How to change someone else

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There’s a elegant, simple way to do this and there’s the other way. The other way is to employ a variety of passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive techniques to get others to behave differently. Not only is this excruciating for everyone involved, it doesn’t work. It does give us a way to occupy our days, and something to complain about in the break room. Perhaps this explains its timeless appeal.

Or, you could use the approach that drops you right into the slipstream: Change your behavior.

Oh, no, no, you say – I’m right and they are wrong, wrong, wrong. They need to change, not me. I deserve better.

Exactly. I’m not arguing with you. I’m telling you how.

But Liz, they are the ones who need to change. I’m not changing for them – why should I? It’s just not possible – I can’t do it, it’s not who I am. Besides, it’s so hard.

And yet you expect them to change. You aren’t willing or able to change, but you expect them to?

A mother brought her overweight son to Ghandi so he could tell the son to stop eating sweets. Ghandi said “Come back next week.” When they returned, Ghandi told the son to stop eating sweets. When the mother asked about the intervening week, Ghandi said “I had to see if I could do it before I could ask someone else to.”

Leadership is going first.

Be a leader.  Go first.

CG #66 – “Smooth Seas Do Not Make Skillful Sailors.”

Do you ever feel like the universe is sending you a postcard?  When I came home last night, the title of this post was scrawled in chalk on the ramp to my dock.

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After the crisis-ridden day I’d had, I was happy to see those words.  As I stood there and let those words sink in deep, I thought about the difference between someone who learns to sail on the San Francisco Bay – a notoriously wild and windy place – and someone who learns on the Long Island Sound with its placid, protected waters. I know which Captain I want in charge of my boat.

Which got me thinking about resilience and the recent, compelling research about stress.  It’s not stress that harms you, it’s the belief that stress is harmful that harms you.  Believing stress is harmful is the 15th leading cause of death.

The physiology is straightforward:  Stress makes your heart pound.  Believing stress is harmful constricts your blood vessels, which increases your risk of death.  But when you see the stress as helpful, your blood vessels open. Increased blood flow in open veins is physically identical to states of exhilaration, courage and joy.  See stress as helpful and your body throws itself a little party right in the middle of the onslaught, rendering stress harmless.

But the news is even better than that:  Stress causes you to connect with others – it practically drives you into their arms.  You need help, advice, support, coaching,  These social connections bathe your body in oxytocin, which protects you from the effects of stress.   For caregivers, the healing effect of oxytocin seems to negate the wear and tear of caring for others.

Yes, you read that correctly:  Caring for others promotes a healing response in the caregiver that protects against the effects of stress.

This research means that rampant excuse for bad behavior, “I’m just really stressed out,” is about to leave the building, and good riddance to it.

Accept – Connect – Help is the formula, and the choice is yours to make.  The more I sit with this research, the more I see that what I’ve been calling stressful is simply strenuous, a signal to get moving.

Stress has one more gift for us:  Meaning.  Stress and adversity increase the chance of a meaningful life.  Seeking comfort has the opposite effect.

Which brings me to my 90-year-old Aunt Perina, a woman I’ve long admired, but not always understood.  Born between the World Wars, her generation came of age in a time of great deprivation.  Those early, difficult times hold her richest, most cherished memories, the ones that have sustained her through the death of all her siblings and most of her friends.  I did not understand the psychic alchemy that left her kinder and richer with each blow, until I saw this research.  I’m glad to get a glimmer of this this now, when I can still tell her she’s my role model for her courage, grit and unfailing sense of humor.

If you want to learn more, the book is called “The Upside of Stress,” by Kelly McGonigalHer TED talk gives a good overview of this topic.  If you don’t have 20 minutes right now, click here for my 1-page summary of that TED talk.

See you on the upside.

CG #64 – Are You the Flea in the Jar?

CG #64 – Are you the flea in the jar?

It’s easy to pooh-pooh mindfulness as another management fad until you start to look at the connection between the flea in the jar and our tendency to “stick like lint to the familiar.” (Mary Oliver)

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Fleas in a jar learn to limit their jumping so they don’t have painful encounters with the lid. They learn this so well, they continue to jump only that high after the lid is removed.   Unlike a flea, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer doesn’t believe her jar has a lid. I bet the words “always” and “never” or the phrase “it is what it is,” don’t fall from her lips. To Langer, every moment is open territory if we looking for what’s different about it.

“The problem is…we suffer from an illusion of stability and think everything we once experienced is still the same. Everything is always changing and looks different from different perspectives. Bringing that expectation of not knowing to our daily lives will encourage us to notice and be in the present.”

Langer has been studying the effects of mindfulness on well-being and performance for the last 30 years. “Actively drawing novel distinctions is the essence of mindfulness,” she says. When you are looking for what’s different from one moment to the next, you start to see all the choices available to you. That’s the opposite of sticking to a habitual way of thinking about our boss, or our role or what’s possible.

That’s the difference between being mindful and being the flea: The mindful person is always scanning their environment expecting to see something new. The flea takes the one time they smacked into the lid on the jar as proof that nothing is going to change, not ever, that’s the way it is here, woe is me. Never, always, can’t.

This is what I most often see in my clients who are stuck: Their boss was unreceptive to an idea once, so they never bring it up again. Their co-worker always gets the best projects, so there is no point in asking for the next one. I couldn’t get this to work last time, so it must not be possible. The mindful person asks, “What is different about this moment, about that person, about me? What assumptions are keeping me stuck?” and “What can I do differently because something or someone is slightly different?”

Langer’s practical approach to mindfulness doesn’t involve hours on a meditation cushion becoming non-judgmentally aware of your thoughts. We can be mindful in any moment: Either we believe that the world around us is stable and unchanging and the habits that served us yesterday are the right ones for today, or we are on the lookout for what’s new. According to Langer, “we expect everything to be new and so we notice, become engaged and enjoy ourselves.”

Langer isn’t just after enjoyment, she’s out to change the world: Her upcoming project is to study the effect of mindfulness on Stage IV breast cancer patients. She expects to shrink tumors. (Link to NYT article) Her track record so far makes me think she will.

Where are you the flea in the jar, mindlessly jumping at a fixed height? Where can you start looking for what’s different or new in the same old situation?

CG #62 – Don’t Let Fear Stop You

If a bank regulator for the Federal Reserve can’t ask uncomfortable questions without losing her job, what hope is there for the rest of us?

“…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

–Franklin D Roosevelt in his first inaugural address.

Carmen Segarra knows about fear and the cost of  “converting retreat into advance.”  Carmen was a a Federal bank regulator assigned to regulate Goldman Sachs, a prominent investment bank.  She was fired for being too direct, for asking questions that were awkward for people at Goldman Sachs and her bosses at the Federal Reserve.

Carmen just wanted to do her job, which was to regulate.  Her bosses at the Fed wanted to do that too, but preferred an approach so subtle it was easy for Goldman Sachs to ignore.  They were afraid that asking direct questions would offend the people they were regulating and those people would withhold the information they needed to regulate them.

It would be funny if it weren’t so very dangerous.

Friendly or Captured?

Getting too close to those you are supposed to regulate is so common, it has a name: Regulatory Capture.  In the consulting world it’s called “going native.”  There is a thin line between having a friendly, harmonious relationship and being ineffective.  It’s impossible to know which side of the line you’re on, unless you are willing to test it.

“I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear. What it comes down to…is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations: ‘He looked at me funny…’  Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I’ve never seen in my life.”

–Marilynne Robinson, author, “Housekeeping”, “Gilead

We destroy our effectiveness when we let fear run the show.  When we justify our ineffectiveness, we give fear far too much territory.  And, given an inch, fear will take a mile.  Don’t let it.  You can do the thing you need to do.

See Paris First

I quoted a poem I love in my online program for consultants, and I’m going to quote it here. When fear has ahold of us, it’s not skill we need, it’s courage.  The poem, “See Paris Fist,  by Marsha Truman Cooper gives me that courage:

*     *     *     *     *

Suppose that what you fear

could be trapped,

and held in Paris.

Then you would have

the courage to go

everywhere in the world.

All the directions of the compass

open to you,

except the degrees east or west

of true north

that lead to Paris.

Still, you wouldn’t dare

put your toes

smack dab on the city limit line.

You’re not really willing

to stand on a mountainside

miles away

and watch the Paris lights

come up at night.

Just to be on the safe side

you decide to stay completely

out of France.

But then danger

seems too close

even to those boundaries,

and you feel

the timid part of you

covering the whole globe again.

You need the kind of friend

who learns your secret and says,

“See Paris first.”

*     *     *     *     *

Let’s be that kind of friend for each other, shall we?

CG #54 – How to Get Happy and Stay that Way

If gratitude can counter depression faster than the “gold standard” of talk therapy combined with drugs, can it make me happy long term?  Yup.  But your negativity bias is going to fight back.

Word Count: 696

Reading Time: about 3 minutes

When I first heard about psychologist Martin Seligman’s gratitude research, I was skeptical.  According to the study, 15 days of gratitude practice created immediate improvements in severely depressed patients that lasted for 6 months.  How could a daily gratitude practice be as effective against depression as the best psychology had to offer and achieve this more quickly?   When Seligman’s subsequent research named gratitude as one of the 5 key strengths* that happiest people shared, I started to get more interested. (*The other 4 are zest, the ability to love and be loved, curiosity, and optimism.)

So, I tried it.  I wrote down three things I was grateful for every day:  this beautiful sunrise, this tea that I love, love, love, the beautiful watercolor E. sent me from her painting retreat.  It was fun and easy.  I started looking for things to write down which got me noticing how grateful I was.  I said “thank you” more, and to everyone.  I felt happier, lighter.

But it didn’t last. 

So I tried the things I usually do to establish a new habit:  I recruited friends to join me, first in an online journal, then in an email chain.  We all said how much we loved it, how fun it was to read what others were grateful for.

But that didn’t last either.  My inability to adhere to this anti-depression practice was beginning to get a little depressing.

I was experiencing the power of what psychologists call the Negativity Bias.  Simply put, our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative information than positive information.  We are always scanning for danger:  It’s a survival strategy that keeps us out of harm’s way.  Negative information is more contagious too, perhaps because communicating danger quickly is how the herd keeps its members safe.

But surviving is not the same as being happy.

I chucked the whole idea into the mystery column, my receptacle for the things that are currently beyond me, and got on with life.  Then a colleague mentioned the details of Seligman’s original study.   I’d gotten it completely wrong.  The specific instructions to the 50 severely depressed participants were to write down three things that had gone well each day and why they thought so.  Oops.  Not three things I was grateful for that had nothing to do with me, but three things I participated in that had gone well.  And why I thought so. 

Oh. This expression of gratitude was also a confirmation of personal agency.  It fought powerlessness.  No wonder it was so effective against depression.

That’s very different than writing about things outside me: “the tea I get from France, the way Cindy Cashdollar plays steel guitar, fluffy bunnies”, or the truncated, drive-by version I eventually adopted: “Puppies.”  Sunrise.  Afternoon cappuccino at Peet’s.”

So I tried it. Here’s my list from yesterday:

What went well:  Tax appointment was fast and easy and left no sticky residue. Why?  I decided to enjoy the experience with Carolyn rather than focus on the complications of filing as domestic partners.

What went well:  HYCS was easier to write and got immediate positive feedback.  Why?  Because I finally understood that what goes in the middle of my mind-map is what I want my readers to experience or do, not the “topic.”  D’oh.  And that happened because I have been doggedly wrestling with this for months and allowing myself to ask Daphne (my writing coach) really stupid questions.  In public, and online where they will live forever.

What went well: The leak in my houseboat’s hull didn’t keep me up all night.

Why?   Because I got a second opinion from my contractor neighbor even though it was 7:30 p.m. and I didn’t want to bother him.  His verdict:  It can wait.  (He was right – it’s still waiting, and I’m still floating.)

What a difference.  That was fun.  I wasn’t just feeling happier.  I was feeling the joy that comes from knowing what I do makes a difference.

Today I looked forward to making my list and seeing what it would show me.  I have no doubt my negativity bias will try to derail me again.  It’s a wily, worthy opponent.  I look forward to outwitting it.

CG #37 – How to Get Your Motivation Back

What if everything we know about motivation is wrong?

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It’s not the corner office, the parking place with your name on it, a high salary or the perks that motivate.

Motivation is making progress on what has meaning for you.

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That’s what Harvard researcher Teresa Amabile found in her extensive study of people at work.  She published her results in a book called “The Progress Principle”

“Strive for progress, not perfection.”

–unknown

How to Make Progress

It doesn’t matter how small your progress is.  Taking even a tiny step forward motivates, and motivation frees up energy and time.  Accountability is accepting responsibility for finding a way forward.  Here are two keys to making progress, even when the situation seems hopeless

1.    Find the tiniest steps and take them

When we are fixated on the big win, it’s hard to see that there might be another way forward.  And when the big win is out of our control, it’s tempting to stop and wait for help.    But not making progress saps our motivation.  Finding one small thing to do isn’t about the shouldering the whole burden for a project or changing the company.  It’s about keeping your motivation strong. There is no need to take on the world.  Instead, make it tiny.

I’ll give you a recent example.  A client was feeling discouraged about the lack of support for her department’s work.  “It doesn’t help that we have no CEO right now,” she said.  “With executive support, our partners would support these new marketing tactics.”

Ugh.  There was no way to speed up the CEO hiring process.  Her progress was blocked and her motivation was low.

We played with ideas until we came up with this:  “Our partners lack a convincing  business case for our new marketing approach.”  While not beautiful prose, it does suggest an action my client can take:  Rather than wait for the new CEO to be hired and hand down a business case for the tactics she’s itching to implement, she can look for ways to make that case herself.

Tiny ways.  Eensy, teensy ways.  Ways that keep her motivated and moving forward, no matter what the CEO does or doesn’t do.

2.   Remember what you want

“Discipline is remembering what you want.”

–Steve Chandler

I don’t know what meaningful work is, but I know what matters to me.

When I focus on what I care about most, I’m tireless.  When I lose that focus, I droop, then sputter to a halt.  Isn’t it lucky that where I place my attention is the one thing I can always control?

I care most about excellence.  It still feels like a privilege coach a person or a team that is already brilliant, and help them get better, or start something new.   I will turn myself inside out to help them.  I inconvenience myself.  I take risks and grow for them.  I commit to their success.

Situations where I am asked to remediate a person or situation, bore me to the point of madness.  Most are easy to spot:  The protestations of deep, deep commitment are not backed up with adequate funding, staffing, infrastructure or planning.

Remembering that I love working with high potential people and situations gives the discipline to say things like this:

“What is it you think my involvement will do for this situation?”

“You say you are committed to making this situation work, yet I see no evidence of that commitment. “

“What are you willing to do differently to make this situation a success?”

“If I say yes to this work and find out that the problem is something you’re doing, how will we handle that?”

 

How do you nurture your motivation?

 

CG #31 – Do You Use These Powerful Words?

If you’re stuck on the heroic treadmill, you might want to start using these two little words with clients and co-workers.

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When I step out of the train in New York’s Penn Station, I’m bowled over by the sensory overload of sights and sounds, and the rush of the crowd sweeps me along.  Everyone seems to know exactly where they are going, and they are moving fast.  Everyone, that is, except me.

No matter how often I make the trip in from Newark airport, I’m always lost in Penn Station.  I used to confidently join in the crowd and walk quickly to the first exit I saw, no matter how far it took me out of my way.

It felt important to me to look like I knew what I was doing.  If anyone noticed, I doubt they were fooled.

Lately, I’ve tried a different tack:  I stop dead and wait until I’m oriented.  If I can’t get oriented, I ask someone for help.  If I get lost, I change course immediately, even if it results in a dirty look.  Sometimes I say “oops.”

This non-heroic approach to Penn Station gets me to the right exit with an economy of movement so I can save my energy for what matters.    This non-heroic approach works for consultants and managers too.

 Two Powrful Leadership Words:  “Oops” and “Help”

I can’t remember who told me that showing my vulnerability is what enables people to love me.  Sure, everyone loves a winner, but we don’t always find winners easy to like.  My mentor, Jean Westcott, boiled vulnerability down to two words:  “Oops,” and “help.”  Without those two words, leadership becomes comically heroic.

In an episode of “Star Trek:  The Next Generation,” Captain Picard and the ship’s doctor, Beverly Crusher, are escaping their captors on a strange planet.  They are lost, shackled together at the ankle and Dr. Crusher can read Picard’s thoughts.  When Captain Picard confidently points and says, “That way,” Crusher stops and says, “You have no idea which way to go, do you?  And you do this all the time!”  Picard admits that being a Captain means that people look to him for direction.  “Confidence helps them believe.”

That may be true.  And it may be something else.  Leadership may be something else.  At the very least, leadership in this moment may be something else.

If you are locked in to the heroic style of leadership, you may be spending the bulk of your energy looking like you know what you’re doing. 

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as a consultant is to admit when I’m lost or I’ve made a mistake.  It has never failed to build a stronger partnership, even when my client has been initially disappointed or frustrated.

Not only does the heroic approach make it hard for people to join you, it may be leaving you too depleted for the thrill of discovery, the astonishment of contribution and the raw joy of being in it together.

Try this:

  • Use the words “oops” and “help” just one time this week.   Today, if you can.  Look for the thing you don’t know, the place you are unsure.  Once you allow yourself to start looking, these are easy to find.

 

You’ve got nothing to lose but your façade, and that can be such relief.

 

 

Fail at Organizational Change in 3 Easy Steps!

80% of all organizational change initiatives fail. Either they fail to get off the ground, or they work only superficially and then fade away.

I think we can do much, much better better than 80%.   Why not shoot for a 100% failure rate?  We’re so close.  Here is my top 3 list for failing at organizational change:

 

#3. Underfund the change, either in terms of time or money. The more severely you underfund, the more quickly the change will tank. Unfortunately, if you overfund it, you can also sink your change initiative.  Luckily, there’s a key to getting it wrong 100% of the time:  Don’t review your original assumptions.  Yes, it really is that simple!  Just stick unwaveringly to your original plans, ignoring new information.  Extra credit:  call people names when they disagree.

Overfunding and underfunding are two sides of the same coin. We underfund, because we are in denial about what it will take to get what we want. We overfund because the change feels big to us, so it must be big.  And, we do one of these because we’re keeping the change at arms distance. It’s not close enough to us to know it well. No need to fuss about which it is. If your project is sputtering from neglect or drowning in personnel without achieving commensurate results, take another look. It’s probably this second key to failing at Organizational Change:

 

#2. Fail to define goals for the change that are clear, specific and measurable.Instead, use words like “better,” more,” and “less.” Or, say “we’re going to implement this model and leave it up to each person to operationalize.”

This is a fine place to start exploration and change, not the place to leave it. It’s a cop-out not to push through to clarity, to the place where your simple, single-pointed message vibrates, it’s so alive. You’ll know you’ve got it when you can easily see how to measure it – both that it is happening (the behavior changes) and that it makes a difference (your business goals).

Pushing for clarity of what to measure is the number one way to find out what you really want out of this. Do it early. It will improve everything and chew your project down to size. If you don’t know how to measure it, or can’t find the time, what does that tell you about your commitment level? Exactly. Which leads us to the number 1 way to guarantee an organizational change initiative fails:

#1. Fail to change yourself. It’s the you-change-I-don’t-have-to model. Works like a hot knife through butter. If leadership isn’t changing, it telegraphs to the entire organization that it’s business as usual. No matter what else you do, people will follow your lead. Your behavioral lead. They’ll watch what you do, rather than listen to what you say. After all, you aren’t listening to you. Why should they?

I hear people bemoan the terrible communication in their organization. To which I say HA! Gossip is a fabulous communication system, always working, always free. Imitation is the same: always working, always free. It’s built in to the human organism through something called mirror neurons, and popularized in the phrase “monkey see, monkey do.” Employee see, employee do. It’s simple: If you ask them to make uncomfortable changes and you yourself stay in the comfortable tracks of habit and certainty, monkey see, monkey do. If the change isn’t taking hold, look at the face in the mirror and start there.

That’s why you go through the agony of #3 and #2. Because it changes you.

Er, I mean, that’s why you refuse to go through 2 and 3. So you can refuse to change. At all. So you can get to 100% failure.

The power of uncertainty

There it is: Your opposition. They look like a mountain – unapproachable, unassailable, undeniably powerful. You can feel yourself shrinking in response, unable to breathe, your mind a blank. The mountain might be your organization, looking back at you as you present your idea of that this year’s work should be, or your boss as you ask for 5 new positions, or the cop who is writing the traffic ticket you don’t deserve.

It may as well be a dementor, so thoroughly does it suck the hope and optimism from you.

They just seem so certain. So sure of themselves. Supremely confident, as though they have a corner on the truth. Naturally, we want to oppose them, and show how many holes there are in their thinking.

In the face of such certainty, our instinct is to expand ourselves. To make ourselves feel powerful, big enough to be a match for the mountain, even if that requires exaggeration or spin. Even if it requires anger. In the resulting clash of the titans, we lose. They’ve got more defensive capability at their disposal.

What about uncertainty?

I’m beginning to think that the most powerful thing to do in the face of certainty is to raise doubt. If the opposite of a great truth is another truth, might the best strategy be doubt? And not overpowering doubt, because that raises their considerable defenses. It’s the Wizard of Oz scene where Dorothy notices the great and powerful Oz is a small man behind a curtain making it up as he goes along.

There is always a little man. He is always susceptible to doubt. Perhaps this is a good way to to approach him.

Me Tarzan, You Jane

One of my favorite cartoons about anxiety is the Gary Larsen cartoon showing Tarzan preparing to meet Jane. It’s a 6-panel cartoon and the first 4 panels show Tarzan practicing in front of a mirror. He strikes various poses and rehearses his opening line:

“Hello Jane, I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, my name is Tarzan.” “Hi Jane, I’m Tarzan, your date for the evening.” “Tarzan here, you must be Jane.”

In the fifth panel, we see Tarzan swinging through the jungle. In the last panel, he is face-to-face with Jane and blurts: “Me Tarzan. You Jane.”

Anxiety trumps skill

Tarzan has the skills – we’ve just seen him practicing them. Yet, in the moment, he can’t access them. What’s up? Anxiety. It’s not possible to lose a skill you have. It is possible to lose access to it through inattention, or through grinching up. These are two sides of the same coin:

Anxiety. Just a little bit of it can leave us as tongue-tied as Tarzan. A moment of inattention, a frisson of tension, and Tarzan loses the benefit of all his careful preparation.

It happens to all of us. I was talking to a guitar-playing friend the other day, someone who – when relaxed – can play song after song from his considerable repertoire with an infectious ease. It’s as though they are baked into his bones. He was telling me about buying a guitar from another guitarist whose playing he admired so much he felt a little intimidated. “He handed me the guitar and said ‘Here you go – play as long as you like.’ and my brain froze. I couldn’t think of a thing to play.” Anxiety trumps skill and years of experience.

On the other side of the coin, there’s me and bowling. I’ve been bowling maybe 20 times in my life, most of that with a group of developmentally disabled women who bowled by pushing a ball down a ramp. We went bowling every other week for the 4 months I worked with them. They loved going with me because I always lost, usually by about 20 points. They’d dance around and give each other high fives after I took a turn. The other day, I went bowling with some friends and had to force myself to focus enough so I wasn’t putting the kids in the next lane at risk. I had no idea a bowling ball could bounce like that, right out of the gutter.

Finding our balance

I think there’s a sweet spot: a place between not caring enough and over-caring, between accepting responsibility for my part and taking responsibility for what can’t be controlled. Over time, I’ve noticed that I sometimes avoid the over-caring by deciding to not care at all. Or pretending not to care. Or, I back away from being over-responsible by closing down: missing deadlines, not showing up. Either is a dangerous trend, and both are due to anxiety. When we are anxious, we over-prepare. Problem is, the tension we feel causes to practice the tension and anxiety we feel rather than the skill we need. That’s when it’s time to step away from the powerpoint and take a walk. Finding the balance between what’s up to us and what is beyond us is a work in progress. Nowhere is this more evident than in managing a group of people any one of which can be caught in a cycle of under-functioning or over-functioning due to anxiety. Either pole can be come a lifestyle if the underlying anxiety isn’t addressed.

Our anxious response

Training is often our response when someone doesn’t show a skill we want them to. We send people to training, they learn the skill, then they come back to work. Nothing changes. Why? Anxiety is often to blame: Theirs for not using a skill they have, and ours for thinking training will solve the problem. Let’s face it: Sometimes training is what we do when we want the problem to go away. It’s a kind of interpersonal Hail Mary play. Here’s the acid test: If you put a gun to their head, could they do it? If yes, they have the skill. That’s not what’s getting in their way. It may be anxiety that’s stopping them. Maybe they care too little, Maybe they care too much. Either way, it’s worth exploring.

I wonder – what would it be like if we could see the world this way? What if we could see the person who snaps at us, or treats us badly as anxious rather than mean or incompetent. What if we could see them as caring deeply about something and because of that trapped passion, being unable to perform in this moment? What if we could see it as situational – a bad moment, even a lifetime of bad moments – rather than personality or character-based? How would we respond if we could see through the acts we all adopt to the people within, wanting to do their baes and sometimes succeeding and other times failing. What if people say us that way? True or not, wouldn’t it be a more helpful pov?