Attachment and detachment

IMG_7338In the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking to people about the difference between a goal-oriented mindset and a systems mindset, and the difference between commitment to action and attachment to the outcome of that action.

I recently learnt about two terms in Ancient Greek, telos and skopos. The distinction is that, unlike skopos, telos suggests an end or goal not in the sense of the thing you aim at, but rather your aiming at that end. In other words, telos = doing or getting something, and skopos = the thing done or begotten.

I like this distinction because the way in which we set goals for ourselves can affect our motivation and sense of achievement. To give an easy-to-visualise example – if you were an archer learning to shoot, your skopos might be to hit a bullseye, whereas to shoot well might be your telos. Similarly with the difference between aiming to lose twenty pounds in two months and eating well every day, or making a million pounds vs. building a business that’s true to your values. Your telos is absolutely within your reach, but your skopos is likely to depend on factors not always within your control.

So what’s the lesson? The importance of learning to detach yourself from the results of your actions. Another way you might choose to look at this is learning to appreciate the process, not just the outcomes. Achievement is not always marked by the tangible and the concrete. And life should not be viewed through the lens of success and failure, but rather in terms of all the experiences that make you who you are.

I choose everything

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What do you think of when you hear the word ‘acceptance’? If we can’t undo or change something, we need to learn how to accept it, rather than living in the ‘what-if’ and the ‘if-only’; all this serves to do is freeze and frustrate us and stop us from taking positive and meaningful action. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation, and it doesn’t signify giving up. It means understanding that this life has a rhythm, a heartbeat; space for both the beautiful and ugly, both pain and joy. I like the way St. Therese of Lisieux puts it: “I choose everything.”

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I choose this life. I choose everything.

Lukewarm is no good

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I used to feel like I had never had any real passion for anything. Then somewhere in the last three years I found it in the dark. You have one life to live; don’t waste it wondering what could have been! You don’t need to justify yourself, what you seek or what you love, and you don’t need anyone to validate you. Whatever it is, go for it at full speed. Lukewarm and half-hearted is definitely not for you.

Bridges

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I love everything about bridges. The architecture, the view, stopping to watch the world go by around you, the feel when they sway slightly under your feet, and the way they mark entry to a different part of the world. What does this have to do with coaching? I love the way they are a meeting place; a possibility for change; a metaphor for journey and connection. Bridging the gap. Crossing the bridge. Water under the bridge. Are you building or burning bridges?

Not knowing

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Today I talked to someone about working with, rather than against, fear and the unknown. I don’t believe in looking for the ‘right’ choice when we’re trying to make a decision about our careers, because I think we have the power to shape our realities and any choice we make will lead to its own unique set of opportunities. There’s power in not knowing, and being free to discover what will come along the way. As the writer Antonio Machado says: “Traveller, there is no path, the path is made by walking.”

Book recommendation: Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty Into Opportunity, Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner.

Leadership musings

A few weeks ago, quite by chance, I met Louis Shakinovsky in the lounge at Warwick Conferences Scarman, where he’d been having lunch with local Warwick Business School luminaries Ashley Roberts and Rachel Cuddihy prior to delivering a talk to students as part of WBS’ International Speaker Series. Some utterly enjoyable and very engaging conversation – and one talk – later, I found myself thinking about leadership.

Louis has been described as a polymath. Certainly he is the only lawyer I know who is not only also a practising clinical hypnotherapist on Harley Street but has a pretty impressive track record in business – currently Chairman of Global Dental/Clove (which he was instrumental in growing into India’s largest dental group in fewer than 5 years) and Chairman and co-founder, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Centre of Excellence, he previously held numerous positions over 50 years at Belron including Main Board Director and Executive Head of Legal, during which time he led over 800 mergers and acquisitions and became the only non-family shareholder in Belron’s history.

I took away several things about leadership from Louis’ talk. The first was an acrostic, about which I entirely agree with Louis in that it’s what you not only need to look for in the people you hire, but also what you need to find in yourself:

Dedication
Integrity
Respect
Energy
Credibility
Trust

The other things were three quotes from the evening. “It’s all about how you choose your people”, “If you’ve done anything wrong, fix it”, and “Leadership is doing what you say you will”.

There are countless books and papers out there about leadership. It means different things to different people around the world, and different things in different situations. According to Eisenhower (apparently), it’s the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. In other approximations, it isn’t management and it isn’t authority. Great leadership probably involves a combination of traits, including focus, clarity, decisiveness, confidence, accountability and honesty. Personally, I think good (or bad) leadership is the kind of thing that resists definition, but you know it when you see it.

Like everyone else I’ve seen my share of good and bad leaders. The bad: Leaders who are only ‘leaders’ by virtue of their position, and leaders promoted beyond their level of competence. Leaders who take more than their share of the credit, who let their egos get in the way, or who micro-manage because they’re afraid to give others the reins. Leaders who let their junior staff take the blame. Leaders who forget where they’ve come from and who end up entirely disconnected from the people who make up the business.

There is a lot about leadership that is wrapped up in delivering success: bottom lines, market share, victories at sea. There have certainly been plenty of successes in Louis’ career, but what I really liked was that the main message of the evening wasn’t to do with business success (not directly, at any rate). Rather, it was about integrity, credibility, and mutual trust and respect, which, when I thought about it, are probably the aspects of leadership that I most value.

So, the good: Leaders who stay true to their word, who remember their roots and who aren’t above mucking in when it becomes necessary. Leaders who are honest and who wield their authority, power and influence fairly and without ego. Leaders with empathy who treat people the way they would like to be treated, and who make people want to give of their best because they’re proud of their jobs and to be part of an enterprise they believe in. Leaders who take the time to recruit good people, and then trust them with a licence to operate, as well as the necessary tools and support to let them do what they do best.

Tell me your thoughts. Is this too idealistic or simplistic? I don’t think there’s any good reason why it shouldn’t be possible to build a successful business centred around this kind of ethos, but instead there are far too many examples of toxicity out there.

What example are you setting as a leader?

Some direct advice

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I’ve been thinking about leadership today – topic for this week’s blog post. About a week ago, I attended a talk during which the speaker referenced this acrostic:

Dedication
Integrity
Respect
Energy
Credibility
Trust

That’s what you need to look for not only in the people you hire, but also yourself. What example are you setting as a leader?

More on Friday.

Thoughts on networking

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On a scale of ‘deathly allergic’ to ‘I love it to the end of the universe and back’, how much do you like networking? To what extent is it like some secret cabal for people in the know?

I used to see myself as extremely introverted: wallflower, hates parties, world is too peopley, socialising is utterly draining. Even amongst loved ones I needed to escape to a darkened room after a couple of hours. And then networking – ah, hell on earth. Can you relate? (If not, maybe keep reading anyway.)

Some five years ago I was taking part in a coaching trios exercise (where you take turns being the coach, client and observer). I was in the client chair, and had just mentioned my dislike of networking. My coach in the trio said: “Well, why don’t we talk about that – in fact, let’s try it out now and see how you get on.” and I physically recoiled with a “No!” “Aha!” she said. “Look at that! You actually leapt back in your chair! What’s behind that?”

To cut a long story short, I realised that day that I had a bit of a phobia about it all. I hated it because I always felt like I didn’t have anything to talk about and was scared of coming across as stupid and uninformed. I also realised that it wasn’t just professional networking; it was any group setting where I felt surrounded by far more intelligent people (even among friends) and therefore felt unable to put in any twopenneth worth talking about.

That day I discovered two key strategies for overcoming my fear: first, learning how to take a step back, away from the perceived pressure to appear intelligent, and into a space where I asked questions instead (because even if you don’t, lots of people do like to talk about themselves). Second, once I was out of the perceived spotlight and a conversation had started to flow, I realised that I actually knew more about any given topic than I thought I did.

More recently, I’ve moved from being better at networking to actually enjoying it. There are, I think, a number of factors that have led to this, primarily the fact that, in having started to love myself properly, my happiness and confidence have grown markedly and I seem to have developed an expanded capacity to welcome others into my world. There is also a great deal to be said for finally doing something that I care passionately about; now I actually want to talk about my work.

The funny thing is, now that things are easier in the context of networking, it’s as if the tumblers have fallen into place, the lock has clicked and the door’s wide open. I keep finding myself initiating conversations with strangers simply to make a connection. And then I find that me being happy and wanting to connect is somehow contagious, which is a lovely effect to have on people.

The way I’ve started thinking about all this is that I really don’t like to call it networking, because it can be off-putting jargon for what is, at its core, creating relationships, finding things to bond over and seeing how you can help the people you meet.

I think everything flows from this. Ultimately everything you do is about people. Getting to know people, being curious about people, building connections with those people, and having mutually fulfilling interactions. Selling products? Focus on what your customers want. Service-based business? Find out what problems your potential clients are trying to solve and then focus on that, not what you want to push out to them. Attending a professional networking event? Find out about the person you’re talking to, not just their job or business. Tricky colleague? First, make them feel heard and understood.

I don’t know about you, but I hate small talk; I’d much rather skip straight to the meaningful conversation. Don’t be afraid to go deep. Shall we skip past the weather and the state of the country? Let’s pretend we’ve known each other for months and have that conversation instead. Suddenly we’re entering interesting and worthwhile territory.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably still rather curl up at home than dress up for a night out, which also explains why I often look like I’ve gone out in my pyjamas. But that’s me, you know? And on that final note – just be yourself. I want to know you, not the person you think you should be. Everybody is fascinating when you take the time to get to know them, which is exactly what I’ll be doing.

 

Faith or fear?

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Faith and fear both demand that you believe in something you cannot see. You choose!”

I love this quote from Bob Proctor. I also love the symbolism of this image from the Camino de Santiago. Even if you’re not religious or spiritual, there’s something to appreciate in the scallop shell as a symbol of journey and renewal, and the Cross of St James as a symbol of faith, courage and hope in the face of difficulties.

What’s your choice going to be? Will you run from fear or stand firm in faith and conviction that you have been given the resources to meet the challenge?