Groupthink…

Groupthink is an irrational desire for members in a group to seek conformity and cohesiveness with each other, to the degree of suppressing any dissenting views or opinions from other members. This desire for group cohesiveness  causes decisions to be ratified without any critical analysis/debate, so key to ensure decisions are critiqued and debated before they are approved.
I disagree with some who would suggest that Groupthink is caused by bad leadership? Groupthink is the result of a group of people who yearn to conform with the larger group’s thinking, even if it is detrimental to the group at large.

Read Irving Janis’s ‘Victims of Group Think.’

Here is a pithy quote from Janis that I rather like: “The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making in-group, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by Groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against out-groups.”

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In discussing Groupthink, some like to point towards a leader who is happy with all around agreement to his/her decisions, and generally accepting of silence as consensus. In actuality Groupthink is not about an individual exercising his/her will over the team, but more a team so cohesive and conformity driven that they view any form of dissent as dangerous to the team’s general ‘joie de vi·vre.’ A danger that is rapidly snuffed out – which means the team acts against the individual dissenters and closes ranks to effectively shut them out. The opposite of group think is more difficult to obtain – the willingness on the part of individuals to hold their ground and uphold their values, beliefs and critical opinions, regardless of the rest of the groups thinking. But such a stand is taken not just against the leader – but indeed against all of the team, to defend one’s opinion. Like the individual Juror’s dissent that can often cause a ‘Hung Jury.’

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The most damaging outcome of groupthink is often the waste of time and resources that go into a team going into a retreat/closed-door meeting to thrash out some jugular corporate issues, only to come away with a sub-standard quality output as a result of groupthink.
If the team is so fortunate, they can rally their forces and rework the outcome, with a better result, if they recognize that their initial outcomes came out of groupthink’ing. The damage could be vastly more far-reaching if they remain ignorant of the groupthink driven outcomes and go ahead with their actions and decisions based on it.

On managing geographically distributed teams…

The first step is to ensure that you have a solid, well defined set of processes that are ‘idiot-proof’ and basically simple to communicate, understand, interpret and implement.

The next step is to define the communication plan – Timing, Scheduling, technology (Conference calls, Virtual meetings, Skype like video conferencing, physical travel, etc), cultural considerations, Language limitation considerations, etc.

Consider documenting how the teams will work together – who does what? A simple Document of Understanding goes a long way in spelling out key roles, tasks and responsibilities that are being handed off and taken over during the initial transition meetings. This prevents future fall out like teams saying they were not clear about what they were expected to take over and execute.

Factor in the ongoing attrition problems that impact all geographically distributed teams. Your process needs to be robust enough to ensure that when a member leaves the team or is moved to a different role, there is a consistent induction program to address the new replacement employee’s needs.

Keep an open mind towards applying newer networking and virtual teaming applications and solutions – working across the globe with teams who are scattered far and wide is here to stay…get used to it…embrace it…enjoy the difference!

Sometimes you have to manage people you don’t like…

I find the topic framed in a rather distasteful manner – What do we mean by “How to manage someone you don’t like?”
Managers and Leaders need to transcend the petty boundaries of like and dislike.
Think Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing (and adjourning if that fits)

As managers/leaders we cannot let our personal likes and dislikes affect our management or leadership responsibilities? Our role is to facilitate the team’s journey through  Tuckman’s stages of group development listed above, such that we are allowing team members to evolve and grow into their respective roles in the team.

Remember that individuals who form part of a team have each come into the group carrying their own mental and emotional baggage which they are expected to jettison, in favour of becoming a collective part of the team. Some do this with élan and dispatch…some need more time and nurturing. In any event,  our role as manager/leader is to ensure that we are allowing this developmental stage to flourish and progress  without letting personal likes/dislikes come in the way.

Managing/leading is all about being honest and authentic with oneself as well as with the larger team. One cannot pretend to like someone, one cannot falsify a response to appear friendly or connected…neither can one fake like for dislike?

So consider the reality, take into account the other individuals situation, feelings and possible reasons for appearing disconnected from the team, or just plain un – desirable or unfriendly. Then develop an approach to confront the behavior while providing the individual with a fair and open forum to enter into a dialogue that will ultimately lead to a resolution of the reasons behind any negative connotations associated with the Individual, yourself as manager/leader and indeed the team at large.

This is the only professional way to handle the subject of this topic (which I still feel is rather distastefully stated).

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I have said before that I find this theme framed in a rather distasteful manner.
The truth is that we truly cannot function with any degree of efficiency in a team if there is an individual (or individuals) present who do not like each other. It becomes even more difficult if the Manager/Leader dislikes one or more individuals on the team.

It becomes incumbent upon the Manager/Leader to take the initiative to engage with the individual they dislike and offer a safe, penalty-free forum where the individual and the manager can get their respective grievances out in the open so they can be articulated and  resolved to the degree that both parties feel comfortable with the resolution.

The Johari window (from 1955) remains relevant even today, especially as it applies to the  situation this theme is based upon.
This tool is a great way to help people better understand their relationship with self and others.
When performing the exercise, subjects are given a list of 58 adjectives and pick five or six that they feel describe their own personality. Peers of the subject are then given the same list, and each pick five or six adjectives that describe the subject. These adjectives are then mapped onto a grid. This concept was named the Johari House with four rooms, by Charles Handy (see ‘Shamrock Organization’ – an idea he proposed)

Room 1 is the part of ourselves that we see and others see. Room 2 is the aspects that others see but we are not aware of. Room 3 is the most mysterious room in that the unconscious or subconscious part of us is seen by neither ourselves nor others. Room 4 is our private space, which we know but keep from others.

Room 1and 2 are reasonably easy to discuss and disclose as an initial part of the disclosure exercise.
Remember that as the manager you ought to be open and willing to share/disclose your own experience of Room 1 and Room 2 as it pertains to yourself.

Rooms 3 and 4 become more difficult to stay open and honest about. These are the more hidden or personal aspects of the Disclosure exercise that will demand a higher level of trust and respect for each other before this level of disclosure can be achieved.

Remember that the objective is to get all the hidden agendas out in the open so that they can be discussed, agreed to and removed from contention. This is the only way to begin the process of healing…where both parties can say “I respect your point of view and I feel that  you respect my point of view; regardless of the way our decisions flow in future and whom they apparently favour, I feel confident that they have been arrived at fairly and openly.”

In summary:

1. There can be no efficiencies in a team where there is dislike between Manager/Leader and a team member, or even between  team members with each other.

2. As the Manager/Leader it is your responsibility to create a (safe, penalty – free) forum with such individuals to allow them to share their grievances with each other and help facilitate a rapprochement that will allow them to begin to respect each other and agree to work together at the very least.

3. As the manager/leader it is incumbent upon you to ensure that you are consistent and fair in your dealings with all on the team and that you are willing to call out and confront any team behaviours that may trigger individuals’ developing feelings of withdrawal, feeling left out and/or discriminated against

I am not saying that every one has to be hugging and back-slapping each other 24×7…but I am suggesting that there ought to be (at a minimum) a healthy respect and level of trust that co-exists between team members, as well in their relationship to you, the manager/leader, and only you can embody and articulate this on behalf of the team!

When you call a face to face meeting…make it count…

In today’s Web-enabled world, the world is the global village and we are all called from time to time to visit the local watering hole, to get our heads around the latest and greatest management priority that needs to be dealt with.

A key difference these days is that we no longer harbor any expectations that the meeting in question is going to be face to face. You see, we are more accustomed these days, to pick up the phone and dial into a conference call, with fellow callers sometimes situated in entirely different Countries and/or Continents so to speak…

But regardless how we choose to call these group discussions, the essential disciplines that we all learned eons ago remain as current and as topical today, in spite of the continental shift in the way Technology has transformed our business model these days.
Typically…two people talk…3 or more people necessarily, meet!

Top considerations to ensure that the valuable time we invest in face to face meetings is not wasted:

1. Develop the Agenda (define what information is to be shared and what information needs to be processed or worked on – these are the jugular issues that need to be debated until agreements are reached by all)

2. Agree on the meeting objectives and outcomes – what will we all take away from the meeting

3. Agree on/assign roles (who is the principal Speaker or Chair, Who is the timekeeper, who is the facilitator, who is the scribe –  to ensure proper Minutes are taken and distributed, are there any guest speakers or subject matter experts included?)

As you can see, the basic 3 requirements for running effective meetings are significant enough to add up the costs rather rapidly. Now factor in the attendees and their associated costs and you have the makings of a decent dent in the organization’s operating costs.

So what options do we have, even though we may believe that a face to face meeting is the only way to go?

The obvious options include:
Teleconference
Video Conference
Skype or other available audiovisual media
‘Cloud’ based meeting

I have learned over the years that the belief that we cannot do without something we have always done in the past…is utterly antithetical to the   current environment.

We are often simply told or directed to do things a certain way, without the luxury of choice…and generally we do seem to come out none the worse for the wear.

So the next time you are planning a modest face to face meeting with your team…try this.
Calculate the cost associated with all the participants (their weighted average salary costs for the time it takes to attend the meeting, the potential cost of lost opportunity because they are unable to execute their primary roles during the meeting, as well as all the other overhead that goes into scheduling and running an effective meeting).

Now communicate to the team that you  intend to call a face to face meeting  and would like their inputs on whether the objectives of the proposed meeting could be met without meeting as a group. Also let them know what it will cost you to implement the meeting as planned.
I would suggest that if it is possible at all to accomplish the objectives in a non-face to face meeting setting, your team would be best positioned to make that call.
If they do great  – and you’ve saved the business some money.
If they don’t agree it can be done without a face to face meeting, the good news is that you will have a significantly more serious group, given their
newfound awareness of how much the meeting is costing the business.

Key words in motivating employees…

The words that have always motivated me personally (and continue to do so till this day) are words that exhort me to:
a. Rise to higher levels of performance
b. Strive to exceed expectations always, and
c. To maniacally stay opposed to resting on one’s Laurels..

A favourite quote (anonymous) that I always hang before my mind’s eye is:
“Whatever it was that got you here in the first place, sure isn’t good enough to keep you here.”

As a manager/Leader start getting used to the idea of showing dissatisfaction and even disappointment when reviewing your team’s achievements. Create frustration with their sense of “I believe I have arrived…so pat me on the back please.”

I call this ‘Motivation Through Positive Frustration’ (c) – when you do or say something that causes frustration in someone else…enough frustration that they want to get right back at you by doing something that will totally impress you…blow you away.
And when they come back to talk about their achievements and to ask for the proverbial ‘pat on the back,’ you know what you’ve got to do right?
Try a little more dissatisfaction and disappointment!…believe me – this really works!

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Some responses had one, single word – Together.Really? Just one word “Together?”

I am amazed that we have funding for research of this nature that takes such an extreme notion and then literally whacks you on the side of the head with the idea that this could be some sort of ‘magic mantra’ that would take away all the ills of the modern day work environment fraught with the obvious lack of togetherness…and somehow make it all good.

I do believe that real teaming when people from differing levels of skill, knowledge, expertise and emotional maturity come together as a physical entity, co located and driven with a common goal, they can typically produce results that are a gestalt in terms of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts .
However I have a lot of unresolved doubt about the experiment conducted in the current thread source?

Why would you try to fool people into believing something that is not true and then try to make some sort of ‘Aha’ statement out of it?

if you are in new York and someone gives you a map of Washington, you would still not be able to locate the White House? Because it just isn’t there (In NY)

So if you get people on a research study to believe they are working together eve though they a truly aren’t, you’ve just given them a map of Washington and asked them to locate the White House in NY?

We are all very aware that getting ‘real’ teams to strive towards becoming high performance teams can typically generate quantum returns in output and productivity, which naturally underscores the need for togetherness in the real sense.
And this would also naturally generate team motivation.
But to say that the artificial simulation of togetherness would facilitate higher productivity and motivation over the long term, has me looking for someone whose nose is growing longer and longer b the minute…

Managing a multicultural team…some key qualities required…

The ability to embrace change.

Managing and leading multicultural teams is fraught with chasing constantly moving targets and watching the objectives that you thought were within your reach, suddenly fade into the distance as one change or other slams into you and your team.

If you treat the introduction of a Multicultural team into the environment as a significant Organizational change in and by itself, you will be well served to remind yourself of the 5 stages of dealing with loss and grief. We all experience very similar sensations when trying to cope with extended change that causes a broad and deep impact to all involved:

1. Denial: When we first begin to hear about the change or feel it’s effects for the first time, there is a tendency to deny that it is occurring. This is a normal defense mechanism to help us buffer the shock.

2. Anger: As the buffering effects of the denial begins to dissipate, we begin to once again sense the reality of what is happening and this brings back the pain. The intense emotions we feel begin to get redirected and expressed as anger.

3. Negotiation: A normal reaction to a sense of helplessness or loss of control causes us to start thinking about what we should have done, or could have done, or perhaps what we could have prayed for, etc.This is the normal negotiation phase that we all go through when dealing with change – we resort to trying to negotiate or bargain our way back to a time when the change had not yet occurred.

4. Depression: This is the sense of abject loss and willingness to go on. This comes out of the failure of our bargaining and/or negotiation attempts in step 3 above.

5. Acceptance: This is the ultimate phase, when we begin to realize that all our efforts notwithstanding, in stages 1 through 4, did not, and will not bring back the world as we knew it before the change had occurred. we tend to become withdrawn, though calm, and we each transition through this phase as a deeply personal experience. Everybody experiences this stage in a unique and personal context.

So as a Manager/Leader of a multicultural team, try to envisage what is going through every team member’s mind – as they personally grapple with the 5 stages listed above.

This will help you work through the changes with better insight and understanding of what your team is experiencing.

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Now for some reverse psychology …we have all shared thoughts that are mostly supportive and encouraging…even self-deprecatory when it comes to (some of ) the most important qualities we may need to develop to manage Multicultural Teams (MC teams)

So what about some of the more difficult qualities we may need to develop (while dealing/managing MC teams) to ensure we are preventing:
Missed commitments
Failure to deliver to expectations
Lack of ownership and accountability

Here are my top three focus areas:

1. Develop and document a clear and transparent process that defines the Rules of Engagement, Roles and Responsibilities, Processes that will need to be taken over by the MC team, Timeframes to become 100% self reliant, Reporting procedures and checks and balances (not a comprehensive list but you get the idea).

Consider:
a. What is the ‘early warning’ system to use to communicate something getting off the rails
b. What is the escalation process
c. Who are the key contacts and their accountabilities (the singe throat to choke)
d. Reports (what, when, why, by whom, and frequency)
e. Emergency updates and support request procedures

2. Develop /implement a document of agreement (DOU) that clearly defines, goals, objectives, roles and responsibilities, penalties and recognition and rewards (again not a comprehensive list but you get the idea)

The DOU is a great place to start in ensuring that we are clear about what our expectations are from the MC team and that they are also clear about what they are required to deliver as a part of the DOU. This is where you clarify exactly how the roles and responsibilities are to be transferred to the MC team and by when you expect them to become 100% self reliant and accountable.

3. Feedback process:
Agree on the process and frequency for providing the MC team with developmental feedback (the frequency may need to be more early in the DOU cycle, and could possibly taper off as the MC team gains maturity).
Timely feedback is key to ensuring that transition/transformation losses are minimized, and that we have fewer implementation hiccups in the initial phase.

Feedback needs to be accurate and based on the reality as evidenced by factual data that you are able to draw on. Recognize Cultural Norms during the feedback process – there may be special considerations based on language, how seniority is respected, hierarchical expectations, etc within the MC teams structure.
Be sensitive and considerate in the process of providing feedback but keep it honest and fact based always. You want to ‘tell it like it’ is while maintaining decorum and professional courtesy at all times.

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The thing about ‘Culture’ is that we mostly distil it down to the way one looks, the shape of the eyes, the colour of the skin and any external behaviours, especially w.r.t to religion and social mores, that we observe in others. We need to view the world from a ‘global village’ perspective more and more. The freshly minted graduate in that village in Nairobi watches the same YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc Social media outlets that the kid in the U.S does…so like or not, there is cultural exchange happening, both ways, that will leave indelible marks on both – the kid in the U.S and the Graduate in Nairobi. Organizations who jealously guard ‘Holy Cows’ representing “that’s how we do it here,” need to sacrifice them in the name of breaking out of the box of habit. They need to embrace the Tsunami of Change that is hitting us all. We deal in an “outsourced” business environment where time needs to shift so that a 10 hour difference between India and the U.S is rapidly becoming a non-issue, as teams in India swop day for night. Managers and Leaders across the great divide need to become familiar with holidays and festivals in the geographies they receive services from. Language and communications need to adjust to the new environments we create…all of which require a dynamic, ever-evolving Organization culture. Not one that is cast in stone If it was China or Brazil yesterday, it may be Russia or India tomorrow…so holding fast to “the way we’ve done it all these years” will not hack it. Culture is all about being able to say: “I think I understand your point of view…I think you understand my point of view…and if we disagree, thank God for that. Because if we both nod heads to everything….one of us is redundant.