There is not a human being in the world who cannot talk. We learn to talk when we are about two. If we are so good at it then why do we get into so much trouble just by talking? If you have trouble with your reports and/or team members then you know what I mean. You have the best of intentions yet things go awry that you did not foresee - why?
If you are like most of us when folks don't seem to get it - the usual response is to say the same thing louder and more often or in new and clever ways (maybe tinged with a bit of sarcasm). Still they don't 'get it.' YOU know you are right! YOU know how it should get done - why is it so hard to make them understand?
If all of this sounds very familiar then I'd invite you to my free webinar: Team Communication for High Productivity being held onMarch 21 at 10 am DPST.
The new field of brain science has some very important information for us as leaders. If you spend most of your day talking to people and yet are frustrated by the results come join me as we explore how we get ourselves into trouble and how we can get out of it. We create worlds with our words so with the help of a better understanding of brain chemistry and neurobiology we can now begin to create a world we actually want to inhabit
Join me for this FREE webinar and discover how YOU can improve your teams performance..
Are you getting depressed by the world? Is the state of our politics driving to to hide or fight everything? Do you really believe that the 'end is nigh"? then I'd suggest that you take another look at what's REALLY happening in the world.
To do this you have to get outside of yo box and READ different things. I'd start with books. Hunter Lovins - a person I've followed for decades, has a new book, A Finer Future. You can hear her on a podcast interview done by Y on Earth here. To dramatically change your understanding of 'how the world works' try Donut Economics by Kate Raworth.
The angst we are feeling is because what we thought we knew is proving untrustworthy. Things are NOT going as 'planned' or as we think they 'should'. Why? Because the world has changed - it had to because it wasn't working . We have made these changes as we expanded our capacity to use nature's resources, as we learned from each other at a pace that never been seen before via the internet, and as we became interconnected globally through trade on a scale that is also unprecedented. We need to go with the flow or we will be left behind!
It's one thing to have the technology - we have the technology to make the needed changes, it's quite another to get people to actually change! I can't help everybody, but I CAN help you! We can work together to rethink how we see ourselves, work with other others, and organize our businesses. I can help YOU do all of these. Change isn't easy, but it's not as hard as you think, either.
Nothing happens if we don't talk to each other. We talk all the time. We haven't known before is how very powerful conversations can be - conversations can change your DNA. The FOX2 gene, the gene that enables us to connect with our world, is impacted by our experience. It can 'remember' if we felt fear or if we were excited and creative. These experiences can be created through conversations.
Key to building trust is Transparency. If you most often function with a 'need to know' attitude then you are creating an opaque environment for many around you. If you often put a 'good face' on things so you don't rock the boat, you are creating a cloudy environment for those who work with you. The truth is people DO know when things have an emotional charge, but they may not always read those signals correctly. By asking, "How do you feel about this?" folks are trying to clarify the signals they are getting. We are conditioned and even expected to cover up those moments so others won't feel uncomfortable and we are spared from revealing our truth.
The common response to these types of situations is the complicit, "Great, just checking." as we enable each other to hide reality. The trouble with this is that, while it smoothes things over and we can get on with it, it also creates a climate of distrust because we all know something is being hidden, we just are not sure of what that might be. Not knowing creates distrust.
When we experience distrust our brain is flooded with higher levels of cortisol, which closes down our brain and our willingness to be in relationship with others. We feel we have to protect ourself by playing small, hiding in the background, and keeping our views and ideas to ourself. When we make others feel excluded, judged, or criticized we stimulate the release of cortisol in the brains of the people we are talking to. This changes their focus from tasks and problem solving to self protection. It can make it hard for people to even remember what was said, as they were preoccupied with self protective thoughts.
The good news is that is very possible to shift these kinds of conversations to ones that do just the opposite. Conversations that enable us to work as partners by stimulating the release of oxytocin which creates higher levels of bonding and mutual success. Appreciation, inclusion (transparency), and empathy all bring out the best in us. Working to create increased skill levels of Conversational Intelligence® is one very good way of improving your results.
..We talk a lot about leadership and we have created many different names or styles of leadership: servant leadership, spiritual leadership, transformational leadership, kinetic leadership, situational leadership, and transactional leadership it name just a few. Then we get into styles: charismatic, authoritarian, democratic, coercive, coaching to name just a few. Confused?
As a leader you are someone who has people reporting to you or you are leading or creating a company or you are creating a change through an organization or group. You have a vision and are working with others to make something happen. Even as a CEO with a stable paying position where you might feel you have the time and resources to delve into finding out what kind of leader you are and what kind of leader might work better in your situation, it can feel a bit like extra work and a deviation from your 'real' tasks - figuring out all this leadership stuff.
I've worked to make it simple for the folks I work with. What is the impact you want to have and then how do yo get there? It doesn't really matter what the form or style is called, what really matters is are yo getting the results, the actions from others, that you need to see? If not then maybe it's as simple as reflecting on the language you use.
We communicate in words, with the assumption that the words we use are understood in the same way by everyone. We know that's really not true. Add in tone of voice and everyone's history and family baggage brings in additional meanings that you have not even considered. The words we use make a huge difference! Fortunately, what we are learning about how our brains work through chemistry and neural networks, is easily translated into a more precise understanding of how people are impacted by words.
Our brains are hardwired in certain ways. When we feel the need to protect our selves, or when we feel distrust, our Amygdala is activated by the chemical cortisol. In this state we are only paying attention to the words that help us deal with the fight or flight responses we feel we need to use to be safe. Visioning doesn't cut it, but rewards or penalty's are relevant.
On the other hand, if we trust the situation and those around us then our Prefrontal Cortex is activated by the chemical oxytocin and suddenly information that was hidden or seen as irrelevant in the protection mode becomes available and we become innovative and willing to co-create. It is the words that we choose to use that enables us to 'up regulate' or 'down regulate' our brain chemistry.
So, think about the words and tone of voice you use. Are you stimulating a felt need for self protection or generating trust and innovation? The choice is yours...
Look at the image above very carefully. A lot is at stake in this election. America will rise again or sink based on the results of the next election. It will be years - maybe decades before we will have this kind of chance to make a difference. Nation-wide 87% of all government seats will be decided.
Being passive as Nazi beliefs, language, and attitudes become normalized is NOT an option. Watching as our health, safety and the longevity of our planet are compromised, is NOT an option. The moral decay of the Republican party has been shocking to see, and yes the Democratic party has problems too, but at nowhere near this level. Changing the guard NOW will give us time to make corrections all around. NOT doing so will limit or eliminate any chance of recovery.
A 'booming' economy is not what it seems. Are YOU any better off? The income disparity will implode and take everything down with it if it is not addressed. Money is flowing - to the top, so the benefits will be short lived and the consequences severe.
Vote - and make a difference!
Fear is old school, but you wouldn't know it the way its being thrown around today. The reality is fear is a tool used by uncreative folks who are fearful themselves. They use fear as:
Fear is a form of control as the need for safety limits creativity and experimentation. thus severely limiting the number of possibilities seemingly available. This ties in nicely with the next use - manipulation. When the range of options narrows it is easy to make suggestions that will be easily and quickly accepted, thus ensuring a desired outcome.
Generating fear in others means that people are too focused on their own safety to really see the limitations and weakness in those creating the fear. When people are afraid of you they are less likely to actually see who you are and only see the projected image that creates the fear. It is the old illusionists trick of creating a distraction so that you don't see what the other hand is doing. And so we come full circle.
Fear is old school because it never goes forward, but strives to take things backward into old patterns and old experiences. New requires the freedom to experiment and explore and yes, even fail. Innovation, growth and discovery require too much energy to be distracted by fear. Fear only results in old habits and old patterns, fear is not able to create.
What's Changed, for Me, In This vision
John and I are old friends, and as such we think in similar ways. When I first listened to his new video I was in complete agreement. Then I got to thinking.
Leadership is all of things he says it is. That said these are new and different times. One of my lessons in the past year has been an increased sensitivity to the pain almost half of our Nation feels that had been invisible before. Part of that pain has been fed by this wonderful vision that both of us share.
For some that vision has been received as an Earth quake. Something that has shaken the ground under them, something that makes them afraid. They see life as they knew it disappearing. they see things they believed being disparage by others. They have felt ashamed for being who they are.
It is for these reasons that I have come to believe that leadership is not just about vision, but about the ability to heal and nurture as well. Leadership is not just about the future, but also about the ability to look back, to slow down and to work to bring others along instead of just expecting everyone to follow along.
I see leadership as being able to translate that future vision into language that feeds the hear and now. Leadership, in these times, requires the skill of connecting the past and present to the future. Instead of 'breaking' with the past, the past needs to be intimately connected to the future. The language that expresses the new vision has to respect the past while clarifying its limitations in ways that do not disparage or denigrate, but explain the limiting implications without blame.
Blame is not the same as responsibility and taking responsibility is not accepting blame. Responsibility is responding with ability to shift and change in productive and healthy ways. If we can get past right and wrong and speak instead of healthy and thriving, whole new options become apparent. What is 'good' is what contributes to health. Thriving is different from growth, but it contains the learning that makes health possible. Making people feel bad does not contribute to health unless there is the support and respect that leads to healing.
Leadership has to evolve to address the needs of the times. We need a North Star, but we also need to care enough for each other that we don't make the journey alone.
Well - this past few months has surely provided a window into issues we didn't even know we had as a nation! Half the country favors an authoritarian style of leadership that isn't a great fit for democracy and more than half want change.
As a lover of change with some expertise in organizational change I can tell you that I've been fighting the false understanding of change (rearranging the chairs on the Titanic) for over 20 years. Doing different things differently - while more effective, is rarely the first choice.
We want change, but we want a change we are comfortable with. We want OTHERS to change - we are fine! We want things to change but we don't want to experience any discomfort. If you don't believe this - let's try a little experiment. You are going to have to DO this. Please cross your arms. I'm waiting....... Now cross them the other way. How does that feel? Did you find you had to think about what you were doing the second time? How long did you keep them crossed the second time? See?
I recently read an article written by a women who had spent many years in Appalachia working with the people there. She said some interesting things. One thing she said was that so many of the people there had had a hard time most of their life. They had never experienced any real success. They constantly tried to make things better, but with small success. The consequences of that consistent experiences were feelings of low self-worth (no one cared), and a disillusion that improvement was really possible.
If we apply that to the recent elections, could the same kind of situation and consequently world view apply? Many people who used to be 'middle class' have seen their jobs and career opportunities disappear. In many families both husband and wife work so time together, time with the kids is almost non-existent. In some families people work two or even three jobs and still they can't make ends meet. These are people who are trying, but still can't seem to create the kind of improvement they desire.
Maybe these people want change. Rearranging the deck chairs is just fine - after all success has eluded them, so why should this attempt be different? Wanting 'change' this much and not really believing in it at the same time might, just might, prompt people to take a risk - to place their bet on an unlikely source - just to see what might happen. Surprise.... Trump!
So now we are here. The real question, and the potential silver lining, is what do we do now? Things WILL be different, and even uncomfortable for some time. What will be our response to the anger, frustration and fear? Our response will determine our future. When things are destroyed there is an opportunity to rebuild. What will we reclaim? What will we create new?
This is a beautiful and scary video of what a year in the life of the planet looks like as the trees breath and inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Each leaf on every tree has millions and millions of 'lungs' that make this cleansing possible. Trees need CO2, but they are getting more than even they can use.
As they loose their leaves in the fall the CO2 in the air remains and builds up. You can see this happening in the video. Is planting more trees the answer? Here in Spokane we lost 2,000 trees to the wind storm in November 2015. The city is planning to plant 10,000 trees each year. i'm sure there are other cities in North America that are doing the same or a similar thing. is it enough?
I think that planting trees is a bit like dieting. When I work to lose weight I know that if I exercise I can eat more food and still stay within my caloric range. When we plant tress does that make us feel that we can keep on producing CO2 because the trees will mean it out of the air? Do planting trees ease our conscience and helps justify our resistance to change?
If you love the Earth - then commit to changing your life so that your life style produces less carbon. support organizations that work to change agriculture in ways that help increase the ability of the soil to absorb carbon. soil is one of THE best ways to cleanse the air of carbon. doing so also increases the health and fertility of the soil, so it's win-win. Take action, be conscious, be a leader!
We are in a situation where those who are paying attention are terrified and those who are not are resistant to change and even in denial about what the future holds. As humans it is very hard to see something that is not within your experience. That is why they say, “You can only teach what people already know.” That does not mean that what cannot be seen is not real, only that the framework for seeing and understanding the new and extraordinary has not yet been built.
When a young child is found wandering in the street, we yank it out of the street, we don’t engage on a program to teach it about cars and the effect of an impact. You can’t do this with adults, especially adults who think: they already know what they need to know; that they are right; that they are too embarrassed to admit that they don’t know. Add to that the timetable for change that the planet has versus the timetable it takes to educate learning phobic adults, and you have some understanding of the issues we face.
I’m part of the ‘yes we can’ crowd and I’ve spent years learning the subtleties of natural systems, so I have some grasp on the crisis we are facing, enough to be very daunted by the task at hand. I vacillate between committed enthusiasm and dejected despair. The task of rebalancing the planets natural systems so that we can return to the regular and comfortable environment we have lived in for the past 65,000 years, appears to be impossible now. It still appears that we may have the ability to slow down the shift and re-balance those systems at a slightly higher temperature range than we have experienced in the past. This is a hope and desire, I’m not sure exactly how real it is, but assuming that we can do that, the implications for the rest of the life on this planet is not at all clear.
Most life forms (us included) live within a fairly narrow temperature range. We are already seeing the migration of birds and animals and in a few cases plants toward the cooler regions of the globe. There are now robins in the arctic. The Eskimos do not have a name for the bird. We may be looking at a decimation of life at the equator as life pushes toward the polar-regions. The impacts on farming and our ability to produce enough food are at particular risk. What to do?
As Dylan Thomas said, I do not expect to ‘go gently into that good night’ but to rage, rage on. It is to that end that I write this book.
Systems thinking is the ability to see patterns, the dynamics formed by the interaction of wholes with each other. We are trained to see only parts and pieces of things. We see ourselves as separate and distinct objects with little or no connection to anything else. Yet we claim to be ‘all one’ and we claim to be a part of a species (humanity) that appear to have some similarities between all of the various objects we call human. We float in and out of wholes and parts when we think about people, or the environment, but for the most part it is pieces we pay attention to. This is very misleading. Because we do not see connections, dynamics or patterns, we are often surprised by our experiences. There is no place where that is truer than in the realm of ethics and values.
What I see most needed at this time in our existence is a love of Life. We are so caught up in fear, or in trying to ‘get it right’ or in ‘success’ that we have forgotten the why. Why are we here? Why do we even care about anything? It seems to me that everything is screaming for love. Everything is seeking love, but we are looking in all the wrong places.
When I look at how we have managed to understand ethics and morality, most of our approaches have been anchored in fear. Fear of others, fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of punishment, fear of appearing silly or unimportant or…. You cannot be in fear and still love Life. In fear you rationalize behavior under the pretext of becoming ‘safe.’ Love is letting go of fear. Christ very famously said, “You can’t serve two masters” and that is true. We cannot serve the ‘master’ of fear and still serve the ‘master’ of love. The only ethic that serves love of Life is the same ethic that nature uses to develop more and more complex life. It is an ethic that makes more important the relationships between life forms, than the life of the individual life forms themselves. The health of the whole is more important than any small part or piece. It is through the health of the whole that the pieces and parts find their health and well-being.
Seeing values as systems is an unusual approach to ethics. This piece is the introduction to my new book, the Evolution of Values. If exploring ethics and values form this fresh and provocative pain of view interests you, then join me. If you would like to help me write by offering feedback as I write, then join me. If you are interested in reading this book as it takes shape and form, being among the very first to engage with these ideas, then join me! Sign up here and let's get started!
Kathryn Alexander, MA: futurist, speaker, author CIQ coach, her systems thinking approach to values and ethics enables deep change by impactful leaders.