Experience tells me that the gift of spontaneity lights up the hearts of others. Being spontaneous can be as simple as letting someone know you care when they least expect it or thanking someone for just being in your life rather than waiting to thank them for something they have actually done.
Spontaneity is also about trusting your instinct and intuition and taking the chance. It is making a choice without the deep rationalising that often occurs prior to taking the step. How many of us have noticed that when we finally decide that we are ready to move forward, the moment has passed?
I have found that if I recognise my spontaneous action or language as a ‘gift’ to another, the judgment around whether is it appropriate or not lessens and the risk in taking the opportunity to give increases. When given in that spirit it has the potential to delight.
No, I haven’t suddenly become a fitness guru with tips and techniques for the month ahead.
What I want to do in this article is highlight something that has become more apparent to me lately and that is all about our use of words and what that creates in our life.
I would like you to reflect on the language you use on a day-to-day basis and the impact it has (consciously and unconsciously) on you and others around you.
Let’s take the word ‘busy’. As you say it (and give it a go now so you can really experience it), it pulls the lips back and actually stresses the facial muscles. This affects the brain which releases a cascade of chemicals in response to the stress it is experiencing, keeping us ‘on edge’ and tense.
If you now substitute language like ‘many things to do’ for busy, you can feel the difference. It is relaxed and calm. Believe it or not, this causes a different set of chemicals to be released in the brain – chemicals that maintain a more positive approach to whatever we are doing.
It is amazing also to watch the response of others when you say you have ‘many things to do’ as opposed to being ‘busy’. People are initially curious when they hear these words. They instinctively slow down, as what they expected to hear has been substituted. These words enable more of a conversation and explanation and maintain an environment that is calmer and more open.
Making conscious choices about the words we use enables us to bring a different perspective to what we are working on, experiencing and encouraging in ourselves and others.
How different does it feel when you describe your plan to become healthy, rather than ‘lose weight’? ‘Becoming healthy’ opens up possibilities for a lot more than simply dieting or spending your time in the gym.
What does using language like ‘Yes… and…’ do to a conversation instead of ‘Yes… but…’? It enables you to build on an idea rather than negate it immediately. It provides an opportunity for the other person to continue to be engaged rather than feel shut down.
When you hear ‘We have a problem’, offer ‘What are the possibilities/opportunities?’ as a response. This encourages everyone to explore the situation from another perspective, rather than get caught up in everything that is going wrong.
When you might sigh and shrug your shoulders and say ‘That’s just the way it is’, stand up a little straighter, smile and say instead, ‘It is what I choose to make it’.
When we consciously choose our language and responses to situations we increase our own emotional health and enhance our wellbeing. Our impact is positive and we are more likely to achieve the outcomes we desire.
Have a go at substituting ‘I have many things to do’ for ‘I’m so busy’ and let me know what happens. I look forward to hearing from you.
May 2018 turned out to be the month of ‘many things to do’ with our co-founders Gayle and Malcolm travelling to Hong Kong to connect with Global Fellow Sting Chan and spend time with several of his colleagues and clients. Then it was onto Finland to support our Global Fellows Sari Ajanko and Jim Grant in hosting ‘A Taste of Tables of Ten’.
We are pleased to announce that the first Finnish Table of Ten will commence in September 2018. We are delighted to have met several of the Table members and encourage anyone in this amazing part of Europe to express their interest before all the places are filled.
It was then on to Amsterdam to participate in the International Enneagram Association Europe Conference. We always make the effort to attend this conference. There is a genuine interest from both participants and presenters in engaging in the sessions offered and continuing to explore and learn from each other. What was exciting this year was to experience reconnection to the holistic approach of the Enneagram, rather than being ‘stuck’ in the typology, which is only one facet of this important system.
Gayle and Malcolm have also been invited to China in August this year to present a two-and-a-half day public workshop in Beijing. The topic will be Strategic Leadership and will focus on strategic listening, dealing with ambiguity and strategic influencing. We rarely do public workshops so this is a wonderful opportunity to have been offered.
We will also be involved in the inaugural forum for the Leadership Centre, Beijing. The Centre was established by our esteemed colleague Godric Qiu, supported by Stingo Chan. This is an exciting step in our global collaboration to raise the emotional health levels of leaders across the planet.
As one financial institution after another is finding itself embarrassed by the current Royal Commission into the sector in Australia, we hear a lot of commitment to ‘changing the culture’ in the future. Unfortunately, the likelihood is that these large banks and investment firms will find culture change far more difficult than they make out.
As we have learnt in our work in cultural transformation over many years, culture change across an organisation is much more complex than simply saying, ‘Now … just behave this way’.
Let me give you an example.
A while ago we were working with a second-tier law firm that was struggling with a culture issue leading to a high turnover rate amongst its staff, particularly its young articled clerks – the very people who should have been the future of the firm.
After being asked in to intervene and support the organisation to better understand what was occurring, we took our first step with a meeting involving the managing partner and senior partners.
We started as we always do by asking everyone around the table to think about an organisation they had worked in that was a place they really wanted to be. An organisation in which there was a strong sense of working together towards a common goal, and in which discretionary effort was commonplace. An organisation that in our world we would call ‘above the line’.
We also asked them to think of the opposite – a ‘below the line’ organisation. Such organisations are typically difficult to work in, characterised by blame, defensiveness, justification and denial. In cultures like this, people tend to ‘switch off’ emotionally, physically and mentally and simply do what has to be done – even if at times that goes against their personal values.
As we discussed the contrast between these two situations, emphasising the benefits of working above the line, the managing partner suddenly stood up and stopped us. He walked up to the whiteboard and jabbed at it, pointing at the list of below-the-line characteristics.
‘This is our job,’ he said with force. ‘This is what we are trained to do. It’s what our clients expect and it’s how we earn our money.’
And of course he was right. In the legal profession, it can certainly be perceived that outmanoeuvring ‘the other side’ is the way things work. We can debate the rights and wrongs of this situation, but for these lawyers that was simply the reality. As their leader said, it is what they are trained to do.
What followed was an open and honest discussion about this circumstance, and in particular the way this external culture – the way the lawyers were expected to act for their clients – was negatively affecting the internal culture.
The good thing was that the partners realised it didn’t need to be that way – that it was possible to operate above the line internally while following the industry norms (again, rightly or wrongly) externally. We set about working with them to do exactly that.
We only have to look at some of the stories coming out of the Royal Commission, or the parlous state of political debate in many countries, to realise that our example from the legal profession is hardly unique. There are so many aspects of life in which below-the-line behaviours of blame, defensiveness, justification and denial are regarded as normal, if not essential. These behaviours have become systemic in the ways that people are trained and rewarded.
We would argue that the world would be a much more productive, effective, sustainable and harmonious place if this were not the case. Perhaps one day above-the-line leadership will prevail and we will see a wholesale rise in emotional health levels around the world.
In the meantime, the point I want to make is that you don’t need to wait for the world to catch up in order to build an above-the-line culture within your own organisation, regardless of the industry you’re in. However, you do need to be aware of the influence that your industry’s culture is having on your internal culture.
Global Leadership Foundation celebrated 15 years of raising the emotional health levels of leaders across the world on May 1st this year. Many of you will know the influence that Arid Recovery had on the creation of our organisation. In recognition of this, six of our Global Fellows joined Gayle and Malcolm in celebrating this important milestone in the amazing space that is home to the Arid Recovery project.
We arrived at Olympic Dam, South Australia, on Friday morning, then spent the weekend supporting the significant scientific work that Arid Recovery is known for. At the same time, we continued our ongoing personal and professional development as Global Fellows.
Highlights of the weekend included:
repairing and strengthening internal fences to ensure that the quolls that were to be released the following week didn’t find their way out of the reserve
spotlighting to determine different animal numbers in different locations
trapping hopping mice and taking samples of their fur to build a reference library for the future
unexpectedly trapping a Western Barred Bandicoot – to our delight as we had spent our last visit trying to find these elusive creatures
watching bettongs sit around a large water tank waiting for the next drops of water, then having them join us for our barbeque on the deck
admiring the Arid Recovery staff and volunteers as they continue to make a difference to science and this important ecosystem.
During our time in this remote environment, with physical work and connections to each other and the animals we were working with, we became more grounded and present and experienced great conversations and important learning. As we departed on Monday morning, our resolve to continue to support this project was as strong as ever. Thank you to Arid Recovery for making this so.
It’s easy to intuitively understand why being a certified B Corp– a business that has demonstrated its ability to be a force for good – is a ‘good’ thing to be. What is perhaps less obvious is that B Corp-like values are much more than a ‘nice to have’. They are essential to the future of the world and its people.
Raworth argues that the economics still taught in most universities today – economics that emphasises endless growth as a fundamental measure of a nation’s success – is incredibly out of date. More importantly, this form of economics is incapable of sustainably meeting the needs of humanity and the planet.
Raworth has developed the ‘doughnut’ model of economics which is a very different way of looking at our place in the world. There isn’t space here to describe the model as thoroughly as Raworth does herself, however, in summary, it is all about balance. Balance between the need to provide for the basic needs and human rights of every person on earth while, at the same time, not threatening planet Earth’s life support systems. In short, meeting the needs of all people on the planet within the needs of the planet.
The Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries: Kate Raworth 2017
It probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that, at present, many of these indicators are heading in the wrong direction. Many millions of people live ‘inside’ the doughnut, without sufficient access to food and/or water, a living wage, a political voice and so on. At the same time, dangerous breaches of the environment’s limits have already occurred in areas such climate change, biodiversity loss and land conversion.
We are falling short of meeting the needs of many while at the same time causing irreparable damage to our home.
Raworth argues that this situation has been caused in large part by a mindset of businesses and governments that continues to ask ‘How much financial value can we extract?’ from the resources they had access to.
The alternative, Raworth argues, is for businesses to ‘do the doughnut’ and operate generatively. A generative mindset means deliberately striving to be beneficial. It means making an active contribution to lifting people out of the centre of the doughnut while contributing to the health of the planet.
Raworth points out that being generative extends beyond an organisation’s purpose and what it actually does. It means looking at governance, at the networks it belongs to, at ownership and financing. It means ensuring that the organisation benefits all its stakeholders, not just its shareholders. It means that ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) is inherent to a business, not something ‘on the side’.
All of that sounds a lot like the B Corp goal of business as a force for good, not to mention the Global Leadership Foundation guiding principles of self-realisation, collaboration and stewardship.
Kate Raworth acknowledges that we have a long way to go to turn the ship of economics around, but believes her doughnut model can provide a north star to navigate towards. She further hopes that her model can make economics more accessible to the wider population, including school children – an essential component of future success.
Our Melbourne Tables of Ten 2018 group began connecting in February 2018 at Streat in Collingwood. Travelling from as far as Adelaide, Castlemaine and Traralgon and as close as Brunswick, this diverse group of nine leaders, along with Global Leadership Foundation co-founder Gayle Hardie, all bring insight, inspiration and incredible diversity to the table.
The three Global Leadership Foundation guiding principles of self-realisation, collaboration and stewardship underpin each session. Each person is not only gaining a greater understanding of themselves and their leadership impact, but they are also appreciating a range of perspectives around topics such as individualism, collectivism, creativity and innovation. The participants are also connecting with others in the 2017 global Tables of Ten cohort and looking at what collaboration might mean through this.
Our next ‘Spirit of Leadership’ Leadership experience will take place from September 7 to 10. This three-day journey into the desert in Central Australia will challenge your beliefs, enhance your resilience and creativity and help you lead a healthier professional and personal life.
Executive coach and Global Fellow Sue Gregory and traditional medicine man Frank Ansell will lead you away from charts, lists and meeting rooms and help you fully immerse yourself in Eastern Arrernte country and the beliefs and cultural practices of Indigenous Australians. Each day, you’ll venture out from your homestead to visit sites, where you’ll learn to slow down, tune in and become more aware of your whole environment, before returning to a hearty outback meal and campfire at night. You’ll leave with powerful insights into your own personal and professional challenges.
Sonali D’Silva is an Adelaide-based leadership development professional whose purpose is to enable leaders to develop skills that can help cultivate a culture of inclusion, connectedness and belonging. She works and speaks regularly on embracing diversity and equality in organisational leadership.
As part of her practice, she has produced a number of videos including a series of interviews entitled ‘Leaders Speak’. The most recent of those interviews, just published, is a good chat with Gayle. Sonali and Gayle cover quite a lot of ground so it is well worth the investment of watching this video from beginning to end.