Interview with a BP #2: Marie Ball

The Maps is a tool for having a conversation. The Maps can have such a positive impact on people, but don’t over-promise what it is or tell them it’s a psychometric. It’s a way in.”

 

Becoming a Business Practitioner is a big step, but the rewards are also tremendous. We wanted to speak with our BPs and get a sense of what they felt the biggest challenges and rewards of being a BP were, as well as foreground the amazing work they do. This interview with Marie Ball is the second of many interviews which will be lifting the lid on Motivational Maps, life as a Business Practitioner, and the difference these individuals make.  

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INTRO

Marie Ball is a Motivational Maps Business Practitioner with a Masters in Human Resources, and a CAHRI Certified Professional (Australian Human Resources Institute). After a career in Welfare and subsequently HR, she started her own business with the Maps. She is one of two BPs in Australia, and it is her mission to make the Maps nationwide!


HR Spirit
TOP MOTIVATOR: SPIRIT

Marie is a Spirit motivator, but she observes that her top three motivators (Spirit, Searcher, and Creator) are all interlinked, fostering a spirit of independent creativity that is focused on helping other people: “I don’t like being told what to do! Any smart manager always left me to my own devices to deliver in my own way.”

 

Being a BP has allowed Marie room to fuel and fulfil her motivators, which has led to independent creation. Marie has a number of exciting projects underway, such as introducing the Maps into the academic sphere and education environments by creating a course / modules that will be available to HR, Business Management, Coaches and Counsellors at Australian educational institutions.

Marie began her Maps network while she still worked for a government organisation in Australia. Given the opportunity, she began mapping people in the department. When she left, she had a community of 300 or so people who’d already had a positive experience of the Maps. There is a huge cultural difference here: “In Australia, there has been government ‘civil service’ work, because these organisations provide a budget per employee for professional development and maps have proven to be a great investment. We haven’t even begun to tap the private sector yet!”

TOP TIP

For a lot of people, leaving their job to work self-employed is a big and frightening step. Marie observed that: “It can’t be about the money. I’ve had people come to me saying: ‘I give up, I’m not making enough.’ They couldn’t sell enough Maps or training. But it should never be about the money in the first place. It’s about helping people. I think it’s my Searcher, that I believe there’s good in everyone and potential in everyone. The Maps allows us to see that. I want everyone to not only do a Map but have a good experience of the Map, like I did.”

 

LINKS

www.marieballconsulting.com

What is "Interview with a BP"

BP stands for "Business Practitioner". Within Motivational Maps, there are three "tiers" of practitioner: Licensed Practitioners (LPs) who sell and interpret Maps to help companies motivate and improve the wellbeing of staff. Business Practitioners who can recruit and train LPs as well as tackling bigger Maps opportunities. And Senior Practitioners (SPs) who can train and create Business Practitioners, coordinate large networks, and develop Motivational Maps.

 

 


Interview with a BP #1: Judit Abri von Bartheld

It takes education, it takes courage to introduce something new. You have to be adventurous and be willing to experiment.”

Becoming a Business Practitioner is a big step, but the rewards are also tremendous. We wanted to speak with our BPs and get a sense of what they felt the biggest challenges and rewards of being a BP were, as well as foreground the amazing work they do. This interview with Judit Abri von Bartheld is the first of many interviews which will be lifting the lid on Motivational Maps, life as a Business Practitioner, and the difference these individuals make.  

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INTRO

Judit Abri is a Motivational Maps Business Practitioner: an International Coach Federation Master Certified Coach, coach trainer, and a leadership expert. She is the founder of Coaching Without Borders, in Hungary, and is currently in the process of introducing the Maps to the Czech Republic in Prague.

HR CreatorTOP MOTIVATOR: CREATOR

Judit's top motivator is the Creator, and believes that her BP status naturally feeds into this motivator. “I like different things every day, to make my day more colourful. Working with different people definitely makes my day more colourful. If I only have clients, if all I’m doing is interpreting Maps and giving feedback, it’s the same routine. But if you have LPs, they’re all at a different stage.”

Creator motivators are energised by creativity: taking risks, innovating, building new things. Being a BP naturally engages this creative approach, presenting new challenges and opportunities. Judit is in many ways at the forefront of this risk as a Business Practitioner in another country where the Maps are not currently widespread. “In the UK you have senior practitioners, there are also lots of BPs. You can look for success stories almost next-door. In other countries however it’s a completely different job. We have an extra challenge...”

QUOTE

Being a BP is more complex than just managing LPs, however. It is a job with many moving parts, and, as Judit observes, different aspects will appeal to different people in different cultural environments. She describes the many facets of being a BP: “It requires entrepreneurial skills as well as coaching skills. You have to be a good mentor. You have to act as a role model. You have to be a leader to a certain extent. An educator. You have to be a good marketer, to get new LPs joining in. To run your website, social media, sales and marketing. You’re selling at two fronts. Selling the Maps and the idea of becoming an LP.”

This is a multi-faceted approach to the Maps; not only nurturing and developing future practitioners and advancing the Maps in creative and collaborative ways, but also trail-blazing new best-practices and uses of the Maps.

TOP TIP

It’s hard enough, even in the UK, where the Maps have more of a foothold, to break people out of these old notions of top-down hierarchical management styles and money-first / people-second attitudes. Introducing organisations to this idea of giving your employees a voice and listening to their motivational needs can still seem like a quite radical process. For Judit, working cross-languages and in completely different cultures, it is even more of a challenge. However, this does not seem to daunt her. She advises:

LINKS

Discover the difference Motivational Maps can make to your business: 

http://www.motivaciosterkeppartnerek.hu/

What is "Interview with a BP"

BP stands for "Business Practitioner". Within Motivational Maps, there are three "tiers" of practitioner: Licensed Practitioners (LPs) who sell and interpret Maps to help companies motivate and improve the wellbeing of staff. Business Practitioners who can recruit and train LPs as well as tackling bigger Maps opportunities. And Senior Practitioners (SPs) who can train and create Business Practitioners, coordinate large networks, and develop Motivational Maps.

 

 


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 9: 7 STEPS TOWARDS EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

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Welcome to the final instalment of Unlocking Motivation. Over the course of these nine blogs, we have explored motivation in the workplace, personal development, coaching, and the need for engagement in modern business, all interconnected by the principles of the Motivational Maps. We’ve looked at content from Mapping Motivation, Mapping Motivation for Coaching, and Mapping Motivation for Engagement. In this final article, rather than simply recapping, I’d like to take you through one last model to help you on your journey with motivation and engagement.

 

I mentioned in the last article that there is a seven step process towards engagement. I want to share these seven steps now and break them down a little for you.

 

1. What is employee engagement and why is it important?

This, really, is what we have covered in part 7 and part 8. Everyone involved in the process of engagement needs to be aware of why it is important and what exactly they are striving for. This is not just for ‘buy in’ at senior level. Everyone down to the grassroots must understand what engagement is and why it is valuable (and beneficial to them, too, because most people, save for masochists, would like to enjoy what they do).

 

2. Where are we now?

You need to get an accurate assessment of where you are in terms of engagement. However, we need to be careful how we do this, as surveys can be highly misleading, if not erroneous. For one thing, they can be grossly inaccurate because the majority of employees will answer in the way they think they should answer, not with total honesty. Secondly, they usually are a massive, massive cost. If you really want to determine how engaged are your employees currently are, then you need to do so indirectly. Engagement can be very difficult to measure, whereas disengagement has far more obvious symptoms:

 

Measuring sickness and absenteeism levels are a very clear way of measuring engagement, as well of course as measuring loss. There are many aspects to this but David Bowles makes the point that ‘clear evidence . . . would support what some long-established theories have put forward that absenteeism and similar behaviours are an effort by the workers to “level the playing field,” to make up for what is perceived to be an imbalance’. Here specifically Bowles is referring to huge disparities in pay and remuneration and staff’s perception of its unfairness – leading to their disengagement.” – Mapping Motivation for Coaching

 

So, the first step to measuring engagement is to consider levels of disengagement. What are your levels of sick-days and absenteeism? What are the productivity levels of employees like? Are people working to what you believe their max-capacity is or well under?

 

The next step is to try to measure their energy levels, as energy is a far better indicator of engagement. To do this, we recommend using the Organisational Motivational Map. Quite apart from its massive utility and ability to work at team levels as well as organisational, the great advantage about using the Organisational Motivational Map is that it is virtually impossible to ‘game’: there would be no point in doing so anyway, since the questions don’t lend themselves to internal politics. Here we will have a definitive (albeit temporary, as motivators change over time) fix on the energy levels and direction of the organisation. In addition, compared to an annual survey, it’s cheap as chips.

 

 

3. What will be the measures?

When you are looking to increase engagement, you need to think about what your measures for success are. Is it less absent-days? Greater productivity? Greater staff energy and happiness? What is the most important metric for you? We should say profitability is a very poor metric in this regard, as it is really a narrative of ‘We only care about money’ that will not resonate with staff and makes a very low-grade statement. In addition, profitability can often be pursued to the extent that staff cut backs, downsizing, and streamlining can become harmful to customer and staff experience. Whilst there are many valid reasons to cut the ‘bloat’ in an organisation, taken to extremes (as it often is), it will harm the organisation’s integrity.

 

4. How will you gain ‘buy in’?

As I mentioned in our last article, in order for engagement to be successfully implemented and become a reality in your organisation, you need to have buy-in at every level, including the very top. If you don’t, it will inevitably fail. So, you need to deploy strategies to make sure that you get full buy-in at senior level. Not just an ‘Okay, but you manage it and I’m not sparing any resources’, but a ‘I want to implement this now, what do you need?’

 

We have talked extensively about the merits of engagement, not just at the level of motivation and satisfaction, but also for the bottom line, which is inevitably the language most senior people in organisations understand best. You need to showcase these facts and figures and make a compelling case for why engagement could solve several problems with one lick of paint.

 

5. Identify areas for action: what will you do?

This one is fairly self-explanatory, however, there is a deeper level to it when we consider each individual. When we determine motivation / energy levels by doing a Motivational Map, there are broadly speaking four quadrants people can fall into. Remember, every Map profile is unique and determines what motivates people. However, it does not determine skill levels. You have Creator motivator as your number one, but this might be a new discovery for you, so you haven’t fully harnessed and trained your creative abilities yet. In the light of this, the four quadrants give us an interesting strategic view of the people in our organisation when we also cross-reference it with what we estimate their skill-levels to be:

 

High Motivation / Low Skills

These staff-members need to be trained (or recruited if you are using this tools for those purposes). They have the motivation and energy, which is all-important, but they maybe need to harness their skills. Some of these people might also need to be re-located in the organisation. For example, if their Maps profile has revealed new drives that aren’t being met by their current work, then they are probably best suited elsewhere where their motivational needs are being met. This will increase their engagement levels as they will feel like they are being invested in.

 

High Motivation / High Skills

These are your stars. But don’t get complacent! You need to coach, mentor and retain these people and incentivise them. Think how many companies let go of their best people without so much as a whimper of resilience. You have probably witnessed it many times. There was a story in a company I encountered a while ago where a PA, we’ll call her Margaret, was working for one of the senior managers, we’ll call him John; Margaret was really was more than a PA and working across the entire business creating value. She was still on a very minimal salary, the same in fact since she had joined the company many years ago. She had asked, in the light of her new responsibilities and commitment to the company for many years, that her salary be increased to reflect that. Margaret’s request was pretty modest in the grand scheme. HR flatly said no: they were not giving out pay-rises, John would not give her a pay rise. So, Margaret handed in her resignation and accepted a generous offer from another company. John burst into the HR office a few days later. ‘Why didn’t you tell me Margaret wanted to leave?’ he fumed. HR had not even consulted him. ‘She was invaluable. We’ll never replace her. I would have given up part of my own bloody salary to keep her on!’

 

John showed wisdom here, though sadly it came too late as he had been deceived by his own Human Resources department. He knew that Margaret was a highly motivated and skilled individual and the company should have retained her at all costs, and was even prepared to sacrifice part of his own (rather larger) salary to make it happen. How many managers could actually say they’d do the same?

 

Low Motivation / High Skills

Low motivation yet highly skilled is also in the retain quadrant. However, if the issues with motivation are not resolved, these individual can become extremely costly to the organisation, so it is important to boost those energy levels and get them motivated!

 

Low Motivation / Low Skills

These are employees that potentially need to be released. If they have no motivation, their heart is not in it. This would be a fixable issue, if they had skills that were invaluable and were good at what they do. I should note that ‘high skills’ and ‘low skills’ is not referring to the intellectual standing of the skill. For example, business strategy versus administrative work. It is referring to how good someone is at that particular skill. People who are very good at administration, or telephone sales, or bricklaying – depending on what industry you’re in – are just as valuable as strategy and senior finance management. You need every element to make a business work.

 

So, the low motivated and low skilled individual is bringing nothing to the table. In a way, however, that is not the real reason to release them, however. It is actually the best thing for them. They are most likely not happy, stuck in a rut, and by releasing them you are giving them a new opportunity to rebuild their life. Letting people go is never easy nor should ever be glorified, but it is necessary and there are many people who have been fired from jobs that, looking back, say it was the best thing that ever happened to them. I appreciate this is not the case for everyone, and sometimes being fired can be devastating and have serious consequences, but ultimately, one must act in the interests of the whole organisation.

 

6. How and what will you implement?

Now that you have the data, and a sense of the individuals and where they stand, it’s time to define what you will implement to make changes and how. In other words, create a plan for engagement.

 

7. How will you measure and evaluate your plan?

Again, you need to consider what the metrics of success are. Is it increased employee-energy levels, increased productivity. What plans do you have to improve their abilities and performance further?

 

***

 

Thank you for coming on this motivational journey with me! I hope these articles have been of some use to you and provided you with insight about how you might go about increasing your own motivation levels and the motivation levels of those around you. I have provided a window into the world of Motivational Maps, what we’re about, and what we do. It is my belief that we can all benefit from understanding our inner drives and working in environments and with people that feed our motivators and energy rather than draining it. If you have any thoughts or questions about this series or any topic I have covered, please feel free to leave a comment below. You can engage with Motivational Maps via our website or via Twitter.

 

Thank you & stay motivated!

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of engagement, then you can find Mapping Motivation for Engagement at the Routledge website.


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 8: THREE BARRIERS TO ENGAGEMENT

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Welcome to the eighth instalment of Unlocking Motivation! Last week, we looked at the history of engagement in the workplace and why it is so important as a step forward in thinking about employee satisfaction, happiness, and productivity. Here’s a quick recap:

 

RECAP:

  • Engagement is based on a ‘psychological contract’ between the employee and employer.

  • Engagement is the opposite of ‘scientific management’ or Taylorism and is about enriching the employee’s work life by honouring the psychological agreement.

  • The consequences of failing to engage staff are DIRE!

 

Today, we’re going to discuss the three main barriers to engagement and productivity that one faces, particularly in a large scale organisation (but it can happen in small ones too).

 

These barriers are so big, so threatening, so apparently insurmountable, that unless we address them squarely and head-on, we are unlikely to make any further progress. And there are three main ones…” – Mapping Motivation for Engagement

 

1. Buy in from Senior Management Team (SMT)

 

Sadly, for many senior management people, engagement programs are more of a tick-box exercise than an actual attempt to motivate and engage staff. Many of them will see engagement exercises as a frilly extra that can be purchased with some extra cash sitting in the company account. They think it makes them look good to be running these kinds of programs, regardless of the result. This is completely the wrong approach and will lead to fruitless endeavour. When a company expresses interest in engagement, it must come from the very top. Not just HR or another department, but senior management themselves. They must believe it, want to be involved in it, and seek to directly implement it. They have to perceive the strategic value of engagement and the impact it can have on the bottom line. They have to want to make that happen. In any other scenario, engagement exercises, however well executed, will ultimately fail. We call this ‘buy in’ because the SMTs need to not only financially but emotionally buy in to the program, the mission, the course, whatever form it takes. We outline a seven step program in Mapping Motivation for Engagement, which we will cover in our final article!

 

2. Sufficient resources to undertake the program

 

There are nine core resources to consider: money, time, equipment, people skills, knowledge, right attitude, information, space/environment and agreed co-operation. Phew! That is a lot of potential barriers. However, we find the one that comes up most often is ‘time’. This is because most companies, really, are in survival mode. They are churning out a product or service as fast as they possibly can in order to keep up with themselves. If they stop for one moment, catastrophe might occur! There is no room in these kind of frantic operations for strategy and long-term planning. Or, to put a finer point on it, improvement! How can you improve a service or product or whatever if you never actually stop doing it, step back, and think: Am I missing something? We have an attitude in the West in particular that every spare moment must be occupied by work. But the reality is that we do our best work when we have space around that to think. Looking at it another way, all creative outputs require ‘waste’ and ‘dead time’. I like to consider the universe in this regard. In theory, the universe is full of ‘wasted space’. The black emptiness stretches for a literally unfathomable distance. However, there is this one pinprick (as far as we are aware), called planet Earth, that harbours life. Could Earth exist without the wasted space? Mathematically, no! Any invention requires wasted time and effort. The endeavour of engaging employees is no different. We need downtime, time to contemplate, reflect, think, and feel. Most companies will not afford that space, or give time out of their schedules, for their staff to go through this process.

 

The other resources are important to consider too, but we find time is the most cited one, so…

 

EXERCISE: Consider how you might mitigate the barrier of time. When we run engagement programs, we like to ask staff themselves how they can create ‘capacity’ and time to run the program in their busy schedules. The answers can be surprising. How would you go about de-cluttering your daily tasks and making room for thought and reflection? List three things!

 

3. The human ego!

 

In fact, one of the reasons why our first barrier may never be overcome – that is, we might not get complete buy-in – is because of the egos of the management and leadership. It is, if you like, the flaw in human nature that has always been there, and management writers have noted it from the beginning.” – Mapping Motivation for Engagement

 

It might sound like I am being very harsh towards managers here, but I do not mean to single them out exclusively. We are all capable of becoming enamoured of control or of getting locked into certain behaviours. However, most of the time it is people with a degree of power that are most susceptible to what Professor Brown in the 1950 called ‘petty Hitlerism’. In other words: ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’. When we get control, it can go to our head. We don’t want to relinquish that.

 

The reality is that we can never achieve ‘buy in’ from senior management if, secretly, they like things the way they are: top-down, command and control, a hierarchy. We have to be really honest with ourselves here and make an honest call about where we think our leadership is at. Is our current leadership capable of buying in to employee engagement, and the necessary ambiguity and complexity it brings? Rewards, yes! But complexity too, because now staff, right down to the grass roots level, are going to be influencing decisions, engaged with the company practice, and able to have their say. It’s scary for some people, who are used to their fiefdom.

 

The idea of engagement, is to get people so thrilled about their work, that they want to go the extra mile. We cannot ask them to give that extra mile without giving something back, and without loosening the reins. If we want people to truly engage, we have to be prepared for the results of that, we have to be prepared to hear what they think, and we have to put our money where our mouth is.

 

In the next and final article, we will be exploring the seven steps towards employee engagement!

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of engagement, then you can find Mapping Motivation for Engagement at the Routledge website.

 


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 7: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTRACT

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Welcome back to Unlocking Motivation! Over the last six episodes, we have discussed content from my first book Mapping Motivation, published in 2016, which outlined many of the theories and practices of Motivational Maps. We have also looked at Mapping Motivation for Coaching (co-written with Bevis Moynan), the second book in the series, which deals with how the Maps can support one-to-one coaching, self-coaching, and personal development. We’ll now be moving on to the final part of this series, which is Mapping Motivation for Engagement (co-written with Steve Jones).

 

Firstly, what is engagement? Engagement is a relatively new concept. William Kahn was one of the first researchers to truly allude to the critical role it plays in business in 1990. Since then, it has become something of a worldwide phenomenon, with countless tools, models, and paradigms for measuring and increasing employee engagement, most of it to no end whatsoever. There are a number of important ideas, what I call ‘preliminaries’, that preceded engagement and informed how we understand it. I cover a large number of them in the book, too many to detail fully here, I do have space to talk about one or two. David Kolb, in his book Organisational Psychology, said that: ‘A company staffed by “cheated” individuals who expect far more than they get is headed for trouble’. He is referring to what is known as the ‘organisational contract’, a concept that arose in the 1970s. It effectively describes the ‘unwritten’ contract between employer and employee, the implied expectations of the employee. For example: ‘This will be a positive and enriching place to work’, might be one expectation. Whilst this is nowhere guaranteed if their contract, if this is what they have been lead to believe through interviews and initial contact with the company, they will feel ‘cheated’ if it is not what they get.

 

In 1995, Mullins put it in the following terms: ‘a series of mutual expectations and satisfactions of needs between the individual and the organisation. It covers a range of rights, privileges, duties and obligations which are not part of a formal agreement but still have an important influence on the behaviour of people.’ I think the words: satisfaction, meaningfulness, psychological, and expectations are extremely significant here!

 

EXERCISE: Consider your role, whether it is a freelance position, organisational post, or even something entirely different, such as a charity board volunteer position. Write down your expectations of the ‘invisible’ psychological elements of your employer-employee contract. Ask yourself whether these expectations are being met.

 

There have been a number of profound changes to the workplace which seems to me to be directly correlated to the emergence and significance of engagement. Firstly, the coming of the Information Age, which has increased the speed of communication to absurdly rapid levels. Whilst this has many positive outcomes, it has also produced negative ones: an erosion of personal space / time, an erosion of traditional working hours, a culture that expects everything immediately. Just as we are adjusting ourselves to this rapid pace, we are also experiencing what I would describe as the deathly slow failure of Taylorism.

 

Taylorism, for those who don’t know, is ‘scientific management’. It is the traditional corporate methodology of defining job roles by breaking them down into prescribed behavioural activities, with a focus on rules, control, compliance, supervision and efficiency. Of course, what we are observing now is a realisation that greater efficiency does not lead to greater effectiveness. Or in other words: efficiency does not equal results. In addition, the negative impact of Taylorism on creativity, responsibility and commitment cannot be overstated. There is a reason that there is a crisis of innovation in most industries in the UK!

 

There are many companies that still cling to the Taylorism model, and that is their prerogative to do so. However, I think it has clearly run its course. In the ironic words of Jacob Morgan: ‘Robots aren’t taking jobs away from humans; it’s humans who took the jobs away from robots’. We have become a society trying to treat people like machines.

 

Once we step away from ‘controlling’ employees, ensuring they are ‘compliant’, and instead move towards honouring our psychological contract with them, we begin to reach engagement. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that engagement is the way forward for organisations large and small. Here are some facts:

 

1. The cost of employee disengagement to the economy in 2008 was between £59.4–64.7 billion per annum. That is a staggering figure, and it is for the UK alone!

 

2. Only 29% of employees11 were engaged in their work. Which means that 71% are not fully engaged.

 

3. Companies on the Glassdoor12 Best Places to Work list outperform the overall stock market by 115%. Best places to work are, by definition, places where employees are engaged, so from a purely financial point of view engagement is surely desirable?

 

4. In the UK, 82% of senior managers regard disengaged employees as one of the three greatest threats facing their business.13 In other words, engagement is a strategic issue.

 

5. As many as 47% of employees stay in a job they dislike for fear of having no other option. In saying this we are almost raising a moral issue: do we want to be the kind of managers who preside over misery and fear?

 

So, now we know why engagement is important and that we need to take action to work towards transforming our place of work.

 

RECAP:

  • Engagement is based on a ‘psychological contract’ between the employee and employer.

  • Engagement is the opposite of ‘scientific management’ or Taylorism and is about enriching the employee’s work life by honouring the psychological agreement.

  • The consequences of failing to engage staff are DIRE!

 

In the next article, we will be exploring the barriers to engagement and productivity that one faces in an organisation.

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of engagement, then you can find Mapping Motivation for Engagement at the Routledge website.

 


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 6: BARRIERS POSED BY PEOPLE, MONEY & TIME

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The coach has another crucial role, then: he or she has enabled the client to get clarity on where the destination leads, but now the coach has to help the client understand what needs to be done to get there. That is, how does the client demolish the barriers that are preventing access to the ‘promised land’” – Mapping Motivation for Coaching

 

Up to this stage, we have predominantly looked at the primary role of the coach, in which the coach attempts to help their client realise where their destination is. Now, we intend to examine the complimentary function of helping them demolish the barriers that are preventing success. Last week we started looking at ways to form new habits with kaizen, and therefore take the first initial steps towards progress (the first step on a journey of a thousand miles), but now we will look at how to overcome larger obstacles. It’s worth recapping what we learned last week, however:

 

RECAP: Kaizen is the process of continual microcosmic improvements that leads to perfection. It is about taking the smallest possible step towards your goal, rather than large creative leaps that might be risky or daunting. Kaizen circumnavigates the amygdala fear-response and allows us to make a start by breaking things down into tiny steps. Kaizen strategies last long term. Remember the story of the steppers in Manhattan!

 

The barriers to progress we face are most commonly divided into one of three primary categories: time, money, or people. These categories actually correspond with the three motivational clusters of Relationship, Achievement and Growth. So, if you recall the nine motivators are: the Defender, the need for security, the Friend, the need for belonging, the Star, the need for recognition, the Director, the need for control, the Builder, the need for material gain, the Expert, the need for knowledge and skills, the Creator, the need to either bring new things into the world or improve existing things, the Spirit, the need for autonomy and independence, and the Searcher, the desire to make a difference to others, or, in fact, to the world.

 

Each of these motivators falls into one of the three ‘clusters’: Defender, Friend and Star fall into the ‘Relationship’ cluster, as they deal with personal relationships and the past. Director, Builder and Expert fall into the ‘Achievement’ cluster, as they are concerned with success in the workplace and present-tasks. Finally, Creator, Spirit and Searcher fall into the ‘Growth’ cluster as they are focused on personal development. They are ‘future’ focused.

 

People corresponds with the Relationship cluster. Consider if you find meeting and working together with the right people to be a big barrier, how your Relationship motivators stand. Money corresponds with the Achievement cluster. If you find money to be a barrier, look at whether your Achievement motivators are low on your profile. If time is your key barrier, it might be that you struggle to look ahead, which is where Growth cluster motivators excel.

 

So, the primary obstacles we face eerily correspond to our motivational profiles. This is possibly because in actuality, none of these factors are the real obstacles to our progress. In fact, most of what is preventing us from overcoming barriers is internal: our outlook and frame of mind.

 

You will have heard it endless reiterated that to achieve your dreams you ‘just need to believe’ or ‘be confident in yourself’ or ‘make it happen’. Confidence and self-belief have been turned into a branding commodity; a logo that you put on tea-mugs and designer-pillows: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. We see these slogans every day and they have been repeated so often, and without nuance, that they have lost all meaning. At this stage, I am sure that even the wide-eyed and optimistic among you have a niggle of scepticism regarding the power of ‘belief’.

 

So, let us examine what we really mean when we talk about self-confidence or self-belief. What we really mean is a state of mind. In Japanese warrior culture, there is a heightened state of awareness called zanshin. It literally means ‘no-mind’. In this state, warriors empty themselves of all their petty thoughts, doubts and considerations so they become entirely ‘present’, able to perceive every incoming blow from every angle. They are relaxed enough that their muscles can respond frictionlessly to dangers, but alert enough that they do not miss any opportunity. In this state, it is said the great Miyamoto Musashi, perhaps the greatest samurai ever to have lived, defeated hundreds of warriors at once in combat. Musashi believed he was the best. He never doubted the speed or power of his sword-stroke, or his victory. That is belief.

 

State of mind is everything. Belief is not an airy-fairy concept. Nor is confidence. It is a story you tell yourself and a mind-set that you inhabit. Henry Ford once said: ‘If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.’ This is a profound commentary on self-fulfilling prophecies. We make these prophecies for ourselves every day: ‘I’m not good enough for this’, ‘I’m stressed out of my mind’, ‘I can’t think straight’. Inevitably, these predictions become true as we obsess over them. The brain moves towards where it is directed by our thoughts.

 

Think of this another way. By controlling how we respond to the world, we control the outcome. We cannot control the world, it is outside of our sphere of influence. We cannot stop people being rude to us, or bills coming in, or changes in government legislation that are unfavourable (at least, most of us can’t!). However, we can change how we respond and adapt to these events. Do we respond in a state of zanshin, or in self-defeating mode?

 

Similar to the events and buffets of the world beyond our control, we have the barriers to stop us doing great things: ‘I can’t find the people to help me’, ‘I don’t have the money’, ‘I don’t have the time’. However, when we approach these problems with the right mind-set, we can see that none of these are insurmountable. There are numerous online and face-to-face platforms for meeting the right entrepreneurs and professionals. Collaboration has also never been more accessible with online calls, seminars, shared-docs, and tools such as Slack.

 

EXERCISE: Create a list of ways you can find the best people to help you achieve your goal. What networks will have the right people. How can you use what you have learned about Motivational Maps to make sure you find people with the right motivational alignment / balance that will compliment yours?

 

It is highly possible in today’s world to loan money to start a business, or even to find investors. It is not easy, no one would ever say that, but there are ample solutions. New solutions are emerging all the time as well. Kickstarter and crowd-funding campaigns are changing the game of start-ups. Kickstarter has raised something like $4.17 billion dollars for businesses worldwide. Money is out there for you. You just have to be creative about how you get it, and offer value to people.

 

EXERCISE: Create a list of ways that you could raise capital. Weigh the pros and cons of each method.

 

The same is true of Time. One of the key strategies for maximising our time is using the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle taps into the uneven nature of the universe. For example, most of us assume that everything we do is equally valuable. If we have 100 emails, we read them all with equal attention. In reality of course, only 20% of those emails probably contain anything worthwhile! Pareto posits that 20% of what we do produces 80% of the results. 20% of people in a large company are producing 80% of the sales. 20% of homes cause 80% of the fires. 20% of people own 80% of the money of the world (in fact, it is actually a far more unbalanced statistic than that). However, this principle is not to be railed against. On the contrary, it can be used to our advantage. Once we become aware that 20% of what we do is producing 80% of the value, we can do more of what is in that 20% to double, quadruple, quintuple our value-output.

 

For example, if each day you were trying to sell a product online, but never got much traction, but you also made one phone call that instantly led to a sale, wouldn’t it be sensible to increase the number of calls you made? Or, vice-a-versa. If you sold hundreds online, but only ever made one or two sales via the phone. Why keep making phone calls? Harness the most productive aspects of what you do, and do more of them and less of what isn’t working!

 

EXERCISE: Make a list of all the things you do in your day and week. Now, identify what roughly 20% of those things (it might even be 30% in some cases) are valuable and creating the most value for you. Now, as yourself how you can do more of those things.

 

Hopefully you can see that all barriers can be overcome with the right thinking and tools. That is the role of the coach, and has been my role in writing this summary-article for you. Next week, we will be giving you a break to catch up with everything we’ve written. After that, we’ll be returning with part 7, out first look into Mapping Motivation for Engagement, co-written with Steve Jones.

 

FINAL RECAP:

 

Coaching can be defined as: ‘the process whereby one individual helps another: to unlock their natural ability; to perform, learn and achieve; to increase awareness of the factors which determine performance; to increase their sense of self-responsibility and ownership of their performance; to self-coach; to identify and remove internal barriers to achievement’ (MacLennan). It is also about motivating individuals on a one-to-one basis.

 

Kaizen is the process of continual microcosmic improvements that leads to perfection. It is about taking the smallest possible step towards your goal, rather than large creative leaps that might be risky or daunting. Kaizen circumnavigates the amygdala fear-response and allows us to make a start by breaking things down into tiny steps. Kaizen strategies last long term. Remember the story of the steppers in Manhattan!

 

The key barriers of people, time and money correspond with the Relationship-Achievement-Growth clusters of Motivational Maps. The real obstacles, however, are our approach and mind-set. We must cultivate self-belief and motivation to overcome barriers with creative solutions!

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of coaching, then you can find Mapping Motivation for Coaching at the Routledge website.


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 5: THE JOURNEY OF A 1000 MILES

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By now, if you have been following this blog series, we should have some idea of the Self. I asked you previously to assess your physical health, mental strength, emotional well-being and spiritual health in order to give you a picture of where you are at now and how you can improve to give your best performance. Combining this with the Maps is very powerful, as you now not only know where you may need to improve, but what kind of actions motivate you – killing two birds with one stone. For example, if you wanted to improve your physical health and you were a Builder motivator (at the number one slot), then it would probably benefit you to do a competitive sport, rather than simply going to the gym. Competing would boost your motivation levels, whilst also improving your fitness, leading to a massive overall increase in your well-being!

 

However, I am skipping ahead slightly. Let’s quickly re-cap on the purpose of coaching (which includes self-coaching):

 

Recap: Coaching can be defined as: ‘the process whereby one individual helps another: to unlock their natural ability; to perform, learn and achieve; to increase awareness of the factors which determine performance; to increase their sense of self-responsibility and ownership of their performance; to self-coach; to identify and remove internal barriers to achievement’ (MacLennan). It is also about motivating individuals on a one-to-one basis.

 

So, how can we use coaching techniques to build a plan to improve our lives (or indeed, to improve the lives of those who work with/for us). I’d like to introduce to one powerful technique called “kaizen”. Kaizen is a Japanese word that literally means “improvement”, however, as with many words derived from Japanese kanji, it has many deeper meanings and associations, one of which is specific to business practice. The business philosophy of Kaizen is: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. It is a process whereby one makes continuous small improvements which over time become exponential. In the West, we tend to think of “innovation”. We want to make big bold creative leaps, where we imagine something entirely alien and new, and then bring it into being, thus radicalising the market and world around us. However, these are tremendously risky and one tends to fall victim to the ‘mad scientist’ psychological trap of always chasing an event horizon that never manifests, or manifests in undesirable ways.

 

Kaizen is a subtle alternative that the Japanese automotive and electronics industries have used to gain world market domination in a relatively short space of time.

 

So far as coaching goes this is important because one aim of the coach is to get the client to adopt new habits or rituals that are more helpful to them than the ones that led to their issue.” – Mapping Motivation for Coaching

 

In order to change our lives, we have to change our habits. This much, we know. We know that to lose weight, we need to exercise more and to diet. We know that to break addictions, we have to form new patterns. However, doing it is always significantly harder than we think. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that most of us believe that we have to go on ‘crash courses’ in order to transform ourselves. We fast or only drink special shakes, we eat radically different food, we start running every day. This is a tremendous amount of effort and automatically sparks the ‘fear response’ in us that says: I don’t want to do that. The second reason is linked to the first: our brains are hard-wired to repetition. Even the most creative and spontaneous of us have patterns; we eat similar foods each day, walk similar paths, drink tea or coffee at the same times, have similar conversations, have similar practices for getting ‘in the zone’. Repetition is security. The more that the brain can put on auto-pilot, the less it has to worry about infinitesimal details or things going wrong. That’s why, in order to get really fit, the best way is actually to continuously vary your exercise regime, so the body doesn’t have time to adjust or fall into a pattern. The military use this to great effect.

 

So, we know we need to create new habits and change, but we can’t. The exercise regime is too stringent, the diet is too controlled, etcetera. How do we break through these mental blocks and doubts? The answer is kaizen. The ‘small steps’ of kaizen allow us to circumnavigate the fear response. Let’s do an exercise.

 

Exercise: Consider a key area in your life where you are not satisfied, or that you want to improve. Now ask yourself the question: What is the smallest possible step I could take towards my destination?

 

In order to help you with this exercise, let me give you a brilliant example. There was a study done on two office blocks in Manhattan. Specifically, companies that worked on the tenth floors, really high up. Both organisations had problems with employee fitness levels due to the location of the offices. In order to help employees, each company was offered a fitness plan. Company A employees were given unlimited gym membership and access. They could go any time, use any machines, swimming pool, all of it. Company B employees were asked to, once per day in their lunch break, walk up and down a flight of stairs. Each day, they had to add one step to the number they climbed. After a year, the fitness levels of the employees were measured. To the surprise-not-surprise of the researchers, Company B employees, termed affectionately ‘the steppers’, were fitter in every single metric. Most Company A employees had barely used the gym. It was too much, an overwhelming amount of options, and required them to travel and find a place in their busy lives to schedule it in. The change for Company B employees was so manageable, they stuck to it.

 

Consider now how this might apply to your life, or indeed the life of someone you know. How can you make one simple, minuscule change that will, over time, have a tremendous impact? Many successful people cite tiny routines, that they keep to every day, that have laid the foundation for their achievements. Remember, the habit must be small, manageable, and easy to incorporate into your existing daily life. Telling yourself you will run four miles every day will probably not work. You might manage it one or two days, or even a week, but after a while you’ll burn out. However, doing five (or even three or one) push ups before you go to work, and adding one push up each week, that is stick-able to!

 

Circling back to the beginning of this article, let’s look now at how you can use your Motivational Map, or your sense of what your top motivators are, to maximise this kaizen activity. If you wanted to improve your mental well-being, and you were a Creator, then perhaps journaling dreams or experiences or writing creative fiction, for just five minutes a day, would be a good exercise. You don’t need to write The Odyssey. Sketching out ideas, without the burden of engaging in a full blown project, will be liberating. On the other hand, if Defender was your top motivator, and you wanted to improve your mental well-being, then you would probably have a different strategy; planning your daily and weekly activities ahead of time, and doing this every day for a few minutes, would probably be a better solution.

 

I hope this article has given you some more ideas about you can use kaizen and coaching to drastically improve areas of your life. Thanks once again for stopping by!

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of coaching, then you can find Mapping Motivation for Coaching at the Routledge website.

 

 

 

 

 


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 4: THE ROLE OF A COACH

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Welcome back to Unlocking Motivation! Over the last three episodes, we discussed content from my book Mapping Motivation, published in 2016, which outlined many of the theories and practices of Motivational Maps. This week, we will be taking our first dive into Mapping Motivation for Coaching (co-written with Bevis Moynan), the next in the series, which deals with how the Maps can support one-to-one coaching, self-coaching, and personal development.

 

Before we get going, I should say that if you are sceptical about the number of books in this series, I don’t blame you. These days, there are so many publishers and writers and film-makers and all sorts cashing in on the idea of a series that largely repeats itself with every entry. However, it is my express intention not to do this. The subject of motivation is rich and can be applied to many different fields. This is partly why I have recruited experts in various fields, such as Bevis Moynan, Director of Magenta Coaching Solutions, an organisation that fosters excellent coaches, therapists, trainers and consultants. My hope is that each entry in this series is as fruitful as the last and offers new insights rather than endless re-iteration. So, on that note, let’s look at coaching!

 

So, firstly, what is coaching? Professor Nigel MacLennan defines it as: ‘the process whereby one individual helps another: to unlock their natural ability; to perform, learn and achieve; to increase awareness of the factors which determine performance; to increase their sense of self-responsibility and ownership of their performance; to self-coach; to identify and remove internal barriers to achievement.’

 

Phew! This is a comprehensive definition, and needs some unpacking. Firstly, at a basic level, it is a process where ‘one individual helps another’. In other words, it is one-to-one, unlike training or teaching, which can be one-to-many. Interestingly, a recent survey showed that training (one-to-many) increased organisational productivity 22.4%, whereas select one-to-one coaching increased organisational productivity 88%! That is a significant difference of 4x!

 

When most people hear the word ‘coach’ they immediately think of a sports coach. It conjures the image of a sweat-suit clad person standing at the side of a race-track or basketball court, yelling advice at the top of their lungs. However, we should not dismiss the association. The purpose of a sports coach is to get the best out of their player, their performer, and this is through one-to-one interactions before the game / event, and also by offering advice and strategy through the day itself. As business people, we need coaches too. We need someone helping us to unlock our best performance throughout the day-to-day stuff, and ‘on the day’ too. ‘On the day’ could mean many different things depending on where you work and in what role; it could be a major sales event, a management meeting, a performance review, a pitch, a presentation, or a networking event. The point is, there are certain occasions, whether we are Olympic athletes or marketing executives, where we need to perform at our very best.

 

I think one of the most powerful definitions included in MacLennan’s quote is ‘to identify and remove internal barriers to achievement’. The role of the coach is not just physical, passing on wisdom, practical advice, and techniques to get them to the next level, but also psychological. It is about overcoming the inhibitions present within our own minds! And I’d argue it is almost impossible to do this yourself. We need coaches, or at least a role model, to help us do it. We also need tools. I mentioned in an earlier article that the Motivational Maps function as a mirror, allowing us to see ourselves in a way we previously could not.

 

There is one aspect missing from MacLennan’s awesome definition, and that is motivation itself. One of the primary roles of the coach is to motivate. Motivation leads to performance, as we have already seen in previous blogs in this series. Motivation is the fuel, the driving force, the energy, that allows us to do great things. A coach should inspire those motivation levels and be able to maintain them. The problem is, we are all motivated differently, and discovering what drives someone has hitherto been quite a lengthy and laborious process, more akin to a series of therapy sessions. Most trainers or managers or leaders follow one of two modus operandi. Either, they define motivating people as a ‘carrot or stick’ approach, effectively reducing people to one of those two boxes. Or, even worse, they commit to a cookie-cutter ‘one approach fits all’. In the latter, we often see what has aptly been termed ‘Ra Ra’ motivation: fire-walking, motivational speeches, away-days doing extreme sports, activities that are sure to raise the adrenaline and motivation levels temporarily, but wear off within a fortnight.

 

So, what we propose is that by using the Maps, which provide immediate insight into motivation levels, we can empower coaches to work even more effectively with their clients, and we can even empower people to become self-coaches too!

 

“Coaching starts with considering the issue of self-awareness for the simple reason that the person who is not self-aware has – by definition – no awareness, or consciousness, that there is anything on which to work within oneself.” – Mapping Motivation for Coaching

 

So, to become a coach, we need self-awareness. But not only that, to benefit from coaching, we need self-awareness as a first step. We need to identify whether something is wrong and get at least an approximation of where that something is. Here is a model that can help you with these early stages of self-awareness. We call it the four strands that form a person: the body (physical – doing), the mind (mental – thinking), the emotions (feeling), and the spirit (knowing / being). Well-being is critical in all four areas. Whilst the areas each have separate domains which I have extrapolated in brackets, they are also deeply connected, and one affects the other. We only have to look at studies such as psycho-immunology, the effect that psychology has on the immune system response, to know that each part of us is interconnected with the whole in more ways than we can imagine. Let’s look at this another way:

 

PHYSICAL HEALTH Health

MENTAL STRENGTH Clarity

EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING Optimism

SPIRITUAL HEALTH Mission

 

EXERCISE: As a starting point for self-awareness, ask ‘How resilient am I in each of these four areas (or strands)?’ Rate yourself out of 10: 1 being the lowest, and 10 being the highest.

 

You should now have a rough picture of where you are and what areas you feel are weaker. Note that Spiritual Health does not necessarily mean religious in the strict sense. It could be another core belief, such as vegetarianism or responsible ecology. How connected are you to that ‘mission’ and purpose? Do you feel it is being fulfilled?

 

Now, take your lowest score, and use this as the basis for forming an ongoing development plan that takes at least 18 months to complete. Nobody can change their life overnight. It takes a while to introduce new habits, and to transform thought processes. We’ll be looking more into how you can form this plan, using Kaizen and other methodologies, next week. Until next time, thank you for reading; stay motivated!

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of coaching, then you can find Mapping Motivation for Coaching at the Routledge website.

 


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 3: THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

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Last week, we explored the nature and applications of Motivational Maps in greater detail. We talked about the deeper values and emotional drivers our motivators represent and how this can lead to conflicts. We also discussed how these conflicts can be resolved using the appropriate language to talk about our motivations. This week’s blog will be the last blog focused on the first Mapping Motivation book. Next week, we will be looking at Mapping Motivation for Coaching, my book co-written with Bevis Moynan! This second book focuses more on coaching and one-to-one motivational interactions: how you can boost the motivation levels of others. For now, however, let us continue our personal journey with the Maps.

 

RECAP: The motivational drives within us directly correlate to our values, therefore they are deeply important to us. What the Maps does is give us a language to firstly understand where people are coming from, and from that, talk about any conflicts of values. As an exercise, we wrote down lists of motivators that may come into conflict.

 

I want to share some insights from the book relating to how the Maps can change over time. The Maps do not stereotype people, nor are they fixed. Unlike psychometric tests which measure the approximately 30% of your personality which is static or biologically encoded, the Maps measure the rest of your personality or ‘Self’ which is influenced by experience. There is a lot more to be said about the ‘Self’, how it is compartmentalised, and how we can define it, but it would be too much to go into in the space of this one blog. Suffice to say, when we talk about what your ‘top motivators’ are, we are talking about a moment in time. It’s important to always bear in mind that as your life changes and you grow as a person (hopefully we are all looking to grow), your motivators will change.

 

A classic example of this is someone who has fallen on hard times suddenly finding that the Builder motivator is in their top three, whereas before it was way down at the bottom of the motivational list! A financial crisis means that even someone for whom money is not normally important begins to recognise its value. Positive changes can also influence our profile. Sometimes, as we move towards our motivators, we can sometimes grow beyond them. For example, how many teenagers do we know that desperately want autonomy? They are driven by a powerful Spirit motivator. However, once they get out into the world away from home and begin struggling in the Darwinian kingdom of work, many of them suddenly recognise the value of the support families and friends can offer. They have proven to themselves they have autonomy and now it becomes less of a core driver. New horizons emerge.

 

A change in our circumstances, in our situation, may mean a slow or a swift change in our beliefs: in our self-concept, beliefs directed inwards about our Self; and in our expectations, beliefs directly outwardly and about outcomes.” – Mapping Motivation

 

The phrase ‘mid-life crisis’ is becoming more and more common, it seems, but what does it really mean? This sudden realisation many middle-aged people seem to come to, that everything they have been striving towards is suddenly worth very little to them, is nothing other than the sudden (or seemingly sudden) emergence of new motivational values. However, without the understanding and language to deal with this, it can feel like a very serious issue indeed.

 

Understanding how motivators change, and specifically how your motivations in life have shifted over time, is a great way to re-evaluate what you might deem as past ‘mistakes’. It is a great way to understand how you got from then to now, and why you may have made certain choices.

 

EXERCISE: Rank your top three motivators in the here and now. Then, think back to 5 years ago and rank your top three motivators as you think they might have been then (it is okay if they are the same, but it is likely at least one has shifted). Do the same for 10 and 15 years ago. You should now have four stages of motivational evolution. What does this tell you? What key events may have influenced these changes?

 

Hopefully the above exercise has been insightful for you. I know that my motivators have shifted greatly over time. As a drama teacher going back some thirty years, I know I was motivated by making a difference to my students (Searcher) and possibly also by that recognition so key to those in theatre and performing arts (Star). However, I have always carried the Creator deep in my soul, I think, in the form of poetry, which I have not stopped writing for forty years. Some things, of course, do not change, and that can be just as revealing as what does.

 

FINAL RECAP:

 

The nine motivators are: the Defender, the need for security, the Friend, the need for belonging, the Star, the need for recognition, the Director, the need for control, the Builder, the need for material gain, the Expert, the need for knowledge and skills, the Creator, the need to either bring new things into the world or improve existing things, the Spirit, the need for autonomy and independence, and the Searcher, the desire to make a difference to others, or, in fact, to the world.

 

The motivational drives within us directly correlate to our values, therefore they are deeply important to us. What the Maps does is give us a language to firstly understand where people are coming from, and from that, talk about any conflicts of values. As an exercise, we wrote down lists of motivators that may come into conflict.

 

Unlike psychometric tests which measure the approximately 30% of your personality which is static or biologically encoded, the Maps measure the rest of your personality or ‘Self’ which is influenced by experience. This means they change over time.

 

Next week we will be having a short break, so see you in two week’s time where we will be talking about motivation and coaching!

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of engagement, then you can find Mapping Motivation at the Routledge website.


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 2: REVENGE OF THE DIRTY COFFEE CUP

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Last week, we began our journey with the first in this webseries, entitled Unlocking Motivation. We talked about how we are all driven by nine motivators, but these nine motivators are ordered differently within us. We talked briefly about reward strategies, and how we can move from treating everyone ‘the same’ to customising our approach to each individual person based not on a false meritocracy, but on what drives them.

 

RECAP: The nine motivators are: the Defender, the need for security, the Friend, the need for belonging, the Star, the need for recognition, the Director, the need for control, the Builder, the need for material gain, the Expert, the need for knowledge and skills, the Creator, the need to either bring new things into the world or improve existing things, the Spirit, the need for autonomy and independence, and the Searcher, the desire to make a difference to others, or, in fact, to the world.

 

This week, I want to talk about what the Maps can reveal about human relationships and the startling way they can be used to improve communication and teamwork in an office.

 

Most of our arguments with people are not about the thing we are arguing about. We all know this at an intuitive level. It isn’t really all that angering that someone has left a dirty coffee mug in the communal area, or that they talk loudly on the phone. It is the messages behind these, what we call in literature ‘subtext’. One of my first great loves was writing, and it remains so to this day. Mainly poetry and non-fiction. My wife, Linda, the Managing Director of Motivational Maps, avidly reads probably 60 or more novels a year. Our interests overlap when it comes to watching Game of Thrones, and we have lots of interesting discussions about stories from this! The thing about narrative and storytelling is that if you want your characters to feel deep, three-dimensional and fully-realised – like George R. R. Martin’s – you need to understand that when people talk, most of the time they are not saying what they really mean. The same applies to the things we do. Sometimes, even seemingly altruistic actions can actually have hidden subtexts, agendas, and intended meanings. We sense these, often, at a kind of primitive animal-level, but it can be very hard without experience to decipher them.

 

So, back to the dirty coffee cup. What does that symbolise? Perhaps, to someone who likes things to be clean and ordered, it makes the statement: I don’t care about my working environment or the other people in it. If someone said these words to you directly, it would be pretty shocking and cause for alarm. The anger is understandable and it arises from a conflict of values. Another way of looking at this is that people do not disagree over things, or words even, they disagree over values. The motivational drives within us directly correlate to our values, therefore they are deeply important to us.

 

What the Maps does is give us a language to firstly understand where people are coming from, and from that, talk about any conflicts of values. Let’s look at this in a little more detail to see what I mean. Let’s say there is someone in the office with Director as their number one motivator. The Director is fuelled by the desire for control. They want to have control over their life, environment, and yes, also their work colleagues and friends. They want to be organisational chief. It is likely that if you have someone in your office who has a tendency to micro-manage, who likes to tidy up, and who is always volunteering to be in charge of one committee or another, they are a Director motivator. Now, the Director motivator has one immediate and obvious point of conflict within the Maps. How well did you study the nine motivators? Here’s an exercise:

 

EXERCISE: Write down a list of two or three possible motivators that could clash with the Director based on their drives / values. Ask yourself if you have seen any of these conflicts in action. If you are already familiar with the Maps, try picking a more unusual motivator or a motivator that you would normally consider cooperative with the Director and investigate where there might be tension points.

 

So, hopefully you have come up with some interesting answers there. For me, the number one conflicting motivator with the Director is the Spirit. The Spirit represents the drive for independence. Spirits don’t like to be controlled or told what to do. They abhor hierarchy. When they work, they like to go about things in their own way and reject repetitious process. One of the great strengths of the Spirits is that they are pro-active go-getters. However, you can probably immediately see that the relationship between these two motivational drives can be antagonistic if not managed correctly. In simple terms, they want opposite things.

 

Now, the purpose of the Maps is not simply to just provide words for existing things you are already aware of. It is not a label. Your motivators change with time, experience, and circumstance. A classic change I often see is when people first start their own business, suddenly they find the Builder in their top three motivators where it had never been before. Of course, money concerns starting a new business have meant that the need for material gain has shifted and become more of a priority. No, the Maps are a practical tool. Having a neutral language to discuss these difference of value allows the individuals themselves to have open, frank, adult conversations, as well as providing management and leaders with insights on how to go about solving the issue.

 

We need to constantly fine tune our teams because as I said before the law of entropy means they will run down without inputs.” – Mapping Motivation

 

Something I’ve observed in a lot of businesses, particularly in the UK, is the blame culture. Every process is designed to mitigate potential blame allocation. In fact, many people in offices spend more time covering their backs (sending emails confirming what so-and-so said to so-and-so or what instructions were given at what time), than they do getting on with work, and it is not their fault by any means. It is the societal culture we have created where every boss lives in fear that if they fire someone they will get sued, and everyone else lives in fear they will be held responsible for the actions of their superiors. We can become blame-culture enthusiasts in our personal life and our work relationships too. We blame people for things they do (or don’t do). The beauty of understanding our values and motivators is that it removes this blame-language. It moves from Why don’t you follow my instructions? to I can see that maybe my Director motivator is trying to control your Spirit. How can we work in a different way to avoid this?

 

It opens up a bounteous treasure-trove of possible solutions. Maybe the Spirit can work alone and then present their work to the Director at the end of the process, rather than getting feedback along the way. Maybe the Director can give the Spirit a lot of information and background and then step back and let them take the project away and finish it without intervention.

 

EXERCISE: I want you now to pick two other motivators from the remaining seven: Creator, Defender, Friend, Star, Searcher, Expert, Builder – and explore ways in which they might conflict given their drives and values.

 

So, the more we understand about one another and what drives us, the more sympathetic and communicative we can be. In the next blog, we’ll explore the further benefits of motivation in a team and why making a difference to the people who work for an organisation is ultimately going to benefit every other face of the business, including the bottom line.

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of engagement, then you can find Mapping Motivation at the Routledge website.


UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 1: INSERT MOTIVATIONAL SPEECH HERE

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We’ve all heard the phrase ‘practice what you preach’. It’s an essential concept. We need to embody the principles that we expect others to uphold. The problem is that, being human, we are susceptible to hypocrisy. I found this myself, at cost. I spent years using the Motivational Maps tool, getting people to realise what their true drivers were, their energy source, their motivation, and helping them to align their lives with these inner drives for greater wellbeing and performance. I then disregarded what my motivational profile was telling me. That I needed to be doing more creative pursuits. I had gotten so locked into delivering: going on the road, turning up at meetings, giving talks, training one to one and training teams, that I had somewhere lost sight of my true primary driver, which was to create content (not deliver it). I am fairly sure this is part of what resulted in my crash and subsequent cancer, though there were perhaps other factors at play there as well.

However, surviving the cancer, emerging from the belly of that whale, I had a new outlook and perspective on life, and also a new outlook on how to transform my business so that I could do more creation, what was truly at my core. The fruit of this labour are my three (soon to be four) books on motivation: Mapping Motivation, Mapping Motivation for Coaching (with Bevis Moynan) and Mapping Motivation for Engagement (with Steve Jones). These three texts explore the greatest challenge that most organisations face: that of motivating their staff and creating a strong, cooperative team environment. At the heart of these books is my product, the Motivational Map, which is self-perception diagnostic tool that makes visible what is invisible: our inner drives, desires, and feelings. It should be noted, however, that this is not a book just for managers, CEOs, or management consultants; this is a book that promotes overturning the traditional command and control hierarchy of business and replacing it with a modern bottom-up approach, where people are empowered. I hope it is of benefit to anyone who wants to learn more about what drives us and how we can boost motivational levels for ourselves and others.

Motivation is not secret, it is not Hermetic lore to be sealed away by a cadre of elite. Motivation is for all. As a result, I want to share some of the information and secrets contained in these books with you here to help you think about how you can improve your life. I’ll be writing nine blogs in total, covering topics from all three books. Are you read to come with me on this motivation journey? I hope so!

 

Independent of whether we have high IQs or low ones, whether we are tall or short, or whether even we are rich or poor, perhaps the biggest single determinant of the quality of our lives is how motivated we are at any given moment, and over prolonged periods of time.” - Mapping Motivation

 

The word ‘motivation’ and ‘motivational’ is bandied around a lot nowadays, but it is never very well defined. We talk about motivational athletes, or even billionaires who tell their motivational sob-story about growing up with ‘only a dream’. None of this is very useful or something that the every day person can really harness in any meaningful way. Organisations spend thousands, sometimes tens of thousands or even hundreds, on booking motivational speakers who rev up their sales force for a day, only to see their performance drop back to normal within 48 hours. Where are they going wrong?

I like to define motivation as energy. It is what feeds us. When we do things we are motivated by, it increases our excitement, our focus, our energy, our commitment, and also our enjoyment. Identifying what we are motivated by, however, is not easy. I know many people, who are very insightful, who have spent a lifetime trying to figure out their own motivations and really revealing they are completely blind to them. We all are, to an extent. Our self is always the blind spot. We cannot ‘see’ ourselves, except when we look in a mirror. So, the mirror is a tool to reveal what we cannot see. The Motivational Maps, similarly, allow us to look at ourselves more clearly.

There are nine motivators. These are synthesised from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors and the Enneagram. They are: the Defender, the need for security, the Friend, the need for belonging, the Star, the need for recognition, the Builder, the need for material gain, the Expert, the need for knowledge and skills, the Director, the need for control, the Spirit, the need for autonomy and independence, the Creator, the need to either bring new things into the world or improve existing things, and the Searcher, the desire to make a difference to others, or, in fact, to the world. No motivator is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another. All of them are valid. In fact, we all have all nine motivators within us, but generally two or three of them are dominant.

How is this helpful? Well, it reveals, very simply, what drives us. For example. I am a Creator, that is my number one ranked motivator, and therefore I need to make sure that I have time in my day for creative things: writing motivational books, writing blogs, listening to music, composing poetry. When I do these things, I get a massive energy and happiness boost. It is why I get out of bed in the morning, it completes my life. However, you might be motivated by something completely different. It seems obvious when you look at it like this, but it is amazing how many people take this cookie-cutter ‘one size fits all’ approach to people and wonder why it doesn’t work.

Let’s look at an example. What if a CEO wanted to reward their employees for a good year? What if they decided to give them all a pay-rise? That seems pretty sensible, right? Everybody wins. Except, actually, only 1 in 9 of your employees is likely to be a Builder and therefore motivated by material gain (perhaps more if they worked in an Accountancy firm or Banking – different professions attract different motivators). I’ve seen numerous examples of companies who give all their employees a pay-rise and it actually de-motivates them! It creates all kinds of problems when you look beneath the surface: ‘He got a bigger pay-rise than me, that’s not fair’ or ‘He got the same rise as me yet I’ve worked five times harder than he has’. Can you see how money does not, in fact, solve the problem of motivation at all, except when you are perhaps dealing with a Builder motivator.

Now, what if that CEO approached their reward strategy differently? What if it was custom to each person? The problem with that is working out what people want. The idea of Motivational Maps is to make it very easy to do this.

 

EXERCISE: Your exercise for this week is to make a note of the top three motivators from the list I have provided that you think could be applicable to you. Try and rank them from 1 through to 3. What does this reveal to you? Does it cause you reflect on previous roles and why they were or were not suitable for you? What does it say about your current role? We’ll look at this in more depth next week.

 

If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of engagement, then you can find Mapping Motivation at the Routledge website.


10 Commandments of Impractical Entrepreneurship - Revisited!

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A couple of years ago, following a lunch with my friend Brian Jenner, I posted an article outlining the ‘10 Commandments of Impractical Entrepreneurship’! This was based on an outline of a talk he was preparing, and he kindly allowed me to share his brilliant ideas. Recently looking back over these commandments (one always needs to refresh oneself sometimes) I realised that many of them have acquired new meaning in our current business, economic, and, indeed, cultural climate. So, I wanted to share these commandments again with some new thoughts.

 

The first commandment of impractical entrepreneurship is thou shall not be afraid. Brian reminded me at the time that God's most common exhortation in the Bible is: ‘Fear not’ or ‘Don't be afraid’. God says this some 80 times and more than any other piece of advice. Frank Herbert, author of the incredible Dune series, once wrote: ‘Fear is the mind killer’. And indeed, he was right. Fear shuts us down. It reduces our ability to think laterally, placing us in a state of fight or flight (on fact, there is also a third response, which is ‘freeze’). Of course, none of these responses are particularly helpful for dealing with modern day issues. I’ve been thinking a lot about fear recently, perhaps because right now you can practically smell it in the air. With the presidency of Donald Trump and the prospect of Brexit, many people feel less and less certain about their futures. Whilst I deeply sympathise with this, it is also frustrating to see people lose their heads. One would think we were entering another world war, or that the bombs were already falling, with the way people talk. A few days doing relief work in Syria or Africa might help people get a sense of perspective. The world is changing for us, not necessarily ending just yet (though all empires fall one day). It is also frustrating to see the media, rather than allaying fears, to be relishing in the fear-mongering. It is, truly, Orwellian to watch the spread of misinformation, speculation and outright lies. One might almost think they want us to be in a state of blind panic. But, I digress. If you want to weather the storms, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur in these uncertain times, you need to shed your fear. You must look at the chaos of our era as opportunity rather than be afraid of what might or might not happen. After all, we have to overcome fear if we're going to be able to achieve anything in life.

 

Commandment number two is: Thou doesn't need to have a job! We are, certainly the UK, conditioned into the idea of thinking that education is all about finally getting a job that will solve all our problems and make us happy. This is really just a fixed idea which is not helpful, and furthermore many people don't even enjoy their jobs, so seeing the ‘job’ as our inevitable future may be irrelevant. Jobs and the job’s mentality can often lead to endless and unsatisfying activity; whereas creating your own business can more easily lead to purposeful goals and real service. In our current climate, this is truer than ever. People spend so much time bewailing the lack of opportunity, the lack of good jobs, and yet how is it, then, that many groups of teenagers can be making, if not millions, a more than satisfactory living wage off of YouTube videos? Talking about what they love, playing video-games, reviewing exciting new films. This is not even the golden era of YouTube content creation! Yes, there are problems with that lifestyle too (burnout, isolation, to name just two) but there are pitfalls in any profession. Coaches and mentors burn out! I did myself. What I am trying to say is, as one door closes (stable jobs-for-life in the public sector, for example), another door of potential opens for those willing to make the leap of faith. In a few years’ time, YouTube may not exist. This doesn’t mean it is the end. We must adapt and change to our new environment.

 

The third commandment is Thou shalt try things out. You cannot discover profound and useful things unless you do things other people don't do; you need to experiment and need to innovate, and unless we do we won't get anywhere. It was Drucker who said that only two things made money for a business: marketing and innovation. So trying things out is really important. There might be an activity you do which suddenly sparks a new idea, or else puts you in a great mind-set for working. Not everything has to be work related, but at the same time, the things you do in your free time might well feed into your work and feed that passion. I myself love classical music. I can’t play, but I love to listen and have an eclectic collection. This is nothing to do with my work. Or is it? I regularly listen to this music when I am writing, or creating new content for the business. It stimulates and relaxes me in a way rock or pop music rarely does. What kind of music might relax you when you work? Try it out!

 

Fourth, Thou shalt accept failure. Accepting failure in the right way is the potential catalyst for learning. The famous Edison story tells how he perfected 10,000 ways how not to make a light bulb before he went on to establish how he could do it. Sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish between success and failure. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter observed, 'Everything looks like failure in the middle. In nearly every change project doubt is cast on the original vision because problems are mounting and the end is nowhere in sight'. It's only with hindsight we realise the problem is a necessary part of the solution; so it's important not to get demoralised by what appears to be failure at some point during the process.

 

Then most interestingly, Brian shared the Fifth commandment: Thou shalt not give anything away for free. In our current era of relentless charity, and the way we are more connected than ever to people in need via online services, this might sound cruel. The fact is, you cannot help others if you cannot first help yourself. Abraham Lincoln once said: ‘The best way to help the poor is not to become one of them’. The majority of entrepreneurs providing a service are certainly under-charging. The majority of writers, artists and creators in the UK and US are paid less than a living wage (the 2018 ALCs study revealed the median income of a professional author is now at under £10,500 a year). We must get creative on how we can offer assistant to people at fair prices, but still run a viable business. Do we have multiple revenue streams from different projects? One project which is more altruistic and one more profitable in the traditional sense? If we really think about helping people as our top priority (whether we’re providing business or financial advice, counselling services, writing coaching or something else entirely) then we can create new ways to add value to people’s lives, and adding value is a sure way to increase your own value.

 

 

Thou shalt account for every penny, commandment number six. This shows a healthy respect for money and actually values its value. We can be driven by ideals, or large humanitarian goals, but still value money and not be wasteful of it!

 

Commandment number 7 is Thou shalt move with the times. This is more important than ever before! My good friend Ross Thornley is writing a book about just how rapidly our modern era is changing. How many organisations do you know that use old ideas, old methodologies, old technology, and wonder why they are becoming less and less competitive? If an organisation or business isn’t growing, then it’s dying.

 

Thou shalt not sacrifice thyself. This is the timely commandment number 8. We see it all the time, don’t we? The entrepreneur that mistakes stubborn stupidity for savvy persistence. Some ideas need to be abandoned as soon as it is clear that they are not going to work. But we get attached to ideas and won’t let them go; we sacrifice ourselves, re-mortgage the house and even our relationships, on the altar of some flawed idol that is never going to deliver. The counter to this is good information and accurate intelligence.

 

At number 9 we have: Thou shalt learn some psychology. Brian Jenner recommends Robert Cialdini’s famous book, Influence, and so do I. Getting to Yes is also another classic in the same mould. And if I may be immodest, try my Mapping Motivation, published by Routledge. But without understanding people, we may not be quite dead in the water, but the swim is going to be one hell of a harrowing experience; but if we understand people and can get them alongside us, then we really will gain leverage and buoyancy.

 

Finally, Brian recommends as his tenth commandment: Thou shalt walk away. This of course is one of the key negotiation principles of Getting to Yes. But you will experience indifference, opposition, and competition to your ideas and sometimes the best option is to walk away rather than confront these negative situations. As they say in martial arts: ‘What you resist persists’. Letting go can be much more effective and harmonious.

 

So ten brilliant commandments, all with plenty of meat round them. But as I said to Brian as we sat there, he with his coffee and me with my mint and ginger, ‘There’s one missing commandment, Brian’. So here is my extra bonus.

 

Commandment number 11: Thou shalt have a story – for the story will excite and energise, the story will create friends and allies, and the story will expand all our horizons and possibilities. The story will let us all understand what is going on and why! In times of turbulence, fear, uncertainty, stories become more important than ever. In fact, they become fuel which people burn through the long winter. We need stories, to feed our imaginations, to stimulate our creativity, to remind us what heroism looks like. Why do you think shows such as Game of Thrones have become so popular? It is because the brutal and treacherous world of Westeros gives shape to our fears and shows us how real heroes, like Jon Snow (played by the stoic Kit Harrington), deal with them. So, stay strong as we head towards the future, and remember, do not be afraid!


Transforming The Self

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As a motivational mentor I encounter people with many issues and these always divide along the lines of the three core life elements: achievement, relationship, or self growth. Paradoxically, sometimes the more the serious the issues, the easier they are to support and help. People who believe they are doing all the right things sometimes cannot change, and therefore cannot transform their Self.

In this way, it’s easy to become stuck in life, sensing vaguely that something is ‘wrong’ or requires improvement but not sure where to start. How many people who are diagnosed with cancer have the thought: “But I eat healthily, exercise, I do all the right things!” I myself thought along those lines when I received my own diagnosis, although examining my life after the event, I saw quite clearly some areas where I could have improved my way of life and perhaps if not prevented it, but reduced its seriousness.

There is a wonderful story in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers about Abbot Lot: “Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said, ‘Father, to the limit of my ability, I keep my little rule, my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; to the limit of my ability, I cleanse my heart of thoughts; what more should I do?’” This question – what more should I do? – is relevant to us all in our odyssey through life. And I am sure you can see how difficult it is to answer, given the fact that Abbot Lot is already doing so much. Indeed, Abbot Lot specifically refers twice the ‘limit of his ability’ – he is doing, in our language, the max!

As mentors and coaches, then, it is easy to see how to help or direct somebody who is all at sea, who is not doing any of the basics in the three core life elements. But how do we help the person who is dissatisfied by their progress when they are sincerely doing the best that they can already?

Let me invite you now to reflect on what would your answer be to either Abbot Lot or to one such client that you have experienced or might experience in future. What would you say?

What Abbot Joseph said is revealing: “The elder man rose up in reply, and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said, ‘Why not be utterly changed into fire?’”

Whilst on the surface, entirely cryptic, this answer is instructive and brilliant on many levels. First, he “rose” – the physical body changed in order to make his response. Second, the digits of his hand ‘became like ten lamps of fire’. As a theological point, what may the ten represent? It is likely the Ten Commandments – the law – the very thing that Abbot Lot is consumed by following – all the right procedures, and protocols, and ‘rules’ that supposedly lead to heaven. Third, the all-consuming question – not an answer – a suggestion almost: become fire!

This is a staggering suggestion: that at root we need to burn up the old life and become something completely new, and wholly free, and incandescently bright. It suggests to me a state of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. Abbot Lot is concerned entirely with this question ‘What more can I do?’. Abbot Joseph’s reply is that he should change into fire. In other words, become something else. This represents transitioning from a state of practising religion or faith, to embodying its meaning. The same can be true of our coaching clients. There comes a point where simply ‘doing’ the procedures, the routines, that lead to a better life or business practice will be unsatisfactory because there is a higher level of ‘being’ to attain. Exactly how we reach that transformation is, of course, another question, and a complex one. But it must surely begin for all of us, if we consider the real meaning of the story, with the vision and the intention to be that flame.

 


Best Ever Year, 2019

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I hope that everyone has had celebratory New Year’s Eves full of life and laughter! I hope, too, that the morning, whilst possibly bringing a hangover, has also brought the promise of an exciting year ahead. Whilst Time is certainly an artificial device, something we use to measure out life, we derive our measurement of Time from the natural cycles in the world. The rotation of the Earth about the sun. The procession of the Equinoxes. The wax and wane of the Moon. So, it is important, regardless of our views, to mark time, transition, to acknowledge the moment where one thing becomes another: spring becoming summer, one day becoming the next, one year becoming the another. Whilst some people might say that nothing has changed with the advent of a new year, I disagree. Everything may have changed, even if it is only our perspective. This reminds me of a story I may have told before, but it’s an important one, so I want to re-iterate it. I think, if anything, it is more pertinent now than when I first told it.

There is so much to learn from children, if only we could listen. Of course, one needs to be clear: there is a world of difference between being child-like and childish. We need to avoid the latter and embrace the former. One way I have come to appreciate this is through my own son when he was young. I vividly remember when he was about six years old and I was encouraging him to do the homework his Primary school had set him to do (yes, unbelievable, I know – what are these people on?) and he turned to me, disarmingly, and said: “Daddy, children were meant to play.” As soon as he said it – like a blow to my heart – I knew he was right. What was I thinking? That at six years old he should spend all day at school and then come home in the evening and start toiling over a load of nonsense that had no bearing on his life whatsoever?

“Carry on playing, Joe,” I said, and quietly crept away, ashamed I had disturbed him. And before then and after then, my son had a knack of identifying the real issue without thinking about it, and without being a smarty-pants. But one of his best perceptions only emerged gradually. My wife and I noticed a pattern when we asked him a familiar family question. For example, he had been to visit a friend, or he just had been to his martial arts club, or had a special meal, or we’d come back from going to the cinema with him or even watched a DVD at home. This typical question always went along the lines of: “How was it Joe?” – how was the visit to your friend, or the martial arts club, or the meal, or the film? And we kept getting this unselfconscious response: “Best ever.” Indeed, this response became a bit of a family joke and persisted into the present time: “How was your date with your girlfriend?”

“Best ever, dad.”

And I realised this was fundamentally important. So many people look back to the best ever time of their life, and then spend all their time regretting how this could not continue. The truth is, of course, no matter how old we are, we are now at the best ever moment of our life, and the next moment is going to be even better. This is a vital expectation for our lives, for without it we are going to subscribe to the zeitgeist philosophy that being old is bad, decrepitude is inevitable, and that only being young is worthwhile. On the contrary, being old has massive advantages and things are even better – ‘best ever’ – now than they were before. Expectations are, of course, our beliefs about future outcomes, and so a belief that is so positive, so pregnant with energy, so vital, is going to have a massive effect in exactly the way that self-fulfilling prophecies do. In other words, it is highly likely to become our reality, if we believe it and not just ‘think’ it.

Certainly, for me, I realise that I am at the very best time of my life now. Eight years ago I nearly died of cancer, but that was best ever too: best ever illness that enabled me to move on from where I was utterly stuck. Every year since has got ‘best ever’ written all over it too. So as we all face 2019 what are we thinking, or rather believing? Is this going to be your ‘best ever’ year? Or are you already resigned to mediocrity, more of the same, or worse: a gradual deterioration in everything – health, wealth, relationships and the self? Do yourself a favour, then: take advice from my son, and from children and from the child-like everywhere, and whenever asked ‘how’s it going?’, reply: ‘best ever, thanks’.


Motivational Maps Round-Up 2018

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It was a busy year for me and for Motivational Maps as a whole, but we’re so excited with all that’s going on with the maps. The greatest thing for us is seeing what other people are doing with the maps and how they are using our tool in their own way, deepening the collective knowledge base and taking what maps has to offer into new fields. In the light of this, I’ve been co-authoring books in my series Mapping Motivation to expand the knowledge-base with input from others. Two of these books were published by Routledge this year: Mapping Motivation for Coaching (co-written with Bevis Moynan), which is all about one-to-one coaching and mentorship, and Mapping Motivation for Engagement (co-written with Steve Jones), which is all about engagement and the big picture of getting employees on board (and why the modern work environment is so dis-engaging). We had launch events for both books in London at the Judge’s Court. Both were fabulous events. I must thank everyone who attended and all our sponsors!

 

I’ve also published a fair few of articles, on a variety of platforms and about various things, but particular to maps are my Motivational Memos. I thought, what with it being the end of the year, it would be good to revisit some of those articles as we review the year. So, here are three (for three is the magic number) of my favourite articles published in 2018, and some of the reasons why! In no particular order…

 

Recruitment and Motivation

Recruitment is such an important issue. As many people go through Christmas and the New Year, it will be with the prospect of new beginnings on the horizon, a fresh start for next year. While some undoubtedly still consider this corny, there is something to be said for, once a year, re-evaluating what you are doing and why and seeing if there are not ways you can do it better, or perhaps somewhere else that you should be. Recruitment is the hiring of new staff. In the New Year, many companies will be inundated with people looking for new role and new futures. So, now is an important time to review your recruitment practices, and, almost more importantly, your recruitment philosophy!

 

What the World Cup 2018 Can Teach Us About Motivation

The World Cup was a major event this year for many people and, whilst I am no major football fan, it was quite inspirational to see even snippets. We saw that it is possible to break from the paradigms and ‘curses’ of the past, that strong leadership, in the form of Gareth Southgate, can develop people in a kind-hearted way. Southgate cut through even entrenched psychological game-playing and negativity that had besmirched England’s playing ability (and frankly honour) for years. He was the embodiment of gentlemanly machismo. No posturing, no aggression, just quiet determination and confidence. Many managers, if they are looking for a role model, could do well to look to Gareth Southgate. Why not make it a 2018 resolution (or as I like to call them: intention)?

 

Motivation & Psychopathology

An expanded version of this article actually appears in my book Lotus Eaters & Myrmidons. It is all about how, beneath Maslow’s secondary hierarchy of drives, lies the deeper drive for survival, and some people, regardless of living in the modern world and a first world country, are stuck in this instinct. It is very difficult to motivate or coach people like this. It is even difficult to give them therapy. We must, all of us, deal with difficult people in our lives, and people who are struggling to survive because they have created needs for themselves which must be met at all costs (read: addictions). Though we go forward to the future positively, we must remember not to go blindly, and I think this article can help people identify and deal with those dangerous individuals that might lurk in the office!

 

So there you have it, a recap of my three favourite articles. Which is your favourite from the year? And what are your intentions as we move toward the end of the year and into the next?

 

Wishing you all happy holidays!

 


The Need for Resilient Leadership

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Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone who came to our Mapping Motivation for Engagement book launch last Thursday (29th November). It was a fantastic event, with some brilliant talks and insight and laughter. Most of all, it very motivational indeed, which is what it should be! I certainly learned a lot from being there.

 

Today, I want to talk about so-called ‘Resilient Leadership’. Cary Cooper, the well-known professor and business expert, depicted some while ago the hard times we live in and suggested a call for resilient leaders. He paints a vivid picture of the stresses the economy is undergoing and suspects the SME sector in particular will be severely hit. The changes coming will no longer be optional but inevitable, so embracing change becomes the mantra. To do this we need what he calls ‘resilient leaders’ and elsewhere ‘real leadership’.

 

I guess I am not being merely pedantic when I say that all leadership is ‘real’ enough, certainly for those experiencing it; and resilience may not be a quality we want in certain types of leaders: the case of Hitler springs to mind – he who was incredibly ‘resilient’. If only he hadn’t been.

 

What the words ‘real’ and ‘resilient’ are actually disguising is a sort of adjectival tautology: what we want are leaders who lead. What we want are - to use the Jim Collins’ terms - good and great leaders. There, I have said it. ‘Real’ and ‘resilient’ give the impression that we are talking about something objective, that we can empirically conjure up and control in some way; ‘good’ and ‘great’ are just so purely subjective that they seem all froth. We end up knowing we have great leaders only after the event - which is useless when we want to appoint them in advance. As Cooper says, ‘Britain needs them by the hundreds and thousands, if it is to prosper’.

 

Interestingly, the activities that these ‘real’ types undertake, according to Cooper, are allowing staff ownership of the business problems, increasing their decision making, listening and supporting. In short, they do less command and control, more empathy, sensitivity and openness. Indeed, they possess more personal qualities that require ‘real’ character - the ability to engage with another human being without rushing to tell them what to do and how to do it.

 

This is a tall order even in undemanding times. With the pressure of the economy weighing down on business owners, how likely is it that they are going to opt for character over control faced with spiralling loss of revenue?

 

What is really needed I think are new ways of approaching how staff and teams work - and specifically of tapping into the motivational core of performance. We should try this because it is quite clear the alternative - what we are currently doing - doesn’t work. As was observed during a talk at the book-launch: Engagement levels have remained at around the 30% mark (i.e. 30% of staff are engaged and 70% are disengaged) for the last 30 years! Given the massive amounts of research and investment into engagement, a sum that is no doubt in the billions, this seems almost inconceivable. What is wrong with this picture? Well, it’s clear the reason we haven’t seen any significant progress is because at a fundamental level it is all coming from the same place, the same top-down and command-and-control approach. If we are to truly engage people, and to truly lead them, we must have, as Cooper advocates, empathy.

 

To this end, then, Motivational Maps have an enormous role to play: they can provide the missing language and metrics which have so far bedevilled attempts to make the soft skills rigorous and measurable. It should be noted that narrative, the true object of language, is actually a form of healing. In this way, the Maps are not just a business tool for insight, engagement and personal development, they are also a therapeutic tool in some regard. (More on this in future articles!) The Maps can provide the link to performance that is so necessary; and we know that performance leads to productivity. And guess what? Productivity leads to profits – if the strategy is right. Part of that strategy needs to be the people, and especially the leaders. Call it resilience; call it great; but for crying out loud let’s put the language and metric of motivation at the heart of it.


MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR ENGAGEMENT: THE IMPORTANT INVISIBLES

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The Mapping Motivation for Engagement book launch is almost upon us! Next week, authors Steve Jones and James Sale will be hosting the launch at The Judge’s Court in Brown’s Covent Garden, London, on the 29th November. James and Steve welcome you warmly to this event and will be present to answer your burning questions about engagement, motivation, book-writing and much more.

 

Engagement is an important topic, and becoming increasingly more important as a greater portion of the world becomes part of the province of big business. Mapping Motivation for Engagement promotes a new model for engaging and motivating employees which takes a bottom-up, people-centric approach. In this extract, James Sale and Steve Jones explain where most people go wrong with engagement:

 

“It is our considered view that the more intangible, invisible and ‘airy-fairy’ an element of organisational development is (and specifically in relation to employee engagement), the more likely it is to be of paramount importance. In a way it is easy to see how ‘enabling managers’ contribute – almost by definition – to employee engagement; but a strategic narrative? Isn’t this just something for boffins at head office who love producing pages of paperwork and who simultaneously like to consider this ‘real’ work? Sadly, it would be easy to become cynical, but the reality is that even the engaging managers will in the end run out of steam if there is no ‘strategic narrative’ underpinning their efforts, strengthening their resolve and fortifying their motivations.

 

“The truth is that the seriously important things in life all tend to be intangibles, and invisibles – like values, beliefs, emotions, motivations, dreams – precede, and so drive, the outcomes in the concrete world we experience. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to them, and not, as so many executives do, just consider the tangibles: the revenues, the profits, the assets and all the ‘things’ we can list on or deduce from a balance sheet. It is the lack of attention – and so respect – paid to people generally that is at the root of so much disengagement and disaffection in the work place.”

 

There is a famous line from 2 Corinthians 4:18 which is: “What is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal”. Regardless of the religious connotations, this is part of the ethos of Motivational Maps, unveiling the unseen and invisible emotions, desires, drives and dreams that lie within us. The Maps are just that, a way to chart and observe the unseen landscape of the psyche. If this sounds ‘airy-fairy’, to use words from the book itself, it should in one sense. But the genius of the Maps is that it is also a business tool that provides metrics: motivational scores, ways to gauge motivation levels and satisfaction in the nine key areas.

 

One of the key ways in which engagement can slip, and employees (or managers or business owners for that matter) become de-motivated, is via a conflict of values. The nine motivators, whilst they represent ‘drives’ that fuel us, also correspond to things that we value. For example, the Defender is the need for security, therefore they value stability and order in the workplace (and indeed at home too). However, this value might conflict with someone who is a Creator motivator, who has a need to innovate, and who therefore values what is new and dynamic. A Creator motivator is much more likely to value risk-tasking and bold ambitious ideas, because it can lead to creative reward. These two values, Defender and Creator, can be in conflict, and it’s easy to see how two people might lock-horns over them. Or, indeed, how a company that is laden with bureaucratic safety measures (Defender) might totally wear down an employee motivated by creativity. Mapping Motivation for Engagement aims to put this knowledge and toolkit into the hands of those who are looking to make a difference!

 

To learn more about engagement, motivation, and to hear directly from James and Steve, please join us at The Judge’s Court in London. There will be food and drink, inspiring talks, Q&A, and opportunities to network, including with our four incredible sponsors: Evolve, Liberating Leadership, Ellis Jones Solicitors, and Peer2Peer Boards. All of them are passionate about motivation and will be featured at the event. If you wish to find out more about them, please check out our article introducing them.

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An event not to miss, whether you are a mapper or simply interested in personal development, growth in business, and putting people first. Join us for an evening rich in insight and sharing!


MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR ENGAGEMENT: THE PEOPLE-CENTRIC APPROACH!

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Time is flying by us as we draw ever closer to the Mapping Motivation for Engagement book launch, with authors Steve Jones and James Sale! This book, and the launch itself, marks a key evolution of thought on employee engagement, as is described in this extract from Mapping Motivation for Engagement:

“Whereas it has always been obvious that leadership is of critical importance in the success of any organisation, or endeavour for that matter, engagement, and its significance, has been a relatively recent phenomenon even as a management concept. William Kahn was one of the first researchers to allude to its crucial role, and it has arisen almost certainly as a failure of ‘scientific management’ approaches that had held sway in the USA and UK for at least a century.

“It is to be hoped, then, that with the advent of the new twenty-first century, there will also be a new paradigm, or perhaps shift in paradigm, away from what can only be called ‘old-school’ thinking and behaving, towards a more necessary and effective methodology. In one sense the creation of Motivational Maps is one aspect of this ‘newness’. Our own view would be that the personality tests and tools that arose after World War 2 were generation one of the serious attempts to get inside what makes an employee tick, but they had limitations. So subsequently, generation two, a wave a psychometric tools developed that enabled a wider sweep (but which still included personality) of qualities to be assessed. But the advantage of the psychometric was its arduous validation process whereby its measures were compared to a representative sample of the population at least twice. This was and is all well and good, except the net effect of it has been to disempower leadership in two ways: first, the very fact that the psychometric requires (in the second testing) for the subject to be consistent actually tends to hypostatise the person – or put another way, ‘fix’ or stereotype them. Which leads to the second problem: leaders, instead of employing engaging managers and able leaders based on a range of criteria – critically motivation should be one of them – tend to look for the simple and simplistic solution of the ‘right’ psychometric profile.

 

“And that is why Motivational Maps as a third generation tool is really the right idea at the right time, for in yet another important way it does what the other tools do not: it reverses the flow of management focus. What do we mean by that exactly? Well, personality and psychometric tools operate on a top-down approach: it invariably seems to be about finding out whether the employee fits the manager’s box. Top-down or command and control in other words. Motivational Maps cannot and do not work like that: the essence of doing a Motivational Map is to understand the employee in order for the management to accommodate the employee, not the other way round. In short, it is a bottom-up approach, a people-centric approach, an engagement approach.”

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“People-centric” is the core strength of Motivational Maps, but it isn’t just about saying the right things. The only way to improve success in business is to improve the energy levels of staff. There is a direct correlation between motivation levels and performance; performance, of course, leading to results, results which in turn lead to profit. It’s so much more likely to see good performance in employees who actively care about the company, who feel valued by their employer, and are emotionally invested in the organisation’s ideals and beliefs. While this sounds obvious, it’s surprising how many companies seem to miss it. Where many organisations deliberate over creating a set of core company ‘values’ and telling the world about them, it is surprisingly rare to find instances where all the employees feel connected and aligned with those values (or, sadly, who feel the organisation itself ‘practices what it preaches’). Motivational Maps hopes to change this, and Mapping Motivation for Engagement is a significant step towards allowing anybody to achieve it!

People-centric is what we will be all about at the launch too! There’ll be snacks, beverages, motivational talks, and a chance to present your burning questions to Steve Jones and James Sale, the authors. The book launch will be held at The Judge’s Court in Brown’s Covent Garden, London, on the 29th November. James and Steve welcome you warmly to this event!

There will be opportunities for networking at the launch with a bright, vital community. Our last event, launching Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-authored with Bevis Moynan, had over 120 people present, and this year promises to be even bigger! There will be thought-leaders and creators and experts present across the range of the personal development field as well as many other business fields.

This includes our four incredible sponsors: Evolve, Liberating Leadership, Ellis Jones Solicitors, and Peer2Peer Boards. All of them are passionate about motivation and will be featured at the event. If you wish to find out more about them, please check out our article introducing them.

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An event not to miss, whether you are a mapper or simply interested in personal development, growth in business, and putting people first. Join us for an evening rich in insight and sharing!


MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR ENGAGEMENT: MEET OUR SPONSORS!

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On the 24th October, we announced the Mapping Motivation for Engagement book launch at The Judge’s Court, Brown’s Covent Garden, in London, on the 29th November. We also introduced our two authors Steve Jones and James Sale. This launch promises to be a galvanising event: full of ideas, energy and expertise, opening up the wider discussions of how we solve the problems of engagement, employee morale, and motivation in our modern world.

As we draw closer to this auspicious occasion, we would like to introduce you to our four incredible sponsors for this event, who are champions of engagement and motivation:

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Warren Munson, Founder of Evolve, will be hosting the Q&A session with James and Steve. Evolve is an exclusive membership community of ambitious entrepreneurs and business leaders. Their purpose is to bring like-minded, innovative individuals together so that they can realise their personal and business ambitions in an environment of shared learning, exploration and evolution. Through their unique eco-system of inspirational events, insights and coaching and development programmes, they help people discover the knowledge and connections they need to lead a fulfilling and rewarding life – both personally and professionally.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP is a leading regional law firm in the South of England, with offices in Bournemouth, Poole, Ringwood, Swanage, Wimborne and London. They are a full service law firm able to advise upon any legal issue for companies and individuals. They have a number of specialist areas, and many of their teams are recognised as leaders in their fields by the industry experts (Chambers & Partners/Legal 500). To find out more about their services please visit ellisjones.co.uk.

We’d also like to welcome back sponsor Ali Stewart, whose work with Liberating Leadership is mentioned in the book. Liberating Leadership, first published as Leading & Developing High Performance, is based on the extensive research and work carried out by leading change management expert, Chartered Occupational Psychologist and HR professional, Dr Derek Biddle. Ali worked alongside Derek for more than 20 years. She is especially delighted to support the launch, since Steve Jones is one of her most experienced Liberating Leadership practitioners. She says: “It is wonderful he has joined forces with James to bring leadership and motivation together. This is a powerful resource for leaders!”

Peer 2 Peer Boards is a challenging, motivational and supportive peer group for enlightening CEOs & business owners, meeting monthly at a venue local to you. They are all about helping you to run your business by providing a feedback group for when you have to make tough decisions and problem-solve issues with your business. They will help you gain: clarity, direction, and inspiration in your business, and they will also hold you to account on any objectives or goals that you want to meet. Each meeting starts with an up-skill workshop, focusing on important topics, such as how to improve company culture, how to transform your proposition, or even how to transform your business model. Meet like-minded business entrepreneurs, move your business forward, and fast track profit growth.

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Engagement is such an important topic for anyone serious about their business or staff. As James Sale and Steve Jones outline in chapter four of Mapping Motivation for Engagement:

 

“One of the reasons why engagement is popular with HR and in organisational literature is that it is, allegedly, ‘measurable’. Indeed, the Macleod Report makes that very point. But whilst being measurable is a good thing, because then we can view the effects of our actions to improve things, one still has to ask the question: given its measurability, why hasn’t employee engagement significantly improved in the 20 or so years since this concept went mainstream?

 

“Perhaps the reason is that what is being measured is not really the right determinant, and the way in which it is being measured – invariably through a ‘staff survey’ – is also not the optimum way to do the measuring. This latter point – how it is being measured – is relevant here because we are going to address the issue of ‘employee voice’, the third strand, according to Macleod, of employee engagement. It would seem obvious that by having a staff survey – inviting staff to comment on their impressions of the organisation – we are at the very heart of employee engagement: what could be more engaging than listening to the employee’s voice? And we would agree that it is better to have a staff survey – at least one that is well constructed – than not to have one. But our point is, it’s probably not optimum, and there is a much better way to get at whether or not staff are engaged, via Motivational Maps. Naturally, it requires a little more thought, a little more understanding, than simply distributing a staff survey and reading off the results, but the extra care and attention – and the insight it thus generates – is worth it, as we hope to show.

 

“Unlike a staff survey, Motivational Maps are relatively inexpensive to implement; one reason for this of course is that they never need to be bespoke. They are what they are and their use and usefulness is universal. That’s quite different from having to create a staff survey and agonise over the wording to ensure it covers all the bases, and is in a language suitable for the espoused values of the organisation. So, a corollary benefit of this point is that Maps are far faster to implement and understand; there is therefore a time saving too.

 

“Second, and paradoxically, Maps are subtle, and reveal both specifics and trends, despite the fact that the language of the diagnostic tool is actually simple to understand, and is standardised (via sentence stems) in very specific ways that make it easy to grasp. Thus, what is revealed is not obvious. We talk of making the ‘invisible’ visible. But although not obvious, the information can be readily understood and can be immediately acted upon. It also has a direct bearing on the staff and the teams in a way that no staff survey can – for the Map knows what people really want! And this must always be a matter of serious interest to the effective leader. Indeed, we have found in fact that it is only effective leaders who want to embrace this technology; weak, ineffective leaders are frightened of it, because actually finding out what your employees really want – as opposed to ticking boxes – is really letting the genie out of the bottle! So, this is not a form of management disempowerment either, because what the Maps reveal no-one could reasonably expect a manager to know, though once known, it becomes extremely actionable and practical. Finally, the individual Map tells us what the individual wants; the Motivational Team Map tells us what the team collectively wants, and it also points towards potential conflicts (conflicting energy directions) within the team that might derail it from its remit. The more recent organisational Map takes mapping to another level: it tells us what each team wants, and also what collectively the whole organisation wants. One needs to grasp at this point that when a large number of people are profiled the collective effect of the motivators is more or less now equivalent to measuring the ‘values’ within the organisation. Why is this significant? Because we can now begin to see whether the espoused values – and its translation into mission and vision statements – are really reflected in the aspirations of the staff. If they are not, then a major problem looms ahead, and one which needs immediate attention.

 

“And further, that immediate attention can itself be addressed through the Maps’ own reward strategies, which is to say, giving employees what they are likely to want.”

 

Want to read more? You can purchase the book at a significant discount from the Routledge website here. Simply enter the code: SOC19 at checkout to get 20% off!

 

There will be opportunities for networking at the launch with a bright, vital community. Our last event, launching Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-authored with Bevis Moynan, had over 120 people present, and this year promises to be even bigger! There will be thought-leaders and creators and experts present across the range of the personal development field as well as many other business fields.

An event not to miss, whether you are a mapper or simply interested in personal development, growth in business, and putting people first. Join us for an evening rich in insight and sharing!


Mapping Motivation for Engagement: Book Launch!

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Employee engagement is undeniably a crucial focus point for organisations in the twenty-first century, with motivation comprising the often missing, but vital, component of the developmental mix. A reliable method of keeping employees happy and motivated has long eluded managers and senior executives due to the difficulty of measuring motivation levels. Therefore, profits and turnover, the traditional metrics of business, have always taken precedence while the people at the heart of any business suffer as a consequence. But if staff and people thrive, the business itself will thrive, because success and ‘performance’ is directly correlated to energy levels, which in turn is driven by motivation. Revealing what people truly want and giving it to them is a powerful way to supercharge your organisation. This is the ethos of Motivational Maps and what the Maps diagnostic tool uncovers.

Mapping Motivation for Engagement, a new book by James Sale and Steve Jones, advocates a new paradigm for the twenty-first century: away from hierarchies and command-and-control management styles, towards a bottom-up approach in which the needs and motivators of the employees take centre stage.

But who are James Sale and Steve Jones? In brief:

James Sale is the Creative Director of Motivational Maps Ltd, a training company which he co-founded in 2006, and the creator of the Motivational Maps online diagnostic tool used by over 400 consultants across 14 countries.

Steve Jones is MD of Skills for Business Training Ltd and as a result of over 20 years’ experience in management and business, was invited in 2010 to serve on the Government Task Force Team looking at employee engagement, Engage for Success, which he also co-chaired for a while.

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This is the third in a series of books that are all linked to the author James Sale’s Motivational Map diagnostic tool. Each book builds on a different aspect of personal, team and organisational development. This book is a practical guide to the complexities of understanding and dealing with engagement in modern organisational life. Along with clear diagrams, reflective points, activities and a comprehensive index, the book provides free access to the online Motivational Map tool to facilitate a greater understanding of the contents. Drawing on copious amounts of the latest research, as well as models like the Macleod Report for the UK government, this book shows how Mapping Motivation can play a significant and crucial role in making engagement a reality, instead of a dream.

Mapping Motivation for Engagement is a stimulating and thought-provoking read for a wide audience including, but not limited to, trainers and coaches working in management and motivation, experts in human resources, internal learning and development and organisational development as well as change and engagement consultants and specialists.

In order to celebrate the recent publication of this forward-thinking work, we will be hosting a book launch at The Judge’s Court in Brown’s Covent Garden, London, on the 29th November. James and Steve welcome you warmly to this event and will be present to answer your burning questions about their extensive experience, the book, and of course: motivation!

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There will be opportunities for networking at the launch with a bright, vital community. Our last event, launching Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-authored with Bevis Moynan, had over 120 people present, and this year promises to be even bigger! There will be thought-leaders and creators and experts present across the range of the personal development field as well as many other business fields. We’d especially like to welcome back sponsor Ali Stewart, whose work with Liberating Leadership is mentioned in the book. Liberating Leadership, first published as Leading & Developing High Performance, is based on the extensive research and work carried out by leading change management expert, Chartered Occupational Psychologist and HR professional, Dr Derek Biddle. Ali worked alongside Derek for more than 20 years.

An event not to miss, whether you are a mapper or simply interested in personal development, growth in business, and putting people first. Join us for an evening rich in insight and sharing!

Event sponsored by:

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WORKING ON ENCOURAGEMENT (AND THE DEVIL OF DISCOURAGEMENT)

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Increasingly, organisations are beginning to wise up to the idea that change management is one thing. Let’s improve the structure, the strategy or the system, or all these things in tandem. But unless the people can ‘perform’ all their labour is in vain.

 

And frankly, people performing begins at the top. As the great Quality Guru, Crosby, once put it: ‘Good ideas and solid concepts have a great deal of difficulty being understood by those who earn their living by doing it some other way’. Those at the top can be the most averse to realistically appraising themselves. But if they don’t, as sure as night follows day, neither will their staff!

 

Furthermore, given the importance of people to our long-term success, it really does pay off to consider recruitment, retention, and reward in depth, and go on considering it. If we think about it, these three Rs are at the core of a HR department’s role. Recruit the best staff. Make sure we retain those excellent staff members via incentives and an alignment of values and expectations. And reward good performance. Most HR departments focus solely on the first and last of these – recruiting new staff (normally due to such a high staff turnover rate in the company) and dishing out arbitrary bonuses. However, in terms of added value to the company, retention is by far the most important. Retaining good staff has an effect on morale, it negates the extensive costs of paying recruitment agencies and taking on new people (setting them up on the system and all the other paraphernalia which accompanies a new hire), and it allows employees to establish long-term working relationships with each other.

 

Paraphrasing Sun Tzu, Krause observes: ‘Leaders who complain about morale of their employees evidently do not realise that employee’s morale is a mirror of confidence in their leadership’. This is a pretty heavy-going statement, but it’s eminently true. Alexander the Great, one of my favourite examples when it comes to leadership, was often outnumbered and exhausted. His army was famous for crossing vast distances, including the Gedrosian desert, only to arrive and immediately engage the enemy without a moment’s rest. Yet, such was his leadership that his army was able (and more importantly willing) to perform at superhuman levels. His confidence infected his men (and women) so that they, too, felt like Achilles reborn.

 

I am sometimes asked what is the single most important quality in an employee. That’s difficult to answer with total certainty, but I like this story:

 

The Devil realised he was never going to win in his battle against God, so he decided to throw in the towel. To this end he held a car boot sale in order to flog off all his tools and assets.

 

The day came - it had been well advertised - and various colleagues and peers turned up looking for bargains. And, boy were there some bargains!

 

There was this sharp, shiny, pointy spear - Pride - that could shatter anyone’s armour. Very expensive, but a tasty piece of equipment.

 

Alongside this there was a multi-pronged mace - very menacing - that had a curious magnetic property, drawing things to it and destroying them at the same time. This was Envy - really cool. Very expensive.

 

All in all, the Devil had some fantastic, high-tech equipment - stuff that could really get in you and mess you up. All very expensive. His colleagues were standing there drooling over it, wondering which pieces they could afford to buy.

 

But in the centre of the collection was a large, nondescript, blunt, lustreless piece of metallic tubing – its only possible use was as leverage.

 

Beelzebub said, ‘How much is that old piece of junk?’

 

The Devil smiled and quoted a price. There was a gasp all round - the price he asked was worth more than all the other pieces put together.

 

That’s outrageous!’ said Beelzebub. ‘That’s just a piece of junk’.

 

That,’ said the Devil. ‘Is Discouragement. Without it, none of the other tools work. When I want to tempt someone I always start with Discouragement. Buy it and you’ll see.’

 

Ever seen the effects of discouragement on members of staff? It’s far worse than lack of skill. Do we imagine that Alexander the Great discouraged his men when he asked them to cross the desert? You already know the answer. Another example comes to mind when I consider the value of encouragement. There is a scene in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, starring Orlando Bloom, where the Knight Balian must hold the city against the vastly superior and numerous forces of Saladin. There are hardly any true warriors among them, most of the knights having departed or been killed. So, Balian (Bloom) goes into the streets of the city, finding any men or women who wish to fight alongside him. Those who offer their services, he asks to kneel. He knights them, then and there, without any training, and tells them to ‘arise’. One of Balian’s fellow knights is outraged. He upbraids him: ‘Do you really think making them a knight will make them a better fighter?’ Balian turns and answers: ‘Yes.’ The psychological insight of this is profound. In believing they are knights, and having gone through the ritual ceremony of the sword touched to their shoulders, they arise with a complete psychological shift that will 100% make them more loyal, more steadfast, and better warriors.

 

So I guess as managers we must work on encouragement – in the structure, strategy, and systems and in everything we do. May be then we can sustain that enthusiasm that is oh-so vital.


Maslow and Motivational Maps


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Recently, on a Maps training session, my friend asked me about the strange anomaly of the eight levels of the Maslow Hierarchy, according to the version that we refer to, and the way we fit the nine motivators into it. How does that work? he asked. It’s a good question, and important to get to grips with.

To refresh , the eight Maslow levels of need are, from the bottom up: biological and physiological, safety, belonging and love, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualisation, and transcendence. These are eight levels of need; and to make things more complex, from the Maps point of view we discount the lowest need. We do this because it is a basic need and not a want. It is not a ‘motivator’ per se, because it lies like a survival instinct at the root of us. Without shelter, food, water, we all enter a state of survivalism in which we lose sight of planning for the future or getting things we want and instead seek the swiftest possible ways to meet our basic needs. There are people who operate at this level of existence: those in extreme poverty, or those in war-torn countries, ghettos, born into crime, prisoners, addicts (who may have food, shelter and water but have created another basic need within themselves which eventually takes over and must be met at all costs). This type of need is so powerful it overrides any other motivator.

Usually, it is not found in business or most organisations; when it is, you have a person who is a game player. The Map may be accurate about their higher motivators, but their survival instinct at level one will render their other wants obsolete or irrelevant – they are in the grip of a more primitive need or emotion. This, bizarrely, creates a complex duplicity, where their survival urge becomes a kind of smokescreen. One would think that a survival instinct would simplify things, and in the case of people genuinely in need it does, of course. But for someone living in the modern world with a job and all their needs met, but yet who is operating at a survival level, the story is very different.

Thus, we now have seven levels in which nine motivators fit! You will know from our diagram that each of the motivators correlates especially with one level of Maslow’s hierarchy. We start, then, with safety needs and this correlates with the Defender motivator. Belonging and love corresponds with the Friend motivator. How we solve the problem is at the esteem need level; for here we suggest that three motivators are involved: the Star motivator, wanting recognition, the Director motivator, wanting control, and the Builder motivator, wanting material possessions. Why should that be?

Two powerful reasons. The first is that if we consider our own wellbeing and our own effectiveness, then self-esteem is invariably considered to be the single important factor. Indeed, Dr Nathaniel Brandon, a foremost authority in this area, said self-esteem is the single most powerful force in our existence: on it everything depends. And he goes on to say: “Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves.” Thus, esteem is core to motivation and wide-ranging; therefore, should it surprise us if more than one motivator fell within its orbit?

But the second reason explores terminology. I am of the view that what is meant here by self-esteem is actually the self-concept, which of course incorporates self-esteem, but also more beside. The self-concept has three components: the self-esteem (or how we feel about ourselves), the self-image (or how we see ourselves) and the ideal self (how we want to be in the future).

These three elements or components, then, each have their own motivator as it were. The self-esteem is very much connected to our internal locus of control, and this is related in a sort of inverted way to the Director motivator where we project the control outwards. Similarly, our self-image is about how we see our self and this finds a correlation in the Star motivator where we – projecting outwards – want others to see us in a certain way, to recognise us if you will. Finally, we have the ideal-self that wants to grow, to become, to be successful in the future, and so needs nutrients to do that – in other words, the soil of material possessions that enable this to happen even if one finally becomes a St Francis or a Buddha or a St Thomas Aquinas. I mention these three in particular because they all started from wealthy backgrounds which enabled them finally to eschew material things and transcend; but they started there.

So we see that the fourth level, half way up the hierarchy, is quite pivotal in terms of moving towards self-actualisation and beyond, but also pivotal in motivational terms. The correlation between Motivational Maps and the Maslow model is profound. Understanding both systems can lead to a fuller picture, and deeper insight when interpreting a Maps profile. Both systems recognise that our needs, and motivations, are not fixed points in time. Whilst some might be more dominant than others, circumstance and time change us in significant ways, leading us on a journey – ultimately, I believe, towards the ‘transcendence’ that Maslow spoke of.



The Importance of Mentoring in the Modern World

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The importance of mentoring, especially in today’s world of “do it yourself” YouTube tutorials and “how-to” blog content, cannot be overstated. Whilst I’m all for autodidactism (self-teaching) and indeed many of the world’s greatest scientists, writers, musicians and artists are self-taught, we cannot all assume that we are in that category. And, even the greatest of us still have a mentor, someone contributing to their personal development. Even if that mentor is not specifically there to advise on the technical skills of writing, boxing, biology, or whatever, they are there to support and develop their ward emotionally and spiritually. How many great people reveal that they could never have done what they did without their partner, friends, parents, or an early role-model who believed in them? So, we can see that mentoring is essential, even, bizarrely, for those who self-teach.

 

There are three major ways to improve oneself: first, trial and error – a necessary but largely expensive way of doing so. The expense comes in the wasted time, money and emotion that trial and error predicates; it may be described as the 'evolutionary' approach – one may be dead before achieving the right solution! Second is modelling; this is a methodology much in vogue in the West since the advent of Neuro Linguistic Programming whose whole rationale was based on observing and imitating excellence. Often coaching uses NLP techniques. We must take a moment to distinguish coaching from mentoring here. They are not the same thing. To quote an extract from my recent book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co written with Bevis Moynan: “The distinction between a coach and a mentor or between the two processes is subtle and sometimes blurred, but generally it is thought that the mentor tends to be more directive towards, more experienced and knowledgeable than, more senior than, the client; whereas the coach tends to be more exploratory, more outside the immediate domain of the client, and ‘more’ equal in terms of status.” So, to continue our exploration of ‘modelling’ as a personal development technique, another word for this would be the old fashioned concept of imitation. Writers, for example, often do not initially attempt to write original poems, but begin by imitating the classics which have been created before, working their way up to discovering their own style. By imitating, they learn what works and what doesn’t work and get inside the head of a successful, or great, writer that has gone before. This is powerful. But third, and finally, we come to mentoring, arguably the most powerful method of all, and certainly the one with the longest pedigree.

 

Mentoring goes back at least as far as the Odyssey of Homer, about 700 BC, and is named after the character, Mentor, an old man and friend of Odysseus, who is asked to look after and educate Odysseus' son, Telemachus as the father goes off to fight in the Trojan War. Clearly, the activity of mentoring pre-dates this particular example, but its point is clear: the mentor is a substitute father figure whose role is to develop the young man, the son. Intriguingly, however, the character Mentor dies before the end of the story, but Telemachus is unaware of this because the goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene takes his place and simulates the dead man, continuing Telemachus’ training. Thus, mentoring is both a male and female process, and there are benefits from both.

 

How is mentoring such a powerful process? I think it works because it does five things especially well. First, it intensifies experience and the implications of the current situation. Many people who need help come to see a coach, a counsellor, a consultant – a mentor – with a problem; they know it is a problem but often they have not fully grasped the implications. Like some small stone in the shoe, they think they have a minor irritant that they want removed; but the mentor gets them to see that the stone in the shoe is more like a razor blade and if decisive action is not taken soon then they are likely to be crippled.

 

Second, the mentor is somebody – hence the age of Mentor – who typifies experience. The initial reaction we all have – particularly as young people – to a problem is that it is unique. Nobody, for example, has ever fallen in love the way we have, or suffered as we have now that we have been rejected. Effective mentoring cuts through this and enables the client to see that whatever the problem they have, this problem has been encountered before, and therefore there is a solution.

 

Third, and this follows from the second point, the mentor emphasises that you are not alone. Gaining reassurance from the mentor's grasp of the problem, and expression of support, is crucial in building the confidence of the client to tackle the issue.

 

Fourth, the mentor paints a picture, helps you paint a picture, of the desired end state that resolves all the tension. The client confirms what they really want – they visualise and can see it – now as strongly as the problem they had not fully grasped in the first place. From this, fifth and finally, the mentor can help suggest ways forward – drawing on knowledge, experience, like situations, and all that appertains to the case. In short, the mentor becomes this invaluable ally who is truly allied to our needs; just like the substitute father/mother that Mentor originally was.

 

And perhaps that's hardest thing: creating just that level of relationship which is professional and yet presses beyond that – for what true father or mother is satisfied with merely a 'professional' relationship with their child? It is the dimension of commitment that makes all the difference; hence the power of real mentoring.

 

Many people, I believe, feel cut off in this world, hence why they turn to online tutorials and faceless methods of learning. This is not, in any way, a criticism. After all, it seems the world has genuinely become a more dangerous place, more full of conmen, and with more chances for trust to be breached. Taking personal development in your own hands is a commendable and adaptive response to this, but be wary, there are few substitutes for a truly powerful mentor. It should come as no surprise that all of the greatest Greek heroes were taught and led by great mentors. By trusting someone else to expand our self, we can grow infinitely more than pushing on our own. We can become our true self, whole and unimpaired. But only, of course, if the mentor is truly sincere and right for us.

 


Finding Diamonds Before You Go a-Marketing

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Thanks once again for tuning in to Motivational Memos! In our last installment, we talked about the importance of recruitment and how motivation can play a part in good recruitment practice. Today, we’ll be talking about an issue slightly tangential to motivation: marketing, and how doing it right can seriously boost your business.

 

Marketing, as Peter Drucker observed, was one of the two functions that alone made money for a business – all else was a cost. Thus it is PDI – Pretty Damned Important! It’s a shame, therefore, that it only does – usually – half the job. True, that half it may do spectacularly well, but polished fake diamonds with all the branding collateral imaginable are still … only fake.

 

One of the most important things a business needs to do to sustain profits and ensure longevity is to create a compelling narrative about itself. The ‘story’ – or narrative – is the diamond (or diamonds) that the organisation owns and which reflects on its own being. Stories can clearly convey the value proposition more effectively than any other mechanism; they differentiate your product or service from the competition; they can justify premium pricing; and finally stories heal organisations (and individuals) where damage has been done.

 

But generally speaking what marketing companies and internal marketing functions do is polish, present and beautifully brand a ‘false’ diamond. A fake diamond sounds like this: ‘committed to excellence’ or ‘quality first’ or ‘being the best’ or ‘we care for …’ You get the idea: cliché piled on cliché, based on a cliché-d mission statement that sounds just about like everybody else’s mission statement. All false. Think of the Facebook ads being shown in the cinemas right now, claiming they want to “bring us together” and that they don’t stand for the exploitation of persona data. It’s as if they think we can forget overnight the comments made by Zuckerberg and co, and how our data was sold off to third parties. The sad truth is, we just might.

 

Real diamonds are found deep underground; for ‘ground’ here read ‘subconscious’. And when they are found they don’t look like diamonds – more like raw lumps of coal. Knowing where the diamonds are and how to dig for them is what most marketing companies don’t do. Why? Because this is to enter the deep world of ambiguity and uncertainty – it’s not part of the MBA course and it can’t be done by ticking boxes or by having too systematic a process in place. And it can take time. Another word might be ‘inspiration’.

 

On the other hand, get a compelling story and the world – the customers – love you. Take Apple: their story demonstrated in many ways that they are a philosophy company. They study the philosophy of aesthetics and more particularly the beauty of technology. Making profits is a by-product of their obsession with this beauty. A Shaolin Kung Fu practitioner I once knew, hailing from Kunyu, said that: ‘Fighting should only ever be the by-product of Kung Fu.’ Pursuit of physical, mental and spiritual development – in the form of enlightenment was the true calling of any master. As soon as fighting or hurting others becomes the sole aim of Kung Fu, it is lost. It might as well be boxing. “Martial” minus the “art”.

 

In this vein, imagining that making a profit is the primary purpose of a business is part of the cliché-d thinking that also militates against digging for real diamonds, and which leads to superficial, short-lived businesses that add little value.

 

Thus, finding and extracting diamonds – stories/narratives – should be a primary function of marketing, since if it isn’t they polish and present their client well, but alas with an artificial lustre.

 

Remember, narrative may be regarded as a primary act of mind – which means it involves thinking and feeling and knowing – it will come from the whole being and will be self-validating. This is a tall order. But I think such a narrative will pass five tests which – in a mad world – I call SANER. So ask yourself these five questions about your own stories.

 

First, is your story Sincere? Does it come from the heart or is it merely manufactured in the head? Put negatively, are you trying to be a clever-clogs? Stories that speak from the heart are the ones that convince, persuade and ultimately lead people to buy into your product or your proposition.

 

Second, is your story Authentic? By which I mean, is it genuine, or is it, like the diamonds we discussed earlier, fake? An authentic story has what JB Phillips in another context called the ‘ring of truth’ about it and one surprising aspect of this is that it often seems incredible; but the very incredibleness of it testifies to its validity. As GK Chesterton put it: “The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to be credible”.

 

Third, is your story Noteworthy? And this means the opposite of trivial; but one point of clarification here might be: do not confuse ‘small’ with ‘trivial’ – sometimes the smallest incidents or effects can be hugely revealing in a story and add significantly to it.

 

Fourth, is your story Experiential? Another way of saying this might be: is it real, is it based on experience? The experiential quality of a story means more and more people can identify with it and identify with the mission. To my mind it is no accident that the greatest and most popular of all the Greek myths that have come down to is the one of Odysseus: he may not have been as great a hero as Herakles and Theseus, who were all demi-gods in fact, but that means his story is more human, more available to us, and so we identify with him. It is no accident that everyone’s journey is now termed an ‘odyssey’ after that great and experiential (if in places legendary!) story.

 

Finally, is your story Relevant? This is a key criterion for storytelling and it depends on our understanding the audience for whom we are telling the story. We may tell two very different stories, one for a business audience and one for our family and friends; each may be perfect for that audience, but completely inappropriate if told to the other audience. For this we need to develop empathy with people and with the ‘tribes’ we wish to persuade.

 

In business, then, or in life, how good are your stories and what do you need to do to find the real diamonds? Rest assured: we all have diamonds, but very few get to polish them to their true outstanding brightness.

 

 

 

 


Recruitment and Motivation

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Recruitment is a serious business. Indeed, it could and can be argued that the number one skill of an effective leader is their ability to be able to recruit effectively. Leadership itself is the primary cause of success in any organisation; how often do we observe the sad demise of so many organisations who have basked in the sunlight of one particular leader’s skill and ability, but this has not been replicated in depth throughout the whole organisation. Thus, when the leader departs chaos and indiscipline, in-fighting breaks out, and the game is lost. The organisation, once top in its field, now goes to the wall.

More even than that, however, appointing poor and/or weak staff to an organisation has enormous implications that are financial, reputational, motivational and productivity-linked. In pure financial terms and at the lower levels of an organisation, the costs start at about £10,000 and can easily rise to six figure sums at the senior end if the person appointed has to leave within six months of starting. Naturally, this outflow of embittered staff leaving so soon can become – if it’s a pattern – reputationally damaging to our organisation. Certainly, it will affect in its wake the levels of customer service upon which the whole organisation depends.

Further, according to the Pareto Principle, we can recruit people who are some sixteen times less productive than their more able counterparts! Sixteen times less productive!! Never let the impact of one person (whether positively or negatively) be underestimated! Imagine what it might mean if even an average member of your team were to be four times more productive – what would happen to your business? And that is the ‘promise’ of good recruitment: it is about increasing the odds that we will make a fantastic appointment.

Finally, we come back to the central issue of motivation, for it is motivated staff who are the most productive, the most engaged, and the happiest. Motivated staff have no need to complain, because they feel valued, take pride in what they do, and want to contribute. On that basis, then, yes, we as managers have a responsibility to motivate our staff; but before we get there, surely, it would be good to recruit highly motivated people in the first place? For it is a truth that the highly motivated are more likely to have the energy that all success depends upon.

The benefits, then, of effective recruitment should be very clear: higher productivity, greater customer satisfaction, higher staff retention, lower costs, enhanced reputation, less wastage generally and fewer errors, happier staff and greater profitability.

The following guide is toolkit to help you select and recruit staff more effectively into your organisation. It draws upon standard best practice, which should never be ignored, but adds something extra too: the Motivational Map. And this is important – you are now reading something that is on the one hand obvious, and on the other profound and difficult to do. For we all know that motivation is critical – heavens above, athletes and sports people swear by it – it is, above skill set, usually the difference that makes the difference.

There is a Chinese proverb that says: ‘First is courage, second is strength, and third is Kung Fu.’ What this means is that skill and strength, whilst they are important factors, are still subordinate to courage – your mindset and attitude. Time again we see the technically superior athlete or business-person outmaneuvered by the courageous and motivated one. I would actually use the recent World Cup as an example of this. England was certainly not the most technically excellent team within the competition by any stretch, nor the most experienced, fielding one of the youngest teams; but their motivation and attitude (supplemented by meditation and team-building and steered by exceptional leadership) carried them all the way to the semi-finals, a staggering result.

How much do you want it? Why should it be any different for those in employment: how much do you want to make a success of your job, your role? And how much you want it will determine how successful you are in any normal playing field.

But here comes the odd bit. Traditionally, most companies know motivation is important, but have no way of establishing whether somebody is motivated or not except through three elements. What are those three elements? Testimonial, interview, and achievement. But here’s the other odd bit: none of these three elements are especially reliable. Testimonials? Well, they can glow but how glad is the one writing the testimonial to be rid of this particular person?

Interviews can be effective, but usually aren’t because we all have a bias to recruit in our own likeness, and we are not even aware of it. For example, ideas people are often excited by other ideas people, when in actuality, their skills might be better balanced by a hardy implementer.

Finally, achievement seems solid, doesn’t it? Look what they’ve achieved, surely we need them? But here’s where the financial industry helps us with that famous strapline: ‘past performance is no guide to future …’ Indeed! How often do we find high achievers now moving out, now looking for a more comfortable and relaxed existence somewhere else – going to pasture, as they say? Or alternatively, their achievements are a sort of fetishization of success, which is all about me, me, me and not about the good of the whole, the company.

And this is why the Motivational Maps are so important: they describe, they measure, they monitor and maximise motivation for the first time. For the purpose of recruitment we need the first two qualities: they describe and measure motivation in a way that is understandable and metric. In fact, they make what is invisible visible. In describing motivation, they also give us a language to talk about it that is nuanced and empathetic, as opposed to the drill-sergeant effect of most motivational efforts. With these two factors in our understanding, we can make seriously better judgements about the suitability of anyone for a given role.



Weird and Wonderful for Business!

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According to Martin Davidson, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, business culture can tend to weed out the weird! This can be a big mistake because it is ‘weird’ people, or certain kinds of weird people, that create potency and innovation which enable businesses to thrive. This can be expressed in a variety of ways, but the most obvious is perhaps in the need to avoid cloning people into the culture they join; a situation in which they have to adapt (and adopt to) the mores and social norms of what passes for normal or even acceptable behaviour. As I’ve said before, like attracts like, and companies that like certainties (particularly financial certainties), will always draw people who like certainties. We are not talking here about table manners, but modes of thinking, aspects of deference (so readily leading into the dead-end called ‘group-think’), and business as usual, meaning ‘not invented here’ and ‘this is how we’ve always done it’. These ‘norms’ invariably cost businesses, and ultimately lead to their demise.

 

So business leaders should not see diversity as being some sort of distraction imposed on them by HR or legislation! Rather diversity within the workforce can provide competitive advantage; we need people who can be constructively disruptive, who can consistently challenge group-think, and who’re not addicted to conflict avoidance. People who, in short, pre-empt the devastating fate of those organizations who are little more than a comfortable country club where received opinion is indeed received. We need challenge, at a deep level, if only because 70% of the decisions we make are wrong. With challenge, with weirdness, that figure might reduce. Without it, then it is almost certainly going to increase. Can we afford that level of error? In this way, we must overcome our resistance to change in order to improve.

 

One of the most powerful tools to assist us in this area is Motivational Maps. The reason this is so powerful is because the maps establish what people really want. In other words, in selecting the new member of the team we have the opportunity to review what we really want in the team member and compliment the current team dynamic. We get to ask ourselves the question: is this kind of selection criteria really in the best interests of the team achieving its remit? All too often people are selected on the basis of their qualifications, skills and ‘fit’ where fit means fitting in – not rocking the boat. But what if not fitting, rocking the boat, is really what the team needs?

 

This is not a decision to be made lightly, but it is a decision to be made where appropriate, and it requires skill and insight to do it. For in talking about rocking the boat, we don’t mean a rough and ready character who is always taking on everyone and generating conflict wherever they go; we mean the kind of person whose energies are directed in ways that ‘conflict’ with the team, but in such a way that they throw light on an overarching problem the team has.

 

Suppose, for example, that we have a team that is extremely risk-friendly (e.g.. A sales team) – excessively so, and this has created a series of impulsive deals that the organisation as a whole has had a chance to repent of at leisure. In that situation, installing a suitably qualified candidate in every way, including risk-aversion, would be ideal. And the reverse too: suppose we have a fuddy-duddy team who are extremely change-averse (e.g. a finance team), then we might want to appoint a suitable candidate who is also risk-friendly as a maverick in the pack. It is precisely in these areas that Motivational Maps can direct with authority – given a fully trained and experienced practitioner.

 

Of course, to other team members, to the management itself, somebody with different energies, different motivators, is going to appear ‘weird’, an ‘odd one out’ as it were, but that is the challenge we face all the time – accepting difference and building on it.

 

Martin Orridge gives five reasons why there is poor creativity – or innovation – within an organisation. They are: looking for logical solutions, basing solutions on the past, too analytical, approach too formal, and liking to focus on detail. All these are classic organisational traits. They are what we expect people to do: be logical, son! Today is the like the past, dear daughter! Analyse, analyse, analyse; and don’t let your hair down! It’s all in the details …

 

But the paradigm is shifting now. We’re recognising that working more doesn’t necessary equate to greater productivity. We’re beginning (ever so slowly) to recognise it’s not possible to create a business that endlessly grows, like clockwork, year after year. That’s not how the universe works. Things go up, then they go down. Life is a sine wave. Our analytical brains have created a cult around numbers and percentages, but we’re realising these are not sure metrics of success, or longevity. Other, less easily measured traits, such as customer-satisfaction and loyalty, and team-motivation, just might be. We need weirdos who are focused on these invisible measures and outcomes.

 

We want people who are ‘thinking outside the box’, to use a cliche, but only when this creativity is applied morally, and is balanced by others who are anchored in reality. I must stress: thinking outside the box is not thinking of quirky ways to rip people off, because that gets exposed pretty quickly. In video-games, at the launch of Microsoft’s new XboxOne console, they announced that it would no longer be possible to share games (aka, to take a disc around a friend’s house and lend them the game). The discs would be coded to prevent this. The uproar quickly made Microsoft change their mind, and quite rightly. Imagine thinking you could kill the second-hand market overnight? Imagine if they tried to do that with cars? Ridiculous, right? Someone had a weird idea, an idea that could secure them money, but that weirdness was not tempered with integrity.

 

To compare this with a positive example, think of how the weirdness is making a come-back in cinema. With the turn of 2010, it seemed nobody wanted to take a risk on a radical movie anymore. Think back to the 70s, 80s, 90s, even the early 2000s, and how diverse and strange the filmography was. David Fincher was writing disturbing and unusual masterpieces such as Fight Club, Seven, and The Fall. Post 2010, he was forced to do movies such as The Social Network (about Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook [2010]) and Gone Girl (the movie based on a popular thriller [2014]). These weren’t necessarily bad movies, but they didn’t feel particularly different to the rest of it. Now, weird films are coming back. Innovative directors such as Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and Guillermo del Toro are giving us very different movies: The Shape of Water, Get Out, Hereditary. Whether you like them is a matter of personal taste. But the fact is these films are drawing people in droves. Why? Because they are different, so utterly distinct from what we’ve had for the last few years.

 

We need to innovate, to be weird, but in the right way. We need to break free from our constrictions.

 

What if we could find and use a tool that would help us do this? That valued intuition whilst at the same time understood the power of logic, yet too knew that relationships are key.

 

And yes, the tool exists – it’s called Motivational Maps and so invites you to enter its weird and wonderful world!

 

 

 


Building Unshakeable Optimism To Stop the End of the World

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Every culture, at almost every stage of history, has believed that theirs is the last civilisation, that they are living in the end times. We think, often, of the endless re-worked predictions about the date of the world’s end as being a modern and Christian thing, but in actual fact, human beings have always been this way. The Anglo Saxons thought that the world was old, and could not go on much longer. That was some 1100 years ago! The Romans marvelled at the ‘ancients’, who they felt they ‘hardly understood’. This was some 1600 years ago. The ancient Nordic peoples told tales of Ragnarok, the inevitable world-ending event where the Wolf would be freed.

 

The same is true in Asia, surprisingly. Buddhism teaches a descent from a golden age of the True Law (Shoho) – just as in Africa the Ancient Egyptians taught that originally there was an era called the Zed Teppi, the golden era in which the gods walked amongst us, after which all things declined. The Buddhist narrative culminates in an apocalyptic age called Mappo — the Latter Days of the Law. A ninth-century Japanese cleric wrote that “In the Latter Days of the Law there will be none to keep the Buddha’s commandments. If there should be such, they will be as rare as a tiger in a market place.” A terrifying vision of a world without morality, much similar to the latter days of Revelations where we live our lives in worship to the Beast. Science contradicts itself, at once telling us that it will solve all our problems with new technology, and revealing, within its only laws of Entropy and Thermodynamics (The 2nd Law), that all things will inevitably peter out. Even progress is not forever. 

 

Why all the morbid thinking, you might ask?

 

Well, one cannot help but be inspired, if that is the right word, by current events. We are living in an era of great uncertainty, where so many things seem to be going irrevocably wrong. It’s easy, when we’re surrounded by such madness, to lose sight of who we are, to abandon any hope of making a positive difference. But we must not abandon hope. Things get bad, but then they change for the better. We’ve seen it time and time again. Tragic events often lead to periods of prosperity. Empires end, which is usually a good thing for most people.

 

In order to turn calamity into success, we need a very special force: optimism. Optimism is one of those prerequisites for a successful life. Why? Because fundamentally it is about our belief system: the belief that things will turn out well. To those who believe, as Jesus himself said, all things are possible. And the well known law of attraction also informs us that what we don't want will come our way if we spend most of our time thinking about it.

 

How, then, can we get more optimism in our life? Belief is not something static – a sort of, we have it, that's it. It grows – like the mustard seed; it needs exercise and constant handling to ensure it reaches its full potential. We need to differentiate in our minds between real belief that is organic, and that static kind of dogmatism that embraces 'propositions of faith' and then proceeds to build a wall around all mental activity. That isn't really faith or belief; it's a kind of deadwood rigidity that derives from the termites of fear that corrode our being. Don't get me wrong: I am not saying that propositions of faith are valueless – we need these things to understand what we do think – but unless they can 'grow' we are shut off from life.

 

So to return to the central idea of optimism: how do we get more of it in our life? Here is a five step process for generating more optimism in your life:

 

Step 1 is to question frustrations. Can our frustrations be changed? Are we just accepting situations and problems. A good starting here is to write down exactly what the frustration is. When we see it in print we can begin to become more ‘objective’ about it – we can more literally ‘handle’ it. Is your boss causing frustration – who, when, why? The more specific you are, the more you will be able to see specific avenues that may remove you from the impasse. This will make you feel more in control; this will make you feel more optimistic.

 

Step 2 is to affirm that I can work this out. Affirmations are incredibly powerful. Feed your subconscious mind a continual diet of positive thoughts. Affirmations need to be: personal (‘I’ am/have/do something), present tense (avoid the future and past as the subconscious mind does not recognise them), and positive (again, do not say ‘not’ as the subconscious mind can’t read it – ‘I do not think of pink elephants’ – damn! Foiled again.)

 

Step 3 is to recall past achievements and better performances. Many people have problems recalling good events and high achievements. I once coached a young man whose only recollection of success was being able to recall winning a swimming race when he was ten! Clearly, this is wholly debilitating. One secret to overcoming this handicap is to remember that small things are an achievement. For example, your ability to make someone smile is a great achievement – ultimately, 85% of the satisfaction we are ever going to achieve in life will come through relationships. In other words, by serving and helping others we achieve wonderful things. Small things can be highly significant. See Step 5 to help you further with this.

 

Step 4 is to detect patterns – and having done so to break bad patterns. This is easier said than done – but the first thing is to notice the pattern. Most people don’t get that far, so cannot possibly destroy bad habits or increase their optimism. For example, it’s easy to snack on chocolate bars all day long without realising they are responsible for our weight increase! We have not noticed the insidious pattern. Similarly, it’s easy to spoil a relationship because one habitually says the wrong and thoughtless thing without seeing our action for what it is. KEEP A DIARY - keeping a diary is invaluable for spotting a pattern - log stuff.

 

Step 5 is to record good events and achievements. Our self-talk tends to be 75% negative, so we need to consciously reverse this. Keeping a diary and looking to log at least 3 achievements a day is wonderful in this regard and helps step 3 as well – go back over your diary and start ‘dwelling’ on high achievement moments. Re-create them in your mind – re-live them – can you ‘feel’ how you felt then? Can you see it? Hear it? Even taste or smell it? For example, that swimming race he (at Step 3) won, can he smell the chlorine on that day as he recreates it in his mind? Can he hear the cheers? See the applause? If you can do this, then you can ‘anchor’ these experiences into your conscious mind and call them up whenever you want. This is important.

 

Imagine you are going for a job interview. You feel nervous. You have made a deal with yourself. Every time you say the words ‘swim win’ you flash the images of that glorious winning day. You do this just before you go in to the interview. How differently do you think this will make you feel walking into the room? Try it (using your formula to re-create the high achieving moment).

 

One final comment to make here is on being persistent. People become more enthusiastic and energetic when they can go for goals that are quickly obtained; however, persistence isn’t about the ‘quick’, but the long haul. To develop resolute optimism requires persistent application in the same way that running a marathon requires constant training. So you can start with the affirmation of step 2: I can do it! From there, press on. It’s the only way we can stop the end of the world.


What the World Cup 2018 Can Teach Us About Motivation

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I’m not normally much interest in football, but I have to say that even I was drawn in to the kind of intoxicating idea that England might, for the first time in 52 years, win the World Cup. It took hold of us, a bit like a creeping spell cast by an unseen magician, and had us all on tenterhooks. Sadly, last night, the spell broke, and it seems England will be going home without the trophy. However, what they will be going home with is, hopefully, a newfound sense of self-respect, determination and focus.

 

What impressed me immensely about this World Cup was that there were hardly a whiff of tantrums, or debauchery behind the scenes, or entitlement. This was an entirely different England. After the humiliations of our government, the debacles of Brexit, and the many instances we have lost face with our friends abroad, it was a delightful relief to be fronted internationally by a team that seemed to prioritise respect and camaraderie over winning at all costs. The team looked focused. They played dynamically. They didn’t play just to score a goal then conserve energy, they played to please the crowd, to score as many goals as possible (against Panama, albeit a newer less experienced team, they scored 6). Whilst the players are to be commended for their heroic efforts and dazzling technical displays, particularly from the aptly named Harry Kane (fear the lash of his free-kick), I believe the success of the team in reaching the semi-finals, along with the psychological paradigm shift and complete transformation of attitude, is down to their coach and leader: Gareth Southgate.

 

He was cool, calm, and, to quote many of the footballers on the team, kind. His motto was “Strength through kindness”, and he conducted himself with patient dignity at all times. During the nerve-wracking penalty shootout with Colombia, in which England scraped a win 4-3, he chose, rather than celebrating with the others, to console the Colombian player that had missed his shot. Gareth Southgate himself failed to score a penalty in the 1996 UEFA Euro semifinal against Germany – which led to their defeat. This incredible display of empathy for a distraught player on the opposing team shows true leadership qualities. Intriguingly, Southgate picked the England penalty shooters based on psychological tests indicating who would best keep their cool.

 

Clearly, the England coach understands the number one rule of leadership, that the primary role of a leader is to motivate a team, not necessarily to have the best knowledge, ability, or strategies. The same applies for his team. He did not pick the strikers with the best and most accurate kicks, he picked the people who would remain calm in a highly pressured situation. He recognised internal qualities, sought to understand the internal landscape of his team, and based his decisions around this information. By inspiring the team, getting them to believe that they could break the curse of England’s poor performance, they went further than they could have ever dreamed two years ago.

 

The word “inspire” comes from the ancient Greek, and means to literally “breathe life”. It is a divine act, there is something sacred about it. Gareth Southgate has breathed life into a game I had little interest in to begin with, but lost all hope of some time ago with the abysmal antics and attitudes of previous England teams; he gave people something to believe in. And yes, whilst football is just a game, it holds symbolic significance for many people, and therefore is not to be dismissed. Football can be used for good, to make positive influences on the world. It’s already happening. Fans are behaving in ways they never would have done two years ago, raising a cheerful glass to Croatia and congratulating them, intervening when crowds get rough. Their attitude is transforming along with the team. And it all seems to be rippling out from one person. That is the amazing thing about real motivation, it’s infectious, it wants to be found.

 

There were calls for Gareth Southgate to take Theresa May’s job at the close of the England versus Croatia game last night. Though a joke, it hits the nail on the head. A leader, especially the leader of a country, isn’t successful purely in relation to technical proficiency or knowhow. They need to have integrity, empathy, strength, courage and vision; aka, invisible, less easily measured qualities. The England coach showed us what that looked like for four weeks. It’s a blessing to see true motivation in action, and to know that there are still those who recognise its power and value.


Overcoming Resistance to Change

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V x Rr x DwSQ>OR2C

 

Carl Jung observed that "All true things must change and only that which changes remains true". This is a profound paradox, especially when you consider that for all the talk of change there is today, the reality is that most people and most organisations don’t want it. Why would they? Only yesterday, Tesco and Apple were at the top of their game; they were unbeatable superstar companies that the world admired and wanted to emulate; today – after change – they are less on top, less precious, threatened by radicals and upstarts as well as public perception about their integrity. So the process goes on. We do not want to relinquish what we have achieved, but change necessitates that we have to let go. Jung’s point makes it clear that once we embrace stasis, we ossify, and what was a winning formula no longer works. “Every dog has its day”, as the saying goes, and even Muhammed Ali cannot be the greatest forever.

 

The need for security, then, means we have an inbuilt resistance to change, yet we know we must change if we are to become all that we might be, as individuals and as organisations. After all, who wants to remain a child indefinitely? What are the factors that enable us or our organisation more specifically to overcome resistance to change? I think there are three.

 

First, in order for organisations (but think individuals too) to want to embrace change they need a compelling vision; a vision is promissory note on the future. It creates an expectation – a belief in an unborn outcome, and belief is amazingly powerful. It’s emotional for one thing and this is important. As Donald Calne said, “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions”. The vision then galvanises action – we move towards it; and the stronger and more constant the vision the more powerfully and consistently we move towards it.

 

Second, it’s all well having a vision, but we all know about what we call ‘unrealistic’ visions: people and organisations pitching ludicrously high, way above any possibility of fulfilment. For any vision to be really strong, it needs strong foundations, and these can be summed up in the word, resources. Have we the resources necessary to achieve the vision? If we do, the excitement is palpable; if we do not, the self-delusion is crushing. But what are these resources?

 

I think there are nine key resources we need to consider and these are in three groups of three. First, and most obviously, there are the tangible resources we need to complete the vision: Money, Equipment, Space (or the Environment). Next there are intangible resources we need: Time, Knowledge, Information. Finally, we need people and we need people development factors: People Skills, Right Attitude or Motivation, and Agreed Co-operation. On this last point, so often overlooked, we must bear in mind that sometimes even with all the money and time in the world we still cannot get what we want unless we can get cooperation from others.

 

It might be thought that if we had the vision and the resources, then bingo! we’re home and dried, but alas, certainly from an organisational point of view, this is not the case. Vision and Resources are not enough in themselves to compel people to want to change; remember, they are safe and secure where they are. As Philip Crosby put it: “Good ideas and solid concepts have a great deal of difficulty in being understood by those who earn their living by doing it some other way”. The last factor in overcoming resistance to change may surprise you.

 

For people, and so for organisations, to want to change they need to be dissatisfied with the status quo! That’s right – they need to be unhappy with the way things are. Hence the formula:

 

V x Rr x DwSQ>OR2C

 

Or, Vision x Resources x Dissatisfaction with Status Quo Overcomes Resistance to Change

 

Thus, a weird corollary of this can be that staff are too happy, too contented, too well paid, too secure and this leads to a dreadful stagnation in terms of organisational development. The old Mystery Plays in England had a character, the devil, who had a great line which said: “mankind’s chiefest enemy was security” because the devil knew that once complacency stuck in mankind was vulnerable to all forms of temptation – forgetting the way and losing sight of the vision. Sometimes management simply has to create a constructive discontent if things are going to move on at all.

 

Also, clearly, I hope, is the idea of knowing just how contented or discontented your staff are, and apart from them bellowing directly in your ear, or simply quitting, the most effective way of knowing, and certainly the most accurate, is via Motivational Maps.

 

But apart from using Maps strategically, there are four things you can do anyway to ease a change management program and overcome resistance. First, remember to go at pace staff can move at. You are in a hurry, but they may not see the urgency – assess their capabilities first and recall the tortoise – slow and steady wins the race. Second, target objectives which inform activities; in other make their work purposeful and point in the direction of the vision. Third, protect areas of professionalism (e.g. process, strategies) but always give clear objectives. Change programs which undermine the professional standing of the players always incur the most bitter resistance. Finally, encourage individuals to see how their area contributes to the whole organisational objectives – the big picture, the vision. We all want to make a difference at some level – let’s help people do it.

 

 


Six Ways to Boost Your Career

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Last month, we looked at the Six Problems with Success Syndrome, highlighting the dangers of complacent thinking in businesses and possible ways to counteract them. Today, we’ll be looking at six positive ways you can make an impact on your career

 

In running training sessions and going into companies, I frequently find myself in conversation with staff and management. At some point, the issue turns from the specific training to more personal matters – their professional development. Unsurprisingly, this topic never fails to interest. How do we develop professionally?

 

This is a big question. Briefly, let me give you six thoughts that can seriously help you accelerate your career.

 

First, seek more training. Training is the key. Do we have the knowledge, the skills, the motivations to cope with the accelerating rate of change? Moreover, are you in the top 10% of people doing what you do? This should be your ambition. Ongoing training is one vehicle to drive you there. Remember, the person who is in the top 10% never lacks opportunities for work! This is so much better, incidentally, than desperately trying to be number 1 at everything – being number 1 is an exhausting, arduous and perilous process – you can never quite be sure. Being in the top 10% is certain – if you put in the effort and sustain it, you will arrive. Of course, make sure to begin with that you are on the right career path!

 

Second, review your commitment to your job every month. It’s strange how nearly everyone has 100% commitment when they first get a job. Suddenly, four years or four months later, somebody notices that Eddy or Angie only has 40% commitment or less. But it didn’t suddenly drop from 100 to 40 in one fell swoop – it happened gradually. If you find yourself regularly thinking your commitment is below 80%, then it might be time to consider your options. Don’t wait till everyone else knows your heart’s not in it.

 

Third, update your CV every 6 months. It’s surprising how easily we forget what we’ve done and learnt. This is preparedness. It also feels good – we establish, visually, a record of what we’ve done, and we feel ready to fly. This increases our sense of control – which boosts our self-esteem, which – in turn – boosts our actual performance levels.

 

Fourth, start a diary. If that sounds too much hassle, then at least log daily what you’ve achieved. It’s estimated that some 75% of our self-talk is negative. Concentrate on your achievements. Make a point of listing at least three major achievements a day. And if you are saying, ‘I don’t have three major achievements a day – on any day’, then you seriously need to review what your life is about. Remember, every time you satisfy a human need, then you are engaged in a major activity. We need to see the world with the eyes of a child to appreciate how miraculous it is – and how much we can be contributing to other people’s lives.

 

Fifthly, and this takes some swallowing, but … actively request new tasks from your boss! Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t, in fact, be passive – like most people. Many people think that bosses want highly intelligent and highly qualified people around them. Perhaps. But faced with an interesting debate with Jones, with all the qualifications: PHD, MBA, BA (Hons) Oxon, and Smith, whose motto is: ‘I get things done immediately’, they usually prefer Smith.

 

Which leads nicely to my final point, six.

 

Imagine you are the boss. Put yourself in his or her shoes. They have problems to solve – who can solve these problems for them – can you solve them now? Ask yourself these questions: what does your organisation need now? What steps need to be taken now? And you, following point 5, take those steps! Remember, the whole reason to be at work (and life for that matter) is to solve problems. The more problems you solve for your boss, the more they like, recommend, depend on, and are likely to advance and reward you. It’s obvious – but how many people do you think actively follow this through?

 

If you take these six points on board, watch your career develop! And watch the flood of inspiration you will undoubtedly feel.

 


EXTRACT FROM “MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING” PART 3

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been posting extracts from my new book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, to celebrate it being published by Routledge. To recap for those who don’t know, this text is a complete guide to mapping for coaching and an invaluable resource for coaches worldwide. You can find the extract from Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 via the provided links. Currently, Routledge are offering (until July 31st) a 30% discount on the book when you buy it from their site and use the code MMJS230, so now’s the time to get your copy! You can find the link to it on Routledge’s site here. If you want to read reviews on Amazon, then you can click here.

 

Today I’ll be sharing my third and final extract from the book. This extract is from Chapter 3: “Pareto, Performance and Motivational Maps”

We are happy when we are in harmony; according to the Tao Te Chingi, in harmony with the Tao. The Tao is the Way - essentially, the natural flow of the universe and how it operates. It is an impersonal force according to the Tao Te Ching, but there is no problem in calling this 'God' if one wishes to. The point is that the universe conforms and complies with certain rules and principles and when we violate these we suffer. A simple and obvious example would be committing murder: all human societies have condemned the practice since the beginning of recorded time; and that murderers suffer is not only because if they get caught they are punished, but even if they are not caught history and literature provide ample testimony to the torments of the mind that they become prey toii. With this in mind, then, are there any natural laws of the universe that we inadvertently fail to respect or act upon? Laws whose existence we do not acknowledge or ignore, or whose tenets we flatly contradict or believe the opposite of?

 

There may be severaliii but there is certainly one which has huge ramifications on our everyday life, and on coaching practice in particular. One of the major issues affecting nearly everybody as a negative subconscious belief is that the universe works in a 50-50 way. Put another way, this means that all causes and inputs are more or less equal in terms of their symptoms and outputs. Again, a simple example illustrates the point: say, we get 100 (or 1000!) emails in our inbox and we wade through them as though they were all equally important, each one gets more or less the same amount of our time and attention. If that happens, then we are working on a 50/50 assumption about the nature of reality! We say IF it happens but in truth that is exactly what is happening all the time, since most of the time we are unless we are incredibly disciplined on some sort of automatic pilot or habitual mode of working whereby we deal with things as they turn up. In short, we may have heard of the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule as it is sometimes called, but very few people (surely less than 20%?) do anything about it. Some emails are much more important than others, and often that some is about 20% of the total. So the universe works in an asymmetrical or 80/20 way, not a 50/50, all-things-equal way. Things are not equally important. If we wish to be effective, we have to identify the 20% of activities that cause or create 80% of our overall results; and if we go further and 80/20 the 80/20 we realise that 4% of inputs will generate 64%iv of outputs. If we are going to coach effectively this is an astonishing statistic to get our head round for the client.

 

Chapter 3_Diagram_Fig.01

 

 

But from a performance, and so from a coaching perspective, this principle, like Motivational Maps, is a key pillar of effective coaching. Because we cannot do everything, there is an ongoing necessity to prioritise, and this prioritisation requires that we think; and particularly that, as Richard Kochv puts it, we think 80/20.

 

To be clear about this now: 80/20 is not an exact figure. The percentage of inputs may vary, and indeed it is a primary purpose of coaches to skew this ratio. (And they do this by the intervention of coaching). But the starting point might be not 80/20 but 70/30 or 60/40 or 90/10 or 95/5, but whatever it is, it is not 50/50. It also needs to be said that whilst the Pareto Principle holds true in most life and business situations, there can be exceptions. So it is generally true, for example, that for most businesses 20% of the customers generate 80% of the revenues; but that probably doesnt work in, say, the supermarket modelvi where 20% of customers probably do not account for 80% of revenues. But so far as coaching, consultancy, training and other service industries are concerned, it is uncannily accurate, as it will be for most sectors and most non-commodity businesses.

 

REFERENCES

i. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu, Richard Wilhelm Edition, Penguin, (1985)

ii. ‘O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!’– Macbeth, William Shakespeare

iii. For an overview take a look at Richard Koch’s The 80/20 Principle and 92 Other Powerful Laws of Nature, Nicolas Brealey, (2014), a worthy sequel to his original book on Pareto and which explains ‘92’ other laws that operate in life.

iv. 80/20 Sales and Marketing, Perry Marshall, Entrepreneur Press, (2013)

v. The 80/20 Principle, Richard Koch, Nicolas Brealey Publishing, (1997)

vi. Pareto’s Principle, Antoine Delers, Lemaitre Publishing, 2015

 

Want to find out more, why not grab the book at a 30% discount. Remember to use the code MMJS230 at checkout. Enjoy!


EXTRACT FROM “MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING” - PART 2

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Last week, I posted an extract from Chapter 1 of my new book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, to celebrate it being published by Routledge. To recap for those who don’t know, this text is a complete guide to mapping for coaching and an invaluable resource for coaches worldwide. Currently, Routledge are offering (until July 31st) a 30% discount on the book when you buy it from their site and use the code MMJS230, so now’s the time to get your copy! You can find the link to it on Routledge’s site here. If you want to read reviews on Amazon, then you can click here.

 

Today I’ll be sharing more insights with you from the book. This extract is from Chapter 2: “Coaching for Higher Performance”

 

Coaching starts with considering the issue of self-awareness for the simple reason that the person who is not self-aware has – by definition – no awareness, or consciousness, that there is anything on which to work within one self. This applies as much to self-development as it does to coaching a client. If a cat scratches its fur going through a barbed wire fence, we know it has become ‘aware’ of the injury because it will start to lick the wound relentlessly in its efforts to heal the scratch. So even animals become highly self-aware of the issues that concern them; although in human beings, with their powerful intellects and advanced emotional apparatus, this is a far more complex activity.

 

Coaching, then, in simplistic terms might be said to be a 3-step process:


1. Enabling the client to become more self-aware

2. Facilitating their decision to change

3. Helping the client generate actions to support and achieve the change – new rituals and habits

 

But what, we may ask, is it that humans become self-aware about? As a starting point we might say, the Self. The Self is the modern psychological term used to describe what in the past we called the soul. What this Self or soul is lies beyond the scope of this book, but one does not need to be specifically religious to resonate with the idea, common all over the world, “that there is some part of us which should not be sold, betrayed or lost at any cost”i. It is who we are at a root level; and one only needs to reflect that everybody – yes, everybody – at some point in their life talks to themselves; indeed, many people do it all the time. But who are we speaking to when we talk to ourselves? It is as if there are two people present in this self-dialogue. The intellect or the mind or the ego, perhaps talking to the deeper Self, the soul, and if it waits long enough, getting answers back.

 

This is a fascinating topic: the human person is one, but already we find ‘two’ dialoguing within. If we take this a stage further, one clear model that is useful from a coaching perspective is to see a human being as having four interrelated, yet distinct, strands, rather like four strands in a rope that weave around each other to form one cable, which as a result of the interweaving is immeasurably stronger.

 

Chapter 2_Diagram_Fig.04

 

 

These four strandsii are: the body (physical - doing), the mind (mental - thinking), the emotions (emotional - feeling) and the spirit (spiritual – knowing/being). Well-being is critical in all four areas, and a prolonged or sustained problem in one area will inevitably spill over and contaminate another. For example, there is now a well-known medical discipline called Psycho-immunology, which is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. In other words, ‘mere’ emotional stress can cause life threatening illnesses in the body. And so it is with all four areas interacting; and for the sake of clarity, the spiritual strand is not necessarily about religion or being religious. It is about man’s search for meaningiii; and to show how this can affect the whole person we need only to contemplate that there have been many examples of people who, regrettably, have lost all meaning in their lives, and this has led to negative thoughts, leading to emotional depressions, and in some instance to suicide, the death of the body.”

 

REFERENCES

 

i. A Complete Guide to the Soul, Patrick Harpur, Rider: Ebury Publishing, (2010).

ii. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey, Simon and Schuster, (1989).

iii. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, (1946).

 

Want to find out more, why not grab the book at a 30% discount. Remember to use the code MMJS230 at checkout. Enjoy!


COACHING QUESTIONS: EXTRACT FROM MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING

EXTRACT FROM “MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING”

As some of you know, my book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, was published by Routledge earlier this year. This is a complete guide to mapping for coaching and an invaluable resource for coaches worldwide. Currently, Routledge are offering (until July 31st) a 30% discount on the book when you buy it from their site and use the code MMJS230, so now’s the time to get your copy! You can find the link to it on Routledge’s site here. If you want to read reviews on Amazon, then you can click here.

This extract is from Chapter 1: “Coaching Questions”

“Underpinning coaching, and great coaching especially, is the issue of asking useful, relevant and sometimes intuitive questions. In later chapters we consider in more detail other core skills that make up the tool-kit, as it were, of the effective coach. But keep in mind that it is not the function of the coach to provide answers for the client; mentorsi may do that; however, coaches enable the client to find the answers for themselves. In fact, the coach is always acting as a mirror to the client, reflecting back to the client what they have just said because:

a. In the pause between saying what the client says and the coach restating it – reflecting it – back to the client, the client’s own deeper mind, their subconscious mind, has more chance of kicking in and providing a new insight which had not occurred before;

b. And in the re-statement the perceptive coach has a chance to not only re-state what has been said, but also to draw out its true significance. Re-statement is not always exactly the right term for what the coach is doing; paraphrasing would perhaps be more correct. The essence of paraphrase is summarising the essential aspects of what is said;

c. By reflecting back to source the issue, the client is hearing it again, though with a slightly enhanced or nuanced emphasis (where the coach is being effective) and what this does is reinforce the client’s own ownership of the issue. This increased ownership intensifies the desire to solve the problemii - it motivates.

People want to use a coach because they have an ‘issue’ or a ‘problem’; in a perfect world they would not need a coach since they would know what to do. But it mustn’t be thought that coaching is for ‘problem’ people; on the contrary, coaching is possibly the number one technique (alongside its cousin, mentoring) for enhancing just about anybody’s performance. Recent research in business indicates that coaching has dramatic effects on performance outcomesiii and this sort of effect is felt in all areas of coaching. Thus coaching, as has emerged over the last 20 years in the Western world, is a standard process that can help not only the performance of individuals and the productivity of organisations, but also anybody and everybody in facing the ‘issues’ they have in their private and personal lives. These range from improving health and fitness, raising the level of sporting achievements, coping with relationship, emotional and stress issues, and helping break addictive tendencies.”

REFERENCES

The distinction between a coach and a mentor or between the two processes is subtle and sometimes blurred, but generally it is thought that the mentor tends to be more directive towards, more experienced and knowledgeable than, more senior than, the client; whereas the coach tends to be more exploratory, more outside the immediate domain of the client, and ‘more’ equal in terms of status.

ii Nigel MacLennan, Coaching and Mentoring, Gower, (1999). MacLennan puts it this way: “If you own a problem – if that problem is inside you, if it has become part of your soul – finding the energy, commitment and persistence to solve it is easy”. For ‘energy’ we might substitute the word ‘motivation’.

iii “Organizations where senior leaders “very frequently” coach had 21% higher business results.” – 2017 from Bersin: http://bit.ly/2sRdMfv; the Ken Blanchard Organisation puts productivity gains from coaching at 57%: http://bit.ly/2tdmP6j

***

Want to find out more, why not grab the book at a 30% discount. Remember to use the code MMJS230 at checkout. In the next few weeks, I'll be posting more extracts from Mapping Motivation for Coaching, so be sure to stay tuned to get more insights into coaching, mapping and mentoring. Thank you.


Getting to Grips with Work Life Balance

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People today talk of their Work-Life Balance, which is good, but not entirely accurate; it suggests a split between work and life, a choice between the two which can be remedied by information or techniques that will enable them to co-exist in harmony: you can have work and life! However, work is part of life and the split is not two ways, but three, and it is the invisible 'third' element that makes all the difference in the world to the other two.

 

As we think about it, for all our lives, there are three core elements: there is work, in which we struggle to achieve something, or impose our signature on the external environment; there are relationships, in which we yearn to love and be loved by others, and gain their respect and co-operation; and finally, there is Self – our Self, our real Self – in which we seek to grow through self-awareness and self-development, and this imposes some sort of order on our internal environment.

 

These elements are dynamically interacting all the time. The most obvious example of this is when a colleague at work, known for their commitment and skills and quality output, suddenly loses interest in what they are doing, or becomes positively obstructive. Nobody can understand why this has happened, but upon investigation the root problem turns out to be nothing to do with work – turns out to be, for example, their partner has left them, or a parent has suddenly died. Thus, relationships outside work affect the work.

 

If this is true, it stands to reason that the Self, too, will also affect both work and relationships, just as they affect the Self. The problem is: very few people seem to understand that they have a 'Self' and that therefore they need to tend it! And tend it as you would a garden. The exception to this general stricture would the physical self and physical health. Because they can see and feel their physical bodies, people will take action to promote its well-being – join the gym, do yoga, eat well and so on. Far fewer pay attention to their mental self, their emotional self, and their spiritual Self. This is a tragedy because it is the Self that primarily fuels work and relationships as we shall see.

 

However, before we discuss this in more detail, let's briefly look at how the three life elements express themselves in our lives. If we were to sum up their content in one question, then it would be:

 

Work asks: what do I do?

 

Relationship asks: how do I get strokes*?

(*'Strokes' here is a technical word as used in Transactional Analysis = initially repetitious physical contact on which the infant depends to live; but subsequently not only physical but emotional 'contact'.)

 

Self asks: what does this mean?

 

All three questions are vital to us as human beings, but it should be clear that if we consider anybody, including ourselves, then we all have predilections. Some people regard the question, what do I do, as far more important than the other two. And what we see is how this manifests itself in the world: in fact this question is particularly pertinent to men and can lead to the often observed work-life imbalance that is so characteristic of them. A form of workaholic-ism emerges, whereby work becomes the be all and end all of their existence – and of some women's too.

 

Again, some people, and probably more women than men here, regard, how do I get strokes round here, as the core issue of their lives. Relationships are everything, and in a way they are right. There is a familiar adage, 'all for love', and another which says that ‘nobody on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time in the office’. No, they wish they'd spent more time with the people they allegedly loved. But for all the power of love, the need for 'strokes' can have a dangerous sting in its tail: it can lead to compliance, co-dependence, and a loss of personal identity in the mad desire to have strokes come whatever may. There are many people out there who seem to have obliterated their Self, identifying only as a ‘mother’ or ‘father’ or ‘guardian’ and not having any attributes or talents they can call their own. This is, of course, a false self-perception, but for many it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In some instances, the object of their affection – often a child – becomes smothered, because the carer cannot bear spending time by themselves.

 

Finally, then, the third question, which seems cerebral and academic, but upon which so much depends: what does this mean? In his book Man's Search for Meaning the noted psychologist, Vicktor Frankel, concluded that the meaning question was at the core of our existence. Humanity simply could not live without it, but with it, could endure almost anything. This is fine and philosophical, but so many of us are too busy to pay any attention to the question, and so to ourselves, until it is too late. We mistake the customs, habits and values of civilisation as a given font of meaning, and then do not have the internal equipment to deal with pressure when the cracks appear, as they always do to a greater or lesser extent. Another way to look at it, is how many people actually really carefully think about who they are, what their place in the universe might be, or what their life must mean? These are big questions, and many will find them too scary to answer, but without them, our lives become simulacrum, ant-colony lives where we merely obey, eat, marry, reproduce and die.

 

So, to return to an earlier point, it is knowing the Self, it is allowing for personal growth, that is the key to both success at work and in relationships; further, it is the fuel that provides 'energy', motivation if you will, to these other two elements. Ultimately, the person who is either so busy working or so busy in a relationship or both burns out because there is no 'time for myself'. Time for the Self is critical, but using it wisely is a different matter, for it is in those spaces between the work and the relationships that many find being on their own, with their Self, unbearable, requiring narcotics and stimulants of one sort of another to cope.

 

So, the solution is to find more time to develop the Self. Read that book you’ve always wanted to challenge yourself with. Go on that training course you’ve been thinking about. Go off and have a weekend to yourself, even, because as fantastic as your relationship with your partner may be, sometimes time alone can re-charge you in ways that spending time with someone else, even someone so close, cannot. Work and relationship time is almost default programmed in to our societal existence, but time for the Self is not. We have to manage and claim that time for ourselves.

Thanks stopping by. Tune in in a couple of week's time for our next post, which includes an extract from my upcoming book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan! Until then! 

 

 

 

 


Why Motivation Is Not In The Work Place

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It is not an original observation to say that in most work places we look we find that most people are not highly motivated. In many cases they are not motivated at all. They need to work and their commitment to and engagement with their employer extends no further than the next pay cheque. This is not a desirable state of affairs, and there are many reasons for it, but perhaps the most unnoticed aspect of the whole business is how little attention employers pay to the issue. It’s as if most of them live in a world where motivation of staff - and of themselves - is the least important thing, and having the least impact of all on the bottom line. Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong, but if we look deeper matters are much worse.

 

The decision not to consider motivation as part of the business bottom line has profound psychological roots. It’s not just that business owners, directors and executives don’t think about motivation - much - it’s that they can’t. This becomes clear when we look at the four major pillars that underpin any business or organisation for that matter.

 

First, there is finance - the money! The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that drive the business: return on equity, profit, turnover, cash flow and so on. This is a yes-no situation: either we have the cash flow or turnover or relevant metric, or we don’t. Accountants, usually, supply us with this information. And when the worst occurs, we know that.

 

This principle also applies to the second pillar, sales and marketing, and also to the third: production and operations. Managers, for example, check on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis - how many leads, how many prospects, how many conversions, how many sales and so how much revenue has been generated. Ditto for marketing: the advertising campaign, the web strategy, produces how many enquiries or clicks? And ditto for production: we ask how many widgets this month or how many service calls?

 

The point being that even when times are bad, we know how we are doing. This is because we have Finance, Sales & Marketing, and Operations directors keeping tabs on all this productivity and information.

 

But put another way, when we think about companies, we have these types of directors in the main precisely because they attract the kind of people who are drawn to certainties: the spread sheet full of numbers that tell us where we are. And if we invest in inputs we can measure the outputs, which are usually fairly predictable: for example, for every hundred leads that our marketing produces we convert about five on average into an actual sale.

 

Notice in this that whether the business or organisation is doing well or badly one thing remains constant in the three dominant areas/pillars of the business: namely, the psychological certainty of knowing where we are, of having the numbers which become our compass through the changing environment. This need for psychological certainty is compelling, it produces emotional security, but has a disastrous side effect in the fourth area/pillar: the people category (in which leadership, culture, morale and motivation are included). Put simply, it doesn’t work. As the British scientist Denis Burkitt put it: “Not everything that counts can be counted.”

 

Specifically, in the areas of people motivation, leadership and culture we find that given in-puts do not necessarily produce predictable outputs. The most frequent and outstanding example of this occurs with money: pay increases often demote staff despite the fact that a wage increase is precisely what they say they want.

 

The reasons for this are complex; but all MDs, CEOs, and executives will have stories not just of the failure of money to motivate, but the failure of dozens of other initiatives too: be they re-structured flexi-time, increased time off, more training, better social events, environmental improvements, and so on – what would seem obviously a 'good thing' becomes for some reason a cause for disgruntlement.

 

Thus in the people domain the certainties of numbers give way to uncertainty, and with that there are the two corresponding phenomena: the rise of ambiguity, and the erosion of control. Most managers – exactly because they have sought to be managers – resent and resist these two tendencies. In fact, the best way of dealing with them is ignoring them altogether.

 

We 'contract' with people – don't we? - to do the work; so, we're paying them, so they should work, shouldn't they? A kind of blind eye approach is adopted in principle, and only when things go seriously wrong – by which I mean the numbers all start going negative – is some attention paid to staff motivation. And usually, in a fairly simplistic way: let's send them on a course!

 

So what we have, then, are 4 pillars of an organisation, three of which – Finance, Marketing/Sales, and Operations – produce emotional security in the way they are set up and constructed to be measured. This means that directors and senior managers, by and large, have a massive disposition to want to deal with these areas and, correspondingly, subconsciously or otherwise, an aversion to actually dealing with the fourth and final pillar on which the other three really depend: the People.

 

The people pillar, then, concerns itself with all that is not secure! With all that is ambivalent and difficult to quantify. What is it about people which makes them so intractable?

 

If we think about it, it is because life is really like that. To live is always to be aware of inherent difficulties (including death) whereas human civilisation and mankind's intellect tends to want to mask over that with its certainties and constructions. Thus, profoundly, in dealing with the people pillar, ‘management’ is never enough. Leadership is required with all that that entails. Leaders – who motivate – are the only ones who can create real value.

 

How can we define leadership as opposed to management? Well, there is too much to say on the matter in just one blog. For more information about good (and not so good) leadership, you might want to check out my article on Motivation & Psychopathology. But in essence, the difference between a leader and a manager is that a leader recognises that their number one priority is to motivate staff. In fact, all their other duties, such as administration, assessing KPIs, in some cases keeping track of shifts or holiday, etc etc, are all secondary to this primary objective, which is to keep people motivated. Another way to look at this is to think about the great military leaders of the world. There is a famous story about Alexander the Great, who, having crossed the Gedrosian desert, found that his army was short of water. Scouts were sent ahead, to search for a water supply, before the army dehydrated in the midst of the vast, barren wastes. They returned with a helmet full of water. ‘I’m sorry,’ they said. ‘But we only found this much in a small pool. Please, we need your mind to get us out of the desert, you take the water, Alexander. There’s not enough to feed all of us.’ Alexander is purported to have taken the helmet and poured the water out. ‘I will not drink while my men suffer and thirst,’ he said. ‘We must find enough for all of us.’

 

There’s a joke in the masterful David Fincher film The Fall that this was a waste of water, but the profound psychological effect this had on his men is clear. The fact this legend has been passed down, for millennia, goes to show the impact it had. In fact, Alexander did best the Gedrosian desert, and went on to fight a battle directly afterwards, which he won. The key word here is “inspire”. The word “inspire” comes from the Old English “enspire”, or the Latin “inspirare”, both of which meant “to blow/breathe into”. God is said to breathe life into us, and hence, when we inspire others, we breathe life into them. This is an incredibly powerful mode of being, and true leaders are inspiring all the time. So, to fix the de-motivation of our workplace, we must recruit more leaders!

 

 


Six Problems with the Success Syndrome

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The Medieval Period had a concept called the Wheel of Fortune; it was the basic idea that what went up must come down, and we as humans ought to know that and take cognizance of the fact at all times. More recently, it seems analogous to the Chinese idea of yin and yang: the sunshine of yang indicates we are experiencing success and prosperity, but the darker side of yin reminds us that success is not forever, and that there may be a dark valley we have to enter. This is something that many people in the West seem not to be able to grasp.

 

One need only examine the utopianism of the last few decades to see what I mean. There is an idea, at the moment, that technology will solve all our problems, and what’s more, that society is just going to keep getting better the more technology we have. I’m not disputing the importance of advancement, particularly medical and ecological advancement – our planet’s certainly wounded – but technology can become a kind of idol which we falsely worship. Need we be reminded of the military horrors technology makes possible? And now, too, technology brings into question all kinds of moral laws and debates. Cloning is on the imminent horizon – perhaps not of people, but of animals certainly – artificial eugenics, artificial intelligence, the list goes on and on. And yet we never seem to entertain the idea that all of this could go horribly wrong, or give credence to those warning against it. Ironically, we have made science into a kind of god that can break the natural laws of the universe: that things come in cycles. Science itself teaches us this – everlasting progress is impossible – but as a society we seem unable to internalise this message.

 

And business can be like this too. We all want success; we plan and work for it; and then it comes along and we think it will be forever. At an organizational level, as well as at a personal, this can be very dangerous. Indeed, the value of yin can be salutary, for success can have dreadful pitfalls. To bring in Greek mythology: success can be a kind of hubris, a sense that we are gods and can completely determine our own outcomes forever. This may sound extreme, but Thomas Merton expressed it perhaps too extremely this way: “Avoid at all costs one thing: success… if you are too obsessed with success you will forget to live. If you have only learned how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted”.

 

Here are six things that seem to happen when success becomes an organizational liability, and one should say too that this can happen at the individual level. The first thing is codification, or the way in which informal procedures that once proved successful now become rigid policies. In short, the erosion of flexibility and responsiveness occurs. With that, next, a growing internal focus develops which ignores outside threats; this is the beginning of all those internal politics whereby people are more concerned about their position within the ‘successful’ organization than they are about their customers. In fact, thirdly, the complexity of internal politics emerges full-blown and with it the preservation of power – or at least maintaining their position - becomes the primary objective of everybody within the organization.

 

Fourth, a mindset of arrogance and complacency takes root: problems, then, especially competitive problems, are rationalized and viewed as only temporary, mere blips, and the full seriousness of the situation is not properly assessed or apprised. The whole thrust of this momentum – the rigidity, internal focus, politicking and mindset – fifthly, starts disabling the learning process. The organization stops learning and incorporating new insights into its organizational memory; leaders – everybody – keeps trying to solve today’s issues and challenges with the skills and expertise of yesterday.

 

Finally, a deep conservatism takes hold and the organization becomes entirely risk averse; risk-averse in the worst sense of that phrase – not realizing that not changing is more risky than staying where they are. In a sense this is likely being in Dante’s Hell: where the people going on repeating formulaic activities that are ineffective, but they somehow and seemingly forever cannot break those habits. At least they cannot break them until reality intrudes and the organization goes bust, is acquired, or is broken up into smaller pieces, and so on.

 

These, then, are six major problems that develop when organizations become successful. There is no easy antidote to countering these sclerotic tendencies, but by way of general advice there are three things that can help us avoid these terrible rocks. The first is thinking about things more! "If everybody is thinking alike then somebody isn't thinking" said George S Patton, and that is a profound observation. The thing about success is that it tends to shut down the need to ‘think’ – one goes on automatic pilot. This is especially true with those businesses and organizations which major on ‘systems’ and processes’ and turn-key operations. They build themselves – having done the initial thinking – on not thinking; the system works. For evidence of how limited this might be, think McDonalds: an incredibly ‘successful’ franchise, but one now realizing that even their turn-key operation needs to re-think its market and its products as consumers become more health conscious and aware. How is thinking done, then, in your organization? What space is made available for it to occur, as opposed to business as usual?

 

Second, in order to get a permanent reality check, ask your customers and clients what they think, what they feel, how they experience you and your organization; there can scarcely be a better antidote to complacency and arrogance than this one simple test – yet doing this effectively is no simple thing, or indeed accepting the validity of the feedback.

 

Finally, take the pulse of your own employees, especially their emotional pulse. The best, most cost-efficient and result-effective way of doing this is not via staff surveys, but using the Motivational Maps profiling tool at individual, team and organizational level. This always produces a ton of surprising and unexpected data regarding what employees are thinking individually and en masse; the results of which can lead to deeper strategic thinking and planning.

 

So go for success, but be aware of its dangerous pitfalls and plan to ensure that you do not fall into one or more of them.

 

Next week, we will be looking at motivation in the workplace.


10 Strategies for Relieving Negative Self Talk

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Everyone at some time or another experiences negative self talk. As sapient creatures, aware of ourselves, unlike most animals we have immense capacity for self criticism. But it is not just our awareness of ourselves – and our flaws – that creates this self talk. It is also our ability to compare and contrast. Our grasp of time. If an animal suffers a horribly injury, such as losing a limb, it does not spend its days moping around for very long. It gets on with it. This is not to say that animals do not “feel” or possess emotions, for there is strong evidence to suggest that they do, but they are not able to bemoan their fate, or look back on halcyon days. Nor does the animal reprimand itself for its mistakes – it does not blame itself for the loss of limb, this is simply something that has happened. So, our intelligence as human beings is at once a blessing – empowering us to do amazing things – but can also be a curse, crippling us with self doubt and negativity.

 

The first character who speaks in the Bible is God. At Genesis 1:3 God says, “Let there be light”, and just as He speaks, the reality manifests. This is a pattern of God's language: he frequently speaks in imperatives, or what we might call commands. That's hardly surprising as He is God.

 

The first question in the Bible, however, is spoken by another character: the serpent – the Devil – who says, “Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?” And there we have it, the first question, the first, doubt, expressed by the Devil. Whether you want to believe in this literally is irrelevant to my purposes in this article; what is clear is that psychologically this is profoundly true. There is a Devil, a Satan, within all of us, and this being questions us, pokes holes in our arguments, mocks our sense of self importance. There is a reason we so often associate the “nasty little voice” in our heads with the demonic powers. In the case of the Garden of Eden, the Devil is casting doubt on the need for Adam and Eve to restrain themselves, and not eat the forbidden fruit.

 

Asking questions is all too often threatening to others, and all too often symptomatic of doubt in us. Whether that be doubt about our political institutions and their validity, or doubts about our partner or colleagues or bosses, once the questioning mode starts we all too frequently lose faith in someone or something, and our feelings about them become divided.

 

Nowhere is this more important than in our thoughts about ourself. Once we start serially questioning our own motives, our own talents and abilities, our own – and this is deepest of all – self worth, then we are in serious trouble: we cannot succeed at anything. To use the New Testament psychological insight: the house divided against itself cannot stand. We call this deep questioning of ourself 'negative self talk', and for some people it a permanent condition of torture.

 

How, then, can we lessen or even remove this thorn in our flesh? because every one at some time or another experiences this problem. Here are ten great ideas to help you relieve negative self-talk.

 

One, move, or more accurately, break the body set. What this means is that once we start being negative about ourself we find that a certain rigidity or tension creeps into our body and its posture. Thus, at its simplest level, going for a brisk walk is a good idea. Take those strides, feel those arms swinging purposefully side to side.

 

Second, be in the here and now. In other words, stop regretting the past or worrying about the future. Easier said than done? Yes. The key technique for being in the now is meditation and focusing on your breath. This can be aligned to point number one if we consider disciplines like yoga, chi gung or tai chi: in these the breath is central, as is breaking the body set, all the while slowing down and enjoying the moment.

 

Third, exaggerate the problem – yes, you heard right: exaggerate the problem! So, you are telling yourself that you are an unattractive person, that nobody would like you? Dead right – you're Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein’s monster, or whoever – and as the picture, the cartoon almost, forms in your mind, its very exaggeration starts becoming comical. If we can laugh at ourself, then we can offset the sting of the negativity.

 

Fourth, undertake physical exertion. This is slightly different from point one, because here we are talking about more serious and heavy physical exertion: some serious gardening, for example, is quite different from going for a brisk walk. And so might be a serious house clean. It will be different for every one of us depending on our age and fitness and health; nevertheless, physical exertion always takes our mind away from the negative ramblings of our mind.

 

Fifth, create your own safe place, or haven, or as I like to call it, my den. Where can you go where you feel at peace, at one, and safe? This may be a room in your house or flat. It may be, as it often is for people, a spot in nature – a park, a beach, a forest. Beauty always heals.

 

Sixth, review the sounds that surround you. Do you have music that is beautiful, that is healing, that restores you? Not to put to fine a point upon it, there are some musical styles which are ugly, discordant, aggressive and manufactured to maximise unhappiness in your soul. Avoid these. Instead, listen to the opposite; that may include some popular and modern music; but do not forget the wonders of JS Bach. As Roberto Assagioli put it in his marvellous book, Psychosynthesis: “The music which can especially produce this kind of healing influence is that of JS Bach ...” and he cites Albert Schweitzer who calls a composition by Bach, “an expression of the Primal Power which manifests itself in the infinite rotating worlds”. Bach is “a song of love, unfolding itself in the light of intelligence, and impelled by will. That is why it enriches so much.”

 

Seventh, talk with someone. A good friend can correct our erroneous views of ourself, can restore the correct balance to our thoughts, can enable us to see the good when all we can grasp is the bad. This is especially important for men who have a tendency to bottle things in, regard 'sharing feelings' as unmanly, which is clearly a mistaken and negative thought in itself.

 

Eighth, consider other people. One of the problems with negative self talk is its tendency to promote self-obsession at the expense of true self love. Who can you help? Who needs your assistance or support? Once we think like this we begin to realise too that whatever we were thinking our shortcomings were, there may be somebody else who has it far worse than we do. This, bizarrely, though not good in itself, relying as it does on comparison, yet can get us to re-evaluate our own position.

 

Ninth, take a nap, and indeed sleep more. Sleep is nature's healing balm, and we need more of it. In our pressurised Western life styles some people do not get enough sleep – which should be at least seven hours a day. If you know you are only getting five or six hours, ensure you steal naps during the course of the day. You'll feel a lot better and negative thinking will recede.

 

Finally, and possibly controversially, learn to pray. If meditation is listening in the silence to the voice of the universe, then prayer is asking and focusing with intention on the universe to help. There are no atheists in fox-holes, as the saying goes, and developing humility through prayer is paradoxically one of the single most powerful things you can do to feel better about yourself. It's counter-intuitive, but it's true, as many testify. Pray – for as it says in the First Epistle of John 3: 19-20: “We set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” Surely, that is a staggering thought that silences doubt even as we begin to contemplate its majesty?

 

Even if we do not accept prayer in the denominational sense, or a higher power, we can all do with asking for help. Sometimes, we cannot talk to people, because people are so subjectively predisposed. We can feel like we already know exactly what words and advice will pour from their lips before we’ve even asked them. In addition, we can sometimes feel too self-conscious about our negative self talk and feelings to adequately put it into words. We Brits, in particular, downplay ourselves, including our problems, leading to people assuming we are “okay”. Speaking to the universe, however, the unified cosmos, can be far more liberating. And if you believe, in your heart, that there is something out there listening with “Sublime Compassion”, then to quote the Buddhists, you are all the better for relieving your negative state.

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This motivational webseries will continue in two weeks' time, with an article on Six Problems with the "Success Syndrome". Thanks, as always, for dropping by! And if you have any thoughts or strategies for relieving negative self talk, be sure to leave them in the comments. 

 


The Need for Productivity

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Why do we want to be motivated? So far, in this web series, we’ve discussed numerous ways in which we can get motivated, and maintain our motivation levels through stressful experiences, but it’s worth also pausing and considering why we want to attain motivation in the first place. There are so many reasons, but one key one – at least from a business standpoint, as opposed to the personal and spiritual sphere – is performance and productivity; the two go hand in hand.

 

Performance is about being on top of one’s work, of being able to achieve things both for oneself and for the organization, and inevitably, as night follows day, if we perform at a high level for any length of time we start becoming extremely productive. So being productive means that we produce ‘stuff’: products, services, ideas, innovations, value and profit. Possibly, then, being productive is the number one thing that employers want from their employees; it’s self-evidently mission critical.

 

What makes a highly productive employee? Who are the highly productive employees? If we remember the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, we will be clear that these highly productive individuals can be up to 16 times more productive than their less successful counterparts. Sixteen times! That is a staggering achievement especially if we are dealing with, as we frequently are, people being paid the same standard salary. Further, and awfully, the Pareto Principle also clearly means that 20% of our employees produce 80% of our profit (or value-add), and sadly, 80% produce only 20%. The challenge, then, is to skew this law so that it works more in our favour: imagine how much more productivity and profit would be possible if instead of 80-20, we had 70-30 or even 60-40. In other words, imagine what would happen for our organization if we doubled the number of employees who are seriously productive?

 

But how do we find these 'productive' individuals? Productivity is a people issue. People make things happen - or not. This seems to be a revelation to some managers, as if merely pushing people around and simply paying them a wage leads to high productivity. The reality is that this approach leads to subtle sabotage and non-vocal resistance: lip-service to the organizations and its goals, but at root a deep dislike and resentment. Eventually, of course, it leads to outright hostility and then we go down the line of cost: somebody quits and we have to start all over again. Alternatively, bad managers take the view that they can discount their people because technology will do it all – how misguided can one be?

 

People are in one sense like bees: they like being productive, they like being in a well-tuned hive where everyone and everything has its place and all is purposeful. It produces honey and sweetness, and the sense of a life well spent. But what is productivity and where is it in the scheme of things? Now that’s the interesting thing; that’s the thing which if all managers understood they might get real about leading their employees instead of just paying them.

 

Productivity is what it says it is: it is the ability of the individual (and teams) to produce something – to create: be that a product (a thing), a service, or value. In short, productivity is about adding to the sum of existence: something that wasn’t there before is now there, and as a direct result of the individual’s efforts. You’d think everybody would want to be productive, not least because it boosts one’s own self-esteem; but if you think so, you’d be wrong. That said, however, the important thing to grasp is the position of productivity in the scheme of organizational activities.

 

For productivity sits midway between the two other vital ‘P’s: performance and profit! Productivity is the bridge to profits! As Dr. Alex Krauer said, “When people grow, profits grow”. We need high performing people to start with. We need therefore to focus on recruitment in the first instance and how we go about that. But clearly, productivity must involve employee performance too; there is no way round it. We have to go back to first principles. Yes, we want the profits and we can anticipate and plan for them, but we can’t just kick people into being productive; they need to be high performing individuals and teams. So if we are not happy with our current levels of productivity, then how are we going to change the situation? By doing some serious thinking about the performance of our individuals!

 

This can be done on an individual level, team level, and on the organizational level. But here is a quick, personal aide-memoir to ask yourself, and then to ask yourself about your employees: what one skill, if you had it now, would make the greatest impact on your own productivity? This could be anything - a technical, or interpersonal, or strategic skill. Whatever it is, now you’ve identified it, how are you going to bridge the gap? 

 

Similarly, what one skill if your employees had it now would make the biggest difference to the productivity of the whole? Remember that the whole point about the ‘one skill’ that would have the greatest impact is that we are invoking the Pareto Principle – a small number of things, one even, can have a disproportionate influence on everything else.

 

Skills are one necessary thing; the other is motivation – what’s your plan to increase your own and your employees’ motivation? Without it, even the skills will wither: there is no alternative!

 


Three Tools for Personal Development

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In the modern world, there is, more than there ever was before, a drive to constantly achieve new things and get to the next stage of ‘life’ and ‘success’. This can manifest in all kinds of ways: sometimes it is material, in that we want the next car or promotion or house; sometimes it is creative, in that we rush from one project to the next without pausing to reflect on the achievement of having completed the first one. Creative people are especially vulnerable to this. They disregard their own back catalogue of triumphs. How many times have you heard a creative person say: ‘Oh, that’s my old stuff. You should check out my new projects, they’re much better!’

Stephen King once joked that ‘As far as my fans are concerned, I might as well have died after I wrote The Stand.’ But the thing is, that book was and remains a remarkable achievement, and while he has gone on to complete 0ther, arguably equally remarkable works, it’s not shameful to be associated with an iconic former triumph. Of course, the other side of this are the ‘has-beens’, people who live off of former achievements without feeling the need to contribute anything new. Many creative people are paranoid about morphing into these parasitical individuals, and hence push themselves even harder to get to their next endeavour.

So, in the light of this and the upcoming release of my second motivation book: Mapping: Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, and now available from here (and for a 20% discount enter the code: FLR40 at checkout), I decided to revisit some all important lessons from my previous book, Mapping Motivation. Here are three personal development tools, explored in detail in the book, that you can use to inform your motivational practice. The thing about revisiting old material is that, hopefully, good things remain relevant for a long time, sometimes even forever. The bad stuff, you can leave behind.

Mapping Motivation has a chapter on Leadership which provides a new model that has, at the heart of it, the surprising fact that motivation and the ability to motivate others is at least 50% of what a leader is required to do. This is counter-intuitive and not what we expect; and not what most other models claim is the essence of effective leadership. The model is called the '4+1 Model' and I direct you to Chapter 8 of the book to get a full account of it, but for now trust me if I say that the '1' of the '4+1' model is all about personal development and growth, and that without this growth, the leader cannot function well even if they have the other necessary skills (the '4'). So how do we grow as people, as leaders?

All growth and personal development begins with self-awareness: the self being aware of itself, becoming aware of dissatisfaction with its self, and projecting, therefore, changes that will enable it to ‘improve’. In other words, to engage in a creative process with itself. There are three primary and creative tools of personal development that follow from this self-awareness.

One, desire itself: seeing our own condition we desire to improve, rectify, and enhance it. Desire is not motivation but it precedes it. The consequence of this, then, is that our emotions are vital to our development, and are not playing some subordinate role to our thought and logical processes. It is desire at its intensest level that leads in most situations to the solving of the most pressing problems that we encounter, including our own problem!

Two, imagination: the self produces images that begin a process of manifestation. The etymology of the word manifestation is from the Latin for “hand” - we can ‘handle’ thoughts via manifestation. Manifestation, then, is the process by which material reality comes into existence as a concretization of what the mind has ‘seen’, or, if you will, 'pre-seen'. (There is a wonderful story about Roy Disney, who after his father's death, and the opening of Disney Land, had some sympathiser murmuring: 'If only your father had lived to see this'. To which he replied: 'But he did see it and that's why you’re seeing it now'.) Hence, it is too that we find that the visible things depend upon the invisible things for their existence. There is a wonderful line from the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead which expresses this: “All the world which lies below has been set in order and filled in contents by the things which are placed above; for the things below have not the power to set in order the world above”.

Three, expectations: our beliefs in future outcomes, or in short, faith. What we believe, especially about the future, has an inordinate effect upon that future and upon the outcomes (of life) for us. So much so, our belief – faith – may be considered a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Meditation is the process and the objective by which self-awareness is maximized. This leads to the interesting reflection that altered brain wave patterns – not the everyday beta brain way patterns (which are in the range of about 13-40 Hz) - are intimately connected with developing self-awareness. Deepak Chopra made the profound observation that: “It is possible to spend a lifetime listening to the inventory of the mind without ever dipping into its source”. Clearly, any leader in this non-creative state is likely to be (a) highly ineffective, and (b) ego-driven, with all the terrible consequences that implies.

Two corollaries, then, of this are: first, relaxation is therefore essential not only to human development but human happiness too. Secondly, the ultimate relaxation is in sleep, and sleep itself requires both the non-being (as it were) state of non-consciousness AND the dream state. In fact, the dream state is every bit as essential as the non-conscious state. Why? Possibly because dreams themselves, remembered or otherwise, are primary agents shaping our desires, imagination and expectations. Bizarrely, then, the real changes we want in our life, and even the fact we want them, derive from the invisible, intangible, insubstantial and nebulous world within us.

If we want to be leaders, then, we need to pay attention - much like Sherlock Holmes - not to the obvious details of everyday life, but more intently to the small creative things that have in the longer term such a huge impact on reality.

Tune in next week for another webseries blog on the need for productivity.


Motivation and Psychopathology

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One of the truly difficult things to come to terms with is the failure of the ‘system’. By which I mean your system, my system, anybody’s system. It’s as if we invest so much time and effort and creativity into inventing systems that we cannot accept when they fail or crash. The financial crash of 2008 is a classic example. Of course, when we look at it now, it seemed obvious that it had to happen, but as it unfolded at the time there was a general incredulity as to how it could have occurred. Wasn’t the financial sector employing the best brains in the country? Wasn’t the regulation quality assured? Didn’t the politicians and Government actively promote and endorse what was going on? Hm.

All systems fail; just when we think we’ve cracked ‘it’, it cracks! For example, there are many things we can do to improve our recruitment processes, including using psychometrics, systematic interviewing processes, CV checks and so on. Yet, still the duff candidate gets the job and upends the ‘systematic’ procedures.

My own product, Motivational Maps, is a wonderful and systematic device for discovering what motivates and how motivated people are; further, its Reward Strategies package can help managers and directors really identify how to get their teams energized and moving. But there’s always one person for whom the Map doesn’t apply. Strangely, this is not because the Map is inaccurate, but because the Map cannot measure what some people carry around with them: psychopathology!

For these people, whatever their personality traits or their motivational profile, there is a bigger agenda that must be followed. Perhaps a good word for this would be obsession – an obsession that destroys reason, logic and all internal coherence.

Norman F. Dixon’s wonderful book on the Psychology of Military Incompetence has a useful section on the difference between the autocratic (which can sometimes be justified) and the authoritarian leader, which is psychopathological (and cannot be justified).

The behavioural characteristics of the authoritarian personality, he says, are:

 

(1) Conventionality: a rigid adherence to middle-class values. We all know this person. They always do things ‘by the rules’, to the point at which it becomes almost impossible to be spontaneous or to create anything new. Often, when asked why a certain process is the way it is, or why the company follows certain procedures, the reply will be ‘Because we’ve always done it this way’.

 

(2) Submissiveness: to the idealized moral authority of the group with which s/he identifies self, and to higher authority. As far as the authoritarian is concerned, hierarchy is all, regardless of hypocrisy, corruption or abuse. If the CEO has ordered that all employees are no longer allowed to drink tea during office hours, then it must be right, regardless of the patent negative impact, and frankly dehumanising ideology behind such a move. You might think that example is far-fetched, but I have seen it in more than one company, where a CEO (or ‘Company President’ where they adopt the American vernacular) is so determined to control his/her workforce, that they are prepared to infringe on the most basic pleasures – making a good cuppa after a tough morning.

 

(3) Aggressiveness: towards those who violate conventional values. These authoritarian individuals often will behave aggressively towards those who challenge convention, shutting them down, cutting across them while they are mid-way through making a point. Picture the scene, if you will: a team is having a meeting with their middle-manager. One of the team is highly respected by his fellows because of his positive attitude. This respected team member is ‘whacky’, often talking about subjects which are not traditionally work-appropriate, but it is this whackiness which really lifts the spirits of the team on a hard day’s shift. The authoritarian middle-manager opens up the floor at the end of the meeting, asking the team for suggestions. The ‘whacky’ team member takes the opportunity to put up his hand and offer a suggestion. Begrudgingly, the manager let’s them talk, but the others can already sense the hostility. After thirty seconds, the manager interrupts, shutting down the suggestion and deriding it as unworkable, unrealistic, and unhelpful. This behaviour not only reinforces the ‘control’ model of management (talked about in an earlier article), thereby making any attempt to ask for suggestions frankly redundant, but also humiliates one of the colleagues, ostracizing them, and cautionioning the others against befriending them. Of course, often these tactics backfire, as picking out a respected colleague normally only unifies the team against the manager.

 

(4) Anti-intraceptive: opposes the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded. God forbid, that someone use their imagination at work. Authoritarians actively fear those who are creative, because creativity poses a threat to established order. It is ironic that we, as a society, are deeply critical of the rigid inflexibility of medieval thinking (where they quite literally destroyed anything or anyone that opposed the Christian model of understanding) and yet much of the modern business landscape persists with this mode. We attack that which questions, or raises concern, or offers solution.

 

(5) Stereotypy: disposition to stereotype and think in rigid categories. Have you ever heard your manager talking about an employee that irritates them in broad, borderline offensive terms? It is probably because they are authoritarian and therefore may have a tendency to stereotype (irony intended). For example, how many managers insist their employees are ‘lazy’ or ‘greedy’ when in fact they are worked to death and do not even make a third of what their manager makes? Studies have revealed that only 65% of people are paid for their overtime. The average person loses £4,500 a year from not accurately claiming their overtime. How, then, can so many employees be ‘greedy’ or ‘lazy’ if in fact the majority work more than they are supposed to and get paid less than they have earned? Stereotypy does not permit these facts, however, because they challenge an ordered world. You will often find sexism is a huge part of stereotypy. Women are not paid as much as men, and managers justify this with excuses such as: ‘They’re just going to get pregnant and leave us’ or ‘They don’t work as hard: they spend more time talking’. We must move away from this mode of reductionism, and embrace that all people are unique, as much as possible.

 

(6) Power: preoccupation with 'strong' leadership, exaggerated assertions of toughness. It is strange that in an increasingly ‘civilised’ world, in which disputes are not settled with our swords or fists but with reason and law, many managers and employees – both male, female and otherwise – feel the need to play up to cave-era standards of machismo. I find this manifests in several ways: the ludicrously loud voice, wielded almost like a sledgehammer; the braggadocio and less-than-friendly banter; the insistent on unhealthy drinking culture on at corporate events. A friend of mine told me about a colleague of his. This colleague, during his qualification period to become a lawyer, made friends with a senior Judge. Despite their age difference, the two had a real affinity. The lawyer was very mature for a young guy in his twenties, the Judge in his late fifties, and the two spoke often of the ills of modern binge-culture, obsessive self-destructive party-going, and the societal damage caused by this behaviour. The Judge was something of a mentor. Needless to say, the lawyer-to-be was therefore very surprised when, on a corporate do, the Judge set a line of ten vodka shots before him and said: ‘If you want to get your training contract, you’re going to have to drink all of these.’ Even the Judge, though in the rational light of day he could offer critique, was unable to escape the authoritarian illusion that people must undergo ‘initiation’ rituals, and prove their ‘toughness’, in order to succeed in life.

 

(7) Cynical: frequent vilification of others. Always seeing the worst in people, always assuming that they are trying to ‘play the system’ or ‘get as much as they can out of the company’. A salesman I know was once called into an official ‘hearing’ because he had made a mistake on his overtime sheets. He had claimed an extra half-hour than he had actually worked, and his manager had spotted this error. In the meeting, he explained, in a measured fashion, that it was merely an error on his part, because he normally did work those hours, but this week he had left half an hour early for a chiropractor appointment. Effectively, he had filled in the sheet on auto-pilot. He apologised and said he would make up the hours the next week. The managers, however, did not accept this explanation. They continued to grill him, and say that he was trying to ‘extort’ the company and abuse their generosity. At this point, my friend, normally a mild-mannered and wonderfully humourous, a gentle guy, flew off the handle completely. ‘You’re seriously going to do all this for the sake of £5.00?’ he said. Even on overtime, he was being paid only £10.00 an hour. The meanness of this is beyond satire or parody, for the company he works for turns over something like 22 million a year. This kind of behaviour finds its roots in deep cynicism.

 

(8) Projectivity: the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses, so that the world is constantly interpreted as being a dangerous place. For some people, everything is ‘risk’ and nothing is ‘opportunity’. We all know those corporate environments where people spend more time covering their backs (getting everything triple-confirmed via email, for example, because to accept someone’s word on something is too dangerous) than actually working. This is also linked a deep repression, which is particularly prevalent in our society.

 

(9) 'Puritanical' prurience: exaggerated concern with sexual 'goings-on'. There is a tendency to treat working adults as children. The fact is, it really should not be the concern of upper management what the personal and private relations of two adults are; surely there are more direct concerns to be dealing with!

This is a list which is useful precisely to the degree to which we can measure ourselves along the nine axes. The point is: when we encounter these behaviours in force, few systems of support and explanation are going to help us deal with them. Better to move on if we can, or practise quiet resilience.

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Next week, we discuss tools for personal development! Stay tuned to the series coming to a webpage near you!


The Difference Between Quiet and Loud Motivation

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Welcome again to the third installment in this webseries on motivation. If you missed the first or second episode, don’t fret, everything here on the internet is eternal (so long as modernity endures, which, in the current state of things, is slightly precarious). This week, we’re going to be looking at the differences between ‘quiet’ and ‘loud’ motivation.

 

Is it me or is it just a faddish whim I am experiencing when I say I wish to have some quiet motivation? Apparently, we need motivation to get us out of our comfort zone - that area of un-achievement familiar to most people at some period of their life. In that sense, I think motivation is good. But when I talk about quiet motivation I am rebelling against that Animal Farm bleat of ‘comfort zone baaaad, risk-taking gooood’.

 

A while ago, some ten years or more, I saw a news item on National TV news about a couple whose big idea for marriage was getting hitched on a plane. That image has stuck with me, become a kind of emblem of our time. Yes, that's right, getting hitched on a plane. To be more precise, 3 small bi-planes: they trained so that the minister (who was selected on the basis of having no fear of heights) and couple could all stand on their respective planes a thousand feet up in the air where, using a comms system, they exchanged vows. Again, to be more specific, their standing involved being strapped on the outside of the plane. They were keen to do something different. It certainly was that - as I'm sure their guests observed as they roared overhead.

 

They were certainly motivated, in one sense, to do something different and highly risky. But performance includes three key ingredients: motivation - they had that; skill - yes, that too, as they didn't fall off; and direction - ah yes, here surely there is something wrong.

 

What could conceivably be the point of such a performance except to attract publicity - and for what? If it's balanced with the risk to life and limb, what purpose could it serve? Now, ten years on, social media is bigger than it ever was. The majority of young people claim they want to be YouTube stars when they grow up, a recent study revealed. More and more, we are becoming infatuated with the idea of spectacle, public display, and public image. Once, that was the province of kings and emperors – those with the wealth and means to flaunt their immense power – but now everyday people, too, wish to be seen to be doing ‘great’ or ‘daring’ things above all else. And that is the operative word: ‘seen’. Nevermind that so many young people, with the most vibrant and creative social media profiles, commit suicide because the reality of their lives is miserable. Increasingly, our perception of how people are – the seeming joy of their lives reflected in photo-shopped images, doctored videos, and pithy statements of world-affinity – is divorced from the reality.

 

Of course, the examples I am talking about are very extreme, but it does seem as if that is the way of it: people feeling under tremendous pressure to be different, not to conform, and to take enormous risks over pretty meaningless activities. The irony is that in striving not to conform they become part of the amalgamated flock, because this is the zeitgeist of the times.

 

The world of motivation is also full of this sort of stuff. Companies book ludicrously expensive trips for their employees, at the behest of motivational gurus, to walk on fire, bungee-jump, or trek up mountains. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, there must be a reason for it. There must be ‘direction’. I am reminded of a story my son once told me. My son, in his spare time, is an avid tabletop wargamer. He collects miniatures, paints them, and sends them to battle on 4’ x 4’ boards lavishly decorated with miniature scenery. Contrary to the view that wargamers are isolated, anti-social people, the wargaming community is extremely active, some gamers meeting up two or three times a week to socialize, play games, and talk about their shared passion. How much healthier is this than the Friday-night drinking sessions that most people need to get through the week?

 

But this aside, a few years ago my son was talking to one of the staff members working at Games Workshop, who said that, as they had some new staff in, they had been sent on a paintballing day by management. You might think that this fits the bill of what I was discussing about earlier: something extreme without a real point. But, it is different, because of course paintballing ties in with the wargaming hobby the staff so love, and is a game where people must bond, and work together, in order to overcome an obstacle. ‘Team-building’ is the oft-dreaded phrase for it.

 

The Games Workshop staff-member, who my son idolized at the time, said that, unbeknownst to them, the paintballing marshals had pitted the ‘nerds’ against an assortment of navy, infantry, and paratroopers on their off-season. Expecting a massacre, it transpired that the Games Workshop staff had a few tricks up their sleeves. Years of devoting every spare moment to customizing armies, enacting military strategies, and visualizing warfare from a bird’s eye view, meant that they were much more tactically fluid than the infantry they were up against, who were used to following orders from higher-ups. The ‘nerds’ from Games Workshop beat them handily, to the utter astonishment of all parties involved. Imagine the joy, the sense of achievement and bonding, they experienced at the end of the day. That is ‘team building’ and ‘loud’ motivation done right.

 

The Games Workshop day worked because of the type of staff the company was dealing with, the type of company and products and experiences they were offering, and the fact that they were introducing a new member of staff to the team. It’s not for everyone. In fact, for many people, a day of paintballing, squatting in smelly, mud-slick trenches, would be their idea of hell. To pull off ‘loud’ motivation, you have to tap into the unique feeling and wants of your staff at a specific moment in time. ‘Quiet’ motivation, however, is far more universal, far less expensive, and doesn’t lead to a thirst for always getting bigger and bigger (once you take your employees on a trip, most will expect a bigger trip next year). The fact is that many of us are worked half to death, and the endless pressure to ‘keep up appearances’ and go to parties and social events in our personal life is exhausting enough, let alone socialising extensively with our work colleagues.

 

So, we must find ways to recharge our batteries, recuperate, re-align. For many people, the idea of relaxing is synonymous with watching TV (particularly with the advent of systems like Netflix, wonderful though they are). But the problem with this is screens in general – computer screens, monitors, TV screens, even Kindle screens – are very draining, and tend to numb us rather than charge us up. What’s the solution? Well, it might surprise you in its simplicity. My challenge to all these restless types who seem to want to go beyond their comfort zone is to do as Voltaire said: cultivate your own back garden. Now, that would really be stretching it a bit, wouldn't it? If that seems too staid, then I suggest a week away on a silent, religious retreat - vegetarian fare only. Time for meditation and quiet motivation to re-charge those exhausted adrenals.

 

Next week, we discuss psychopathology in motivation, and the dangers of an ‘authoritarian’ regime! Stay tuned to the series coming to a webpage near you!

 

 


The Language of Motivation

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Hello, and welcome back to this continuing series on motivation. Last week, we looked at how to get motivated by going back to basics. This week, we are now going to be looking at how we can motivate others.

 

In 2008, Shankar Vedantam wrote a fascinating article for the Washington Post, in which he made the profound observation that rewards and punishments have replaced people’s intrinsic motivations. Correspondingly, the effect has been counterproductive: namely, people become less motivated as a result of these rewards and punishments.

 

I believe this observation is as true now as it was ten years ago. And although there has been an incremental paradigm shift from top-down, militaristic approaches of corporate governance (discussed in more detail in my book Mapping Motivation), to something more bottom-top, the widely used model is still that of control. In most cases, this control is leveraged via twofold financial means: you will be made redundant if you do not perform exactly as you are instructed (putting you in a financial strait) and you will be given a monetary bonus if you do (you will have cash to spare).

 

Coupled with this, there is also a commonly held belief that people are not ‘fired’ on the spot in the same way they used to be, or that employees are no longer at the mercy of a tyrannical manager’s whim in the ways they were in the early 20th Century. I would ask anyone who maintains this belief to spend a single day working in a service centre. The 1950s is alive and well in modern Britain. Businesses will always find a way, sad though that is, to control.

 

The other, more insidious, problem is that contrary to popular belief, not everyone is motivated by money. In fact, the majority of people are not motivated by money, strange as it may sound. Of course, we all like the idea of money, but in actuality it does not bring happiness, nor allows us to maintain it.

 

So, what does a bottom-top approach look like? To me, this is typified by managers working to discover the needs of employees and helping to meet them. Because this is beneficial not only to the employee but the manager and company as a whole. To lift an extract from Mapping Motivation: a primary aspect of any manager’s job is ensuring that they understand what their employees actually want and take the steps that guarantee they get it. So a second and far-reaching implication of this work is that the role of the manager is subtly changing: it is not just about content, content, content – ‘what are our goals, let’s do it’. It is now about process: how do we get the people on board, so they want to do it?”

 

So we have cultures that major on rewarding by money or by status, or alternatively gain acquiescence through fear of punishment. The basic and possibly unexamined assumption must be that anyone joining such an organisation or culture seeks precisely that carrot or stick option to maintain their motivation. The reality of course – in terms of outcomes – is very different.

 

The truth is: motivation is like a language – if you go to France the best way of getting on with the French is to speak their language. And they are not alone – the Spanish like Spanish, the Welsh like Welsh, and every culture prefers its own dialect. Alas, the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ English speakers are notorious for expecting every tribe on Earth to speak English, and perhaps this attitude infects their management styles too.

 

Therefore, the real question is: how do we discover what motivates each individual? One way would be to listen to the flatulent harpings on of managers who’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and will tell you unequivocally: they know their people. Interestingly, over 90% of these same managers fail to actually predict their own top three motivators! Equally, parents claim the same about their kids – we know what motivates our children! But you wouldn’t think so, would you, when you speak to those same employees and kids once they have left the influence zone?

 

Just as we have a language(s) to measure personality, we need a language and a metric to measure motivation, so that managers and parents need no longer guess. Such a language has been created – Motivational Maps®. But the thing is, motivation isn’t easy. For one thing, it changes over time, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. This means that unlike personality profiles, which tend to be constant, motivation needs to be monitored.

 

If before we said it was like a language, now we claim it is like a muscle: you exercise it and it can grow and change. Of course, exercise can be hard work – and we all want to avoid that. It is enough for most of us that we are focused on organisational goals; the idea that we have to discover and speak the appropriate motivational ‘language’ for all our colleagues is too exhausting to contemplate. We pay them enough, don’t we?

 

However, for those who wish to be really effective, as well as gifted communicators, this is the route to go down – the new route – the route that a new language of motivation opens up.

 

Next week, we discuss 'loud' versus 'quiet' motivation. Stay tuned for more blogs about how to get motivated, how to get back to basics, and how you can improve your work-life. A series coming to a webpage near you! 

 

 

 


My Ten Year Anniversary of Blogging: What We Learn By Going Back to Basics

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This year marks the ten year anniversary of my first blog! Happy Tin Anniversary to me! When you reach ‘landmark’ or ‘significant’ anniversaries, it gives you pause to reflect. In some ways, it’s why we have them. After ten years of being married, for example, it’s good to reflect on your relationship with your partner: is it as good as it has always been, are there ways we can improve even further, is there anything we would change? Appraisal is important.

 

Whilst the modern world moves at the speed of light, abandoning trends and technology no sooner than they are created, reading back through this first blog, published in 2008 (what feels like a world away), has caused me to reflect on something very important. However expert you become, however dominant in your chosen field, and however much technology advances or changes the working environment, we can all benefit from being reminded of the basics. Sometimes, even maestro pianists must perform scales. Even world-champion martial-artists have to jog and train to increase their fitness. We all need, at times, to get back in touch with the grassroots level of the skill.

 

So, here it is, my first ever blog, which talks about where motivation comes from, and how we can more easily achieve it. I hope it helps you, and to all those struggling to be motivated to do the thing you love, or even to get out of bed, just remember that it helps to go back to the roots of the thing.

 

Motivation comes from three major sources within us. First, there is a sort of historical or genetic component of motivation that we understand or classify as our personality. Different personalities are motivated differently - no revelation there; and when we break the personality down to the four major types that underpin most systems we find there is a specific motivation at the heart of each one.

 

One take on this would be: four motivations - control, recognition, belonging, and accuracy. Not much to change since personality tends to stay the constant, but then again if I focus on my profile and consider 'recognition' is what my type wants, then maybe if this blog could achieve that I would feel more motivated to do it.

 

Second, in driving motivation, is our self-concept. This has three components including self esteem, self image and the ideal self. Fundamentally, how we think and feel about ourselves either produces or stifles our energy and desire to do anything. What am I thinking and feeling about blogging? Fear - new technology - what fear? That I cannot handle it in the way I handle a book? Is that it?

 

Finally, third, is expectations: what I believe about future outcomes. of course, if I believe that blogging is going to create a wonderful result for me, then my motivation increases. So, my best bet might be to do my searches on line, and find excellent examples of those people who have blogged and got results. This would encourage me to blog - to write this blog now. Are there such examples?

 

Who then has achieved recognition and other good outcomes from blogging and gone on to be even more motivated to blog? Let me have your stories and recommendations please, so that I can continue - motivated!

 

May the One be with you. Stay tuned for more blogs about how to get motivated, how to get back to basics, and how you can improve your work-life. A series coming to a webpage near you!


Poetry and the Muses Part 3

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It has long been observed that whilst the ego is useful in making daily and ordinary decisions in our life, it is less effective when it comes to more important issues; it is by nature competitive, and it tends to subordinate the greater good for more immediate gains and self-gratification.  We know as well that the ego is largely driven by the left hemisphere of the brain, which is rational and analytic; again, rationality and analysis are good, but taken to extremes, have unfortunate side-effects: namely, a craving for certainty, a rejection of ambiguity, a need to be right, a lack of openness, and a foreclosure of intuition and the mystical dimension of being human.

We learn from research in this that techniques like meditation, for example, have a profoundly positive effect on the human psyche and even life span, and that one aspect of meditating is the re-balancing of the left and right brain hemispheres. So, as the left hemisphere is correlated with reason, logic, numbers and more practical applications, the right brain is more concerned with images, feelings, intuitions and the mystical. Indeed, as Lee Pulos puts it: “the right hemisphere is the decompression chamber into the subconscious”. It is important to say, however, that both are vital to healthy functioning of the human being; but it is equally true to say that in the West especially there has developed an over-reliance on left brain activity and dominance.

What has this to do with poetry? Everything! For it was Maggie Ross who said: “The importance of poetry in restoring the balance of the mind cannot be overestimated as it draws on both aspects of knowing simultaneously”. In other words, being in the ‘poetic’ state, that is the condition in which one can write poetry – hear the Muse – means that the left and right brains are becoming more balanced – more coherent. We could almost say – but probably wouldn’t – that writing poetry can be an alternative to practising meditation! I wouldn’t say it myself, but I do observe people for whom I think this is very true.

But, whatever, the benefits are clear. Meditation and poetry (and certain other disciplines too) balance and co-ordinate the two brains, gets them in sync, and so provide a kind of harmony in which a deeper level of awareness, understanding and expression is possible. In fact, if we consider some elementary examples of how writing helps us, we might then begin to guess at just how powerful poetry is.

Most of us write shopping lists, for example; and it is remarkable when we think about it, just how powerful a simple shopping list is: it means we stop worrying about whether we are going to remember everything, it enables us to do the shopping in the most efficient way possible, and the act of writing also stimulates us to take a wider overview – not just what do we need now, but what might we need in the next few days. More powerful still is when we start writing down our plans for the future: this ‘authoring’ means we start manipulating our own futures, and exercising a kind of control that is usually impossible without the act of writing. But clearly, shopping lists and life or business plans are invariably left brain activities. But when we step up to write poetry, then we get that extra benefit that comes from the right brain being activated: how much more powerful when the words are not lists or just aide-memoires but active interpretations of our experiences and the meanings inherent in them? Moreover, these meanings may be ones you are fully aware of, or alternatively of which the process of writing may uncover or discover.

And this balance requires that we enter a peculiar mind-set: one of relaxation, yet total clarity and focus at the same time; and as I said before the right hemisphere is the decompression chamber into our subconscious where we can access images and dreams – all that propels all our desires, which are, of course, the issues of the heart with which poetry is and should be most concerned.

Once, then, the hemispheres are balanced the magic begins. The magic of words. The God-given power to Adam and Eve of naming the animals – all the beasts we encounter, real and metaphorical. The magic? Ah, the magic of poetry – when poetry truly intoxicates. Here is a question: what is the most magical word in the English language? Think about it before you answer! We will all have our own views, and for some of us it will be about personal association, and there is nothing wrong with that. Perhaps the word ‘rose’ is magical for you; or perhaps the word ‘love’, or maybe even someone’s name: Linda my wife’s name is magical for me, or perhaps a son or daughter’s name always makes you light up as you hear that sound.

But here perhaps is the most purely magical word in the English language: abracadabra! Truly a magical word, and truly magical too in that it invokes the whole naming process of Adam via the letters (originally Hebrew) of the alphabet: A B C D. There is one point to understand about alphabets (notice, too, the A and B even in the word alphabet): and this is that in magical words the internal sound reflects external reality: there is a consistency, and no jarring. In poetical jargon, this is onomatopoeia, or what we might call mimesis. The words are ‘true’ – which is why children love them, why they love nursery rhymes and all forms of word play, and when we are uncorrupted, we love them too as adults. The sheer fun of it; the sheer truth of it.

For me the greatest example in the English language of a 'magical' poem, and one which perfectly exemplifies the whole condition I have outlined of how poetry comes to be written (though with one important caveat I needs must mention shortly) is Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'.  The final part of this poem reads:

A damsel with a dulcimer

In a vision once I saw:

It was an Abyssinian maid,

And on her dulcimer she played,

Singing of Mount Abora.

Could I revive within me

Her symphony and song,

To such a deep delight 'twould win me,

That with music loud and long,

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! those caves of ice!

And all who heard should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread,

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

This verse is intoxicating; almost childish - the almost over-emphatic alliteration of damsel/dulcimer - yet sublime. Of what is she singing?  Mount Abora - A and B again, the alphabet - and she is 'Abyssinian' (A and B again!) and she is the Muse of course, because Mount Helikon was sacred to the Muses, and one proposed etymology of 'muse' is from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning either to 'think' or 'tower/mountain'. All the important cult centres of the Muses were on mountains or hills: in other words, a height, somewhere above, celestial, where the gods – the Muses – abide.

But she is elusive. 'Could I revive within me ...' How in those simple words one feels the agony of wanting to get back to her - to the good life - to 'such a deep delight' (those delicious Ds again, picked up like a refrain) - and how difficult it is. But - hey - no good repining; immediately Coleridge suddenly conjures up the methodology to get there, and the verb has the force of an imperative:

'Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes in holy dread'

The poet is a prophet (honeydew) - the external eyes are closed (as often in prayer or meditation) so that the inner faculty can be harnessed, and there is deep reverence - 'holy' - which allows the magic to overwhelm the poet. And in that state we experience the 'milk of paradise'. The word 'drunk' here has a double connotation - meaning in the first instance that one has literally drunk milk, but with the added suggestion that one is 'drunk' on this milk. In other words, that the mind itself is changed, is transformed. We are truly in another place.

Now my caveat about Coleridge's experience derives from the fact that he was on opium when he wrote the poem, and that opium did for him creatively (picking up my note about debauchery made in Part 1 of this article). There is with nearly all the Romantics the danger of 'excess', but conceding that point and the danger, the wider one is still true: that the Romantics explored more fully than before the sources of inspiration and creativity.

A poem I like to set alongside Kubla Khan is the first few lines of John Keats's Revised Hyperion poem: The Fall of Hyperion.

Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weave

A paradise for a sect; the savage too

From forth the loftiest fashion of his sleep

Guesses at Heaven; pity these have not

Trac'd upon vellum or wild Indian leaf

The shadows of melodious utterance.

But bare of laurel they live, dream, and die;

For Poesy alone can tell her dreams,

With the fine spell of words alone can save

Imagination from the sable charm

And dumb enchantment. Who alive can say,

'Thou art no Poet may'st not tell thy dreams?'

Since every man whose soul is not a clod

Hath visions, and would speak, if he had loved

And been well nurtured in his mother tongue.

Whether the dream now purpos'd to rehearse

Be poet's or fanatic's will be known

When this warm scribe my hand is in the grave.

The genius of this unfinished epic - and epic it is - is inexhaustible, but for now simply notice four words in this short extract:  dreams, weave, paradise and enchantment. Ring a bell? Coleridge talks of 'vision' but here Keats has 'dreams'; but then the ‘weaving’ - the profound metaphor I see as combining the left and write sides of the brain - lead to 'paradise'. It is a false paradise in the opening of Keats, but nonetheless the imagery is instructive - for poesy alone can make the real jump that crosses the chasm that is 'dumb enchantment' - our speechlessness in the face of existence, or our stupefaction as we freeze before the hollow of time.

Poetry, then, comes from the Muses, and is a form of enchantment; we must be in a 'holy' state of mind to receive and process it. If we do, the result is transformational; we find our way back (and forward), albeit briefly, to paradise - a living harmony of the mind where the 'milk' of living nurtures us. We can get into that state artificially via narcotics and other means, but these approaches ultimately desecrate the Muses' temple (and incidentally, temple refers to their sacred building, which is also the two sides of our brain), and there are consequences, as Coleridge discovered.

In Part 4 of this series of articles we will consider the language of poetry and enchantment, language before the Fall of Mankind or in the Golden Age, what being a 'living soul' means and how this is related to writing poetry. Finally, I will explore what this means for our contemporary poetry scene.

 


Poetry and the Muses Part 2

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The Muses we understand from Part 1 of this article are the daughters of the future and the past, and more specifically of memory, light, truth and beauty; they are essential for the ‘good life’, and we understand as well that because they are goddesses, they cannot be summoned by human will, but they can be invoked by supplications, by readiness, by the human spirit or soul that is aligned with their purpose.

This takes us to a new and key observation: that everyone can be a poet if - IF - they can speak from their own true, authentic self, or what we used to call their soul; their core being. In her book ‘Poetry and Story Therapy’, Geri Giebel Chavis writes, “This experience left me with the strong belief that we are all poets when the true self finds its voice”. It is not easy to do this, and goes way beyond understanding or using the skills and techniques of poetry that poets so typically deploy. The reason it is so difficult is because, sadly, for most of us, most of the time, we speak as our false self-dictates. ‘Persona’ is a word meaning ‘mask’; it was used in Greek drama and from it we derive our concept of ‘personality’. But personality is too simple a word really, for we all seem to have, more accurately, personalities: multiple ‘persona’ or masks that we exhibit – or hide behind – to present our false or ego selves to the world.

We see this clearly when we consider how differently we act and behave in the different environments in which we find ourselves: as a son or daughter, as a sibling, as a parent, as a friend, as a co-worker, as a subordinate, as a boss, or down at the ‘club’, or in a sport’s situation, and so on. The mature personality can manage some consistency of being, but even in the best of us there is a mask – we project who we are rather than allowing our essential self, or soul, to manifest its own unique properties – unique, and thus original.

 

And this contaminates our language; nowhere more so than in writing poetry itself. Every generation seems to produce a ‘top fifty’ list of poets whom the media raves about, but which the next generation comes to realise are no poets at all, just clever versifiers, free versifiers, who tapped into the zeitgeist of contemporary values and ideas, and so were popular and seemed important. Occasionally 1 or 2 of that 50 get read 100 years hence, and often too, alarmingly often, 1 or 2 who nobody heard of at the time – e.g. Emily Dickinson or Gerard Manley Hopkins – get the recognition they were denied in their life time. Because – why? Because they spoke from the Muse and their poetry lives.

 

For the Muse - the poet’s Muse – if she can be invoked – in that timeless and abnormal present moment – transforms the soul of the poet so that he or she can speak directly from their soul, bypassing the masks, the ego. And here is the truth of the matter: the human soul itself is inherently pure, beautiful, truthful and eternal. Whatever the subject matter – no matter, as with Dante, if one is in the very pit of hell, or with Shakespeare in Macbeth’s castle – yet the soul speaking will render it beautiful and true (and we know post-modern poetry is not poetry since it confronts ‘reality’ and renders it uglier still – then pats itself on the back for being ‘realistic’!).

 

Such words as these, then, live forever; for they are inspired – breathed in – by a goddess. And I need a word here from Jung, lest I be thought to be some half-baked literalist in discussing these gods and goddesses: “We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reached such a pinnacle of clarity, imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal spectres, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed today by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world.” So, how different this is in every way from the negative, structure-less, formless, ego-centric ideologies that inform poetry now – and have done so for about the last 100 years. But the results of these various ideologies are what is most notable: contemporary poetry which is not only mostly ugly, formless, ego-centric, self-referential, but critically, and most of all, mendacious. Mendacious in the sense that it wholly misrepresents the cosmos and creation; it relishes evil, absurdity, nihilism and pointlessness, and promotes these ideas and attitudes as sophisticated and good; and when stuck, facing all the massive evidence to the contrary, retreats into a total subjectivism, which shrugs its shoulders with as much as to say, ‘Well, that’s just your opinion’. They, of course, know better, and cannot see that such a position equally undermines their opinion. But the simplest anonymous folk song or some lyrics by Bob Dylan have more poetry in them than the combined weight of all the post-modernist poems of the last 30 years. How do we know? Because we’ll all go on reading and enjoying the former as long as our culture lasts; whereas the post-modern poetry is largely unread even now by the post-moderns – it contributes nothing to the ‘good life’.

It is, then, relatively easy to write such poetry and to fool oneself into thinking it is poetry. But it is much more difficult to speak from one’s authentic self. Most people at some point in their lives have tried to write poetry (and even still secretly do) but finally give up (or hide it in a desk or on a computer somewhere) because they realise or think that it’s no good. What they fail to realise (or wantonly don’t want to realise if they have gone over to the post-modernistic modes of writing) is that one doesn’t have to try to write poetry if one is speaking authentically – that is, from one’s self or soul. As GK Chesterton expressed it: “For I am one of those who think that the poet stands separate and supreme among men, in that simple fact that the poet can say exactly what he means, and that most men cannot”.

This is a paradox because, of course, the poet does say exactly what he or she means, but what that is he or she may not know in advance of saying it; for poetry is like ‘being’ – mysterious, wonderful, unlimited. Aldous Huxley noted: “The world is poetical intrinsically and what it means is simply itself. Its significance is the enormous mystery of its existence and of our awareness of its existence.” To speak, then, authentically requires submission, openness, and capacity – qualities which allow the Muse to enter, to generate the abnormal ‘present’ in which the words dance and a new cosmos of consciousness is created. Yes, a new cosmos of consciousness is created; the intrinsic likeness of mankind to God is in their creativity. The poet continues the creative act of God that began at the beginning; all humans do – or should – of course, and not only in the discipline of words; but that is the tragedy of humanity – the failure to be creative and to resort to destruction instead.

The theologian H.A. Williams expressed it thus: “There can be no Joy where there is no creativity because the absence of creativity is a denial of Joy at its source, that is, a denial of God the Creator. That means that we must all be poets if we are to be what God intends us to be – not, of course, poets as we now understand the word (very few of us can be that), but in its original sense of makers.”

In part 3 we will look at how poetry balances the mind, helps us heal, and leads to the magic of words. What is the most magical word in the English language? And why? Find out in Part 3. Learn, too, about the holy state we must enter to be poets.


Wolfe and Other Poems by Donald Mace Williams

Wolfe and Other Poems is an extraordinarily good collection of poems, clearly written by a veteran writer. The underlying credo of the collection is very aptly summed up in the opening poem called, appropriately, 'Credo':

Step out under the stars on a dark night

Or open Rilke, Frost, or Dickinson.

Like that, all poems (mine too) should invite

Small breaths, quick nods, and ninety at the bone.

That last line is surely wonderful, surely anti-modern and anti-postmodern as it invites us into a coherent narrative, and there is also surely a sense of irony too about the 'ninety at the bone', since Williams is himself nearly 90 years old! This collection, then, could be seen to be an example of that late flowering of true poetry which sometimes accompanies masters of the art, most famously, Yeats.

The collection is actually quite brief and in two parts: there are 21 short lyric poems followed by 1 long narrative poem, Wolfe, which is a 'Western' re-telling of the Beowulf story. In a way they are quite separate things, and so in reviewing this collection I would like to consider them separately.

So far as the 21 lyrics are concerned, we have a master poet at work. At least 8 of the poems are sonnets, a definitive form in which to display skill, and here we see someone wrestling with his landscape, his heritage and history, and his feelings, and from all these particulars great and universal themes emerge. For example, The Canal, 1942 says, in its understated way, and as soldiers march past, 'how water that had just been green was red' - the disturbance of the water a prolepsis of the blood to come. Or, The Oak That Stayed, in which finally, the poet asks:

Soon now, dear friend, I thought, you're down for good.

I almost think it thought the same of me.

That the Credo poem cites Frost as an influence should be very clear from these two lines; but I think Williams, whilst influenced, as has his own unique voice. And this leads on to the truly ambitious part of his collection, the narrative poem, Wolfe.

I certainly would say, 'Buy this book; it's excellent poetry', but I almost must say that the Wolfe poem leaves me with more mixed feelings. It is in one sense a triumph, for what do we want a narrative poem primarily to do? Well, we want it to engage us and keep us reading on; so, I found myself wanting to read it. And as far as a homage to the original Beowulf poem is concerned, it is extremely good. The narrative flows, there are some wonderful lines of pure poetry in it:

To ride out when the moon sat round

And dark on the far rim and sound

A sadness he could not explain,

As if pity and guilt had lain

Unknown through the long interval

Since the last moon had hung that full

Of melancholy, even fear.

And the transposition for Beowulf from Anglo-Saxon times to the American Wild West is extremely well done - I almost think a film could be made of it. So what is my problem with it?

The problem is a technical one. Williams has chosen his form to represent as closely as possible the original Anglo-Saxon. But he has substituted rhyming for alliteration, and opted for a tetrameter line, occasionally broken up with hexameters. Strangely, moments of brilliance occur often at these interfaces, these cross-over points:

Even him, and for just a breath

He felt a touch of pity at that great thing's death.

That's marvellous, but the trouble is, a long poem in iambic tetrameter, and rhyming tetrameter at that, invariably leads us to less than optimal sense, because it becomes more driven by rhyme. The fact is that the rhyming couplet form is really difficult to tell a compelling narrative in, and the best examples - like Crabbe's Peter Grimes for example - tended to use the pentameter line; in other words, the more extended line, which opens up far more syntactical and semantic possibilities. Of course, combine a tetrameter with a succeeding hexameter as in the example I quoted above, then you effectively have two pentameter lines. So because Williams is such a fine poet, he came to realise this - perhaps subconsciously - as he wrote the poem; for the incidence of hexameters increases as we progress. 

But here's another thing: one needs to buy the collection anyway just so that one can have one's own debate with Williams' poetry, for it is a mark of how good it is that I am wrestling with my thoughts on its technical aspects now! So I invite all readers of The Society of Classical Poets to get their copies: there’s a lifetime’s wisdom and insight contained in Williams’ poetry, there are some truly beautiful lines and images, and finally there is also much that can be gleaned technically in the writing of poetry. If you love Frost, I think you will love this.


Poetry and the Muses Part 1

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We live in a post-modernist world and its values are everywhere around us; and everywhere these values are almost largely unexamined, and because we have little to contrast our present state with we fail to see how lamentable and poor we are. There is a deep materialism running through society which deprives people of the hope, the creativity and the deep mystery of life. Indeed, on this latter point, we see this being hammered home all the time on the news; for when it is not going on about the latest wars, plagues and famines, is always emphasising how the frontiers of science are expanding, and how soon – someday, one day – all our problems, especially diseases and even mortality, will be solved as the next medical advance is posited as something we all might confidently place our faith in. If ‘making progress’ actually made progress, then there might be some grounds for optimism; but as, after nearly two centuries of science and technology, we seem to be on the verge of world destruction, this seems fanciful at best.

Of course, this phenomenon of materialism/progress is ubiquitous, but also encompasses that tiny domain which we call poetry. I say ‘tiny’ because that is what materialism, and associated atheism, has reduced the mighty empire of the poets to.  Compared with, say, science or technology, or even medicine, poetry has become largely irrelevant to most people’s lives. The best it can possible muster is either verse on a Valentine’s card or insincere worship at the shrine of William Shakespeare, one indisputably great poet. Naturally, we have to worship Shakespeare in England because he generates so much revenue for the UK economy – but, hush, no, don’t say it like that!

There is an important sense, then, that we have to return to basics and once more see the object for what it truly is. “The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation”, said Goethe, which is a serious matter; and we need to address it because as he also said, "Reality is that which is effective". Whatever else, we need to be effective, which is to be real.

What, then, is the starting point? The starting point is the Muse, the source of all sublime inspiration, and a living reality, as well as a potent metaphor and symbol of divinity. We need to understand from the myths of the past where the Muse comes from and how she operates. The Greek myths give various accounts of this, so I am not wedded to one literal interpretation of this phenomenon, but here is my best shot so far at it. 

In the beginning the sky god Zeus, the thunderbolt, the male principle of living and active energy, the yang, and the one who shapes the future, for by the will of Zeus all things are allowed – or not – and who defeated the Titans and the forces of chaos, this great god in some present moment coupled with Mnemosyne, the undefeated Titaness, the female principle, the yin, and goddess memory, who in her vast and capacious mind conserves all things, for in her womb nothing is lost, for the past is remembered, which is re-membered. This coupling  (effectively of the male principle of strength and the female principle of beauty) gives birth to the nine Muses, who are the key to the good life: prosperity, friendship and beauty. Notice of course that they are female, and thus incarnations of  beauty and so desirability, and this seduces us or we surrender to them. And we see, regarding the good life, this even etymologically in our language when we refer to various aspects of the ‘good life’: we love muse-ums, which are shrines to the Muse; we love friends who a-muse us, because laughter makes us glad; and we love mus-ic, because it speaks to our souls.

Each of the nine Muses has a special function, but the queen of them is Kalliope, she of the epic poem and ‘lovely voice’; she it is who inspires such undertakings. And there is my favourite, Erato, meaning ‘loveliness, who inspires lyric poetry; and let’s not forget Polyhymnia – she of many songs, especially of a spiritual nature. The other six are well worth exploring too.

But it should be clear from this that the Muse operates in some special place positioned exactly midway between the future that is to be and the past that was; we call this place the present. And it is why true creativity, true poetry, is always written in a semi-tranced out state, for one is abnormally in the present moment. What this means is that – as with deep meditators and hypnogogic states – time either stops or is slowed down and we enter another reality. Hence, too, why prophets and poets are often seen as synonymous: because time has slowed to a crawl it is possible to anticipate the future and redefine the past. It is not that poets are seeking to be prophets or historians (incidentally, Kleio is the  Muse of history or ‘Renown”) but that it is entirely possible and even probable for the future or the past to leak into their work.

This state we enter is so powerful, so desirable, so creative that we all long to be able to switch it on at will, but in this world that is not possible. Because it is not possible, we have a history of poets (and other artists) who try to short-circuit the process and get there illegitimately through substance abuse. The most famous collective example in English literature were probably a handful of the Romantics; but this view that, basically debauching the mind, is necessary for creativity is unfortunately still with us in the lives of so many Twentieth century poets: for example, Dylan Thomas, who the New York coroner recorded as dying of ‘a severe insult to the brain’ (alcohol). The point is that it is not by and through the will that creativity – poetry – comes to be written, which is as much as to say that it is not through the ego. Socrates put it this way: “I soon realised that poets do not compose their poems with real knowledge, but by inborn talent and inspiration, like seers and prophets who also say many things without any understanding of what they say”. And his last point here, too, is important: creativity involves not knowing necessarily what one is going to say. We have intentions to write – and that is good – and we have skills, knowledge and experience – and that is good too, but how will the Muse, if we allow her, inform the work? Poets often record their astonishment at what the final draft of the poem turned out to be; there is in true creativity a certain unpredictability (if ‘certain unpredictability’ isn’t an oxymoron!).  As Natalie Rogers says, "Creativity is not a tool. It is a mystery that you enter; an unfolding; an opening process".

But the myth does not end here. Yes, the Muses are the embodiments and sponsors of metrical speech and verse; and also Kalliope, their queen, is the mother of Orpheus, the greatest poet. And the father? Various legends here, but my preferred one is that the god Apollo fathered Orpheus. Indeed, it needs to be said that Apollo, the son of Zeus, increasingly became the surrogate god who often replaced him. So that many claim that it was he who fathered the Muses, and so would be father and grandfather both to Orpheus; but this is a small technicality and even if true does not affect the power of the lineage, since gods do not experience the genetic weakness of humans. What’s important to understand is that Apollo was the god of the sun, of light, of prophecy –and so of truth (as in his Oracle at Pythia or Delphi) – and of beauty. All the statues of Apollo show him young and perfectly proportioned. He also fathered Aesculapius whose powers of healing were so effective that even the dead could be resurrected by him; and so, after Hades complained, was struck dead by a thunderbolt from Zeus to prevent the undoing of the triple structure of the cosmos (the bargain the three brothers, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades had struck when they defeated their father, Kronos).

But here’s the thing: Orpheus the poet demonstrated what poetry can do. His poetry, his music, made even the rocks – who obviously have stony hearts! – weep. Two incidents especially spring to mind. First, his visit to hell and Hades in order to reclaim his love, Eurydice. This ended in failure in that he did not manage to obtain her; but poetry and music charmed all of hell, and even the damned were relieved from their suffering as he sang his poem. It is said that Hades himself shed, for the first and only time, tears as he listened to Orpheus sing: tears that seemed like liquid tar. And then, of course, he was one of the Argonauts who sailed with Jason.  There, where even the strength of the greatest hero of Greek mythology, Herakles, could not prevail – against the Sirens’ song, which no force in the universe could break – there he sang in direct combat against them and drowned out their false addictive charm. What we have here is the beauty of poetry that can heal and save, even from the worst and most intense addictions; for that is what the Sirens’ song represents – that dreadful, yet beguiling sound, that so draws us on to our own destruction, though we know it is false, yet still we crave it. This, then, is the healing power of beauty, of poetry, when poetry is beautiful, as once it was, and as it will be, for it cannot long be other than it is.

Thus we come to the present moment and its learning for us. Part 2 of this article will continue this narrative.

 

 


The Healing Moment: Towards Wholeness

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Just over five years ago, aged 58, I suddenly, after a lifetime of being in pretty good health, mysteriously and suddenly collapsed; I was rushed to hospital where after a week's tests I discovered there was a small, dark 'shadow' in my small intestines. They didn't know what it was, but they did know it shouldn't be there, so they advised an operation. The morning after a five hour and extremely dangerous operation - as it proved to be - I woke to find the surgeon informing me that he had removed two malignant sarcomas (a very rare form of cancer effectively), one the size of a grapefruit, the other the size of an avocado; the latter pressed against an artery and threatened to split it. Which would have meant instant death. So much for ‘small’.

Unfortunately, the operation wasn't successful and two weeks later I had another five-hour operation and by this time some 30% of my small intestines had been removed: that's about 6-7 feet of internal tubing. Then they waited, for my system to kick in and work, which it didn't. So I went on to Nil by Mouth for nearly 5 weeks. For those who don't know Nil by Mouth it means that I couldn't eat or drink anything; all nutrition came, belatedly, via an IV Drip. Personally, I found the hunger easy to deal with, but the thirst - the unending desire to drink water, the dryness of the throat - is a torture almost beyond bearing. And I say belatedly because they took a while to realise that I needed the drip, and so I was wasting away. I read in America that 40% of cancer patients die of malnutrition, and I lost about 4.5 stone in that period, and looked like somebody from Auschwitz or Belsen. Indeed, I looked like somebody who was soon to die.

I should say at this point that my parents were atheists, and I was myself, but I had become a Christian in my mid-twenties, and a Quaker when I was about 50. And by the time I was taken ill had no previous experience of strange or mystical experiences.

Thus it was that during my 3 month stay in the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, lying in the hospital bed, early one evening, practising meditative breathing in order to control the pain, psychological and physical, and resisting - which I did consistently - the urge to activate the morphine drip that I was supplied and that they were eager that I used - I had a healing experience which changed my life.

I was staring at the blank ceiling above my bed. Without warning, effortlessly, I suddenly found that my consciousness was leaving my body and heading up and out into deep space. It was not alarming; I was curious. Ahead of me in the deep black I saw a light. Aware my body was far behind me on Earth, I willed my consciousness to head towards the light. As I approached I saw what looked like a huge, white, translucent index finger wrapping white - what appeared to be - candy floss round in a spiral, shell-like pattern. Intrigued, I willed myself closer. The finger casually flexed itself and just flicked the candy floss which spun off into space; as it did so, equally casually, the finger seemed to trail lightly behind.

Then I realised with total astonishment that this wasn't candy floss but an enormous white star that the finger had created and set off into its orbit in the cosmos. I realised that God - the mere finger of God - was about what it was always about: creation, and a star had been born. And as this sunk into my consciousness I became critically aware of the disparity between myself - helpless in pain, consigned to death on a hospital bed - and the Lord of all Glory, serene above the clouds, in deep space, creating a star. My whole consciousness was swept by an anguish that shook me to the roots of my being, and I cannot claim that I willed it, but almost involuntarily, as if I had been taken over by the Power who enabled me to do the only proper thing: my consciousness cried out in deep despair, 'God help me'. It was the simplest and profoundest of prayers.

And there in deep space as I made the cry, the finger instantly, broke from its casual sauntering, and like a gun turned and aimed itself at me. Before I could think what did it mean, the finger rushed straight at me - faster than light itself - and I simultaneously recoiled backwards and in one consummate movement I was abruptly back in my body as the finger went straight into me: straight into the point where the operation had opened up my intestines. It was like some pulverising shock, and I felt as if my whole body bolted upwards in the bed some six inches or more - though probably only less than an inch -  and then thudded backwards, relapsing as it were, on the bed.

There I was: my whole being suddenly and immediately was immersed, was saturated, in joy, sheer joy. The physical and psychological pain had all vanished, all gone. I felt the presence of God - which even to recall now fills me with awe and fear and trembling, like nothing else - and I wept. Not tears of pain; I wept tears of joy. And I became aware that I could die now; and thoughts of my wife and children came to my mind, and I saw the pain of leaving them, especially their pain in not having me. But selfish as it sounds, it didn't matter - dying was better, to be with God. Because, anyway, this power, just as it had looked after me, would look after them; in His hand, everything was possible. So I wept more, and more, and became aware too of the deepest thing of all: the one word for me that described this God who held me now. The 'purity' of God. I struggle to convey my sense of it. How unworthy I felt in myself, and yet God held me: the disparity between my unworthiness and His purity; my weakness and His strength; between my mortality and His unquenchable life.

 I wept yet I was in perfect peace, and in a perfect place where I never wanted to leave. My body curled up into a foetal position, and like some baby being rocked, slowly, slowly, I drifted into sleep. How long had the experience been? I do not know - maybe 30 mins - but it may have been 2 minutes or 2 hours.

But here's the thing: in all my 3 months in hospital I never got one night's sleep. The maximum was 2 hours before one was awoken by something or other. Yet on this night, for some reason, I slept till the new nurse shift at 6.00 the following morning. A perfect and profound night's sleep of at least 6 if not 7 hours. I woke feeling as if I had had pleasant dreams, which I could not remember, and feeling so refreshed. But more than that I woke knowing one other thing: that I wasn't going to die from this cancer now, that I was going to leave the hospital, and that I was going to re-create my life.

Curiously, too, my youngest son came to visit me from his university sometime after, and he told me. Dad, he said, I had a dream. In the dream I was crying and crying. Suddenly a man - a woman? -  a being of light stood before me and said, 'Why are you crying?'

And I said, 'Because my father is dying'.

And he said, 'Stop crying, your father is not going to die. He has not finished his mission yet'. The being disappeared and my son instantly woke with the scene fresh in his mind.

So I have come to believe that what happened to me - the healing that has allowed me to re-enter life - that has re-claimed me for a mission - is not unique to me or even to do with my being special in some way. No, as I contemplate that finger, and those words, I realise that every single human being is precious to God, and everyone has a mission - that their words and actions count. When we abandon these beliefs we are no better than atheists, and just as hopeless. True healing is from God - the Spirit - the Light - the Christ and I feel blessed to have directly experienced it. For this is the strange reality it has led me to: I am glad that I had the cancer - still have the cancer - I am glad that my pain and suffering enabled me to have the opportunity to experience the mercy, the compassion, and the healing of the Lord. And as a result I feel unafraid of death in a way that would have been impossible before this illness overtook me.


Review: The Naked God – Wrestling for a Grace-ful Humanity by Vincent Strudwick

Rowan Williams describes The Naked God as a “tremendously engaging and positive book”, and indeed it is just that. The author, Vincent Strudwick, must be at least 84 years old but he writes with the fire, passion and conviction of a man half his age. And the book is a strange amalgam of autobiography, Twentieth Century church history, radical polemic, and cri de coeur for a better world, a better church, and a better outcome for all, especially the dispossessed, the poor and the suffering.

What is his book about then? Essentially, it is about the re-imagining of the role of the church, specifically the Anglican community (but his principles extend to all churches), in the modern world. Citing the ideas of Christopher Dawson that the church has had six different and distinctive ages – the Apostolic, the Fathers, the Carolingian, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, and the Enlightenment – but that a seventh and very different age is now upon us. And, Strudwick argues, this new age is revealing the very real inadequacies of contemporary Anglican practises and beliefs both during the Twentieth Century and in the present. In the final part of the book Strudwick does present some glimmers of hope, although I must say I did not personally find them very hopeful, as they appeared to me patchy: patchy in that he describes small, isolated activities and also patchy in that commendably they cover a problem, but sadly only in a piecemeal way.

The essence of what is wrong with the Church is summed up in diagram in the chapter, Towards A Very Odd Church Indeed. Here we have three types of response to Christianity: the traditional, the liberal and the radical. There is little doubt where Strudwick’s loyalties are: the radical. So, for example, in the series of contrasts he draws, under the heading ‘Power’, the traditional wants ‘authority ...mediated through a hierarchy’; whereas the liberal position is ‘about management’; and finally the radical wants ‘all contribute through participation and challenge’. Or take the topic of Ideology: the traditional want ‘Divine right: it is all ordained’; whereas the liberal sees ‘the market leads’; and the radical says, ‘conflict must be recognised and worked at’.

It is all very admirable and I especially like his exhaustive and extremely interesting notes that consistently punctuate the text. Strudwick is well-versed in not only the history and traditions of the Anglican church, but also of other denominations, especially Catholics, too. Even the Quakers get a mention (though not in the Index, bizarrely). When near the end of his very long – and life time - tether with the Anglican church and its intransigent refusal to embrace radicalism, it is to the Quakers that he, via Richard Holloway, turns: “Quakers believed in the authority of the inner light … and if the Bible said otherwise, then the Bible was wrong”. On top of that Strudwick likes and cites frequently too the poets and literature. Wonderful – a small cornucopia of heaven for someone like me.

But that said, there are some less pleasing aspects of this narrative. The autobiographical weave reveals someone who has been at the centre of things for a long time, but possibly too obsessed with the centre. First, there is a slightly wearisome sense of name-dropping, especially of all the Archbishops of Canterbury over the decades but of other luminaries too. Then he also seems to think that re-hashing his notes or ideas from conferences held decades ago is going to prove useful or interesting. In his mind, clearly, he is still fighting those fights, but what I think we need is more core summaries and moving on to where we are now. A good example of this is where he repeats the ‘guidelines’ for the 1997 Quebec Conference where the ‘Anglican Bishop of Quebec, the Rt Rev. Bruce Stavert invited’ him to lead with the title ‘Models for a Changing Church’ – and then half a page of guidelines. The whole thing is too micro-orientated and the big picture is somewhat blurred by all this detail; though, I do not doubt Strudwick was very pleased to be invited to speak, as is clear in other examples.

Perhaps my biggest criticism, however, would be that for all his energy and enthusiasm for his Church, I am not sure he really empathises with those who disagree, or sees accurately the nature of what he is debunking. As the book progresses, we sense more and more how in tune with John Robinson’s ‘Honest to God’ position he is, and this position, of course, de-mythologises Christianity. It becomes apparent that Strudwick does not believe in miracles or in other core aspects of the Creeds as traditionally understood, and there are consequences of this which I think are important.

First, whilst he genuinely wants to help the poor, he seems not to realise that the de-mythologised version of Christianity he is advocating is not something the under-educated – often the poor – often readily ‘understand’ or ‘get’; and what – despite his assertion about the personhood of Christ being central – this comes down to is that why bother with Christianity at all? We just need to love people and have plenty of soup-kitchens? But the problem with that, it seems for Strudwick, is that he’d miss his cathedrals! Behind the radical, perhaps, a traditionalist in some profound and uneasy ways.

Moreover, he writes, “Many were horrified by the sight of the bishops lining up in the House of Lords to vote against equal marriage, which had so much support in society at large, especially amongst the younger population that the church so desperately wanted to attract.” This is a complex issue, but one thing I think is certainly true: Christianity, and no other religion I know of, has its policies and beliefs dictated by popular vote or plebiscite. Indeed, the Bible wisely advises us not to conform to the thinking of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. For all the analysis and learning, I suspect Strudwick is simply a partisan: even his phrase ‘equal marriage’ begs the question in advance of determining if such a thing is right or wrong, or good or bad. The early Christians went to their deaths because they did not conform with what society thought right and proper, but that doesn’t seem to have occurred to Strudwick as even a spiritual possibility, so fixated is he on getting people into church and thereby re-vitalising it.

There is a lot to commend in this book, and it is certainly an interesting read: I did not want to put it down, although I found plenty in it which I thought undigested, naïve and – yes – desperate. But for an overview of the Anglican church in the Twentieth Century this is a useful and gripping story., despite getting overloaded at times with finicky details.


Review: Unbelievable? Why, after 10 years of Talking with Atheists, I’m Still a Christian

Quakers like words, and they produce enough of them, but if there is one form of words they are perhaps sceptical about, it is probably that type that is called ‘Apologetics’. Apologetics have been with Christianity since the very beginning; Christ himself engaged in them with his disputes against the Pharisees and Sadducees, and St Peter himself, as Justin Brierley notes, advises Christians to ‘always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks of you the reason for the hope that you have’ (1 Peter 3.15). Indeed, Christianity has been arguing with the world ever since its foundation; and whereas in the first century AD the opponents were either, mainly, the Jewish legalists or the pagans, now the enemy on the doorstep tends to be the atheists with their assault on Christianity in particular and religions in general. But as I say, Quakers tend to be apologetics-averse and for two very good reasons: first, because they are not a credal-type of religion, and so just as this makes them trickier to attack, so they have less reason to rebut and dispute; and this leads to the second reason, which is that the lack of creeds is quite deliberate in that early on Quakers realised that words, and forms of words, led to ceaseless wrangling – and even actual violence – that contradicted the spirit of Christ and what His inner meaning is: namely, peace and love. For these reasons, then, Quakerism does not much engage in apologetics, and prefers to be more experiential than intellectual in its approach to true religion.

I am a Quaker myself, so obviously I think this is a good thing. But I can also see its danger; and one such danger that I frequently encounter and is directly attributable to the lack of apologetics – or ‘think-through’ – is that acceptance of a wishy-washy kind of love that accepts everybody and so proclaims that all religions are equal, we are all on the same path, and we are all – eventually - going to the same destination. To me this (not the acceptance of all people but the belief consequent from it) is self-evident tosh because, were it true, there would be no reason to become a Quaker; indeed, why adopt any religion at all if all roads lead to the same place? The answer that one simply prefers being a Quaker is so weak because it leads one into the wilderness of entire subjectivism, and all that that entails, which includes deep atheism and the undermining of all true morality (which Quakers, wishing to emphasise the power of love, are most keen to sustain).

Thus, a book like Justin Brierley’s “Unbelievable”, on the face of it, is not a book that many Quakers are going to like. It is published by SPCK, so has an evangelical flavour anyway; it is overtly argumentative (though in a deeply respectful way – more anon on this); and it explicitly supports traditional and credal Christianity (an anathema to many Quakers). So, should you buy or read it?

Well, in my opinion, absolutely yes: I loved the book, and I think all fair-minded Quakers will. I wasn’t aware before I read it that there is a radio station in Oxford called Premier Christian Radio (available in podcasts, so you don’t need to be in Oxford) whose flagship programme is called, Unbelievable?, and on a weekly basis for the last ten years or more Justin Brierley invites two guests (it started with one atheist and one Christian, but expanded to include other religions) to debate their beliefs, and he hosts/referees this. It has led to some phenomenal guests either appearing in the show or in his being able to contact and interview; for example, famous types like Derren Brown and Richard Dawkins on behalf of atheists, and people of the stature of Alister McGrath and William Lane Craig on behalf of Christianity. The thing is, and what is so refreshing, is the respect and devotion almost, that Brierley pays to the ‘opposition’. There is no doubt he is a Christian and where his loyalties rest, but it is clear too that the best arguments for atheism have seriously challenged his position, his beliefs, and he has had to do some very heavy wrestling to be able to remain standing in his faith.

What we get in this book is a wonderfully respectful account of the very best arguments for atheism, often using the words from the ‘expert’ atheists themselves; and we get some of their adversaries’ ripostes and gems of wisdom too; and we get Brierley in the middle trying to make sense of it and, critically, truly anxious to avoid trivialising the matters or ever appearing smug about them. Towards the end of the book he observes, perhaps ruefully, but accurately: “In the end, nobody gets argued into the kingdom of heaven”.

Because he starts from this respectful, opening, and listening base, the net result is that I think this is one of the best books on apologetics I have read – and I have read a lot. There is a clarity here which is a joy to read, and especially to follow his thinking as it emerges. It would be too much to describe all that he covers, but in my view there are 4 main (‘main’ in the sense that ordinary people can get it – not just philosophers and theologians) arguments for the existence of God and subsequently of Christianity: one, the argument from design and the structure of the cosmos; two, the argument from the existence of objective morality; three, the historical argument, which includes discussion of the Bible and other related historical documents; and four, the one that Quakers especially like, the argument from personal experience. The pros and cons of each of these arguments are superbly covered in this book, and I found myself gaining new insights and perspectives from reading it.

For example, he quotes Os Guinness tellingly: “The Christian faith is not true because it works; it works because it is true”. Or, take the surprising riposte to atheism’s most effective argument against God, the problem of pain and suffering. Brierley, whilst exhibiting due compassion and humility in the face of what often appears to be its full enormity, then turns its cutting edge wholly against the atheists themselves: “Within Christian belief, suffering is at least a mystery we can hope to make sense of. In atheism, it is simply meaningless.” That – that – is perfectly put. It’s all very well atheists going on about ‘How can a loving God allow …” but what do they offer by way of exchange? Absolutely nothing at all, except we die, we rot. A more hopeless and useless position, it seems to me, cannot be imagined. If the situation of human life is bad with Christianity, then, Brierley is suggesting, atheism only makes it far worse.

There are nuggets of insight and information everywhere in the book. I was amused towards the end by a statistic that Brierley quotes that, despite the disproportionate noise that atheism makes, on a global level atheism is shrinking as a proportion of the world’s population: “In 1970, atheists made up 4.5% of the world’s population. That figure shrank to 2% in 2010 and is projected to drop to 1.8% by 2020”.  However, Brierley certainly doesn’t wish for them not to exist! Au contraire, he fully acknowledges what he has learnt from them, and how their existence how sharpened his own Christianity; for the truth is, it is so easy to become complacent about religion and dismissive of other people’s perspectives, and to retire into private spiritual ghettos. The Dawkins of this world, then, provide – despite their intentions – a salutary wake-up call to Christianity to get its act together, and to get its thinking right.

Finally, there is a lot in this book – since I have already mentioned Dawkins – about science and its supposed incompatibility with God. Clearly, Brierley rejects this notion and adduces a lot of authorities and ideas which also reject it too. But there is a wonderful quotation which he uses as an epigraph to Chapter 2 that is worth quoting in full: “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you”. This is attributed to Werner Heisenberg. How wonderful, how appropriate!

If you are interested at all in strengthening the intellectual basis of your Christian faith, then I strongly recommend you read this book.