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Awareness is not Enough!

The importance of mental models

The above video is an excerpt from a workshop I conducted at The Institute of Organization Development's annual conference titled "Our World, A Triple Bottom Line: People, Purpose and Planet,” June 20-22, 2018, Kingston, Jamaica. The workshop was on workplace alignment, the topic of my first book.

In a classic study1, participants were placed in a group experience that included a variety of growth groups including encounter, gestalt, and T-Groups. Participants were followed during the next year to see how well they functioned in conflictual moments. Students that had a mental model around conflict were best able to cope through difficult situations. Further, it was discovered that it did not matter what mental model was used, only that they used a mental model.

My three books (Strategic Organizational Alignment,Strategic Engagement Vol I, Strategic Engagement Vol II) provide a series of practical mental models to use when needed. The ability to function in tense moments is directly related to self-awareness and your ability to use a mental model.

The following mental models inform my books.

  • Openness vs. Personal Confession
  • Sponsor/Agent/Target/Advocate (SATA)
  • Decision Making
  • Follow-up
  • Accountability
  • Structure
  • The Interpersonal Gap
  • SIPOC Model
  • Waterline Model
  • Victim/Creator (“I” Language)
  • Four Key Interpersonal Skills: Behavioral Description, Feeling Description, Paraphrase, and Perception Check

There is a progression that helps one become more functional in tense moments.

  1. First, you must have awareness.
  2. Second, you must have a mental model to help navigate the experience.
  3. Third, you must have a set of core behavioral interpersonal skills.
  4. Finally, you must have the discipline to use the mental models and interact using the behavioral skills.

Having and building the capacity to use such models adds sanity in moments that would otherwise give rise to reactivity and potential chaos. However, although the above may sound easy, it is quite difficult, so please have grace and compassion for yourself and others along the journey.

P.S. If you think you know what the other has said, remember Yanny or Laurel and increase your patience.

1 Encounter Groups: First Facts, by Lieberman, Yalom, and Miles