How To Be Your Own Experiment

Have you made a New Year’s resolution? I am always astounded at how many folks tell me that their resolution is “the same as last year.”

It’s often the same with our leadership. We read the books, we take the course, we build our action plans. We keep working on the same stuff, it gets better for a while and then we hit a snag. Perhaps we revert back to our old behavior. That’s when the real work begins.

“If you call failures experiments, you can put them on your resume and claim them as achievements”
~Mason Cooley

Hmm… Perhaps we are going about it the wrong way. What if instead of a New Year’s resolution, we approached 2013 as an ongoing experiment toward what we are hoping to become.

I’ve been intrigued by the book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.  It’s not a leadership book per say, but worth a read, particularly if you are serious about making a significant change.

Be The Scientist and The Subject

What struck me most in terms of application to leadership was the concept of “being the scientist and the subject.”

Whether working to lose weight or changing your leadership approach, it’s not about following someone else’s diet or following the steps outlined in a leadership course.

Instead what works best is trying something new and carefully paying attention to how that worked adjusting and trying again.

The changers we studied discovered what worked for them through a scientific process of trial and error. They didn’t get it right the first time. in truth, when people are struggling with tenacious habits, few ever do. Instead they took two steps forward and one step back — and sometimes the reverse. But they had a skillful way of learning from their setbacks so that their plan evolved in a deliberate direction. They snipped a little here and added a little there. They tried a new technique, observed, learned and tried again. Day by day, week by week, they moved forward until one day their plan addressed all of their unique challenges– and they succeed.

Change Anything author Kerry Patterson and team go on to share how identifying critical moments, vital behaviors and understanding the sources of influence can all inform this personal experiment.

“If you want to succeed, you’ll have to give up the hope of simply being the subject of some smart person’s discovery. You’ll have to be both the scientist and the subject– in search of the most important science discovery of all: how to change you.”

How can you “turn bad days into good data?”

When your resolution becomes an experiment, even mistakes can be progress.

What is your 2013 experiment?

The Charisma Experiment Continues: Questions for Olivia

Last week, I was inspired to read The Charisma Myth, by Olivia Fox Cabane, and wrote a post on the subject, Got Charisma: and Invitation to Experiment. I am now stuck on the questions surfacing in my mind. I am finding others bringing great questions to the exploration. We are all learning and having a lot of fun.

“It is not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer.”

The author of the Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane, also read the post, and responded with an inspiring offer to participate in my follow-up blog by answering the top questions from my readers trying out her techniques. Game on.

 Since I began paying more attention to charisma, everywhere I go, I notice charisma or the lack there of. It’s amazing what happens when you start focusing on something. I watch my behavior and that of others. How we show up matters– a lot. People respond to different levels of authenticity, poise, facial expressions and conversational patterns.

I first read the book because it is mid year appraisal time, and I was looking to help some team members explore a few questions.

  • Would it be useful for them to be more charismatic?
  • What would that look like?
  • And the deeper question, what is charisma anyway?

My new charisma lens was still on as I was reading, Why People Fail, by Simon Reynolds on the plane this Sunday to a leadership conference. Fantastic book overall, with great thinking and insights. He explains that presentation skills are vital. Agreed. However, I was really disappointed to see that his list of “great speakers” to study and emulate, he did not include a single woman.

I will work on a list for a later post (and please feel free to comment on suggestions).

Of course, the leadership conference was filled with inspiring women speakers and participants (turns out there are quite a few dynamic role models he could have included). Charisma was oozing from the woodwork in various shapes and forms. I was incredibly inspired by the messages and equally intrigued by the presentation and interaction dynamics. More questions.

  • Who was capturing attention? Why?
  • What worked best for speakers?
  • What worked best in small groups?
  • What worked better over coffee vs. dinner with wine?
  • What body language helped? What was distracting?
  • What was I doing? How was it being received?

And, so I re-issue the invitation to participate in the experiment from my original post.

Here’s the deal:

Step 1: Let me know you have an intention to explore (letsgrowleaders@gmail.com)

Step 2: Read the book or take a look at her website

Step 3: Pick 1 or 2 techniques or behaviors you will try during the next month

Step 4: Take a few notes on the impact, and share them with me by commenting on this post or emailing me.

Step 5: Gather your questions for Olivia Fox Cabane, and send them to me and I will pick the top ones to share with her for her response and comments

Step 6: Enjoy the journey

In order to give everyone enough time to read and play with the concepts, I will ask for feedback and questions for Olivia by August 20th.

****

Here’s a few questions to guide your thinking (answer any that you like, i will share confidentially, unless you want to be quoted)

  • Why did participate in this journey?
  • What behaviors did you chose? Why?
  • What worked? What didn’t?
  • Will you continue to use the technique, Why or why not?
  • What else?

Thanks for playing! Please feel free to contact me with any questions or ideas.

Namaste,

Karin

 

Got Charisma? An Invitation to Experiment

“Are leaders born or made?” I’ve always hated that question– way too simplistic for real life.

However, I have been intrigued with the “can charisma be taught” conversation gaining momentum. Lots of good research swirling on that one, with some potential useful application. The next question “and is that good?” is also important but a subject of a later post.

Olivia Fox Cabane goes deep into the charisma question in her recent book, The Charisma Myth.

Cabane articulates 3 underlying powers of charisma: presence, power, and warmth, as well as the inherent obstacles to effectiveness. Her main idea, charisma is not about how we act it is about how we make others feel. True charisma requires deep authenticity.

She then identifies 4 practical and accessible charismatic styles:

  • Focus: achieved through presence and good listening
  • Visionary: requiring a bold vision and conviction
  • Kindness: coming from warmth and acceptance
  • Authority: through projection of power and status

 My charisma leanings lie in the “visionary” and “focus” realms, with some opportunities in the “kindness” category and a personal disdain for charisma points based on “authority.” In terms of natural competence, I do love a microphone, but I hate continental breakfast with roaming seas of name tags. With all that said, Cabane offers insights on how to mix a beautiful charismatic cocktail to help address difficult scenes.

 

The best part is the totally pragmatic tips on how to develop in each of these areas. I am talking really basic here like “stop nodding” so much. So today, before I committed to finishing this post, I decided to try out just one all day. It worked ridiculously well. You see, Cabane’s main point is that charisma is all about making other people feel genuinely great about hearing them for what they need to be heard for. It’s about finding ways to ensure people feel “got.” Amen. Her techniques offer ways to draw that out.
So, in the spirit of learning, blogging and adventure, I am going to pick 3 of her specific techniques to try out for one month. I am in for co-adventurers of all ages who would like to also read her work and try out a technique or two (let’s talk, I can offer a few easy suggestions). I am wide open to disclosed or anonymous sharing (which can be decided based on how you feel later).

If you want to play, please send me a note at letsgrowleaders@gmail.com and we can work on this experiment together.

I will write a follow-up post in late August. Hope you will be part of the conversation.