After the Webinar: Leading the Chaos. Q&A with Adam Ricci

Webinar presenter Adam Ricci answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Leading the Chaos.    Here are just a few of his responses.



Audience Question:  How do I deal with my frustration of being on the leadership team that is dysfunctional and does not communicate unless there’s a crisis and never seems to have a forward vision? 

Adam Ricci:  That is like a perfect question. If you take a little bit of reflection and realizing, like going back to those cognitive biases. You have a team that is dysfunctional because they have a belief structure against the other people that are on the team. My question is going to be if you are at a point where you can control the team or if you are a lateral type of person on that position, what you have to end up doing is why do they look at this the way they do? Really take the time and deconstruct it and then to push them outside of their comfort zone. If there’s a way for you to do that. Depending on what type of profession that you’re in, that’s where I would start kind of looking at it. I think at the end of the day with this presentation, as much as it is about it is like understanding how people thought processes are so that you can actually deconstruct them. And then also realizing that when you make decisions, things are going to go wrong. How do you just be better at accepting the fact that things went wrong and then how you adapt from that and how do you break down again those same thought processes that come along with it. At the end of the day, anything that is going on, it’s really going to based off of relationships. Without knowing the real specifics, I couldn’t answer there. If you want to ever email me or reach out to Aaron, I can get some more research I’ll be more than happy to. Influencing a team is really really difficult to a certain extent. If you’re high enough up, you can create that type of atmosphere. If you are equal or if you are below and if you are part of some other type of team anyone can be a leader but also at the same time, people have to start recognizing that leadership. The best way to start doing that is to start influencing things. Calling for your own meetings and saying, “Hey you want to meet? Perfect.” Or “Hey, you got a few minutes over here, I can catch you in the hallway, I can catch you out in the street, meet like cruiser to cruiser”, whatever it is you start doing. What you slowly start doing is you start breaking down little barriers that currently exist. Still going fully well, things are not going to be a hundred percent. That’s a tough question to answer.



Audience Question:  Given that we are a public organization with limited resources and constant media and public scrutiny, how do we balance the desire to get folks autonomy and potentially allow them to fail with the reality of the impact of negative public perception. 

Adam Ricci: I think that’s one of those concepts where what are you going, what type of programming that you are looking for? I work for the city of Albuquerque. It’s a large city with a lot of departments and everything else. At the same time, we do a lot of rapid experimentation. We pilot things. We do these things all the time. We are not focusing on the end results. The biggest thing about why when you choose to fail is what the cost of that failure is going to be and what’s the timeframe in which it happens. If you are putting on a program or a project or be given some of this opportunity, you don’t want them to spend 6, 9, 12 months creating this expensive failure. What you really wanted them to be able to do is go hit something in rapid experimentation, go is it going to work, is it not going to work? Then allowing it to fail fast rather than this long drawn out expensive process. You have to kind of figure out how you want those communication and what those programs are going to be and what those early objectives are to find out if it’s worth going there.



Audience Question: Recognizing the unique nature of many of our organizations that sometimes means we that have people who are a little less professional, their communication skills might be lower, they might come with some bad habits or they might come with some dysfunctional behaviors and attitudes. When you talk about embracing change, is there a limit to how much you allow? 

Adam Ricci:  Yeah I think you know in any good organization, any good leader there’s got to be like a line, a limit to things that you allow to go on. What I’m hearing there is some kind of those negative perceptions of what certain staff are. What led them to be that way or they’re actually that way, what’s their personality traits and you start kind of looking at all of those different things, you figure out what it is as a leader am I going to accept? Everyone who works on my team, very early when I got hired at Albuquerque, they were always like oh you’re raising the bar. I was like what bar? There was no bar. You guys are on a ladder. They were like what do you mean a ladder. I’m like you all have the ability to grow and to move forward in this organization and get new skill sets and whatever it is that you would want to do but you get to do it at your pace. At the same time, you have to put limits on it. So what I tell them is what’s okay today is not going to be okay six months from now. I tell them, periodically I will come by and I’m going to take out the bottom rung. If you are on the bottom rung, you’re definitely going to be, chances are at that point in time, they will self-eject. They are not going to be the threshold to that. I hope that kind of like answer the question like you have to realize what it is that you have the time what do you have to do like invest, the same thing with new hires, we have some right now that we are going to through and having the conversation but hey we’re like four to five weeks in. Are they staying or are they going? We don’t want to spend so much time in investment into an individual if we don’t think it’s going to work out.



Audience Question: How do we deal with a colleague that is stuck on “because that’s how we’ve always done it?” You can’t see it but I’m doing the finger quotes there. 

Adam Ricci: Absolutely. Every organization that I’m fortunate enough to transition into, I’ll ask a question, that’s how we’ve always done it. I was like I don’t understand why. Again this goes right back to anchoring and confirmation. This is what I was presented to do so this is what I know to do and it works. This is like a perfect example of it. Something I think everyone has experienced at some point in time in their lives. We already know based on confirmation they’re not readily going to accept information to the contrary about what they are perceiving or what they want things to be. If you’re in an organization where you have data components, where you have research aspects, where you can go and showcase these things initially out of the gate. They’re not going to believe you. they don’t want to hear it. One of the biggest things for again for animal welfare right now is the percentage of pets that are saving lives. We’ve even increased our life saving literally by changing no policies or no programs, but by more or less changing the way people make the decisions and we really have to chip away at some of their anchoring bias. So it was something that was done in a very long, no, I wouldn’t say long but it’s something you do all the time. It’s more of the manner in which you do it. It’s because you want people to come to this conclusion more naturally rather than going , “No you’re wrong and this is what is”. My leadership style is manage by walking around. I involve myself to everyone who is a direct report, secondary level teams on and even from other teams. I’m always interacting every day that I am working and what I’m doing is I’m taking little moments to be like, “Well you know there is this research study and it says this”. I’m not telling you that like what you’re looking at is not the right way to do it. I’m putting little seeds along the way to help that person to start coming along. I know that they’re currently working off a cognitive bias. I have to slowly chip at it. Just because you have that cognitive bias doesn’t mean you can’t move away from it but they are not going to readily accept new information.



Audience Question: Many of us have to work and deal with volunteers in our organization. We simply don’t have the funds to pay for staff to get everything done. How do we get our volunteers to do what needs to be done in light of the fact that they can always walk of their lives and they can just choose to not participate?

Adam Ricci:  Volunteers, the bane of many many organizations. The biggest thing I’ll tell you there is understanding why your volunteers are coming and why they are involving yourself in whatever the organization is that you are doing. There is a number of volunteers that come in for the right reason. Other people come into self-heal. the ones that tend to come in to self-heal are very selfish. Their reasons for being there, it becomes part of their identity which means they become your very problem not at once. Again going back to how 40% of what we see actually gets interpreted by the brain and the brain fills in the rest of the patterns and when you are looking at again anchoring and confirmation bias that they are putting these things together and they’re looking at this organization through one light. They have these lenses on. It’s really come down to people that are around them to start changing those lenses and it’s a simple thing to say to the volunteers are trying to think like if animal welfare like what we would end up doing is being like oh we’re killing everything. Actually, we are not. We’re saving more lives at a higher rate than we ever have before. We became very transparent with our data and those conversations and meeting with them regularly to just give them that information and as a result, we had a lot of people self-eject who don’t want to be part of the new and then we have others that have come in that are really better. It really comes down to how you are giving that information because those volunteers are always going to turn around and cause you problems. They have a perception that something isn’t right. I had this a few weeks ago and one of the volunteers thought I was like mad at her. No, you came at me with half information. You didn’t give me all of the information. Then you were threatening to anonymously go to social media while having private email conversations on the background with people. Again I was an investigator, I have informants all through the organization even at the volunteer level so I know what’s going on. Going and being really honest with them and setting that up. But also realizing that when you have a volunteer course, they are going to cause you problems along the way. If you are transparent with them if you are transparent with your staff and you are transparent with your community, what can they really do?

Aaron: I wanted to give a shout to Sheryl who says one way to handle the response of “that’s how we’ve always done it” is to employ the 5 Whys Inquiry which is apparently from the lean Six Sigma process and I actually I’ll include a book on the lean Six Sigma, there’s a thousand of them out there. I’m going to include one on the course description that you will receive a link for tomorrow.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Leading the Chaos.

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