Skip to content

the pain of change is the first arrow, the suffering is our own creation

August 31, 2015

Why does change in organisations cause so much unnecessary suffering? We accept that some short-term pain may be a consequence of change but who signs up for the suffering?

Listening to a lecture by Tara Brach recently I was struck by how apt the Buddhist metaphor for suffering is for organisations and how the people in them respond to change.

Arrow

The concept is one of two arrows. The first arrow is the one that pierces our flesh and causes us pain. In a way, that is how it should be. Pain is a report to our brain that some damage has been done to the integrity of the organism and the nature of that report is often specific to the type of damage being done. A burn is experienced differently to a cut and a fracture differently to a muscle strain.

All organisations and teams have mechanisms for sensing pain when some damage has been done to the integrity of the organism. KPI’s, budgets, incident reporting, customer feedback and staff turnover are all reports on the state of the organism. While they can be sources of pleasure they are often sources of pain.

In the body, a report of pain to our brain is meant to prompt some form of response. As best it can, it draws our attention to site from which the pain originates so that we can take action to prevent further damage or applying measures to allow our body to begin to heal the damage – a bandage, a split or maybe a change in behaviour.

So too in the organisation, missed KPI’s, budget blowouts, complaints and high staff turnover are reports meant to prompt some form of response. They draw attention to the aspect of the organisation that is the source of that pain so that action can be taken to prevent further damage. Those actions most often result in organisational change – reductions in spending, safety time-outs, audits, changes in how performance is managed – changes that are intended to prevent further damage and allow the organisation to heal.

The pain of organisational change comes from the first arrow.

All suffering we experience as a result of that change comes from the second arrow. The second arrows are the one we inflict on ourselves and they are entirely of our own creation. The suffering is what we create when we start thinking about the pain, how intense it might get or how long it might last.

“That looks really bad, I don’t think we can survive another quarter with those sort of figures.”

We suffer when we decide we are going to fight the pain rather than see it for what it is.

“Implementing this new performance management system is a complete waste of my time. Didn’t work the last two times, isn’t going to help now.”

To reduce the suffering you experience from organisational change use the pain you are (rightly) feeling as a prompt to take positive action. Don’t ignore the pain – ignoring an arrow in your leg will not make it go away; don’t sit there and wait for someone else to do something about it – they are busy dealing with their own arrows! Take action to prevent further damage, action that starts the healing process.

That doesn’t mean the pain will magically disappear but it will go a long way to reducing your suffering.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and 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!

stake your claim and the growth will follow

August 21, 2015

For some reason I always though that the phrase “stake your claim” had a sense of declaring something that you have already achieved, a way of saying “Take note, this area is mine and this is what I have done.”

But the mineral prospecting origins of the phrase have much more of a, well, prospective sense to them. “This is my space and I think I will be successful working in it.” Sometimes what determined your success or otherwise was how hard you worked in the area you had claimed for yourself. Other times it didn’t matter how hard you worked you were never going to succeed because you had put your stake in the ground in the wrong place and nothing anyone could do was going to make it pay.

Driving down highway 1 in South Australia, through what is arguably some of the best wine country in the world, I saw something that made me think there might be some wisdom in the advice that tells you to do it. It had been dry so most of the paddocks were brown and dusty. One though caught my eye because it was criss-crossed with a grid of green dots – small areas where there was grass and it was green. At the center of each of those dots was a stake – nothing had been planted there other than the stake. A declaration, it seemed to me, that someone intended to grow something there.

And so something was. The simple act of planting the stakes had captured just a little more rain than the surrounding area creating a small circle of green growth in a sea of brown.

A damascus steel blade

My damascus steel knife,  Gardner Knives

I think that is what can happen when you are prepared to take action and you put a stake in the ground and declare that you intend to make something happen. I think of people like Andrew  who recently self-published his second book in the Engibear series because he wanted kids to be able to read books about real engineers. Marcus, who established the well-known [bunker] and John Mills Himself and has a passion for high quality, ethically grown and roasted coffee. And Barry from Gardner Knives, the reason I was in South Australia, who has a passion for hand-made knives and shares that passion with anyone who has ears to listen to the steel.

I have had the privilege of spending time with all three of them. Each has been prepared to stake their claim and each have enjoying growing success that came, in large part I believe, simply because they were prepared to give it a go.

I am guessing you a have a stake lying around somewhere and an area in mind where you would like to plant it. So what are you waiting for? Stake your claim, until you do nothing can grow.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and 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!

words with friends with benefits

August 10, 2015

Comedians are funny people.

They don’t look at the world the way most other people do. They see things that most other people cannot.

They imagine what would happen if …?

What would the bartender say if … two red blood cells walked into the bar? “Sorry, we don’t serve your type here.“?

Same Time Next YearOr what would an app look like if… people were interested in intellectual engagement as well as physical intimacy?  “Words with Friends with Benefits“?

Innovation is a funny business.

It requires us to look at the world in a way that most people do not. To see things that others can not.

It requires us to imagine what would happen if …?

What would a personal computer look like if it used proportional fonts? The Macintosh.

Innovation is often the result of the combination of two previously separate elements. Someone has imagined a different way that might just be a better way of doing things. Like comedians, innovators are often laughed at because they see the world in ways the rest of us cannot. Yet.

The practice of comedy requires you to be agile, to think on your feet and to be open to possibilities. In improvisational theatre one of the cardinal rules is that you cannot decline an  offer from a fellow actor – whatever they say or do you must accept it and build on it. Being that way in the world opens the door to some wonderful possibilities.

The path to Partner in some of the larger Management Consulting  firms includes stand-up comedy and improvisational theatre training. If you are cynical you might say those courses are there to make sure the Partner always has something to say when they are with a client and, if all else fails, can make them laugh and leave them feeling good about the interaction.

Useful skills, but I suspect what they are trying to cultivate is a different way of looking at the world. Opening the mind to new possibilities, to new opportunities to innovate, to things that their competitors cannot see. Yet.

When was the last time you asked what if …?

If you can’t remember, you can be sure that your most successful competitors are asking themselves that question every single day. Or maybe they aren’t. But, what if …?

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and 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!

Hey! What’s your story?

August 7, 2015
Cover of the book Engibear's Bridge

Engibear’s Bridge – Andrew King & Benjamin Johnston

Most children will have a favourite story. Ask their parents what it is and they will tell you because it has quickly become their least favourite story. The one they have had to read over and over and over again. Night after night. day after day.

As kids we love to live and relive that story and we rarely tire of it.

Perhaps it is the certainty it provides in an otherwise uncertain world? We know who the bad guys are, the evil pirate will be eaten by the crocodile, the spell will be broken, the bridge will be built.

Pity the parent who, after countless readings, attempts to change the ending! There will certainly be protests, possibly even tears  – until the world is returned to balance and the story ends the way we expect it to.

As children we knew who was who, we knew what role they would play and we were certain that we knew how it would end.

And while we may grow older and our favourite story may change, many of us continue to live in the stories we tell ourselves about the world.

As adults we know who is who, we know what role they will play and we still cling to the certainty that we know how it will end.

Pity the partner, the employer, the friend or the stranger in the street who attempts to change the ending. We will certainly protest and there may well be tears. We are very happy to live in our stories until life closes that particular book, puts it down and refuses to let us live it again.

Death, betrayal, redundancy or injury can do it. And while it is critical that you do it,  screaming and tears are not going to change this story.  But like all good stories, it is in the darkest hour that opportunity appears. Once you have cried or screamed or run or drunk or slept enough you might find yourself awaking to the possibility that you have the chance to write yourself a new story. One in which you become a fireman or an artist or a parent or a monk.

Just be careful.

If you get caught in a different story you are still caught. Give everyone in your story (including yourself) the opportunity to surprise you, to do the unexpected, to do something wonderful.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from the theatre and 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!

that is the point of the arrow

June 30, 2015

Arrow

There is a moment when it feels like the point of the arrow might pierce your skin, that if you push any harder against it it will break through into the soft hollow at the base of your throat. Instinctively you pull back just a little and you start thinking that you cannot do it.

After all, that is the point of the arrow isn’t it?  To penetrate, to get inside your outer defences, to cause harm?

I have one stuck to the bottom of the screen here on my desk. A broken arrow. Just the shaft and feathers.

There is no point to it. I broke it off one night using only the soft hollow at the base of my throat.

Watching other people succeed in breaking the arrow and listening to their advice on how to approach this particular challenge doesn’t really help. There are even videos showing them doing it, but that doesn’t really show you how to do it.

Because the point of the arrow is there to ensure it gets inside you.

Even before the shiny metal point touches your skin it gets inside your head and starts telling you all that could go wrong. The sensible thing is clearly not to push forward, not to expose the soft parts of you, to avoid damage, to avoid being harmed.

But if you sit with the possibility for a while you start to notice things, things that you didn’t see. The failed attempts that didn’t make it on to YouTube because … well because nobody wants to watch other people not succeeding.

There is no joy in watching someone fail repeatedly. We are conditioned to find no inspiration in seeing the look of fear cross their face as the pressure on their throat increases. (Think about that, no inspiration from people who are prepared to face up to their fears!)

There are always failed attempts. I know because I was there. I saw the fear. Fear that the experience would leave them hurt and bleeding. What they knew, the ones who eventually succeeded, was that if we don’t fail we cannot learn and that failing doesn’t always harm us (though it rarely feels good).

If we don’t step into spaces that scare us we will not grow. And that will do us more harm than good.

That is the point of the arrow.

***

It goes without saying (though I am going to) – don’t try this at home. The experience I described in this post was conducted in a controlled and supervised environment. This post encourages you to use the process only as a metaphor!

That said, 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!

 

knowledge does not equal understanding

May 27, 2015

We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.

Or to put it another way, we get so caught up in the way we have always done things that we lose sight of the fact that we always do things that way.

Confused?

Watch this great video on The Backwards Brain Bicycle to see what it looks like to practice and what it takes to overcome a simple bias. Make sure you watch towards the end when he tries to go back to where he started!

 

***

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!

Push-to-talk or why I can’t hear a word you are saying

March 23, 2015

You know how to communicate. I know you do. You listen. A lot. You choose your words carefully. You acknowledge other points of view and then respectfully offer your own perspective. And then?

Crickets.

Nobody even acknowledges that you have spoken let alone engages with your contribution to the conversation. But why?

A push to talk buttonIn the work I do developing the capacity of virtual teams we use a program that is configured just like a walkie-talkie. You have to push a button when you are talking if you want other people to be able to hear what you say.  With many people on-line it removes a lot of the distractions of background noises. Some participants find it frustrating and some will show up to the initial sessions with the system configured to “voice activated” – which means that whenever they say something their words are transmitted to everyone. They prefer it that way. It is “easier” for them. Others will hold the button down continuously just in case they have something they want to say. It has the opposite effect because the feedback it creates makes it more difficult for anybody to hear anything that is said.

For me there are  clear parallels with personal styles and communication challenges in the workplace. There are some people who believe that every sound they utter should be heard by everyone in the team. And there are times when we all have had the experience of speaking and seemingly not being heard. Communicating effectively can be frustratingly difficult.

I like the concept of push-to-talk functionality. Yes, I forget to push or sometimes I make what I think is a particularly insightful contribution only to realise I have been pushing on the wrong key and nobody heard me. It is frustrating but what it forces you to do is to think before you speak.

Inserting that extra step, the pressing of a particular key, into the process helps you to become more mindful of the fact that you are speaking and, for me, it prompts a consideration of the value of what I am intending to contribute to the conversation. It works both ways because it also makes me aware of the ways we use our voices to communicate that we are listening. Smalls sounds like “mmmm…”, “uh huh” and “yes…” that are a part of everyday conversations must be consciously transmitted. You have to push to talk to show you are listening as well.

As a result I am becoming much better at observing how we communicate, what works and what doesn’t work for myself and for the teams that we are working with.

You can too. You don’t need to buy walkie-talkies for everyone in your team – although I think you would be surprised at what you became aware of if you did. You can start by having a talking stick at your next meeting – you have to be holding the stick to be able to speak. Notice what happens to you when you have the stick (and “they” have to listen) but notice especially what you are feeling when you want the stick but someone else is speaking (and you “should” be listening). If not having the stick creates a mood of frustration it is a clear sign of a team that is intent on speaking and not on listening and that is a team that is not communicating.

Coming to that realisation is the easy part though. What you need to do next as a result of that knowledge can be difficult and challenging but it is critical that you do the work if you want your team to succeed.

***

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!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 483 other followers

%d bloggers like this: