January 19, 2018

Archives for January 2014

Are you a story-teller?

Are you a story-teller?If not, maybe it’s time you were.

As an engineer myself, this has been a difficult transition…

You see, engineers don’t really do stories.

But I have learned (eventually) that if you want to stimulate change in others, the best way to engage them is by telling a story that conveys the point you want to across but avoids just giving it to them, because the direct approach is likely to lead to the learning being rejected.

Better to let them be pleased with their interpretation of your tale, than displeased with your direct intervention.

So much, so obvious perhaps…

But are you a story-teller?

And do you have a story for every occasion?

Do we really see what’s in front of us?

Do we really see what's in front of us?…or hear what’s said in our presence?

Particularly when we’re challenged by a situation, it seems we focus quite a bit on our thinking about the problem. That seems natural.

And yet…

It tends to mean we stop paying full attention to the information in front of us. We start filtering for those pieces that connect one way or another with what’s inside our heads.

And so we miss important facts and implications.

You can see this with children if you ask them a challenging question they can’t immediately answer and then gradually offer them new information. It’s surprising just how they sometimes miss the apparently obvious significance of new facts.

Perhaps as adults we don’t do that.

Or perhaps we do.

Be the boss or be the change?

Two doctors in discussionIt’s a trap we might fall into… If we have management responsibility for someone, we probably feel we are expected to make their change and growth happen.

But hang on…

We know the way human psychology works, if any change is going to happen, it needs to start with us. We need to go first. We need to “be the change we want to see in the world.”

That’s how it works in everyday life.

But in the special situation where we are the boss, our response to the duties of our role is to think we are expected to change other people, and moreover that it will be possible. “We just need to tell them.”

Think about it though…

The natural human dynamic isn’t very likely to shift just because we occupy a certain position in a hierarchy.

Even if we are the boss, we still need to “be the change.” We need to go first. We need identify our part of the pattern that’s causing trouble and alter it.

Then the other person will realise it’s time for them to grow, and we can request, even demand, a change with a chance of a successful outcome.

That’s leadership.

Managerial authority can overcome human nature to some extent, but much better to use the natural process than to fight it.

Don’t be lured into thinking managerial authority will be strong enough to reverse the natural way. It probably won’t.


Three people in a meetingFear is an inhibitor, for the most part—an inhibitor of evolution and innovation. Sure, sometimes a bit of a fright helps us get moving, but if we’re too scared to take risks, we can’t develop.


If fear is part of the climate you create, you might get higher productivity but you won’t get innovation. You’ll need to make those calls about direction and strategy yourself—quite a responsibility really.

Might be better to create a climate of trust, and, yes, high expectations, but not pervasive insecurity, not unless you want to shoulder the whole leadership burden yourself.

The more fear you create, the more you’re in sole charge (for a time), and the more you’re alone.

The people are fine…

Senior businesswoman thinkingThe people are fine, mostly.

It’s the systems and processes that are the problem.

Last week my faith was to a degree restored in a large financial institution. That’s after an unnecessarily bruising experience at the hands of its automated procedures. Strange how so many organizations have standard letters (sent out by computer) which seem designed to systematically annoy their customers, leaving their staff to pick up the pieces and spend a disproportionate amount of time sorting things out.

Fortunately, the people I phoned were very helpful and distinctly human. I decided that maybe there is some quality in the bank after all, though not in its systems and processes.

I was left with the feeling that these individuals do a good job as much despite their organization as because of it.

I also noticed how much my opinion of the business was shifted by the quality of the interaction with the person.

It’s seems kind of obvious, but maybe we forget…

People do a better job of relationships than computers, on the whole.

Are you holding process or outcome?

Audience of professional peopleIt’s worth being clear…

With a group of people engaged in change, is your commitment to a process or to a specific outcome?

If you feel you need to achieve a certain outcome, then fair enough, go for it to the best of your ability: Make your best case; listen well; trade off to get a result you can work with.

If, on the other hand…

You want to see a result emerge, but you’re not wedded to any particular one (within reason, let’s say), then commit to run a process; to hold space for something to emerge.

The outcome may then surprise everybody, including you.

And there may be more chance of it actually being implemented.


Process or outcome? Which are you holding?