Friday, July 3, 2015

Sitting on the solution?

So much time in our heads.

So much time sitting down.

If only we noticed, we could find ourselves more grounded, more resourceful.

Mediation teacher and author, Tara Brach encourages us to access ways to anchor ourselves when we find that we are too much in our heads. Those times when we are over-thinking with stress, worry, judgements, evaluations, criticisms, doubts and fears.  When we are in trapped in a cycle of reactivity.  

And one of those anchors? Well you are probably sitting on it.    

Feel right now.  Scan through your body and sense yourself sitting on your chair.  Feel the weight of your body on the seat. Feel the contact of your feet with the ground. You are feeling gravity. You are feeling yourself sit on the earth.  Bring your attention to the sensations in your body. Bring awareness to the fact that you are breathing.

In doing this, we leave the world of mental abstraction, of time.  We gain a little more space. A little more silence.  A little more balance.  We reconnect with a bigger picture, and see ourselves as part of something as opposed to being in isolation.  

It does not mean that we deny or avoid that there are complex situations in our work but it shows us how our mental abstractions can themselves make those situations into problems.   It reminds us that often we are identified with our minds through being trapped in time – either compulsively living through memory or in anticipation.

As Eckhart Tolle challenges us, “focus your attention on the Now and tell me what problem you have at this moment”.

We can always cope with the present moment.

Coming back to our bodies, out of our heads, brings us to this moment.  

·          Tara Brach (2015)   Audio Talks – Beyond the Fear Body (Parts 1 and 2 on 3rd and 10th of June  2015 respectively)
·          Tolle, E (2005), The Power of Now, Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, London, p. 53.
·          Image from:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cutting to the chase on motivation

Recently I was part of a team delivering a webinar to a leadership group on motivation.

Given the short intensive nature of webinars, the pressure was on to get to the point.

So in an attempt to capture the essence of motivational thinking, and speaking to our audience’s scientific preferences, combined with my affinity for alliteration, we presented the key drivers of motivation as:

  • Autonomy:  our wish to be free, independent, to live our own life, make our own decisions, use our own judgement.
  • Affiliation:  our desire to connect, have relationships, belong, couple with others
  • Achievement:  our drive to succeed, overcome challenges and be masterful in what we do whatever that is.         
  • A Purpose: our need to know our effort and energy signifies something and that we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves.

But if we really wanted to cut to the chase, we could have simply said...

Framing it in these simple terms reminds us of our humanness, our realness.  It jolts us back to the realisation that we are inherently disposed to high levels of motivation because of these fundamental human drivers.  We want to feel some control over our lives, be loved, and do our best. To matter.    Leaders can often forget this.

Each person has their own individual motivations. Our mix of these 4 key drivers depends on personality, culture, environment and context. As leaders, it is important to tune our antennae to notice what motivates us and what motivates those we lead. 

With the fragility of the human ego it doesn’t take much for us to lose a bit of motivation.  Conversely with the strength of the human spirit, it does not take much for us to regain it. 

As leaders we can take small actions to help with the latter, such as:

  • Freedom:  let go of the controls and delegate;  share information freely with others;  accept people for who they are not what you want them to be
  • Love:  appreciate, recognise and show gratitude towards people; get them together; encourage collaboration; talk about shared values
  • Success: give people the best opportunity to shine by matching their skills with the task; help them set compelling goals;  cultivate a culture of learning and mastery
  • Making a difference: help people understand how they contribute to the vision; give them ‘whole tasks’ so they can get the big picture and maximise the difference they make.
Here’s to freedom, love, success and making a difference.


Image via google images

Ariely, Dan (2012) What makes us feel good about our work, TEDxRiodelaPlata

Pink, Dan (2010) RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us,

Lane4 (2010), What’s motivating you? A current look at motivation in the workplace, White Paper

McClelland, D (1961), The Achieving Society, Free Press

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Deepening the reflection on PASCUF....

In my last posting, I presented a 4 box model to ‘up the ante’ on your team discussions.    One leader I presented it to, came up with the acronym – PASCUF. Another asked for additional questions to help deepen the reflection on those fundamental questions:

  • What are we most passionate about?
  • What do we most struggle with?
  • What are we curious about?
  • What are our fears? 

So based on that feedback, I offer some questions for stimulation.

Like any good coaching conversation though, what is important is what happens in the actual conversation, where the discussion flows through deep listening and courageous questioning.   That is true whether it is a conversation with ourselves or others!

But here is a starter for ten.

What are we most passionate about?

What do we get energised by?
What do we love?
What absorbs our attention?
What do we contribute most to?
What do we most want to be known for?
What brings us deep satisfaction?
What do we dream to do/achieve/be?
What are we proud of?
Where do we exceed expectations?
What brings us alive?

What do we struggle with?

Where do we get stuck?
What seems to be repeating but not improving?
What do we avoid noticing?
What blocks us from being our best?
What irritates/frustrates us?
What don’t we seem to ‘crack’?
What can’t we be bothered to fix/challenge/discuss?
Who/what is getting in the way?
What seems impossible?
What grinds us down?

What are we curious about?

What sparks our interest?
What would we benefit from knowing more about?
Where is the ‘unknown’ for us?
What are we discovering?
What conversations are we not having?
What do we need to explore within/out there?
What is the big question we need to ask ourselves/others?
What is so obvious we can’t see it?
Who would we love to talk to?
What is ‘stirring’ within us?

What are our fears?
What are we scared might happen?
What makes us anxious about the future?
What don’t we want?
What would be our ‘worst nightmare’?
What don’t we want to admit?
What is it that we don’t want others to know?
What frightens us most?
What do we lose sleep over?
What don’t we like in ourselves/others?
What is it we think we can’t handle?

What questions will you ask?

Sources: 4 box model adopted from Nilsson, W  and Paddock T (2014) Social Innovation from the Inside Ou t

Thanks Pascal and Rachel for the extra inspiration.