Monday 28 June 2010

The Road Less Travelled

This phrase has become locked into what JK Galbraith coined as "conventional wisdom", yet the meaning of this saying I believe is largely misunderstood. This is an epic read and a challenging one. There are so many facets to the book that warrant attention. This is a book by a psychotherapist about therapy. Yet it's a compelling read for any emerging Coach even though the terrain is different. Here are some reasons why:

1. Our past has made us who we are and may in some way inform our future.

2. Very often, our "world view" (our map) is inaccurate and does not serve who we want to become. Knowing the context of that may give us greater insight into our client and may be valuable input into the Coaching work.

3. There's a stigma attached to therapy in that if you need to see a "shrink" you need to be "shrunk" in some way. But aren't we all traumatised to some degree by life's journey...?

So where's the shame in that...? In fact therapy could well be just plain smart! It's about personal growth and development. Sometimes we need to uncouple ourselves from the past to allow us to move towards where we'd rather be. Therapy helps us to do that. Coaching helps us move forward and we normally don't need the context of the past to help people do that. A good Coach should however, be able to know when a client would benefit from therapy and where Coaching's appropriate.
My own position on this is quite clear. The rule I apply is, if a person's past shows up in their present to a degree that impinges on them accessing their future they should explore how therapy may help them. A book of this quality gives me greater insight into that world and I'm a better Coach for it.

Peck's one of those rare people who cared enough about the subject matter and the audience to get to the bottom of complex issues in a simplistic enough way to make them interesting and meaningful for the reader. The first main point I picked up from him is linked to the notion that our map or view of the world when inaccurate severely limits the quality of our lives. The pain and suffering associated with addressing this issue is less than avoidance and denial. He frames this in a linear fashion by saying that people who attend therapy tend to fall into one of two categories....

1. Neurosis (they present as neurotic)...Things are my fault, guilt, shame, fear. (The flaw in the map is internal- They don't see themselves properly= I'm inferior)
2. Character Disorder (the world's the problem-there's nothing wrong with me= I'm superior)
He goes on to say that people in category 1 can have greater success from therapy as they're more disposed to change. Perhaps marginally the lesser of 2 evils! In my experience we tend to have a default position on either side of the centre line. This is often a negative pattern laid down in childhood. In today's language we could say it's the "aggressives" v the "submissives". These are the behaviours, the real work is the underlying cause.

This mirrors a lot of the work I do as a Coach. I ask the people I Coach when we work on these areas to establish where the "centre line" is. If we know where that is we should be CENTRED I guess! Peck calls this BALANCING. In this context he means this is where we need to be flexible enough to embrace change (go with the bend in the road) and exercise judgement as dictated by the circumstances when we're presented with new things to deal with.

Like many things it's simple...just not easy. It's a pleasure to read someone who truly mastered their craft to the point where it gets transformed into an art form. Shame he passed away a few years ago. His legacy will no doubt endure.....

What do you think of the above...? Have you read the book...?

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Man's Search For Meaning- Viktor Frankl

A few years ago I came across the story of Viktor Frankl, an extraordinary man who survived 5 different concentration camps. How he did that was reflect on the MEANING of his life and VISUALISED himself having a life beyond his current circumstances. He's been an idol and hero for me. His story is humbling to read. I'd encourage you as a start to look at this short clip from TED from 1972 when we's speaking about Meaning. It's very powerful. (The link's at the end of the post...please read on!)

The facts are that up to 80% of people are not engaged in their work. Many people in that category are not even aware of that fact. As Leaders we can influence this by being good role models ourselves. Today people don't want to be told what to do. They appreciate much more being helped figure it out for themselves. That's what the best people do anyway and it also lies at the heart of Coaching.

Frankl's gift to the world (in addition to surviving the concentration camps and giving life to 'logotherapy'- therapy work engaged with helping people find meaning in their lives) is he pioneered the "FREEDOM TO CHOOSE" movement.
Why he's such a hero to me is he really walked his talk. The statistics showed that the survival rate in the camps was less than 10%. What he showed us is with a mental attitude where you own your own life and not let yourself be victimised by your captors you're able to find MEANING to your own existence. He realised he was in fact more free than the guards who were often cruel and obviously deeply unhappy. The piece of this video that most appealed to me was the idea that if you treat someone like they are that's all they'll become. But if you treat them like they can be that's what they WILL BECOME!!

How much time as Leaders do you spend investing in the future potential of your own people...? The opportunities abound for such development; stretch assignments, cross functional teaming, exposure to new environments. They all take us out of our comfort zones and that's where all the learning and growth takes place.

Sadly we're not taught how to as Frankl later said "detect" our own life's meaning. This is part of the struggle of life. The paradox as I see it is we have to grapple with our own abilities in order to detect what we do best! Nothing's for free but most of the best stuff actually IS free. We have to earn the right to our own birth right! That is bizarre, but it is the way of the world. An analogy in the natural world would be how caterpillars become butterflies. We each have to earn our own right to fly, but fly we all can if we want to engage with our own story and respect our own potential.

As we head into summer season and many of us take time with family and away from the "busyness of being busy" use some of this time to reflect on your own meaning. Here are some Coaching questions which may assist that process:

1. Why do you do what you do....?

2. What are your best talents and highest passions...?

3. If Q2 is not supported by may not be using all your potential.....Start there and if you struggle to so this on your own, that's where a good Coach can help you...............
Enjoy the link!..........

Monday 7 June 2010

What the Science REALLY says about Motivation

I recently had this link sent to me by a friend of mine and wanted to share this with you too. The link's here and well worth the 10 minutes you'll spend watching it.
It does turn the whole idea of what we know about Motivation on it's head and seems to be replicated in different societies. It is also highly counter-intuitive! It highlighted a few things for me:

- We are all individual, so we are different...yet it would appear, we're all the amazing the human condition!

- Unless you get to REALLY KNOW your people you have even LESS of a clue about what motivates them.

- People don't work purely on a 'binary' basis. It's not either 'good' or 'bad'. There's a lot of grey in our world and that's where the action is.

Some of the core tenets of Coaching absolutely apply here:

- Treat ALL people with the same level of respect
- Suspend your own beliefs and judgements and tune into what really makes your people tick
- Focus on their POTENTIAL not their history. Where we're headed is way more important than where we've been no matter how significant that's been.

Finally I'd suggest we stop being lazy and 'throwing money and rewards' at problems. It does not work as we're all knowledge workers these days. It's not compatible with 21st C living either.
We care about Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy start putting those enablers in place and see what happens......... My sense is a lot of good stuff happens!