Leave the Emotion In

Have you heard this one? The one where the manager says, "let's leave the emotion out of it and look at the facts...we need answers, not more problems because somebody's feelings were hurt."

If you came to me and said, "I love my job," would you expect me to reply: "Can we leave the emotion out of it?" Of course not. In fact, I'd probably write a celebratory blog post about it, and if it happened more than once - I'll make a case study out of it for the next Lean HR Summit. If that goes anywhere, maybe I can write a book about it and get credit for the newest Lean Tool!

All kidding aside, who are we as managers to tell people how to feel, or worse, when to feel? My observation is that, as managers, we don't know how to face conflict that involves emotion and since we don't know how to do it we demand our team to do the same. Why?

Do we avoid emotions in the workplace because it takes an extraordinary amount of calories to deal with them? Does this phenomena stem from the tendency for us to be fixers? When somebody is not feeling good about things, do we see an opportunity to fix the emotion? Knowing that the fix is probably more on the person feeling the way they do, do we tend to let it slide, since the work to be done would consume more calories than we can afford it? Fixing emotions is a tough slog through the mud, is it not? And if we fix the emotion, did it fix the problem? Most likely not, but do emotions belong in the realm of problem solving?

Most people, as I've suggested will say, "No, leave it out!" Unless of course, unfavorable emotions cause a person to get into trouble - then we have a low calorie solution for dealing with those feelings: HR. This, we were trained to do, and we are good at it. Unfortunately, even this low calorie solution is a form of ignoring how people feel about themselves, their work, their team and the big picture and only looking at the fix, the result - we need an immediate outcome, we need to fix the bad behaviors and emotions for the sake of the organization, or so it would seem:

  • "A leader gets results through people. People must be treated as individuals. Good leadership prevents many problems, but the leader must know how to handle those that do arise." - JRT Manual.

  • Can we ignore how people feel? If we ignore their emotions are we honoring them as individuals? If not, are we treating them like people? Aren't people without emotions considered to be sociopaths? Is that the model team member we want on our team? If not, then why do we ask them to leave their emotions out? How does this square with the hallowed "respect for people" principle? What are we saying to our team when we tell them to leave emotions out? I wonder how many Leansters are guilty of violating the RFP pillar in this manner?

  • "Complete facts must be known or obtained. Opinions and feelings must be found out and considered along with the facts. It is necessary to look at an individual because people are not alike." - JRT Manual.

  • Do I want to make my decisions based on anger alone? Fear? Love? No. But I should try to understand how people are feeling about things. If we don't, then we tend to jump to conclusions when presented with a problem. The Job Relations skill helps provide a framework around not jumping to conclusions, while simultaneously listening, gathering facts, and considering the feelings and emotions around a matter. The JR approach, while not the ONLY way to go about this, is one of the few sources where we see emphasis on the consideration of facts AND feelings. Only then can we make whole decisions that are aligned with the Respect for People pillar:

  • "Decisions are made on the basis of facts properly evaluated and related. And decisions do not make a solution." - JRT Manual

  • Even if we consider emotions, treat people like individuals and make sound, whole decisions, that doesn't mean the problem is gone. We need to check our decision(cause of the solution) for results(effects of the decision leading to the solution):

  • "The leader must know his responsibility to check the results of the decision. It is necessary to watch the timing of action and follow-up, and watch for effect on the objective, on the individual, on the group, and on production." - JRT Manual

  • Lean Thinking, if there is such a thing that can be captured in two simple words, is not the scientific, objective enterprise we would like it to be. The sole reason for this lies within the multi-million person workforce - EVERYBODY is an individual. If people were robots, we wouldn't have to be subjective. To approach each person as if they are more or less the same pair of hands to utilize or the same brain to manipulate is a lethal mistake. Purely objective engagement allows us to pull in everybody without consideration of them as individuals. How efficient would we be at motivating each and every person to reach their full potential? Purely subjective engagement may keep us in the dark and unaware of the facts. How effective will our problem solving actually be?

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    There are No Answers, Only Responses to Problems

    "Don't you have an answer?"

    "I want an answer!"

    What a silly looking word, "answer". The "sw" in the middle just looks funny and yet has no meaning. There are a lot of other words that look and sound silly that start with "sw": swank, swath, sword, swear, swill. These words are a far cry from much more "sh" words: should, shall, shine, sharp, shrug...maybe you have a favorite four letter "sh" word that gets used when problems come up, but I digress. I suppose it is a matter of opinion!

    Definition of the word "answers"
    NOUN - A thing said, written, or done to deal with or as a reaction to a question, statement, or situation.
    VERB - Say or write something to deal with or as a reaction to someone or something.

    In other words, answers are reactions. We demand the NOUN and people unleash the VERBS. A question we could ask as lean thinkers is: are we reacting to, or resolving, problems when we get our answers? I think the answer is, it depends.

    Unfortunately, too many times our demand for answers can make us look as silly as the word looks. 

    Because all we are really doing is asking people to do something. Let's think before we react and demand our answers.

    Definition of the word "response"
    NOUN - the act of responding, or a reply or answer.

    I think I'm beginning to prefer the word "response" over "answer". They are the same words, essentially, but a response can be wrong, less right, or better than the last. The same is true of "answer", but answers are often seen as definitive, the end of all, the decision or statement that allows us to move on to new business. Once we know the answer to our management problems created by humans, that's it right? Nothing else to do? No, that can't be! More problems will come up next week! Maybe even the same one! The organization keeps changing like a living system...perhaps there are no answers.

    This definition of "response" speaks more to lean thinking:
    NOUN - A reaction, as that of an organism or a mechanism, to a specific stimulus.

    This definition gets us closer to where I'd prefer to be. Is our team working better together, like the mechanisms in a well tuned machine, where problems are easily detected, reported clearly and understood easily? Or are we guessing at what the problem is?

    Rather than demand answers, why not start helping your team learn how to respond to the system that they need to navigate together? Ultimately, I want the team to make choices based on how they respond, so I no longer have to demand an answer.


    Seek Out Inspirations for Flow

    Sometimes we find inspiration for flow in places we wouldn't otherwise look. Over the years, I've tried to apply lean thinking, elimination of waste, simplification, respect for individuals, etc. to my political thinking. The short story is - I can't subscribe to U.S. political thinking anymore, in almost every instance of political creation in world history, the result is a path towards destructive win-lose thinking. Fredric Bastiat says it best:

    Life, faculties, production—in other words, individuality, liberty, property—this is man. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. 
    When under the pretext of fraternity, the legal code imposes mutual sacrifices on the citizens, human nature is not thereby abrogated. Everyone will then direct his efforts toward contributing little to, and taking much from, the common fund of sacrifices. Now, is it the most unfortunate who gains from this struggle? Certainly not, but rather the most influential and calculating.
    Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. 
    People are beginning to realize that the apparatus of government is costly. But what they do not know is that the burden falls inevitably on them. 
    Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. 
    But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
    Bastiat described this French political climate in early 19th century in , The Law. This win-lose, zero sum game of destruction doesn't sit well with me, not at all.

    Enough doom and gloom. There is a silver lining...the concept of the flow of ideas, information and things will lead to the betterment of society. Constructive win-win thinking comes from respect for individuals, sharing your views with others and mentoring those that are willing to adopt and adapt to their own personal situation. This is what lean is about for me, and lean thinking has changed the lens I use for looking at the purpose of government beyond the local level.

    Pleased to share with you, if you are open to the idea - The Foundation for Economic Education. Not Economics in the sense you hear about on Fox or MSNBC, where Statist Capitalists are pitted against Statist Socialists, essentially yelling at each other how they should go about their legal plunder. Nope, we are talking economics in the sense of what individuals do, making choices, humans taking action. The materials and philosophy here may not sit well with your current political paradigm, but I challenge you to take it in and process without prejudice, like you say you do when you are problem solving.

    The current issue of The Freeman is all about FLOW...put your lean thinking cap on and use it!

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