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Successful Germany Workshops and German Translation of The Empathy Factor

Celebrating the Successful German The Empathy Factor Workshops and the translation of the Empathy Factor to German - Der Faktor Empathie!

Just returned from Frankfurt, Germany where I was fortunate to both present to and learn from a full-house at The Empathy Factor workshops held in coordination with the book published in German as Der Faktor Empathie. Trainers, consultants, business leaders from nine countries gathered to learn about the Integrated Clarity® process of conscious needs connection for organizations...we all learned from each other and...there was fun and laughter! What Marie learned: 1) When we are connected to needs and living from the collective "We," a Source greater than ourselves - insights, inspiration and imagination into our Bright Future happens; 2) Being generous through our work is one strategy to make empathy come alive in workplaces; 3) Empathy is about connection to the I, You and We levels of work - Compassion is about shared action. What Marie said for the first time in public: a) The quality of speaking is informed by the quality of listening; b) When the "I's" of the organization are focused on the shared future of the "We," healing of the "I" and "You" happens and the "We" thrives; c) We have a moral obligation to uplift workplaces by empathizing with what matters to the people in them, especially when this may be contrary to what we value. The Empathy Factor workshops are offered in Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia in July 2013 with other European workshops to be offered in 2014 and China in 2015. To stay updated, opt in to www.EmpathyFactorAtWork.com.

30 Percent of Change Efforts in Organizations Really Work and Stick

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The seasons are changing! I'm reflecting on recent summer workshops I conducted about empathy in the workplace and the idea of change and how we manage constant change in our lives. At The Empathy Factor workshops in The Netherlands this summer, we talked about how about only 30 percent of change efforts in organizations really work and stick - and this percentage has remained remarkably stable over the last 20 years or so - (Hammer and Champy, 1993, HBR Beer and Nohria, 2000, McKinsey & Company survey 2008, Kotter, 2008, Senturia, et. al., 2008, The Ken Blanchard Companies, 2010, Hughes, 2010).

Why does 70 percent of change fail? Lack of connection to human needs and the needs of the "We" - the shared purpose coupled with personal meaning. Life is short and precious. Let's make work joyful, meaningful and in service of human needs. The research and evidence about this is clear - people have needs for understanding, respect, contribution - to know their views matter. Harness these from the bottom up so you can be part of the 30 percent!

From Either/Or to Both/And Decision Making

I like to thumb through The Empathy Factor business book and see what jumps out as a focus for my work day. This morning, I landed on page 75 and a quote from business strategist Dev Panaik that I use in the chapter outlining some basic principles of empathy and the process Nonviolent Communication (NVC). He says in an article titled "Innovation Starts with Empathy" that "as sophisticated as our neurological systems for detecting the feelings of others might be, we've created a corporate world that strives to eliminate the most human elements of business. Companies systematically dull the natural power that each of us has to connect with other people. And by dulling our natural impulse to care, corporations make decisions that look good on paper but do real harm when put into practice in the real world."

In my NVC Academy telecourse that begins Oct. 11 with a free introductory session (http://bit.ly/oFgQbB), we'll be exploring this idea that the organizational systems we work in – profit, nonprofit or government agencies alike – inadvertently encourage us to care less about each other and the people we serve. Why? Not because we don't care, because we're hard wired to care as empathy is an automated response in humans and we have little control over this according to psychologists. Instead, I believe it's because we've unconsciously implemented structures and processes in our organizations and teams that emphasize needs like progress and predictability over connection and inclusion. For example, the idea of "majority rules" and voting.

Last week, I met with the executive team of a new technology start-up and their business attorney. They are in the process of developing their internal team working guidelines for activities like decision-making protocols and conflict resolution procedures. They already had a sense that what they thought of as alternatives to traditional processes like Robert's Rules of Order could serve their business plan, internal team and investors more productively but they couldn't figure out what these "nontraditional" strategies would look like or how they might work. I told them that the fastest way to kill team unity is to operate from Robert's Rules of Order or any other methods that divide the group into yeas and nays.

The reason? The people who aren't in agreement with a proposal often become a less engaged subset of the team because their needs are not heard or addressed in this kind of voting. The premise in protocols like these is that even if you don't like it, too bad, you go along with the majority because majority rules. The need for progressing a proposal outweighs the need for diversity of opinions and inclusion.

On the flip side, you can have discussion and diversity of proposals ad nauseum where hearing everyone's ideas and the needs behind them go on much longer than anyone wants and very little progress is made to advance action steps for the team. We've all been in meetings like this.

For me, both of these approaches – the majority pushing forward without including the minority or the minority proposing countless ideas and wanting to be heard without a focus on progress – represent what I call "two bad choices." Each emphasizes either order/progress over inclusion/group cohesion or vice versa. This is "either/or" thinking when "both/and" approaches exist. You can have your cake and eat it, too. The most successful teams and businesses know this and operate from this thinking.

There are alternate options that hold both the needs for progress and inclusion at the same time. The central idea behind strategies that can do both is that they are needs based. By "needs," I mean a very particular thing – not wants, wishes or requests, but universal human needs as defined by the work of Marshall Rosenberg, developer of NVC and Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. Basically, universal human needs are needs that every human being has. These include needs for sustenance like air and water to needs for autonomy, love, contribution, etc. A list of human needs and more detailed explanation is provided on page 54 of The Empathy Factor.

A surprising and powerful thing happens in my experience when people can identify and hear the needs being expressed through an opinion, question or proposal. People shift from being for or against something to deeply understanding what matters to the person expressing themselves. When this connection occurs, strategies start to occur that address both the needs of the people who were previously on opposing sides of a proposal. Conflict occurs at the strategy level, not the level of needs.

Think of this simple example. You and a group of friends plan an evening of dining out. If people start naming specific restaurants first, there is a pretty high likelihood that someone will say, "No. I don't want to go there," and include their reason for this opinion. Then, if this person suggests someplace and someone else doesn't like it for whatever reason, you have another conflict. By now, some people may be getting frustrated in thinking that the group won't easily get to plan that all agree on. Why? Because the naming of restaurants are specific strategies and don't address needs.

If instead, the group asked this question, "What kind of evening would we like to have together? What needs do we want met?" The conversation would go something like this. One person might say, s/he wants a quiet and private evening where the group can talk and eat at a leisurely pace. The needs here might be for connection and relaxation. Another might say that s/he are taking public transportation. The need here might be for ease. A third person might say they are on a budget and have a specific price range that would work for them. The need might be for resources. By this time, some restaurants which are strategies to meet these needs, might be suggested as a short list that is narrowing in on all the needs that matter to the group. With much less conflict and more efficiency of time, both the needs for progress of the proposal and inclusion of all needs can be met.

I facilitate executive and work teams in this process regularly. They report how satisfying it is make progress while preserving and in fact, enhancing group cohesion at the same time. Many times, key decisions that have been unresolved for months or years, can be addressed to the satisfaction of all. Progress is made without leaving anyone behind. You can read workplace case studies and find specific meeting tools to support this "both/and" approach in chapter eight of The Empathy Factor.

Effectiveness and Self Awareness

On p. 32-33 of The Empathy Factor I write. "...organizational effectiveness and vitality begins with a state of self-awareness." Why is this true in my experience? The greater the level of individual self-awareness on a team, the higher the capacity those individual have in engaging productively with team members and other key audiences like customers. When you know what you value, what stresses you, what works for you on a team and why and how you want to contribute to your team, you are less likely to be triggered in a way that renders you nonproductive. You have a higher capacity for stress. And, when you are stressed or triggered by something going on within the team or with work, you have strategies to implement that will help get you back to your place of productivity in a way that works for you and the team.

So, what does self-awareness look like at work? For me, it means three things - that as people on a team or in an organization, we have both the willingness and skills to: 1. understand our strengths 2. identify our areas for improvement 3. recognize our impact on others. Different people have a range of willingness in these areas and even the same person can have a range of willingness depending on the topic or the day. Conduct a brief inventory with yourself right now. What's your willingness to engage in these three areas? Lots, moderate, little, not at all? Do you regularly and systematically ask for feedback on how you contribute, perform? Do you want to know what people enjoy about the way you work and how to create more of this behavior? Do you want to know the "Top 3" ways in which people frequently find that it is not as easy to work with you?

Another name for this type of self-awareness is the process of self-empathy or self-connection where we connect to our own feelings and needs and continually learn about ourselves and our values at a deep level. On pages 137 – 138 of The Empathy Factor you can find methods for self-connection that lead to increased personal productivity.

Part of the willingness to increase your self-awareness is to actively seek out training in developing more skills in both giving and receiving direct, honest and helpful feedback that increases your connection with people rather than creating discomfort or separation. Self-awareness is not often the top priority for team members. For some because of their history with feedback interpreted as criticism, it can be painful to hear about personality traits or professional skill areas that others suggest you improve. When it comes to our strengths, we might be unaccustomed to expressing appreciations or verbalizing what is working. Unless you've had specific training on developing feedback, receiving feedback or giving feedback, most people inadvertently mistake their judgments, evaluations and interpretations as feedback. They can't tell the difference between their opinion of something and their need to be heard about it versus true feedback.

In pages 158 – 160 of The Empathy Factor. I write about how to give feedback based on the Nonviolent Communication process which can contribute to greater likelihood that your feedback can be received as an act of support and connection instead of blame. On pages 146 – 148, I write about how to hear someone else's criticism in a way that has less chance of us interpreting their words as self-blame.

Effectiveness at work comes from spending the least amount of time blaming others and ourselves and focusing on meeting more of our own needs and the needs of others instead. Whether you are a leader with structural power or a leader with informal social power in your workplace, your leadership is tied directly to your personal effectiveness and this in turn is born out of self-awareness and empathic self-connection. Spend time today getting to know yourself in the ways described above and make it a personal daily habit. In a few short months with consistent awareness, you may very well notice that your willingness and skills for self-awareness have grown and are contributing to your productivity in an enriching way. The empathy factor at work, works!

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