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it hurts when you hurt

February 9, 2015

Crying childClose your eyes for me and imagine you are with a group of people in a confined space – on a plane, a train, a bus or in a doctor’s waiting room.  Feel yourself in that space, feel your body being in that space with those people and know that you are going to be there with them for the next few hours.

Then notice that just across the way is a couple with their baby who, stirring from sleep, starts to cry. Feel yourself in that new space, feel your body being in that space now with that baby. Watch yourself and others as the cry becomes wailing and the couple’s attempts to sooth the baby fail. Can you feel the screaming reverberating around the room as the volume increases?

How does your body feel now?

What about after another hour of being stuck in that space with that incessant crying?

For many people just imagining that situation is enough to create a feeling of distress, frustration or anger. I doubt there is anyone who would argue the real situation does not create real feelings of distress, frustration or anger in a large majority of the people who find themselves there.

And that is not surprising because from the day you were born your survival depended on two things:

1. Your ability to communicate with other people without using words, and
2. Their ability to understand you without needing words.

If that wasn’t the case you would not have made it to your first birthday. If it doesn’t remain the case now you will not make it to your next birthday.

It hurts when you hurt and we hurt when you hurt. We don’t need words to know.

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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 pay it forward!

I know you said you would, but did you?

February 2, 2015

Hypothical multiple choice answers“Welcome aboard. Our highly qualified pilots and cabin crew are here to assist you. We have all correctly answered over 1,000 multiple choice questions that are designed to cover any circumstances that might arise during our flight today. Please fasten your seat belt in the manner indicated in answer C and place your seat backs and tray tables in the position shown in answer B.”

Feeling confident and comfortable in your seat? No. I thought not.

Nobody wants to fly on an airline where the only training for their  crew is to read the manual and correctly answer multiple choice questions on what to do when smoke fills the cabin! You want them to have practiced – in a real cabin full of smoke. You want the pilot to have flown real planes. You want them to have made some mistakes, crashed a couple of simulators and you want them to have had the chance to reflect on those mistakes and learn from them.

So why is it that most organisations are content to let their staff experience ethics or leadership training by discussing what they would do or asking them to provide answers to questions about what they would do?

A big part of what I do centers around the concept of practice. Of doing something rather than just talking about it. Saying you would report a hypothetical team member for a major breach of the Code of Conduct is easy to do. Reporting a friend who you have worked with for many years for a minor breach (but a breach nonetheless) is a very different matter.

The consequences are much, much higher.

That is the problem with the usual sorts of training – there are few consequences beyond those associated with not attending. Once you have shown up it doesn’t much matter what you say:

  • You can say you think you would do the right thing and think that you would.
  • You can say you think you would do the right thing and know that you wouldn’t.
  • You can say you would do the wrong thing and think that you just might. It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because nothing happens when you say what it is you would do. There are only ever consequences when you actually do it.

That is why I am not interested in what you would do. I am only interested in talking about what you did do and what happened as a result of a your particular actions.

  • What were the consequences?
  • How did the presence (or absence) of other people who were witness to your actual choices affect the choices you made?
  • What story did you tell yourself to justify the choices you were making?
  • What did you do when you saw other people making choices different to the choices you were making?

They are the types of questions that arise in the debrief and group reflections that are part of the Samurai Game. Participants have a lived experience of what it is like to try to operate according to a set of values, within a dynamic environment governed by rules with real consequences attached to the choice to follow them or break them. They are able to reflect on the choices they made knowing there are always multiple possible choices but not always a single right answer.

Sound familiar? It is the organisational equivalent of a smoke-filled flight simulator cabin and there is no value to be had in describing it in more words – it needs to be experienced.

If you would like to gain some insight into yourself, to uncover a little about how you show up in the world please join me for our next public Samurai Game offering. You can find all the details of upcoming workshops here. If you would like me to facilitate a workshop a little closer to where you are drop me a line. Just know that I will be flying on an airline where the crew have actually

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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.

sweep first, then sharpen the saw … into a knife.

January 23, 2015

Spending three days with a master knife maker like Barry Gardner is a real privilege though apparently not everyone who visits his workshop sees it that way.

I was more than a little nervous when I arrived on the first morning. Not a keyboard, desk or chair in sight and yet I was to spend three days working? I learnt a great deal during my time there, enough to come away with the clear knowledge that there is a great deal that I do not know. Three days of tuition does not a knife maker make.

And yet I felt at the end of each day that I had accomplished something real. Something I could be proud of. Starting with a piece of an old saw blade (and with a fair chunk of help from Barry) I produced this on the first day:

A handmade carbon steel knife

My carbon steel knife

On the second day, with his patient guidance and gentle encouragement I produced the thing I am perhaps most proud of (mine is on the left):

Forged damascus steel

Forged Damascus steel

On the third day, I walked away with a beautiful and functional knife that, like a new father, I show photos of to anyone who will stand still long enough. The patterns in the blade are a direct result of the way I interacted with the steel on the day before. It shows where I was tense and anxious and where I came to be more relaxed with the forge and the press. I can understand now how a person’s spirit can come to inhabit a blade:

A damascus steel blade

My Damascus steel knife

Along the way I received a lot of help but I have come away feeling like it is something I can do if I practice. Also knowing that traditional blade sharpeners would spend a decade training before they would be allowed to work on a live blade! It has reconnected me with what I think is a basic human need to work with and create with our hands. It has also reconnected me in a visceral way to the concept of mastery. Reconnected me to what it takes to not just be good at what  you do, but to be great at it.

And at the end of every day I swept.

It might sound strange but it was an honour to sweep Barry’s workshop. In the dojo sweeping is an honour reserved for the senior grades – to be given the responsibility of caring for the place in which you practice. And I did care about the space and that showed up in the way that I swept and in the pleasure I found in sweeping.

Old circular saw blades

Blades for blades

I know it will be a long time before I can replicate the quality of that first knife but I am not concerned. I am making preparations to be able to practice making knives here at home.

I can see it being something I will do for a very long time.

I found myself some old saw blades that I will recycle for the steel in my knives. The largest saw is 1 m in diameter so I should have enough to keep me going.

Before I start sharpening that saw into a knife though, I need to sweep.

 

 

 

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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 would like to make a knife with Barry in the beautiful Barossa Valley in South Australia, he has a number of 1 and 2 day courses you can take. Be warned, he is booked out months in advance.

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.

Announcement: Samurai Game, Brisbane, February 22

January 21, 2015

Great_SamuraiI am running a special one-day offering of the Samurai Game in Brisbane on Sunday, February 22.

This is what one participant had to say about their recent experience:

“As a participant in my first ever Samurai Game I can now understand why the world has embraced this experience to take people out of their comfort zones and enable them to explore their own everyday existence, values and morals. I would recommend this to any leadership team or business unit wanting to unlock that extra 1% in their team/organisation in order to achieve greatness. Paul has that unique ability to read his audience and push the right buttons at the right time. Do yourself and team a favour and do this, NOW!!”

                                          -Ken, General Counsel, Business Owner

More details are available in the flyer you can download here.

never fail at anything ever again with this proven strategy

December 30, 2014

Procrastinate. Yep. That’s the winning strategy.

If you never do anything then you can talk yourself into believing that you never actually failed.

Failed to do anything sure. But you never tried something and then failed and that is an important distinction.

That is the space I am in at the moment. It is almost like paralysis. I know there is stuff I can do. I know there are things I should do. There are things that I would like to do. Instead I signed up for a service that tells me everything I need to know about my Twitter followers. Fascinating stuff. It apparently allows me to go after the followers of the people who follow me and to unfollow the people I follow who don’t follow back. It has been especially useful in identifying the guy who followed me today (who led me to the service) and then after I followed him, unfollowed me! Clearly it was time well spent and it justifies not doing the things I should have done.

I mean I haven’t exactly done nothing all day. I also changed the format of the widgets down the right hand side of this blog. Updated the messages that go to new subscribers as well. Changed the menu options and re-jigged the pages to add some new content and links. You noticed right…

But all that activity falls into the category of stuff that I know I can do. Easily.

None of it fell into the category of stuff that I should have done today, the stuff that I had planned to do.

I know why. It isn’t easy. I am doubting that I can do it well and I don’t like to think of myself as a failure.

So I don’t. I don’t do it and then I can’t fail at it.

Empty TrashAnd I seem to do that more than I want to admit (not a surprise I suppose if you think about it). I have done a bit of cleaning up lately and finding a large number of things I have started. Not finished. Prototyped. Trialled. Completed the proof of concept. Determined as something I could do. And then left to be forgotten.

Not in a “I can’t remember where I left my keys last night…” kind of way but in a deliberate “Delete” & “Secure Empty Trash” kind of way. That is one thing I am good at and I know why.

It hurts less.

The pain of a missed future opportunity is easier to bear than the pain of a future failure so I choose the missed opportunity. Tomkins would describe it as avoidance of anticipatory shame. I anticipate the possibility that failure in the future could be such a large a blow to my ego, my sense of self-worth, that I procrastinate to avoid it ever happening. I find other things to do and eventually something else pops up that is interesting enough to seem to call for a prototype (or easy enough that I know I cannot fail) so that I am able to forget the thing that I am afraid to do. Then all I have to do is deal with the shame around the missed opportun… a blog post! That is what I will do, write a post about procrastination. Missed opportunity deleted and waiting for me to empty the trash in a few days time!

So yes I am aware of the irony surrounding my writing this post. It is something I can do. But it also feels a bit like confessing my sins will help me to find a way to be better at being ok with failure.

I think that will be my resolution for tomorrow. To fail more often. To get practice at trying, at making the journey all the way until it ends. Terrifying.

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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.

Improve the results of your next performance review by 17.3%

December 23, 2014

Researchers at Harvard Business School have shown that transparency produces value. Put another way, seeing your customer clearly results in better service. Customers are not only happier when they can see the people performing the service for them (a 17.3% increase in satisfaction actually) but the people who are performing the work also feel more valued. The increase in satisfaction comes in part because the customer has an increased understanding of the effort involved in producing the work – so much so that in follow on studies customers coming to collect their orders rated the service higher if they had to wait and watch their order being filled than if they simply collected the completed order and left without waiting.

That’s right. They had to wait but they were happier with the service. And the people performing the work were more satisfied and sought more opportunities to improve.

Think about the implications of that in your workplace. How many people in your workplace have clearly defined customers for their work? What sort of contact do you have with the people who provide you with what you need to get your job done?

They seem like questions that should be easy to answer, after all everyone knows who they are doing their work for right? Wrong.

I had a conversation with a business analyst who was busy collecting business requirements for an IT project. He was doing a great job talking with people across the business but when I asked him how he knew when he would be finished all I got was silence. We had just identified there was no customer for his work. Aside from the obvious concerns from a project management point of view, think about his level of motivation coming to work each day and never ever seeing a customer. What motivation was there for him to do better?

There are two simple steps you can take if you want to avoid being that person or having people like that in your organisation. The are the same steps you can take to improve your customer’s satisfaction with your work.

Do you have a list of tasks or to-do list? Is there another list – a list of all the things you need before you can do those other things? At the top of your to-do list cross out “To do” and write “Services I am providing” and then beside each item write down the name of your customer. On the top of the other list write “Things I am a customer for” and beside each of those items write down the name of the person who you think is providing that service.

Then go and create transparency and value by having a conversation with the people on your lists about what they are expecting and what you are expecting and how delivery is progressing.

I guarantee you that your level of service will improve and their level of satisfaction with your work will also improve (maybe not by exactly 17.3% – actual results may vary!). I also think it is a pretty safe bet that at least one of the people you think is providing something you have on your “Things I am a customer for” list doesn’t share your view. You don’t need a Harvard Business School study to tell you that you will not be a happy customer if you are left waiting for service that never comes. And that is not good for anybody’s performance review!

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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.

 

saying no just isn’t easy

December 12, 2014

With a full calendar and hardly a minute to spare many of us are in danger of being overwhelmed by the amount of work we have taken on. We all know that the quickest way to create some space and take a breath is to just say “no”. From William Ury’s best seller “The Power of a Positive No” to the advice of well-meaning friends we are told that we shouldn’t be afraid to say no. But many people are.

Saying no isn’t easy.

Dealing with our emotional response to thought of saying no is one thing, dealing with how other people react to being told no is a completely different thing all together. We want to be seen as being more than just competent. We want to earn the trust of our colleagues and we need to get the work done. So we say yes with the consequences that the important but not urgent works slips further behind, we rush to produce work of a quality below what we are capable of and we fear we will burn out if this continues much longer.

One of the things I have said yes to recently and I am glad I did was the opportunity to spend some time with a group of female leaders and get to the heart of why we often struggle to say no and what action we can take to make it easier.

It was a great session with a lot of nodding going on as I shared the framework provided by Silvan Tomkins to understand and identify our emotional reactions to saying no and being told no. Not surprising as it is truly intuitive. It is the stuff that you didn’t know you knew!

I took the opportunity to capture the content from that session and create a 30 minute on-line, video based program. It was (and still is) very much a learning experience for me but I satisfied with the result. I am currently making the course available for free and I wanted to let you all be some of the first to experience it. Problem is that at the time of writing it has been live for just 48 hours on Udemy.com and there are already 480 students enrolled! My apologies about that, I just didn’t expect it to be so popular.

I would like you to take the course for free as a thank you for supporting my blog just follow this link: Saying no just isn’t easy

I would love you to check out the content and leave me a review. Let me know what you thought was valuable and what you think I could do to improve the course or add new content. And feel free to share the link with your friends. I have plans for many more courses so I am keen to learn as much as I can from this first one.

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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.

 

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