Tag Archives: Communication

Learned helplessness

“Learned helplessness is the giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger

A winning team suddenly finds that losses are mounting and criticism rising and with loud critical chants the team is unable to find a way to win again.  Confidence declines along with momentum needed to be successful.

Losing sets in motion a feeling of being out of control which increases the sense of powerlessness.  A self-defeating attitude begins to reign and results decline.

In organizations the losing streak causes people to withdraw with the best ideas being left out of the conversation.   Secrecy starts to increase and managers retreat to their own turf to protect their concerns.   Individuals sense the shift in openness and pull back in fear that they will become the next scapegoat.   Organizational momentum declines further causing managers to take steps that cause people to retreat  even further in isolation.

Learned helplessness occurs when people in an organization believe there is nothing they can do to make a difference.   Performance spirals downward.   Communication and respect for others decreases and people fall back on primitive self-protection behaviors.  

Organizations start to fall into the losing loop when leaders become arrogant and overconfident and stop listening to the issues that are being surfaced.   Unreasonable expectations by management and the denying the issues that are being presented increase the rate of failure.  

To reverse learned helplessness organizational communications have to be open and more frequent.  It takes large doses of listening to break the negative spiral and a strong commitment to hear whatever is being said, not to just hear the words, but to acknowledge the issues that are brought up.  If fear cannot be quelled productivity and loss will continue to mount.

Where do you see fear in organizations?

Have you experienced learned helplessness?

teams to teamwork

“The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.”
– Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French Philosopher

 When two or more people engage in a similar activity to achieve a common goal, teamwork will produce a higher quality result.   The ideal team size is between 4-6 six people; this is where the combined IQ of the team reaches its peak and where the greatest synergy can be obtained.  Teams are powerful combinations of people committed to achieving uncommon results.

Teams,  when they are working correctly can work through difficult issues and solve complex problems.   While teams can produce outstanding results in many cases they don’t.   People who work in teams have to let part of their ego and judgment go.  People engaged in teamwork have to yield to the higher good and often they let their ego stand in the way of team results.

What then makes a good team?

  1. Communication
  2. Trust
  3. Being able to discuss tough issues without attacking individuals
  4. Being able to let go of judgment
  5. Being willing to neutralize the ego

For some people items 2-5 are difficult to do.   The first item, communications is something everyone thinks they do well with.   For some people talking is good communications, if they are speaking that is, for them that is what good communications is all about.   Communications is more than actively emitting sound waves.   Communications is more powerful when it is done from a non-judgmental point of view and when it is done with the intent of understanding.   The most powerful aspect of communications is listening to understand and speaking to clarify.  Powerful communications is done when it is without the participation of the ego.  The ego lives just to go for the ride.   The ego is the backseat driver that is in the mode of adding critical commentary that is usually not beneficial. 

When the ego is involved in listening it means that judgment is occurring during the narrative that someone else is providing and that distorts or silences the intent of the message.  If there is a reply sitting, or if there is a reply taking shape when someone else is speaking there is no listening being done.   The brain is a single channel device it is either receiving or sending information.   Two thoughts can’t reside in the mind simultaneously while listening.

 What would happen if people could listen with the intent to understand and to suspend judgment?   If people could suspend judgment they would more forward towards greater contribution and generate higher group energy which would allow for the generation new ideas.   New ideas become the soup for the genesis of solutions to problems; teams after all are solving some type of problem.  Teams are in the process of creating something new, whether it is a problem or the act of discovery, something new will be generated.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The first and most difficult task of dialogue involves parking the ego and listening with an open spirit. From this receptivity can come questions which lead to understanding.

“What is it you see that I don’t?”
“How do you see this differently and why?”
“Please help me understand from your perspective.”

To ask these questions requires that one no longer need to have the best or last answer. Expanding one’s understanding becomes more important than being right or getting one’s point across.”
—Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper
from the article Dialogue: The Power of Understanding

Teams need to communicate effectively in order to thrive.  Effective communication, honest, open, vulnerable communication begins when there is a high level of trust.   When one person on the team holds the cards the trust in that team is going to be lower.  There will be reserved participation or there will be the kind of participation that is done for the benefit of the person who is not holding the conversation in trust.  

In organizations where hierarchy and rule of position is still the method of operation unless there is an authentic and genuine regard for all forms of communication the ability for those who are in subordinate positions to express their ideas that are controversial will be muted.  

Looking at the teams you work with, what kind of communication takes place?  Is it authentic, open, genuine, honest, and generative?   What do the conversations look like?   What new ideas are being generated?   What does the energy in the team look like?   What is the sound of the conversation?   How do you feel when you are engaged in real teamwork?

Humility in context

How is humility expressed in the context of modern communication methods?

Certainly the new media for communication including social networking venues removes some of the nuances that used to be critical for communicating effectively. If the statistics are correct a large majority of communication is non-verbal communication and that means for many of use communicating via electronic pathways limits the most significant element of communication.

Humility though is more than just body language. Humility is a way of being that can be expressed in written language and more so as the result of actions that are generated when interacting with others. It could be the words that are used and those could be words that are an expression of love, compassion, other-centeredness, caring and empathy. Humility can be sensed in the way a sentence is written and how the words are chosen.

Humility ultimately is an expression of love.

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of one’s self. We must be purposely kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence. The heart that goes out of itself gets large and full of joy. This is the great secret of the inner life. We do ourselves the most good doing something for others.” Horace Mann