I’ll Do It My Way

by Karen on September 23, 2011

Everywhere I turn, I observe people taking short cuts to problem solving, side-stepping the opportunity and responsibility to get involved and help make improvements.  Instead they throw up their hands and seem to be saying “I’ll do it my way!” Why?

A social/recreation organization I belong to was at one time considered one of the best places to meet new people and build long-lasting friendships.  Events were organized to ensure if you wanted to be involved, improve your skills and meet new people, you just sign up.  If the events weren’t meeting member needs, there was a strong desire to meet with the leaders and fix it.  Most recently, however, small groups of “discontented” folks have chosen to solve their problem by forming their own exclusive group.  Outcome: an organization that is not welcoming to new people, excludes (intentionally or unintentionally) others and ultimately creates a disconnected community.

Less than a year ago a client was excited to be outsourcing a part of the business to a partner hoping to leverage the superior experience of that partner and free up time and resources to concentrate on their core business.  Now, this same organization is taking back the activity because the partner doesn’t value their assets like they had hoped.

A client listened intently to the learnings of a discovery we completed.  It made sense to him, he wanted to know more about how to execute accordingly, took notes and went back to his desk to give it a try.  Three days later he asked to meet and review his work.  It was as if he didn’t really buy-in to our recommendations.  When I asked why, his response was, “Well I agree completely with your findings, it all makes sense, but if I changed my approach it would take too long and it wouldn’t look like my work anyway.”

A young friend just entering college, in a program of her choice and passion, is already “hating” it.  The instructors are well qualified and respected.  It is a program that is small and as such is fully attentive to individual student needs and provides great opportunity to work with fellow students.  However, this learner doesn’t like being told what to do and as such, just isn’t doing it.  She can’t see value in listening and learning from successful leaders in her chosen field.  She wants to make “her own mark.”

What is the common thread in all of these conversations?  Is it the missing desire to collaborate, listen to others, learn from others, and work together for a better solution?  Or, is it something to do with the idea of the “me generation”?  Or is it simply that people are too busy to relate?



2010’s Top 10 List

by Trudy on December 31, 2010

One of my favourite things about the end of the year, is reading all the “year in review” stories, recaps and lists. A long held tradition in our home is that my husband scours the newsstands for magazines that sum up the year, and fills my stocking with them. I spend the days before the New Year emerges reading, reminding and being in awe of what has happened in a year. So along that line, a few of my highlights from the PROVOKE blog in 2010:

  1. That Undercover Boss makes me cry. For the hope it presents to people honestly toiling away every day within poor decisions made by the people in charge. And for the opportunity for people in charge to remember that their company is there because of the people.
  2. Being on psychological autopilot is at once super efficient (we do not have to think about everything) and super scary (how did I get here?).
  3. Hearing Bill Clinton speak was a highlight for the year. To hear the former President put the subject of worldwide equality into such a human, relatable, understandable way reignited the idea in me that it could actually happen.
  4. S#*! From the Boardroom looks funny in type. And that not so funny, I have too many stories of S#*! I have heard in boardrooms that made my jaw hit the boardroom table.
  5. The varying perspectives of the PROVOKE team always wow me. It is great to have a psychologist on the team to set you straight on pretty much anything (no baloney around Vicki). And that Karen’s real live experience deep in the bowels of a successful organization makes our recommendations stronger. She knows what poop really needs to be trudged through to get to a certain place.
  6. That dang book “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals”, still has me scratching my head. But it feels better that I am not alone in my conflicting perspective.
  7. Are you really collaborating? A pre-post conversation with Karen made Vicki and I realize just how collaboratively we operate at PROVOKE. It is rare indeed that anything (other than our blogs) comes out of PROVOKE that is formed by only one person or perspective. We have figured out how to collaborate efficiently, respectfully and supportively. It has built immense trust.
  8. That I am SO glad that we continue to get work that touches social justice issues. We feel we make a positive impact on every project we work on, but to know that we are playing a role in righting wrongs and improving the lives of people, is amazing.
  9. That I am still ticked that the Census long form has not been saved. Yet. (Go Peggy!)
  10. But best of all, it has made me SO much more aware of my own actions, impact and result in relationships. I have had to do a few more retakes and some quick back tracking this year as a result of my new front-of-mind knowledge.

Happy New Year! We look forward to connecting with you in 2011.


Are you Really Collaborating?

by Karen on December 3, 2010

Or are you cooperating? Maybe coordinating?  Turns out the concept of collaboration means different things to different people and expectations of the output of collaboration are equally diverse.

“To some, it suggests polite cooperation. To others, it includes everything from shared data to joint operations. To a labor union representative, however, it means getting too cozy with management.” Linden 2002

No wonder the mere mention of collaboration evokes many to roll their eyes, guffaw or complain of unmet expectations and wasted time.

In my previous role leading a team of sales, marketing and customer service people (all very bright, passionate and dedicated folks), I actually thought I was a collaborator.  Now that I look back on it with a critical and wiser eye, I realize I was good at asking for colleagues’ opinions, I was really good at asking questions and I was a good listener.  But my goal was usually to vet MY ideas and ensure when MY ideas/solutions were rolled out it didn’t take anyone by surprise and I didn’t receive any unexpected negative feedback or uptake resistance.   In those days, the pressure to get things done quickly took absolute precedence over the best solution.  Oh, the missed opportunity!  It makes me cringe.

However, among the executive team, we had flashes of brilliant collaboration.  Our leader was visionary, confident, accomplished and trusting.  He firmly believed that he had assembled the best minds in the business and collaboratively we would be able to develop a strategic plan that would lead the organization to greatness.  The strategic plan created during his tenure did result in market leadership and the best solution for that time.  AND although the upfront investment was intense, the spinoff benefits of stronger relationships among the executive team were quantifiable and significant.  Worth every moment of frustration!

We believe collaboration does deliver the best outcome, and it happens when people work together through joint effort and then share ownership of the created product or service. What I know for sure is that collaboration requires effort and commitment, and it doesn’t come second nature to most people.  It requires trust, the willingness to let go of power (in the form of information sharing and autonomous decision making), an upfront investment of time and ultimately patience.  A tall order for many, in fact, most people.  If you can do it, the outcome pays off with better ideas/solutions, solution ownership, strengthened relationships, better and quicker problem solving in the future, and so on … that old “risk/reward” tradeoff.

If you are using the collaborative approach and the project is stalling and leaving your team bored or frustrated, pause to clarify what is meant by collaboration.  Talk about the upfront time and effort it will take, the expected project outcomes and the long-term spinoff benefits of shared knowledge, trust and deepened relationships.

Time well spent!

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You Made a Difference (or Did You?)

November 19, 2010

As I ponder receiving my precious learner’s first report card of the year on Monday, I can’t help but think – wouldn’t it be great to have that level of feedback on our efforts all of the time? We all toil away every day in so many ways, but is our effort contributing in important […]

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