Leadership: An easy silence?

In an earlier post I was considering the difference between Feedback and Criticism.   If you are interested you can read about it here:

feb 2012 feedback-or-criticism

I was reminded of it a week or so back when I was with a few participants on a  short course. We were discussing some aspects of blogging. I am in a phase of very intense learning which I expect is going to last a long time.  A pattern of learn consolidate, learn consolidate, seems to work best for me.  I have to experience and play with what I am learning. I have to TOY with it. I appreciated the feedback I received, it was part of the learn consolidate cycle.

Giving and receiving feedback is essential to learning change and growth, for individuals personal relationships, as well as in teams and organisations.

You tend to find that there is more learning from the consolidation phases than you can easily quantify or imagine.  The feedback is unexpected and more powerful. The learning itself becomes much broader learning, as discernment comes into play. What started out as practising the skill you learned becomes something bigger when you DO IT  in real life. You start to generate different questions than when you were doing something in the simple process of learning it.

If you are curious many of those questions will be internal.  Whilst you learn in isolation you learn to accept silence. As you start to practice what you are learning in context – which means in public –  you start to experience feedback.

This feedback can come in many forms, from how your body feels as you start to change your diet, to how well your clothes fit when you stop exercising. The impact of your actions has an effect.
The effect you have is feedback.

When you change your actions because you have learned something new, there will be a reaction of some sort from the wider system. The same applies in teams and organisations. If you change the way you do something, hopefully it will have an effect, an impact on others, in the way you planned. It is also likely to have an effect in unexpected ways. Feedback will arrive. It might be in conversations to you, it might be with suggestions or complaints.

It also might be silence. Silence is a special sort of feedback and your job as a leader is to be sure what that silence means.

Acceptance: are people thinking “well yes that works, nothing to say, let’s get on with it” ? On the surface this could be a great thing, people are ” aligned” and “professional”. It could be a deep appreciation for the reasons and the context behind the changes and a realisation it is a good thing to do. If you work with a team like that the chances are you have spent time building up that level of awareness. People are getting on with it because they are 80-100 per cent behind it.

Have you spent that time? Are they 80-100 percent behind it?
If the answer to both those questions is an honest yes, the changes you are making have a very good chance of being successful.

My opinion isn’t important / what do I know: If you are working in an environment that requires “intellectual  capital” this is an attitude that MUST be explored. Is it a new inexperienced team member? Is the person losing confidence?  What factors might be at play that has led the person (or people)  you are leading to think their opinion doesn’t matter? How have you demonstrated their role is to think about and comment on what is happening because that is how THEY  and YOU and the ORGANISATION learn?

Apathy: This is evident when people  no longer provide any verbal feedback of any sort, no comments, no questions, no adjustments, no counter suggestions. Has there ever been a time when you did get commentary, questions and observations but it has all stopped?
Chances are the silence  is apathy. Apathy is very limiting. For the people affected it can be soul and career destroying. If you want your changes to have long-term positive impact, apathy is something that has to be investigated in its own right. What are the causes? Take the time to understand how and when the apathy arose. Don’t assume that the silence of apathy will still give your changes a good chance of success, it won’t. Apathy has a close neighbour.

Fear: People can be fearful for all sorts of reasons. Permanent fearlessness is a rare and potentially dangerous attribute. Even the most forthright people have times when fear sets in. Observant, intelligent people  ( the sort you want to lead right?) consider the consequences of their actions in advance. They learn from what has happened in the past too. Both of these qualities are essential for any success to happen. However if fear is the root of the silence and you don’t explore it, failure is likely. There is nothing inherently wrong with fear. This is evolution at work.  The emotion of fear is behind freeze, flight or fight responses. If Fear leads to silence anyone  of those responses could ensue. Silently

Not being able to function well – Frozen.

Not wanting to hang around, leaving early, doing the hours, resignations – Flight

Being angry, unhelpful and presenting obstacles that don’t need to be there – Fight

Silence is at best the result of conversation and deep mutual understanding. Which takes commitment and time and honesty. Only then will  the silence be an easy silence

Taking the time to reflect on the feedback you are getting, particularly if it is silence becomes essential when leading and making change happen. Investigate where the silence comes from before making assumptions.

And if you find you don’t like continued silence, give some of your own, in a generous and helpful way.

Feedback is the life blood of change. Donate

 

What effect does silence have on you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Why your insignificance matters, speak up, act.

This week on hbr.org blogs there is a short post  referencing  a high school commencement speech that went viral in The US a week or so ago. The speaker tells the class that they are not special, in an amusing, wise and still inspirational way.

You can find it here Hbr.org  In it, Sarah Green makes reference to another much older commencement speech I had not read before today. I won’t publish the two links here because they deserve to be read within the context of her “get to work” article.

I had not read or heard of  the older one by John Chapman until I read that blog post this morning. Why would I, I am a Brit and we didn’t do commencement speeches or graduation from school. I just walked out of the door on the day of the last public exam happy in the knowledge I would never have to return there again.

I think we missed a trick, maybe it happens now.

Stirred on by her quoting the final few words I followed the link and read.  Simple, unambiguous.

Speak UP.

 
It is a hard argument to balance.  We learn early that discretion is the better part of valour.  We learn to weigh that up against not being silent when you can see something that is not right.  We wait for others to speak because they know better, are better connected, perhaps are braver ( you think?) . Then there is the exhaustion angle, sometimes if you have been speaking up it becomes tiresome for others and tiring for yourself. What to do then? The classic/biblical when to speak and when to be silent dilemma.

Who are you to question? What is your significance,why should your opinion count?

What does it feel like to remain silent when you should have said something? I bet you can think of occasions looking back when you wished you had found the words, any words, to say something. Say Something.

It doesn’t have to be about a hugely significant thing, though it is easy here to think of Martin Niemöller

and his poem:

First they came for the communists
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

It can be as seemingly insignificant as “please stop making me eggs they make me feel ill”, or “what are you trying to achieve by doing X”.  Chapman is saying question what you are seeing and imploring everyone to do so.

It is the  insignificant things that add up to your life being your own, or someone else’s. He is saying don’t be passive.

Insignificance is underrated, and yet it is the insignificant who in so many ways change the world. Either because they have no caring about who they are and go about things that seem important to them; some view this as humble, others might conclude arrogant. Or because they don’t care what happens to them. The Cause has become bigger than them, more important to them.

Being in nature gives you a sense of insignificance, your place in the universe. At times this is a good measure to decide whether your concerns are proportionate and how to respond. Delve into the dilemma of speaking up or staying silent,  contemplate this whilst emersed in the enormous.

Nature can remind us of our insignificance in other ways too.

Recently I was in a forest on a hill-side. There was a path I had seen but not taken before, previously I’d just enjoyed the serenity the green light gave me. That evening, without my fully understanding why,  I decided I wanted to see how this path went up. It got steeper and steeper and wetter and wetter as a storm suddenly came in.I could hear a new waterfall nearby and realised my moment of enthusiasm was NOTHING in this place of trees, with a torrent of rain coming and a sky full of relentless black clouds indicating more and more.
At that moment I probably had less to help me than the insects that were under leaves just waiting for it to be over.

I did not have that option. I couldn’t wait. I had to get up there because the way back down from there was certain. I knew what the path lead to if I could get there, something solid and wide from which I could descend. Whereas turning back was now impossible to do safely.

My knowing my insignificance against the elements told me, I had to get up there, I had to complete.

To lead one’s life

Have had a guest blog post published.. very excited..

What a lovely way to start the week 🙂

It is about leading your life.

You can find it here

It is the blog for a very  marvellous UK company called ContactPDA which always remembers people are individuals

You can find out more about them  here

Meanwhile in other news, work on a permanent website begins in earnest this week and I shall be delving into the details of CPanel and channelling a former me when I liked doing that stuff.

What did it for you?

This post stems from a conversation had in a coffee break over a year ago now, in the land of the Red Rose. I had the answer then ( for me) but I’ve played with it a bit in my head ( and in reality since)

We’d been talking about Hands and the enormous amount of brain connectivity  that is given over to the hands both for sensory function and motor function, proportionate to other parts of the body..

There is a superb One minute Twelve second video about it here take the time and watch it. You will smile!

Homunculus

Two initial examples cropped up in conversation. Despite the person concerned being highly educated and still having “insatiable curiousity” about the world, and dedicating time to learning new stuff as well as mastery old stuff, despite having  travelled the world, met interesting people and listened to them:

The skill named?  Touch Typing.

Because no matter what job, role or business they were in whether typing up notes, reports, writing marketing materials, searching the  internet, developing thoughts and ideas. Having the skill to touch fingers to the keyboard gave a fluidity of thought.  Practical? Of course.  Much better than that: a freedom of mind because the fingers could move swiftly to recording..without paralysing the thoughts.

For me, it was a different example. I can sort of touch type, I am looking at the screen as I do this not the keyboard and I am relatively fast. I am not in the same league as a touch typist. We discussed how in some colleges this certainly used to be a mandatory skill everyone was taught, and what a great idea. A sort of driving test for the fingers, giving freedom of thought movement.

Discussing this with other writers subsequently there has been an interesting response. Some need pencil and paper to think to get their ideas down. Some can send their thoughts straight to their fingers via the keyboard. Personally if an idea is clear, it will come out whole using a keyboard. If there is still some work to be done on the thoughts, in the end the swiftest way to get there for me, is completely manual. A hunt will ensue for a writing implement and the back of an envelope if no sheets of paper are around.

I’ve blithly summarised what must be an exhaustive set of things that being able to Touch Type has made a  significant difference to. I know because it was not my personal experience that I have massively understated it.

The person I was talking to is a highly visual person.

Initially my thoughts went to literacy. Being able to read early gave me transport into other worlds, and minds. Being able to read means the internet is an infinite playground for me. Literacy is the passport to so many things without which life in the 21st century would be permanently hobbled. Literacy it seemed  wasn’t the right answer for me. It didn’t sound right. But it was close to it.

As a highly auditory person, I listen for HOW things sound. Even when reading it is a sort of combined  auditory and visual experience. Of course typing adds in another sensory experience and one using the hands so a lot of neuro connectivity there.

In the end it became startlingly obvious what it was for me. Learning to read music.

Learning to read music as a child was useful in the moment, because I could start to play music with others because of it. And I LOVED doing that.  But later in life the realisation has come that so many things that feel innate were developed from that time, were given some magic boosts.

Learning to read music gave me:

An understanding of symbology

An understanding of rhythm and tone

An appreciation of harmony and dischord

Because I could read music, I learned a few instruments and sang. Because I did that, I developed more brain hand connections. Because I did that  my music playing ( as  child!) developed. Because my technical skill developed, I learned to play in groups. Because of that I learned to Listen to HOW things sounded. Because I did that I learned to work in a team for something unimaginable and greater than me. Because I learned that I learned about responsibility to the group and to myself. Because I played in wider groups I was exposed to all sorts of different people, through the music and through the people I played with I was exposed to different cultures and different stories. Because I learned that …

List goes on.

What Pivotal thing, what skill was it that you learned early on, that when you look back  you know was the foundation and the stepping stone to things you have done subsequently?

What was it?

And are you actively using and honouring it today?

Comments are enabled so I would love to hear, please chime in.

What did it for you?

Busy Bee needed Honey, read all about it!

Yesterday I was about to put something in a sink when I noticed a large Red Bottomed Bumble Bee at the bottom staggering about. It was clearly in distress and not able to climb up the stainless steel sides.

I offered it the hilt of a knife and the creature managed not to slip off as I placed the  Queen  Bee outside the kitchen window.

A few minutes later as I walked past I noticed the BumbleBee was STILL on the windowsill but right in front of my eyes she rolled onto her back and sagged back

Galvanised by her giving up I selected some Honey ( Lincolnshire Honey as that is where we were) from the cupboard and put some on a teaspoon near her.  She noticed it and found the strength to turn, roll back and flop on her side. Her protruding mouth reached out. After about 10 seconds it was as if she decided to really go for it.

Her stance changed she lent back and appeared to sit on her lovely fluffy round red bottom and planted her two back legs so like a tripod she was held up.

Her antenna pointed down at the Honey.  Her front legs were in the Honey and she stepped into the Honey so that her middle legs also became sticky.  Now she was upright, I eased the honey out of the spoon onto the sill, a sweet juicy feast for her to enjoy.

For the next 10 minutes she took what she needed. She had to spend time, cleaning her sticky legs and at one point this involved her holding down one leg with another leg whilst her tongue came out of her mouth ( I know not the proper names) and scooped up the Honey.  At the same time she waved about her left middle leg in the air to help dry it off

It was the most wonderful and fascinating experience to see a noble creature such as this move from famine to feast. She seized the opportunity to live.

Then refreshed and fortified…..

She took off in her BumbleBee way and flew up and up and up sure and strong over the roof away back to her life and her colony.

 

My phone camera photo does not do  justice to her magnificence but here you are anyway

 

Queen Reb Bottomed Bumble Bee

She drinks honey and revives

 

Do you need some refreshment, some time to refuel. Click here to find out more

https://loafandlearn.wordpress.com/tree-of-life-for-personal-leadership-may-17th-2012/

 

Why Rest days make THE difference to overall performance. Everyone needs refreshment

In 2001 Harvard Business Review published an article called The Making of the Corporate Athlete by Jim Loehr  and Tony Schwartz  ( he of The Energy Project)  which stands the test of time. I still regularly go back to reread it.

Even if you do not subscribe it is about £4 to download, long, detailed and well worth it.

They outlined in the article  a carefully argued comparison between sports professionals and people who work in business. To remain fit to grow, you need to be take care of your whole self, with a focus on your body and specifically with making the time for regular and deliberate rest.

A line that hits home every time is this one:

“By alternating periods of stress with renewal, they learn to align their work with the body’s need for breaks.”

They demonstrate with examples the interaction between the mind and the body to be able to fully engage, to adapt and develop, to grow stronger at what it is you are engaged in.

Fitness means so many different things to different people. Being the right fit for a job, being physically fit, emotionally fit, mentally fit. All of these aspects of Fitness apply to business people. Sure, it is super clear with an athlete and we watch them typically on competition days.

But what about days when they are not competing ( with others) what about when we are not watching, what is it that the top performers do that other performers do not do? And for ourselves, what days are we not competing at least against ourselves?

Rest, reflect, hydrate, take refreshment.  That makes sense doesn’t it?

Think about yourself? You know you  can only keep going as long as there is a will to do so. As long as you have the mind for it. If you never pause for refreshment, take the time to break out, how can you make space for new ideas, remind yourself of what you know, what is important.

Refresh yourself?

In simpler terms an article this time directly from sport talks about rest. The quote that may mean all the difference to you  is this one.

“adaptation takes place during the rest and recovery phase, not during the workout! ”

( you can find the article here )

Still wondering how valid the comparison with an Athlete is? It is used a lot but does it apply really to you?

Competition – sound familiar? Competing for customers? Endurance and maintaining performance through difficult times, like a recession, or training up for a new role?  Coaching a good performance out of your team or those you work with? Collaborating with others, building a team? Being in a team?  Are convinced yet?

And finally Hydration.

When you are dehydrated even adrenalin will stop helping you after a while.

Working hard, focussing, competing, engaging, collaborating, studying, learning, supporting etc etc, it is all very energising for a while but without the time to rest they all take a natural toll on your mind, your body and your spirit.

Refuelling isn’t always enough you also need to refresh too.

Re Fresh – Get Fresh again.

The ability is there but no time out for refreshment will render you unable to deliver, will fundamentally limit your opportunities for adaptation,development, growth and change.

It will sap your joy, personally and professionally.

What are you doing to build in the regular rest and refreshment?

How are you pausing to maintain long term momentum?

Making Time out a strategy for the long term will pay dividends

Interested in ways to build in refreshment  ?

Click here

the deadline for applications is May 14th

8 hours or 16 hours or more to live/love your life

Once upon a  time in the last century  in Britain a sort of agreement was reached between the bosses and the unions who were fighting for the employed.

Go to Work  for 8 hours

Go to Sleep for 8 hours

and then that leaves

8 hours for Yourself

This was the birth of the 40 hour week.

At the time it was a great bargain, fought hard for. Of course some of those eight hours were caught inside the middle of work, with tea breaks and lunch breaks. And even outside of work we still had to find time to eat, prepare clothes for more going to work etc.

Nevertheless the notion was accepted ( mostly) that everyday you had 8 hours for your own stuff.

8 hours for your family, your friends, your hobbies, your dreams?

So what did we do with those 8 hours? What did we get sucked into.. is it productive, is it relaxing, is it when you stop to think about it what you would do, IF you did

THINK ABOUT  IT

More specifically what do YOU do with those 8 hours and do they feel like enough?

Chances are you are working some of them.

Somewhere for many of us the split was never that direct anyway.  Either we went hunting for a job we loved, OR we fell in love with it somewhere along the way. It might have been the tasks we were engaged in, or the team we were part of. It might have been the opportunity to DO stuff, that had always been elusive at school and university and now it was real.. and it was exciting. It was not always easy but there was an enthusiasm.

Eight (ANY) hours at work is nothing when it doesnt feel like work and it is easy for the day to be an expansive time with lots of different pleasures in it. And healthy too

Was it Confucious who said ( or was quoted)

” Do what you love and you will never do another day’s work again”

It is easy to love stuff when you can be yourself, when you can have your own authentic reaction to events, when you can have some real say in what you do. When you are awake most of the time, not just sleep walking through activities that you now know off pat, or which you have lost the desire to fiddle with…

So I have a question for you…

I’d love to see your answers and please feel free to pass this post and the poll on to everyone you know..