Manage your self in communication process

The biggest impact on your leadership capability has… your ability to manage your self.

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I would like to steal a moment of yours, to introduce few unlikely leadership teachers who radically improved my leading skills. With disbelief I am looking at the impact and results I am able to foster now, which before resided in the realm of a wish – out of my reach.

The first gentleman is a professor or Rehabilitation Medicine – dedicated his entire life to heal people from severe back pain in New York city – Dr. John E. Sarno. The second is a clinical psychologist. Made many enemies among his fellow colleagues by saying that a good bartender can make more good to a person in need than psychology industry.

Later he created a communication process known as Nonviolent Communication – Marshall Rosenberg. The third is a spiritual teacher – Eckhart Tolle. There is a reason why I enumerate them here together, however, before I reveal it, let me share some of the scenes from my life.

The first scene happens in a global corporation where I participate in worldwide productivity improvement programme. We have a good inspiration where we want to take the organization to and I receive my piece to lead. I know very well, also by observing myself, that in a corporate environment which is organized hierarchically (or matrixed), I don’t listen to external consultants, who show up out of the blue to claim to have all the answers. Unless … my direct manager tells me to. In general, I observe how she reacts on those consultants, does she listen to them with attention and respect? does she applies their advice? Do executives mention what consultants are commanding and pointing me at? Do they encourage me to change and explain why? If they don’t, I start playing “apparent collaboration” and “

The difficulty is that it’s me who is all knowing consultant now, and I know that my vision for a brilliant future for employees won’t materialise, unless I will have support from middle managers and executives. With the intention to secure their involvement, I approach the former one.

“Marion, the stream which implementation I lead, will require quite a change from people in target departments. It’s much more likely that I succeed if I can leverage your and your bosses’ authority …”
“What do you mean by more likely? Is there any trouble? Aren’t you capable of doing it yourself?”

Action slows down…
Voice in the head 1: “Eeeeeee …just say that she can forget about it. Quick!”
Voice in the head 2: “Wait, wait, wait. Remember your intention? You know you won’t succeed without her. This is the moment to show what you are made of! You care about end result more than your reputation…:
Voice 1: “Don’t you see what is happening here? Have you already forgotten that you renew your contract every 3 months? She is hiring only decisive professionals. Not a weakling you want to be now! Marion, Marion please help…” in mocking tones.
Voice 2: “Where does this drama come from? If you do your job right, then there is nothing to be afraid of…”
Voice 1: “OK! That was a good idea and there’s some merit to it. But she didn’t react as you expected, right? Means she takes a shallow look at transition process and you won’t find a common language. Save your skin! You’ll lose your reputation of an expert and maybe your job as well!”
Voice 2: “But, but … our ideals, our aspirations … we don’t want to be like her …”
Voice 1: “Oh shut up. Give me the steering wheel. I will do the talking!”

“No Marion, everything is just fine. You know you can count on me. You indeed hired a professional!”. 

Another day, another place, with someone else.  My employee, Wanda, during project handshake meeting:

“Boss, with all due respect, the plan that you’ve just revealed … it won’t work.”

Getting red while action slows down.

Voice 1: “Did she just questioned my leadership? Has she suggested that I don’t know what is good for us? Publicly? With our client at the table?! I am loosing face! Shut her up!”
Voice 2: “Not so quick! Give her a voice – maybe you will find out something interesting…”
Voice 1: “In private you stupid! After you reprimand her for non-subordination. If she knows something she owes you that information anyway. Punish her, educate her! I won’t allow to be in such a situation never again!”
Voice 2: “OK, maybe there are better moments to share such a concern … however, better late than ever. I’ll let her talk…”
Voice 1: “Don’t you dare!! After that we are finished! No one will respect us anymore. You need to rule with an iron fist. Otherwise they will be giggling behind your back.”
Voice 2: “Not this time General. Thanks for warning. I know what I’m doing. I’m switching you off…”

Me: “Oh… Wanda, indeed we haven’t had an opportunity to proof check this plan as a team. Can you share your concerns in 2 minutes?”
Wanda: “This functionality is devilishly difficult to test. It requires us to recreate racing conditions … I’m worried about the time frame and environment we need for that…”
Customer: “Darn. You might be right. I forgot that we will be execute it in a massively parallelized conditions…”

A constructive re-negotiation follows…

We tend to think about our mind, and ourselves in general, as one coherent monolithic construct. It’s being proven scientifically that we can’t be further from truth. We are legion. Legion of  specialised, semi-autonomous sub systems. Gentlemen introduced in the first paragraph lead me into complexities of this topic, for which, I stay immensely grateful as it changed my life.

Marshall Rosenberg recognizes two entities who fight for a steering wheel at every moment of our life. A General (Voice 1) and a Judge (Voice 2). Both care about us as a whole, and apply different strategies to maximise well-being of ourselves and those who we care for and lead. Dr Sarno in his book “The Divided Mind” calls the first old, childish, primitive part of brain, anatomically deep, just above the brain stem. The latter, new brain, neocotex, the brain of reason, higher intelligence, communication and morality.  Sometimes reason prevails, and at other times the more childish, bestial part of human nature is dominant. Both: Sarno and Tolle bring the third player to the stage: entity of repressed emotions, or pain-body as Eckhart calls it. The third player influences how much power of grabbing the steering wheel the two parts of mind have.

Codzienny stres w pracy młodego menadżera

Do you recall any situation, when after a moment you found yourself totally confused and asking yourself “why did I react like that? again?”. If you did, this is the evidence that unconscious parts of you took over steering for a while. You were not a chooser for a moment. Studying Rosenberg’s, Sarno’s  and Tolle’s works might show you how to access your free will more often than not.

If you strive for extraordinary leadership capabilities, you need to recognize, acknowledge existence, learn how to observe and get friends with your inner helpers. You need to find out who you (plural) really are 🙂 They participate in all situations in your life, and as long as you exist here on Earth, they are here to stay with you. Close.

Dariusz Klupi

Dariusz Klupi

Former software developer and information systems designer. In search of answers to the question “why can’t a group of smart, experienced experts deliver a quality solution in a finite amount of time?” he discovered the Agile movement, Non-Violent Communication (NVC), organizational development psychology, contemporary spirituality and modern leadership. He is now putting these ideas into practice in places that urgently need it.

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