Monday, May 5, 2014

Buoyancy in teams and what it means if it's scarce

I'm one of those people who is straight up, honest and to the point. I'm also too honest sometimes, and often have to check myself before speaking in order to avoid certain unwanted reactions. This is especially important when working with individuals who have either low self confidence in their appearance, or in their skills — both of these types of confidence are needed in order to have high buoyancy.

What is buoyancy you ask? To have buoyancy is to remain resilient in the face of rejection. For example, of all the managers I've had so far, the best have always been those that had strong levels of both skill and appearance self-confidence, allowing them to not be too phased by fails. They could take it when things went wrong, recover quickly and find solutions. They could take it when people would disagree with them in high profile meetings and could either come back with evidence to support their proposal, or admit their error. In the face of big difficulties, they wouldn't ruminate on all that was wrong, but would instead move on to a positive attitude a lot more quickly.

Unfortunately, if you work in an environment where there are many people with low to very low buoyancy, you basically have to sugar coat everything you say or entirely avoid mentioning the things that are in need of fixing. It takes a lot of work to sugar coat. Sometimes the right message doesn't get through because you put so much "cushioning" around it. Sometimes you end up fixing it for them, just to avoid speaking to them about the issue. And, of course if everyone is avoiding pointing out problems, then things can deteriorate quickly.

What can, in my opinion, help support a high buoyancy environment? Well, there's not much one can do about people's appearance or confidence in their appearance (this can take years of positive reinforcement, and is probably something their parents or high school kids would have impacted most). But, there are a lot of things that can be done to improve people's confidence in their work. Training, team building sessions, meetings where everyone is asked to share a "fail" in order for others to learn from it and that no one is perfect etc., these are all ways to increase team buoyancy. And, having a culture where failure is tolerated and seen as a learning opportunity or a stepping stone to success — that's important too.

Here are some of my favourite related quotes:
Failure isn't the opposite of success, it's part of it. (Unknown)
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.  ~Thomas Edison
Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. ~Winston Churchill 
Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. ~ Robert F. Kennedy 
I personally, really do appreciate when I get constructive criticism. I evaluate the individual giving the criticism, and if I see they are coming from a good place, I take it and I work on that aspect of myself immediately. What I don't appreciate, is when people avoid giving any kind of constructive feedback, although I understand it's probably because they've encountered one too many people who were offended / negatively reacted to it. But think about it, how can anyone improve if feedback about their fails is only offered up in the form of criticism about them when they're not around?

On my road to becoming a manager, I need to discover a fine balance between providing accurate feedback, while avoiding hurting the individual's feelings. Some people I know are really great at it, I need to get together with these people, and pick their brains! :)

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