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Archive for the ‘Risk Management’ Category

What is “Groupthink” and How Can I Avoid It?

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Have you ever been part of a group – maybe a workgroup, a sports team, or a committee – where everyone was so eager to get along, not rock the boat or make a unanimous decision that it affected group members’ ability to challenge a decision, propose alternatives, or speak up at all?

If so, you’ve experienced, first-hand, the phenomenon called “groupthink.”  

When psychologist Irving Janis began theorizing about groupthink in the early 1970’s (while studying disastrous large-scale policy decisions like the Bay of Pigs Invasion), what struck him repeatedly was the inability of well-intentioned groups  to see beyond their own narrow focus, to rationally consider alternatives, and to foresee how their course of action would seriously threaten – and in some cases destroy – the groups’ very goals and principles. Also notable in each case was the extreme desire group members reported to “please one another,” to be perceived as team players, and to retain their membership in the group.groupthink_video

Groupthink can strike groups of any size, in any department, at any organization. Because the risk groupthink poses to organizations is nothing less than ineffective group decisions that can lead to negative (even catastrophic) outcomes —  employees and leaders must learn to avoid groupthink by spotting it when it occurs.

One effective way to educate teams about groupthink is the Groupthink video from CRM Learning. It features Dr. James K. Esser explaining the 8 symptoms of groupthink: the more of these symptoms that are found in any decision-making group, the more likely it is that the group will develop groupthink. The Groupthink video also shows a haunting re-enactment of the meetings and decisions leading up to the fateful launch of the space shuttle Challenger, which Dr. Esser and others have studied as an example of faulty group decision-making, likely due to groupthink.

The best way to avoid groupthink is to create an “open” climate during decision-making processes – especially during meetings.  Leaders need to encourage free discussion and non-judgmental attitudes when others are speaking. They must avoid isolating the group from outside influences – even bringing in “outsiders” to help challenge assumptions and think critically about the problem the group is facing, and how data or information is being analyzed. Outsiders who don’t have expertise that directly links to the matter at hand, or who are in a different specialty area altogether,  can be valuable for asking new questions and thinking about problems entirely differently.

Similarly,  leaders and group members alike should be empowered to take on the role of “critical evaluator” – someone who has the power to challenge the group’s rationalizations and assumptions.  Critical evaluators lead the way in thinking through the potential outcomes and consequences of various decision choices.

Provide your groups and teams with the tools they need to avoid workplace groupthink with the Groupthink video from CRM Learning. It uses the space shuttle Challenger disaster and other historic examples to explain this phenomenon and how groups can avoid it.

How The Groupthink Video Enables Groups To Make Better Decisions

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

challengerWorking effectively in a group comprised of different people and personalities can be one of the hardest challenges in the workplace.  Team decision making, in particular, is often undermined by unproductive group dynamics.  CRM Learning’s classic training video, Groupthink, exposes one of the most common ways groups end up making bad decisions.

Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group’s decision makers appear to be in agreement on a course of action– when, in reality, some team members have doubts. It happens a lot in groups where the desire to seek unanimity (either stemming from a strong sense of “esprit de corps” or out of a perceived pressure to conform) prevent the group from critically examining the proposed action…in particular, failing to fully consider opposing viewpoints.

Identifying groupthink, and knowing how to avoid it, helps ensure effective decision making at all levels of the organization. And, that is what CRM Learning’s groupthink video is designed to do. It uses a reenactment of the Challenger disaster, along with other historic examples, to powerfully illustrate how well-intentioned people can make bad decisions, entirely or partly due to groupthink.

The Groupthink video enables viewers to answer the questions below and apply the video’s lessons to their own group decision making:

Why do group decisions sometimes result in monumental error?

What drives groups to agree on a course of action despite the better judgment of some, or even all, participants?

What specifically can groups (and group leaders in particular) do to encourage critical thinking and give full consideration to opposing points of view?

CRM Learning offers a number of outstanding training videos on teamwork and group dynamics.  Each video has multiple options for purchase including DVD, USB Flash Drive or online streaming.  Classroom training materials are provided with DVD/USB Flash Drive purchases and may be purchased as add-ons to online streaming.

How to Avoid the Road to Abilene

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Has your group ever gone down the road to Abilene? This type of trip occurs when a group or team goes ahead with an idea or project due to the phenomenon of “false consensus”: everyone communicates their agreement with the idea, when in fact, some or all actually have objections or concerns, but fail to state them. This occurs in organizations because many people feel they’ll be ridiculed or censured if they voice objections. Trips to Abilene are a waste of time and resources and leave team members frustrated. Avoiding the road to Abilene in the first place is the best way to keep a fear of speaking up from causing your group to support a bad choice.

How to Avoid the Road to Abilene

  1. Encourage Disagreement: Create an environment in which group members are comfortable voicing differing opinions and are expected to stand up for their convictions. Facilitating discussion, keeping conflict healthy, and specifically asking for conflicting viewpoints allow groups to determine whether or not everyone is on board with a given idea.
  2. Avoid Depending on Unanimous Agreement: It takes an inordinately long time to truly reach a unanimous agreement. If people in a group know that the only way the project can move forward is if they pretend to agree with an idea, they are much less likely to present an opposing position.
  3. Create Avenues for Everyone to Voice their Opinions: No matter how you set up a discussion, not everyone is going to feel comfortable voicing their opinion. Setting up alternative avenues for discussion can help avoid that trip to Abilene. This might mean creating an anonymous suggestion box or hotline, or asking people for their opinion one on one. Everything you can do to diversify the way opinions are voiced reduces your chance of pouring resources into bad ideas.
  4. Be Careful with Language: The way a group leader constructs his or her comments can have a vast impact on whether or not members speak up. For example, saying “So we’re all in agreement?” encourages everyone in the group to say “yes.” Instead, consider asking “Does anyone have anything to add?” Being precise with language when wrapping up a discussion or responding to criticism can encourage, rather than put a damper on, opposing views.
  5. Ask “Are We On the Road to Abilene?”: If your group is familiar with the Abilene Paradox, asking straight-out whether it may be in play can help you recognize and get off of the wrong road.

Groups are most able to avoid taking the road to Abilene if they are first familiar with the concept. Video training is an effective way to introduce the Abilene Paradox and reinforce methods for avoiding it. Good training paired with thoughtful group management can dramatically cut back on ineffective group dynamics.

Recommended Training Resource: The Abilene Paradox is one of our best-selling videos. It’s an entertaining introduction to the concept of the Abilene Paradox that helps team members improve their ability to interact in groups and overcome their fear of speaking out.

New Law – Preventing Workplace Bullying

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Preventing Bullying in the WorkplaceWith the governor’s signature on the bill in early September, California added a requirement for anti-bullying education to the state’s existing harassment-prevention legislation; the law goes into effect on January 1st. Chances are, other states will soon follow. And regardless of whether your state adopts such a law or not, ensuring that your corporate culture actively discourages and prevents bullying is a smart move.

Here’s a short list of key steps you can take right now – whether or not you’re legally mandated to take action.

1. One of the primary challenges in preventing bullying is identifying when it’s happening. People won’t necessarily speak up when they’re being bullied. They may fear retaliation if the bully is their supervisor (which is the case about three times out of four); they may think no one will believe them; or they may simply not be sure if they’re dealing with a bully, or just someone short-tempered and stressed out. (more…)

Stress is A Gift

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Stress is a GiftMuch of what we believe about stress may not be true.

In June of last year, Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal spoke at the TED Global conference. Her topic was “How to make stress your friend,” and in it she cited numerous studies showing that how our bodies respond to stress – and quite literally whether stress will kill us or not – has more to do with how we think and act in stressful situations than with the amount of stress we encounter.

When we view stress as harmful to our health, it is: over an eight-year period, 43% of people who viewed stress as bad for them and reported having high stress in their lives died. On the other hand, those people who had high stress in their lives but did not view it as harmful had the lowest death rates of any group in the study, including those who had relatively low levels of stress.

It turns out that what’s actually bad for us is how we view stress, not how much stress we have.

Here are three ways to shift your perspective on stress. (more…)

Workplace Violence: The Calm Before the Storm

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Business Conflict Training VideosOccasionally, people who appear to be calm and collected are anything but that. Some people bottle up anger and negative emotions until they explode…dangerously. This type of situation can lead to the type of workplace violence we see all too frequently in the news.  It is a startling fact, but workplace homicides now contribute to one out of five work-related deaths.  As unpleasant as the topic is, every employee must be prepared to deal with it.

Increased awareness is the best way to prevent workplace violence and that is done by making sure everyone in the office knows how to spot the warning signs and report any violent threats to management. Employees must also be taught constructive ways of dealing with workplace stress and tension.   Workplace Violence: The Calm Before the Storm is a powerful video that features an interview with an actual workplace violence victim.  The program includes depictions of the various types of violence that exist in the workplace and how to handle them.

Every organization is legally responsible for responding properly to threats and violent behavior; make sure your team is prepared.

Permission to Fail, Sir?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Organizations whose cultures forbid failure are organizations that will become stagnant, lacking the resourcefulness and innovation necessary to succeed.

When failure isn’t an option, there’s no incentive to take even the smallest risk in trying something new.  If an employee knows he’ll be punished for failing, he’ll be careful to stay well within the boundaries of accepted practice.  And then it’s not just failure that isn’t an option; it’s any kind of change or improvement.

Obviously you don’t want to encourage wildly impractical risk-taking or invite catastrophic failure.  So how can you encourage employees to take sensible risks, learn from their mistakes, and – as the saying goes – “fail forward” into success? (more…)

Activity: Open- or Closed-Leadership Style?

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

(25 MINUTES)

1.) Make copies of the Worksheet below and distribute to the participants.

2.) Ask them to list ten attributes of a leader or manager in their organization. List both what they feel are “good” and “bad” attributes as well as those they may consider neutral. As an option, if participants are from a single organization or department, you may direct them to evaluate the same leader or a manager. Or, if desired, they may use this exercise to evaluate their own leadership style or that of their own manager.

3.) When completed, have the participants put a checkmark in the circle by the left of those attributes that characterize an open-leadership style that includes free discussion, non-judgmental attitudes, and acceptance of divergent thinking. Have them put a checkmark in the box to the right by those attributes that characterize a closed-leadership style, one that includes tightly-controlled discussion, highly-defensive posturing and lack of tolerance of divergent thinking in favor of consensus.

4.) Total up the number of checkmarks on the left and give ten (10) points for each, but give minus ten (-10) points for each checkmark on the right. Add, or subtract, to reach your final score. Note that neither a completely open– nor closed-leadership style is ideal. A score of –40 to –100 indicates a highly closed-leadership style which may inhibit all but the most aggressive group members from expressing their true feelings. A score of –20 to –40 indicates a moderately closed-leadership style which may be conducive to rapid decision making, but may leave the group susceptible to the effects of groupthink. A score of +40 to +100 indicates a highly open-leadership style, which may be ineffective, because without direction from the leader, the group may be unable to reach decisions at all. An ideal score would be +20 to +40 indicating a moderately open-leadership style, which may be effective in reducing the effects of groupthink.


Leadership Style – WORKSHEET

The leader’s style can have a lot to do with how group decision-making is conducted and, therefore, whether there is a likelihood that groupthink can gain a foothold or not. In the box below, list ten characteristics, both positive and negative, of a leader or manager in your organization. As an option you may use this exercise to evaluate your own leadership style.

When completed, put a checkmark in the Ο by the left of those attributes that are open, such as “allows free discussion”, “has non-judgmental attitude”, or “loves to brainstorm”. Put a checkmark in the � to the right of those attributes that are closed, such as “tightly controls discussion” or “defends his/her ideas vigorously”.

 Attributes of _____________’s Leadership Style

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □

Ο __________________________________________ □


SCORING
: Total up the number of checks on the left and give ten (10) points for each, but give minus ten (-10) points for each checkmark on the right. Add, or subtract, to reach your final score. Note that neither a completely open-nor closed leadership style is ideal. A score of –40 to –100 indicates a highly closed-leadership style which may inhibit all but the most aggressive group members from expressing their true feelings. A score of –20 to –40 indicates a moderately closed-leadership style which may be conducive to rapid decision making, by may leave the group susceptible to the effects of groupthink. A score of +40 to +100 indicates highly open-leadership style which maybe ineffective because without direction from the leader, the group may be unable to reach decisions at all. An ideal score would be +20 to +40 indicating a moderately open-leadership style which may be effective in reducing the effects of groupthink.

Excerpted from the Leader’s Guide for the video program Groupthink.

Training Resource: CRM Learning’s best-selling program, Groupthink, shows how bad decisions can be made when teams fail to fully discuss potential risks.

10 Steps to Surviving Change – Elegantly

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

By Sarah Steele
If I say the word CHANGE, how do you feel? Most people remain fearful, anxious and uncomfortable with change, despite it being a driving issue in our society. It appears that no matter how much experience we have it doesn’t get any easier.

Gaining a level of understanding that allows you to be productive, creative and flexible with your own life as well as helping others handle change is key to succeeding in today’s ever-changing world.

Follow these 10 steps to help you cope with the transitions in your life:

1. Recognize that things DO change
Nothing is forever. Neither the good, nor the bad. You will be much less frustrated if you accept the change and decide to manage it, rather than desperately try and cling onto the way things used to be.

2. Pinpoint the specific change you are going through
Because any change has a number of implications in different areas of our lives, we tend to generalize the change we are going through. Stay focused on one aspect of the change by identifying what you are most afraid of losing as a result of this change and then understanding why that loss is uncomfortable. For example, a new computer system may mean you will no longer feel competent. Feeling incompetent is a very different issue than fighting new technology, and can be easily addressed with training.

3. Accept the loss factor
Admit to yourself that regardless of whether or not you experience this particular change as good or bad, there will be a sense of loss. This is the “better the devil you know scenario” that leads us to put up with a situation we know isn’t good for us. Clearly define the change and recognize the areas of your life that will not change as a result.

4. Seek valid information
You will doubt the facts and struggle to believe anything you hear, see or feel about the change. Write down what information you need to know and who can provide you with that data. Ask straight questions, remain open to views that may be different to your own and listen to what you are being told.

5. Take action
Now that you have information, kick-start some forward momentum by taking both physical and mental action. Focus on taking the first baby step by setting priorities, committing to someone else what you will achieve and by when, and exercise (even if it’s only a 15 minute walk each day).

6. Recognize the Danger Zone
There comes a point where we choose to move on with the change and discover the opportunities it brings, or to give in to the fear of the unknown and remain fearful, anxious and in denial. Recognize that this normal, and don’t allow yourself to succumb. Increasing your small, regular action steps will help you keep that forward momentum going.

7. Make a decision
All the information you gathered may seem overwhelming. To avoid analysis paralysis set yourself a deadline for making a decision and do whatever it takes – even if you resort to flipping a coin! The secret to this is to break big decisions down into small, bite-sized chunks and work on one at a time. This way, decisions are easily reversible.

8. Identify the benefits
All change has some benefits. A divorce can give us the opportunity to have control of the remote, a new job could teach us new skills and starting your own business can provide you with the chance to follow your passion. Understand what the benefits of the change are and recognize them for the great gifts they bring you.

9. Change? What change?
I promise there will come a time when you stop looking at the change as something different. You will have integrated its challenges and victories into your life and will now feel more stable and open to what the future may hold. Remember everything you have learned for the next exciting, exhilarating and, oh ok, scary change.

10. Identify a change partner
Change is a constant in today’s society that you will go through many times in many different situations. Finding a change partner who is committed to encouraging you and supporting you will make the whole experience less scary and probably speedier. This may be a coach who can remain dispassionate, hold the mirror up to your fears and hold onto your highest goals. Or it might be a colleague at work who can help you see both sides of a situation.

Sarah Steele is founder of Atlantic Coaching, www.atlantic.coaching.com.
Article source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Sarah_Steele

Training Resource: Taking Charge of Change
A rookie skydiver serves as a metaphor in this action-packed video, which helps people of all ages adapt to big changes – and thrive.


 

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