Discover How Altruistic You’ve Been Lately

Every year for the past nine years, I coach the students of the Executive MBA Persuasive Communication Program from IESE Business School in Barcelona. Inevitably every year the question about how to deal with nerves comes up.

I begin by saying that whether we intend to or not, nerves are an act of egocentrism because the spotlight is placed on us as the speakers. The alternative is to shift the spotlight to our audience and our message.

If we focus on giving the gift of our message to our audience so that they walk away better off, we stop thinking about ourselves. No more nerves — our mind is engaged in something much more important.

We move through life in a similar way. We either put the focus on ourselves or shift the spotlight to making other people’s lives better. In the first case, we can end up obsessing over ourselves and our life, we can end up feeling dissatisfied with how far we are from where we planned to be.

In the second case, we are engaged in something that is greater than us, which gives us meaning and the necessary resilience to face the challenges that life throws at us.

On who do you shine the spotlight?

Here’s a exercise that might indicate where you’ve been putting the light. Access the photos on your smartphone. Who tends to be in the spotlight: you or others?

An Exercise to Prepare for Confinement

Winter is coming (for some of us) and with it the likelihood of another confinement (in one form or another). It would be dumb not to prepare. This is what I’m doing.

Three Steps

Step 1: Take some time alone to fill in the template below. Ask family and friends to do the same, especially those who will be spending more time with you.

Step 2: Come together in a celebrative spirit to share your findings.

Step 3: Decide what you will commit to. Focus on what requires low effort but has a high impact for you and those around you.

Would love to know what works best for you. Please share your results.

Wisdom for Teams #7

“It isn’t just how intelligent your team members are;

It is how much of that intelligence you can draw out and put to use.”

LIZ WISEMAN (1964), Researcher and executive advisor, author of New York Times bestseller Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.  

I Broke a Promise

Photo Credit: Jonny Miller

I broke a promise when I decided I’d no longer serve as a priest.

I broke a promise when I decided I’d end the relationship.

I broke a promise when I decided I’d stop seeing that friend.

Breaking a promise didn’t feel good. But it happened, again and again.

This week I came across a poem by David Whyte about how to break a promise.

Apparently we humans break promises, again and again. Apparently we can learn to do it better.

Shall we accept that breaking promises is part of life, like making them is?

To Break a Promise

Make a place of prayer, no fuss now,
just lean into the white brilliance
and say what you needed to say
all along, nothing too much, words
as simple and as yours and as heard
as the bird song above your head
or the river running gently beside you.

Let your words join one to another
the way stone nestles on stone,
the way water just leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.

Now, let them go on,
leave your words
to carry their own life
without you, let the promise
go with the river.

Stand up now. Have faith. Walk away.

In “The Sea in You: Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love” by David Whyte

P.S. David, I hope you don’t mind me sharing your poem here. Thank you.

The POOH System to Get Creative

How do people who have great ideas come up with them? Do those who rely on inspiration to do their work use a special system? What strategies do marketeers, writers, artists, designers, and more, use to create new work?

I recently read a book on this topic as preparation for an offsite I was asked to create. In Strategic Intuition, William Duggan reviews some of History’s most creative minds to distill the formula they used to come up with innovative solutions.

I’m not going to share the formula (at least not all of it) because the book is really worth the read. Instead I’ll share how it relates to the creative work I do. I design and deliver offsites for executive teams, often the same teams. So coming up with different ideas for the same crowd can be a challenge.

The team leader who suggested I read book, whom I’ve been working with for years, said: “If you look at how you prepare your offsites, you’ll probably notice that the elements of the formula are somehow involved in your creative process.”

Now that’s an interesting endeavour. So I did and I noticed that in fact there is a pattern — hence the acronym “POOH” — that I have been using for nine years to build workshops and facilitation sessions. I believe it can be applied for other creative purposes. So here it goes for you to try the next time you need ideas.

After meeting with the team lead, and bearing in mind that the mind cannot not answer a question, I consider the following:

Purpose: I ask myself: Why are we going to do this? What meaningful reasons do we have? I answer this in one short sentence. Nietzsche said that those who have a why to live for can bear almost any how. Purpose is powerful. Purpose is the engine of creativity, while also being the guard rails of the creative process. No guard rails on the road means you can end up derailed. An example of a purpose for a team offsite is: We’re doing this because we rely on trust to get work done, and we want to increase trust in the team.

Objectives: I ask myself: What needs to be done? What needs to happen? I write down all that comes to mind. Then, even if I have no idea yet of how to achieve this, I choose the top three specific actions I’m aiming to achieve. Given the purpose above, an example of an objective could be: Show vulnerability to teammates.

Outcomes: I ask myself: What will be the consequences of achieving these objectives? Here we are looking for the end state that emerges from achieving the specific actions. Outcomes allow us to assess to the degree to which we’ve achieved the objetives. Given the above, an example of an outcome is: Teammates express a renewed appreciation for one another other, as a consequence of everyone having shown vulnerability.

Hunches: I ask myself: If I knew how to make all this happen, what would I do? I write down whatever comes to mind. These are the intuitions of how we’ll achieve the objectives, the gut feeling about the strategies that will lead to the outcomes. An example of a hunch in this case is: Share a personal story about a failure in life.

And that’s it. Like all good wine, ideas need to age. I’m done for now. I’ve given my mind all the information it needs in order to search my memory files and combine information is a new way to come up with new ideas. And my mind does.

In the course of the following week, or two, ideas pop up. And when they do, I write them down in the same place. Lo and behold I now have enough material to design a new, relevant and coherent offsite.

What is your process for creative work? Do we have anything in common? Is this useful in any way? I would love to hear from you.

BTW, the “search” and “combine” bits are part of the formula in the book. 😉

PS: Special thanks to my friend Marie Eouzan for inspiring the idea for this post. 🙂