The Oprah Winfrey TV show started on September 8 1986 and ran continuously for 25 years. In the final show Oprah said that over the 25 years, she had spoken to nearly 30,000 ‘hopefuls’ – in other words, people who wanted to be on her show. Obviously, very few made it through the series of interviews culminating in their being chosen to appear on the show.
She said: "I've talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: 'Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?'
"Understanding that one principle, that everybody wants to be heard, has allowed me to hold the microphone for you all these years with the least amount of judgment…it's helped me to try to do that with an open mind and to do it with an open heart. It has worked for this platform, and I guarantee you it will work for yours. Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. 'I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.'"
This is a powerful lesson. Can you imagine how much better the world would be if every man, woman and child felt that they had been seen, heard and that what they said mattered. Isn’t that a huge lesson for each of us? We have a role to play, even if we don’t agree with what the person is saying.
Let me share a specific example: Geoff lives this principle in an effective way. I used to smile when our grandchildren were young and came to him complaining about each other. He would listen intently, and quietly say, ‘I have taken note of what you said’. He gave them the impression that he had seen them, he had heard them and what they said mattered. Usually that was the end of the conversation! They felt validated and were satisfied.
Practice this principle and you will be helping to make the world a better place for everyone.
My questions for you are:
- How powerfully do you feel the presence of others?
- In which ways do you acknowledge a person’s presence, even if you aren’t able to attend to them immediately?
- How open and non-judgemental do you appear?
- What could you do to focus more intently on the person speaking?
- What do you practice in order to minimise barriers to your being more receptive to what the person is saying?
- How can you show the speaker that what they say matters – even if you don’t agree with what they are saying?
For more information on Executive Coaching, either ‘in person’ or via electronic means, please contact Brenda Eckstein, firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311, www.strategy-leadership.com
Clients often express the need to improve their conversation skills. While this falls more under the realm of the training and mentoring services which I offer, conversation also provides the framework for Executive Coaching.
As humans, conversation affects every aspect of our lives ranging from public dialogue between nations to good-night stories with our children. I even talk to my dogs! Here the tone of voice is as important as the content of our message. That applies when talking to humans, too. In addition, our presence, the way we present ourselves, is also important. How do we come across? - as ‘open’, non-judgmental and friendly? – or as unapproachable?
Effective conversation skills can be learned. And the more we practise, the more confident we become. Thus we more readily accept invitations. Being able to participate or engage enables us to build positive relationships. We get to know people. This opens more opportunities leading to trust. The more we trust people, the more likely we are to view them as ‘the person of choice’ when making decisions. In addition, when we are the ‘person of choice', there is more likelihood of an absence of malice. In other words, when things go wrong we are given the ‘benefit of the doubt’.
I have given more detail on conversation skills in my two books on networking, ‘Networking Tactics: a guide to achieving success through personal networking’ and ‘ABCs of Networking: Fifty-two ways to achieve success' . My invitation is for you also to refer to the following, just a few of the 200 articles under the blog section of my website:
- Use your voice at the boardroom table
- Family conversation starters
- Discover the person sitting next to you
So, as a coach or mentor, how do I help people to improve their conversation skills? Here I am covering just a few aspects.
The ‘listen, comment, question’ technique
The first step is to build new neural pathways through practising my ‘listen, comment, question' technique on an ongoing basis. This approach can be applied to a wide range of communication skills such as coaching, interviewing and also to informal conversations.
As you can see, there are three parts to this technique. We need to listen deeply to what the person is, or isn’t saying. I also put the word, ‘look’ here as often the first step is to comment on something visual. This could be the person’s namebadge, their business card or your perception that they appear familiar.
The next step is to comment on what the person has just said. That shows them that you have been listening and that you are interested.
Next you ask an open question. I am going to expand on this part of the ‘listen, comment, question’ technique. The art of asking powerful questions can also be learned. Open questions encourage the person to talk while you listen. So making non-judgmental comments and asking powerful questions go hand-in-hand.
Let’s look at how we develop those ‘powerful questions’ whether we are coaching, taking part in a board meeting or speaking to friends. Coaching can teach us certain techniques and here I’m going to show you a few of hundreds of possible examples (of questions) of how a few simple models, fully supported by philosophical frameworks can be used:
Habermas – I/we/it
- How is the issue affecting you?
- Who could support you?
- In the broader context of your industry, what will the benefits be of your finding a solution?
Wilber’s Integral Theory – four-quadrant model
- (I – inside me) How does this (what the person has just said) align with your value system?
- (I – outside me) What actions do you intend taking?
- (We – inside group) Who are the other role-players or stake-holders?
- (It – outside – environment) How does this impact on the system?
- What have you tried in the past?
- How are you dealing with the issue at present?
- What will the future look like if you resolve the issue?
- If your head were to write you a letter now, what would it say?
- What is your heart’s message?
- Looking at the possible tension between the two responses above:
o What impasse (lack of action) are you notising?
o Which actions would be favourable?
Above I have given just a few simple example of how really listening to what a person is saying (and what they are not saying), processing that information and fitting it into models, can help frame powerful questions which will lead to quality conversation.
But take care! You can’t just learn these questions parrot fashion and fire them at the person you are talking to. You need to really listen, comment on what they have just said (so they know you really are listening) and then ask a relevant question that will stimulate them to their share more information or insights with you. This will lead to greater understanding and enable you to the ‘the person of choice’. But you need to be genuinely interested in what the other person is saying.
So, practise, practise, practise – and you are welcome to come to me if you need more help. Thank you!
My questions for you are:
- Currently, under which circumstances is it important for you to ask the right questions?
- How can you gain confidence in ‘leaning in’ and actually asking those relevant questions?
- Think of a recent incident where your comment would have been valuable – where you missed an opportunity. In that situation what should you have said?
- How can you improve in this area in the future?
For further information on Executive Coaching, mentoring, training in communication skills or leadership development please contact me, Brenda on +27 82 4993311 or email@example.com Thank you!
Many people find job applications challenging. Having a framework helps. During my Communication Skills Courses run primarily for young engineers we work on the outline and tips described below:
When applying for a job or internship, your cover letter and CV usually provide your potential employer with a first impression of you as a candidate. Writing these can be challenging and the purpose of this article is to provide an outline of how to set about preparing these important documents.
However, please remember that if these are well written, give a positive impression and the reader would like to consider further, the next thing they are likely to do is to gain a further impression of you from social media. So, be authentic but be careful in how you present yourself publicly. Your genuine ‘personal brand’ should shine through and not just be a veneer on the surface!
In this article we are going to provide tips on two important documents:
1. The cover letter
2. Curriculum Vitae (CV)
1. Cover letter
The cover letter should be brief and well thought out.
In order to tailor it to the specific position for which you are applying, read the advertisement carefully and pick up key words that appear there paying particular attention to the job description.
Here is an outline of a typical cover letter:
Opening line: Dear Mr/Mrs or To Whom It May Concern
• Why are you suitable for that position? Motivate your answer providing brief evidence
• Tell them what you can offer
• Thank the company/person for considering your application and show that you are interested in further dialogue
2. Curriculum Vitae
Your CV should provide a potential employer with an overview or summary of the following:
- Your personal information (full name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, street address, webpage (if relevant) and any direct social media links (such as LinkedIn).
- Your qualifications listed in reverse chronological order. Include subjects, distinctions, awards received and leadership or social responsibility positions.
- Your work history. Relevant to the job that you are applying for, emphasise your main experience, achievements, contributions and key lessons learned.
- The experience and skills that you can use in the position: e.g. computer literacy, leadership of teams, language etc.
- Your fields of interest pertinent to that specific job.
- Whenever possible, plan documents to be concise so that they fit onto one page (using normal size font, spacing and layout). People are more likely to immediately read a one-pager than a longer document which they automatically put in the ‘to do’ pile…and often never some back to it!
- The image and professional appearance of your documents is important. Make sure that your formatting is good, your language is professional and there are no errors in grammar or spelling.
- It is usually not necessary to include personal information like dependents, health status etc. in the cover letter or CV.
The above is a general outline providing some tips on the cover letter and CV. Explore further, see what other sources recommend and if possible, ask questions of the person to whom the application is directed. You want to provide what they are looking for in order to create a good first impression!
Prepare carefully and you are more likely to be successful. Good luck!
For more information on Communication Skills courses and other training please contact Brenda personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311
Do you feel overwhelmed - as though you are not achieving enough? As a leader you most probably experience the outside world as being volatile, uncertain, complex and as ambiguous (VUCA). Volatility and uncertainly make it more difficult to make decisions as variables are changing so fast that there often isn’t time to collect all the relevant information.
External forces create an environment of complexity and ambiguity. This applies in the world of work, too. New trends and challenges mean that we can no longer automatically continue to use the practices and tactics that worked in the past. The influence of Millennials makes it important to dislodge much of our traditional way of thinking. Disruption is essential in order to take advantage of opportunities for the future. The rapid advances in technology bring about many of the other changes to which leaders and other executives need to adapt. There are a multitude of other changes taking place in the workplace, too. In the real world, the practical application of the empowerment of women remains a challenge as does taking advantage of diversity.
External global and regional influences and emerging trends in the workplace result in increasing stress levels in leaders. This affects their ability to react or respond appropriately. When coaching leaders and other executives, I find that managing the present often consumes their time and energy. They find it difficult to allocate time to strategic issues, leading to the future.
These were some of my findings in my research study on ‘The role of coaching in developing character strengths in leaders’. This was part of my M Phil degree (Management Coaching) through the University of Stellenbosch Business School (2017). As a practicing executive coach I became increasingly interested in a gap in knowledge. Why wasn’t coaching being used more effectively, in general, in developing leaders in global organisations? And what coaching approaches, programmes, models and other techniques would result in outcomes which would help clients to shift their ‘way of being’ and thus cope better? This was with specific reference to coaching leaders in global organisations. I continued testing my coaching model which I streamlined for that purpose, and continue to adjust as I gain new insights. This has helped to refine my topic and model for a potential PhD study.
But how do I, in simple terms, describe the complexity of how the model works? This has been a challenge as I need to be able to address an academic audience and also potential clients. I found that my content was too abstract and I was having a problem connecting my thoughts to something concrete. I battled. But I was very excited to find a solution during Prof Sebastian Kernbach’s outstanding course, ‘The Productive PhD’ presented at the African Doctoral Academy in January 2018. My core question when doing this exercise was, ‘how do I explain what happens to leaders during the coaching programme?’
I’m sharing the process I followed in order to demonstrate how visualising can help to take thoughts and assumptions which are implicit and convert them to explicit visuals. In other words, we can take complex messages and simplify in order to make it easier for us to explain to others and also more interesting for the audience to understand. These principles apply in academic contexts and also help us to become more productive as executives, leaders or in any other areas where we need to organise and express our thoughts. In fact, they apply to any person who wants to get their point across.
For the exercise that I’m outlining, Prof Kernbach stressed that we needed to rapidly prototype and iterate. Our aim should not be perfection or beauty in our drawings but rather on creating meaning. According to Ben Schneiderman:
‘The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures. It is not about aesthetics.’
In other words, by working speedily and roughly, the focus is on the message rather than on the detail in the drawing.
My first attempts at depicting how my model works when coaching leaders in global organisations appeared sterile. (Please see below.) However, we had been advised to value our failures, accepting them as part of the process, so I kept this series of rapid iterations and am sharing this version with you:
This visualisation did not achieve the desired outcome. It was not inspiring and it was hard to use this visual representation to explain the nuances of the changes that might occur in the leader as a result of being coached using an effective coaching programme. In the figure above I showed the external world (red) and the world of work (green) having an influence on the leader. These remained dominant influences during the coaching process. Moving from left to right, it showed how I visualised how the leader’s inner world (blue) was stifled but grew bigger through coaching.
But I realised that this diagram would not capture the listener’s attention through bringing the story to life. I was stuck!
I asked for help and Prof Kernbach came over to my table. As he listened, he quickly captured my message in visual format. As he proceeded, at each step he did a reality check, confirmed with me that he was understanding and on the right track. In less than five minutes, including a number of rough drawings, he arrived at the representation shown below.
He captured my intention in a fluid, flexible way. His emphasis was how the leader came into the coaching programme as a ‘frigid’ (rectangular) individual. (Seen on the left). His mouth was down and he was surrounded by the tough worlds pressing in around him. As the coaching proceeded, he was no longer a rectangle, but became a smiley resilient person. The leader has removed himself further from those oppressive worlds around him. They are still there, but in the last picture on the right (after 8 coaching sessions!) he is deflecting the demands of the external worlds.
Professor Kernbach’s interpretation inspired me to presevere and below is one of my later rough visualizations. This new series of drawings, is still ‘work in progress’ and will have further refinements, but has helped me to clarify my thoughts.
Remembering that it is neither the quality of the drawing that counts, nor how beautiful it is, but rather the ability of the presenter to clarify and express his thoughts, I quickly developed the visualization below. It needed to make it easier for me to explain my thoughts.
Let me explain my rough drawing above: At the beginning of the programme, shown on the left, the leader is ‘frigid’, almost paralysed through stress. He is inflexible. I have depicted him as a blue rectangle and his mouth is down and he is not looking ahead. The external world (brown) is not separated from him. He cannot distance himself. The same applies to his life in the workplace here drawn with a green pen. In both cases, the lines inward show the pressure or expectations of both worlds and how he is absorbing all the negative energy.
As the 8-stage coaching programme proceeds, moving towards the right, the leader becomes more and more flexible, more fluid and more able to adapt. After the eighth session he has grown, wears a big smile and is looking ahead. The external (VUCA) world remains the same size, but the leader is managing to distance himself from influences that could impact negatively on him. The same happens with the world of work. In both cases, because the leader has become more resilient, he is able to deflect the influences of both worlds and this is shown in the brown and green arrows.
You may ask: ‘Where does coaching show up in the diagram?’ A good coach remains flexible and ‘in the moment’ meets the person ‘where they are at’ at that time. So the red line between the beginning sessions is straight epitomising the need to match the coaching with the needs of the rectangular leader. Towards the end of the programme, as the coaching proceeds, the client benefits, becomes more receptive and the red line becomes more wavy signifying that the coaching has also been adapted to suits the person’s needs and the coach’s approach is thus much more fluid.
As you can see, what began as a difficult task for me mellowed into a fun, thought-provoking exercise. Before the visualization exercise, I battled to explain what the coaching programme seems to achieve and even in my first set of drawings, I did not appear to be gaining positive results. However, in the final series my thoughts are clearer and I’m able to more effectively describe the likely effects of the coaching programme.
I have shared just one example a visualization exercise. Examples are everywhere… in movies, maps, pie-charts, posters etc. I’m extremely grateful to Dr Kernbach and look forward to using different learnings from his course in my own self-development running parallel to my continuous progress as a coach and researcher. In addition, others will benefit either through being coached or when I mentor other coaches.
My message is that you can cope with feelings of overwhelm by becoming more productive. Make your thoughts explicit and easier to communicate to others. For example, as a leader or other executive use visualising in doing presentations. As a researcher one of the benefits will be that you will find it easier to get your message across. Use visual thinking to your benefit when thinking, communicating and writing and there will be benefits to those you influence. By becoming more productive you’ll be helping your organisation and its people to flourish.
Use these principles and you can more easily organise your thoughts, add meaning and make them explicit thus enabling you to share with others through communicating clearly. You can become more productive!
Please contact the following for more information on:
- Leadership development or executive coaching - Brenda Eckstein through www.strategy-leadership.com or email@example.com
- Visualization workshops - Professor Sebastian Kernbach through www.vicola.org
- The University of Stellenbosch Summer or Winter Schools: The African Doctoral Academy (ADA) - http://www0.sun.ac.za/ada/
The following is intended for those who are interested in the theoretical background to the above example of a visual thinking exercise:
There is a need for a new working intelligence (Kernbach, 2018). When we engage in activities like this, Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence (reference) is relevant as we are using three types of intelligence which he refers to as ‘analytical intelligence’, ‘creative intelligence’ and ‘practical intelligence’. We are using analytical intelligence for abstract thinking and logical reasoning. Creative intelligence comes into play allowing divergent thinking in novel situations. We are also using his third kind of intelligence, practical intelligence, in order to apply the knowledge to the real world and shape our environment. This requires methods, tools and resources.
During the course we captured our message in ‘one eye-span’, a term coined by Edward Tufte whose work was based on Cognitive Load Theory (Clark, Nguyen Sweller and Baddeley, 2006). Thus, our message needed to fit on one page so that we didn’t have to turn our heads. If you can see everything at once, you are able to make sense of information more easily as, for example, you don’t have to remember what was on the previous page. Visualisation extends the brain’s capacity through Distributed Cognition to help us make our implicit thought explicit and thus available to others. The use of shape colour, space and size are used to create visual representations of our messages.
The process here demonstrates aspects of Dual Coding Theory. Processing information through two channels, here imagery and verbal, and using them together increases engagement, attention and recall. The work of Barbara Tversky is relevant in her work on ‘picture superiority’.
- Black, A. (1992). Envisioning information: Edward Tufte, Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 126 pp. ISBN 0 961 3921 1 8.
- Clark, R. C., Nguyen, F., Sweller, J., & Baddeley, M. (2006). Efficiency in learning: Evidence‐based guidelines to manage cognitive load. Performance Improvement, 45(9), 46-47.
- Kernbach, S. (2018). The Productive PhD. African Doctoral Academy
- Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory: Retrospect and current status. Canadian Journal of Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie, 45(3), 255.
- Sadoski, M., & Paivio, A. (2013). Imagery and text: A dual coding theory of reading and writing. Routledge.
Shneiderman, B. (2008, June). Extreme visualization: squeezing a billion records into a million pixels. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM SIGMOD international conference on Management of data (pp. 3-12). ACM.
Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. CUP Archive.
- Tversky, B., Morrison, J. B., & Betrancourt, M. (2002). Animation: can it facilitate?. International journal of human-computer studies, 57(4), 247-262.
One of the highlights of my regular trips to Australia is visiting Officeworks, a chain of office suppliers with 163 locations. I also enjoy reading their Workwise articles on their website. These are of particular interest to small business.
It was fascinating to read a current article, published on November 2 2017, entitled ‘How to harness the power of email marketing’. Not only does this article provide information that will be valuable to any business, but there are worthwhile links to other websites and articles.
This article contains up-to-date information provided by Gary Eckstein, the founder of Organicweb. For his Master’s degree at Henley-on-Thames Business School in the UK he chose to study market entry strategies of Online retailers and continues to build on his knowledge in this field. He is listed as one of Australia’s Mailchimp experts. As such he writes articles, consults and presents training either ‘in person’ or virtually.
Read this article and you will improve the way you harness the power of email marketing.
My questions for you are after reading the Officeworks article:
- What are you doing to harness the power of email marketing?
- How can you improve the way you link your email campaigns to your marketing goals?
- How are you going about honouring your audience?
- What is it that your customers really need?
- In which ways are you using automation to deliver your results?
- How meticulous are you in creating your subject lines?
- What are you doing to use segmentation and personalisation in your campaigns?
- How are you using templates?
In my second published book, ‘ABCs of Effective Networking’, I urge people to engage in quality conversation while travelling. Through recognising and optimising opportunities I have met some wonderful people. Of course, you need to be cognisant of people’s need for privacy and I do consider it a privilege if I sense that they are happy to engage in conversation.
Let me give you an example: Last week on the 13 ½ hour flight from Sydney to Johannesburg I discovered that I had a great travelling companion. As we settled down I looked at the guy sitting next to me and said; ‘you look familiar…are you a cricketer?’ I know nothing about cricket but I knew my granddaughter would never forgive me if I’d sat next to a famous cricketer and didn’t bother to ask his name. He adamantly replied, ‘no, I have never played cricket. I am a surfer.’ The conversation could have ended at that point but I was intrigued and persisted further. Practising what I preach I continued. ‘Oh, that is interesting. Where do you surf?’ (You’ll notice that I’m giving an example of using my ‘listen-comment-question’ technique of building quality conversations.)
I was then able to lead the conversation towards our work-lives. When he mentioned that he is a professional speaker, the ‘penny dropped’. He was Travis Bell, the Bucket List Guy. He and I belonged to the same organisation of Professional Speakers in Australia. That is why he looked so familiar. Of course then the conversation flowed. As we chatted we discovered that there were so many people whom we both knew and we had attended the same conferences.
I discovered that the reason he was taking the flight to South Africa was because he was on a work assignment. He was on his way to Monte Casino to present at a coaching organisation’s conference. Thus our conversation turned towards coaching, a topic of great interest to both of us. So we had so many areas of common interest. You might like to have a look at one of his videos:
When next you travel by air, make a conscious effort to build quality conversation with the person sitting next to you. Use the ‘Listen – comment – question’ technique. And ask open questions. Yet, respect the person’s privacy. Not only are you likely to have a far more interesting journey, you’ll discover the person sitting next to you and enrich your own life.
My questions for you:
- How often do you connect with the person sitting next to you, whether it be during a journey or seated at a conference?
- What are you doing to improve your conversation skills?
- Once initiated, if the relationship is of value to you, what action can you take to sustain that relationship?
- Click here.
- Scroll down on the table of contents and click on Brenda Eckstein.
- Click on the download button in the top right hand corner of your screen or right click on the download button to either do a direct download or to save to your dropbox.
- Punctuate your Life with Purpose – page 30 - 31
- Which articles are most relevant to the work you do?
- How can you use specific ideas in other areas of your life – for example in community work?
- Who are the writers whose work most appeals to you?
- In which ways could you follow Rob and Monika’s example – or connect with them?
- What could you to do to connect with the writers of these articles?
- How are you going to build relationships through reading these stories?
During various training programmes, I often play a game which involves asking participants to write down the first word that comes to mind when I say a certain word. This is the beginning of an exercise in creativity and the purpose is to show individuals how differently we link words with perceptions. For example, if I say ‘set’, some people may write down ‘tea’, others choose ‘tennis’ while ‘maths’ is often given as a response, too.
In this first step of the game, another word I sometimes use is ‘model’ and here again, examples of the first set of responses from different participants could be ‘car’, ‘ramp’ or ‘coaching’. Let me clarify: you could be thinking of the ‘model’ of car you wished to buy, the ‘model’ showing clothing on the catwalk or for those of us who are integral coaches we might instantly link to the ‘models’ we almost unconsciously use in assessing our clients.
So we need to stretch our minds and see how differently others are seeing the world. And the words we use can often be a clue to this. And of course we express ourselves in so many other ways, too. To many of us, colour plays an important part. So when I see an excellent example of an advert using words, colours and ways of appealing to different senses through different sets of words, I find this very exciting. Below is an example of a poster which I find particularly appealing.
But going one step further, I had an ‘aha moment’ when I walked into our neurologist, Dr Zaheer Sacoor’s newly decorated rooms and found that his wife and their decorator had incorporated this magnificent concept into a mural covering a whole wall in their waiting room. This is visually appealing and so appropriate with the work he does. Well done, Dr Sacoor, you are not only a brilliant doctor, but you are thinking outside the box and ‘modelling’ the work you do. Thank you for being such a wonderful inspiration.
It might be a bit difficult to read the words on the image above, so here are the words:
I am the left brain.
I am a scientist. A mathematician.
I love the familiar. I categorize. I am accurate. Linear.
Analytical. Strategic. I am practical.
Always in control. A master of words and language.
Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers.
I am order. I am logic.
I know exactly who I am.
I am the right brain.
I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion.
Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter.
I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feet.
I am movement. Vivid colours.
I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas.
I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel.
I am everything I wanted to be.
As integral coaches, we use different models in assessing our clients in order to get a clearer picture of how they are seeing the world and how their ‘issue’ is impacting on their ‘way of being’. And while the concepts embedded in ‘left brain/right brain’ are woven through other models, I have used the beautiful image above as a screen saver to remind myself to question my clients around these concepts. This just could be my ‘missing model’!
For more information on Executive Coaching or training in communication skills please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311.
During a recent stay at the Oyster Box Hotel I met a fellow trainer and coach from the UK. I was delighted to be invited to observe one of his excellent training sessions during which he asked participants the question: ‘What is more important, attitude or behaviour?’ This generated healthy discussion. Pondering their responses, I thought of the work of Dr John Adair who in one of his books entitled, ‘Action Centred Leadership’ draws attention to the fact that a person can have all the characteristics of a good leader, but if that person doesn’t put them into action (behaviour) they remain dormant characteristics.
The question of the importance of attitude and/or behaviour linked to my experiences as a presenter of interactive workshops. During the sessions, wherever possible, I get participants to practise using their own examples from their work, home and community lives. And as the day progresses, they become more and more proficient. However, no matter how enthusiastic participants might appear during the session and how much they show the right attitude, I receive little feedback, especially after short courses. I want to know how they have applied the new techniques and other learnings during the days, weeks and months following the workshop.
So I was delighted when Bradley Bissessar, Senior Security Supervisor at the Oyster Box Hotel, a few weeks after attending ‘How to get your point across’ proudly showed me how he carries the formulae cards with him in his wallet as a reminder to apply the principles (Please see the photo). He spontaneously and enthusiastically told me exactly how he is applying the simple formulae he mastered during the workshop. He gave me an example of how in his work situation he has used the PREP formula for safety briefings to groups of guests. This enables him to easily structure his information into a coherent talk which is logical and easy to follow. Bradley says: ‘the course gave me a lot of confidence in myself. It helps me to get my point across effectively’. He also added ‘knowledge is power. And this is a priceless gift that cannot be taken away even with the essence of time. Use it wisely.’
He is also constantly applying the formulae in his private life. An example is where he used the PREP and assertiveness formulae to structure a personal letter and this helped him to crystallise his feelings and resolve an issue amicably. Well done, Bradley! So he has applied the learnings and made them part of his way of functioning. It becomes so easy when you know how!
Yes, it is important to have the right attitude. In the case of training sessions, people might be eager (attitude) to improve the way they do things (behaviour). And they might participate effectively on the day (attitude and behaviour). However, the way the person actively and consistently applies and practises afterwards will determine ongoing success. New neural pathways need to be built.
Let’s move away from the training perspective and look at the question of ‘attitude or behaviour’ from an integral coaching approach. Attitude shows a ‘way of being’ and in coaching terms this links to ‘heart’. Behaviour links to ‘action’. So a missing component is ‘head’. The next question is how do we bring ‘head’ into the equation? By helping our clients to ‘self-observe’ they become aware of what they are or aren’t doing, feeling and experiencing. They might notice their ‘blind spots’. By practising the right behaviours over and over we build new neural pathways. Through an Integral or Executive Coaching approach clients can thus more easily ‘self-correct’ and ‘self-generate’ and thus shift their ‘way of being’.
Going back to the original question regarding ‘attitude or behaviour’ being more important, while I believe that a combination of attitude and behaviour is important, there are many other aspects in achieving sustainable success. What is your opinion?
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A proverb can be described as a short, well-known pithy saying, stating a general truth or piece of advice about how people should live that principle. It expresses a belief that is generally thought to be true. An English example would be ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’.
There is often a cultural richness in the origins of these sayings. I was delighted when the Tyler Liebenberg, assistant general manager of the Oyster Box Hotel gave me the delightful book, ‘Wisdom from Africa: a collection of proverbs’. I like the way the compiler, Dianne Stewart provides each proverb in the relevant African language, states the proverb in English and then gives an intriguing explanation.
Two examples are:
This collection intrigued me and proverbs were still on my mind when I read an e-mail from my son, Gary. ‘Per the attached image I've decided to try to grow an avo tree. The problem is that the cats think that the water to grow the tree is for their drinking!’
To put this in context, he and his wife have recently bought their first house in Sydney, Australia. At home here in South Africa, we love our avo (avocado pear) tree and relish the fruits that it bears profusely. So I was amused as I read his message and looked at the photo.
My response was in the form of a new proverb:
There are more ways to grow an avo than just from the cats’ drinking water.
Perhaps I can’t yet call this a ‘proverb’ because going back to the first paragraph of this article, my saying may not ‘expresses a belief that is generally thought to be true’. If I get enough readers telling me they believe it is true, possibly I could call it a ‘proverb’? So, please let me know what you think.
This is such fun! Have you ever tried making up your own proverbs? Try it!
A proverb a day keeps the mind at play.
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