Your Organization Won’t Change Until These 2 Things Are Embraced

Recently, I had a conversation with an old colleague who was asking me about some strategy and culture issues. The conversation centered on how an organization can find re-birth, re-development, and/or new life.

Through our discussion, I landed on two primary questions that left unanswered hold organizations back from positive change (yes, I know there are probably countless more, but these are easily codified and create a framework that allows you to deal with the others). The two questions almost seem so obvious that we should all know them yet, based on the present reality of many organizations, it either isn’t obvious or the answers are a resounding – NO!

  • Do you know who you are at your core?

This is not what you want to be, this is not what you tell people you are, this is who you are in reality…deep-down inside. The strengths and weaknesses, blessings and potholes, the history, the lost dreams, the past failures and victories, along with the present collection of individuals.

If you don’t know this, you can’t move in a positive direction. You will always continue to relive problems of the past, fight battles that don’t exist, or go in directions that don’t connect to the people within or outside of your organization.

  • Are you really ready to change?

Are you thinking, of course we want to change, we wouldn’t be talking about this unless we were? Many people talk about changing, growing, adapting, like they talk about values – they espouse this…they want to have something happen, but only mentally. The reality is in order to change, you have to deal with discomfort, you have to do something new, something outside your norm. That is often painful.

The reality for many organizations is that living in the status quo, the known, the norm, the pattern, is so much easier. It takes a lot to break out of a pattern, albeit mental or physical. Many times we like the idea of growth, newness, or change, but we are unwilling to do what it takes to get there.

There is hope. Change can occur, it is uncomfortable, it is hard, but it often means growth. Movements like Christianity, ending Slavery, Unionization, Civil Rights, etc. were painful and challenging. Organizations that have redefined themselves like IBM, 3M, Apple, etc. transformed their businesses and changed the way that their customers engaged them – and you can too! Courage, humility, and forgiveness are key ingredients to lead you on that journey!

[Friday Coaching Corner] How Humility Impacts Organizations

This post continues the series on humility, previous posts can be found here and here. It also is part of the weekly Friday “Coaching Corner” (a deeper, more  in-depth focus on organizational development and related subjects)

When I began examining humility one thing bothered within the literature – it only examined and discussed humility as something that happens within the individual. As a researcher and practitioner focused on teams and groups, I was more interested in how humility (which as I have already posted in this series is one of my favorite topics to discuss) can transcend the individual and actually make its home within the fabric of a group or team. So I set out to build a case that this very thing was a reality. A discussion of the research, and its implications for organizations follows.

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The Perception of Group Humility (PGH) Scale was developed through a two-part research study examining individuals working as Emergency Medical Technicians in part 1, and those who are Middle School Teachers in part 2. Saving you the very technical aspects of the research (e.g. validation, factor analysis and the like). In the second study, an examination of the relationship between the PGH scale and some very important organizational activities was engaged. The results were overwhelmingly positive!

The results of this study presented that the existence of higher levels of the PGH positively related to the existence of Participative Leadership Behaviors (willingness for leaders to allow others to participate in the leadership process), Collective Efficacy (expectation that a group can accomplish the tasks before them), Organizational Citizenship Behaviors (positive behaviors enacted by members of an organization to show care for others), and Team-Learning Orientation (the focus a group has on learning).

These findings are important to any organization, as within the present organizational environment a great deal of collaboration and sharing of resources is needed for a positive, learning-centered culture. At the core, the humility virtue – and by extension, the group humility phenomena – seems to render a path forward in understanding how the challenge of individual and collective humility can be best engendered.

This path forward occurs as the organization promotes the value of humility as advantageous to their culture and performance. The understanding that humility includes a low self-focus, accurate portrayal of self and others, willingness to learn, and appreciation of others can serve to aid organizations significantly.Some areas that humility has the distinct potential to impact organizations are: long-term planning, enculturation of new organizational members, leadership development, and group functioning.

In this research, humility was examined for its ability to transcend the individual and become a group trait/norm. Through the perception of group members participating in Study I was validated. Group members were able to perceive within their teams/groups the presence of a willingness to learn, proper placement of self in relation to others, care and concern for group members, and an accurate self-knowledge. In Study II, the four hypotheses were examined, with each data set displaying a significant, positive relationships between Perceived Group Humility and the outcome variable. In each of the regression analyses a positive relationship was found, as had been posited based on the theoretical underpinnings found in the literature. The strength of the relationship in each of the four was more than expected, with the final three hypotheses showing extremely strong relationship.

The statistical results of this research inquiry present an important case for the value of PGH in its relationship to other positive, other-oriented (and well accepted) group constructs. As such, we see the multi-functional aspect of group humility with its influence on leadership behaviors, expectations of efficacy, citizenship behaviors, and learning paradigm. While it is too soon to say what this construct will show over the course of time, the PGH scale clearly offers tremendous insight into important areas of growth for organizations as they daily enact group structures.

Discussion of the Claims of the Research Study

This research follows within a research agenda seeking to better understand what humility actually is. Over the last decade and a half, the process of re-establishing the definition of humility has made great strides in moving away from the mentality of the downtrodden, lacking, ‘wimp’ to the pattern held by individuals (and now – groups) that exhibit a low self-focus, an acknowledgement of personal limitations, openness to the ideas of others, the ability to keep one’s accomplishments and abilities in the proper perspective, and an appreciation of the value of all things (see research by  Julie Tangney at George Mason University).

This research established that the presence of PGH was a vital foundation for virtuous behaviors. At the outset of this study, it was posited in that humility has the potential to re-orient individuals, groups, organizations, and even societies. Within the studies in this research, it was established that the presence of humility within a group is strongly related to the orientation of helping others. This fits well with previous findings, in which individuals exemplifying humility have a low self-focus, an appreciation of the strengths of others, and a desire to learn. In an ever-changing world, that is continually finding opportunities for the use of groups, the understanding that groups can have significant impact both internally and externally through the enactment of group humility, leads to the possibility that an encouragement of real and substantive good can be engaged in organizations and communities.

Organizations can also benefit significantly from the new understanding of the effects of humility on learning, particularly that of a group. As learning has become a vital financial (as well as operational) concern in organizations, it is of increasing importance for organizational leaders to better understand how to encourage the growth and learning of groups and their members. While arrogant individuals and those expressing low-humility are unlikely to engage in, and enact new learnings, individuals and groups that express humility are more likely to seek out new learnings, as they first recognize that they are not perfect. In Study II the data showed that there was a strong, positive relationship between PGH and a Team-Learning Orientation. The importance of humility within individuals and groups (as the connection to team-learning orientation should note) may prove to be valuable in finding an increase in the transfer of training rates, and thus the financial allocation for training within organizations.

Finally, this study provides great hope for how humility and collective efficacy in tandem can establish more accurate goal-setting and performance expectations. Organizations stand to be in much better position, fiscally, purely through the means of better understanding their own competencies and capabilities. In this research it was established that there is a strong, positive relationship between PGH and Collective Efficacy. With this connection at the forefront, the presence of group humility and the correlate, a higher level of collective efficacy, should present an opportunity for establishing proper, reachable standards, thus helping prevent a great deal of waste, over-inflated goals, and the potential for new areas of growth.

Opportunities for Organizations

These findings have the potential to positively impact the culture and bottom line of any organization through the implementation of some, or all of the following methods:

1)      Beginning with upper leadership, model humility through:

  1. A demonstrated willingness to learn, as well as the acknowledging the specialized knowledge that others bring to the table.
  2. Maintaining a proper placement of themselves (not overly important or overly unimportant, not taking credit for what others have done, etc.)
  3. Show care and concern for other group/organization members through checking in at appropriate junctures and assessing what is needed for others to thrive.
  4. Develop an open and honest feedback circle which allows for an understanding of what one does well and needs to improve on.

2)      Demonstrate the importance of organizational values through:

  1. Display values in public places.
  2. Enactment of feedback processes for recognizing extraordinary examples.
  3. Consistent reminder and encouragement of these values.

It is important that while encouraging and researching the value and importance of humility within groups and organizations, that humility doesn’t become ‘cheapened’ or ‘manufactured’. When individuals and groups truly enact the behaviors that undergird humility, growth most certainly will take place. However, when false modesty is implemented and modeled, little value will be found.

True humility, as enacted within groups should assist the development of an uplifting organizational climate. With the recasting of the humility construct and the substantiation of humility as leading to care and development of others, humility solidifies its value in the organization. As such, it is imperative that organizations, awake to the blessings found in this humble perspective. Given that almost every organization utilizes groups for some aspect or function, it should become imperative for organizations of all stripes to seek for better understanding about how group humility functions, how it can be encouraged, and what that means for recruitment, leadership, and training.

If you would like to learn more about this research and the Perception of Group Humility scale, please leave a comment below.

Speaking up.

Yesterday, I wrote in this space about the importance of not allowing a negative lens shape your view of others. In that post, I mentioned how it is our own thinking about others that often leads to conflict, rather than actual actions by that person. Perceptions, not reality. I believe that is very important for individuals to understand and live out. Today, though I want to look at the other hand of the conflict quarter and recognize its positive attributes.

Now, things can be categorized in two ways with this subject. The first is shown in the work of great activists like Dietrich Bonhoeffer have exposed that not standing up to speak against wrong, is evil – “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” This must be understood and embodied. Don’t say yes, by saying nothing and standing by. Sometimes confrontation is the only way to go – speak out against injustice and harm to others, don’t just stand by and let others be taken advantage of, and care for others in just the same way you would care for yourself.

The other way, is when people play the “yes man” role. This is the person who either is trying to get close to a boss or other person of influence and they feel the only real thing they can do is stroke the ego of that individual. We have all been around them before, right? One of the most telling caricatures of this archetype is Lefou in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. In that movie, Lefou plays the yes man (also sometimes known as a hype man) to Gaston the bully of the town. Gaston, as depicted in this movie, is quite full of himself and Lefou only serves to exacerbate that issue. He encourages the buffoonery and arrogance of his friend by failing to disagree or expose what are certainly ideas that can bring harm or are just plain stupid (seriously we would never had the terrible idea of kill the beast if at some point in time Lefou just told Gaston that he shouldn’t do something).

If you are connected to a person that only wants you around to confirm their ideas, opinions, and actions you need to find new connections. That is not healthy for you and it is not healthy for them. Don’t enable a person by letting them feast on their ego. You are worth far more as an individual when you learn to think for yourself and speak up based upon what you know (an aside on this, don’t let this be your license to act like you know everything – that is another BAD idea).

Have core values, stand for something, study what comes before you, and speak truthfully. Conflict may come, but it won’t likely be about personality (when you look at the good in others), but it will be based on ideas, processes, and evidence – discussion on these topics is positive as it causes each one of us to be improved. (Just don’t be this guy or the guy in this comic).Image

What is left to Discover?

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It was said that once Ernest Shackleton and others made expeditions to Antarctica the world had largely been mapped in every sincle continent. By that point in history, about one century ago (the Endurance voyage began in 1914 with the culmination in 1917), it was thus, believed that there was nothing left for mankind to discover and the age of the explorer was coming to an end.

That idea is downright laughable. Discovery takes place every day. Just yesterday, as I sat and watched children plotting strategies for an Egg Hunt and toddlers fumbling over themselves searching for eggs, I recognized that we are constantly charting new territory that can lead us to discovery.

In many ways this reminds me of Easter just before my 4th birthday (it is possible that some video evidence remains of this day) that I, in hunting for my Easter basket, struck on some realities that were both comical and enlightening. That morning after looking in the end table and seeing that my basket was not in that location, I started away, only to stop, bend down and look in that same location through my legs. Not surprisingly, the basket still wasn’t in that spot. Yes, I did go on to find my basket sometime later, but being the youngest child, this video became fodder for some sibling ribbing throughout the years.

In hindsight, I have learned a great deal about this process of discovery. Most researchers now acknowledge that innovation and invention do not stem from an epiphany moment or some random leap forward in knowledge. Instead, this growth happens by taking and bringing together previously unconnected areas of life.

So what it is that has been keeping you anchored in your life or work? Rather than taking the same line of reasoning that brought you to this present stagnation, how could you embark on a new road of discovery by taking parts of your world that may seem unrelated and bringing them together?

Give yourself permission today to step outside of your normal box and discover a new path forward, it may mean all the difference in the world!ry