Author Archives: scott savage

About scott savage

I support leaders and their teams to be more powerful, successful, kind, and satisfied in the workplace. Fortunately these objectives all work together, they are interdependent. I have diverse experience working with many organizations, with many leaders and teams. Primarily, I help people who's orientation is technical, engineers, I.T. professionals, scientists, architects and the like.

Engage and Evade: The dangerous personality dance of Extraversion- iNtuition and Introversion-Sensing

danceNote: a basic knowledge of Psychological Type as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is required to get the most from this article.

I found myself in a familiar dynamic in which I’ve danced for all of my fifty+ years. I was having an e-chat conversation with my good friend Tim about an upcoming party we were holding together.

Out of the blue, the phrase, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree” appeared on my screen. I’d heard him say this before, and agree that sometimes, it is a necessary conclusion. But, I was not even clear on what the issues were that we were either agreeing or disagreeing about, and now the discussion was over! I was shocked.

I communicated (in cryptic e-chat) my desire to explore this some more. We attempted to continue the conversation to clarify what it was that we were agreeing to disagree about. This continued for a few more minutes, with volleys back and forth through the ether. Finally we agreed that we had different values about the issue and that we could accept that. But the process left a painful lingering stain on the relationship.

I phoned my mentor, Dan, in California, looking for someone to support my point of view. He provided the opposite, telling me how my dogged pursuits of keeping this discussion open (my ‘N’ and ‘P’, you think?) showed that I was oblivious to Tim’s (ISTJ) need for closure and self-protection. And that Tim took my wanting to explore it as trying to convince him to do it my way! Thanks a load Dan, for poking me in the forehead to help me see my part in the control aspect of this dance. If only I’d learned this 30 years ago!!

While I was licking my wounds, the pattern emerged for me. I’ve seen this struggle a hundred times. I’ve seen this between my parents (ENTP and ISTP), with numerous clients (many of whom have EN or IS preferences), and with my lovely bride of ten years and myself, (ISFP and ENFP). It is the dance of those preferring Extraversion and Intuition (EN) with those who prefer Introversion and Sensing (IS)! While the other two Type dimensions are surely in play, I’m certain that this dynamic is common and significant.

How it plays out.
Take the fictitious parties of (IS) Isabel, who prefers introversion and sensing and Enrico, who prefers Extraversion and Intuition (EN).

Some issue of potential disagreement arises; it could be anything, whether to hire an applicant, how so spend some money, who should come to the party, and so on. The two briefly exchange their opinions.

In short order the facts and conclusion are crystal clear to ISabel and she seeks to end the discussion. She has had enough and sees no need for any ‘excessive bantering’ to continue. In her mind, the thing is done and there is no need to make a mountain of a molehill. She says something like, “that’s enough”, or “we’ll have to agree to disagree”. Or, ISabel says nothing at all and just proceeds to getting busy with other things.

The quick clarity and finality of the conclusion that ISabel found are not present for ENrico. Rather, he has something else in mind and is hoping to create a different, if yet unformed solution. The abrupt ending of the discussion shocks ENrico and disrespects his inborn desires to talk, explore and process. He is inflamed! He continues to engage ISabel in the discussion, pushing harder (like a pit-bull in her view) for interaction and additional ideas. She withdraws, refuses or acquiesces.

The relationship is in danger. The risks of this dance are familiar and can damage personal, work and intimate relationships. They can include irritation, hurt, anger, and false perceptions about the other person. These reactions impact trust and the tone of future communications, if not downright avoidance of them. The dynamic can even be responsible for ending the relationship.

How can we make this dance work?

Reflect on past dances we have done and consider how this may have played a part. Recognize our own biases and needs and do our best to let go of our need to prevail. Do our best to understand the needs and biases of the other and to satisfy them, rather than change them. Remember that our way is not the only way, and our answer is not the only one. Choose our battles carefully and fight them thoughtfully. Express what we need and what we want from the heart, including our fears and discomforts, so that we stimulate compassion in the other, rather than competition. Lastly, we can realize our own and the other’s strengths and limits with regard to taking steps to heal the relationship and be willing to extend the hand of invitation to rebuild it.

If we are to dance, then we should both enjoy it!

A Point of View

Just like a dozen times before, I settled down into a cozy chair in a small town library in Wisconsin. When on the road I find that libraries provide a comfortable and productive place to work, writing, emailing, attending webinars or wasting time on the internet.

As I plugged the cord of my laptop into the electrical outlet, an elderly man, probably in his seventies, muttered accusingly to me, “you are stealing. ” He pointed at my power cord plugged into the wall socket.

I was unprepared for this minor assault. Fortunately, I have learned to manage my knee-jerk response by pausing in a week-long 5 second pause. I thought several things: “What!, Why are you bothering me?”, “Get a life”. (I do not use ‘old man’ as an insult, since someone said that to me not so long ago, but that guy was a punk (haha). Then I took on the fault, “could he be right?” Seemed unlikely, but who knows? I thought of inviting him to go ask the library authorities to determine who was right; but figured he might lie about it. I considered ignoring, him, and just getting to work. But what if he was right, and the library did not want me ‘plugging in’. I know another library where a guy can bring his laptop, but is prohibited from plugging it to a power source. After all, this place with the cozy chairs is the periodical reading room, populated entirely by folks age 70 and up, getting out and catching up on the news (i.e. these folks at the reading room may not be users of the internet).

So I went to check. I asked a librarian. She said, “of course, that is not a problem”. Later, I noticed a long table in the next room, complete with power outlets for folks just like me to plug in and use the library’s free wi-fi. And free electricity. I was relieved. I returned to the cozy chair by the power outlet and I held back my feelings, saying to him only, “you are mistaken, they tell me it is fine”. He said nothing, but looked away.

As my brain rested, I wondered about this event. What was his motivation for this? Why did he affront me about this seemingly ridiculous action?

I can only makeup a story to explain what happened. Here is man, likely of limited income but perhaps significant wealth, who is accustomed to watching his money carefully. Maybe he is a local official or gadfly watching the use of tax dollars. Perhaps he sees computers, and people like me (I have a gray beard, but am still a long way from 70 years) as incomprehensible, wasteful and maybe even threatening. Maybe he is grieving and angry because his wife of a lifetime has passed away, or left him for a nicer person, or because his adult child doesn’t speak with him, or he has learned that he is dying.

I really don’t know, and I didn’t believe that he was interested in discussing it. Neither was I. So I got to work, the stress hormones gradually retuning to a normal level. The man and I had a short adventure together. And he went about his day. I wonder what he did next?

Look-it me!

I was in one of those business networking meetings recently. It was a nice event, a small group of pleasant business people going through the agenda. We were doing a focus on one fellow’s (Alex) business with the goal of increasing our understanding of what he does so we can refer business to him. For a few minutes it went well, then the disruption occurred. Another guy, let’s call him John, started to drill down . He asked more and more probing questions. And then began dispensing advise, “you ought to, here is what you can do, etc… ” Continue reading

Coach Your Learners

Coach Your Learners to Prevent “Snap-Back”

A general manager sent several of his managers to a leadership training series which included a 360 degree feedback assessment and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to learn about themselves and others. After the series ended he and I were discussing how to provide ongoing development for his charges to continue their growth into their leadership roles. The general manager said, “After they completed the training series, I watched and waited to see what Jim (one of the participants) would do. It’s been over a month, and I haven’t seen much change yet.”

“Hmmm”, I thought, “Had it been you, would I have seen you apply your learning and leap up the growth curve? I think not!” At ease, I did not say that, but I did think it. By the time a month had passed, the learning has already faded and the chances of successful application have become remote. Maybe I should have said it!

Why don’t leaders coach and develop their people? Perhaps they believe they do; kind of a ‘sink or swim’ paradigm. But the proof is in the pudding. In this series of intensive leadership sessions the Savage Leader 360’s showed that participants consistently fell short with the competency ‘coaching and developing others’. This result was across the board without regard to the industry, age or gender of the leader. Would you be surprised to learn that the managers of these learners had not provided (nor modeled) coaching and development for them!

Why this dearth of ‘coaching and development’. Here are four common reasons.

  1. No expectation for coaching exists in the organization.
  2. The supervisor has never learned to coach from prior experiences or education.
  3. She has natural patterns and habits which favor activities other than coaching (e.g. planning, analysis, problem solving). Many of these leaders had Type preferences for INTJ or ISTJ (on the MBTI).
  4. He believes that employees should ‘just do it’ (“just like I did”).

Any one of these could stop a person from coaching another. More often, two, three, or all four combine to firmly prevent coaching from occurring.

There are a few people who jump to apply what they’ve learned at an educational event, but they are the exception, not the rule. The truth is that we hesitate to try new things, even when we have just invested time and money to learn them. Even after we sweat out a workshop for which we volunteered (or were sent to), we ‘snap-back’ to our preexisting habits.

Millions of shelves are lined with a billion 3-ring binders of good learning that gather dust. We’ve all heard of the comfort zone, and spend our time there when we can. Even those who courageously apply what they’ve learned often snap-back, after their initial attempt leads to disappointing results. (You may remember the last time you tried out a new skill for the first time, did you end up snapping-back to your old ways?)

Most people need help to apply their new learning on the job in their natural environment. Without help, they ‘snap-back’ to their previous habits, and the learning is extinguished. For the learner and the organization to reap the harvest of new learning, the leader needs to help close the gap to support the learner in developing their new skills and confidence. A leader needs to get out of her comfort zone, and put on the coaching hat to help the learner(s) apply and capture learning.

How to engage, utilize and integrate new learning? Here are three tips to support your learners:

  1. Negotiate your support role. Before he goes to a learning event, offer your help to the learner. Acknowledge that people learn better with support from a coach (you). Let the learner identify how he would like you to help. Offer your own ideas as options he can choose. Come to agreement on how you will help.
  2. Consider the three 3 P’s: Plan, Practice, Perform. You can help your learner plan when and how to use the new skills and knowledge. You can suggest that she practice or help her practice (e.g. role play a conversation). With your help in preparation, the learner will be more ready and more confident in performing while using the new abilities.
  3. Invite follow-up. Once the learner has completed the program and/or tried out the new skills, offer a conversation to debrief what happened. Ask how it went, what she thought went well, and what she might do differently next time. Listen fully (yes you can do this) and respond thoughtfully.  Reinforce success and failure, as that is part of the learning process.

In today’s world, keeping your people growing is not a nice-to-have option, it is a competitive requirement. And, for the training and development program to have an impact, follow-up and reinforcement are necessary. As a result the learner and company will enjoy maximum benefits from the investment in training.

You can’t see what you haven’t seen…

The times wore heavily on Tim’s face. Like many of us, he feels trapped. He is happy to have a paycheck in this tough economic year. However, his spirit is sapped by the limits placed upon him by the organization. A senior manager, he’s been told, in not so subtle ways, that he needs to pull back his goals. His ideas for improvement are not welcomed at this time and this place.

Given Tim’s significant experience, training and talent, I suggested that other organizations would welcome his creativity and drive, and that he might want to start ‘looking around’. Perhaps a place that is younger, smaller, not so set in its ways. There must be a company that really seeks to evolve, to get to the front of the pack, to build its culture in a pro-active and profitable direction.

“This is the only corporate experience I’ve known,” he told me. Given his lack of other experience, Tim couldn’t imagine that a business exists that would welcome his talents and vision. He could only see that everywhere was like where he was. I was shocked that he was stuck like this. Over the years we’ve worked together, I’ve developed a great respect for Tim’s abilities. But under the current circumstances, he has lost his ‘mojo’. He is trapped by his view of his circumstances, and the nagging self-doubt that has grown from the steady drumbeat of rejection in the job. It’s as though the company learned too well from Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no.”

Tim is the face of a challenge many people, including leaders in organizations are dealing with. In the last six weeks, I’ve heard this pattern from four different people, at various levels, ages, colors and indifferent industries and businesses. When we haven’t seen something else, and haven’t experienced it, we easily fall into a rut. A rut, someone has said, is just a grave with the ends kicked out.

So we give up, and put up, and our talents and excitement wither on the vine. What to do? If you are in this pickle, look for inspiration and encouragement.  Talk to people, get out of your box.  Use the Internet.  In the career management field, we recognize that folks lose sight of their unique gifts, simply because they come easily to them. We forget that there are organizations and people that value what we do, and would be happy to bring us aboard to add competitive advantage to their business. But we forget that.

If you are a leader, you’ll want to pay attention to this phenomenon in your people and find ways to re-engage them. You can ask, “How is our organization throwing a wet blanket on the initiative and creativity of our contributors?” Heck, you can even ask them directly, although they may be shy to answer truthfully. Then work to modify the structures, processes and behaviors that cause the problem.

Is this type of leadership easy? Not always, and not for everyone. Does it pay dividends through increased retention, morale and productivity? You bet it does.