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|Thursday, April 11, 2013|
BY TOM COX | BUSINESS TIPS CONTRIBUTOR
Smart people in a hurry become stupid. (Or at least act stupidly. My work with busy executive teams tells me that this phenomenon is universal — and I see it in myself daily).
When we need our busy co-workers and our busy selves to be both smarter and faster, what can we do?
Recent advances in brain science are teaching us to harness the natural strengths of the human brain to overcome its weaknesses.
Our brains are lousy at lots of things:
Our brains are awesome at a few things:
Retaining a Shared Understanding
It’s shocking how many professionals hold meetings, yet never write down what happened. (I still do it, and regret it each time.)
The result is often a totally wasted meeting that requires a second meeting to untangle. ”Didn’t we agree that…?”
One of the most effective changes we consultants often bring to a client is a refreshed practice of writing down, during a meeting, what decisions were made and who got a work assignment — Who will do What by When.
Without faithful documentation, we retain very little of what happened. With documentation, memory is longer, and is capable of being refreshed from a common source — creating a shared reality.
And as David Sibbet’s work has shown, the positive impact of faithful documentation is refreshed and amplified if the agreement (or decision or shared understanding) is documented visually, and that visual is then shared — using what he calls “Big Charts” (see graphic “Value of Shared Visuals” nearby).
A further bonus occurs when we keep and share photos of the team working together to create the charts — seeing yourself doing the work refreshes your memory and commitment toward the decision you helped reach.
For leaders ready to harness the awesome power of visuals, I recommend all three of David Sibbet’s books, including his latest, Visual Leaders.
Do you see what he said?
Often our big problem isn’t remembering the shared agreement — it’s reaching that agreement.
I’ve shortened many a difficult conversation by jumping up and writing everybody else’s points on a white board or flip chart.
As soon as Fred sees his point written down, he can stop repeating his point — because he now feels heard.
Many of us have ears that don’t work until our mouths have run for a while. Don’t fight that — just accept and work with it. The sooner you make Fred feel heard, the sooner he’ll be capable of listening with a more open mind to his co-workers.
As Sibbet puts it in this illustration from Visual Leaders, “Do you see what he said?” And they do.
Lesson: any time the conversation gets complex, have your most visually competent participant start writing the major points up on a wall somehow.
Further trick: put the desired state on the far right, put the current reality on the far left, and objections on the bottom half of the center as “hurdles” to be overcome. Most native speakers of English equate the left with the past and the right with the future (we read left-to-right). This leaves the top half of the center for solutions for overcoming the hurdles. Most audiences get this layout intuitively.
I interviewed David Sibbet to ask him about the impact of visuals on the effort to lead.
Q: Why this book?
A: Visual Leaders was written for leaders and managers, who work WITH visual practitioners and want to support making their organization visually literate. The first book “Visual Meetings” was for the facilitator of meetings. The second book “Visual Teams” was for teams, and covered both visual tools AND the team dynamic — that one is perhaps most useful to internal team developers, HR people, and so on.
This third book is in color, and is written to the leader and manager.
Q: Who should read it?
A: Any leader who needs to know what’s possible so they can support their people. There’s an explosion of options, and this cuts through to the best for given needs.
It also lets you increase your visual tools, and provides the ‘seven essential tools’ — chapters 7-13
Q: Who has done this? What happened?
A: The big shift is, realizing that the key to results is motivating and engagement IN the plans — not just HAVING the plans. And people get motivated more when they co-create.
Visual facilitation takes standard tools of design and data visualization, and gets you working iteratively and interactively with the team.
I’m now working with a global procurement organization. They want to be more organized globally about procurement.
Clearly, if you’re better organized you’ll save a lot of money. Yet historically, their divisions grew up with their own suppliers. The central procurement people need to become consultants to those divisions. So, to change, they had to change the procurement organization
Rather than do a top-down plan and announcement, the leader engaged the top managers in a collaborative process. In a meeting of 60 people over several days, they went through a strategy and visioning exercise, starting with the top leaders stating strategy, and engaging the rest of the people on how that might happen.
The result included a complex and detailed visual that they now call their “North Star” — it has guided them for three years.
They now can go through a best practices process, very consistently, that visually involves their client organizations. They’ve been very successful.
Another example is the DLR Group.
DLR set a 5-year goal and plan, using this visual approach, and set the goal of creating a best-in-the-country firm. It’s hard to manage and align people in that industry (architecture) because they are so collegial and non-hierarchical. Within five years, they were in fact rated one of the best firms in the country. DLR attributes much of their success to their use of the visual tools.
In each case Sibbet relates, people wanted high engagement and buy-in. There is a nice interplay between a leader with a vision of what they want to do, who can also listen and upgrade their vision as they engage.
The quality of people’s thinking goes up when they engage visually. Visual leadership works.
If you change the way the information is displayed, it disrupts memory. If you preserve that display, it upholds memory. You create a kind of “internal memory theater” — not unlike the “Mind Palace” mentioned by memory experts.
(This works at the individual level — with vision boards and similar tools — where it’s more helpful to visualize yourself working on the goal than just achieving it. See also Lean Visual Management.)
The fad for graphical meeting illustration is okay, says Sibbet, but is in some ways less effective than a co-created image that is shared.
We all work smarter and faster when we get visual.
David Sibbet’s three “Visual” books. All three are ranked in the Amazon Top 100 for their categories.
// Illustrations courtesy Wiley
Tom Cox is a Portland area consultant and executive coach. He helps leaders exceed their business aspirations.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER
Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
Portland-based startup ImpactFlow recently announced a $5.7 million funding round. CEO and co-founder Tyler Foreman talks about matching businesses with nonprofits, his time at Intel and the changing face of philanthropy.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Former Governor John Kitzhaber's resignation in February prompted some soul searching in this state about ethical behavior in industry and government.
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE
Whether you're stepping out to work or onto the track, Pacific Northwest shoe companies have you covered.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY DAN COOK
The state’s angel investing fund gets hammered in Salem.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
BY JASON NORRIS
Uncertainty in Greece and China, along with potential interest rate hikes mean investors are looking at the market and nervously questioning where they should be invested.
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Yesterday, a divided National Labor Relations Board dropped another hammer on the employer community. In a long-awaited and much debated move, the Board jettisoned the decades old standard for determining when two independent businesses should be considered joint employers of an individual worker for collective bargaining purposes.
Transforming the culture of Oregon’s educational leadership.
The Board dismissed a petition related to efforts to unionize the Northwestern University football team.
Oregon Sick Leave is here, and changes to the federal white-collar worker regulations are on the way. This workshop will prepare you for both. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to start planning now for the future impact on your operations and finances.
Presented by OEN + CENTRL + YESpdx.
This Roundtable will cover numerous issues under the employer "shared responsibility" rules of the Affordable Care Act, including how to track the "full-time" status of variable-hour employees, temporary or seasonal employees, and employees who experience a change in status or a break in service. Additionally, we will provide a brief overview of Code sections 6055 and 6056, which require most mid-sized and large employers to submit their first information reports to the IRS in early 2016 regarding the health insurance coverage being offered to employees. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to prepare for the future impact of the shared responsibility rules on your operations and finances.