What Really Matters Vol 1 No 2 2009


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Gary Ryan and Dr Andrew O'Brien have created this ebook from articles published on The Organisations That Matter Learning Network (http://www.studentsthatmatter.ning.com) from July 1st through to September 30th. The final ebook in the series will be released early in January 2010. This is the second of a series of three ebooks for 2009. The focus of the ebook series is upon Personal and Professional Development to help you to accelerate your career.

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What Really Matters Vol 1 No 2 2009

  1. 1.             Organisations That Matter      What Really Matters!  Volume 1, Number 2, 2009  Gary Ryan & Dr Andrew O’Brien 
  2. 2. What Really Matters! Volume 1, Number 2, 2009 – is a compilation of selected articles from The Organisations That Matter Learning Network from July 1st through to September 30th 2009 By Gary Ryan and Dr Andrew O’Brien Published by Organisations That Matter Pty Ltd Level 8, 350 Collins Street Melbourne, Victoria 3166 AUSTRALIA Phone +61 3 8676 0637 E-mail: gary@orgsthatmatter.com Copyright © 2009 Gary Ryan & Dr Andrew O’Brien, Organisations That Matter® All effort was made to render this ebook free from error and omission. However, the author, publisher, editor, their employees or agents shall not accept responsibility for injury, loss or damage to any person or body or organisation acting or refraining from such action as a result of material in this book, whether or not such injury, loss or damage is in any way due to any negligent act or omission, breach of duty, or default on the part of the author, publisher, editor or their employees or agents. Recommended Retail Price (RRP) AUS$55.95 However, this is a FREE eBook. You have our express permission to share it with friends, family, colleagues, clients – and whoever else you think will get value from it. A note about ebooks Ebooks provide a special function that traditional books cannot provide. The links in this ebook are ‘live’, so if you read the ebook while online, you can immediately access the reference material.                
  3. 3.        Who should read this ebook? This ebook is for people who are interested in personal and professional development, specifically as it relates to achieving career aspirations and enabling the organisations within which we work to be better places for human beings. This ebook represents articles from July 1st through to September 30th 2009 from The Organisations That Matter Learning Network. Number 3 will be released early in January 2010. To join our network please follow this link. Thank You! Thank you to all our members of The Organisations That Matter Learning Network. We hope that you will receive great value from this collection of articles from The Organisations That Matter Learning Network. Please respect our copyright. This means that if you are a member of The Organisations That Matter Learning Network you have our permission to share this ebook with your friends and to invite them to join our community so that they too can enjoy this book. Best wishes! Gary Ryan and Dr Andrew O’Brien
  4. 4.        Table of Contents  Shared vision is not a one off event but an ongoing conversation By Andrew O’Brien ......................... 5  How to create a culture based on respect ‐ focussing upon organisational community spaces By Gary  Ryan ........................................................................................................................................................ 7  The mental models behind disrespectful behaviour .......................................................................... 8  Building 'weight of numbers' toward a new culture  ........................................................................ 10  . The Seven Skills of Dialogue By Gary Ryan ........................................................................................... 12  The Conversation Continuum ........................................................................................................... 12  Leadership for kids provides lessons for adults                     By Gary Ryan ............................................ 19  1) Everyone is a leader ...................................................................................................................... 20  2) The Figure 8 of Leadership  ........................................................................................................... 20  . The Figure 8 of Leadership ............................................................................................................ 21  3) Being responsible for your choices ............................................................................................... 22  How to identify your personal values By Gary Ryan ............................................................................. 24  How to stimulate ‘Conversations That Matter’                         By Gary Ryan ........................................ 29  Why ‘Great Service’ means that your staff come first, not your customers! By Gary Ryan ................. 31  Defining ‘Systems Thinking’ – a core leadership skill           By Gary Ryan ............................................ 34  Discover how ‘Structure Drives Behaviour’                               By Gary Ryan ......................................... 39  Student example ............................................................................................................................... 39  Employee example ............................................................................................................................ 41  Elite sport example ........................................................................................................................... 43  Learn to accept your brutal reality, but never lose the faith By Gary Ryan ......................................... 46  Brutal Reality/Faith Model ................................................................................................................ 48  How little ideas can make a big difference when times are tough By Gary Ryan ................................ 50  How doing nothing can be an example of leadership .......................................................................... 53  By Gary Ryan ......................................................................................................................................... 53  How to release mental models that choke ‘Truth to Power’ By Gary Ryan ......................................... 56  What leaders can do to maintain focus on organisational objectives By Gary Ryan ........................... 60  Step 1. ............................................................................................................................................... 60  Step 2. ............................................................................................................................................... 61  Step 3. ............................................................................................................................................... 61  Step 4. ............................................................................................................................................... 62  Step 5. ............................................................................................................................................... 62 
  5. 5.        How to leverage employability skills for success            By Gary Ryan ............................... 64  About Organisations That Matter ......................................................................................................... 69  About Gary Ryan ................................................................................................................................... 70  About Dr Andrew O’Brien ..................................................................................................................... 71  More in this series! ............................................................................................................................... 73  Feedback ........................................................................................................................................... 73  Join us! .............................................................................................................................................. 73  Share! ................................................................................................................................................ 73  Thank You! ........................................................................................................................................ 73 
  6. 6. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Shared vision is not a one off event but an ongoing  conversation By Andrew O’Brien    Far too often I hear executive leaders say “We did shared vision last year and we will do it again in 4 years time as part of our 5 year planning cycle”. Managers with this attitude are keen to be seen to putting a big tick in their management check list and making sure they are seen to do the right thing and can’t be accused of not knowing what they are doing. Taking vision as a one off event is a common approach to vision by including it in the regular planning cycle regardless of whether the cycle occurs 10 years, 5 years or annually. This approach is often linked to the one line statement or a change in CEO yet it fails to recognise that shared vision compromises much more than just a line on a page and that purpose, values, strategy, mental models and current reality as well as a rich picture of the desired future all require constant attention. The world can move quickly so constant attention to current reality and strategy are required. Purpose and values guide our day-to-day behaviour and decision making which means we need to be continually aware of and working on them. In the hustle and bustle of day-to –day work our thinking is influenced and it is easy to drift and develop misunderstandings. Shared vision requires constant attention and provides the content for constant workplace conversations. Basketball Coach John Woden provided an insight into the need to keep working on vision when he said “If you go as far as you can see, you will then see enough to go 5       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  7. 7. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     even farther” which recognises that as we learn, grow and move ahead we realise how much further we can go. In addition to building on our success and recognising changing circumstances another reason for shared vision being an ongoing conversation is the turnover in organisations. New people joining the organization and others leaving so this state of flux requires ongoing learning and understanding of the shared vision and to be effective the behaviour and strategy aspects of shared vision must be observable in action all the time. When they are not observable it is evidence that you have not achieved shared vision. Shared vision was recognised as an ongoing conversation by one senior executive who said, “The development of shared vision within our company has taken many years and continues to evolve. We involve many people at all levels within the organisation. It really is a journey not a fixed destination.” 6       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  8. 8. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     How to create a culture based on respect ­ focussing upon  organisational community spaces By Gary Ryan  Organisational 'community spaces' such as staff lounge areas, learning & development rooms, bathrooms, shower facilities (if they exist) and staff dining/kitchen areas are important areas for staff to relax, mingle and learn. The way that staff look after these spaces reveals a lot about an organisation's culture. When these spaces are left messy they reflect a lack of care and respect for other staff members. Some people argue that the "...cleaners are employed to keep the space clean, so we'd be taking away their jobs if we did it ourselves." Such arguments seem to forget that most cleaners don't arrive until the evening and I've never experienced an organisation yet where there wasn't enough work for the cleaners to do, even if a positive culture of keeping community spaces tidy already exists. Behaviours such as dirty dishes left on tables in the staff dining/kitchen areas reflects a lack of respect for the next person who might like to sit at your table. Used towels left on the floor of a staff shower facility reflects the same lack of respect. Who wants to pick up someone else's dirty towel? Rubbish left in Training & Development rooms reflects disrespect for the next people using that room. The people who do these behaviours may not even be aware that what they are doing is disrespectful, which highlights the power of deep seeded mental models at work (if you are sure what Mental Models are, then please see the article What you think affects what you see.) 7       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  9. 9. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     The mental models behind disrespectful behaviour  The mental models that may underpin these behaviours are quite interesting and may reflect combinations of the following deep seeded views: 1) It is not my job to clean up 2) Cleaning is a low level job that is below my status 3) If an area is messy when I find it, why should I clean up after other people? 4) People were placed on this earth to serve me - I am the centre of the universe! 5) It is someone else's problem if this area is a mess when I leave 6) If someone else doesn't like the way this area is when they get here, then they'll do something about it 7) I'm too busy for this stuff What I have found very interesting over time is how people who seem to hold the above mental models, are also the very same people who become quite indignant when they enter an area and it is not up to the standard that they expect it should be when they want to use it. In many ways they hold a very hypocritical view of the world. Simple behaviours that demonstrate respect for community spaces  Below is a list of 6 simple examples that demonstrate care and respect for other staff members. I'll follow these examples with a way to build weight of numbers toward a more respectful culture. 8       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  10. 10. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     1) When leaving a Training & Development Room, return the room to its standard condition and set-up, even if that wasn't how you found the room. 2) Always clean up the space that you use in the staff dining area and place rubbish in the bin and dirty dishes in the appropriate washing space if one is provided, and if one isn't provided either take your dirty dishes home to wash or wash them in the staff kitchen. 3) Leave a staff shower area clean, ready for the next person to use it. 4) Place the paper towels used for drying hands in a staff bathroom in the bin. 5) Remove litter and cutlery from a staff lounge area as you leave it. 6) Remove out of date posters and information from bulletin boards in public spaces when you notice them. Some people do not realise that the internal spaces of the organisation send a strong message to 'outsiders' about what the organisation is really like. If your organisation seeks to be respected by the outside world, then the people within the organisation have to show respect toward each other and this respect is often demonstrated through how community spaces are respected. 9       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  11. 11. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Many members of this online learning site are full-time or part-time students. The same principles apply. If you respect others within your educational institution, then you will respect the community spaces that you use, always considering the people who will use that space after you.   Building 'weight of numbers' toward a new culture  The following three steps can be highly powerful with regard to shifting a culture: Step 1: Model the behaviour that you desire 'Walk your beliefs' by ensuring that you show respect to others when you use community spaces. Initially this may involve cleaning up after other people when you first enter a space, or it might include cleaning up after them after they leave. Step 2: Be prepared to explain what you are doing when you are asked, "Why are you doing that?" When someone asks you why you are doing what you are doing, they are effectively opening the door to their learning. Over time I have found the practice of waiting for people to open their door to their learning to be far more powerful than 'standing on a chair and preaching to them'. In this context you must be prepared to be both patient (a servant leadership attribute) and to be able to explain why you are helping to keep the community space clean. This is the path to building 'weight of numbers'. As people develop an understanding of what you are doing, more and more of them will start to demonstrate 10       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  12. 12. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     the behaviour and just like an exponential curve rises sharply, a culture can quickly change when it has weight of numbers supporting the change. If there are a number of staff that you know who might already be sympathetic toward changing the culture, engage their support in practicing the steps outlined in this blog. It really is amazing how powerful weight of numbers can be. Step 3: Once the culture is established, include it as part of your Induction Program for new staff and explain how the behaviours associated with the desired culture support a deep respect for the people within the organisation. If you work in an organisation where your community spaces show disrespect toward other staff you may be surprised to discover that other people feel as frustrated by that behaviour as you do. Through consciously demonstrating the appropriate behaviours you may be delighted by how quickly weight of numbers can form and a new culture can form. The impact of improving a culture in this manner cannot be underestimated. In fact, I strongly argue that there is a positive flow on effect to performance. Why? People become the best they can be when they operate within a culture of respect. Who wouldn't want that outcome? Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here. 11       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  13. 13. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     The Seven Skills of Dialogue By Gary Ryan  Dialogue is a much used term. It seems that it is often used as a synonym for conversation. While this is in part accurate, dialogue is in fact a form of conversation that is distinct from other forms of conversation. The ‘Conversation Continuum’ positions dialogue at the opposite end of the continuum to debate. The Conversation Continuum  Conversation continuum Dialogue Skilful discussion Polite discussion Raw debate More Conventional More attuned to the sources of group thought and bringing them to the surface 1 www.orgsthatmatter.com © Organisations That Matter® 2007 - 2009 It is important to note that debate, polite discussion, skilful discussion and dialogue are all legitimate forms of conversation. Our perspective is that most people are highly skilled at both debate and polite discussion and poorly skilled at skilful discussion and dialogue. Debating is when each person in a conversation has a view that is un- 12       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  14. 14. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     moving and they seek to sell their view or 'to beat down' opposing views until their view 'wins'. People often use their positional power to win debates which is one of the reasons why many people become very skilled at debating. Polite discussion is when people have the appearance of agreeing with a particular view, but do not actually support the view. For a range of personal, cultural and organisational reasons people choose not to be honest. Instead, they nod their heads in agreeance or acceptance but then let others know when they are in the office kitchen that they really hold a different view. Our perspective is that polite discussion is a damaging form of conversation and should be minimised as much as possible. At least in a debate people's positions are clear. With polite discussion, no-one other than the person themself knows their true position. Skilful discussion is what most of us achieve when we are trying to use the skills associated with dialogue. It is a highly productive form of conversation and is the result of the generally low dialogue skills that most of us possess. Like most skills, if we haven't practiced them very much throughout our lives we tend to be fairly poor at executing them when we first begin to use those skills. However, many of the benefits of dialogue such as learning, deeper insights, innovation, shared understanding and a deeper understanding of vision, purpose and values can be achieved through skilful discussion. In other words it is a highly desirable form of communication which demonstrates the value in practicing these skills even when we may be poor at them. 13       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  15. 15. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Dialogue is a form of conversation where people genuinely try to access different perspectives to enable a new understanding to emerge. Unlike debate, dialogue seeks to discover a new meaning that was not previously held by any of the participants in the dialogue. While difficult to achieve, the seven skills of dialogue can be practised at any time. Through practice, dialogue skills can significantly enhance skilful discussion and dialogue itself when the opportunity arises. The seven skills of dialogue are deep listening, respecting others, inquiry, voicing openly, balancing advocacy and inquiry, suspending assumptions & judgements and reflecting. Each of these skills is explained below. 1. Deep listening In its most simple form deep listening derives from the conscious choice to listen. It involves quietening the voice in our heads so that we can hear the true story of the person to whom we are listening. As we listen to understand their whole story we literally stay quiet and just listen. In exercises that we conduct on listening, people often report that they are amazed at how much they can hear when they know that all they have to do is listen. Instead of readying themself for their turn to speak, the listener focuses on understanding the speaker. Deep listening can occur anywhere, anytime. It could be with a team member while walking down a corridor. It might be with a customer in a busy department store or on the telephone. It might even be with our own partners! Imagine the difference that enhanced listening could make in that domain! The common element in all 14       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  16. 16. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     listening examples is the genuine choice to listen. It is both powerful and important if deep listening is to occur. 2. Respecting others Voltaire, a French author, humanist, rationalist and satirist is reported to have said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." This perspective lies at the heart of respecting others. Clearly this is particularly difficult to do when we interact with people who have contrasting views to our own. Practicing this dialogue skill therefore becomes imperative if we are to develop the true capacity to dialogue. While respecting others does not mean that you have to agree with them, it does mean that you will allow them the time and space to have their say and you will see it as a perspective that while you may not understand it, it is a perspective that is valid in the context that it contributes, even if only in a small way, to our understanding of the 'complete' picture of whatever is our area of focus at the time. 3. Inquiry This is the capacity to ask genuine questions. As such it encourages the use of open questions that enhance our understanding of different perspectives, or assist in the deeply held mental models that lie behind many perspectives to come to the surface. The blog The Art of Skilful Questions provides a range of insights and suggestion to assist with developing improved questioning skills. 15       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  17. 17. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     4. Voicing openly (advocacy) Many of us are quite talented in this skill, at least in part. Voicing openly is the capacity to say what you think and to be able to explain why you think what you think. Unfortunately many people struggle to share their view. All views, if they exist, are important for the development of a true understanding of a situation. If those views are not shared, then a part of the picture is missing which is why voicing is so important in the context of dialogue. 5. Suspending assumptions & judgements The capacity to explain why we hold the views that we hold lies at the heart of suspending assumptions & judgements. Much like we hang our clothes on a line for them to dry, suspending means that we 'hang out' our reasons for our views. This allows people to look at them, question them and assist us in developing a deeper understanding of our perspectives. To suspend your assumptions & judgements illustrates a willingness to be vulnerable which is a key attribute of servant leaders (see the articles Dee Hock - an example of a Servant Leader and The Paradoxes of Servant Leadership if you are not aware of servant leadership). Should we discover that our views are not useful through the act of having suspended them before others, we have the opportunity to adopt new ones. This experience is often described as true learning. 6. Balancing voicing (advocacy) and inquiry This is as simple and complex as balancing sharing our view and why we have it with asking genuine questions to better understand another 16       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  18. 18. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     person's view, or to allow the group to talk about issues that will enhance the whole group's collective understanding of a topic. To practice this skill involves utilising all the skills listed above; deep listening, respecting others, inquiry, voicing openly and suspending assumptions & judgements. Even if the other people with whom you are conversing are not trying to dialogue, practicing this skill significantly enhances the quality of your contribution to the conversation. People will notice your enhanced communication skills because the quality of the conversations within which you participate will be enhanced by your contributions to them. 7. Reflecting Our fast paced world offers little time to reflect. However the capacity to reflect is a big rock (see the article The Rocks and the Jar) and enhances our communication skills and capacity to dialogue through considering how we have just practiced our skills. In team environments it is worth holding a reflection at the end of an attempted dialogue to recognise where the skills of dialogue were used effectively and where they could be improved. The article Conducting an End of Meeting Reflection provides some pointers for such a conversation. Summary People often recognise that practicing dialogue is not easy. It isn't. But the various skills of dialogue can be practised at any time in any form of communication, and providing they are used for the purpose of genuinely enhancing communication, practicing these skills will 17       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  19. 19. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     provide immense benefits for all involved and result in improved team/group performance. Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here.   18       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  20. 20. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Leadership for kids provides lessons for adults                      By Gary Ryan  Over the years I have had the good fortune to have been asked to provide some leadership development sessions for children. I usually work with adults and many of those adults are highly educated so we often go into quite complex areas when we facilitate leadership programs. Working with children therefore poses a considerable challenge. How do we distil quite complex information into an easily understood format for children? The answer lies in having the capacity to understand leadership in such a way that it can be focussed into some simple concepts. Through some trial and error I have discovered some concepts that seem to work, with interesting feedback from the adults who have witnessed the programs. Three key concepts have emerged as being the ones that children seem to be able to embrace: 1) Everyone is a leader 2) The Figure 8 of Leadership 3) Being responsible for your choices 19       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  21. 21. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     1) Everyone is a leader  Over time I have found some interesting trends when working with children. When I have asked them to raise their hands if they believe that they are a leader or could be one in the future, virtually all the children raise their hand. When I then ask them, "Who are leaders?" they unanimously respond, "We are!". What response do you think that I usually hear from adults? Very few adults raise their hand to indicate that they think that they are a leader. For children, the concept that everyone is a leader and they have to lead themselves seems relatively natural, yet for adults it seems (for many) quite foreign. When we facilitate leadership education for adults one of our key themes is that you can't lead others if you can't lead yourself. My experience has taught me that children understand this idea, so we adults have a responsibility to continue to help them understand this concept by re-enforcing that they are, in fact leaders. To do this, find them making positive choices and recognise them for it. The importance of choices is explained in the second lesson below.   2) The Figure 8 of Leadership  The attached file Leadership for Kids includes a diagram outlining the Figure 8 of Leadership. 20       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  22. 22. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     The Figure 8 of Leadership  Leadership for Kids Good Positive Actions Positive Choices Leadership Choices Poor Negative Actions Negative Choices Leadership 1 www.orgsthatmatter.com © Organisations That Matter® 2007 - 2009   While my experience with adults is that it takes them a while to comprehend that leadership can be for bad reasons (equalling poor leadership) just as it can be for good reasons (equalling good leadership), children seem to understand this concept quite easily. This raises the important issue of self leadership, which feeds off the first concept above, that we are all leaders. In simple terms self-leadership starts with choices. Some choices are good choices and lead to good behaviour, while other choices are poor choices and lead to poor behaviour. The good choices represent good leadership, and the poor choices represent poor leadership. On many levels this is quite simple. And it is! Children seem to understand it and can easily provide many examples of good choices and poor choices which result in good leadership or poor leadership. 21       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  23. 23. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     The simple power of the model lies in the fact that children have the capacity to start making good choices even if they have made some poor ones. In other words, the start of good leadership is only a choice away. Clearly the reverse is also true; poor leadership is only a choice away as well. I recall a child in one session raising his hand and saying, "I've been making lots of bad choices at school such as not listening to teachers and picking on other kids. I thought that I was a bad person and I didn't realise that I was a leader. But what you're saying is that I only have to start making good choices and I can be a good leader. I like that idea. I can do that." None of us are perfect. We will all make poor choices. Overall leadership is dependent upon the balance of our choices. Are they generally on the good half of the model, or the poor half? Over time we can consciously develop positive habits to enhance our good leadership through making good choices. Maybe this leadership stuff isn't so hard after all, which leads to the third and final concept.   3) Being responsible for your choices  Rather than blaming other people or circumstances for our choices, personal responsibility for our choices increases the probability that we will make good choices. Once again children seem to easily understand such a statement. Maybe they see the consequences of their choices more clearly than we adults do because they have so many adults around them monitoring their behaviour. Yet when we become adults often we stop getting that sort of feedback because of many complicated reasons. What if we adults were to actively seek out 22       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  24. 24. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     feedback on the choices that we are making and our resultant behaviours? Maybe such feedback would assist us in better leading ourselves. And we never know, the better we lead ourselves the more likely others may be to follow. In summary, the key features of Leadership for Kids that may provide some lessons for adults include: 1) We are all leaders; 2) Our choices lie at the heart of effective leadership; and 3) Personal responsibility for our choices will enhance our capacity to lead ourselves and others. Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here.   23       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  25. 25. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     How to identify your personal values By Gary Ryan  Michelle Hunt, author of Dream Makers (www.dreammakers.org) describes values as the rudder that we use to navigate our way through the turbulent waters of life. Without our values we have no rudder and simply go wherever the current takes us. Usually our values become evident when something happens that truly upsets us. Our values are often the opposite to the things that deeply upset us. For example, if someone is telling me lies and I have discovered that I have been told lies, I have a physical reaction to that behaviour. My values of honesty and integrity have been challenged by the person lying to me which results in a strong reaction from me. Similarly, I have a strong work ethic and I struggle with people who seem lazy and then complain that nobody is helping them. In this example, my service value is being challenged. Jerry Porras in his book Success Built to Last suggests that it doesn't really matter what your values are (unless they would cause deliberate harm to others), what really matters is that you are aware of what they are for you. This is critically important because without a deep understanding of your values you are at risk of behaving in ways that are not congruent with them. If you are not sure what your values are, try the following activity. You will require a pen and four small pieces of paper. 24       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  26. 26. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     1) Write what you think might be a core value of yours on each of the four pieces of paper. You can write single words or phrases - whatever works for you. What matters is that you understand what your values mean. It doesn't matter if no-one else understands what you write. 2) Life is challenging and sometimes we have to prioritise our values. Out of the four values that you have written down, which one would you set aside first. Please scrunch up the piece of paper with that value on it and throw it on the floor. 3) Life is even more challenging. Out of the three values that you are yet to set aside, which value would you set aside next? Once again, scrunch up the paper and drop it on the floor. 25       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  27. 27. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     De-Brief How did you feel when you had to select the first value to set aside? The second one? Your reactions will tell you something about whether or not what you wrote is more like a core value or not. A strong reaction to the activity more than likely indicates that what you wrote is more like a core value than not. Now, let's go a step further. If you have discovered some core values, do you ever behave in ways that is far worse than scrunching up a piece of paper and throwing it on the floor? Maybe you had honesty and integrity as a value, yet you regularly talk and gossip behind people's backs, then pretend to be nice to them when they are around you. Once we identify our core values we can use them in our day to day decision making. They help us to do the right thing at the right time. Sometimes our actions, when driven by our values are not popular. That is OK. There are times in our lives when we must take a stand no matter how futile the odds may seem to be. For example, someone may be getting bullied at work and we see it occur. What would our values guide us to do? I recall as a young manager a service repair man who I had engaged to do a job for me provided me with a bill that seemed higher than it should have been. This contractor had done work for me before and I trusted him so I didn't follow up on my suspicions and paid the bill (which was against our protocols!). A week after the 'job' was completed he returned to my office for what I thought was a friendly 26       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  28. 28. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     visit. He handed me an envelope with several hundred dollars in it. He openly told me that he had over-charged my organisation for the work that he had performed and the money in the envelope was my share of the over-payment. If I agreed to continue to contract him and to approve his work at inflated rates, he would continue to give me envelopes filled with money. While not enraged by his behaviour I was not far from that type of reaction. I literally threw the envelope back at him and immediately told him that I was reporting him to my boss and that he would never work for our organisation again. He too reacted strongly and threatened my physical well-being at which time I picked up the phone to dial our security personnel. He quickly left our premises, never to return. I had not gone to work that day expecting such an event to unfold. I had nothing but my values to guide me with regard to how I reacted in the moment when he handed me the money. To this day I am glad that I had the courage to follow my values. At the time I was on a very low wage and three hundred dollars was a lot of money. But there simply wasn't a chance that I would accept it. In telling the story to my boss I also had to admit that I had not followed proper protocols when I had suspected the bill had been inflated in the first place. I was reminded of the reason why our protocols existed and promised to strictly follow them in the future, which I did. Imagine if I was not clear about my values and I had accepted the 27       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  29. 29. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     money. Imagine the ripple effect over time. I suspect that I wouldn't be writing this blog on this topic, that is for sure! In another example I recently witnessed some peers provide some feedback to their colleague. While highly skilled, this person was told that she put her own success ahead of the team's success. While difficult to hear, she thanked her peers for their honesty. She realised that what her peers had told her was true and she needed to improve in some areas, while maintaining her outstanding performance based on her technical skills. Her personal value of honesty allowed her to hear the feedback, accept it and then do something about it. Recently her peers have recognised her team first behaviours and her respect amongst her peers has sky-rocketed. Values do conflict. They conflict on a personal level and they can conflict on an organisational level. I will write another blog about how you manage such situations. The most important issue, however, is to identify your values and to try to live them to the best of your ability. As you consciously use your values to guide your behaviour, you build your capacity to take effective action and are better able to navigate your way through the turbulent waters of life.  Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here. 28       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  30. 30. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     How to stimulate ‘Conversations That Matter’                          By Gary Ryan  A perspective that we hold about the world is that success is inextricably linked to the quality of conversations conducted within a workplace. High quality conversations lead to high quality learning, which leads to high quality actions and the resultant high performance that organisations desire. Creating the conditions for high quality learning is a significant challenge for most people. If people have a mental model that they already 'know everything' or that they 'should know everything' because of their organisational status, title and/or experience, then high quality conversations are less likely to occur. An openness to learning, or a desire to learn are literally a pre-requisite for high quality learning. Therefore, how can you create a culture that is more aligned to a learning culture? One way to do this is to use what we term 'Conversation Starters'. I learned this technique off my business partner Andrew O'Brien back in the mid 1990s. Short articles or illustrations can be used as way of creating a safe way for people to talk about issues that otherwise might be very difficult to raise. This is also why we use a lot of illustrations in our work. The illustrations provoke different reactions in people, and it is talking about the different reactions that people have that can create the space for learning. The same phenomenon can occur with articles, blogs, books and many other forms of media. 29       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  31. 31. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     The blogs and discussion forums that we create on this learning site could be used as a point upon which to focus a conversation within a workplace. For example, mental models are a concept that not a lot of people have been exposed to throughout their lives. Through sharing the blog that defines them and then hosting a conversation about what people understood from the article, and then relating the understanding of the blog to your workplace can produce a conversation that matters. Real learning can occur especially if you take the step and ask the question, "Ok, so we have created a level of shared understanding from what we have read, in what ways does the article relate to our workplace?". There are many other conditions that are required to enhance the number of conversations that matter within an organisation. One of the key messages from Systems Thinking is that everything is connected. If you understand this concept then you will see that all our blogs and discussion forums are connected. The clues for creating an organisation that is able to truly learn so that it achieves the future it desires is imbedded amongst the many pages of this site. So, if you see a blog or a discussion that you think might stimulate a conversation that matters with other people, share it and host the conversation. Please let us know how you go! Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here. 30       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  32. 32. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Why  ‘Great  Service’  means  that  your  staff  come  first,  not  your customers! By Gary Ryan  Southwest Airlines in the USA have been a huge success story, not just because of their sustainability (they have returned a profit every year since 1971, including the year 2001 when most other airlines suffered because of 911, and more recently last financial year when many airlines were making tremendous losses) but also because of the way they operate. They are the winner of multiple airline industry awards, Service Excellence awards and Best Employer awards. While written in 1996 by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg, the book NUTS! - Southwest Airlines Recipe for Business and Personal Success highlights why Southwest has been able to be so successful. Despite founding CEO Herb Kelleher having been retired for a number of years, the foundation stones of creating a great place to work and striving to provide great service have continued with current CEO Gary D Kelly. Through a core set of values that include concern, respect, and caring for employees and customers Southwest has been an amazing example of NOT believing the customer is always right. The fact is, the customer is probably right 99% of the time, but you have to be prepared to exclude customers from time to time. Especially if their behaviour is unacceptable toward your staff and other customers. I remember experiencing this lesson when I was a young manager of a fitness centre. We had gone through an extensive process with our members to create our Fitness Centre Etiquette. It was highly visible 31       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  33. 33. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     throughout the centre and all new members were inducted to the etiquette as part of their induction program. The etiquette outlined, amongst other things, that all members needed to wear appropriate clothing, including a top. A small group of young male 'body builders' started training without a top. Several of the staff approached them and kindly reminded them of the fitness centre etiquette and asked them to replace their tops. With rude language the young men refused to do as they were asked. As the manager of the centre I was informed of the incident and approached the young men. We had a short conversation where I reminded them of the expected behavioural standards for members and they replaced their tops. Unfortunately this behaviour repeated itself on a further two occasions. A couple of the staff were feeling bullied by the members and were becoming concerned for their personal safety. I had warned the three young men that if their behaviour did not change, then I would have to expel them from the fitness centre. The following day the young men returned and proceeded to repeat the behaviour. Upon noticing this behaviour I prepared three cheques for the men, 100% refunding their membership fees despite three quarters of their membership period having already been used. I approached the men and asked them to leave the centre. I had another staff member ready to call for security assistance if they did not leave peacefully. I informed the young men that they were not only expelled from the centre but that they were also not welcome to return unless they could demonstrate a willingness to support the fitness centre's etiquette. Amongst a flurry of abuse and threats toward me, the young men left, cheques in hand never to return. 32       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  34. 34. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     What was to follow both surprised me and re-enforced the idea that staff must come first. In doing so, they will serve your customers to the highest of standards. Firstly, no less than 35 customers personally spoke with me or other staff members to inform us that if we had not expelled the three members they would have left and joined another centre. Given that each of these people stayed at the centre for many years, the small investment I made in giving 100% refunds to the three young men was an investment that paid high returns! Secondly, the staff who had experienced the poor behaviour of the three young men all noted how important it was to them personally that I had supported them. They said that it gave them confidence and that it indicated that we took the overall delivery of our service very seriously. So seriously that we were prepared to exclude some customers if that was in the best interests of both the centre and the vast majority of our customers. It is important to note that these experiences are few and far between. However, organisations have to be prepared to take effective action on the odd occasion when the customer isn't right. Usually, taking such action will show your team members that you really do put them first! Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here. 33       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  35. 35. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Defining ‘Systems Thinking’ – a core leadership skill            By Gary Ryan  Systems Thinking is both a language and a set of tools that offer a powerful new perspective to help organisations to solve problems, avoid problems and most importantly, to learn. The tools available through systems thinking enable people to understand the reality of their organisation in a way that emphasises the relationships between the parts of the organisation, rather than focussing on the parts themselves. Just as the team who design a car engine must consider the car's purpose, its required fuel economy and the size of its engine bay throughout the design process, systems thinking requires people to consider how their part of the organisation fits into the purpose of the whole organisation. For example, a Marketing Department exists for the benefit of the whole organisation, not the other way around. Five Characteristics That Define a System 34       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  36. 36. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     1) Every system has a purpose within a larger system. For example, the Information Technology department within any large corporation must fulfil the purpose required of it by the larger system. Should the IT department not fulfil this purpose then the department would be at serious risk of being outsourced. 2) All of a system's parts must be present for the system to carry out its purpose optimally. My body is a system. It contains a number of sub-systems that contribute to the optimal functioning of my body. One of those sub- systems is my urinary system that includes my kidneys. Should my kidneys fail and cease to function I will die if I am unable to find a way to replace the function that my kidneys play in my urinary system. That part of my body's system is necessary for my body to function optimally. In an organisational context imagine if your organisation didn’t have an Information Technology department (not even an outsourced one). It is difficult to imagine that in today’s business environment that your organisation could function and remain competitive without this part of the system being present. 3) A system's parts must be arranged in a specific way for the system to carry out its purpose. If you re-arranged your reporting relationships so that your Chief Finance Officer reported to an entry level Graduate, it is unlikely that your finance department could carry out its purpose effectively! Therefore it is important that organisational reporting structures are appropriate for the organisation to function correctly. 35       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  37. 37. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     4) Systems change in response to feedback. As the air temperature in an office block is monitored by the temperature sensor on the wall, the temperature sensor provides feedback to the air-conditioning system. Once the feedback indicates that the air is too cool (during winter) the heating is turned on. Eventually the temperature sensor will detect that the room's temperature has reached the desired upper limit of the desired room temperature and this feedback will inform the air conditioning system to turn off the heating component. Slowly the room's air temperature will decline until the lower limit of the desired room's air temperature is reached, triggering the air conditioning system to turn on the heating once again. This explains why some people can continually hear the air-conditioning system turn on and off throughout the day. This example also highlights that feedback changes the behaviour of the system - in this case the feedback causes the air-conditioning heating to be turned on or off. Similarly organisations need feedback from their staff, their customers and key stakeholders to ensure that they react and respond to the needs and expectations of those groups. 5) Systems have limits to their optimum function. The recent global economic crisis is evidence that the world's financial system reached a limit. The exponential growth of that system ultimately could not be sustained, so the system effectively shut itself down causing a number of very large institutions to collapse or be required to be 'bailed out' by their governments. This is an important lesson for everyone. The world does not work in straight lines - unless 36       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  38. 38. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     we hit a limit and the system collapses (or dies!). Systems thinking teaches us this very important point. The world really works in curves and the tools of systems thinking help us to understand how the curves work and how we can work with them. I often hear people within organisations say things like, “We aim to grow at ten percent every year for the next ten years.” Such a statement actually means that the organisation is going to grow at a very steep exponential rate over the next five years. What is the capacity of the staff to handle such a high level of growth? How will new staff be recruited? Is there a large enough talent pool from which to draw new staff? What are the competitors in the industry doing? The answers to each of these questions highlights a potential ‘limit’ that could de-rail the projected growth. Systems thinking helps you to ask these questions and to consider their answers. Nothing grows forever, at least not at the same rate all of the time. Systems thinking and learning Systems thinking is critical for ongoing learning because it teaches us that learning is essential for ongoing survival. As both the parts of a system and the broader systems within which our system is a part are constantly changing, learning is an essential function for enabling survival to occur. General Motors in the USA was ultimately a slow learner. The broader system of which it is a part changed over the past 5 years. The significant increase in the general population's understanding of global warming, partnered with the significant rises in fuel prices that occurred over that period, affected the marketplace in such a way that the large fuel-guzzling vehicles produced by General Motors were no longer desired. Because learning includes the 37       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  39. 39. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     capacity to demonstrate foresight (a Servant Leadership attribute) as well as the capacity to change to the needs of your immediate environment, General Motors inability to do either of these have seen it decline in a most dramatic fashion. While General Motors was able to grow exponentially while its broader environment was favourable, its lack of an ability to truly learn contributed to its eventual downfall. Remember, all systems have limits - and General Motors found its own limits. A significant aspect of systems thinking is the Structure Drives Behaviour concept. A client with whom we work recently experimented with changing the seating arrangements for its team meetings - and it has discovered that something as simple as changing the structure of the seating arrangements can have a vast impact on the quality of conversations across the team. The enhanced quality of conversations has led to enhanced learning. Almost immediately a number of Key Performance Indicators have improved for the team and feedback from team members to each other and the management team has increased exponentially. By its own recognition, this team is now learning whereas before it was, well, not learning at all! In reality I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg with regard to how systems thinking can help an organisation to learn. Our learning community includes more resources and programs regarding further development of this skill, and future books will include more information on this topic. Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here. 38       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  40. 40. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Discover how ‘Structure Drives Behaviour’                                By Gary Ryan Whether you are a university student, an employee of a large institution or an elite athlete, the structures that we operate within and use ourselves have a significant influence over our behaviour. Let's look at three examples, one from each of the three domains mentioned; a student, an employee and an elite athlete.   Student example  Over their first semester at university a pattern emerges whereby a student constantly hands their assignments in after the due date. The student regularly asks for extensions and while they are occasionally provided, they are usually refused. The student loses marks because of handing the assignments in past the due date. The student's grades are poor and the student blames the system for not helping him/her to be successful. While the student has an external focus and believes that others 'should' do this and that to help, the chances that their grades will improve is limited. They first must stop and look at the structures that they use for assignment writing and other habits (read structures) that they have regarding study patterns, class attendance, commencement of assignment writing etc. For the sake of this example, the student regularly waits until the weekend before an assignment is due to start the assignment. Often assignments for different subjects will become due at a similar time in the semester. Why? Because the structure of the semester system dictates that a certain range of weeks will be most logical for assignments to be completed, especially if the structure includes two assignments, a presentation and finally an exam at the end of the semester. If you have several subjects with this basic structure, then it is little wonder 39       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  41. 41. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     that the assignments are due at similar times. This is our first example of the concept structure drives behaviour. The structure of the semester mixed with the structure of how the marks for each subject are established dictates when lecturers are likely to determine when an assignment is due. To be able to take effective action the student must first understand the broader structures at work. In other words they need to understand how the structure of the semester affects when assignments are due. The student must then adjust their own study structures. An ad-hoc approach to study is in itself a structure. For most people such a structure would be an in-effective one. Changing a structure results in a behavioural change. In this example the student needs to identify what outcome they want (i.e. improved grades) and then work back to identify what structures they should adopt to increase the chances that the outcome that they desire will be achieved. Possible structures could include: 1. Commencing assignments as soon as they are announced 2. Setting aside a certain number of dedicated hours of study per week to each assignment 3. Only ever asking for extensions under extenuating circumstances such as an illness Structures need time to be implemented so that they become habits. Creating new personal structures can be hard because they require personal discipline to be implemented - so engage your friends for support. Let them know what you are trying to do and ask them to be 'hard on you' if they see you slipping back into your old structures. 40       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  42. 42. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Employee example  One of our organisational clients includes a large national sales team. While the sales team has been relatively successful over a long period of time, a problem emerged whereby the organisation's management were frustrated by the apparent lack of knowledge sharing and team- work amongst the sales team. For us this immediately highlighted a probable organisational structure that was driving this behaviour. Our first question to management was, "How are the sales team members remunerated?". The managers responded, "They all have a base salary and then receive commissions for their sales volume. Their commissions usually far exceed their base salary which is why so many of them are very highly paid." Our second question followed. "How are the commissions structured?" "On sales volume as we just said" “We understand. What is the percentage if individual to team based commissions?" "Well, it is 100% individually based. There is no team based commission." As they answered the last question the 'penny dropped'. No wonder 41       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  43. 43. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     there was minimal knowledge sharing. The sales team members were effectively 100% in competition with each other. If one sales team member was to share information with another sales team member, then they might risk another sales team member 'stealing' their client and the subsequent commission. It would take an extra-ordinary person to not have their behaviour influenced by such a structure! "OK, so we'll change the structure to a team based commission. That will solve the problem!" the management team responded. "Whoa, hold your horses! If you want a mutiny, then change the structure as you have suggested. If you want to keep your sales team, then you have to start where they are at and the new structure has to be able to demonstrate that the majority of the team will be better off under a new structure. So you'll need to negotiate a starting point with them. Your overall sales volume will need to increase as a result of increased teamwork - otherwise why would you change? So you must 42       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  44. 44. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     be able to demonstrate how your change in structure will result in more money available for commissions. You may have to start at something like 85% individual and 15% team based commissions to start with. Experiment over a couple of years with the full involvement of the team until you can find the right balance and the right structure for the outcomes and behaviours that you desire." This example highlights the power of organisational structures. Often when our first reaction to a behaviour that we don't like is to blame individuals, we should slow ourselves down and ask, "What organisational structures might be driving this behaviour?".   Elite sport example  A sports star was provided with some feedback about his performance that indicated an underlying behaviour that was not in alignment with the stated game based behavioural standards for all team members. The star had received this feedback on several occasions but nothing had appeared to change - the behaviour persisted. While a structure existed for the feedback to be provided (which is often an uncomfortable experience) a structure DID NOT exist to 'back up' the feedback. In other words, there wasn't a consequence for not changing this behaviour. The player had effectively learned, 'If I say sorry then the discomfort of the feedback will go away and all will be forgiven. I'm a star so I'll still be playing the next game anyway." Because a structure did not exist to 'back up' the feedback, over time such feedback would hold little if no long term impact. Yes it was uncomfortable when the issue was raised, but the discomfort would go away quickly and things would return to 'normal'. 43       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  45. 45. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Finally a structural change took place. The player received the feedback and was informed that if the behaviour was to continue again then he would be 'dropped' to a lower grade until his game based behaviour improved. The player was provided support to introduce some new training structures that would help him improve the required behaviours. Several coaches volunteered to provide the required support. Over time the player continued to implement the new training structures and his game based behaviours achieved and exceeded the required standards. The important part of this story is that the player continued with the new training structures and the threat of being 'dropped' was real as other 'stars' later experienced. The broader playing group also learned that the new structure was real. No matter who you were you had to perform to the required game based behavioural standards. In this example we see structural change at several levels. The senior coach made a structural change by implementing a consequence for non-conformance to expected game day behaviours, irrespective of 'star' status. Secondly, the player demonstrated that they had heard the feedback provided by his team-mates because he did something about it. He introduced some new training structures and maintained those structures so that he could master his behavioural deficiencies. Structures have an immense affect upon people’s behaviour. When you notice a pattern in the behaviour of people that does not match your expectations, first ask, “What structures may be driving this behaviour?”. Exploring your structures will prove to be far more powerful in identifying ways to improve performance. Usually people 44       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  46. 46. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     tend to blame people when ‘things aren’t right’. Often it is not as simple as that! Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here.   45       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  47. 47. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Learn to accept your brutal reality, but never lose the faith  By Gary Ryan  One of the activities that we regularly conduct in our workshops is called Turning Points. Participants are asked to reflect on significant moments in their lives that if they had not occurred the participants believe that they would not be where they are today. Quite often the discovery of one turning point leads to the discovery of other related ones. For example, when I was five years old and in my first year of formal education, my parents fought the school that I attended to ensure that my twin brother and I were in separate classes. Their view was that despite being twins, Denis and I were unique individuals like the rest of our nine (yes that is correct!) brothers and sisters and we needed to be able to grow up to become strong independent people. The school had a different view at the time. In the early 1970s the view of the education system was that twins should be kept together to reduce the pain associated with separating the twins. It is true that I suffered from the separation from Denis, while he wasn't bothered in the slightest by our split. In fact I cried every morning for the first three weeks of school and Denis used to have to come into my class to hold my hand. He would say, "Are you right yet? I want to go back outside to play!". I'd cry some more and when he would leave I would run to my bag that was on a hook outside the classroom, grab it, escape from school and run home 2 kilometres down two major roads. As my mother didn't drive she would discover me hiding behind the couch or under my bed at home and then frog- march me the 2 kilometres back to school! As I mentioned earlier this went on continuously for three weeks. Can you imagine the pressure 46       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  48. 48. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     that my parents were under to succumb to the school's desire to have Denis and I in the same class. Fortunately they didn't and eventually I got used to the idea that we were going to be in separate classes. While I didn't realise it at the time, this period proved to be a significant turning point in my life. For whatever reason I had been highly dependent upon Denis when I was young. I relied on him to form friendships when we first went to school which is one of the reasons why I found life so difficult without him. As I look back I am very glad that my parents 'stuck to their beliefs' and kept us in separate classes. While it was difficult at the time I simply had to form friendships myself. In doing so I started to develop my own independence which was to prove critical five years later. As a 10 year old my parents asked me where I wanted to go to secondary school. My father was a carpenter and my brothers had all chosen to go to technical school to learn trade skills. Denis had made up his mind that he didn't want to go to a college because he "...didn't want to have to do two hours homework every night." I, on the other hand looked down at my hands and saw ten thumbs! I had absolutely no interest in becoming a tradesman and had avoided swinging the hammer in the garage with my father all my life . I had performed very well academically and said to my parents, "Well, I think I want to go to university, so I need to go to college. I don't want to go to the technical school." My parents asked me what I thought I would do at university and I told them that I had no idea and that, "I'll work that out before I get there!" My father, bless his soul supported my decision and went and 47       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  49. 49. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     found a second part time job (to add to his full time job and his already existing part time job) to enable me to go to the local boys college. For me these turning points are related because I am completely confident that if my parents had not supported me as a five year old in a way that enabled me to develop independence, I cannot imagine that five years later as a ten year old I would have had the courage to ask to go to a secondary school that was not only different from my twin brother, but different to all my brothers. Collectively these turning points have been so powerful that I doubt very much that I would be writing this blog if they had not occurred. My life and career would undoubtedly gone down a very different path. Brutal Reality/Faith Model   Accept your brutal reality Never lose the faith 1 www.orgsthatmatter.com © Organisations That Matter® 2007 - 2009 48       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  50. 50. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Each of these turning point stories involved experiencing difficult times. The first three weeks of my school life was difficult. While difficult for different reasons, going to a different secondary school to all my brothers was also difficult. Yet I knew that it was right for me. I now hold three degrees and am completing doctoral studies part time. Like these brief stories that I have shared with you, participants in our workshops have often highlighted how many of their turning points have occurred as a result of the lessons that they learned from the difficult times in their lives. The Brutal Reality/Faith Model highlights that if we are prepared to accept the challenges that often come with turning points and to maintain the belief that one day we will be better off for the experience, it is amazing how turning points can turn lives for the better. A challenge can be maintaining the faith that you will be better for the experience while you are in the midst of a difficult turning point. My life has taught me to hold that faith. How have your turning points turned your life and how have they made you what you are today? Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here.         49       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  51. 51. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     How little ideas can make a big difference when times are  tough By Gary Ryan  Recently I had the good fortune to perform an assessment on a division of a large financial organisation for the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA). As both a Senior Assessor with CSIA and through our own OTM Service Strategy I have had the opportunity to observe many organisations who are striving to deliver great service to their customers. More and more organisations have recognised the importance of treating their staff as their Number 1 customers (see the blog Providing Great Service Means That Your Staff Come First, Not Your Customers) and there is a strong link between that approach to employees and the provision of great service. I also observed a number of terrific little practices that have produced significant cost savings and efficiencies for the organisation's with whom I have been working. The team from the financial organisation that I assessed last week shared a couple of significant results from implementing 'little ideas'. Last year the staff in the call centre were required to complete eight weeks of overtime leading up to the end of financial year. With 120 staff in the Call Centre that creates a significant salary overhead. This year only one weekend of overtime was required to complete the same amount of work with the same number of staff. A serious question is, "How did they create such a remarkable efficiency improvement?". 50       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  52. 52. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     There were two 'little ideas' that drive the response to this question. The first was that over the past year they have created a work allocation system that more evenly distributes work, including ensuring that the work performed by the more senior staff in 'coaching' other staff is recorded as 'real work' for the coaches. In the past this work was not recorded as 'real work' for the more experienced staff so their system included a dis-incentive for experienced staff to share their knowledge. As part of a continuous improvement program where staff submit suggestions, a simple idea to change the system so that the 'coaches' were recognised for their 'coaching' significantly changed the behaviour of those people. The resultant behavioural change also meant that less experienced staff started to access knowledge far more quickly than they had previously been able to access existing knowledge. The result was that new staff were more quickly gaining the right knowledge at the right time which enabled them to become more efficient in their work. The second 'little idea' that has caused a major efficiency improvement for the team was as simple as pressing a button. Through the continuous improvement program that the Call Centre has created for its staff, one of the team members noticed that each of the 120 computers in the Call Centre took five minutes to 'boot up' at the start of each day. There are a number of security firewalls that cause the slow boot-up time but these are considered necessary by the institution for security purposes. One of the staff who arrived early every morning decided that while her computer was 'booting up' she would spend the five minutes walking around and pressing buttons until all the computers were activated, rather than staring blankly at her screen. 51       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  53. 53. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     This meant that when the other staff arrived all they had to do was log in and they could commence work immediately. If you do the math and multiply 119 computers by 5 minutes, by 5 days by 50 weeks you will discover that it adds up to over 14.3 days of extra productivity over the course of a year. Two little ideas, one big saving. The key factor in these examples is that the organisation has created a culture where submitting ideas is considered normal. I was also shown a number of ideas that have 'not grown legs and won't be implemented' and management is happy about that. From their perspective if two little ideas each year can produce such a significant benefit, then the system is working above expectations! Another interesting perspective on this story is the way that a downturn creates innovation, if you let it. While I wasn't provided a statistic from this organisation to support what I am about to say, my suspicion is that there a number of people still working in the call centre who might not have their jobs if the efficiency improvements had not occurred. When you consider the human impact that losing your job in a downturn can create, that is a significant benefit not only for the organisation but the staff as well. Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here. 52       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  54. 54. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     How doing nothing can be an example of leadership            By Gary Ryan  One of the most important roles that a leader has is the development of the people that the leaders serve. Often this means letting those people take the lead even though their level of performance may not be at the same level as the leaders. Recently a client (let's call him John) shared a story where he had battled to resist his own internal urge to 'takeover' from one of his team members (let's call her Amy) when it became apparent that Amy was uncomfortable performing the task she had agreed to perform. Amy had agreed to be the host and welcome a High Court Judge to their team, and then thank and provide a summary of the judge's speech to conclude the evening. After struggling through her initial welcome John had become quite concerned that Amy's performance was not up to his standards, despite this being Amy's first time at performing such a role. As his discomfort rose, so too did his desire to 'save' Amy by taking over from her. John knew that he could have done a better job and was concerned about how Amy's introduction would reflect on the organisation if it wasn't rectified for the concluding sections of the event. Taking this type of action in this instance would have by many people's standards reflected great leadership. After all, who wants to run the risk of their organisation looking poor because of someone's poor performance? Something inside John, possibly his social intelligence, told him to 'hold his nerve' and to do nothing. That is 53       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  55. 55. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     right, John consciously decided to do 'nothing' (which, if we wanted to get technical, is in fact a conscious choice to do something that in this example was to not intervene). In leadership the choice to do nothing is often far more difficult than the choice to do something! John's intuition was justified as Amy recovered her poor welcome address by completing an outstanding thank you and summary of the judge's speech. The judge even commented on the quality of Amy's listening and was appreciative of the fact that at least one person had clearly listened to him! Amy was delighted and received a significant confidence boost from having worked through her challenge. When reflecting on the evening John had mentioned to me that no-one other than himself had been aware of the leadership challenge that he had faced that evening. Leadership is very much like that. A great deal of the work by great leaders goes unnoticed, especially when the leader is holding themself back for the sake of the development of a team member. 54       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  56. 56. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     John also noted how delighted he felt when Amy had 'delivered' at the end of the judge's speech. His delight came from multiple sources. The first was that he was delighted for Amy because he knew that she would have been disappointed with her welcome and introduction (which she later confirmed) and that she would have been stressing about the summary and concluding remarks (which she also confirmed). To overcome those stresses and to perform so well was exciting because it showed Amy that she could recover from a poor start and it would also give her confidence moving forward into her next development activities. The second source for John's delight was that he had been his own master in this little episode. On previous occasions he had stepped in and 'saved the day', or so he had thought. After this experience his thoughts about the previous ones were, "What if, instead of saving the day, I had actually reduced the development of those people so that I could look good?" It is an interesting question, isn't it! Leadership is not always about being the person out the front making all the noise. Often, true leadership comes from having the personal mastery to let others lead. In this way, doing 'nothing' can be just as effective as doing 'something'. Please feel free to make a comment on this article by clicking here. 55       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  57. 57. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     How to release mental models that choke ‘Truth to Power’  By Gary Ryan  "Before I was announced Captain of the club", shared John, "Whenever an issue came up, I would always first look at the Captain for his response. I even did this when someone said something that was funny - I'd check the Captain's response before I said anything. It was as if I didn't even have my own mind. When I look back now I realise that I had a view that because the Captain was the Captain, he'd automatically know the answer to whatever issues were raised. You know, somehow he'd been dipped into the font of all wisdom." John continued, "Then I became Captain and one of the first things I noticed was people looking at me and waiting for my reaction and I realised that they were now doing to me what I had been doing to the previous Captain. And it wasn't just a few of the players, it was everyone! But I know that I'm not the font of all wisdom because I'm learning too. If I already knew everything about being Captain then how could I improve over the next three to four years? I can't imagine that I won't improve which therefore means that I'm not as good now as I will be in the future. This also means that right now I won't know the best way to handle every issue that comes up. I'll know a few because I've been around a while now, but I won't know everything. The pressure you feel to have an answer, "the answer" is incredible!" After a period of time John added, " When I wasn't the Captain I recall a few times when I actually did have a different opinion about what we should do, but I never raised them because I thought to myself, "Oh well. The Captain knows best so we should do what he thinks. 56       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  58. 58. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     Otherwise he wouldn't be Captain.” Guys, please don't do that, if you have a different view to me I need to hear it. My view might be wrong. More importantly when we put our different views together maybe we'll all see something better that none of us could see on our own." What an insightful series of comments. John (not his real name) is the Captain of an elite sports team with whom I have worked in Australia. These comments were made in relation to an explicit conversation that I was facilitating with John and the rest of the Leadership Team with whom he was working. The purpose of the conversation was to raise their individual and collective awareness of their mental models regarding leadership. The other members of his Leadership Team remarked that they too had shared the "font of all wisdom" mental model regarding the person holding the title of Captain. They also all agreed how ridiculous such a mental model was and how debilitating it probably was to their performance and their capacity to present a different view to those in positions of power. Yet they also agreed, and I observed in practice, just how difficult such a mental model is to stop from a behavioural perspective. This brief conversation provides a detailed insight into the collective mental models about leadership that are both flawed and limiting in the context of Truth to Power. Truth to Power is the capacity for people who have less real or perceived power to be honest and direct with people who hold more power. In the example provided by John and his team-mates above it is little wonder people find it difficult to hold alternate views with those in power. Similarly it is little wonder that those in power often behave in a defensive way when people 57       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com  
  59. 59. What Really Matters 2009 Vol.1, No.2     present a different view to the one they hold. Quite literally the issue of 'saving face' becomes real. Elite sportspeople are often described as "jocks who can't think for themselves". My experience could not be further from that description. The elite sportspeople with whom I have worked closely have been to a person, people who are intelligent and willing to learn. Very rarely, including in the corporate world where we work extensively have I experienced such an open and honest conversation as the one described above. John's willingness to be vulnerable to his team-mates by suspending (please see the blog on the Seven Skills of Dialogue) his mental models about his role and how they had changed as a result of becoming the Captain was a privilege to experience. John's intention for sharing this information was to open the door as far he possibly could to enable his fellow Leadership Team members to be honest with him and to not default their views to him simply because he was the Captain. While we never used the term 'Dialogue' the Leadership Team were actually holding a dialogue about their individual and collective mental models about leadership. John was concerned that if he wasn't explicit about his transitional experience from not being the Captain to becoming the Captain, then it would not be until the next Captain was in his shoes that the new Captain would have an opportunity to understand this perplexing situation. It's not hard to imagine a group of ex-Captains sitting in a cafe joking about how they had all been labelled the 'Font of all Wisdom" even though they knew that they weren't! 58       ©Copyright Organisations That Matter® 2009       www.orgsthatmatter.com