CAN YOU USE YOUR AUTHENTIC VOICE IN BUSINESS?

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When I first started The Grateful Edge blog a few years ago, I had a clear vision of discussing business effectiveness based upon interpersonal awareness. I still believe in that and I will be blogging about this topic. But now, I am most passionate about true human connections made by using your authentic voice. Do you think that is possible in business?

Last year in 2014, I battled cancer most of the year, two different primary sites, two different cancers. In fact, I have another month of radiation therapy ahead of me right now.  There was a time I would never have shared that professionally. But, as all survivors of serious illness know, you are changed in this journey.  I have learned I can still be ME and to still be professional. And you know what? The more authentic and genuine I become, the more doors open and opportunities present themselves. I always thought if someone knew I was fighting a killer disease they would see me as weak, an anathema in business. Instead, they seem to view me as strong. What a gift to me. And true.

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Now I am starting up The Grateful Edge blog again. I’m not selling anything, I am simply making an effort toward authentic human connections. I will be talking about things I am passionate about; business strategies, hiring and recruiting, organizational development, being relevant and credible, leading dynamically successful teams, and similar topics.

Being truly Grateful has given me an amazing edge in my life and career, hence the name. I welcome you to follow the blog and would be honored if you did so.

Genuinely yours,

Marie

Perception and Motivational Leadership at work and in daily life

Hello again friends,

Last time I wrote about being an authentic leader, handling your job responsibilities as a real and  genuine person, in the context of what some experts now call “Integral Business” practices.  This concept of integrating business and management practices into demonstrating attitudes and behaviors which show respect and appreciation for another person’s body, mind, and spirit is truly cutting edge leadership development.  I discussed Fred Kofman’s seminal new book “Conscious Business; how to build value through values” in my last blog.  I was pleased to see it highlighted on LinkedIn by the following Bloomberg video   http://www.bloomberg.com/video/the-mental-shift-that-can-change-everything-lkhtF4n6RzaivQGx5LAQLw.html?cmpid=yhoo .   I also want to thank all of you who contacted me both on and off the blog site with your interest in this topic.  It’s wonderful to receive your comments and it keeps me inspired to continue our dialogue.

After many years of teaching leadership development to diverse audiences, I am always surprised that some participants think this is a “static” learning process.  By this I mean, the notion that if you learn certain basic core concepts well, you have aced the field of leadership development and are well on your way to becoming a leader of greatness.  Dear me, how to open those outdated eyes?

Leadership development is a process, just like life itself is a process.  Consider this; would you make many of the same choices today that you made say ten, twenty, thirty years ago?  Certainly some choices you would make just the same today, and those are often based upon values you have defined as yours over many years.  However,  many choices you made you would either make or implement very differently today, based upon your personal growth and maturation in the process of living life.

When I first started taking “management training” classes back in the stone age, (joke intended here), the training was very black and white.  It was linear, meaning a straight path to doing the one correct thing.  Classes focused upon  a leader’s need to be strong, confident, and decisive.  We were told how to give orders that subordinates would follow, how to instill  proper respect, how to make people adhere to our direction.  In effect, we were taught how to lead people as though we were field generals and the employees were conscripts. This is often called “instrumental” leadership.

Who knew back in those days that most leadership development courses today are as much about mind and brain functioning as they are about the bottom line? Who guessed we would take DISC training, study cognitive behavioral theories, advanced communication techniques,  consider the ramifications of Maslow’s theories, develop an advanced understanding of age, gender,  and ethnic diversity, adult learning theory or andragogy, and  learn from the seminal works of Daniel Goleman the vital language of emotional intelligence?

If you have attended leadership development courses in the last decade, you have learned that leading others effectively is basically about two areas of expertise:  First, you must know and understand yourself thoroughly, including your own hot buttons and motivations, strengths as well as weaknesses, and what your personal values and beliefs actually are.  And then, AFTER you have devoted intense effort into self-awareness into really understanding how and why you function as you do, you can begin to study and understand how to motivate others.  This is called “expressive leadership”.

There is another key piece to grasp.  Back in the day, there was always the elitist unspoken perception that the boss was smarter than the employee.  Guess what, no go today.  People with impressive resumes and curriculum vitae are working in non-management jobs throughout every workplace; both by choice because they value other aspects of their life more, and also by economic necessity.  Saying “Do it because I told you or get fired!” simply points out to many very smart team members what a fool their so-called leader actually is.

Threats don’t work in this context.  Sometimes I think I should have folks write that one hundred times on the board “Threats don’t work”!  Threats may result in getting some task completed.  But, they also have the indirect result of loss of respect and even an unspoken derision.  People know you cannot truly lead and motivate others  if you resort to threats.  It changes and establishes a very negative perception of you.

Ah, the powerful word:  PERCEPTION.  The way someone sees and believes their world and the people and things within it to actually be.

As you may know, your perception is your reality.  If you think all dogs will bite you, then your reality is fear of all dogs.  If you believe you have a beautiful spirit, then that too is your reality.  If you believe in a specific faith, that is your belief system.  If you believe your boss is a good person trying hard to do the right thing, that is your perception of your boss.  That is who you see them to be.  For you, this is the truth about them.  I am saying that this may not be “the” truth, but it is “your” truth.

It appears based upon my poll last blog and also on current research, that many of us have been, and some unfortunately still are,  forced to struggle with an uneasy and disturbing  sense  and perception of being manipulated by key people in our lives who hold positions of authority, and also with the deep concern that we not be perceived this manipulative way ourselves.  And that is my talking point in today’s message:  “perception”.

My readership here on the GratefulEdge blog has become gratifyingly diverse as well as international in scope.  I am now being read and receiving feedback from literally every continent.  And so I know that many of my readers are not engaged in a hierarchical business environment every day, but many are.  By this,  I mean that many of you are working in an organizational structure in which the leadership is positioned at the top and the working place chart or visual model fans out to a larger sector of the workforce at the bottom , what is usually an isosceles trianglular shaped organization chart.

Note that I say “usually”.  This is because some very interesting variations of a normal workplace organizational chart have been developed.  Some are reversed, to indicate the leadership coming from each individual team member.  Some are circular, with variations, to indicate different levels of hierarchy and decision making.  Some represent the customer as the focal point of the org chart rather than an executive leader.  Here are a few examples:

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You may wonder why I have chosen organizational charts to illustrate a discussion on perception.  This is because the org chart is a visual representation of the culture of the workplace or group which it exemplifies.  This could just as easily be an org chart of a community organization or volunteer entity.  It is simply a visual representation of the way the leadership sees their structure.

Typically, most org charts show a leader at the top and like the consecutive branches of a large fir tree, each rung below expands and offers stair steps downward until at the end of the tree lie the lower level team members. They are positioned at the very base and can crane their necks back to see the illustrious leaders above them.  Or not.  This hierarchical representation is also found in micro form as well as macro, as each division, department, team,  and group, can map their own leadership structure.

Now I ask your consideration of the unbounded, innovative, and risk-taking environments which must have produced these inverted and circular org charts.  Imagine the free-wheeling discussions?  Imagine the lack of insecurity issues which would allow a high ranking leader to place themselves at the bottom of that fir tree looking UP at the line team members?  Think about WHY they would do that.  Seek the motivational message within the visual.  Imagine the discussions people had when they decided that inverting their visual representation of their culture was the right thing to do.  And consider those companies that found hierarchy so distasteful that they actually went circular in representation.  They must have had some mind-bending discussions!

I often lead seminars and think tank groups about mission development and goal statements.  Every once in a great while I do come into an environment where people are eager and very willing to overturn traditional models and see what could work better for their innovative group goals and dreams.  These people are not averse to taking risk and they open themselves up for  difficult conversations in the hope that it will produce significant culture changing results. More often people work on the mission statement vigorously for a while and then once it has been published, they file it on a high shelf and rarely look at it again.

Give some thought to the org charts within which you function and see what it says to you and what your perception is of this entity.  How does the org chart speak of relationships?  Ask yourself to imagine being at different locations within that structure and consider how you would develop your creativity and solve problems in each differing location.   I challenge you to create an org chart of your own family, as well as your community groups.  Ask yourselves the tough questions about hierarchical relationships.  What is your gut feeling about the visual representation of the entities within which you work, live, play, and worship?  Where have you placed yourself and why?  Consider the impact structured  hierarchy has upon creativity, risk taking, innovation, problem solving, mentoring relationships, and ambition.

This blog has been about our perception of the external environments around us.  Next time I will be further developing this key theme for positive motivational leadership.

Understanding the potent possibilities which lie within perceptions, both our own beliefs about others and their beliefs about us,  is vital to becoming a strong and motivational human being.

At the end of the day, these are the admirable individuals, regardless of their age, gender, or ethnicity, for whom others give their best because they want to and  for whom they have high regard, respect, and with whom they find pleasure and reward in their interactions.

Until next time,

Marie

Authentic Value-Driven Leadership

Hello friends,

In the last post I opened the discussion about  being genuine and how people  can and do sense if you are  being authentic.  This  plays a major role in people’s perception of you.  I cannot stress enough how much this matters in leading and motivating others. Haven’t you ever thought, “Yeah, right.  She/he  wants me to do as she says, not as she does!”   I’m sure you’ve had bosses or demanding friends that you simply cannot respect and haven’t you found it a challenge to do as they wish?

For many years  I have engaged  with  workplace teams to enhance their productivity and effectiveness. I am often brought in as a consultant to improve Return On Investment (ROI) through increasing productivity and decreasing resistance and turnover.   I have often  been aggressively challenged by questions from a certain type of attendee asking for a simple solution to complex leadership challenges.

There are always people in every audience who want a “quick fix” to dealing effectively with people.  These are the same people who want to read about a thirty minute solution, or think they can learn in a seminar everything needed to effectively motivate people forever  in work and daily life.  I often think these are the people who used to say “ do it because I say to or you’re fired”,  until times changed and that became politically incorrect.  They still have that same perspective, but want a safer quick fix to make people do what THEY want them to do.

All of those potential quick fix solutions are superficial.  They usually do no harm, but they don’t make a lasting, systemic,  positive change in your workplace team, your volunteer groups, or your family dynamics. There simply is no one set of rules to address being an effective leader and motivator. Leading other people effectively is not a one size fits all proposition. Don’t believe me?  Then,  I suggest you go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble web site and  type in the search words:  leadership, management,  motivation, or team building.  How many “experts” are there who stand ready to give you all the answers?  Many more than you have the time to count let alone read!  Logic and common sense tell you that if any single one or group of these books had the one key magic solution, all good leaders would be using that special  tool.  But there isn’t one solution, because there isn’t one type of team, or leader, or organizational dynamic.

And better believe it,  that your colleagues or friends KNOW when you are not being real with them.  They see fake concern and phony efforts to motivate them as you being manipulative.  At the end of the day, people may have to work, but they don’t have to be manipulated.  If they think you are doing that, they will not perform as desired.

Really becoming a motivational human being that other people will respect, appreciate, and ultimately want to follow and excel at your requests of them, is a lifetime journey.  Key pieces fall into place as we learn and grow and mature in life.

Motivational styles are not separate from personality, values, choices, and beliefs.  This constellation of attributes is what makes some leaders, both in the workplace and in the community, highly effective and respected individuals.

I do quite a bit of motivational speaking and it is a great pleasure for me.  I love to tease forth an understanding from the audiences of their own individual extraordinary gifts and talents.  So many of our greatest motivators are unpretentious  people who are authentic and engaged with their life and tasks in a way which others find encouraging and inspirational.  These are the genuine people who have little need to point out their own strengths to others, and who usually find doing that off-putting.

I am sure someone comes to mind in your own life who fits that bill.  Don’t you know the person who fought bravely through catastrophic life circumstances and didn’t see themselves as a victim, didn’t feel special for doing so?  Don’t you have a colleague who always goes beyond expectations and doesn’t require public kudos?  Don’t you volunteer with someone who always seems able to pick up the larger burden and does so self-effacingly?

People like this do so because it is who they are, who they have chosen and created themselves to be throughout their life journey.  They are genuine and authentic.  They are worthy of respect.  They’re the real deal.  And don’t kid yourself.  In any workplace, in any community, these people are always valued and they are truly appreciated,  sometimes more than they know.  And you can bet they didn’t learn this persona from one seminar or a book from the business shelf.  They have made conscious choices of what matters to them and they enhance these choices by personal values every day.  They live their lives consciously.

In a very real sense, being a motivational leader is about who you are, not what you do.

There’s a great book out written recently by Fred Kofman Ph.D.   Dr. Kofman has his doctorate from UC Berkeley and is a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.  Check him out at www.axialent.com .  Dr. Kofman has written a seminal business book called Conscious Business; how to build value through values”.  In his book, he discusses exactly what I have been bringing forward in this post today.  His premise is that productive leaders, workplaces, and teams, practice authentic value-driven behaviors consistently.  That may seem simple.  You say, well who doesn’t do that?  Dr. Kofman  believes, as do I, that most companies, leaders, and teams do NOT do this.

Dr. Kofman uses the terminology “Integral Business”;  meaning business that is conscious and respectful of both inner and outer worlds, and that takes into account body, mind, spirit, as well as self, culture, and nature.  This calls for mindfulness, and a holistic sense of understanding that the workplace is not just a place where a person goes to earn a paycheck.  Rather, it is a canvas upon which an aspect of a  person’s life is drawn and expressed regularly. By consciously involving concepts such as self and culture, we can constructively build upon effectiveness in mixed ethnic teams, as well as mixed age cohorts.  Issues of cultural and tribal understanding become more easy to grasp, as do the reasons why colleagues make the choices they do.  Understanding these aspects is vital to understanding other human beings with whom we interface daily.

Within this construct, obviously the idea of “do it or get fired” is so irrelevant as to be shamefully ludicrous.  In fact as a belief system, this is a dinosaur that is and should be extinct in our lives today.

Ask yourself:  in my job and community, daily, can and do  I express and practice conscious value driven behaviors and choices?  Am I allowed and encouraged to lead a value driven team?  Is my own superior in the reporting chain someone whom I would classify as a value driven fully conscious and authentic human being? Do I have the opportunity to do what I do  best every day?  Do I give others that opportunity?  Do I relate in an authentic manner as a genuine human being with others all the time?

In closing I’d like to refer to Dr.  Kofman.   He says, “ Conscious employees require conscious managers if they are to fully commit their energy to organizational goals.”  To put this in different terms, he is saying that if you are an authentic value driven employee, you need to see those traits in your management or you will feel disconnected.  And we know what happens when team members disconnect, don’t we?

Next post, more about authentic and motivational leadership.  How are you liking this topic?

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this or any other aspect of the blog.

Gratefully,

Marie

Motivational Communication

Hello friends,

We looked together at Locus of Control over the past two posts, as a way of understanding how people may be motivated to reach common goals.  In those discussions, I suggested to you that motivation is NOT one size fits all.  Every person is motivated by different goals and a different sense of what achievement means to them. The paradigm of locus of control points out that some people will feel they have less control of all aspects of their life while others feel much more in control.  This is a good model to remember in daily life. Obviously, each perspective requires a different motivational strategy and finds inspiration in unique ways.

Cultural considerations are absolutely vital while developing your motivational techniques. For example, if someone belongs to a social group or community where it is seen as socially unacceptable to place self above others,  they will NOT be motivated by being pointed out in a group as a super-achiever.  In fact, their social discomfort may be great enough that they will throttle back on the behaviors that brought the unwanted praise in an effort to reduce the chance they will be singled out again.  However, if a person is from a typical Western social dynamic, they may thrive on being chosen and pointed out as the person who really “got it”.  They may intensify their efforts to gain your praise again.

This is where a truly motivational individual relishes the opportunity to encourage ALL  others across the board, regardless of their cultural or social beliefs and values.  But HOW you say, can I encourage diverse people to achieve, enjoy, and excel, in their tasks and in their lives when I may not even know them well enough to make these calls?  Your number one tool is to excel in motivational communication.

When I began this blog I commented that certain people and groups seem to have that “edge”, that special something that speaks to others of their energy, commitment, and competence.  An attribute of such people and groups is their ability to use MOTIVATIONAL COMMUNICATION effectively and consistently. Regardless of the other person’s individuality, you will NOT succeed in motivating them if you do not grasp the importance of motivational communication, understand and learn it, and practice it in every aspect of your life. It is vital in leadership development and team building at every level.

First, consider that if you are going to assume the role of motivating and inspiring another person or group, you need to be very aware of your high level of visibility with these “others”.  They will be looking at you, really looking, to see if you exemplify what you want from them.

You will not be effective in motivating others if you are clearly not doing so for yourself.  People look to significant others and those in management for authenticity, credibility, and transparency.  I am going to discuss all of these attributes in further postings.

For today, I want to introduce the concept of motivational communication.  No doubt all of you reading this have taken some sort of communication classes in school or work.  You can probably tell me all about body language, eye contact, reflective listening and more.  These are very important tools to have in your arsenal as a motivational person.  But , they are not what I want to focus upon in this blog.  For our purposes now, I want you to consider the content of your communication overall.

Think back upon times in your life when you tried very hard to do as another person asked;  to accomplish something they assigned, to make them proud of you, to satisfy their demands of you. You may have even held an unspoken dialogue with this person in your mind as you worked on the challenge.  Perhaps you hoped they would be pleased, proud, surprised, satisfied with your effort.

Now, remember their actual response.  Was it positive, empowering, grateful, supportive?  Or was it diminishing, critical, disinterested, or dismissive?

I know that all of you reading this can remember examples of each type of reply and response to your efforts.

Now considering the responses, which of these communication outcomes inspired and motivated you? Why did you feel motivated?

In daily life and in the workplace, we have countless opportunities to use motivational communication to enhance and enrich the lives of others.  It is easy to do, costs nothing but your strategic thought, and can change the course of another person’s day.  But, do you consistently use it? I am guessing that you do not.  This is likely because you have adopted learned behaviors from others around you.

Sadly, the normal discourse we encounter in daily life is far from motivational.  We continuously hear others in our lives  complain, criticize, express anger and frustration, belittle, command,  gossip, and use hurtful  sarcasm very easily. We see this on media, hear it in song lyrics, and are surrounded by a morass of unproductive communication as the general rule.  Ask yourself, if you took all the negative commentary out of your life, how much remains?

The first step toward motivating others it really knowing and understanding  yourself.  Therefore, I challenge you to consider the way YOU communicate throughout the day.  How much positive energy is expressed in your communication?  How much disappointment, discomfort, frustration, and unhappiness is part of your communication style?

It’s easy to slip into the complaining mode, or the paranoid and apprehensive models.  How we talk embeds thoughts into our consciousness and helps to create our own reality.  We’ll discuss this more in ongoing blogs.  But for now, remember that your own verbalizations are vital in motivating or demotivating others.

Until my next post, please take notice of the content of your conversations with others.  Ask yourself, is this a positive discourse?  Am I simply venting, or complaining, or am I contributing to a motivational communication lifestyle?

Until next time,

 Marie

Tribal and cultural beliefs and impact on motivation.

Hello friends,

In my last posting I discussed locus of control; how we view our relationship to life-changing events in our world.  I have been asked to talk more about the societal aspect, specifically the tribal world view.  I am happy to do this, but I would like to make a few related points first.

You may be asking yourself patient reader, “why is she talking about these other  things when she said this would be about motivating others?”   My reply, and one that you will read in this blog over and over, is that motivating people is about UNDERSTANDING people.  Individuals are not static, they do not stand still, they do not remain the same consistently.  In many ways, being a motivator is a lot like trying to hit a moving target.  The beauty and wonder and joy of humans is created from the same recipe for the frustration they can sometimes bring.

When you consider the relationships in your life with friends and family, you know that they are sometimes difficult.  There is a reason why the term “working” is often used to describe relationships.  Why should your relationships with others in your sphere be any easier?  Whether you are trying to motivate your children, family and loved ones, volunteer colleagues, parishioners,  or a workplace team, the complexity of human relationships does not get easier.  Nor should it.

If your goal for yourself as a productive human being  is to adapt and grow throughout your own life journey, why would you not expect that from others as well?  As they do adapt, grow, and change, the way they relate with others will also change.  In other words, motivating others is not something a person learns once in a classroom, or a few days of training.  Motivating others is rather a collection of knowledge, insights, and perceptions based upon a solidly grounded understanding of self and others.

There are a few basic concepts I want to ground this blog with from the beginning and one is the locus of control concept.  As you recall from my last posting, this paradigm is about whether we see the world as something over which we possess significant control, or something that is out of our control.  Interestingly, most career people wave their hands in the air shouting “INTERNAL” as if they feel it is the “right” answer.  Like so much of the business jargon one can see on any work related web site, control seems like something that upwardly mobile people should have.  In fact, there is typically  a rather arrogant interpretation that “they”, meaning of course other people, just don’t get it.  I expect the “I’m an internal”,  response from my seminar attendees in any business setting.

But then it gets interesting if I do a little bit of delving. If I ask the group whether or not they adhere to a religious belief system, and if so what role does their Divine play in their  life, it becomes a bit more dicey.  In fact, defensiveness jumps into play.  The same people who proclaim themselves as being internals, will often use the terminology “God’s Will” in the same sentence.  This indicates that they have not carefully thought  through their own world view.

If you are a child who lives in a village destroyed by hurricane, flood, or tsunami, do you believe you will grow up feeling in solid control over your life?  If your parent dies, hunger or abuse exists in your home,  the home is actually lost, your childhood health is poor,  your family has a member with birth defects, what perspective do you believe you would have on control over your own life?  I suspect you will feel a strong sense of vulnerability rather than control.

I currently spend a great deal of time with the Mescalero Apache tribe on their reservation.  This is a dynamic and proud tribal culture.  One of my Apache friends gifted me with a book entitled,  Living Life’s Circle; Mescalero Apache Cosmovision, by Claire Farrer. While the world view and vision of the Mescalero Apache tribe, like any Native American tribe, is nothing I can quickly cover in this blog, I would like to bring a few features to light as illustrations of tribal perspectives.

Farrer writes, “the chain of being established in creation places people not at the apex, as in western derived civilizations, but rather in a position of vulnerability. ..people are inherently weak, because they require the entirety of creation for their lives.  Apache children are socialized from birth to pay attention to their surroundings, to observe what goes on around them, to absorb quietly without questioning.” To place this in a more approachable statement, Apache children learn to be a part of what is.  They are not socialized to change what is.

Another example is the Aborigine of Australia.  Many of us are familiar with their creation stories and of their  construct of “dreamtime.”  Aboriginal children are brought into a circular perspective of life, within which they flow as in a dream.

Tribal societies value a communal set of teachings and values which are not the  current values in typical American business.  This has been an on-going  culture clash as the Indian Gaming experience has brought more tribal workers into the mainstream of their operations. Often a tribal community will be located in a remote geographical region and the jobs available at the gaming operation are needed by those who live on the reservation. These tend to be labor-intense workplaces with high demand positions and a need to respond quickly to the company’s goals and needs.  Serving others in what might be seen as a subordinate role, often in food services or custodial positions, requires a strong desire to please the visitor or guest. In a sense, it involves seeking approval from others (cultural outsiders), which may not be a value in an individual’s tribal culture. This implicit acceptance of a set of business goals is not part of tribal cultures.  Such cases happen daily and they require an ability to motivate and inspire tribal members in ways which ring true and valid in their tribal  life view.

And the gaming scenario is not unique.  Many years ago I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the tiny tribal island of Tonga in Polynesia.  The island is poor by American standards but rich in fertile soil and a lovely growing climate.  It was to their great dismay that international conglomerates tried and inevitable gave up on establishing packing plants for local grown produce.  The Tongans had a very different set of values and those did not include living by a time clock, following directions without social constructs, not placing family first over employment, and reaching goals which seemed meaningless to their life and culture. Their concept of what it meant to live a fulfilling life did not include these requirements.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a very instructive book, A Season on the Reservation; My Sojourn with the White Mountain Apaches.  In this book he talks of the many mistakes he made as a basketball coach  trying to inspire and motivate Apache youth.  He came to learn that their place within the communal system was much more important than any goal he could set for them.  The book is a great example of how a world view, a locus of control, can shape the ways in which we motivate others. If you work alongside tribal people, please read this short and interesting book. Reading this book will bring you more understanding of the ways in which tribal people may be understood than any corporate training class will offer.

My purpose for this blog post is to point out that many people, I would venture to say the majority of the worlds’ population, have an external perspective of life.  They believe, based upon their experience and culture, that most of their life cannot be controlled.  If you are very honest with yourself, you may share that perspective based upon your own life experience.  The whole concept of gambling, which is as old as recorded history, is that luck may smile upon you.  If people believed that lucky circumstance did NOT exist, how many would go to casinos over and over again?

For purposes of motivating others, it is important to remember that one size does NOT fit all.  Within your sphere of influence are people who have a personal story, a cultural history, or a faith based belief system which shapes the way they look upon life, work, and relationships.  A leader understands this fully and realizes that telling others to “take charge, “lead”, “change the status quo”, may be a near impossible task.  A person may not even try.

If you remember that the “other” is NOT you, and is likely NOT motivated in the way you are, your possibilities of truly reaching them will be much higher.

Next time, I will be writing about preconceptions of other people, and also ways that your communication style may inadvertently be hampering your success as a motivator.

Thank you for taking time to follow this blog.  I appreciate it very much!

Marie

Effective leadership and mind processes.

How many times have you been told, “Just make your team more productive?” Or, ” I don’t care what you have to do, but get them to do it!”

Unfortunately, increasing team productivity is more an art than a science.  For senior leaders, years of trial and error and a great deal of self-discovery have gone into creating their “style”, their demeanor with staff, superiors, and peers.  The most successful leaders have created a persona that is geared toward moving people toward the goals that they are strategically planning.  These strategies are not by chance; they are by design.  The question is, how did they, (and how can we), get to that point of influence as we lead and motivate our colleagues,  support our friends, and assume guidance roles in our families and communities?

I believe the first step in effective leadership is a clearer understanding of how people make choices, including the choice to support us or to lay booby traps along our path.  This means we need to acquire a working knowledge of how we process options and make decisions.  How your team and friends are thinking about an issue, perceiving, ranking, and understanding it, is vital to grasping how they will eventually respond.

Perhaps some of you are old enough to remember when NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) was the new big thing in the early seventies.  For many lay people, this was the first popular culture exposure to the idea that we could actually have input on changing our own lives through changing our thoughts and behaviors.  Although later marginalized as a “pseudoscience”, NLP played a big role in our increased general cultural understanding of the possibilities inherent in handling our thoughts with intention.

For many average people prior to this time, those without specific training or education in the field, “thoughts” were often seen as outside forces to which a persons’ psyche  was vulnerable. I remember listening to older people as a child,  telling stories about how they had been “driven” to do something by their wayward thoughts.  This sense of being carried along by a force larger than one’s self is, of course, typical of an external locus of control.

Rotter’s work in the early fifties on the idea of Locus of Control had created this useful construct to differentiate between those who felt controlled by life and those who felt they themselves had control over much of their life; those who believed in external control and those who believed in internal control.

The locus of control terminology eventually morphed into popular culture as  “internals” and “externals”.  Externals are explained as individuals who feel more vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of an uncontrollable life journey, which are external forces.  These people often use phrases such as, “get it while you can”, “ I don’t know what to expect”, “when my ship comes in”, etc.   Internals, on the other hand, speak and act with more direct speech, such as “Let’s make this happen.”. The believe that they have a significant control over their destiny, an internal sense of control.   The common analogy is to a ship sailing either under the control of a captain, or adrift in the sea.

While the model was inevitably  trivialized to fit many situations over the following decades, Rotter made a solid point and created a useful paradigm. But, it is important to understand that  the way one is socialized and acculturated directly impacts the way in which we see our ability to shape our world, our societal locus of control.

For example, locus of control in a tribal cosmology or world view is different that in a non-tribal community.

Even today, many cultures and belief systems embrace a more external position.  Gender and class distinctions also  play significant roles in the way people place themselves upon the loci. Understanding the paradigm of the locus of control is important, but so is understanding the diversities inherent in cultural, ethnic, religious, class, and gender socialization.

Obviously, there are also significant differences in applying this knowledge in a micro and a macro model.  To begin to change or redirect our own personal locus of control is certainly no easy process , but to do so for others is very challenging.  This brings us to the conundrum that managers, leaders of others, and parents also,  too  often confront.  Changing one’s self is challenging.  Changing the others’  self concept is mind-boggling.

However, if we do not engage with the locus of control beliefs held by our subordinates in a team leadership dynamic, or with our teenager in the next bedroom,  we exacerbate their feeling of powerlessness and their anger against larger forces.  Yet, as many of you know from frustrating personal experience, engaging with a very external personality can make one want to throw up a hair ball.  How many times have we all heard, “ That never works here”, or “you never let me”?

So what to do?  An important first step in finding a useful and productive leadership guidance style, is to understand a bit more than the average bear about how the mind actually works.

That big meatloaf between our ears is an absolutely amazing processor.  I am no neuroscientist, but from a lay person’s point of view, I find the whole thing fascinating.  Want to get a little taste of neurobiology for dummies?  I can highly recommend two books which explore in understandable terms some pretty amazing things about your brain and mind.  Take a read of Sebastion Seung’s Connectome: How the Brains Wiring Makes Us Who We Are”.  Then, do make your way through Michael Gazzinga’s “Who’s in Charge: Free Will and the Science of the Brain.”  Gazzinga’s text is slow going at times, but just absorb what you can and you will gain some exciting insights and also some that will keep you awake at night.

I certainly want to point you toward a wonderful blog right here on WordPress  that I follow, titled The Elusive SelfGO THERE, now!  Go!.  But please come back to me.

In my next blog, I will talk about how you can begin to use this new-found knowledge on cognition, or perhaps you have only taken it out and dusted it off, to more effectively lead, motivate, and guide others.  Understanding how to use cognitive behavioral supports will open new doors for you as a team leader, mentor, parent, and fellow human being.

Remember all those early career supervision training classes you took?   Well, good luck with all of that.

The reality is that the complex unique human brain will steamroll over any pop culture  flavor of the month leadership schema, and simply leave you feeling useless and empty of ideas.  Your effective leadership and productivity ideas will grow in direct proportion to your understanding of what really motivates people.  And if you say money or chocolate I will push you out my blogosphere door!

See you next time,

Marie