In politics, motivation isn’t important

In politics, motivation doesn’t matter

A political science professor once said to me “In politics, motivation doesn’t matter.”  I don’t think I have ever really understood that until I read the current Economist debate on “Who is leading the fight against climate change?”

Pro: Peggy Liu
“For Chinese people who see, smell and touch pollution every day, climate change leadership is closely related to personal health.” Read more

Con: Max Schulz
“China is not pursuing lower energy consumption per unit of GDP because of warming. It is pursuing it because it wants to be rich.” Read more

Does it matter why the Chinese reduce emissions. Surely if emissions are important then it is just important that they do?

How much credence do you give to motivation?

I’m trying to figure this out here.

I think that maybe when we feel out-of-control that we look for sound lasting relationships.

We are more likely to manage by outcomes when we have control.

What gives us a feeling of control?  Knowledge, a well-developed world view, the temperament of no-drama Obama, a willingness to accept that other people will act in their own interests?

Another spiral effect, I think. We trust because we trust.  And we don’t trust because we don’t trust.

Maybe when we worry about the motivation of others, we should stop and list all the factors that ARE under our control.  What can we count on?  How would we see the world then?

Am I on the right track?

7 steps to network yourself into business opportunity

Network our way through the recession?

There is a funny video about Linkedin going the rounds that I found from @jackiecameron1.

Unemployed people sign up to Linkedin in a desert of jobs. Everyone is networked, but to each other, to no one has a job.

What use is networking if there are no employers in the group?

Networking is not hitching a ride!

What is very apparent in the rather delightful (and accurate) spoof  is that no one is doing anything.  Everyone is trying to hitch ride on everyone else!

Who in that network is trying to make anything happen? Who is inviting other people to help, even for free?

Networking out of a desert of jobs

To take the metaphor of the desert further, if anyone got the group organized to look for water, they might find some!

Why doesn’t anyone start some useful activity?

The simple answer is that no one there trusts anyone else. If they did, they would invite them to do something!

How do we begin to organize that group?

Here are 7 steps for organizing a group who seem to be out of ideas, out of resources and who don’t know each other well.

A  Show Confidence in Your People

#1 Begin!

#2 Be active.

Do something! Sit down and make a sandcastle! See who helps.

B Help Your People Gain Confidence in Each Other

#3 Change the sandcastle so that people are helping each other.

Move your position so that you are handing sand to the person building. When another person joins in, move to the the end of the line.

#4 Move the line slowly in the direction that seems most promising.

At the same time, get people to sing so that they become more aware that they are a group.

Keep your attention on the sandcastle by-the-way!  People are only going to be bothered with the sand castle if you are!

C Work with People Who Trust the Group

#5 Position a reliable person at the end of the line while you start a new line.

Make sure the person at the end of a line knows to sing out if they see anything unusual on the horizon.

D Bring Information About Opportunities Into the Group

#6 When someone sees something unusual on the horizon, don’t create a stampede.

Move the whole bicycle wheel, by changing the direction that the sand moves. Move the sandcastle builder to the other end and reverse the direction of sand. In an orderly way, move the other spokes. Keep it playful!

E We Are All In This Together

#7 Continue and continue!

You might decide to abandon your group and go it alone.  Yes, it might be slow moving the group along and it might feel as if the group is slowing you up.  But aren’t your chances of finding water higher in an organized group looking out for each other?

It is easier to think straight when things are really bad

It sometimes feel that deserts are too much to cope with.  I am also going to tell you that deserts are better than abandoned farm land. You are lucky. Yes, you are!

Let’s imagine, you simply find yourself in a abandoned but essentially sound farm.  You don’t start building a useless sandcastle. You do something useful.  You start to plough the land and plant seeds.  The difficulty is that you have now fixed your group to that field.  You will be unable to move slowly across the horizon to a better place.  In modern parlance, your solution is not scalable!

That’s why I like the idea of deserts.  We are willing to abandon sandcastles and rebuild them elsewhere.

When you chose your seed project, build something, anything, where we can see results and where we can all help! Keep the projects short and sweet so that people can see results and move them as we spot other things on the horizon.

Experiments in extreme living

What I want you to do is to build something with the resources under your feet.  And invite someone else to join in.

When the person joins in, give them a prime spot and support them.  Invite another person.  Keep building.

That’s is the challenge. That is the task!

Are you like a zombie bank? Zombie life on borrowed time and money (Part Two)

Decline, deterioration, loss & reversal are part of life

What did President Bush do the day after he left the White House? What do US Presidents do the day after they leave the White House? What does an Olympic Champion do the day after winning a gold medal? What do we do the day after climbing Mount Everest?

Coping with the sudden gap of purpose & connection is a tough task

Well, we come down the mountain again and actually the descent is more dangerous than the assent. But at least when we are coming down a mountain, we are physically busy. In normal affairs, the sudden removal of busyness, status, purpose, connections and toys, is devastating. The loss of a job, the loss of ‘pole position’, just plain getting older is a loss at so many levels – not least, our sense of identify. How do we cope with it?

Deteriorating as slowly as possible often becomes a shadow mission

John Orteg, describing church leadership in the States, used a good phrase. Deteriorating as slowly as possible is often our shadow mission. We’ve lost our purpose and we are hanging onto old ways. Stagnation makes us bitter and it is awful to watch in others. We oscillate from pity to contempt.

Sadly, some people don’t even have to lose a job or come to the end of an exciting project, to slip into “deteriorating as slowly as possible.” They sleepwalk through life in deadly early retirement, going through the motions and not even terribly aware that they are slipping away.

To fall in love with life again

Dylan Thomas wrote a poem for his father who was growing blind “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Professor Kay Jamieson’s husband gave her this encouragement on his deathbed: “You will fall in love with life again.”

Hope has little to do with external success. It has everything to do with loving life

None of us can live without hope and a sense that growth in is possible. But sometimes we confuse hope with trappings of success.

Hope does not mean controlling outcomes. Hope does not mean having status, control and perquisites of our past life (though we may miss them dreadfully).

Hope is a growth in our spirit. It is a sense that what we are doing now is an important task that only we can do for our communities at this time and in this place. It is sense that life will blossom in new ways taking us by surprise and delighting us.

Psychologists help people fall back in love with life again

When we have suffered a hard jolt, psychologists play an important role in helping us find our life’s purpose again.  So do good religious ministers, good teachers and respected mentors.  Even the smallest child can help us find our way again.

Sadly, though, we have had successful lives, or just live in rich countries or work in successful countries, we can begin to drift.  Before long, we are sleep walking. We are not in love with life any more.  We have become zombies, without hope – without the sense that life will still surprise us.

Are you living a zombie life :  I’ve put John Orteg’s Symptoms of Deterioating as Slowly as Possible in Part Three.

Belbin’s team roles: know yours and value others

Too much energy for one person

I’m an energetic person with an eye for opportunity and slightly neurotic streak.  It’s is not surprising that my main roles come out at

  • Shaper – is what being done important and is what important being done!
  • Completer/Finisher  – have all the important details been attended to and will we finish on time?
  • Resource/Investigator -who should we and could we know and what can we do that we couldn’t do yesterday?

Exuberant, enthusiast, loyal and kind – that’s how people describe me.

Everything has a flip side

But not necessarily tactful.  Unlike Britons described by BBC yesterday, I can’t lie ‘for toffee’.  I’m also the type that departs the beaten track and climbs over a challenging course just for the hell of it.

When I was younger, I knew that I wasn’t a ‘hale fellow, well met” sort of person.  Everyone who had taken a short cut or conned anyone or been faintly dull felt ‘criticized’ by my preferences.  I knew that I didn’t have a sharp grasp of fashion but I thought I wasn’t a ‘people’ person.

We surround ourselves with opposites to balance our preferences

By the time, I was an active student leader at University, I was wise enough to include a gregarious, easy-going person on every one of my teams.  I would think up the ideas and run them past my ‘people’ person to make sure they would be well received.

The names of roles and their pros and cons are formalized in the ‘Belbin’

It was only much later, as I encountered the Belbin (and taught the Belbin) that I realized my instincts were spot on.  I had brought in ‘team players’ to balance me.

And it was only then that I understood that all team players show characteristic weaknesses.  I had observed that but I didn’t know it was predictable.

Teamplayers don’t get down to work very easily.   They might not even do their share of work. And they are dreadful negotiators. They think they are wonderful but they tend to give everything away.  For the life of them, they cannot hold the line.  To say ‘no’ might make them unpopular and they can’t stand that.

Disadvantages or not – I want opposites on my team

But I still want a team player on my team.  They keep the peace.  They don’t complain.  They are careful with other people’s feelings.

Team players are essential in every office

In one place that I worked, we had a long corridor and my office was about one-third of the way down from reception.  When our receptionist went away, I would hear the noise gradually increase.  Once I even slammed my own filing cabinet drawer shut, thinking as I did just how unpleasantly noisy our office was!  Then I caught myself.  Pleasantness and unpleasantness is contagious.  Without our team player, tempers were rising and little incidents of bad temper were being sparked like bush fires after a long drought.  Amazingly, in a team, who should know better, people were often unkind to our team player and complained she wasted time chatting.  No, she didn’t. She was the lubricant that kept the office turning.

I want a team player and I don’t even mind if they do less work than everyone else.  I can do thinking – I will anyway.  I can double check their work – I will anyway!  I can do the unpleasant chores.  It doesn’t bother me.  I’ll even be firm with them and tell them I will do the negotiating because they are no darn good at it!

But I want them there.  They keep us sane.

Do you know the team roles you prefer playing and will always choose when you can?

The Belbin test can be googled but it is heavily copyrighted.  You aren’t likely to find a full copy on the web.  I think I will put up some old lecture notes on Slideshare for you and I’ll use the occasion to check out Prezi.  So book mark this post and come back in a few days to see if it is done.

I strongly recommend you ‘name’ your preferred roles and explore the upsides and downsides of our own style.  Moreover, check out the roles played by people who annoy you.  You will see why you need them so badly!

If you care enough, you can build it, and they will come

I am amazed by what I wrote months and months ago.  You really should keep a blog and write and write.  At the time, your posts may be rough, but they will clarify and when you reread them months late, you will be surprised by your insights.

It seems that some months ago, I jotted down some of my thoughts on using Twitter in classrooms.  In the course of the post, I jotted down three critical features of developing flourishing communities like thriving classrooms.

#1 Conversations

Talk to someone.  Work with someone.  If there is no one else, feel the ground under your feet.  Listen to the birds.  Pay attention!  As we pay attention to the world, we ourselves come alive and the world pays attention to us.

Managers & designers:  Start the conversation. Provide tools and opportunities for people to talk to each other. Watch the range of conversations and help people join in.  Also watch the content of conversations and help people extend their conversations – to more people in and outside the organization.

#2 Community

Be positive. I don’t mean gushy and airy-fairy.  I mean talk to the facts, including your own negative emotions, but don’t exclude other stories.  We should own our negative experience but not think they are the whole story.  Keep a gratitude diary because if you don’t, with the best will in the world, when shit-happens, and it does, you might find you cannot see the good with the bad.

Managers & designers: Set up “positive” procedures – which are procedures that allow us to recognize negative events, which ensure that we never disrespect anyone by ignoring how events impact on them, yet which acknowledge what is good and true and that we want to do more of.  Abandoning the negative art of “gap management” takes thought and disciplined work.  Falling out of love with our own tempers takes practice and like-minded friends.  But unless and until we can achieve positivity : negativity ratios of 5:1 when things are going badly, we will not predictably sustain communities where we will flourish.  The key to flourishing communities begins with us and our loyalty to our members.

#3  Meta-cognition (talking about)

As people settle in, watch out for discussion of the “rules of engagement” and the purpose of our existence.  Everyone will have an idea and they need to be heard. We need to listen to others to allow them to hear themselves and to help them relax sufficiently to hear others.  We need to be patient because this takes time and some people aren’t good at it.  Once advocacy is balanced with curiosity, the group might begin to thrive as a group.  Blogging, of course, as a form of talking-about – of putting our experiences into words and making sense of them.

Managers & designers: Help the group move through the five stages of group formation (forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning) and move as fast or as slow as they do extending the conversations appropriately but listening to the relevant concerns that people have at each stage though, quite rightly, these concerns are very different from yours.  People move on faster when they are allowed to complete each stage to their satisfaction.

Leading takes work. No doubt about that!  It is not as glamorous as it looks.

If you have read this far, you’ll have noticed that I am making little distinction between classrooms, businesses and for that matter, my own life.  I don’t.  I think the three points

  • talk to others
  • keep faith with others (even when it taxes your patience)
  • and put into words what we are thinking and experience

these three simple points are guides to building any community that you care enough to build.


 

The positive psychology of anger and hate

Hate is such an aggressive word

Some time ago, I worked with people who used the word “hate”, a lot.  I was mesmerized.  I “loathed” doing my tax return. I “loathed” broccoli (I like it now – good with a lemon sauce).  But “hate”?

Hate is an active word.  Hate is a doing word.  When we hate something, we want to do it harm.  I didn’t want to do my tax return harm.  It wish it wouldn’t bother me.  But I didn’t want to do it harm.

I also never used the word loathe for people, either.  I sometimes said that “I can’t stand so-and-so”.  I didn’t want to be around them and avoided them if I could.

More often I would say something like “I think so-and-so annoys me because <reason>”.   Once, my reason was that “he seems to think he is my equal.”  My interlocutor agreed with me.  “I think that’s why he annoys me too.”

With that out of the way, we could relate to this “johnny-come-lately” without visible annoyance and without allowing our sense of his impudence to impede a constructive relationship.

Hate is a funny thing – it comes from anger

Hate is closely linked to anger, of course.  Some people make a career of anger.  Others have had so much go wrong in their lives that they’ve lost hope of being treated decently.

For that is what anger is about.  Disappointment and dejection that people who we treat well, treat us badly.

So my colleagues had probably had hard lives.  At the time, I was young, so I thought they should get on with being positive.  I sure they could have done.  With age I have become more compassionate and recognize that they might have had a lot of shit-happen.

Anger is a funny thing – very dangerous but easily resolved

If hate is a contorted emotion, so is anger.  It is so easy to help someone who is angry.  Agree with them.  Let them know that it is OK to be angry.  Watch them relax as their status is restored.  Then help them make a plan.

It is much harder to deal with your own anger.  The triangle of disappointment locks us in.

  • We like so-and-so.
  • They disrespect us and don’t care what they do to us.
  • We can try talking to them about what they are doing to us but we run the risk they confirm they don’t care!

We are left with 4 choices.

  • Living with an uncomfortable double bind where we know they don’t care about us but we all pretend that they do.
  • A dishonest hypocrisy where we know our relationship is rubbish.  But we keep up a pretense and do the minimum.
  • We walk away but wonder forever if we could have restored the relationship.
  • We bring up the problem and have our worst fears resolved.

This choice of 4 bad choices is why social support is so necessary.

Social support cleans up anger in families and organizations

In well run families and work organizations, uncles and aunts and other senior members of the organization step in to resolve conflicts.

  • They alert people to the effects of their behavior on others.
  • They broker apologies and restore status.
  • They suggest equitable separations when a relationship must end because it no longer has an honorable foundation.

Sadly, when we are made angry we don’t tell many people.  We are already suffering from an acute sense of shame and aren’t going to advertise our loss of status to the world.

Unless the uncles and aunts and elders of an organization or community are alert, a lot of anger gets buried.  Pressures and tensions build up and eventually they explode.

People have personal policies for dealing with anger

  • Some people raise the problem immediately.  Their policy is that if you choose to disrespect me, you will live with it.  It is a case of Strike 1 – you know I am unhappy.  Strike 2 – I ask you for an apology.  Strike 3 – If you don’t make good, we share the discomfort -I won’t absorb it alone.  Some people do this explosively.  Some people are brilliant at making a joke.  Both are asserting themselves and making it clear that you should deal with them respectfully or accept loss of status yourself.
  • Some people never raise the problem.  They try to absorb the tension themselves.  They really shouldn’t because the other person might just be clumsy.   But they’ve made a habit of absorbing tensions and will continue to do so.  Watch out for those quiet ones.  It’s not good for any of us that they absorb all the pain.
  • Some people won’t raise the problem but retaliate in due course.  “I don’t get mad but I get even”. I know people who pursue someone else for years until they get even.  One fellow I know would sit in his office doing nothing and keep someone waiting in his outer office for the same time (or more) that he was late.  He would agree to give references and then spike them with faint praise.  His aggression was never overt.  The other person might never know.  But he felt better.  I looked on in wonder.  A lot of energy went into this.  Why not just say “you are late!”?  Well, for the obvious reason that the relationship might break up altogether.

Only the transgressor can truly resolve anger

The trouble with anger is that its resolution is in the hands of the transgressor.  If the transgressor does not apologize quickly, then we are in a lose-lose situation.  It doesn’t matter how you deal with anger – you are still in a lose-lose situation and yours style is just a matter of preference.

Pick your style

Maybe we should just live an “extreme life”?  Deliberately work with people who make us angry for a longish period until we settle on a style that makes the best of lose-lose situations – though there is nothing best in them.

A positive style for dealing with your anger

Or we could be like Ben Zander, the orchestra conductor who lectures on positive psychology:  apologize and invite.

Apologize to the person who made us angry and invite them join in.  Would that work for you?

Shh! We are talking about status and pecking order and noone must hear!

I spent 6 years’ training as a psychologist and status and pecking order were rarely mentioned. Yet, both status and pecking order are central to much of what we do, and at the heart of how we feel about the way others treat us.

I think we should discuss status & pecking order more – at least in the circles of organizational designers and developers.

All important topics are subject to taboos, and status & pecking order is not exception. But it is the job of social scientists to break taboos. If a subject is too important to be discussed openly, then it is also too important to be ignored!

Status explains anger

Take this explanation for anger, for example.  We are angry when we feel we have been demoted.  Just writing the explanation creates a frisson of annoyance.

Resolving anger requires restoring status

Because demotion is often the cause of anger, the quickest way to restore someone’s good temper is to resolve the status issue. Apologize. Help them take their rightful place in the pecking order.

Anger often signals unnoticed shifts in status

Sometimes, someone’s anger takes us by surprise.  Children, for example, sometimes assert themselves rather unexpectedly.  Suddenly, they feel they should be consulted about something, and startle us with their asssertion.

We have to mark shifts in status of our professional colleagues

In professional groups, shifts in status happen too.  Sometimes status changes are marked by rites-of-passage, like graduation day.  We are reminded to start involving people much more deeply in decisions that affect them. But there are also moments where there are no rites-of-passage.

I not only studied psychology. I taught it too – in the last 3 years of the 6 year training period. My students were going from students to legally-qualified-and-registered-psychologists. Graduation was not enough for them. They needed to do something which marked the change. Sometimes they hired me as a consultant (they were the boss now), or they took me out to lunch (and paid)!

It took me one or two batches of students to pick up the trend, and then I began to enjoy the transition.

I also started to build ‘rites of passage’ into our professional internship system.  Students could request a slot at ‘conferences’ to show off a project that (in their minds) showed them using our professional skills at a professional level.  They volunteered, and no one ever missed these sessions because they were very good!

Slides down the status ladder are equally interesting.   In the world of management, which pivots around power, slides-down can be quite entertaining.  I’d be amazed at how quickly people noticed poor contributors, and the way non-performers began to fall off email lists and not be consulted when important decisions were being made.

How much of strife at work is due to mismanaged status?

It strikes me that many issues in the workplace come about because we haven’t considered status issues.

Active listening

Restoring a person’s status, when it has been lowered accidently and even innocently, is sometimes seen as an insult to the next person. Yet anger from accidental reductions in status is easy to resolve. Dealing with anger is one of the 3 scenarios in active listening. No one should be in management position or in a customer service role without understanding and applying these scenarios.

Loyalty to our colleagues

We are also only pleased by an increase in someone else’s status when our own status is fairly secure. Those of us who are organizational designers and developers can’t expect people to manage or deal with customers when they are uncertain about their own status. Where management have reached the LCD of asserting will, rather than talking about joint goals, we can expect status wars to erupt spontaneously.

Rituals for status shifts

We need rituals for younger people to show off their new skills and be accorded the status they deserve. Without these rituals, only a few will discover for themselves appropriate ways to claim the status that is their due. Others will be angered by the lack of recognition. And when we miss that signal too, we hurt ourselves. We should expect passive aggression or outright hissy fits.

Do you think we should talk about status and pecking order more forthrightly?

I’ve noticed that not even the new ‘service designers‘ talk about status and pecking order. Funny that. Must ask them.  Why do we ignore status & pecking order?

How many problems at work do you think we could resolve if we were more thoughtful about status and pecking order?

And could we be more thoughtful about how we adjust our status rankings ‘as play unfolds’?

Is my salvation yours?

And who sat next to me?

Many years ago, I was flying from Harare to Johannesburg and I sat, by providence, next to Dr Shahidul Alam, who I was to discover is a very well known photographer and activist from Bangladesh.  In those days, email newsletters were quite the rage, and overtime of course, we have updated to blogs and RSS feeds.

I use Pageflakes as my feedreeder and I have a page for the feeds I check first thing in the morning, a page for UK blogs linked to my profession, another page for non-UK links in my profession, a page for venture capital, etc.  And I have a page for Evening where I feed blogs like Shahidul’s from Drik Gallery in Dhaka. Whether you like to be informed about events around the world, or whether you just like good photography, I recommend it.

Today, I stumbled upon an article about the 1971 generation, Bangladeshi men and women who were disappointed by the outcomes of Bangladesh’s Independence.  Dashed hopes are sadly quite common when we have worked long and hard for change.

Is your liberation, also mine?

Today’s post began with a quotation from an Aboriginal activist group from Australia.

If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

It is attributed variously to Lila Watson and the Aboriginal Activist’s Group Queensland 1970’s

This is a sentiment I learned growing up in southern Africa with all its inherited problems.

When we are sufficiently well off, we often approach a conflict as if we have nothing to gain from its resolution.  Our patronising attitude is very irritating to the other side.  We may be surprised to find that what we think is good will on our part is generating  considerable contempt.  We may be shocked to hear that we are regarded less positively than people who are downright aggressive.

The alternative takes a lot of courage.  Can we approach conflict resolution and negotiation without any preconditions, and in particular without commitment to being a senior partner?

It is amazing how often we refuse to engage if we are not guaranteed a superior position in advance.  It is also amazing how often we project this stance onto others when they are just calling us on our unwillingness to negotiate in good faith.

So many of the world’s intractable conflicts would be resolved in an instance if we could only get down from our high horse.  And this is true too, in business.

Examples in business

For example, think of the typical networking event when people introduce themselves.  There is little discussion of common goals.  I say what I do (hoping it sounds important).   Others listen, not for something they could do for me, but for something I can do for them, pretending all the while that they want to help me!  Such social contortions!

Imagine if the atmosphere were different and we could say openly, in the next year I want to achieve X?  How many of us would dare?  How many of us listen with and offer “I can help you from there to there” without trying to be important?  I have seen it done but it is so rare that it stands out!

Think too of the typical job advertisment looking for people who are ‘the best’.  And think of the tension that implies.  I want the best but I am recruiting from the open market.   I do not employ the best? Nor I am able to train them?  Ow!  I am really very dependent on the applicants for their skills but I cannot contenance admitting that!

Imagine again phrasing a job advertisment honestly.  This is what we want to achieve this year.  Who believes they can help us?  Please reply stating how we can help you in return.

So why do we get involved with this posturing?

The simple answer is that predicating everything on a pecking order is the central characteristic of  masculine cultures. Britain and most English-speaking countries are very masculine.  And when every one else is attending to the pecking order, to neglect it is dangerous.

Other cultures though, and to some extent the culture we have bred in our midst, Gen Y, are less attached to the pecking order culture.  They are often amazed at our shenanigans and they find our collegial skills somewhat lacking.

Towards an unexpectedly prosperous 2009?

Are we able to abandon the premise that some people are more important than others?  Are we able to abandon the act, that I am safe and OK, and this negotiation affects only your position and not mine?  Do we have the courage to define our future collectively?

It may be important during 2009.

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