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Ingrid Martine and Rick Maurer - The Un-Game Book Interview

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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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Escape to Freedom: A Way out of the Drama Triangle

13-10-29 A Simple Way out of the Drama TriangleUn-Game Principle: All of us have more choices than we believe. The challenge is accessibility and practice.

Have you ever had repeated, unsatisfying interactions with a co-worker or family member which had you stumped? Have you experienced helplessness in your ability to get these important relationships on a positive track? I have. For me it’s like imagining myself lost in the expansive, fog-drenched  Alaskan wilderness, seeing no path out, knowing the futility of moving, probably in circles, deeper and deeper into the endless expanse. Could you envision what it would be like for you if you suddenly saw a path?  A path must lead somewhere. Hope and extreme excitement. Your life may be saved!

In unsatisfying interactions, until we see a clear path before us, we are also doomed to move in circles, repeating the same thing over and over again, hoping but really not expecting different results. Misery, isn’t it?

You may have heard about the Drama Triangle first identified as such in the 1960’s by Stephen Karpman. It’s a brilliant visual for those unsatisfying interactions that lead nowhere. Populating the drama triangle are three roles: the VICTIM, the PERSECUTOR, and the RESCUER. In any given interaction you may predominantly play one role, let’s say VICTIM, but you may shift to another role in the same interaction. The VICTIM needs a PERSECUTOR  or a RESCUER to stay in the triangle. Again, one of the two players, if there are only two, can shift and become the RESCUER for the given interaction. Here’s an example:

Mary didn’t finish her report on time. She’s done it before. Her boss is fuming.

Boss: “You’re always late. Why can’t you get this stuff to me on time? Everyone else gets it to me on time. This is your last time for this nonsense.” (He’s said that before)

Mary: “I’m so sorry. I had to take my mother to the emergency room, and I had to….”

Boss: “I’m sorry about your mother. But you always have an excuse. That’s just not going to cut it.”

Mary: “OK, I’ll do better with the next deadline.”

Boss: “Fine.” (It’s not. Fine stands for Feelings Inside Not Expressed.)

On first sight it appears that the boss is the PERSECUTOR. His threat and the false accusation put you on notice that a lie is about to be told! (NO one is always late. The word always is a red flag.) Again on first sight, Mary seems to be the VICTIM of her boss’ diatribe. However, consider that the boss actually experiences himself as the VICTIM. He doesn’t follow through with his promise (This is the last time). He eventually even plays the RESCUER by accepting her statement “I’ll do better…” Better how? Not as many hours late? Mary just looks like a VICTIM. She is more like the PERSECUTOR.

The above scenario will repeat itself unless one of the players

a. is willing to get out and

b. realizes that being  in this so-called Drama Triangle is a choice.

Knowing it’s so is a first step to getting out of the dense fog. You start to observe painful interactions that go nowhere. You start to observe the roles people play (yes, you too). The Drama Triangle becomes familiar in a new way. You now have choices you didn’t have before.

What choices? And how do you access them?

The alternative choice to the no-win Drama Triangle can be described as another triangle populated by three different roles. It might be called the Empowerment Triangle. Knowing this provides the initial access to it. If you can make that shift and practice these new three roles, everything changes. The Drama Triangle as a prison will be history for you.

The roles people play in the Empowerment Triangle are CREATOR, CHALLENGER, and COACH. These are largely unfamiliar-to-us roles. So we need to learn and practice them. But they guarantee the way out of those miserable, repetitive interactions that drag us all down and leave us stranded in the Drama Triangle.

The CREATOR, for example, knows s/he can choose to be willing to bring clarity, focus, courage, compassion, truthfulness (and many more qualities of contribution) to any interaction. They know they have feelings. They don’t let feelings have them. They know to be careful to not believe everything they think!

The CHALLENGER, for example, doesn’t go into collusion with the other. They challenge the other’s thinking by helping to clarify it and by showing the paradoxes and the distortions in the other’s thinking. They speak truthfully about the impact of the other’s behavior on them and others, if appropriate. They challenge their own thinking and inquire into what they could do differently.

The COACH, for example, keeps the space of the interaction open and safe. They are not hooked by bad behaviors. They ask questions for the other to reflect on. They help bring anyone in the Drama Triangle into the Empowerment Triangle by modeling the clarity that gets people who are “out of their minds” (in the Drama Triangle) back into their minds (the Empowerment Triangle).

Accessing choice becomes easier when you ‘re clear you are not your feelings (You have feelings. Big difference.).

Assume that prior to the conversation the boss has chosen to be willing to demonstrate being truthful, courageous, compassionate, clear, and focused. By so doing, he’s chosen to be CREATOR, not a reactor (All roles in the Drama Triangle are reactive.). He knows he can’t guarantee he will demonstrate those qualities. However, he can guarantee that he’s willing to. Big difference again.

Ready to practice?

Here’s the same conversation between Mary and her boss from inside the Empowerment Triangle.

Boss: “Mary, this is now the 5th time your report is late. This is a problem, and we have to solve it.” He’s being CHALLENGER. He’s simply telling what’s true (The “always” is absent, for example).

Mary: “I’m so sorry. I had to take my mother to the emergency room, and I had to….”

Boss: “I’m sorry about your mother. I hope she’s OK. Let’s talk later about how I could support you about your mom. Right now we need to solve this problem of your lateness. Let’s let this be our last conversation about this. What would ongoing lateness mean to our project? (He’s demonstrating being focused, clear, compassionate). He’s being CHALLENGER and COACH.

Mary: “I know it’s not good. OK, I’ll do better with the next deadline.”

Boss:  “I‘ll do better’ worries me.” He’s being CHALLENGER (How do you define better?). He’s being COACH.

Mary: “Well, I’ll get it in on time.”

Boss: “What will you do differently  the next time so that meeting the deadline actually happens? Do you see needing some support you now don’t have that will assure you keep your promise to me and the team?” He’s being COACH.

Mary: “Well, the last two times I’ve had trouble getting the info I need from Frank. I probably just have to be more insistent.”

Boss: “Tell you what, Mary. Could you envision making clear requests of Frank in the future? Might you benefit from teaming up with Mark to support you with this? Do you agree he’s very clear in his requests of the team? He may be a good accountability buddy.” He’s being COACH.

Mary: “That will help. Thanks. I know this has been a problem, and I want to solve it too. I haven’t been proactive in asking for support when I need it. I’ll do that.” She’s being CREATOR!

The interaction, led by the boss has brought Mary out of the Drama Triangle. At least in this interaction. Fancy that! With practice we can make progress. Wouldn’t it be great if the Empowerment Triangle became just as familiar to us as the dreaded Drama Triangle? The choice is ours. Shall we practice?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The UnGame , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and 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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Isn’t It High Time to Love Complaints?

13-10-22 Isnt it high time to love complaints blogUn-Game Principle: Few communications are as they seem. We must separate the wheat from the chaff.

What? Surely you jest. True, complaints are part of life, but so are mosquitos and people under the influence of road rage.

Not so fast. There’s a secret gift in every complaint, and if you’re a manager, leader, parent, teacher (as I said, a manager), you will want to reconsider and not wish the complaint away. Trust me on that one.

OK, so why not? They’re such a pain in the butt, aren’t they?   Yes and no. Yes, if you see complaints the way most people do, and No, if you want to interact with others as a Creator rather than a Reactor. If you long to be an effective manager and/or an effective communicator, then it’s high time to love complaints.

My mentor, Harvard’s Bob Kegan, makes this statement: “Behind every complaint lies a commitment.” Wow. That’s huge! And most of us have just seen the complainer as a whiner who’s never integrated the explicit or implicit feedback that s/he’s a victim. But of course. One wouldn’t complain if one didn’t feel victimized. But feeling victimized is not the same thing as taking on the identity of a perpetual victim. It can be a temporary state of mind. And what it reveals is that there’s  something the complainer cares about as well. In short, if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t complain.

It could be said that someone who feels victimized is someone who has a longing, dream, or commitment that has been denied, thwarted, or compromised. As a manager, knowing this is important, because you can help the person reconnect with the longing, dream, or commitment. If you don’t know that

a. the longing, dream, or commitment is in the background of the complaint; and

b. surfacing the same is the first step to creating a meaningful interaction that builds relationship and competence

then you’re missing a golden opportunity to be the catalyst for developing  your people , that is, moving them from being a reactor to being a creator.

And being a catalyst is a large part of your job.

So for example, if a tech support person complains that a client keeps on calling over and over about the same thing and doesn’t implement recommendations, you might first acknowledge their commitment to solving clients’ problems. Then by shifting the focus to what they care about, you could explore together how to assure the client and the support person have the same understanding of next steps by the end of the interaction.

At home, if a teenager complains about their friends having things they wish they had but don’t, you could acknowledge how important community is and their desire to be part of a community. Perhaps then you could explore not only the privileges of being in community but the responsibilities. Along the way you could explore how your teen might earn one of the things s/he longs for.

As creators,  we focus on what we want, rather than on what we don’t want. The complaint on the other hand always focuses on what we don’t want and keeps us in a negative, unproductive space.

As if knowing that behind every complaint is a commitment,  is not benefit enough for the manager who longs to be effective, there’s a huge personal benefit that accrues to managers  who are willing to develop their people. The benefit I’m talking about is personal empowerment and therefore personal freedom.

If you can routinely spot the commitment that’s behind a complaint…and if you can surface it and redirect it, you will decrease more and more the likelihood of YOU getting hooked into the drama of the victim. I suspect that one of the reasons most of us hate complaints and dislike complainers is because we don’t like how we deal with them. Our options seem limited and dissatisfying.

If we get reeled into the complaint without being able to surface the commitment, we get entangled in a role that doesn’t work toward becoming a creator. We become reactors ourselves. There are three roles in the reactor mode. They are Victim, Persecutor/ Oppressor, and Rescuer.  You can see from their description why none of these roles supports problem-solving  or building solid relationships. This is the dreaded Drama Triangle. Dr. Stephen Karpman first articulated it in the 1960’s. It depicts the toxic interplay of the three distinct roles (victim/persecutor/rescuer). We may talk about this another time, but you can see that when you see the secret gift within a “victim’s” complaint, you are NOT in the Drama Triangle.

Isn’t it high time to love complaints?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The UnGame , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and 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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Courageous Conversation: Can You Coach Others on How to Be with Your Requests without Raising Hackles?

Un-Game Principle: Clarity is the cornerstone of empowerment…yours and others’.

13-07-31 Courageous Conversation Coaching others to be with requestsYes, you can, if you’re willing to be clear, vulnerable, and flexible.  And willing to take the road less traveled. There are no good widely-shared models for this.

Have you noticed that we often assume if we have spoken clearly, the other surely heard what we’ve just said so brilliantly? We won’t have to explain. And surely, if they didn’t get what we said, they’d ask for clarification. Dream on. Not so. And have you noticed that when we notice our error, we often either stay silent or try again, often with some thinly veiled irritation?

There’s a better way. You can coach another in many ways. One such way is simply to ask “What did you hear me say?” And then, after affirming what they DID hear, clarify the part they heard incorrectly or not at all. “Yes, I did say it would be good to meet about this. What you heard that I DIDN’T say is that we’d need to make it a top priority for today.”

I like coaching people to be with me around requests I make. It’s good for relationships. What I’m about to share is best applied with peers, as in team members, between husbands and wives,  partners, siblings, friends, or with people with lesser positional power whose skills you’re in the position to develop or influence. Children, for example.  Or in business, direct reports.

So let’s say I make a request of a family member (Picture a team member if easier). I’m clear a request is not a demand. A request can be accepted or declined without penalty. A demand not. That’s the first thing to be clear about. Since a request can be declined without penalty, you are open to an offer from the other person. However, they may not know this. A way of coaching them is to say “I have a request, and I can hear a ‘No’ on this.”  This will open up the emotional space. If s/he cares about you, as we would assume in a family or a team, they may not accept the request but could be willing to make you an offer they think might satisfy your need as they perceive it. You, the request-maker would be open and flexible to an offer. If you can’t be, your request is a veiled demand, and people will resent it. Up with the hackles.

Perhaps the other is not skilled enough to make you an offer. If the request is really important to you, you might make yourself vulnerable by being transparent (the road less traveled) and say “It’s ok with me if you decline this request. It’s not a demand. I wonder if you can make me an offer about this that I haven’t thought about and that would work better for you?”  Can you see these questions and comments as examples of coaching the other in how to be with you and your request?

If the person comes up with an offer, you can accept it, decline with a thanks, or make a counter-offer. You’ve opened up the conversation and sent out the meta-message beneath all the words “I’m grateful that you’re open to conversation about this.”  At no time in the conversation do you try to manipulate (aka coerce) the other into accepting your original request.  Ever!That, too, would send the meta-message “It’s not a request. It’s a demand. And if you don’t meet it, it will cost you.” Hackles up.

Ok, let’s assume the request you’re making is so important to you that it would be difficult to hear a ‘No.’ The first thing is to be clear about that. That way you won’t fall into the standard and customary trap which, for example, may look like this between husband and wife: He cajoling and making accusations, attacking you as a person. “You always” or “You never…” Or she crying or slamming the door, the meta-message being “You’re hopeless. Why do I bother?!”

After being clear that it would be difficult to hear a ‘No,’ it would be courageous to be transparent and vulnerable. Yes, it is a courageous conversation. Here’s how you might coach this person.

“I have a request, Pamela. And I want you to know that I’d have a hard time hearing a ‘No.’ Then make the request. Be alert. If you have not yet established how you all will relate to requests, Pamela will hear it as a demand. She is likely to need clarification. Her response to you will let you know if she does. She may be perfectly happy to accept your request, make an offer in case she can’t accept your request  as stated (which you can then accept with relief and gratitude or tweak in counter-offer form), or tell you in one way or another that she’s feeling indignant, boxed in and ticked off …Who are YOU to make what she perceives as a demand. If that happens, it’s your job to clarify.

Here’s the clarification. “Just because I said I’d have difficulty hearing a ‘No,’ doesn’t mean that I can’t. I mean it exactly the way I said it. The way I hope we can relate to requests in our family (team) is that we accept, decline, or make an offer around such a request. In no way should declining the request hurt our relationship. In fact, being clear and open should serve us well in maintaining and enhancing our relationship.” The road less traveled…

In relationships of equal positional power, demands are a last resort. And we and the other need to be clear that it’s a demand being made. Recently I was in a harrowing ordeal. I’d come to the end of my internal resources. I phoned my husband and said “Pick me up at the airport . And I can’t hear a ‘No’.” It would be midnight, and he’d have to travel 100 miles to get me. He knew from my voice as well as my words I was making a demand, not a request. Declining would have hurt the relationship. No hackles. Joe just showed up, hugged me silently, patting me compassionately.  What do you think?  A fine reward for being clear and coaching another on how to be with your requests?

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 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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

The Three Most Dangerous Words in Management

Un-Game Principle:  Adaptive learning, that is, learning that leads to changes in behavior, depends on continually enhancing our ability to observe accurately.

How You Doin'?“I already know” has sunk many a relationship…personal, professional, and even our relationship to ourselves. I would consider them the three most dangerous words in the English language, but let’s stick to management (Everyone is a manager somewhere).

Let’s face it. Management has changed. The old command and control model of management is dead, but many places just don’t know about it yet.  Its proponents are the worst perpetrators of “I already know” and its cousins “We’ve always done it this way,” and “There’s one right way to do things.”

What happens in the mind when we think we already know? Test it out.

  1. You’re not curious. What spirit of inquiry?
  2. You’re closed to influence from someone who is hoping to influence you.
  3. You literally gather information only to confirm your established bias. Other information doesn’t make the cut.

I sometimes laugh when I hear “I’m open-minded, but.”The ‘but’ is a tell-tale sign that the speaker has come up against information s/he needs to dismiss in order to stay in their comfort zone (aka confirming established bias). In other words, “I already know,” and what the other person is saying doesn’t fit. Therefore I will discard it.  The little word ‘but’ is a great indicator that the words that precede it are at best only partially true. The speaker in this case is not open-minded.

In management as in all relationships, “I already know” wreaks havoc. Employees who have an omniscient manager aren’t motivated to propose innovative ideas, much less implement them. They wait to be told what to do and in many cases how to do it. The creative people eventually leave. They aren’t valued. They suspect that their highest potential is not going to be realized in such an environment.

For managers who ‘already know’ the work is much harder because they’re doing  too much of the work. In this day of increasing complexity, mind-boggling information overload, and changes occurring at the speed of light (OK, so I exaggerate), we can’t afford to NOT use the whole team to add their voice. Empowering employees by supporting decision-making at point of customer contact only makes sense. With the technology at their finger- tips, employees can get just- in- time information that may be necessary for a really good decision. With the tech-savvy millennial generation, this can give them an advantage that older, wiser, more experienced employees don’t necessarily have. The whole team is needed.

“I already know” is antiquated and dangerous.

In terms of solving solution-resistant problems, “I already know” is even more insidious. Consider that the so-called problem may resist solution precisely because it has been approached with “I already know.”  Look at the number 1 impact of this stance. It shuts down your curiosity and therefore inquiry. Inquiry is the most important action to take in problem-solving. Unless you have a good problem definition, you’re likely to solve the wrong problem (Einstein said it first). And the solution either doesn’t fit at all or it’s not sustainable.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

A wise manager will recognize “I already know” when they see it in others (To see it in yourself is harder, and you’d have to foster the value of feedback…of course also not valued by the “I already know” manager). He or she will confront it in their employees. However, this is not easy because we generally don’t value inquiry. If anything, we value debate, the antidote to the spirit of inquiry. It’s a jockeying of my “I already know” against your “I already know.” And I suspect you have an opinion from lots of experience where that’s going to end up. People are likely to be minimally influenced at best. You’re threatening each other’s confirmation bias which is precious to you so that you can stay in your comfort zone.

You’re probably noticing where I’m going with this. “I already know” is a dead end.

“I already know” is so embedded in our culture that it’s hard to interrupt its vicious cycle. But there’s hope, and we don’t have to look far to see changes. The digital age is living proof of a suspension of “I already know.” We can learn the lessons we need to learn from our fabulous and proven approach to technical learning. The challenge is to apply the principles to

massive adaptive learning we need to do. By adaptive learning I mean the learning we need to do in terms of changing our thinking, our attitudes, and therefore our behaviors which grow out of our new thinking. And you can do no adaptive learning with an “I already know” firmly rooted in a therefore closed mind. And this sad fact in the midst of an age of massive paradigm shifts which make it imperative that we become exquisite learners. . What would it take for you to give up “I already know?”

I’m interested in hearing about your successes in trying to deal with “I already know” in yourself and others. Let me hear from you.

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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and 

Coaching Your Team for Success (Part 1)

Un-Game Principle: The 21st century manager is well-advised to add coaching skills to their success tool box.

13-02-05 Team HuddleLet’s face it.  In terms of being a great team leader, nothing beats the experience of practicing. On-the-job training is where it’s at. But whether you’re a solo entrepreneur with a single assistant or the manager of a large department, coaching your team is a powerful path to success.

Most of us know something about athletic coaches that we can use in business. And to make any season a winning one for our team. Ask yourself the following questions to see how well you are using your coaching skills to make this next season a winning one.

Have I inspired my team with a compelling vision of success?

No way around it. As team leader, we’re charged with inspiring performance that will get results. To keep your team motivated, it’s necessary to know what matters to them. Yes, to THEM! Team members will serve the team’s self-interest if their own individual self-interest is met. You don’t have to like it. You just have to honor it. So…

Are you clear about what inspires your team? Is it a satisfied client, a well-drafted plan, a Wednesday afternoon off from work?

Do you have a stated mission and values? When was the last time that you reviewed your actions in relation to these? Are they deeply embedded in your office culture? Could every team member explain your mission with ease and enthusiasm? As coach you keep your eye on the big picture and keep the vision alive. Without it people lose energy and momentum.

Does each of my team members play the right position?

Have you ever hired someone you thought was just terrific, only to learn that you’d made a mistake?

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses his research for making good businesses great. He urges us to “get the right people on the bus” and then to “get them in the right seat on the bus.”

Sometimes we have not selected the person with the right values or skills for the job. Other times we might have hired a great person with excellent skills, but not put them in the right position.

Are your team members spending 80% of their day doing what they do best? If not, it may be time to reassess. We can be reluctant to take action when an employee is hard-working and dedicated. But if he or she is not well-suited to the position, it could be time for a change. Perhaps there’s another role to play, or it may be time for them to move on.

One frequently used tool for assessing the strengths of your team members is Strengthfinders 2.0 by Tom Rath which includes Gallup’s online assessment. Learning the individual strengths of those on your team, not only lets you use this knowledge to strengthen your team but also to inspire it! Back to your original job—inspiring your team. And people ARE inspired by strength-based development rather than weakness-based improvement efforts.

Do all team members set SMART goals?

A football coach and players know what the right goal is and by when it must be reached. Perhaps all that’s needed is a field goal. But a field goal is useless when nothing but a touchdown will do. If you manage a team, clear goals are key to maintaining energy and focus.

SMART is a commonly-used acronym describing goals which are:

Specific- Is it clear?

Measurable- How will you know when you’ve reached it?

Attainable- It should be a stretch, but is it doable?

Relevant- Is it in keeping with your mission and values?

Time-based- Always have a “date by when” the goal will be reached.

We can mistake intentions or ideas for goals. For example, “This year we are going to improve customer service” is not a goal. It may be a great idea and get you started on creating a SMART goal, but at the moment it just provides you a direction. Instead, “We extend our office hours to 5:30 p.m. starting May 1, 2013 might be an appropriate goal for a business that wants to improve customer service.

The SMART goal process is the same for loftier goals. You may just discover that you redefine what the “stretch” in Attainable is. Most of us aim lower than we need to aim. But we often do so because our success tool box of the past has limited our play to a smaller league.

Goals should always be visible to the team be it in writing or some system that’s more creative and fun. Whichever you choose, reviewing your team’s goals regularly will keep them, you, and your team members alive and supported to stay in action.

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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

The One Practice We Must Relearn

Un-Game Principle: Moment-by-moment awareness of ourselves and others in challenging situations is highly relevant to learning to think creatively with each other.

Our modern world is full of increasingly stunning technological advances and an increasing inability to live together. The short of it is that we don’t know how to talk deeply, authentically with one another. We don’t know how to connect through dialogue.

In professional settings especially, we see talking together as a “waste of time” if we don’t have a specific objective. The norms all seem designed to prevent genuine contact. We look to people as functions and what they can deliver relative to their function.

Dialogue according to William Isaacs is the art of thinking together for the purpose of uncovering shared meaning, a practice largely forgotten but one we can’t afford to not relearn given our global village and challenging situations where people routinely dig in their heels (think union/ management negotiations, mergers).

To be in dialogue we must learn four practices. These practices require constant repetition over time with the understanding that one is always learning. There’s no quick “how to”. Here are the skills, although “doing” always takes a back seat to who we are “being” in dialog (Moment-by-moment self-awareness is important).

  1. Listening
  2. Respecting
  3. Suspending
  4. Voicing

Listening means not only hearing the words (my own and others’), but also letting in and eventually letting go my own reaction and my own clamoring to build my case. In other words, I have to slow down. And notice how I’m listening now. Do I say “I don’t have time for this?” How much am I affected by my opinions of this person? What am I adding to what I’m hearing based on conclusions I have about this person or what she’s saying? What stories am I making up about the set of “facts” he’s presenting?

Stop assuming you know how to listen. You’ll stop learning, and learning to listen through practice is essential to dialogue.

Respecting comes from Latin and means “to look again”. It acknowledges there may be more to see than I thought. It’s an honoring of the person and an acknowledgment through action that I may have closed down some possibilities in relation to them, and an action. I had such an experience this morning. A young woman had written me how we could live sustainably on the planet. From her previous writings, I had expected a vision of a little eco-village that was a throwback to the 60ties. I blushed in embarrassment when I saw a vision of breadth and depth with mathematical models that made my head spin.  My self-awareness as to how I was listening to her enabled me to back up and look again. Respecting. It’s an acknowledgment that participants in the dialogue have something to teach us. Respecting is essential to dialogue.

Respecting is also about not trying to fix the polarizations present in the group. In dialogue we resist trying to solve a problem. We are trying to have shared meaning. That means we’re willing to surface the polarizations so that everyone can see them. Respecting is to look again and to observe what there may be to learn as we look together.

This doesn’t mean it’s easy. The group starts out polite and cautious. But conflict happens sooner or later. And then most groups quit or retreat into politeness where nothing happens. We don’t know that conflict is good news! One step closer to thinking together. We’re not practiced in going through the conflict; we just try to get beyond its discomfort. But dialogue is about inquiring, being curious, especially in the midst of conflict. Hard as it is, we must not discuss, analyze, advocate, placate or manipulate. If we do it, somebody has to show us our misguided effort if we don’t see it ourselves. Once we see it, we have to change course and go into inquiry mode.

With the next skill, suspending, you can get to the other side of conflict. Beyond conflict there’s magic. People relate authentically and start thinking together. There’s peace, even friendship, and profound satisfaction.

Suspending: Normally when we listen to someone, we form an opinion. If we don’t agree with what we hear, we usually resist or reject theirs and defend our own. In dialogue people see an additional choice. They can suspend their opinion and the certainty behind it. It doesn’t mean they suppress what they think. Just the opposite. Suspending means “hanging” your view out for all to see. It does mean that nobody advocates for what they think. This is a difficult challenge everywhere, but especially in business.

In business people are paid for their expertise, that is, to be certain. But people who are certain can’t get into dialogue. They need to access their ignorance! In dialogue people don’t have everything they say worked out in advance. They value their capacity to surprise themselves. They’re willing to be influenced by others and by what they hear. Suspension is the ability to see what’s happening as it’s happening and to make use of it. Suspending is essential to dialogue.

Voicing: Finally we come to perhaps the most challenging aspects of genuine dialogue. Says William Isaacs: “Speaking your voice has to do with revealing what is true for you regardless of other influences that might be brought to bear.” And poet David Whyte who works with corporations writes that “courageous speech has always held us in awe.”

It’s true, but what choice do we have? Our authentic voice is what’s needed to bring forth a new and overdue paradigm in every aspect of modern life. We cannot keep on with business as usual. But this new paradigm cannot emerge when we think alone together! It cannot emerge with our present attitudes and skills. It can only emerge in a long-forgotten, sorely needed practice we must revive: dialogue. It’s about time to take the time.

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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Question: When Is “How to” Advice the Booby Prize?

Un-Game Principle: You may be working harder than you need to be. Figuring “it” out is not always your most effective play on goal. 

question mark imageThe days when we confidently asserted “Information is power” are gone. We still want difference-making information, but please, condense it, or we won’t take the time to engage with it.  Come on. Give us a “how to” list.

We like “how to” lists. Lists are comforting. Readily digestible. We hope to implement them quickly and with ease.

It’s true. Lists appeal to our need for order and control.  Let’s see where “how to” lists work and where they have questionable value.

Let’s say you’re a manager. “How to’s” are great when you have a technical problem. Technical problems have a technical solution. If your computer crashes, you can reboot it, investigate the alertness of the anti-virus software, go on the hunt for and the elimination of corrupted files, etc. A “how to” list is the answer to your problems even if the answers emerge from trial and error initiatives.

A “how to” list is also good for that new employee who’s in training for a low-level technical job. But empowering you, the manager, to notice when employees are constrained rather than supported by your directive input is NOT a technical challenge in search of a technical solution. It’s an adaptive challenge. How do you know you have an adaptive challenge? You have an adaptive challenge when you and others are in a relationship for some common purpose and fulfilling that purpose is impeded by something other than a technical problem.

The list of steps (from the last workshop you attended) to support your employees appropriately in challenging situations—for example resolving intra-team strife—is guaranteed to be incomplete and be subject to multiple interpretations. You need a change in behavior, not a “how to” list to win the real prize when you have an adaptive challenge. A “how to” list focuses on steps (as if there were a finite and absolute list of steps for an adaptive challenge!), without consideration of the thinking that may be creating the challenge in the first place. With hundreds of ways of “seeing” a challenge, the “how to” list mostly becomes a non-starter.

If your direct report, Leigh-Anne, thinks her team-leader is a jerk, she’s been a busy prosecutor making her case for “My team-leader is a jerk.”  Oops! With people’s capacity to deceive themselves, Leigh-Anne is likely to say “I have a great attitude toward my lousy team-leader.” Everyone but Leigh-Anne can plainly see it’s not so. How would you as her manager manage the team’s challenge?

Allow me to offer you an alternative to “how to” and to “figuring it out.” Questions!

I encourage you to ask:  “Is the challenge I’m trying to address a technical or an adaptive challenge?” If it’s technical, you’re probably great at finding the resources to help you address your concern. But this is an adaptive challenge, and you’re not confident to move forward. So consider these questions.

“What do I assume about myself as Leigh-Anne’s manager that makes it hard for me to talk to her and the team about this?” “What conclusions do I have about intervening in conflict that stop me?” “Do I invite and ask for support?” “If not, what do I assume about support that stops me from asking for it?”  “Do I assume others think I’m stupid/incompetent or don’t have my own answers if I ask for support?”

What’s going on here? Shouldn’t we be focusing on Leigh-Anne and the team? I want her to stop dragging the team down.

Forget about Leigh-Anne! Look to where the power is. Look to where you might be in a fog. Might the answer not even be with Leigh-Anne?  Stop to notice the impact the questions have on you. If you engage with questions, it may surprise you, but the questions themselves can change you! You are likely to make some adaptations to your behavior. What ease! No figuring it out. Just letting answers emerge. “Ah ha. I got it!” Or “I’ll talk to George about this.”  Then notice how your changed behavior impacts the team! One intervention in a system changes the system! Leigh-Anne is not immune to the change. Hmm. Interesting? It’s true.

Learning to inquire appreciatively in the face of adaptive challenges has benefits to the rest of life. There are many questions anyone can ask to meet those challenges. Here are two.

  1. “Am I willing to be a contribution in this matter in order to produce an extraordinary result?” Notice if your answer is no or maybe.
  2.  “What might I not be seeing about me, my positions, beliefs, opinions, and conclusions, the seeing of which would be useful to us right here and now?”

Asking questions with curiosity and a receptive mind is powerful. AND it’s a process. It takes what we think we don’t have…time. And that makes the ubiquitous “how to” list so seductive. But the list is not more effective. Wrongly applied, it usually results in do-overs that delay solutions. What if instead of asking “How can I do this quickly and effectively?” you asked “How can I do this with clarity, focus, and without struggle? Living into the answers might win you the real prize instead of the sure-to-disappoint booby prize!


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:, or connect with Ingrid at: and