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In the latest edition of Coaching for Performance the author John Whitmore, who is one of the leading pioneers of coaching, says the following:

“Throughout this book I more often use the masculine gender, not because I am sexist, which I am not, nor because I abhor the literary clumsiness of “he or she” and “his or her”, which I do, but because it is men who need to heed its message most. On the coaching courses my colleagues and I run, women have consistently shown more natural ability to adopt a coaching philosophy. It is more in line with their style.”

What do you think?

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In his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the late Stephen Covey (RIP) wrote about being proactive. He pointed out that despite our prior “programming” in life we always have a choice point between stimulus and response should we choose to choose it!

To the degree that you choose not to exercise your choice point you become reactive… you let events and the world outside you determine your destiny. In effect, you surrender your personal power!

Are you a prisoner of your own thoughts?

A problem many of us face is that we are not taught that we have this choice point. There are many others, particularly those in authority, who prefer that we don’t exercise our choice point for obvious reasons. Thus, many people are unhappy because they don’t feel that they have control over their lives and, worse still, they don’t believe that they can have control over their lives. Sadly, they become a prisoner of their own thoughts. Covey refers to Viktor Frankl’s remarkable survival in a prisoner of war camp during World War 2 as an example of someone who chose to exercise his choice point.

We’re curious about what you think and first we suggest you watch this clip of Covey being interviewed as he explains this Choice Point…

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On July 16th, 2012 the world lost a great thinker. One of the world’s best-selling authors, his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is widely regarded as one of the most influential books ever written. It established him (at the age of 56) as one of the leading thinkers of our time. In the book he challenges us to go beyond what he called ‘personality ethics’ and live our lives according to ‘character ethics’. His 7 Habits presented the core principles behind his thinking.

Taking responsibility

At the heart of what he proposes is a system to enable us to better adapt to change and take advantage of the opportunities that changes in our lives often bring. A central theme is that we are largely responsible for what we create in our lives and by taking responsibility for who we are and how we relate to others we can profoundly influence the direction our lives take.

A deep well

I’ve always been impressed with Covey’s ability to synthesize and present these core principles because they are so closely aligned with the core principles of something else we’re passionate about: NLP. For his Doctoral thesis Covey apparently studied over 150 years of the American self-help movement. The 7 Habits would appear to represent his core learnings from that Doctoral thesis. NLP draws on this same deep well of knowledge and wisdom and through its emphasis on modeling excellence translates many of these principles into tools and skills so we can actually experience the “difference that makes the difference” in our daily lives. Therefore, NLP and The 7 Habits complement each other.

Being the change…

What I personally admired about Covey was his modesty about what he had set out in his challenge. Unlike other authors who often claim to be greater than thou and in private rarely live up to what they postulate, Covey himself strove to live these 7 Habits. He also advocated that true learning is achieved through doing. I have met many leaders who claim to have read the 7 Habits and it’s clear that it was wasted on them as their actions rarely demonstrate that they’ve truly tested them out and embodied them in their own lives.

I’ve met others who dismiss Covey’s work because they’re so caught up in their heads that they lack the Emotional Intelligence to appreciate and genuinely try on his principles and notice the improved results they can attain. This is because cognitive awareness is rarely enough to learn something. It’s only by practicing a skill that you can get it into the muscle so it becomes a habit.

Words of wisdom

I’ll leave you to ponder these words of Wisdom taken from the Foreword of the 15th Anniversary edition of the book:

“As you now commence reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I also promise you an exciting learning adventure. Share with your loved ones what you are learning. And most important, start applying what you are learning. Remember, to learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.

I have personally found living the 7 Habits a constant struggle – primarily because the better you get, the very nature of the challenge changes, just like skiing, playing golf, tennis, or any sport does. Because I sincerely work and struggle every day at living these principle-embodied habits, I warmly join you in this adventure.” ~ Stephen R Covey

May he Rest in Peace…

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The Map is not the Territory

The phrase was coined by Alfred Korzybski in the 1930s. In other words, the map (our language) is not the thing mapped (our experience). Words are not the objects they represent. Words only indicate the structure of the experience. Words are far more limited than the experience itself and mistaking the two can lead to pain and frustration.

Source of conflict

Confusing the map with the territory is a major source of conflict in the world. Korzybski maintained that humans need to be properly trained in the use of language to prevent unnecessary conflicts and confusion that arise from confusing the ‘map’ (words) with the ‘territory’ (sense experience).

A useful way to try this on for yourself is to think of the times you’ve gone to see a movie with some friends. You leave the movie theater and your friend says: “That was a brilliant movie… I loved every minute of it” and you’re thinking “That was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen… I didn’t enjoy that at all.”

The movie is the “territory”, your and your friend’s thoughts about it and the words you use to describe it are two “maps” of the “territory”.

In organizations it is useful to appreciate the variety of “maps” or mindsets that are describing your “territory”. Another interesting thing is to look at the collection of maps (often referred to as the Culture) and review how these are referencing the territory.

A map can never be true, only more or less useful.

Appreciating difference

By accepting these first 3 Empowering Beliefs it means that you can easily begin to understand and respect difference. Often this is referred to in organizational life as diversity.

Just imagine a world where people are more tolerant of differences, learn to accept and live with them and look for and appreciate similarities. How many less conflicts would we have? What would the news headlines be like?

For the next week, begin to appreciate the richness of the territory and look, listen and feel for ways to enhance your awareness and expand your map…

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How to Change MindsetsWhich of the mindsets/conversations is your dominant one at work?

Read each of the following statements and decide whether you mostly agree with it or disagree with it.

1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much

Mostly Agree / Mostly Disagree

2. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit

Mostly Agree / Mostly Disagree

3. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are

Mostly Agree / Mostly Disagree

4. You can always substantially change how intelligent your are

Mostly Agree / Mostly Disagree

5. You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that

Mostly Agree / Mostly Disagree

6. No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially

Mostly Agree / Mostly Disagree

7. You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed

Mostly Agree / Mostly Disagree

8. You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are

Mostly Agree / Mostly Disagree

We’re curious to receive your comments…

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Respect other people's model of the worldRespect other people’s model of the world

Now that you know that everyone has their own unique model or map of the world you can easily embrace Empowering Belief #2. An important distinction here is that we are saying respect and not agree or accept.

Just as you want people to respect your point of view so you too can demonstrate to others that you can respect their point of view. A major advantage of being able to do this is that you develop the ability to better appreciate how other people think. When it comes to sales or negotiations this is a critical skill set. Without it you diminish your ability to have influence and as a leader without influence you call into question your right to be a leader in the first place.

To respect another person’s model of the world you must be prepared to accept that person’s beliefs and values for what they are and this requires a high level of rapport and acceptance of the other person. Interestingly, by showing this level of respect you deepen the rapport. If you have a hidden agenda or your intention is to manipulate the other person then you will not be able to create this level of rapport. As they say: “People will see you coming!”

To accept this belief is to accept and understand others as they are… It’s a powerful way to build relationships and bring out the best in others.

In times of change, strong relationships are key to getting things done…

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How we think affects what we pay attention to and therefore the results we create…

Notice & influence

The only thing we can really do as a human being is notice and influence where you and others are putting your attention and to make choices about that in the context of where you are now and were you want to be in the future.

In a previous post we spoke of two dominant mindsets. Whichever of these, we are operating from in any given context is reflected in how we are using language. Being aware of these conversational distinctions creates the possibility for us to have greater choice about which conversation we choose to be having and what we pay attention to. This also means we have greater choice and control over the results we are creating.

The language of the downward spiral or the fixed mindset is characterized by dichotomies with the rigid distinctions of exclusive either/or thinking. If you are not right you must be wrong, if you are not a success you must be a failure, a terrorist or not a terrorist. The polarization is a sharp one with no middle ground and gives false rigidity to our perceptions of the world.

The language of possibility, on the other hand, is characterized with options: Where are we now and where do we want to be? How can we do this? What options do we have? How can we create value?

Mindset colors

Mindset ColorsSo moment-to-moment we are taking in information through our senses and interpreting what it means to us. We interpret and create meaning automatically based on our dominant mindset in a particular context – these are our habitual patterns or ways of behaving. In this way our mindset colors how we perceive ourselves, others and the world around us, what we notice and pay attention to and therefore our results. By expanding our awareness we can influence this automatic process and change our focus, which then changes what we are aware of and how we direct our attention.

Our intention then becomes the way we create the focus and context – what we intend to do. This can be through goals, specific outcomes and what’s important to us in that context – when these combine they manifest themselves in what we call an organizing principle.

Mixed messages

Where our intention is not focused and aligned (for example where we have a number of conflicting goals or objectives) then we get inconsistent results as the organizing principle changes depending on what is most important in the moment. In a change context this is often a major cause of “mixed messages.”

Walking the talk

However, when our intention is focused and aligned, and our goals have a clear hierarchy of importance, just like Russian dolls, then the organizing principle is stable creating consistency of results. In a change context this supports what we call “congruence” or “walking the talk“.

So, as a leader, we suggest you pay attention to your intentions over the next few days and notice what you notice…

And, we’re curious to receive your comments…

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