Why People Don’t Take Your Advice

This topic comes up frequently in my coaching sessions – clients are frustrated when their peers and direct reports don’t take their advice.  Conversations go like this:

I tell her all the time that she has to say “no” more often.  I’ll support her decisions – but she still overcommits and then disappoints.

 He’s got to realize that taking the time to talk things through with people is worth the investment.  Argh!  He continues to send out abrasive e-mails!

Why is it so hard for people to listen to reason?  The answer is simple.  What looks reasonable and proven to you does not look reasonable or even possible to them.  No matter how well we explain what makes sense to us, it has to make sense to others in order for them to act on it.  The key to influencing others is to get curious about what makes sense to them.

We all do what makes sense to us in the moment.  No one comes to work and decides to overcommit and then disappoint people!  No one thinks it’s a great idea to send out a flaming e-mail!  To understand why people do what they do and don’t take your advice, you must see the situation from their perspective.  Keep in mind:

We create our experience of people and situations through our thinking – thinking that is filtered through our personal values and beliefs.

Our feelings or emotional state are a direct result of our thinking in the moment – not the situation.

The human mind is designed to give us insights and ideas – all we have to do is be open to seeing something new.

For example, I have a client who prides himself on his work ethic – he works very hard and is passionate about what he does.  In his mind, saying no means he doesn’t care about the business.  So he’s stuck in a habit of overcommitting and then disappointing the very people he wants to please/help.  Here’s how a better understanding could help him:

  • He could realize that his work ethic, while admirable, sometimes overpowers his common sense.  He could see he’s making up the idea that he cannot say no – and that this belief actually works against him.
  • He could begin to recognize that feelings such as urgency and concern are indicators that he is losing his perspective and common sense.
  • He could see something new and different — that makes sense to him — about his habit of over-committing.  Only a personal realization can change behavior in a sustainable way.  

insightSo what’s the take-away here?  The key to helping your people change unproductive behavior is to get curious about what makes sense to them.  When we realize that the root cause of our unproductive behavior is how we think about a situation and that we have an endless supply of new thinking at our disposal, we set ourselves up for insights.  It’s only through insights that we can change behavior in a sustainable way.

The Truth About Expectations

ExpectationsIt seems everyone is talking about expectations lately.  In the June issue of Oprah’s magazine, Brene Brown counsels us to “reality-check our expectations because they can lead to low self-esteem.” Cheryl Sandberg tells women to lean in to the leadership table and “dismantle the internal barriers holding us back today.”  A number of executive coaches weigh in on LinkedIn to the question:  What do you think holds you back from more happiness and success in your career?  Of course, expectations are a topic in the ensuing dialog.

 There is only one thing to understand about expectations – they are all made from the same stuff — thought.  Our expectations for ourselves and others’ expectations for us are only as real and as powerful as we make them.  We put energy into them or we don’t.  We pay attention to them or we ignore them.  We see them for what they are or we don’t.  With understanding, we see them for what they are more quickly.

 I recently heard that some languages don’t have a word for “should,” usually a key component in any expectation.  The internal version — I should weigh this much, I should make x amount of money, I should have been promoted by now, I should be treated one way or another.  And the external version – you should, they should, mothers should, children should.

 Having a discussion about the content of expectations is not the answer.  It’s not what you think, it’s the realization that you think.  It’s becoming more conscious of the fact that:

We create our experience of life through our thinking. 

We live in the perceptions and feelings that we create.  

We have an unlimited potential for new thought.

       So the only thing that keeps us stuck is the misunderstanding that we have no other options.  When we realize we have free will to recognize, consider, and let go of any expectations (thought) that are not helpful, we see the unlimited potential that is always available to us.  

 

 

One Investment — Countless Benefits

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As a consultant, I coach leaders and technical experts who need to change their behavior in order to advance on their career path or keep from failing in a stretch assignment.  The client and his or her boss often identify one of the following behaviors to improve or develop:

    • Making decisions in ambiguous or uncertain situations
    •  Developing leadership presence
    • Speaking up in meetings to share ideas or raise questions
    • Engaging with employees and building relationships
    • Driving change and continuous improvement

These common areas for development are usually treated as discreet competencies.  As a result, leadership team members would each be directed to a training program or other self-development resource specific to their shortcoming. But….

What if there was a single understanding that could improve these competencies across the board?  What if one program could enhance these individual competencies and leverage the combined expertise of the entire team?  Rather than investing in a number of costly development activities on a one-off basis, the leaders could learn something together, reinforce their collective learning curve, and focus on real business needs.

A  State of Mind program that shows leaders how their minds work provides a foundation that improves any competency on a go-forward basis. It’s pro-active rather than reactive, and it can be tailored to align with specific business goals and objectives, not just competency development.  As a bonus, leaders who are already what I would call unconsciously competent will see what’s behind their abilities and improve their coaching and mentoring. 

State of Mind training helps participants increase their understanding of how the human operating system works through personal insights that raise their self-awareness.  There is nothing new to learn or practice; the system is already working perfectly.  What’s necessary is a difference level of consciousness, to see how we create our experience of life in the moment. When people discover that they are creating their reality from the inside-out, rather than reacting to their circumstances, life looks different.  When they further understand that there is unlimited potential for new thinking that will automatically provide them with more options, they discover the only way to change behavior in a sustainable way.

This understanding is the single most important learning and development activity a leader and his/her team can invest in.  Personal insights will lead to a clarity of thought and focused energy that fuel connection, creativity, confidence, and courage.  A leadership team with this state of mind has a competitive advantage and a foundation for meeting any business challenge.

Simple Insight — Lasting Impact

doorMore than a decade ago, I was part of a team that taught the 3 Principles to hundreds of people at a large defense and security company.  We called it State of Mind (SOM) training because it made sense to people that at any given time, their SOM was either helping them or getting in the way.  It followed that learning more about SOM would be beneficial.  A particularly skeptical senior leader asked “Why do such intelligent and hard-working people make so many (expletive deleted) mistakes?!”  Even he could see that people who were anxious, agitated, and fearful would make costly mistakes.

 Although the understanding had been taught as Health Realization in the mental health community for a while, business was the new frontier.  It was a significant challenge to point people towards an awareness that transcended intellect and encouraged reflection in a culture where being smart and working hard were seen as the path to success.  They wanted new “tools” to add to their competency toolbox and tips and techniques to follow like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Looking back, there are certainly things we should have done differently, lessons learned that have improved our ability to teach today.  However, imperfect as it may have been, many people had insights that changed their lives.

 Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of the people we trained way back when, and I was struck by how much of a difference one extremely simple insight made in people lives.  Here’s what they heard:

 When I’m not in a good state of mind, I need to step back and give myself a chance to clear my head, to get some new thinking.

 I know, I know, it’s far from perfect.  It sounds like something to do.  It’s making value judgments about thinking, maybe getting people thinking about their thinking.  It made me smile when people got nervous explaining what they heard and what stayed with them through the years.  They’d say, “I know this isn’t right. But this is what made sense to me.”  What really made me smile was what they said after that:

 –   As a working Mom with a husband who traveled a lot, it helped me notice when I was being impatient with my son getting ready for school.  I was able to see that it was my thinking, not what he was doing, that was frustrating me.  I saw a choice between starting our day on a good note or not.

–   I had faith in my resilience in the face of some pretty extreme business events, including our building being wiped out in a flood.  I knew I had a choice to get focused in the moment and do what needed to be done rather than get caught up and overwhelmed.

–   I gave myself permission to work on one task at a time.  I stopped multi-tasking and over thinking everything.  I’m productive and confident. 

–   It takes a lot less energy to get a better result.  I was always a hard worker and got it done, but my clarity of thinking is so much better I can get those same results with a whole lot less energy.

People also admitted that they could still go down a rat hole of thinking and feeling that wasn’t helpful.  But they didn’t get stuck there. Life got a little easier.

I remember taking time in the early days to set the stage for insight-based learning, asking the class to trust our different approach.  We promised that if they hung in there with us, they would see something new for themselves that would stick with them.   They did.

Problem Solving 2.0

14224761_sIn the late 1990s when I began teaching the 3 Principles in business, it was leading edge to talk to leaders about the effect their state of mind had on their ability to solve problems and make decisions.  Most participants had multiple insights and valued the training, but as I reflect on what they saw (and how I was teaching), it was just the first step to a deeper, more powerful understanding — Problem Solving 2.0.

 As a result of that training, leaders realized that a clear, focused state of mind left more mental space available for insights to effortlessly emerge from their innate wisdom. They felt a sense of confidence and certainty in what to do when, and they stopped second-guessing themselves.  It was certainly helpful but it wasn’t the whole story.

It’s one thing to appreciate that you will solve problems more effectively from a clear, focused state of mind, but understanding that the problem itself is a product of your thinking in the moment is significantly more leveraged.  When you see that your perception of any problem is created via your thinking — thinking that can change in an instant — you get curious about the nature of the problem itself and less rigid about what you know. You’re inclined to take a second look at a more essential level.  Often, it’s the new thinking inherent in that second look that shifts your perspective ever so slightly. What looked impossible only minutes ago turns out to have multiple avenues for success.

Fueling the Fire — or Not

fireAlthough we can’t control what we think about life’s ups and downs, we do have some say over where we invest our mental energy, where we focus our attention, the level of attachment we have to our thinking in the moment.  When we see the nature of thought rather than the content of thought, it gives us a level of objectivity, a distance that makes room for a different perspective.

 For example, before the holidays I sent an e-mail to a friend and colleague to summarize my thoughts on a contract I’d finished.  I followed it up with a phone call that went to voice mail.  At the beginning of this month, I still hadn’t heard from him. Of course, I started speculating as to why – and you know it didn’t have a positive spin.  I could actually feel my stomach drop as I’d pour energy into the scenario I was creating in my head.  Then I’d catch myself and back up.  I’d stop feeding the mental bonfire and it would go out.

 When people start to learn about the role and nature of thought, they catch on quickly to the idea that they are creating their experience of life in the moment via thought.  As they get more savvy, they see the connection between their thinking and their feeling.  And then they want to know what to do when they have thinking they don’t want.

To me, it’s helpful to think about choosing where to invest your personal energy.  Use whatever metaphor works for you – feeding the fire works for me.  I get a chuckle out of picturing myself frantically throwing logs on the fire or stepping away and letting it go out.  It’s not about thinking up a better scenario or coming up with a more hopeful perspective.  When we become less attached to the content of our thinking, our minds clear and we return to our innate well-being.  We feel ourselves filling up with the creative energy of life and the beautiful feeling of peace and hopefulness that’s our birthright.  We automatically renew our source of personal energy when we stop wasting it. 

A Peaceful New Year

Happy New Year!  Let’s make 2013 the year we make peace… with ourselves.  I know it’s tempting to see the clean slate of the new year as an opportunity to re-start all those self-improvement initiatives, but what if we resolved to give it a rest for a while. peace sign

We fool ourselves into thinking that happiness is a journey or some kind of contingent give and take. I’ll be happy when I finish my degree, when I lose 10 lbs., when I get more clients….  And when we meet those goals and we’re still not content, we decide that must not have been it; there must be some other key to happiness out there.  Or, we see the flaw in that cycle and decide we’re going to “work on” accepting ourselves and being grateful for what we have in life.  We redirect our critical self-thinking and make lists of everything we have to be thankful for or all of our positive traits.  We vow to practice loving ourselves until we get it right.  What?

 We’ve all had the experience of solving problems when we stopped working on them.  Answers just appeared.  We’ve been flooded by powerful feelings of joy and gratitude while driving to the supermarket. This is what happens when we let our essential resilience, our innate wisdom and common sense, bubble to the top of our consciousness.  It’s always there if we have the faith to stop doing and just be.

THANKSGIVING — EVERY DAY

Many Americans say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. Why? It’s an oasis of good feeling in what can be the frantic weeks of the holiday season. People give themselves permission to relax for a few hours with family and friends, share a meal, and be grateful for the bounty in their lives. If it feels so good, why don’t we do it more than once a year?

Living in a feeling of gratitude and abundance is always available to us – it’s not about the event. We live in a world of thought, old and new, along with the accompanying feelings. We decide which thoughts and feelings to dwell on and which ones to let pass through. If we believe gratitude is a special feeling reserved for rare occasions, then we won’t notice it in our day-to-day lives.

I tend to see abundance in my world rather than scarcity. It’s an orientation, a perspective I’ve come to see as normal. But I’ll admit, I’m a little deliberate about gratitude just because it feels so good. I look for it inside me every morning as soon as I wake up, and it’s always there. Sometimes, I actually feel myself smile while my eyes are still closed. So on Thursday when you settle down and let yourself slide into a peaceful, grateful moment, realize the potential for that feeling is always there. It can feel like Thanksgiving every day – even without the turkey and pumpkin pie.

Testing my own Essential Resilience

Recently, I’ve had to practice what I preach in my training and coaching – on myself!  After 14 years in a job I loved with a company whose patriotic mission was a source of inspiration and pride, I was laid off due to a centralization of HR services. It took two years to complete the reorganization, and during that time, I continued to teach and coach others to be resilient in the face of uncertainty and change. 

I can’t say that I didn’t get angry and sad, but my understanding of where those feelings came from kept me from dwelling on them.  It wasn’t about the circumstances; it was my thinking about those circumstances.  I also knew that whatever I was feeling was a product of my thinking.  So I had a choice – put more energy into my anger and resentment (which felt terrible!) or have faith in the amazing human potential for new thinking.

I’ve never been so grateful to have learned about the role and nature of thought from Mr. Sydney Banks.  His books and lectures about three simple, yet profound principles helped me realize that we are all essentially resilient — that we have an unlimited potential for new thinking that instantly brings us a different experience of life in the moment.  Those tough times tested my own faith and understanding but at the same time, my teaching and coaching jumped to a new level.

My goal for these posts is to share my experiences in training, coaching and consulting based on a foundational understanding of what Mr. Banks referred to as the 3 Principles.  I invite my business colleagues and the practitioners in the 3 Principles Global Community to share their experiences, questions, and thoughts for future post topics.