Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The breaks in between

We all knew it was coming. As we gathered in the sunshine for a weekend of interesting people and ideas that made us smile, we knew that it was coming. Clouds would gather; the temperature would drop. We would move from summer to fall. We would move from HOPE to the hard work of turning good thinking into good results. We knew that the world would hold a little more hope - and that we would need it.

So here we are. I am outrageously proud of what we accomplished together at the HOPE Symposium. And I am working - working hard - to balance big dreams and the chores necessary to bring them into being. A client asked the other day if I ever get stressed (some of you who know me are now rolling on the floor, laughing). I said that there is no way to outhink the requirement that we actually live our lives - everyone gets stressed and silly and impatient.

Even in the middle of the mountaintop experiences - experiences like the HOPE symposium - there are breaks. Moments when we move into or out of the room, when we gather or part, when we notice that even lovely experiences are not uniformly lovely. They break - for coffee or lunch and they break - because patterns get interrupted and attention shifts and things break.

You will not have to look far to find the parts of your work that are broken or the parts that need a break. Both are close to your awareness. Pick one and ask yourself: what one thing can I do to make a difference in this broken place? How can I create the kind of break that produces new perspective and new energy?

We knew it was coming. That's why we needed a weekend to remind ourselves. Hope is closer than it seems and easier than it looks. It often starts with a hug and a smile and just one thing accomplished.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Deciding to have something to say

Sometimes we have a message. There's something we need to say, something we feel strongly needs to be said. By us. Now.

That happens rarely.

The situation most often is that we have an opportunity to participate in a conversation. Sometimes that conversation - like this one - is through what seems to be a one-way channel. In truth, however, if there were no blog (and no blog readers), then I wouldn't be writing today. I am writing in response to that pause in the conversation when it is my time to speak.

Much of writing is the art of identifying the break in the conversation and allowing ourselves to fill it with what comes. If, like the shy party guest, we wait until we have the perfect words or the message that is so important it overcomes our reluctance, we quite often find that the moment has passed. The other people in the conversation have moved on.

What happens when you allow yourself to believe that when you notice a break in the conversation, you will always have something to say? What happens when you notice that the people who have created the break are waiting because they want to hear what comes to you and then comes from you.

This weekend, my partner Chris Keeler and I have invited people we like and admire to talk about hope. Some of them will go bright and some dark, some will be practical and some theoretical. Some might even be spiritual or inspirational. All of them will be filling in the space in the conversation that is waiting for them. All of them will say the right thing - because the right thing is simply to play the part they have been invited to play in a conversation we are all happy to be sharing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Our village is celebrating next weekend

Just read and love this blogpost by Sonia Simone at Sonia is talking about small companies who do business with a village of customers. It's exactly how I feel about our community of clients at NLP Canada Training Inc.

Next weekend, we will be gathering to talk about hope and celebrate being a community - a village. That doesn't mean we all love one another all of the time. Frequently, I watch with interest during a practitioner course as people dance around connections with people they don't especially. I especially love the 'aha' moments when people who wouldn't connect naturally suddenly appreciate each other. They find they belong in the same village.

There's a question that will be circulating under the conversations and presentations at the Hope Symposium next week. The question is: What's next? What can NLP Canada Training do now to keep this village alive and growing? You've taught us NLP, now what?

It's a great question. A business village has a business at its heart and that business needs to continue to find ways to attract and engage and grow the people it gathers. The symposium itself is one part of the answer; several of the presenters hold other parts of the answer as they join Linda and Chris in offering courses this year. There will be more. It will be in the air at a conference about maintaining the ability to trust that we can find the answers we need to build a thriving village.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Your business needs hope (and so do you!)

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
Vaclav Havel

I like this quote more than I agree with it. I think hope does involve the ability to believe that a good result is possible. But I take Havel's point that we can withstand failure if it makes sense. Despair is believing that what we do makes no sense and no difference. Hope is believing that our results are predictable (if only in retrospect).

An entrepreneur I know well says that she tells her staff that "Hope is not a strategy." That's too bad. It sounds as though she has heard too many people say they hope something will happen when what they mean is that they think it will not happen. We all do that from time to time: we try to replace real analysis with fake hope.

Real hope requires more from us. Real hope asks that we take our efforts seriously, knowing that they will lead to meaningful results. This is why hope is a virtue in some religions. Hope requires that we be accountable for our actions because we believe that it is possible our actions can generate tangible and meaningful results in the world.

If you are running a business, this is the most important reason you need your team to have a strong commitment to believing that good things are possible. You want everyone who works with you to believe that s/he has a meaningful impact on results.
That's the first step in getting results that are as good - or better - than predicted.

Hope is not something you have - it's something you do. When you do it intentionally, you look for evidence that the things you want are possible and you gather the skills and resources that you will need to work towards those things. That sounds a lot like setting goals and objectives - a practice followed in most businesses. Goals and objectives make no sense unless it is possible to make good things happen. Believing it is possible is the work of hope.

Strategy must begin with deep, curious attention

I've been starting my college term by asking students to think about two things: how people are motivated and how people respond to problems. In both cases, the challenge is to get them to think through what they believe to be the right answers until they begin to notice the elements of their actual, lived experience.

All of them are willing to give me a strategy for motivation or problem solving. The difficulty is that few of them are able to generate a strategy based on experience. They start with theory and generalization, and produce more generalization.

I wouldn't want to say that many adults with much more experience than my students make precisely the same mistake. They generate strategy based on what they think should be true, and miss the rich store of data they have about all those quirks presented by lived experience.

For example, when encouraged or nudged, my students would frequently admit that their first response to a problem was frustration or irritation, followed by a period of searching for alternatives. Only after they had done those two things were they able to either accept the problem or change it. None of them were easily able to move from that insight to a strategy for communicating problems that included allowing time and space for both the frustration and the cooling off.

Human beings are better at knowing what we have done than we are at knowing what we will do. Much of our decision making happens outside of conscious awareness. We know it by its results. When we want to formulate strategies that will be effective, we base them on real information about the whole, complex process of motivating or managing. It's not enough to have ideas that make sense: we need a detailed appreciation for the reactions that are predictable but not logical.

There is no reason for a student to be frustrated by new information. Students invest time, money and effort so that they can access new information. That doesn't mean that students are not frustrated when presented with new information. It means that teachers must be curious about the nature and timing of that frustration so that they can work with it to engage students with learning.

You might not be teaching. You might be managing or selling or collaborating. You need to develop strategies to get desirable results from your work. When you begin with deep, curious attention to your experience and the experience of those you observe you will be able to craft strategies that do more than look good on paper. They'll get results.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Every beginning is also an ending

This is the weekend. My oldest moves into his first apartment, a university graduate and an adult. My baby moves into a house near campus. They are eager for what comes next. They are beginning.

It's much harder for their parents. We are ending something. It's a different perspective. All those years of being a family are changing into something less close, less rewarding. It's a reminder that there are no sounds of little boys laughing in the house and that there won't be. For the boys, this is the start of the fall. For us, summer is ending.

Labour Day is like that - bittersweet. Even the people who pack most eagerly for cottages this weekend do it knowing that the season is almost over, that each good weekend now is borrowed time.

My good and wise friend, Andrew Reid, will be giving a presentation at the Hope Symposium on Living on the other side of the finish line. I'm looking forward to hearing him encourage us to look past merely getting our goals and notice what's waiting after we get them. Often, it's the after that's the toughest part.

So. . . enjoy this sunny, beautiful Labour Day weekend. Love the warmth and the beauty. Notice that the first trees are starting to blush with the approach of fall, and that the clear, bright evenings start earlier now. Notice and use the lingering warmth to spark good dreams for fall and winter. Find hope for what comes next.