This is intended to provide further detail to The Winning Formula article published in the February 2014 issue of Repertoire Magazine. If you found this in some other way and would like a copy of that article just send me an email. If you would like to chat about reducing interference in your organization, please email or call!
In the article I wrote briefly about the relationship of performance, potential and interference.
Below is more information about interference for individual leaders, teams, and organizations.
Individual Leader Interference
A significant source of interference for leaders is missing self-awareness. Self-awareness is tricky business. If you do not have self-awareness you probably don’t know that you don’t have self-awareness.
One way that our self-awareness is challenged is when something enters our consciousness (which means you have to be aware of it) that doesn’t fit with our current way of seeing. When that happens we experience a dissonance, or disconnectedness. Because our brains are uncomfortable with this “not knowing”, we resolve it. We may resolve it by discounting the thing that initially entered our consciousness. Less often we change our set of beliefs and perceptions to account for this new reality. This is the root of all real growth. It takes self-awareness to do this.
The second common event is that we get feedback from someone. This is similar to the above in that it is a specific example of something entering our view that doesn’t fit with our current way of seeing. In this case it is especially compelling because it is ABOUT you. The feedback can come from anywhere – a boss, colleague, friend, spouse or partner (!), or coach. It is important that you give some thought to how open you are to feedback. And I don’t necessarily just mean a one-off 360 assessment. How open are you to feedback that comes in small forms such as comments, things that are not said, the behavior of others toward you and so on. There is a world of data to be mined here. We do still have to remember that we see the feedback through our belief systems.
One last thought about feedback. Way too many of us only ask for feedback when a big event occurs or it is time for our annual performance review. And when we do ask we tend to do a pretty poor job of it. Here is a “conversation” I have seen way too often.
Leader – “How did I do?”
Follower – “Great!”
Here is a much more intentional way of asking for feedback that is more likely to get you something useful.
Leader – “As you know from earlier discussions I am working on my leadership presence when I’m presenting to the team. In our next meeting this morning I would appreciate if you would try and notice two things for me. First – how many times and at what points do I make or not make eye contact. Second – I’m focusing today on holding my space and trying to stay solid in how I stand. Would you please pay attention to how my movements contribute to or distract from the presentation? If you are willing to do this I’ll ask you after the meeting what you noticed.”
Wouldn’t you say you are more likely to get quality (useable) feedback? Good feedback is an antidote to the interference that arises from a lack of self-awareness.
If you think individuals have interference “issues” – put a bunch of them together and see what happens. We call this a team in most organizations.
Without question the number one source of interference for teams is missing trust. The lack of trust leads to an environment of “politics over performance.” Instead of being focused on how we can succeed we are focused on how to protect ourselves. Missing trust makes it hard to do the work that real teams do – solve problems, handle conflict, communicate, establish bold and compelling purpose, and use the diverse competencies on the team to pursue meaningful goals.
Perhaps the one thing that suffers most from missing trust is creating an environment of mutual accountability. It is a key characteristic of great teams that both team and individual accountability “belong” to the entire team. This is true in large part because on a real team it is likely that I can’t succeed at “my” part if you are not successful at “yours.” This gets to a definition of a real team. To borrow from sports – real teams are basketball teams in the sense that there is interdependence and therefore mutual accountability. Pretend teams, or groups, are like track teams. At the end of the day we might total up our points but I can win without you, and you without me. These groups aren’t “bad” or “less than” a “real team.”
Teams that wish to develop intentionally very often employ an outside consultant. Too often the team environment is so insular that people on the team have lost perspective. By all means, think of team health like your individual health. You wouldn’t wait (I hope!) until you are half-dead to go the doctor but that is exactly what a lot of team leaders do. Those patients can’t always be saved. The most aggressive approach is normally the best. Healthy teams often stay healthy by doing regularly scheduled check-ups and committing to a wellness routine.
In the article I talked about the main source of organizational interference as a misaligned culture. Let’s explore that a little more.
While I believe what I wrote that there aren’t good or bad cultures. It is also true that research suggests that within broad parameters there are some similar elements of cultures in the most successful organizations. And it is also true that every organization is unique and that any broad cultural norms are manifested in unique ways. And this is why to really understand a culture you have to study it, discuss it, measure it, and create transparent intention around what you want it to be. What you want it to be has to be aligned with what your compelling purpose is as an organization.
Even more than teams (because the complexity level is significantly higher), organizational cultures need regular check ups. Think of it as reading the vitals of a person. You would rather know that your blood pressure is starting to get high before it gets dangerous. In the same way that I need an external way of measuring my blood pressure – or weight – or cholesterol and so on – organizations need an external way of measuring their culture. I know I’m in for a long conversation when I hear an executive team declare that “they know their culture.” We are prone to seeing it as we want it to be rather than as it really is.
Trying to change culture is not for the timid. It requires the ability to be brutally honest and confront reality. It is necessary to pull back the curtain and really look hard both the warts and at what is possible. It is invigorating.