April 18, 2012

Yelling Doesn't Work

An oldie but still gold. 

In the early 1960's, when Tom Watson Jr. was CEO of IBM he discovered that one of his executives made a mistake costing the company $10 million. He called the man into his office asking him "Do you know why I called you here?" The man replied "I assume you're going to fire me."

"Fire you?" Watson replied. "I spent $10 million educating you. I just want to be sure you learned the right lessons."

Watson could have easily justified yelling at, reprimanding or firing the executive. That was the expected and easier response. But his choice instead turned failure into an opportunity for learning and growth that ultimately would benefit both men and the  company. 

It also increased the integrity or wholeness of the company. No doubt people were inspired and encouraged by his reaction whereas another response might have set up a collective fear response. People might then be afraid to take risks for fear of failure.

When we communicate, we do more than convey a thought or idea, we create a world for ourselves and those who receive the communication that will result in either a positive or negative response in the other person. 

Too often, we turn our brain on loudspeaker without considering how our words will affect those listening. 

Being yelled at or reprimanded leads to a threat response in the brain resulting in resources being channeled away from the working memory which processes new information and ideas. This impairs problem solving, creative and analytical thinking at a time when people most need these resources.

Instead try wholesome communication that respects the other person's worldview, brings clarity, learning and understanding to the situation resulting in a positive outcome for all involved. This empowers people to learn from mistakes, grow and move forward supporting you and those around you to reach your (and their) greatest potential. 

April 17, 2012

6 Lessons in Influence from a Karate Master

 My karate teacher (sensei), Masataka Mori is a 9th Dan and the chief instructor of the International Japanese Karate Association. Even though I haven't trained with him in years, he will always be my sensei. If he walked into a conference full of hundreds, or even thousands of people, you would instantly know who trained with him. They would be the ones standing and bowing towards this one man. This would include anyone on stage. Such is the respect he commands.

Here are six ways you can garner that level of respect and influence.

1. Be 100% congruent to your work. Karate is about leadership, respect for yourself and others, and integrity. Mori sensei lives his life in integrity and with total commitment to karate. It isn't what he does, it is who he is. This is also fits in with his values, talents and interests. His conversations, movements and being all are a perfect expression of a master. Ensure what you are doing and where you are is the right fit for you. Never try to fit a square peg into a round hole. It doesn't work.

2. Be completely reliable. We know exactly who sensei is and can rely on him to deliver on what he promises. If he says 10am, we know it will be precisely 10am. That gives us certainty and the knowing what our time with him will be like. To have power and influence you first need to give people certainty. That is the foundation for trust and respect.

3. Accept others for who they are, even if they are different to your expectations. There far more people who train with only a superficial interest in karate than there are true devotees. He instantly knows where you fit in and doesn't judge. He accepts however you want to train and works with you to your commitment. However, he only puts individual attention and time into those who are truly committed. In this way everyone is left with a choice and responsibility for their development.

Not everyone at work is going to be fanatically devoted to the organisation. Sometimes people are unwilling. It doesn't mean they can't provide a valuable contribution. Tailor your attention to match their commitment and find a way for the others to contribute. You never know, they might come around.

4. Only see people for their greatest potential. Sensei relates to people as their highest self and ignores the rest. In relating to people as all that they can be, you enable others to have a window into their own abilities and greatness. When you see the best in others, you help lift them out of their own self-criticism and doubts. It is inspiring, moving and intoxicating and motivates others to give more. Remember, people often are their worst critics and focus on their inabilities. Shift their focus to what they are great at and they'll do more of that.

5. Respect the belt. There is the story of the karate student who, when he received his first black belt bowed. When he received his second level, he bowed lower. When he received his third, he bowed even lower. Sensei is a 9th dan, the highest ranking belt in the world today. He wears it, not with pride, but with the knowledge of the responsibility that comes with that power. As a result he is not arrogant about his abilities and accomplishments, nor is he humble. Instead, he has achieved a comfort in his skin and an inner peace with who he is. He both owns and respects his power and position. To what extent do you?

6. Be unwilling to hear complaints or talk of failure. Sensei is unwilling to listen to fears or concerns for what we can't do. That "can do" culture in training is so strong that no one even says the words "I can't" or "I'll try." There is no try. There is no failure. There is just do. You do, do, do until you succeed. Up until that point, you are doing, not failing.

I remember one evening, as I was warming down after a training session, Sensei stood in front of me and said "One step punch." While it was so long ago that I can't recall how far away he was, I do know it was way beyond what I thought I could reach in one step.

At that time I had had three knee operations and struggled to relax my body into the right position to be fluent in my movements. I had constant pain during training and thus, often held back from stepping forward to the fullest extent. I was willing to accept my perceived limitations. He wasn't.

There was no saying "I can't, it's too far." or even "We've just trained for 1 1/2 hours, I'm exhausted." All I could do was nod and go for it. So, I did and did and did and then reached him. It was a real triumph.

Then he stepped back. "One step punch." By that time I was really worn out, but again kept on doing until I reached him. I was exhilarated and while I didn't expect him to jump up and down, I was hoping for a smile.

Instead, he stepped back. This time, my internal dialogue is unprintable. It took many more doing until I reached him, but I did. He nodded and walked away.

In that moment, I completely altered my perceptions of what I was capable of doing. Never again did I entertain being unable to do something, just unwilling.

That day I learned that the potential within me was far greater than I might ever fully comprehend.

Often people need a champion who believes in them enough to ignore their whining and push them beyond what they can see is possible. As a leader, you need to see the potential within and continually relate to that possibility until it is brought forward.

When you show people that you believe in them and are unwilling to allow for anything less than their best you will have their respect for life.