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are you working above your threshold of perception (or why wombats are not suited for apartment living)

September 5, 2014

It is my opinion that young wombats are not particularly suited to apartment living. While I am not a wombat expert I feel justified in making that declaration because there was a brief period in my life when I shared an apartment with a young wombat. It was not a particularly relaxed or peaceful period.

I suspect the wombat felt the same way.

The wombat was an orphan and my wife had responsibility for caring for her outside of business hours at the wildlife sanctuary. In between feeding and sleeping, young Minibus (she was somewhat tastelessly named after the vehicle that had made her an orphan) would be allowed to exercise herself in the lounge room. Her preferred mode of operation was to point herself in a particular direction and then charge off at high-speed until she hit something.

To me she always seemed surprised by the inevitable collision. And annoyed. She would try to bite whatever she had collided with as if she was blaming the wall or the lounge chair or my foot for getting in her way.

Adult wombats are big, powerful, determined and generally slow-moving. Their high-speed defensive charge probably works very well in their normal habitats which have fewer walls and chairs. I was left wondering if that with less to collide with the average wombat didn’t need to develop a lot skill in rapidly taking up information about their surrounding visual environments. Their ability to perceive their surroundings would be fine when they move slowly, but when their speed of movement exceeds their threshold of perception the risk of damage to them and their (apartment) environment increases dramatically.*

Try to image how fast you would be able to move if there was a delay between what is going on in your environment and when you were able to “see” it. Crossing a road would be incredibly dangerous. Lighting a gas BBQ would almost always result in burns. Correcting typos in documents would be infuriatingly slow.

Now think about your organisation? How fast is it trying to move? How quickly can it “see” changes in the environment as it moves? If you are finding that your team is running into walls that appear out of nowhere perhaps your speed of movement exceeds your threshold of perception? Instead of getting annoyed at the wall (or enduring self-imposed organisational paralysis out of fear of moving at all) perhaps you might like to consider some different responses:

  1. Slow down and pay more attention –  Paradoxically slowing down can improve your skill by initially making things harder for you. Think about riding a bike – it is only the highly skilled riders that have learned to ride very slowly or stand dynamically still.
  2. Introduce new ways of perceiving - Are there new ways of seeing the space you are operating in? Think about different mechanisms and measures that might be available to you to help detect rates of change in information. And remember that anything you think is static is just a special case where the rate of change is below your threshold of perception.
  3. Speed up your perception of your environment by reducing the waste in your processes - If you can remove the delays you can move faster and more effectively. Are there steps in your processes that no longer make sense because the external environment has changed? Were they developed for a business structure that no longer exists so there are gaps that slow the transfer of information?
  4. Change your environment - This wasn’t an option for our young wombat but you might want to consider if your way of being evolved to support you living in the bush might not be suitable now you are now living in an inner city apartment. Perhaps you need to make a move to get back to your earth moving roots?
  5. Accept that walls will appear - If you are hell-bent on going somewhere fast perhaps you need to develop features that will help you survive the inevitable collisions. Our young wombat had an impressively armoured skull (and pretty fearsome teeth) that mean she was not damaged by many things that she collided with. If you are thinking of adopting this approach just be mindful that there is always a risk of waking up an orphan.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

* If you want to get some real facts about wombats from people who know about them you might want to try sites like Wombania instead of relying on my musings based on a couple of days spent looking after one many, many years ago!

women need to practice leading before we can expect them to lead

July 18, 2014

“Do the thing and you will have the power.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here is what I am thinking.

Women need to practise leading before we can expect them to lead. Men should practise leading before they can expect to lead.

Let me tell you why.

Research has shown that when considering a position description for a new role, women generally feel that before they can consider applying they need to know they have a demonstrated capability to meet almost 100% of the competencies of the role. Men on the other hand will apply if they believe they can meet around 60% of the competencies. From my (male) perspective that sounds about right but it goes further. If I looked at a position description and I knew I could already do 100% of the role I wouldn’t consider applying! I would see no opportunity for development and growth within the role.

Conversations I have had recently with people in senior roles support the research findings and the implications of that orientation are at the heart of why I think women are underrepresented in senior/ leadership roles.

Let’s start by accepting the hypothesis that women tend not to put themselves forward for roles that require capabilities that they feel they have not fully developed.  It would follow then that they would not get the opportunity to practise and develop those capabilities … which would mean others (usually men) would advance ahead of them, reinforcing an internal perception that they are not yet ready to take on those sort of roles. It is easy then to see how the cycle would continue. A self-deprecating spiral that sees organisations deprived of a significant amount of leadership talent.

To me the hypothesis holds and the consequences that follow are visible.

Many women, it seems, need the opportunity to practice before they feel they are capable of doing it for real. To address the imbalances in gender in senior leadership roles that means we need to provide opportunities for women to practise before we can expect them to step up and lead.

If those opportunities are not available we are setting them up for failure, asking them to ‘lean-in’ to something they fear they are unable to do. Throwing anybody in at the deep end of a pool and expecting them to swim when they have no chance to practise swimming is setting them up to drown – especially if they doubt their ability. Some do end up swimming but many end up fearing the water.

Many men, it seems, take a different approach. They walk around watching others in the pool while telling you how fast they will be able to swim if they get the new role. They dive in and thrash about and (just) manage to keep their head above water. Their technique is terrible and they spend a lot of time and organisational energy while they are learning how to do it better all the while setting a bad example for those who might be walking around the pool ready to follow them.

I believe neither approach delivers the leadership we need.

Thinking about the challenge of leadership in this way makes a solution clear:  Provide opportunities for meaningful practice for everyone before they dive in to a leadership role.

That is easier said than done in the leadership space so here are the four key attributes of leadership programs that you need to look for:

1. Ensure the target capability is actually being practised – I have to actually do it. As Emerson said, do the thing and you will have the power. Reading about how to do it isn’t the same. Reading about how other have done it isn’t the same. Discussing how others have succeeded or failed – not good enough. Watching a replay of the olympic final is very different to swimming it (or for that matter earning the right to swim it).
2. Ego involvement – I need to have skin in the game. If my ego is not involved then I am not going to learn and I am not going to engage. Delivering a presentation to a mirror is not the same as delivering it to the board. Swimming laps against the clock in your pool at home is not the same as racing others in front of a screaming crowd. Your leadership program needs to provide an opportunity to do it with and in front of others so that ego is involved.
3. Failure is mandatory – the program must create opportunities that provide safe ways for me to fail. If you do not fail you cannot learn and you will not grow as a leader. Any program that guarantees success will fail.
4. Real consequences but no damage – I must feel the pain. This is the part most development programs miss. If a two-hour session to discuss case studies is scheduled as part of a development program the main consequences are associated with my showing up or not to discuss them. If my attendance at the pool is all that is needed that will not drive me to develop the skills I need to swim well. But it has to be safe for me and for others in my organisation.

The best programs will create opportunities that do all four simultaneously. Allows participants to practise the target capability, in a way that they care about and that engages and involves their ego, with consequences attached to their failures that are real but result in no real world damage.

If you can do that then you can expect leaders of all genders will lead and lead well.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

apologising for who I am not

June 18, 2014

I want to apologise for the photo. That is not how I usually look.

I have had a beard barchie_photoefore – but I was much younger then and it seemed an appropriately unapologetic way to announce that I had just returned from hitch-hiking around southern Africa. Today I have a beard and I find myself fighting the urge to apologise to everyone.

I also have the longest hair I have ever had. Ever. Never before have I had hair this long. I have curls! I have never had curls.

I have grown my beard and my hair so that I can portray someone else. When I am on stage it feels right. My long hair falls annoyingly across my eyes and it makes him grumpier. But unlike the costume and the makeup, the beard and the long hair stay on me when I leave the theatre. At home I look in the mirror and I am not familiar with the face that looks back at me.

It isn’t my usual face so I feel the urge to apologise for showing it.  I say “It is for a role I am playing…” as I apologise for who I am not.

To baristas. To the people I have worked with for years. To people I Skype with for the first time. Even to other people with beards. (I feel like they take their beards very seriously because they don’t need to grow it like I do. I don’t want them to think I am mocking them … or that I am emulating them. If I was I would be coming late to the trend of wearing a beard – and I don’t like the thought that I am past any peak. That is not part of my identity.)

Don’t judge me for having a beard…” I think that is what I want to say. “Don’t misunderstand my long hair. I am not usually this way.

But I can only be afraid of being judged or misunderstood if I can conceive that who I believe I am is diminished in some way by having a beard and long hair. That I will be judged negatively because I have a beard and long hair.

Precisely the same way I must spend my life judging and misunderstanding others who have beards. I can’t yet put words to how I do that, to exactly how I judge but I will be listening to myself a little closer now. To see who I really am. And maybe that is the fact of it.

The beard isn’t obscuring my face in the mirror – it is holding a mirror to my real face. It is a looking glass that is helping me to see how I see. How distorted and prejudiced my view of the world can be. Rather than showing me who I am not, it is showing me glimpses of who I really am.

Which provokes further uncomfortable questions. What if instead of a beard it was a scar? Instead of long hair it was no teeth? Or psoriasis?  Or tattoos? Or no arms? Or breasts? Or all of them or none of them? How distorted and prejudiced can my view of the world we share be? That might be what I need to apologise for…

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

the next sixty feet

June 10, 2014

Winter road by Scoo, creative commons licensed.Even though we are driving at night and can only see the next sixty feet, we live our lives as though we know what the next sixty miles are going to be like.

In this life sixty feet is all you really get to see. If you think you can see more than that you are deceiving yourself.  Talking to anyone who says they can predict the future based on the past is like talking to a turkey in the week before Thanksgiving.

Only being able to see sixty feet ahead is OK though. You can drive from LA all the way to New York at night, only being able to see the next sixty feet in the headlights. You don’t need to see any more than that. Right?

And they say while you can never be sure what is beyond the edge of the lights you can get just about anywhere if you are able to stay present and deal with whatever it is that you can see.

It is something I am experiencing groundhog day style on stage at the moment. Four times a week I have hours when I have no idea what is beyond the words I am listening to and when I have no idea what to say next or what I will say next. Being in front of an audience of a couple of hundred people can make it more than just a little frightening. But when a signpost comes into view I know that this is the point where it is my role to take us down the left turn to explore a side road for a while.

And I do (mostly).

Where I can get us into trouble is if I am worried about what is beyond the lights. Thinking too far ahead about that bit at the end of the scene that didn’t go quite right the last time or why that little old lady sitting out there beyond the lights can’t open her mints just a little more quietly… and then we blow straight by the signpost and the left hand turn and we have to take all manner of back streets and u-turns and sometimes travel over the same section of road again to get us where we need to be.

And as life imitates art, my real life is feeling a bit like that at the moment as well. In these uncertain times I know I am not the only one feeling this way. I am fighting the urge to worry about what is going to happen too far ahead, to plan for what might be out of view and to obsessively look in the rear view mirror at what I might have done wrong or right yesterday.

I keep telling myself – all you can do is just keep driving, be present and deal as best you can with the stuff you can see coming in the next sixty feet.

Some days it does the trick. Other days it is not enough.

So what I want to know is how are you dealing with the uncertainty of life at the moment? Got any tips that might help the rest of us who are white-knuckled on the steering wheel and out on the road with you?

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

what if money was no object?

June 3, 2014

You have heard the question many times before but do you have an answer? What would you be doing if money was no object? If you could do what ever you wanted to do? Sometimes the question is asked during deep conversations after your third or fourth coffee. Perhaps though you ask it on days when you would prefer to be doing anything except what you have to do. It wouldn’t have to be the one thing. Anything else would do.

Today is one of those days. I have lost count of the number of mistakes I have made. The number of times that I have missed the mark, forgotten where I was, said or done the wrong thing or just drawn a big fat blank. It is frustrating and I will admit there have been times when I have wanted to give up. Days when I have heard myself thinking about reasons why going on with it is a stupid idea, why (given, of course, the mistakes and poor decisions made by others) it makes sense to stop.

Mornings when I haven’t wanted to get out of bed because I knew I had to do it again and evenings when I wanted to get back into bed because, well, because I knew I had to go and do it again and again. As the deadline looms it seems to magnify every mistake I make, every time I don’t get it right, every time someone else doesn’t do what they are supposed to do.

Weeks and weeks of feeling like that can get you down.

And it has. I found myself thinking it would all be better if only I was doing that one thing. Then life would be easier, less frustrating, less hectic and less exhausting.

Until I remembered that I am feeling that way because I am doing the one thing. That thing I would do if money was no object. I am rehearsing for a touring theatrical production and it is all of those things.

I think many people live their lives believing that if they could just be doing that one thing that life would be easier, less frustrating, less hectic and less exhausting. Many are surprised to discover that it can in fact be the opposite. It can be harder, more frustrating, more hectic, more exhausting … and they lose sight of the fact that despite all that (perhaps because of it?) life is better.

I think it was M. Scott Peck who said that leading an examined life is much, much harder than living a life of ignorance, but having opened the door you would never go back. I think it is also true of doing that one thing. It is harder … and you would never go back to not doing it.

I think that is how you can tell what your one thing is.

You see, I think we misinterpret the question. It’s not about what you would do if you had all the money in the world. It is about asking yourself what you do when that thing burns inside you so brightly that having money or not having money is no reason to object. It is the one thing you do despite the frustration and the exhaustion AND your life is better because you do it.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

fifteen seconds of fame

May 27, 2014

Apparently we all want it. Fifteen seconds of fame. I reckon I am almost there.

Things have been crazy these last few weeks and as you are reading this I hope to have survived the opening weekend of the play I am currently rehearsing. I want to share more about the value of rehearsal in the coming weeks but for now I wanted to share the highlight of my week.

A month or two back I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with the The Amity Affliction filming their latest video “Don’t Lean on Me” which has just been released. It may not be the type of music you usually listen to and if you are at work you might want to make sure you have the volume down before you watch the clip below (strong language warning), but if you watch through to about 2:20 you will see yours truly. I can honestly say the smile was genuine. The guys in the band are great and the team from filmSmith who shot and produced it were amazing as were the rest of my “family”. Enjoy. I did.

 

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

are you showing enough interest in your relationships?

May 20, 2014

Do you have a relationship that is less than you want it to be and you would like it to be more? Was it once what you wanted? Can you put your finger on what has changed?

There is one thing that underpins every relationship in our life.

Just one thing that we need. One thing that is one directional but that must occur on two levels because without that one thing there are no relationships. It is something you have to do.

For everyone but the narcissist one level is not enough. In every relationship there must be two. Pushing or pulling it in the other direction will only hinder not help.

You and I don’t have a relationship. For now anyway.  You give me the one thing but, for now, on just one level.

(Don’t worry, I am ok with that. I want you to know that I will continue to leave the door open in the hope that one day we will because one day you will. I want to be in a relationship. We both do.)

There is a script* that forms the basis for every relationship. It is simple.  Just two steps between strangers and friends. You will forgive me if I put them to you from my perspective of our relationship. I will stand to one side while you extend them into your own life, your own relationships.

(Have you ever thought about that phrase – the relationships that you own? You may be in relationship with someone, you may well share a relationship – but you hold the power and so every relationship you are in is one that you own.)

That is never as clear as when you consider our not-quite relationship. The one that you own. But why do you own it? What is it that gives you the power over me?

Step 1.   I need you to be interested in me.

We have this much you and I. You are reading my words. Demonstrating your interest in me through the investment of a piece of your time, of your life, into reading my words. You are, to that extent, interested in me (or perhaps only in my mind) but as we stand together on that first step I am happy.

But not so fast. Relationships are never easy and the next step may need you to think a little. I hope you find it challenging because I would hate to waste your time by making this relationship thing all too easy…

Step 2:   I need you to be interested in me being interested in you.

And that is where our not-quite relationship ends. Every day my contact me page sits idly twiddling its virtual thumbs waiting for you to reach out, to show that you are interested in me being interested in you and your work. Until then we have no relationship and I am left standing on the first step. When you do, we can take that next step. We could have a relationship.

You will see in these two simple steps the basis of everything from the deepest relationships to unrequited love. In the latter, she shows interest in him (perhaps for something he can offer) but she has no interest in him being interested in her (perhaps because she has a partner or has no desire for one). He has been put firmly in the “friend zone” and will languish there. They have the one thing but it is only on one level, and (as I am sure you already know from bitter or perhaps bitter-sweet experience) him pushing or pulling it in the other direction will only hinder not help.

You must climb these two steps for a relationship to start and you must stand on the top step together for it to continue. If just one takes a single step down the relationship is all but over. Even a step sideways can signal the end because if you are more interested in another than you are in me (or if you are more interested in another being interested in you than me (stay with me, I said it would require you to think!)) then we are not that interesting anymore.

You know that feeling. That some thing has been lost. We all do. At one time we all have lost the one thing.

A new job. A new hobby. A sporting interest rekindled. A new friend. It may be a new relationship with paint or with clay or with fabric or with wood or with steel. The interest goes elsewhere and we feel its absence. It may even be a fascination with the other that was conceived out of the depth of your mutual interest. Many a father has suspected over the months that it would come and then comes to know he has slipped from the top step to the bottom step in that wonderful moment when a new life takes its first breath and his old life takes its last. And he wouldn’t change it for the world because he now has a reason to change the world but…

It. Has. Changed. Every thing.

You own your relationships. I own mine. We are in them together.  You must be interested in me and you must be interested in me being interested in you. I must be interested in you and I must be interested in you being interested in me.

Without that we don’t have a thing, we are no thing at all.

So, if you have a relationship that is less than you want it to be and you would like it to be more …  ask yourself :

Am I showing enough interest?

Am I doing enough to show that I am interested in them? Am I doing enough to show that I am interested in them being interested in me?

If you are sure, really sure, that your answers to both questions are yes and you are sure, absolutely sure, there is nothing more you could do … give them this post to read and tell them you are interested. Interested in hearing how they think you are doing.

Now that would be something.

***

* If you want to know more see  Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self  by Donald L. Nathanson; or the original source by Silvan Tomkins Affect Imagery Consciousness  ( http://www.tomkins.org/ )

If you would like me to take our relationship to the next level and would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you are interested in reading more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process. Your interest will make me smile.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! Show them you are interested in them. I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

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