The Sterling Effect: How to Change Thinking about Ongoing Ignorance about Racism

What do you say to a person spouting ignorance about race? Just let them talk or confront their irrationality? Promote more education and understanding on projects that unite us? Try to understand the complexities of our own unique American history?

Recently, I was reflecting on this ongoing racism in America and then I remembered a conversation by James Baldwin to Studs Turkel that provided me with information and insight to this ongoing conflict in America. Don’t miss this this audio tape–

http://www.udel.edu/History/suisman/206_08-Fall/1-07%20James%20Baldwin,%201961.mp3

White Southern person says “it is just the way I was raise and you Yankees don’t get it”. This is not only an ignorant statement it is a way to try and forgive oneself and gives up the power of independent and critical thinking. You can change your thinking if you chose to.  Studs Terkel was best known for his work documenting the stories of everyday Americans, illuminating the undercurrents of the American psyche. James Baldwin’s lyrically hypnotic novels capture the struggles of the American black experience(s), wrestling with the intricacies of human identity in such a way that shakes readers to the core. Baldwin was perhaps best known for his ability to explore the nuance of typically taboo  interracial relationships, homosexuality, complexities within spiritual communities and his ability to articulate both anger at injustice and an ongoing belief in the underlining unity of humanity.

In this short and layered conversation, Baldwin recalls listening to Bessie Smith in Switzerland while writing his first novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain,  an autobiographical look at growing up in a conservative church in Harlem.  He boldly discusses race and racism, the invisibility of the black experience among most white Americans, and the deep need for an education that truly explores the historical interweaving of black and white Americans. “Education,” Baldwin states, “demands a certain daring, a certain independence of the mind.”  He talks of how the racism has harmed the nation in ways we are only beginning to recognize.

Terkel and Baldwin close the discussion by touching on his novel Nobody Knows My Name, noting the interdependence of human knowledge and freedom:

”To know your name, you’re going to have to know mine,” Baldwin

Avoid Derailing your Career: Pay attention to Blindspots and Other People’s Perceptions.

How other people see us impacts our identity, reputation and sense of worth. It can also derail a promising career. Here are some examples from my Leadership Coaching experience–Some people may see you as a “softie” because of your hypersensitivity to any comments that you perceive as criticism. This leads to less feedback because they are afraid of offending you and this leads to less feedback and others avoiding being straight with you. Others may see you as hot, impulsive, explosive, to quick to react emotionally or overwhelm them with your arguments. This leads to people seeing you as a bully or intimidating  because you are experienced as having always to  win with your idea or point of view. This type of style can be improved by being more open to other points of view and actively listening to understand people’s position and feelings.  Also, some withhold feedback because you are seen as to strong, rude or very opinionated; not getting feedback in any of these situations leaves you with many “blinspots” that can stall your career and raise undue tension and conflict in your management team.

These blindspots are not to be considered personality flaws but only areas for more training and development of your interpersonal communication skills. Blindspots generally signal a need for more self-understanding because people are experiencing you in a way that is not productive for you or your organization. A blindspot  area could also include issues that others are deliberately withholding information from you and this might lead to your inability to manage and lead the team.

Self-Coaching Challenge:  To reduce the blind spots that may de-rail your career or interpersonal relationships you need to seek more input and information from others. To do this you need to model and support more listening and less judgmental feedback. Modeling openness and support for  more individual disclosure, reduces fear and therefore encourages honest feedback to flourish.  The extent to which an individual seeks feedback, and the issues on which feedback is sought, must always be at the individual’s own discretion. Some people are more resilient than others – care needs to be taken to avoid causing emotional upset. The process of soliciting serious and deep feedback relates to the process of ‘self-development and growth as a leader.

If you are committed to seek more feedback the question becomes– how do you go about getting it?

Sometimes people describe blind spots as perception disconnects – when the people around us don’t perceive our words and behaviors in the way we intended. We might believe that our calm, composed demeanor is a serious advantage in a high-stress workplace. Unfortunately, our co-workers perceive us as robotic, uncaring and even bully. Our goal might be to appear decisive and candid, but others actually think we’re abrupt and insensitive. Are we energetic and driven? Or relentless and annoying?  Are we methodical and systematic? Or inflexible and overly cautious? Sometimes there’s a very fine line there. But, at the end of the day, perceptions trump intentions. Despite our goals and the impressions we intend to make, our career success is determined by our reputations and the perceptions of us held by others.

Over the next three weeks take time to inform others that you want more feedback. Ask a close associate to observe and provide feedback on your blind spots– Be careful to be concrete in your request–by saying something like this– during the next few staffing meetings would you mind observing and documenting my ability and manner of listening or not  with team members and after the meeting we can talk about what worked, what didn’t work and how I might improve my listening skills.

Remember in trying to get feedback and uncover your blind spots you need to be supportive when this person provides their feedback on areas for improvement. Good Luck and be sure and share with us how it your personal development goes.

Fundamental Tool for Self-Coaching –“Pinch-Crunch Model” for Managing Expectations and Conflict

Pinch Model: Mapping the Problem of Aligning Expectations and Assumptions

Research fact–Planned Renegotiation and the Pinch Model developed by John J. Sherwood and John C. Glidewell (1973, 1975)  is based on the premise that relationships in a social system—a pair, a group, an organization, or a community—seldom proceed smoothly or as planned or expected. The model describes how social systems are established, become stabilized and aligned so that work can get done and how change can enter the system. When these expectations are disrupted it is called a “pinch” and if not resolved to the satisfaction of both parties can lead to uncomfortable and unproductive relationships and even interpersonal “crunches”, like termination of the relationship.

Pinch and Crunch Model Steps:

1. Stability and Productivity: This is the period where things are going as we and ours expected they would. This situation is often seen as a period of personal productivity and alignment.

2. Pinch: A pinch is something that is done or not done, that violates one of our expectations/assumptions. Pinches are private. We feel them though the one who caused the pinch may not be aware that we are disappointed or have been offended.

3. Broken promises at the heart of “Disruption of Expectations”By not acting, we may come to doubt our initial judgment of a situation. We are not sure if we can trust our operating expectations and assumptions because we have been disappointed already. Tension and stress builds as our situation becomes increasingly unpredictable.

4. CrunchA crunch is open conflict. Both parties are now aware that there is a problem. However, if I have been suffering silently, my crunch may be my partner’s pinch.

Crunch Management Options

Silent Ending: This is where one party terminates the relationship after the fight without any further communication. They just cut you loose and never want to talk or see you again. They abandon or shun you…

Re-Commitment: This is where we smooth things over and play nice (kiss and make-up) with each other, with the hope that the relationship will return quickly to stability and productivity. The pinch, however, remains private and unresolved. It is bound to re-appear under stress or difficult times.

Lower Expectations: By lowering our expectations and just “putting in time,” people hope to reduce the number of pinches and crunches that they are experiencing with each other. Eventually, this can lead to apathy, cynicism and superficial interactions.

Re-Negotiation: By engaging in a difficult, honest conversation after a crunch, information can be gathered, expectations and assumptions clarified and parties can either renew their commitment to their relationship or agree to disagree and explore the final option of a planned and/or agreed upon ending/transition to the relationship.

Common Ways of Dealing with Pinches

1) Let it Go

There is a Congo proverb that says, “It is best to let an offense repeat itself three times. The first may be an accident, the second a mistake. Only the third is likely to be intentional.” Many of us are living examples of this proverb, especially with the small ‘pinches’ we experience in our lives.

2) Complain to someone else

Once the ‘pinch’ has been repeated (or is really significant the first time), we often look for someone with whom we can share our experience. Our motivation for doing this is often positive. We want to release our frustration to someone else, or we are unsure if we have a legitimate reason for being frustrated. The problem is that our search for clarity often stops here and inevitably the behaviour repeats itself. This is a very common strategy in Canadian workplaces.

3) ‘Pinch’ back

After our frustration has reached a certain level and the ‘pinch’ is being remembered days later, our behaviour often changes toward that person. We begin to be hesitant or more aggressive in their company. We are on the lookout for the behaviour to repeat itself. Our initial responses are often very subtle and are not always obvious even to ourselves. We may respond to the other person’s email in a less timely way or delay in responding to work that affects them. We may become quieter in the other person’s company, withholding some of our ideas. We may become defensive in their presence as we look to protect ourselves. Not only the person who is the catalyst, but all others in the room, can invariably feel this defensive energy. In fact, it will likely become a ‘pinch’ for others.

4) Hold on to it

Often we hold on to our hurt, nursing it, reliving our ‘pinches’ in our mind, with our friends, during the day and in our thoughts at night. This thinking often results in feelings of victimization and growing resentment. Medical research says that living with these feelings will increase our stress levels and make us more vulnerable to disease.

5) ‘Crunch’ back

When we have suffered long enough, many of us will say or do something out of character. We will snap back. This is what we call open conflict; everyone who hears the exchange would believe that there is a fight.

6) Talk about it. Constructive dialogue to discuss and seek understanding about missed expectations.

A ‘pinch’ is an opportunity to have an ‘expectation conversation.’ to resolve differences and gain understanding so that the relationship can move forward in a healthy and constructive way. Unfortunately this is done far too seldom.

*Adapted and re-visioned from http://korcos.wikispaces.com/file/view/Pinch+Crunch.pdf

 

Part I: Learn to Overcome your Demons and Negative Self-talk

Daily Quote: “First your negative talk controls and ignores your positivity, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win… Remember your past does not determine your future.” MWH 

Each of us has a set of internal messages that play like a tape recorder over and over in our minds. These internal messages can be either negative or positive. This dialogue frames our reaction to different people and circumstances in our life.

One of the ways to recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, is to observe and intentionally fill our thoughts with positive self-talk.

Too often the pattern of self-talk developed through life experiences is negative. We remember the negative things we were told as children by parents, siblings, or teachers. For some reason this negative commentary has more power than positive messages. Most of the research shows that it takes 3-5 positive messages to override negative ones.(Fredrickson and Gottman). Over the years these negative self-talk messages have replayed again and again in our minds, fueling our thoughts of frustration, shame, fear, guilt, and hopelessness.

Overriding these negative patterns takes willpower and sustain practice to change our brain. If people learned as children that they were worthless, we show them how truly special they are. If while growing up you learned to expect bad reactions, or unlucky events, you need to rewire these patterns and find better ways to react and create a more positive future.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Try the following reflection and re-wiring exercise.

1) Write down some of the negative messages that replay in your mind, ones that undermine your ability to feel comfortable and in control of events and circumstances in your life. Be specific whenever possible, and include anyone you remember who contributed to that message.

2) Now take a moment to focus on how to override these negative messages with positive experiences by remembering events where you triumphed in spite of negativity or changed negative self-talk to positive messages. Don’t give up if you don’t find them quickly. For every negative message there is a positive truth that will override and counter balance the power of the negativity.

You may have a negative message that replays in your head every time you make a mistake. As a child you may have been told “you’ll never amount to anything,” or “you can’t do anything right.” When you make a mistake — and you will, because we all do — you can choose to overwrite that message with a positive one, such as “I choose to accept my responsibility and grow from my mistake,” or “ When I find the lesson in making mistakes I now have the opportunity to thinking and behave in a more effective way. As I learn from my mistakes, I’m becoming a more functioning person.”

During this exercise, mistakes become opportunities to replace negative views of yourself with positive options for personal worth and growth. In addition, every time your over-ride a negative thought you form new paths for succeeding in the future.

 Positive Self-talk is Mental Toughness. Positive self-talk is  mental toughness in action. It is looking at circumstances with eyes that see the reality and truth of what is happening. Positive self-talk is about reaffirming your strength and worth. One of the fundamental truths is that life is difficult. To expect perfection in yourself is unrealistic. To expect no difficulties in life, whether through your own actions or sheer circumstance, is also unrealistic.

Daily Quotes–It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. ” – Lucille Ball

Daily Quotes: Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
– Max Ehrmann

“When someone else’s happiness is your happiness, that’s love”
Lana Del Ray

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. ”
– Lucille Ball

Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it.”
– Boethius

“One must believe in the possibility of happiness in order to be happy, and I now believe in it. Let the dead bury the dead, but while I’m alive, I must live and be happy.”
–Leo Tolstoy

“Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.”
– Aristotle

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
– Groucho Marx

“I’ve got nothing to do today but smile.”
– Paul Simon

“Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
– Hunter S. Thompson”

Want to read more on happiness? Checkout this post or this one  

Self-Coaching Challenge: Pick one of the above quotes or tips from previous post’s and put into action the essence of the quote or tip into your daily living. Be Happy. Coach Mark

Part l: New Style of Leadership–Stop Negative workplace Virus and Bad Attitudes

“Little known fact 71% of workers think about quitting their jobs every day. What do we do to change this apparent virus sweeping our work place environments”?  

 We must become willing to admit that our way of leading and creating “quality of work” environments are simply not working. We are not creating the results or the quality of life that we would like for ourselves, associates and customers, These hectic and wired times are calling out for a new type of leader in organizations. This type of leadership is not based on position or status.  It is truly based on equality, respect and positive regard for everyone in the organization. At its core leadership is shared by everyone in the organization.     In this new leadership style we need everyone aligned with the vision and understand why we are in business–this is called the mission. The leaders must be willing to challenge the “status quo”, accept change as a natural state and realize that the so-called soft side of business is really the hard side. Mental maps of risk taking must be continually updated and failures must become learning experiences. This may sound foolish or a bit naive and yet many of the new and innovative companies accept and operate in this revolutionary way.

One thing is at the cornerstone of this leadership revolution—Constant growth and development through feedback. Most people are not consciously withholding feedback because they want to create a negative work place culture or reduce company morale. Often, they withhold feedback because they don’t know how or when and in what way to skillfully use the soft power of open and two-way communication tool called– feedback.. Also, many people are just uncomfortable confronting others on their “screw-ups, or failings. In other words, they lack the know-how and skills to conduct productive feedback sessions. There are some ways to take some of the suffering out of giving and receiving feedback.

First, we’ve got to start taking accountability for our individual roles in creating environments where “feedback” is not seen as a dirty word.  How can you help?  Try practicing a few of the following behaviors of the new leadership style:

The revolution begins with a few change agents practicing Reality-Based Feedback. Reality based feedback expands on the ideas of William Glasser M.D.  from the therapy couch to workplace interactions and conversations

1. A reality based leader or coach is one who is self-aware, open, flexible and authentic. DWYSYWD is the foundation of their leadership and management philosophy. They are able to quickly read others and accept the reality of a situation. These new leaders are sensitive and understand others needs ( high on empathy) by confronting in a caring way reality and truth. This directness preserves valuable time and energy trying to fix blame or uncover the truth behind excuses for not doing things right or choosing the wrong things to work on. It conserves precious team energy, and uses that energy instead to be more productive and efficient in working on priorities and creating a better quality of work life (QWL).

2.  Better yet, a Reality-based Leader anticipates the upcoming changes and capitalizes on the opportunity inherent in the situation without drama or defense.

3. This new type of leader uses feedback to address pinches in expectations and issues early and often.

Besides poor communication I think the lack of feedback is the root cause of many employee’s attitude issues.  Sharing feedback early and often takes some of the pain out of the situation that year performance reviews rarely do.  Timely feedback is a critical component of achieving success on an individual, team and organization levels.

Understand that giving feedback does not mean being ugly, mean, or an“I gotcha you asshole” attitude.  Under the mask of being “nice” leaders, teams and organizations all over the country are missing opportunities to increase responsibility for decisions and actions by withholding caring feedback and covering-up emotional pinches.  Feedback is a critical component for growth, development, and individual satisfaction with their job. The lack of feedback is also impacting the organizational culture and growth by causing interpersonal conflict and many “soap opera” dramas. Thus, an unhealthy climate on a cost-benefit analysis basis could be costing a decrease in motivation, loss of valuable time, energy and profits for your organization.

You want great business results?  Regular performance conversations are a part of that equation.  If you are not getting good feedback, ask for it.  Occasionally, ask people what things you should stop doing, start doing or continue doing.  If you are one of the vast majorities of people who dislike giving feedback, stop withholding this valuable information and learn how to give and receive it. If you are defensive when someone shares feedback with you, grow up and be a professional.  Feedback is simply another persons’ opinion of your work habits and performance.  Try not to take it personally. And as always stop judging and start listening for ways to be supportive and helpful. If these things are tried I guarantee the quality of work and the attitudes toward jobs will significantly improve.

Want more on the topic of Motivation checkout the history of motivation and job satisfaction. While on this site do not miss one of my favored models of motivation and job enrichment design developed by Hackman and Oldham’s. Their Job Characteristics Model looks at some very important factors of autonomy, skill development, and clear goal-setting as a way of increasing positive motivation for doing a job an outstanding way. Their model also identifies several other aspects of job design – such as feedback and feeling that one’s work is meaningful –  which could also affect workers’ level of satisfaction.

Part I: Overcome Public Speaking and Presentation Fears–James Earl Jones Story

“Be silent, or say something better than silence”.
Pythagoras 

“Proper words in proper places make the true definition of a style.” Jonathan Swift

Here is the story of a man who went from silence to absolute wonderful speaking style. This is the story  of  James Earl Jones journey of  courage, persistence and how facing his fear  of failure and rejection was turned into fame and excellence as a public speaker and performer –an excellent actor.

Many of us allow our fear of failure and humiliation to stop us from doing things in life. We have the abilities and skills but for some reason under pressure are overwhelmed by fear and thoughts of doubt. These buttons of anxiety are put in us by ourselves or others; these triggers when present stop us from performing at our best. All that has to happen is for us see or hear their voices and we stop trying and get stuck. For example, some speakers fall apart  when they experience criticism, a negative facial expression, or a less than positive opinion, and we give up before we even get started. We’re afraid of:

• the disapproving look of others because it means rejection
• the whispers and grins because they mean judgment, and
• the absence of support because it means abandonment

Let’s look at these three triggers in relationship to James Earl Jones story of failure to even try to speak or if he did stuttering was the result.

Abandonment
Little James Earl was scared. His father had left the family to become a prize-fighter and actor. His mother had left to earn money as a tailor. The Great Depression had stolen his family and he was about to lose the only life he had ever known. So he remained silent and mute for many of the early developmental years he lived with his adopted grandparents.

Rejection 
Through these early days of abandonment and harsh treatment from his grandparents he was afraid and traumatized  so as a defense he developed a stutter.

His first day of school was a disaster. His stuttering made his classmates laugh at him. It was the final straw for a frightened little boy. He closed his mouth and simply quit talking… for eight years!

James Earl was completely mute – with the exception of conversations he had with himself when he was all alone. He found solace in the written word – creating poetry to release the raging in his soul.

Judgment 
As is often the case, one person who saw beyond his limitations released James Earl from his self-imposed prison. That one person who believed in him was an English teacher who saw talent and potential in the silent 13-year-old. She pushed him beyond his fear by forcing him into public speaking – insisting he recite a poem in front of the class every day. Can’t you imagine his terror when he first stood in front of his classmates? What made him do it? Was it only the teacher’s insistence? No. It was a deep desire to break free from his prison and speak all the things that had sat silently in his heart during all those years. He chose to face and lean-in to the fear – and then recite his daily anyway!

Failure
He stuttered. He stammered. He endured the scornful looks of fellow students. He endured the laughing. But he continued to do it. He faced the fear and forced himself to speak. Day after day. Week after week. He hung onto the encouragement of the teacher who believed in him. And it worked. His stuttering became less.

Victory

He learned to control his voice. His victories made him look for more challenges. James Earl began to take acting lessons. His early lessons in perseverance and deliberative practice gave him the courage to push beyond the prejudices against black actors. He chose to take as many different types of roles as he could – stretching his limitations and refusing to let fear control him.

Lesson Learn
James Earl Jones is now known for his deep authoritative and penetrating voice. Perhaps you know him as the voice of Star War’s Darth Vader or as Mufasa in the Lion King. You see him almost daily on commercials. He has starred on Broadway and been in many movies. He has been the recipient of many distinguished honors and awards– the Tony, Emmy and many others.

People look at him today and see a confident actor with a deep, resonant voice. The next time you become nervous or fearful of presenting in front of others remember James Earl Jones because this may push to stretch your talents and successful performances.

My hypothesis of why James Earl Jones’ succeed in public speaking is that he chose to push beyond his fears or learned to accept these fears and just kept presenting. He chose to change the reality of a young boy who had lived in silence for eight years. He chose to face ridicule and humiliation in order to grow and develop into his full potential.

So many of us let our fears stop us. We’re afraid of how we will appear and what others will say and think about us. We’re afraid so we limit our development and possibilities for success. We exchange fear for failure. We don’t believe our fear can be conquered or just accepted. Fear will fade away in the face of  acceptance, deliberative practice, persistence and construction action.

So what does this tender and emotional story have to do with the rational world of business and you becoming a more effective speaker? In two words: acceptance and courage. If we can’t confront our fears of communicating with others we probably have no hope of being a successful leader. Many people make decisions about us every day by the way we do or don’t communicate. Neurological research shows that many—if not most—of our so-called rational decisions are actually driven by our emotions. So we tell a story if we want to communicate in a way that captures peoples’ curiosity and imagination, connects with them at a deeply emotional level, is persuasive and leads to the behaviors we desire. For years he refused to speak more than a few words at a time, even to his family. In school he pretended to be mute, and communicated only in writing. He began to express himself by writing poetry.
” In high school a sympathetic teacher named Donald Crouch saw through Jones’s insecurity. He challenged each student in the class to write a poem. Jones found inspiration in the citrus fruit the federal government had distributed in the area to relieve wartime shortages. When he turned in an “Ode to Grapefruit,” written in the epic meter of Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” the teacher pretended to believe that Jones could not have written the poem himself, and challenged him to prove it by reciting it front of the class. With his own verses committed to memory, Jones found he could speak without stuttering. Crouch encouraged Jones to compete in high-school debates and oratorical contests. One happy day in his senior year, he won both a public-speaking contest and a scholarship to the University of Michigan. “

Wow!!! What a story when was the last time you tackled a personal weakness and over came your fears?