Building Team Agility and Releasing Creativity Through the Thoughtful Leadership of Language #PMOSym

http://www.pmosymposium.org/
PMO Symposium, 11-14 November 2018, Washington D.C. USA

Session Description:

It is easy to agree with the theory that soft skills are the key to effective teams. In practice, soft skills are the hard skills for many people. When team members collectively understand and embrace the techniques and tools, the interpersonal relationships and team productivity often improve dramatically. This interactive workshop will provide you with an introduction to a project-proven communications model—complete with skills and techniques—that has been successfully deployed across a broad spectrum of projects, including civil construction, information technology, and leading-edge, first-of-a-kind technologies.

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to:
1) Develop a detailed awareness and understanding of the dynamics of total communication that drive relationships and outcomes.
2) Improve your ability to understand more clearly what others are saying verbally and discern the meanings of nonverbal communication cues.
3) Acquire the beginnings of the knowledge and tools needed to facilitate and grow strong communication-based relationships within your project teams.

For more information: See greenlanguage.com and John Tompkins book on Amazon

Speakers:

  • John Post is a senior advisor and member of technical staff at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). He is a member of the 2010 PMI Project of the Year team, and an advisor/reviewer for several large and complex projects within the U.S. Department of Energy portfolio.
  • John Tompkins (President, Team EdServe) is an executive coach and therapist in private practice in Pleasanton, CA, and has over 30 years of experience with project teams in complex environments with high consequence of error, much of it in a national security environment. He is the author of Not Crazy Yet? Then…Start Talking To Yourself Differently.

[These are my notes from the PMO Symposium 2018 . I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

NOTES:

  • Our Brains and Language.
    • The cerebral cortex and the amygdala operate differently in the brain.
      • the cerebral cortex manages our higher order thinking, our executive function
      • the amygdala is geared to protect our survival by triggering our fight or flight mechanism when it believes it is necessary. It handles threat assessment and response.
      • The cerebral cortex focuses on
        • observation
        • feelings
        • thoughts
        • wants
      • The amygdala focuses on the roles of
        • persecutor
        • victim
        • rescuer
    • We use language to toggle between the cerebral cortex and the amygdala.
      • The more we can use our cerebral cortex, the better our teamwork.
      • Tompkins describes language that triggers the cortex as “Green language” and language that triggers the amygdala as “Red language.”
      • Tompkins estimates that 80% of language in the US is Red language rather than Green language.
        • it is encoded, confronting, triggering, and anxiety-provoking. (Just consider how the cable news stations treat the news they report and the people they interview.)
  • Green Language versus Red Language.
    • Green language enables “Owning.”
      • Owning = taking responsibility for what is mine.
      • Green language is clear and unambiguous
    • Red language enables “Disowning.”
      • Disowning = attributing to someone else responsibility for what is actually mine (i.e., ducking responsibility)
      • Red language is encoded, labeling, shorthand, slang/jargon
      • Red language creates a sense of inadequacy, wrongdoing, depression
    • Green language
      • Observation = what we can see, what a camera or tape record could record.
        • Green language focuses on what IS happening
        • Not-Inferences: not-inferences are statements about what is NOT happening, coupled with an inference as to why. The better choice is to make objective statements rather than inferring state of mind based on observable facts.
          • Observe: “Your socks are on the floor.” Because it is a neutral observation and there is no judgment attached, it leaves the sock-dropper free to admit a mistake and pick up the socks without rancor.
            • the judgment-laden, Red language version of this is: “You’re a slob!”
      • Feelings = emotions and sensations
        • Describes the feelings that exist rather than feelings that do not exist.
        • Example: “I feel relieved” rather than “I am not angry.”
      • Thoughts
        • Describes your think about what is rather than about what may or may not happen.
        • Eaxmple: “I think he is home” rather than “I don’t think he will come.”
      • Wants = needs and wants flow into our consciousness in the form of emotions and sensations. Our job is to make choices about how we are thinking and how we should make choices that meet our legitimate needs. This means understanding what we really want/need and then addressing that. So, for example, if you are feeling the emotion of loneliness, the appropriate response would be to seek companionship rather than to seek food.
        • Express what you want rather than what you don’t want.
        • Example, “I want you to stay here” rather than “I don’t want you to leave.”
    • Red Language
      • Not-Observation:
        • Focuses on what is NOT happening — it implies SHOULD and failure. “NOT” fires up the threat assessment and triggers the amygdala.
        • Red language attaches itself to our pain memories and thereby has increased impact
        • Focuses on Inferences: takes an observation and makes/communicates a judgment based on that observation.
          • Observe: socks on the floor. Infer: “You are a slob. You don’t follow directions.”
      • Not-Feelings:
        • Describes what you are NOT feeling. “No-one offered me a seat but I’m NOT angry about that.” This language seems encoded, it makes the listener think that maybe the speaker really is angry after all. This, in turn, triggers a response by the amygdala, which senses trouble.
      • Not-Thoughts
        • Thought expressed in a negative form.
      • Not-Wants
        • Wants expressed in a negative form.
        • Red language version: “I don’t want you to leave.” [includes not-want in the sentence.]
        • Green language version: “I want you to stay.”
  • How to Rewrite from Red Language to Green Language.
    • Example 1:
      • Red: “Ed works too hard and needs to take more time off.”
        • Analysis: “too hard”  and “needs to take more time off” = inferences
      • Rewrite to Green: “Ed worked 20 hours per day each week last month.”
        • Analysis: this is observable and capable of being recorded. It does not contain any judgment, just facts.
    • Example 2:
      • Red: “You cause others unnecessary work by not signing out.”
        • Analysis: “unnecessary work” = a judgment-laden inference
      • Rewrite to Green: “When you remain signed in, others try to reach you here without success.”
    • Example 3:
      • Red: “I’d like you to tell me what you mean.”
        • Analysis: this could be heard as a confronting command.
      • Green: “Please tell me more.”
        • Analysis: this is a more open-ended request for information.
    • Example 4:
      • Red: “I feel like the deal isn’t going to make it, but I don’t know why.”
        • Analysis:
          • “I feel like” is a dead giveaway that someone is using Red language.
          • They may be worried about the deal, but they are not providing any specifics to back up their concern.
          • According to John Tompkins, “‘But’ is a verbal eraser that wipes out everything that came before it.”
          • The whole statement appears to be a collection of unsubstantiated worry.
      • Green: “X, Y, and Z are problems for the deal.”
    • Example 5:
      • Red: “I feel shut out.”
        • Analysis: “shut out” is a judgment-laden inference that suggests that others are acting badly.
      • Green: “I feel lonely.”
        • Analysis: this is an accurate description of feeling — without any inference regarding the actions of others.
  • Ten Ways of Using Language that Encourage Failure.
    • Say what didn’t happen or what isn’t happening now.
    • Say what should be, use judging labels or mixed tenses.
    • Say what shouldn’t be or use not-labeling that passes judgment.
    • Say what you didn’t feel or what you’re not feeling now.
    • Say what you didn’t think or what you’re not thinking now.
    • Call a thought a feeling.
    • Call a not-thought a feeling.
    • Say what you didn’t want or what you don’t want now.
    • Say in encoded judgments what you did want or do want now.
    • Say in encoded judgments what you didn’t want or don’t want now.
  • To improve communication, focus on decoding and paraphasing.
    • this helps you understand someone more clearly
    • it helps you convey the desire to understand
    • it helps someone clarify their feelings and/or wants
    • it encourages the development of “owning” (green language) dialogues
    • it helps you maintain self control
    • it redirects a discussion that could be an attack or attempt to manipulate
  • These principles apply to organizations as well.
    • Responsibitiy & Values-Clarifying Language:
      • I observe (facts)
      • I feel (emotions)
      • I think (analysis)
      • I want (actions)
    • Scripted Values-Confusing Language:
      • “Have to”
      • “Should”
      • “Must”
      • “Can’t”
      • “Didn’t”
      • “Won’t”
  • This is challenging stuff that takes a lot of practice to master.
    • Use this post and John Tompkin’s book and website (links above) to raise your awareness about the differences between Red and Green language.
    • Next, notice how they appear in your conversations and in the communications around you.
    • Then, practice replacing your Red language with Green language.
    • Finally, share this with others.
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