Friday, February 20, 2015

Are you a credentials person or a "prove it to me" person?

In some ways, I have the ultimate credential. A doctorate is the end of the line, the highest credential in academics. Mine took eleven consecutive years of post-secondary study. The graduate study was seven years, twelve months a year. Now I am working in a field (NLP, but also coaching) where people think a credential is something to be earned in one year (at best) of part-time study.

In the public sector, a rigorous (if not always adequate) process ensures that students only get a credential if they complete work to a specified standard. There are exams, and in good courses there are also assignments and projects and peer-review. There is an effort to ensure that some common standards are represented by the credentials earned. And lots of people fail. They don't make it through the process. There are lots of reasons to question the ethics and the wisdom of failure rates, but they do show that people are being judged not by what they pay or what they attend, but by what they can do.

It's significant that in the coaching and personal development fields, people are eager to demand credentials in order to develop common standards. What no organization seems willing to do is publish their failure rates. In the personal development and coaching fields, very few people are taking the approach of charging clients for the opportunity to fail.

When people earn a certificate from me, it means they have attended all hours and participated in all parts of the program I have developed. It's a program based on practice, not on preaching, and everyone gets better over the six days. They haven't passed anything: they have experienced something.

Their certificate means that I am satisfied to have my work judged by the way they communicate. When people are thinking about taking my program, I encourage them to visit the websites where I showcase my clients and they, by implication, showcase my work.  This, I say, is what you can expect.

I keep my Ph.D. in a box, under my bed. I lost track of my NLP certificate almost as soon as I took it home. I am not really a credentials person. Don't show me a paper to tell me you are a leader.

Show me. Prove it to me with your skill and your vision and your action. Stimulate discussion and discovery that grows your field. Be first across a line, even when it means falling into the mud. Risk failure.

Build something and let people judge you by that.

Friday, February 06, 2015

How to say goodbye

Do you know that good bye began as "God be with you."  It's a good way to part company, much like "Fare well."

When it's time to make an exit, what do you say? The modern way (there are endless Facebook variations) is "it's not about you. It's all about me. This change is good for me and I'm off to pursue my bliss." The focus is on the reasons for leaving. Whatever else is said, whether the rest is in anger or apology, the core message is "I am leaving now because that's what works for me."

And the response to that tends to be "Don't let the door hit you on the way out" (with greater or lesser degrees of courtesy). This is inevitable, since the reasons for leaving are always insufficiency or brokenness or mistakes. When we look at the reasons, we cannot help but feel bad. And there's worse to come.

Human beings are pack animals: we feel abandoned when someone walks away from our pack because we are wired to connect. When someone leaves, they leave a lot of loose ends, connections with nowhere to go.

But human beings are also really, really good at looking forward. Much of the time, that causes us grief because we imagine all the bumps and potholes in the road, all the places we could be ambushed. With some will power, we can push through those visions and see past the obstacles to a destination. We can imagine moving forward and seeing good things on the road ahead.

Every ending reminds us that we are born with an expiry date. They break our favourite things (our habits and assumptions and hopes) and create the restlessness that comes with connections that no longer connect. That's okay. We have the equipment to deal with the hurt and uncertainty and restlessness.

When it's your turn to leave, say "Good bye" and mean it. Don't explain why you are leaving - there is no reason that ties up the loose ends. Instead, say "when I look at your path, I see good things ahead. My wish for you is the strength and resilience to get to the next bright spot on your path."

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Managing your outcomes when you are sick on game day

You've been waiting for this day for weeks - actively preparing so that you'll be at your best when you need to perform. You've researched and rehearsed and you are ready. Until the bug hits, the one that has been going around the office or the school. You're all set and you're sick.

Now what?

There are times when there is no choice. You're too sick to carry on and so you miss it. Other arrangements get made.

What I want to think about now are the majority of days, the days when you have a wicked head cold and you have to face a 2 hour commute before presenting to a room filled with important people you want to influence. You have choices. You could cancel and begin the long, hard process of preparation again.  You could muddle through miserable and hope for sympathy points from your audience.

Or you could excel despite the bug. You could be so committed to your outcome that you show up fully and let go of most of the rotten feelings until after you're done.

First, you go through your rituals. By the time we are adults, we all have rituals for getting through a cold. The point is not whether they change any of the biochemistry of the cold. The point is feeling better and the rituals themselves begin to make you feel better because they are anchored to feeling better. Use them.

Second, give the voice in your head a good script. It may be telling you that "This is terrible. This always happens to me. Why can't a catch a break" etc. etc. etc. Listen the first time. You owe yourself that. Stabilize that feeling of injustice - it's part of what you need to fuel your excellence. And then tell yourself "I don't have time for this. I need every part of me to get onboard with making my performance shine today."

Now go looking for what you need to shine: the clothes, the practical stuff you need to pack, the hot shower, the works. From this point on, the way you feel is just the way you feel. It's not rotten or unfair: it's part of the toolkit that is going to get the job done. Whenever the voice in your head (or the voice of well-meaning helpers) talks up how unfair and unfortunate it all is, you listen and replace it with a thought about what you want to remember as you perform.

Even when you're feeling at your best, you need 100% outcome focus to get to your best performance. In NLP, we call it congruence.This day is no different. Stay focused and your brain will make amazing backstage arrangements to get you to your outcome.

And after it does, after you've created what you wanted to create, rest and say thank you and let yourself be fully onboard with getting better.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Commands are less reliable than you might think

I've been developing two courses at the same time. One is our new course on Hypnotic Language and the other is the Business Communications courses I teach at Sheridan College. Theoretically, teachers fall into the class (joke!) of people who can tell other people what to do. Teaching is a great way to find the limits of that theory.

Here are three ways I make it more likely that my students will do what I tell them to do:
  1. When I really need compliance, I use a tone of voice that lets them know it's time to do what I say. This is a voice that rings out with my determination to get an outcome. It's not really about them: it's about presenting an outcome so clearly and compellingly that they are likely to do what I've asked before they notice that they have started or stopped.
  2. When I don't really need compliance, I suggest or offer or encourage or give permission. I frame - which means I tell stories or give explanations that put people into a mood (or state, in NLP terms) that shapes their response when we move to an activity. 
  3. I insist that my students show respect for one another. This is a combination of using the compliance voice with framing. Of course the result is that students will also show respect for me. If they thought that was the point, this frame would not work. Because the frame is built up over several repetitions and made explicit at appropriate times, they know that I really do expect that they show respect for each other. And that makes all the difference.
I wonder how many workplaces would benefit from meetings where people only asked for compliance when it was absolutely necessary, encouraged collaboration through verbal and non-verbal framing, and insisted that peers show respect for one another. It is deceptively easy to substitute commands: to say I have the authority to tell you what to do. Sometimes it even works. 

No one learns on command. No one can be commanded to be engaged and curious. No one can be commanded to understand what you say in the way that you understand it. Commands do have value. There are times when timely compliance is necessary to everyone's well-being and a well-voiced command will get results. Those times are just less frequent than we think.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Hypnotically delicious words

There's a lot of misleading information about how to use language to make the kind of suggestions that get carried out without resistance. The first step, the one on which everything else depends, is to understand that anything you say is only a suggestion.

The Oxford online dictionary defines a suggestion as an idea or plan put forward for consideration. If you keep reading, it adds what seem to be paradoxical dimensions to this word. In psychology (and hypnosis), a suggestion is not supposed to trigger conscious consideration. This is true whenever suggestion involves talking about one thing to call up another.

We can resolve this paradox if we add an element of playfulness to a suggestion. Playfulness is never mistaken for either commands or appeals for help. When we are playful, we suggest (meaning imply, meaning make a connection) that we are doing something together, something that will engage us both. Whatever is being suggested is part of an interaction designed so that we can interact and learn safely (that's what play does).

This is what is happening when hypnotic language is effective. It's not sneaking something past conscious criticism. It's an invitation to play that is accepted when the other person takes the suggestion by taking action.

If the suggestion isn't taken, then the relationship doesn't support enough play. How do you get someone to want to play with you? Of course, you pay attention to them, but you also keep in mind an intention of what will be good and rich and rewarding once they join you in play. You tantalize with a little puzzle here, a little humour there, a little charm. (You noticed - didn't you? - that charm is a suggestion that what we do when we play together is at least a little magical).