Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Creative Edge

In Out of the Box Coaching with the Enneagram, Clarence Thomson and I suggest for Enneagram style Fours, "You'll establish more rapport when you witness their pain, show your empathy, honor their unique way of seeing things, and focus your questions on how they feel." In a similar vein, we write that style Twos "respond better to feelback than to feedback."

Nonetheless, when coaching someone with heightened emotions, I sometimes wonder if I've been helpful by simply listening and mirroring their feelings.

Aware that my own needs for evidence and results don't necessarily serve the client, I try not to be pushy about moving to solutions. But I have often used Focusing as a way to help them move through emotional pain via kinesthetic sensing and imagery. So I was pleased to connect with Dr. Kathy McGuire, who studied with the creator of Focusing, Dr. Eugene Gendlin. Among the many free articles at McGuire's Creative Edge Focusing site, those on grieving have been especially helpful to me when coaching clients with strong feelings.

In "Active Grieving" Dr. McGuire writes, "Your body knows how to grieve and will direct the process to a healing conclusion, if you can stop suppressing it." In her Five Minute Grieving process, she suggests we:
  1. invite the client to cry ("... let's make room for your tears...")
  2. empathize without trying to "fix" or take away the grief ("It seems bleak right now...")
  3. help the client find words or images for the tears ("It helps to get a handle on the feeling...")
  4. empathize again, often by paraphrasing the client's words ("So it's your fear you'll never be a parent and that's hard...")
  5. continue steps (1) through (4) as long as makes sense, then establish closure and orient the client, if necessary, by doing a "present time" exercise ("You're welcome to sit here for a minute... let's make sure you're back in the world...")
  6. or you may want to continue with other aspects of the session ("Let's see if we can look for solutions to your situation...")
I've written elsewhere about Symbolic Modeling, a right-brain technique where the coach stays within a client's metaphor landscape by using clean language (responses that elicit the client's own resources to generate healing at a symbolic level). McGuire's Focused Listening is similar, combining Gendlin's Focusing with Carl Roger's Reflective Listening:
  1. Pure Reflection of the client's words, gestures, and metaphorical responses ("So there's an image... two triangles intersecting, red and white intertwining..."). 
  2. Asking for More ("Can you say more about 'the pressure'... exactly what is that like?") 
  3. The Focusing Invitation ("Would it be okay to 'sit' at the Edge of that anger for a moment and see what comes?")
  4. The Personal Sharing (for which Dr. McGuire provides the caveat, "It's hard to even mention the possibility of personal sharings, because they can include all the typical responses outlawed when the listener sets aside personal assumptions," but sometimes you may have a strong intuition, to be offered only if the client gives the go-ahead and only to return immediately to pure reflection).
Finally, I am touched by McGuire's discussion of The Focusing Attitude. To capture the essential qualities of empathy, respect, and non-judgmental acceptance, she shares the metaphor used by Fathers Pete Campbell and Ed McMahon, creators of Bio-Spiritual Focusing, to convey a caring, feeling presence:
Imagine you have found an abandoned infant on the steps of your hospital. Imagine how you would, through your bodily attention, convey complete acceptance and love and safety to the infant: "You are totally wanted in this world and safe with me." Now, turn this same kind of loving attention toward your inner experiencing.
I'm convinced that the creative edge of change involves working with metaphors and -- lovingly and with trust in our clients' innate healing capacity -- following the trail through kinesthetic, auditory, and visual imagery to the healing power of those metaphors.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hungry Ghosts

In Buddhism the Hungry Ghosts are depicted as teardrop shaped, with bloated stomachs and necks too thin to pass food—representing our futile attempts to feed ego patterns. We can never find satisfaction. It is like drinking salt water to quench our thirst.

We all learned early in life to avoid pain by developing strategies that served us, to a point. But from those strategies we formed a false identity and buried our true selves. We can begin to release those strategies and free ourselves from programmed responses by observing without judgment how the automatic responses play out. The question of how is elemental. Why can be interesting, especially as you and your clients try to understand the early precursors of their personality patterns. However, to promote transpersonal change (transcending the "personality") be present now to patterned behavior.

This level of observation is similar to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. Your fundamental task is to help clients hold full awareness in the present, notice their flow of thoughts, their emotions, their kinesthetic responses, and accept these experiences without judgment, without attempts to control. Instead of theorizing about or labeling their behavior, coach them to identify, embrace, and learn from their patterns. A typical pattern (with a variety of motivations and manifestations) is to agree to some experiments between coaching sessions, only to admit in the following session they didn't do what they agreed to do.

Unfortunately, some coaching programs consider it part of the coach's role to "promote the client's self-discipline and hold the client accountable for what they say they are going to do, for the results of an intended action, or for a specific plan with related time frames."

There's a place for this approach, of course, but coaches who adhere strictly to that premise may unwittingly reinforce superficial change and miss opportunities for clients to learn about patterns that have blocked them lifelong.

Other coaches may act as enforcers at the client's request. Don't let that be you.
Pay attention to what clients DO, not what they DON'T do. Personality patterns are deeply embedded and very tricky. One of the best ways to ferret them out is to catch them in action. If clients show the same "bad" behavior they've wanted to stop, that behavior is now in the room with you, ready to be explored.

Here's an example, the second session with a client whose Enneagram style had not yet been determined:

I thought about what to talk about today, remembering what I said I'd do. I haven't done as much as I'd like to. And I've been beating myself up about that.

You wanted to do more. How did you beat yourself up? What did that look like?  

Feeling uncomfortable, anxious, telling myself I'm lazy, I should have done more, feeling disappointed in myself. Also some victimizing, asking myself "Why isn't all this networking I'm doing coming to fruition?"

So that's been a pattern--creating an intention, not doing it as much as you'd like, then beating yourself up. Anything else?  

I feel lost in a way, like there's no structure, no clear path for me to follow. I've always felt a little uneasy when I've only had myself to rely on.

Are you beginning to identify the hungry ghosts this client's been trying to feed? And notice the lack of judgment in the coach's responses, implicitly modeling for the client that whatever comes up is a useful source of learning. Exploring what your clients do, not what they don't do, will encourage them to unveil more, bring the past into the present, and release attachments to outmoded, unnecessary patterns.

Tormented by unfulfilled cravings and insatiably demanding of impossible satisfactions, the Hungry Ghosts are searching for gratification for old unfulfilled needs whose time has passed . . . Their ghostlike state represents their attachment to the past. Mark Epstein, Thoughts Without a Thinker

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram

The following is a snapshot of my work with a senior executive team. Pete (style Five) was the CEO, with a team of three Executive Vice Presidents: Matt (style Six), Sally (style Three), and Joe (style Nine).

Initially, each of the four worked with me to create an individual development plan based on self-assessment, my observations, and feedback from in-depth interviews with their boss (in Pete's case the Board Chair), peers, and subordinates. Our work also included learning about the Enneagram and applying their insights to both individual growth and effectiveness in team interactions. All four met with me several times independently, observing their Enneagram patterns between sessions and engaging in pattern-breaking experiments.

The team members are described briefly below and more thoroughly in the linked posts, in both their own words and a summary of team mates' observations. These are partial descriptions that highlight aspects most impacting team effectiveness.

Matt: "I'd like to be more centered, more at peace with myself," said Matt (style Six), "so my reaction doesn't become a function of what somebody else says every twenty minutes!" He felt close to Joe, but sometimes resented Pete for being "stingy" with praise, and found it difficult to accept Sally's suggestions without thinking she was meddling. Matt's team mates described him as very bright, capable, intense, hard working, and an excellent manager. They agreed, however, that he was "a package of contradictions," cautious yet reckless, confident yet worrying what others thought of him, impulsively decisive or unable to decide. (Read more...)

Pete: Possessed of an outstanding mind, Pete's (style Five) retreat into intellect was apparent: "It's my gift and also my down side that I can be an intellectual dilettante and play with ideas for the sake of playing with them." The other three respected his brilliance, innovative thinking, and love of debate, but said he had a hard time seeing issues from others' points of view. The said Pete expected them to take care of themselves and saw emotional vulnerabilities as weaknesses. (Read more...)

Sally: Her earlier (style Three) reaction to emotional discomfort had been to withdraw without explaining herself. She was convinced she could make a difference and aggressively pursued goals she believed in. Her team mates described Sally as bright and articulate, but they wished she wouldn't hold such a dichotomy between her personal self and work life, and they saw her persistent efforts to intervene as interfering. (Read more...)
Joe: At a polar extreme from Sally, Joe (style Nine) was the most open, loving, and emotional of the four. Sometimes he'd blow his top, then apologize, then forget what had happened. He was highly valued by the others as entrepreneurial, well-informed, and passionate about having an impact on the world, but it was difficult to follow his epic tales, and he needed more focus and clarity when presenting his ideas. (Read more...)

Team Session

Their half-day together began by acknowledging their Enneagram styles to the others, with examples of typical motivations and behaviors of each. From their self- descriptions we created ground rules for the session. Joe (style Nine) asked that he be offered multiple options. Sally (style Three) requested that we stop and create some guidelines for self-disclosure if she began to feel too uncomfortable. Matt (style Six) wanted any feedback he received to be balanced, preferably with the positive feedback first. And Pete (style Five) was accorded time to process his reactions internally. We discussed the value each brought to the team, as well as Enneagram dynamics that might impede their full effectiveness. They found this discussion so useful, we created a group action plan based on their styles, with two commitments from each to the other three.

Most of the session's content reflected the assessments described above and in the linked details. In addition, there was an observable emotional impact of disclosing themselves so fully, and their own dynamics became even more evident to them as they had a reality check from each other and from my real-time observations. Furthermore, several additional dynamics were highlighted through the group interaction:

  • There was a tendency for "we-they" pairings (Pete/Sally and Matt/Joe), explained not only by their Enneagram styles but also by their MBTI preferences, in Joe's (ENFP) and Matt's (ENFJ) greater ease with openness and more people-oriented observations (both had a Feeling preference on the MBTI), as compared to Sally's (ENTJ) and Pete's (INTP) more reserved styles and logical observations (both had a Thinking preference on the MBTI).
  • Joe (style Nine) played the role of facilitator in general (astutely analyzing and explaining some of the dynamics he observed), and mediator between Sally and Matt in particular. In debriefing this behavior, however, it became clear Joe had unwittingly diffused some energy between Sally and Matt by acting as a sounding board to each, instead of helping them find a way to work things out directly, without his intervention
  • Matt (style Six) showed courage in diving in to speak what was in his heart, and also a tendency to defend himself in the face of perceived criticism. He had promised himself he'd quietly take things in and respond in a non-defensive manner instead of reacting immediately blurting out emotionally, all of which went by the wayside as members of the team lost themselves in the drama of their interaction.
  • Pete (style Five) intellectually analyzed others' behaviors in a way that seemed to them somewhat condescending and interpretive. He had difficulty making positive statements. To his credit he hung in and kept trying to be more self-disclosing and to give more balanced feedback. 
  • Sally (style Three) showed physical discomfort but honored her commitment to stay engaged in the process. In addition, she brought value to the group with her clarity about the importance of being heard. She asked others to paraphrase what they'd heard her say, which was good modeling for the group. 
By the end of the session they agreed they'd met their goal of "going deeper" than they had in the past, and there were a number of recommendations for working together more effectively. I later summarized these in a group action plan for mutual development, the introduction summarizing three key points:
  1. Conflict occurs largely because we all interpret things differently from our various worldviews. When you put yourself in someone else's shoes you'll enhance the possibility of learning about yourself and building more constructive ways of working together.
  2. Each of the Enneagram patterns represents only a glimpse of reality. As you wake up to these aspects of your shadow you'll free yourself from habitual behavior, gain tolerance for one another, open communication, and develop trust and compassion. 
  3. It's important to recognize each others' gifts. It's also important to acknowledge that working on yourself in the team is an unparalleled development opportunity. Each has separate work to do, but the work touches and moves in the heart of the relationship (Margaret Frings Keyes, The Enneagram Relationship Workbook). 

CRS Disease: "Can't Remember S---t!"

More information about Joe, Executive VP in a team of four in "Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram."
At a polar extreme from his style Three team mate Sally, Joe  (style Nine) was the most open of four executive team members. "Matt (style Six) and I connect very well and have a lot in common," he said. "Sally and I are so different our relationship is variable -- sometimes good, sometimes strained. Connecting is very important to me, which our CEO Pete (style Five) sees as a weakness, and he's the least likely to give praise or connect with me or anyone else on the team."

Joe's Eight wing was prominent. "Sometimes I'll blow my top. People who know me realize it's never directed personally, and I've also learned -- if I do screw up -- to go apologize. But I'm not the most sensitive person in the world on social nuances. Someone has to hit me on the head, and then I say, 'Oh thanks for waking me up!'" This element of self-forgetting was also evident in Joe's poor memory: "I have CRS disease: Can't remember shit. I think it's an asset in that I don't hold grudges very long, mainly because I've forgotten what happened."

Matt attributed Joe's outbursts of anger to "getting too worn down physically. When that happens things get out of whack. At one meeting he got me out in the lobby and started screaming at me, explaining it by saying, 'This is me, I have to vent.' The next day I told him 'Don't yell at me!'" Sally said "Joe and I have worked out a deal that when he's emotional I go away and come back after he's calmed down." 

Joe didn't remember being discounted as a child; in fact he remembered little of his childhood. But he came into one of our meetings after a visit from his father, and announced, "I saw it! We played golf while he was here and after I teed off he said, 'You call that a drive?' He even made fun of me to some golfers who came up behind us. I realized that kind of remark must have been common when I was growing up." Joe described his mother as "the kind of person for whom the glass is always half-empty. That's also the kind of person I have the most difficulty dealing with: they look for ways to be disappointed because it reinforces their view of the world." 

Style Nine's coping strategy also was revealed in Joe's early, vague focus about his career: "Growing up, I was not an overachiever, and I wasn't very mature going into college. I always knew I was smart, and I knew eventually I'd get my act together, but I didn't have a plan. It kind of fell together. Each year it's more focused. I just wish it had happened a long time ago!"

His distractibility had been somewhat of a problem for Joe in meetings: "Being in a room for two or three hours really stresses my abilities because it's hard to stay focused." He was aware how difficult it was for others to follow his epic tales, but this also had an upside: "Though Joe's lack of focus may sometimes hide it, he is incredibly bright." "Joe's not very structured in his thinking, but he's a free-wheeling idea generator who doesn't have restrictions or boundaries." According to Pete, "Joe has a very long-winded communication style; for example, his voice mail messages are all over the place. He has good ideas, but they're not polished or worked through enough and, if I stop to ask questions, he says I don't appreciate his ideas." 

Joe agreed with Pete. "I need to formulate my thoughts before speaking. I'm seen more as a mad scientist and would like to be seen as a critical thinker. I'd like some help on how to be more controlled, analytical, thoughtful, to be able to sit in a meeting, process information, and speak only to really important issues, with few words. I believe I have a responsibility to stay focused, to make sure the group attains its goals."

He was highly valued by the other team members as "an entrepreneur with good ideas and perceptions, someone with a long-term perspective, extremely well-informed about business and industry issues, an idealist with passionate feelings about making an impact on the world in areas he valued." Joe was seen as open-minded, someone who tried to understand various points of view, but he could also be positioned. "If it's a new idea where nothing already exists, he'll explore things," said Sally, "but if he's thought it through himself he tries to defend his position, sometimes stubbornly."

Joe's loving nature was quite apparent to his team mates, who described him as "fun socially, warm, sincere, charming, and affectionate, more of a feeling person than an analyst." Matt was at ease with these qualities, but Sally said, "We're very different. Joe's a touchy person. Maybe I have too many walls around me, but it makes me nervous." And Pete saw Joe as "someone who needs positive feedback more than most; you can tell when you've said something that's tripped one of his switches, because he gives very strong nonverbal clues that he's shut off." Matt said, "I don't buy Pete's view that Joe needs more feedback than most. He just needs balance instead of only negative feedback."

Finally, others described Joe as having a kind of innocence about his own behavior. "He seems caring," said Sally, "yet sometimes I can't believe how oblivious he is to what's going on around him." Pete had noticed in meetings, "It will be clear to me and others that someone's not listening, and Joe won't see it. For him to hear something you have to come at him pretty directly; otherwise he kind of goes to sleep."

Among other development actions, Joe learned through meditation techniques to focus for prescribed periods of time, and he became much better able to handle long meetings and to present his thoughts more succinctly. In fact, he sailed through an executive MBA program.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Package of Contradictions

More information about Matt, Executive VP in a team of four in "Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram."

"My father was dominant, short-tempered, and controlling," said Matt (style Six) during our first meeting. "My mother was caring, traditional, focused on her kids, her husband, her home. She was also fearful: always afraid of an accident, of something bad happening, always talking about who was sick, who was dying. They were both strict and -- although I was a really good kid -- they wouldn't trust me to take care of myself. Even today, my mother asks unbelievable questions about my health."

Matt had impressive presence. He was often one step ahead of me as we talked about the Enneagram and its application to his interactions with the other three people on the executive team. In response to my example of a style Six client from another organization who'd been described as "wearing his emotions on his sleeve," Matt said, "I think I'm too open. I've heard our CEO Pete (style Five) describing other people by how things go straight from their gut to their mouths, and I think that's how he sees me."

Aware that he'd been looking to others for affirmation, Matt was learning to give himself credit. With reflection, however, he saw how key dynamics of style Six had been playing out with his team mates. He felt close to Joe (style Nine), but sometimes resented Pete for being "stingy" with praise, and found it difficult to accept any suggestions from Sally (style Three) without thinking she was meddling. 

"I'd like to be more centered, more at peace with myself," he said, "so my reaction doesn't become a function of what somebody else says every twenty minutes!"

Matt's team mates described him as a very bright, capable executive, an intense individual with "a lot of emotions pumping." They said he brought a tremendous amount of energy and excitement to the group and put in immeasurable hours to reach his goals. He was also applauded for excellent management skills: "He appreciates what it takes to motivate people, understands the little things that make a difference, and treats his people with respect." Another key contribution to the team was Matt's attention to team work across company lines. "He has an appreciation for the various roles that need to be played in the company," said Joe, "so he promotes cross-functional discussions, copies others on voice mail, and reminds his direct reports to include others."

The other three all agreed, however -- as Joe so eloquently put it -- that Matt was "a package of contradictions." He had a good sense of his inner strengths and capabilities and portrayed an aura of professionalism, but he worried overmuch about what people thought of him. "He has this element of caution about 'danger out there,'" Joe said, "yet he also projects a note of reckless abandon" (Matt referred to this as his kamikaze quality). His team mates saw this paradox in Matt as affecting his decision-making: "He can decide on an impulsive, intuitive basis," said Joe, "yet will sometimes say 'We can't do this because...'"Sally assumed Matt "wants to do well and be right, yet has serious doubts, so sometimes he'll take too long to decide, and sometimes he'll back down too readily, especially when challenged by Pete." And, as Matt suspected, Pete said, "Matt needs the most work on not blurting things out."

As a consequence of our personal work, Matt learned to reach inside when he started to react strongly to someone else's opinion and "let it go." In fact, he passed on to me an article by Carl Hammerschlag about ordinary people who journey past fear and illusion:
The primary task in the pursuit of salvation and healthy living is to choose to respond to the summons of life's journey. The truth is that you don't have to take somebody else's path or identify with an established heroic figure. You are the principal character in your own life's drama.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Intellectual Aikido

More information about Pete, CEO in executive team of four in "Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram."

"I grew up with a mother who's very critical," said Pete (style Five), "but we've had a pretty good relationship, Others have told me I'm her favorite, although I've never perceived it that way. My father was a very driven individual who became the first professional in an immigrant family, and he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. We did things together, but he could become explosively angry and was not likely to give any praise. He had a clear agenda for me, and it wasn't until he died that I felt completely free." 

Possessed of an outstanding mind, Pete's retreat into intellect was apparent: "I found college to be an intellectual lark," he reported. During his professional training, he and one of his mentors created a new discipline that became an accredited course of study and, by the time of our work together, he was a nationally acknowledged leader in his field. "One of my gifts and also my down side," he said, "is that I can be an intellectual dilettante and play with ideas for the sake of playing with them. I'm also very passionate when I value something, and I think I underestimate my ability to influence other people." Although he struggled with disdain for people "driven by their emotional needs," consistent feedback from others helped Pete recognize the value of more positive reinforcement. "I need to better motivate and connect with my executive team so they can work at a higher level and feel good about the organization and about me."

Comments from his three executive vice presidents about Pete conveyed their respect for his brilliance and innovative thinking. "He's a very complex person -- like a wonderful Caesar Salad -- and an unparalleled strategic thinker in his field." "He's one of the smartest people I've ever been around." "He's an extraordinary conceptual thinker, very shrewd." They all agreed Pete was a great generator of innovative ideas and loved to debate, "although he may not even believe in the point he's arguing. Because he has such a passionate state of mind, he couldn't really tell you at the moment whether he loves the idea or not!" 

They also agreed Pete had a hard time seeing issues from the other person's point of view. While a very free-flowing thinker, his persistence could make him seem positioned or even rigid, thus shutting others out. "If you present a compelling argument and speak with conviction, he'll listen," said Joe (style Nine), "but if you get into a debate with him you can't win; he'll rip you apart." Sally (style Three) described Pete as "completely the opposite of Matt (style Six) in that he'll take a totally dispassionate view." Also, Pete was known to change his views from one occasion to the next, neither explaining the change nor giving credit to the person who influenced his thinking. Sally thought this was an unconscious process: "The way he gathers feedback is to make a lot of statements and then process the reactions, not revealing whether or not he's been persuaded in some way; he then re-tools his thinking and comes back with an integrated view, not even aware of the transition himself."

In addition to some frustration with his debating tactics, the other three knew Pete expected them to take care of themselves. "He doesn't appear to think about us developmentally," said Joe. According to Matt, "He just doesn't see the value of positive feedback." Nor did paying attention to individual needs come naturally to Pete. Others were aware he saw emotional vulnerabilities as weaknesses. "If you meet him with humor and intelligence when he's all wound up, that's a form of intimacy for him, kind of an intellectual aikido. But he has great difficulty disclosing himself or giving praise directly."

As part of his development work, Pete asked me to create an assessment form to check his progress, based on input from team members and the board president. We collected this information twice a year for two years, as a basis for follow-up coaching.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Star Trek

More information about Sally, Executive VP in a team of four in "Developing a Work Team with the Enneagram."

Sally (style Three), one of three executive vice presidents reporting to the CEO, Pete (style Five), had been reacting to emotional discomfort by withdrawing, without explaining herself. Pete was concerned about this: "If it's a business or technical issue, she'll confront, but when she's uncomfortable about something she draws back from it emotionally. During one intense team session she just sat back and worked on some papers."

Sally said, "Too many of our discussions focus on feelings and not enough on outcomes. When this happens I tell myself This is too emotional for me and back away. I grew up in a big, extended family that fights and screams. I've seen my father punish my sister, who would never conform to what he wanted, and I remember thinking I never want to get on his bad side. My Dad was always telling us what we should do, how we should look, but I was never afraid he'd turn on me because I could control that very easily by doing what he asked."

Her results-focus showed up in Sally's self-image as a team member: "Joe (style Nine) and Matt (style Six) will probably say I try to take responsibility for things that aren't my job. But when I think our employees or customers might be let down, I offer assistance. It's hard when I think I can make a situation better but they're either upset with me for 'interfering' or aren't willing to do what I suggest." 

Her team mates described Sally as bright and articulate, but they wished she wouldn't hold such a dichotomy between her personal self and work life. They saw her as somewhat closed to people.  Joe said, "She has a normal comfort zone for someone at her level." Matt agreed: "I'd like to get to know her better, but I feel off-guard with her" (this was in response to her intervening in his areas of responsibility). 

Sally was convinced she could make a difference and aggressively pursued goals she believed in. Consequently, her responsibilities had steadily grown since she joined the company. When asked about her working definition of teamwork, she said, "I think Star Trek: The Next Generation teaches wonderful lessons about honesty and how to treat people; they're a diverse group but when the chips are down they work together. The leader of the crew is very strong, but treats everyone with respect and gets done what needs to be done. I know I can be overbearing in taking the lead, but I do not want to be vulnerable to failure. It's just safer to be on my own."

A major priority for Sally's development was to access her feelings and learn how to consider the feelings of others. Shortly after our team session, she sent a memo to Matt outlining in specific and glowing terms his contribution to a major project. She acknowledged in private her goal to become more comfortable making such comments in person.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Beyond Ambition

In his well-worn but not outdated book, Beyond Ambition: How Driven Managers Can Lead Better and Live Better, Robert Kaplan referred to expansive leaders as those who are vitally concerned with gaining mastery over their environment. These top leaders are highly motivated and usually ambitious, even driven, and many depend too much on success as a primary means of reinforcing their sense of self-worth.

His research at the Center for Creative Leadership showed that moderately expansive executives mobilize the organization to attain its objectives without weakening or destroying it in the process, but overly expansive executives focus too much on winning -- they're unnecessarily competitive, lacking in perspective, unrealistically ambitious for their organizations, often compulsive, controlling or even exploitative, too hungry for rewards, and resistant to criticism and change.

Managerial expertise and business knowledge matter, but the basic character of leaders powerfully affects the way they run an organization. Those who succeed are distinguished from those who derail not by absence of weakness, but by the ability to learn from their experience, including mistakes and failures.

When leaders seek a significant breakthrough in their effectiveness, there's much to be gained by looking beyond personality traits and behavior to the leader's character -- the set of deep-seated strategies used to enhance or protect one's sense of self-worth -- including basic driving forces. Such fundamental change, though difficult, is possible. Being coached to an inner character shift brings an attitude of relaxed concentration, where one is more highly effective, but at lower rpms.

Kaplan offered three prototypes, case studies that link to three Enneagram styles (he doesn't refer to the Enneagram in the book's text, but does include it in his list of references):
Striver-Builder (Chapter 2, "Bill Flechette"): No-nonsense attitude, gets things done, specializes in building organizations, plans for the future, drives toward implementation, strives for a world-class organization, competitive, drawn to be exceptional, interested in looking good (overly concerned about being the best/impressing higher-ups; subordinates sense their function is to meet Striver/Builder's objectives), articulate communicator (to the point of creating own reality), defensive, resists becoming aware of weaknesses/disputes feedback data (can't bear to admit feelings), self-deceptive, narcissistic.

Self-Vindicator Fix-It (Chapter 5, "Rich Bauer"): Authoritative and commanding, use of power stands out above all, physical presence radiates power, visceral need to rectify dysfunction, leads by attacking what's wrong, energizes "this isn't good enough" approach, specializes in turnarounds, gruff and direct, intimidating (with underlying warmth and good will), gets mad/gets over it quickly, doesn't support people enough, doesn't have soft touch, doesn't tutor/coach, judges people as either having it or not.

Perfectionist/Systematizer (Chapter 11, "Lee McKinney"): Devoted to principles, dedicated, hard-working, results-oriented, effective, loyal, adept at order/systems, durable under stress, over-manages, can't ever be pleased, difficulty discriminating between important/unimportant tasks, difficulty taking other points of view, needs to be right/beyond reproach, internalizes a host of shoulds, self-punishing and punishing of others.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Coaches R Us

In the "Creating Room to Play" section of Out of the Box Coaching (Chapter 13) we described ways to develop right brain tactics. Expanding on this, I've sometimes invited coaches to devise metaphorical gifts that break through a client's key Enneagram pattern. Below, in italics, are coach John Porcari's ideas, offered in hopes they'll stimulate your own thinking:
  1. An articulate, creative, but perfectionistic employee has lost three jobs because of chastising others when they're wrong. Metaphorical gift: A pair of rose-colored glasses or a magnifying glass, suggesting the client notice what is good or magnify positive traits.
  2. A department head in a social service agency mentors everyone who works for her, but discourages promotions because she doesn't think they're ready to leave her. Metaphorical gift: A dog leash, with the story of the country dog and the city dog: The country dog roams freely, and you often will find him coming to sit by the master on the porch because the freedom engenders loyalty; in the city the master holds the dog tightly on a leash, assuming the dog would otherwise bolt and run. You want to be in a relationship that builds country dog loyalty.
  3. A highly successful entrepreneur keeps referring to his work with you as "a rite of passage." Metaphorical gift:  A big, squeezy heart with a tiny ribbon on it, as a reminder that achievements are only a small change compared to the big change of heart that's possible.
  4. A melancholy graphic artist moodily withdraws from the reality of his organization's aggressive, hierarchical culture. Metaphorical gift:  A Teflon pan: You can stay in the heat but you don't have to have any of the junk stick to you. 
  5. An extremely introverted CEO wants to walk around the halls more and get to know people, but finds it difficult. Metaphorical gift: A toy bomb, with the inscription: "Prolonged time in office will trigger detonation!"
  6. A conflicted forty-year-old agonizes over his relationship with the woman who lives with him. Sometimes he raves about her good points. At other times he worries whether or not she loves him. Metaphorical gift: A combination pocket tape measure and level, with the suggestion that when he's measuring the success of the relationship and is conflicted to look for the balance -- not too high, not too low.
  7. A passionately optimistic team member tends to become defensive when you give her feedback. Metaphorical gift: A life preserver: I'm not here to judge; I'm here to help.
  8. An strong-willed business owner is protective of his family but becomes angry and domineering if challenged. When his wife tries to tell him their children are intimidated, he says she's over-reacting. Metaphorical gift: A shepherd's shaft and the image of a shepherd holding a frightened lamb in his arms, knowing the calm beating of his heart will calm the lamb with the inscription Don't let the beating of your voice prevent your children from hearing the beating of your heart.
  9. A nurse says it's impossible for her to stay focused and finish things she's started. "It's like I have ADD" she says. Metaphorical gift: A mocked-up doctor's prescription page or a prescription bottle with the instructions: Take two pauses and come back in five minutes. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

One, Two, Three, Grow

I was in the “City of Power Politics” with vested interests and terrified people intent on maintaining the status quo. Though I could do a cost-benefit analysis and was pretty good at organization, I had absolutely no idea what was really going on, why, or how to change it. This was crazy, and I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to deal with crazy. For sheer survival, if no other reason, I concluded I needed to understand crazy (Ed Morler, Preface, Finally Growing Up: Living an Authentic Empowered Life).
My day brightened considerably when I read those words. In a world of thieving investment bankers, human trafficking, and strategically planned warfare, I applaud Morler’s conclusion that the ultimate causal factor in human behavior is integrity, or the lack of it.  

Growing Up, which integrates the Enneagram with his Six Levels of Emotional Maturity, is about “consciously choosing to be responsible, and in that process, doing our best to discover and live our noble potential.” Morler recognizes increasing self-awareness as the path to greater emotional maturity:Integration is the result of a willingness to face and go through our fear, an exponential expansion of our willingness to be responsible and behave proactively, which broadens and deepens our sense of empowerment. It often tends to manifest as a dramatic, positive shift in our awareness of our being, doing and having. It is thus a major letting go of the compulsive, limiting aspects of personality (p. 216).

Morler proposes six levels of perceiving and responding to life’s situations, each level with characteristic emotions and set of filters, with 26 categories in each such as "Chronic Patterns" and "Willingness to Confront. Along the path of emotional maturity, he suggests, our questions change from “Am I getting enough?” to “Am I good enough?” to “Am I learning, growing, being enough?” to the secure realization, “I am enough.”

In this article I’ll illustrate the growing up of “Jake,” an Enneagram style Six, as an example of how Morler’s categories are grounded in real life. I do this in part because I learn best by trying things out, which – by the way – places me in Morler’s category of Learning Capacity somewhere between Level 6 (“...quick study”) and Level 5 (“Open to concepts supported by experience...”). So for today, I feel emotionally mature. [Sometimes, when confronted with highly theoretical abstractions, I dip to “rejecting new concepts as threatening” (Level 3) or even “It’s impossible, why bother?” (Level 1).]

Because Jake’s self-realization in this particular aspect of his life centered on his willingness to confront, the following outline will provide a frame of reference for his progress. Here are Morler’s six levels of emotional maturity in the category of Chronic Patterns, as well as descriptions of each level in Willingness to Confront, and Enneagram-specific descriptions for style Six:
Level 6 – LEADER Chronic Patterns: “High integrity. Comfortable presence. Clear focus. Big picture. Considerate of real needs. Positive action and results. Appreciates and enjoys life. Life is an adventure. Humor.” Willingness to confront: “Will confront whatever needs to be dealt with. Observational abilities finely tuned. Willingness to explore other beliefs and reassess one’s own. Great presence.”

Enneagram Six at Level 6: “Creator of security in and for others. Dynamic interdependence. Open. Perspective. Committed. Engaging. Playful. Integrates primarily to positive 9 and also to positive 3.

Level 5 – DOER Chronic Patterns: “Conscientious. Positive, provided claims are substantiated. Pleasant. Proactive devil’s advocate.” Willingness to confront:“Selectively confronts. Fair to good observational abilities. Cautious progress.”

Enneagram Six at Level 5: “Highly practical. Organizationally effective. Analyses. Tenacious. Troubleshooter. Constructive critic. Devil’s advocate.”

Level 4 – COPER Chronic Patterns: “More an observer than a participant. Casual, mellow. Takes the path of least resistance. Careless.” Willingness to confront:“Minimally confronts. Observational skills minimal. Difficult situations are avoided or ignored.”

Enneagram Six at Level 4: “Dutiful. Cautious. Security oriented. Skeptic. Ambivalent. Indecisive. Evasive.”

Level 3 – OPPOSER Chronic Patterns: “Sees world as hostile, threatening. Narrow emotional range. Best defense is an offense. Angry person. The debater.” Willingness to confront: “Attacks others to avoid confronting own irresponsibility. Tends to back down quickly when threats do not work.”

Enneagram Six at Level 3:“Phobic – Anxious. Pessimistic. Defensive. Looks toauthority figure. OR Counter-Phobic – Daredevil. Cynic. Blamer. Rebel. Antagonistic.”

Level 2 – MANIPULATOR Chronic Patterns: “World is so threatening that must hide own fear, hostile intentions and behaviors. Highly self-absorbed. The con man. The gossip. The martyr. The two-face.“ Willingness to confront: “Covertly manipulates and misdirects to avoid confronting and owning any responsibility.”

Enneagram Six at Level 2: “High anxiety. Immediately discounting of anything positive.  Everything is a crisis. Self-disparagement. Denial.”

Level 1 – VICTIM Chronic Patterns: “Cry-baby. Complainer. Whiner or just numbed out. Poor me. Yes man. The victim.” Willingness to confront: “Avoids almost all issues. Too inwardly focused to observe much at all.”

Enneagram Six at Level 1: “Whiner. ‘Continual unsolvable problems.’ Masochistic.Persecuted persecutor. Projection. Disintegrates primarily to negative 3 and also to negative 9.”
When Jake first sought coaching, he was new to the Enneagram. As he identified with the Six’s driving force of fear, he reported times in earlier years when he’d accepted others’ negative attributions of him, endured several emotional crises, and suffered high anxiety, sometimes to the point of depression, all more characteristic of levels 2-4 of the Six’s emotional maturity. Subsequently, through his own tenacity and desire to outgrow his fears, Jake had developed many Level 5 qualities, celebrating outstanding successes as an expert in his field. In addition, he’s extremely bright and self-aware and his life experiences had created great readiness to learn more about himself and to develop his full potential.

Primarily a phobic Six, Jake explored his behavioral patterns in the context of the Enneagram, particularly some ambivalence about his career choices – which had opened up the possibility of much greater responsibility based on his past successes. As he learned how to be more present, he had many moments of facing and moving through his fears. On the strength of that foundation, Jake embraced the opportunity to take an executive position in a turn-around situation, and entered that job at a level of self-awareness that placed him solidly in the 5th level of emotional maturity, with some signs of level 6, particularly in his desire to be a manager of others instead of a lone troubleshooter. We’d supported this vision and anticipated his new level of responsibility by exploring, rehearsing, and reinforcing the attributes and responsibilities of leadership.

During the first six months of Jake’s new job, however, the organizational dynamics threatened to trap him in the City of Power Politics described by Morler. The following comments capture Jake’s description of his shift into empowerment during his first six months on the job, as he continues to deepen his self-awareness and broaden his perspective.

“I realized I was very scared around people at higher levels in the company,” Jake began (illustrating his self-observation that he’d been selectively confronting at Level 5). “There are several very, very angry, insistent senior VPs in the company, and some of them I’ve known for ten years or more. But now that they’re at the top, I found myself saying “Yes, sir!” Jake was not the only one reacting to the organization’s top-down culture: “I got to the root of why the company is messed up – when they see something dysfunctional they ask the person reporting to them to find out what’s wrong and how to fix it. That results in many hours to prepare a summary, then the VP casts off what they’ve brought and says “You have to do twice as much.” People reporting to VPs say “Yes sir,” and then go flog the troops.” 

Jake related this dynamic to “child abuse” and we talked about how he was beginning to think systemically (Level 6’s “finely tuned observational abilities”). We identified what Peter Senge  (The Fifth Discipline) would call the organization’s archetype as most likely a version of “Fixes that Fail.” In this archetype, managers aim their responses at the symptoms rather than spending time identifying the underlying, systemic problem; with the unintended consequence that the quick fix exacerbates the initial problem symptom (William Braun, The System Archetypes).

Having analyzed the organization’s dysfunctional pattern, Jake found the courage to confront the VP: “If we look back at the insecurities I had, they were coming from all those people asking me to do things my gut told me not to do. So this week I’d been silently sitting there, taking a beating, when I finally decided the worst thing he could do was fire me. And I stood up to the VP, with my boss in the room. I acknowledged the company’s needs and the urgency, then said, ‘Here’s the reality of the organization you have today. . .’ I told him what we can do, which is focus on things with the broadest appeal and realize it may not be perfect immediately. The room was silent. The VP then turned his attention to someone else and started yelling at him!” Note that the VP – at best – was operating from Level 3, OPPOSER, in Morler’s lexicon of emotional maturity (“Best defense is an offense. . . Tends to back down quickly when threats do not work”).

As Jake’s story continues, you can see him gaining firmer ground in Level 6 (“Will confront whatever needs to be dealt with...”): “I stood up to the VP,” he said, “because it was the right thing to do. And it worked! So I started doing it with everybody. My boss asked me for some calculations, which had left no time to do my job. So I told him ‘I’ll be glad to keep you posted, but from now on, I’m going to spend my time doing what you hired me to do.’”

I asked Jake how he came to respond with such integrity. “There were a whole bunch of things I did,” he acknowledged, “but one sea change – I said what I believed to be true instead of holding back out of fear.”

Jake then planned a five-day team building agenda. He would bring his whole team in from around the world to be face-to-face, some of them for the first time. We agreed he would facilitate the session instead of bringing me in, to support his role as coach, not boss. He would embody empowerment and model a change from the historically hierarchical culture to one of collaborative interdependence. 

After exploring several concepts of team building, he adopted the Drexler Sibbet team performance model, addressing the first five stages during their week together: (1) Orientation (WHY am I here?), (2) Trust Building (WHO are you?), (3) Goal clarification (WHAT are we doing?), (4) Commitment (HOW will we do it?), (5) Implementation (WHO does WHAT, WHEN, WHERE?), (6) High Performance (WOW!), (7) Renewal (WHY continue?).

After the team’s week together, Jake’s e-mail to schedule a meeting with me was short and sweet: “The week went tremendously! Very interesting culture.” From the moment I picked up the phone it was evident he was enjoying Level 6 qualities (“High integrity. Comfortable presence. Clear focus. Big picture. Considerate of real needs. Positive action and results. Appreciates and enjoys life. Life is an adventure. Humor”). 

He started our conversation by joking, “I think they were afraid I was going to come in with Velcro suits and foam bats, so it was a little scary on Monday morning, but I used a simple, get-acquainted exercise where they interviewed each other in twos, then reported out about the person they’ve been talking to.” During Monday afternoon and all day and evening Tuesday, Jake brought in the company Vice Presidents to “to say directly why my team’s mission matters.” (He had been smart enough to give each of the VPs 30 minutes and talking points in advance; the rest of their time was to be for discussion.) “That turned things around,” he said, “to see that I had the VPs’ trust and the VPs took time to talk and answer any questions from team members.”

“I told my team the goal was for each person to have ownership in the results, and by the end of the week to have an entire plan with everyone knowing what they own and how they’re going to do it. Then they all sat at attention waiting for me to tell them what to do! I acknowledged that empowerment had not been the culture here, and said we had to completely let go of the way we’d been doing business: 'You’ve been told we have to do these things by these dates. I’m turning the meeting over to you now to solve these problems and decide how you want to be set up as an organization in order to do it.’ And it worked! I didn’t realize until the middle of the week how important it was to them to be treated like professionals. I kept in mind to model empowerment and, when they saw me not taking over, it would reinforce what I said. So I intentionally stepped out of the meeting more and more as the week wore on.” 

You can see evidence in the following comments of Jake’s moving back and forth between Level 5 (DOER) and Level 6 (LEADER): “I did find I had to keep monitoring myself. I kept wanting to solve problems that were on the table, but I think I did OK on that. At the beginning of the week I found myself diving in too much. Then as a gauge, I knew when I was feeling frustrated it was time to step back.” Describing the week’s outcomes, Jakes summarized: “We had two difficult things we needed to get done: to determine how long it would take to meet our goals, and how much it would cost. In the beginning, everyone on the team said we could not accomplish what we were expected to do in the given time frame, but by the end of the week they’d figured out how to do it! We’re still on a scary precipice, but as long as the family is tight and they know where they stand on things, we’ll be able to accomplish what we need to do.”

Jake also coached his team on how to do what he had done to interrupt the old pattern of top-down blaming and time lost preparing reams of reports. “I believe I’ve taught them how to respond when upper management starts getting on our backs again: ‘If you’re not proactive, they’ll keep doing it more.’”

In follow-up conversations there was every indication the collaborative change Jake encouraged and modeled was holding. “When I came back to work the following week,” he reported, “everyone was working and invigorated. I’d been wondering how to present to upper management what we’d done, and when I walked into my office found a presentation on my desk from one of my team members!” 

“My biggest challenge,” he concluded, “is to change this culture, and to do it by example, as if I’ve walked into a black and white company and I’m able to pour color all over it.”