Tag Archives: Change

Going Beyond Words

Beyond WordsAs children, our mothers had a tone in their voice – one which we understood when she called our name.  Good or bad, we knew what she meant – no explanation needed.

In much of our life, we take this sense – to know beyond what we see and hear – for granted.  It just happens.  We feel the connection with another person behind their smile.  We effortlessly change lanes when we sense a car coming over before it does.  When a friend tells us that everything is fine, we know whether they’re telling us the truth or not.

Intuitively, we know this sense is part of our life – one of the many things that makes us uniquely human.  And yet, somewhere along the way, we learn differently.  Sensing morphs into thinking and analyzing.

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imagesI learned a long time ago, that when I’m presented with a choice between 2 options, I need to look carefully.  More often than not, situations and choices are not as simple as they first appear.  The options function as a clue to see that there’s more than what meets the eye.

What would it look like to consciously re-integrate our sense to go beyond the words into our trained abilities to think, analyze and draw conclusions?

First, it’s relevant.  The fast pace of information, technology and the media increasingly captures the attention of our physical senses.  And, in the business world, we’ve expertly honed our data gathering and decision making skills to support thoughtful, analytical conclusions.

Re-integrating our intuitive sense to go beyond these mechanisms would enliven our ability to relate to others, to get to the root of what’s going on, behind the words.  In fact, researchers at MIT recently released a study about the effectiveness of teams.  Their conclusion was that women engage their intuitive sense to identify issues behind the words.  As a result, teams with more women are more effective getting the job done.

Second, it’s practical.  For example, many of my friends take great pride in having a “sense of direction” only to discover that when their phone and GPS aren’t working, they have to scramble to reboot the connection to their internal guide.

Third, it’s effective – though, as I learned first hand, a bit uncomfortable at first.  We all have stories about who, what when, how – I’ll share one of mine.

In my first, full-fledged healthcare-technology entrepreneurial position, I was VP of Sales and Customer support – the place where the rubber meets the road in young companies – no customers, no revenue, no business.  On this particular day, the CEO joined me for an important prospect visit to a large health insurance company.

After the meeting was done and we were walking to the car, the CEO gave his assessment “That was a great meeting!  We’ll have a new customer soon.”  I started to laugh – I thought he was joking, “You’ve got to be kidding, that was terrible!”  With barely a breath, came his intense reply that started something like “That’s crazy..they said this and that… the right people were in the room….”

Somewhere in the midst of his litany, I realized I had not verbalized the cues I picked up behind the words.  So, I explained why I drew my conclusion. “We didn’t have their attention – they were polite, but not all that interested.  Their body language and side glances across the table were not encouraging.”  And then I concluded  “We did our best with all of this, but they weren’t buying, don’t quite know why, but they weren’t.”

Two perspectives.  Two sources of information.  Two different conclusions.  We could’ve argued all day about who was right and he could’ve pulled the CEO trump card.  But we were curious about what would happen next and what we could learn.  So, we created an experiment.  With a detailed plan on what we would do for next-steps and follow-up, we’d track the prospect’s responses and what happened.  Though our plan and actions were intense, the result was not –  there was no response.  None.

UnknownAlthough this prospect didn’t become a client, many did because of that day.  We, as a company, learned how to have a conversation about the dynamics within situations.  We developed a rapport with each other to discuss both the facts and what we sensed behind the words.   We didn’t always agree, but we got better at understanding what was really going on, the problems that needed to be solved, and how to work well with the people who made decisions about our technology.

The result of integrating our mindful and intuitive approaches?  We had great track-record of closing business after the verbal “yes”.  And, once a customer came on, they stayed.

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It makes sense to use all of our senses – the factual, the actions, the words and all that’s behind them.  Yes, it takes practice; along with a sense of curiosity and adventure to get through the sticky, uncomfortable spots, but that’s how we learn, everything.

Thanks for reading!


If you’re curious and want to learn more, here’s a few sources that are a good start.

If you’re interested strengthening the channel to your intuitive senses, there’s a number of ways to get started.

  • A meditation, contemplation, prayer practice is a great way to quiet the mind and begin developing a relationship with your inner senses.  It’s easy to start.  In a quiet moment, pay attention to your breath.  In and out.  Over time, let it expand beyond a few breaths, into minutes.
  • If you already have an exercise routine, consider switching the news and talk channels on your iPod to music that puts you in touch with your movement.  Then, watch your breath, feel the muscles and bones in your body move as you do.
  • One of my favorites is to re-acquaint myself with the non-mindful books on my bookshelves.  They draw my attention to the world I know by feeling and sensing.  Sometimes, it’s a fun book – on cats; other times Rumi.  Sometimes it’s an art book or a nature book; other times it’s a contemplative author.  If books aren’t your thing, go to the web.  There are fabulous websites to tickle our inner senses.

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Change. We invite it in for the change we want and do our best to keep it at bay for what we don’t. Yet, change is a part of our lives – wanted or not, expected or not. So, if we can’t always arrange its appearance to meet our wishes, what do we do when we’re in the midst of it? Can we manage it? Predict its outcome?

Sometimes yes and other times no. You might first think that this quandary, with no clear answer, presents a problem; however it doesn’t. Rather the possibilities of “Yes” and “No” ask us to look deeper. Here, in the unseen dynamic layers of change, we discover new dimensions of understanding.

Change is like sailing into the wind.  It challenges us to understand what we have control over and what we don’t.

David Whyte in his book The Heart Aroused suggests that an underlying assumption of organizational life is that we are in control: that is, with sufficient process, standards and projections we can get where we want to go. We head into change the same way – analyzing where we are, where we want to go, and plotting our path forward – complete with plans and budgets.

Whether we’re setting sail on the ocean or in a business venture, its good to have a destination and a plan. But, it’s only the beginning. The question is: Are we ready for what shows up next?

Sailors know the winds are in charge. But for us in organizations, it’s easy to forget that others – customers, team, investors, community – are in charge. We move forward with our plans and then others decide how they will react, what they will do or not, and how long it takes. Will they follow our predicted path or find a new one?

A number of years ago, a new client came with a conundrum: 9 months before, they had carefully analyzed, planned, communicated, and embarked on a reorganization. Had the team been excited? Yes. Did the plan make sense? Yes. Did the team believe it was doable? Yes. Once in the new framework, were the individuals on the team able to shift their ways of doing business? No.

Having set sail for a new destination, the company found itself back where it started. It was time to think differently: they could control the processes, but the individuals were in charge of their personal response and behavior. Now what?

In the midst of change, we’re presented with the challenge of combining the reality of two opposing forces. On one hand we’re charged with managing and leading the process of change while continuing to deliver products, services and a profit. On the other hand, people are our primary resource of talent and expertise, and they bring their individual perspectives, attitudes, and needs about change with them.

The question is how might we flow between between the needed structures and the always present individualities? Here are some ideas to consider.

Build a great structure for the change to happen. Then, let it be flexible to flow with what happens next.

Analysis, plans, timelines, projections, communication ground the change. They let the team know their role, a course of action, what’s expected. It also alerts them to the reality that the unexpected will happen and it gives them a sense of direction for what to do when it does.

Understand the capabilities you need and think about who on the team can help.

The Myers Briggs framework is a great example of how to think about this. Every change process needs each of the 4 Myers Briggs types: individuals who can inspire the change, design it, run it, and do whatever is needed to do to serve it. Likewise, each member of the team has a preferred type that informs their approach to change. It’s a powerful asset when we augment the change process with the teams’ natural perspectives and strengths of their type.

Whatever the plan, create experience and access your emotional intelligence to see what’s working.

In organizations, we have the plan. We have what others tell us they are doing within the plan. And, we have what they are actual doing. Understanding what is working and not working across these 3 perspectives is key to the process. It will highlight results and what needs to be modified. It will strengthen clarity of communication across the team. And, it will uncover operational incongruities and resistance, conscious or not, so you can address them and move forward.

Whatever our plan and approach to change, perhaps most intense part is befriending it… accepting it… embracing it… wanted and unwanted. After all, change is life’s innate nature. Days pass and move into the next day. Rivers flow, water drops leaving each rock behind. Our body regenerates one cell at at time, bringing newness in each cycle.

So what might it look like for us to befriend change? Perhaps it’s being curious about life’s adventures – doing what we can and seeing what happens next. Perhaps it’s consciously allowing life to co-create with us, bringing it’s possibilities into the realm of our own. Or perhaps it’s simply reminding us to take a moment and see how far we’ve come and the impact we’ve had in life, in our organizations. Control and out of control – Structure and flow – All wrapped into one.

Thanks for reading!