February 24, 2018

Archives for August 2011

Does a focus on relationship skills weaken or strengthen our ability to be firm or even tough when we need to?

Do you come across people who seem to think becoming more skilful at relationships will somehow undermine their power, or what they think is their power?

I do.

Now, we always have conflict, at least in the sense of conflict of needs and wants. As soon as you have two people, you have conflict. (Actually, one’s usually enough, but that’s another story.)

But here’s what I find…

A little more skill in handling relationships makes it easier not harder to get the outcome we want in a conflict, precisely because we can communicate our interests in a firm but fair way, and trade them with the other party if we have to.

A little more skill can avoid giving the other party reason to “lose it” with us and so, in fact, escape the pressure we wish them to feel.

A little more skill can make the other feel extremely uncomfortable if that’s the effect we decide we want.

Relationship skills can help us be both harder and softer.

Attention to the relationship beforehand provides credit in the bank for when we need to tackle a problem.

Sometimes we need to communicate that something is unacceptable, and maybe strongly.

One of the fundamental principles of NLP is that we do best if we take responsibility for the effect of our communication. That’s usually discussed in the context of a reaction to something we say.

But here’s the thing…

It applies at least as much to the effect of our lack of communication. If something’s unacceptable to us, that’s what we’ll need to communicate. And until we see a change, we’re still communicating the response is acceptable. We may need to harden our message.

How do you do firm but fair?

Is our instinctive, defensive response to competition the right one?

When the going gets tough, when markets contract, when budgets decline, when promotion is rare, our instinctive response is to retreat and defend what we have. Parts of our brain that kept us alive in a more dangerous world respond vigorously to the threats we perceive. They compel us to withdraw from any circumstance where we could be vulnerable, such as a situation where we share our knowledge and resources in collaborating with another.

This response to threat can be so strong it’s barely a conscious process at all. The strength of our defensive reaction leaves us with a certainty that it’s unquestionably the right one.

But is it? Does our hasty retreat from collaboration serve us?

Perhaps the most effective response to scarcity and threat is the exact opposite, to collaborate, to share what we have, to form new teams, to focus on our strengths, and allow others to do on our behalf what they do best, even though that requires sacrifice. Then the whole may succeed on the bigger stage and our individual outcome may be better than if we’d acted alone.

Suppose it does serve us to collaborate: How do we make this happen? How do we take our people along with us?

One key is articulating a compelling future so that the long term gain seems worth the short term pain.

We need high levels of integrity and to seek that quality in others. To be trusted and so involved in the best opportunities, we need to be seen as a mature and honest collaborator.

We need the skills to work intelligently with the interests and values of all and balance these to optimise the whole for the ultimate gain of all.

Are our defensive responses to increased competition with colleagues, other departments, other organizations, other countries, the responses that should guide us? Or are we better to resist our primitive instincts and collaborate rather than defend? And if so, how?

How do you respond to competition?

Organizational performance – it’s all down to “the human condition” in the end, isn’t it?

“Isn’t it just the human condition?” my friend remarked. We were discussing the difficulty of getting organizations to understand the problems they face and our reluctance as leaders to accept that we may be causing our own difficulties.

“Yes” I replied, welcoming the agreement that complex management and leadership issues can be understood from a human and, in some ways, simpler if deeper perspective.

An unsaid “Not much we can do about that then” filled the silence.

Wait a minute though…

What really is meant by “the human condition?”

According to Wikipedia… it “encompasses the experiences of being human in a social, cultural, and personal context; the irreducible part of humanity that is inherent and not connected to gender, race, class, etc. — a search for purpose, sense of curiosity, the inevitability of isolation, fear of death, etc.”

What are the benefits of seeing the link to organizations?

Recognizing the link through the human character of leadership opens up a route to solving issues by working on our “human condition” – a complement to our usual left-brain, analytical, “professional” approach. There are ways to do that and they can produce quick results.

What if we notice the “nominalization” in the phrase itself?

Linguistics people would notice that “the human condition” is an abstract noun referring to on-going activity describable with verbs e.g. blaming others for our problems to protect our ego.

That in turn is a signpost to growth…

If we put problems down to “the human condition,” thinking “not much we can do about that then,” we disempower ourselves and miss that we can develop human wisdom in ourselves and others, and so improve results. Identifying the on-going processes in “the human condition” will help us influence them, and not be their victim.

Are you a victim of the human condition? You could be a master of it instead.

Is expertise in “the human condition” a vital part of leadership?