The following is a blog written by Type 1: Perfectionist about his wife, Type 7: Enthusiast. People don’t often associate Type 1s with having a great sense of humor. Yet, this man is an award-winning copywriter and has been in the ad business for more years than he wishes to count. He and his wife are both in their mid-70s.
You can see Type 1 fully in his telling of the following tale. Backing Up Is Hard To Do.
My wife has a thorny problem with relations. The spatial ones. When she’s backing up a car, you never stand near it. Because wherever you’re standing, you’re in mortal danger. In the past few years, backing out of our garage, she has collided with four cars parked in our driveway and one innocently parked across from our house on the other side of the street.
It’s as if she were backing up an articulated big-rig vehicle. To go left, you turn the steering wheel right, right? My wife does this in our Honda CRV. In all of these accidents, we have been very fortunate that all she hit was metal. Metal can be repaired or replaced. I shudder to think of what else she could have hit. Like children or animals.
Her lack of spatial-relation skills may be hereditary. Because her sister just backed through a closed garage door. I can picture the medical profession recognizing this as a unique genetic condition: the “backing lacking syndrome.” But maybe it’s not hereditary. I mean, these accidents do require a willful disregard of the obvious.
So to be more empathetic – to see it from her point of view – I mentally reproduce the scene. I open the kitchen door leading to the garage. I press the remotely operated garage door. I walk towards the street between our two garaged cars.
Now I am outside the garage, facing the other car or cars hypothetically parked in the driveway. Next I turn and go to the left side of the CRV, open the driver’s door and get in. Obvious conclusion: My wife had to see any car parked in the driveway. And then in the next second forget about it (please don’t tell me it’s Alzheimer’s!) and swerve, backing into it! This could be the first case of Spatial Confusion complicated by Alzheimer’s? What will doctors call it? Dyslexic Dementia?
You see, Marina was diagnosed with stage four cancer six months ago. Within a week of her diagnosis, she went through intensive chemotherapy treatments only to find out much later that it was a shot in the dark … an experiment to see if it would work to slow down or stop the growth of her cancer.
Results came in like a punch in the stomach — the cancer had progressed in spite of the chemo.
As I understand it, there are three main determinants of disease; the first is a genetic predisposition, the next is environmental factors (what you eat, drink, what you’re exposed to) and the last is your beliefs, psychology, emotional state, stress.
We can have a genetic predisposition, but these other factors are what influence whether our genes are activated.
While attacking the disease with Western Medical protocols and change of diet, Marina chose to confront her cancer and face herself squarely. She decided to look within at how she may have contributed to bringing on her disease and what she could do to help herself heal.
Marina recounted her process with me, “I was faced with this question:”
‘What is the payoff for me? What do I get out of being ill?’
“I was so angry that the workshop leader suggested I (we) may actually benefit from being ill. When I felt my strong resistance, I knew there was something for me to explore so I went for it.”
As Marina began to write in her journal the pen swept over the paper with increasing velocity. Without effort, Marina managed to write two full pages dedicated to the various ways she derived benefit from being ill.
Key things from her list. Permission to say “no” to:
- request for help
- receiving help
- sign on for a project
- join a board
- extract herself from boards and other activities
- take leave from family and friends when she wants time alone
- take time for herself
- take time away from her computer and let emails sit in her inbox
- slow down and reduce her activity level (which has always been quite high)
In essence, to consider herself first. Marina smiled, “I have an excuse to take care of myself; to be fully ‘me’ without apology.”
“I’m the good person. My role is to give and to help. Therefore I don’t receive or ask for help. I pretend I don’t have needs, but secretly I hope you’ll see that I do. I take care of people. I can anticipate your needs. You need me. I expect to be appreciated. I must earn love and appreciation.”
This comes at the expense of their own self-regard and self-care. The belief is that:
If I please others; take care of others, if I am a giving and loving person I will be worthy of love.
As she started to take care of herself and to allow others to give to her, Marina’s true self began to shine through. She was surprised and delighted to share, “People are drawn to me. They want to be around me. They appreciate my authenticity.”
Opportunities for self-care and to receive help and support from others is ongoing. She laughs every time she realizes she’s stepped into her old ways, and then course corrects. Marina continues to notice how her pattern as the giver has played out throughout her life.
Despite her initial reluctance, friends have set up a bank account to receive donations for Marina to get care through a well-respected complementary medical clinic. She continues to courageously face her challenges to heal on all fronts: physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually.
Healing can take place when Type 2 is able to give freely without expectation, to receive from others (pride is not in the way) and to source self-love; when Type 2 declares “I am worthy of love because of who I be.”
What appeared as two inverted “v” silhouettes emerging in the foreground, turned out to be a furry-eared donkey.
As my friend Mar and I enjoyed an early evening hike, by chance I looked up just in time to catch him surface from behind the hill. There was Mr. Donkey set against the backdrop of the limestone mountains, lit up by the setting sun.
This was a precious moment I would have missed, had I not looked up in time. I delight in the unexpected and life is full of them … if we are open, awake and present.
How much of life passes us by when we forget to look up, and glance around instead of just focusing on what’s ahead?
These last several years, I have engaged in the joyful practice of relishing the moment. Instead of judging what is, wanting it to be different/people to be different, I have been graced with arriving at a place in my life where (when I am at my Wendy best), I accept and appreciate ‘what is.’
‘What is’ for me today? An ending that is simultaneously opening to a new beginning. Once again, I prepare to say good-bye and step into the unknown. On my last few walks through the village, I smile at a fisherman untangling his nets, knowing he will soon be a relic of the past, pause to caress the donkey’s face, smile inwardly as I glance around at the people I have come to know and love because of all of who they are …
There are so many sights and sounds and I just want to inhale them all; to burn them into my mind’s eye so I can recall this place I have called
home, at will. And yet, time is like grains of sand slipping through my fingers the tighter I try to hold on. These endings have become excruciatingly and exquisitely painful.
Since an early age, I’ve had a deeply felt sense for the temporal nature of life. The choices I have made along my journey have brought me face to face with a series of continual endings and beginnings, good-byes and hellos and the vast spaces in-between.
Some call me a nomad, but I didn’t set out to live that way. For those of you who have uprooted, you may have learned what I didn’t know until my roots were planted in new soil. Once you leave a place you cannot go back, at least not in the same way. You are different, people are different, the place has changed with time. That’s the nature of life–ever-changing.
What have I learned about beginnings and endings — about change? Here are 10 Valuable tips to help you ease your way into new beginnings.
- Beginnings come first. Have a vision for your life. Know what’s important to you; why you are making a change and what you’d like to be different as a result of your change in circumstance. Be clear. The end result is unlikely to match your vision exactly, but it may even be better. When you create with conscious intent, you have a much greater likelihood of materializing your vision
- Beginnings always require a leap of faith–nothing is certain
- Ask for help–it will come
- You don’t have to “make bad or wrong” your current circumstances in order to look forward to the next. Appreciate fully what you have; what was and what gifts this place, this person, this job provided
- Don’t rush through your ending to relieve the pain of letting go. Closing things down, readying for the change, saying good-bye is important. This process aids in the acceptance of change
- What loose ends do you need to tie up? Who or what do you need to make peace with? Do it. Don’t leave a trail of litter behind you because it will keep you from fully moving forward
- Throw 100% of your commitment (energy, focus, intent … ) behind the change. If you’re ambivalent, you’ll have a hard time materializing your vision
- New beginnings take time. You are a learner once again. Give yourself permission to feel awkward, to make mistakes, to feel incompetent in your new circumstances
- It will take awhile to find your new rhythm. But you will
- How do you want to be in this new beginning? Go forward with conscious intent. How do you want to show up — for yourself, others, in your new situation? You can choose to start anew; to let go of habits that don’t serve you and create new ones that do.
How have I been changed by my current circumstances?
In this place, I have learned to look up, pause, linger, deeply listen, lighten my load, experience the vastness of my heart and to accept …
… and that roosters crow all day and night, that people are more lovable because of their imperfections, that slowing down opens the senses, that there are benefits to nosy neighbors, that living a life at scale is possible and desirable, and so much more. I hope to carry these treasures with me like a turtle carries it’s home.
This poem helped me (and no doubt, countless others) be courageous in the letting go into new beginnings. May it gift you with the same.
For a New Beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never
think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting
until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness
growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety , And the gray
promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise
and relent, Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped
onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of
this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at
one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease
in risk; Soon you will be home in a new rhythm, For your soul senses
the world that awaits you.
~ John O’Donohue ~
I have neglected my blog of late because of my impending move and I imagine that settling into my new home will also be getting most of my attention. It will take me a little while to find my new rhythm, so please hang in there with me. I love to write and hope to have some good stuff to share coming soon!
In the meantime, what beginnings are taking form in you?
Add to my list: what have you learned about endings and beginnings?
When the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter landed in my inbox, I clicked on their link that took me to an excellent summary of the book: Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, Ph.D. I have not yet read the book, however I found the review intriguing.
According to the review, the book breaks people out into three interaction or reciprocity styles (Givers, Takers and Matchers) and how each one leads to varying degrees of success. What grabbed my attention was this quote about givers:
… But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades … Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.
Givers are the type of people who use their own gifts and talents to “amplify the smarts and capabilities of others,” like Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers. In the workplace, givers share their ideas, knowledge, information, time and energy. They are neither doormats nor do they give for strategic purposes. I know many people for whom this is natural.
However, each one of us can be a giver. It’s a choice.
A little story. I met Sam (not his real name) less than a year ago by a chance encounter, and he is most definitely a giver who contributes to the lives of many, without strings. He shares his experience and hard-earned wisdom, generously. Through his mentoring, we have learned to expand our ability to see more broadly and with finer distinctions. He’s taught us a language to articulate what we see that provides clarity. As a result, we have become more skilled at our craft, and our clients and relations are beneficiaries.
Sam brings out my best and my desire to pay it forward. Meeting Sam has changed the course of my life.
We may never know the ripple effect our acts of generosity, kindness, caring, listening, support, and sharing of ourselves–have on another. When we give each other a hand up, it’s a win-win.
We feel good, we help someone else, others are happy for our success (according to the article, people tend to be happy for the success of givers), and it has a multiplying effect.
Can you remember that special adult who made a difference in your life? The teacher who believed in you and your talents? The boss who shared her earlier career mistakes so you would know you were not alone? The important stranger who said a kind word just when you most needed it?
The thing is, regardless of whether we are a giver, taker or matcher, what we say and do has a ripple-on effect.
What a profound responsibility that is.
With each action we take, each sentence we utter or write, each tweet, FB or G+ post, we make a difference to someone, somewhere.
Each of us has the possibility to forward and change the course of humanity for the better … We can leave a legacy that lives on in the hearts and minds of others, well beyond the death of our physical form.
Recently, I watched an interview of a physician on one of the major news networks in the US, who shared the story of her near death experience. While unconscious, she went through a life review and saw the ripple-on effect of her words and deeds. She was able to witness at least 35 layers beyond the person immediately affected.
What if that’s true? It begs the question, “what are the ripples you intend to spread, even if you never know how what you do, matters?”
Please join the conversation. Who has given generously and made a difference in your life? What was the effect on you and others?
(For a terrific article that delves into the book, check out Kare Anderson’s review in Forbes)
Back in the day, my grandma touted the wonders of the book, Pycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S. (1960). It stuck in my mind but I never got around to reading it. Maybe the timing wasn’t right. I know it shaped the way my grandma thought and how she led her life.
Grandma taught me to “never say can’t,” to sing while I walk, the value of simple things in life, that nutrition as your medicine cabinet, imbued in me her love and appreciation for nature, and that as a woman, I could be successful in business–she was.
I can still hear her giggle and feel her tenderly holding my face in her hands.
Grandma Frieda was ahead of her time in so many ways and she had a profound influence on the woman I have become. She made me believe anything was possible. My eyes well up with tears of gratitude for the many gifts she gave me.
Today, I was reminded of Grandma and Cybernetics by this BBC article Why Your Brain Loves to Get Feedback and it prompted me to finally order the book. She reached from the beyond and tapped me on the shoulder, and this time I wasn’t going to let Psycho-Cybernetics pass me by.
My curiosity and I went exploring and here’s what we found.
Cybernetics is a network of constant interactions and communications. Norbert Wiener (1894–1964) coined the term in 1948 from the Greek word for steersman. The term describes feedback — communication and control in systems—where a system obtains information on its progress, assesses the feedback, corrects its course and receives further feedback on the success of the transmission.
I followed up by doing a wee bit of research on the origins of Cybernetics (Macy Conferences). I sat in reverie and awe. Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, two giants in the field Anthropology (my post grad degree) were key players in these conferences and the founding of cross-disciplinary field of cybernetics.
I then went to the source and read the introduction to Psycho-Cybernetics on Amazon, where it seems that Maltz applies cybernetics to human systems. From what I could tell, Maltz made a case for uncovering and reshaping our beliefs that undergird self-perception.
To simplify, we can act into new habits and patterns, using feedback to adjust our new behaviors. This sent chills down my spine. He published this book in 1960 and likely was writing it the year of my birth. In 2012 I published my own book and the premise was the same. We are not doomed to repeat the same patterns, over and over.
The final paragraph in the BBC article stirred me:
Feedback loops, on the other hand, beginning with the senses but extending out across time and many individuals, allow us to self-construct, letting us travel to places we don’t have the instructions for beforehand, and letting us build on the history of our actions. In this way humanity pulls itself up by its own bootstraps.
It was a powerful reminder of my commitment to be a mirror (feedback) for my clients for them to see they are much bigger than their self-definition, the roles they play and their stories; to help them deconstruct the beliefs that underlie their self-perception so they can step into their largess and intentionally create the life of their choosing.
We each have the power and possibility to re-craft our self-image, to become the full expression of who we are meant to be. Are you willing?
After I read Psycho-Cybernetics, I’ll write a follow-up post to share more about what I uncover.
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you know I commune with the natural world regularly for solace, inspiration, clarity, deeper contact with myself, to integrate experiences, to source meaning …
I meander and let my intuition do the walking. On a recent outing, I chose not to let my mind wander but to continue to bring it back to the here and now. What was before me was too spectacular, beautiful, inspiring to miss. More than that, I wanted now. I didn’t want to miss out on my life while I occupied my head.
Do you want to know a little secret? All we have is now.
We hardly experience here while wanting to be there. We are always on our way to something more, something better, someplace else.
Most of us are in the present-past or the present-future, but we rarely occupy the now. Why not?
How much of life do we miss while we ride the rails of our habituated patterns of thinking and feeling, over and over? How well do we know ourselves when we endlessly distract and stay stuck in these well worn feelings and thoughts?
These thoughts and feelings are not ours to have.
They simply are.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, I Choose Now became my mantra. Each time I found my mind wandering, I brought my attention back to what was right in front of me with the words, I Choose Now.
I let go of whatever thought or feeling tried to occupy me. With each repetition of the phrase I inhaled the beauty around me. I allowed the miracle that is our natural world to touch me. It was excruciating … and sublime.
This poem continues to inspire me as I journey through life. It’s meaning still unfolding.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner ~
Rays of sunshine burst through clouds and sweep across citrus orchards and olive groves
Thousands of seagulls circle in tornado formation and squawk in revelry
Sunlight reflects off grey-green olive and blue-green carob trees leaves
Orbs of yellow and gold citrus framed against blue sky
Donkeys bay, roosters crow, lambs baaah, bird songs all echo across the valley
Ecstatic joy brings tears to my eyes – allow the joy. Don’t try to hold on, don’t shut it out.
And when you relax and accept here; when you stop beating up on yourself for not being someplace that you’re not, embrace where you are and keep your eye on where you’re going – that’s where the magic of life happens. That’s where “you happen” as you create yourself in every moment.
I choose now
Family, community, and culture exert a significant influence on and help shape the expression of our personality and consequently our Enneagram Type. The following is a personal account that sheds light on how this works.
After Stephan (not his real name) purchased my book and read it, he contacted me. I thought our exchange would be valuable for many of you. Travel with him as his story unfolds and you may see yourself in his tale, “A Case of Mistaken Identity.”
Question from Stephan: How much of Type is “from birth” and how much might be survival adaptations from early childhood? By the way, it is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Reply from Wendy: It’s both nature and nurture. Type is shaped by family, community, school, religion and culture. These influences can reinforce Type, stifle it, cause one to adapt to fit in or some combination thereof. The early childhood experiences I write about in each Type’s story, reflect how each Type experiences the world through their Type lens and filter.
Another Type could be exposed to the same treatment, events, etc., and have a different story to tell. This is why different children respond to the same family environment or caregivers in their own unique way. And this is why, we are not our stories and are much bigger than our stories.
At birth, each Type seems to emerge with a set of beliefs about the world. Now this is all theory, but it seems to fit with what I have experienced in my work, in my own personal life and reflects a lot of the literature.
I think we’ll learn more as our understanding of human nature evolves.
Reply from Stephan: When I first looked at the Enneagram a few years ago, Type 5 – the Detached Observer (“Researcher” according to that particular resource) appeared just about right.
This seemed obvious for the Ph.D in me. But yet, it didn’t. I’ve always known that my intellectual side was a limiting compensation and has never been the real me. The official story from me and those I inherited it from (like college professors) was that I was “the intellectual.”
I bought that story, but in truth was never happy with it. In high school and early college, I was an art major and had been offered a free ride to an art school. I was that good. I loved art, especially drawing, from as early an age as 4 or 5.
My earliest memories are being a quiet kid who just loved to draw. But then, in college every professor started telling me, “Anything less than a Ph.D is a serious waste of talent.” So I dropped the art major and went into the humanities, riding that adopted story all the way to a Ph.D. Yet even in the Ph.D program, I switched from historical studies to literary studies because I could talk about the art of the text.
Being a “unique” intellectual was always my calling card.
I was bored if it didn’t have an artistic slant. I knew then and there it was my old art major telling me he wouldn’t be happy unless he had a place in my evolving intellectual life. I was ready to drop the Ph.D until I could find a way to do something intellectual and at least a bit artsy.
Flash forward to present time. Lately, I’ve been doing speaker training and my coach put me through some brain tests. I always assumed I was left brain dominant.
But I was wrong – I’m right brain dominant and left-handed! (The same as Einstein, believe it or not.) It then all began to make sense!
My coach put it out there, “You are right brain dominant Stephan – make no mistake. Your left brain seeming dominance was probably some sort of survival adaptation.” Then more lights went on. She was right. It all was.
It was at that point that Kara (a friend who is familiar with the Enneagram) and I had a talk.
We agreed; I’m a 4 and my 5 is a “wing,” but a very strong wing that dominated the landscape for years because I had to escape my feelings and run to my mind to manage a Borderline mother. She could crush a 4 and his feelings, but never a 5 and his mind. It was definitely a survival strategy.
When I realized that, and I subsequently read your book, it all made sense. The cosmic tumblers began to click and I saw the gestalt of my life and the map of my deep inner experience with life.
I can see that I was born a Type 4 and yet, that 5 wing is a very strong survival adaptation that has often eclipsed my inner 4 essence (official stories can do that, unfortunately). I even know the event at age 5 that precipitated this whole shift – a very deep imprint.
While reading your book, I also uncovered my 3 wing. And I definitely run to the 2 people pleaser when under stress and when I’m in my native mode. I take the highway to Type 1 who runs seamlessly on ‘perfection’. I LOVE that mode.
It all began to make sense, like a puzzle falling into place.
So, as I read your book, I could not help but see how BOTH nature and childhood experience created how my Type evolved. And, of course, working with my clients tells me that imprints certainly can adjust the course of such things as a Type.
I am reclaiming that Type 4 in me these days, and I am using my 5 wing more as a tool, and less as a statement of who I am.
I am so much happier and your book helped clarify the growth process of rediscovering the ‘road map of me’ these past 6 years.
It put some things together for me in a most providential manner. Let’s just say, it was no mistake that the Universe lead me to your book at this time through my friend Kara. And for that, Wendy, I’m profoundly grateful.
I just wanted your answer since from my experience, it takes both nature and nurture/imprints to explain my experience with the Types.
I was never sold before on this stuff. I am now.
On your leadership and life journey, an essential travel companion is your curiosity.
When you invite curiosity to join you on your journey, your defenses drop, your inner critic subsides, your “I know” or “I should know” is no longer such a dominant voice. Your openness and availability to others and yourself grows and deepens. As it does, you feel drawn further and further along to what is around the next bend.
Questions you can ask yourself and others to invite curiosity are:
I wonder … “Why do I believe that?” “Is it true?” “Why did I do that?” “When did I stop doing that?” “How do other people experience me?” “What if I/we could … ?” “What do you think of that?” “Tell me more … ” “What is behind the question (being asked of me)?” “When did you notice?” “What can I/we learn from … ?” “How might I/we …?” “Is it possible that/to …?”
These are some of the undefended questions that curiosity asks.
Curiosity doesn’t judge, criticize, critique, or have answers. Curiosity is living the questions until the insights appear. Curiosity notices, is awake and aware. Curiosity takes an interest in what and who is around it and asks, “What can I learn from you?” Curiosity moves toward, not away from.
Curiosity is a bridge to the unknown.
Curiosity asks a question for clarification before reacting or responding—and we usually find out that we are reacting to something that we project onto the other person rather than what is really there.
Curiosity invites connection, ideas, innovation, intuition.
If you are a leader, curiosity is one of your most trusted allies. It will take you far.
Curiosity is interested in subtlety. It is the doorway to being present and available to yourself and for others. It will guide you to your insights, your deepest longings, and back to your true self.
This is an excerpt from my book: InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders and includes specific practices to bring more your curiosity your inner and outer conversations.
I’d like to share a success story. It’s a case study of a leader and team that soared, how they did it and the specific results they achieved.
I had the privilege of coaching and consulting to a health care department (made up of four teams) for two years. Personally, I had very high satisfaction because I was able to work with the team step-by-step and witness their evolution and the gains they sustained over an extended period of time.
The situation: As luck would have it, the department chief, Dr. Chan and the department manager, Janice were both newly appointed and highly motivated. Dr. Chan was open to learn, willing, and dedicated. He was not a charismatic leader but he was respected for his technical skills. He was known as responsible and reliable and therefore had earned some trust going into his new role. By dedicating resources to the team’s development and education, he demonstrated his commitment to the team.
The department’s physical work environment was antiquated and cramped. Although they had been promised a new clinic for several years, there was no new construction on the horizon.
Metrics: The department was measured quarterly in five key areas against 18 other like-departments within the organization.
- Employee Satisfaction
- Service / Customer satisfaction
- Access to care
They occupied the bottom 1-3 positions Service / Customer Service metric for a few years running. Additionally, they broke records for workers comp claims and sick days. There was team divisiveness. And as you might imagine low employee satisfaction.
Recruiting for new hires was tough because of its reputation as a dysfunctional place to work and the cramped and inadequate working conditions. There was high turnover, they were continually short-staffed, all of this adding to their stress and job dissatisfaction.
So let me get to the punch line now. As a result of effective leadership, this department pulled together, soared to the number one position and stayed there for several consecutive quarters. Last I checked, they were still the top performers after two years.
- They became Service Stars
- Employee satisfaction improved significantly
- Quality Maintained
- Access Targets Met and Maintained
- Efficiency Increased
- Lowered cost of care
- New workers’ Comp claims reduced
- Absenteeism reduced significantly
If you want to know how we did it, read on …
What were the conditions for success?
- Dept. leadership agreed that change was needed
- Dept. leadership agreed to commit to team development for the duration
- Dept. leadership secured sponsorship of Medical Center administration
- Dept. leadership and medical center administration alignment
- Secured OD consultant and coach resource for ongoing leader and team development
What did we do?
I did a department-wide assessment, wrote up my findings and proposed a plan of action. Together with the department chief and manager we formed a plan to engage and involve the entire department in developing a vision, goals and strategy. Dr. Chan and Janice agreed to commit to three department offsite meetings per year, monthly team meetings and weekly department leadership meetings. We added a two more members to the leadership team: the chief of service and physician communication, and the labor partner.
Based upon the assessment, the focus for team development was to:
- build trust by:
- getting to know themselves and each other better
- using diversity as strengths
- learning to communication effectively
- learning to collaborate
- engaging in healthy and productive conflict
- learn how to make decisions together
- hold each other accountable
- learn how to run effective meetings
- have fun together
Together, they built a department culture to engender
- Open communication
- High involvement and engagement
- Collaborative problem solving
- Consensus building
- Labor / Management collaboration
- Celebration of success
- Reward and recognition
The leadership behaviors that contributed to the overall success of this department are not necessarily the ones you hear about. Dr. Chan was fairly quiet and unassuming, he was humble and he was open and willing to learn. Janice was a bit of a maverick, optimistic, creative and extroverted. They aligned and stayed in sync so that nobody could work one against the other. They both demonstrated caring and warmth. Despite his discomfort, Dr. Chan learned to confront the disruptors.
By dedicating resources to team development and agreeing to implement decisions generated by the department, they both demonstrated a commitment to change.
With skin in the game, they built trust with staff and administration. As administration witnessed the results of their focus on team development, they continued to resource it. This department was recognized for their successes within the medical center and across the region.
We didn’t do anything fancy, there was no charismatic leader, and Steve Jobs was not needed for this assignment. They used leadership basics, and that goes a long, long way.
Engage and involve your people, give them an opportunity to influence business operations and make a difference. Surface the wisdom of your team collectively and individually.
Take care of your people and they’ll care for each other and the customers.
Build team trust–that is the foundation for everything else. That singular focus had a positive and lasting impact on all the metrics.
Your two greatest assets: The way you lead and your team. These are your key leverage points to shift the system and change everything.
Does this sound familiar? Love to hear your comments!
I was gratified to hear the president of the American Management Association say, “We expect leader-like behavior from many many more people in today’s organizations.”And It turns out that the American military has begun to train leaders to lead by intent rather than lead by being prescriptive.
In psychological theory, Carl Jung called this process of getting to know ourselves; of bringing our unconscious material to light, the process of individuation. It is the journey of human evolution.
Individuation means that we embrace all that we are, (individually and collectively) and become brave enough to take off our defensive armor and go exploring like the hero of myth and story.
Individuation builds our capacity to see ourselves and each other for all our attributes, complexities and creative gifts as well as our messier, perhaps less preferred character traits.
This process of individuation also applies to the development of teams–to create leader-full teams. More on that shortly.
The most well known team development model is: forming / storming / norming / performing
Many teams get stuck and never move beyond the forming / storming phase. Why? A key contributor is that most of us walk around with an unconscious assumption that people see what we see, perceive what we perceive, hear what we hear, and think like we think. If they don’t, they damn well should.
We have to get beyond this to tap into the team’s creativity and unlock the doors to innovation.
The most effective way I have found to address the “be like me” syndrome is to use the Enneagram system with teams.
When people discover their Type and learn each other’s Types, it opens the windows of perception. People begin to see the value of differences.
I love seeing flashes of insight when team members “get” that people are different from them and perceive the world differently. In these precious moments, we learn to listen differently, “see” through a wide angle lens, and begin to appreciate differing world views and individual attributes.
In these moments we begin to understand one another and to better understand ourselves.
Then the real work begins. The team needs to develop its muscle to integrate the differences and leverage them for performance. Differences can tear us apart if we judge them or we can harness their strengths.
Individuation (the process of differentiation and integration) needs to take place at both the individual and team level.
Our self-awareness and self-management can strengthen group effectiveness.
The brain is an open loop system; in other words, it is not just an organ that resides in our heads. We activate each other’s triggers and moods catch like the flu.
Think of a time you entered a group and were feeling positive and upbeat. After awhile, you noticed that people were complaining and their energy was lack luster and disengaged. How long did it take before you started feeling the same?
Less aware individuals contribute to an unhealthy team environment. An unhealthy team environment can take down some of the healthiest individual players–or they leave.
Individual development aids team development and vice-versa. They feed each other.
The beauty of working with the Enneagram for team development is that it brings to light key underlying drivers for our habitual patterns of interacting, thinking, feeling and acting. It uncovers team strengths to be harnessed and liabilities to be managed. We get to know ourselves and each other in ways we never imagined.
If you can’t see it and acknowledge it,
you can’t manage it
Once we surface some of our patterns, we can begin to unravel them and develop new ways of interacting and acting. We can take concrete steps to develop new ways of being–individually and as a team.
Now we’ve entered Norming / Performing–until the new team members join, and then we start again … Teams are a bit amoeba-like, constantly forming and reforming; reintegrating and differentiating. And so are we, if we are committed to learn, grow and evolve.
Leader-full teams are teams made up of people who take responsibility for their work, their words and their actions. They are committed to grow and evolve. The person in authority (read, Boss), needs to create an environment where people can learn and grow and make a difference that matters; where each person can contribute their unique gifts and talents.
I just heard Robert Tobias, American University speak about leadership development. He said:
There is a necessity for leaders to develop their inner life—to challenge themselves to become who they are and be relationally transparent—that is, to become authentic and to care.
I’d love to hear how you help grow leader-full teams. Please weigh in and join the conversation!
I’m pleased to share a guest post from Janet Crawford today. Janet and I will be co-hosting a workshop October 17th. I hope after reading this post you’ll understand why I’m so excited to hear more from her.
It happened again just last week. My brother and I were out to dinner with friends from college when I decided to tell a family story. Mid sentence, he interjected with a correction, “No, no….that’s not exactly right….what really happened was….”
I politely conceded that it was possible that I’d gotten it wrong and continued the story, but barely a few lines later, he grinned and rolled his eyes for comic effect, “Here, let me tell it…”
I wondered, “Were we describing the same event? Was my memory really that bad? Was his? Oh dear! Had I inherited my mother’s charming, but often exasperating tendency to rewrite history so as to be able to tell a more entertaining story?”
About 15 years ago, I became fascinated with studying the brain and how, from a biological standpoint, we make sense of reality. That study has helped me better understand these episodes.
It should come as no surprise to anyone with siblings, that disagreement over the content of shared family experiences isn’t unique to my brother and me. Likewise, in my role as an executive coach, I can tell you there are often as many interpretations of a tense meeting as there are people in the room. But why is this a universal phenomenon and what does it have to do with the Enneagram
The Memory Myth
For a very long time, our understanding of memory resembled a kind of internal video/audio recording system. Perhaps part of the tape would get lost or erased, but our “equipment’ recorded a shared sensory “reality” and the tapes remained static over time.
Neuroscientists will now tell you definitively that it doesn’t work that way. Even during the original experience, we are all encoding different information based on sets of deeply held patterns through which we filter reality.
Over time, those original memories constantly shift based on new information that impacts how we view what happened way back then. Immediately after an event, reports from two individuals won’t be the same.
Our internal filters have us notice different things and interpret them through different stories. After twenty or forty years of constant re-filtering, the memories often have very little in common.
What are these deeply held patterns and where do they come from?
Infants enter into the world hungry for sensory experience. While they delight in their explorations, they are not equipped to make sense of them. They have no roadmaps for how to respond emotionally or intellectually to all that surrounds them.
For that, they rely on copying their caregivers’ physiological response to conditions in the environment. Our crude biological logic informs us that our best bet would be to behave as our parents do. After all, they survived long enough to produce us!
If they tense up under certain conditions, so do we. If they remain relaxed, our infant bodies do the same. From those physiological expressions, we know to feel fear, anxiety, excitement, openness, guardedness, etc. Little by little, we form a set of fundamental emotional perspectives on the world that will likely endure throughout our lives.
Almost all of these basic emotional filters are acquired before the age of 18 months, a critical point in brain development marking the beginning of explicit autobiographical memory.
Because our emotional patterns were formed in response to events that preceded our ability to remember them, we don’t “see” our patterns. Our emotional interpretations and responses just seem like “the way it is.” They are transparent.
It appears that the deepest emotional filters seem to boil down to a handful of patterns, things like our sensitivity to vulnerability, deprivation, abandonment and exclusion.
The Enneagram, I believe, may be a very elegant system based on centuries of observational data, for naming and working with those fundamental patterns. As central to our identity as our emotional programming is, it is possible to rise above it and choose when, how and if to be under its sway.
The world is populated with people who carry differing perspectives, stories and filters on reality. The lesson learned from interactions like the one with my brother is something I carry into all parts of my life.
When someone vehemently disagrees with me or misunderstandings crop up, I’m less quick to judge and more likely to ask, “How might my lens be creating a distorted (or partial) view?”
My brother and I were both there, we both have a memory and we both have at best only part of the “truth.” Fortunately, we get that and over the years we’ve gained an appreciation for the unique perspective we each bring to the here and now. All of us have important relationships where perspectives differ. Whose lens could you understand better and what tools and practices do you need to get there?
“Applying neuroscience to leadership matters. Science is revolutionizing our understanding of what it is to be human. An explosion of advances in human neuroscience is giving us a window into why people behave as they do and how we can manage our environments and behaviors with others to maximize results. These new scientific findings challenge old assumptions of what it means to lead.” – Janet Crawford
Janet Crawford, expert in the application of neuroscience research to coaching and leadership, will explain what’s happening at a biological level when you play out Enneagram habits in our upcoming Insight to Action tele-workshop on October 17. She’ll facilitate practical explorations of ways to recognize our patterns and relax their grip. For more on this workshop, click here.
On a recent hike with friends I mentioned, “Usually I see ‘heart rocks’ when I am walking, but I haven’t been paying attention today.” No sooner had those words left my mouth, when we all noticed a heart-shaped rock on the trail ahead.
Today I set my attention on finding heart rocks. I saw at least 10.
What we pay attention to, we amplify. Our focus shifts and we begin to see what was there all along, while our attention was elsewhere.
Have you ever had the experience of something (a word, a concept, a brand …) brought to your attention, and immediately you notice it everywhere? Did you wonder whether it was synchronicity? Perhaps something you were unaware of before is now in your field of vision?
There are Two Essential Ways of Being for leaders that motivate their followers, help bring out their best and help them see beyond what they think is possible:
- Pay attention to your seeing. What you focus on, you amplify.
- Where is your focus of attention? Is it on problems, what’s wrong, what’s not working … do you easily find fault with others?
- If we focus on problems, what’s not working or someone’s annoying character traits–that is what we see and we often see it to the exclusion of other things. We see more problems, more of the character traits we expect, more …
- Problems start to grow
Several years ago, I lead a meeting to improve the interactions, information and patient flow and overall processes between in-patient and out-patient OBGyn and Maternity.
The group began to identify all of the ways the processes didn’t work, all of the problems, patient complaints, MD complaints, and on … until someone finally said, “What are we doing?” Great question.
The group vitality and energy had been sucked right out of the room. We created a list of problems and issues vast enough to overwhelm the best of us.
In a moment of inspiration, I restarted the conversation by asking, “If you could create your ideal department with smooth transitions, rewarding interactions, satisfied members, patients and physicians and you were highly motivated and happy at work, what would would be going on? What would you see, do, hear; what would be in place in terms of process and flow?”
The group energy soared! The wall was full of sticky notes. Ideas and associated actions to further develop the ideas, had been generated. When the meeting ended, we were poised to join the physicians the next day and build on the work we did together. As we began to leave the room, someone turned to me and said, “What did you just do?”
2. People live up (or down) to your expectations of them.
- This goes for how leaders act toward and view others as well as how others act toward and view people in positions of authority. Remember the Pygmalion Effect?
In their study, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) set out to demonstrate that our reality can be influenced by other’s expectations and set up self-fulfilling prophecies. Their research demonstrated that if teachers expected a higher performance from some children rather than others, those children did, in fact rise to their expectations. Rosenthal identified four ways teachers behaved differently towards the students for whom they had more favorable expectations:
- They created a warmer climate. They are nicer in the things they say and also in the non-verbal channels of communication
- Input. They teach more material to students for whom they have more favorable expectations
- Response / Opportunity. They call on these students more often and let them talk longer. The teachers help and shape the responses with them and help the student articulate the response.
- Feedback. If more is expected of a student, the student is praised more for giving a “good answer.” These students receive more positive feedback. Interestingly, the teacher will accept a lower quality response from these students.
Now let’s connect these two human tendencies and see how we can shift our focus and actions:
- Pay attention to your seeing. What you focus on, you amplify.
- People live up (or down) to your expectations of them.
Suggestion: Seek out the best in others and give feedback accordingly. Dr Lois P. Frankel, author of See Jane Lead, wrote about the 7:1 rule:
Give people seven pieces of positive feedback for every developmental criticism.
Most of us avoid giving developmental criticism and when we finally do, it is unplanned and ends up coming out as sharp, blunt or abrupt. OR we give feedback without specific suggestions or an offer of assistance to develop the desired behavior. OR we behave in ways that let people know we disapprove or are dissatisfied, and then leave them guessing.
From personal experience, it feels so delicious and rewarding when I offer positive, authentic feedback. I found this to be largely true for both for the giver and the recipient. You are in essence, filling up their tank with jet fuel when the recipient feels seen and valued.
Experiment: Look for the inherent gifts, the positive in someone who pushes your buttons, someone you don’t like, someone who you believe is a low performer. Then give authentic, positive feedback to that person. Notice how you feel and how that person responds. See what happens over time.
Do you treat certain people differentially in meetings? What can you do to shift that? See what happens when you do?
So what is in your line of sight? What are you paying attention to? Shift your focus and see what happens. On your next outing, look for hearts in nature. You don’t have to search, just pay attention. You’ll see …
Last night I went to a dinner party and a friend commented, “you look 10 years younger!” Gee, why did I wait so long to take a vacation. Frankly, it was a bit disturbing to think about what I must have looked like before I left!
For those of you who read my last post about the importance of unplugging to recharge, you’ll be happy to know that I unplugged. Mostly. As a business owner, the prospect of doing this was daunting. But I did. Here’s what happened and here’s what I learned. Take note, for those of you haven’t yet risked it.
We prepared. My social media team was in place and ready to post and promote my pre-written blogs, to send out my pre-written newsletter and to continue to send out my pre-written tweets. We changed my Facebook page photo to show that I was unplugged. Clients and colleagues were notified, and I initiated a gone fishin’ email notification auto-responder for folks that sent me emails. I was ready!
How did it go?
- WiFi access was often non-existent and spotty at best, so that really helped
- With each passing day, the pull of the internet slowly subsided from a continual drum beat to a soft murmur vying for my attention
- I did use my iPhone to check emails for anything urgent and only sent out one email response for something that was time sensitive
- My traveling companion, one of the least plugged-in people I know, requested at the last minute that I bring my computer along. She was in charge of booking our lodging and wanted to book the B&B’s while en route. Ugh, another temptation.
- My traveling companion wanted to get access to email frequently throughout our trip and look for internet hotspots. It took extra discipline not to succumb.
- I found myself concerned about how my Twitter connections would respond to my lack of interaction.
- I loved being unplugged and wish I could have, with confidence, let the email go too.
What were the results?
- My Twitter followers were still there and still retweeting and sending me direct messages, despite my absence and lack of response
- I was able to be fully present in my experience and delight in my travels
- I had much needed time for reflection and was able to make space for inner focus
- I really did return recharged
- I have still not caught up with all of my email and work that piled up while I was gone, but am chipping away daily.
With time to reflect on and integrate all that had transpired over the last several months–I walked away with some pearls — areas for my growth and development as a leader and that are good reminders for all of us.
My seven leadership pearls of wisdom
- Find that still point inside even though there are waves crashing around you
- Maintain your own rhythm when others travel to the beat of a different drum
- Remember that everything and everyone is a mirror to reflect aspects of yourself to you
- Prepare, then trust your team and let go
- Make sure to take your time off–and enough time to renew and replenish!
- Be present to your experiences and the world around you
- Let joy be your wellspring of energy and connection
My self-work continues … practice:
Maintain contact with that still point inside no matter what is happening around me
Keep playing my own rhythm while others play theirs’
To unplug or not to unplug?
That is the big question.
I’ve always been pretty darn good at taking vacations and setting boundaries around them. In the early days of the Blackberry, I didn’t own one so it was easy to disconnect from work–especially since I like to travel to more remote locations. I also stayed away from computers while on holiday, figuring my email could wait until I got home and my friends would still be there.
Isn’t the idea of a holiday to get away, relax, recharge, experience something new, and shift perspectives?
If we are on email, our attention is back at home. Why bother leaving? You may think me selfish, but I don’t even send postcards. I want my full attention on my holiday, on my traveling companion and on wherever I am.
Unlike most folks in the US, I was known to take 3 to 4 weeks of holiday at at time. My work colleagues seriously asked, “Aren’t you afraid they’re going to realize they don’t need you if you’re gone that long?”
Others admired me.
For me, the value derived from getting away was greater than the any potential downside. I played, explored, rested, relaxed and enjoyed. I returned to work recharged with renewed vigor, filled with new perspectives, and was a more easy going, better version of me.
As an entrepreneur for the last 5.5 years, I have been presented with a whole new set of challenges. New technologies have emerged to dare even the best holiday-takers to unplug.
Sunday, I leave for a trip and I am determined to stay away from email and social media.
Can I do it? Twitter, FaceBook, Linked, G+, Pinterest have become indispensable tools to grow and sustain my business and visibility. What happens if I am not Retweeting, Tweeting and posting on Facebook for several days? Although I have my team to do some social media posting for me, I won’t be there to interact.
The amount of preparation involved in order to be able to leave and disconnect, has multiplied. Blogs have to be lined up to be posted and newsletters pre-written to go out while I am away. And on.
Can any of you relate to this?
Yet, I remain undaunted and determined to prove to myself that I can unplug. The world will go on and my business will continue to grow and flourish.
The temptations are great with WiFi available in hotels. But as leaders of organizations, as colleagues, as spouses, parents, partners, we owe it to one another to unplug and recharge. It’s a bit of an energy oxymoron, no?
We demonstrate respect by giving our full attention to our traveling companions, to our experience and to the world around us. The person who returns will be a rested and relaxed; a person who has had space to breath, space to reflect on and make meaning of everything that has been going on the last many months. The person who returns will see work and life in a new light.
Holidays offer up creative time … with new impressions, new perspectives, new experiences. We have the opportunity to think differently or come at a situation or problem from a different perspective. This is precious time that will serve you, your organization and those close to you.
With that, I bid you adieu.
Wish me luck on my commitment to stay unplugged and I’ll be back in the Saddle on September 12. I look forward to sharing my new insights and to learning about your experiences unplugged!
Please comment–for the sake of all of us.
It was the late 80’s and the economic situation looked bleak. Several hundred of us sat in an auditorium poised to hear our CEO give a speech, nervously awaiting his plan to lead us through the recession.
The one thing I remember from that day was “rightsize.” It was the first time I had heard the word and my bullshit meter went off. In this case, it was a euphemism for layoffs. It was Spin.
What was the effect? I felt, as did many others, insulted. He was disingenuous and he eroded whatever trust or confidence he had previously engendered. We couldn’t count on him to be straight with us.
Imagine, all I remember from his talk was that one word.
For leaders who are thinking about how they want to be remembered, this is a good yardstick.
Roll the tape forward several years. Now I’m working in Europe and I hear the phrase from my British colleagues “1200 people are being made redundant.” Again, I ask you, “what kind of BS is this?” How can a person be redundant? How dare we refer to people as objects as if we are just changing out the parts in a car engine?
Another phrase that is troublesome is collateral damage. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say, “scores of unintended people were killed and injured as part of an attack”? Collateral damage makes it sound as if no humans were involved. This is yet another example of spin. If your loved one was referred to as “collateral damage,” how would you feel?
People are not objects. We are living, breathing, feeling-full, meaning-maker human beings. This spin lets leaders off the hook. If people are thought of as objects then those in decision-making power don’t have to feel. They don’t have to experience compassion or empathy either. It’s like dropping a bomb out of a plane at 40,000 feet. You see neither the countless people you’ve killed and maimed, nor their grieving families.
Words have a profound effect. Even though we know what rightsize really means, it sounds nice. Rightsize sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?
When leaders get away with spin, just one little time, then there’s the next and the next. We start convincing ourselves it’s okay. We tell ourselves we’re being kind, we’re helping grow the business, we’re meeting shareholder and board expectations, we’re making money for people…
When leaders use words to soften, mislead, obfuscate they can do harm to countless others and ultimately to themselves.
This is not just semantics. There is enormous power in words and in naming. Words, repeated over time have stickiness (evil doers, axis of evil, tax and spend liberals, trickle down theory, the 1%, etc.). They become the truth.
Words direct the course of action.
Words create a perception of reality. This naming creates a separation between us and them. We’re good and they’re bad. It allows us to treat the other as an object. We are much more able to harm an object than to harm a living, breathing, feeling person.
We say to children, “use your words.” I say to leaders, “use wisdom words.”
Words can be kind.
Words can be cruel.
Words can harm.
Words can heal.
Words can be used to treat people with dignity and respect.
Words can inspire people to action.
Words, put together, tell a story.
Conscious leaders are leaders who use wise words not clever words. Conscious leaders are leaders who care, leaders who speak the truth, leaders who speak truth to power. This is leadership authenticity in action. Mark my words!
What are your wisdom words?
What are the words you’ll use to make a positive difference; to inspire people to action?
What are the words you want to be remembered by?