If you were told that unless you made a lifestyle change you would die, would you change?
Would you, though?
Research shows that you're probably wrong.
In this video, I report on some fascinating research first made known by Alan Deutschmann. The results are surprising but hopeful.
What emerges is an unlikely but compelling story of how we are influenced much more effectively through our hearts than our heads.
One of my favourite quotes comes out of this research:
"Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear." Dr Dean Ornish
In my previous post, Advice from the TOP 30 Influencers in Project Management, I defended my choice around self-awareness.
One of my friends emailed me about this post, and how she had observed that her husband constantly stresses the importance of stakeholder management. She wrote:
The Human Factor that is so often the key to success or failure and maybe even sabotage ( for the passive aggressive) in projects and organisations. I have seen academically brilliant people appointed into very senior positions and their own insecurities and lack of emotional intelligence have done untold damage to an organisation .
This prompted me to check this diagram:
Look at the description on the bottom line of this diagram, where a self-awareness impacts the behaviour of Leaning to People. Is it merely an increased ability to identify key relationships? No. I realise it is much more than that.
Quite by chance, I was reading Danny Silk’s brilliant Keep Your Love On yesterday morning. In it he writes:
When you don’t have either the courage or the ability to face the truth of what feel, think, and need, you end up communicating confusing and inaccurate information – sometimes even downright falsehoods.
- If you never really learn to value and understand what’s going on inside you, how can you value and understand what is going on with another person?
- If you don’t know yourself, how can you get to know another person – someone with a completely different experience and perspective – and value the truth of who they are?
page 82, Keep Your Love On: Connection, Communication & Boundaries, Danny Silk (2013, lovingonpurpose.com)
In recent years, I’ve majored on the critical nature of Stakeholder Engagement. In 2013 I wrote Practical People Engagement: Leading Change through the Power of Relationships. Project management has long marginalised the topic of “stakeholder management,” as they call it. (As if you can truly manage anyone other than yourself.) ‘Leaning to People’ is a central narrative in that book. I’m proud that this book was later adopted as the core reference for an international qualification in stakeholder engagement. I hope it is doing some good to the profession.
This last year I’ve turned to the other three behaviours that distinguish outstanding performance, in my latest book: Leading Yourself: Succeeding from the Inside Out. Outstanding performance all starts, though, with self-awareness.
So, I’m inclined to re-draw the diagram, now, in the light of my friend and Danny Silk’s observations to something like this:
Can you spot the crucial difference?[reminder]What are your thoughts on this?[/reminder]
This week I was sent a report containing Advice from the 30 TOP influencers in project management. If you are not involved in project management professionally, I can quite understand that this will not set your heart racing! However, it is interesting to see the patterns that emerge from these ‘TOP influencers.’
(Full disclosure: I was chosen as one of the 30. The authors asked me and the other 29 contributors to give our take on what was our top tip.)
Much of this so-called ‘top’ advice focuses on planning and re-planning. Important though planning is, it is nowhere near the top thing for me.
Many others get rather nearer the mark, in my opinion, and focus on stakeholder engagement and developing key relationships. See my own work on this.
However, I suggest – with apologies to JRR Tolkien – that there is one thing to rule them all:
developing your self-awareness.
Now, I recognise that to many people my choice might look pretty abstract and dull. Maybe even a little surprising. “Is that it??! Self-awareness. That feels very psychological and not very practical. What about the Time-Cost-Scope Triangle. What about the Critical Path?”
[shareable]Thinking about your thinking – self-awareness – is the key to driving all other habits that bring success.[/shareable]
Let me explain. The research I did a few years ago with my colleague John Edmonds revealed that self-awareness was key to high performance: high performing programme and project managers all exhibited a high degree of self-awareness, of mental clarity about their own thought processes. They all think about their thinking. Self-awareness drives all the other behaviours that give the high-performer real traction in the complex world of project management: behaviours like building and protecting personal margins, leaning to action, and leaning to people. See this diagram:
So how do we all develop self-awareness in our work? I show you how in my new book, Leading Yourself: Succeeding from the Inside Out. I have since come to believe that this kind of high-performance is not for the exalted few, any of us can develop the right habits to get exceptional results.
[reminder]How do you think about your thinking?[/reminder]
I’m very proud of my daughter, Sarah. She has made a name for herself in the very male-dominated world of historic building restoration and ornamental plastering. She uses all her skills as a sculptress and has developed a keen eye for the health of historic buildings. I was walking with her recently through the centre of Newbury, an old market town in Berkshire, UK, that boasts a fairly modern shopping centre. And she began to illustrate for me how ambiguity works in a VUCA world. (‘VUCA’ stands for an environment defined by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.)
Ambiguity is all around us. The trouble is, by definition, we don't recognise it.
So when Sarah suddenly moaned at the sight of this wall (pictured above) it got my attention. What was wrong with it? To my untrained eye, someone had been responsible for preserving this fine building by re-pointing the wall. That was a good thing, right?
Well, no. Sarah pointed out that the traditional material to bind bricks was lime. Concrete, though less perishable, does not absorb water.
I still didn’t get it. Not absorbing water is a good thing, right?
Again I stood to be corrected. A building such as this, Sarah explained, is a living system. When it rains, where will the water go? It will seep into the most porous – and also the most precious – element of the structure, the timbers, stay there and eventually rot away the wood. In about ten years time, these ancient timbers will be rotting and need replacing. And they are irreplaceable.
This illustrated a couple of things for me about ambiguity:
Our worldview conditions how the world occurs to us.
In the world of leading change, we make assumptions about people and their behaviour. For example, someone reacts with surprising hostility towards the changes we are trying to make. We can make the assumption that they are a trouble-maker, they dislike us, or that they are just a stubborn reactionary.
We need to look closer. My experience draws me towards that person, towards that conflict; it triggers exploratory, compassionate questions. And my frame of reference is that very few people are sociopaths, so there is probably another reason why this person appears unreasonable.
I look deeper, and I find that this person is going through a domestic trauma and that the only stability in their life right now seems to be their workplace. And I'm about to take away that last refuge of stability.
Suddenly their reaction begins to make sense.Now I can view them very differently. I can begin to work positively with that person.
Ambiguity in this VUCA world is all around us. The problem is, by definition, we don't see it.
The more we grow in experience and what worldview we bring to our work, the more we challenge our own initial assumptions, the more we are likely to uncover and recognise important ambiguity.
As I was writing my last book Practical People Engagement, I came across Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human. I’m so glad I did. I find Daniel Pink is one of those communicators who does much of the heavy lifting for us across the social sciences, in particular in the fields of cognitive psychology. He communicates effortlessly whether speaking or writing.
One of the key chapters in my forthcoming book, Leading Yourself: Succeeding from the Inside Out, is on Identity, the whole matter of how we see ourselves, our make-up and how we come to be unique. I believe this is pivotal because out of our own self-identity comes so much of what we do and how we do it. My self-identity is the “me” I think I bring to the world, to be unique not least to my work.
At the BCS Business Change SIG last night in London, we had a great conversation. I expected we would, but I wasn't sure what turn it would take. But isn't that the way of all great conversations?
We were exploring the concept of Resilient Hope. In the discussion following my presentation, one person mentioned he'd be reading Daniel Kahneman's seminal work, Thinking Fast, Think Slow, and he referenced what Kahneman had identified as the Loss Aversion Bias, the tendency we all have for protecting our decisions and investments even if they might be wrong and we are losing, by investing, even more, to shore them up. We don't like losing. This works itself out in public, for example, by major projects and programmes, where clearly the business case is failing or has gone, but such is the investment that has gone into it, we pour good money after bad, because we don't to face the fact that we might have backed the wrong horse.
[shareable cite="Dr Dean Ornish"]Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear.[/shareable]
The conversation led on to talk about the climate of negativity in many of our work cultures and why that is.
I'm reminded of a great book by Dr Brené Brown, called Daring Greatly. Dr Brown is known for her research on shame, vulnerability and scarcity, but what emerges from her work, her interviews with parents and others is something transcendently positive. She is able to identify health through connecting with joy through gratitude.However, she has remarked that we find joy "terrifying." She has identified a mental narrative that most of us recognise called foreboding joy. Foreboding joy is where we catch ourselves in joy, and immediately fear that we will pay for it, or fear that something will come along to snatch it away.
However, she has remarked that we find joy "terrifying." She has identified a mental narrative that most of us recognise called foreboding joy. Foreboding joy` is where we catch ourselves in joy, and immediately fear that we will pay for it, or fear that something will come along to snatch it away.
This is perfectly irrational of course. People do prevail in joy. Look at this Oprah Winfrey interview with Brené Brown:
In my presentation, I quoted from Dr Dean Ornish, the leader of a breakthrough programme in leading behavioural change for chronically ill patients from lifestyle-induced illness. He said, "Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear." Indeed it was, as people soon began to see and feel health benefits from a radical and repeated regime. Rather than be motivated by "do this or you will die" sort of counsel, they connected with joy and through that resilient hope emerged.
Maybe we need to take more care of joy in our lives and not snuff it out too quickly.
What do you think?
Leave your thoughts below.
If you'd like to access my presentation from last night, plus other material around resilient hope, complete this form below.
I really appreciate Daniel Pink's work, particularly Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, an awesome book. He delivers a periodic, high-energy, short video to his subscribers called Pinkcast.
This week's Pinkcast made me smile (as it usually does). It featured another notable author and speaker, David Allen, most well-known for his book Getting Things Done.
David Allen explains the power of the 2-minute rule to Daniel Pink.
On this episode, Daniel interviewed David in Amsterdam about his 2-minute rule. Watch it.
And how long was Daniel's Pinkcast this week? One minute 51 seconds. 🙂
Do you use the 2-minute rule? If so, let me know how in the comments below.
When it comes to offering advice or seeking to influence, consultants need to be aware of a very counter-intuitive truth. Many miss it. It is this: that in human relationships positives attract. When you have a positive regard for the other party, they are likely to reciprocate. When the consultant approaches a client with a positive regard for them, looking for the good or worthy in the client, the client tends to respond and opens themselves to courage and advice.
In human relationships positives attract.
The more usual frame of reference, one I confess that have used in the past, is that I am paid to be their problem-solver. Yes, clients might well want me to solve their problems, but I can't do this as successfully if I treat my client as a problem to be solved. With this problem-solving mindset, the client can feel that whenever the consultant arrives, they bring shame and guilt. The client finds this "expert" finds fault wherever they can in order to justify themselves. I’ve found that solutions are so much more powerful and likely to prevail if the client works with me to solve such problems.
So instead I use a strategy of finding the gold in people, their strengths, their better practice, the excellence that is already there. It is making me more empathetic and thereby I appear to be more influential than I once was. What does “finding the gold in people” actually mean?
I use a strategy of finding the gold in people, their strengths, their better practice, the excellence that is already there.
Recently I was in a meeting for the first time with a senior executive client. In the course of our conversation I mentioned “calling out the gold in people” and she asked me what I meant by that. So I showed her. I said, “I can already see that you are a strategic delegator with a confident sense of the value of your own team. With multiple initiatives, in your portfolio, you are able to make the biggest difference by building your team’s performance. This shows a high-order leadership.” She was impressed that I saw this so quickly at our first meeting. What I had said was positive, discerning and true. I felt she began to trust me enough to bring her most positive self to the rest of the meeting where we explored together a way through the challenge she faced.
Something profound seems to happen when you treat people as unpunishable.
Positive psychology has been making huge contributions in business. Martin Seligman has led the charge. Others have developed powerful consulting strategies such as Appreciative Inquiry. Something seems to happen when you treat others as unpunishable, instead discovering and declaring what might be uniquely positive about them. This is now happening in organisational cultures, and I’ve experienced it firsthand. In one such organisation, I received people’s positive discernment of me initially as embarrassing flattery, but after a while, my false humility dropped. I began to believe them. It’s an incredibly powerful organisation, due in no small part for its adherence to this mindset.
I recommend Danny Silk’s work, both Culture of Honor (he’s American, so we’ll forgive him misspelling honour) and Keep Your Love On. Irony warning: Silk comes from a Christian pastoral perspective so his faith may offend those of a nervous spiritual disposition … Seriously, read Danny Silk’s work with an open mind. He is a man who writes from the trenches, someone who has worked this out for real in some quite difficult situations and cares deeply about those he seeks to serve.