Know When and How to Compromise

Quality as a profession is often put into the position of being the cop or gatekeeper. There are a set of regulations and standards that must be met, and it can be easy, especially early in one’s career and without proper mentoring, to start to see absolutes.

It is important to always have a vision of what good and great look like. But the road to that will be filled with compromise, so get good at it.

Compromise is not a weakness in a quality professional, it is a strength.

There are times when, instead of ramping up your argment fill fore to make a case, it is better to step back and think about where you can comprise and still convince the organization to implement most, if not all, of your ideas.

This is where the change accelerators come in. Articulate the vision, and then utilize compromise the build and evolve the guiding coalition and turn that into an army of the willing.

Pilot programs, soft launches, workshops. These tools will help you find your allies and facilitate a solution.

Part of comprise is knowing what you can and will settle for. These questions can help:

  • What is the first thing I am willing to cede? It may be the timeline or a small adoption of your solution, such as a pilot project.
  • What is my backup plan? If the stakeholders don’t adopt my plan but offer a counterproposal, what am I willing to accept and jump on board with?
  • What is fueling the stakeholders’ reluctance? Ask questions, engage in “yes…but…and” practice.
  • Can I rework my argument? Is there an opportunity to come back with a revised pitch? Can you simplify or emphasize specific parts of your argument? Can you break it down into smaller parts – such as building blocks – first gaining support for the concept, ten gaining support for the first step to test its success, and then building support for the next step or phase?

Compromise is negotiation, and it requires all your emotional intelligence skills – patience, active listening, respect for the stakeholders’ position.

Have a vision, a plan, can really help. You will never get to 100% of meeting a requirement but being able to articulate what great looks like and then showing a plan that builds at a good clip, that allows compromise, will allow you to make continued progress and adjust as you go. Your systems will be stronger as a result.

Practice Exuberance

Love what you do. Love the practice of quality. Your enthusiasm will take you a long way. If you don’t love the work you do, well…. maybe get a different job, or if you are like me, learn to exude exuberance.

Your enthusiasm is the secret sauce of quality success. It is the launching pad to get folks to listen, learn, participate and strive for changes. You should inspire hope, energy, and excitement about the future.

Please don’t confuse enthusiasm with entertainment. Enthusiasm is a passion for what you do, commitment to whom you do it form, and confidence in how you do it.

I am passionate about quality and building systems. And yes, some days I have more enthusiasm than others. We all have days like that. So have a few ways to help:

  • Look for ways to do something out of the ordinary
  • Examine the parts of my work I enjoy the least and then look for opportunities to fix them.
  • Keep a smile file.
  • Try something new regularly
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Questioning Assumptions on Emotional Intelligence

There is a lot of pop psychology, outdated science and just questionable assumptions in business circles, including quality thought. It is important for us to critically engage with this material.

The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence” by Professor Merve Emre is a must read on the shaky underpinnings of emotional intelligence. I enjoyed this discussion of the problematic politics behind Goleman’s work. Professor Emre is also the author of The Personality Brokers, another important book that lays bare all the pseudoscience and problems behind the MBTI and other tests companies love so well.

Dave Snowden wrote last week on the Woozle Effect, which hits the issue right on the head. The Woozle effect is something we need to be very concerned about as concepts enter our practice.

I recommend reading both pieces, they fit nicely together.

Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking

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.

Emotional Intelligence aspects of social awareness and empathy further enlighten the decision maker’s situational awareness.

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  • 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

Teaching Quality People to Listen

Been thinking a lot on what a training program around teaching people to listen and not to talk might look like and how it fits into a development program for quality professionals.

People in quality think a lot on how to make a reasoned argument, a good decision, to provide guidance, get their point across in meetings, persuade or coerce people to follow standards. This is understandable, but it has a cost. There is a fair amount of research out there that indicates that all too often when others are talking, we are getting ready to speak instead of listening.

I think we fail to listen because we are anxious about our own performance, concerned about being viewed as an expert, convinced that our ideas are better than others, comfortable in our expertise, or probably all of the above. As a result we get into conflicts that could be avoided, miss opportunities to advance the conversation, alienate people and diminish our teams’ effectiveness.

When we really listen we create the spaces to make quality decisions. Listening can be improved by these practices:

Ask expansive questions. Stay curious, build on other’s ideas are mantras I think most of us are familiar with. Suppress the urge to interrupt or dominate a conversation and concentrate on the implications of other people’s words. It is very easy for a quality professional to instantly leap to solving the problem, and we need to be able to give space. Focus on open-ended “what” and “how” questions, which encourage people to provide more information, reflect on the situation and feel more heard. Avoid yes-and-no questions which can kill dialogue.

Engage in “self-checks”. Be aware of one’s own tendencies and prepare with ways to identify they are happening and head them off. Doing this will surprisingly allow you to focus on the listener and not yourself moving beyond the words that are being said and being able to take in the speaker’s tone, body language, emotions and perspective, and the energy in the conversation.

Become comfortable with silence. This means communicating attentiveness and respect while you are silent.

Listening needs to be part of our core competencies, and unless we work on it, we don’t get better.