In part 1 of this blog, I raised some questions about the need to change our approach to leadership during and beyond this coronavirus crisis to nurture and sustain the quality of organisations’ climates. In so doing, I revisited some of organisational psychology’s foundational theories, notably the work of Kurt Lewin. In this second part, focusing on Lewin’s seminal environment formula that avers behaviour to be a function of personality and situation, I explore why understanding one’s own and your employees’ personality is so important to creating a healthy climate.
HELP, a four letters word sometimes hard to say.
I was only 5 years old, (or at least that is as far as my memory goes), when for the first time, my parents said to me: “we are very proud of you”.
I would often hear that phrase whenever I got good grades, (I can proudly say it happened a lot 🙂 , if I had done something new, been good to my little sister, etc.
Growing up I would rarely ask for help with my homework, not to say that I never did, but honestly, I don’t remember asking.
I had been waiting for this opportunity for some time. To meet up face-to-face with Blog Guest Author Charlie Walker-Wise and get his first-hand account of how attention to Space and Time can create more effective communication.
Charlie had written two articles a year ago on this Blog about space and time – the links are in ‘further reading’ below. Since then I have referred my coaching clients a number of times to Charlie’s wisdom on this subject. When they needed to make a landmark presentation to a number of people. Or when they had a forthcoming significant one-to-one discussion – a so called ‘moment of truth’ or ‘crucial conversation’. Either way, Charlie’s articles kept bouncing back to me as part of my coach’s toolkit.
For me the space was on Tuesday last week at Balthazar’s French Bistro in London’s Covent Garden. The time was lunch time. I originally intended to call this article ‘Lunch with Charlie Walker-Wise’, but didn’t think it would really grab your attention dear reader!
I have known Charlie since he was 12. His parents had a home in our village when we moved in 28 years ago (you do the maths). It’s so very gratifying to see him now. Married with two young children. A successful career as Client Director with RADA Business. It’s this combination of acting and business that fuels my imagination and drives me to seek out his views.
So here we are meeting for lunch and I announce to Charlie I have an agenda. I want to pick his brains about space and time.
Physician, heal thyself
I’m not sure about you but I’m better at giving advice than receiving it. My privilege as a trainer and performance coach is to be able to fall back on “do as I say, not as I do”. This is not something I’m particularly proud of and nor is it something I want to admit to those I work with. I console myself, professionally at least, with the fact that my diagnostic skills lie in helping others and not myself. It also can’t be very helpful for anyone with the unenviable task of being my coach.
Recently, however, I was offered some advice and in spite of my habit, I took it. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the shift in awareness it provoked has rippled through my whole life. My own coach is a mindfulness expert and while we don’t spend too much time on this topic she set me a related task. I was to take an everyday activity and be fully in it as I perform it, noticing the sensations provoked by the experience.
Now, I’m not good at doing what I’m told. I will find ingenious ways not to do the homework I’ve been set (the French “devoir” always seemed a much more appropriate name). But over the Christmas break I had little excuse not to do one of the two very simple requests made of me.
With the end of the year approaching fast, I’m sure I’m not alone in taking a moment to reflect on the past 12 months and what it’s meant to me both personally and professionally.
Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those terrible articles titled “10 things you need to do to be a success in 2019” but I did want to share something that’s helped me, with the hope that it will help you too.
By way of context, 2018 has been a challenge. I work in a traditional industry, that faces a severe skills shortage and, if I’m honest, a distinct lack of imagination about how to solve it.
My own organisation is not without its frustrations, and our own attempts to be creative and innovative in the way that we approach the development of our people – I’m Head of Learning – can often feel like they just aren’t impacting quickly enough. It always feels like we should be doing more.
And on a personal note, earlier in the year my mum was diagnosed, quite unexpectedly, with an aggressive form of brain cancer. After a short illness she passed away in May.
As the year continued I think it’s fair to say that all the above started to take a toll. I began to “leak” as a result of my frustrations.
So, what to do? Well, as someone fortunate enough to have both a coach and a mentor, I thought I should practice what I preach and look for some support.
I was resting before my next fight during my latest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament when a mother of one of the kids, who was competing in the children’s competition, approached me, looking quite desperate, looking for feedback she told me that she needed my help. Her son had just lost his first fight against a more skillful kid and she insisted on showing me the video of her son’s fight to see if I could give her tips on how to improve his technique. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a sport that does not believe in talent. One improves by training constantly. There is no secret formula for overnight improvement, just like life. I looked at her and noticed that she was very concerned and recommended that she should have a talk with her son’s coach to understand the process and let him take care of his progress. She replied, “I want to help him but I do not know how”. I am also a father and completely understood her position. We do not want our kids to go through unnecessary hardship.
This week is a big week for me. We are moving house, have said goodbye to builders who have been preparing our new place and are expecting our second child in less than two weeks. All the things you’re told not to do together, we’re doing them.
This has led me to reflect on resilience and leadership. With a heavily pregnant wife much of the heavy lifting (literal and metaphoric) has fallen to me. At times I haven’t held up as robustly as I would like to think I would be able to.
The dread of delivering a presentation dogs many of us. There are few who actually relish the prospect of public speaking. Nevertheless, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be brilliant. We mustn’t mess up, must be the expert, must be impervious to doubt, and meet any challenge with a flawless response. Intellectually we recognise that these are unrealistic aims but we still pressure ourselves to be perfect. This striving for perfection is not helpful for myriad reasons, not least because it puts you at the centre of every situation; and guess what? You’re not.
Whenever you’re delivering a presentation you are the least important person in the room.
What is it that gives other people confidence in you?
What is it that defines you as a credible, confident, authoritative communicator of ideas and vision? Gives you gravitas? Says to people that they should take you seriously?
It’s pretty simple really. It’s all about space and time.
In (not quite) the same way physics brings space and time together to form the space-time continuum, so it is that how we bring together our personal relationship to space and time will define our impact as communicators. A Communication Continuum, if you like.