ADLT612-(Wrapping up the rest of the classes): But It All Happened So Fast!

When I was a teenager, my father let me drive his brand-new car to school.  He hesitated, but finally gave in and handed me the keys.  I was so careful driving as it was only one week old.  It smelled so good (as all new cars do) and looked beautiful.  I was just 500 feet from entering the school parking lot when a nurse rear-ended me.

It all happened so fast!

Kaaa-Boom.  I was suddenly in a new situation: talking with the police officers; asking the witnesses to share their observations; thinking about my father’s reaction when he saw the smashed rear of the car.  It was a whirlwind.  Things were sorted out, the car was taken to the body shop, and life picked back up.

Two years ago I decided to enroll in the Masters of Education to focus on Human Resource Development.  Kaa-Boom!  It has been a whirlwind of courses, projects, readings, research, papers, activities, learning, and changing.  Now I’m wrapping the final things up for this class and for the entire program.  I’m transitioning into a new situation of leaving the schooling behind and entering into the next phase of my life.

It all happened so fast!

As I finish up the program and turn in my last paper, I know that following graduation, life will pick back up.  Before I go, I wanted to tell you three (Laura, Kristin, and Jen) just how much I enjoyed our blogging.  Though I’ve participated in this activity with other classes, this ADLT612 has been different.  I value your personal learning and reflections.  I appreciate the trust that it took to post some of your ideas and responses.  These were glimpses inside each of you that were not available in the classroom. 

Jen:  I smile when I picture how you jumped off of the cliff and put your thoughts out there. I suspect that at times you felt completely exposed.  Did you panic after you hit the PUBLISH button????  I applaud your courage and feel honored to have been able to read and respond to your thoughts.  Hopefully our paths will cross in the financial world!

Laura:  Your daughters are watching a wonderful role model show them that they can be many things during their life – not just one.  I think that sometimes when you look in the mirror, you see two people: Laura the young girl in elementary school who is sorting out daily life, and Laura the doctor who is exploring the vastness of life.  I want them to meet and enjoy each other, then walk hand-in-hand as you explore learning in deeper ways.  Success is already yours. 

Kristin:  Please keep purchasing those rings.  They are tiny sculptures and they make a loud, quiet statement of confidence and uniqueness of mind.  You have a gift of succinctly summarizing learning theories and concepts. I know that you will constantly incorporate what you’ve learned long after the books have been closed and placed on your shelf.  And a PhD. in your future would not surprise me.  Please keep teaching – the future students need you.

Thanks to each of you!

ADLT612-(Class #11 on 4/2/12): MBTI: The Shadow’s Grip

To add a few details to our Myers-Briggs conversation in class the other night, here are a few points about what is referred to as the “shadow functions.”  When under the grip of stress, individuals may behave in ways contrary to their MBTI personality preferences.  Other aspects of people’s personalities take over, or come out of the shadow to temporarily manage things.

This is one of the best ways I’ve heard the concept explained:  Perhaps you are a right-handed person who therefore writes with that dominate hand.  Imagine that you have to hand-write a long paper within an amazingly short amount of time.  You are writing as fast as you can, but you are aware of the clock on the wall showing that time is getting shorter and shorter.  You write faster and faster.  Suddenly, your left hand grabs the pen out of your right hand and starts writing.  Since you are not used to writing with the left hand (less dominate), you see your paper turning into a disaster.  You watch in shock at how your left hand has suddenly taken over this stressful situation, making matters even worse.  The right hand regains its awareness and ends up taking the pen away from your left hand and resuming control.  But you are left puzzling over how this event took place – you thought you were in control.

Now I’ll give you a Myers-Briggs example.  I’m a textbook ENTJ.  My “T” (thinking) function is extremely strong.  When I take the MBTI survey, I score a zero for “F” (feeling).  Last year I was going through an extremely stressful situation.  Through it, I was successfully controlling my emotions while focusing on the logical side of what was happening.  My wife and I were having dinner with some close friends, when suddenly, out of nowhere, during our conversation I had a “F” experience!  A flood of intense emotions instantly swept through me and took over my mouth.  I verbalized something EXTREMELY personal about myself.  It was as though I was having an out-of-body experience.  I listened to myself and heard my tone of voice became serious and passionate.  I sensed a lump forming in my throat while I also experienced a feeling from something that had happened to me when I was 8 years old.  I felt helpless and out of control.  Fortunately my “T” kicked back in and it was over before I embarrassed myself.  Later that night when my wife and I were driving home, she asked me what happened.  “I had a shadow encounter and my F took over for a moment…..”

ADLT612 – (Class #10 on 3/26/12): But Doesn’t SCARCITY Make it Seem More Valuable?

When I was a boy growing up in Towson, I sometimes went with my mom to the grocery story.  The only reason I went was because she’d make a stop at a small Italian bakery before heading home.  (Sorry Richmond, but you have NOTHING when it comes to really good bakeries.)  The owner of this particular place had come from Italy to start a family and raise his children as Americans.  Although I could not understand anything he said with his rich accent, I knew when he was about to offer me a complimentary cookie.  His cookies were beautiful tiny works of art with colorful swirls of icing sitting on top of a dollop of chocolate.  They tasted as good as they looked.  And the smell inside that bakery was sheer heaven.  I would daydream of what it would be like to get locked in overnight and eat all of his pastries and sweets….  Perhaps his cookies tasted so good because they were a special treat.

With the paradox of scarcity, perhaps groups perceive more value in something that is not constantly available or accessible.  Or perhaps if it is, it becomes far more valuable if another group wants or needs it.  As explained by Smith and Berg the paradox of scarcity includes “…taking the contradiction associated with their commonness and splitting them in a way that pits the groups against each other.  Whatever resources are available are seen as inadequate, because what one gains is seen as being taken away from the other, as opposed to being given to the part of self that other is carrying on behalf of the system as a whole” (pg 187).

Several years ago I was part of a project group that had been allocated a certain amount of system licenses to complete a body of work.  Another project team, working on a totally unrelated assignment, came to us asking if they could tap into a small portion of our technical resources.  They just needed 2 licenses and they did not have the budget to purchase them.  They even proposed a plan where they would use only one license, leaving us with the other 39 for the 30 of us to use.  Ironically, not all of our group members even needed access to this software.  Suddenly, our resources seem so limited – even though we had too many.  Group members went into a panic and refused to allow the others to use just one license.  When we finished our project, the group leader wondered what the best use of the 10 unused licenses would be and who could use them.  By that time the other group had also completed their project.

This situation reminded me of watching two children playing in a sandbox.  One child puts a toy aside, no longer interested in it.  But as soon as the other child shows interest in that toy, trouble begins!  There’s plenty to around until someone else wants it – then it suddenly becomes scarce.

ADLT612 – (Class #9 on 3/26/12): Team Presentations

This will be a really short blog!

While I was participating in the various lessons facilitated by each group, I was wondering about how well each group worked together to create and deliver their presentations.  Each team presented a cohesive and cooperative appearance when facilitating their topics. Did every member in each group get along like long-time friends?  Were some group members less involved than others on their teams?  Was there a sense of equal representation of ideas and distribution of work?

ADLT612 – (Class #8 on 3/19/12): White is Not Diverse?

Last year I was involved in a team that consisted of three white females and three white males.  Our ages ranged from about 30 to 60.  We were put into this team to discuss ideas and perspectives about culture within an organization.  It was an extremely short term encounter lasting a total of three hours.  I happened to be wearing a suit and tie that day.  The other two men were dressed in business casual.  I knew the three women, but had not  met the other two men prior to this encounter.

During this short team event, we were supposed to brainstorm some observations, thoughts, and suggestions about organizational culture.  One of the men made a comment that I was probably a conservative who supported whatever the “Top” suggested.  He also described himself as an open-minded and accepting individual, who had liberal ideas.  He referred to me as a stodgy banker.  I chuckled out loud about his assessment of me based purely on my attire.  One of the women in the group who has known me for a while also laughed.  For a split second, I wanted to bring his comment to the forefront and discuss it.  But I considered it and found no value in addressing it.

After the conclusion of the event, I was walking down the hallway with one of the female participants.  She expressed her disappointment in the outcome of this team effort.  She concluded by saying, “…our main problem was that there was no diversity in the room.  It was a group consisting only of successful white business people.”

White people….  Gosh, they’re all alike, aren’t they?  Especially white business people.  They vote alike, have identical values, act alike, talk alike, live in identical neighborhoods, eat the same foods, and so forth.

This little example flashed across my mind as I read Levi’s point (pg. 222):  “Diversity is a social construction based on our cognitive processes.  People categorize their social world into groups and treat the members of those groups differently based on their categories (Wilder, 1986).  These categories are relatively arbitrary.  For example, we are more likely to categorize people in ways that are easily observable (e.g. race rather than religion).  Once these categories are formed, they have important implications for how people perceive and interact with others.”

ADLT612 – (Class #7 on 3/5/12): Do You Suffer From Group Envy?

Driving home last night, I was digesting all of the things from the Titan movie.  The film provided examples of so many paradoxes and group patterns.  As I merged onto the expressway, I turned the radio on and ironically, a song from my high school days was playing.  It took me back…

I grew up in Lutherville, Maryland which is north of Baltimore and the beginning of “horse country.”  Just a few minutes out of our neighborhood, and we were driving down country lanes with estates dedicated to raising thoroughbred ponies in spectacular stone barns.  Towson High was my school.  If you were a big follower of the Olympics a few years ago, it’s the same school that Michael Phelps attended.  As with any high school, there was a complex social system of groups – cliques actually.  And there was a hierarchy to these groups.  One of the ultimate groups was that of the lacrosse players.  In my suburban world, football was present, but lacrosse had STATUS.  When our family would visit relatives in Richmond, it was of zero value to discuss lacrosse. They called it a Yankee sport (sport was two syllables).

Towson High was extremely preppy and bled Izod, therefore to even look like part of the lacrosse group, guys had to wear Docksiders (real ones) with no socks, all year long.  I tried to play lacrosse three times.  Being hit with a lacrosse ball is like catching a small cannon ball to the shin, gut, arm, or any other bodily location.  I had bruises that lasted so long, I named them.  Though I couldn’t play worth a darn, I certainly dressed the part.  During my sophomore year, I suffered from Group Envy.  I thought the best possible thing in life at that time would be getting membership into that group.  Forget the football group, they weren’t known for their intellect or discretion.  The lacrosse group had class, brains, and an air of exclusivity.  It was about membership earned through the game. 

My high school memories are great, and I still keep in touch with several of my close friends from that time.  Though I never stood a remote chance of being in the lacrosse group, I was a member of great bunch of kids who were average students just trying to turn in homework assignments while pushing parental limits every weekend.  By my senior year, the Group Envy had passed.

ADLT612 – (Class #6 on 2/27/12): The Amish Group’s Norm

Last night I watched a documentary on PBS about the Amish.  Not only did it present a glimpse of their lifestyle (done so with respect and dignity), it included accounts from several parents who lost their little girls in the October 2006 school shooting in Lancaster County, PA. 

In that beautiful Amish community filled with rolling farmland, there was a one-room school house .  One day, a man (not Amish) came into their little school, presented a gun, and told the boys to leave. A few others managed to escape.  He took several of the young girls as hostages.  At the end of the tragedy, 5 little girls were dead and 5 were severely injured.  The man committed suicide in that one-room school house.

This is what I found amazing about that Amish community’s group norm: forgiveness.

All of the Amish parents of the murdered girls explained that they forgave that killer, Charles Roberts IV.  They expressed their sincere empathy for his wife, his four children, and his parents.  There was no bitterness in their voices; no anger nor resentment.

They explained their definition of forgiveness as releasing the right (just or unjust) to harbor anger or hatred against another person.  They spoke of surrendering the burden of hate over to God and not succumbing to the influence or power of that hate.  They explained this was their community norm.

On the day of the funerals of the little girls, several members of the Amish community went to the Roberts’ home to extend love and peace to his wife and children.  They expressed their concern for that family’s well-being.  They even attended Charles’ funeral as a demonstration of love and support.

One Amish mother concluded, that when she forgave Charles for her 7 year old’s murder, she quickly felt at peace.  It was like taking off a heavy harness and giving it over to someone much stronger who could carry the burden.  She saw no victory in hate, only in forgiveness.

That’s a group norm that amazes me.  They have taught me a lesson.

ADLT612 – (Class #5 on 2/20/12):Engagement – Give Me a Second to Regress to Something That’s Still Broken

Here is something that struck me as a powerful statement from “Paradoxes of Group Life” (pg 127: “This process of regression is both complex and important to understand.  The complexity starts with the fact that much of what is transferred into the present is the unfinished business from the past.”

When I read this, I immediately aligned it with Laura’s point in her February 1st blog about how the emotional walls used to box up wounds can create a trigger-type reaction when an experience is too similar to the cause of the pain.  I see a relationship between both ideas.

Years ago I was a member of a group within a non-profit organization.  For several years, I had worked with the same group of people on different fund raising events and projects.  We had become close through intimate conversations about values and beliefs.  We had been to each other’s homes for dinners that were NOT related to the project work for the organization.  We had spent time outside of the formal setting as friends.  During the last two years of working in that group, something changed with our vision.  It shifted from totally serving others to being ever so slightly self-serving.  As time went on, the tiny self-serving elements began to pollute the purpose and mission of the group.  Intimacy began to diminish which led to the erosion of trust.  Being a member of this group became more of a tool for social positioning.  It was used as a medium for knowing influential and wealthy people in the community.  I presented my thoughts to the group when I announced that I was resigning.  One group member even labeled me “the traitor” for leaving.

That was over ten years ago.  Last spring, someone began asking me to become a member of a different non-profit group.  He knew of my experience, knowledge, and skills.  We talked openly about my sense of being burned though the past experience.  I was using my regression of unresolved history to eliminate the present possibility of joining a group.  I made my decision based upon “unfinished business of the past.”

This person offered me a pair of perplexing questions: “What do you require to trust people again in a similar situation?  What will it take for the past to be resolved?”

Being challenged by these questions, I am surprised that I have allowed unresolved history to influence my regression-thinking.

ADLT612 – (Class #4 on 2/13/12): Does This Compliment Emotional Intelligence?

Who knew that being a member of a group was so complex and riddled with paradoxes?  As I read our text and reflect on the many meanings and implications, more group dynamics of the past make sense.

I pulled a book off of my shelf, “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman, and reread his thoughts about “group IQ.”  Perhaps there may be a parallel between this idea and group identity paradox.  According to Goleman:

“The key to a high group IQ is social harmony.  It is this ability to harmonize that, all other things being equal, will make on group especially talented, productive, and successful, and another – with members whose talent and skill are equal in other regards – do poorly.”  (pg. 160)

Does social harmony result from individuals suspending their uniqueness in order to become a unified whole?  Perhaps, but is seems like there must be a right balance between the preservation of individuality and the group identity.  There needs to be a certain level of emotional intelligence that can determine what traits from each member will contribute to a greater success, while also practicing the EQ traits of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. 

Research by Robert Sternberg and Wendy Williams (both working at Yale) uncovered that “…people who were too eager to take part were a drag on the group, lowering its overall performance; these eager beavers were too controlling or domineering.”  They found that by using each group members’ unique talents, they could capitalize on these things and be a high performance team.  From this, it seems to me that the paradox of individuality versus group identity needs to be navigated while also allowing members to make their own unique contributions, while seeking to achieve harmony.  Now I need to reflect to determine if I’ve been in groups where all of these things have aligned and we became a high performance team…  despite ourselves.