Warning Signs that you have a Jangle TangleTM

Wed, Oct 28, 2009

Thank goodness for TiVo. My husband and I love it to catch up our favorite television shows. One, Brothers and Sisters is an ABC drama about an exceptionally close, yet dysfunctional family. Sally Fields plays Norah Walker, the matriarch. Norah has five adult children, each with their own lives and own dramas. As I watched the October 11 episode of season 4, Almost Normal, I jolted out of my comfortable chair and furiously took notes. Here is a scene that relates to my “Leadership Tangles Blog,” I thought! Better yet, it’s a Jangle TangleTM.

Justin Walker, the youngest son, is a former drug addict and Iraq war vet and has just started medical school. He has begun his first class in basic anatomy. The scene opens with the anatomy professor assigning students a lab partner. He tells them that they will sink or swim depending on how well they work with that person. Justin’s lab partner is a precocious 16 year-old who already knows every tendon and muscle. To say the least, he is a know-it-all.

The anatomy professor tells the students, “There will be coworkers you don’t like. You have to learn to work with them.” It was at this point that my ears perked up. That very situation, the inability to work with coworkers, is at the heart of what I call a Jangle TangleTM. A Jangle Tangle occurs when people with different preferences and styles irritate rather than complement each other.

As an organizational consultant and executive development expert, assisting leaders in strengthening their interpersonal skills and their emotional intelligence is just part of my stock and trade.  I often work with teams of smart, talented, ambitious leaders. Inevitably, there are a few on the team who don’t get along with others. Jangle Tangles abound in corporate life.

I use a variety of assessment tools to help leaders first understand themselves, then others. I like and have successfully used the Myers Brigg Type Indicator, the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument, the Emotional Intelligence Indicator, the DiSC, as well as a variety of others. When I work with a team, I choose the assessment that makes the most sense for that particular group and organization. Once executive leaders understand their own preferences, they become more astute about the nuances of other styles, and begin to make adaptations in their own behavior that reduces relationship tension.

What is common to all of these assessments, besides a 4- grid quadrant, is that they provide a framework for discussing interpersonal styles in a neutral way. We move from discussing individuals to a language that describes human behavior. We each have unique strengths and gifts. Many of us have multiple talents. Yet, none of us alone is enough to accomplish complex tasks. Like the anatomy professor said, we do have to learn to work together, whether we like others or not. And, it is the social niceties, being able to find a comfortable ease with others that paves the way for smoother working relationships.

In the Brothers and Sisters episode, it turns out that the precocious student almost faints when it is time to make that fist cut into a cadaver. Justin is not as book smart, but he has been a medic. He doesn’t flinch and takes the knife.  The young med student looks like he is ready to throw up, and is ready to bold out of the room. Justin talks to him in a way that engenders confidence and trust. The young med student, they call Doogie Hawser, stays. What was obvious to me as a third party observer is that both Justin and Doogie each brought unique strengths to the situation. Neither could succeed without the other. On television, a Jangle Tangle was averted.

To what extent is your organization rife with Jangle Tangles? How are they impacting your productivity? If you would like to ensure that your leadership teams have the interpersonal skills to effectively accomplish your objectives, please contact me at info@rubenconsuting.com for a complimentary consultation.

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

Marcia Ruben Ph.D, PCC, CMC

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