Thursday, May 3, 2018

Modeling the Behavior - Part 2

I did a post earlier this week about modeling the behavior that you would want to see.  It is a great way to bring positive change to corporate cultures and a cornerstone of our practice.  I was at an event earlier today and making small talk and heard something that made me want to journal right away.  I was talking with a gentleman who was telling me that he manages a group of engineers and that when one of them would get too into the weeds in explanation, he would ring a bell on his desk to signify that the conversation was over.  He was proud of this.  He said he had his staff trained like Pavlov's dog so when the bell would go off, it was meant to let them know they were driving too far into the details for him and it was time to move on to the next point.  He was sharing this a sense of pride in the conversation.

I am a huge fan of modeling and understanding DISC profiles and communication techniques.  As a project manager, communicating with each other and our teams is one of the most important aspects of success.  I could quickly tell that this person was a high "D" or dominant personality and a strong leader role.  His engineers sounded to be of the high "C" variety who wanted to be into the details.  I asked a question of him that took him completely off guard.  I asked, "So when do the engineers get to ring the bell?"  He looked at me completely perplexed.  I went on, "So if you are on a topic or too far off for the engineers liking, do they get to ring the bell to signify it is time for you to move on, or is it just a one way device?"  By the look in his face, you could tell that the question has either rarely been asked or never been asked before.  He did not like it!  I told him that I didn't mean to offend him if I did, I was just curious on how the dynamic worked.  I tried to lighten the mood by telling him that in my role as a project manager, I rarely complete the tasks, my team does.  Their contribution and happiness on the project is my largest concern.  We awkwardly left the conversation.

At the end of the event, he caught up with me outside.  He told me that nobody had ever challenged the notion that the bell ring could be offensive or that it was a one-way device.  He said that he sat and thought about it through the program and couldn't get it off of his mind.  It was not the type of leader he wanted to be.  He said that he was going to throw the bell away when he got back to his office.  "Or," I said, "you could wait until the next staff meeting and let them know that you never meant to offend anyone with it, apologize if you are comfortable with that, and then throw it away."  He said that he liked that idea better.  He asked me how I thought of that.  I told him one of my favorite stories.

I was a young manager and could feel my team slipping away from me.  I had a planned vacation and asked them that while I was away, to write down everything that they didn't like about me and I would make that part of my personal development plan.  They could either present it to me directly or give it to my boss.  They presented it to me directly.  Almost everything that was presented was a small item that I could improve upon right away.  Small items that were bothering them that I was not aware that I was doing.  I was able to immediately act upon their feedback and strengthen the bond with the team again, it just took the courage to ask.  One of my favorite all time quotes comes from Carl Jung, "Unless you make the sub-conscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate."  Most of us have to be willing to understand our blind spots in order to improve them.  We have to model the behavior and be the change that we want to see.  Instead of pointing the finger and announcing what we do not like, we must point within and model what we do like.

No Day But Today,

Rick A. Morris

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