Thursday, October 29, 2009

I have always felt it is a privilege to facilitate conversations with adults by cultivating a safe open learning space. While I studied long and hard to be a psychologist, I am also proud to be an educator/trainer.

A participant on an interpersonal skills program this week approached me at the end of the course and thanked me for helping him see he had an anger management problem. He asked for some strategies to help him on his way to conquering that "problem." I was somewhat puzzled initially as we had never directly talked about such an issue and would never have done so in the company of twenty other participants. However he went on to explain the work we had done on Emotional Intelligence struck a deep resonant chord in him.  He admitted his wife had said he would "hate the program" when she found out his boss had sent him on it as she thought it would be far too "touchy feely" for him.

Isn't it wonderful and oh so humbling to be reminded of the fact that we cannot presume to know how someone else will react or respond in a given situation and how wonderful to be in the room with people when their insights trigger some real behaviour change for the good.

Have you had such moments? Have you been there when someone had a profound insight they were prepared to act upon? Were they able to follow through?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Now to Lead When the Honeymoon's Over

Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States amid much emotion hope and optimism. If one compares his famous acceptance speech on Election Day with the speech he made on Inauguration Day, the contrast is striking and relevant to all of us who lead change. His “Yes We Can” campaign stirred, inspired and seduced his people and for the record I believe he is authentic in his desire to bring about change in his country and greater peace to the world. However, it was only once he was truly in the chair he spoke of the critical need for people to pull together, to temper their enthusiasm with realism, to contemplate the enormity of the task before them all and remind them it would indeed take much time. Obama knows the importance of Expectations Management.

Some who are inclined to greater cynicism would say he trivialised the challenge until he had won the race. However he had to deploy one of the most fundamental of strategies in early ‘therapy’ for people whose esteem and efficacy was low - the “transfer of optimism” (see Gerard Egan, the father of counselling therapy).

Obama faced staunch public opposition in Congress this week; accused of lying. He responded rather than reacted, a trait of a leader high in Emotional Intelligence yet the opposition was very public and very real. A leader has to be willing to do the hard stuff, despite the discomfort they create and the resistance they may face.
In a world where young people demand low ‘power distance’ between themselves and their bosses and where engagement is prized, how challenging to strike the balance between being a leader and a friend; how critical to manage expectations and not put ourselves continually in a position of having to defend and apologise or backtrack. These are some of the skills of strategic influence and they must be enacted authentically to have any chance of sustained success.