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"I'll Try" Is Not Good Enough ...What It Takes to Make Change Happen in the Workplace!
By Philip B. Nelson Kirk W. Nelson Michael J. Paxton
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Philip B. Nelson Kirk W. Nelson Michael J. Paxton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneUnderstanding Capacity
Principle 1: Some people may lack the innate capacity that is necessary to perform in their jobs most effectively.
LIMITED CAPACITY—After decades of experience in various professional fields, we've found that individuals may be missing the necessary capacity to achieve the desired change.
An individual is "hardwired" in a variety of ways by his or her genetic background. As a consequence, some of the behavior—which is genetically ingrained—is hard, if not impossible, to change. Ability and capacity are often confused. Ability can be defined as one's competence in performing a specific learned task, whereas capacity refers to the physical capability to perform and the mental acuity to follow through.
The individual may have the ability to perform a given task that he or she has learned, but it must follow in his or her innate capacity to do so.
The following are some areas where limited capacity may play a more important role:
the capacity to analyze and solve complex problems
sensitivity and empathy with regard to people
the capacity to grasp more abstract, conceptual issues
physical skills and abilities
creativity and the ability to "think out of the box"
a sense of time and its role in the workplace
right brain (free-form/out-of-the-box thinking)/left brain (more sequential thinking)
According to research by the late Psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, it has been shown that these areas of capacity tend to vary according to a bell-shaped curve with the majority of people falling in the middle. This is depicted in the graph below.
As a manager, you should attempt to determine whether or not an individual has the innate capacity to succeed in the position by using an IQ test. Since, for the most part, capacity does not change, accurate assessments in this area may be critical when an individual is hired for a position or transferred to a new position. The higher the position, the greater the innate capacity an individual may need for success in the position. As you well know, many individuals from CEO down have failed, because they were promoted beyond the level of their capacity. If an individual truly lacks the capacity, one may not want to put out the effort to try to achieve change.
Deficiencies that appear to reflect lack of capacity, however, can and do frequently stem from other impediments to behavior change. It may be necessary to probe all of the other impediments to change before reaching a conclusion. For example, individuals may not believe that they have the capacity to succeed in a given area—when actually they do—and it is their limiting self-perception that is holding them back.
A person's capacity for learning and change will directly affect his or her performance on the job. Once you've determined capacity, it's time to explore a person's awareness of his or her behavior. We'll review that topic in the next chapter, "Awareness and Feedback Deficiencies."
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Chapter TwoAwareness and Feedback Deficiencies
Principle 2: Individuals cannot change behavior that limits their performance if they are unaware of this behavior and its consequences.
Limited awareness means that an individual doesn't recognize the need for change. An individual may have the capacity to change but may not be aware that change is necessary. A primary reason why individuals do not change is that they lack this personal awareness along with the specific information indicating why and/or what they need to change.
A good example of this is Mary L.
Mary was an engaging and intelligent young software salesperson who had everything going for her. She was organized, personable, knowledgeable, and generally competent. Yet, she was underachieving. She couldn't generate commissions. She wasn 't opening accounts. As her manager, the first day I called her, I knew part of the reason for her failure. She lacked assertiveness and seemed anxious on the phone. Her prospective clients might well have concluded that she lacked confidence and, in turn, decided not to do business with her. When questioned on this issue, it became totally apparent that Mary was unaware of her behavior and the impact it was having.
Accurate, ongoing feedback has long been identified as a necessary factor in producing behavior change. In Mary's case, lack of feedback was her main problem. Once she realized how she was being perceived by her prospective clients, it allowed her to formulate a plan to change her behavior and execute it. It worked wonders!
Humans need feedback to recognize how they are currently functioning and how they might function more effectively. Even without deficiencies, self-induced or otherwise, we are biologically handicapped. In order to not go into overload, our sensors allow us to perceive only a small portion of our total environment. For example, we can see only a small percentage of the spectrum of light and hear only a small percentage of the range of sound. Our senses of smell, touch, and taste are primitive, to say the least. This is true in all of our functioning senses and can be revealed in both our personal and business lives.
As if this were not enough, individuals can habitually create and maintain feedback deficiencies in those areas that they work in. Feedback deficiencies are created by a lack of clear, consistent, and frequent feedback. There are three types of feedback deficiencies:
those created by a lack of or unclear "feedback systems" in which the individual must work
those created by the individuals themselves as a result of their limiting self-perceptions
those created by personal and systems deficiencies
We'll discuss these deficiencies further.
Interpersonal Feedback Deficiencies
A useful reference for our discussion of interpersonal feedback deficiencies is a model known as the Johari Window. This model defines the effects that occur in situations ranging from perfect feedback conditions to totally imperfect feedback conditions.
If everyone functioned as depicted in Quadrant I of the model, interpersonal feedback deficiencies would be minimal. Your goal as a manager must be to behave in ways that create the largest "arena" possible and to encourage your subordinates to do the same. Sharing information tends to perpetuate the process of receiving information.
An "arena" describes a state in which you have an open loop of feedback coming to you from others and in which you are actively giving feedback to others and sharing with others feedback about yourself. In order to maintain this state, you must actively pursue it on a consistent and regular basis. Remember, the process of sharing information perpetuates the process of receiving information.
A facade is depicted by people who behave predominately in the Quadrant II arena. They actively seek information from others in order to be able to maintain control over a variety of situations (soliciting feedback). Conversely, they give little information and are private individuals about whom little is known. Maintenance of a facade is usually a defensive maneuver that some people feel is necessary in order to preserve relationships or image. In fact, it can build a lack of trust among others and can create the perception of phoniness.
A good example of a facade is Fred T.
Fred was a twenty-nine-year-old West Coast restaurant manager who was well groomed, articulate, and very persuasive. He was an individual who always seemed to have the answers. He showed few signs of weakness, yet he was quick to point out weaknesses in others. Although he was effective in getting performance from his people, most subordinates indicated that they didn't know him very well. On a management effectiveness survey, Fred rated his group as high on the trust factor. His subordinates, however, rated it as very low. Fred was surprised at the outcome. He didn't realize that his facade was building barriers between himself and his employees and creating a rather low level of trust.
People who behave as described in Quadrant III are unaware of their impact on the workplace environment or on other people. Not only do they not solicit feedback, they may actively discourage it. A blind spot is an area in people's perceptions where they have trouble seeing themselves as others see them.
The following example of John F. illustrates the "blind spot" phenomenon.
John F., a forty-two-year-old production service manager in a large eastern manufacturing corporation, was a very intelligent ex-college track star. He started working for the corporation immediately following graduation. An extremely amiable person, he worked his way up to his current position through persistence and a great deal of effort. Recently, John's manager, the vice president of operations, decided that he had too broad a span of control and wanted to consolidate several functions, including production service, under one manager. After reviewing his inside management, including John, a decision was made to fill the position from the outside. John was devastated by the decision and felt that he had performed well over the years and earned the opportunity. When he confronted his boss with his disappointment, his boss replied, "We went to the outside, John, because I felt we needed a stronger, more experienced person for the position. This is not criticism of your competence; I think you are doing a fine job." John asked his peers for feedback. He was told that he did not display a high enough sense of urgency and was not perceived as tough minded enough, something his boss had never relayed to him. The perception he held of himself and that his boss and peers held of him was a total blind spot. John was left with a disappointing perspective as to why the decision was made and why feedback wasn't provided. He was left with a diminished self-image and a decreased level of motivation.
It is obvious that John's management failed him miserably. Unfortunately, however, people with blind spots are often allowed to suffer the consequences, because it takes great effort for others to influence their behavior. In the end, many managers are reluctant to give honest feedback out of fear of hurting feelings and the conflict it may create. This management systems breakdown is a gross disservice to the individual.
The "unknown" quadrant is referred to as the "turtle" position, because it usually applies to security-minded individuals who rarely try anything new. Neither they nor those around them have access to any information about them. They have difficulty seeing themselves realistically and tend not to solicit feedback from others. Quadrant IV generally describes a severely troublesome and limiting condition.
The following example illustrates the "unknown" or the "turtle" position.
Jean S. was an accounting manager in a moderately large western semiconductor manufacturing company. She was the type of individual who kept to herself most of the time and limited her interactions with others to those matters with which she had to deal. She stuck with tried-and-true methods and could be counted on to oppose change or new procedures. She solicited little input from others. She was attentive to the task aspects of her job and put up with people only because she had to. People knew little about her. Jean had a very low level of self-insight, was security oriented, and generally operated in a defensive, rigid mode.
In addition to personal feedback deficiencies, systems deficiencies can also have a strong effect on performance.
Systems Feedback Deficiency
Individuals experience a "systems feedback" deficiency when a process or system in an area of their work fails to provide them with sufficient information to adequately manage it.
We discovered an interesting systems feedback deficiency while developing a sales training program for stockbrokers. During our study of their training needs, it became clear that broker productivity was a function of the amount of time spent in contact with clients in the actual process of selling products or services ("selling time"). Although a lot of other facets of the brokers' time were looked at, for simplicity's sake, it was decided to lump all other activities into a category called "non-selling time." This included servicing existing accounts, doing research, analyzing stocks, and planning sales calls.
The brokers were asked to show as accurately as possible how their time was divided between these two types of activities. They estimated, on average, that they spent a minimum of two hours of selling time each day. For someone who makes his or her living by selling, this is not an impressive figure. When the brokers' selling and non-selling time was actually tracked, it was discovered that, on average, brokers spent only thirty minutes per day selling. Clearly, their beliefs and reality differed widely.
A program was established to increase the brokers' selling time to two hours per day. As a result, bottom-line performance increased 104 percent. When the feedback deficiency was corrected and the brokers had access to accurate information about their time allocations, they were able to execute the necessary behavior change to increase their productivity. Within the week, they implemented a system of charting time spent and the way it was spent.
This study was carried further, and such factors as the professional makeup of the clientele and success rates with differing age groups were analyzed. Other significant feedback deficiencies were discovered.
Systems feedback deficiencies can exist in a multitude of task-related areas. In each case, the result is the same. People can be unaware of their true performance levels.
A few years ago, an air freight forwarder set out to identify and correct systems feedback deficiencies within the organization. Feedback deficiencies were discovered everywhere in the organization—from line workers to the company telephone operators.
Deficiencies identified within the organization were as follows:
inappropriate use of freight forwarding containers
not responding to the number of call-in phone orders within a specific and respective time frame—four rings in this case
A program of tracking different performance areas and providing ongoing feedback was implemented. Correcting these feedback deficiencies resulted in substantial performance improvement and a significant increase in profit to the company.
Other intrapersonal deficiencies can also impact performance.
Intrapersonal Feedback Deficiencies
The third type of feedback deficiency develops within an individual—what we call "intrapersonal feedback" deficiencies. To understand how this occurs, some basic concepts must be examined.
Humans have a built-in screening mechanism that only allows information they perceive as being of value or threat to reach a conscious level and to be mentally absorbed. This important function allows them to automatically disregard a vast amount of irrelevant information and to focus on what is essential to their survival and well-being. Dr. Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, pointed out both the critical necessity and problems caused by this screening mechanism. If we couldn't filter all of the data around us, it could be overwhelming and impede our ability to function effectively. On the other hand, what constitutes value or threat is a complex issue. Other than basic survival input, it tends to vary from individual to individual based upon personal learning history. Because of this, in many ways, people tend to live in their own worlds and may filter out information that is critical to their success.
Excerpted from "I'll Try" Is Not Good Enough ... by Philip B. Nelson Kirk W. Nelson Michael J. Paxton Copyright © 2012 by Philip B. Nelson Kirk W. Nelson Michael J. Paxton. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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