What Psyche Can Teach You About Being Authentic

vision, authentic, perspectiveIs it difficult for you to find the right balance between being task-focused and relationship-focused? Is it simply challenging to figure out how “nice” you need to be at work? Do you ever wonder what it really means to be a good team player?

If you’ve never had these dilemmas, you’re lucky. Read no further.

For the rest of you, making sense of the mixed messages you receive as a woman in the workplace can be distracting and down right maddening. Mixed feedback about how you’re supposed to act can make you hesitate and even hide behind an inauthentic persona. This can keep you from realizing your full potential or embracing your leadership role.

The timeless mythological story of Psyche’s Four Tasks provides guidance.

The Story of Eros and Psyche

Psyche, a beautiful mortal woman, fell in love with and married what turned out to be the god of love, Eros. He was the son of the goddess Aphrodite, who out of jealously of Psyche’s beauty, had initially jinxed Psyche so that she would not fall in love with any mortal man. The jinx backfired and much to Aphrodite’s chagrin, her immortal son Eros fell in love with Psyche and they married, with the caveat that Psyche could never actually look at him.

However, Psyche couldn’t help herself. She carried an oil lamp and a knife into his bedroom (in case he turned out to be a monster), and took a forbidden look at Eros while he was sleeping in the dark. Unfortunately, the lamp dripped hot oil on Eros and awakened him. Interpreting this as a sign of mistrust, Eros ran off and abandoned Psyche. Heart-broken, Psyche appealed to her disapproving mother-in-law Aphrodite for help to get him back.

Jealous Aphrodite saw an opportunity to be rid of Psyche once and for all. She devised four seemingly impossible tasks for Psyche to complete in order to get back Eros. Psyche’s 4 tasks provide guidance for illuminating a situation (the lamp), dissecting it, and cutting away what doesn’t serve you (the knife). Doing so, allow you to make a decision that is authentic for you in your home and work relationships.

Task #1 – Sorting Seeds with Discernment.

Aphrodite put Psyche in a room that was full of many varieties of seeds all mixed together and instructed Psyche to sort all of the seeds overnight if she wanted Eros back. Psyche was overwhelmed and didn’t know how she would to do it. Then, a line of tiny, diligent ants entered the room and began to sort the tiny seeds for her.

The lesson: A situation may seem daunting at first, but you must examine what you have to contend with. So, listen to the small, still voice inside (ants), then diligently sift and sort through all available information to decide what is important based on your priorities and values.

Task #2 – Nab Golden Fleece at the Right Time.

Aphrodite then assigned Psyche the task of collecting golden fleece from the nasty Rams of the Sun. Again, Psyche thought this task impossible because these rams were large, tough, no-nonsense, powerful creatures. Coming to her aid, a flexible green reed advised Psyche that she could avoid the rams by waiting until they left the field at the end of the day, then pick their fleece from brambles they brushed up against after they had gone for the day.

 The lesson: Be flexible enough to watch and wait for the opportune time to go after what you want. There may be a way to do accomplish what you want with less direct conflict, allowing you to maintain relationships.

Task #3 – Fill the Flask After Gaining Perspective.

Next, Psyche must fill a flask with water from an intimidating stream, guarded by dragons. While Psyche doubted her ability to fill the flask, Zeus’s eagle arrived, grabbed the flask, and flew to an opportune spot to fill it for her.

 The lesson: When you get overwhelmed with deciding how to engage with a situation and those involved, pull back like the eagle to get a broader perspective of the bigger picture to find patterns. Then, spot the salient details before making decisions.

Task #4 – Fetching Beauty Cream in the Underworld Without Distraction.

Finally, Aphrodite sent Psyche to the Underworld to refill a box with beauty ointment. To make things even more difficult, Aphrodite tells Psyche that three pathetically desperate people in the Underworld will beg her for help as a distraction from her quest. A tall tower advises Psyche to harden her heart, ignore them, and concentrate on fulfilling her task.

The lesson: You must keep your eye on your tasks and goals and learn to assert your boundaries by exercising a conscious choice to say “yes” or “no” to others’ requests.

Psyche completed the four tasks and won back her beloved Eros. Not all women need nor will they apply Psyche’s lessons in the same way. Still, when you face a dilemma at work or get confusing feedback that reflects someone else’s perspective on who you’re supposed to be, think of Psyche’s lessons and apply the one(s) that are apt in a way that is right for you.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG, OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it:  Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

 

By the Numbers – Capturing Lessons Learned

Much institutional knowledge in companies is lost through turnover and poor communication. Such institutional information is often critical to successful operations and execution of company goals. One way to preserve and share knowledge and expertise is to actively capture, store and share “lessons learned”. However, for most, it’s easier said than done.

This infographic compiles the numbers related to capturing, retaining, and sharing lessons learned:

lessons learned

 

 

Does Your Company Have a Gaping Blind Spot Around Supervisor Training?

blind spotApproximately 60% of new supervisors or first-time managers receive no leadership training and development before they are promoted to their positions. Maybe that accounts for why employees see 50% of their supervisors as ineffective. It appears that companies don’t believe or aren’t aware of the available research about the skills needed to be a good manager. Nor are they aware of the negative impacts that pile up when their managers aren’t competent.

How come? These four reasons might explain your company’s lack of attention to developing leadership skills in their managers — from the front-line up.

1. Your company doesn’t understand what competent supervisors do.

Often in the growth stage of many companies, leadership tends to promote existing staff into supervision. With such an emphasis on the technical aspects of running a company in the beginning start-up stages, you assume that supervisory capabilities will naturally grow along with the rest of the business without additional focus. That indicates that your company doesn’t have a solid plan for adding competent supervisors. Instead, it will move people into positions like checkers around the board.

Underneath this lack of planning is the notion that your company doesn’t understand what it takes to lead people. Otherwise, you would know the skills to identify in others before selecting supervisors as the company grows. Your company mistakenly assumes that by virtue of being people, your “star” employees know how to lead other people to get the best work out of them.

2. Your company sees employees as interchangeable cogs in the wheel.

“People don’t leave companies; they leave managers.” This adage has been around for decades and in my experience it’s true. You can like the company you work for while not being able to tolerate your direct supervisor. When this happens, employees leave. When your company doesn’t select and develop its managers, it’s a sign that you are willing to have higher than normal turnover. It’s almost as though you see employees as replaceable machine parts. Just hire some more. While the turnover cost per hire in entry level employee positions can be low, the volume of vacancies multiplies that low cost per hire quickly.

3. Your company underappreciates the power of “soft” skills.supervisor training

Cultivating a person with the requisite people skills to get the best out of your employees is no mean feat. It’s almost as if your company believes communicating clearly and respectfully, appreciating others, giving feedback, and all the other supervisory skills are easy to do. When you and your senior team to misses this, it indicates your lack of people skills. Perhaps, too, your company is in an industry that is based on technical knowledge and skills, creating a natural disconnect with the importance of understanding and working with people.

4. Your company focuses on the upfront expense of leadership development without understanding the payoff.

Measuring the effectiveness and impact of leadership skills is fuzzy. Also, the payoff for leadership training and development pays off more slowly over time compared to other skills training. Still, in my experience, employee complaints decrease and employee retention increases when managers are trained and provided on-the-job experiences to increase their leadership skills and knowledge. It is an investment that will likely payoff in the future; not simply an expense for an ordinary purchase.

To conclude, it might be that your company “doesn’t know what it doesn’t know.” But there’s really no excuse for having a blind spot around management and leadership training in the 21st century. The available research and your own experience working for various supervisors throughout your career should be proof enough of it’s necessity.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?

You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be, as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Leading Change Through Appreciative Inquiry

new growth

Enjoy this excerpt from a 2005 article entitled, “Unleashing a Positive Revolution in Medicine: The Power of Appreciative Inquiry”, written by podcast guest, Colette Herrick:

Appreciative Inquiry (“AI”), a highly participatory approach to developing human and organizational systems, can accelerate positive change and provide the influence necessary to revolutionize medicine and create the positive future we desire.

At its core, AI is based on discovering strengths and amplifying them, rather than focusing on problems and fixing them. It is simple, yet at the same time requires a profound shift of attention from habituated deficit-based thinking and interactions that are so prevalent in our culture.

“Appreciative Inquiry is the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what gives a system “life” when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.” –David Cooperrider

Using a four-stage group inquiry process — discovery, dream, design and delivery — AI is being used with compelling results in a range of settings in health care including:

  • Transforming organizational cultures and practice management;
  • Creating powerful physician/nurse/patient relationships;
  • Developing effective leadership; strategic planning; strengthening teams, partnerships, and alliances; and
  • Enhancing patient safety.

. . . .

Historically, the dominant organizing principle for approaching change in organizations has been closely aligned with “best practices” of the medical profession. This focus has been largely shaped by a problem orientation that carries through from assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and measurement of the effects of the intervention.

In both organizational practice and healthcare delivery, what has typically been at the epicenter of attention is fixing what’s broken rather than identifying and building on what is working. What is required in healthcare today is a new kind of leadership and physicians are poised to lead the way.

. . . .

Indeed, when leaders begin to view the world and act through a more appreciative lens, organizational energy shifts, people are encouraged to act from their strengths and potential is unleashed in powerful and effective ways. Being an appreciative leader becomes not just a way of “doing” leadership, but of making a positive contribution to the world.

Read the full article


Colette-Herrick-Executive-CoachColette Herrick, is an executive coach, strategic facilitator and CEO of Insight Shift, a Utah-based firm since 2002. The overarching aim of her work is to support leaders, teams and organizations to innovate collaborative solutions, accelerate results, and experience greater fulfillment.

As a strategic facilitator, she taps the collective intelligence of groups with a strengths-based, solutions focused and participatory approach. Clients benefit from greater alignment, engagement and the energy to move a shared vision to sustained action. She has facilitated programs ranging from small team retreats to large-scale summits with over three hundred physicians with the American Medical Association. A few of the client groups she’s served are: University of Utah, Utah Medical Association, Microsoft Latin America, Department of Defense, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Westminster College, Misericordia University, Intermountain Healthcare, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Utah Department of Health, Davis Applied Technology College, American Red Cross, Colorado Department of Health and Environment and the Utah State  Bar.

You can learn more about her company at www.insightshift.com.

“Just Kidding”: Handling Passive Aggressive Employees

passive aggressiveWe laugh at passive aggressive behavior on sitcoms, tune in for more on reality TV, and read the snarkiness on social media. Nonetheless, it’s no laughing matter in the workplace.

Passive aggressive behavior includes actions, inactions, and comments intended to do harm but is indirect. People who exhibit passive aggressive behaviors also tend to feel helpless or powerless in their lives, and use their passive aggressiveness as a way to cope.

Examples include: forgetting to do things, not following through, spreading rumors, giving the silent treatment, making sarcastic comments intended to send a message, and complaining about others to everyone but the person himself. In short, passive aggressiveness boils down to presenting yourself one way and behaving another to intentionally “stick it” to someone else.

On an individual level, passive aggressiveness increases uncertainty, leads to poor self-esteem and poor working relationships, and consequently, leads to lower trust, increased stress, and lower productivity. On a companywide basis, it can slow down decision-making and the execution of important initiatives.

Unfortunately, many managers are uncertain how to address this type of behavior because it seems so petty and elusive. Here, are a few tips for creating a workplace with minimal passive aggressiveness:

Expect and model forthright communication.

To avoid allowing passive aggressive behavior in your company, make sure you are a role model of healthy, respectful disagreement with curiosity about other perspectives. You can do this in a public way in your meetings by setting ground rules and behavioral norms about having full discussions in meetings where everyone is expected to contribute and acknowledging the sensitivity or contention of some issues as well as the importance of discussing those issues openly.

Highlight minority or dissenting perspectives and opinions.

Intentionally, ask those who hold an unpopular perspective to talk about their assumptions underlying their viewpoint and about the implications that will follow if their solution is or isn’t followed. By doing this, it makes it easier to craft a final decision that might accommodate differing perspectives. You can also troubleshoot the decision the group finally makes but anticipating what might go wrong. This allows those who see the weaknesses of the decision to be able to contribute.

Call it like you see it.

When passive aggressive body language, humor, gossip, or complaints about others come to your attention, you must acknowledge the behavior and dig a little deeper to find out what’s behind the behavior. Voicing concern that the person is choosing an indirect way of bringing up the issue is a place to start. Then, ask questions about why they chose an indirect way of settling the issue versus addressing the issue head on. You can then guide them to use more appropriate ways of interacting with others to get what they ultimately want.

Passive aggressive behavior is probably more common than appropriately assertive behavior and can be one of the most destructive elements to a healthy company culture. This is certainly one time when being “nice” won’t work out for your company in the long run.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Transform Workplace Drama from Spectacle to Productivity

workplace dramaWe love our drama. Ancient Romans loved the tension and spectacle of the Colosseum with its combat to the death involving gladiators and beasts, nail-biting chariot races, and extravagant displays of sea warfare. Today, we have the tension and spectacle of reality TV, involving the emotional combat of one-up-man-ship, betrayal, and dashed hopes. It seems a natural aspect of the human condition. It’s no wonder, then, that drama comes naturally to your employees.

You know employees are caught up in drama when they aren’t focused on the overall goals your company is working to achieve. Instead, they hone in on what others are doing or not doing to bug them or to get in their way. In short, they are focused on the weeds instead of on the big picture. They delight in gossip, complaining, blaming, shaming, and explaining – mostly after not being forthcoming when the time was right, such as in meetings regarding the work and its progress.

 

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”
― Seán O’Casey

Drama includes people who find themselves playing three standard roles: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. These were identified by Dr. Stephen Karpman in the 1960s. In spite of their good intentions, a person in the Victim role sees himself as powerless and put-upon; a person in Persecutor role sees himself as the only person doing things right, coming across as blaming and overbearing; and a person in the Rescuer role believes he must save the Victim who is not capable of doing so himself. Together, people in these roles can go for years, blaming each other and focusing on what each is doing wrong, instead of looking at their own contributions to the dramatics that play out.

According to David Emerald, the transformation from spectacle to productivity occurs when (1) the “Victim” refocuses on the general outcome they want to create and determine a way forward; (2) the “Rescuer” reframes the “Victim” as capable of solving his own problems; or (3) the “Persecutor” clarifies his intentions and shifts to supporting the “Victim’s” capabilities.

As a leader in your company, it’s up to you to create the conditions that discourage drama as a spectacle of complaining and blaming and, instead, encourage trust, ownership, and choice that leads to working together more productively without fear. This requires many things including the expectation that people will feel the trust required to be open and explore issues through deeper conversations that center around questions for which you don’t know the answer. (Judith Glaser would call these Level III Co-Creative conversations. See Lead Like Nobody’s Business blog and podcast with Julio Garreaud from 6/7/2016.)

Questions that could be part of these types of deeper conversations might include:

  • How do you see it?
  • What are the implications of what we are doing with respect to X?
  • What have we been assuming that might not be accurate?
  • How can we . . . ?
  • What if . . . ?
  • What might you do to achieve your original intention?

Think about how frequently these questions are used in your meetings and interactions . . . . Imagine what could happen for your company if you intentionally opened up some room for your employees to explore together possibilities for their work instead of allowing them to stay stuck in their own myopic, dramatic role.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Ironically, Collaboration Makes Your Company More Competitive

collaborationIt used to be that leading a successful company was all about withholding knowledge, hording power, and smashing the competition. More and more, however, leaders today are called upon to be more collaborative – sometimes even with their competition.

Typical Corporate Structure Impedes Collaboration

“Collaboration” might sound like a wimpy term to some. In fact, it is typically viewed as a more feminine virtue. Yet, the costs of poor collaboration are concrete and even painful.

Ask General Motors about its non-collaborative (“competitive”), “silo-ed” culture that led to a defective ignition switch, which cost the company at least $2.7 billion dollars in repairs, rework, replacement part, and lawsuits. A consulting report concluded that the cause of the defect stemmed from a silo-based culture that covered up issues and did not collaborate well.

Similarly, many companies operate in silos and do not communicate effectively across spans of control. In some cases, if a manager in one silo needs something from a manager in another silo, the company’s formality requires her to send a request up her chain of command to her Vice President, who then reaches across the company to another Vice President, who in turn goes down the chain of command to the manager, and so on. This form of communication is extremely slow and subject to miscommunication. Add matrix-ed relationships  to this, where employees strive to serve multiple masters, balancing multiple roles and competing interests. Yeow!

Emphasis on Technical Skills Can Stifle Collaboration

Think about the highly skilled employees in companies within technical industries, who spent years learning a technical function. Often, their companies have not encouraged them to learn the nuanced interpersonal skills required to collaborate on teams. As a result they are not as effective at relating to others, conveying their ideas with impact, getting what they want, or helping others achieve their goals. Therefore, teams in these industries may not perform as well as they could. This results in stalled projects. Ironically, when you multiply this effect across the company — especially when teams have to work cross-functionally — the negative results from a lack of collaboration can hurt a company’s competitive position.

Fostering Collaboration Is Imperative

As companies become more complex, collaboration becomes a core skill that every leader, team, and business unit must have. In some cases, this means you must structure your company to make collaboration easier. In other cases, it means encouraging manager and employees to acquire new skills, attitudes, and behaviors.

Also, leadership today requires you to enhance your own collaboration skills to get what you want from those inside your company and external partners, like suppliers, vendors, regulatory agencies, and customers. Either way, you become a role model for collaboration, setting the example for the types of collaborative interactions you expect from your employees.

When you use collaboration wisely and well, you gain easier cooperation, more information, and greater facility to reach your targets. In short, you become more competitive.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?

You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.