Performance

‘U’ turns

“The boss isn’t competent”.

“The job isn’t meaningful”.

“Colleagues / partnerships are insensitive”.

“My health is going downhill and I don’t have the time to work on it”.

“People resort to unfair means to get ahead and I don’t want to do the same”.

“I cant get to work on my passions. The turkdom of daily work is killing my soul”

One of these is bound to come up in conversations beyond that go beyond a brief while. Once the pleasantries are done and the weather is beaten to death so much, that anything said beyond that would get the weatherman come after with an employment letter.

I don the hat of a coach, at times.  Most other times, just being a friend and listening to people, which in any case is a key aspect of being a coach.

The ‘sadness’ that engulfs the conversation is only eclipsed by the seeming helplessness of the situation. “But what can I do? I have a home loan and kids need to go to school” are refrains. Many speak of wanting to throw it all away and pursue their passions. The room lights up by their frissons when they describe these. Darkness returns as they talk of their immediate circumstances.

Sitting there, I don’t do much. For there is nothing for me to do except listen. Only pausing to ask a question here or one there. Hoping it can be a flare in a new moon night. Perhaps showing us a patch that can become a pathway. A clearing that can lead to a path. Whatever.

I have never ceased to be amazed at the depth of what resides in each conversation and in every person. Every time I come back convinced that the world will be a better place if we can sit down and talk to each other. Listening without an agenda.

The other thing that I have learnt to trust in, and am always proven right is this : people have it in them to be better off with their lives. Sometimes all I have to do is to help them become present to the fact that their choices make the difference. Choices that they become aware of when they speak their hearts out. When they are in the flow.

The moment, choices and consequences are very clear to people, new possibilities emerge.  People begin taking the You Turn. First in their minds and then if you help them stick with it, in reality as well.

You don’t need to do much.  Ask a few questions. Listen with all you have got. Perhaps am making it sound a tad easier than it is.

Here is an invitation. Perhaps its a challenge. Can you sit back and listen to one person this week?  It could be your driver. Perhaps the boss. Maybe its a peer in another organisation. Or even your kids. Listening without agenda. Just one person.

It may seem like an exercise in waste. You have no idea what it does to the other person. I didn’t too, for a long while. And then, I experienced an ace coach help people take ‘U’ turns. It gave me a new lens and I have been working on my ears.

Try.

On reflection

When was the last time your calendar had an entry that earmarked time for ‘Reflection’. Of course, “Reflection” could take any label and many names, but with the intent of ‘reflecting’, or ‘intensely synthesizing” an experience or a result. My questions on this to a variety of people over the last couple of weeks, have saw a handful of ‘’overwhelming ‘yes’s” and a heap of hemming and hawing!

Nobodys fault. We just live in an age where ‘action’ has assimilated all the space that it had and shared with ‘reflection’ and ‘thought’ as the route to success. Having structured experiences has a huge focus on the experience, while as much focus must go into reflecting on these experiences. These hardly happen, except perhaps when this happens to be participants in an ‘outbound’ programme.

First things first. Reflection helps in learning and assimilation. Research has consistently pointed in this direction. The works of Dewey, Donald Schon, Kolbs and several others, consistently alluded to this. A new working paper by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano and Bradley Staats lends further credence to that with greater aplomb. ( Get the full paper here  )

This piece that Duke Today illustrator Jonathan Lee put together, is awesome on many counts. Amidst all the wonderful illustrations, this illustration below stood tall besides being very pertinent to this post.

Reflection Magnifies Learning

Don’t we reflect? Of course we do. Thinking about various thoughts, conversations and ideas whilst doing something of routine is more often the case. Nothing wrong with that. While reflecting on the go, may quite well be a natural occurrence to many of us, intentional, focused synthesis of events and experiences lead learning to a different sphere. That is uncommon. Or rather, these are not practices in the mainstream. Reflection itself can be a natural consequence of several aspects.

‘Reflection’ facilitates the process of transforming tacit information and accrued experience into a codified knowledge base, adding several degrees of confidence. Just the possession at the end of the day, of such codified learning boosts self efficacy. This of course, requires cognitive investment.

Some of the best leaders who I have worked with over the years have always been those that have been able to hold conversations that helped me intensely reflect on several experiences on the job. In a connected, fast paced world, the ability to be able to hold the space for reflective conversations is at an implicit premium.

Journaling, having to ‘present’ the understanding etc help a big deal. Personally, teaching and further sharing of the results of reflection (including Working Out Loud) have helped me greatly. Surprisingly the paper mentioned above didn’t find evidence of increase in learning resulting from further sharing of it.

If you are a leader who is keen on facilitating a group into reflection this piece can get a good start. At the heart of it all, are three things in my opinion
a. Complete listening
b. Questioning
c. Allowing people to be

Being able to ask the right questions that facilitate reflection solves three quarters of the problems. That is a skill that can be acquired with constant practice. After asking the questions, to listen intently without interjecting with a point or two is also crucial. Some of my best conversations have been ones that left me thinking about it long after the conversation was over.

Gautam and me had this conversation on twitter.

Gautam’s point is well taken. It is my view that if it is made important enough, time will get created for it. It cannot remain in the fringes and remain and optional extra but must permeate as an essential means of completing work. It is every manager and leaders interest to give it the space it deserves.  Of course, it needs to get into the calendar!

Reflection has continued to remain one of those things that we either take for granted or consistently undervalue its necessity. In my view, it has to be woven into work. Developing and exercising the muscle around facilitating reflection takes a person a great distance. Besides, it perhaps offers the simplest and most potent tool in developing people on the job!

Follow effective action with quiet (1)