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.
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.