Ambivalence, the A in VUCA, is a concept that quality professionals struggle with. We often call it “navigating the gray” or something similar. It is a skill we need to grow into, and definitely an area that should be central to your development program.
There is a great article in Harvard Business Review on “Embracing the Power of Ambivalence” that I strongly recommend folks read. This article focuses on emotional ambivalence, the feeling of being “torn” and discusses the return to the office. I’m not focusing on that topic (though like everyone I have strong opinions), instead I think the practices described there are great to think about as we develop a culture of quality.
As we move through of careers we all have endless incidents that can either be denied and suppressed or acknowledged and framed as “falls,” “failures,” or “mistakes.” These so-called falls all enhance our professional growth. By focusing on the process of falling, and then rising back up, we are able to have a greater understanding of the choices we have made, and the consequences of our choices.
Sharing and bearing witness to stories of failure from our professional and personal lives provide opportunities for us to explore and get closer to the underlying meaning of our work, our questions of what is it that we are trying to accomplish in our work as quality professionals. Our missteps allow us to identify paths we needed to take or create new stories and new pathways to emerge within the context of our work. As we share stories of tensions, struggles, and falling down, we realized how important these experiences are in the process of learning, of crafting one’s presence as a human being among human beings, of becoming a quality professional.
We may not have asked for a journey of struggle when we decided to become quality professionals, but the process of becoming tacitly involves struggle and difficulty. There is a clear pattern among individuals who demonstrate the ability to rise strong pain and adversity in that they are able to describe their experiences, and lay meaning to it.
It is important to recognize that simply recognizing and affirming struggle, or that something is not going as it should, does not necessarily lead to productive change. To make a change and to work towards a culture of excellence we must recognize that emotions and feelings are in the game. Learning to lead is an emotionally-laden process. And early-stage professionals feel exceptionally vulnerable within this process. This field requires early-stage professionals to hone their interpersonal, technical, and organizational skills, all while turning their gaze inward to understanding how their positioning in the organization impacts can be utilized for change. Novice professionals often struggle in terms of communicating ideas orally or in writing, being able to manage multiple tasks at once, staying on top of their technical content, or even thinking critically about who they are in the broader world. Early-stage professionals are always on the brink of vulnerability.
Research from Tony Anderson and David James Robertson, outlined in The Conversation, suggests people with higher emotional intelligence can recognize misinformation better.
There is growing evidence, including outlined above, that emotional intelligence has a huge impact of critical thinking. Emotional intelligence is the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.
The evidence indicates that emotional intelligence helps us navigate uncertainty by regulating the emotional turmoil from a decision and the stress around it and reduce tendency to fall to biases.
Carmeli, A., & Josman, Z. E. (2006). The relationship among emotional intelligence, task performance, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Human Performance, 19, 403–419. doi:10.1207/s15327043hup1904_5
Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2017). A meta-analysis of emotional intelligence effects on job satisfaction mediated by job resources, and a test of moderators. Personality and Individual Differences, 116, 281–288. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.04.031
Mount, M., Ilies, R., & Johnson, E. (2006). Relationship of personality traits and counterproductive work behaviors: The mediating effects of job satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 59, 591–622. doi:10.1111/peps.2006.59.issue-3
Spector, P. E., & Fox, S. (2002). An emotion-centered model of voluntary work behavior: Some parallels between counterproductive work behavior and organizational citizenship behavior. Human Resource Management Review, 12(2002), 269–292. doi:10.1016/S1053-4822(02)00049-9
As leaders a big part of our work is ensuring the know-why – fostering and sharing an understanding of work culture and values. This is a continuing, long-term co-creative process that does not happen overnight. An important part of this work is shaping and sharing stories, using the past as a shaper of the future to give meaning to events. As stories are told in the present, they become a partner in shaping the future.
To successfully change, it is important to understand the past as well as dream for the future. Storytelling as a method and tool has real power to foster dialogue, reveal culture and create a shared vision:
Storytelling makes complex situations and phenomena accessible and provides details that can be used to build action plans for change and improvement.
Stories reveal values and principles embedded in a culture that are often hidden from the naked eye.
Stories make visible driving forces for change that are not revealed when direct questions are asked.
Stories provides a platform for understanding different perspectives. It breaks down barriers and builds bridges of trust.
Stories highlight turning points that can be used to facilitate innovation and change.
Through storytelling and dialog, we strengthen structure, identity and culture. It is how we tell our story.
I’m doing a Gamestorming Expeditions right now, and it is a lot of fun. I’ve been a fan of gamestorming techniques for years, and it is great to be able to do this program with a bunch of other facilitators and have a space to learn. One of the best virtual events I’ve done during the pandemic and I highly recommend it.
One of the great games we’ve learned is a wrap-up, “Here, There and everywhere”
Here something in our time together that caught your attention, piqued your curiosity or, at the very least, you noticed. It might be a game, a comment from a fellow participant, a concept, a visual framework, etc…
There how you might take that specific example and implement it at work or in your personal life. Bring in as much detail as you can to make for easy implementation; imagine your future self doing it and the outcome it generates
Everywhere would be a generalized interpretation of this thing that would allow for more universal application – an underlying principle absent context
I love it for the elegance and simplicity and have already used it in my own practice.