Friday, July 27, 2018

Talk On Motivation and Team Building at MCRHRD

Dr. Madhavi from MCRHRD, Jubilee Hills, a training institute of the Telangana Government, invited me to conduct a session on 'Motivation and Team Building' to a batch of Urdu Officers who joined the Telangana government a fortnight ago. It is a fine initiative by the government to provide access to 44 lakh Urdu speakers in the state, to communicate and reach out to the government in their language. The role of the officers would be to translate, interpret Urdu applications between the public and the government. I believe it is a wonderful initiative and a very sensitive one at that since Telangana is the second largest in terms of Urdu speaking population after Bihar (85 lakh) according to Prof. Nabi who briefed me about the participants in a clear and concise manner. There were about 60 participants, two-thirds being women which was also so heartening to see. But what was most heartening was their desire to bring Urdu back to its former glory and make it accessible and equal to the other languages and also present themselves as an efficient and integral part of a governance far removed from the old inefficient ways.

Dr. Suresh introduced me to the participants in a spacious hall with all the facilities one could ask for. Considering that the session covered two topics I split it and we covered 'Motivation' in the first and 'Team Building' in the second. A brief outline of what we covered.

I started by telling them that I stopped calling myself a motivational speaker because 1) I find it difficult to motivate myself many times and 2) to motivate someone is commonly misunderstood as to make them do something 'better' than what they are doing. This insinuation that they are not doing a good job in itself is demotivating. No wonder people say that motivational speakers actually end up demotivating their audience. So I said I would limit myself to share my insights into motivation - something I need to do as a writer which is a lonely job that requires lots of motivation. 

I assured them that they were all doing a great job, with the best of intent and desire, and whatever we discuss will be to add a perspective to organize their effort.

Can we all be motivated?
Could we all be "motivated"? Motivated people were high energy, optimistic people and not all were made like that. We wondered if we all had the same energy that these motivated people had. The participants were not sure. 

We did an exercise. I asked all of them to get up and meet as many people as they could with low energy as if they were not interested in meeting them at all. They all playacted - low energy, no eye contact, limp handshake, low voice, dull demeanor etc. Then I asked them to meet as many people as they could as if they were meeting an old friend after twenty years. There was high energy, loud exclamations, big smiles and hugs all around.
The takeaway: It's the same energy and the same people. What changed was the context I had set. Which means that they could set a context for themselves every moment and carry that high energy that motivated people do.
To do: Set your context to be high energy, to double your enthusiasm before any work.

Why are we not highly motivated?
We examined this aspect. We are all doing the best we can. We want to do well, we want to win praise and awards. We come with full access to the same energy as highly motivated people have. But we put a filter of fear - that we are not good enough perhaps. Or a filter of doubt. And these two filters of fear and doubt compromise our effort considerably. In fact, we put a lot of energy to suppress the motivated energy we already have simply because of our fears and doubts and end up being dull and lifeless.

     But have we all been motivated before?  
     I asked the participants to share their success stories when they went past their own fears and doubts. They shared stories of how they cracked exams, left jobs and made a living, studied through great obstacles and succeeded. Stories of human endurance and will. 

We discussed how when we have a cause big enough, when we are tired of status quo, we go past our doubt and fear. It's a decision and we could decide again and again. I told them all to hold on to that one story when they overcame fear and doubt and run it through their head. All success stories have the same formula. 

What are the stories we are running through our head mostly?
We listed 5 Positive and 5 Negative messages we heard from others in our lives. Bad cook, imperfect, proud, irresponsible, angry, impetuous ...On the positive side there were responsible, honest, good cook, achiever etc. 
We wondered how one bad comment seems to affect us more than any number of positive messages. Our stories are typically built around the negative messages. However, we must remember they are stories and not a fact. It was an interpretation of an incident. They would be better served if they built stories around their positive messages and started believing in them

We looked at the story we tell ourselves about ourself based on these fictions we heard? But we could rewrite our story, our context. We could work without interference.

Performance = Potential - Interference (fear+doubt+stories told by us and others) 

Short-Term Energy vs Long-Term Commitment
     To motivate means to find a 'motive' strong enough to move us. I impressed on them that my job was to help them find a deeper motive that will stay with them for life. A long-term, lifelong purpose that adds meaning to their lives. Not something that will fade away in a day or two. 

     We watched the TED talk - 'Start with why' by Simon Sinek to understand the importance of first knowing your why. His golden circle of 'Why, How and What and the many examples he shared were discussed.

I narrated the Cathedral story - of how three different people, working on the same project, have different levels of involvement simply because their purpose is different. For one its just work, for another its fun but for the third its the greatest work.

We tried to find their individual purpose, something long term, something they envision as having achieved at their retirement, the impact they would have made to people through the job, through their life work. They wrote their individual purposes - to completely fulfill their role and expectations, to be generous and kind government officers, to make Urdu equal in status to the other languages and bring it back to its past glory, to make it an accessible language for people and for the government, to help those who need and not suffer like they did, to reach out to as many as they could to help using their new authority and position etc.

The idea was to look at a 20-30 year perspective and make this job their life work. If the purpose is clear in their mind, they will go through a lot of doubt and fear because the end is clear. It may not always be easy but they will have a guiding light with a clear purpose. 

I shared the Selco story to underline how impact is seen many years later.

We ended the session on motivation by reminding us of three key takeaways and practices 
1) Always be clear, aware and be guided by your WHY or your bigger purpose
2) Be aware of the stories and the context you set for yourself every day and rewrite them to keep your energy and motivation high

3) Make your purpose the most important thing in your life and work at it ceaselessly every day, first thing in the morning 

         We all want to be bigger than we are. But to achieve great things we cannot do things all by ourselves. We need teams. We need good people.
     When the team wins – we win, we grow. With good teams we grow bigger than what we can grow by ourselves.  Bigger the vision and the goal, bigger the preparation and our growth, bigger the impact. 
    We watched a short video of Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsing the same idea.

One thing I observed that affects the making of teams is our reluctance to meet people. As leaders or team players, they need to practice three behaviors or the 3 As  
1) Acknowledge people  
2) Appreciate 
3) Ask for help 

Practicing these three behaviors would help them grow quickly as man managers, leaders and as professionals. 
·        Acknowledge everyone. As Dale Carnegie says, the most important person in the room is the one who is introducing himself to everybody. I asked them all to meet those people in the room whom they have not met and introduce themselves. 
·        Appreciate other people generously - as a practice find something good in people to appreciate so that your focus shifts from what is not there to what is there. Also to appreciate and praise is a key aspect of a good leader.
·        When you ask for help you are putting your ego aside, you are being vulnerable, you are allowing the other person to feel useful and you are building connections.

Characteristics of Great Teams
1) Common purpose
We discussed the importance of a common purpose and how teams are bound tightly by their purpose. Since they all had already worked on their individual purposes we tried to arrive at a consensus on the team's common purpose. 

It came out something like "To improve the accessibility and use of Urdu between government offices and the public from the existing 1-2% to about 10% by the end of the year." The quality and reach of the service, the specifics of making it happen in their office were to be penciled in by each one but it was a good start with some metrics. 

We tried to imagine how a team with no common purpose looks like. Participants pointed in different directions depending on their cross purposes. This exercise just drove home the point of how disorganized the effort could be if the common purpose was not made clear and with their consent and participation.

2) Culture 
Since the purpose or the WHY was done, we looked at the HOW. How we do things as a team? We briefly discussed values – the things our team values. The team values are its boundaries. When practiced they become behaviors and represent that culture. Culture is a set of consistently practiced behaviors. A good culture forms a strong team that can resist and withstand pressure and performs consistently.

I proposed a few values that could help them grow their culture. 
·         Learning culture - Based on Dr. Carol Dweck's book 'Mindset' about Fixed and Learning mindsets
·         Interdependence and support - Acknowledging that we are part of the whole, to appreciate, praise, support
·       Asking for help, being vulnerable and making deep connections 

Highlights of the book ‘Mindset – The New Psychology of Success’ by Carol Dweck-          
Anything can be learned. Hard work and growth-oriented learning is likely to take you closer to full potential than simply relying on 'talent'
Intelligence is not fixed. One failure or success does not define you. The more you use your intelligence the better it gets. The person
Challenge and interest go hand in hand. The harder the challenge the harder you work.
Better to keep pushing limits each time, than giving up. Push limits a bit each time without lowering standards. Focus on preparation and effort.
High standards and a motivating atmosphere bring high results.
Growth mindset is about hard work, high standards and equipping oneself with the right tools to handle the process and guide them.
As teachers/ coaches, give process feedback and a growth framework. Know that everyone can learn, be tolerant of mistakes, do not judge, show the process, ask for commitment and full effort, give respect, coach and develop potential.
To change from Fixed Mindset to Growth Mindset – 1) Ask for help, 2) do small acts that change things, 3) work on beliefs and mindsets and 4) get process orientation. 5) Get over the-world-owes-me and denial (as in my-life-is-perfect syndrome).
Push gently to find something harder to do when something is easily achieved. Champs work the hardest. They constantly challenge themselves.
Learn and help learn.
High effort and high risk. Low effort has no chance.
Success is learning, not about proving that you are smart. It is about stretching, about self-esteem, learning, preparation and effort.
Fixed Mindset Characteristics
Growth Mindset Characteristics
Desire to look smart
Desire to learn
Avoid challenges
Embrace challenges
Give up easily
Persist in the face of setback
Get defensive
Seek help to find ways to improve
See effort as fruitless
See effort as the path to mastery
Ignore useful negative feedback
Learn from criticism
Feel threatened by others successes
Find lessons and inspiration from others success
Plateau early and achieve less than their full potential
Reach even higher levels of achievement as a result and get closer to potential

Interdependence and support 

Acknowledging that we are part of the whole, to appreciate, praise, support and grow the team members.

Asking for help, being vulnerable  
We discussed how a lot of our energy is expended in suppressing our 'shadow sides' or the parts of us we do not accept. We may believe it is something to hide. By doing so we are putting a lot of effort in hiding a part of us which compromises us. However, if we are vulnerable and ok with not knowing or not being perfect, we can easily ask for help, we can easily get help. As in the video above, when the young kid starts crying, he is being vulnerable and the whole crowd knows he wants help. It was not a bad thing to not know, to be insecure and vulnerable.

 Google Study on Perfect Teams and Psychological Safety 
Though we did not have time to discuss this I will share it. These are the highlights of a study that Google had done on perfect teams. Their findings in ascending order - 
  • They were clear about the Impact they would make
  • They wanted Meaning from their work,
  • There was a Structure, 
  • They knew they could depend on one other to do their job - Dependability 
  • and most importantly Psychological Safety - They could trust the team to open up, share their ideas and thoughts fearlessly. To aspire for a space of psychological safety one must build an atmosphere of trust. 

The World Needs More Secure Leaders
While at this point we spent some time on why I take time out to speak or write. I feel that the world has too many insecure behaviors which are compromising it. In my opinion, secure people are those who can accept themselves as they are with their imperfections, their failures, their lack of knowledge. Then they are ready to start. 

The moment you say 'I don't know' you are opening up to learning, to help. If you stay stuck and try to hide your lack of knowledge, you are postponing the inevitable. This trying to hide is what causes insecure behaviors. My fervent hope and expectation is that all 60 Urdu officers become role models and leaders who are secure in their space and influence thousands of people they will interact with their learning mindset, with their secure behavior. 
      Secure and Insecure Leaders – Some differences
For a secure leader the team comes first - (For an insecure leader personal glory comes ahead of team)
SL facilitates great work by trusting and growing others - (IL controls people, has favorites and manipulation)
SL knows what they know and what they don’t - (IL acts like they know and no meaningful growth or learning happens because of that)
SL Learns – asks  -  (IL not open to learning – My way or highway)
SL allows others to dissent (IL tries to control response or rejects dissent )
SL grows and coaches others - (IL grows only himself)

We also looked briefly at the other HOW - in increasing efficiency at work and connected that to their growth. 

Evolution of leaders
To grow in the organization they had to be aware of how a leader evolves.
- Excels at role given
- After achieving efficiency and completing work, helps other team members by coaching and guiding
- When the opportunity to take greater responsibility comes even without the authority, puts up hand
- Leads effectively when given a leadership position
- Becomes a Level 5 leader who grows other leaders in the organization 

For those who are interested in a fine talk by Brene Brown and Anatomy of Trust (TED Talk)

The key takeaways of the day.
To stay motivated - know your why, be aware of the stories you tell yourself and make the purpose your most important thing every day.
To facilitate great team work - set a common purpose, work at setting a great culture and make deep connections to make the team bond closely.

I am certain the participants will do great work, make a huge difference and influence many lives along the way. 

Many thanks are owed to Vinod for introducing me to MCRHRD, Dr. Madhavi, Dr. Nabi, Dr. Suresh, Sandeep and the staff at MCRHRD. I enjoyed myself immensely.

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