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Mental models for human centric leadership


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My presentation at PMI Bangalore Chapter's weekly talk series, PM Footprints, on 16-Jun-2011

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Mental models for human centric leadership

  1. 1. 16-Jun-2011, Bangalore
  2. 2. DisclaimerThese are my personal views, and don‟t necessarily reflect that of my employerIdeas, text and graphics in this presentation are graciously acknowledged to their respective sources in references section at the end of this presentation
  3. 3. A true story…Dr. William E. Mayer studied 1,000 US POW in a North Korean campDespite relatively minimal physical torture, death rate was 38% - highest in US military historyHalf of them died simply because they gave up! They surrendered – both physically and mentally
  4. 4. How did this happen?North Koreans‟ objective was to “deny men the emotional support that comes from interpersonal relationships”. They used four primary tactics: Informing Self-criticism Breaking loyalty to leadership and country Withholding all positive emotional support
  5. 5. InformingNorth Koreans gave prisoners rewards such as cigarettes when they snitched on one another. But neither the offender nor the soldier reporting the violation was punishedIntent was to break relationship and turn the men against each
  6. 6. Self-criticism To promote self-criticism, the captors gathered groups of 10-12 soldiers and employed „a corruption of group psychotherapy‟ Each man was required to stand up in front of the group and confess all the bad things he had done – as well as all the good things he could have done but failed to do. Soldiers were not confessing to their captors, but to their own peers. This subtly eroded the caring, trust, respect and social acceptance among them
  7. 7. Breaking loyalty toleadership and country They slowly and relentlessly undermined a soldier‟s allegiance to his superiors A Colonel instructed a soldier not to drink water from a paddy field because it was contaminated, he shot back “Buddy, you ain‟t no colonel anymore; just a lousy prisoner like me. You take care of yourself, and I‟ll take care of me”. He died of dysentery few days later 40 men stood by as three of their extremely ill fellow soldiers were thrown out of the mud hut by a comrade and left to die. No one did anything to help them, because it “wasn‟t their job”
  8. 8. Withholding all positiveemotional support Perhaps the most malicious tactic of them all The captors withheld all letters of support and encouragement. However, all negative letters – like of a relative passing away, or on in which a wife wrote that she had given up on her husband‟s return and was going to remarry – were promptly delivered. Captors would even deliver overdue bills from collection agencies back home Soldiers had nothing to live for and lost basic belief in themselves and their loved ones
  9. 9. So, what really happened?“…The soldiers actually called it “give up-itis”.The doctors labeled it “mirasmus”, meaning, inMayer‟s words, “a lack of resistance, apassivity”. If the soldiers had been hit, spatupon, or slapped, they would have becomeangry. Their anger would have given them themotivation to survive. But in the absence ofmotivation, they simply died, even though therewas no medical justification for their deaths!” –How full is your Bucket? by Tom Rath andDonald Clifton
  10. 10. What does it mean?Negativity Kills!!!
  11. 11. But that was……in a POW Camp in 1950sHow is it relevant to today‟s workplace???
  12. 12. Negativity at today‟sworkplace 25m, or 19% US workers are „actively disengaged‟ or extremely negative – costing more than $400B in lost productivity annually #1 Reason people leave: They don‟t feel appreciated! 65% Americans got no recognition at work last year Bad bosses could increase risk of stroke by 33% Disengagement and low customer satisfaction seem to go hand in hand
  13. 13. Engagement levels byCountry
  14. 14. Engagement levels byIndustry
  15. 15. Engagement levels by AgeEmployees Highly Engaged Highly Engaged or Engaged18-29 years old 21% 62%30-39 years old 20% 64%40-49 years old 23% 66%50-59 years old 22% 66%60+ years old 31% 75%
  16. 16. What are the workers concerned about?% of Work- Levels of Job Pressure Resources Personalworkers life stress at Security to long to do job Health‘Frequently’ Balance work work effectivelyor ‘Nearly hoursAlways’concernedabout18-29 39% 40% 33% 31% 34% 32%30-39 34% 38% 31% 26% 31% 26%40-49 30% 36% 26% 23% 30% 25%50-59 28% 34% 27% 23% 32% 27%60+ 24% 28% 24% 17% 22% 22%
  17. 17. Non-engagedemployeesLack spirit and vitalityOffer excuses and “can‟t do” attitudesLook to others to fix solutionsAvoid risk takingDo the absolute minimum to get byLeave work exhaustedTake neutral to negative company positions
  18. 18. Actively disengagedemployeesSabotage the organizationSeek our flaws and focus on problemsResist solutionsBlame, moan and whineFind pleasure in failuresTake resistant and cynical company positions
  19. 19. Why thisdisengagement? Top-down, outmoded authoritative model of management which places little value on relationships that develop and maintain a sense of community that emphasizes intimacy, trust, and mutual support Leaders and managers are out of touch with human nature and how it impacts working relationships Misalignment between people’s natural drive to develop their personal and group identities through informal relationships, and the ways that most organizations operate, by primarily focusing on formal goals and the bottom-line A failing system of leadership that is outdated and suited for the Industrial Age, not the current Knowledge Age
  20. 20. Towers Perrin Study (2005) 59% of workers thought that their senior managers did not support new ideas and new ways of doing things 60% thought that senior managers acted in a way which was inconsistent with their values 63% thought that senior management did not make enough effort to be visible and accessible to employees 64% thought that senior managers did not effectively communicate the reasons for important business decisions Around 66% believed that senior managers did not communicate openly and honestly with their employees
  21. 21. Other research BlessingWhite‟s research in 2008 showed that while 75% of workers trust their immediate managers, only 53% trust senior management, despite the fact that these are the people who should be spearheading the drive towards organizational commitment and high performance. Gallup‟s research also comes to the same conclusion, that bad management is the main culprit, showing quite clearly that engaged workers are very satisfied with their managers, while disengaged employees are extremely dissatisfied with theirs.
  22. 22. Other reasons fordisengagement… Work pressures, especially in post-recession times, are seen impacting work-life balance and health Breakdown of „psychological contract‟ “…levels of employee engagement tend to be high during the first six months to a year after joining an organization, at this point they begin to drop off up until the five year mark. Much of the reason for this is also attributed to poor management and leadership. With insufficient guidance, very little clarity and often very little interaction with managers, workers not only quickly come to feel confused, but they also become highly distrustful of management and the information that managers are feeding them.” – Todd Bavol,
  23. 23. So, what‟s the solution? You must genuinely create mutually beneficial relationships that embrace sharing, belonging and professional intimacy (aka “human connectedness”) between and among you and your team members where your employees feel that they‟re a part of the team, feel that they‟re respected and valued, and feel that they‟re learning and growing. “…engaged employees are so emotionally and intellectually committed to their jobs that they want to give “discretionary effort.” GeorgieSherill, Sr. Director of HR Integration, Walmart
  24. 24. What does “HumanConnectedness” look like? Employees are trusted by you and their co-workers. Are listened to and know that their options count Know that their work and contributions are valued Feel that their work is meaningful Help each other out Know that you and their co-workers fundamentally care for them as human beings Actively engage in discussions with you plus receive encouragement from you regarding their professional progress, growth and development
  25. 25. …Human Connectedness Understand how their jobs contribute to your organization‟s success Have the tools that they need to deliver quality results Truly believe that their co-workers are committed to and equally accountable for delivering quality results Are assigned to work that allows them to leverage their skills and strengths Receive performance feedback on a regular basis Have been given opportunities to learn and grow
  26. 26. How to build „HumanConnectedness‟? People, specifically senior leaders who model world-class behavior such as listening, calling people by name, communicating and recognizing people openly Work that creates connection to the organization, and resources available to support task Total remuneration and recognition programs that attract employees Opportunities that include career development and training Quality-of-Life issues that include benefits and work schedules Company practices, such as diversity, sustainability, company reputation, etc.
  27. 27. Look, we know it all…Right? That‟s right, we know it all !!! But why don‟t we do it then ??? Why do we make people suffer and even ourselves in that process, but don‟t make any radical changes? What stops us from making the workplace a fun place to work, a place where people feel valued, energized and productive? It is the system, or your company culture, or your boss, or your job description that stops you?...or something else…???
  28. 28. What do you see here?
  29. 29. Different people, differentperspectives "Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg. "Oh, no! it is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail. "Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant. "It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant. "It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
  30. 30. What is a Mental Model?Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the worlds and how we take action. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effect they have on our behavior - The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge,
  31. 31. Mental models……an explanation of someones thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a persons intuitive perception about their own acts and their consequences. Our mental models help shape our behavior and define our approach to solving problems (akin to a personal algorithm) and carrying out tasks - Wikipedia
  32. 32. Mental Models… Mental models are subtle but powerful. Subtle, because we usually are unaware of their effect. Powerful, because they determine what we pay attention to, and therefore what we do. Mental models are strongly conservative: left unchallenged, they will cause us to see what we have always seen: the same needs, the same opportunities, the same results. And because we see what our mental models permit us to see, we do what our mental models permit us to do.
  33. 33. Are Mental Models real? “What is real? How do you define real? If youre talking about what you can hear, what you can smell, taste and feel then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain” – Morpheus, Matrix (1999)
  34. 34. Are Mental Models right orwrong? “Essentially all models are wrong, but some are useful” – George Box “…The problems with mental models lie not in whether they are right or wrong – by definition, all models are simplifications. The problems with mental models arise when they become implicit – when they exist below the level of our awareness…because we remain unaware of our mental models, the models remain unexamined. Because they are unexamined, the models remain unchanged. As the world changes, the gap widens between our mental models and reality, leading to increasingly counterproductive actions” – The Fifth Discipline
  35. 35. Can Mental Models impactorganizational practices? “…Mental models of what can or cannot be done in different management settings are no less deeply entrenched. Many insights into new markets or outmoded organizational practices fail to get put into practice because they conflict with powerful, tacit mental models” – The Fifth Discipline “…the most crucial mental models are those shared by key decision-makers. Those models, if unexamined, limit an organizations range of actions to what is familiar and comfortable.”
  36. 36. Let‟ examine some commonmental models
  37. 37. All Chinese look alike
  38. 38. Spare the rod, spoil the child
  39. 39. Women make bad drivers
  40. 40. The problem will go away if Iignore it
  41. 41. If I try to run away, the ropewill hurt!
  42. 42. Connect 9 dots with just 4straight lines without lifting pen
  43. 43. Long-standing and unquestionedmental models at GM GM is in the business of making money, not cars Cars are primarily status symbols. Styling is therefore more important than quality American car market is isolated from rest of the world Workers don‟t have an important impact on productivity or product quality Everyone connected with the system has no need for more than a fragmented, compartmentalized understanding
  44. 44. Ladder of Inference The "ladder of inference” - a term coined by Professor Chris Argyris - is a metaphor that shows how rapidly we can leap to knee-jerk conclusions with little data and no intermediate thought process, as if rapidly climbing up a ladder in our minds. You start at the bottom with the observable data, which is so self-evident that it would show up on a videotape recorder (Larry has yawned at a meeting), and within the space of a few seconds, leap up to assumptions (Larry is bored), to more generic conclusions (Larry doesnt care about this project). Since most of these conclusions are never discussed openly, there is no way to check them. The ladder of inference explains why most people dont usually remember where their deepest attitudes came from. The data is long since lost to memory, after years of inferential leap
  45. 45. Ladder of Inference
  46. 46. Examples
  47. 47. Examples
  48. 48. How to use Ladder ofInference?Reflection: Becoming more aware of your own thinking and reasoningAdvocacy: Making your thinking and reasoning more visible to othersInquiry: Inquiring into others thinking and reasoning
  49. 49. Mental Models at Workplace
  50. 50. Gen Y is irresponsible
  51. 51. Boss should have more experience
  52. 52. People leave for money
  53. 53. It‟s ok to reach late formeetings
  54. 54. My software has NO bugs
  55. 55. Projects are always lateand overbudget
  56. 56. Work should be serious
  57. 57. Sitting late in office showscommitment
  58. 58. They all want to bemanagers
  59. 59. We will make up for thisdelay by …Working overtimeAdding more peopleNew toolsRe-architectureNew programming language…New Silver Bullet!
  60. 60. What did we learn?Share your perspective…
  61. 61. How can we use MentalModels for positive results?If mental models can impede learning – freezing companies and industries in outmoded practices – why can‟t they also help accelerate learning?
  62. 62. SkillsSkills of reflection concern slowing down our own thinking processes so that we can become more aware of how we form our mental models and the ways they influence our actionsInquiry skills concern how we operate in face-to-face interactions with others, especially in dealing with complex and conflict issues.
  63. 63. Tools Facing up to distinctions between espoused theories (what we say) and theories-in-use (the implied theory in what we do) Recognizing “leaps of abstractions” (noticing our jumps from observing to generalization) Exposing the “left-hand column” (articulating what we normally do not say) Balancing inquiry and advocacy skills (skills for effective collaborative learning)
  64. 64. Left-hand ColumnPowerful technique for beginning to “see” how our mental models operate in particular situations.It reveals ways that we manipulate situations to avoid dealing with how we actually think and feel, and thereby prevent a counterproductive situation from improving.
  65. 65. Example Me: How did the presentation go? Bill: Well, I don‟t know. It‟s really too early to tell. Besides, we‟re breaking new ground here. Me: well, what do you think we should do? I believe the issues you were raising are important. Bill: I am not sure. Let‟s just wait and see what happens. Me: You may be right, but I think we may need to do more than just wait.
  66. 66. Example with Left-handcolumnWhat I am thinking What is saidEveryone says the presentation Me: How did the presentationwas a bomb! go?Does he really not know how bad Bill: Well, I don’t know. It’s reallyit was? Or is he not willing to too early to tell. Besides, we’reface up to it? breaking new ground here.He really is afraid to see the Me: well, what do you think wetruth. If only he had more should do? I believe the issuesconfidence, he could probably you were raising are important.learn from a situation like this. Ican’t believe how disastrous that Bill: I am not sure. Let’s just waitpresentation was to our moving and see what happens.ahead. Me: You may be right, but I thinkI’ve got to find a way to light a we may need to do more thanfire under this guy. just wait.
  67. 67. Balancing Inquiry andAdvocacyWhen operating in pure advocacy, the goal is to win the argument.Pure inquiry is also limited.When inquiry and advocacy are combined, the goal is no longer to “win the argument” but to find the best argument.
  68. 68. When advocating yourviews…Make your own reasoning explicitEncourage others to explore your viewEncourage others to provide different viesActively inquire into other‟s views that differ from your own
  69. 69. When inquiring into others‟views…If you are making assumptions about other‟s views, state your assumptions clearly and acknowledge that they are assumptionsState the „data‟ upon which your assumptions are basedDon‟t bother asking questions if you are not genuinely interested in other‟s response
  70. 70. When you arrive at animpasse…As what data or logic might change their viewsAsk if there is any way you might together deign and experiment (or some other inquiry) that might provide new information
  71. 71. Conclusions Today‟s workplaces suffer from “disengagement epidemic” No change can be everlasting and self-sustainable unless there is a change within Unfortunately, our deeply entrenched “mental models” stop us from changing Individual mental models, especially those of decision-makers, can affect organizational practices It is critical to examine our mental models for a true “human-centric leadership”
  72. 72. References ls.pdf &view=article&id=60:workerdisengagement&catid=41:umapres skit&Itemid=58 leadership/research/organisational-effectiveness-and- employee-engagement-discovering-how-to-make-them- happen.pdf
  73. 73. References onance_a_significant_factor_in_design_and_busines s_problems Generation-Young-prnews- 3668084470.html?x=0&.v=1 articles/Pages/LongViewonEngagement.aspx
  74. 74. My forthcoming presentations…“Strategic Alignment of Horizontal and Vertical PMO Goals” at PMI National Conference, Bangalore, 8-10 Sep 2011 (abstract accepted)“Orchestrating Excellence – The Yahoo! India Way”, at PMO Symposium, Florida, 6-9 Nov 2011
  75. 75. Thanks!Blog:Mail:Twitter: @TathagatVarmaPresentation: ell