Saturday, October 27, 2007

Developing Emotionally, Part 2

A client, let's call him Robert, who wishes to remain anonymous, writes about the body inventory:

"This was one of my key "lessons learned" from the Problem Solving Leadership workshop (PSL): acknowledging my feelings/emotions. As an INTP myself, this didn't make much sense at the time. :-)

Even though it was some years ago, I recall Jerry mentioning during PSL that INTPs have very fragile feelings which is why we need to protect them and appear to others as if we didn't have any.

After PSL I have been doing the exercise Jerry describes every morning at my desk in the office while writing in my journal. I close my eyes and write down what I feel. I just acknowledge it to myself on paper. In my case though, I don't start at my toes. I have learned that my emotions get trapped in 3 very specific places in my body: my stomach, my chest, and my throat. So, I just aim for those. If I listen closely, I hear what I am saying... emotionally. That helps me balance myself to begin my day at work.

In dealing with others, I also often find myself "not understanding why others feel the way they do". That is my trigger to stop trying to figure it out and just be. I am just there for the other person. I just acknowledge their feelings. I don't try to change them. Sometimes I catch myself not being able to do that. I realize that, in those situations, I am emotionally out of balance. I am trying to "fix" the other person when, in fact, what I really want is to balance myself."

I'm so glad he wrote this, for his experience is as a valuable model for others of how the body inventory works, and how working on yourself first helps you understand others.

And, how helping others helps you, for when I asked Robert for permission to use his feedback, he wrote:

Jerry, please go ahead and use it on the blog.I am already thinking that once I see it on on your blog, it will help me be less afraid of sharing my thoughts in a larger audience. I'll get there. :-)

And, it is already helping other people. Melissa wrote:

Robert, I appreciate you for your insights. I have discovered my emotions are showing up in my stomach mostly. I will have to check in with my chest and throat. My stomach has been tense during my situations and could overwhelm different bottlenecks elsewhere.

Your second description about being out of balance perfectly describes my situations as well. You phrased it better and more deeply than my current level of understanding. Thank you for those insights. Being centered myself helps me be more present for the other person. As my centering improves I even get better at meeting new people. :-)

I also like the idea of doing The Body Inventory at your desk. I tried it yesterday for the first time while lying down. I almost fell asleep. (Though maybe that is what my body really needed then.)

The post also elicited a profound and helpful comment from Doris Hernandez, a "life coach." I recommend my readers take a look at her blog, Building the Life You Want, as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Developing Emotionally

Melissa, a client, writes: "As you recall I got booted from my job when you were consulting here a while back. In the congruent model I was too self-oriented and neglected the needs of the Presidential Other and the Context. I recently exited another situation in similar fashion (but recognized the self-orientation problem right away). In my analysis I have discovered my INTP self has built a huge ability to work through and understand problems rationally and a minuscule ability to comprehend problems or situations emotionally. So far I realize I need to build emotional awareness, both of my self and of others. I think they go together. Seeing emotions in myself helps me see them in others. I think I also need more emotional problem skills. A friend pointed out humans are quite often irrational and I get confused trying to deal with those situations rationally. I guess I am looking for ways to develop emotionally. I appreciate any emotions or ideas that you and others are willing to share. Thank you."

I'd like my readers to post any help they can give to Melissa. Let me start by offering an exercise I found extremely useful in learning to perceive my own emotional state:

The Body Inventory

Sit down by yourself.

Close your eyes and mentally perform an inventory of your physical state.

Start with the tip of the big toe on your right foot. Is it feeling anything? Quiet? Itchy? Painful? What kind of pain?

Acknowledge the feeling, then move on to the next toe and repeat the process.

Finish your right toes, then do the left. Then do the parts of your feet, then your ankles and up your legs.

Continue the process up your body, inside and out, until you finish at the top of your head.

If you're pressed, the entire process can take as little as one minute, though if you can spare a couple of minutes, that would be better. You can almost always get a couple of minutes. For example, if I'm in a stressful client meeting, I ask for a health break and head for the men's room (in your case, Melissa, the ladies' room). I can hide out in a booth and perform the inventory. When I'm finished, I not only know my physical state (and perhaps something I want to do to improve it), but I usually have some insight into my emotional state and the emotional states of the others in the meeting.

Give it a try.

Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Evidence That Teams Are More Productive

On The Collaborative View blog, I read the following question. Since it referred to me, I thought I ought to respond:

You have an assertion - that good employees who work together as a team outperform great employees who don't.

For a very long time I've been looking for a reference that provides some/any evidence for this, apart from anecdote or assertion.

Do you know any sources that show teams are more productive and creative?

I've read a heap of Jerry Weinberg's & friends work - this is one of their major planks. I believe it to be true, from my own experience, both negative and positive, I know it to be true, but haven't been able to find any hard/definitive evidence.

Calling It a Team Doesn't Make It a Team

First of all, the initial assertion is wrong. Sometimes it's true, but sometimes you can put a bunch of good employees together, call them a team, and find that they perform worse than the individuals would have done alone. It's like the little girl with the curl on her forehead. When a team is good, it can be very, very good; but when it is bad, it can be horrid.

Lincoln used to ask a riddle: "If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?" Answer: Four, because calling it a leg doesn't make it a leg. And calling a bunch of employees a "team" doesn't make them a team. It takes time, teaming talent, and work to make a team.

Apart From Anecdote or Assertion

Second, consider the request: "apart from anecdote or assertion." You're not going to find any experimental evidence on "great teams" because it takes time for great teams to form. Thus, you cannot assemble some teams of college freshmen and expect them to become great teams in a few hours or days.

Nevertheless, I have done experiments in my classes (with computer professionals, not college students) that show numerically on some relatively small problems that team results can range from ten times better to ten times worse than the individuals on that same team. Since I'm telling you that, but not publishing in some psychological journal, this qualifies as an assertion. If you believe me when I tell you that I've repeated these experiments dozens of times, then it qualifies as an experiment.

As an experiment, it's limited by the time scale, as my Problem Solving Leadership (PSL) classes run for only a week of intensive team building. Most of the teams become very, very good during that time, but they don't become great. That takes longer.

Some Great Teams

In my consulting, I have seen many great teams over half a century. I remember them, because great teams are always memorable. But many people do not observe these great teams in their own organizations, largely because great teams in large bureaucracies know they have to hide from their own management. Why? For one reason, managers want to improve the whole organization, not just one team. That's admirable, but fails when it's connected with the fallacy that you can break up a team, put its members--one each--on other teams, and then the other teams will also become great. You build great teams one team at a time.

For another reason, managers worry that they will be judged by the standard of the great team. If all their teams don't live up to this standard (and they can't), then the manager's manager may think that the manger is not doing a good job with those other teams.

And, some managers simply don't believe it's possible for a team of software builders to produce software on time, within budget, that works well and pleases their customers. They literally can't see it when it happens, even when it happens consistently. One reason, of course, is that the customers of such a great team don't want the manager to see it, because then they may lose the team to the manager's attempts to spread the greatness.

Anecdotes from Sports

By the way, one of the reasons I became interested in teams early in my life was from observing what I call the All-Star Effect. Years ago, many of the professional sports held All-Star games in which the championship team played against a "team" composed of the star players from all the other teams in the league. Over time, though, people began to notice that the real team always won over the pseudo-team--a bunch of outstanding players thrown together for a short time and told to become a team. One by one, the different sports stopped this practice and converted to an All-Star game that pitted stars from one half of the league against stars from the other half. This new format was very entertaining, but told us nothing about "great teams."

More recently, the American basketball coaches learned this lesson about international play. For many years, the American stars were just so much better than the players from other countries that the Americans could throw together a bunch of them, call them a team, and have them dominate every single competition. But as the standard of play in other countries grew, the American All-Stars began to lose. Now, when the Americans put together a "team," they insist that the players work together for much longer periods of time before taking the court for official games. And now they are doing much, much better. Talent helps, of course, but talent plus talent does not automatically make a team.

What Kind of Team?

Finally, in different activities, the meaning of "team" changes. At one of my clients, the manager kept insisting that his employees work "as a team." Since they "team" consisted of field support agents who worked individually in different parts of the country, nobody knew what he meant. Finally, someone worked up the courage to ask, "What kind of team do you mean?"

He said, "Like a ski team!"