Welcome to our interview with Lynne Cazaly. Lynne is a Speaker and Author of Making Sense, Agile-ish, and Leader as Facilitator. Lynne believes the skills we need for 2020 put Sensemaking as the #1 skill—so much information, so little time, we’ve got to get to grips with what’s going on, make decisions and most of all, act.
We invite you to share your perspective by taking the one-minute survey at the end of the interview. Welcome Lynne, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of Forward Thinking Workplaces 2.0.
Bill Fox: How can we create workplaces where every voice is heard and matters, people thrive and find meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Lynne Cazaly: This question is a big ask, isn’t it? It’s not just every voice mattering, or let’s make sure everyone’s thriving and it will be great, but it’s numerous things that might make for a great workplace.
I think there are a few things under each of those headings, but perhaps sitting above all of it is a focus on learning or improvement. Carol Dweck talks about the Agile Mindset in her book Mindset. Are you are willing to be moved? Are you willing to be flexible and are you willing to think about how you might be able to do things a little differently?
There’s an Australian social researcher by the name of Hugh Mackay. One of the books he wrote some years ago was Why Don’t People Listen. Mackay says underpinning it all—and the reason why people don’t listen—is because they’re afraid of what they might hear and how it might change them. I think this is relevant in creating workplaces where every voice matters; it could be a terrifying thing to listen to other voices.
If someone is thriving more than you, that could be confronting. If someone is finding meaning quicker than you are that also could be confronting. And looking at change and innovation, if we have to force that on people, there’s a sense that they’re not taking it up naturally.
Above all, I think it’s about learning, but having this flexible mindset in being willing to listen to something that might, as Hugh Mackay says, “Rattle your cage a little bit.”
Bill: What does it take to get an employee’s full attention and best performance?
Lynne: It extends from what we were just talking about, having an agile mindset in bringing your whole self to get full attention and best performance. I certainly know of colleagues— and experienced it myself—where your capabilities are not used in the workplace. In fact, they’re unknown.
You know how your leader or manager on the team you work with knows you. Unfortunately, they only see a little sliver of what you do. And sometimes you’re perhaps what I call a “narrow hire.” They’ve scoped out what they want a person to do and recruit for that. The person gets the role, but then there’s all this other stuff that you do.
I think if we were to understand the diversity that people bring from their experience, then our employers would be way more attentive and use more of those capabilities that we have. As I look back on some of my experience, which was in broadcasting and production in radio, I’m probably using some of it now in talking to you. I also use it when I’m speaking in public and when I’m training and facilitating, but wouldn’t it be great for me to use more of those skills with some of my client projects?
That’s just a tiny example, but it’s probably a good question for people to think about, “What are some of the skills, capabilities and experiences I have that my workplace could be making use of right now and they’re not?”
I’d suggest that there are many capabilities and experiences you have that are not being used. If they were explored a bit more, and if we were bringing our whole self to work, that would be an interesting boost to our thinking, engagement, and level of performance.
Bill: What do people lack and long for at work?
Lynne: I’ve been writing and talking about making sense or what I call sense-making. It’s the number one skill that one needs to shoot for in 2020 and beyond. I think the idea of getting to meaning or understanding quickly, helps people get a grip on things to help them feel more part of the workplace, more part of the team, more part of the work that’s being done.
Broadly speaking, there’s a sort of disconnection going on, and there’s probably a range of things causing it. I think we need to help people understand things quicker and not leave them in that ambiguous state before announcements are made. If we don’t, the rumor mill starts working and the grapevine’s in full swing because people pick up clues and hints about what’s going on. Why keep them in the dark?
What’s caused some of this are the practicalities that Dan Pink’s book Drive identified such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. He said if we have these things, these are the things people long for at work. I’d add to Pink’s list the idea of having some sense of being able to work out what’s going on and find that out quickly. It’s not up to the employees to find out what’s going on; it’s up to all of us to help each other make meaning of what’s going on.
Bill: What is the most important question leaders should ask employees?
Lynne: Speaking as an Australian down under, we might say something like, “What do ya reckon?” So, that word reckon, it’s a lovely word that means to think or to consider, to be curious, and to wonder.
I love the idea of wonder lust. You have an ongoing interest and curiosity in something. Management should be asking employees, “What do you reckon?” What do you think? What’s your opinion?
Bill: What’s the most important question employees should ask leaders?
Lynne: I’d like to see them asking something around the question, “What do we need to do?” It’s not so much about what should “I” be doing or tell me what to do, but it’s more about, “What do we need to do?”
I’d love for employees to be taking on the role as more of a facilitator rather than waiting for management to answer that question while involving their colleagues at the same time. When we ask what do we think we need to do, it becomes more action based rather than about permission.
I do training programs in facilitation skills, and overwhelmingly the thing that people fear the most when it comes to leading a meeting or a workshop is they worry about the senior person who comes into the meeting. They are worried about how do I quiet this person down, or how do I stop them taking over the meeting. There’s this fear of management—what are they going to do? What are they going to say? How are they going to stop me?
I would love if management is asking, “What do you reckon?” And for the employee to take on a more facilitate role by asking, “What should we do?”
Bill: What is the most important question we should ask ourselves?
Lynne: What can I do? I have a strong bias for action for helping teams and groups work on things, making decisions, and then acting. I love to hear more people asking themselves, “What’s next?” Or, “What can I do?”
Another good question to ask is, “What other inputs do I need before I can put this into practice?” I’m interested in having an action bias of making decisions and then being in action, then you can see if it was this a good decision. Is this working out? If not, course correct. Don’t focus too much on permission but start asking, “What can I do?”
The above all aligns with what I’d say is this bias to action. We’ve got to do something—and if it’s not right—we can make adjustments in motion. That’s easier than going from a standing start.
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