It’s Racism Jim and just as we know it

I’m not a trekkie or a lover of blockbusters but I really loved the new Star Trek film. It’s visually thrilling, exciting and funny. It even won round the 10 year hard-boiled film critic I went with.

Leanard Nimoy returns with great authority. It was noticeable that his closing monologue had been changed to “boldly go where no one has gone before”. Fair enough.

However was it right, in a working environment notable for it’s diversity, that the Kirk and McCoy characters repeatedly referred to Spok as “that pointy – eared b*stard”?

The nice guy went – sorry Howard…

In an episode of the Apprentice where Deborah seemed to be describing “domineering and stifling” as important business behaviours – the steady, efficient, likable bloke gets the chop.

The show is based on a certain believability – whether or not you agree with sirralun’s decision, you kind of “get it”.

This decision throws all that into question – but maybe I’m taking it all a bit too seriously…

: – )

Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication – what’s new?

Albert Mehrabian influential work on verbal, paralinguistic and non verbal communication has come in for a bashing this week. Mehrabian’s research has been much quoted – by me too. It indicates that the actual words spoken convey less of the meaning than tone and body language – this has now been challenged.

http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/05/busting-myth-93-of-communication-is.php

Commentator’s have responded in interested ways, criticism of research is hardly new but I wonder if knocking the knowledge that emerged is helpful.

If I ask my colleague if they enjoyed training they attended yesterday and they respond by saying yes whilst shaking their head the “digital” words will be undermined by everything else that’s going on. For me that’s a useful insight, one to remember. Surely we just want advice/information that is helpful?

A further peice of research which appears to tell us that everything we thought was good is actually useless has emerged from Sweden this week. This research has cast doubt on natural childbirth methods

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8068889.stm

A straw poll of women friends indicates strong support for such methods – women feel supported, empowered and more confident in their ability to manage the situations themselves. It’s old hat to suggest that (mainly male) medics don’t want this in labouring women but you do have to wonder.

Teams are just accidents really..

As part of some team development work I have been reading Meredith Belibin’s book on team types. “Team Roles at Work”

Now lots of my clients like Belbin and I think that having a dispassionate conversation about how teams function based on Plant, Shaper, Completer Finisher etc can be really useful. However I do wonder about about some of the underpinning thinking that surrounds one of the best known business models.

One thing – women don’t seem to exist in Meredith Belbin’s world. I counted one reference to female workers in the book – never mind I thought, it was written in the 70s. However a quick look at the inner sleeve informed me that I was reading the 2007 edition…

I also take issue with the notion of the Team as expressed in Belbin ‘s (and others) work. The Team is frequently described as a “group of workers, possessing complementary skills working towards the same goal”. For me this is the like the “What’s Your Ideal Wife” kind of article found in some on the glossy magazines aimed at young men. The benefits of such characteristics are illusory and – of course – ultimately disappointing.

Teams seem to be more accidental. People are emploed promoted, moved for variuos restructural or resource reasons and find themselves working with quite a disparate group of individuals with various degrees of success. It is is the diversity of groups that delightes me and engaging with people – what they want and what they bring which excites me.

I do agree with Belbin though on the subject of adapting our natural tendencies – “the absence of team roles favoured….is a matter of less importance than the skilful management of whatever team roles a person possesses”

I was a Trotskyist as a youth…

I was brought up in South Wales, Trade Unionism was of second nature, I worked in the coal mining industry and was involved in the miners strike. Employment rights were very important to me and indeed still are.

I do wonder about the way that some people behave at work though.

I was recently coaching an owner of a small business who was struggling with some startling behaviour from a colleague who, whilst reasonably competent, was some traits which most of us would find, well, a bit much.

My job was to help my client develop the communication flexibility to allow him to speak to her in such a way as to be acceptable and understandable for her. I was impressed in his commitment to giving her the best service possible as an employer, whilst protecting his own business.

One poor employee shouldn’t impact on employment law. I also don’t think that asking people to take responsibility for themselves at work, labels me with that old title – class traitor…

When not to negotiate

I recently met a company Director at a network event. He was ruminating about an employee who he was worried about. He had invited her along on that evening, keen to get her talking about the great work she was doing and meeting friends and colleagues and generally extend her networks. She refused, saying that she was only willing to do so if he would pay her “time and a half” to go.

This successful entreprenuer was a little downcast at this. He clearly valued this employee and spoke about her valuable work, cheerful manner, dedication and general willingness to work hard – between opening hours only…

I fell into my own trap here. In his agreement with her at the start of her employment there was an expectation of the occasional out of hours work. We begin to talk about the nature of “the deal” between employer and employee, expectations, rewards etc. It was only on the way home that I realised that I was wrong.

Four of the basic principles which underpin my work are (a) people are always doing their best with the resources available to them (b) our work is extremely important to us, this has sometimes been forgotten and there may be a feature of this culture that dictates that it’s not cool to like work (c) you can make people do what you want them to do but risk losing their goodwill and (d) people are more motivated by their imagination (what may happen) than their will (what they can make happen).

You can imagine a conversation between this man and his valued employee. “You give me this” and “I’ll give you that”, “I want to give you less”, “you want more” etc etc. This is way negotiations go generally and most instances it works well.

Our friend wants more than somebody to go to the network event with him – he wants a motivated, excited, interested employee who has a vision for the company and her role within it. He wants her contribution to the future success of the firm, exciting work, challenging contracts, a vibrant office culture. I didn’t meet her but would guess that she wants to grow, have fun, be well rewarded, develop sellable skills, achieve fulfillment at work (what we all want really). This surely is more valuable than time and a half her normal hourly rate.

What to do then? Well if I meet him again and if he was interested to hear my thoughts – I’d encourage a broad dialogue, over a number of sessions in which he models a vision for the company – talks about the future in positive terms, describes how specifically he values her work and how she can be a part of the future. He would ask her her thoughts, enjoying the new world constructing between them. Her contribution can emerge, her role in talking about the company becomes clear, if she is as talented and committed as he says (I don’t doubt it) he won’t have to force it. The couple of hours spent talking to other business people over a glass a wine becomes more than just extra work, it becomes a place where she can part of the future he has described.

The Queen of Intuition falls off her perch

Lorraine Tighe dropped the “I’m all about the feelings me” and got in touch with her inner despot in this week’s Apprentice – like many contestants believing that being a bastard is an essential business requirement.

A good place to check out the fun and games is the OPP site, although I like this more when they are thinking a bit beyond applying 16 PF and MBTI to everything

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