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0 comments on “Lessons in training yourself to observe how other people feel”

Lessons in training yourself to observe how other people feel

As a coach my goal is to work not just for but with people. A genuine interest in the emotional state of others is an essential part of what I do. To sharpen my empathy radar and to improve my ability to observe how others feel in a particular situation, I’ve started my journey into mimic resonance training (in German Mimikresonanz).

Identifying an emotion in someone’s face should not be confused with mind reading, trickery or lie detection. The TV series “Lie to Me”, while highly entertaining to watch if you’ve started to train Facial Action Coding yourself, has undoubtedly contributed to some such confusion on the subject.

The deeper purpose of mimic resonance as a methodology for acting on empathy however, goes way beyond unveiling a lie.

Communication for the benefit of the relationship

In business – and undoubtedly in private lives – communication is too often a one way street, the sending of a message. But if the effectiveness of communication is your objective, simply “getting it out there” isn’t enough. How a message is perceived, what recipients have understood and how the words resonate with the audience are key to ensuring a communication goal is really achieved.

The ambition to formulate a message with little room for interpretation is certainly a good start.  Conveying a message face to face theoretically allows us to actually see how the content resonates with the other person.

In the age of digital communications, the face to face option is often missing, leaving our empathy radar more or less blind. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to develop a way to create feedback loops for the digital world – perhaps with emoticons.  But for the moment, this form of improving communication and ultimately relationships rests firmly on the premise that we do not replace personal interactions completely with digital ones but rather the two complement each other.

Sharpening the radar for visual feedback, before taking action

I’m thoroughly convinced that it’s essential to remove guessing games from interpersonal communication and to do whatever we can to sharpen our observations of non verbal feedback in any face to face situation.

Mimic is built into us as humans. It’s there from birth and it is scientifically proven that expressions in our mimic are universal across all cultures. It’s a truly reliable indicator for our emotional state as human beings.

But the real challenge is in learning to resonate on what you observe in someones mimic. As opposed to the “mind reading” (I know what you’re thinking) angle, observing a particular mimic, identifying it, and matching it to the respective emotion is essential.  But questioning that emotion, its origin and cause is paramount to real understanding. Any sort of unfounded interpretation can easily lead you down the wrong path.

Remove obstacles in times of change

The training I’ve started will improve my ability to observe what’s happening right before my eyes and how to react to it. My goal is to sharpen my sense of people’s emotions and my skills to find the right words for the situation at hand.

  • Equipped with that, I will be even better positioned to help companies answer key questions in change and digital transformation scenarios:
  • Have people understood the WHY to our journey ahead?
  • How do people feel about the changes affecting themselves and their teams?
  • Are our teams confident and committed to their role in the process?
  • Is our leadership model authentic and does it resonate with the organisation?
  • Will our work deliver value for the people, employees and customers alike?
0 comments on “Have we forgotten about middle management?”

Have we forgotten about middle management?

While working on a series of articles for a client (<— #braggingmoment), I’ve stumbled across an intriguing question: who’s actually in charge of keeping an eye on middle management and their needs and role in digital transformation?

Bam! You’re now a coach.

Flat hierarchies, agile teams and distributed accountability – the new world of organising information and knowledge work. Leadership doesn’t get tired of preaching a “new togetherness” and how the own network of expertise and experience will blow the competition out of the water. More and more employees ask for flexibility and freedom to do their job whenever, from wherever and with whatever – and that’s not exclusive to Digital Natives or Generation Z.

The middle (or operations) management, however, only finds itself in foot notes and at the bottom of a bullet point list. From there they learn that task based management is out of date and how too much control & conquer will suffocate creativity and corporate culture.

They find their new roles described as coaches and guides to their teams. Most of the time description ends on exactly that level, though. But what does it mean to be a coach? What will they be guiding people through and how will good guidance be determined?

Change management must not be exclusive to the employee level

To give change a positive and long lasting effect on corporate and collaboration culture, middle managers need help with their role transformation as well. It’s not fair to expect that they just adapt to a completely upside-down environment and adjust their style of working and managing based on gut feeling and best effort.

No matter how non-hierarchical or flat a company structure is, there will always be a certain group of people who are accountable for overseeing performance and results. Leadership cannot be at the stern and at the same time have an eye on every functional crew member of the ship. At least that’s my humble opinion, and I am aware that there are a lot of other voices out there.

Middle management has to be part of the active change management in an organisation –  in the role of recipient and as shapers.

  • Their WHY needs to be adjusted to the new system and provide them with motivation and means to transform their purpose
  • Their HOW might require a change of skills and perspective, when it comes to rather leading than managing people and objectives – even if they are very operational
  • Their WHAT will probably be determined in a more dialogue fashion – with both, leadership and employees

Additional thoughts on this, anyone?


*** Promotion ***

Interested in my checklist for change? Check out my recent blog post or go directly to the Digital Sherpa checklist here


2 comments on “My checklist to determine the foundation for change in digitalisation initiatives”

My checklist to determine the foundation for change in digitalisation initiatives

The inspiration for this blog post comes from “Hidden Brain“, an NPR podcast series. One of the latest episodes in the You 2.0 series, Check Yourself, is about the history and the impact of using of checklists in aviation and surgery.

While listening to the podcast, I realised a similar pattern of “we know what we’re doing and we are in-line with everyone involved” attitude in a lot of people I’ve worked with in the past. This attitude, however, is not rooted in arrogance or ignorance, but in the confidence in professionalism, dedication and motivation of the surrounding system.

I believe, that – like in aviation and surgery – it could be beneficial to ask some fundamental questions before embarking on the journey of a digitalisation project or program. At least it’s my experience that in a lot of cases, the ticks in the boxes were what was missing in the foundation for joint success. Too many initiatives lack stability or credibility simply because of a lack of alignment and transparency.

Just recently I’ve added a little “Digital Sherpa in a Nutshell” section to my website. Based on the four key dimensions of my work as a coach, I’ve created a little checklist, that I’d like to share with anyone interested out there.

The_Sherpa's_Checklist
(click to see larger version)

Download the checklist in PDF format here

0 comments on “How “corporate personality” might influence the effectiveness of motivation…”

How “corporate personality” might influence the effectiveness of motivation…

Today I might have found the answer to why motivation away from something (e.g.  a concrete constraint) seems to work better than the motivation towards something (e.g. a vision or new idea)…

I’ve recently decided to get certified as a trainer for mimic resonance (English introduction to the concept on the MDI training website) and attend a course at the Eilert Academy. As part of my studies, I came across some findings on motivation in the context of  personality types.

The section in Dirk’s book immediately reminded me of an idea, that I wrote about in my 2012 article on motivation.

Change and Motivation
(A pretty old sketch I created to illustrate the idea)

What I never had really figured out, was the root cause for why one seems to be more effective than the other. Now: in his book, Dirk uses a model to describe certain personality types in the context of the attempt to decipher mimics:

Personality Types
(based on Dirk W. Eilert “Mimikresonanz”, p. 122 + 129)

Comment: My reference to the conditioning of people as preservers or thinkers is based on my experience how people act at the work place. It’s not a generalisation in terms of personality types and of course influenced by the cultural environments I’ve worked in.

Later on, Dirk then elaborates on “motivational direction” (Orig. “Motivationsausrichtung”) of the four personality types:

  • Entertainers & Doers are primarily motivated TOWARDS something.
  • Preservers & Thinkers are primarily motivated AWAY from something.

(Translated from source: Dirk W. Eilert, “Mimikresonanz”, p. 154)

That’s when it clicked for me…

My experience with the effectiveness of motivation and leadership might be rooted in the personality structure of most organisations.

Today’s hierarchies and operational structures have prevented the development of Entertainers (yes, we need those!) and Doers (no, we don’t have enough of them). Too many people are pushed into Preserver and Thinker roles and act accordingly.

That’s why motivation for change and progress has to point in the right direction to take effect: AWAY from challenges, hurdles, constraints and disfunction. Vision statements, promises of a bright future and the outline of “new ways of working” simply don’t resonate with the target group. At least not yet…

Do you share this finding?

0 comments on “Product #2: Explore inspiration. Connect insight. Apply knowledge. Learn together.”

Product #2: Explore inspiration. Connect insight. Apply knowledge. Learn together.

Quite some time ago, my wife and I began listening to the same podcasts or reading the same books. The conversations we share about much of this content are passionate and lively. Hearing each others take on the same subjects has helped us grow and deepen our understanding of not only these topics, business models and methodology but also of each other. This process has led to hours of debate, thinking and an enrichment of personal insight. Car journeys now go by in a heart beat.

I decided to share this experience with everyone who’s interested…

The Knowledge Elevation Journey

The Knowledge Elevation Journey helps you to break down silos and introduce insight from external sources to your own organisation. It’s about finding the right content, understanding its relevance, and applying new knowledge to the business challenge at hand.

The result: a common foundation for making well informed decisions.

Read more here…

0 comments on “My 1st product: The Onboarding Design BootCamp”

My 1st product: The Onboarding Design BootCamp

Click here for the product page…

 

You never get a second change to make a first impression

Optimising the onboarding experience is probably the most people centric challenge in a company. For this I can combine my passion for guiding others with my experience as a corporate employee, digital communicator and business coach.

Having arrived in large corporations myself multiple times, both as an employee and as an extern adviser, I have learned the hard way what it means to be new. It can be a complex and exhausting experience with various break points.

I have worked hard to become pretty proficient at simplifying complexity in my career in sales, marketing, consulting & coaching. Now you can make my experience work for you, your company and your employees to make onboarding the most seamless and enjoyable experience possible for everyone involved.

Designing the Onboarding Experience

 

Click here for the product page…

1 comment on “Why “agile” doesn’t mean to wittingly cut corners… (Guest article for Simply Communicate, London)”

Why “agile” doesn’t mean to wittingly cut corners… (Guest article for Simply Communicate, London)

I’ve worked in and for big organisations and I’ve witnessed the attempt to introduce less hierarchical and more “agile” organisations and ways of working. While it had worked in some places and projects, in a lot of instances the approach left me with the impression that the concept of agile (proudly stolen from software development) had been interpreted slightly wrong.

As a guest author for Smile Communications (London) I’ve collected my thoughts in a short blog article:

With less hierarchy and governance, companies want to become more agile. The goal is to tear down internal borders, encourage collaboration and be one step ahead of market and competition. Modern digital work tools are supposed to support and nurture this borderless way of working and thinking.

Start-ups get all of this engrained in their DNA from the beginning. Existing businesses have to reverse engineer the process and re-invent themselves. In this, the idea of “agile” often gets misinterpreted and people are left without framework, ground rules and the True North for wherever they are heading.

In this article I want to share my experience from my work in the triangle of leadership, organisational development and technology. (…)

Read more at: https://simply-communicate.com/misinterpretation-agile-modern-leadership/


Come & Join me at Smile Expo in May 2018

I will be on stage at Smile Expo, London, on May 21st. There I will talk about…

Successful organisational change in a digital workplace experiment

What happens, if you really question the norm? What happens if you set a few ground rules for internal digitalisation that require leadership, a non-hierarchical organisation and cloud technology to meet somewhere in the middle? What happens if you dare to adopt evergreen technology at full scale in a highly compliance driven environment?

You definitely get a case study that’s exciting to talk about, no matter what…

0 comments on “Make E-Mail Great Again (A Guest Article for Fleep.io)”

Make E-Mail Great Again (A Guest Article for Fleep.io)

Yes, I wrote an essay FOR e-mail. But don’t be shocked. My goal is to look into the systemic model, why e-mail became the curse it is today and what role we, as users, play in that.

I believe there might be place for the little digital letter in the future, and we might even learn to love it again. Who knows 😉

Enjoy the read: https://fleep.io/blog/2018/02/make-e-mail-great-again/

0 comments on “Little promo for a (German) guest article on smarter-service.com”

Little promo for a (German) guest article on smarter-service.com

In case you speak/read German you might be interested in a little guest article that I’ve recently published on http://www.smarter-service.com. It’s about my point of view that the mandate for “customer service” lies with any company function that has a touch point with customers. In particular when you think about digital services.

Essentially this means that customer service excellence starts in product design…

Enjoy the read: https://www.smarter-service.com/2018/02/13/smarter-service-ohne-bots-chat-und-hotline-eine-revolution/

0 comments on “I love playing the imperfect piano (Inspired by a ‘Hidden Brain’ podcast)”

I love playing the imperfect piano (Inspired by a ‘Hidden Brain’ podcast)

Just recently I listened to the “Don’t Panic” episode of Shankar Vendantam’s npr Hidden Brain series. The episode is about chaos and why it makes sense to embrace it sometimes instead of trying to fight it.  One section of the podcast was part of an interview with Tim Harford. He talked about a transformative Jazz concert that was performed by Jazz legend Keith Jarrett on a (more or less) unplayable piano. The recorded concert turned into the best selling Solo Jazz album of all times. The story is also available as a TED Talk on “How frustration can us make more creative“.

The anecdote made me realise why I enjoy doing what I do, so much…

Each of my projects is like a playing an instrument for the first time

Finding the right way to create real internal or external impact through digital is like creating a piece of music on an instrument I’ve never played before. It is necessary to master the basics but it’s imperative to really understand the specifics at hand to substantially influence the results delivered. This holds true regardless of whether it’s music or success in digital transformation.

In the interview and in his TED Talk, Tim Harford talks about the state of the piano that Keith Jarrett had to use: a harsh upper register, sticky keys, pedals that didn’t work. Against all odds, Keith was able to produce a piece of music that made history. Leaning on his experience, passion and will power he overcame the obstacles and delivered the proof that unfavourable conditions do not prevent success.

Now, I am definitley not a genius like Keith, and am I not implying that all companies I work for are broken. But I’ve definitely learned how to identify the areas that are “out of tune”, the parts of an organisation that require a little more “push” and the functions that are best worked around for now.

With my experience in combination with the expertise and insight of the client’s project team we have always been able to adapt the standard or “best practice” to the reality. We have moved stratospheric visions closer to the earth and come up with a way to move forward that harmonises with the people and the organisation. Together we’ve delivered a symphony of actions and created something tangible – something that executive and operational stakeholders could buy into.

My personal key learning: I enjoy the challenge of writing for an orchestra who may be missing their first violin

I even prefer it. I don’t seek to deliver a picture perfect digital world in mock-ups and business cases. My passion is not to look 15 years into the future and pave an idealistic way forward based on trends, innovation and disruption.

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe that all of the above is necessary, to create momentum for change.

My role however, is rather more “down to earth”. I love to pick up where the visionaries have left off, tighten the strings to help them play in tune again. I enjoy looking at the imperfections, the discord and finding the best way possible, together with the people that know their organisation, to create a concerto.

So, if you feel that your organisation is a little “out of tune”, I am happy to come in and play some Jazz… (not literally though…because it’s one of my unfulfilled dreams to play an instrument)