Thursday, May 06, 2010

policy camp, day 2: when you know you're not a leader, but a close 2nd

It's not that much of a loss, really. I've always known that being a number 1 makes the goosebumps rise, and not in that good way. This is not to say that I am crushed or abashed. It's a confirmation. And it's not to say that I am the one who follows.  The pleasant surprise in this whole day was that it confirmed that I am...uncomfortably neutral about control.

The day started with our policy elevator speeches; I was paired with the NJ Supreme Court law clerk who frankly said, "I don't think these work. But go ahead." And I laughed.  Then she laughed. I got what she was saying.  When she said it in the larger group though, you could feel the room pull away from her.  But she stood up there and just shrugged. 'I've worked on staffs, she said. And these are nice, but they don't remember these. You have to build the relationship and negotiate.'

It was a pragmatic view of the political process and the room full of advocates didn't really shine to that. For most of us, we like to think that if only folks knew the extent of the issue, that's all it takes.  But it doesn't.  It takes politics.  And I admired her guts for saying that, for injecting an element of real politik into the morning.  It was a lesson for me: 
Don't get so caught up in your issue that you forget you operate in a very real world where having the facts and telling the story isn't enough. 
Being the smartest girl in the room is not enough.
Being the smartest girl who knows the right people sometimes is.

I hope I stay in touch with her after this; in a few years, this woman will either be a very good, and very connected, lobbyist or a very good, and very connected, state senator, congressman or judge for New Jersey.

How was my elevator speech? Ah, it was serviceable; it won't set the world on fire but no one called it crazy.

And that's another thing; it is so incredibly nurturing here! I imagined a policy shark tank, a boot camp of sorts.  But while the group discussions get heated, and positions are strenuously defended, there is always consensus to make us whole again.

Consensus. A word that used to make me itch in impatience.  But now I see the use for it.  In our session about Effective Teams, we had to agree on what helps or blocks teams; we couldn't take a simple vote and any disagreements had to be resolved through consensus. I found that I'm mostly ok with switching my vote. Oh, I'm wed to my position but often I will see the value of another person's view and give way.  But only if their view is valuable and they made a good case for it - or if there was a greater good that could benefit and didn't depend on my position.

What was also surprising was figuring out what each of us valued in our teams. Half of us wanted everyone to contribute; the other half, only if the contribution was value-added. Most felt that conflict was a block to progress, but ok if framed as debate; most required structure and felt that personal feeling talk could be a slippery slope for losing focus. Above all, we felt it was important, no matter individual positions, for the team to enjoy working with one another. 

Of course, when we compared our findings with actual research about effective teams, we discovered that some of what we preferred wasn't supported. Fascinating. Who knew conflict was a boon? Who knew that assuming equal competency levels was a block? (Lesson: always identify your weakest link and allocate resources appropriately!) It definitely made me stop and evaluate my current team and how I work in it.

Which brings me to the FIRO-B test.  We all submitted an assessment before we arrived and received the results. Wow.  It measured on Inclusivity, Control and Openness, on a 54-point range. (You can look up the FIRO-B to see how it works.)  Spookily accurate.

I had an overall score of 14 - out of 54!! My Inclusion score was low: I prefer being alone vs. interacting with others.  My Control score was also low; I like little structure, don't care about controlling others and don't give a shit about you trying to control me, because you won't.  (I paraphrase.) And my Openness score was medium; I prefer some but not a lot of warmth and closeness in 1-1 relationships.  Again, spookily accurate.

In other words, I'll be part of your team but I'm the loner who'll go along as long as I agree with the direction; but as soon as my and the group's interests diverge, I will bounce. Interesting, isn't it? (Perhaps I should warn M-.)

I don't think I was the only one struck with their results. Perhaps it was seeing ourselves rendered in print that made us all head for the bar immediately after the session.

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