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Time for action

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The graffiti on this section of the Berlin Wall reads:

"The first break in the Berlin Wall arose here in 1989".

20 years on from this, there are still plenty of lessons to learn, but this event popped into my head after watching Mark Thomas’ Manifesto show last night (click here). He was of course very funny, challenging and inspiring (I highly recommend you try to see his show and get a copy of his book, whether you agree with him or not), but what got me more than anything else was his personal commitment to actually doing things, not just saying them.

A few examples from last night’s show. He has published cards (and offers them free at shows and via his website) to use to challenge the police if you are stopped and searched. He has demonstrated against our MP’s use of our money to furnish their homes (memorably by organising a demo outside Keith Vaz’s house to ask if the demonstrators ]could sit on the silk cushions that they have contributed towards). He has successfully challenged the right of the police to keep the records of innocent people on their DNA and fingerprint databases, and successfully had his own removed. The list goes on, and is amusing, worrying, and inspiring in equal measure.

Whether or not you agree with Mark’s policies or not, what inspires me is his enthusiasm to get things done. His energy stands in sharp contrast to the laid-back majority who, whilst thinking that “something should be done by someone”, effectively use this as an excuse not to do anything themselves. You might be familiar with the following story - one of my school teachers had it on his classroom wall:

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
  • There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
  • Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
  • Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.
  • Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
  • It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

There are at least two vital things that come out of this, and out of the Manifesto show, both of which have a direct bearing on management training, and I’m going to specifically discuss them in terms of leadership and communication.

Leadership

The approach to leadership that we use at trainingreality is to focus on inspiring through energy, personal motivation, and passion (see here). There are tools, tips, techniques and models aplenty, many of which have value within them, but we are of the firm belief that true, authentic leadership comes from within.

What was great about Mark Thomas’ show was that he clearly demonstrated huge passion, put himself on the front line, accepted the consequences, and went back for more. There is not much more you can ask for in a leader of people.

Here at trainingreality, we also believe that everyone has the potential to show great personal leadership. Leaders can be born (having it within themselves), not simply made (by teaching rules and systems and processes), but it’s not an exclusive club. If there is anything, at all, that you feel passionate about, then you can lead people. Passion is infectious, passion creates energy, and all we need to do to use our amazing leadership skills is to harness, use and express that passion - others will follow.

Communication

Another part of the NLP meta model is “fuzzy people”, or Lack of Referential Index in the true NLP jargon. (See here for early notes on part of the NLP meta model). In very simple terms, what this means is that specific information is missing from part of communication - or, in the case of the story above, from all of it. Who is everyone, or someone, or anyone? The fact that this information is missing is the essence of the story - by avoiding being specific, responsibility is “magically” avoided too.

Improving communication skills is, in part, about learning to listen (to yourself and others) in order to spot these common patterns, and, through awareness, be able to challenge and change them as appropriate. How much more successful meetings are when they end with a “I will get this done” rather than a “they will do this”!

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Finally, back to the Berlin Wall. Proof exists, in that example, and in many more from around the world and throughout history, of the true, life-changing power of action above words. Next time I catch myself saying “someone should do something about X”, I’ll challenge myself to define both the someone and the something, and ask the very simple question - why not me?


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