Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Apprentice week 6 analysis, RWA: The FIT model

Summary: Today's post reviews episode 6 of The Apprentice Australia and offers a Real-World Application (RWA) in the area of emotional self-management using the FIT model.

In business it's common to discuss rational and behavioural dimensions of day-to-day activity, yet what often gets overlooked is the emotional component. The past 2 weeks have demonstrated what a crucial part emotions can play, making the difference between success and failure.

This post will assess how poor emotional self-management cost Carmen her place in the competition. In the next post I'll discuss the emotional component of Gavin's defeat and how the continuing pattern of his emotional inauthenticity is costing him the confidence and trust of others.

Review of episode 6: Microsoft commercial

In brief, Carmen's team was derailed by chronic interpersonal conflict. Though they managed to make a good quality commercial and approximated some kind of celebration at the end of production, it was clear that a lot of unprocessed conflict remained.

The toxic residue of this tension was so evident during Team Eventus' presentation to the Microsoft executives that the latter simply concluded they could not work with them. The client's reaction to Team Pinnacle, by contrast, was "whilst the ad's not perfect, we can work with them." Emotional conflict buried Team Eventus in the end.

If you've ever been exposed - directly or after the fact - to this kind of conflict you know how draining it can be. The phrases used by Gavin and Carmen that I've summarized below will sound drearily familiar:
  • I want to try to smooth things over
  • You were grandstanding!
  • You're paranoid.
  • What's your problem?
  • You need to calm down!
  • You need to leave your ego at the door!
  • That's just throwing some words to shake me up, I've dealt with people like you before, you won't let me finish, interrupt, no respect for me, no regard for my authority...
End result:
  • "She's had a hissy fit...she clearly can't control her emotions."
  • "I just can't work with him."
Gavin's style when under pressure (whether in conflict with other team members or under scrutiny from Mark Bouris in the Boardroom) is to put on a mask of attentive sincerity. It's a largely non-emotional stance; it's like he transforms into a social chameleon, saying and doing the things he thinks others want him to do and coming across like a performance/achievement robot. (In the review of episode 6 I discuss in more detail how I think this is hindering his performance and what he might usefully do about it.)

Carmen, meanwhile, was unable to manage her emotional reactivity and lost her cool in dealing with both Gavin and Sam and as a result her leadership was rated a failure. Mark Bouris' summary: "There's a huge difference between being passionate...and losing it."

Real-World Application (RWA): The FIT model*

Given the chance to offer Carmen some counsel on how to handle the clash of personalities and working styles in her team, I would have suggested The FIT model as a way for her to gain useful insight on the situation and decide how she wished to proceed.

FIT stands for Feelings, Intentions and Thoughts. The FIT model is a means to develop self-awareness of your own state in order to better self-manage, and is particulary helpful in situations that may provoke strong emotional responses.

I've lamented before that we have become quite sloppy in our use of language, and nowhere is that more evident than our misplaced statements about feelings. People routinely say "I feel you disrespected me" or "I feel very strongly that my option is the way to go."

The problem is, these aren't feelings. The first is a perception and the second an opinion or judgement. By labelling them "feelings" we mix them up with our emotions and, not surprisingly, make it practically impossible for other people to comment on these statements without taking it very personally.

It's vital to distinguish between thoughts and feelings and to get clear on what outcome you're actually seeking from a conversation or situation. So that smart question becomes: how FIT are you to have that conversation or address that situation?

Here are the useful distinctions that the FIT model introduces for you to consider:
Feelings/emotions - essentially: Mad, Sad, Glad or Afraid (as distinct from Thoughts, below)

Intentions - Wishes, hopes, wants, goals, desires, needs, expectations, requests, demands

Thoughts - Inferences, conclusions, judgements, evaluations, beliefs, assumptions, opinions, perceptions
While behaviour can be observed and thoughts explained by what we say, much of what happens emotionally for us cannot be readily observed by others. If you don't have any awareness of your emotional state and likely reactive points then heaven help the person you're interacting with, for whom these things are invisible!

The FIT model is therefore a ready-reckoner to work through the tangled mix of feelings, thoughts and intentions - both for yourself and what you imagine might be happening for the other person.

Used effectively it helps to defuses tensions, as you clarify your intent and realize where opinions and judgements may carry excessive (and unacknowledged) emotional charge.

I've written previously about a highly effective language style that helps depersonalize such tense situations and get better outcomes that everyone feels good about.

When I've worked with teams where deep-seated and longstanding conflict was stinking up the room like a dead cat under the table, I've made good use of tools and models like these to get just the shift in perception that was needed to help people make real progress.

Self-awareness is key to self-management and once people used the FIT model to separate out the feelings from the thougths and intentions, they were able to better manage the strong emotional reactions and bring some really useful, adult behaviour to what had previously been like a bunch of quarrelling kids in the boardroom.

tmc can help your team manage interpersonal tension as your people clarify their intentions, their thoughts, and the language they use to talk about them. The result: a team that achieves the high performance you expect, on a sustainable basis.

To find out more today, contact me directly and let's have a conversation about your situation.

Note: For those of you outside Australia who wish to view the episodes of The Apprentice Australia that I'm discussing in this series of posts, you can find them on YouTube here. Meanwhile if you're in Australia you can see not only the episodes to date but also post-episode video diaries on the Nine website here.

Related previous posts:
Analysis of episode 1, RWA: Foundation & Force
Preview of episode 2, RWA: Conflict Management
Apprentice week 2 analysis, RWA: Giving/Receiving Feedback using Head & Heart
Apprentice week 3 analysis, RWAs: Team Leadership and Setting a Team Culture
Apprentice week 4 analysis, RWA: Coaching for high performance
Apprentice week 5 analysis, RWA: "The Relationship is the Customer"

*FIT model adapted from Fontaine/Bauman, John Wallen & Miller, Nunnally, Wackman and Saline.
Photo credits: Carmen's photo from her corporate website.

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