Like a city whose walls are broken through, is a person who lacks self-control.

There’s an ancient proverb that tells us “like a city whose walls are broken through, is a person who lacks self-control”.  The picture is of the fortified city, which protects its inhabitants from all kinds of trouble.  The walls keep the people safe by ensuring both dangerous animals and enemy peoples are kept at bay.  The city with broken walls offered no such security.  Raiders and wild animals were free to roam, steal, kill and do damage.  

It’s a strong image when paired with the idea of self control, suggesting if we lack self control we are opening ourselves to all kinds of problems and difficulties.  Self controlled people clearly have an advantage in many spheres of life over those who lack it.  It’s always seemed impressive to me to see the levels of self control that elite athletes demonstrate.  They are able to be disciplined in many areas of their lives in order to attain the peak of performance and ability.  Self controlled individuals are also evident in many avenues of successful organisations.  There are clearly many benefits available if you and I can develop good self control in our lives.  So what might help us do that?  Here are my thoughts on three aspects of self control that we can work at on a daily basis.  

Desire (Negative):

Our understanding and management of desire is absolutely crucial to becoming self controlled.  It’s also worth highlighting that it’s negative desire that matters here.  If it is a positive desire, then self control is far less of an issue.  Take an obvious example; if I love eating carrots and don’t like cake, there isn’t really too much need for self control.  (BTW, there’s always the exception, if all I eat is carrot, then I would argue this is in fact a negative desire and so needs dealing with).  The problem arises when I love cake but still want to lose my midriff!  Now I really need to exercise self control at the pastry counter.  

Desire is connected to a number of things.  It’s often emotional, a feeling – if you like it’s full on chimp mode to use Steve Peters analogy.  It also has to do with attractiveness, something that looks attractive to us is clearly more desirable.  But with all of this it’s also down to how well I am able to delay gratification.  Look up Stanfords Marshmallow experiment; do you take one thing now, or get two later. 

In short the stronger or more powerful the level of desire, the more I will need to manage the next two elements ‘discipline and distraction’.

Discipline

Discipline is one of those areas that has a compound effect.  It has to do with our past behaviours.  What habits have we formed, how ingrained are those behaviours?  Clearly the longer a particular practice has been adopted, the harder it is to establish a new discipline.  

But it also has to do with future commitment.  How strong is my commitment to make a change?  Not this is not about motivation, that will always go up and down, when commitment will push on through varying levels of motivation.  

In self controlled people there is a compound effect of ‘letting go’ (or changing) old unhelpful behaviours and establishing commitment to new ways of working.  

Distraction

Distraction is our other friend when self control is challenged.  Assuming we cannot avoid the tempting cake scenario (which is always better) we need to develop good strategies to divert our attention to more helpful things.  There are 4 ways we can introduce distraction:

Renewed mind (thinking)

We need to train our minds to think differently about the desired behaviour.  A kind of mind distraction.  Thinking differently about an area helps us to modify our desires and behaviours much more easily.  Part of that renewed mind could include this…

Consequence

Understand and articulate the consequences of your negative desires.  Use your internal dialogue to outline why this behaviour is unhelpful in the short or long term.  Give yourself good reason to exercise self control over the issue.  

Alternative

The simplest form of distraction is alternative.  What can I put in my way that acts as a good, attractive, viable alternative. Then we can use the desire as a prompt to trigger the alternative behaviour.  

Facts and data

Finally use the logical mind to deal with the emotional desires.  Deal with facts and data, logic not feeling.  Help convince yourself that self control is the logical outcome in the situation you face.  

So there you have it, work at managing desires, adding discipline and fostering distractions in those areas you want to propagate self control.  Be practical about it by working at one area of self control at a time.  Remember success tends to be compound.  If I start wining in one area, I quickly become able to transfer that win to other areas of self control.  

As ever the Squeeze podcast linked here explored the topic further.  Do have a listen if you’ve bothered to read this far into the blog post.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

Have you been committed?

I wouldn’t say that I am avoiding commitment, but I wouldn’t say that I’m not! It’s new year and the news has been full of naysayers suggesting new gym or diet practices are bound to be short lived.  Well for what it’s worth, I rather like the idea of new year new starts.  I joined a gym several years ago on a New Years resolution and have never regretted it.  Yes there has been months where I’ve not made it as often as I would like, but that’s life.  Without doubt I am today physically fitter than I was 10 years ago, so you see, New Years resolutions don’t have to be doomed to failure.  

I rather like the idea of commitment.  I guess I must hold in high regard, a kind of personal value if you like.  If I commit to something I am more likely to stick with it, even when my motivation levels have ducked somewhat.  Motivation might leave me in bed, but a commitment still gets me up and out to the gym when I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT!

For managers it’s really worth working out how you create committed team members.  It transcends motivation every time.  Real commitment often comes when we truly understand what we are committing too.  So make it clear for everyone.  Highlight what’s expected of them, spell out the implications of getting involved, ways of working, behaviours as well as tasks and activities.  

A committed team will be a loyal team, a bunch of people that will go above and beyond because they feel ownership for whatever it is they are doing.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain 

Here’s the two most important lessons about influencing.  

The skill of influencing has to be up there as one of the most valuable things to get right.  We start working out what works when we are about 2 years old, pushing and bending our parents will through any means possible.  Back then, we didn’t even care what others thought of us; we would happily throw a wobbly in the shopping line without the slightest concern for our reputation, all in the name of braking our parents resolve and securing whatever it was that we wanted.  

Social norms do there work and by our teens we are utterly aware of what’s acceptable in the ‘throwing a paddy’ stakes.  So by then we will have developed a whole bunch of supporting influencing techniques right across the spectrum of logical to emotional approaches.  Some work well, others bomb and so we start to nuance them, recognising when and where to adopt different  models.  

By the time we arrive in the workplace, we have already developed a range of techniques that we will lean on, but there are a couple of things that we really ought to cement in our thinking relating to our influencing choices.  These two things are in my opinion the most important lessons about influencing.  Understand them and they will serve you well.  

1. Most influencing doesn’t happen in a single moment…

Influencing well in the workplace seldom occurs in a single moment.  It can and does happen, but nearly always it will be at the coercive end of influence.  If you are able to threaten someone, or give the perception that you can bring about a negative outcome for them if they don’t comply, then you can influence in a single move.  But let’s face it, this has little long term sustainability.  If there is any need to retain a working relationship, then this brick bat approach to influence will likely be your downfall.  Most effective people recognise that influence is better developed over the many small nudges that all add up. No matter what we think of our politicians, they understand this well.  Before any important vote within the house, they will lobby.  They will get to individuals and seek to nudge them towards a particular position before the crunch vote.  They will build the foundations of those that are onside and seek to create a momentum of thinking that will itself bring weight to the desired position.  

So, it’s really helpful to think about influencing any outcome in a series of smaller (rather than one single) events.  Try to work out how you can seed, water and feed your position over a short period.  Let’s take a simple example.  Your boss has asked you to make a recommendation on something that you know they have a strong opinion on.  It would be very easy for you to suggest something that they oppose, so you want to try and influence the outcome in a series of nudges. Having understood their position, you drop into conversation something positive about your prefered approach.  In a progress meeting, you talk about your prefered option first of all, your least favourite option next and finish with your second most preferred option (look up the topic of recency and primacy with regard to this).  Finally when you have the opportunity to present your preferred approach you have already attempted to seed the decision.  It’s not come out of the blue, to some extent your boss has already started to get familiar with the position you are taking.  

Breaking influence up in this way can help you to nuance your positioning and conditioning rather than run the risk of falling at the first hurdle because it’s the first conversation you are having about the topic.  

2. Most influencing does happen on an emotional level…

Another mistake in influencing is to imagine that it primarily takes place in the arena of rational logic.  Yes, it is a big part of influencing in the workplace, but even the most rational logic will often have some element of emotional pull.  

In fact when you analyse the many forms of influence that are used across mankind, it’s surprising just how many of them operate more in the emotional sphere than the logical.  You will often hear people use emotional language in their decision making, for example when presented with two similar logical arguments.  They may say “I feel this one suits us better” or “I warm to this one more than the other”.  For most people there will be an emotional attachment to any particular line they are taking.  If I can understand this, I have a greater chance to influence it.  This takes us back to Stephen Covey’s habit of highly effective people, “Seek to understand before you are understood”.  The more you get to know your opponent, the more able you are to position your preferred idea in line with their relationship with the topic.

Simply ask yourself, what you think their gut feel will be.  Then engineer the conversation so they go first, that way you can better establish if you were right in your assumption.  Even if you assumed incorrectly, understanding before you are understood will always give you the benefit of being able to fine tune your storyline once you get to it.  Sometimes this will need you to chunk up to find common value or agreement, before coming back down to your preferred position.  For example, if you were discussing different suppliers and they favour a different one to you, then chunk the conversation up to the place of agreement “that we both want the best supplier for this contract” before coming back down to focus on your colleagues interests.  How does your preferred solution meet the emotional preferences of your opponent?  

Being able to influence skilfully will bring huge dividends throughout your career.  It is really worth reading more, finding out how influence works and seeking to fine tune your abilities in this important area.  If you would like more (as usual) this weeks episode (10) of #squeeze the podcast explores influence in more detail.

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

How to change your behaviour! 

The ability to change our behaviour is a gift, sometimes however we forget to use it!  It’s easy for every one of us to get very comfortable with a whole range of behaviours that become well worn and frankly predictable.  That’s of course OK when those behaviours bring the best out of me and others, but not nearly as good when they just serve to ‘get me by’ and even make life more difficult for others.  

Changing behaviour is at the heart of good learning, it’s the part that is necessary if we are going to convert academic theories into meaningful application.  As Bill Treasure put it, we can become too comfeartable to change, that’s too comfortable to bother, and too fearful to try.  Comfort and fear are two huge barriers to trying something new, barriers we need to overcome if we are going to set up new (ever improving) behaviours to our portfolio of experience and ability.  

So what does it take to change a behaviour?  I want to propose that there are 4 things you need to consider.  They will all help you address unhelpful behaviours and implement new more exciting ones.  

Let’s take a scenario and run it through my four things…

This may sound daft, but I’m considering changing my very engrained behaviour of devouring relatively large amounts of salted peanuts throughout any given week!  They’re a favourite, I’m diabetic, I struggle with carb heavy snacks and just don’t have a sweet tooth.  In fact I’ve grown to love anything salty!  Things like that salty Lagavulin whisky or salty liquorice are definite treats in my book.  But we all know, too much salt is not a good thing, and I probably have way over may allowance stuffing in those addictive nuts! So how might I go about changing that behaviour?  

I call the model ADAD.  

Awareness

The first element of behavioural change is becoming more aware of the potential change.  We need to be conscious that change is possible.  That often comes from the realisation that the current behaviour is unhelpful or at least not the best in any particular situation.  Awareness can be self discerned, but sometimes it takes someone else to point it out to you.  Where my nuts are concerned, I’ve been cutely aware that my salt fix is probably unhelpful, especially as my beautiful wife often points this out to me 😉

Desire

After awareness comes desire.  It’s as good as impossible to change a behaviour unless you have some desire to do it!  Desire often comes when I understand the benefits of the change…  Why this new behaviour will benefit me or others in some way.  As my youthfulness passes away (understatement) I’ve definitely developed a desire to prolong my overall health as log as possible, so I can tick the box on that one.  Except I do really like snacking on salted nuts, so unfortunately my desire is somewhat countered by other less helpful ones!  Behavioural change tends to come at the point the new desire starts to outweigh the old desires that keep us comfeartable and unwilling to make a difference.  

Ability

The third requirement is to understand how to make the change.  I have to learn and try new things to establish new ability.  Sometimes this will mean removing the option of the old habit to help me practice new ones.  Ability requires positive action towards the new behaviour and movement away from an old engrained way of working.  Inevitably this stage will be frequented with failures as you learn new approaches and fine tune the skill to perfection.  For me this is probably as simple as buying more healthy snacks to replace the salt! 

Duplication

Finally to embed a new behaviour we need to duplicate it.  Do it again and again until it becomes second nature so that I can call upon that behaviour reliably whenever I need it in the future.  Repetition is sticky, so it will help you to build unconscious competence in the new practice.  

So there you have it, four stages you can apply to anything, even eating habits to change your behaviour.  

Have a listen to Squeeze episode 9 if you would like to find out some more about behavioural change. 

Bob Bannister 

Ships Captain

Are remote workers missing out?

In this growing age of the digital nomad, there are many perceived benefits associated with being a remote worker.  Many of these benefits are genuine, tangible things like not having to spend two or more hours of the day commuting too and from work.  However, managers will be well served by understanding some of the main pitfalls that are becoming clear now that we have some (all be it short) history to learn from.  I’ve touched on some of these topics in previous blogs.  

(See: How intimate are you when managing your remote team?  How do you keep a sense of team when everyone is geographically dispersed?  Leading remote workers in the digital era) 

This time I want to raise the question as to whether remote workers are missing out on career opportunities? 

It’s an interesting issue that seems to be increasingly evident.  People who remote work can be missing out on promotions and other opportunities, simply because ‘out of sight’ is often ‘out of mind’.  This phenomenon is also contributing to the willingness of career hungry remote workers to work ever extending hours, to ensure they have impact whilst not physically present.  The danger is simple, the further you are from the main hub, the more unlikely you are to be selected.  

Good managers need to buck this apparent trend and think more widely when project or career opportunities are on the table.  It’s very easy to be inclusive once we are aware of the danger of what I’m calling ‘proximity bias’.  The issue is exaggerated because remote workers often are not so well known to managers in the rest of the business.  It’s not that you, their manager, forgets them, it’s that other managers don’t see them at work, so they don’t naturally come up in the minds of other managers as potential candidates.  

As their direct line manager we have to fill that void for them.  In a way we have to become ambassadors for our team members, making the connections that might ordinarily have occurred within the co located environment.  We have to look out for them and promote their potential when needed.  

If you are interested in hearing more on the topic of managing remote workers, tune into episode 8 of Squeeze our behavioural podcast.  

Bob Bannister 

Ships Captain.  

If there was just one thing that would make you highly effective, what would it be?

With a blog title like ‘If there was just one thing that would make you highly effective, what would it be?’ I should probably start by defining what it is to be highly effective!  Truth is, the answer to that question alone could be longer than the blog itself.  So what I want to suggest is this; highly effective people are those that make every interaction with others an easier thing.  People who make theirs and others lives easier will have amazing impact in their lives, even if they don’t end up being the next investor on Dragons Den.  Every organisation is in desperate need of this sort of people, and every manager should in my opinion aspire to make the lives of their team and others around them more simple, less complex, more easily understood, less ambiguous, more pleasant and less painful.  

So if there was just one thing that would make you highly effective, I’m proposing it’s this, the ability to be ‘frictionless’.  

Defaulting to my roots and using engineering metaphors, highly effective people are truly like the oil that lubricates the moving parts of an engine.  They are somehow able to make things work better, smoother, they in effect reduce the friction that can be found in every situation and interaction.  

What does that mean in real day to day terms? How can we break this down into something repeatable and practical that we can implement?  Actually it’s not that hard, here are two ways you can increase your frictionlessness (think i may have invented that word 🙂 )

1. Just be nice to people!  

Not many people make the decision to be nasty in life, a few possibly do, but most don’t.  It’s more that the business of life adds pressures and stressors which result in us forgetting to be nice on occasions.  I’m writing this on a BA flight having just navigated the zoo that is LHR Terminal 5 on a busy afternoon.  During this process I had the need to interface with a clearly pressured member of staff.  She was being pulled from pillar to post by many different questions (coming from lots of different people), whilst at the same time deal with a growing line of people waiting to check bags in.  I felt for her as she worked hard at being polite and helpful when massively outnumbered by the clients she was trying to serve.  Then it seemed, a supervisor walked over to her, immediately she dropped her defences launching into a torrent of troubles that ended with the phrase “and I’ve only got one pair of hands”.  Life does this to us, we’ve all been there.  As the supervisor, how good would it have been if he had helped her, released her burden in some way.  Sadly he just added to her workload, turned and walked away to stand idle 20 feet away.  

How about this, instead of being a drain on our people, why don’t we as managers try to be a support?   Really, I mean make every transaction one that tops the other up, rather than one which drains them dry.  

2.  Diagnose before you prescribe.  

No one would value the doctor who hands out a prescription to us without having asked us a single question about what’s wrong.  People first need to be diagnosed, they want us to listen to them, hear them, seek to understand them, way before we start to prescribe what’s next.  

If you want to be frictionless, listen to people before you start telling what you think.  This simple change will give you so much better insight and allow you to prescribe the correct medicine, rather than the medicine you always prefer or default too.  

No doubt I could write more on this topic (and maybe I will at some future point), but I promise if you actively implement these two ideas you will start to make interactions smoother, simpler and more appropriate for your team members.  

Being effective is a life long endeavour we should never give up on.  This week’s Squeeze podcast picks up more of these themes, so follow this link, have a listen to other ideas that accompany what I’ve written above.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

The most important management role; building competence through coaching

One of our 4 C’s of being a high functioning team is ‘Competence’.  It’s the domain expertise, skill element of the team.  It’s something we all need, the manager, but also every single member of the team.  However for the manager there is something really important to understand; no matter how brilliant you are, how great your competence, if your team isn’t up to the required competence then two things become very evident:  

  1. You can’t go and have lunch because your people will be addicted to you, and 
  2. you will never be able to empower your people with confidence.  

Both those things add up to never being a high functioning team, and if you are by chance high performing, then it will likely be pretty stressful and hard work.  

I don’t know that I was ever told this back in the day (when I managed teams throughout my manufacturing career), but I now believe the single most important role you have, is to develop the competence of your people.  It’s primary, if you don’t facilitate their development, then it will take them years if they ever make it at all.  I’ve become totally convinced that great managers spend most of their time creating opportunities for their people to grow their domain skill and fine tune their ways of working.  

Competence is the heartland of being able to empower your staff to get on with the task in hand.  So what should you do about it if managing a team?  Here are two simple things that will accelerate you in making a difference:

Constantly work at creating learning experiences for you people.  

To help you create learning experiences, you probably need to stop seeing delegation as a way of getting your work done, and instead believe your people will never develop their competence unless you delegate new experiences to them.  Delegation is a developmental tool and should be viewed as nothing else.  Everyday, ask yourself, what could I delegate to whom in order to develop their competence.  Along with this recognise they are not telepathic!  You will have to cover off method, the sequence of events to complete the delegated task, and you will do well to check in with them to support and guide them in those early steps.  

The second thing you need to do is increase your coaching style as a manager.  

It seems to me that there is a huge misunderstanding amongst many managers about what that means.  Lots of managers we work with confuse ‘telling’ or ‘directing’ their staff as coaching.  In very simple terms that’s mentoring, coaching is the complete opposite.  It’s using questions to draw out understanding, it’s getting out of the way of the solution and being non directive.  A basic difference would be this.  You notice someone has the wrong answer, so you step in and say something like “I think you’ll find the answer is eight”.  That’s not coaching, nor is anything that borders on giving your staff instructions, process, guidance, or even sharing your experience.  Coaching would sound more like this “How did you get the answer seven?”  The difference between the two is simple yet profound.  So long as you keep giving the answer, you will create management junkies, utterly addicted to you and your over controlling ways.  The moment you switch to the question, you will begin to help your team work things out themselves, enabling them to develop their own competence.  

Just these two things alone; creating learning experiences, and using coaching questions will start to accelerate your team members competence.  Implement them and they will be an absolute pillar that allows you to empower your staff and function together in a significantly more effective way.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

We are exploring this topic more deeply in Squeeze episode 6, so please do have a listen.

Why developing competence is the managers responsibility  

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the advent of self directed learning – in other words creating the environment where staff take control of their own learning, often supported by the organisation.  I’ve nothing against this approach, it’s great if people take charge of their own development, however my word of caution is concerned with this becoming the only approach.  

What if I need my team members to be able to complete some specific thing more competently and instead they choose to learn French?  What if they even decide they don’t need any learning, after all it gets in the way of productivity doesn’t it?  

Having competent staff is at the very heart of high performing and high functioning teams.  It’s the pillar of empowerment, it’s the bedrock of delegation.  So I’m convinced that owning the development of your people is one of the absolute imperatives of the management role.  I certainly wouldn’t want to leave it all to their discretion and freewill.  It’s too important for that.  

Great managers are those that care deeply about developing their people.  They look for opportunities to help them learn.  They create environments that bring new experiences and opportunities for their team members.  They match delegation of tasks with specific individuals to introduce new skills and behaviours.  They see staff development as the foundation stone on which the performance of the whole group will flourish.  

We should work very hard to create environments that prosper experimentation and minimise judgement.  This is what kids do fantastically.  They lack the fear of judgement (at least in those early years) and will just ‘have a go’ unconcerned about the worlds view of them.  Sadly all too quickly that inquisitive question ‘why?’ becomes loaded, when others start to ask things like “why did you wear that?”  As managers we need to work so hard at allowing that experimentation without judgement so that people will ‘have a go’ once again.  

In very simple terms, switch out the ‘why’ question in favour of ‘what’ and ‘how’.  Help your team members understand things rather than feel they are being critiqued or judged.  Think seriously about the skills and behaviours needed to make your team function and perform, and guide your people into those specific experiments.  

Working for a manager who actively nurtures your development is an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding experience, so become that manager for your team.  Don’t leave this vital role to chance, instead make it your priority to focus on the competence growth of your people. 

Bob Bannister

Ships Captian 

We are exploring this topic more deeply in Squeeze episode 5 – How we learn; have a listen.

Managers, stop trying to motivate your staff!

For much of my management career I was under the impression that one of the requirements of a good manager was to motivate their team members.  In recent years I’ve begun to wonder if that’s altogether the wrong thing!  My doubt first manifested itself when reading Prof Steve Peters suggesting that motivation was worthless – WORTHLESS!  Yes, really, the British olympic cycling teams psychologist tells his athletes to forget it, it’s a waste of time.  I liked his logic a lot.  He suggests motivation is worthless simply because some days you’re motivated and others you’re not.  What matters more he suggests is commitment.  Commitment gets you up and training, he points out, when your motivation has dropped of a cliff.  

This made me reflect on just how internal our motivation seems to be.  Some days I get loads done, others I don’t, no one has particularly influenced that, it’s just how I’m feeling.  Which if true (at least in part) it makes managing someone else’s motivation pretty tricky!  It’s a constant moving feast, and so as your manager, I have no idea what I am dealing with from day to day.  So is it in fact unhelpful to think motivating our staff is the managers role?  

My thinking isn’t fully matured on this, as it does seem evident that as a manager I am able to do things that can demotivate my team.  So it therefore stands to reason I could do other things that help to increase or perhaps maintain someones motivation.  I just wonder if thinking ‘I must motivate my team’ is the wrong thing.  In the place of this, would I be better to work on how I might ‘inspire’ my team so that they could find their own motivation?  

The logic goes like this; motivation is an internal thing going up and down on it’s own accord, so as the manager I would be better to focus on the external thing.  That is creating an environment where my people can find their own motivation.  When my motivation is low, I can find inspiration in those things others are saying or doing.  

If we stop thinking ‘motivate’ and replace it with ‘inspire’ how would our behaviours change?  Fundamentally it makes a switch from push to pull.  Rather than pushing at motivation levels, I lead and create the vacuum which can pull others into a more motivated place.   In other words I go before, leading the way, breaking new ground, going the extra mile, showing clarity and focus etc etc.  I set the environment within which others find the inspiration for their own motivation.  

I know that motivation theories abound.  Just go ahead and type those two words into google, you’ll be overwhelmed by lists of different theories.  It’s a complicated topic, but in my simple experience, I’ve been motivated most when those around me have gone out of their way to support, involve and empower me to act.  I’ve been least motivated when they have been controlling, interfering and untrusting toward me.  

Work out those things that have inspired you.  Be analytical about it, try to figure out what you could do that would set a great environment in which your team members can thrive and find their own motivation day after day.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

Will Karlsen and I explore this topic in more detail in Squeeze episode 4 have a listen.

Am I making myself clear? The difference between intent and perception.

We have given the most incredible gift of communication.  Our ability to interact orally is utterly unique compared to any other creature on the planet.  We are good at it too.  We read subtle nuance, micro gestures across the lyric, song and dance of our discussions.  Yet even given all this, we still on occasions get it wrong, we fall down in between the cracks of understanding, miss reading something that someone has said, and so introduce unhelpful stress into our relationships, both working and personal. 

Often we will start to notice that the conversation is beginning to progress in an unhelpful way, perhaps emotion is swelling a little and the dialogue not unfolding in a helpful way.  It’s in these moments we need to become a little analytical and work out how we can restore equilibrium, ‘understanding’ back into the dialogue.  

A simple tool that can help us do this is found in recognising the appearance of the ‘arc of distortion’.  Diagrammatically it looks something like this:  

In those trigger moments, when we notice that the dialogue is not progressing well, we need to reposition and seek to narrow the gap between intent and perception.  

The two questions I need to use for this diagnosis couldn’t be simpler:

  1. What is my intent in this conversation?
  2. What is the likely perception of the other party?

We will always have intent by the way.  So if that’s the case, better understanding my intent will enable me to better position my communication to limit the potential for distortion.  Catch the distortion early in the flow and that’s often all I will need to do.  Quickly ask myself that one question, and fine tune my next response in the light of it.  

If that’s still not taking the conversation in a more helpful direction then question 2 comes into play.  How is the other party perceiving what I am saying?  This is more tricky as I’m likely making some assumptions about how they are reading me.  However, this question refines our first diagnosis and may enable us to bring about a more significant change in the delivery of our dialogue.  At this point change is what’s required.  If I continue unaltered in my approach, I will inevitably continue to enlarge the distortion.  It’s definitely worth interjecting a significant alteration at this point, to really switch the perception.  That could be as simple as altering my posture significantly.  For example, my colleague is seated at their desk, I’m rushing around packing a bag of training materials and thinking about heading out to the car for a longish journey.  I notice that the conversation is not progressing well, so I stop my lack of attention, sit down next to the colleague, pause and say “sorry, say that again, you’ve now got my undivided attention”.  In a moment I have demonstrated an increase in both my attention, interest and care towards the other person.  The likely response will be too narrow the distortion and increase the alignment of both my intent and their perception.  

Don’t ever be afraid to surface your intention, sometimes it can be really helpful to put it right out there… “my intention in this is…”  Make it easy and accessible more of the time, and you will find that you have less distortion to deal with on a daily basis.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain

We are exploring this topic more deeply in Squeeze episode 3, so please do have a listen.  Squeeze is also available on all the usual podcast apps.

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