Friday, February 12, 2016

Three Questions to Assess an Employee’s “Balance”

Assume that every problem has multiple solutions. Take the time to look at every situation from multiple points of view.

Digital is all about the balance: the balance of the physical and the virtual world; the balance of innovation and standardization; the balance of unconventional insight and accumulated human wisdom. From a talent management perspective, should you also assess the “balance” capability of an employee? Surely we don’t expect all employees have the gymnast's balance skills, so what does digital balance mean for today’s digital professionals? And what are thought-provoking questions to evaluate their “balance” ability?    

Q1: Are you a Binary Thinker or a System Thinker? Organizations rooted in the industrial era are composed of functional silos. Silos are inevitable in every structured organization, it can improve a certain level of efficiency. However, the side effect of the silo is bureaucracy and unhealthy internal politics and competition. Silos are a method of containment and storage: bounded groups or insular tribes are evidence of silos, and silos are reservoirs for homogeneous thinking, limiting the organization's creativity and innovation. Employees working in silo environment are easily taking the side with the binary thinking or extreme thinking: “ We are right, you are wrong,” “ We are the winner, so you have to lose,” with ignorance of the fact that the organization as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces. From management psychology perspective, a binary thinker picks one of the two opposite sides of viewpoint only, and take the two-dimensional lenses to perceive the multi-faceted world, they perceive things either good or bad, right or wrong, black or white, there are no shades in between; such extreme thinking can limit your view to observe the world more objectively; distort the picture of reality, restrict the scope of your thought process, and cloud your mind to make good judgment either in decision-making or problem-solving. To put simply, a binary thinker is a lack of the balance to understand things in a holistic way.

Q2: Can you strike the right balance of following the business principles, but also be innovate to break the outdated rule or habits? Digital is the age of changes. Being only an order taker is no longer sufficient to be a high mature digital professional to ensure business effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiency (doing them right). Most of the people, including leaders, often find themselves playing it safe and spending too much time trying to weigh risks and outcomes. Therefore, the capability of balance can differentiate a digital leader from a follower; a change agent from a laggard; an innovator from a mediocre. Digital professionals with balance can bring agility and flexibility across the spectrum of digital dynamic and digital paradox. It can also bring in-depth understanding across the spectrum of a "local"/"specific" to "global"/ "holistic"/ "systemic" (boundaryless /trans-epistemic)/ "whole-systems" elaboration.

Q3: Can you make a balance of thinking and doing? In traditional talent performance management, quantity over quality, and “keeping hands busy” over “keeping the mental focus.” However, digital means innovation. It’s about the balance of consistent delivery and taking the calculated risks to do things differently.  Decide whether the possible gains will outweigh the probable losses. If you don't cultivate an atmosphere that fosters some risks, then you will stagnate. It's not about taking the risk for its own sake. It is insight and foresight and the ability to integrate “Thinking Performance” and “Action Performance,” to encourage autonomy and mastery. Because the purpose of talent management is about improvement for the future, and stimulate employees thinking further about their authenticity, ambition, strength, and innovation. Thinking Performance can make the assessment of employee’s vision, cognition, and creativity as well.

Therefore, the assessment of an employee’s balance ability is to push and encourage teams to "think in bigger boxes" (think outside of your job description and consider company and industry and even societal impacts). Engage all employees in improving their thought processes, and create the expectation that positive behaviors and creativity are valued above everything else. Assume that every problem has multiple solutions. Take the time to look at every situation from multiple points of view (customer POV, supplier POV, management POV, etc). Do not rush up to take the side, but be more thoughtful in decision-making and bring wisdom to the workplace.


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