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Monthly Archives: November 2012

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:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

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:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.