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Social context as a team performance indicator

Интервью главному редактору радиостанции Business FM Новосибирск (105,7) Юлии Дорн, организовано при содействии Академии Управления «ЭРФОЛЬГ» и Международного центра 4-D МАГНИТОНИЯ.

Перевод, Михаил Гринберг.

Erfolg Management Academy is planning to hold a 4-D Leadership seminar in Novosibirsk, Russia with Charlie Pellerin, the author of the unique method for building productive teams. The training is based on the concept of social context – a field that has an effect on all the processes inside a company. In advance of the event Galina Nagovitsyna, Erfolg Managing partner, Charlie Pellerin’s co-trainer and an experienced coach with decades of practice explains what a social context means and how we can change its quality.

-  Galina, most of the Erfolg’s seminars and courses are designed for company’s leaders and CEOs. Why is it so?

-  It is not a coincidence. Company leaders’ behavior sets an example, creates the atmosphere in a company. They transmit their energy to other people, change the life around them. We find it very important. As early as the year 2000, when our Academy was in its initial phase we were thinking about our tasks and goals. Our main objective was to make Novosibirsk the happiest place on earth. Probably, it may sound too ambitious and loud but our main motto to the present day is: “It is good where I am!” (There’s an old Russian saying: “It is always better there where we are not!” similar to “The grass is always greener…”) The logic is simple: being born in this city, one should start creating such an environment where people could feel easy and free, realize their creativity and make something wonderful. How is it possible to reach? Obviously, through changing people’s behavior! That is why we work with top managers and business leaders who have huge influence over the life of other people. Their positive transformations and behaviors bring changes to their companies, departments, personal life of the employees. It is vital for us when our work with a single strong individual or a bright team starts to have a broad effect. Positive changes spread like circles on the water reaching further and further. I always try to be such a helper who can offer CEOs new additional tools to boost their energy and possibilities.

-   Let’s talk about the 4-D Seminars which have the concept of social context in their essence. We know that social context is a kind of a field that manifests in human behavior. Moreover, it influences team performance. Is it possible to tell judging by team members’ behavior that social context inside the team needs revising?

-  Yes, one can see it in the way people feel themselves in their team. If, for example, they are not happy to go to work, complain that the working day drags on slowly, are always hindered from reaching their goals, the relations between the employees are tense and they are not eager to share ideas and take part in team activities it can be described as an excessive inner tension. It shouldn’t be confused with a creative tension when people are consumed by an idea or task, being committed to solve it and just shine working on it. This is positive tension. But you are talking about the state when people feel powerless lacking sources of inspiration. In teams where social context boosts performance people inspire each other meanwhile in teams with different quality of social context team members are prone to criticism, express their discontent and negligence towards their job and some of them just “bring their bodies” to work awaiting generous reward for it.

-  Every one of us has team work experience. I had to deal with colleagues who would always say “no” to all my requests. Some of them were quite good in dealing with their everyday responsibilities but were unwilling to join new processes. What such behavior is indicative of?

-  This is a very important point showing that the team has problems. I was just to say that members of an effective team tend to do a bit more than they are obliged to, they go beyond the frames of their competence if it is necessary. That is how collective team interest and team co-leadership manifest. If we know that our colleagues for the sake of better performance would do more than their function demands we start to trust them. We start to behave likewise. In such conditions any project unfolds differently. We experience inner support from our colleagues, feel free to turn to them for advice or help, stop trying to climb lofty mountains alone. All these gives even more energy to a team. Do you know the expression “shining eyes”? A team of people in such a state meets all the tasks easily and with pleasure.

-  Is it possible to change social context so that team members become more committed?

-  First, it needs to be acknowledged that every member of a team has his influence on the social context, brings something to it. Certainly, here we can talk about the core of the team which plays the leading role, but in the global sense every person decides for themselves if they are included in the team processes or not. Everyone has a freedom of choice: to live as they want, to change or not. Somebody finds meaning in usual everyday life where it is important to be where one belongs keeping one’s principles and integrity. Others find value in creating something new, producing new ideas. Somebody else would prefer to watch and build systems, put things in order. Some others easily involve people into any kind of activity, nurture relations between people. And the best thing in it is the fact that we can learn from each other, pick up other qualities and became a support for those around us, listening to them on the deepest level. To get there we should shift the focus of our attention to our inner development as a personality. We should learn to understand that our inner changes have an impact on other people, the situations we are in and the future where we will live. There is a very good quotation belonging to the social anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has”. The choice literally depends on every person and we do it every day. Everything starts with the focus of our attention – if we are concentrated on similarities or differences. On looking for the guilty or solving the task. If something has happened – was it an irreversible mistake or an experience to learn something new and become a bit wiser? To change social context we have a wonderful tool – AMBR process that starts all other processes and penetrates the whole 4-D System.

-  But is it possible to enthrall, to engage others with this new behavior model?

-  Yes, certainly. People are quite influenced by successful behavior examples, prefer to have some benchmarks. Why so many people nowadays attend different training seminars? They want to see successful people and find out what they did to become what they are. How to become a millionaire? How to build a happy family? 4-D System brings our attention to the innate good qualities, to the core human wisdom. People like to notice and analyze the behavior and habits of those who are happy or have reached some success and then change their own behavior to get the same result. Same rules work in a team and with almost every individual. The main question is how to build social context in a way that allows a team to reach its goals, making its comfort zone bigger and getting satisfaction from the processes of co-leadership, growing competence and relationship with colleagues, partners and clients. Our clients notice that they stopped wasting time on hidden conflicts and communication failures. They avoid complacency and just do interesting things together getting results, making their families proud of them and filling life with meaning.

-  We say that social context is a set of unspoken rules and attitudes existing in a team. Charles Pellerin created a system of “team spirit” measurements and social context assessments according to so called “quintiles” depending on a team’s performance. What are social context standards on the, say, highest level?

-  Charles Pellerin, the author of the 4-D System, created a unique and universal method which allows to manage social context and get timely team and leadership performance indicators. The main reason for work failures and different industrial disasters is human error. In his book How NASA Builds Teams Charles Pellerin describes both the behavioral norms that foster such errors, and the behavioral norms that prevent them. The behaviors of teams that measure in the bottom-quintile (bottom 20%) are spawning grounds for disasters like Challenger’s explosion or Hubble’s flawed mirror. Here we can say that every team has its own inner standards chosen and developed by its members. Certainly, there also exist universal benchmarks of the top quintile which were explored in the course of 15 years. In the most productive teams people take personal responsibility in any case, they are aware of the importance of their colleagues’ work and feel genuine appreciation to all team members for their high quality contribution. Genuine appreciation is one of the main indicators of the social context. But every team has to specify this appreciation for itself. It should be mentioned that when a person feels connected to his own qualities and starts to notice other people values his appreciation becomes authentic. It can manifest as words or tactile contact, or in a more material form that is easier to grasp, or just a glance. By the way, in Charlie’s seminars there is a number of exciting exercises that allow to explore a team’s way of appreciation. He encourages to find out what innate personality foundations are for all members of the team. It is a huge source of information because every one of us is unique and possesses a number of innate qualities. It brings new opportunities to win contracts, raises negotiation processes to a completely new level and helps to find common grounds in a team and with new people faster. When one learns to see these innate qualities, embrace them and combine them with qualities of others it gives basis for the proper social context.

-  Does this mean that social context can be a matter of agreement in a team?

-  Yes, it is always a matter of agreement. All the rules, even unspoken, work until we accept them. Implementing new rules and standards is possible only when all team members are 100% ready to adopt them.

-  Could such rules be tough? For example, there can be a rule at a hazardous production facility where the lives of many are at risk that violators of internal procedures may be arrested by police. The example is a bit exaggerated but still gives an idea…

-  Yes, that’s true. One should understand that social context is not a set of concrete rules and instructions. It is, mainly, basic principles of life and interactions inside a team. Do you remember why Charlie Pellerin became engaged with issues of team performance?  During his work in NASA a multibillion mission was at the brick of collapse – Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit with a flawed mirror. That was the result of negligence on the part of some team members. That’s when Charlie understood that one can make thousands of rules and regulations but they will not work in a critical situation if it is not natural for a team to act decisively, to take responsibility and to openly meet challenges. Among such principles are openness, commitment and transparency. Team interactions clear up, hidden implications disappear and simple straight decisions and actions take the stage. Nobody has doubts what to do in a difficult situation, because there exist agreements what is “good” and “bad” for the team.

-  Let’s imagine that a team has had a seminar, its members have come to some agreements about how to shift their context but next day some new people come to the company. Will this social context include the newcomers? Will they absorb it as we inhale oxygen or these principles shall be put into words?

- I guess, every team has its own processes how to adapt new members. In this or that way they are being introduced to inner rules. But this topic is present in all our seminars. Every team has to choose at which moment and in which form they will explain their tools which allow them to be strong. Some teams, for example, provide their new members with Charlie Pellerin’s book How NASA Builds Teams. Thus they can get acquainted with the main principles of the 4-D System and understand basic processes. A newcomer finds out that in this company it is common practice to properly perform one’s duties, talk about one’s tasks and challenges, to turn to colleagues for help and admit one’s mistakes.

-  By the way, the necessity of admitting mistakes might be frightening for many…

-  No, not at all. It should be stated that admitting one’s mistakes doesn’t result in being fired. On the contrary, it means there is a tool that allows to correct errors and morph them into fuel to bring the team to a new level. Mistakes should be seen as the most valuable experience. Everybody makes them. I would be happy if the word “mistake” stops being used in our speech because it closes people off, makes them frozen and activates the feeling of guilt, depression and fear, leads to escape and isolation. In the end one becomes either Victim or Rescuer, Rationalizer or Blamer.

-  Oh, does this mean performing specific roles?

-  Exactly. It happens that some circumstances bring up innate personality traits in a person. They are not always positive. Rescuer, for example, is a kind of person who invites everybody to follow him in any critical situation and pledges that he is the only one who can cope with it. Moreover, he will be saving you irrespective of your own desires.

-  It is more or less clear about the Victim or Blamer mindset. But what is wrong with Rationalizer?

-  Rationalizer is a kind of person who attempts to mitigate their discomfort with the phrase “It doesn’t matter”. They don’t take any strong actions, don’t make necessary decisions. They just convince themselves that the situation is logical, can be rationalized and continue to exist in such circumstances.

-  Oh, it splits my brain. In my Soviet past Rationalizers were the people who were seeking to improve industrial processes, tried to find most effective solutions…

- Hmm, that’s how we come across one of the main elements of 4-D Leadership System. The concept is that every person belongs to one of the four innate types of leaders. Every type has its description and a corresponding color. The rationalizer you are talking about appears as a “blue” leader. Nowadays they are called “groundbreakers”. They create new processes, promote invention and discovery. They lead people to a bright beautiful future, know how to make plans and build strategies. But there exist rationalizers of a different type.

- Those who prefer not to strain themselves too much?

-  Indeed! Such people choose to keep away until everything is settled. Actually, it is important to understand one simple thing – although every one of us has an innate personality foundation, still we can develop, master all the best qualities belonging to other types, become a 4-D Person. It is a very serious inner work, a constant development that leads to perceiving other people as teammates, to understanding them better and talking the same language as they do. We start to see the value of every person whatever innate type they belong to. But if we stay forever in our inborn frames, continue to be 1-D, so to speak, there is quite a big danger of adopting the described above roles and starting to blame others for our misfortunes.

-  Do I get it right that the core of 4-D System is in being aware of one’s innate leader type and find out to which types those around us belong?

-  The point is that a leader can develop in all four Dimensions. Yes, originally each of us belongs to one of the four personality foundations but it doesn’t mean that we can’t absorb strong qualities of the others. Besides, as you mentioned, it is important to know who is around so that we could create a space of co-leadership with other people. The skill to talk their language, to come to terms with them – all such things are given a lot of attention in our seminars. A business owner might have his own vision how the result of his efforts, investments and energy should look like. But the people working for his company might have their own ideas and expectations about their self-realization and desirable results. 4-D System allows to reach an agreement about it, to find common language, shared vision of the results and success criteria. It is a new language of relationship and interaction, and it is beneficial for both sides.

-  Does it mean that in the seminars you teach how to communicate with different types of leaders?

- Yes, but first of all you should learn to understand what kind of leader you are dealing with and then you can see deep values of this person.

- How to determine it? Judging by what a person says?

- Yes. When they talk about what is important for them we can hear the so-called “value words”. The person will show what is interesting for them, where their qualities manifest in the best way. It is worth mentioning that the innate personality foundation should not become a reason to label anyone. Each of us is more or less developed in all four dimensions as we manage our lives and interact with lots of people. 4-D System just provides structure for our experience and gives a possibility to find appropriate words for every person.

- Suppose, you need to assess a person… To find out what personality type he or she belongs to. What will you be talking about?

- I will listen to them attentively. What their interests and plans for the future are…

- Judging by what they say you determine what their personality type is?

-  That’s true. If, for example, they talk a lot about their ideas or innovations – they belong to one specific type.

-  Is it “blue”?

-  Yes. If people find big meaning in systems, structures and talk a lot about it, they are “orange”.

-  But how they talk about systems and structures? It is unlikely that they simply say “I find systems and structures very important…”

-  In their speech you will definitely hear such phrases as “I like how smooth the processes here are…” or “I enjoy this systematic approach to the material…” A “green” type would say, for example: “It is important for me that human feelings should be addressed here, human individuality should be revealed…” But it is more important to ensure that every leader could develop in all four Dimensions.

-  Galina, what can make a business owner or a top manager come to your seminars? What can serve as an indication that social context in their teams becomes ineffective?

-  Here are a few examples: a top executive starts to get a lot of complaints from his employees that their colleagues from other departments prevent them from reaching their goals. Or, for example, company has long and heated staff meetings but to no avail. Another signal – when employees constantly complain that they don’t understand who is responsible for what. Or, let’s say, there is a constant power struggle inside the company or a conflict between generations…

-  By the way, I hear often that it is not so easy to reach an agreement with new colleagues from Generations X and Y.

-  Such things can also be indicative of the ineffective social context because the representatives of these generations are more sensitive to social context failures and understand the advantages of 4-D System and the value of this tool much faster. They know how to reach a completely different level of goals and results with the help of interaction and relationship; how we can achieve much more if we are united. Talking about these new generations it should be mentioned that for them the word “we” has a bigger and wider meaning than for us.

-  Does it mean they are less individual-oriented?

-  No, but when it comes to big projects they cooperate so easily and fast, and feel natural in this process. That is why they perceive 4-D System as something wonderful – the notion “we” is present in their generation values as a genuine, honest and open space.

-  Galina, these seminars are designed mostly for business leaders. But, as far as I understand, they allow every person to start an intensive inner development?

-  Definitely. Finding more about the social context in which you live helps to clear up you attitudes and perception of the world. It gives the answer to the question: “In what relationship am I with the world? Do I build walls or bridges?” For me this chance to talk about social contexts becomes an attempt to create in Novosibirsk a space of effective interaction between the people, an atmosphere of mutual respect and seeing each other as a personality. We can learn to listen to each other better and to find common interests. With the help of 4-D System we can find common grounds in a team, company or family. Everybody has some kind of vision what the ideal situation is, what place we would be happy to live in. Many think about it, but few express themselves. 4-D System is a tool that helps to consciously change human behavior. I hope my clients will find these seminars truly valuable, shifting the focus of their attention and moving their mindset towards better social context that is easily changeable and manageable. This tool is very simple and effective, contains a lot of humor as humor is a very important component belonging to highly intellectual products. I hope this technology will not only make our city better and more joyful but will have an impact on a wider surrounding. Our goal is to offer people a new knowledge that will allow them to create a joyful atmosphere permeated with beautiful energy.

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