The Complicator

Complicated

A good friend and colleague of mine introduced a wonderful new term to my vocabulary – The Complicator.

I see them in many many places now, and I wish I had this cue to spot them earlier.

Generally I confused them with Chicken Little – people who always thought the sky was about to fall and couldn’t see the upside of anything.

Complicators however are a little more insidious and beguiling. They constantly complain but at the same time they seem to move things forward. You admire the effort, and say to yourself

“Wow in spite of all those problems they made progress, good on them”.

And that is it, they’ve got you. hook line ( that’s a tangled line, and not as strong as it should be, and by the way the hook is made of the wrong metal, and not really appropriate for catching those kind of fish) and sinker (it should be heavier, but we found a way around it, modified it, talked to the design department, rang the supplier, then the sea was drained of all the water so it didn’t matter anyway).

You get the point.

I like to keep things simple, minimise the drama, focus on the outcome and not embellish the journey. Complicators do just the opposite. If you asked them to go to the corner dairy to get some pens for the office the story would go like this:

“That Dairy is hardly ever open (you know it is right now), the last time I went they were working on the footpath outside (3 months ago), damn what time does my favourite program begin…

They want you to say “Hey look it’s alright I’ll go…” to which they reply

“No, no, its fine, be back shortly”

That’s the game. Eric Berne describes them well in his book Games People Play.

So my question is – what the hell do you do?

My thoughts:

No, can’t print that one. Lets try another…

Give them an out for their plea’s for attention

Say “No I’ve heard that already what has changed?”

Say “Yep you told me that so what do you plan to do about it?

Say “Hey, it’s great you recognise the problems, it’s also great you know how to solve them. What I want to hear are the solutions”

All the other options involve weapons, cars, buses and combustible materials.

Have a great day, I’ll struggle to get through mine because, because, because….

Being different

Spot the "differents"

OK so I’m biased.

Well I don’t mean to be, but I am. Worse, I think I am less biased than most. But then, I’m biased.

I love the anecdote of the medical professor presenting himself to a rather erudite audience and saying “statistically speaking 50% of this room are practitioners who are worse than the average”, to which the response was flat denial, loud guffaws and probably outright terror from some.

We all like to think we are someone else at times. Not just average, and certainly not less than average.

And maybe a sure sign of this for me is when I see someone being different I say to myself “Go you good thing”, knowing that I no longer have the courage or motivation to “dance like nobody is watching” (other than to make my children laugh”).

The reality is I like to think I don’t conform, but I do, lots.

And because I do, how much of me have I lost, how much of we have we lost, and how much real leadership have we lost?

I expect the answer would terrify us.

Which is why I say “go you good thing” (but not yet so anyone can hear), why I look for the lights in the eyes, the mischief, the different view, the person who snubs etiquette, the noise, the silence, the independent thinker, the colour, the quiet withdrawal from boorish company and I celebrate the difference and know there is better to come.

It is also why I am terrified. Because I am unsure where we grow this,  I know we are poor at supporting it, and I am sure we seldom celebrate it.

For me it takes “different” to make “exceptional” otherwise the best you can be is very good at what someone else has already done.

Part of the challenge is picking the right “different”. ‘Me too’ and pretenders only get in the way and make the road harder for those with something truly valuable to offer.

What differences make a difference to you?

How could we support them?

Do you have your own story of being different and getting so frustrated you lost your ‘zing’?

I’m interested to hear.

Catching balls and catching leaders

How is it we can run and catch a ball without making complex mathematical calculations?

Well, inbuilt for most of us is a process called the gaze heuristic.

The gaze heuristic is a heuristic employed by people when trying to catch a ball. Experimental studies have shown that people do not act as though they were solving a system of differential equations that describe the forces acting on the ball while it is in the air and then run to the place at which the ball is predicted to hit the ground. Instead they fixate the ball with their eyes and move so as to keep the angle of the gaze either constant or within a certain range. Moving in such a fashion assures that the ball will hit the catcher.[1][2]

How is this relevant?

Several times people have mentioned or alluded to the basic premise leaders are born not bred. Certainly for much of my management career I have believed this.

Now I don’t.

Well not absolutely.

I think as a guide it stands, but I think it ignores two critical aspects:

Firstly even born leaders need to keep being bred – to learn new skills, to revisit things they knew before, and to keep learning what they didn’t know they needed to learn.

Secondly there are always leaders lurking who wouldn’t be classically picked as future leaders, and circumstance can mean they pull themselves through or someone or something else does.

I’ve harped on long enough in various guises about the first aspect. The second aspect though needs to be noted.

Leaders looking for, and at, leaders can’t afford to ignore those ‘not born as leaders’. They may go about things quietly or  lead with dogged determination – not the sort that barks everyone day and trumpets their glory (they are pretenders) – I mean the ones who have a belief in themselves and a self knowledge that they have plenty to learn if they wish to lead effectively. There are endless variations.

I typically observe these unheralded leaders as being either fearless or, at times, verging on what appears to be reckless ignorance. They are full of surprises.

My aim with this post is to speak out for those leaders ‘not born as leaders’, and to draw out some of your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

These ‘not born leaders’ support one of my belief’s that you can grown anybody into a pretty damn good leader.

And because ‘we’ don’t, perhaps that is why the old wives tale of born not bred has perpetuated.

References

  1. ^ “ScienceDirect – Psychology of Sport and Exercise : Fast and frugal heuristics in sports”. http://www.sciencedirect.com.
  2. ^ “Gut Feelings” (The Intelligence of the Unconscious) By Gerd Gigerenzer. Viking, 2007.

I was taught by the woman who cleared my table

Travelling recently reminded me very much about my post on “Where you belong”.

It is an odd thing to be in a business lounge in Dubai which is bigger than Wellington’s entire airport.

It brings home “them and us” and illustrates how many there are of both; though what determines who sits in each camp is not always clear.

My first instinct with inequities like this is to struggle – that I should be a ‘have’ when many others, like the woman, with her ear missing and ‘half’ her jaw removed, clearing tables, have not.

Then without wishing to sound pious or arrogant, nor excesively “Ayn Rand”, I realise the best I can do is exactly that – to do the best I can do, be the best I can be, to honour those who cannot or will not, or won’t be given the opportunity.

If I squander the opportunties I have been given, then it is another matter.

Dan was part of my inspiration to do this blog. He is a great example of my point with this post. He cares deeply for others and honours everyone by putting himself out to the world and to his communities (blog, church and local); by leading, by being courageous.

Even great researchers can’t lead by keeping their work to themselves. They can only lead when they open themselves to criticism, to challenge, to the possibility of being wrong and having more to learn.

Ultimately any true form of leadership is the same. If you don’t reach out with authenticity and allow others to reach in are you truly leading?

The despots of the world past and present, are unfortunate examples of only reaching out to manipulate others and fuel their own egos, there was no reaching in.

Great leaders reach out and simultaneously reach in, and allow others to do the same, and their work is transformed when they do.

The thought of leaders emerging at any stage from anywhere, and in any number of ways, excites me. Reaching both out and in and sharing this with the world is not an exclusive domain. Anyone can achieve this.

There are some extraordinarily positive examples of ‘ordinary’ people providing outstanding leadership.

As has been commented upon by my readers – Swami/ Guru’s search within themselves for many many years before ’emerging’ as leaders.

Leadership can be quiet, subtle, loud, colourful, intense, effortless, sudden, short, prolonged, recognised, ignored, delivered by the young or old, etc.

I realise now how much leadership is about being open, putting you hand up, letting others see a little of what is inside you. It is not being right, being brilliant, being special or better than.

It is nothing more than being gifted and gifting.

And what really excites me is this personal insight not only improves my leadership but allows me to see far more leaders than ever before.

If this posts means there is one more leader ‘caught’ in the act by you, my readers (not excluding seeing yourself as a leader), it has been a success.

Today, look for the beauty in what many ordinary people do and support this as leadership.

It can be as simple as saying (with a smile):

“Thank you for clearing my table.”

Where you belong.

I belong!
The hidden gremlin – why the wrong upbringing can unwind the right talent.

I reject the notion that we all have “our station in life”. At its worst this is hugely demeaning and limiting.

It did make me think though of the environment we were bought up in, and the impact this has on the way we see ourselves in life. And what I discovered was an aspect no-one in 5 decades has pointed out to me.

As you grow you may ‘improve’ your environment through diligence and effort; but you also need to believe you belong in that new environment before you can realise your dream/ your potential.

As a child it was an exciting day when Ray Sadd the plumber would come around and smoke his roll-your-owns on our back porch.

This was my model of ‘company’, of belonging.

No Lawyers, Doctors, Politicians, Scientists, Heads of Industry, Entrepreneurs or high achievers.

It was entirely incongruous with my other aspirations.

My proposition then, is that life is determined by where we expect to be and also, and critically, by where we expect to belong.

To make progress I had to reframe where I belong much more than understand what I needed to do to get there.

One part of this journey was obvious (Academic you might say), the other incredibly subtle.

That is, if as a child you dream of being a world class football player, you need to dream not only of having the skills and the mental ability but also of being comfortable in the company of the stars you currently idolise.

I know the two characters recently gracing international TV screens and Newspapers dressed as Kiwi’s at the football world cup. They are tremendously at ease mixing with media ‘stars’ and footballers alike. They were brought up in a highly supportive environment where anything was possible, where in effect they were ‘taught’ to feel as though they belonged wherever they went and in whoever’s company they made. They have gone far and will go further.

I am sure we have many talented people falling off the radar because although they may have developed the ‘skills’, training and even career path of a leader, there may be a little voice saying “I don’t belong”.

How many times have you been told by an employer ‘you belong here’? Here being at this level, in upper management, onward and upward. Not many of you I expect.

Maybe, just maybe, this is a missing piece in the career and talent development framework.

We not only need to grow skills and experiences but we need to ensure the individual understands they truly belong. The sky is the limit.[pullquote]they were ‘taught’ to feel as though they belonged wherever they went and in whoever’s company they made.[/pullquote]

The lucky ones already know this. They believe they belong and develop the requisite skills and experiences to fit alongside this. I would hazard a guess that this is as much an influence on future success as any other factor. Perhaps the ‘fortunate and wise’ relay not the skills for future ‘wealth’, but simply the sentiment of belonging and a rightful place.

Does this resonate with anyone?

Do you have talent in your company which is not being realised because of this simple factor?

What do you think about this proposition?

Learn-Un-Learn

This post is largely visual and is drawn from an insight I had with a client last week when trying to explain ‘Unlearning’.

I’m very much interested in your feedback as I think this is a useful conceptual and visual model. It is not Yin/Yang or Tao but shares a number of their principles while exhibiting a number of differences.

The concept is sort of simple.

Imagine a ball is one half Learn the other half Unlearn.

For learning to take place you replace the unlearning – with each being of equal force/quantity.

The notion is the effort to change is driven by the fact that not only do you need to adopt new learning but you need to displace old learning of an equal mental/ emotional weight.

This is the cornerstone of the model, as displayed on the left.






You may think it is easy to reject this with a model based on your ability to learn new skills but consider that many of these new skills will be ones you had not previously thought you could adopt:

You are usurping the belief that you Can’t with the belief that you Can.

Until the Can’t is fully displaced there is no way that you Can.

Have I lost you yet?

I hope not.



Another example;

You will be in two minds about this post. Either you think I’m right or I’m wrong.

I can’t be a bit wrong – because that still means I’m wrong.

So until you can feel that no part of it is wrong then you can’t feel that the whole thing is right.

You must completely displace all of your ‘wrong’ sentiment with something of equal force that it is ‘right’. The process is incomplete until you entirely replace one with the other.




As a further illustration, consider completely new learning.

At first this stumped me. Until I realised Knowledge replaces Ignorance. Further if you choose to ignore ‘knowledge’ you must therefore be choosing ‘ignorance’ (not choosing to Learn).

I was taught by my first coach – What you resist resists.

I think in many ways this model is a versatile articulation of that principle and shows clearly why change resists and why life can feel so out of balance – particularly when you are going through significant change.

Note also: with this model the healthy or desired option is always on top.

I have written a much longer paper/exploration on this, which I am willing to share with anyone who is interested. Please contact me if you wish to review this and provide feedback. I explore sequences, nesting and evolutionary learning based on this simple model. I have used the term ‘ULO’ (Unlearn Learn Orb) to describe the model.

Many thanks, Richard