Maslow and Millennium​s - a coaching moment

I HAD to share this with the group -- this is from a highly intelligent C-level officer. Their HR director brought this info back from SHRM and shared it.

Here is the question he posed: "I was just wondering if you have heard about some of the new studies coming out of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how researchers are now saying, especially with the new Millenniums, that Belongingness is at the bottom below Physiological needs. My HR director says it is 'very interesting stuff that they presented at SHRM'. They want to use information to 'redo our leadership development program' - which as you know teaches Maslow is the traditional form to provide a basis for understanding where different people are in life and what needs motivate them. I asked NH (HR director for the research and backup information and she couldn't find anything. At that point I admit I was not at my best and became flippant. I said to her: 'Are you telling me that new Millenniums would prefer singing Kumbaya than knowing where their next meal is coming from or having a nice bed to sleep on? Do you think they want to hold hands and 'belong' rather than have a roof over their heads?' That opened a whole can of worms and she got defensive saying that it wouldn't have been presented at the annual conference if it hadn't been thoroughly researched by SHRM. I know that you will tell me this is a 'coaching moment' but I just don't have the energy for this anymore. Why do I always feel like I'm pushing a rock up a hill when she's in my office? We just rolled out that program 4 months ago and I don't think it is good or cost effective to 'redo it' because she heard something at a conference. If you could get back to me before Friday, I would appreciate, having a follow up with her then about this nonsense. In the meantime, I am trying to find any reference to this."

My response thus far (I haven't pushed the button yet so if anyone has additional comments, I am open to them!): Yes, you are right - this is a coaching moment - for both of you :) First let's deal with your HR Director. Questions to pose: Who validated the research? How far along are the studies? Since Maslow (as a model) has stood the test of time through several generations, what in the precise difference the researcher/s see in the new Millenniums? Does this hold true across cultures, industries, etc. Was the research done on students or people in the workplace? How large was the study group? Is it validate in our high tech business?

If all the answers point toward validating the info (which I can tell you doubt from your email :)) - please keep an open mind. Everyone thought the world was flat once, too! Nothing is less attractive in a leader than a closed or biased mind. Next question: What should we do with this info? What changes are you proposing? What will the impact of these changes be to the business? How can we provide a return on the investment of changing our existing program?

If the information does not withstand scrutiny. Questions to pose to her: Now that we know this research wasn't worth much, what would you differently in bringing something like this forward for my consideration? Do we have a process that withstands an after action review wherever we consider changes to our programs - especially our leadership and development programs?

Most important about this type of interaction, you are becoming frustrated and this is affecting your relationship with your HR director. She is trying to help. She has good intentions. She cares. She does not have the business experience that you do. How are you going to help her grow? Does she have the potential to grow into the role you need her to take on? Last time we spoke your answer was 'yes' - has anything changed except your level of frustration? Can you look at events like this as coaching moments? I know that I have had a few similar ones with you and others... Wrack you brain, I am sure you'll think back at some and laugh. We all need to grow and someone else usually helps us in moments like these. Remember?

Finally, what on earth are you doing ferreting out this information? This is her job. She is the one that should be bringing this to you, then if you have sufficient data, only then do you validate - otherwise is a complete waste of your valuable resource - TIME! Next, if you are doing it to be prepared, what are you getting yourself prepared for? TO use your info to refute her claims? TO show that you are better informed? Any other reason I am not getting here? Will any of these help you, help her grow from this or (most important) help your relationship? Just something to think about. What is motivating you here - might it be something like confirmation bias, ammo gathering, or something similar?

I suggest that you go into the eLearning and go through several of the sessions on biases and have her do the same – perhaps having this knowledge under her belt (and yours J) will save you future aggravation J Let’s talk next week after you have viewed Confirmation Bias, GroupThink (and its affects), Truth bias, and Deformation Professionale.

All the best

Hellen Davis
CEO Indaba

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