The Genius of And

 

In the classic business book, Built to Last, Jim Collins talks about avoiding the “tyranny of the OR” and embracing the “genius of the AND”.  He explained that “a truly visionary company embraces both ends of a continuum: continuity and change, conservatism and progressiveness, stability and revolution, predictability and chaos, heritage and renewal…”

When my clients are considering options, they often say, “I could do A or B.”  My job as the coach is to help them explore what might be possible if they leverage the genius of the and.

If you tend to succumb to the tyranny of the OR  you might think:

  • Either my team member changes her behavior or I’ll have to fire her.

If you leverage the genius of the AND  your approach can be:

  • My team member needs to change her behavior and I can help her by setting clear expectations.

Although this can be challenging for people who are more comfortable with black and white than grey, I invite you to find a middle ground by identifying the best of both options  — that is the genius of the and.

Honoring the Past

Have you heard (or made) any of these comments when a new leader is brought in to change things?

  • I’m excited!
  • I’ll wait and see how it goes…
  • That isn’t the way we do things here.

The people who are excited typically like change and can adapt easily.  Getting the “waiters” and the “naysayers” on board can be more challenging.  Some experts advise against trying to convert the naysayers but they may have institutional knowledge or customer relationships that are too valuable to lose.

The naysayers are often people who helped build the company or the department.  While they may acknowledge that things aren’t perfect, they are proud of their contributions.  Honoring the past and inviting their input can help them embrace change and move forward.

Over, Under, Around and Through

Do you remember Grover on Sesame Street teaching kids about Over, Under, Around and Through?  Check it out: Grover on YouTube.  Grover’s lesson is useful in understanding how we respond to negative emotions like sadness, guilt, anger or jealousy.  Most of us do whatever we can to go over, under or around those emotions.

Research shows, however, that we need to go through the experience of feeling uncomfortable emotions so we can learn how to accept and deal with them.  Like Grover, we can’t just do it once.  Experiencing these emotions throughout our lives can make us more resilient and able to bounce back sooner.  We can also develop more empathy for others who are dealing with difficult situations.

If you find yourself trying to go over, under or around something, I invite you to consider what benefits might be on the other side if you let yourself go through it.

Ending Well

With December around the corner, I’m reminded of conversations with coaching clients about ending well.  At the end of a coaching engagement, we look back to where we started and review progress toward the objectives that were identified.  We also recall lessons learned and how to apply those going forward.  Then, we celebrate successes.

As you reflect on this past year, consider whether any of these questions could help you end well:

  • Whom do you need to forgive (including yourself)?
  • What conversation could clear the air and improve a relationship?
  • How can you take the high road?

I invite you to take action on at least one thing that will give you a reason to celebrate a success and end your year on a positive note.

I Feel Your Pain

Are you the person everyone comes to see when they need to vent?  Do you spend a lot of time comforting colleagues, friends and family members and then find yourself depressed and exhausted?

We are told that empathy is important in understanding how others feel, and yet it can drain us if we take on too many of someone else’s negative emotions.  Practicing compassion along with empathy enables us to relate to others who are suffering without becoming too distressed.  Taking actions such as avoiding blame, encouraging cooperation and giving to charitable causes helps us feel that we can make a difference and gives us strength to resist the temptation to wallow in someone else’s misery.

If you are a naturally empathetic person, I invite you to consider approaching the other person’s pain from your point of view rather than trying to mirror their feelings, and notice the impact on your mental health.

Real Mom vs. Super Mom

I love it when a client wants to share her insight from a coaching session.  One of my clients recently identified the pitfalls of trying to be a Super Mom and decided to be a Real Mom instead.

She defined a Real Mom this way:

  • Acknowledges she needs help
  • Asks for what she needs
  • Is resourceful
  • Focuses on what is important to her kids
  • Makes them part of the solution
  • Lets go of being needed

It was great to see my client redefine her priorities by getting out of her own way and getting clear about her ultimate goal:  teaching her children how to be whole and healthy.

This works for dads too!