Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Part II - Changes in
Attitude = Changes in Latitude  

In the last entry, I started talking about attitude of your team members, one of the vital elements of any successful management recipe, talked about some team social attitudes I had experienced when I was reporting on baseball, and compared it to some non-baseball situations. If you plan to read this entry and haven't read that one yet, it's a necessary prerequisitie that makes this one useful.

I promised a tool, because without a system you can apply, management just becomes that fuzzy-but-lovely sizzle called leadership.

A Steak in the Ground

To improve attitude, you need to first assess the existing status of your group as a whole and of the individuals within it. There are a lot of tools out there. I'm going to give you this one from The Mental Game of Baseball by Harvey Dorfman & Karl Kuehl, modifed slightly (you know, slightly, like election results from Georgia -- the ex-Soviet country, or Georgia, the U.S. state with the problematic voting machines).

Evaluate each person on each of these. You can build a row-and column model (like in a spreadsheet program or -- better -- on paper. Working on paper will increase your learning and recall of the patterns, the computer is more convenient and with a cleaner looking result) with the staffers in columns across the top and the Attitude components down the side.

First, I'll tell you the modified Dorfman/Kuehl components, and then I'll give you hints about filling out the tool.

A Set of Components

*1. Conscious of one's attitude. That is, the player has some perspective and knows and can tell you what their attitude is and how it helps make an overall environment.

2. Ideas of where those attitudes came from. That is, she can point out the experiences that were important in shaping the attitude.

*3. Recognizes the critical nature of continual learning.

4. Dedicated to success of the organization & the team.

*5. Behaving enthusiastically about daily activities.

6. Open to change. Is neutral or even positive about proposed changes, publically displaying an attitude that things can get more effective/better. An ancillary component is understanding that being asked to change is not criticism (though many times this neurotic connection between change/criticism is the result of the manager's poor change management technique and verbal ability).

%7. Able to use humor to relax self or group.

%8. Interest in the lives and work of team-mates, and ability to serve their work needs and help them cope with their work difficulties. And this can overflow into the non-work life,m too, because sometimes what's preventing a person from being effective at work is something outside of work, and if you can help them with that non-work difficulty, their work difficulties evaporate.

9. Ability to comprehend the point-of-view (that is, empathize) of co-workers, reports and superiors.

*%10. A balance between speaking and listening. That is, contributing, but also absorbing the contributions of others.

*%11. Working/playing effectively as part of the team. Being part of the group, and making the "groupness" seem valuable to other members of the group. A critical component of this is making outsiders welcome, that is, new employees or people from other departments, presenting the idea, it's a real honor to be part of this group and we're honored to include you.

**12. Keeping yourself from casually criticizing others. This one is fuzzy, and therefore tough, because criticism is a critical component for improvement. What I'm egtting at here is the destructive habit of having more than, say 10% of water-cooler, coffee-pot talk consist of what so-and-so should have done and why. When this gets out of control (say, more than about 15% of the communication) it cognitively sucks dead bears, as they say at Arthur Andersen.

Symbols: **Super-critical, *Critical, %Glue that holds team together.

The glue components mean a person with bad attitudes in one area may be making an important positive contribution i to the group's effectiveness, even if her other attitude components are not good. And if the person has really bad attitude and is a glue-factor, that person can really mess up a whole team by transceiving negativity.

If you're new, or if you can't reel these off already (most managers aren't evaluated on this kind of thing, so many don't take the time to master knowing this kind of truth about their reports), you might create exercises for having team-members anonymously evaluate each other. I wouldn't use a previous manager, or anyone up the chain of being, since they're likely to have a distorted or limited point of view that they don't recognize as limited (a dangerous combo). If the attitude is alarmingly poor (that is, you believe attitude is a single piece of the environment that is assuring failure where at the same time, if it was C or C+, everything else would work out positively, then self-evaluation could trigger a Rwanda-style Hutu-Tutsi bloody war. In that case, I don't recommend it. In that case, you'll need to enlist H.R. (even though Angus' Law of Problem Evolution works here...usually, if they already had the capability to fix the problem, it wouldn't be there...they'll probably need a consultant or outside group to come in and work the evaluations...contact me if you need some leads).

In the next entry, I'll make some suggestions of what to do once you have your sheet filled out.

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