Left Brain, Right Brain, Flexibility, Business Excellence
Interpersonal Skills for the Technical/Left Brain Thinker: Bridging the Gap Generationally,
Intellectually and with Flexibility while Creating an Improved Model of Business Excellence in the
Workplace--The Sloan Award by Renee M. Alfieri, Executive Leadership Coach & HR Consultant,
Empowering Inquiry by Renee, LLC. www.empoweringinquiry.com | 516-809-6294 |
How many times today do we hear “They really know what they are doing technically,
but they simply have no people skills” during the discussion of a coworker’s career?
We would like to have the best of both worlds—good technical skills and good people
skills—but a survey of today’s managers quickly concludes it is all too rare we find
such an individual. Why?
Though companies base 80% of their hiring decision on the technical skills —
education, skills, training and experience—85% of turnover is due to BEHAVIORAL
incompatibility--as it relates also to Emotional Intelligence! Today, we are seeing
that EQ (Emotional Quotient) is far surpassing IQ (Intellectual Quotient in terms of
those that are succeeding in their careers versus those that are lower on Emotional
Intelligence are derailing much faster. That is, we hire people whose technical skills
are sufficient, but we fail to identify or analyze the people skills required. Compounding
the problem is that the behavioral style most comfortable for the more technical
positions is naturally less comfortable in the people skills department. That is, what
makes a person enjoy technical work is the desire to look at “things” logically (versus
emotionally). If we are logical, we make a decision by first, gathering all the facts. Then
we study and analyze the data, research, test, check the details, and finally make a
decision that is incapable of being incorrect. The most important goal is to be correct,
the biggest fear—to be wrong!
Other styles may value beating deadlines at all costs, keeping people happy and
motivated, keeping things the same to avoid conflict. But to the more technical people -
being correct and accurate takes all precedent—it’s only logical.
Most people who view “things” very logically also view “people” the same way. While
most Americans fall into the group that views “people” (as well as “things”) emotionally,
most technicians view both people and things logically. This influences the way they
both perceive and communicate with others. Instead of the emotional factors of
optimism, warmth, enthusiasm, inspiration and extroversion, they have the logical
factors of reflection, facts, incisiveness and skepticism (matter-of-fact). “People might
talk a good game, but prove it to me; actions speak louder than words.” Since they
assume that this approach is logical, and therefore correct and appropriate, they are
surprised when others describe them as somewhat aloof or cold. This further illustrates
that "left-brain thinking" is being challenged more and more today by "right-brain--
creative thinking/emotional types." We need to embrace a "whole brain approach, and,
as we are seeing today, businesses are failing--those especially that are following rigid
parameters of procedural, entrenched rules and regulations, and processes that are so
rigid--a right-brain/creative type slowly dies in their seat or, resigns from their
management regime--not quite the company for them!
They can point to the good relationships they do have, but further examination usually
reveals that those relationships are limited to others with their same style - other
engineers, scientists, computer enthusiasts, auditors, and quality control people. They
indeed share the common value of a drive to always be logical—perfection.
Relationships outside their styles are far more uncommon and usually the result of
friends of a spouse or relative of different style.
The technician’s lack of people skills can be self-correcting within his/her own natural
behavioral style - a style which requires gathering and analyzing data. The technician
gathers and analyzes input on behavioral styles different than his/her own to
understand how to better communicate with and motivate others.
Learning how to identify different styles and how to adjust their styles to better communicate and
motivate is the prime directive. That is why companies such as Google and Ernst & Young, are doing
relatively well in Recruiting practices and are seen as Companies of Choice. People "want" to work at
these companies since, they are creative, out-of-the box thinkers at the highest seat of Leadership in
walking the talk and doing the things that my Generation X had been taught while in college--about
challenging the Baby Boomer's autocratic stance at top-down management and leading a future with
promise of a more participative approach. While I am not advocating for one versus the other, I am
imploring the business world to accept some of its failure in missing the opportunity to unite a force of
cultural creatives with the logical thinking that together when tied into a mission statement and driven
through performance management and MBO's can become the culture that wins!
Remember, the millennial's are a breed unto their own--in order to harness their energy and creativity
and intelligence, micro-managing them and "clocking" their time is not going to work! We need to
approach the future in business and industry by allowing a more flexible environment in which we truly
respect the people we hire for their intelligence and capability, versus, babysitting and performancing-out
our own managerial mistakes.
I had attended the NAMC Work/Life Conference -- Sustaining Business, Family & Life on Long Island
-- at The Crest Hollow Country Club on Friday, November 6, 2008 in which it was amply discussed that,
we need to reach employees where they are at! If we continue to ignore that the newer generations are
not as inclined to "do it" the same way "we"--their predecessors did--nor should we expect that since, we
are encouraging people to think for themselves and to create--we will alienate them and not be able to
retain a consistent workforce, making employee engagement an anachronism and oxymoron! The
discussion ensued about how we disintegrate employee's pride, hope and faith for a new tomorrow
when we refuse to allow people to have the creative freedom of a virtual workplace or compressed
workweeks, or flexible scheduling in order to allow employee's to refuel themselves, feel appreciated
and to continue to create while feeling more balanced with a less restrictive work environment.
Lastly, we need to promote organizations to recognize this very important factor in creating
balance and reducing stress, while allowing our creative folks to grow and prosper and not be
confined to the left-brain, baby-boomer mentality as the only modality of being considered a
"top-performer." We often speak about 'face-time" in the office and that you need to be the first
one in and the last one out in order to be considered a true "fast-tracker" or someone that is
considered worthy of promoting.
I want to point out to all businesses, large and small alike, your HR Team and Leadership need
to consider getting local and national visibility for your efforts to use flexibility to enhance
productivity, recruitment and retention in a global, four-generation workforce.
Nominate your organization by completing an on-line application for The Sloan Award for
Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility. KPMG - Long Island and Deloitte both are
Go to www.whenworkworks.org for model programs created by Sloan Award winners, research
findings and tips for managers and employees. The on-line application will be available from
this site in January, 2009. Awards will be announced by NAMC later in the year. Send an
email to: email@example.com for more information about the award on Long Island--let's
grow as a nation--and not keep it silowed.