Another Admirable Bundle Of Contradictions - Part 1

April 27, 2022 00:26:07
Another Admirable Bundle Of Contradictions - Part 1
I See What You Mean
Another Admirable Bundle Of Contradictions - Part 1

Apr 27 2022 | 00:26:07


Show Notes

Meet Lola Stith and she's quiet, unassuming, cooperative, hard to read. Know Lola and she's focused, determined, uncannily perceptive, catch-you-off guard funny, and perceptive. Said that twice, didn't I. Because she is, twice.


I had the privilege of working with Lola 10 years ago. We caught up recently when I called to ask if I ever exhibited gender bias toward her. That question came up in preparation for an episode with Karen Newnam, and I reached out to ask women who'd worked for me. Lola's answer surprised me and we had a great conversation about it (we get into this in Part 2). We also discussed gender in the workplace, implicit bias, difficult conversations and a few more getting on the same page challenges - and decided to keep the conversation going and record it. So here are a few of my favorite ahh-ha! moments from Part 1:


5:41 - Letting my team know I hear them is the most foundational thing I can communicate. Getting on the same page as alignment.

7:46 - Managing reactions to change ranging from personal to business issues.

10:05 - Leading change and listening to my team - because I don't know everything!

14:33 - Opening the door to getting on the same page. Opening the door to see what's there.

20:40 - Differences are opportunities - if you know how to discuss them.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 Welcome to I see what you mean a podcast about how people get on the same page or don't, or perhaps shouldn't today. My guest is Lola stiff. Lola's a friend in federal government consulting colleague, Lola. Welcome to the show. Speaker 2 00:00:18 Thank you so much, Lu. Thank you for having me. Speaker 1 00:00:21 It's my pleasure. I'm looking forward to our conversation. Why don't you give listeners a short bio about yourself? Speaker 2 00:00:27 Oh my goodness. So <laugh> um, on the professional side I've been working in federal government for about 11 years now. Okay. I am a mother, I'm a grandmother. I have four beautiful granddaughters, definitely a girl tribe in my household. And, uh, you know, in the DMV area, Speaker 1 00:00:44 Nice well with a house full of girls and work. What are you, what are you working on? Getting people on the same page about these days? <laugh>, Speaker 2 00:00:53 It's almost across everything, but Speaker 1 00:00:55 It is. Speaker 2 00:00:56 Um, I think I have, it's just as challenging at work and also at home for Speaker 1 00:01:02 Sure. For different reasons. Speaker 2 00:01:03 Yes, absolutely. For different reasons at work it's every day it's deliverables that need to be done and, and, and the path to take to get it done. Mm-hmm <affirmative> successfully, it's even getting buy-in mm-hmm <affirmative> you say we're going to a different application for one of the programs that I support you and just getting everyone on board and get the buy-in that you are, it is happening, but we do want you to come along and be positive about the ride mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> so more open to training and stuff. So that has been a very interesting challenge. Speaker 1 00:01:36 And at work you're, you've got you're in a team leader, a project lead role, correct? Speaker 2 00:01:40 Yes. Speaker 1 00:01:41 So when you say getting to people on the same page, what kinds of things understand a new direction? Something's gonna go in, get on board with it, contribute to it, and how do you do it? Speaker 2 00:01:53 The example that I mentioned is a great example. So we are getting ready to migrate to a new application, to support one of the programs. And that's being chosen by department mm-hmm, <affirmative> not so much the agency and every there's a lot of angst. There's a lot of irritation having to learn something new, just a lot of negativity around this migration that is gonna happen. Mm-hmm <affirmative> for our program. We wanna be, we, we Arely in, out of all the departments, agency components in this, in this realm for this program. So, um, everybody looks to us for guidance. Everybody looks to us for lessons learned. Everybody definitely seek our program for advisement and to how to do, um, various things. And have you ever had these experiences? So mm-hmm <affirmative> of course we wanna be, we wanna be the lead in taking this migration, getting on board, uh, adapting to the, to the application and, and maybe training out and even in our there's a lot of angst around it. And so it's getting people on the same page. It's one is soothing, those fears it's yes, they do understand the end result, but the path to get to that end result, we may not be in complete agreement, but we are, are in sync. Speaker 1 00:03:20 Well, that's interesting. That's Speaker 2 00:03:21 So Speaker 1 00:03:21 Important. So there's some, there's some understanding and agreement of the ends, the end state, the goals, trended objectives that end some of the disagreement differences, which aren't necessarily bad are, are about how to get there. Right. The means to the end. Exactly. And what kind of conversation is then, do you have about the things that are they're worried about that are on their minds? Is it really all out of your control? So you just having to try to explain, get everybody on the same page with some common understanding of what will happen that you no one can control or are there things that people can, your team can weigh in on that could maybe change some means to the end? So they've got contributions to make about the how, and you're having those conversations. Speaker 2 00:04:08 In this instance, we, it's more out of our control. So when it's out of our control, you know, we can only do what we can do in our realm. We can only do and influence our team mm-hmm <affirmative> right, right. And then hope. And then with the goal that we connect to the department interview and, and their plan and, and we adapt and all that. So Speaker 1 00:04:28 That's harder. Speaker 2 00:04:29 It is harder. It is harder Speaker 1 00:04:31 When it's really something, a change is coming that everyone has to just adopt mm-hmm <affirmative> and adapt to there naturally a lot of questions and there can be some resistance. And that's what you're talking about. Your you're looking at the resistance, trying to, what can you say to people? I mean, this is gonna happen. Let's make it the best we can. And then how do you, what are those conversations about and what are you, how are you trying to get people to feel less resistance? If you can get them there or be less, not be the NA not, you don't want naysayers, right? You don't. I mean, I, it's not that happens, but you don't, you wanna try to get past that? Speaker 2 00:05:05 I wish in these instances, I wish that cause my grandkids would be easier. Be like, get you Speaker 1 00:05:14 The Speaker 2 00:05:20 So key thing is understanding, really presenting the team with understanding to the point that they feel it. I know that my voice is being heard. I know that she's very much aware of my anxiety, my hesitance, my negativity mm-hmm <affirmative> about this whole thing. Speaker 1 00:05:40 So first and foremost, you're trying to let them know you hear them and you understand them. Speaker 2 00:05:46 Yes. Yes. It's not. And, and I think that that's so key with any team that you're either you manage or you're a part of that should be almost the foundational piece that you, that key thing in communication that I hear you. And I understand that lets everyone know that their voice is valued, that they are seen as a part of the cog in this, in this whole big thing that we call the will. It also gives a sense that we're together in this and that promotes to help get people open and more willing to get more aligned because getting on the same page is really no more. It's simply getting an alignment with whatever you have mm-hmm <affirmative> going on. Right? And so we are such emotional beings. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and very much so I think when you, in every instance to a certain degree, connect in some way there and, and, and, and give the, give off the energy that we, we are eye to eye, I see you. I hear you. And I understand. And then that opens the door to walk through, to get to the alignment, to get getting on the same page, to get to where you need to be. So you guys can follow the same path, be in sync to get to the end goal. Speaker 1 00:07:04 That makes a lot of sense. Let me ask you this are, they are people raising issues that are so one, one kind of issue could be very personal. I don't wanna do this. I don't want to change what I do. I don't things that you mm-hmm <affirmative>, people just have to get past. Other kinds of issues could be more task project program work related, like along the lines of adverse impacts to work or to making processes perhaps more difficult, or maybe the application produces something for somebody else in the organization. You guys deliver an output. It's an input someplace else. And some people are saying to you, but Lola, we could have some problems with it. They could be identifying legitimate challenges or problems or possibilities. Speaker 2 00:07:51 Yes. Speaker 1 00:07:51 With the, that the, that the team could have to manage as you, as you migrate, that would be valuable information mm-hmm <affirmative>. And then they would really, really want to be heard. People would wanna be heard about both types. Although I don't want, I don't wanna do this. Do I really have right there just might be. And you've gotta go through that with people. Speaker 2 00:08:11 Are you kidding me? Speaker 1 00:08:13 Right. And then, and, and that's, and that's legit. And you know, you might feel the same way, but Speaker 2 00:08:18 You shiny toy. That's what they Speaker 1 00:08:19 Call. I know. And there is that experience that people have. I felt like in government change came at people so much. They had the experience like you just mentioned, and it's not always giant global change, whole programs don't change or things are stable, but sometimes it change is so much or some new processes or procedures because it change or new leadership, right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> the career officials follow the lead of the political appointees priorities. And, and that happens on a regular basis or even a new career official coming into a senior position, gonna their priorities. So, so much changes. I feel like people have to get their footing, like they're at the beach, Lola and they're in like waste deep in the water and the waves are moving around them and the sand be beneath them. Isn't it just keeps shifting too. And you're always trying to keep your footing from getting knocked over. Yeah. I think change kind of feels that way at some point. And it just gets tiresome. Speaker 2 00:09:20 Yes. Speaker 1 00:09:21 Yeah. You talk about career people who've been around for, or team contracting team, even you've been around that for years or a couple decades. It, it gets old. Yeah. You know, it's part of the job, you know, it's part of the organizational life, but it still gets old. That's part. That's true too. It gets old. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:09:36 Very Speaker 1 00:09:37 Much so. So you have to make that connection with people that's more personal, emotional, because that's important to something, you said, people feeling like they're in it together. Speaker 2 00:09:47 Yes, absolutely Speaker 1 00:09:48 Not on their own. And then you take the more project related stuff and, and, and watch you collect those ideas, I suppose. And, and are you able to pass them on, are you just keeping a list and as the migration occurs, you've got something challenges to watch for that the team could help with that that's productive. Speaker 2 00:10:10 Mm-hmm <affirmative> much. So it, I do both. Mm-hmm <affirmative> when we have the venue, we can voice our opinions in the, of this huge shift in, in how we manage the program in a, in a, with technology. So I, you know, when I, when we have those forums and I can go to the, the key stakeholders, right. The department say, Hey, this is just our concerns, our, our suggestions, what have you. And then in turn for us is having a list. And as we get an understanding, say of the new application and we're able to play with it, then those key things, uh, just making a note. And I don't, I don't know everything. I don't know. I don't know. I don't think any person does. And the one thing about have working with a group of people, everyone has a different view. Everyone, you know, you may catch onto something or, or see something very Speaker 1 00:11:03 Much, so Speaker 2 00:11:03 Much more efficient pushing this button. Does this, did you know that I won't catch different? I just, just different ways of looking at things. And it's a beautiful thing. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so it's doing those forms that you could almost work other to yeah. Have this application work best for the team here in our agency, right? Yeah. Yeah. Right. And we, you know, get the nuances because we have everyone's input into how to make this work best for us. And that list is also building Speaker 1 00:11:34 That's. That's good. And you know, you touched on something I think is really important. You know, I started the podcast as part of a practice I'm rebranding and yeah. A focus of mine is gonna be one focus is gonna be teams, team leads in situations where they're not on the same page, trying to get there and pointing out that four things. And you mentioned the first one, we all see something in a situation. Yes. And possibly we see certain things, but not other things. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And that might be because of your role, your role as a project lead, you have a different, you have to watch different things than someone who's watching something technical about the pro project or the budget, or there's other roles and responsibilities. So we have some areas of focus. Plus our personalities, if maybe if we're <inaudible> Briggs types are different or our training was different, our expertise, we see different things for good reasons. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and you're right. Part of the benefit. And the beauty of team is you can round that out. You can bring it together, but people see certain things and not other things mm-hmm, <affirmative> people make certain things of what they see. They make sense of what they see, but they don't make some sense of it in some other way. Like they make sense of it in a particular way. And each of us does, we have to that's how otherwise we just would be disoriented all day it long, which I often feel Speaker 2 00:12:55 <laugh> Speaker 1 00:12:56 See certain, certain things, but not other things make sense of it in a certain way, but not other, some other way. Then we all kind of have a based on the feeling. We know what we would do about it as it means to some end. Yes. But we would take certain actions and not others as it means to certain ends, but not others. So to two people, 10 people, whatever number this is going on. And number of times mm-hmm <affirmative> and the alignment you mentioned happens on all those, all those ideally happens in all those areas. What we see, what we make of it, what we would do about it and why. And you're probably having conversations, which touch on all those things. Speaker 2 00:13:34 Exactly. Speaker 1 00:13:36 That's, that's big alignment. I mean, that's that's and, and, and what it comes down to sometimes is, I mean, and tell me if you've had this happen on, in a discussion when you or someone else on the team says, they have this aha moment where they, all of a sudden they understand what you understand about something. Oh, I see what you're see what you're saying. Someone else might say to somebody on the team. Oh, I, I didn't think of it that way. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I see what you're saying that moment when we have, I understand what you understand, the way you understand it. I, I don't have to agree. That's a separate question. We can come to that. Exactly. But I know to understand. So my perspective shifts now, I still have my own views on things, but I maybe can respect and appreciate someone else's better. And I think what sometimes happens is they become, they come a little bit more close together. They get integrated a little bit more. Right. You start to put other information into my head that came from you. Now you're talking about that point. You're talking about a greater kind of collaboration. Speaker 2 00:14:38 Yes. And I, I referred to it earlier. It's it's when it's literally for me, cuz I'm very visual. It's you open the door. Right. You know, our doors are closed. We're not, uh, sending, we're not receiving, <laugh> my ways. You're stuck in your ways. You're not seeing my view. I'm not seeing your view. But when you get to that, Speaker 1 00:14:57 I like that. Speaker 2 00:14:57 And it's aha. The it's it's an open door. Speaker 1 00:15:00 I like that. It's almost like open the door and look in and go. Yeah. What's I didn't know that was in there. Speaker 2 00:15:07 Yeah. And what you had said earlier about, and this is, I think so absolute key in it all. We don't have to agree on everything. We don't have everything, but I can support you because I understand, I understand what you're doing and, and I can respect it. I get it. Um, I get it. Speaker 1 00:15:30 That's good. Speaker 2 00:15:32 Yes. And so out of respect, I'm gonna fall and think and, and, and, and align with you to get to the ankle. I see it. I see what you see. So Speaker 1 00:15:41 Things happen in areas of our lives that we, we can't control. We can't make happen differently. We have to find a way to, I don't know, sort of make peace with it or get on board with it. And in the case of, like you said, with a team member and team lead, or maybe family or a couple, it could be, I like your thought I can support you. Speaker 2 00:16:04 Yes. And it's it, it really is getting on the same page. This is just, it's a concept that is, it plays out every day in some way, in every area of our lives. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I work with this, with this migration. It's the whole prof you know, the professional realm of it. It's everything that we just discussed. Um, personal political it's voting. Mm-hmm <affirmative> whenever you vote. I don't agree with everything. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, but I'm ho I see the end goal and I have enough that, and I feel comfortable enough that, um, although I don't agree with everything, I will support you. Speaker 1 00:16:51 That's interesting. And in Speaker 2 00:16:52 The end you get my vote. Mm-hmm <affirmative> for kids it's dinner. <affirmative>, it's something as simple as dinner, you ask a five year old, a F a seven year old, a 12 year old and a, a three, you know, two year old who can't really talk to you, but she has a lot to say, <laugh>, you know, we got for dinner and that is a whole debate conversation mixed with some flips and cartwheels and all kinds of stuff. Before we get to hot dog. Speaker 1 00:17:19 That's hysterical, Speaker 2 00:17:20 Bartering, bribing. It's it's a lot. So yes. Speaker 1 00:17:24 <laugh> I, I, um, now you let me lose my train of thought. Um, <laugh> that's so funny. I, the visuals, the visuals are so funny that, so we were broadening the idea to how other areas of our lives, and you mentioned, but at any politics, um, so the end goal, that was the thought I had sometimes understanding respecting sort of aspiring to an end goal means that people can absorb differences in the means to the end, there might be some limits on how much difference we can absorb. Speaker 2 00:17:55 Yes. Speaker 1 00:17:56 But you're, I think you're absolutely right. And there's some, you know, my background's in conflict resolution and there's some theory about what they call the super or U RA super above other things. Okay. Super superordinate goal enables sometimes people to align subordinate goals. I, I think of a lot of things that we do in life, at work, at home in different situations as chains or sequences of means and ends. Speaker 2 00:18:21 Yes. Speaker 1 00:18:21 And they're connected. And they often connect up to the big, a bigger goal. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and they, we each have in the, we can each sort of you that path. And if people understand that at work, let's say, take the work situation. Then we can switch the, the new app is a means to it's a solution to some problem that the organization has. It's a means to some end. And you're hoping that as, as a means to the end, when it's installed and everyone's using it at a opted it, some situations, some conditions, some things made better. Speaker 2 00:18:54 Mm-hmm <affirmative> Speaker 1 00:18:55 Now the team's gonna go. Okay. Conceptually, just generally, that makes sense. I understand that in the specifics, I can see some things would work. I can see some things that would go wrong. Fair enough. That's their professionals. You want that kind of analysis. That kind of judgment. If you're, if you can keep people focused on eyes on the prize, right. You can keep people focused on the superordinate goal. Yeah. You can li you can help line up some of their efforts to accomplish it, including maybe finding those things that could go wrong. Speaker 2 00:19:27 Yes. Speaker 1 00:19:28 The, the holes we could fall in the things we could trip over the things that could go wrong, that would make the goal, the, the, the end of the, why we're doing the new app, maybe diminish the return on that investment. So they, you want as professionals, they want to contribute that knowledge Speaker 2 00:19:44 Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Well, absolutely. Absolutely. Speaker 1 00:19:47 And if you're asking for it, collecting it, keeping it in a way that the team can use with, I assume you're talking about a contracting team's gonna use in talking with the government team, right? Mm-hmm Speaker 2 00:20:00 <affirmative> Speaker 1 00:20:01 The government. Team's gonna see some things too, that are gonna work, not work you're making. I think you're making big strides toward getting people on the same page in a, in a problem solving kind of way, like, okay. And exactly this decision's been made, we're not on making it. <laugh>, it's not our place to make it. Someone else made the decision above our pay grade. Let's make it happen the best we can. Speaker 2 00:20:23 Exactly. Exactly. Speaker 1 00:20:25 And the difference is that people have in experience what they see, what they make, of what they see handled well in common conversations. Like I think you're having those differences are, are positive. Those differences are where some creativity and some good ideas come from, problem solving can come from. Speaker 2 00:20:45 Exactly. I think the differences are also in the same opportunities. Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, an opportunity to maybe solve the problem better. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> an opportunity to, uh, highlight something, uh, a forethought that we, something we may cross down the road. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> always, I think, I really think differences are an opportunity and, and you can make the most of it and the outcome can be that much better. And it's all about how it's, how it's treated. Right. You can have very much, Speaker 1 00:21:21 So Speaker 2 00:21:21 It can stagnate, um, a program. It can stagnate the relationship. It can make things extremely hard because how it's handled. So Speaker 1 00:21:30 That's true. Very true. Yeah. I mean, even talking about Speaker 2 00:21:33 Stands still Speaker 1 00:21:34 Very much. And we see that very talking about differences is opportunities. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I think of powerful reframing because people can get, like you said, stuck on differences even at a individual level, within a team. So not the level of the organization and the, and the whole application, but within the work, a team is doing people could butt heads or dig their heels in, or just avoid, you know, just ignore over differences. And they're missing an opportunity to come possibly come together. Sometimes when two people pool, what they know as individuals into a, a, a group knowledge, something new comes out of it. Like you said, a mm-hmm <affirmative> problem solving thing comes out of it. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that you don't get there if you're not facing up to the differences, or if you're, if you're fighting over the differences, if you frame the differences of opportunities and people go, yeah. All right, that that'd be positive. It's a different energy. Speaker 2 00:22:35 Exactly. Speaker 1 00:22:37 Is there more to say about the work situation? What happens when, what we described doesn't work you've you've suggested that stagnation. Speaker 2 00:22:47 Yeah. Things get stagnant. A standstill. One thing. It definitely happens a lot in, I notice in the government realm is avoidance. You're Speaker 1 00:22:57 Just, yeah. You're right. Never Speaker 2 00:22:58 Said it. Yeah. It never happened. Okay. Speaker 1 00:23:01 <laugh> yeah, you're Speaker 2 00:23:02 Right. And that's heavy in the government. We just, you just, that just didn't happen. You don't, it doesn't exist. Speaker 1 00:23:09 Some, government's such a say again, Speaker 2 00:23:12 I was just, we're gonna keep doing things this way. Speaker 1 00:23:14 Government's such a big place, not even taking all of government, which is giant, but within a department that you're in mm-hmm, <affirmative> within a part of a department that you're in right within. It's still such a big place that it is easy for people to hide differences, to avoid, to go off often do their piece of something. Cuz the, the, the work gets broken down into a lot of pieces. And so you just go focus on your piece and you do it the best you can. And you can say, I don't think it's helpful, but you can say Lou's doing Lou's piece. What Lola's piece is not my, not my concern, not my problem, not my issue. Lola's doing her piece. Lou's doing his, LO's doing hers. Sue's doing something else over there. And Joe's doing so not, we're not even not because we can avoid facing maybe the harder conversation. They're not always really so hard, but it might feel like they are. Yeah. You can avoid them and do our thing. That's a good, that's a great recipe for just bringing things to a bit of a standstill, like just grinding away for months or years in some ways that don't really get very productive Speaker 2 00:24:23 And the same key issue. Especially when I see, uh, working with the government with this particular agency issues that have been just, it has been a thorn in the side for years, continue to be issues. And, and the conversations again, may pop up every year, framed a different ways, the same conversation and they, and the, and that day as happens where, okay, not doing this avoidance, I don't know. So it's, it's what you said. It's, Lola's doing this piece, but I'm, it's my piece. And, and this is my understanding of it and I'm gonna do it my way. Lou's doing the same way. Exactly. Speaker 1 00:25:01 I Speaker 2 00:25:01 Like that. What the heck is Tony doing? You know what? We don't know <laugh> And you know, no one knows what he, he just pops up with this and we just sit and pond it. That's what happens. And that it should be a sitcom, but it happens so very often. And, and then when the, uh, the next year, when the big annual meeting or whatever, the same thing, the same, tho we're talking about it. And we go through this same, the same, this joint disconnected thing, which is far from being on the same page is far from being in alignment. Speaker 1 00:25:35 Yeah. Not even taking steps in that direction. Speaker 2 00:25:38 Yeah. Speaker 1 00:25:39 That concludes the first of two episodes. Lola and I recorded join us next week. When I ask her, if I ever exhibited gender bias toward her, when she worked for me around sure. Might surprise you. It surprised me also in part two, we dig into implicit bias, personal growth, difficult work conversations, raising children with respect to respect and a lot more as we try to understand what it means to be on the same page and how we get there, unless we shouldn't.

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