Employing Differences

Employing Differences, Episode 30: What am I not seeing?

December 08, 2020 Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis
Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 30: What am I not seeing?
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Employing Differences
Employing Differences, Episode 30: What am I not seeing?
Dec 08, 2020
Karen Gimnig & Paul Tevis

"There are all sorts of things that we do, there are all sorts of things that we know, there are all sorts of things that are sort of wrapped up around us, that cause us to lose sight of how we are actually showing up in the world, what the actual impact of our actions are. And it can be really problematic, particularly when you're in an organization, and you have any sort of structural authority. You have a footprint, you cast a shadow – as a friend of mine says – and not understanding what that shadow is, what the shape of that is... When the light is in front of you, and it's being cast behind you, and you don't turn around to look at it, you're not going to notice it. And that's really important to get curious about. What are the things about yourself that you are not seeing? And how can you find out about those?"

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Show Notes Transcript

"There are all sorts of things that we do, there are all sorts of things that we know, there are all sorts of things that are sort of wrapped up around us, that cause us to lose sight of how we are actually showing up in the world, what the actual impact of our actions are. And it can be really problematic, particularly when you're in an organization, and you have any sort of structural authority. You have a footprint, you cast a shadow – as a friend of mine says – and not understanding what that shadow is, what the shape of that is... When the light is in front of you, and it's being cast behind you, and you don't turn around to look at it, you're not going to notice it. And that's really important to get curious about. What are the things about yourself that you are not seeing? And how can you find out about those?"

Listen on the website and read the transcript

Watch this episode on YouTube

Karen:

Welcome to Employing Differences, a conversation about exploring the collaborative space between individuals.

Paul:

I'm Paul Tevis.

Karen:

And I'm Karen Gimnig.

Paul:

Each episode, we start with a question and we see where it takes us. This week's question is, "What am I not seeing?"

Karen:

This is one of those questions that it took us a little while to get there, because we don't usually start with that question. We actually usually get there because someone else has irritated the heck out of me. And I had one of those experiences this afternoon, saying, "How can they be so smart and so intelligent and so skilled in so many things that are related to this thing, and still totally not collaborative in the ways that they aren't being totally not aware of how they're impacting, or why they would impact me the way they are?" And what it really brought up is, "Yeah, I do that too." Like, there is always this piece of I can be just as oblivious is that. And it's actually much more useful to pay attention to that than to sort of wind up around somebody else's. And so the frame that we thought we'd give it today is, "What are the things about me that I am not seeing and that perhaps others are?

Paul:

Yeah. It's more useful, as you pointed out to start with the version of the question that is pointed at yourself, rather than saying, "Why don't they get it?" But it's very true that there are all sorts of things that we do, there are all sorts of things that we know, there are all sorts of things that are sort of wrapped up around us, that cause us to lose sight of how we are actually showing up in the world, what the actual impact of our actions are. And it can be really problematic, particularly when you're in an organization, and you have any sort of structural authority. You have a footprint, you cast a shadow, as a friend of mine says, and not understanding what that shadow is, what the shape of that is.. When the light is in front of you, and it's being cast behind you, and you don't turn around to look at it, you're not going to notice it. And that's really important to get curious about. What are the things about yourself that you are not seeing? And how can you find out about those? That is really the the key question here.

Karen:

I think they often hide behind so-called truths things that we believe must be this way. Like "there has to be somebody who's in charge." Does there really? Or it's my job because if I didn't do it, the whole thing would fall apart. We tell ourselves stories that protect our sort of safe spaces, and often those safe spaces and organizations around hierarchy. We insist that the places in which we have power over others, or where we get to declare mastery, where we get to be right, that those are essential and necessary and unavoidable. Anytime you're in that kind of story realm I think is a really good place to get curious, because most of the time, there's something else at play there that's driving that "I need to hold on to power because..." Because from a relationship lens holding on to power is almost never actually going to serve what you're looking for. So there's something else going on there, and what am I not seeing about why I'm holding on to that?

Paul:

The story that we tell about how we have succeeded, and "We have succeeded because of these things," gets really different when we reframe it as "We have succeeded in spite of these things." It's really hard to know which of those it is. We often can't know. And so it's something that I work with some of my organizational clients on because yeah, they tell themselves a story about "Well, yes, we maybe don't live up to

Karen:

Yeah, and I think you're pointing to that really key role our ideals in this way and here's a good reason for it." That's a really interesting place to get curious and go, "Well, what if you didn't do that? What if you changed that?" But I think the place we can most easily find out what we're not seeing is to ask other people about it. This is where feedback comes in. And I have perhaps a different perspective on feedback than a lot of people do. I used to work in motion control. And in control theory, feedback is information about the effects of behavior. That's all it is. It's not a judgment. It's not advice about what you should do. It's "this thing that you did had this impact." And so when I'm giving someone feedback or when someone is giving me feedback, ideally, they're telling me, "When you did thi thing, this was the impact tha it had." And then I'm at choic about what I want to do abou that. But that helps me se things I could not see before that relationships play in this./ I actually think it's incredibly difficult not impossible but really, really difficult to find out what I'm not seeing by myself. Certainly, personal reflection and meditation I'm a fan of all of those things. But this particular thing, I think, is tough to make progress on there. For two reasons, at least for me. One is that without that second viewpoint, like if I'm not seeing it, I'm not seeing it. So how do you see the thing you don't see? How do you know the thing you don't know. And so that's one thing is I need somebody to tell it to me. But the other is that my willingness to kind of do the often-painful or vulnerable or uncomfortable work around it usually, I don't want it for me badly enough to experience that level of discomfort. But I probably do care enough about you, that if it's about meeting your need, or making it easier for you to work with me or maintaining the relationship with you, that then I'm willing to invest that much.

Paul:

I was reading something recently that was quoting the film, As Good As It Gets, were finally in a moment of horrible, humbling, self-searching, Jack Nicholson's character says, "You make me want to be a better man." It's really fascinating that the degree to which we are willing to do hard work, not necessarily just for ourselves, but for the sake of the relationship for other people, that often is the thing that will pull us through to be able to do that hard introspection. And it also becomes a resource to help us do it. It's not just that it motivates us to it, it becomes an asset we can draw. And I find it really powerful, when you've built a strong relationship with somebody, you can go to them and say one of my favorite questions that I got introduced to a number of years ago "What's the thing you think that I really don't want to hear?" What is the piece that is going to cause me to question whether or not I really am the person who I say that I am? So if I see myself as someone who's highly collaborative, it's probably really hard for you to say to me, and for me to hear from you, "That thing that you did yesterday morning, really not collaborative at all." And that is the thing I most need to hear.

Karen:

And I think you're most likely to hear it if I'm the one saying it to you and you don't question when you hear me say it whether I'm still committed to the relationship. If I can say "That wasn't collaborative, I didn't like it, that behavior hurt me" whatever the feedback is without saying "and I don't want to work with you anymore," or without putting that into question. If the relationship can be solid, the feedback becomes hearable. Because in the end, the threat is not just that I might have to change something. I mean, that that's hard. But the piece that makes it intolerable is that this thing that's wrong with me will make it impossible for me to stay in relationship with you.

Paul:

I think there's a lot of different things that can make information like that hard to hear. There's actually some some really great, one of my favorite books out there is Thanks For The Feedback by Sheila Heen and [Douglas] Stone, where they talk about that receiving feedback is a skill. We have to learn how to get good at it, and that's about learning what are the things that are hard for us to hear, who are the people who have difficulty hearing things from, who are the people where it's easier to hear those things from. So when we hear something that that we have a hard time taking in getting curious about, "Why am I having a hard time taking that in? What is it about me that is a blocker for that or that makes that hard to hear? What would make it easier? How would it need to be different in order to make it easier to hear?" And there's a lot of different techniques out there for that. That's really a place where whenever I work with leaders or on feedback, I always start with teaching them how to receive feedback skillfully, even when it's poorly given. You can't trust that it's always going to come in in a neat little bow. But if you react badly when you get it, you're never gonna get it again. People are gonna stop giving it to you and you're going to continue to not see the things that you're not seeing.

Karen:

That brings us right back to where we began. What am I not seeing? So I think that probably doesn't for us today. Until next time, I'm Karen Gimnig

Paul:

And I'm Paul Tevis. And this has been Employing Differences