Pack #7

Relationships & Feedback

Organisations are made of teams, teams are made of groups and groups are made of relationships. Relationships are the main health sign of an organisation and communication is the tool to increase that health. So in this pack we're going to look at how we can communicate better to build better relationships at work, and in our personal lives.

Episodes

Section Introduction - Pack 7

Introduction

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

The journey of this course has been from the macro down to the micro. We started with the world changing, and then looked at how therefore new more distributed organisational models are needed. Organisations are often teams of teams so self-organised teams was our next stop, and then we looked at a specific type of self-organised team in remote teams. These new team types, require facilitation as a tool which was the next pack, and one of the reasons is that a team is a group of humans with psychological quirks which made group dynamics the next topic.

Well now I’d to break the group down further into relationships.

A group is a series of relationships and relationships are energetically demanding. This is why I’ve suggested small teams are important. Think of it this way.

Imagine a diagram of a team of 3, with each person symbolised by a dot.

Then draw a line between each person, that line representing a relationship.

Source: Aug.co

For a group of 3 people, you will have 3 lines, 3 relationships.

Now for a group of 4 people, you will have 6 lines, 6 relationships.

5 people, you will have 10 relationships.

6 people, you will have 15 lines.

By the time you get to 14 people, you have 91 relationships.

That is enormous.

With a high number of relationships it is extremely difficult for a group to become a high performing team and to move beyond stage 2. The reason is simply that relationships take energy, they take work, they take personal development, they take listening, compassion, patience… And these are all hard things for us to grapple with.

So this pack is about how we work on our relationships between us and somebody else and notably how we communicate in such a way that our relationships grow and prosper.

I’ll give a session to do with a colleague or even in a team, but you might find that this pack is just as valuable for you personal life as it is for you work life. I’d like to just caveat that I find this stuff incredibly hard. I work hard at trying to be a better person in my relationships at home and work and just like everybody else I’m a huge work in progress. So please don’t take this pack as preaching, throughout I’ll partly be clarifying to myself what I need to get better at!

Much of our wellbeing and creativity correlates with the health of our relationships and since we are one of the nodes in each and every one of our relationships, this means that all this happens in relation to us. To who we are. To how we listen. To how we know ourselves. So I’ll do my best to provide some tools which provide some insight into to ourselves and how we relate to others.

Non-Violent Communication

Theory

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

If I had a Top 10 pieces of work I’ve come across that I would like to share with the world, up near the top would be the work of American psychologist Marshall Rosenberg called Non-Violent Communication and also referred to sometimes as Collaborative Communication or Compassionate Communication. I really recommend buying the book, Non-Violent Communication.

No short episode could do the depth of this work justice, but I’ll attempt nonetheless. I explain Rosenberg’s logic as follows:
1. that all forms of human conflict whether between people or with ourselves are symptoms of a deeper unmet need.
2. our needs are often unmet because we aren’t always great at noticing and knowing what we need
3. our lack of awareness of our own needs makes it tough for us to communicate our needs effectively to others
4. this makes it difficult for others to know what we need
5. this also leads us to not always be well trained at hearing other people’s needs
6. the result is unclear communication between ourselves and ourselves and ourselves and others

Before I move on to the specifics of this framework, let’s take a moment to pause on this. Think of any conflict you’ve had recently. It could be any conflict. Perhaps it was with somebody else, or perhaps it was with yourself. Now first think of that situation, trying to be objective about the event itself. Now think what did you feel in that moment? What emotions were present for you? And now, ask yourself what did you need? What need or needs weren’t met in that moment?

You can be guaranteed that whatever the conflict was, there was one or several needs that were unmet for you. Now part of the problem is that we don’t have a great vocabulary for feelings or needs and we often confuse them with judgements. Good and bad aren’t feelings or needs, they’re judgements. Needs include compassion, love, to be heard, to matter, to be seen, to understand, community, clarity, equality, trust, warmth…etc. These aren’t the kind of words we find easy to express quite often, yet learning to do so could add enormous amounts to our lives. In the text area of this episode, I’ll leave some links to a needs and feelings inventory to help you out. But essentially the message is that having that rich vocabulary really helps.

Source: https://www.cnvc.org/training/resource/needs-inventory

Now, I’d like to move on to the famous 4 step framework that is at the core of NVC, but which again, doesn’t do it justice alone. These 4 steps offer a wonderful way to communicate better with others and learn a thing or two about ourselves. To make it concrete, let’s imagine a difficult conversation you’re having with somebody or perhaps some conflict you’re in or just a bit of a disagreement.

1. Step 1: Observation: When speaking you might want to start by sharing an objective observation, such as “When the meeting was cancelled”. It’s important that this observation is factual and free of judgement. It isn’t about the other person, it is simply objectively true.

2. Step 2: Emotion: Having shared the objective observation we can now move onto the emotional repercussions you felt. For example: “When the meeting was cancelled, I felt frustrated…”. Again this is true. Nobody can disagree with how you feel, this is true. Now note that here we often make a couple of mistakes. One is to share an evaluation such as good or bad. The other, far more harmful one is to attempt to hide an attack or judgement in emotional language. For instance I often hear people say “I felt judged” which is a judgement in of itself. Or “I felt like you didn’t care” which isn’t about you and your feelings but is a judgement and attack of the other person. Our day to day language is laced with this kind of aggression and this has a couple of effects:
   1. It alienates and attacks the other
   2. it prevents us from taking responsibility for our own feelings

It’s important that we own our feelings.

3. Step 3: Need: Having described the objective observation and our experienced feelings, we can now make clear what we need in this situation. For example: “When the meeting was cancelled, I felt frustrated because I needed support related to a particular project I’m working on.” Note that the need for support isn’t a request of anybody, it is a statement of your own human need. This need of support could be met in many ways through various strategies, but the need remains. This articulation of the observation, feeling and need should really allow for a far more empathic connection with somebody.

4. Step 4: Request or Strategy: Depending on the situation, you might want to make a request of the other person. For example: “When the meeting was cancelled, I felt frustrated because I needed support related to a particular project I’m working on. Next time can I request that you tell me in advance so that I can arrange another way to get the support I need?” The focus is on getting the need met still.

Now it’s important to note that on the odd occasions where I do succeed in being so articulate with my own needs, I actually find that half way through I realise none of this was about the other person. I realise that “When we went to the airport, I felt angry but also that I felt hungry, because I needed food.” There is no request of the other person here. Through articulating what I thought was going to be some feedback for my friend in this situation, I’ve come to realise that actually it wasn’t about them, I had just failed to identify my real need which was some food. This is really common and can be a total eye opener when we realise how much of our conflict comes from us not being clear on our own needs.

So these 4 steps are really valuable. They take a lot of work and needn’t be done so formally but they can be incredibly helpful in navigating conflict with people. As I just said they can also be incredibly insightful into our own needs. And actually, I’ve found them intellectually quite valuable because it allows me to unpick what  my frustration or conflict is actually about so that I can get to the real problem.

But this isn’t a silver bullet. It’s hard. But perhaps more importantly, this isn’t a one way thing. More important than these 4 mechanical steps to speaking more compassionately with others, are two key components:
1. Our intention
2. Our ability to listen

Intentions
Intention is perhaps the real key. For all the respect for the mechanics of this framework, what is essential is that your intention whether you are the speaker or the listener, is to genuinely connect with the other. To understand them better. To take responsibility for your own emotions and needs. To help somebody feel heard. To improve your relationship. If you’re intention is to get what you want or even to hurt somebody else, there is no amount of frameworks that can help. You need a handle on your intention first.

Listening
The second is our ability to listen. Remember the word relationship, includes the word ‘relate’ because everything is relative to us and to another. And this is why our ability to listen is so key. Not just to listen to the words people are using, but also to their tone, their body language, fundamentally to how they’re feeling. This is something we often fail at and which I am pretty terrible at. The suggestion NVC makes in order to help us listen better is clarify what we have heard from the other person and to check that we are understanding correctly. Basically, check you get them before moving on.

So going back to our earlier example. Remember somebody said “When the meeting was cancelled, I felt frustrated because I needed support related to a particular project I’m working on. Next time can I request that you tell me in advance so that I can arrange another way to get the support I need?” You might want to check you’ve understood them first. You might for instance have noticed that there is something else. Perhaps the late cancellation made things worse for them and that they wanted more time. You might want to say something like “Ah ok. I just I understood you. I think what you’re say is that you didn’t get the support you needed to do you work. And that the late cancellation made it really difficult for you so you were frustrated at that. It sounds like you prefer knowing things ahead of time. Is that right?”

This can take many back and forths, what is vital here is a commitment to hearing and understanding the other. In a way, you’re helping them work through their thoughts and feelings and needs. What is fascinating is that in my incredibly limited experience as a good listener, I’ve found that the conversation here can switch vibes. We can quickly find ourselves on the same team, looking to understand something together. And for the speaker, now they feel heard, often the tinge of aggression can leave their voice.

Anyway, this isn’t a magic recipe but it is certainly a powerful one.

This episode has been a bit longer than others, so let me sum it up.
First, is to know that all forms of conflict are the result of an un met need.
That unmet need is the result of a lack of self-insight and / or a lack of communication of that need.
When we relate particularly in conflict it is really important that we understand communication to be something that two people take a part in and that listening is just as key if not more key than speaking.
When speaking it can be really helpful to speaking from our own experience using “I” and to try our best to be objective. First describing an objective situation, then articulating our feelings, then our needs before talking about any potential strategies.
For the listener, our best contribution can be to give our full attention and to hear somebody out properly, even playing back to them what we think we understand they are feeling and needing in order to establish a strong connection.

This model is perhaps better described as a practice. I often describe it as meditation between people. Because it takes time and work to get good at it. But it really does seem that a commitment to it is vital to any relationship floroushing and that includes at home or in the workplace.

So next time you’re with a colleague that you’re finding difficult, perhaps try your best to apply some of it. How could you express your emotions and needs more clearly for them to understand you? And how can you listen to them better and help them to feel heard?

Best of luck.

Dennett's Rules

Perspective

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Sometimes conflict is perhaps too strong a word. Perhaps it’s more of a debate. Perhaps you’re just in disagreement about a topic or the work itself. But it’s a thin line. What can start of as a debate, if intense or regular enough, can become conflict.

This typically occurs when one person tries to ’Strawman’ the other person’s views. This means that you caricature that person’s views to ridicule it. This disingenuous attempt to win a debate is unfortunately the norm.

The alternative is a method which has earned the label of ’Steelmaning’ which basically means you repeat your opponents view with such charity that they feel understood. You share your best possible interpretation of their view until they feel fully understood.

This steel manning method comes from what are often referred to as Dennett's Rules after the American Philosopher Daniel Dennett, who was influenced by game theorist Anatal Rapoport hence it sometimes being referred to as Rappaport's Rules.

In Dennett’s words, the rules are as follows:
"How to compose a successful critical commentary:
1: You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, "Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way."
2: You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
3: You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
4: Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.”

Source: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Rapoport%27s_Rules

What one can hope for is a form of debate that leads to dialogue and that is at least civil. I would add that you must enter the conversation genuinely open to having your mind changed other it is a battle.

Ring any bells? This is similar to the reflective listening approach I described in the NVC episode. The purpose is to be truly open, to really listen, and to help the other person feel fully heard.

That genuine openness can bring us closer together. We might change our view all together, or perhaps soften it, or if not, we’ve still created more rapport thanks to the genuine intentions to understand and listen.

I wonder how much of our conflict and debate could be constructive. Where instead of a debate between two opposing sides, it could become a dialogue with us all on one team…

The Steelmanning Game

Idea

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

One fun thing to try could be to play a game based on Dennett’s rules. To do so, you would need to have a point of difference between two people or groups. And then host a debate except for one difference: each team takes the other teams’ position on the topic.

So Team A debates for Team B’s position.
And Team B debates for Team A’s position.

I think this is a fascinating approach to understanding the topic better.
What would be the result? I hope you would feel closer to one another or at least understand better.

Disagreement needn’t always be so intense in our lives. Whilst making light of a disagreement isn’t healthy, treating it lightly can be a wonderful thing.

So if there are camps on a particular topic in your team, try the steel manning game.

Facilitating A Feedback Session

Session

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

This short episode is a guide to a session designed for a team of say 5 people. The purpose is to give each other valuable feedback.
To do this well, I suggest doing so in a safe environment, that is cozy.

I think it’s best to have a facilitator who isn’t taking part, but overtime a good team can run this autonomously although even if everybody is participating, I still recommend one person be the facilitator.

The steps are as follows:
1. Each person must hold two blank post it notes for each person in the team, including themselves
2. Then in silence for about 10mins each person will write feedback to each person in the room on their post its.
   1. Post it #1 will say, “What I appreciate most about you is…"
   2. Post it #2 will say, “What I’d like to see more of from you is…"
   3. Be sure to sign each post it so that person
3. Once all the post its have been written, we’ll go round the group. My suggestion is that somebody volunteer to receive feedback first, and then that they receive feedback from each group member one by one. The process for giving feedback should be safe. To do so, I recommend:
1. That person is given the feedback along with two postits
2. Simply reply “Thank you”. No answering or commenting, but clarifying questions are ok to understand better.
3. At the end of the round, that person can then give themselves feedback which they’d prepared in advance.
4. Then move onto the the next person.
5. Finally at the end, it can be good to have a check-out asking the question: how do you feel after this feedback session? Or any reflections?

This session can be quite scary for those who aren’t used to it. I suggest taking time, doing it in a nice place and planning them in advance in order to get better and more comfortable with it over time.

As your team gets used to it, it can be good to try other ways of articulating the feedback. Instead of ‘appreciate’ and ’see more of…’ you can also try ’stop, start, continue’ for instance…

Doing this regularly as a team is a great way to progress through the stages of group development.

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Reflective Conversations

Practice

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

It seems that most of our difficulties in relationships are from not hearing each other properly or from not feeling heard properly. This is something that can be practiced. Here I’ll share a type of practice that I’ve mentioned a few times in other episodes in this pack. The practice of reflecting what we hear.

Here are a few ways to do this.

  1. In a reflection session: For your next reflection session, run it as you have the session in the Leadership & Group Dynamics pack, with one addition. Each time the speaker changes, ask the new speaker to summarise what they heard from the previous speaker. Then ask that person if they feel understood or heard. Then ask them to continue this process until that person feels genuinely understood. This can be done in other meeting types and whilst a little labour intensive from all the repetition, it really helps us to learn to listen, to hear each other and it stops the mental dynamic of waiting to speak rather than actually listening.
  2. Spontaneous conflict: If there is a disagreement during a meeting, it can be useful for the facilitator to pause the conversation and ask one person to summarise the other person’s views until that the person feels understood and then vice versa until the conversation softens and has a breakthrough. This takes some experience or at least some courage but can be a valuable technique to helping a group move on.

Regardless of the situation, learning to hear one another and to check whether we have in fact heard one another is a great tool for life and working in a team.

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Understanding Each Other Better

Exercise

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This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

We are all different and understanding those differences brings us better together not only because we understand the other person better, but because we understand how our particularly dynamic might be playing out because of that difference.

There are many ways to discuss that difference in a group.
One way is through a floor model. You could do this using the 'Ice vs Liquid’ I shared in The Changing World pack.

But here I’ll share another one.

Find a safe and quiet room with lots of floor space.

Draw a triangle on the floor or at least have 3 corner areas.

On each corner have a flipchart which denotes a broad personality type.
For instance, if I borrow the Strength Deployment Inventory which is a kind of personality test, you could have three corners
* Performance focus which is the red corner: these people are supposedly motivated by tasks, by directing others, they’re assertive, like to get to the point quickly, make quick decisions, are ambitous
* Process focus which is the green corner: these people are supposedly motivated by practical analysis, they like to think things through and enjoy systems and processes, they are very logical and analytical, they value fairness, and respect principles and proceedures
* People focus which is the blue corner: these people are supposedly motivated by the growth and welfare of others, they are typically very caring, they’re accommodating and like to help others to make a difference in their lives...

With these three corners written up in the room. Go through the following process.
1. First describe what is on each flipchart with the title and colour of that area, and some of the behaviours we see underneath.
2. Then ask somebody to volunteer by standing where they think they are in this triangle. They might choose a specific corner, or somewhere between all three.
3. Then that person must remain silent whilst somebody from the group physically moves them to where they think they stand and explains why
4. Then another person can do the same and so on until you move onto the next person.

Where that person stands isn’t important. I don’t even really believe these models to be true. But the conversation around these models and how we see and understand each other can be really valuable and can help us to live and work better together. We see how we can compliment each other or contradict each other and that awareness can help to us to grow our relationship.

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