Welcome All!

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just Some Questions for You, That’s All

Part of my early morning routine is starting my MacBook in search for the good stuff by Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Wharton School of Business, Fast Company, or a good leadership/entrepreneur blog. It provides me with great nutrition for my brain and with new ideas for my talks, workshops and coaching sessions. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a different perspective on an existing concept which helps me look at an idea or event from an unusual angle. I like that, and I’m sure I don’t do enough of it. Neither do you.

This morning, the HBR Tip of the Day caught my eye with the title How to Ask Productive Questions?  Not new, not shockingly different but very relevant. It talks about how you and I make more statements than we ask questions. It talks about the fact that some (or many?) of our “questions” are in name only. I believe this to be true for most of us, and my advice to clients when working to improve their influence through communication is always straightforward: Decide whether to ask a real question or whether to make a clear statement, but decide and do. No deceiving please, because that leaves others misguided, insulted, defensive, confused, suspicious, even distrustful – and righteously so.

Hence I’ll be real clear. I have real questions for you. Questions I suggest you ask yourself in order to keep improving your effectiveness on the job, at home, anywhere.

-       What am I not willing to admit?

-       How can I find new ways to add meaning to the people on my team?

-       Which of my beliefs have become fossilized and might be seducing me to ‘business as usual’?

-       To what extent did I live by my values today?

-       Am I really ‘there’ when I’m ‘there’, or is it a case of part-time presence? Do I allow distractions to keep me from fully engaging?

-       Who impacted me today and how am I going to grow from this now?

-       How can I make tomorrow more meaningful than today?

-       What have I tried to control, which I know I shouldn’t?

-       Was my heart involved in whatever my head focused on today?

-       Did I communicate with conviction and clarity?

-       Where did I lack the courage to stand up, speak out, be frank, say it straight?

I’d love to hear your question!

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?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It’s all been said before

In my field of leadership, team, and employee development, it’s kind of all been said (and often done) before. I totally don’t mind. It’s a good thing I don’t feel the need to invent, or better, re-invent what’s already out there. What a waste of time this would be. I prefer to use and re-use. I prefer to use differently. I prefer to combine the unlikely or the unusual. And I prefer to work hard and smart to find the best possible ways to help people put to practice what we already know, if we were only brave and fear-free enough to acknowledge it.

The only really new findings in my field stem from brain research, which is making great progress and has long ways to go. Apart from that, there is nothing much new, except for finding multiple and better ways to make things stick, to make people believe, to make people believe and think differently, to make people act on their beliefs consistently[1], and to make people sign-up for candor. Candor with themselves and candor with others.

Today I’m going to stick with just a few examples of what we already know and often neglect to act on. I am happy to honor the people who brought it to our attention (but who were not the first ones either to bring these topics to light).

1. Stephen Covey in The Third Alternative: Where might I have blind spots about myself? What a profound question if you really give it thought and attention. We know so much more about our blind spots than we are willing to admit. They are not really blind spots. It’s called self-deception for all the wrong (and only sometimes right) reasons.

2. Founder and former president of WNBA Val Ackerman: Not everybody wins. Dealing with failure and adversity is what a team sport teaches you. The lesson of how to respond to defeat is one of the most powerful lessons that sports can teach, because not everybody wins. Need I add anything to this? Maybe just this: Not everybody wins!

3. Twin Cities based John Christensen and his 4-point FISH philosophy: Be there, play, make their day, and choose your attitude. This one incorporates emotional intelligence and gestalt psychology principles (being really present in the here-and-now). It also stresses the playful child which stems from Transactional Analysis, as well as the power of attitude and ownership which has been hot for quite some time.

4. Building on the latter - the power of attitude - I wish to, once again, highlight Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response (read: our attitude). In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” I’m sure this needs no needless comment from me.

That’s it. It’s all been said before. Now take it to the next level, the doing level. With conviction, consistency and passion. That’s the hard part.