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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Conversation for Action: Technology As Much As Art

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

13-08-06 Conversation for ActionTo produce a desired result, be it in business or in our personal affairs, we have to be competent in what might be called ‘a conversation for action.’ How most of us have learned to produce action is through trial and error and learning from what seemed to work and what didn’t. That’s good. AND, would it be alright with you if you could be more strategic about conversations for action? Would it be alright with you if you could produce the results you want with greater clarity, focus, and ease?

There are verbal tools we need to understand, put into practice, and learn from. In Coaching Others on How to Be with Your Requests without Raising Hackles I featured requests without identifying them as a verbal tool for constructing a conversation for action. They are, but we’re not going to talk about REQUESTS here. We’re going to talk about another verbal tool we must master in a successful conversation for action. We’re going to talk about PROMISES.

Notice your visceral reaction even as you read the word PROMISE. Does your stomach tighten? Do your hands sweat? Does your heart beat faster? You may have many reactions, but neutrality is unlikely among them. Even the mere mention of ‘promise’ conjures up one or more experiences we’ve had around promises. Someone breaking a promise that was important to us. We breaking ours to others or to ourselves. Getting chewed out by a supervisor for not completing a report as promised. Oh, the sorrows of a broken promise!

Might it be worthwhile for us to expand our understanding of and our practices around promises? I say ‘yes,’ if we want to more often experience the heightened energy a fulfilled promise gives us.

Here’s what’s common knowledge. A promise can be kept or broken. What’s unfamiliar to most people is a third option. Good communicators intuitively exercise this option. But only a mentor of mine from nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Fernando Flores, former Minister of Education under the Allende Rule in Chile, named it. And there’s power in naming. Name it and you can claim it.

Dr. Flores taught us the third action in regard to a promise. We can REVOKE it.

A revoked promise is different from a broken promise in that you take it back before the date and time of fulfillment of your original promise. If fulfilling a promise energizes you and the person to whom you made the promise, and breaking it deflates the energy (It does. Check it out the next time. Your body doesn’t lie.), what happens when you revoke a promise?

That depends.

Revoking a promise, to be clear, is choosing to say to the other that you won’t or can’t fulfill the promise you made to them earlier. If you promised to have the report on your supervisor’s desk by Tuesday at 9 am, and you revoke your promise on the previous Thursday, do you and your supervisor have a different experience than if you revoked it at 8:59 am on Tuesday? Of course. At 8:59 am it’s not formally a broken promise (One minute later it IS a bona fide broken promise), but it has greater negative consequences than if you had revoked it on the previous Thursday. For everyone touched by the promise.

Revoking your promise the previous Thursday, well in advance of its fulfillment date, offers opportunity for a more creative response. So timing definitely affects the way a revoked promise is received. The negative consequences are far less when you revoke a promise early.

It’s important to know that when you revoke a promise,  you’re expected to make a new one. “I thought I could get this report to you as promised, but I can’t, given X Y Z, even if I work through the night. I can get it to you by Wednesday at 9 am. Will that work?”

Often there are no negative consequences at all. When you revoke a promise in plenty of time and make a new one, you gain respect for your clear and honest communication. You open up the conversation for a productive dialog and negotiation for a new date of fulfillment. You don’t break the promise and then scurry for all the reasons you had to. People hate excuses when they’re on the receiving end. Don’t you? One loses rather than gains the respect of the other person. Revoking a promise is an opportunity to be responsible, vulnerable, transparent, and yes, powerful. A new promise must, of course, have all the components of any other promise:

  1. You promise a specific action and
  2. You give (or negotiate) a date for its fulfillment

Revoking promises adds a powerful distinction to your repertoire of tools in your ‘communication for action’ tool kit. Mastering it begins and ends with practice. It’s both technology and art. Try it and see. I’d be interested in what you learn about yourself along the way.

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

What Does 19th Century Charles Dickens Contribute to Excellence in Leadership and Management?

Un-Game Principle: Closed-system thinking severely limits the results we can produce.

13-08-27 What Does 19th Century Charles Dickens Contribute to ExcellenceThe opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities are: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair….” People remember them when they’ve forgotten its author, what this classic was about, and even its title. Isn’t it odd how compelling these words are?

I propose these lines are compelling for a variety of reasons.

  1. They seem contradictory to us. How can something simultaneously be its opposite?
  2. They arouse our natural curiosity. Like most other living things, humans reach for the light in order to grow.
  3. They feel strangely true even though our mind says they must be false.

What’s going on here, and why does it matter to our concern to produce results we can be proud of in business and in our personal lives?

What’s going on here is that the statement challenges how we’ve been taught to think if we grew up in the western world. We’ve been taught a closed-system thinking, that is, we’ve been taught to live in an either/or world. A binary world. You’re either right or wrong. A keeper or not a keeper of your job. Guilty or not guilty. Smart or dumb. Sure we see some gradation. Hot or cold? No, warm. But for the most part we can’t get through the day without choosing between only TWO options. Try it sometime. I promise you’ll be amazed. Knowing this is probably why Steve Jobs always told his people to bring him at least THREE options. He refused to live confined inside the girdle of this either/or lie.  And you’re likely as not, at this moment, holding in your hand the kind of result Steve Jobs was able to produce.

We all know Einstein’s famous quote paraphrased here.“You can’t solve a problem with the level of thinking that created it in the first place.” The level of thinking that will solve important problems is open-system thinking. It’s a completely different mind-set, and we’re only beginning to explore this mind-set among us ordinary mortals. It’s the thinking that Dickens’ opening paragraph represents. Both/And. We can make a case for right now, the spring of the 21st century, being “the best of times and the worst of times.” Unprecedented technological gains wherever we can use technology. And unprecedented dangers, with the same technologies, of creating an unsustainable world for future generations of humans and other species.  We intuitively know it can’t be an either/or, yet we also routinely hear(and rarely challenge) that we can’t stand in the way of progress. Doesn’t the person saying this mean “We can either have progress or a sustainable world?”

Closed-system thinking.

How does it impact your world at the office and at home? (I almost caught myself saying OR at home!)

Having been raised in closed-system thinking, there are skills we’ve been taught to value (By the way, they have their place. It’s not an Either/Or. See what I mean? You can’t get away from it!). One such skill is discussion. In fact, most of us are happy to have discussion. It beats the familiar top down commands of the old ‘command and control’ model of management. However, discussion often leaves us vaguely dissatisfied.

The root of the word ‘discussion’ is the same as for ‘concussion’ and ‘percussion.’ It’s a breaking apart of things. It expects analysis. In discussion people often argue for their point of view. They don’t listen. Rather they wait (or not) until they can make their next point to persuade and convince you that they are right. Think talk show. Or team meeting. Or family meeting.

An open-system skill we’re in great need of becoming competent in is inquiry. To inquire into another’s view requires a suspension of judgment, curiosity, and the stand that everything can be mined for contribution. Yes. Everything. It requires giving up any hidden agenda. It’s not ‘I win. You lose’. Or, ‘I can’t get what I need if I explore how you could get what you need’. It requires being willing to learn new skills like collaboration. It requires new ways of being. Being open, receptive, courageous, truthful, vulnerable, just to name a few qualities present in people…yes…but mostly under cover as we dance our expected social dance. They’re like seeds needing to be tended in order to grow to become robust.

As a nation we don’t have critical mass being practiced in the kind of open-system thinking that would not only make it okay to bring these qualities to the table, but imperative. And yet, in this best and worst of times, in this season of Light and Darkness, what could be more important if we want to step out of the girdle of our familiar mind? Don’t we need extraordinary results? Cultivating the skills of inquiry is just one skill. There are many. But inquiry is a great start. Women discarded girdles 50 years ago. Happily, I might add. We all know it can be done. We all know the truth of Dickens’ opening. It invites us to step out of the cramped girdle of our ordinary mind into the freeing space of open-system thinking. Let’s breathe deeply.

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