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When Does Silence Speak Loudly?

ShhhUn-Game Principle: Authentic actions emerge naturally from clarity.

Women know this secret about jewelry: if it doesn’t add to the beauty of their physical presentation, it detracts. But do we, men and women alike, know the same thing about how we speak? Ok, forget about the private domain. Most of us while among our family and friends are seeking a refuge, not a training opportunity to be vigilant about our competency in communicating. But admit it, even in personal relationships, there are times we wish we could choose our words wisely. Or know when silence would be our best communication.

Here’s what I learned lately. During the holidays I didn’t blog. I wasn’t interested in writing about anything. I could launch into lengthy explanations, which, after looking at them, would all fit into the category of rationalization. OK, so let’s throw them out before they’re even uttered. Yes, silence beats explanations, rationalizations, and justifications. Have you ever noticed your own reactions to those?

If it doesn’t add it detracts.

If I had pushed myself to make something up, search for something, reach for something to blog about, I’m sure I could have come up with something. But my readers would not have been fooled. They, you, we, are as exquisite as bloodhounds hunting a suspect in locating inauthenticity and lack of passion.

Let’s let silence speak when speaking detracts.

What are some other times when silence can speak loudly? If you’re a manager, team leader, CEO (parents and teachers, you are in this group), and you have a meeting during which you direct an inquiry to the team (not a yes/no factual question), do you jump in as soon as you’ve decided enough time has elapsed to get some answers flowing? When IS that time? When you’re uncomfortable with the silence? Do you assess that no answers/comments are forthcoming? Would it be OK with you if you were wrong about that? A silence could reveal much, some of which revelations might surprise you.

Perhaps not everybody operates at your speed of thinking. Or in your particular “culture,” people expect others to lead in answering and engaging. Or they think you’re looking for particular answers. Or they know you will eventually give up and provide answers you’re looking for. There could be a host of reasons for the others’ silence. Find out. Wait twice as long as you usually wait.

If it doesn’t add, it detracts. The action of your silence may speak louder and more effectively than your words.

Silence is often not the preferred response to verbal attacks. Most of us feel obligated to defend ourselves, consider aborting a counter-attack unacceptable, or withdraw physically, emotionally, or both. Our body language, however, is not silent. We operate either under the duress of instinct or under the illusion that the best defense is a good offense. Maybe so. Maybe not. Why not find out? Each situation is different. Neutral silence may be our friend in response to a verbal assault that began perhaps with the un-winnable “You always….You never….What’s wrong with you that you are constantly…..?”

Silence in such situations is not a weakness. It gives the assailant a chance to retreat, cool off, get back into their right mind. Without another response from you to fuel their fire, they may wonder just where you stand in the matter. And they may question whether they’ve done the right thing (something they didn’t question at the time of their assault). You can wait for them to break the silence, or you can come back at a later time to have your say. You will have a chance to reflect in peace just how you intend to approach the other. Chances are you will do this a lot more responsibly than how you were approached.

Some people will accuse the silent one of being manipulative. It may even be the accuser gathering more steam by making that assessment. Silence can be manipulative. And it can be strategic. Simply look to your own motivation for your silence. If you’re silent to irritate the other, then you have work to do. Your silence is designed to manipulate, that is, to set up a win/lose paradigm in which you intend to emerge the winner. If, on the other hand your silence is designed to keep a cool head on you and to give the other some space to do the same, then you’re simply being strategic. Keep going!

Silence can sometimes be amplified by a non-committal response. “Hmm,” you might say to a verbal attacker followed by a loud, expansive silence. “Hmm” can be interpreted in a number of ways. Why not leave the interpretation up to the other? You may find out in later conversation how that response was received. In the meantime, you don’t have to enter the conversation on the other’s terms.

Silence can and does speak loudly to the other. In case of the manager who truly wants participation from the team, silence says “I trust you have something to contribute. I respect your process. I need your input. You are a valued member of this team. We’re all in this together. Each of us is responsible for our success.”

Those messages add. Therefore they don’t detract.

In the case of a verbal attack, silence can say to the attacker: “I am neither your assessments nor your feelings. Your assessments may be grounded. They may be ungrounded. I am open to future conversation with you about this.”

Silence adds.

Except when it doesn’t. Our communication skills have reached a higher level of competence the moment we can assess when silence adds and when it detracts. And that clarity empowers authentic actions in ourselves and others. It might even empower us to ask and answer as we speak in important conversations: “Will what I am about to say add or detract?”

Speaking about adding and detracting, do you have a comment that would shed a light on this subject? If so, don’t be silent.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

When You Express Anger, Are You More Often Righteously Indignant or Self-Righteously Indignant?

Un-Game Principle: The learned ability to make distinctions is a must to strengthen your personal power.

5321ef97c9275Someone once asked me: “Ingrid, do you ever do anything unintentional?” I treated the question literally and not for the criticism I suspected the question contained.

The answer, of course, is ‘yes.’ I love and value spontaneity. I love and value unself-conscious expression, including the spontaneity of responding authentically when I’m angry. And I like and trust others who are willing to play with their fire.

It wasn’t always that way. When I was in my twenties more than one person accused me of “being a fight looking for a place to happen.” So how did I get from there to here where, more often than not, I trust my anger and the way I express it?

Well, it took a conscious decision to learn. And that meant that during that learning process I was going to be unabashedly intentional. I think I would get a lot of agreement from experts in human development and learning that in skill-building we move from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, and from there to being a beginner, minimally competent, competent, a virtuoso, and finally a master.  Research indicates that to get to mastery we need 10,000 hours of practice that includes feedback, re-practice, feedback, etc.

How many people do you know who are willing to even begin that journey? Business as usual would have us avoid our anger. Practicing to get beyond incompetence? Ha!

Would it be alright with you if this were easier? Yes, it takes courage to practice and accept the feedback you get, but it’s worth it. Many of you no doubt are well along on the journey toward mastery. You’ll agree that being able to make distinctions and honing the skill to be guided by them is valuable (rigorous self-observation is required, so consider an outside perspective like a coach if you are willing to be supported.)

Here then are two valuable-to-live distinctions. Self-righteous indignation and Righteous indignation.

Self-righteous indignation comes when your emotional brain is triggered. Your amygdala has been hijacked, so-to-speak, and you’re literally out of your mind—out of your rational mind, that is. When you express it, no good comes of it. A friend of mine aptly described it as “barfing all over” the target of your anger/indignation. It comes from wanting to self-protect, to get what’s yours, e.g. fairness, justice, and to keep the status quo, in most cases the self-image that is at odds with what the other said. It’s about taking a position and defending that position.  In other words, it’s all about YOU! SELF-righteous indignation.

And it doesn’t satisfy. Is it any wonder that people avoid expressing their anger?

Expressed righteous-indignation comes from a very different place. It comes from when what I sometimes call Heart-Mind is in charge. It’s the ‘you’ that is not ruled by circumstances, feelings and body sensations, and self-limiting thoughts, beliefs, conclusions. It’s the courageous, open, present, receptive, vulnerable, compassionate, kind, gentle, truthful….You get the drift. It’s your best ‘you’. And yes, not only do you have that ‘you’, you can learn to choose to come from that ‘you’. It’s a matter of making distinctions. But I digress.

As I asserted, expressed righteous indignation comes from your best ‘you’. It serves to preserve and enrich the relationship (Yes, I know. You probably never heard anyone say “I confronted her because I wanted to protect the relationship!”). It’s not just about the ‘you’ that’s a feather in the wind of your raging emotions..  Its message is: “You may go no further without hearing what I have to say. Here’s how what you said landed. It is unacceptable. I hereby put you on notice that if you do this again, I will offer you some more feedback on why this is unacceptable.” Of course you don’t use those words, but it is the message of righteous indignation. It is not a position. It’s a stand that comes straight from your own Heart-Mind. Joseph Campbell referred to this as your hero’s heart.

A stand is always a contribution. It is not a position to defend. It includes others’ positions. It doesn’t need to make the other change or even do anything differently.  It doesn’t attack the other even as you are being attacked. It’s simply informing the other where you stand and what you will do in a future similar situation. The other is put in a learning position that, granted, they can’t capitalize on while still angry, but which they have the space to reflect on later, if they so choose and are able. It gives the other breathing room.

Of course self-righteously angry people are not used to a righteously indignant response. They will come back at you harder. They might call you aggressive or explosive (projection of how they’re approaching you!). That is designed to derail you and get you on the same self-righteous plane on which they find themselves. That would be so much more comfortable for your self-righteously indignant friend or husband, wife, lover, boss, parent, child, etc.

People who know how to be righteously indignant, however, won’t lose their focus. They continue to be guided by love and contribution. They don’t expect an apology or anything else from the one who’s “out of their mind.” They may even be generous, kind, and compassionate and say to the other: “Let’s just start all over.”  Remember that they have communicated the only message that was important to them (see italicized message comment above). They are ready to move on without lingering resentment. They are satisfied that they have acted in alignment with who they really are in the Heart-Mind…their hero’s heart.

Are you up for the incredible, enriching, and powerful foray into the expanse of your personal power through making—and living—powerful distinctions? In the next post we may explore the distinctions ‘avoiding’ conflict vs. ‘averting’ a conflict. I invite you to comment on your experience of reading this post.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Courageous Compassion Part 2: Standing for What’s Important to You

Un-Game Principle: Being willing to be courageous and compassionate can be a conscious choice even under circumstances people generally experience as very difficult.

CourageIn Part 1 of Courageous Compassion, courageous compassion was defined as ‘the ability to stay in caring relationship while simultaneously taking a stand that another’s behavior is unacceptable and you will confront it’. It focused on relationships where the parties would describe themselves as having equal positional power: colleagues, friends, husbands and wives, partners. There are also examples of what a courageously compassionate interchange might sound like. But what about courageous compassion in so called unequal relationships like you and your boss, for example? Or a parent or teacher and a child? What might a courageously compassionate interchange be like when there’s the experience of conflict for one or the other party?

It’s counterintuitive to imagine that both parties to a conflict actually have the same responsibility, namely to take care of the other without losing sight of taking care of oneself. It’s easy to envision a good boss taking the leading caretaker role. After all, he or she has more positional power, and the stronger is supposed to protect the weaker. In the office scenario, the boss surely wants to keep the good employee. Turnover is expensive. Besides, he might really like and value Melinda even if she “winged” the meeting whose success hinged on her report.

Let’s say Gene (the boss) knows that his positional power gives him some perceived advantage in the interaction. He has the power to fire or make Melinda’s life miserable. Fear of loss of job might make Melinda compliant. But Gene is wise enough to know that what seems like an advantage can hide a potent disadvantage. Compliant people aren’t the best employees. He wants creative, motivated employees. This is an important value for him.

Gene’s care-taking will include a conscious decision to minimize the impact of his positional power and maximize the use of his personal power to drive the interaction. In personal power we all have the opportunity to be equal, be it in incompetence, minimal competence, or even virtuosity. The playing field is level, and Gene wants to play on that field as much as possible. On the field of positional power, a disadvantage is that his position dramatically enhances the chances of Melinda going “out of her rational mind” and into ancient instinctual survival responses of fighting, fleeing, or freezing.

Not good for business. Not good for a well-lived life outside the business context.

Gene is smart to NOT use the greater power of his position. It’s one of those examples that challenges the stubborn assumption “More is better.” In fact more is sometimes less, and most often, more is simply more and nothing else!

Let’s assume he’s stated his assessment of the quality of Melinda’s report. Here’s what he didn’t say. “This report is not of the quality I’ve come to expect of you. You were not prepared. If it happens again, I’ll have to take some drastic measures. We can’t afford mediocrity. It’s not who we are.” (The veiled threat and the lecture are a reminder of who’s got the power. As if Melinda needs a reminder!)

Gene, wanting to keep Melinda engaged and wanting to minimize defensiveness, could use his personal power and begin the conversation like this: “Let’s evaluate how the meeting went. How satisfied are you that we accomplished our objectives?” Then Gene and Melinda enumerate the objectives. “What was outstanding? Satisfactory? Missing?” A discussion and learning conversation ensue where Gene doesn’t censor his own input. “I had expected X. It looks like you didn’t have that expectation since it was absent from the report. Help me understand. Tell me your thought process. ” More conversation ensues. “What will you do and by when to provide X?” Gene and Melinda settle on an action that satisfies them both. Gene could also make a demand. But he can soften it by simply asking, “Will that work or do you need to make me a counter offer?” (if a counter offer is acceptable).

The interaction between Gene and Melinda has the ingredients of a courageous compassionate conversation that moves a project along and enhances their relationship.

Let’s switch to Melinda having a problem with Gene that she wants to talk to him about (OK, she doesn’t really want to. But she’s willing because it’s occupying most of her waking hours. By now she has horrible-ized whatever Gene did, didn’t, and will do.).

For many people it is simply unimaginable to consider confronting (standing in front of) a boss precisely because of the positional power difference. They can’t imagine what courageous compassion for him, her, and self would look like.

But it’s possible even under circumstances perceived as difficult.

First of all, Melinda would do well to remind herself that in the domain of personal power she and Gene are equals. As a matter of fact, it’s precisely confrontations like the one she’s dreading yet contemplating that will give her the practice she needs to increase her personal power. To acknowledge that and then to actually proceed are courageous acts.

Secondly, Melinda needs to consciously choose to be courageous. The act of conscious choosing comes from the best in ourselves, not from an emotion like fear. It is powerful and proactive in any interaction, but especially one in which the “confrontee” has more positional power than the “confronter.” Melinda needs to act on what she intellectually knows: She is not her fears. She has fears. And she can be bigger than her fears!

And finally Melinda can consciously choose to be compassionate with Gene, remembering that in the domain of personal power she and Gene are simply two human beings doing the best they can with the light by which they are able to see. Gene, too, is no stranger to the fight, flight, freeze response defending against imaginary tigers and lions, his greater positional power being no help to him at all.

And so Melinda decides to talk to Gene who calls her frequently on weekends for non-emergency situations. She privately assesses that Gene thinks he should have unlimited access to her at any time.

Here’s what Melinda doesn’t do: she doesn’t sigh and silently acquiesce to all of Gene’s requests. She might begin by noticing her assessment. It’s only an assessment. There seems to be good evidence, but can she really be sure it’s what Gene really expects? Is he putting out a demand or just a request that she can accept or decline?

Melinda might open the conversation with “Gene, how important is this? This is my family time. Can we explore on Monday how I can help you accomplish X without cutting into my family time?” (Melinda is signaling she wants to help, would do so if it is really important, and intends to protect her private time).

Gene has an opportunity to see what may be a blind spot. Perhaps he does think he is entitled to Melinda’s time. Or he gets to consider just how important his request is to him. In any event, the conversation is off to a good start. The next move, if Gene sputters a version of “But, but…,” is for Melinda to hold her ground, quietly and firmly. “I’ll give you an hour (if she’s willing and able), but this has to be an exception rather than an expectation.” If Melinda can envision playing the long game, she knows it’s not sustainable to give up her private time and space. She will act with courageous compassion. Not just for Gene but for herself!

The truth is that confrontation in any relationship, be it among equals or those unequal in positional power, is risky. That’s what necessitates courage–the courage to be willing to lose something important. But the confrontation, expressed with courageous compassion also opens up the possibility to gain something profoundly important, namely to connect genuinely with another person and to experience the deep satisfaction of growing one’s personal power one interaction at a time. The ultimate prize is freedom to be what seems exceedingly difficult for most of us, namely to be ourselves! And the ability to stand for something…because if we don’t…chances are we’ll fall for anything!

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

How Can Leaders Move Beyond Leadership 101?

Un-Game Principle: Effective, inspired leaders’ day-to-day actions are guided not only by a vision of the result they are committed to achieving but by the qualities they long to be…courageous, empowering, supportive, truthful….

leadership

The command and control model of leadership is dead for the most part. However, in some enterprises it’s still queued up for burial as leaders are not yet confident in what is now an effective, times-appropriate leadership model. Or how to implement one even if the vision is clear.

Perhaps a good beginning is to ask a good question. “Who do we need our organization and our people to be now in a connected global environment characterized by an escalating demand for speed, deep cross-cultural differences, and a guaranteed unpredictability?”

Let’s focus on the people part of the question.

In the environment described, the limitations of a command and control model of leadership become apparent. It’s heavily dependent on the designated leader. People are not required to think independently or creatively. They are asked to do what they’ve been told as well as how to do it. It demands that leadership’s vision and capability to communicate it be clear, and that buy-in be achieved and maintained. It’s slow and cumbersome. It’s static, not dynamic. It also leaves people’s own leadership potential sadly untapped.

Who DOES leadership (yes, parents, teachers, team members, husbands, partners, wives) need to be now amidst the 21st century challenges we face? If we define leadership not as a position but rather as a mind and skill-set, then we see that we now need leaders to empower themselves and others to tap into a higher level of potential than we’ve tapped into “before everything changed”. We urgently need creative, innovative, courageous, compassionate, resilient, inter-dependent, collaborative people to meet the challenges of this new world. NOW!

How do we get those people?

Let me suggest some good news. They are already there eager to be tapped! But to come out and perform brilliantly they require the skills 21st century leaders didn’t learn in Leadership101. 

What designated leaders must now be able to create intentionally is the environment in which people will uncover in themselves those qualities described above. And that is for many a brand new skill-set. So new good questions might help guide the willing leader: “What characterizes an environment in which people can uncover the qualities they now must be able to demonstrate in daily action to reach the level of potential that’s currently a prerequisite for our organizations? What organizational environment will have us prosper and thrive?”

To become the people we already are, namely creative, innovative, resilient, courageous, compassionate, inter-dependent, collaborative people, we need for designated leaders to create both a safe and a challenging environment. It’s a learning environment in which it is safe to make mistakes. It’s a learning environment where we are challenged. 
It’s a learning environment that stretches our intellectual, emotional, spiritual self like a rubber band, enough to propel us forward but not so much as to break us. In short, it’s a change in the norms that probably govern the organizational culture.

That is leadership beyond Leadership 101. It’s the new leadership. Without it most people on whom the success of the enterprise depends will stay safely hidden. The risk to come forward is too great. We are too vulnerable. Too skilled at defending ourselves. Going beyond the status quo is too uncomfortable.  We take the known over the unknown. 

And our potential shrivels. And nothing changes even as our business (our home, our school, our government, our local food bank, our partnership,our marriage) is screaming for relief.

Leadership–let’s call it leadership 203– is dynamic, not static. It is omnipresent. It constantly reinforces the foundation of safety and challenge in every moment, be it in offering feedback, asking questions, inquiring, acknowledging, expressing disappointment, dealing with broken promises, expressing satisfaction, reservation, and even while being angry.

It’s a tall order for leaders to embrace Leadership 203. After all, it’s a stretch. And it’s risky. It puts the leader in the same position as the people whose potential is to be uncovered and newly tapped. Who will be leadership’s support? Who will create the safety and the challenge that the designated leader needs as s/he meets this new and very big endeavor? And what will this look like? After all, the leader has plenty on their plate already. 

Some leaders will develop the new leadership mind and skill-sets largely on their own. Clarity of vision and a strong will (as in I’m willing/I can) are their allies already. Others may be in a natural support group of other leaders like themselves. And still others will hire a coach to support their quest to move beyond Leadership 101. They wisely and courageously heed Einstein’s caution “You can’t solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” They know we are in a brand new world. Business as usual simply won’t do anymore. We all must evolve beyond Leadership 101.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Silence of the Lions: When Leaders’ Silence Harms and Helps

Un-Game Principle: What’s not being said is often more relevant than what is being said.

14-04-15 Silence of the LionsWhen there’s an “elephant in the room” it’s uncommon for someone to ask “What are we not talking about here that’s nevertheless relevant to our concerns?”  Among the many reasons we leave sleeping elephants alone is a simple fact: Leadership silence can be a deafening roar.

Let me back up for just a moment. I define leadership not as a position but as an attitude and a skill-set anyone can learn and all of us should exercise. That said, I’m for the moment talking about the designated leader, that is, the one with greater positional power than the rest of the team—the one who either facilitates everyone’s development and use of their leadership attitude and skills (in a family this may be Dad, Mom, or both) or stifles it.

So how does designated leadership silence do harm? Everyone gets the harm when it’s a large scale issue such as a company merger and people’s futures are on the line. With leadership silence, that is, in the absence of facts people make up stories. By stories I mean they rush to their assumptions, and pretty quickly those assumptions become facts in their eyes.  Once facts, the beholder has to defend them (We want to be right, don’t we?).

Once the defenses are up, the silence of leadership can be broken, but it will have a much harder time to penetrate the defended mind of the beholder than if the silence hadn’t been there in the first place—opening the spigots of fear from which the horrible, terrible stories spew. Our right mind has been hijacked.

In a small group, let’s say a meeting, leadership silence harms in the same way. Let’s call it ‘deliberate non-transparency’. But let’s look at a different leadership silence in a meeting environment.

A team member contributes something and there’s no acknowledgment from the designated leader, either positive or negative. The result is the member’s and the team’s energy drops. This is true for even the strongest team member. We all need to be heard to keep contributing. It’s a small step in the mind of the contributor from “What I said is not important” to “I am not important”.

Whatever someone says, it can be acknowledged. “As I understood what you just said, Randy, it doesn’t seem to add. Can you say it in a different way so that I’m clear how this is connected?” This will keep Randy engaged and contributing. The leader has respected Randy and his potential to make a contribution.  Randy feels valued. He can get back into his right mind. And who knows? Someone may build on his idea. Or get a new one out of Randy’s offering. They, too, are encouraged to put their offering out to the team. Creativity does not travel in a straight line. Leadership silence in the wrong place, however, can silence creativity and any and all its sources. It’s that powerful.

So when does the silence of the lion powerfully help a team?  We’ve all heard a version of: “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear your words.”  We are aware that words actually comprise a small part of any communication. Imagine, only 7% of most communication is words. The rest is intonation, body language, and with a bigger view finder we look to action for clues that support or negate the words.

And then there’s silence.

OK. So here’s leadership silence that helps a team in a meeting.

After a greeting

No, I’m not kidding. After a “Good Morning”, look at each team member and smile. Uncomfortable? Probably. It’s standard and customary to plunge into the work.  Besides the discomfort may be because leader and team members alike feel just a bit vulnerable. Worthwhile? Try it and see. You connect with your team with that tiny gesture. The communication is “I see you.” And yes, besides wanting  to be heard like Randy, we all want to be seen. Do those two things, and the rest becomes almost easy.

After a particularly spirited interchange among multiple team members

If you as a leader have created such a safe and challenging environment where spirited interchange happens, you will do some good to turn to someone who hasn’t weighed in and invite her in with a smile and a simple “Hi, Jayne.” And then silence. The rest of the team will laugh. They recognize that they’ve been passionately engaged and have not paid attention to quieter team members. They appreciate the gentle invitation to shift gears. And Jayne knows she’s seen and will be heard even if she simply says “I have nothing to contribute at this time.” More often than not Jayne will have something to contribute.

When courage (and valuable input)among team members needs surfacing

If you’re a courageous leader, chances are your team members are courageous too. They look for models, and like it or not, you’re IT. What you see in them, they’ve seen in you. They are your mirror. When you ask the questions that sometimes have to be asked, for example…

  1. What really matters here?
  2. Is this in line with our values? How?
  3. What is useful about this idea?
  4. How could this idea work?

…there is often a silence among team members. For most people, including leaders, it’s difficult to maintain silence. Silence leads us away from comfort, away from distractions. Silence can lead us to what matters. But what matters is often very uncomfortable. Our minds are wired to protect us from the discomfort of change that becomes possible when we confront the questions that might produce it. Waiting in silence for people to summon their courage to answer tough questions is hard but necessary. Wait long enough and someone will start to answer. You, their leader, have given them the permission they think they need.

In this unprecedented time of cataclysmic change, it is most natural to lean away from discomfort as we protect ourselves from harsh realities. Stability is an illusion. Life is unpredictable and impermanent. We can’t keep on doing (faster and longer) what we’ve always done. We need to hospice “business as usual” and summon the courage to do the counter-intuitive and therefore the most paradoxical and difficult thing; we need to confront our hankering to protect ourselves from imaginary modern day lions and tigers. Sometimes, we as leaders can begin to do this with the silence that shouts “Let’s talk about what we’ve not been talking about.”

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Spend Time Now. Save It Later.

Un-Game Principle: The American love affair with ‘doing’ could actually waste time and make us less effective.

13-07-16 Spend Time Now Save it LaterOur voices reverberate all over the world. Increasingly stunning technological advances have made this possible. But can we still talk together?

In professional settings especially, we see talking together as a “waste of time” if we don’t have a specific objective. Go, go, go! Gotta get things done. The norms all seem designed to prevent genuine contact as we look to people as functions and what they can deliver relative to their function. We can chatter, even make requests and promises (text, e-mail?), but can we really talk? As in dialogue? And why might this be important to our productivity?

What’s a dialogue as opposed to a discussion? Dialogue’s root is Greek. Logos equals the word, and dia is through. Through the meaning of the word. Contrast that with discussion which has the same root as percussion and concussion. It means to break things up. It emphasizes the idea of analysis. There are many points of view, and the idea is to get points for yours.

Dialogue is not like that. It’s the art of thinking together to uncover shared meaning. This is especially useful in very tough situations where people are polarized, for example a dialogue between union and management.  In dialogue you get points for demonstrating that you heard others’ points of view. Isn’t that what we need more of in order to ultimately produce quality results even in more ordinary business challenges?

If connecting through dialogue were a technical challenge, meeting it would be simple. There are conditions that support dialogue. For example, all parties to the dialogue must be willing to be in the dialogue. There are also behaviors that are critical to dialogue’s success. For example listening and respecting. In addition there are certain things that will definitely happen in a group that’s committed to dialogue. Conflict, for example. Expect it and it becomes easier to navigate.

You can learn these skill-sets. In fact, you must if you want extraordinary results. Spend time now. Save it later.

But connecting with others in order to accomplish extraordinary results is an adaptive challenge, not a technical one. You must be able to adapt to the changes that occur in conversation, now and now, and now again.  Therefore, “If you meet a method on the road, kill it!”  When all is said and done, the capacity to be in dialogue with others is about who we are willing to “be” not about what we’re able to “do.”  Success in doing will happen when we are guided by who we are willing to be.

For example, are you willing to be truthful? Really truthful at a deep level? Are you willing to be compassionate, even as the other person irritates you? Are you willing to be courageous, even as your heart pounds and your knees knock? Your idea could be the one that changes your industry, you know. But can you stay open in the face of challenge to your fabulous idea?

In general you may be willing but find it easier to “do” than to” be”. Just being seems more in line with leisure, not with work. It goes against the grain to “be” at work. It feels strangely lazy. As Americans we are expected to “do”, to perform, to accomplish, to achieve. So the modern mind balks at being. “Show me the money” you might say, if you’re American.” Get on with it. I don’t have time.”

Could you consider the counter-intuitive notion that it’s precisely because you experience time pressure to get to goal that it makes sense to learn or relearn to simply be? And to develop the art and science of dialogue? Spend time up front to save time later. How un-American.

The bottom line talk we so prize in business has its place, but it may take us away from the heart of the matter. It doesn’t always get the job done.

There’s a saying that goes like this: “Only the rich can afford to buy junk, because they can afford to buy twice.” Might its corollary be: “Only those with unlimited time can insist on ‘Give me the bottom line’ because they can talk again when they miss their goal.”?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches and managers, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine. 

The 1 Most Important Purpose; the 6 Most Important Tools for the Manager

Un-Game Principle: Tools without clarity are like a car without wheels.

Business Team Signing ContractLucky are the people who are clear they aren’t clear! It’s a great starting point to become a powerful learner…to become a beginner. After all, no master was ever born a master. He or she was an enthusiastic, open, receptive, courageous, vulnerable beginner.

So what’s the ONE most important purpose of a manager or a leader? I could (and will) make a case for this: A manager’s purpose is to be a catalyst. Most definitions of ‘catalyst’ work for my purpose, but let’s just say a catalyst is a person who knows how to make things happen. Without a knowledge of the art and science of making something happen, a manager is up the creek without a paddle.

There are ways to make things happen, and then there are ways to make things happen. In the olden days coercion was a tool. Subtle coercion tactics still exist. We can just call them manipulation. But no coercive tactic is sustainable, and all pale in comparison to the genuine use of personal power to catalyze a team’s actions. Genuine personal power whose intention is to honor, respect, and empower others is simply irresistible. People are enrolled and enthusiastic to accomplish a shared goal.

The manager and leader who understand their one most important purpose consciously or unconsciously get that they have SIX ‘tools’ to help them be the best catalyst possible. I put the word tools in quotation marks because we don’t consciously recognize these ‘tools’ as such. But they’re all we’ve got to work with (play with if you take yourself lightly which is a good idea in any event). And we might as well learn to use them consciously.

The first tool is money. For brevity’s sake I’ll just give one example of a use for each ‘tool.’ As a manager you will have the money resources available to forward your goal. If you don’t, good luck! To see the misery of being without it, just think of Congress who legislates and then doesn’t provide the funding. Duh!

The second tool is time. In today’s world many people are experiencing having to do the job of two or three which has obvious ramifications for the quality of product, process, and relationships. A manager must be able to manage the time crunch and establish the fine line between too much tension and not enough tension. Allowing too much time can be just as detrimental as allowing too little.

The third tool is relationships…also known as support (but not only). It could be said that everything happens out of relationship. And I don’t mean who you know although that could have obvious advantages and disadvantages. I’m talking about being connected on a heart level with the people you manage. They matter to you. They are not a resource. They are not a commodity. They are men and women with lives that matter. As a catalyst you want to help them work well with others because you know the importance of relationships. So you nurture and develop them knowing full well that they, too, are on a journey from being beginners to being masterful and all the stages in between. And this is true no matter their content expertise. We’re all beginners in what’s needed now to make the world go ‘round: collaboration, co-operation, and co-ordination.

The fourth tool is physical vitality. How much does illness and absenteeism cost business? I don’t know, but it’s a lot. So as a manager you’re going to be very concerned about the well-being of your team members. If you need to be persuaded, just think about what happens to your muscles if you tried to keep them in a perpetual state of flexing. Enough said.

The fifth and sixth tools will surprise you, I suspect. They are creativity and enjoyment. We generally don’t even think about those in the same sentence with work. And that’s a grievous error. So as a manager who understands her one most important purpose, you will also ask yourself the question “What can I do, how can I assist, who must I be in my own values and attitude, such that my team is free to be as creative as they can be and that they enjoy what they’re doing?” Engaging with the question in an ongoing manner is well worth it. It will lead to other powerful questions that the whole team can engage in. One such question might be “How can we do this with clarity, focus, ease, and grace?” Hmm. Honing the six tools may just be a way to answer that pregnant-with-possibilities question. Once honed…and that’s an ongoing challenge…the vehicle you use en route to your goals will have the dependable wheels to get you there.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Out with Buy-In

Un-Game Principle: Authentic relationships and manipulation are mutually exclusive.

13-05-14 Out with Buy-inWhether a merger or much smaller-impact decisions are on the table, the word buy-in is often used by the leadership of organizations. It’s so popular it has found its way into popular culture. It’s talked about when people want others to like and go along with decisions they suspect will be unpopular because they assume people don’t like change.

Whether people like change or not (Change is ok when chosen and when one has some sense of control or influence) is not nearly as important as the fact that people hate to be sold to. They equally hate the pushy “used car salesman” and the smooth manipulator who see people and their reactions to a change as obstacles to overcome.  Both attitudes are disrespectful and objectify people.

Buy-in by definition happens in a selling process. I sell. You buy. We are very used to it. Sure, there has been an evolution. Just look at clumsy, transparent TV ads from 30 years ago appealing to fear, greed, and our need for inclusion and compare them to now.

Companies have dedicated good money to hire human behavior experts who now, that all of us are more psychologically savvy, STILL appeal to fear, greed, and inclusion, but do so in a much more subtle and therefore palatable way (for us sophisticates!). We tolerate it even as we know it’s happening. Other models are hard to find. We are treated as consumers, not as citizens.

Recently, as I was looking for a boost to my book sales, I came across a program that promised, if you did the work precisely as prescribed, make my book a best-seller on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Since I believe my book deserves best-seller status, I inquired into it. The program delivers on its promises. However, I couldn’t in good faith go through with it. Reaching best-seller status depended on getting buy-in from hundreds of partners with millions of subscribers of their own, who would offer a fabulous gift to all the people who would agree to buy my book on a specific date on, let’s say Amazon.

In short, all the people who would buy my $19.95 The Un-Game: Four-Play to Business As Unusual, would get “prizes worth thousands of dollars” FREE from the hundreds of my so-called partners.  Excuse me? I want people to buy my book because they see value in my book, NOT because they caved into their greed and purchased it only to get that 1 in 50 chance to get a ticket to a coveted Broadway play.

Out with buy-in. Buy-in depends on manipulation and is disrespectful.

Managers and leaders, parents and teachers, consider a different term, and I suspect you’ll have a different experience in dealing with people from whom you previously wanted buy-in. Consider the term buying-facilitation. In buying facilitation no one is selling. Phew. What a relief! There’s a shift to asking “What does this person or this team (or this group of suppliers) need to know in order to make a decision that works for them?” Yes, it assumes that you might not have the product or service they need (Or they may no longer wish to work with you after the merger). It assumes that they have the freedom to choose. It’s respectful. It does not objectify the person or the group. They aren’t pieces on the chess board. Buying facilitation focuses on the other and meeting their needs. Again and again.  It’s hard work. And, in many instances managers and their company will find that their group self-interest as well as the individual self-interest can be served. In some cases, not. That’s just what’s so. And so what?

We need a new way of being with one another. I don’t really even like the term buying facilitation. But I like it better than buy-in. It gets us thinking from a different place. At this time of our American experiment we are at a crossroads. Doing what we’ve always done is not enough anymore. We need a new level of collaboration, co-operation, and co-ordination to navigate a rapidly shrinking and changing world. We won’t get there by business as usual. We won’t get there by standard and customary strategies that, when exposed, come up as manipulation. We’ll get there through being willing to be beginners…because we are. This is unfamiliar territory. (That also means we need to be willing to be vulnerable. No small task for those more accustomed to fear, greed, and neediness). We’ll get there through practice. Practice makes progress. And we’ll get there through good will and the knowledge that we only win together. Out with buy-in. It won’t get us where we need to go.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, author of The Un-Game and mind-ZENgineering coach works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Coaching Your Team to Success (Part 3)

13-03-13 Coaching Your TeamWhether you’re a corporate manager, a teacher, or a parent, you know more than you think you do about “coaching your team” to success, especially if you’re an American fan of team sport. The skill required is transferring knowledge from one domain to another. Try it.

Does your team have all of the support it needs to be successful?

When a team steps onto the field, they have support for playing the game. The field is ready and the equipment on hand.

How are you doing in providing support for your team? Have you invested in the technology needed to reach your goals?  When was the last time your support staff was offered training? If you’re a teacher or a parent, do any of your charges need tutoring on past skills to be successful in keeping up with current demands?

Have you asked your team what support they need to improve their performance? By providing the support they request, each person will be motivated. If you don’t see how their request will serve the team, ask. Perhaps “the how” will become clear to you. And the team member will focus on doing what they’re best at. If so, your entire team will benefit.

Is your team following the rules of the game?

Are you a well-respected leader? Does your team have a reputation of playing dirty? Is your team admired by the competition for being good opponents? Do you violate your values on “technicalities?”

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, consider what you’re willing to do to find out. The failure of our biggest financial institutions and the recent more and more common exposures of “dirty play” (See lead article in March 4, 2013 Time magazine on rip-off health care charges) are prime examples of what happens when those responsible ignore these inquiries or refuse to act on the information they receive.

To have a team with enduring success and to attract professionals with high standards of integrity, become a model for integrity.

Does your team huddle regularly?

How often do you connect with others on your team? Would you know if one of your team members had experienced a death or a serious illness in their family?

Who is invited into the conversation? Is it only on a quarterly basis? The leadership only? Do you routinely include support staff or seven suppliers when they have valuable contributions to make to the discussion?

Inclusiveness and the diversity of those at the table will ensure multiple perspectives, and multiple perspectives are better than one or two. Do you ask to be challenged? Do you play devil’s advocate? Challenge can be a great form of support. The more engaged everyone is in the conversation, the more rigorous the inquiry and the better the ultimate decisions.

Do you relentlessly work your players until someone is injured?

Workaholism abounds, and we secretly think it’s an admirable strategy. It’s not. It’s the foolhardy coach who works the members of the team without rest. How often do your people skip breaks? Eat lunch at their desk? Work 7 or more days in a row?

When leadership doesn’t encourage rest and rejuvenation you begin to see anxiety, stress-related illness, or substance abuse in response to being relentlessly driven. That’s a no brainer, so act on knowing this truth.

To keep the members of your team healthy, take responsibility for insisting that there be a work environment where every player is required to sit on the bench. You’ll have a much greater depth to your team. In the last few minutes of play this could be a critical advantage.

Are there cheerleaders for everyone on the team?

In a workaholic environment people easily forget a most important truth—people feel more and more invisible, and they are hungry to be acknowledged. As a manager you’re in the position to let others know how much you value what they bring to their work. You can make it clear where and how their efforts are a real contribution. The more specific you can be, the more powerful the effect of the acknowledgment. And, of course, only where acknowledgment is merited. Empty acknowledgment is like empty calories. It doesn’t sustain us.

When people know they are valued, they will gain the yards that count. And each yard counts! When people don’t feel appreciated, they look for a place where they will be. Appreciation doesn’t have to cost money. A genuine pat on the shoulder with a friendly “Good job!” goes a surprisingly long way.

Do you celebrate your victories?

Most people are achievers, or at least they want to do a good job. For that reason alone they easily fall prey to trying to do more than is physically possible. For most people a positive self-regard is closely related to perceived success at work. What helps conserve and even enhance your team’s energy is to celebrate your victories.

Are you celebrating your team’s victories? Don’t wait for the completion of the next project. There are probably some milestones before you reach the final goal. Acknowledge those too. And when you actually score the winning point and complete the entire project, acknowledge yourself and your team before racing on to the next project. This is the single most omitted and costly step team leaders forget to take. The energy loss is tremendous. The celebration actually is a way of recouping lots of energy, so that you’re ready for the next project. As team leader it’s on you to initiate the celebrations.

In reviewing what we need to consider to coach our teams to success, are you noticing that you already know how? I hope you’ll follow your own wisdom. At the end of this or any season, you’ll be glad you did.