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

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The Un-Game Book

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

Why Our Change Efforts Often Fail Part 2

Why Our Change Efforts Often Fail Part 2

Un-Game Principle: Doubts, worries, and fears are rich sources of data that we must use to effect sustainable change.

OK.  So we have this improvement goal. For example, we want to have more face to face contact with our team, yet it’s not happening. We notice all the behaviors that obstruct this goal of more personalized contact. We slip out of the office without popping our head into Rob’s office. We consistently communicate by email, including feedback or saying thank you.  We find excuses not to go to the office party. Whatever. We vow then to stop this obstructive behavior, and alas, like a New Year’s Resolution it doesn’t last long, and we notice we’re back at square one.

In Part 1 of “Why Our Change Efforts Often Fail” we went a bit further and explored the worries we have if we did the OPPOSITE of those obstructive behaviors and learned that they are not only obstructive but also brilliant in assuring that what we fear won’t happen. We also learned that those worries are not just passive but actually active and hidden-to-us commitments that compete with our genuine commitment to have more face to face contact with our team.

We then suggested that we ask the question “Given these formerly hidden, now visible commitments, what assumptions must a person who has these commitments be making? What big, bad, awful thing must they assume will happen if they don’t do exactly what they’re currently doing?” So, for example, if you had this worry turned into active commitment…

“I worry my team would disrespect me if I didn’t put some distance between them and me” (equals “I’m committed to NOT being disrespected”)

… then the assumption might be:

“I assume if I acted like a team member, I would lose my authority as a team leader, and the work we have to do would get done poorly or not at all.”

That’s a big bad awful thing for the person holding that assumption, isn’t it? How well does it work to tell him or her “Oh, that’s silly! Don’t worry about it.”?

So what to do? Since it makes sense that these obstructive behaviors are also brilliant, we see ourselves as stuck. Seeing this scenario has us say…excuse the language… “We’re screwed.” But this is where Part 2 comes in. We’re NOT helpless once we see our brilliant anxiety-management system (aka our immunity to change as per Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey in their book Immunity to Change). But we can’t do what we’ve always done (try to change the obstructive behaviors), because we would take our brilliant self-protection system away. We’d be crazy to give it up. Unless….

Here’s our way out. Now that we have some big assumptions that drive those formerly hidden commitments, which are designed to manage our multiple worries, we can do what we’ve never done before. WE CAN TEST OUR BIG ASSUMPTIONS TO SEE IF THEY’RE VALID OR NOT. Yes, you heard it. We can test the assumptions. And not just once, but repeatedly, because those assumptions are about big, bad things happening to us, and they’re not dismissed with one test. But here are the criteria for designing a S.M.A.R.T. test of your big assumptions.

  1. The test needs to be SAFE
  2. The test needs to be MODEST
  3. The test needs to be ACHIEVABLE
  4. The test needs to be RESEARCH-INTENDED
  5. The test needs to be TIME-BOUND

Safe means you wouldn’t test one of your assumptions that says if you find out it’s true you’re gonna die, get fired. Test one in which, even if the worst happened, you see yourself surviving.

Modest means you wouldn’t decide on your first test to climb a Mount Everest. Maybe the first thing you do is tell Mary and Claude “thank you” for the good work they did on their last project. Notice their reaction. Notice your reaction. You’re doing research.

Achievable. See number 2. That seems achievable. But don’t let the test be something you already would do anyway. There needs to be some tension for you. But the tension needs to be like a rubber band not stretched too tight. Just right is a creative tension that moves you forward rather than paralyzing you.

Research-intended is very tricky for most people, especially results-driven people. They forget that the test is supposed to give them data to test the validity of their assumption, NOT to solve a perceived problem. If passing the test were the prize, then the research would stop, and that would defeat the purpose. We’ll keep on doing what we’ve always done hoping in vain for a different result if we forget that we’re doing research, NOT seeing whether we pass this one test we designed.

Time-bound means that you design your test with one week or so of going through the process described in Parts 1 and 2 of “Why Our Change Efforts Often Fail.”

There’s a lot more to this than I describe here. Contact me if you’d like to go through the process. Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey trained me to present this. I also recommend their book The Immunity to Change. My own book, The Un-Game: Four-Play to Business As Unusual demonstrates in story form a different but related process for creating sustainable change in your life.

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


Why Our Change Efforts Often Fail

Un-Game Principle: Doubts, worries, and fears are rich sources of data that we must use to effect sustainable change.

counseling imageI ran across a joke today. A client on a psychiatrist’s couch says “Call it denial or whatever, but I think what goes on in my personal life is none of my own damn business.” For a leader or manager, that stance is costly, financially and psychically. I can’t quantify the financial cost, but we can see its psychic cost. What we do with great regularity is make selective thinking so invisible to ourselves that we don’t even notice it.  Let’s take Congress as an example although this applies to you, me, and everybody else.

I think there are many good people in Congress. Stop wincing. Let’s simply assume they really are committed to producing results for the common good.

Commitment: Produce results for the common good

However, the actions of our representatives show the observer (us) that they’re actually working hard against that commitment.

Actions that go against the genuine commitment

  1. don’t approach opposing views with genuine curiosity
  2. spend inordinate amount of time fund-raising and getting reelected
  3. blame others for cooperation and collaboration not happening.

I could go on. Our representatives may even see these actions but have an explanation for them that seems reasonable (to them). If we were to ask what they worry about IF THEY DID THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY’RE DOING NOW, they probably wouldn’t be able to come up to that level of honesty and transparency (leadership skills) to tell us. Besides, they may be proponents of the thinking of the person on the psychiatrist’s couch “What I really think is none of my damn business.” However, I’m going to pretend I’m your rep. My worries might be something like this:


  1. I worry about my side pressuring, even ostracizing me.
  2. I worry about campaign contributors withholding contributions.
  3. I worry about losing credibility with the players who matter and who could further my career.
  4.  I worry about losing power.

I could go on. However, what folks don’t know is that these aren’t just worries but really active commitments to assure that the worrier never ever has to experience what he or she is afraid of. And that these commitments are in direct opposition to the genuine commitment of producing results for the common good. So here’s how we could state my worries as hidden-to-me and competing commitments that function as the brakes to my stated and genuine commitment.

Hidden and competing commitments

  1. I’m committed to NOT being ostracized.
  2. I’m committed to NOT alienating contributors to my campaign.
  3. I’m committed to NOT losing credibility and power

If I use the metaphor of a car, my hidden commitments represent the brake to the genuine expressed goal (and commitment) of producing results for the common good, which in the car metaphor would be the accelerator. I’m not moving, right? Right.

Looks pretty hopeless, you say? But it’s not hopeless.  First of all, look at the behaviors now. Can you see in light of the competing hidden commitments why our change efforts usually fail? Those behaviors may be obstructive (e.g. blaming others, not being curious about opposing views, etc), but they’re also brilliant in keeping the person’s worst fears from coming true. That information alone could save us millions of training dollars in the corporate world. We could stop trying to change the obstructive behaviors. It doesn’t work because they serve such an important purpose!

We don’t have to change or fix people. But we do have to have a process for showing how they are walking on the blind side. But let’s assume that I, as your congressional rep, have gone this far. I now see what’s up, am wide-eyed and actually interested in taking my lead foot off the brakes. So what’s next?

There are hidden assumptions of some big, awful things that would happen, which I treat as truth, not assumptions if I stop doing what I’m doing. Therefore my foot stays on the brakes.  If I manage, however, to surface those assumptions, that can change everything. Here are examples of some big and hidden assumptions that keep my lead-foot in place until I see them.

Big Assumptions

  1.  I assume there’s absolutely nothing positive that could come out of going against the norm of my cohorts. I assume I would never be supported and I’d wind up sidelined and powerless.
  2. I assume if I weren’t adversarial, I’d be humiliated.
  3. I assume if I displeased financial contributors, I’d have to venture into unknown and very scary territory where I wouldn’t know who I am.

The big assumptions are as different as the people enthralled by them.  But this is where the whole system could be shaken up. This is the opportunity to take the foot off the brake and accelerate toward the other also real commitment to produce results for the common good (Your family, employees, we as citizen would be grateful, yes? Maybe then we and Congress could take on the big, well-organized lobbying machines together!).

The actions that are appropriate here may seem counter-intuitive, but they move us toward the desired change without the unbearable inner conflict of giving up our hidden anxiety-management system.  The actions we design are not direct actions to counter the behaviors we’ve identified. It should be clear now why that doesn’t work. No. They are actions that allow us to SAFELY TEST our big assumptions to see if they’re actually valid or not.

In the next post I’ll detail how we can test our big assumptions once we see them. When we know how to test them safely and reliably, we’ll be in a much better position to realize our improvement goal rather than being captive of the system that keeps us stuck. Imagine a CEO or a manager who has tried unsuccessfully to handle conflict –without resorting to avoidance and emotional outbursts—now being competent with resolving conflict.  I bet s/he’d love being able to stop walking on the blind side.  Do you think his or her team would be relieved too?

Continue the conversation by leaving your comment or question below.

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

Why It’s So Hard To Change Our Minds

Un-Game Principle: Either/or thinking makes the uncertain certain…but at a steep price.

The seemingly endless election cycle we just endured shows us how polarized we are. “There’s a right way to think, to be,push-pull image to do things.” “The other guy is definitely wrong.” Like starving dogs fighting over a meager bone, we’re locked into this dualistic thinking.  We not only FEEL stuck. We ARE stuck. The pain of doing what clearly doesn’t serve us has not yet become so unbearable that it is impossible to tolerate it for even just one more minute!

When I escape from my jaded thinking about shady money and shadier politics to my belief in the basic  right, desire, and ability of the American people to create a nation that has a future, I ask this question: “ Is this dualistic either/or thinking the only thing available to us? Or can we change our mind about that?” See? Either this or that! We’re not used to thinking broad spectrum. There’s a whole world in between the two either/or polarities…if only we’re willing to open our minds, hearts, and eyes.

But we’re not yet willing. It’s not yet unbearable that we have huddled into WE and THEY camps, each camp demonizing the excluded-from-our-camp OTHER, not noticing the few invisible power-grabbers in whose interest it is that we fight each other. If we were at “It’s unbearable,” we could embrace that we have faulty thinking, but we aren’t faulty people.

Either/or thinking is NOT widely talked about as a major cause for keeping this status quo in place. We urge our leaders to collaborate, co-operate, compromise. We demand they change their behavior. We despair that they keep failing.

What if first we could look beyond power-grabbing at a shared goal (recreate a nation that has a future)? What if then we could tell the truth about what we’re doing that goes AGAINST our reaching the goal?  Already a radical step!  What if then we could share our worries as to what would happen if we DIDN’T do the actions that go AGAINST reaching the stated goal?  OMG, we’d make ourselves vulnerable and human!  And what if finally we could identify the hidden commitments that result from our worries if we DON’T keep those dysfunctional actions in place?

I submit if we got that far (Step 3 of 5), we’d have a great chance to shift from gridlock to collaboration. We could, en route to goal, stop having one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake. We could stop thinking in terms of either/or. We could move forward on recreating ourselves as a nation that has a future.

Is this too theoretical? Here’s what the first 3 steps in the process would look like for a personal goal:

  1. Identify an improvement goal (I want to lose 30 pounds)
  2. List all the things you do that go against reaching the goal (eat large portions, eat unhealthy carbs, etc.)
  3. Identify hidden commitments from worries if you DON’Tdo the things in #2
    1. Worry: I’ll be hungry= I’m committed to NOT being hungry
    2. Worry: I won’t have any fun= I’m committed to NOT missing out on fun

Well. Now the actions that assure you won’t lose 30 pounds aren’t so irrational. They make perfect sense in light of your hidden commitments!

And what if those hidden commitments have a lot to do with the either/or thinking we’re so superbly practiced in? Either I eat large portions, or I will go hungry. Either I eat those pies and rolls, or I won’t have any fun.

Can we apply this process to our national gridlock so that we can see why it makes perfect sense to keep things just the way they are?  Could there be more worries and hidden commitments that either side has NOT been willing to surface?  Do we dare find out? Or do we simply resign ourselves to making our present immunity to change a permanent condition?

I’m an optimist by declaration. I say that the overwhelming evidence that should make me into an avowed pessimist does not dictate the future.  I hope that out of fierce love and passion for the vision of a more perfect union, we dare to shift into a greater honesty where we can be humble enough to say “It is the privilege of wisdom to listen and the task of ignorance to learn.”

We won’t learn until we’re willing to see our either/or thinking as an invitation to shift into more creative thinking, in other words, as an invitation to change our mind.

Changing our mind feels uncomfortable at best, and like dying at worst.  And there’s a whole range of experiences between those polarities.  Changing our mind demands several things of us which we’re terribly unpracticed in.

  1. It demands that we engage, of our own volition, in an inquiry.
  2. It demands that we surrender, of our own volition, to a learning which results from the inquiry.
  3. It demands that we hold the tension of the void that’s created where the old thinking was. “What now?”  is the terrifying question that fills the void where the old thinking was.

Most of all, to change our minds we have to give up our hankering for the certainty of the one right answer. Insisting on the one right answer may temporarily discharge discomfort and pain, but it is a tiny prison which will not prepare us to live powerfully in our pluralistic world. Staying in this tiny prison is too steep a price to pay, don’t you think?

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

Super Storm Sandy’s Lessons in Management and Leadership

Un-Game Principle:  Leadership is not a position but a state-of-mind and a skill-set. Great leaders and managers are flexible, can make distinctions, and are catalysts driven by the desire to serve.

Storm warning imageI have strong negative opinions about the game of politics. I have strong positive opinions about politicians who are leaders and managers first and politicians second.  Great leaders and managers know who they are and are not afraid to be it. They care more about being good than looking good. They know their priorities.

It lifted my spirits to see NJ Governor, Chris Christie, super spokesperson for the republican presidential candidate, and President Barack Obama, relegate their political ambitions to the bottom of their agenda in favor of serving the common good of people who are hurting.  Chris Christie praised the President’s leadership in his response to New Jersey’s devastation by super storm Sandy. This on the heels of saying that the President can’t even find the light switch of leadership in a dark room. Ouch for republican politics, but Governor Christie was busy reassuring, consoling, helping the people in his state.

What’s right with that picture (or are some of you already busy being cynical)?

What’s right with that picture is that Chris Christie embodied, at least in this incident, the leader who is fiercely passionate about serving. Servant leadership is a far cry from the command and control model which is so familiar but mercifully becoming a dinosaur.  Don’t get me wrong. Servant leaders know how to take charge. They know when and when consensus is not appropriate. They are resilient, flexible, in the present moment, not in the “how to” emergency manuals of their mind.  Servant leaders simply ask the question “What is needed and wanted here?” “How can I facilitate what needs to happen?”  “How can I support my people so that they can do their job with clarity and focus?” “What support do I personally need to do my best? To serve my first responders? The people most affected?”

When faced with a crisis, a servant leader/manager remembers that his or her team is not only absolutely dedicated but also fiercely passionate to sustain life even against all odds of success. It matters not a bit whether that life calls him or herself a Democrat, Republican, has diametrically opposed views on every issue imaginable, or flagrantly ignores warnings to evacuate. AND, people, in order to serve, need a leader who will serve them.

Servant leaders realize that it’s their job to remove obstacles so that stellar team performance can occur. It means assuring the vision and the expectations are clear for the team. It means assuring that the team has the equipment and tools to do their work. It means asking the people to do the job they can do best. In emergency circumstances these are the only concerns and requirements of the responders. The rest, relevant under normalcy…let’s say praise, acknowledgment, promotion, development…is irrelevant.

It’s the designated leader’s job to meet those simple and urgent requirements.

Emergency situations are a gift wrapped in a horrible set of circumstances. The gift is that they make crystal-clear to us what’s important. In our daily life, as survival seems assured, we move up our hierarchy of needs as stated by Abraham Maslow. Only when physical survival is at stake DON’T we worry about relationships, achievement, self-actualization (the needs above food and shelter on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). We simply take care of the need at hand—another’s survival.  We, who can, now act in accordance with who we are at our core—people who care about one another, who instinctively know that our humanity and dignity depend on helping those who we could be too. We are the hope. We are the servant leaders we’ve been looking for. Let us remember this when survival is NOT at stake. Let us stay awake.

We need servant leadership at every level. My son offered to volunteer in several local places in NJ. The needs to be met were there, but they were not raw survival needs.  Already the sense of urgency was waning. One place wanted him to fill out paper work, have training. The second, a shelter, promptly put him to work. In the first place the leadership was distracted by the rules; in the second, the leadership was open and receptive (even as demands of the present had lost some immediacy).

But let’s be generous. Generosity of spirit is a quality of the servant leader.  Let’s not fault the leadership of those who are attached to dead rules. Let’s simply be the change we want to see. We can all be leaders, even without position. We can all practice making distinctions, act on our natural desire to serve. We can all be flexible.  It means being awake and staying awake—remembering and consciously choosing the skills that seem natural when we face survival or annihilation.

What could we accomplish if we acted as if life depended on clarity of mind, heart, and purpose—the clarity that comes to us so effortlessly when life DOES depend on collaboration, co-operation and team-empowerment? As a designated leader or manager, be a servant. Roll up your sleeves and clear the debris that’s in the way of your team’s job.  A command and control leader leads from above, the servant leader side by side. I know which one I want to work with.

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

I Need It, You Need It, He Needs It, She Needs It

Un-Game Principle: To be an agent of change, we need to become fog-busters.

I ‘m the one who points out the elephant in the room. Always have. Always will. Most people hate that job. Making the elephant imageelephant visible is NOT Business as Usual.

What’s needed now, however, is Business as UNusual. Look at the shape the world is in—from our families, neighborhoods, and businesses –to the destruction of life-support systems throughout the world. So I’m going to show you the elephant in the room and what’s in it for you to look at it and be curious about the beast.

Bear with me. I’ll get personal in a minute.

If you live in the US, you grew up thinking you are free. We equate freedom with the absence of physical control.  It is on this basis that we see other countries like Russia, Iran, Syria, China as unfree.  That way of thinking makes us feel superior and denies that we are also unfree.

 Ah, the pitfalls of comparison! When we’re sure we live in the best country in the world, we fail to look critically at the degree to which various public and private institutions and agencies control, cajole, and manipulate us without our knowledge.

 It’s social control and far more dangerous than the physical control that’s so easy to spot.

Of course many would be disgruntled with the implication that we in the US might be naïve, gullible, and not exceptional. I prefer to think we’re just like everyone else—only human beings. It puts me in a learning frame of mind. I’m awake and alert.

We are reluctant to cop to undesirable social control as part of our American landscape. We have imperfections which we’re willing to acknowledge (It’s not the 1950’s anymore, after all). But that’s conveniently benign. It shows the power of language to obfuscate and mitigate one’s experience. Imperfection is ok. Control is not. We can be smug as a bug in a rug.

Imperfection doesn’t allow for the dangers we face from intentional campaigns of persuasion designed to engineer our consent. We need to look no further than to relentless advertising and to what passes for news these days. Who cares about the facts? CNN spins it differently than FOX News. (For direct contradictions “journalists” and politicians blithely commit, watch Jon Steward who’s masterful at showcasing them). Or look at populations that stand to gain the most from a particular political party’s alleged agenda but who vote counter to their own interests without perceiving their choices as harmful to themselves.

Be mad at me, but I’m still going to say it. No, we are not free. That’s why I need it. And you need it. I can keep building the case for the presence of questionable social control which is the preferred method in the US until it doesn’t work anymore (Remember Kent State student massacre in 1970 by National Guard troops or the more recent Occupy Movement forced removal in Oakland?). But I want to talk about us. Why I need it. You need it. He needs it. She needs it… if we want to be free!

Need what?

Need help in seeing what we aren’t seeing, the seeing of which would set us free to design the life we want to live, a life characterized by clarity of purpose, by direct focus of our energies on what matters deeply to us, by lack of struggle, and by gratitude for the privilege of playing this game called life (You haven’t read this far if that doesn’t matter to you).

A society determines largely what its citizenry thinks, and what we think determines how we act. Beliefs like  “The command and control management model is the best”, “The well-being of a business is reflected solely by the bottom line”, “Fossil fuels will last forever”, may have loosened their hold somewhat,  but others like “New is better” hang tough.  What smart-phone do YOU have?

But those are merely examples of beliefs. These are more personal.

  1. There’s something wrong with me.
  2. I can’t (get what I want, get what I deserve, make the right decisions).
  3. Life is too d… hard.
  4. I’m not sure, and I should be.
  5. I don’t know, and I should know.
  6. People are jerks. (Substitute boss, team member, neighbor, spouse).
  7. Whatever this is, it isn’t it. There must be more to life than this.
  8. I’m stupid.
  9. I’m dumb.
  10. Screw you. I should do it my way.

There are many, many other beliefs which are either invisible to us or appear as solid, unmovable truths. They remain unexposed as lies whose purpose it is to keep us doing what we’ve always done hoping against hope for different results.

How well is that working?

Acting out of these beliefs may have us survive, but it will not allow us to thrive. So to summarize, we all have blind spots.  I need, you need, your boss needs, Roberta needs, we need, you all on your team need,  John and Mary need … coaching to see what we aren’t seeing that constricts our freedom to design the life we’re meant to live in order to contribute that which only we can offer. Contact me to learn about coaching. I’ll help you find your match.

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

Three Very Dangerous Words

Un-Game Principle:  Belief creates the fact.

I bet you’ve had an experience where somebody hasn’t listened to you. They already “knew” what you were talking Magic Wand Imageabout. You’ve probably done it, too.  I have. The fact not withstanding that it alienates us from others and them from us, we continue on our merry way and do it again. And again. “I already know” is magical thinking. But has anyone in the whole history of the world ever quit on magic just because it didn’t work? I doubt it.  So “I already know” may be three very dangerous words in any language. The best we can do, I suspect, is to notice our “I already know” thought, and if it comes up often, recognize that we’re in the grips of an entrenched belief.


What happens when you’re with a peer who says “I already know.”?  You know, the secret self-proclaimed expert. Go ahead, look into your experience when someone has done it to you. What do you see? You see that you or what you’re saying is no longer a possibility for the speaker. Done. End of story. What happens to you when you notice you’ve cast your pearls before swines?

  1. You try to make your point stronger and louder.
  2. You try to alert the other that they’re not getting it.
  3. You cast doubt on the value of what you’re saying.
  4. You feel hurt and withdraw.
  5. Your energy drops to the bottom of the well.

If it’s a boss who “already knows”, you may not feel free to do numbers 1 and 2 above. You weigh the consequences because the boss you alert to his or her “I already know-ness” may fault you for disturbing their certainty, and that may be a punishable offense. Leaders who value that feedback are still in the minority.

Anything else? I don’t already know! :)

The impact in inter-personal interactions of anyone who “already knows” is pretty dismal and has many ramifications for leaders, managers, and teams. And for individuals, couples, parents, teachers, etc.

“I already know” is costly to our capacity to be free to explore and learn, to productivity, and to relationships. You, as an enlightened leader who notices it in other team members, can be generous and gentle but not let it go unremarked upon. You might ask; “Do you already know this, or do you think you already know this?” “How do you know this is a fact rather than a conclusion?”  “If you didn’t already know, what would you be looking at in this situation?” Tell me what you think you know about what I’m saying to you?” “Is there anything about what I’m saying that you find interesting? What would need to be added, subtracted, or changed about what I’m saying to make this useful to look at?”

There are probably hundreds of questions you could ask. Which one you ask matters less than doing the asking. The purpose of the questions is to reengage the speaker who “already knows,” not to punish them. Your inquiry models the behavior you wish the “I already know-all-about this” person would demonstrate.  You offer breathing room and the meta-message that the other matters.

Yes, offer the very thing he or she didn’t offer YOU!

The power of modeling has been well documented. Plus we know it from our own experience. How well is “Do as I say and not as I do” working? Enough said. Your asking powerful questions makes a powerful difference.

You’re up to it.

If you’re fortunate enough to notice it when YOU perpetrate the “I already know” on others (If  someone close to you has complained to you more than once, consider a coach to help you with this blind spot), you’re almost home free. Noticing is the first and most powerful gift to yourself. Now you’re at choice. The fog has lifted. You can change what you’ve become aware of.

 If you have any doubts about the negative impact your “I already know” has on others, you don’t have to ask them. You can just go on an adventure. Rather than saying to yourself “Ok, fine. I don’t already know” (You’ll get pushback from that endless chatter that says “Yes, you do already know.”), keep the belief “Being interested in my team’s ideas may enhance our creativity” uppermost in your mind.  Your “try-it-on-for-size” belief will naturally direct your actions. Your actions will be different than actions emanating from the old  “I already know.”  The only challenge will be to notice when the old belief turns up again. When it does, acknowledge it. “Ah, there you are again.” Then shift to the other belief again. It may feel weird, but practice makes____________. Did you say “I already know! Everybody knows that. Practice makes perfect.”

“Really?” I say. “Perhaps practice only makes progress. Does that interest you?”

Henry Ford was right when he said, “Belief creates the fact.”  We have a belief, and then get busy gathering evidence to make us right. But we think that’s not so. We act as if evidence leads us to any given  conclusion.  Wasn’t it your so called evidence that led you to your “I already know what Mary is saying” conclusion?  What there is to know about the “Belief creates the fact” phenomenon could change everything. Careful. Do you already know?


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

Driven to Distraction

Un-Game Principle: Driven behavior wastes energy. We are like moths buzzing around a light. man with cell phone

Many rational, educated, principled people are now making a case for both economic and cultural breakdown in American society. Phew! That in itself is stunning. I won’t go there except to say that it’s interesting and disturbing that at a time when arguably we need to be the most alert, awake, clear, focused, attentive, creative, courageous and committed, we’re also buried in an unending avalanche of domineering distractions. A friend of mine has smart phones, Ipads, Kindles and accessories for every occasion because—well, he can! And you’ve all seen (Are you ever who I’m about to mention?) the couple silently sitting in a restaurant … alone together…each intently stroking their very smart phone.

No, I won’t preach and suggest you stop what you’re doing. We’re familiar with this strategy. We even preach it to ourselves!  “You shouldn’t spend so much time on the internet.” So in desperation you ask your son to change your password and not let you know what it is. Will this be a lasting solution? Probably not. Repetitive doing, disconnected from what has meaning and value for us, is a symptom of driven behavior. Do, Do, Do. We may be like moths irresistibly drawn to our porch light during a warm summer night.

So how do we arrest driven behavior, put it in jail, and drive our own behavior? First of all, notice it.  Do you repeat actions over and over even though there’s no good result? Do you have limited satisfaction and an ever-expanding to do list? When you doachieve something, do you celebrate or just move on to the next item on the list? Do you rush around a lot? Complain of not enough time? Are you tired a lot? Too tired to…..?

Yes, driven behavior wastes energy. It drains us. It’s a joy thief.

At least in part, people engage in driven behavior in order to distract themselves from the discomfort of wondering what’s truly important to them. Why am I here? What’s uniquely mine to do? Notice if my assertion or the questions make you even a bit uneasy.

What better way to avoid the hard questions than the fascinating world of electronics, the cornucopia of the Internet, or relationships steeped in drama? However, recognized or not, we all want to make a positive difference in something bigger than ourselves. We’re not isolated. We live in community. So the second step in arresting driven behavior is to identify and claim what’s deeply important to you.

Who do you long to be? For genuine, not saccharine satisfaction, here are some longings that thousands of people during 25 years of research have ranked as ‘highly important’. They want to consistently demonstrate these longings in their lives.

  1. to be a loving family member and  friend
  2. to be a successful communicator
  3. to be physically fit and healthy
  4. to be a contributor to my community
  5. to be a respected professional
  6. to be a successful team member

There are other longings, for example, to be an adventurer, a creator of beauty, or to be politically active. Some won’t be important to you in six months. The list is a snapshot in time and there to guide your actions today. Contact me and I’ll gift it to you. These longings come from your best self. They do not come from fear or lack as in “If I don’t do this, then I’ll look bad, be ignored, ridiculed, shunned.”  That nagging voice is actually the voice that lures us into distractions in the first place!

The third step then in arresting driven behavior is to use your list of strong longings (the 4’s and 5’s on a scale of 1-5 are the strong ones) and connect them to simple goals that will demonstrate the longing. The longing is not the goal. It merely provides the direction to the goal. For example, you long to be a successful communicator. A simple goal might be to walk into Joe’s office despite some discomfort to make your succinct, clear request in person rather than through text or email where Joe could easily misconstrue your meaning.

Let the goals be small, so small that you can demonstrate the intention several times in just a single day. Choose several intentions from the 4’s and 5’s and ask yourself how you want to demonstrate them. The idea is to practice intentionally to connect your actions to what matters. Practice doesn’t make perfect; it makes progress (Chasing perfection, which is impossible, is driven behavior).  In the process of practicing, you’ll become more and more aware of driven behavior and, instead of choosing different behaviors, you can choose to be back in touch with your heart’s longings. Behaviors matching your heart’s desire may emerge effortlessly. Sometimes a simple formerly unexpressed ‘thank you’ can be an intentional expression of your longing to be an effective team member.

Living  intentionally  doesn’t mean deprivation. Yes you can spend hours with a favorite ‘distraction.’ There are times when it may serve a higher good! To enjoy something freely chosen contributes to your health and well-being. The key words are ‘freely chosen.’ When you choose the distraction rather than it choosing you, you’re not driven to distraction. You’re driving the distraction. Go for it! Have a blast!

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 Un-Game” Reviewed in The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News and business book reviewer Jim Pawlak only review 2 of every 40 books they are asked to review each month.  I am pleased to share that The Un-Game: Four-Play to Business as UNusual was recently chosen and featured by Pawlak in The Dallas Morning News and at

Below is the review as it appeared on August 12, 2012. Even in its shortened version (Jim Pawlak has an editor too), The UnGame‘s main message was preserved.

“Ultimately we cannot only change programs. We have to change visions. A new world in business as in the rest of our life depends on changed minds.” By Jim Pawlak – Special Contributor

“The Un-Game: Four-Play to Business as UNusual” by Ingrid Martine (Your Leaders’ Edge Press, $19.95.) Ingrid Martine says the unaware life is incompatible with success. She introduces the COSA management process – Choose, Observe, Say Yes, Act.

If you choose to be a catalyst rather than a drone, controller or corrector you can constantly expand your comfort zone – and those of your staff. To observe you have to rid yourself of “monkey mind” – the Buddhist metaphor for self-limiting talk.

The monkey mind says “I can’t,” but really means “I won’t.”  It usually interprets situations in terms of what you’re willing to do, rather than what you can do.  Observation helps change our minds because it shows us other perspectives.

Being uncomfortable can lead to “aha moments.”  The monkey mind fears saying yes because it forces us to look at things differently.  Only continuous improvement moves you from where you are to where you want to be. And when you act you’re engaging with others, not telling them what to do.  Showing people why, gets them thinking about how.

Jim Pawlak reviews business books for The Dallas Morning News.