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

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Why You Should Want to Have Your Mind Blown

By Rafi B. from Somewhere in Texas :) (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Un-Game Principle: While not comfortable, the examined life is an empowered, more peaceful life.

Caution. The word ‘should’ should raise a red flag in your mind. It’s usually used in a sentence that has someone else’s answer for a problem or challenge of yours. If only it were that easy. But no, answers that work for us are usually hard-won and gained in our own green time. What you can do is try another’s words on to see if they make sense to you. To your best Self, not your worst self, that is. You do know the difference, don’t you?

In our comfort zone nothing blows our mind. By definition, we’re at ease there, even when we’re critical of something or someone. After all, it’s familiar, and familiar is comforting. Life looks and acts as we expect, and we ourselves are well-applauded actors on its stage. That would be just fine if life stayed put or we were willing to settle for a tepid existence. But life doesn’t stay put. Rather it is unpredictable and impermanent, and like it or not, that’s the challenge and opportunity that’s ours to master. And to master life’s challenges, we need to expand our comfort zone.

What expands our comfort zone is a good question to engage with. Not just once because if you have an answer, you close the inquiry down, and learning something depends very much on an awakened sustained curiosity. Yours!

Consider the following as one answer of possible many answers:

Your comfort zone expands only when you get out of it and are willing to consider something that blows your mind (is at the edge of or outside of your known territory). ”I can’t” is generally a statement that calls the comfort zone home.

A manager (parent/teacher) who has the belief “I should control and correct my employees” (children, students) would have his or her mind blown by someone who believes “Employees (children, students) produce ordinary results when micromanaged.” Imagining oneself in a different mindset with different behaviors is akin to drifting in a rowboat without oars. Needless to say, few of us could imagine ourselves relishing that experience, and so many of us stay right where it is comfortable. We do the same thing over and over again. And if it’s uncomfortable, we keep on anyway, hoping for different results. Exhilarating? NOT!

No wonder things don’t change easily. No wonder we wonder: “Isn’t there more to life than this?”

Our discomfort has much to teach us. If we’re courageous and do what feels counter-intuitive, namely embrace the discomfort and engage with the thing that blows our mind and may send us into an “I can’t” fit, we may discover that there are some surprising gifts. We might see an employee from whom we stopped expecting good work become motivated. “Hmm, I wonder what my micromanaging had to do with his underwhelming performance?” Or we may hear words of genuine appreciation that were sparse when we micromanaged. We may get better results than the results we were able to even imagine with our old mindset and behaviors.

Who knows? Life (and people) are unpredictable. Accept rather than fight it.

If we persevere, we may discover more and more benefits of being a catalyst for our and others’ growth and learning rather than the embodiment of the command and control model that’s decidedly dead, just not buried everywhere yet. More importantly however, we get to discover that the new mindset and behavior, so strange and uncomfortable at first, has now been incorporated into our comfort zone. Our comfort zone has expanded. And so has our peacefulness.

Isn’t that prize worth the willingness and the courage to have your mind blown?

Try it on something you think you could not possibly change. How about doing, doing, doing? Hurrying, hurrying, hurrying?

Have I now gone from preaching to meddling? Welcome to your discomfort zone!

How Else Can I Look at This? – A Gateway to Creativity

doorwayUn-Game Principle: We are both more in charge and less in charge than we think.

I recently read one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever read: the first-hand account of the 16 year imprisonment of a friend’s mentor in China from 1963-1979, much of it in solitary confinement. Despite his experience Sidney Rittenberg was able to keep intact his sanity, his integrity, and his love for China. One reason for this was the question he asked himself : “How else can I look at this?”

In coaching “How else can you look at this?” is a question I frequently ask my clients. What I realized long ago is that our thinking is invisible to us. When bits and pieces of our thinking do become visible to us, it is our great leap across the chasm of disempowerment and despair. As soon as that which had been invisible to us is now in plain view, our natural ability to do something about what we’ve become aware of kicks in. We are magnificent in that way.

What’s behind the question “How else can I look at this?” is the fact that in western civilization our thinking is primarily binary thinking, that is, we think in either/or pictures. “Either I’m going to college, or I’m going to be a failure in life. Either I work 16 hours a day, or I won’t get ahead. Either I get that promotion or I will quit my job. Either we are for taxing the rich or against it.”

At the very base of this constrictive either/or thinking is the choice of being on the right or the wrong side of the thing in question. “I can either be right or wrong.” I don’t have to tell anybody which side we want to be on; after all, who wants to be on the wrong side of history?

Is there a third choice? Is there any other way we can think about this?

Yes there is. Anyone who’s a good problem-solver knows that in brain-storming

a) you must have more than two contributions to consider, and

b) you don’t stop to evaluate every contribution offered as it is being offered. In other words, we consciously get ourselves out of our limiting either/or thinking paradigm by requiring more than two choices, and we protect against arguing for and against (either/or) before we have freed our mind from its usual self-limitation.

There is something peculiar, baffling, and mysterious about this (What? Three choices again?!). Let’s assume only Americans are reading this. How come we have been able to successfully escape, albeit for a short time, our limiting thinking? One answer is that Americans are known to be excellent problem-solvers (I won’t offer at least two other reasons, even though I could. This answer suits my purpose.).

Americans are good problem-solvers. However, we need to ask a second and related question: “In what domain are Americans good problem-solvers?”

I won’t get an argument from anyone about Americans being great problem-solvers and therefore very creative in the domain of technical challenges. Silicon Valley is full of geniuses, individual and corporate, too numerous to mention. But there is a domain in which most Americans are not good problem-solvers, and that is the domain of human interaction in which the superb technical problem-solving mind and skill-sets are not nearly enough. In fact, in some instances those skills are totally counter-productive.

In human interactions, unlike in technical problem-solving, there’s a whole lot less we can control. What we can control is ourselves, and even that’s not easy because unbeknownst to ourselves we can be controlled by our either/or thinking.

If we are unaware of our thinking, then we don’t have our thinking; our thinking has us!

In part, what we need in order to change ourselves in a non-technical domain (aka the adaptive domain, which requires of us changes in how we act), influence others to change, and to change the situation we find ourselves in is to free ourselves from our either/or thinking trap and ask more and more often “How else can we look at this?” Let’s look at what that question assumes.

It assumes that there could be many good answers. It assumes no one of us is as smart as all of us. There is wisdom in a group. It assumes an answer of quality can be found which every group member can support. This is a good start. What this doesn’t guarantee, however, is that when we arrive at an answer everyone can support, that we won’t fall right back into the constrictive either/or paradigm. We’ve found a great answer. Yeah! But let’s not be so possessive of our answer that we now promote it as the only right answer!

To not fall back into the binary trap of either/or, right/wrong, them/us, win/lose is near impossible for those of us who’ve grown up in the western tradition. Near impossible but not always impossible. First it takes being willing to become aware of “the thinking that thinks us.” Second it takes being willing to observe our thinking and tell the truth about it. This is hard, because we dislike discovering we, too, are caught up in this mind trap that calls for some skills we have not been taught. Third it takes being willing to learn those skills that can release us, at least somewhat, from the thinking that, despite its immense and often catastrophic costs in productivity and suffering, continues inexorably to attract us like a magnet does nails.

We are both more in charge and less in charge than we think (more/less, there is that binary thinking again!). Our “thinking that thinks us” makes us less in charge than we think. Our being willing to become aware, to become observant of our thinking, and learning the skills to at least temporarily escape our self-limiting thinking makes us more in charge than we think. One welcome by-product of our temporary escape from binary thinking (“How else can we think about this?” is the opening of the cell door.) might just be an unexpected burst of creativity. How much do we wish that? Would that be a great relief? A soaring joy? Our poor, gripped-in-either/or thinking Congress comes to mind. How much I wish for their escape! Wouldn’t it be ours too? It’s not an either/or!

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.

What Employees Must Say “YES” to in Order to Love Coming to Work – Part Two

The questions employees must answer with an enthusiastic “yes” in order to love coming to work follow a rigid order. Number 1 really is first. It can’t be the Avis of questions. And number 2 must precede number 3. Once employees know what’s expected of them(question #1), they ask “Do I have the materials and the equipment I need to do my work right?” You can see easily that this question wouldn’t interest employees if they couldn’t say “yes” to the first question: “Do I know what’s expected of me?” As with the first question, the second must be answered again and again. Will you notice when your team doesn’t have the materials and equipment to do their work right? Expect them to tell you. But don’t stop there. Make it YOUR responsibility to do what it takes for them to answer question #2 affirmatively all the way from goal-setting to achievement of the goal. This is easy to see when you have a new project you have to roll out in 3 weeks. You’re back at the starting line in a new game. Great managers remember this and spend time conditioning the project. It’s time well spent. Spend time now to save time later. Plus you build your relationship with your employees when you ask if they have what they need, what’s missing, and how you can support them to do their best. The manager becomes the service provider. Your job is to clear the obstacles off the playing field so that your team can play its best game. Your reward? They can’t wait to come to work.

What Employees Must Say “YES” to in Order to Love Coming to Work – Part One

No one goes to work saying “I think I’ll produce ordinary results and annoy people today.” Yet despite thirty-year-old solid, credible, and irrefutable information that should enable us to create a place of business which people can’t wait to get to each morning…we haven’t created them en masse. If the gap between the principles and the practice interests you, you can learn about it by
  1. Being aware of the concerns employees bring to work, and
  2. Observing day to day how well you help them answer that question favorably
The first of twelve questions on your employees’ mind , which they, not YOU, must answer with a resounding “YES” is “Do I know what’s expected of me at work?” This is not a question that’s answered once and for all. It’s an on-going question, and managers must be alert to signals that can offer a clue to how the employee would answer it. Is the employee productive? Is she absent frequently? Is he focused? Pro-active. Do you wish they’d do better? Do they irritate you? There are other clues. Now notice your thoughts, opinions, and conclusions you have about the employee or the situation. Do you have thoughts like “They should know. I told them.” “They have a job description.” “There goes Bob. At the water cooler again, instead of talking to clients.” “I don’t have time.” “Hmm. I wonder if Bob knows what’s expected of him?” The moment you notice your thoughts is a point of power. You have just expanded your choices for action. Which one of these thoughts would lead to action that might help the employee answer his or her first concern at work “ Do I know what’s expected of me?”