Feeling Machines that Think

Over the past several weeks I’ve been performing my research on developing empathy and humility, the foundation of servant leadership, in Afrillennials. I found in the past session an interesting “aha moment” popped up in our discussion and it brought me back to this quote:

According to neuroscientist Antonio Damasio our emotions are the deciding factor for 95 percent of our decisions. So rather than “thinking and acting,” we generally “feel and act.” Part of Damasio’s research involved brain-damaged people who were unable to experience emotions. Even though they could list the pros and cons of any given choice, they were unable to make decisions.

Damasio’s work led him to believe that human beings aren’t “thinking machines that feel,” but rather “feeling machines that think.”

The 95% of our decisions are based on emotions is a staggering thought. I’ve found in my own life, as the development of this research has been taking place, that I desire to make more decisions based on fact vs. emotions. The self-awareness required for this takes deep effort, introspection, and humility with others to allow them to speak into your life, calling out the areas where your thoughts may not be in alignment with your values.

A Change Management secret to tremendous feedback

As I look deeper into Change Management and Organizational Leadership the topic of feedback increasingly comes to the forefront. In a conversation with a fellow Change Manager here in Cape Town our discussion centered around getting feedback which he said is the biggest hurdle he faces in his projects. His practice has begun focusing on helping the employees elicit open, anonymous feedback from their co-workers. Their tool focuses on two questions: What can employee A do better? and What is employee A doing better than anyone else?

The explanation of their Change Management process made me think of this article explaining how Steve Jobs would elicit the most effective feedback.

Tell me what’s not working.

The questions were not directed only toward the exco team, but various people in the organization: Tell me what’s not working here. Then conversely, he would ask someone else: Tell me what is working here.

Ultimately, great leaders, Level 5 leaders as Jim Collins (Good To Great) calls them, are individuals who trust those they’ve hired. By asking questions in this manner, it allows those individuals to speak up and be heard.

Read the article here

Leader Empathy: The Key to Effective Relationships

Leader Empathy: The Key to Effective Relationships

Empathy is one of the Social Awareness competencies in the twelve-competency Leadership Competency Model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. Empirically linked to leadership performance, Empathy is present in leaders with an understanding of the motivations of others, and the ability to relate to differing perspectives.

Strength in this competency is also demonstrated by leaders who:

  • Listen attentively
  • Are able to understand unspoken or confused attempts at communication
  • Engage in actions indicating a sincere interest in others
  • Have an increased capacity to respect diversity

How to communicate with those who disagree with you

Fast Company just posted an interesting article that discusses a study on why communicating in person versus a written text is worth the effort. According to a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 US adults (paywall) where managers were asked what they found most difficult about communicating with employees a full 69% of respondents said they found “communicating in general” to be the hardest part about communicating with employees.

Clearly, there is a breakdown.

In Schroeder’s study of almost 300 people, participants were asked to watch, listen, and read arguments about subjects they agreed or disagreed with, including abortion, music, and war. They were asked to judge the character of the communicator and the quality or veracity of the argument. Schroeder’s team found that the participants who watched or listened to the communicator were less dismissive of their claims than when they read that communicator’s same argument.

Schroeder’s research also found the participants who listened to or watched the communicators talk were also less likely to dehumanize them–a phenomenon where we subconsciously belittle or demonize the cognitive capabilities and moral attributes of people who hold views other than our own.

This article has some great advice and is where the 69% statistic came from.

“Rather than endless lunches or dinners or boondoggles, one of the best ways to build a good relationship with your employees is to make sure they feel heard,” wrote HR guru Kim Scott in Harvard Business Review. Scott suggests regular one-on-one check-ins where the employee sets the agenda, and that managers give regular feedback—both positive and critical.

My take is that business is going so rapidly, individuals don’t stop and have a cup of coffee together often enough. If they do, it’s rushed, not relaxed, and no relationship is actually built.

In Cape Town, I’ve worked with a man who told me of his experiences working in offices downtown before the age of computers. “People had time to think” he said. I’ll never forget that statement, because it doesn’t seem the speed of business allows us that luxury anymore.

In Seoul, while consulting over a two-weeek period, I was privileged to experience a “3 o’clock conversation time” – I don’t know what it was called in Korean and it may have just been this particular organization’s practice. Every day, at three in the afternoon, for thirty minutes the executive leadership would step into the CEO’s office, take off their shoes and have coffee and pastries. The conversation was very open, discussing wives or children, vacations, work issues, jokes, etc. It was a team who enjoyed being around each other and felt like they all had the same goal they were working toward. As the statement above emphasizes: the executive leadership felt heard by their leader. They then turned around and did the same for the staff whom they were responsible for.

Are you having difficulty leading? Try slowing down, being friendly, and listening with no agenda.

What makes employees exceptional?

A recent international study surveyed more than 500 business leaders and asked them what sets great employees apart. The researchers wanted to know why some people are more successful than others at work, and the answers were surprising; leaders chose “personality” as the leading reason.

Notably, 78% of leaders said personality sets great employees apart, more than cultural fit (53%) and even an employee’s skills (39%).

Read the full article by Dr. Travis Bradberry on LinkedIn