This week’s reflection questions: Where can you be more curious in your work? Where do you need to go back to basics to uncover what is really going on? How does this serve you in being the expert?
This week I gave a presentation to a mix group of small business owners and organizational leaders from for-profit and non-profit organizations. What they all have in common is they were looking for ways to create better engagement with their employees.
The focus of the talk was on a very practical model that explains the key levers leaders need to consider when looking to impact the climate they create in their organization. I know this model well, having used it for fifteen years with thousands of leaders around the globe.
The workshop participants were learning the model for the first time. Their questions and “aha’s” are always fun and interesting, and it keeps the model fresh for me. More importantly, it keeps me fresh for my clients in that it allows me to see different ways the challenges and levers manifest in their situations.
As participants shared, I found myself “pegging” their issues – oh they are dealing with x and y, etc. But then I took a moment to pause and really appreciate the depth of what they were wrestling with. What I didn’t know was the specifics of each of their stories at that point. In these dialogues I am reminded that when I make assumptions about their orientation or what exists or doesn’t exist in their organizations, I can be wrong and can lose the connection with a potential client.
I was reminded to keep my assumptions in check, and in so doing I thought of the benefit of a pilot’s practice and mindset which is engaged before each flight. Pilot’s go through an exhaustive checklist of functions they need to perform before the plane takes off. It is a protocol, a discipline, a ritual – and corners should not be cut lest the oversight leads to an error in the plane’s functioning, potentially endangering the passenger’s lives.
I reminded myself to think of the discovery process with a potential client as a ritual where I make a point to ask certain questions and keep the ratio of my talking to actively listening to them in check (30% me talking, 70% them). As a successful consultant and coach, I have demonstrated competency in these areas but I can’t take them for granted or get sloppy. I have found this to be particularly true in areas where I pride myself on being capable. Paradoxically, it can be in these very areas that I have blindspots, especially when I am so sure about my assessment.
Going back to basic questions as a foundational practice was reinforced for me. I think of it like my pilot’s protocol to be implemented in almost a meditative way that focuses on the practice of it versus being goal-driven. It’s equivalent to the concept in meditation practice of having a beginner’s mind. Discovery invites curiosity. Assessment implies certainty and closure. I need to make sure to keep the aperture on my inquiry open long enough to see clearly the nuances of a situation. This is particularly true when I am looking at the complexity of people and organizational dynamics.
Where can you reinforce or remind yourself of your back to basics practice with your craft – to hone your expertise further?
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