same and different relationships

iceberg_under_water

As human beings we are drawn towards people because of similarity, or sameness, and because of difference.

There are no rules about how much of each.  No guidance about the levels or attributes of the sameness and difference, but seemingly we seek a smattering of both. A balance. Not equal, but a balance nonetheless.

For a relationship to become more than just there for a transitory reason, a casual acquaintance or one formed for a specific work project or short term activity or hobby we need sameness and difference. We may circumvent this need in the short term. We can cope. Make adjustments. The temporary nature of the relationship maybe allows us to be more forgiving, or maybe we simply don’t care as much? Or maybe there isn’t actually a relationship at all?

However, for longer term relationships, working harmoniously together, a need for sameness and difference emerges if the relationship is to blossom and last. Maybe the sameness can come from shared values, shared goals? Maybe a similar posture to work – being a completer/finisher, or having an attention to detail? Maybe the sameness comes from a shared philosophy on life, or from similar hobbies or lifestyle? Maybe the sameness simply comes from being an early morning starter? These are not of course, solely the criteria for sameness. They may equally apply to difference. A big picture thinker may connect with a detail deliverer, and vice versa. Someone with a different philosophy or orientation to life may value the difference of another perspective (many mentoring relationships work well in this way).

So there are no ‘rules’.  There is no formal contract. No tacit agreement. Not even a verbal contract… or even a discussion.  Often not even a conscious awareness.  Like many uses of the ‘iceberg’ analogy, this is all below the surface.  Invisible. We just somehow know.

And maybe like an iceberg, that brings dangers?

Maybe we should surface this more in relationships?

thinking our way out of the darkness

out of the darkness

Farmers used to think that it was in the nature of chickens to peck at one another, that they were basically loners, unsocial animals that couldn’t mingle without being nasty.

On some farms, their beaks were clipped, but this only made it more difficult for the chickens to eat – which made them hungrier, so they pecked at themselves and one another even more. Then a chicken farmer somewhere noticed something exquisitely simple that changed everything: chicken coops were dark, and the absence of light was what was causing the chickens to peck at themselves and one another. As soon as that farmer introduced a light source into his coops, his chickens stopped pecking—it was as simple as that.

People are not all that different. When we don’t know what our minds need to think well together, we are like chickens pecking around in the dark. This isn’t as far afield as it might seem. When we are communicating and thinking well together, our faces actually “light up.” When our minds don’t get enough light, our thinking breaks down and we begin to peck at one another and ourselves.

Humans can no longer afford to think in division and darkness. Collaborative intelligence is the light that is necessary for our individual and collective survival. We have no choice now but to think together.

Dawna Markova & Angie McArthur

17:9 vision

image

I have reading glasses. I have reached a certain age and my body’s ability to contract the muscles in my eyes sufficiently that I can focus close up, has all but gone.

I used to have what is referred to as 20:20 vision. I don’t know what that means really. My long sight is still superb, but gone are the days I can read the ingredients on a jar without help.

I’m typing this on my phone, so find myself peering down my nose through my reading glasses, looking up and over them when I need to, to see what’s around me or to pause to think.

Two seats away, a man is in reverse. He has glasses too, but is clearly short sighted and is peering over his spectacles at a phone held three inches from his nose. He pushes his glasses up to see me.

Across the train gangway, two men are watching programmes on their tablets. One, a subtitled film. His device is on his knees and he is watching through spectacles. The other, watching Top Gear, has no visual aids but is holding his tablet less than six inches from his nose,

My point is, how we see clearly is different. As it is in our everyday lives.

Some struggle to see what’s under their nose. Some see the bigger picture, but the close up details are blurry. Some like to examine closely. Some only see what they want to.

In life, we don’t have 20:20 vision. We can see some things clearly. Others we are blind to. Even in ourselves. In the mirror, if you will. We are just as blind to others too.  To their value, their outlook, their thinking, their struggles, their joy, their feeling, their intent, their magnificence.

We all need glasses… we just don’t know it.

truth or consequences

truth-or-consequences-sign

I have long been curious about relationships and honesty in organisations.

We have many relationships in organisations.  Leaders and led, managers and managed, teams, colleagues, friends, co-workers… And it seems to me we are typically comfortable talking about ‘stuff’ in organisations. Comfortable having conversations about ‘stuff’ in these relationships. The target, the project, the objective, the goal, the job etc.  Oh sure, some are tricky conversations. The performance management one, the looming deadline one, the efficiency might mean redundancies one…

However, in organisations in particular, we find it hard to speak the truth about deeper thoughts and feelings. About emotions. Especially the truth to power. Or the truth to a colleague. Or the truth to a line manager. Or the truth to a team member.

It seems to me that largely this is because of consequences.

Consequences real or perceived.

I heard a story the other day of a senior leader seeking to speak the truth to power.  They were encouraged to do so by their most senior leaders, so at a conference they spoke up, to the MD.  Expressing a deeply felt concern. They were subsequently embarrassed and throughout the remainder of the conference they were made an example of.

Such bravery is to be admired, but there are normal everyday conversations in organisational relationships which fall foul of the perceived consequences from speaking up.  Not just about important organisational stuff,  but about deeply personal stuff. Admitting a vulnerability, or a personal emotional difficulty from life’s roller coaster ride, inside or outside work, seems to be a truth too far. Expressing a gut feel doubt, or exploring a sense of frustration, disappointment, confusion, anger in our organisational relationships seems a harder truth than ‘you’re fired’. Seeking to explore different thinking, or values, or drivers or beliefs seems somehow a luxury that might be frowned upon or considered not real work.  Activities to be judged in our organisational world of relationships. Activities with consequences.

I wonder if we need to be more overt about consequences, or the lack of them? So that truth, vulnerability, feelings, difference can be encouraged to flourish? These are important things in our organisational relationships and if they can be nurtured, cultivated, grow and blossom without fear of consequences hanging over them like a watering can full of weedkiller… I wonder what might be possible?

speaking guttish


When we think, we can tangibly understand and relate to our thoughts. They have a language. Our language. It’s like a conversation. We can hear or see our thoughts. We can reason with them. Disagree with them.

When we think, we can tangibly produce outputs. Pros and cons. Information and data. Benefits and implications. Decisions. Choices.

But when our gut feel is in use, it can be harder to understand and relate to. Often we don’t know what the feeling means. There is no language. In fact we often struggle to find a language for the feeling, let alone interpret its intent for us.

So what does that mean for a decision based largely or completely on gut feel?

The flipism normative decision theory suggests making a decision based on a coin toss. Not a decision based on the toss itself, but on the feeling associated with the outcome. The theory being, if your gut really wanted the ‘heads’ outcome, you will feel positive if that’s the result and disappointed if the toss comes down ‘tails’.

But how do we know a positive feeling from a disappointed one? And what if our feeling on the outcome isn’t ‘disappointed’, but is ‘sad’, or ‘let down’ or ‘futility’ or ‘shame’… How do we interpret a sensation in our body and know precisely what it means? If the outcome our gut seeks is ‘satisfied’, do we know if the feeling is that? What if it’s ‘kind’ or ‘justified’ or ‘rewarded’ or ‘acknowledged’…?

Yet we make gut feel decisions daily. Often these are among our best decisions. The ones we accept readily without a desire to revisit, unlike some of our thinking decisions.

It seems building our language in this area might be useful? Building a way to communicate with our own bodies, helpful?

would you hire Archie?

Hierarchy

Think of four people you know. Friends, work colleagues, neighbours.

Now, including yourself, place these five people in a hierarchy. Who is top, who is bottom? What is the sequence? Who is above whom and what criteria are you consciously or unconsciously choosing as you create your list?

If the other people were to create a list, would it be the same or different? Where would they put you on the list? How much does that matter to you?

What if you were now to share the five lists with each other? The lists you and the other four people had compiled. Could you? How easy would that be? How comfortable? Would you be seek to justify your choices? Would you want to explain? Would you be honest? Would people expect there to be a reason, a logic? Would you be focused on how people were placing you in their hierarchy? How might your relationships be impacted by this exercise and revealing your view, your hierarchy?

We are naturally hierarchical. We compete. We try to get ahead. We judge success, we judge our position in the community, in society through hierarchies. It may be house, car, qualifications, money, job, pay grade, job title, grades our kids get at school, social ladder, societal groups we belong to, the universities our kids go to…

In most organisations there is a discrete hierarchy. An organisation chart. A boss, a team. Leaders and the led. Managers and the managed.  Pay, rewards, benefits, maybe where your office is, or the door you enter by, the technology you get given, or where you can eat? These are all symbols of the hierarchy.

Yet how easy would it be to create that hierarchy amongst friends, colleagues, neighbours, when they knew you had created it?

Strange that we live by criteria, structures and frameworks we find hard to own. Difficult to be honest about. Struggle to take responsibility for. There is both comfort and discomfort with hierarchies. Yet they are seemingly in our human psyche. A need to know where we stand in the group and a fear of what that might mean and the judgement that comes with that.

So would you “hire Archie”?  Could you?