January 21, 2018

Archives for November 2011

Is trust an all or nothing thing?

Three people, two shaking handsOne idea leads to another. Quickly the project takes shape. It’s all quite unexpected and the end result is way beyond the initial starting point. Why? Because the individuals involved trust each other absolutely, not so much about money though that is important, but about sharing the risks of vulnerability and relying on the other’s support. And, by the way, they have never met face-to-face.

In contrast…

The parties cautiously suggest minor changes, protecting their position at all times, giving little away, trying various gambits, manipulating the numbers, always on their guard. The end result is an improvement on the starting point, but only just. And it’s slow. Being face-to-face doesn’t seem to help much.

In a workshop on “information overload”, participants seem to like the idea of deciding whether individual relationships are trusting or not, and dealing with them one way or another if they aren’t, because relationships without trust consume energy and generate excess information to be handled.

There’s no rocket science here, but I’ve been struck by what a huge difference absolute trust makes in a working relationship – not so much a factor of 2 as a factor of 10.

Of course…

Trust is one of these “be the change you want to see” things. If we want other people to be trustworthy, we need to be that way ourselves. We need to be on the high ground. No use trying to get other people to trust us, if we’re not trustworthy ourselves. (I’ve heard people say they don’t trust such-and-such a person, having just revealed how they’ve manipulated their own numbers. Funny that.)

But what about when it seems unclear?

Can you have degrees of trust? Can you half trust someone (or a business)? Or a quarter, or three-quarters?

Here’s an angle…

On-line, I believe it’s an absolute, more than off-line. On line, anything less than 100% trust is no trust at all. So our attitude to trust is increasingly important.

What do you think?

Do you know you understand embedded commands?

Three in meeting…and respond to them too, including the ones you say to yourself.

This might seem like an arcane linguistic curiosity. The truth is it’s both highly practical and a very big deal.

Loosely speaking, an “embedded command” is a part of a sentence which if taken on its own, would be an instruction of some kind, or a statement attaching an attribute to a person or something like that. So in the title, “you understand embedded commands” is an embedded command.

Now the thing is…

Our unconscious mind pays attention to all this instruction even if our conscious mind doesn’t, and what’s more, it ignores negation. The classic illustration is “Don’t think of a blue tree”. Even if you’ve heard that instruction a 100 times, you still think of a blue tree.

So saying to a child “stay in bed” has a very different effect from “don’t get up.”

“Call me if you need to” is very different from “don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

A recent post on our obsession with tips closed with “Watch out for the tip junkies” to avoid any risk of accidentally encouraging you in the opposite direction from which I intended. Writing the more obvious “Don’t be a tips junkie” might have turned you into one (with apologies to all the great tips sources out there).

If you’re compiling a risk register, for example, take great care to avoid making a risk more likely, especially if it has a behavioral aspect, such as “team leaders have difficulty persuading their staff to adopt the new process.” That wording risks programming team leaders to have just that difficulty, and their managers too.

We talk about change being difficult, so guess what…

If you say a process or a relationship is going to be difficult, you can be sure it will be.

You know about this really…

I wonder though if you realize how much your own and other’s embedded commands are running your life, their lives, and probably much of the economy.

Have you noticed?

Make sure you “say it the way you want it.”

How many tips does it take to change your life?

Busy woman with child and phone“Send us your top ten tips,” they say, following the ever-popular way to introduce someone’s work.

This presents a dilemma…

Just go along with the request and supply a list of useful, but rather shallow ideas, and be complicit in a state of impatient ignorance? Or risk a disconnect and say that to really make a difference, we need something rather deeper, or more lateral?

The thing is…

You can’t get across the water by running faster (or as Edward de Bono said “you can’t dig a new hole by digger the one you’re in deeper”).

“Ah, we’ve only got time for tips and quick fixes,” some say. Well, that’s because they never make time for something deeper and more profound.

To make a real change, we need to draw breath long enough to learn more fundamental things, so that instead of running faster (to overwork the metaphor), we change our whole mode of transport.


We can pick up tip after tip and never acquire the deeper learning that would rescue us from our need for the quick fixes in the first place.

And there’s a problem with the word “tip” itself. It implies what’s on offer is just a few throwaway items – useful in themselves, but not the real gold, not the real nuggets. But perhaps they are the real gold, perhaps they are the real nuggets. If they’re labeled “tips”, what value will the audience place on them? In truth, they’ll be disempowered.

Now, I’m not saying it’s always easy…

But we need to break out of this bind of never really learning because we’re too busy, and being too busy because we never really learn.

So watch out for the tip junkies.

Feedback is not a negotiation

St Pauls with protestors camped outsideThe protestors have achieved a great deal of publicity. Some of them, without intending to, have caused a religious institution (St Paul’s Cathedral in London) to lose its balance (about whose side it’s on), with senior figures resigning.

The protestors are unclear about what exactly they want. Some lobbyists for the other side (the financially greedy, as the protestors see it) ask us to dismiss the protests because “they have no clear demands; no alternative to offer.”

The lobbyists see the situation as a negotiation: “Tell us what you want and we’ll give up some of what we have” (but largely carry on as before).

When someone says they don’t like what we’re doing, it is tempting to say “what do you want me to do instead?” and make a negotiation out of it.

But really we’re getting feedback, and it’s up to us to change our behavior when someone says they don’t like it. That’s the only way to grow as a person.

If we want to be accepted (by ourselves as much as anyone else), WE need to work out what to do with the feedback.

We imagine the targets of the Occupy protestors’ ire care nothing about being accepted. Do you think that’s true?

At St Paul’s, it seems to be taking someone of the Bishop of London’s wisdom to bring stability to the situation. (Dr Richard Chartres impressed many with his address at William and Kate’s wedding.)

So what’s different about the Bishop?

Well, I suggest he has a particular balance that comes from dealing with opposing ideas and reconciling them, and, I suspect, accepting feedback.

How do we know this?

Because Dr Richard has a certain charisma, a presence; and these two things go together: reconciling opposing forces within ourselves increases our appeal to other people. Do this as a lifelong effort and you have a person with the personal authority of the Bishop of London.

And that’s why feedback is best just accepted, and not negotiated away.

And why reconnecting the financial and the ethical will work out well for those that most need to.

Relief from information overload

Exhausted computer userThe email Inbox just gets bigger. The paper in-tray still stacks up dauntingly too. And that’s not to mention all the other channels: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Skype text chat, SMS messages on mobile/cell phones, and StumbleUpon to mention only some. Oh I nearly forgot Google+. And then there’s Facebook’s LinkedIn “me too”, otherwise known as Branchout. Ever feel you’re caught in the middle of a communication arms race?

So what’s to do?

The net effect of all this communication could be the well-known phrase “information overload,” but does that description really help us? After all, the information exists whether we chose to look at it or not. How much attention do we pay to a piece of low value information that happens to be on our computer screen versus a piece of high value information that isn’t in front of us at all?

Perhaps we need to take charge of our attention and decide where to direct our interest.

Of course…

We can learn various practical techniques for processing information quickly, and they’re very valuable too. Will we ever outrun the flood though?

There’s another way…

Information flow is a manifestation of a relationship of some kind. Take that relationship to a deeper, more trusting, more profound level and we won’t need to handle so much data. The details become unimportant and fall into place much more easily – or can be set aside altogether. Head in the opposite direction away from trust, and you’ll need every information-handling trick you can find.

How to take a relationship deeper to a more profound level?

Find out what truly matters to the other person or organization and cherish that sincerely.

Too simple? Maybe not.