January 19, 2018

Archives for April 2012

Relationship mastery: For the young or for the wise?

Senior leaderRelationship skills are sometimes seen as a subject for members of the younger generation—as if their need is the greater and older colleagues already know what they need to know.

But it isn’t necessarily so. Sure, experienced people are more skilled in professional relationships, but they are called upon so much more given their positions and the scale of the challenges they face. The bar is so much higher and the need for flexibility and resilience so much greater.

An assumption that deep learning about interpersonal skills is really for the younger crowd suggests we don’t realize the power of the skills we could be acquiring. It shows, as ever, we don’t know what we don’t know.

The more authority and responsibility we have, the more we need the most insightful approaches to take us forward.

Wise heads need more mastery not less.

Change for leaders – Does it start out there or in here?

Jar in front of a mirrorMessing about with key phrases on Google such as “change for leaders”, it’s very striking that most of what comes up is about doing change to other people—organizations, employees and so forth, usually by or on behalf of various corporate bodies or consultancies.

It’s all about making change happen out there—the assumption being that there is no need for change within the leaders themselves. They are the leaders after all.

Now I’m just looking at the listed search results and maybe when you click through it’s obvious that the various organizations and individuals realize that in order for us to lead change in other people, we must first change ourselves.

Or maybe not.

But that’s the thing. Change done to other people doesn’t stick, if it works at all in the first place.

Change begins “in here,” and then it happens “out there.”

Try it and see.

How readily do you laugh at yourself?

Three smiling people(Occasioned by a certain politician failing to see the funny side of the routine humor dispensed on its cover by a well-known current affairs magazine.)

What do we do when someone attempts a joke at our expense? Fight back or just shrug it off? The choice we make says a lot about our maturity and affects how people perceive our presence.

If we protest at the kind of joke other targets regularly just ignore, we end up looking like we’re thin-skinned, can’t take a joke, and are overly precious about ourselves. Our complaining just makes fools of us. And we end up giving credence to trivia.

Better to just laugh it off, or ignore the humor altogether. Then we seem comfortable in our own skins, and so more influential, and the ones others follow.

Or even better, be the first to laugh at ourselves.

How do you make sure you rise above the cheap shots?

Do you solve a problem when you can?

Exhausted and frustrated woman at a computerIf you’re anything like me, your first reaction to the question might be ”Of course I solve a problem when I can.”

But do you?

Do you always make the choice to deal with an issue when you have the means to? Or do you sometimes leave the problem because actually it’s easier to be working against something, to have something to push on, or even something to blame.

If somehow—and I know this may be unlikely—you could eliminate all your problems and be free of them completely, would that be a comfortable place or an uncomfortable one? What would you do with your freedom then?

Do you sometimes avoid adopting a simple solution and continue looking for a more complex one that’s somehow more justifying?

I know I do.

But the path of personal mastery, wisdom, and growth means choosing to solve our problems when we can, and moving on.

The trouble with “going off-site”

Hotel meeting roomWhen it comes to a strategy or learning day, we’re used to the practice of “going off-site” to a venue away from the usual workplace. Our intention is to get away from the distractions of the office so that quality, uninterrupted time is spent on the subjects at hand—all very sensible, and the quality of the day we have usually seems to justify the decision.


There is an issue to be aware of, and that is all learning is state-dependent.

What does that mean?

It means that we only really assimilate learning when we are in the “state” to which it applies, or if you will, in the situation to which it relates. That’s why feedback needs to be delivered within a few minutes of an occurrence if it is to have any effect.

So the trouble with off-site learning is that it arrives when we are in a specially controlled, in fact artificial state away from the normal workplace. And so we and everyone else have trouble applying the learning when we go back. The off-site approach isn’t as effective as we think.

For a successful outcome, we need to promote learning in the live environment or specifically pull through anything that happens off-site.

That’s my experience.

What about you? How do you transfer learning from an off-site day?

The mistake most of us make about NLP

Man thinkingWe think NLP is something out there, when actually it’s something in here.

OK, the name is unfortunate. It stands for Neuro Linguistic Programming. What sort of mouthful is that? It simply refers to the way we form habits by what we repeatedly do and say, and how we are. That’s it. At bottom, it’s as simple as that.

The interesting bit comes when we understand the structure of this habit-forming behavior and intervene in some way to change it, to overcome an issue or learn something new. That’s where the power lies.

Here’s the thing…

This programming process is going on inside us all the time, whether we’re aware of it or not. We’re unconsciously setting up patterns of behavior day in, day out, sometimes changing old ones (though usually we leave them alone until we realize they’re not helping us any more), and sometimes making new ones. NLP is just a handy set of principles for working with this, a process already going on inside us.

So if NLP didn’t exist as a subject of study, we’d end up discovering it again and calling it something else. The learning process is there anyway, whether we pay attention to it or not.

Sure, a whole industry has built up around training courses, qualifications, accreditations, techniques, jargon and so forth to learn all the milarkey. And that can undoubtedly be off-putting.

But know this…

You’re programming yourself every day whether you know it or not.

You can be aware of that or be unaware—up to you.

I chose the “be aware” choice and I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t turn the lights off again.

And if more of us opted to be mindful of our inner programming it would serve the world better. Among other things we’d relate well to other people.

Some of the essentials to do that—without signing up for the industry—are available here.

Your “power to”, do you use it?

Woman reflectingWe all have power to achieve things or to be a certain way, possibly more than we’re comfortable admitting. As Marianne Williamson said, “it’s not our darkness but our light that most frightens us.”

This is quite a different thing from “power over” other people which might come to us through formal authority. “Power to” comes from our presence and indeed our personal mastery, our sense of purpose and our authenticity, our wisdom.

Abraham Maslow and others would say it’s our “power to” rather than our “power over” that counts in the end.

The more “power to” others perceive us to have, the more we will be able to help them. They will believe in us more than they will believe in the power of the problem they are trying to overcome. Denying our own “power to” and shrinking away from it doesn’t serve the people we might help.

Here’s the thing…

What do you choose?

Do you use your “power to” as a force for good, or do you hide from it a little (or a lot) and diminish what you can do for the world and for yourself.

It’s a choice.

How do you sit comfortably with your own power?

The head or the heart, where do you start?

Three people in a meeting, two shaking handsProgress on anything challenging typically needs a balance of head and heart perspectives; some emotional intelligence alongside the logic and rationale of the numbers and the processes. Neither on their own will be sufficient.

But where to start? Where to meet the other people involved?

With the head stuff, or the heart stuff?

With professional and business people brought up to “use their heads,” it often seems to make sense to meet them in that left-brain place that is so familiar, and then lead them to an emotional perspective once a level of trust is established.

With other individuals, less conditioned to be “professional”, beginning right from the heart might well work better. Or maybe that’s better in every case.

Does it depend on the context? The same individual in different circumstances might respond differently.

Perhaps the key is to connect with the person, one way or another, starting where they’re most comfortable, and then lead them to the other.

What do you think? Where do you begin—in your head or in your heart? It makes a difference.

Time to forgive yourself

Sun and treesForgiving others’ perceived wrongs is such a freeing thing to do, both for them and for us.

History shows that those that get the best results over time act as if other people are doing their best, even if they don’t seem to be doing as well as they could. There is a difference between learning to do better next time and raking over what’s done.

Even more liberating is to forgive ourselves…

We were doing our best back then; back when something happened we regret. It doesn’t serve other people, or even the “victims” of what we did wrong, to burden ourselves with the past.


Take the learning and forgive yourself. Now’s the time. You have all the permission you need.

Not where you’d like to be?

Bridge across a gapWe’re pretty used to being clear about what we want, what our vision is—clear enough that if it showed up, we’d recognize it.

But what if we can’t get to that straightaway?

That’s where “creative tension” comes in.

Creative tension is what Peter Senge (author of “The Fifth Discipline”) calls the gap between our vision and our current reality, which may not wholly fit with what we want.

Part of the practise of “personal mastery” is being able to sit with both a vision in mind, and a clear view of our current reality (and the emotions that go with it), and accepting the difference between them, and just being cool with it.

Now here’s the good bit…

If we hold this creative tension diligently, accepting the gap between where we are and where we want to be, and not stressing about it even as we work away to move toward our vision, it’s funny how our environment starts to rearrange itself in such a way as to close the gap. Things show up that help us move toward our vision; people get that we’re on a journey and support us; they accept that things are changing.

How does this work?

Well, we could go metaphysical about it and say that we manifest the change we want, but even at a prosaic level, somehow we just give off clear signals about what we’re looking for that others respond to, and, at the same time, we’re ready to recognize opportunity when it appears. They key is calmness. Nothing flows without the calmness.

Being OK with the creative tension of a gap between where we are and where we’d like to be not only helps us get there, but sets us free from stress in the meantime.

Pretty cool, I think.

And part of being an inspirational leader.

What’s your experience of this?

(With grateful thanks to Peter Senge and Robert Hanig for my own learning here.)