Part one of this four part series focused on four tactics in using emotional intelligence, specifically identifying emotions, to deal with difficult people (aka CAVE Dwellers). In this second post I shift from identifying emotions to using emotions to tap into the power of emotions that can be used to drive Lean Six Sigma (LSS) performance.
The scenario often encountered by LSS champions and belts is that of having someone on your team who falls into the classification of a “difficult” person to work with. Often these are the subject matter experts who have been doing a particular job for years and can feel threatened when a LSS team starts to question the performance of their process.
If they are open minded and believe all processes have the potential for improvement you can stop reading here and just get about the work of following the DMAIC approach to improving the situation, but if the opposite is true read on for some suggestions that have worked for me over the past decade of working with individuals who are what I call “process improvement mindset challenged”. In other words, these are people who fail to see the opportunity to improve in much of what they do at work, and in many cases at home as well.
The premise for all that follows is that emotions are people data that, if understood correctly, can be an untapped opportunity you can use to drive project results. The challenge then lies in how to tap into these emotions.
Gather baseline data.
To begin the process, just like working a project, we need to gather some baseline “emotional” data. One tool I use to gather such data is called a Mood Meter. This tool will provide a starting point for tapping into the power of emotions. Below is an illustration of the meter which I often sketch out on a white board before meeting with an individual or team.
Ask each participant to think about their current mood and rate on a scale of 1-10 how they currently feel and their level of energy. To keep others from influencing their numbers I have each participant write down their numbers and then I plot the results.
This data provides a basis to work from for any activity the team has planned for the session. Where I find this is extremely helpful is in brainstorming sessions when we are looking for problem causes and solutions.
With a baseline established, you may or may not need to do any work to get your team into the mood for LSS if you find yourselves in the upper right quadrant, but if you need a shift in the mood consider a few simple tactics such as sharing an inspiring video, listening to a short music clip, sharing an inspiring project success story, or a short period of personal meditation / positive visualization.
The power of emotions.
The aforementioned tactics are more relevant for specific team activities such as brainstorming. What follows are more basic emotional tactics you can use on a daily basis to tap into the power of emotions.
Tactic #1: Always have a smile on your face.
Emotions are contagious! Hang around with happy people and you’re likely to be happy yourself. Hang around grumpy people and watch out because before long you’ll be complaining about everything as well! One simple tactic is to always have a smile on your face because it’s hard to be negative with someone who’s always smiling at you.
Tactic #2: Use the other person’s name frequently.
Using another person’s name frequently is another tactic for connecting with them on a more personal level. The goal of using emotional intelligence with difficult people working on LSS projects is to break down the barrier between what is holding them back from making a positive contribution. One simple way of doing this is getting to a more personal relationship with one another, and a very simple tactic to do this is by using their name over and over again as you speak with them.
Tactic #3: Start with a question.
We all have questions that we seek answers for in both work and personal life, and I often find that if you can tap into the questions related to a project people want to find answers for it becomes an untapped source of energy and passion for a project. To begin this process I typically start by asking probing questions such as, “have you ever wondered why we do something a certain way or what causes x or y to happen all the time?”.
Tactic #4: Identify their WIIFM factor.
The “what’s in it for me” or WIIFM factor is another great source to tap into when dealing with challenging people. I try to use tactic #3 to help determine the WIIFM factor by starting with a series of question to help uncover what’s important to them. Some additional questions to consider include:
- What would make this project a success from your perspective?
- How do you feel you can best contribute to this project?
Tactic #5: Get them saying “yes” quickly.
Gaining agreement that there is opportunity to improve is a great tactic to get someone who has a negative perspective into a positive atmosphere that can lead to action. One simple way of getting to “yes” is using data instead of people, personalities, and opinions.
I will typically start with a question such as, “what is the goal of this process?”. Using this as a basis to measure against, the next question is, “are we meeting this goal?”, which always leads to a “no” answer, but then here’s where I get them saying yes by asking, “do you feel you can help us achieve this goal?”. I’ve yet to have anyone say “no, I can’t help you with that”, because that would be admitting defeat and / or an inability that none of us (especially CAVE dwellers) will admit in most cases even if it’s true!
Putting it all together.
Working the tactics in combination with one another is where the real power of using emotions comes into play. Picture this scenario….
Walk in with a smile and keep it on your face throughout the session. Constantly use the other person’s name as you converse. Tap into their curiosity by asking what questions they would like to pursue related to the process. Dig deeper by asking probing questions as to why it matters to them, and finish off with getting them to say “yes” that they have the ability to make things better.
By no means is it quite this simple, but using these tactics you are more likely to tap into the power of positive emotions and bring a negative person who stands in the way of progress into a position where they can help drive results.