Previous post in this series
Is on it ways… soon ;-)
Is on it ways… soon ;-)
It’s got to be like this. And if it’s like this, it obviously cannot be like that. This is the world your ego loves.
We have been exploring the difference between to be above the line and below the line in a number of blogposts now. The concept of ‘this’ not ‘that’ relates back to my original video in this serie about how we get trapped in wanting to be right. When we get trapped in ‘this’ not ‘that’, then we also are trapped in right and wrong and black and white and all the rest of it. And that’s fine. As long as we are operating in a simple world: that car is blue, that horse is moving or appels are fruits.
Video and Soundcloud versions below
But as soon as we start moving out of very simple situations and into something that starts getting more complicated or even more complex, we start getting into trouble.
Just to recapitulate, computers are complicated. They are difficult but once you figure them out then you know how they will respond. A bowl of spaghetti on the other hand is complex. You have no idea how its is ‘configured’. If you pull a strand what happens next? It is unpredictable and the next bowl will behave differently.
That’s the beauty of complexity. Things are so interconnected and there’s so much randomness in the system that we don’t really know how things will evolve, respond or perform. In a complex world ‘this’ not ‘that’ is pretty useless. It doesn’t work.
So why do we get trapped in wanting to be right? Well, you’ll see what happens is that most of us get scared when faced with complexity. We have nothing to hold on to, no rules to live by and our little ego freaks out and looks for something to cling to: And there is it is ‘this’ not ‘that’. The moment it does, it drags us below the line. It’s the end of open mind, we no longer see possibilities, we are not open to perspectives. We are fighting for ego-survival. It’s ‘this’ not ‘that’!
In order to stay above the line, we need get comfortable with complexity and we need to be okay with our ‘not knowing’. Complexity means dealing with the grey tones, resisting the black and white solutions. In complexity, we need more options, because we can’t possibly know beforehand which options will actually work out.
That is the world that we’re operating in.
And in case you were wondering, anything that involves human beings is not only complicated, it is also very complex. That means the big error we keep on making is, we think we can reduce all those questions regarding our teams and people to ‘this’ not ‘that’. If we do ‘this’, they are going to do ‘that’. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. It just depends. “If we give them a bonus, they will do this”. Maybe, some people will, sometimes. Maybe they won’t. To be a great team leader is also to become a master of complexity.
Maybe you have now decided for yourself: ‘I will never, ever again fall into a drama triangle’. I know I’ve tried that approach more than once . Well, I can tell you something. It’s not going to work. It doesn’t work because we drift. In the post I will show you how we need to shift instead
Here is the video version and the sound track version for thos on the go
We start out with some degree of presence. We are totally ‘here now’ And then something happens. Something that causes us to drift out of presence. It could be beep on the cell phone. “Oh, sorry. Just a minute , oh no, not again. Yeah, sorry. Where were we?”
Or we just, can’t stay concentrated. Our mind starts floating: I wonder what’s for lunch? These interruptions and many more we call drift. And when we drift, we easily slip below the line. ( because left to its own devices our Ego loves to run the show) And before we know it we get caught in the drama triangle again.
And so the issue is not to never ever get caught in the drama triangle because you’re not going to solve that. The real challenge is you need to develop the awareness to realise when that is what is happening.
And then you need to develop the skills to shift yourself back out of the drama triangle and up into presence of being fully ‘here now’. A simple first step of shifting is to take a deep breath, and re-center. Then you ask yourself the key question: I wonder how we could fix/solve/develop that. By activating a ‘creating’ question we come back to the present. A question that seeks to create something that would contribute to the current situation. That’s the core skill and that’s what we need to practice.
This concludes my first six-post series on leadership skills, based around this model of above and below the line.
I will continue these VBlogs in the future, and will continue to explore the leadership qualities that we need to develop in order to become great team leaders.
Here are the previous post in this series
For the full version watch the video or listen to the audio as you prefer
In every situation there is a space, and in that space you have a choice. The choice to react or respond.
Victor Frankel wrote:
Above the line and below the line is also the difference between responding (above the line) or reacting, which immediately puts you below the line. When we are hijacked by our emotional system, we automatically fall into the trap of the drama triangle. And we choose a role for ourselves. When we choose a role for ourselves, we at the same time try and push the people around us or the circumstances of whatever into one of the two other roles to get the drama triangle going. And as we mentioned last time, this only serves the purpose of creating a lot of emotional friction, hot air, whatever you like. But it never leads to any constructive solutions. As long as we are caught in the drama triangle, we have no possibility to, create anything meaningful or useful. We just go round and round in circles like cats chasing our own tails.
Try and listen for your own language and notice how your own language will determine whether you are starting a new drama triangle or whether you already are responding and trying to pull the whole conversation into a completely new sphere above the line where we’re outcome focused, constructive and trying to find solutions. And if you can manage that, and if you get good at that, then you’re going to see how people love to work with you.
Previous blog posts in this series on Team Leadership Skills and working above and below the line:
Have you ever had this feeling of just knowing that you are right?
Well, I have some interesting news for you. It is just that, a feeling. An emotion, in the same category as anger or love and likewise it has no connection to reason.
When you have this feeling about just how right you are – you could just as well be wrong. In a complex world there are not many simple answers.
You may not realise it but this feeling that you are right comes with some serious consequences for your role as a team leader.
Below is the video version and below that the text version – whatever works best for you:
In my previous blog posts, we started to explore this model that we call above and below the line and we looked at the disadvantages of being below the line.
Just to recap: Below the line, we are in a reactive defensive position where it’s more about our own survival, the survival of our ego than anything else. There is no learning and we are closed to new ideas.
It’s not the best place to be, when as team leaders we are trying to create followership or build relationships with other people.
Now, pause and digest this for a moment. When you have this feeling of being right, it is not the result of a careful thought process. It’s just a feeling.
And only when someone challenges your ‘rightness’, will you perform a post feeling rationalisation and come up with arguments that supports your original feeling.
Your sense of being right about something, the sparkling clarity of certainty, is not a thought process, not a reasoning process, but an emotion that has nothing to do with whether you are right or not.Jennifer Garvey Berger
Ah, you will say but when I tell you that 2+2 is 4 then I am right and it’s not a feeling it’s fact! Yep – the problem here is that people will not challenge you on what is to all an accepted fact. They will challenge the complex stuff that you feel so sure about but which is possibly not as simple as you
think feel. I will post some reference at the end where you can read more. It’s fascinating stuff in my view.
The reason this is intersting from a team leader’s perspective is that when we give in to that feeling of being right we also automatically shift down below the line. We desperately want to defend our ‘rightness’ and the more insecure we are in our leadership role the harder we will defend our rightness. As a result we become reactive, defensive and ego driven.
This is what Jennifer Carvey Berger in her wonderful book, “Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps: How to Thrive in Complexity” calls falling into a mindtrap.
Caught in this mind trap we are in a really toxic unconstructiv place and the sooner we get out of it the better.
How do we do that?
The first step is to be aware. You must actually notice that, this is what is happening. As soon as you register yourself moving into this pattern of rightness, then all your alarm bells should go off and you should try and stop the process. The way you do that is by awakening your own curiosity.
The easiest way to do that is to ask yourself a question beginning with :
Jennifer Carvey Berger says, you could ask yourself the key question: ( I wonder) How could I be wrong?
It works like magic.
When you have the courage to question your own knowing you also have the key to shift yourself back up above the line. You awaken your curiosity, you awaken your ability to learn and you start engaging with others without the defensive boundaries you otherwise would have erected.
Chances are you will learn something that would have been completely lost if you’d stayed stuck down below the line.
So I hope this week’s post has inspired you to try and catch yourself feeling right and to experiment with asking yourself, “I wonder… “
Next week I’m going to explore with you what else is going on below the line. Besides just wanting to defend being right there is a whole swamp of toxic emotions that are activated automatically and they are not helpfull at all.
Reading that might inspire you:
Previous blog posts in this series on Team Leadership Skills and working above and below the line:
I get a lot of questions around this subject of leadership and leadership skills.
How does one develop leadership skills? Are leaders born or developed? What do I need to do to become a better teamleader? I have colletede the over the years – I have over 300 variant of this question. What are way that i can develop my leadership skills
Despite the fact that there are thousands of books on this and masses of courses one can dive into this question comes up again and again.
So this is how I think about it
To understand what leadership is, we need to look at the concept of followership. There is no leadership if there is no followership. The followers define the leader.
I love this old joke:
A leader without followers is just a guy out for a walk. ( or a girl).
If you’re not able to generate followership, you are not a leader, period.
So what does it take to generate followership?
The essence of generating followership is the ability to build trust. If you’re not able to build trust with the people around you, you don’t have a chance. There is no followership. They may pay lip service to what you say and ask, but there’s no true engagement or genuine followership.
Let’s examine some of the elements that make up trust?
The notion of leadership, first of all, implies that we are going some place. It is implicitly understod that you are leading me towards something. So where are we going? Can you explain to me the direction that we’re going and why we need to go there? If you can’t tell me where we’re going and why we need to go there, why on earth would I choose to follow you?
We can have the big grandiose visions, missions, whatever you want to call them. John F. Kennedy famously said “Put a man on the moon”. Martin Luther King roared : “ I have a dream !”
What do you as a team leader see for your team as a future? Where do you want to take this team? What will be your legacy?. Do you want to be the best customer service team in the organisation? Do you want to be known as the team that was innovative and brought new solutions to your customers? What is it? What is it that you’re trying to do? What is going to be different because of your leadership?
Peter Drucker wrote : What manager mange is change – the rest is admin
If it’s just about maintaining status quo, staying put, then we don’t need a leader, do we? We just need a custodian. Somebody to tally the time sheets and make sure nobody steals the furniture. There’s no need for leadership.
When we’ve established that we are going somewhere exciting, then the next thought that comes to me as your team member is am I going to be safe? Is it safe for me to follow you?
That safety comes on two basic levels. Is it physically safe? Are we going to do something dangerous that could put me in danger? In most companies we’re not going to climb Mount Everest or something like that, but there are lots of teams that do all sorts of dangerous stuff. So they need to trust that the team leader will keep them safe.
The other aspect which is much more crucial in corporations and organisations is am I going to be emotionally safe? Am I going to feel okay being on this team? Am I going to be worried that you’re suddenly going to scream and shout at me? Am I going to be worried that if I make a mistake, every one will ridicule me? Am I going to feel accepted by the others? Is it going to be okay to voice my opinion? Is it going to be okay to be me? Am I going to fit in?
These are important aspects that you as a leader have to find out how to accommodate. How do you make everybody feel safe physically and emotionally? It’s your responsibility.
It’s the classic trade off that goes right back to when we hunted in small groups on the great plains. We accept that somebody in the group is a leader and that being the leader comes with some perks? (First choice of females or food etc back in those days – now, the leader may just get the better office chair ;-) )
None the less, the trade off is that I accept you as my leader if you protect me. That’s the basic deal.
If I’m going on this trip with you as my leader, will you see me or will I just be one more insignificant cog in the machinery? When I talk to you are you going to be on your iPhone half the time trying to do something else? Or are you truly going to see me, when we interact with each other?
Am I going to develop myself? Or is this project mainly about you as the team leader and how you are going to further your career? Is it our project or your project. Will you as my leadertake the time and create the space for me to improve myself.
Will you as my team leader recognize that I have a contribution to make and will I be allowed to make that contribution? Will I be allowed to do what I’m best at?
So if I’m going to be allowed to contribute, learn and develop , it means that you as a leader are going to have to take some risks. I might make mistakes, I might screw up, I might make you look stupid. That’s the risk that you’re going to have to take. And when I do that, will you protect me despite the fact that I screwed up?
These are the key leadership skills that you need to work on if your want to build real followership.
And they all boil down to one thing:
Can I trust you?
You cannot learn to be a leader by reading a book. The same way that you can’t learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book, you need to do something and then you need to notice the feedback that you get. What happens when I do it? Are people taking chances? Are they contributing? Are they engaged? What is actually happening on my team?
Do I need to do something differently?
Sometimes it is really helpful to have somebody to discuss and develop some of these reflections with. That’s what one can use a coach for.
I hope this was a helpful. I’d love to hear your comments, ideas, feedback, anything you have to add, I am alway thrilled to engage with the people who read my blog and who also have a passion for Leadership .
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