Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dissonance--When Words and Actions Don't Agree

Have you ever run across someone whose words and actions don't agree? And they don't even realize it? Let me give you an example:

The weekly staff meeting is scheduled to start at 1 PM on Wednesdays. But every week the leader isn't ready to start until 1:10 PM. After a few weeks people stop arriving at 1 PM and start arriving at 1:10 PM. But what does the leader do? Gets upset that people are arriving late? But are they really late? So what time does the 1 PM staff meeting begin?

A similar situation is when the leader indicates that subordinates should be open and honest and say and relate what's on their minds. But what inevitably happens when something bad is brought up or a different (notice I didn't write opposing) point of view is presented? The slam dunk as I call it. Or even worse, the cold shoulder where it is made clear that input from that person is unwelcome.

This stuff is easy to do. I've done it to others and had it done to me. It is dissonance because I am no longer consistent. What I think I want is not what I am showing my team that I want. I get unhappy with the team because they're not doing what I think I want and the team gets frustrated with me because I say one thing, but do something else and hold them accountable for an inconsistent expectation. It causes a lot of problems when this happens and the good leader needs to be constantly aware of these situations.

Seven steps to reduce dissonance

1. Make the decision to change.

2. Realize that your own actions have caused the situation. Do not blame it on circumstances. Accept responsibility for the dissonance and work aggressively to overcome it.

3. Look for scheduling situations which contribute to the problem--like closely planned successive meetings or events. Ask yourself--Why do meetings have to begin on the hour or half hour? If there is a scheduling problem which does not allow getting from one meeting or event to another until quarter past, change the scheduled time to quarter past! And then stick to it

4. Do what you say and say what you mean.

5. Start on time, regardless of who is present. After a very short time, people will adjust to the punctuality just as they did the lateness.

6. When bad news or dissenting views are being presented--don't say anything negative. Say thank you--and mean it. Realize that you need to hear good and bad news and you will never hear the bad if you continue to shoot the messenger. Take the information away for processing later. Ensure you understand the context.

7. Ask a trusted team member if there are things you are doing which cause frustration on the team related to dissonance.

Dissonance is dysfunctional to teams and prevents teams and organizations from achieving their full potential. Be aware of how your words and actions contribute to dissonance and notice how people respond to it. If they can, people will often vote with their feet--and leave the dissonant leader for one more consistent.

No comments:

My Zimbio
Top Stories