“Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action” – Steven d’Souza and Diana Renner.
This book was published in March 2018 by my coaching friend Steven d’Souza and his colleague Diana Renner. Aikido@Work was happy to contribute to this concept of not doing with a short client story. Unlike what you may think, this is not about passivity, cowardice and laziness. ;-)
It’s more about going from our current world with obsessive doing, chasing for results, constant measuring of achievements and forcing for outcomes to turning the tides for ourselves, doing things differently with presence and awareness.
The chapter of Aikido@Work is called Yield to overcome, like we practice in the martial art Aikido. It describes the case of a coaching client who I deliberately instructed a practice of ‘not-doing’ in order to progress in his development.
“An Unused Intelligence: Physical Thinking for 21st Century Leadership” - Andy Bryner and Dawna Markova (Author)
This is a very clear book for understanding the nature of how behaviours are formed and how to work in a collaborative way as individuals, team members and in organizations in current times. It sheds important light on why we Westerners have so much trouble with the concept of discipline and with the need for committed personal change as a foundation for enduring organizational change.
As learning is interpreted as mainly cognitive and the physical realm is disregarded, this inexperience with physical intelligence or thinking places us at the mercy of unexamined responses: stances of control, reactivity, rigidity, and opposition. This results in stress, conflict, and wasted human potential.
This book not only explains very clearly how we can start to work with this unused intelligence and why it is important. It also has been a very good reference book with practices that has inspired the working methodologies of Aikido@Work.
“The Leadership Dojo: Build Your Foundation as an Exemplary Leader” – Richard Strozzi Heckler
The author of this book, Richard Strozzi Heckler, has been an inspiration in many ways for Aikido@Work, not only for his books, but also for his ground-breaking work in bringing the practices of martial arts and eastern philosophy into the business world.
This book is one of these inspirations and presents the key concept that body and self are the same. The way you present your body, whether consciously or unconsciously, is actually the true self that you are presenting to others. If the body is not well balanced it could lead to actual physical and mental stress that will hinder your efforts to become an efficient leader. This really makes you think about the way in which you present yourself in the office or workplace. What message is your body sending out? If you are interested in following a body-centered, process oriented approach to becoming a better, more confident and effective leader, this book is a must-read.
“Mastery: The keys to success and long-term fulfillment” – George Leonard
This book was written in the early 1990's, but its message is timeless. George Leonard relates the journey of mastery to his extensive experience with aikido. Essentially, the book is about how we learn and the process of learning. This offers you a great insight into your successes, and other results, understand your own behaviors, and those of others, better and be more mindful of them to help yourself and others achieve your goals while enjoying the process (which is the actual goal itself).
Mastery is seen more as a journey than a destination. Chapters explore topics such as loving the plateau, dealing with change and homeostasis, getting energy for mastery, and pitfalls along the path.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” – Stephen R. Covey
Covey defines effectiveness as the balance of obtaining desirable results with caring for that which produces those results. He promotes what he labels "the character ethic": aligning one's values with so-called universal and timeless principles. In doing this, Covey is deliberately and mindfully separating principles and values. He sees principles as external natural laws, while values remain internal and subjective. Our values govern our behaviour, while principles ultimately determine the consequences. Covey presents his teachings in a series of habits, manifesting as a progression from dependence through independence on to interdependence.
Aikido@Work refers to habit 5 a lot, seek first to understand, then to be understood. It is another way of describing one of the ground principles of Aikido, connect first with the other, then redirect.
“Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges” – C. Otto Scharmer
A valuable book about leadership, strategy, change and transition. In this ground-breaking book, C. Otto Scharmer invites us to see the world in new ways. What we pay attention to, and how we pay attention is the key to what we create. What often prevents us from 'being present' is what Scharmer calls our blind spot, our inability to see our own weaknesses, what we do not understand and what we hide from. Becoming aware of our blind spot is critical to bringing forth the profound systemic changes so needed in business and society today.
If you are working with development of organizations, employees or leaders this book gives you the understanding of the limited outcomes of "Downloading", which is the most common way of teaching, applying the solutions of the past to the problems of today. And what you get out of bringing people through experiences of opening, mind, heart and start to presence the possible future.
Aikido@Work has developed a teambuilding program that gives teams the experience of ‘going through the U together’ and surface on the other end, rather than getting more of the same in an attempt to change something. The beauty is that the principles of Aikido are the same universal principles behind Theory U.
“Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” – The Arbinger Institute
Through a story everyone can relate to about a man facing challenges on the job and in his family, the authors expose the fascinating ways that we can blind ourselves to our true motivations and unwillingly sabotage the effectiveness of our own efforts to achieve success and increase happiness.
At the core of the book, the author introduces the concept of the Box - Being in the Box and Getting out of the Box. The Box represents the mental borders we draw around ourselves, to protect ourselves, to set us apart from rest of the world and justify our own actions. In acting contrary to one's own sense of what is appropriate, we learn, one betrays his own sense of how he should be toward another person. That is self-betrayal. This is why... "No matter what we are doing on the outside, people respond primarily to how we are feeling about them on the inside." Our success as a leader at work in the home etc. depends on being free of self-betrayal.
The Aikido@Work approach has people experience these mental borders and teaches how to get out of the box.
This inspiring story of Terry Dobson, one of the first non-Japanese people to train with the founder of Aikido, gets to the heart of what Aikido is about. Step out of a fighting mind, connect to those around you and turn aggression into human dignity.
This story is a classic and a version of it is incorporated into Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. However the real beauty of the story is the way that it so clearly depicts the 3 Levels of Mastery. At each level of development you are able to discern more and respond with more agility and appropriate to what is really going on in the situation.
In a LinkedIn post Reuven Gorsht mentions the experiment on productivity of evolutionary biologist William Muir. He took a flock of chickens and divided it into two groups. One he left alone for six generations and for the other he selected the chickens that produced the most eggs, a 'superflock' of 'superchickens'. What he found was the average group doing just fine, both in terms of health and productivity. However, in the other group only three superchickens remained. They had pecked all of the others to death. They had only survived and achieved success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.
Humans are no chickens. Still there is a striking analogy with organisations. They have been run along the superchicken model for the past 50 years. Based on the assumption that picking the superstars - the brightest and most knowledgeable people - is the key to achieving success, they have been given most the resources and the power.
Our society has consistently over-emphasized individual contribution. In organisations this has also resulted in aggression, dysfunction and waste, like with the chickens. Nothing so demotivating as heroic managers promoting their own solutions to problems and dismissing everyone else's.
Post-heroic leadership, collectively we have the answers
Post-heroic leadership transforms the notion of leaders and followers, recognizing that influence flows in two directions. Some progressive organisations have already started to leverage the power of collaborative knowledge as they come to understand that followers have a greater role to play. Thinking collectively generates better solutions and gives team members a greater sense of ownership, resulting in a higher level of performance.
Jack Richford wonders in his article Zen and the Art of Teaching Leadership: Moving the Body, Crafting the Mind: Why, in the midst of conflict and stress, do we seem to lose our capacity to communicate and to lead? Have our education and training prepared us for the challenges we have to face in the “real” world?
Contemporary research in cybernetics, semantics, and human performance technologies has shown the need for a more authentic, integrated and cross-cultural approach to learning and leadership. In times of transition and change — when chaos, uncertainty, and confusion reign — the principles embedded in Eastern martial arts turn out to be excellent for leadership and conflict management.
To perform at maximum potential, the samurai had to learn to control both concentration and emotional arousal in chaotic and stressful interpersonal encounters. Current mainstream leadership models often fail to address these embodiment issues.
Specifically, the Japanese martial art of Aikido is an appropriate model for contemporary leadership training.
In the 1998 paper by Jeff Dooley entitled “A Whole-Person/Systemic Approach to Organization Change Management”, he presents a model with four organizational layers of core competencies.
He recognises that the first two outer layers are commonly dealt with in change management processes. However, much less attention goes to developing skills in speaking and listening in order to lead non-coercive cultural change. And even less to establishing practices of grounded presence and connectedness with others which can lead to better leadership through inner mastery.
Change initiatives are meaningless if people just go on doing what they have always done before. To change the behaviour or a department or organization it is essential to change the beliefs of the groups and individuals in order to change the way they work.
For Aikido@Work this is what practicing Aikido principles can teach to people in organisations. As Jeff Dooley describes, inner mastery is about being able to maintain a grounded, focused, and authentic presence in the midst of mounting chaos and stress.
Simon Sinek speaks about trust and cooperation, conditions inside an organisation, the leader setting the tone. When we feel safe in the organisation, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths to face the dangers outside and to seize the opportunities.
‘Learn to be the last to speak’ says Simon Sinek. The skill to hold your opinions to yourself until everyone has spoken does two things. First it gives everybody else the feeling that they have been heard and feel they have contributed. Secondly, you get the benefit of hearing what everybody thinks before you render your opinion.
Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.
Connection gives purpose and meaning to life. Disconnection has an impact on the way you function. We have to allow ourselves to be seen. Personally and professionally, worthy of connection.