Business Success: Social Intelligence

If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view—as well as your own. 

—Henry Ford

The human brain offers fascinating insights into how leaders can leverage the new science. Based on the latest research in social neuroscience, a person who feels empathy for someone else is able to become attuned to the other’s mood. The result is resonance. The two brains become attuned as if they are part of the same system. This idea has powerful implications for leaders, as it follows that truly “great leaders are those whose behavior powerfully leverages the system of brain interconnectedness.”

Social influence on leaders

Natural leaders are those who easily connect with others. Individuals can improve their leadership abilities by finding “authentic contexts in which to learn the kinds of social behavior that reinforces the brain’s social circuitry. Leading effectively is, in other words, less about mastering situations—or even mastering social skill sets—than about developing a genuine interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.”

Tuning In

The process of tuning in occurs through the activation of mirror neurons, which are widely distributed throughout the brain. They operate as a “neural Wi-Fi” that facilitates our navigation of the social world by picking up the emotions of others and sharing their experience.
This point has powerful implications for leadership style. It suggests that leaders can succeed while being very demanding, as long as they foster a positive mood. In fact, certain mirror neurons are designed to detect smiles and laughter and often prompt smiles and laughter in return. Leaders who elicit smiles and laughter stimulate bonding among their team members. Research shows that “top-performing leaders elicited laughter from their subordinates three times as often, on average, as did mid-performing leaders.”

Intuition

Great leaders often say they make decisions from the gut. While some discount this concept, neuroscience steps in again to suggest that intuition is, in fact, in the brain. Intuition is produced by neurons called spindle cells. These cells are characterized by their large size (four times that of other brain cells). Their spindly shape, with an extra-long branch that allows them to attach to many cells at the same time, enables spindle cells to transmit thoughts and feeling to other cells more quickly. “This ultrarapid connection of emotions, beliefs, and judgments creates what behavioral scientists call our social guidance system.” This ability to take a thin slice of information and make a split-second decision has proven to be very accurate as shown in follow-up metrics. The ability to intuit while tuned in to others’ moods offers very accurate radar.

Other neurons that play a role in our social intelligence are called oscillators. The oscillator neurons coordinate movements between people who are attuned to each others’ feelings. It explains the phenomena experienced in dancing or a drumming circle. And it plays heavily in nonverbal communication, as this connection enables one to guided to look in a certain direction or adjust position by the actions of another.

Dan Goleman, author of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, and Richard Boyaztis, author of Becoming a Resonant Leader, share their behavioral assessment tool, the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. “It is a 360-degree evaluation instrument by which bosses, peers, direct reports, clients, and sometimes even family members assess a leader according to seven social intelligence qualities.”

Empathy
• Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?
• Are you sensitive to others’ needs?
Attunement
• Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel?
• Are you attuned to others’ moods?
Organizational Awareness
• Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization?
• Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?
Influence
• Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests?
• Do you get support from key people?
Developing Others
• Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring?
• Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?
Inspiration
• Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group price, and foster a positive emotional tone?
• Are you lead by bringing out the best in people?
Teamwork
• Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?
• Are you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

What characteristics do you think are most important in a leader?

Leadership Development, Predictive Analytics, Business Intelligence and Change Management blog

 

Business Success: Social Intelligence

If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view—as well as your own. 

—Henry Ford

The human brain offers fascinating insights into how leaders can leverage the new science. Based on the latest research in social neuroscience, a person who feels empathy for someone else is able to become attuned to the other’s mood. The result is resonance. The two brains become attuned as if they are part of the same system. This idea has powerful implications for leaders, as it follows that truly “great leaders are those whose behavior powerfully leverages the system of brain interconnectedness.”

Social influence on leadersNatural leaders are those who easily connect with others. Individuals can improve their leadership abilities by finding “authentic contexts in which to learn the kinds of social behavior that reinforces the brain’s social circuitry. Leading effectively is, in other words, less about mastering situations—or even mastering social skill sets—than about developing a genuine interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.”

Tuning In

The process of tuning in occurs through the activation of mirror neurons, which are widely distributed throughout the brain. They operate as a “neural Wi-Fi” that facilitates our navigation of the social world by picking up the emotions of others and sharing their experience.
This point has powerful implications for leadership style. It suggests that leaders can succeed while being very demanding, as long as they foster a positive mood. In fact, certain mirror neurons are designed to detect smiles and laughter and often prompt smiles and laughter in return. Leaders who elicit smiles and laughter stimulate bonding among their team members. Research shows that “top-performing leaders elicited laughter from their subordinates three times as often, on average, as did mid-performing leaders.”

Intuition

Great leaders often say they make decisions from the gut. While some discount this concept, neuroscience steps in again to suggest that intuition is, in fact, in the brain. Intuition is produced by neurons called spindle cells. These cells are characterized by their large size (four times that of other brain cells). Their spindly shape, with an extra-long branch that allows them to attach to many cells at the same time, enables spindle cells to transmit thoughts and feeling to other cells more quickly. “This ultrarapid connection of emotions, beliefs, and judgments creates what behavioral scientists call our social guidance system.” This ability to take a thin slice of information and make a split-second decision has proven to be very accurate as shown in follow-up metrics. The ability to intuit while tuned in to others’ moods offers very accurate radar.

Other neurons that play a role in our social intelligence are called oscillators. The oscillator neurons coordinate movements between people who are attuned to each others’ feelings. It explains the phenomena experienced in dancing or a drumming circle. And it plays heavily in nonverbal communication, as this connection enables one to guided to look in a certain direction or adjust position by the actions of another.

Dan Goleman, author of Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, and Richard Boyaztis, author of Becoming a Resonant Leader, share their behavioral assessment tool, the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. “It is a 360-degree evaluation instrument by which bosses, peers, direct reports, clients, and sometimes even family members assess a leader according to seven social intelligence qualities.”

Empathy
• Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?
• Are you sensitive to others’ needs?
Attunement
• Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel?
• Are you attuned to others’ moods?
Organizational Awareness
• Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization?
• Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?
Influence
• Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests?
• Do you get support from key people?
Developing Others
• Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring?
• Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?
Inspiration
• Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group price, and foster a positive emotional tone?
• Are you lead by bringing out the best in people?
Teamwork
• Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?
• Are you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

What characteristics do you think are most important in a leader?

Business Success: Models for Adaptive Organizations

Prior articles offered complexity science, chaos theory, and evolutionary biology as models for understanding organizational dynamics in a volatile economy. Further exploration into various aspects of these models unveils concepts for improving organizational adaptability.

A Living Systems Modelchaos image

Leading an organization based on living systems requires an understanding of organizational evolution. “The focus shifts from what is to what is becoming, from structure to dynamics.”

The following steps describe the pattern of change in living systems:

1. Innovation
2. Complexification and Convergence
4. Bifurcation and Chaos

The steps originate in science but have a direct application in the corporate world. Their role and interrelation are critical to understanding adaptability in an emergent organization.

Innovation

Innovation is essential for maintaining adaptability and resilience. The combination of advances in technology and globalization put pressure on many organizations to adapt or die. Both of these are seen as irreversible. And the speed at which they occur continues to increase. The impact of a high level of innovation is felt through the next step.

Complification and Convergence

As advanced technologies inject new information into the system, complexity increases. However, there are limits to the complexity an organization can handle. To accommodate increased complexity, new levels of organization must be created to control and coordinate the existing levels. As a result, an organization “always converges progressively toward more embracing and coordinated multilevel structures.”

Convergence is seen across the globe as many corporations are partnering, forming alliances, merging, and diversifying into multiple lines of business. Global business standards and regulations are a result of this phenomenon.

What happens when a global company reaches its limit of complexity is unknown. Based on the new science, the next step in the sequence may be chaos.

Bifurcation and Chaos

Scientists have known for decades that as complex systems evolve, chaos and uncertainty increase. Today, computer models are able to simulate the evolutionary path with mathematical precision. The models show the attractors that form the pattern of the evolutionary trajectory.

The evolutionary trajectory can be plotted to show a graphical pattern providing a visual depiction of an attractor. There are several types of attractors. A system that evolves toward a fixed point over time is defined by stable-point attractors; a cyclically recurring state is characterized by period attractors; and an emergent system of order is defined by strange or chaotic attractors. As chaotic attractors are plotted, a shape emerges that has definite boundaries and patterns. The beautiful shapes of the plots prove that chaotic attractors are neither arbitrary nor disorderly.

Bifurcation occurs when a complex system changes trajectory. It is characterized by a change in pattern and a shift from one set of attractors to another. In the real world, complex systems evolve out of a specific initial state until a pattern emerges. If the evolution comes to rest, the process is ruled by static attractors. If the patterns are cyclical, the system is regulated by periodic attractors. If neither of these occurs, the system is controlled by strange or chaotic attractors.

Strange or chaotic attractors are pervasive in our global economy. The recent collapse of the world’s financial markets and its domino effect around the world demonstrates this pattern. Catastrophic bifurcations are occurring as many large financial institutions seek equilibrium amid the chaos.

Chaotic attractors do not operate with total randomness. Scientific analysis has unveiled a subtle order that emerges. Complex systems self-organize through a natural phenomenon known as cross-catalytic cycles. Following periods of instability and chaos, these cycles allow complex systems to return to dynamic stability where they can grow and prosper.

Business Success: The New Paradigm

In traditional organizations, strategy management is usually static and reductionist. The focus is on short-term gain, optimal allocation of resources, process improvement, and increasing competitive advantage. The approach to change is incremental, with the assumption that a slight change in the existing strategy or variation in the organizational structure will do the job.paradigm_shift_logo

As mentioned earlier, two fundamentally different organizational models are offered. The traditional model, based on Newtonian science, is linear, rational, and reductionist. It is based on the idea that organizations are made up of individual units that can be managed separately. Units such as people, products, tasks, and expenses can each be optimized to support the whole. Change as predictable and controllable with a final end state characterized by stability. According to Laszlo and Laugel in Large-Scale Organizational Change, “This notion is rooted in calculus with which Newton expressed his immutable laws of physics—smooth, continuous, differential equations that lead toward a fixed equilibrium.”

The emergent model is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It sees organizations as emerging from complexity with their parts interconnected and relating as living systems. Behavior emerges and is experienced on an organizational level. It cannot be reduced to incremental units. Rather than implementing change, the emergent or living systems model is always adapting to stay in balance. Change, as defined by the old model, is continuous. The wisdom or intelligence of the organization does not just reside with leadership but is assumed to be distributed across a wide variety of people and systems.

By understanding the rules, principles, and behaviors of each model, organizations can select the best path based on the specific situation. For example, if a company needs to manufacture a product, a clear linear process with a predefined path and time frame is optimal. However, when pressures from outside or deep within an organization require adaptation, it is rarely predictable or controllable. The constant need to innovate, a pressure felt by many in the global economy, is a good example. The intelligence of the organization to meet this goal is far superior to that of the top management team.

To illustrate how our traditional change methodologies and structures limit adaptability, imagine if traditional business rules and processes are applied to the neurons in the brain.
Organize the neuron in your brain, the most complex, infinitely diverse organ that has ever emerged in evolution, as you would a corporation. The first thing you’ve got to do is appoint the Chief Executive neuron, right?

Then you’ve got to decide which are going to be the Board of Directors neurons and the Human Resources neurons, and then you have to write an operating manual for it. Now, if you could organize your brain on that model, what would happen? You would instantly be unable to breathe until somebody told you how and where and when and how fast. You wouldn’t be able to think or see. What if your immune system were organized on this basis? First you’d have to do some market research to determine what virus, if any, was attaching you, right? Then you’d have to have marching orders for all the various aspects of your immune system.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments.

Sharing My Truth & An Invitation To Participate In Leading-Edge Innovation Research

Have you ever felt like you had to hide part of yourself to survive in the corporate world? For the last 20 years, I’ve built my career on the study and practice of data mining and business intelligence. I shared many practical solutions in my first book, Data Mining Cookbook (Wiley 2001). But my real passion has always been the study and practice of human intelligence. And for a long time, I felt that I had to keep that passion separate from my ‘real’ work. But a few years ago, I began to see a relationship between the level of human development within an organization and the successful use business intelligence. I shared this research in my second book, Business Intelligence Success Factors (Wiley/SAS 2009). Now I’m discovering that for these concepts to be really useful, they need some structure. So I’m developing a model that tracks the evolution of business intelligence along with human intelligence on an organizational level.

So here’s the deal… I’d like you to participate in a research project that is inspired by the following statistic: According to Gartner, 70% to 80% of corporate business intelligence projects fail due to poor communication http://tinyurl.com/793ehvh . Given the high dollar value of these projects, even a partial failure can be catastrophic to the bottom line. And the failure isn’t due to faulty business intelligence. It’s due to faulty human intelligence!
To understand the connection, let’s consider why Business Intelligence is so critical and what is required for success. Hint: It’s all about Innovation!

surveyIn today’s high-tech, global economy, most linear processes can be automated or outsourced. This really levels the playing field for many large organizations. To remain competitive, companies must continually reinvent themselves. Therefore, innovation is becoming the main differentiator and key driver of success.

For a large company to be truly successful, innovation must be embedded in the systems, processes, and organizational culture. This requires a high level of agility and adaptability which is built upon competence in two main areas: business intelligence and human intelligence.

Business Intelligence is generally understood to be a set of methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information (Wikipedia).

Human Intelligence is more subjective and open to interpretation. For this research, I am defining it as the levels of emotional and social competency of the employees of an organization with a special emphasis on the leadership team. It is the human intelligence that translates the data into actionable business knowledge which leads to better decisions and smarter actions. To really be successful, business intelligence and human intelligence must evolve simultaneously.

The goal of the survey is to understand and measure the alignment between the level of business intelligence and the level of human intelligence and to determine to what degree this alignment is correlated with the success of the organization. To test my thesis, I’ve created a survey that explores multiple aspects of the processes, culture, and performance of a typical mid-size to large organization.

If you are an employee of a mid-size to large organization or if you are an independent consultant that works with large organizations, your participation is invaluable and sincerely appreciated. If you are a consultant, please feel free to answer the questions as if you were holding a position with one of your client organizations.

The survey takes 5-10 minutes. All responses remain anonymous. Each participant will receive a summary of the results. Please feel free to forward this to others as you deem appropriate. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/OAQSurvey

Business Success: Creativity

Nov 06, 2012 @ 09:37 AM

A flash of inspiration can burst out anywhere. For Archimedes, it came in the bathtub and for Isaac Newton beneath an apple tree. But for Alastair Pilkington, it came one misty October evening while he was washing the dinner dishes. Staring at the soap and grease floating in the dishwater, he suddenly conceived of float glass—a way of making glass more cheaply by floating it in an oven on a bath of molten tin.
—1964 Newsweek magazine article Op cit., Herrmann, 139

 

brain

Many people in knowledge-based organizations, especially those working in analytical or technical positions, believe that right-brain, creative processes are irrelevant to their line of work. They tend to favor more left-brain, linear, hierarchical thinking processes. However, evidence shows that the best way to solve complex analytical problems is to access the whole brain.

The Human Brain

The structure and processing of the human brain play an important role in creative thinking and problem solving. Basically, the brain is a highly adaptable complex system with no chief executive. It thrives on billions of connections, feedback loops, and interactions. When presented with stimulation, the only region of the brain that activates is the one needed. Meanwhile, other areas sit idle. Research suggests that people relate differently to situations based on the way their brains are wired.

Left-Brain/Right-Brain Theory of Organization

To understand the mechanics of the creative process, it is useful to have a deeper understanding of the structure of the brain. Most people are familiar with the fact that the brain has a left and a right hemisphere. Within the two hemispheres are the neocortex and limbic system. Also important are the connectors that connect these four areas and send signals to one another. Within these four areas, there are two patterns of brain functioning, situational functioning and iterative functioning. These are the components of the left-brain/right-brain theory of organization.

Neocortex

Roughly 80 percent of the brain is in the neocortex. It is anatomically divided into two halves, called cerebral hemispheres. The neocortex manages “processes concerning vision, hearing, body, sensations, intentional motor control, reasoning, cerebra thinking and decision making, purposeful behavior, language and non-verbal ideation.”

Limbic System

The two halves of the limbic system are nestled into each of the two cerebral hemispheres and make up most of the rest of the thinking cortex. The limbic system has one of the richest blood supplies in the body; it “regulates eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, body temperature, chemical balances such as blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure, punishment, hunger, thirst, aggression, and rage.”
The limbic system is responsible for producing emotions. It is connected to both the brain stem and the cerebral hemispheres through vast and highly developed connections. Therefore, it is in a position to mediate brain activity between the brain stem and the cerebral hemispheres. In other words, it has the power to overwhelm logical thinking with emotional energy.

Connections within the Brain

The connections within the brain fall into two categories, those within each hemisphere and those between the hemispheres and the two halves of the limbic system. The most famous of these, the corpus callosum, connects the two cerebral hemispheres. It is believed to have between 200 and 300 million fibers. Research suggests that, on average, female brains have an advantage over male brains in size, speed, and maturity rate – the rate at which the brain matures. This may explain some of the differences in male and female aptitudes and behaviors.

Situational versus Iterative Functioning

To improve efficiency, the brain determines which part to activate based on the particular situation. For example, if people are listening, their language center will activate while their calculation center sits idle.

Iterative functioning, in contrast, “is a back-and-forth movement of signals among the brain’s specialized centers that take place to advance work on a task.” Depending on the complexity of the task, it can be a single iteration or multiple iterations between or within hemispheres.

Amygdalae

Another area of the brain plays a big role in the ability to survive amid complexity as it relates to fear. The amygdalae sit at the base of the brain and serve as processors for emotions, especially fear. One of the oldest parts of the brain, their characteristics can be the most deep-seated and hard to explain. When dealing with transformation and moving in new directions, people’s level of fear plays a prominent role in their ability and willingness to move forward.

Cerebellum

The latest research on the cerebellum suggests that it is a powerful mechanism with more nerve cells than the rest of the brain combined. It quickly processes information from all other parts of the brain, such as motor areas, cognitive areas, language areas, and areas involving emotional functions. Its computer-like circuitry allows it to send information back out to various parts of the brain. Its connections to the cerebral cortex resemble segregated bundles, which allow it to communicate complex information. Current theories under investigation suggest that the cerebellum is involved not only in skilled motor performance but in skilled mental performance as well as “various sensory functions including sensory acquisition, discrimination, tracking and prediction.” Experimental evidence shows that it may also be responsible for automating repetitive processes, thereby freeing the brain for other mental activities.

13 Behaviors of Business Success

It takes twenty years to build your reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
—Warren Buffett, Chairman & CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

As Covey describes it, the 13 behaviors reflect both character and competence. This is valuable to understand because “the quickest way to decrease trust is to violate a behavior of character, while the quickest way to increase trust is to demonstrate a behavior of competence.”

Behavior #1: Talk Straight
What we say is true and forthcoming—not just technically correct. —Dell Inc.’s Code of Conduct  Straight talk is really about honesty. The ability and integrity to speak the truth with great clarity is essential for success today. Too much is happening too fast to be delayed by confusion or deception. Strong leadership is necessary to create a culture of trust. Straight talk from top management is essential for success.

Behavior #2: Demonstrate Respect

I try to treat people as human beings….If they know you care, it brings out the best in them.
—Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman, The Virgin Group
Demonstrating respect builds trust on all levels. Expansion into global markets brings exposure to new customs and manners that need to be understood and integrated. This creates the space for unparalleled innovation and collaboration.

Behavior #3: Create Transparency

Creating transparency involves telling the truth in a way that can be verified. This means not hiding mistakes and information. Leaders who come from a place of authenticity and transparency are rewarded with loyalty and trust.

Behavior #4: Right Wrongs

To be an effective leader, one must practice humility. Mistakes are expected in a dynamic, innovative company. And no one is immune from them. To admit mistakes and make restitution, when necessary, is a sign of great integrity.

Behavior #5: Show Loyalty

To retain those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent.—Steven M. R. Covey
To demonstrate and encourage loyalty, it is important to acknowledge the contributions of others and offer praise freely. Leaders who speak about people as though they were present and show respect for their privacy gain the trust of those who are present.

Behavior #6: Deliver Results

We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
As a full participant in any organization, it is crucial to establish a track record of delivering results. However, it is also important to know what to deliver. This involves understanding how results will be implemented and making sure the results have value to the organization.
In a dynamic organization, individuals enjoy a lot more autonomy. Proactive behavior invigorates the system and moves the organization forward. It is good to underpromise and overdeliver.

Behavior #7: Get Better

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.—Alvin Toffler, American writer and futurist
A practice of continual learning is essential for the growth of both the organization and the individual. Improving skills and knowledge in your current area of expertise as well as learning through collaboration with other areas leads to exponential growth. Developing formal and informal feedback systems also supports learning.

Behavior #8: Confront Reality

Leaders need to be more candid with those they purport to lead. Sharing good news is easy. When it comes to the more troublesome negative news, be candid and take responsibility. Don’t withhold unpleasant possibilities and don’t pass off bad news to subordinates to deliver. Level with employees about problems in a timely fashion.—Jon Huntsman, chairman, Huntsman Chemical
When times are tough, confronting reality requires obligated courage. True leaders share the truth at all times and address the difficult issues directly.

Behavior #9: Clarify Expectations

When communicating within an organization, clarity of word and deed is very powerful. Effective communication and feedback are essential for ensuring that everyone understands what is expected. It is dangerous to assume otherwise.

Behavior #10: Practice AccountabilityBusiness success

Personal accountability fuels trust and mobilizes an organization for growth. Leaders must set the standard by holding themselves accountable. Then they are in integrity and can hold others accountable. Avoid blaming others when things go wrong.

Behavior #11: Listen First
I have found that the two best qualities a CEO can have are the ability to listen and to assume the best motives in others.—Jack M. Greenberg, chairman and CEO, McDonald’s
As discussed Chapter 3, truly listening is an art that takes intention and effort. But the value of this practice is significant. To understand someone, it is necessary to listen with your eyes, ears, and heart. Seek to learn what is important to others. This is the first step toward accessing the plethora of untapped wisdom in organizations.

Behavior #12: Keep Commitments
Stand up for what’s right, in small matters and large ones, and always do what you promise.
—Reuben Mark, chairman and CEO, Colgate-Palmolive
Covey calls this the “Big Kahuna” of all behaviors. It is a fundamental building block of trust and is essential for effective collaboration.
Behavior #13: Extend Trust
Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Great leaders demonstrate a propensity to trust. When members of an organization extend trust to others, it fosters a collaborative environment. Learn from those who break the bond of trust.

Business Success: Value of Trust

There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world—one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. 
That one thing is trust.
—Steven M. R. Covey, Author of The Speed of Trust

 

Trust is a fundamental building block for organizations that seek to build a collaborative culture. Since power is dispersed and each area is interdependent, a breech of trust can undermine the integrity of the entire system.

trustAccording to Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, “Our market system depends on trust. Trust in the work of our colleagues and trust in the word of those with whom we do business.” Greenspan goes on to say that the honesty and integrity of a company are a function of the character of the chief executive officer (CEO). “If a CEO countenances managing reported earnings, that attitude will drive the entire accounting regime of the firm. If he or she instead insists on an objective representation of a company’s business dealings, that standard will govern recordkeeping and due diligence.”

In our complex business environment, trust is built through relationships. Specifically, our behaviors build or undermine trust. And our ability to communicate forms the foundation of those relationships. Margaret Wheatley and Byron Kellner-Rogers describe the importance of trust in organizations:

Relationships are another essential condition that engenders the organizations that we see. The forms of the organization bear witness to how people experience one another. In fear-filled organizations, impervious structures keep materializing. People are considered dangerous. They need to be held apart from one another.

But in systems of trust, people are free to create the relationships they need. Trust enables the system to open. The system expands to include those it had excluded. More conversations—more diverse and diverging views—become important. People decide to work with those from whom they had been separate.

In The Speed of Trust, Steven Covey discusses how trust is a new competitive advantage. In a business landscape where speed is essential, the presence of trust empowers leaders to eliminate many steps related to governance, due diligence, and so on. The organizations that depend on large volumes of data and employ Business Intelligence depend on the veracity or the data as well as the data analysts and architects.

Covey offers 13 behaviors that are based on enduring principles that govern success. They are based on personal credibility and integrity. And they apply to all areas of an organization as well as life in general.  Next week I will share some those 13 behaviors and my thoughts about them with you.

Feel free to share this blog with co-workers or friends and we always love your feedback in the comments section. 

Leadership Skills: Building Collaboration through Appreciative Inquiry

Traditionally, organizations look to change behavior by focusing on detecting errors, performing gap analyses, and fixing problems. This deficit-based theory of change may work for the top-down, hierarchical organization. But for dynamic organizations with a continual need to adapt, these models are not sufficient. With their focus on problems and crises, they may even be deleterious to the change process. In 2000 David Cooperrider, a pioneer of Appreciative Inquiry proposed that “While researchers have demonstrated the potential for increased organizational understanding when members focus on opportunity rather than threat,…deficient inquiry continues to guide many in their quest for change.”question_mark

Conversely, the new science suggests that when the focus and intention are directed toward that which is positive, a creative power is unleashed that facilitates adaptation with unprecedented ease and efficiency. Appreciative Inquiry, a technique that focuses on positive outcomes, is based on the premise that humans are naturally drawn toward that which is positive. The practice of Appreciative Inquiry suggests that by searching within an organization for what works, what motivates, and what evokes positive energy, the organization will evolve in a positive direction. “Appreciative Inquiry involves the co-evolutionary search for the best in people, organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what forces are at work when a system is its most effective, compassionate, and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.”

The practice of Appreciative Inquiry has unveiled a new theoretical framework for viewing change. Its protocol has an inherent ability to tap into the positive energy that is created by the relationship of the group. The resulting change is often spontaneous, natural, and successful beyond all expectations. “Conspicuously absent from this process are the vocabularies of deficit-based change (e.g., gap analysis, root causes of failure, unfreezing, defensive routines, variances, diagnosis, resistance, and flaming platforms).” The theoretical framework offers a deeper understanding of the power of this approach.

The next article will focus on the 4 Phases of Appreciative Inquiry.  If you found this material helpful, please forward it to a friend or co-worker and encourage them to subscribe.

Business Success: Cultural Elements of Collaboration

For collaboration to flourish, the organization must take steps to create a collaborative culture. Evan Rosen (author of The Culture of Collaboration) suggests that there are 10 cultural elements of collaboration. Many of these elements are inherent qualities of an adaptive company:

Collaboration - Joined Hands1. Trust. Trust is a foundational feature of any team. Members who trust each other feel safe in sharing ideas. If people are afraid their ideas will be stolen or they will be criticized for mistakes, collaboration is difficult. Look for more discussion of trust later in the chapter.

2. Sharing. Some individuals resist sharing because they fear they will lose their value. It is important to demonstrate that by sharing, everyone’s value is increased.

3. Goals. Commonly created and shared goals are essential for vital collaboration.

4. Innovation. Collaboration stimulates innovation, which then fuels more collaboration.

5. Environment. The physical and virtual environment represents the nonverbal language of the company. Spaces that facilitate informal congregation lead to the natural sharing of ideas and issues. Virtual collaborative environments through technology advances are as important as real environments and are discussed in a later section.

6. Collaborative chaos. Chaos energizes the system. By facilitating the unstructured exchange of ideas, innovation flourishes.

7. Constructive confrontation. Respectful disagreement fuels the system to generate new ideas. When individuals feel safe to challenge each other’s ideas, innovation is unleashed.

8. Communication. Effective communication skills are fundamental to collaboration. Communication is the channel that builds trust while it facilitates inquiry and sharing.

9. Community. A sense of community is a natural outcome of collaboration. Shared goals, invigorating idea exchanges, and group problem solving build trust and community.

10. Value. Value from collaboration is realized in numerous ways. Companies have experienced business benefits, such as reduced processing times, shortened product development cycles, new markets identification, and more. There are also considerable cost savings realized through human benefits. When individuals feel engaged and valued as part of something larger than themselves, they have a more positive attitude about work. This leads to increased productivity, lower absenteeism, and more.

Stay tuned for more about implementing a culture of collaboration in your workplace.