Sunday, May 07, 2006

What do you do?

It's such a standard ice-breaker we often answer it quickly and move on through the formula. In most conversations, "what do you do?" means "what is your job?" It's a simple question that poses complex challenges to those who are unemployed, self-employed or not wrapped up in their employment. The answer is supposed to be one or two words. For some of us, seeking the answer is what we do. And that's a complicated circle.

I run a small training company with my partner. So far, so good. Although the company runs me as much as I run it. And my partner is my business partner and also my training partner. Those are two separate roles. Very few people teach with a partner, so that's an answer that requires more questions.

Usually, the next question is "what do you train?" The answer to that varies according to the company I am keeping. NLP is an acronym for neuro-linguistic programming, a wild-west sort of approach to understanding how to influence yourself and others to change in ways that meet your goals. Having been born in Calgary, I am sympathetic to wide-open spaces and the pioneer spirit. I recognize the limits and the opportunities of challenging boundaries and inviting people to experience more of their lives. And I also recognize that there are no guarantees in the wild west of an unregulated, undisciplined collection of practices spread largely through word of mouth.

So what I do is only partly to train NLP. It's also to do what NLP was supposed to do (and has largely forgotten): to search many different fields for models of excellence and find out how individuals and groups have understood themselves in ways that allowed them to act effectively. At any given time, that includes helping our clients notice the difference between the way they think and behave at their best and the way they think and behave at other times. This allows them to learn from themselves as models: to understand their own strategies for succeeding on their own terms and then to grow, change, or replicate those strategies.

So what I do is different than what other people do who use the same language. We no longer train NLP: we use NLP to train people to perceive relationships: to see the part in terms of the whole and the whole in terms of its parts. This sounds more complicated than it is. Team leaders use integrated thinking to understand how each member of a team contributes to overall performance. Teachers use integrated thinking to ensure that each student learns while the group as a whole is engaged and learning. Managers use integrated thinking to leverage their contribution to the organization. Sales professionals use integrated thinking to connect with customers in ways that build their business.

We teach integrated thinking because it allows people to feel better, to do better, and to be better to other people.

It's a lot to put into an answer to a simple ice-breaker.

No comments: