Friday, February 20, 2015

Are you a credentials person or a "prove it to me" person?

In some ways, I have the ultimate credential. A doctorate is the end of the line, the highest credential in academics. Mine took eleven consecutive years of post-secondary study. The graduate study was seven years, twelve months a year. Now I am working in a field (NLP, but also coaching) where people think a credential is something to be earned in one year (at best) of part-time study.

In the public sector, a rigorous (if not always adequate) process ensures that students only get a credential if they complete work to a specified standard. There are exams, and in good courses there are also assignments and projects and peer-review. There is an effort to ensure that some common standards are represented by the credentials earned. And lots of people fail. They don't make it through the process. There are lots of reasons to question the ethics and the wisdom of failure rates, but they do show that people are being judged not by what they pay or what they attend, but by what they can do.

It's significant that in the coaching and personal development fields, people are eager to demand credentials in order to develop common standards. What no organization seems willing to do is publish their failure rates. In the personal development and coaching fields, very few people are taking the approach of charging clients for the opportunity to fail.

When people earn a certificate from me, it means they have attended all hours and participated in all parts of the program I have developed. It's a program based on practice, not on preaching, and everyone gets better over the six days. They haven't passed anything: they have experienced something.

Their certificate means that I am satisfied to have my work judged by the way they communicate. When people are thinking about taking my program, I encourage them to visit the websites where I showcase my clients and they, by implication, showcase my work.  This, I say, is what you can expect.

I keep my Ph.D. in a box, under my bed. I lost track of my NLP certificate almost as soon as I took it home. I am not really a credentials person. Don't show me a paper to tell me you are a leader.

Show me. Prove it to me with your skill and your vision and your action. Stimulate discussion and discovery that grows your field. Be first across a line, even when it means falling into the mud. Risk failure.

Build something and let people judge you by that.

Friday, February 06, 2015

How to say goodbye

Do you know that good bye began as "God be with you."  It's a good way to part company, much like "Fare well."

When it's time to make an exit, what do you say? The modern way (there are endless Facebook variations) is "it's not about you. It's all about me. This change is good for me and I'm off to pursue my bliss." The focus is on the reasons for leaving. Whatever else is said, whether the rest is in anger or apology, the core message is "I am leaving now because that's what works for me."

And the response to that tends to be "Don't let the door hit you on the way out" (with greater or lesser degrees of courtesy). This is inevitable, since the reasons for leaving are always insufficiency or brokenness or mistakes. When we look at the reasons, we cannot help but feel bad. And there's worse to come.

Human beings are pack animals: we feel abandoned when someone walks away from our pack because we are wired to connect. When someone leaves, they leave a lot of loose ends, connections with nowhere to go.

But human beings are also really, really good at looking forward. Much of the time, that causes us grief because we imagine all the bumps and potholes in the road, all the places we could be ambushed. With some will power, we can push through those visions and see past the obstacles to a destination. We can imagine moving forward and seeing good things on the road ahead.

Every ending reminds us that we are born with an expiry date. They break our favourite things (our habits and assumptions and hopes) and create the restlessness that comes with connections that no longer connect. That's okay. We have the equipment to deal with the hurt and uncertainty and restlessness.

When it's your turn to leave, say "Good bye" and mean it. Don't explain why you are leaving - there is no reason that ties up the loose ends. Instead, say "when I look at your path, I see good things ahead. My wish for you is the strength and resilience to get to the next bright spot on your path."