How to Prevent Groupthink

How to Prevent Groupthink

“It didn’t make any sense to me, but I just went along with it.” A team member explained it was easier for her to go along with the group decision than to challenge it. 

The experience was a classic case of a psychological phenomenon called groupthink.    

Groupthink occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. 

 It’s a huge impediment for companies trying to create breakthrough ideas and increase innovation.

In this case, the team met on their own to talk about how to improve their meetings. They wanted to work together better as a team, but their solution was to have MORE MEETINGS!

Why didn’t someone say, “Maybe there are better ideas we should consider.”

Or…

“What are we really trying to accomplish here?”

Studies show we’re wired to try to fit in with our environment and the people in it. 

While groupthink was clearly a problem in this example, the bigger problem was that the CEO was unaware of the issue. 

He felt the effects because he was too involved in matters that the team should have handled. But they were too busy meeting.

CEOs don’t need to be involved at all levels of the organization, but they do need to be aware of the culture being created that fosters ineffective decision-making.

Prevent groupthink by bringing more diverse perspectives into the decision-making process. Create an environment in which team members feel like their voices can be heard.

Don’t let your team become too insular. Connect them with other people outside the team who can share fresh ideas as needed.

Reward the crazy ideas. People hold back when they fear judgment.

Take pressure off of team members to make quick decisions where possible. When people are stressed, they don’t think clearly.

Check the areas in your business where you are not seeing the results you want. 

It’s likely there are some dysfunctional decision-making processes behind the scenes.

Do less group thinking and more smart thinking. 

Decide to assess your decision-making processes to achieve better results.

PS: We’ve been working on some exciting projects to help executives who are transforming their organizations. Let us know if we can be of help to you.

If we have not met, I’d be happy to introduce you to WorkMatters services.

Please contact me.

How to Lead Change More Easily

How to Lead Change More Easily

Many years ago I attended a leadership workshop in Atlanta that forced me to take a stand. I was a young executive in the corporate world. Eager to learn.

In one exercise, the instructor told participants to walk around the room in groups of three.

The person in the middle of the group was expected to talk about something very important to them while walking with the two other people–one on each side.

Could be an idea, cause or point of view.

The people on each side were told to make negative, unsupportive or critical comments about that idea as the middle person was talking.

I was the middle person. Walking around a room filled with noise trying to be heard isn’t easy, especially listening to negative comments in each ear.

It makes you want to speak louder. At one point, I was yelling!

The exercise was frustrating, but it helped me practice articulating ideas with more conviction than I had before. And it prepared me for those negative voices that creep into your head.

Those voices often come from people who are reflecting their own fears, insecurities, or lack of awareness. The criticism or push-back may come from people who feel threatened in some way.

Sometimes the most disempowering voices are self-generated.

As you grow in your leadership, it’s natural to feel forces working against you.

When this happens, know it’s not about you. People project what’s going on inside themselves.

Many executives I serve have strong convictions they are trying to express.

They want to bring about important change in their organization or team. But they don’t know how to do it.

Some have tried to “push” people through change (which never works). The determined leaders get louder and more forceful…and more frustrated.

If you’re frustrated, that can actually be a good thing. It means you really care. Your commitment to being a change agent is evident.

Don’t raise your voice. Raise your awareness.

Start by listening.

Let people know they are heard, really heard.

Not through surveys, but through conversations.

You can’t mandate positive change. It’s facilitated through inquiry.

Get curious about the people involved in the process. Understand their needs and wants.

You’ll inspire change more easily.

PS: We’ve been working on some exciting projects to help executives who are transforming their organizations. Let us know if we can be of help to you.

If we have not met, I’d be happy to introduce you to WorkMatters services. Please contact me.

How to Create a New Path to Business Growth

How to Create a New Path to Business Growth

Ever feel like you’re going in circles? Sometimes the harder you try to achieve something important, the more stuck you get.

Last week I was heading to a meeting at a location that I had been to before, but just to be safe, I used GPS to make sure I could get there using the fastest route.

I followed the GPS instructions carefully–making the turns and traveling on mispronounced roads as directed. My instincts told me I was going in the wrong direction, but I trusted the system.

After being led down an unfamiliar path for too long, I realized I had entered the wrong destination in the app. My fault.

In my conversations with clients and colleagues lately, they’ve expressed frustration about doing a lot, but not making progress. These CEOs, executives and business owners are stuck in activities that keep them going in circles without achieving the results they really want.

Driven leaders are doing something about it. They’re not content to keep going in the same circle.

I enjoy working with them to help them and their organizations disrupt bad patterns, transform cultures and move in new directions.

Here are some ideas about how to begin creating the growth and expansion you really want for yourself and those you lead:

  • Check your destination.Where are you really trying to go? Why? What does it look like? Does everyone see the same picture? Get the clarity you need on the front end.
  • Listen to your instincts. Some leaders doubt their own capabilities. They fear something is missing. Or they think they need someone else to guide them. Of course some decisions require input and buy-in from others, but many can be made on your own. Trust yourself.
  • Course correct. Don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong or you get off path, even if you’re confused or lost. Adjust. Keep moving.

Growth is a journey with many possible paths…that you get to create!

The pace and path of your growth can change over time.

In business, we’re accustomed to seeing linear views of growth in images like financial charts, bar graphs or the S-Curve.

Another way of looking at growth is the image of a spiral.
Picture yourself in the center. As you grow, the spiral expands.
Think about spiraling out, not down.

As you expand to the outer layers, your perspective changes.
You move yourself to a new level of growth and potential.

Your organization moves in a similar way. It’s either moving in a tight circle by sticking to what it’s done or it’s creating a new growth path through elevated thinking and strategic action.

Each experience (good or bad) teaches you something that connects you to the next layer, but only if you reflect on learning, revisit your vision and open yourself to new possibilities.

As a leader, look for ways to break out of the circle. Challenge your team to do the same.

Take the time you need to create and follow the path you want.

There is as much value, if not more, in slowing down to reflect as there is in driving full speed ahead.

Get your bearings. Learn. Grow. Continue.

PS: If you’d like to learn more about the success we’ve had helping organizations change and grow, please let me know.

If we have not met, I’d be happy to introduce you to WorkMatters’ services.

The Real Secret to Reducing Leadership Stress and Growing Your Business

The Real Secret to Reducing Leadership Stress and Growing Your Business

Last weekend, while driving in Atlanta, I was almost hit by a driver going the wrong way on 10th Street in the downtown area. When his truck headed directly at me in my lane, my heart stopped.

Luckily he stopped at the traffic light at our intersection, so I could maneuver around him.
I later witnessed another vehicle making a slow dangerous illegal U-turn on Piedmont Road, another busy road in Atlanta. The driver drove on part of the sidewalk to complete the turn.

Crazy! But to those who live in Atlanta, that’s not uncommon. It’s traffic in Atlanta.
In that moment, I realized I could…

  • Stew about it or let it go.
  • Let that be a reason not to go to Atlanta or accept that it’s just part of the experience.
What helped the most was shifting my focus entirely to the BEST parts of my trip:
  • Working with clients I enjoy in the Atlanta area
  • Seeing my daughter who lives and works there
  • Catching up with friends there (including a college roommate visiting from New York City that I hadn’t seen in years)
  • Attending a National Speakers Association meeting as a long-time member
I appreciated the chance to spend a weekend doing work I like with people I enjoy, developing myself professionally and having fun with family and friends.

Given the many challenges and setbacks I’ve experienced over the years, I’ve learned one of the best ways to overcome negativity, frustration or stress is to focus on what you enjoy and appreciate instead.

What you focus on expands.

In leadership and management roles, stress is part of the job. At the end of the day, you may carry that heavy weight home.

But if you can shift your attention to the aspects of your work that you find most fulfilling or enjoyable, you will begin to change how you think about your work.

Noting what you appreciate or find valuable is an ideal way to begin creating transformation — personal, team or organizational.

This appreciative approach works. It represents the imperative foundational work I do with my clients to help them achieve best results.

So with “love” in the air this Valentine’s week, pay attention to the lens through which you view your life and work.

Keep a sharper focus on what you love and appreciate.

Your load will lighten as you grow yourself and your business.

PS: As you work on your goals this year, keep WorkMatters in mind as a resource. If we have not met, I’d be happy to introduce you to WorkMatters services. Contact me directly.

When to Stop Fixing Problems

When to Stop Fixing Problems

Last summer I looked out the window after a storm and saw one of the tall arborvitae trees in our garden tilting to the right. At one point it almost touched the ground.

In an attempt to save it, we tried to stake it. But after the next big wind, it started tilting to the left.

Each day I’d look out the window wondering in which direction the tree would be leaning. Always fun to have an element of surprise in your day. With all the swaying back and forth, the tree roots were coming out of the ground.

The tree was hopelessly unstable, but for months I tried to stabilize it with ropes, stakes…pushing, pulling and occasionally yelling at it, which didn’t help.

After consulting an arborist and landscaping experts, it was clear the tree needed to be removed.

  • I had become fixated on the weak tree so I was neglecting other plants in the garden that needed attention.
  • I was spending too much time trying to do quick fixes without addressing the root cause. (pun intended)
  • I really wasn’t enjoying the garden with so much concern about the rogue tree.

As a leader, I’m guessing you can relate. There’s always something that needs “fixing.”

Be careful about where you spend your time and how much energy you devote to people, projects or situations that are beyond repair.

Invest wisely in people and resources that show strength and promise.

Your landscape will change over time, but your leadership is the constant that will inspire growth.

PS: As you work on your goals this year, keep WorkMatters in mind as a resource. If we have not met, I’d be happy to introduce you to WorkMatters services. Contact me directly.

How to Manage Your Emotions More Easily as a Leader

How to Manage Your Emotions More Easily as a Leader

The other day, I packed up an old suitcase filled with some clothes to donate to a charity.

My dog looked a little sad as she watched me pack the suitcase.

As I walked out the door with the suitcase, she started howling.

She didn’t know I’d be back in an hour. Guess she thought I was going away on another trip.

It’s easy to make assumptions based on behaviors that seem familiar to us–and to jump to conclusions too quickly. Before you know it, you’ve talked yourself into a scenario that’s not really true.

One of the most important things you can do in your leadership role is to test your assumptions. Question your beliefs.

Why do you believe what you do about a situation or a person?
Why do you believe what you do about a problem or an opportunity?

We often “go negative” assuming the worst about a situation.

“I lost the business because I did something wrong.”
“The project failed because the team couldn’t get along.”

If you are someone who internalizes negativity too easily, learn to catch yourself when that happens. For example, you might reframe the statements above to:

“I lost the business because there’s a better piece of business out there to win.”
“The project failed because we have the opportunity to improve our teamwork.”

Learn to take better control of your thoughts. The higher your leadership level, the more important it is to be aware of what you’re thinking.

Belief is like a mental muscle that needs to be exercised. Practice holding the beliefs that serve you well.

Write them down or talk about them to help them stick. Over time, you’ll be able to internalize them.

Note what triggers you so you can manage your emotions more easily. (Any suitcase clearly triggers my dog.)

Some of my clients are triggered by a conversation, an experience or a specific person.

Triggers can be traps, but they are really signals directing us to pay attention to what’s going on inside.

Often things aren’t as bad as they seem. It’s up to you to find the meaning or belief that can help you move forward more easily.

A trigger is a teacher, if you learn from it.

Your Leadership Challenge: This week I challenge you to identify one trigger (person or experience) that affects you negatively.

Determine something specific you’ll do differently when you’re triggered.