Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creating Paradise: Being a Bully or a Mentor

I have been drawn to watching a series called Paradise on the ABC as I assess this story to be about love, ambition, change and mystery. For me all the ingredients of a good night in! Another reason I am interested in this series is my attraction to the essence of the story - the various relationships between the characters. In particular, I am interested in the relationship between Denise a young shop attendant who appears bright, ambitious and the older Miss Audrey, who appears fixed in her ways, ambitious and has declared she has chosen her career over a family life. Both women, I assess, are completely bound in their own ways by the power of the ‘shop’ they work and live in, their mysterious pasts, how they choose to observe the world they live in and how they choose their moods.

Let me explore further the point about ‘how they choose their moods’. Moods are created in language through an assessment (opinion or judgement) we make in relation to a situation. In this story, I assess these two women are in a situation of uncertainty about the shop, their work and their future. These women can oppose this uncertainty or accept it. Not accepting uncertainty can generate a mood of anxiety. Accepting uncertainty can facilitate the development of a mood of wonder. 

The following is a snippet of a conversation between the two women:

Miss Audrey “I love my work and will never let it be taken from me
Denise “if you are seeking assurance that I will not take my ideas to Mr Moray
Miss Audrey “no if the ideas come from me, he will know they are yours, there is a difference in the order of our minds, I see that now. My notions are small insular…yours are quick and vital to the world in which they are a response to, so I have decided there will be no more ideas, no more thoughts”
Denise “I am to stop thinking”
Miss Audrey “if you wish to remain at the Paradise… I have no wish to lose you, but I refuse to lose this”   

So here we have situation where Miss Audrey has made a verbal threat (some may say bullying) to Denise and this maybe due to her anxiety. I also assess that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying and can be created through the mood of anxiety. Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results.[20][21] While some bullies use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem.

Miss Audrey has created through her ‘way of being’ (her language, mood and physiology) a world where she has determined that Denise’s ideas (which have already created change for her) may be too bewildering and maybe making her feel insecure. Miss Audrey’s response is to close Denise down so she can feel safe and certain. An approach to managing her anxiety.

Denise has created through her ‘way of being’ (her language, mood and physiology) a world where she has determined Miss Audrey is blocking her ideas (in a mood of wonder) she seeks to expand and develop different approaches for getting her ideas out. Denise’s response is to be resourceful and ‘suggest’ her ideas to others who can take them up.

If Miss Audrey could change her ‘way of being’ and accept the uncertainly that Denise’s ideas bring, she could move to a mood of wonder. She could mentor Denise. Together they can create a different type of Paradise. They could create a workplace where people do not bully, a workplace that mentors its people. A workplace that fosters a culture where the sharing of experiences, wisdom, networks, knowledge and know-how is the ‘Paradise’ you want to work in. Paradise is created first in your language. For a conversation on moods, contact nicky@nickyhowe.com.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Young Leaders on Boards…Good for Business

I recently meet with the Chairman of an Aged Care board who had come to talk about the ‘Engaging Young Leaders on Aged Care Boards Social Innovation Grant Project we are running.

It was really good to talk to a person who offered us his insights into how he had first gone on a board when he was 24 years old. He said that it had given him a very good insight into the sector the organisation was in and the experience and exposure had helped him to develop his leadership skills. He was keen to offer an opportunity for a young professional to sit on a board sub-committee and he understood he was taking a leadership role in making this commitment. I say leadership role because what had emerged in our conversation was that not everyone thought that it made good business sense to have a young person on their Board. 

You may say ‘why of course it makes good business sense’ and that is because you know that to really achieve board effectiveness, Director Competencies are a combination of both technical competence and behavioral competence. In articulating the business case for why young leaders could be seen as a business asset, let me offer you some of my thoughts.Young leaders offer us the opportunity to develop:
  • Diversity of Board membership: age, gender, cultural background and sexual orientation. Diversity of membership can help reduce ‘groupthink’. One of the structural faults that can lead to ‘groupthink’ is homogeneity of member’s social background and ideology (Kiel).
  • Workforce Planning Strategies: young leaders can offer valuable insights into the development of strategies to attract and retain young talent in organisations.
  • Board Succession Plans: (with 29% of boards in Australia made up of people over the aged of 60 years) it is a business imperative that we recruit young leaders onto our boards.     
  • Service Delivery Models: the grandparent/grandchild relationship is special and through this relationship young leaders offer unique insights into what matters to seniors.
  • Board “Behaviour Effectiveness” Guide: Research into Board behavioural dynamics (social and psychological processes occurring between directors and between the board and management) highlights a number of cases, one ‘knowledge’ either the ignorant director or the know-it-all director can have negative consequences. Young leaders are presenting as learners and can help to develop a new type of culture required in modern governance – Nadler refers to this as the ‘engaged’ board.
  • Social Media Stakeholder Engagement Strategies: leverage the organisations business via a new medium 
  • Contribute to the development of a future leader in our society  
I invite you to brainstorm why else it make good business sense – and let me know so that we can add it to the growing list.   

Friday, February 22, 2013

Resentment and the Retired Partner: Shifting Your Mood

For the last fifteen years I have been using the same beautician. As you can image, over that period of time we have shared many stories about our relationships with our partners, family, work etc.

When she came to see me the other day I asked her “how are you enjoying life now that your husband has retired?” Well that simple question opened up a flood of emotions, words and a physical reaction that I interpreted as someone who was not very happy. I listened to her reasons for why she was not happy and much of what she was saying was about how she felt restricted and encumbered by him being there all the time. I interpreted that she had not accepted that he was going to be there as he had retired and their relationship was changing. One example of her unhappiness was she felt she could no longer go home after work and sit and watch her favourite TV Show. This was because her husband’s response was “why are you watching that rubbish”. I asked her if she was open to some coaching as I interpreted from all the various things she was telling me, she could be in a mood of resentment. 

Sieler argues that the mood of resentment is related to the emotion of anger, and can be thought of as anger that endures. Sieler’s quotes Robert Soloman who maintains that the mood of Resentment is  ‘amongst the most obsessive and enduring of all emotions poisoning our whole subjectivity with its venon’ … ‘What is most vile about this all-pervasive emotion is its deviousness…resentment loves misery as its company…

The following offers this lady’s situation as an example to demonstrate the mood of resentment, how it is manifested in language, and how it can be held in our physiology (body). 

The persistence of an emotion, in this lady’s case anger, can result in the formation of an ‘emotional habit’ or habitual ‘way of being’. Resentment can often be a low level simmering feeling that sits in the background and can impact on how you do and do not observe and participate in your work, life and relationships. In this lady’s case she said she did not accept that her husband had retired and would be there all the time with her. She was continually opposing that fact that he was at home with her all day, and these feelings simmered and then blew up into arguments. She said she was angry. She said “it is not fair that I am treated this way by him”. She wanted to punish him, to get even. She described how she had been quite ill with headaches and felt tense all the time, particularly in the jaw, neck and shoulders.

As an ontological coach I help people to move away from a state in which their feelings are not recognised, un-owned or not expressed. By supporting this lady to get in touch with her emotions I was able to help her move towards a more resourceful ‘way of being’.  This was partly achieved by helping her to accept the current situation through her changing her language. This does not mean that she has to like it, or agree with it, but helping her to see the ‘facticity’ (things that cannot be changed) she is then able to start to language the situation differently. By her declaring that “I accept my husband has retired and he will be home most days”, by making some shifts in her body alignment (relaxed open posture, even breathing) she was able to move from her own ‘negative stories and assessments’. She committed to having a ‘conversations for clarity’ with her husband about how they can ‘explore’ together, the new ways they can live, love and be happy in their retired years.

Resentment is portrayed as a negative mood, but it is perfectly human for us to find ourselves in resentment. For a converstation on exploring moods such as resentment contact nicky@nickyhowe.com

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Watching your own back: Watching your own shadow

I was reading the February addition of the Company Director Magazine and come across Green’s Piece “Watchdog has your back’ by John Green who is a leading company director and author.  His article highlighted the efforts of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASCI) in launching 24 insider trading actions (most completed and most successful) since the global financial crisis (GFS). Green presented a number of high profile cases (Gupta, Lindskog and McDermott Jr) to demonstrate how these people, who had been respected and entrusted with confidential company information, had used this information inappropriately. In one case the judge described the consequences as “the functional equivalent of stabbing Goldman in the back”.

A key theme in all these cases was ‘trust’, a concept I have previously written about  and like Green, I think trust is as a key foundation to good leadership. What also struck me in reading ‘Greens Piece’ was how he has personally had some close brushes with insider trading because  people he trusted had done bad things.

In fact when Green used the saying ‘even when good people can seem to do bad things’ I was reminded of a really excellent book I have read by James Hollis 'Why Good People Do Bad Things: Understanding Our Darker Selves (2007). Hollis offers the reader a rich and diverse opportunity to explore our own shadow. A concept first articulated by Jung my interpretation of the shadow is ‘those parts of ourselves that make us uncomfortable with ourselves’.
In leadership programs Anne Courtney and I run we use a quote from Parker J. Palmer 

“A leader is a person who has an unusual degree of power to create the conditions under which other people must live and move and have their being, conditions that can either be as illuminating as heaven or as shadowy as hell.  A leader must take special responsibility for what’s going on inside his or her consciousness, lest the act of leadership create more harm than good.” 
Self-reflection is crucial for leaders because you have the influence, power and capacity to cast your shadows on other people you work or live with.  Your shadow sides are the sides of yourself that are dysfunctional, unhealthy, under or over-developed.  You have a special responsibility to pay attention to yourself and use your leadership for positive effect.

I invite you to privately reflect on some points Palmer makes in 'Leading from Within' and note if anything stands out for you about potential shadows you need to pay attention to or shadows they you may have experienced from other leaders:

•    Are you insecure about you own identity and worth: do you try to prove yourself in the external world rather than wrestling with their own inner identity?  Leaders, then deprive other people of their identity;
•    Do you perceive the universe are essentially hostile to human interests and that life is fundamentally a battleground (inner fear of failing) it helps create situations where people have to live/work as if they are in a battle;
•    believe that you are ultimately responsible for everything and all  rests with you (you have to make it happen!).  This leads to dysfunctional behaviour including workaholism, burnout and broken relationships.  Instead we can learn to do only what we are gifted to do and to trust the rest to other hands.
•    Fear (especially of the natural chaos of life) and therefore creativity is stifled because it is controlled.
•    Denial of death.  Leaders demand that their people artificially maintain things that are no longer alive or may have never been alive.”

The invitation is to watch your own shadow, observe yourself. As your shadow is often hard to see, invite feedback from those around you. You are then able to be your own security system. For a conversation on the shadow side of leadership contact nicky@nickyhowe.com

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How to shift your ‘way of being’ to effectively manage poor performance

I recently facilitated a workshop with a group of managers who had expressed some difficulties they were having in conducting conversations with staff who they had assessed as under-performing. I asked them what their expectations were from the workshop and they offered the following:
“To gain courage and confidence; understand rights and responsibilities with performance management; giving constructive feedback that maintained the relationship; reinforce and revise existing knowledge”

By way of background all the managers had previously attended workshops which covered
the technical ‘How to manage performance’ for example ‘how to undertake performance development reviews’, ‘probation’ and ‘managing substandard performance’.  I assessed that their core concern was not the practical, process elements of managing substandard performance.  Rather it was their own human emotional state when preparing and then having the actual conversation with the staff member about their under-performance.

I asked the managers the following question “what stops you managing substandard performance?” I would suggest that like all of you; it was ‘the emotional spaces you find yourself in that stops you’. So we spent time exploring ‘their way of being’ around managing substandard performance. I then drew the first three circles of the model below on the whiteboard and asked the managers about each of the three elements of their ‘way of being’ i.e. L - their language (their private, in their head conversations); E- how they feel (their emotions and moods) and B - what they notice about their physiology (their body). This is what they said:

Language: “She/he is not going to change”; “How do I start with the right words”; “I’ll rehearse, makes notes”; “What am I going to say?”; “Did I create this issue/problem?”: “Is this about me?”: “Am I making this a problem”.
Mood and Emotions:  Anxious, angry, fear, frustration, disappointment, resentment.
Physiology (Our Body): tension, heart racing, change in voice, hands tends to go everywhere, locked tight jaw, shoulders tight.

I then asked them to consider how they could shift their ‘way of being’ to be more resourceful when managing staff who are under-performing. I invited them to name how they could shift/change these three elements of their ‘way of being’. The following illustrates the shifts they said they could make:

Language: “I can do this”; “this is worth doing”, “this will help with the change that is needed”; “I want continuous improvement”; ‘‘I want a quality service”: “I want to shift the culture from child to adult”; “this is about our standards”; “this is about working in line with our values”.
Mood and Emotions:  Be ambitious, confidence, positive, courage, energy, empowered, team work, responsibility.
Physiology (Our Body): Relaxing myself, centering myself, being calm, looking at the staff member with soft eyes, sitting more solid.

Ontological learning is about us observing ourselves and making small shifts in our ‘way of being’ to be at our resourceful best. The opportunity to explore and name how the managers could change their ‘way of being’ are continuous small shifts that will support them to manage substandard performance. The next time you are faced with having to manage substandard performance; I invite you to take the time to observe your own language, moods/emotions and physiology. What small shift could you make? For a conversation on shifting your 'way of being' to manage substandard performance contact nicky@nickyhowe.com