HYCS #49 – There is always another layer, and it’s easier
After 11 years of pilates classes, I’m still uncovering new ways to unlock the genius of my body. Each new layer makes everything easier.
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Reading Time: 2.6 minutes
Assignment Time: Oh, Grasshopper, it’s a lifetime.
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The other day in Pilates class, someone was bemoaning how her scoliosis got in the way of executing a perfect swan. Our instructor, Jessica, said, “You’re making such good progress, you’ll soon have it all worked out.” To which the student said “Then there will be the next issue, to pay attention to, right, and another after that?” Jessica brightened and said, “Yes, you’ll be able to move on to the next layer!” In the stunned silence that followed, I said, “You sound excited about that.” Jessica said, “I am.”
I had to know more.
“The body learns in layers. The larger, outer muscles can be bullies, taking over every movement, even when the inner, smaller muscles can accomplish that movement with more ease and beauty. Accessing the smaller, inner layers of muscle takes time, patience and attention, but it’s so worth it. That’s where all the ease in the movement is. That’s where the joy is.”
This is exactly how to become a better consultant. At first you are learning how to work the big muscles: who are my clients, what do they want to accomplish, what can I say, how can I say it, how can I get them to do what I think they should do, where are we in the consulting cycle now?
Eventually, this becomes rote. And many consultants stop here, happy to be getting clients to do what they think is best which is so often what works best for the consultant. These consultants get very good at selling pre-packaged solutions. You can spend an entire career here and be considered a great success.
Our estate lawyer just demonstrated this level of consulting on the phone yesterday. Our trusts need revising and she was attempting to persuade us to opt for the more expensive trust that would “protect our assets from creditors, and lawsuits against our heirs and their heirs.” My partner who has two daughters wavered, so she turned to me for the close. When I refused outright, she said, “This option is most attractive to people with children.” This made me laugh out loud, which left her even more flustered and a tiny bit insulted. She’d given it her best shot – fear, plus guilt – and it hadn’t worked.
She wasn’t using her inner consulting muscles. If she had been, she’d have known enough about what I valued to laugh too or to not offer me that option in the first place. Instead, she’d lost my trust and become someone I’ll have to guard against in future encounters.
My next call was to my financial planner, who seems to have been born using her innermost consulting muscles.
“I just got off the phone with Carolyn (my partner). You two are really taking care of business – congratulations. How did it get so complicated to get all this stuff done?”
“Too many pigs at the trough, Terry.”
“And all of them wanting more.”
We both crack up. It’s not lost on either of us that we are two of those pigs.
When you are using the inner layer of consulting muscles, it’s easier and more fun for you and your client. Terry and I took care of our business in 7 minutes and left the encounter with a stronger relationship. The estate lawyer and I took care of business in 45 minutes and left with a weakened relationship. Jessica has my business for life because she has something I didn’t even know I needed.
Using your inner consulting muscles is where the joy and ease is, even in the midst of its most gnarly challenges.
Assignment: Find Your Inner Consulting Muscles
You already have all the tools you need to do this. Now look for the ease and the joy in them. Make them smaller, easier, more subtle. Look for the inner layers. They are always there waiting for someone to notice.
To listening skills, add ignorance. What don’t you know? Why are they acting that way? Everything happens for a reason. What is theirs?
To wanting to help, add compassion. And not just for your client, but for yourself. The compassionate consultant mistrusts the big muscles that interfere with the smaller, more subtle ones. If your client was a baby bird pecking its way out of a shell, would it be kinder to let them work their way out or to rush in to help? Look for the minimum viable intervention – the least you can do to help. Sometimes this is saying no.
To authenticity, add your humanity. Authenticity is not a technique. It’s taught that way to overcome the years of conditioning to be our role at work instead of ourselves. There is a need for socially appropriate behavior, but not at the expense of being fully awake and present. It’s you we need. I like to push the boundaries just a little to make sure I haven’t fallen into the corporate trance that’s all around me. Find what works for you – maybe it’s a smile and some real eye contact, maybe it’s letting your innate kindness show. Maybe it’s admitting your frustration or confusion.