Are You Significant?
Peter Block says “In organizations, the opposite of love is not hate, it’s efficiency.”
Efficiency often means moving so fast to get work done that we lose connection with people as people. Since work in organizations gets done through teams, this is a problem. Google was experiencing this issue with their teams so they decided to do something about it. They just didn’t know what to do. Now they do and it’s all here in the New York Times.
What did they learn? Nothing really new. But the article is worth reading to understand how they learned what many good leaders and managers have known for hundreds of years: team effectiveness depends on inclusion.
Will Schutz, organizational psychologist, produced a fair amount of the relevant research for building effective teams. Schutz and Google would have been good friends. Both share a love of data, science, research and algorithms.
Schutz developed the theory of interpersonal relations he called Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO). According to the theory, three dimensions of interpersonal relations were deemed to be necessary and sufficient to explain most human interaction: Inclusion, Control and Openness.
It is inclusion (I will post on control and openness later) that Google realized was in play when some teams were doing well and other team were not performing well. So how can a team and leader practice inclusion? Here are five moves you can make that foster more useful team work, relationships and effective action.
- Understand your own inclusion needs. Not everyone wants to be included in everything. Inclusion preferences change based on context. For example: Do you include people in your plans? Do you join social groups? Do you prefer working with people or working alone?
- Understand the inclusion preferences of your individual team members. They will be different, similar or the same as your preferences. If you don’t see these differences you lose a way to engage people.
- Start with inclusion. It only takes 2-3 minutes. Have each person check-in. As Google learned, people want to be recognized and seen. A great way to do it by giving each person a chance to hear his or her voice in the room. Once all voices are in the room, the odds go up that the quality of the conversation will too.
- Learn to facilitate. Facilitation is not magic stuff. It’s a learned skill. It is the leader’s job to facilitate a dialogue and get the best ideas into the conversation. After all the point of a meeting is to realize the collective brilliance of the group. Facilitation is how that brilliance is exposed.
- Make the decision. It will always fall to the leader to make the final decision. Not every idea will make the cut. People who have consistent experiences of being included understand that not all their ideas are used every time.
Most organizations face complexity and wicked problems every day. No one person knows how to address these challenges. The value of a team is its collective knowledge and experience that can be leveraged. Leaders who understand people’s need for inclusion and significance facilitate conversations to produce action and greater commitment from their team. It all leads to results that are effective and efficient. And maybe a little love of the work and organization.