Even in normal times, managers in the core of any company face significant challenges; they have to communicate up, down, and laterally in order for everyone to be productive. But, in a merger all of those relationships change all at the same time.
The other day, a friend shared with me this nightly after-dinner routine at her house: She and her husband clear the table. She loads the dishwasher. She leaves the kitchen. He stays behind and rearranges all the dishes in the dishwasher.
“He always complains about how I load it,” she told me. “He says I don’t use the space efficiently enough. So we just have to run it more often! I’d rather do that than spend all day trying to organize every dish in there just so.”
I’m not going to weigh in on who’s loading the dishwasher correctly, but I do get where he’s coming from. There’s nothing more annoying than watching someone tackle a task when you know there’s a better way. No matter what you say or do, they won’t listen to reason, even though your way is the more precise way. Or the more efficient way...or thoughtful...or creative...
You know, the right way.
Sometimes, it feels like we spend a lot of energy trying to make sense of each other and the world around us. Whether we’re navigating the dishwasher protocols of our significant others, delegating a task to a direct report at work, or trying to find our way to the solution to a nagging business challenge, one thing is clear: Other people don’t always do things the way we would do them. And that can be pretty irritating.
The question is, why do people approach tasks, problems, decisions, ideas, and, yes, even the dishwasher, in completely different ways? Why do we all take different routes to the same destination?
How many times have you written up what seems like a perfectly clear email message only to find that the person on the receiving end just doesn’t “get it”? Not only is it annoying, it can end up wasting a lot of time for both parties.
Beyond the obvious need for a sarcasm font, here’s what could be going on: You likely communicate in a style that’s rooted in the way you prefer to think. The problem is, that can be at odds with the preferences of the person you’re communicating with. You may prefer formal, sequential, highly organized thinking, and so your email messages will follow suit. Your recipient, on the other hand, may prefer a more casual, free-flowing style. They’re looking for the big picture, and when they see all that detail, they tune out.
Or maybe you gravitate toward a more expressive style. You would never just jump right into the cold, dry facts without a few pleasantries up front. Meanwhile, your recipient might be rolling their eyes, wondering why you can’t just get to the point.
Considering how much we rely on email today, it makes sense to find some common ground and learn how to adapt your thinking and your messages—both so you can be heard and so you can avoid confusion or miscommunication.
Your team has been tasked to solve a tough problem or to come up with a breakthrough idea or new opportunity. How will you attack the challenge? What’s your go-to creative tool?
In many team collaboration scenarios, the instinct is to get everyone together for a big, freewheeling brainstorming session and see what comes out of it. That is one way to go. But it’s not necessarily the best way. And on its own, it’s not likely to get you to the boundary-pushing ideas and solutions you need.
Why Doesn’t Brainstorming Work?
When leaders look at team collaboration as a way to spark creativity, brainstorming is often one of the first things they’ll think of. The members of the project team will gather around a conference table, set a timer and spout their first thoughts about a topic while some poor soul diligently takes notes. The whole point of the exercise, they’re led to believe, is quantity of ideas, not quality.
Eventually the timer goes off. People stand up, pat themselves on the back, congratulate each other on their creative thinking, and then file out of the room.
And then what happens?
They’re some of your most dedicated, hardest working employees. No one gets down to business and gets every box checked, every time, on time, quite like they do. Frankly, it’s a relief, knowing that you can count on them to keep plowing ahead no matter what you throw their way.
But did you ever stop to think that maybe they don’t have time to stop to think?
Deep thinking is in short supply in today’s work environment, where the distractions are many, the work is intense and task-oriented productivity rules the day. As a result, though, we’re sacrificing impact for activity. If people don’t have time to think more critically and intentionally, to make conscious choices instead of habitually reacting and responding, the business is going to suffer—maybe not today, but soon enough.
If you’re a leader, you set the direction and vision for your organization or department, but there’s still a lot that’s not completely under your control: the behavior of other people, the state of the economy, the unfolding of world events, the overall pace of change. Sure, you can anticipate and react to these things, but you can’t totally control them.
What’s surprising, though, is how few leaders take the time to notice the one thing they can always control, even when the world is out of control: their thinking.
In studies of global business leaders and CEOs, “creativity” routinely shows up as one of the top qualities for effective leaders. But you don’t even have to read the studies to know that people value creativity in business. We talk about emulating the Steve Jobs’s of the world, the new technology innovators, those who come up with clever solutions or new products that transform entire markets and industries. In fact, CEOs have been making speeches proclaiming a “fresh commitment to creativity” and urging an entrepreneurial approach to business for decades.
So why are the results so consistently disappointing? What’s holding back creativity in business?
Are we just not that creative?
In her recent post on comparing employee assessments, our Whole Brain ® Thinking Catalyst Anne Griswold pointed out a simple truth about assessments: Application can be a challenge. How do you turn awareness and insight into actions that make a tangible impact on the business, especially once people are back in the daily whirlwind of the job?
It’s an important question, particularly as L&D is increasingly being pressured to clearly connect the work it’s doing with specific business results. Every developmental tool needs to serve as a link in a broader value chain. We know this, and still...all too often the employee is the one who’s left with the burden of figuring out how to apply these newfound insights—and then remembering to do it on a consistent basis. It’s a pretty tall order when so much else is going on, no matter how powerful that moment of awareness might have been.
The organizations that are successful in getting to application and business impact take a more strategic view of employee assessments from the get-go. Need some inspiration? Here are just a few of the ways our clients have integrated the HBDI and other assessments into their business operations to get tangible results.
Would it surprise you to learn that the more independence and self-determination someone has over their work, the more satisfied they are with their job?
Probably not. After all, it seems pretty obvious that the more say you have in terms of how you get your job done, the happier you’ll be in it. And the happier and more engaged you are in the work, the more productive you’re likely to be.
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Birmingham Business School confirms the connection between work autonomy and job satisfaction. As one of the researchers, Dr. Daniel Wheatley, puts it, "Greater levels of control over work tasks and schedule have the potential to generate significant benefits for the employee, which was found to be evident in the levels of reported well-being."
But most roles aren’t designed to give people that kind of autonomy. In general, jobs are structured around specific tasks, and accountability is assigned so that the person’s performance can be measured and evaluated. This makes sense as far as it goes, particularly in jobs where collaborative, creative effort isn’t a priority (increasingly rare as that is), but even in narrow functional roles, one size doesn’t fit all. Sure, you can go with a “force fit” approach that says, “it’s this way or no way.” But you might just lose some talented, hard-working people in the process.
Here at Herrmann International one of our key fundamentals is that we try to "eat our own cooking" and use Whole Brain® Thinking in our own work. This post is part of a series where some of our team members talk about some ways they use Whole Brain® Thinking for their day-do-day work.
This post is by our Lead Software Engineer, Andrew Swerlick.
At first glance, software development might not seem like a job that involves a lot of day-to-day Whole Brain® Thinking. After all, a lot of what our team does seems like it's firmly situated in the technical, analytical A quadrant. Sure, we do have to collaborate with other internal teams on product design, requirements gathering, etc., but when it get to the point where our developers put their fingers to the keyboard and start writing code, all the other quadrants go away, right?
When I first started at Herrmann a couple of years ago, I probably would have said yes. But recently, our development team has adopted some practices that are showing me the value of writing Whole Brain® code.