Category Archives: business

Positivity and Collaboration

In Barbara Frederickson’s book, Positivity, she talks about her wonderful collaboration with Marcial Losada. Building on Frederickson’s broaden-and-build theory, Losada’s mathematical model determined exact ratio of positive to negative emotions, 3-to-1, that distinguishes those who flourish from those who don’t.

Losada had an ordinary looking boardroom with walls made of one-way mirrors, video cameras, and special computers which they provided to intact business teams. Research assistants coded every single statement made by every single team member during the business meetings they observed. They tracked whether the statements were 1) positive or negative, 2) self-focused or other-focused, and 3) based on asking questions (inquiry) or defending a point of view (advocacy).

Of 60 teams that were studied, 25% met the criteria of high-performing. They achieved high scores on profitability, customer satisfaction ratings and evaluations by superiors, peers and subordinates. 30% scored low on all three business indicators and were floundering. The rest, the majority, had a mixed profile, doing well in some ways and poorly in others.

photo by tbone_sandwich

Losada also quantified a new variability called Connectivity – how much each team member influenced the behavior of the others, how attuned they were to each other.

There were huge positivity ratio differences between the different types of teams: high-performing were at about 6 to 1, mixed-performance at 2 to 1 and low performance were well below 1 to 1. High-performing teams also had higher connectivity and were equal in the balance of inquiry vs. advocacy and outward vs. inward focus. Low-performing teams were low on connectivity and showed almost no outward focus.

So how can you use this data to improve your collaborations? Comment with your ideas and check back to read some practical steps for fostering positivity and collaboration in your teams.

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Enhance positivity through meetings

Many of my business clients report that an average day is spent going from meeting to meeting.  Some would say that half of their life is spent attending, conducting,  preparing or following up from meetings.   It would therefore seem sensible to assume that if you want to build more positivity in your  workplace, a good place to focus would be in the way meetings are conducted.

In our last blog post, we reported research that linked positivity in a team with the incidence of positive statements made, the degree that the statements are about others and the amount of questions that are exchanged among group members. Here are some tips that may help you put this into action during the meetings you lead.

Meetings can enhance positivity.

1.  Open each meeting asking for recent accomplishments.  “What has happened that you feel good about and want others on the team to know?” In my experience this type of question elicits the telling of stories that help to build a group’s sense of success.

2.  Have a standing agenda item – “Way to go!”.  Ask for people to share personal compliments for others who have demonstrated collaboration or some other high-priority behavior.  In a local medical-surgical nursing unit, this tip is being used to increase the level of coordinated care provided to patients. Compliments help to remind us of our strengths and create stronger relationships with others.

3.  Periodically, use a portion of a meeting for everyone to have 5-10 minutes to check in with every other member.  These “Check Ins” can be structured to cover a specific set of questions aimed at increasing connectivity and positive regard:  What is going well in our relationship? What strengths have I noticed you exhibiting?  What can we create that will enhance our effectiveness?

In future posts we will be offering tips about how to increase inquiry in your teams.  What can you share to get us started?

Maddie Hunter

Introverts as Collaboration Partners

Today I’m delighted to bring you my good friend and colleague, Naomi Karten, as our guest-blogger. Naomi is a witty and prolific writer with important information for  introverts and extraverts.  I hope you’ll follow the links in Naomi’s bio at the end of this post. Debbie

Naomi Karten

Not everyone believes I’m an introvert because I’m a professional speaker and also because I can get pretty extraverted in some situations. But I’m a lifelong introvert. It’s easy to find me at a party where I don’t know anyone. I’m the one at the bookshelf scanning the books.

When I first started writing about introversion, there were a few books on the subject and not much else. Now, there are blogs galore, a steady stream of tweets, articles, and numerous books. Not so extraversion. There’s not much at all on extraversion outside of academic/research circles except in the context of both introversion and extraversion and their interaction with each other and other aspects of our personalities.

Why is there so much on introversion and so little on extraversion? The reason, I think, is that introverts struggle to make their way in the world in a way that extraverts don’t. And that struggle can easily affect the quality and success of collaborative efforts.

Think about it. Introverts who collaborate with extraverts may have to contend with people who yakkety-yak non-stop (as some extraverts do), people who have seemingly boundless energy (as many extraverts have), people who get energized by interaction (as so many extraverts do), and people who excel at thinking out loud (practically the epitome of extraversion). Challenges, indeed, for many of us introverts.

photo by katrinket

Of course, there are huge upsides to collaborating with extraverts. Their energy can be infectious. When I’m with extraverts, I become more extraverted because their energy energizes me. They are comfortable in social situations (at least, that’s how it appears to us), and that’s something that can enhance collaborations. Their thinking out loud can generate ideas that we introverts may have also, but we have a tendency to want to mull them over before we speak – and perhaps edit them, revise them, modify them, rethink them, and edit them yet again before we say anything. It’s not that we’re withholding ideas, of course, just that those ideas have to find their way from brain to mouth. Extraverts seem to have a direct connection between brain and mouth. Even though that sometimes drives me crazy, the truth is I often envy it.

If we introverts want to collaborate with extraverts, we have to take some responsibility for what we need. For example, we can explain that sometimes we need to take things in and reflect on them before responding. If someone asks a question or requests our opinion, we don’t need to feel forced to respond immediately; we can ask if we can take a minute (or an hour) to respond. We can incorporate some quiet periods during face-to-face collaboration and arrange some cave time to recharge. And if extraverts go on at length, so that our brain is about to burst, we can ask for a time-out. We can even do that before our brain is about to burst.

We can also do some things for the extraverts, especially those to whom we are a mystery (which is most of them, I think). When extraverts are speaking, we can show some facial expression so they know there’s someone home; seeing blank stares on our faces doesn’t give extraverts the feedback they need. We can welcome approaches that extraverts thrive on, such as brainstorming (provided, of course, we intersperse it with some quieter approaches). We can be more forthcoming than we might otherwise be, so that we don’t give the false impression that we’re not team players or are not willing to do our part. We can tolerate, and maybe even enjoy, the on-and-on-and-on communication style of our extraverted collaboration buddies, recognizing that in the midst of all that thinking out loud are great ideas that will further our efforts together.

Extravert/Introvert by e³°°°'s photostream

Basically, I believe that introverts and extraverts can collaborate – and can do so successfully if:

  • Early in our collaboration, we each explain our communication and work style as it relates to introversion and extraversion, and discuss how our styles are similar or different. This will go a long way in helping us understand and appreciate each other.
  • We collaborate not just about our project, but also about how we can work together in a way that maintains respect for each other – and ourselves.
  • We give each other permission to raise concerns about how we are getting along so that we can make adjustments in support of our collaboration and our relationship.

Now, I have to go back to the cave.

***

Despite being an introvert, Naomi Karten has delivered seminars and presentations to more than 100,000 people internationally. Get information on her downloadable guide here: How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. She has also published several other books and ebooks and many years of newsletters. She blogs. She tweets. She’s published more than 300 articles. All of these are easier for her than picking up the phone. She’d enjoy hearing from you (by email, of course) at naomi@nkarten.com.

Shoemaker’s Syndrome in Collaboration

By 7-how-7 at Flickr's Creative Commons

You know the adage that the shoemaker’s kids are the ones with holes in their soles?  It also applies to the electrician who jury rigs extension cords rather than re-wiring a room or to the doctor who never gets a physical examination.  I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that the shoemaker’s syndrome also applies to me when it comes to collaboration.

Just the other day, my sweetheart Ames and I were unpacking more boxes from our move into our new townhouse.  This is a big deal to us as this will be the first home we share together.  We were focusing on organizing the kitchen.  This new kitchen has a wealth of cabinets so we had many choices to make about the best place to store glasses, dishes and the like.

For 40 years, I have always been the one in the family who cooks.  Truth be told, I have had a number of families, but what has remained constant is that I have been the cook.  Now things are different.  Ames is a competent cook.  He has been cooking for himself for years.  He has had his own home with his own ideas about the best placement for the coffee mugs, the wine glasses or the tall bottles of olive oil.

As we began placing items on the new shiny shelving, I found myself wanting to direct the show.  In my mind, I “knew” the best place to put the coffee mugs – – right above the coffee maker, right?  As more and more decisions were being made, growing in me was a sense of being unseated in my role as “the cook”.  I couldn’t believe that I was arguing with Ames about the need to raise a shelf so we could put the tall cereal boxes right by the shelf with the bowls.  I’m sure Ames was thinking but not saying,  “…and she’s writing a book about collaboration?”.  All that I know about the Rule of Six and diverse ideas being the source for great problem solving seemed to be lost in my brain as I became emotional about being right and in charge.

One of my mentors has always said that “we teach what we need to learn.”  I think this is a part of why I am so drawn to thinking about collaboration.  My will is strong to be independent and determined. I am a trusted teacher of collaboration and yet I know I am challenged by my own drive to do things myself.

I wonder if you find yourself believing so strongly in something yet not following the belief consistently in your actions?  Tell us about how the shoemaker’s syndrome is active in your life.

Maddie

The trick is finding the time!

The setting:  A NJ small business conference room

The participants:  12 from NJ; 10 from Beijing, China

The plot:  Emerging leaders in a growing life sciences business join together to build their effectiveness as a team.

The challenge:  How to find a time to meet where everyone is normally awake and available.  Beijing is 12 hours ahead of NJ-time.

The collaborative solution – All participants share in a bit of discomfort with the Beijing folks starting their day a bit early and the NJ folks ending their work days a bit later —Consecutive Tuesday evenings, 6 – 9 PM EST or 6 – 9 AM Beijing time.

Many businesses are dealing with this sort of time zone challenge when doing business today.  “Sharing the pain” seems to be a common solution to this challenge where leadership groups trade-off being inconvenienced in order to have time together.  Technology helps gives global enterprises tools to assist this sort of collaboration, but how groups decide to operate across time zones speaks to the ability to create and tolerate a new “normal.”  In collaborations, there are many trade-offs needed in order for each member to feel accepted and valued.

What has your team done to create an accepting atmosphere for difference?

Maddie

Motivations in Collaboration

We’re often asked if collaborative partners have to be motivated by the same things — or at least have the same end goal in mind for the collaboration. We think that the answer to that is No, not necessarily.

by melilab at Flickr Creative Commons

We have interviewed many people about their collaboration experiences. One question we asked is “What criteria do you use to choose a collaborator?” One person, whose job is facilitating community collaborations,  said she looks at her organization’s “ethical manner of doing business and the directives that are given to us. I usually look for alignments in collaborators mission, values and purpose. So I probably won’t collaborate with a gun association. However, I might if it were to prevent gun injuries. You have to do a balancing act. What is it that we can both wrap our arms around? Look for the points that you can all agree on.”

So even though it can be nice to share similar motivations and goals, the overall goals of each party don’t have to match. It is important that the end goals are not at cross-purposes.

Another example is when my husband brought disparate political parties together to identify and collaborate on the initiatives where they agreed.

Have you been agile enough to collaborate with people who have different motivations and end points?

Watch for our next blog post to see a fun exploration of collaborators who have different motivations.

Debbie

Collaborative Agility Case Study

“I think they will hear the message differently if it comes from you,” said my client.

The message she hired me to bring to the leaders in her dispersed healthcare organization — “Effective teamwork can create better results.”

My client is known for living this message herself but at this annual leader retreat she wanted to bring more emphasis to the critical need for her staff to think beyond their location or function to effect the care for patients.

Taking advantage of the premise that the outsider can get away with ideas that insiders can’t, I suggested that we create an interactive format to the retreat where people were working in teams and reflecting on their experience.  This was a significant change over the business-like retreats held in the past and my client wondered aloud  whether her organization would resonate with it or judge the activities to be too game-like.  After all, they all had been quite serious students earning advanced degrees in their specialty.

I could feel my client’s dilemma.  She wanted to spearhead a successful event AND she wanted to ignite some new energy around teamwork.   To her credit, my client decided to jump into the new interactive approach.  The risk she took was a testament to the degree of agility she has as a leader.  She changed an approach for a desired result.  This agility has been labeled,  “Situational Leadership”  by Ken Blanchard and can be further studied in his newest book, Leading At A Higher Level.

Last Wednesday was retreat day.  The assembled group took part in a round robin ice-breaker, “Knot the rope” team exercise and simulations devoted to teaming. The energy in the room was high throughout.  Some of those who my client least expected to be energized by the team-building activities rated the day with high marks.   People typically known to be hesitant in large groups were seen as leading.  Some who usually are out-spoken took leadership from others.  Agility abounded.

When have you purposely placed yourself in a new situation and adapted to it?  When have you delegated a task in order to help someone’s flexibility develop?