Rich Hill is a friend, colleague and mentor of mine. Along with being a great consultant and coach to many recognizable companies, Rich was also the Executive Director of the Dow Leadership Center at Hillsdale College and the Director of Human Resources for General Electric Plastics when Jack Welch took over the division. In essence, he was one of Jack’s first HR directors.
Rich dropped me this note the other day:
I really like the post on Mentally Ill Teams. How many times have I seen these dynamics exist in my many years of work with organizations? The point of “The attempt to avoid the suffering simply causes more and deeper suffering” is so true.
Rich goes on to talk about a process he titled “Contracting for Change”. Notice a couple of elements of the process as he explains it:
One of the key elements in the process was putting charts up on the wall for each team player with three columns:
- Things I should do more of/or better
- Things I should do less of
- Things I do well and should not change.
Each chart had additional columns to assess the Priority of each response relative to Top Priority or secondary Priority. Each of the other team players were given tags to write on for each of the three elements. Feedback!
Once all the feedback tags were up on each person’s chart the entire team moves to a given chart and the owner of that chart first suggests what the comment means to him or her and then asks for individual clarification of the statements – such as
- Can you give me a specific example?
- Where have you seen this characteristic in play?
We used these clarification statements especially if the owner’s interpretation didn’t quite square with the person who put the tag point up. This approach assures better mutual understanding by all members of the team.
Rich goes on to explain the next step of prioritization on the Do More Of and Do Less Of columns only done by all other team members, not the person’s own chart.
But I think the next step was the most powerful:
The next step deals with negotiating the key items on given charts to enhance both individual and team effectiveness (emphasis mine). If successful, the final understanding is put into a written contract between the parties. 90 days out we reconvene the teams and go over contracts to see how much progress was made. I used it with several organizations and always got good results.
As you can imagine there was some suffering as a result of the clarity of issues between people, but it often led to good results.
I don’t really know what Jack Welch would do in this case, but I do know what one of his first HR directors would do. Working with executives at the level where Rich worked probably made the statement “some suffering” a bit of an understatement. But the power of feedback and dealing with the direct pain and suffering cannot be denied or overlooked as a powerful tool for leadership and team improvement.
Thanks Rich, I really appreciate the time you took to send some feedback.