These principles are statements of how the world is. They’re particularly useful to practising leadership.
This is emotional intelligence at work‘s revision (correction, in truth) of an NLP presupposition.
Although we think we are saying something particular, if the other person misunderstands it, their misunderstanding is the message they have taken from our communication. It’s the only possible message they could take. This may seem problematic, or even unfair but this apparently perverse principle is worth sticking with.
Think of situations when someone is communicating with you. In truth a part of the communication is subconscious so, by definition, you’re not aware of it. And a lot of the remaining conscious communication is non-verbal so difficult to discuss. Nevertheless, when you’re receiving communication from someone, you can only interpret it according to your own abilities: knowledge of language, experience of other people’s communication, own world view and so on. If the other person’s communication requires you to know or understand stuff which you just don’t, you will substitute what you do know and understand as best you can. Again, this is partly a subconscious process, so you’re not aware you’re doing it.
A classic example is when then prime minister Margaret Thatcher was widely quoted as saying “There is no such thing as society”. Although her apologists to this day insist she was quoted out of context and she meant something else entirely, the message that most people got was “There is no such thing as society”. [More on this.]
This might seem flatly to contradict the first principle, but it doesn’t because meaning and outcome aren’t the same things.
This is saying that, notwithstanding the commentary on the above principle, when we communicate we are only too clear about what we mean. In particular, our words might say one thing, but the broader spectrum of conscious non-verbal communication, and of subconscious communication are actually communicating something else which the recipient is only too capable of picking up.
So, in the above example, one might surmise that Thatcher actually did believe that there is no such thing as society and the recipients of the message saw through what was ostensibly communicated to what was really meant.
A lot of the difficulties these two principles illustrate can be avoided by applying the precept, “Trust others with what is on your mind”. In other words, set your intention to communicate clearly what you really mean, and the other person will pick it up.
By independence, Chuck Spezzano isn’t referring to autonomy or self-sufficiency. He is referring to the type of independence which shows up in attitudes such as “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself” and “it’s lonely at the top”. These are deeply unhelpful to leadership.
Attack invites attack; but defence does too because it signals that there is something worth defending. People like openness in others and they’re suspicious of the opposite. Interestingly, whenever there is a spate of teenager on teenager knife crime in the UK, teachers, the police and politicians with one voice urge teenagers not to carry knives in defence.
Like the previous principle, this comes from Chuck Spezzano, though it can be widely found in other writers. This can be a difficult one to accept when one is on the receiving end of an attack. It comes about because we can only criticise or judge in other people that which we criticise and judge in ourselves. So, an attack on me is an attack on something in me the other person judges in themselves. Wanting to attack something in oursleves is a (destructive) way of trying to change it.
At one level, this is a statement of the obvious (since the origin of a problem cannot be in the future, and is unlikely to be in the very present moment which is already in the past even as we experience it). However, when leaders need to address their own problems, it is as well to be curious just how far back in the past their origin lies. It is unlikely to be in the lifetime of the current job, for example.
Mutuality seeks to create win/win solutions. Again, this might seem an obvious principle, but it is important, particularly in the light of the next one…
Success is only achievable through partnership. Where individuals in a team are in competition (eg, to meet sales targets) they are not on the same team. At best success is delayed, achieved at greater cost. Another way of putting this is, do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
Giving in order to get someting back is experienced by the other person as a hidden demand and ultimately leads to burnout. The fact that the intention to get something back is subconscious doesn’t mean it isn’t there, even though both parties will be unaware of the dynamic in play.
This is a wellknown NLP presupposition. We are tempted to extend it to: “We already have all the resources we need right now”, on the basis that, if some future part of our endeavour is clearly unachievable now, at least we have the resources now that we need to obtain the extra resources we’ll need in the future.
Another NLP presupposition, this basically says that however perverse a behaviour is, at some level there is a positive payback for the person doing it (even if they are unaware of it). This is important because, if we want the person to stop doing something destructive, it may be necessary to help them find something more acceptable which will deliver the same payback. No payback means no change.
This is not intended to mean, like Pollyanna, that everyone always has the best of intentions and is always acting for the good. Nor does it seek to excuse those who do bad things. What this is saying is that, even where someone is doing something which apparently is entirely negative, and in particular not in their interest, in fact they are getting some benefit form it at some level, even if they are unconscious of it.
When people behave aberrantly, whether bullying colleagues, chronically turning up late, missing targets or whatever, the principle asserts that, at some level, this is meeting a need they have. So, in their world, it has a positive purpose. This might be relatively simple: the bully might be able to confirm himself as a strong person, or he might bully in order to avoid feelings he feels are threatening. It can often be perverse: the individual who courts punishment at work for doing something, doing it late, or doing it badly may be looking for the confirmation that they are right about something, namely that they are a bad person.
Of course, the phenomenon can show up in a much more mild way. It’s still worth considering, as a leader, what the positive intent of other people’s apparently perverse behaviour is.
This requires acceptance that, at some level, we have created the situation we are in and it contains a positive lesson. In acceptance we do not blame others; we take responsibility for our part in the situation. This is undoubtedly the principle that meets with the greratest resistance and disbelief. Yet, how could it be otherwise? Is anyone seriously arguing that there is a part of their mind over which they have no control? (as in “he made me do it!”).
A more palatable version of this might be to recall Viktor Frankl’s observation in Man’s search for meaning:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
This NLP presupposition is perhaps more of a precept along the lines of “make use of every experience and learn from it”. Even after failure, we can change for the better in some way or other.
This nice saying comes form the British statistician, Geoffrey Box. It certainly applies to the models we use!
Another way of seeing this is found in the well quotation from Alfred Korzybski, The map is not the territory
This appears to be a proverb, but it contains an important truth: a manager who does not nurture their staff and encourage each person’s leadership abilities (possibly out of fear of a coup) is not him/herself a leader. Leadership is about empowering others.
> Twelve precepts of leadership
by Jeremy Marchant; acknowledgements to Chuck Spezzano and Psychology of Vision for teaching us some of the otherwise uncredited principles, though from where they originate, who knows? . © 2014 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 21 march 2014 . image: Free images
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