“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say. I just watch what they do.”
That was an observation of Andrew Carnegie – the Scottish weaver’s boy who emigrated in poverty to the USA in the late 1800s and built up a business empire which made him the richest man in the world.
Making sense of what we see is the core task of the executive coach.
Kets de Vries is one of the world’s foremost thinkers on leadership development and the founder of Insead’s Global Leadership Centre.
His book from 2006 “The Leader on the Couch” is the Michelin guide to making sense of what we see.
“Too many executives are like the rat in the maze, not only running endlessly but running in circles. Yet we rarely stop to reflect and change direction,” he observes.
Self-awareness and a willingness to change are the genesis – without first confronting these “resistance judo” will kick in.
Next, freeze frame the frenzied action of corporate battle and consider three steps – simple to understand yet complex to change.
- Defence restructuring – Give up inappropriate patterns of defensive behaviour. Do you deny responsibility for your own actions; redirect angry feelings; ignore how your behaviour might have fuelled the problem? What habitual defences do you use to respond to stressful situations?
- Affect restructuring – Understand how you express your emotions. (Many struggle with this step.)Are you aware of how you physically feel in certain situations? Once you get a handle on how you currently respond, how could you express emotions more appropriately and effectively in the future?
- Self-perception restructuring – Understand how you and others see yourself.Am I capable of honest self appraisal? What do I think others think about me? How do others really see me? What is the reality?
But momentarily addressing what you learns from these does not lead to change itself. Consolidating change is the key.
These three steps are all tough. Many will not want to take them. Those who do will begin to remove the barriers to their future corporate and personal success.
As Zen reminds us “The Obstacle is the path.”
Atholl Duncan is an Executive Coach whose company is “The Edge”