Edgar Schein

HELPING

How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help

IN A NUTSHELL
🥜
BASIC CONCEPTS
📑
IDEAS
💡
TOOLS FOR LEADERS
🔫
BOOKS
📚

IN A NUTSHELL

🥜
  • “Help in the broadest sense is, in fact, one of the most important currencies that flow between members of society because help is one of the main ways of expressing love and other caring emotions that humans express.”
  • “Helping is a common yet complex process. It is an attitude, a set of behaviors, a skill, and an essential component of social life. It is the core of what we think of as teamwork and is an essential ingredient of organizational effectiveness. It is one of the most important things that leaders do and it is at the heart of change processes.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edgar H. Schein
  • Schein spent 50 years of his life as a social and organizational psychologist.
  • A former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

BASIC CONCEPTS

📑
📑
SITUATIONAL PROPERTIES
  • “Social life is partly economics and partly theater.”
  • All human relationships are about status positioning.
  • We want to be granted with the status we feel we deserve.
  • We always want to do what is situationally appropriate when we interact with each other.
  • We measure situations based on how much we gained or lost.
  • When the interaction goes well we both gain status. When it is not go well we risk losing status.
📑
TRUST
  • “Trusting another person means, in this context, that no matter what we choose to reveal about our thoughts, feelings, or intentions, the other person will not belittle us, make us look bad, or take advantage of what we have said in confidence.”
📑
HELPING
  • “The helping relationship is one in which we invest time, emotions, ideas, and things; hence we expect a return, if only a thank you.”
  • When helping situations does not go well: “not helping when help was needed, trying to help when help was not needed or wanted, giving the wrong kind of help, or not sustaining help when it is needed over a period of time.”
  • “(…) helping is intrinsic to all forms of organization and work, because, by definition, we organize because we cannot do the whole job ourselves.”
INFORMAL HELP
  • The process that underlies cooperation, collaboration, and many forms of altruistic behavior.
  • This kind of help is institutionalized and taken for granted in any culture, it is the basis of society. It is common among non-human species as well.
SEMI-FORMAL HELP
  • When we go to technicians of various sorts to get help with our houses, cars, computers, and audio-visual equipment.
  • We are less involved personally and pay for the service or information.
FORMAL HELP
  • When we ask for help from someone licensed when we are in some kind of personal, health, or emotional difficulty and need medical, legal, or spiritual assistance.

IDEAS

💡
💡
SOCIAL ECONOMICS
All social interactions are ECONOMICS and THEATER
2 RULES OF SOCIAL DYNAMICS
1. EQUITY and FAIRNESS
  • “All communication between two parties is a reciprocal process that must be, or at least must seem to be, fair and equitable.”
  • If we received something we must give back something if we want the interaction to be fair and equitable.
  • Every party claims a certain amount of VALUE for himself. We call this “face”. In a formal relationship, we can claim very little value for ourselves but in an informal or romantic relationship, we can claim a lot more.
  • “Our self-esteem is based on continual acknowledgment through reciprocation.” “Until the situation is back in equilibrium we remain vaguely uncomfortable.”
  • “What are the social currencies that are exchanged? They are love, attention, acknowledgment, acceptance, praise and help.”
  • Going deep: the more value we can claim for ourselves the deeper is the relationship. In a deep relationship, we make ourselves more vulnerable.
2. PLAY YOUR ROLE
Equity and fairness
  • “All relationships in human cultures are to a large degree based on scripted roles.”
  • During the process of growing up “how to play both actor and audience appropriately in the daily flow of social interaction.”
  • We learn these roles early in life and become automatic and unconscious, we are “playing” all the time.
  • These roles are based on the actual situations, are flexible and part of the daily life.
  • When we enter a new interaction the rules of communication have to be figured out. Therefore the safest approach is the most FORMAL. —>“extreme formality in international diplomacy, since offense between countries cannot be risked.”
  • Further reading: Thomas Anthony Harris: I’m OK – You’re OK —> “we have the choice of entering situations as a “child,” an “adult,” or a “parent” because we have learned how to perform each of these roles throughout life. We know how to be “childish,” “authoritarian,” or “act our age.”
OBSERVE THE LANGUAGE WE USE
Expressions from economics:
  • Pay attention, investing in relationship, building social capital, pay your respects, pay off social debts, pay a compliment, and pay the piper, sell yourself short, sell your point of view, be sold up the river. You can buy good will, but you don’t buy an unlikely story.
Expressions from theater:
  • Feed someone a line, play your part well at a meeting, ask what someone’s role is, not like the part you are expected to play at a party, or give a scenario, give a performance, we’ve heard that song before,
  • Be the star of the show, get this show on the road, make a show of expressing sympathy, put on a real showstopper of a presentation, or steal the show.
  • “I wonder what was going on backstage?”
💡
THE SOCIAL RULES OF DEFERENCE AND DEMEANOR
Sociologist Erving Goffman
  • DEFERENCE —> how subordinates are supposed to show respect for their superiors
  • DEMEANOR —> how superiors are supposed to act in a way that is appropriate to their status
  • Status manifests itself in social situations.
  • We have clear expectations and strict social norms and rules on how to behave in every situation.
  • When someone doesn’t behave according to these social rules it arouses anxiety and anger.
EXAMPLES
  • Subordinates are not supposed to interrupt a superior, but a superior is allowed to interrupt a subordinate.
  • When the superior is talking you are supposed to pay attention.
  • “If you are the superior, your communication should be authoritative and clear so that you can earn the respect of subordinates.”
💡
WE JUST SIMPLY DON’T KNOW
Use Humble Inquiry
  • We can’t see into the heads of each other. We have to use Humble Inquiry to find out what the other person really wants to say.
Five things the HELPER does not know at the beginning
  1. Will the client understand the information, advice, or questions being asked?
  2. Will the client have the knowledge and skill necessary to follow the helper’s recommendation?
  3. What is the client’s real motivation?
  4. What is the client’s contextual situation?
  5. How do clients’ experiences shape expectations, stereotypes, and fears?
Five things the CLIENT does not know at the beginning
  1. Does the helper have the knowledge, skill, and motivation to help?
  2. What consequences will result from asking this person for help?
  3. Can the client trust the helper not to use the situation to sell something or exert control inappropriately?
  4. As the client, will I be able to do what is suggested?
  5. What will it cost financially, emotionally and socially to accept the help?
💡
3 KINDS OF HELPING ROLES
Use Humble Inquiry
  • The roles in a helping relationship are ambiguous, even when the help is formal.
  • These are ROLES, not occupations. Every helper is capable to play each role regardless of occupation.
  1. An EXPERT resource who provides information or services
  2. A DOCTOR who diagnoses and prescribes
  3. A PROCESS CONSULTANT who focuses on building an equitable relationship and clarifies what kind of help is needed

1.

1. THE EXPERT ROLE
Provide Information or Service
  • Assumption: clients seek a kind of information or service that they are unable to provide for themselves.
  • The client defines a need -> he concludes he is unable to provide fill that need -> the clients hire someone to “do the job”. (More on this topic: “Jobs to Get Done” theory – Clayton Crishiansen).
  • The client gives away power and becomes totally dependent on the helper.
  • The client becomes vulnerable to being misled about what information or service would actually be helpful. “When you have a hammer, the whole world looks like a bunch of nails.”
  • “At the very beginning of a helping situation, the expert role is rarely if ever appropriate.”
  • The quality of help will depend on the followings:
    • Has the client correctly diagnosed the problem?
    • Has the client clearly communicated this to the helper?
    • Has the client accurately assessed the capabilities of the helper to provide the information or the service?
    • Has the client thought through the consequences or receiving the desired help?
    • Is there an external reality that can be objectively studied and turned into information the client can use? Or is the situation simply unknown to anyone?

2.

2. THE DOCTOR ROLE
Diagnose and Prescribe
  • Is an extension and enlargement of the expert role.
  • “Not only does the client assume that the helper will respond by providing information and service, but also expects a diagnosis and a prescription.”
  • Doctors, counselors, coaches, and repair people of various sorts.
DANGERS WITH THE DOCTORE ROLE:
  • Giving advice before understanding thoroughly the client’s problem the help can be irrelevant or even offensive.
  • Before developing a trusting relationship it very unlikely that the client will open up and reveal what is really going on. —> Without knowing exact problem accurately it is likely that the help will be inaccurate, irrelevant or even offensive.
  • 2 possible BIASES with the “doctor” role:
    • The client is overstating the problem to get the helper’s attention right away.
    • Understating it to test the helper’s level of interest.
  • If the helper does all the diagnosing while the client waits passively for a prescription it is unlikely that the client
    • will believe the diagnosis
    • will implement the offered solutions
The QUALITY of help will depend on the followings:
  • Giving advice before understanding thoroughly the client’s problem the help can be irrelevant or even offensive.
  • Before developing a trusting relationship it very unlikely that the client will open up and reveal what is really going on. —> Without knowing exact problem accurately it is likely that the help will be inaccurate, irrelevant or even offensive.
  • 2 possible BIASES with the “doctor” role:
    • The client is overstating the problem to get the helper’s attention right away.
    • Understating it to test the helper’s level of interest.
  • If the helper does all the diagnosing while the client waits passively for a prescription it is unlikely that the client
    • will believe the diagnosis
    • will implement the offered solutions

3.

3. THE PROCESS CONSULTANT ROLE
Humble Inquiry —> creating safety —> developing trust —> understanding the problem —> shifting to the EXPERT or DOCTOR role
  • At the beginning of the helping relationship the helper focuses on the communication process itself.
  • “(…) demeanor, tone of voice, setting, body language, and any other cues that would signal degree of anxiety and/or trust.”
  • Create a safe situation that allow to build trust and reveal more information about the problem. It is much better than fixing things, tell the client what to do or to offer solutions prematurely.
  • After the client revealed and the helper understood the real problem can the helper switch to the EXPERT or DOCTOR role.
USE HUMBLE INQUIRY
Humble Inquiry —> creating safety —> developing trust —> understanding the problem —> shifting to the EXPERT or DOCTOR role
  • Clients are often don’t know what the problem is, they need help with diagnosing it.
  • Clients are often don’t know what kinds of help are available for them, need help understanding the help itself.
  • Clients are often need help with understanding  which areas they can improve.
  • Only clients know what will ultimately work in their situation.
  • Clients are more likely to accept solutions if they are actively contributing to figuring out the solution.
WHEN TO SHIFT HELPING ROLES?
CONSTRUCTIVE OPPORTUNISM
  • “Pure inquiry biases the interaction toward going with the fl ow, and that must be balanced by constructive opportunism.”
  • Shift focus is when the client has said something that has obvious significance to the story and that is vivid enough to be remembered. Link the shift of roles to something the client said and not to the helper’s feelings or thoughts.
💡
TEAM BUILDING
The ultimate tool of developing trust
  • “I am defining teamwork as a state of multiple reciprocal helping relationships including all the members of the group that have to work together.”
  • “What we think of as effective teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation can all be understood best as consistent effective mutual helping.”
  • “Sustained team performance clearly involves trust that the others will continue to perform their roles over time.”
  • Effective team building is not just building a relationship vertically (between the leader and the team members) but also allowing to build relationships horizontally (among the team members).
  • “The goal is mutual acceptance, which is crucial to the development of the trust that will be necessary to sustain group performance.” (Not necessarily equal mutual liking.
4 FUNDAMENTAL PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES of team members
  • These must be resolved before their identities in the group can be established and they become comfortable with their roles and become helpful to each other.
1. Who am I to be? What is my role in this group?
  • There are many roles we’re capable of doing. We have to know exactly what is expected of us before we can become helpful members of the group.
2. How much control/influence will I have in this group?
  • We humans always want some degree of influence, all of us want to feel we are important for the team to achieve results.
3. Will my goals/needs be met in this group?
  • Why we enter groups at the first place? Will our needs be met?
4. What will be the level of intimacy in this group?
  • How personally and emotionally involved the member of the group will be?
TOOLS OF TEAM BUILDING
Informal meetings
  • Leaders have to provide in informal opportunity to address the 4 issues discussed above before starting the actual work. So team members will not be preoccupied with these questions and can divide their full attention to the contribute the team effort. This event could be an informal dinner or meeting.
SOCIAL ECONOMICS IN TEAM BUILDING
  • (more on this topic above)
  • “As a member of a group, you must feel that what you give is fairly compensated in terms of what you get.”
  • “(…) the essence of teamwork is the development and maintenance of reciprocal helping relationships among all the members.”
  • Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal, Stanford University professor, author of the book Zero to One) gives a useful advice to maintain a state of equilibrium between co-workers. He suggests giving clearly distinctive roles to everyone at work. Everyone should be responsible for just one single thing. This way we can eliminate competition, frustration and many forms of hostility inside an organization.
  • “Teams almost always work better when the higher status person in the group exhibits some humility by active listening.”
PROCESS OF BUILDING TEAMS
PHASE 1: INQUIRY
  • Initial informal process of mutual inquiry to identify everyone’s needs and skills, and to allow for identity formation and role negotiation that establishes relative statuses.
PHASE 2: CONTINUOUS LEARNING
  • Regular, periodic review processes that allow learning through feedback and further role negotiation, assessing the nature of its task,  the degree of interdependence and the shared goals.
  • Offline” sessions: social norms are temporarily suspended —> allowing open communication and feedback without damaging the relationships.
  • Feedback: solicited, specific, descriptive, goal-related.
  • The role of humble leadership: continuous maintenance of “face” (social value of each member of the team).
  • “Claims by each member must be upheld or else the social tension that arises when the norms are violated will inevitably detract from task performance.”
  • Maintaining respect and trust: “What we think of as respect or trust is basically the feeling that you will not be humiliated or embarrassed even if your behavior deviates from the norm and is viewed as unhelpful. Instead you will get task-relevant feedback that allows you to figure out how to become more helpful in the group’s effort to achieve its goals.”
💡
TASK INTERDEPENDENCE
  • In groups in which every single member’s contribution is absolutely necessary to get a job done has a high degree of task interdependence.
  • If the degree of task interdependence is very high the group must become a team of mutual helpers, otherwise the task cannot be accomplished.
  • This process requires developing TRUST and MUTUAL ACCEPTANCE between team members. This is absolutely necessary in case of a high-performing team.
  • In high-risk jobs, such as nuclear power plants, airplane crew, and healthcare environment, where the degree of interdependence is very high a team without mutual cooperation, trust, and smooth communication the result could be devastating.
LOW DEGREE OF INTERDEPENDENCE
  • “Six people carrying a coffin can afford to have one or two unhelpful people.”
  • “A committee deciding on a marketing strategy can get along with mostly unhelpful members.”
HIGH DEGREE OF INTERDEPENDENCE
  • “Two people using a long saw to cut down a tree must help each other or the task does not get done.”
  • “In the surgical team this interdependence was high, so learning how to help each other became a matter of necessity.”
  • In team sports such as basketball, soccer, and hockey.
💡
PRINCIPLES OF GIVING FEEDBACK
  • “Feedback, by definition, is information that helps one reach goals by showing that the current progress is either on or off target. If it is off target, that feedback automatically triggers 118 HELPING corrective action.”
  • In a group context feedback is essential.
  • “Team members have to learn how to analyze and critique their own and each other’s task performance without threatening each other’s face or humiliating each other.”
CREATING AN “OFFLINE” ENVIRONMENT
Feedback sessions:
  • After every important event or action the team holds a session to evaluate their performance.
  • Examples: Military AAR (After-Action Review) to evaluate the success of the mission. Surgical team holds a meeting after every surgery, discussing what actions were right and what could’ve done better.
  • Create a special environment or event which permits the group to suspend the usual norms of “face” and create an atmosphere allowing things to be said that would ordinarily be threatening.
PRINCIPLE 1.
  • “Feedback is generally not helpful if it is not asked for. (…) the helper must first identify what problem the client is trying to solve before it becomes possible to provide help.”
  • When someone unilaterally decides to give feedback it is likely that not only will the message be misunderstood, but the other person will be offended and insulted.
PRINCIPLE 2.
  • “Feedback not only needs to be solicited, but it needs to be specific and concrete.”
  • Avoid using abstract traits like initiative, ambition, communication skills, social skills, and analytical skills. It means absolutely nothing independent of concrete behavioral examples.
  • Refer to specific situations. (Give IF —> THEN scenarios. More on this topic: Daniel Coyle: Culture Code)
PRINCIPLE 3.
  • By combining the principle 1. and 2. we can encourage team members to ask concrete feedback from each other.
  • Perhaps the leader could start the after-action review by asking team members to start with questions about their own performance in order to solicit feedback.
  • “By giving the initiative to those seeking feedback, there is a greater likelihood that they can hear it because it relates to something they want help with. It turns the situation explicitly into a helping relationship around common team goals.”
PRINCIPLE 4.
  • Feedback works best if it is descriptive rather than evaluative.
  • Don’t make judgments and tell your conclusions to others. Instead, make descriptive observations about the situation and “leave the door open” to self-reflection from the other person.
Example:
  • “You should have been more aggressive when John challenged you at that meeting” is a judgment. What might be more helpful is “When I saw John challenge you at the meeting, I noticed that you became silent . . .” That opens the door to the client to explain or absorb the implication.
SUMMARY
Allowing team members to communicate smoothly under pressure.
  • Create an environment in which social norms can be temporarily suspended —> allowing open communication.
  • Feedback has to be solicited rather than imposed.
  • It has to be concrete and specific and fit to the context of a shared goal.
  • Descriptive rather than evaluative.

TOOLS FOR LEADERS

🔫
🔫
HUMBLE INQUIRY
The ultimate tool of developing trust
  • Show genuine curiosity toward the client. Ask open-ended questions that encourages him or her to reveal more about the problem.
  • Humble Inquiry maximizes my curiosity and interest in the other person and minimizes bias and preconceptions about the other person.
  • Ask for information in the least biased and threatening way.
  • Not wanting the other person to give a socially acceptable response —> BUT figuring out what is his or her honest opinion
  • Show: acceptance, curiosity, genuine interest in the other person.
  • Asking for examples is a great way to understand the situation.
  • Keep the client talking until the helper will get a realistic sense of what is really going on.
  • When to shift the conversation from Humble Inquiry to other
Examples
“Go on . . .” “Tell me more . . .” “Tell me what is going on . . .” “How can I help?” “So . . . ?” (accompanied by an expectant look) “What brings you here?” “Can you give me some examples of that?” “Can you give me some of the details of what went on?” “When did this last happen?” “Have you told me everything . . . ?” “Does anything else occur to you in relation to what you have told me?”
🔫
THE ROLE OF THE LEADER
ROLE 1: CREATE THE CONDITIONS OF COOPERATION
  • “(…) the key roles of leadership is to create the conditions for teamwork where individual members of a group or several groups are interdependent in the performance of organizational tasks.”
ROLE 2: HELP SUBORDINATES TO PERFORM THEIR TASKS
  • “To put this into very concrete terms, an ideal boss would be very clear about the targets that need to be met by the subordinates, but then would be prepared to help them to achieve those targets. The boss would not only provide resources, guidance, feedback, and advice, but other forms of help that subordinates might ask for.”
  • “A critical aspect of leadership is the ability to accept help and the ability to give help to others in the organization.”
HOW TO INFLUENCE PEOPLE TO CHANGE?
  • “One of the truisms is that people don’t mind change; they just don’t want others to change them. In this truism lies the key—to reframe the change process as a helping process and to turn the change target into a client.”
  • “In theories of managed change there is a coercive process often called “unfreezing,” which creates the motivation to change (Schein, 1999).”
  • After the motivation is given the employee becomes the client and the agent of change becomes the helper.
  • Initially, the client will feel one-down. The helper first must equilibrate the relationship before trying to change anything. —> Creating psychological safety.
  • “Because organizations are sets of sub-cultures, leaders must always accept that nothing will change until they understand the culture of the group in which the behavioral changes are to be made.”
🔫
4 KINDS OF INQUIRIES
The ultimate tool of developing trust
1. HUMBLE INQUIRY
  • (explained above)
2. DIAGNOSTIC INQUIRY
  • Steering the wheel of the conversation —> Taking charge of the conversation by not answering the original question but asking another one.
  • 4 categories of diagnostic inquiry:
    • 1. Feelings and reactions —> “How do you feel about that?”
    • 2. Causes and motives —> “Why did that happen?”
    • 3. Action-oriented —> “What have you tried so far?
    • 4. Systemic Questions —> “What did she (he/they) do then?”
3. CONFRONTATIONAL
  • Inserting your own idea in a form of a question. The question is a form of telling.
  • “Did that not make you angry?” “Why didn’t you say something to the group?”
4. PROCESS-ORIENTED
  • Focusing on the conversation and the relationship itself.
  • “Did I offend you?” “What is happening here?”
🔫
REMOTE COMMUNICATION
2 guidelines
1. If they’ve met previously:
  • Remote team building can work if the team previously solved the problem of role relations and relative statuses. If the process created TRUST the members can work together smoothly.
2. If the team has never met:
  • Remote team building can work if the team previously solved the problem of role relations and relative statuses. If the process created TRUST the members can work together smoothly.

FURTHER READING

📚

The end!