionals have for our profession. Yesterday, I considered what business leader can do that makes work meaningless. Today, I want to detail what a business leader, including a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), can do to create a companywide ecosystem to facilitate meaningfulness. This series is based, in part, upon a Summer 2016 edition of the MIT Sloan Management Review article, entitled “What Makes Work Meaningful – Or Meaningless, by Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden.

As we have noted over the prior blog posts, most often job meaningfulness comes from within, while meaninglessness is often from the actions of management or leaders. The question becomes what can an organization do to foster meaningfulness in the face of these disparate relationships? First it can stop or not engage in some or all of the behaviors I discussed yesterday, the “seven deadly sins that drive up levels of meaninglessness.” But more than simply ending negative behaviors, “can organizations create an environment that cultivates high levels of meaningfulness?” Based upon their interviews, the authors believe “The key to meaningful work is to create an ecosystem that encourages people to thrive.”

  1. Organizational Meaningfulness

Employees find it meaningful when companies communicate the broad purposes of an organization. This mandates that a company states its values and then live those values. If you talk the talk of doing business ethically and in compliance, your company must also walk the walk. Employees will be the first to understand that company values are paramount, at least until your quarterly numbers become more important. The authors note, “The challenge lies not only in articulating and conveying a clear message about organizational purpose, but also in not undermining meaningfulness by generating a sense of artificiality and manipulation.”

The authors provide some guidance about the types of articulation a company should provide. Such questions as “So what does the organization aim to contribute? What is its “core business”?How does the organization aspire to go about achieving this? What values underpin its way of doing business?”, these are all important in focusing on an employees’ “positive contribution of the organization to the wider society or environment”. 

  1. Job Meaningfulness

Most people believe their jobs have meaning and are meaningful. Yet the authors believe a company must encourage employees to see their jobs as “meaningful by demonstrating how jobs fit with the organization’s broader purpose or serve a wider, societal benefit.” This benefit was articulated as broadly as sales assistants at a large retail store who “listened to elderly customers” to priests who saw their work in local parishes as contributing to a greater church ministry. The key is for leaders to “show employees what their particular jobs contribute to the broader whole and how what they do will help others or create a lasting legacy.”

Most interestingly, such meaningfulness does not always have to derive from positive work experiences. The authors write, “Challenging, problematic, sad, or poignant jobs have the potential to be richly generative of new insights and meaningfulness, and overlooking this risks upsetting the delicate balance of the meaningfulness ecosystem… The task for leaders is to acknowledge the problematic or negative side of some jobs and to provide appropriate support for employees doing them, yet to reveal in an honest way the benefits and broader contribution that such jobs make.”

  1. Task Meaningfulness

The great bane of almost every organization is bureaucracy. The blight of almost every employee is tedious work. Yet it is through tedious work that employees are able to develop skills which lead to more challenging and rewarding work. Think about how you were forced to learn algebra to move on to higher math in high school. This could even be applied to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to expertise formulation.

In the organizational context, tedious tasks will always exist. The role of a leader is to show how it will lead to something more meaningful. The authors’ write, “Where organizations successfully managed the context within which these necessary but tedious tasks were undertaken, the tasks came to be perceived not exactly as meaningful, but equally as not meaningless.”

  1. Interactional Meaningfulness

This element has a couple of contexts. The first is where an employee can interact with “others who benefit from their work; and, second, in an environment of supportive interpersonal relationships.” The authors said, “The challenge here is for leaders to create a supportive, respectful, and inclusive work climate among colleagues, between employees and managers, and between organizational staff and work beneficiaries. It also involves recognizing the importance of creating space in the working day for meaningful interactions where employees are able to give and receive positive feedback, communicate a sense of shared values and belonging, and appreciate how their work has positive impacts on others.”

  1. Putting It All Together – Holistic Meaningfulness

The point at which these four elements intersect is what the authors term “Holistic meaningfulness, where the synergistic benefits of multiple sources of meaningfulness can be realized.” This generally reaches “beyond the workplace and into the realm of the individual’s wider personal life. It can be a very profound, moving, and even uncomfortable experience. It arises rarely and often in unexpected ways; it gives people pause for thought — not just concerning work but what life itself is all about. In experiencing work as meaningful, we cease to be workers or employees and relate as human beings, reaching out in a bond of common humanity to others. For organizations seeking to manage meaningfulness, the ethical and moral responsibility is great, since they are bridging the gap between work and personal life.”

Adam Grant, writing in a Huffington Post article entitled “The #1 Feature of a Meaningless Job,  said that the goal for employees is for their job to have purpose. While it may be difficult to garner meaning every day, if a company would work to craft jobs so that each employee not only understood the overall company goal but how their job and their role all fit into that bigger picture, it would build upon the personal and individual experiences which tend to give rise to meaningfulness to employees. This is the role of a leader and specifically the role of a CCO in any compliance function.

 

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2016

7k0a0071This week I am considering the passion compliance professionals have for our profession. On Monday I wrote about being passionate about working in the field of compliance. Yesterday, I looked at some of the research and theoretical underpinnings of why employees’ find particular work meaningful which can lead to having passion about one’s profession. Today, I want to consider what business leader do that makes work meaningless. This series is based, in part, on a Summer 2016 MIT Sloan Management Review article, entitled “What Makes Work Meaningful – Or Meaningless, by Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden.

In addition to often destroying the confidence, if not psyche, of employees by making work meaningless, it has real consequences, such as reduced efficiency and motivation, reduced levels of employee engagement, increased absenteeism and an overall downgrade in employee work performance. The factors which created a sense of meaninglessness were quite separate and apart from those which created a sense of meaningfulness. The authors discuss seven separate “experiences that actively led people to ask, “Why am I doing this?” were generally a function of how people were treated by managers and leaders.”

  1. Disconnect people from their values

The authors report this is the number one problem for employees in destroying the meaning at their work, even if there is a dis-congruence between their personal values and that of the company. The biggest factor cited was the senior management and leadership pushing employees to lessen on quality and professionalism due to the company’s bottom line. But it is more than focusing on cutting your quality due to the almighty dollar but can be found when companies so poorly manage risks that they become paralyzed due to complete risk aversion. 

  1. Take your employees for granted

What does common courtesy cost? Nothing, yet the simplest acts of kindness your mother and grandmother taught you go a long way towards worker satisfaction. The authors noted that “Lack of recognition for hard work by organizational leaders was frequently cited as invoking a feeling of pointlessness.” They found groups as disparate as stone masons to university professors who all noted that the simple courtesy of being told a job was well done went a long way towards putting meaning in their jobs. One interviewee said that even having a boss say “Good Morning” was helpful in bringing meaning to a job. The authors concluded this element by stating “Feeling unrecognized, unacknowledged, and unappreciated by line or senior managers was often cited in the interviews as a major reason people found their work pointless.”

  1. Give employees pointless work to do

This element goes beyond simply work assignments as the authors found “that individuals had a strong sense of what their job should involve and how they should be spending their time, and that a feeling of meaninglessness arose when they were required to perform tasks that did not fit that sense.” Employees often know the best, most efficient way to accomplish a task and being told by an even well-meaning supervisor who does not know what he is doing can work to make a situation untenable. This also extends to multiple and contradictory assignments where employees are left to “pick up the pieces” of an uninformed management decision.

  1. Treat employees unfairly

The Fair Process Doctrine is alive and well in workplace satisfaction and meaningfulness as “Unfairness and injustice can make work feel meaningless.” The authors found that “Forms of unfairness ranged from distributive injustices”, where employees were told they could not have a pay raise for several years due to a shortage of money but observe senior managers granting themselves pay raises. The authors also noted that being treated unfairly encompassed “Procedural injustices included bullying and lack of opportunities for career progression.”

  1. Override your employees’ better judgment

The role a manger takes can go a very long way to supporting or denigrating how an employee feels about their job’s meaningfulness. As the authors said, “a sense of meaninglessness was connected with a feeling of disempowerment or disenfranchisement over how work was done.”

Therefore, this element is more than simply not acknowledging employees, it is not understanding what tools and talents your employees bring to your organization and how they want to use those talents. When you do not listen to what employees have to say or imply their experience and opinions do not matter, it is more likely employees will find their work meaningless. One interviewee told the authors “People can feel empowered or disempowered by the way you run things.”

  1. Disconnect employees from supportive relationship

Unsurprisingly, “Feelings of isolation or marginalization at work were linked with meaninglessness” and the authors wrote, “This could occur through deliberate ostracism on the part of managers, or just through feeling disconnected from coworkers and teams.” Most employees want to not only be an accepted part of a team but enjoy the camaraderie of working with co-workers towards a common goal. All of this adds to a sense of meaningfulness. I was somewhat surprised to find this element important even in entrepreneurs who reported in interviews “about their sense of loneliness and meaninglessness during the startup phase of their business, and the growing sense of meaningfulness that arose as the business developed and involved more people with whom they could share the successes.” 

  1. Put employees at risk of physical or emotional harm

I have worked in industries that involved safety risks, specifically in the Gulf Coast petro-chemical industry. I accepted these safety risks when I had such employment and as you might guess these risks were mitigated or managed by the company. However, when employees were exposed to such risks and had not accepted those risks or they were exposed to unnecessary risk it was often associated with loss of meaningfulness. This can be as simple as placing employees at physical or emotional risk from aggression to putting them in situations where they do not have the training to manage safely.

The authors concluded this section by writing “These seven destroyers emerged as highly damaging to an individual’s sense of his or her work as meaningful. When several of these factors were present, meaningfulness was considerably lower.” You should check to see if any of your leadership behaviors do or even could fall into one of these categories. Finally always remember that it does not cost you anything to be courteous.

Tomorrow I will consider how a business leader, including a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), can cultivate an “ecosystem for meaningfulness.”

 

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2016

IMG_3315Norbert Schemansky died last week. Are you as unfamiliar with that name as I was? I must sheepishly admit I had never heard of him before I read his obituary in the New York Times (NYT). Schemansky was one of the world’s all-time great weight lifters and the first person to win medals in four Olympic Games. Moreover, “Schemansky competed across four decades, winning competitions, breaking records and, with his 400-pound heaves, leaving spectators in awe. A bear of a man with a mild countenance, he could be instantly picked out of a bevy of musclemen in tights by his signature plastic-framed eyeglasses, as if Superman had shown up still wearing Clark Kent’s.” His USSR rival and fellow Olympian Yuri Vlasov said of Schemansky, “Norbert Schemansky is the greatest and strongest athlete I have ever seen.”

Similar to my lack of knowledge of him, he was almost unknown in the United States. He told the story of returning from the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, no one was there to greet him. Only an airport porter recognized him. He was quoted in his obituary, “The bus porter said, ‘Nice going, Semansky,’. “He mispronounced my name, but he knew who I was.”

Yet Schemansky had a passion for weight-lifting, once quitting a job so he could compete in the Olympics. His biographer, Richard Bak wrote in the book Mr. Weightlifting, “What Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis are to boxing, what John Grimek and Arnold Schwarzenegger mean to bodybuilding, and what Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky represent in hockey, Norbert Schemansky is to Olympic weight lifting.”

I thought about the passion and professionalism of Schemansky, over his 20-plus years of competition, when I read a recent article in the NYT Corner Office column, where Adam Bryant interviewed Ben Chestnut, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MailChimp, in a piece entitled “Learn to Love the Job You’ve Got”. I thought about the passion of folks who work in the compliance profession and how that passion is literally leading the compliance profession to becoming a key component of corporate America in the 21st century.

Chestnut is Thai-American and grew up in a military family. Those two unique facts lead to some interesting insights. His father was a career non-com but he had the “reputation of taking weirdos and turning them into useful soldiers.” This meant he took or was assigned soldiers no one else wanted and turned them into soldiers. One story he told was about a Hell’s Angel’s club member who was “trigger-happy”. The soldier refused to march with the safety on his rifle ‘on’ so his father had him march in the front, so that if the rifle went off, no one would be accidently shot.

Yet, as his own leader, Chestnut provided his own interesting insights. The first is to “never sacrifice momentum” and by this Chestnut said that while he might believe he has a “better path, but if we’ve got a lot of momentum, if everyone’s united and they’re marching together and the path is O.K., just go with the flow. I may eventually nudge them down a new path, but never stop the troops midmarch.”

Chestnut takes input from his team on key issues, one of which was the development of the MailChimp culture. He said that he inquired from “all of our managers and senior managers to help me out with them, and we came up with three: creativity, humility and independence. The one that caused the most concern was the last one, independence.” Most interestingly, Chestnut believes the most important leadership skill is to allow independence when a leader manages a team.

I found this particularly interesting coming from someone who grew up in a military household, as I did too and following orders, not independence, was the prized behavior. Yet Chestnut recognized that “In a team setting, we may be all working together to accomplish a goal, but if somebody has a concern, they need to be brave enough to stand up and say it. And other team members need to be humble enough to recognize this individual. If they have a creative idea, recognize them. We need fearlessness, because creativity leads to innovation.”

Chestnut takes a somewhat orthodox approach in hiring. He said that he finds it difficult to obtain the measure of a candidate in a 30-minute session in his office so he likes to extended it over dinner because he likes to take some time to get to know the candidate. He said that he asks the question ‘why’ quite a bit because “I want to see if they’re passionate enough to push back. I want to see if they have a philosophy behind what they do. I’ll just keep asking why, why, why until I get to their core philosophy on whatever it is that they’re passionate about.”

Chestnut recognizes that in large part, a leader is only as successful as the people around him. If you only have Yes-Men (or Yes-Women) you could well end up with the corporate scandals we have seen unfolding in other companies. He said that he was someone who has a “philosophy because I want someone to push me and make me better. I want people who are smarter than me, and who will push and fight for something they believe in while also respecting the values and unique nature of the company. We have to be creative in pushing our boundaries, but sticking to our values.”

This final concept is one that I think differentiates compliance professionals even from legal professionals. As a recovering lawyer I understand one having a passion about the law but that passion is generally articulated in the phase ‘is it legal’ while the passion of the compliance professional is broader, looking at the wider question of whether something should be done; not simply can it be done. Bryant ended his interview with Chestnut with the following, “There’s a popular saying: “Do what you love.” I tell them to forget that idea because it should be, “Love what you do.” Take the job, learn to live in the moment and love it, master it, and doors will open for you if you’re good at what you do. Turn it into a passion if you can.”

That is the passion I see in the compliance profession. It truly is a profession that assist businesses operate more efficiently and more effectively through the identification, measurement and management of risk. I am proud to a part of that profession.

 

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2016

IMG_0833One of the things any Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), or indeed any business leader, must manage is team conflict. In a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, entitled “How to Preempt Team Conflict”, Ginka Toegel and Jean-Louis Barsoux reported on their study of team conflict. The article posits that team conflict can erupt not solely from the differences in opinion of disparate corporate disciplines but also from “perceived incompatibility in the way different team members think.” In other words, it is about the process and not about the content. (I am sure about now my process analyst wife is thinking, as I told you many times…) To remedy this problem, the authors promote a five step approach which considers how team members “look, act, speak, think and feel, to immunize the team against unproductive conflict when the pressure is on.”

The authors believe that leaders should allow team members to meet and engage in ‘five conversations’ around these areas. Through these conversations, they believe leaders can identify areas of potential friction, which might arise when the pressure is on the group. By getting these areas out into the open before the pressure hits, they believe the “teams establish a foundation of trust and understanding and are able to set ground rules for effective collaboration.” The five areas can be broken down as follows:

Look: Spotting the Difference

The authors believe that team members often have reactions “triggered by differences in the way people present themselves” so the goal of this discussion is to have “team members reflect on how they intend to come across to others—and how they actually do.” This can be as broad as dressing in a suit where the atmosphere is business casual to a lawyer using literary references in a technical software or engineering meeting.

The authors suggested this conversation could be facilitated with some of the following questions:

In your world…

  • what makes a good first impression? A bad one?
  • what do you notice first about others (dress, speech, demeanor)?
  • what does that make you think about them (rigid, pushy, lazy)?
  • what intangible credentials do you value (education, experience, connections)?
  • how do you perceive status differences?”

Act: Misjudging Behavior

It is almost axiomatic that “on diverse teams, clashing behavioral norms are a common source of trouble.” This prong can include issues as broad as personal space to being punctual and respectful of the group’s time. Equally, it can be such things as keeping the group on a tight schedule or building in flexibility for project direction changes. Here you can simply think of the difference manner in which an American, German, South Korean and Saudi Arabian (and anywhere in between) might act. The authors conclude, “It’s important to establish team norms around all these behaviors up front to avoid unnecessary antagonism.”

The authors suggested this conversation could be facilitated with some of the following questions:

In your world…

  • how important are punctuality and time limits?
  • are there consequences of being late or missing deadlines?
  • what is a comfortable physical distance for interacting in the workplace?
  • should people volunteer for assignments or wait to be nominated?
  • what group behaviors are valued (helping others, not complaining)?”

Speak: Dividing by Language

Unfortunately for Mr. Translations, this section does not mean you need to employ a translation service but it does recognize that different cultures use different communication styles. The authors recognize that even native speakers of the same language can have differences in the way they express themselves. Yet when your team consists of a wide variety of cultures, this effect can be magnified. The authors note that “depending on context, culture, and other factors, “yes” can mean “maybe” or “let’s try it” or even “no way.”” Moreover, “even laudable organizational goals can engender troublesome communication dynamics.”

The authors suggested this conversation could be facilitated with some of the following questions:

In your world…

  • is a promise an aspiration or a guarantee?
  • which is most important: directness or harmony?
  • are irony and sarcasm appreciated?
  • do interruptions signal interest or rudeness?
  • does silence mean reflection or disengagement?
  • should dissenting views be aired in public or discussed off-line?
  • is unsolicited feedback welcome?”

Think: Occupying Different Mindsets

As a recovering lawyer and the son of an engineer, I can certainly appreciate the differences in a legal approach from an engineering perspective. The authors do as well, writing, “Perhaps the biggest source of conflict on teams stems from the way in which members think about the work they’re doing. Their varied personalities and experiences make them alert to varying signals and cause them to take different approaches to problem solving and decision making. This can result in their working at cross-purposes. As one executive with a U.S. apparel company noted: “There is often tension between the ready-fire-aim types on our team and the more analytical colleagues.””

The authors cited to two separate examples of how this gulf was breached. In the first example the leadership of a team was rotated to align with the phase of the project so that “During the more creative and conceptual phases, the free-thinkers would be in charge, while analytical and detail-oriented members would take over evaluation, organization, and implementation activities.” In a second example, involving scientists and executives in a biotech company, “a facilitator used role play to help the two groups better understand each other’s perspective.”

The authors suggested this conversation could be facilitated with some of the following questions:

In your world…

  • is uncertainty viewed as a threat or an opportunity?
  • what’s more important: the big picture or the details?
  • is it better to be reliable or flexible?
  • what is the attitude toward failure?
  • how do people tolerate deviations from the plan?” 

Feel: Charting Emotions

Often there will be a wide variation in the way team members convey emotions and even passion and how they manage these same emotions. This can be true for both positive, including enthusiasm, and negative emotions, such as venting or even keeping thing bottled up for too long. The authors noted, “The tendency to signal irritation or discontent indirectly—through withdrawal, sarcasm, and privately complaining about one another—can be just as destructive as volatile outbursts and intimidation. It’s important to address the causes of disengagement directly, through open inquiry and debate, and come up with ways to disagree productively.”

The authors suggested this conversation could be facilitated with some of the following questions:

In your world…

  • what emotions (positive and negative) are acceptable and unacceptable to display in a business context?
  • how do people express anger or enthusiasm?
  • how would you react if you were annoyed with a teammate (with silence, body language, humor, through a third party)?”

This article provides solid guidance for the CCO or any business leader on not only how to anticipate conflict but concrete steps to head it off. The author’s conclude by noting that a benefit of these five conversations is that, “We’ve found that they include greater participation, improved creativity, and, ultimately, smarter decision making.” If you can achieve this on any project involving any corporate team, you have achieved something significant.

 

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2016