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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

I cannot teach anybody anything…


A surprising statement coming from me, right, with 23 years of applying psychology to business settings and of coaching and training people. Let me explain.
This past Thursday I enjoyed fifteen minutes of waiting time at Best Buy’s Headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota. As I was taught by my very first boss many years ago, I arrived early for delivering an interactive talk on leadership to twenty board members. Monique, my first boss back in the Netherlands, used to say: Arrive early and ‘take a shower’: observe, look, listen, smell, ask, take in and use it to our business’s best advantage.
So here I am, at Best Buy, all ready for my shower. In addition to mentally preparing and getting some peace of mind after extremely busy days I enjoy the contemporary decorations and comfortable furniture. I hope to see people walk by and interact – the psychologist in me likes to observe people and their behavior, in different environments, when they’re interacting or when alone. I guess everyone is working their way down their long list of tasks for the day, or maybe I’m in a part of the building with relatively little traffic. With just four people passing, of which only one is not texting or otherwise obsessed with his smart phone, my attention is drawn to texts on the walls. I’m thrilled to be entertained by great quotes of leaders such as Winston Churchill. The one that really grips me is attributed to Socrates:
“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”
How true and how applicable to my field of expertise. I coach teams to collaborate more successfully, I coach individuals to improve their communication or their stress management, I coach managers to become high power presenters, and I coach executives to increase their emotional intelligence and become more effective change enablers, to mention a few examples. In all these projects, there is only one thing I can really do: Get people to think differently from how they thought before. Because when you think differently, you evaluate, decide, choose, act, and create differently. And that’s what everyone wants who hires a coach: create different results than they have in the past.
How to do just that? Cognitive psychology is one of your sources for learning to think differently. The concepts aren’t new and they aren’t difficult. Doing it, consistently, is a whole different thing. I’ll give you some examples:
-       Exploring your assumptions about yourself, others, the world, your job and anything else important to you.
-       Looking at a situation from multiple and preferably opposing perspectives.
-       Actively seeking the opinion of people who think and act differently.
-       Working consciously to minimize the effects of your thinking distortions such as confirmation bias, drawing premature conclusions, and post-action rationalization.
Nothing new and all pretty simple. So what’s your excuse?

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