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Worlds Apart

23 July 2019
 

Last week I published a guest blog by Jackie Le Fèvre, one of Easier Inc's closest and most trusted collaborators. In it Jackie described how a team of people who all shared a single worldview had become trapped by group-think. Jackie illustrated how a focus on understanding and leveraging the team's shared values offered them a way out of stalemate and into more productive, purposeful work.

The blog was very well recieved. Quite a few readers mentioned to me though - perhaps half smiling - that they would love it if people at their work all thought the same. They wondered whether a tougher nut to crack might be when people with different world views collide.

Knowing Jackie would be more than up to the challenge I invited her to write again...

Worlds Apart

This is a story of Jo and Dan, respectively Chief Executive and Operations Director of a well-respected and pioneering organisation. Each was skilled, knowledgeable and highly respected both inside and outside their organisation. 

Jo had total confidence in Dan.

  • She knew his practice was exemplary in terms of both policy and procedure.
  • His teams routinely found fresh ways to improve outcomes under very challenging circumstances. 

Dan had nothing but respect for Jo as the leader of the organisation.

  • He viewed the successful stakeholder relationships as predominantly down to Jo’s grasp of the strategic landscape.
  • He believed she would always make the right call if a difficult decision was required. 

Surely there could not be a problem here….

The Problem

Jo sensed Dan felt uncomfortable every time she approached him for his ideas around service improvements or developmental areas for the organisation as a whole and she had no idea why. 

Dan meanwhile, found what felt like constant questioning from Jo a time consuming distraction. For him,  the real job was getting the stuff done well and within budget. Musing about how things could, or should, work was frankly pretty frustrating.

Finding A Way Out

Using the Minessence Values Framework we explored the interplay between the Worldviews of these two talented people in search of some meaningful explanation.

Jo emerged as a ‘Collaborative Changemaker’.

  • As Jo believed that Dan’s insights had as much, if not more, potential than her own due to his unique position she persisted in asking Dan for his ideas and input even when it did not appear to go down too well. 

Dan emerged as predominantly a ‘Mechanic’.

  • He focussed upon ensuring the sensitive and complex support services provided by the organisation stayed within appropriate operational boundaries, whilst being as flexible as possible around service users, no matter how chaotic their situations.
  • This focus on the fine tuning of the machine and keeping it running well was made possible by Jo’s proficiency as leader which meant he did not have to worry about the future because she was handling it. 

Essentially they inhabited different worlds and were talking different languages.

Jo in her ‘Collaborative Changemaker’ speak would ask, "What do you want to do? How do you want to develop the service?".

Dan in his ‘Mechanic’ (aka Systems Protector) mode would hear Jo say, "What shall we do?... It’s not clear what to do…".

Dan would reply, "What would you like us to do or try?".

Jo heard Dan say, "Don’t distract me with irrelevant questions. Just tell me what you want or let me get on with my day job".

And so the misconnection went on, eventually creating an undercurrent of disquiet as a mutual wariness took root.

The Solution

Both Jo and Dan were relieved to learn that neither had been seeking to be awkward and that both had genuine heartfelt respect and admiration for the talents of the other.

Jo learned:

  • to be more specific in her requests for input around future service design.
  • not to ask completely open questions but to ground her questions in current performance to explore future potential.

Dan:

  • made incorporating future service design conversations into part of what he saw as his ‘day job’ by making it a standing item in the formal team meeting agenda with his staff.
  • made gathering intelligence specifically to inform potential change into a function of the system.

In Summary

By identifying each other’s values and understanding how they differed Jo and Dan each learned how to talk the language of the other. By doing so in the context of their own Worldview they were able to do this while keeping the conversations authentic to who they are and what matters to them. To their mutual relief, they were able to regain the confidence that they shared a common purpose and that being honest with one another was fundamentally OK.

Discover More…

If you’d like to find out more about Jackie and her work you can:

  • Read her profile on our Easier Inc. People page.
  • Find her website here.
  • Follow her on Twitter @MagmaEffect.

Thanks for reading!


Comments

Roman Baczynski

23/07/2019, 09:07 am

The good news in this story is that both Jo and Dan understood that something wasn't right and were open to fixing it.  In many cases people know something is wrong, but don't try to fix it - somethimes it's a lack of confidence or feeling they will end up in a conformtational situation that they want to avoid.

The best situation is one where people have good emotional intelligence and can draw on support to help sort things out in a positive and professional way - leadership and culture are esssential here

Sometimes its just about an honest, listening conversation - although I know that can be a lot harder than it sounds!

Jackie Le Fevre

23/07/2019, 05:07 pm

That's a really key point Roman - little can be achieved without some awareness and/or interest in making things work better. I agree that it can be fear that holds folk back from entering into honest conversation and this is where I feel taking a values based approach can be transformational.

 

As there is no such thing as the 'right' or 'wrong' values and everyone is entitled to whatever values they wish (although they then are required to live out their values in ways that are acceptable within legal and moral bounds) starting an honest conversation from a values base appreciates each individual for who they are and what matters to them. Recognising and affirming what matters to them contributes to the psychological safety that opens the door to taking account of what matters to the other person: a vital step towards mutually agreeing how to be better together.

The simplest solutions can often be mystifylingly hard to implement!

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