January 18, 2018

Archives for May 2012

What’s the difference between an answer and an essential condition for success?

Group discussing plansThe contributors round the table are, in turns, articulate and persuasive in their advocacy of their particular way of looking at the problem and their approach to its solution. After all, their understanding really has helped them solve significant problems in the past.

Don’t we all do this?

We push the method we think is needed. There’s nothing bad about that.

But then we often go wrong….

We act as if our method is the answer, when it’s much more likely to be just one of many essential conditions for success. Our method is part of the answer, sure, but not all of the answer. We need more pieces, and the chances are they’re going to come from other people. We need to gather all the component parts of the solution. And we need to be open to them in the first place.

Success typically takes more steps than we expect. We need to get a whole chain of things right. If some are missing, success will elude us.

Your answer is likely essential, but probably not enough on its own. Be open to receiving the other pieces you need.

How do you spot what’s missing from the solution as a whole?

When someone isn’t taking in what you’re saying, what do you do?

Three senior managersPicture this…

The tone of voice changes: The “uh-uh”s and “yes”s are still there, but they have a hollow sound to them. The nods of the head are automatic. The gaze is no longer intent.

He’s gone.

I keep talking a little longer and finish a sentence or two to be polite, but I know the words aren’t going anywhere. I know he’s thinking about something else.

I’ve lost the man’s attention. Actually, he gives off rather clear signals that I have. If he realized just how clearly, he probably would do something about it. But he’s not that conscious of his non-verbal communication.

Of course, the thing is what should I do, or what should you do if you find yourself in this position, where the person you’re speaking with isn’t focused on what you’re saying any more?

Well, I think there’s only one answer…

Get the other guy talking. That’s what he wants to do. Anything else is pointless. Your stuff will have to wait (though maybe you’ll be able to get the other person to say what needs to be said by asking smart questions).

Bottom line: If you’ve lost their attention, give them the ball.

What about you?

What do you do when you realize someone has zoned out of what you’re saying?

Oh, and…

How aware are you of the signals you may be giving off that you’re not actually paying attention?

More detail on how much happens unconsciously in our relationships, and some smart questions to ask, in my book, available here http://amzn.to/ouLZgs (US) or http://amzn.to/vAaZMl (UK).

Or ask me to speak at your event or guest on your program.

How much learning do we need to make something different happen?

Senior businesswoman thinking“If you are not seeing things properly, you have no hope of any sort of breakthrough,” so wrote Joshua Cooper Ramo in his thought-provoking book “The Age of the Unthinkable”, quoting the Buddhist principle of Right vision: Right intention: Right action (in that order).


If we are going to make something different happen, for example, in an organization, we might need a ton of learning. Without that, we won’t be able to see clearly how things lie, what the state of the art is, and where the leading edge can be found.

Approach the problem at the level of everyday information and process detail and we have a great deal to assimilate to get even close to seeing the overall picture, and, short of that, our actions won’t deliver the breakthrough we seek. Our energy may well be wasted, or even make things worse. So learning is vital.

But maybe we can quicken the pace…

Develop our vision at a deeper level and seeing things properly becomes much less complex. It’s much easier to see the leading edge if we trade in questions like “Where is the fear and what is it?”, “What does this event signify in the span of a life?”, and “How can human connection flow in this situation?” Then the details become much less important.

As Gene Early says, “always go to the deepest level of truth.”

There may not be time to do anything else.

Remember, Einstein famously said “We can’t solve our problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

How much learning do you need to make something different happen?

My book has my take on learning like this applied to relationships. It’s available here http://amzn.to/ouLZgs (US) or http://amzn.to/vAaZMl (UK).

Or you could ask me to speak at your event or guest on your program.

In role models, do you notice your weaknesses or your strengths?

Closeup of business people applauding during a business meetingAs we look at our role models, it’s easy to notice the pieces of their capability that we don’t have, or don’t have yet.

Not so obvious in the picture—in fact, not visible at all—is what we have that they don’t. And it may be at least as much.

Taken overall…

We might be more capable than the people we are learning from, not less.


You won’t see your unique gift in anyone else. You can only find it in you.

Have you looked lately?

Ever wonder why some discussions go round in circles?

Three in discussion… and what to do about it?

You’ll have been there, I’m sure… The conversation waxes and wanes, ranges about, goes round and round, without anybody ever seeming to “nail” the issue. Nobody falls out, but they never quite seem to line up either.

Why is that?

There could be lots of reasons, but one of them is very common…

That’s the use of oh-so-familiar, seemingly very normal, totally acceptable abstract nouns like integrity, empowerment, engagement, mediation, globalization, manipulation, trust, leadership and so on—all activities with the verbs taken out.

Any conversation that builds on words like these is bound to be dissatisfying. It’ll seem inoffensive probably, but it won’t add much value either.

You see, the trouble is…

Every single person understands these words differently, so as we converse using them, nobody’s talking about exactly the same thing, and so the reality is, we’re trying to nail the proverbial jelly.

What’s to do?

To straighten it all out, we need to put the verbs back in and express the nominalizations, as they’re called, as behaviors. For example, “integrity” might be “always being and acting true to what you say.”

But you thought “integrity” meant something else?

Well exactly, that’s the point.

Until we nail “integrity” down as some observable behaviors, we’ll go round in circles trying to promote it.

Switch on to these abstract nouns and you’ll see this fog is everywhere.

Do you notice? It’s a big deal.

More detail in my book of course, available here http://amzn.to/ouLZgs (US) or http://amzn.to/vAaZMl (UK).

Or you could ask me to speak at your event or guest on your program.

What could an engineer possibly bring to relationship skills?

Group discussing plansIn three words—system and structure—though that’s perhaps not for everyone.

My apparent shift from engineering to relationships seems to fascinate. The typical introduction goes like this: “He is an engineer by profession but/however/though/and (delete according to taste) he now works on relationship skills.”

But it’s maybe not so strange—in the end, it’s all about people in any profession.

Engineers look to understand things at a fundamental level, learn practical and insightful skills, and use them as much as possible.

Every week, I write a little piece specifically on this topic and post it here, though all the time, I’m drawing on an underlying system for relationships drawn from a number of sources. Here it is for you now…

1. Attention to other people first
2. A resourceful attitude through a set of principles
3. Self-control and calmness
4. Being mindful of visual, auditory and kinesthetic preferences
5. Understanding and adapting to personality traits
6. Connecting with people quickly, easily and reliably
7. Working quickly and effectively with values
8. Seeing patterns in language
9. Self-awareness
10. Clarity about what we want
11. Reconciling our inner tensions
12. Human connection and love

Now your first reaction might be that’s all common sense.

It’s not.

Every one of these topics is a skill area in itself and an opportunity to develop expertise and insight we generally won’t have by accident, though depending on how you come to this subject, some will be familiar.

The thing is…

If you want to hone your ability to relate to other people professionally and personally—and why on earth wouldn’t you—and see more clearly what’s going on, these are the headings you need. Skip any one of these, and something is liable to trip you up. Learning them in depth, on the other hand, is life-changing.

I’ve set all this out in detail in my book, which is available here http://amzn.to/ouLZgs (US) or http://amzn.to/vAaZMl (UK). Quite honestly, a steal for the amount of learning available. I hope you’ll treat it as a resource.

Or you could ask me to speak at your event or guest on your program.

The trouble with “gaming” the system

Three people in discussionThe meeting starts in the late afternoon—to prepare for the big one the following day. The purpose is to “spin” the numbers to get the outcome we want in the meeting tomorrow; to construct an argument based on the data to influence the other side; to get them to agree to the proposal that suits us best.

Just the stuff of a typical negotiation you may think. And I would agree with you.

But there’s something to be aware of….

If we and the other side are part of a larger enterprise—and so in a symbiotic relationship (and aren’t we always)—too much manipulating of the data means our shared model of how the enterprise works won’t be valid, that’s if we have a shared view at all.

Here’s the thing…

Without a shared and accurate model of how the bigger system is working, the enterprise—the collective team—won’t be able to learn, and it won’t respond effectively to changes in its environment. Without seeing things properly, it has no hope of any breakthrough, to paraphrase Joshua Cooper Ramo. One of the preconditions for organizational learning will be missing. In the long run that will hurt us all.

If you’re tempted to play games with the numbers—to “game” the system—just be aware that you’ll be sacrificing long-term viability for short-term gain.

How inspirational is a leader that “games” the system? Maybe to a degree, but only to a degree. The truly masterful might have no need.

Switching off dates on blog posts – good idea or bad idea?

Hands at a keyboardIt’s seems a clever idea – switching off the date stamp on your blog posts. That way you can tweet about them later and readers won’t realize they’re not new. Well, most of them won’t…

The audience respond appreciatively to this suggestion by a speaker at a conference, conjuring with the increased traffic they might generate by reusing their content more.

There’s a snag…

Tactics like this damage our authenticity. They sap away at our brand. We seem just that little bit less real and present. Not what we want.

Transparency matters. Withhold or manipulate information and you weaken your connection with other people, with your audience, with your market. The shutters come down that little bit. There are a lots of ways we do this if we’re not careful – lots of ways we undermine our own openness. I’d say go in the opposite direction and you’ll gain more. Be real and specific and you’ll draw people toward you.

Authenticity might rate higher than efficiency in your world. I’ve learned it does in mine.