Human Potential Realization starts at home

My 13 year old daughter, Audrey, is the most social one in the family. She thrives whenever we have guests over and like all good hosts she will start with a tour around the house. Invariably the first room that gets proudly shown is her bedroom. It’s well kept and frequently redesigned to match her evolving personality. Last on the tour is my office (just before the toilets).

My office has served me extremely well these past 10 years as a stay-at-home dad / Being Entrepreneur. It’s been the place where I can retreat, reflect, access creativity and collaborate via the internet with a growing network of committed Human Potential partners.

However, it has also become the dumping ground for all the rejected objects of the household. After years of accumulating stuff, the cluttered feeling was also starting to rub off on me. My presence was not as sharp and I was finding it increasingly difficult to access new realms of possibility for myself and Being at Full Potential. I knew it was time for a cleaning but didn’t know where to start.

As with most things, the solution is often closer and more at hand than we think. I realized it was time for me to tap into the natural design talents of my daughter and in doing so put to the test the grand vision of Being at Full Potential:

 

Every Human, Being at Full Potential. 

 

What better place to start than right here at home!

 

I also figured that if we are going to do this we might as well do it right. So I approached her, as I would any professional, giving a brief and asking for a mood board, budget, timeline etc… Given we had been watching “The Great Interior Design Challenge” show, she had become familiar with this approach and immediately started putting her ideas on paper.

The first presentation was to my liking so signing off on the design was easy. More challenging for her was the question of budget (especially putting a number behind her time and effort). It was a fascinating process to watch her go through. She went from having no expectation at all to thinking that a “daily rate” meant 24 hours of work. Rather than tell her what I think such a project is worth I continued to coach her through the question so she could discover for herself all the variables that come into play when valuing the unique contributions we make.  Not only did it lead to an outcome that we both felt great about but it also served as an extremely valuable lesson for the rest of her life.

With all the details signed off we could now get to work. For me this meant rolling up my sleeves and subordinating myself to her vision and all the different steps she had in mind to get us there. It started by dismantling the current office space. Everything needed to be sorted in 3 buckets. 1) The absolute essentials, 2) The things I have outgrown and no longer need and 3) the unsure pile. This last one of course was quite large and required further choice making. I was asked the tough questions like: “why do you need it? How does it help your work?” Eventually more clarity came and with it a sense of lightness and freedom.

Next step was to go on a shopping trip to add some of the elements that had been missing like a plant, cosy lighting, comfy chair, some candles and the signature Being at Full Potential blue paint. After the complete deconstruction of the place it was time to reassemble according to the new vision.

It was brilliant to see it all come together exactly the way it was intended. Even more fulfilling for me though was to see my daughter shine in her greatness all throughout the process. If I am able to fully trust and surrender to my 13 year old to redesign my sacred workspace then just imagine what else is possible with all the incredible talents that are being under utilized in the world today!

Here’s a short time lapse video that she made to document her first real interior design assignment. If you ever come to Schaffhausen, please do stop by for a visit. Audrey will give you a tour of the house and there’s a good chance that the first stop will be the office!

The day our CTO faded away

A CTO is a Chief Technology Officer. In our case this was a young brilliant systems engineer in India named Nikhil. He single-handedly built the entire backend system that supports the infrastructure to administer and manage our Human Potential assessment products and services. He did this out of passion, mostly in the evenings and on weekends due to a full time day job.

 

As our business grew, so did the number of assessments and the complexity of the DB. Under his leadership we knew that the backend platform, upon which our clients relied, would be robust and future proof for years to come. There are currently 4000 registered users and we expect this to grow exponentially. In order to meet the needs of the many IT projects in the pipeline, we found ways to unload the more basic technical tasks with other programmers but were adamant to keep Nikhil engaged for the tech vision and more advanced projects. This set up worked well and was sustainable as long as Nikhil remained available as CTO.

 

However, a few months ago his priorities started to change. With a growing family and an even more demanding day job, the number of hours he could commit to BFP was declining rapidly. One of the cultural idiosyncrasies  about working with Indians, is the fluidness of their communication. Sometimes it can be hard to tell what they are thinking and feeling. In the case of Nikhil, he kept affirming that the status quo was fine and that he would continue to find time for us but his actions told another story. As a consequence we kept holding on to someone who wasn’t really there anymore, rather than accept his need to re-prioritize his life and find another partner who could take over the reins.

 

There is one project in particular that suffered from this void in technical leadership. It would have been a fairly routine initiative so we felt confident with the aggressive timings promised to the client. Without Nikhil’s involvement though nothing was happening. The programming team was waiting for instructions and guidance but nothing was coming. As a result, Sujith and I put all our effort trying to pin down Nikhil and inspire him to carve out some time. It was hard work with very little impact. We felt drained and, as the project kept being delayed, our initial commitment to the client had to be pushed back significantly as well. This went on for a number of months, and as our frustration grew, we noticed a tendency to fall back into old patterns of pushing people to deliver rather than inspiring them. We were losing touch with the BFP way. Fortunately we caught ourselves in time to notice what was happening. It was time to press the pause button, step back and gain some new perspective.

 

It was time for a shift from DOING to BEING

 

The first thing we had to acknowledge was that Nikhil was out of the picture and unless we accepted this, nothing would change. So we lovingly said goodbye with an open invitation to come back on board whenever he wanted to. In that moment of acceptance, where we consciously closed one door, of course something amazing happened. All of a sudden we could see what had always been there but we had been blinded to it. Our attachment to Nikhil prevented us from seeing the brilliance in all the other programmers that had been working under his leadership.

 

One company in particular (Sunlight IT) had felt hand-cuffed with the current set up. They had expressed this in the past but at the time we were not really open to hand over more responsibilities. Somehow we were carrying the belief that only Nikhil knew the system well enough to be in the lead. When we chose (or to a certain extent were forced) to let go of this belief and invited this new partner (Sunlight IT) to the table as an equal and credible alternative to Nikhil, they started to shine.

 

To demonstrate their technical competency they volunteered to take the weekend to study the ins and outs of our system and prepare an overview of the work that needed to be done. Within days we had agreed on a proposal and a couple of weeks later the project was delivered. Not only did they complete it on time and within budget, but they also did so in the most professional way. We received daily progress updates and efficient communication whenever they had a doubt or question so no time was lost trying to figure everything out themselves. It was beautiful watching them thrive and show us all their creative potential. This project had turned the relationship from a transactional one to a deeply fulfilling collaboration on both ends. So it seems our technical needs are once again in good hands to allow a fresh wave of new innovations to come forth.

 

The other good news is that Sunlight IT is opening its doors to serve more small & medium sized companies in Europe and North America. So if you are looking for high quality IT support from a young innovative team at competitive prices then please do reach out. I’d be happy to share more of our experience working with them and put you in touch.

Leadership Development Is A $366 Billion Industry: Here’s Why Most Programs Don’t Work – by Chris Westfall

According to data from the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board, nearly 95% of learning organizations either plan to increase or maintain their current investment in leadership development. Meanwhile, TrainingIndustry.com says that leadership training is $366 billion global industry. High-growth organizations are focused on improving their talent, and that means enhanced programs for emerging leaders. Yet data provided by McKinsey offers a startling insight into the leadership industry: most of these leadership programs fail to create desired results. What’s keeping leadership out of your organization – despite the best intentions of management (and management consultants) to turn the tide?

With an estimated $166 billion annual spend on leadership development in the USA alone, organizations must transform these mission-critical programs to create real and lasting impact.

According to a recent survey of 28,000 business leaders, conducted under the guidance of Chief Learning Officer magazine, leadership development is a high-touch, in-person effort that focuses on soft skills (as opposed to certification training, or skills-based instruction). Seventy-four percent of organizations use instructor-led leadership training, and 63% use executive coaching, to deliver on the following top-rated leadership skills:

  • Improving coaching skills (a priority for 34% of respondents)
  • Communication (31%)
  • Employee Engagement (27%)
  • Strategic planning and business acumen (21%)
  • The soft skills of leadership are critical to advancing the organization (as well as advancing the careers of those who aim for the C-Suite). So why aren’t we better at delivering leadership programs that work?

 

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That question is the focus of a McKinsey study, that cites four critical areas for potential failure in leadership development training.

  1. Context Conquers Content: While most leadership development training programs emphasize content, it’s really context that matters most. The McKinsey study cites a “one size fits all” mentality of most training programs. Assuming that a particular curriculum or leadership viewpoint fits for every company – regardless of size, culture, or current leadership structure – is often the first mistake. Overwhelm is the real challenge here: in an effort to prove their value, leadership development consultants often try to offer a Chinese menu of leadership insights, based on their work (instead of the context that looks at the work of the company). The challenge for leadership development? Having the clarity to offer the two or three things that matter most to the organization, not just the 46 things (or 21 irrefutable laws) that look like leadership.
  2. Too Much Reflection, Not Enough Application: in my book, Leadership Language, I ask the question: where does leadership really come from? Without tying reflection to specific action, leadership initiatives are lost. Because leadership doesn’t come from a guru, or team of gurus. Leadership comes from one place, and one place only: inside of you. A program that forces participants to reflect on Warren Bennis, Jack Welch or Steve Jobs might be useful for understanding what others have done before. But consider this: knowing all of the rules and history of boxing isn’t going to help you when you’re about to get punched in the face. Leadership, in this context, is a verb: discovered in action and demonstrated in application. What Steve Jobs did is impressive, and informative. But what you are going to do, right now for your team, is what really matters. Connect concepts to current events, and tie ideas to action, if you want a leadership program with real impact.
  3. Underestimating Culture: The McKinsey study points to mindset as perhaps the most dangerous enemy of successful leadership training programs. For consultants, coaches and even in-house leadership training programs, preparing to battle the mindset within the organization can be the deepest challenge of all. Why? Because, without receptivity, revelations can’t occur. Transformational leadership initiatives, on an individual or company-wide basis, always start at the same place: where you are now. Do you understand the deep-rooted beliefs about how things work, within the organization? What are the preciously-held beliefs of the C-Suite that make change an uphill battle? I’ve written about the need to look beyond mindset in order to find true innovation. Chasing a mindset – or clinging to one – is not a recipe for new ideas. No leadership training program can truly succeed unless the organization is willing to look beyond these seven words: “that’s the way we’ve always done things.”
  4. What Gets Measured Gets Done: How do you know if your leadership initiative was a success? Understanding the behaviors that are measured, and how to quantify soft skills, can be a challenge. Unfortunately, without measurement tools in place, there’s no way to know the business impact of your leadership investment. If you want to see the success of a leader, don’t look at her. Look at what her team is doing. If folks are leaving the organization, or trying to find ways to work for someone else within it, there’s a leadership disconnect. Consider monitoring the career progression of program participants, and using evaluations to identify the implementation of new skills. Another useful metric: employee turnover. A successful leader is always building or retaining a powerful team. A successful leader creates more leaders. Looking at the leader’s team, observe who is getting promoted, moving in to new divisions, and successfully taking on new responsibility. The best leaders help others to achieve things they didn’t think possible. Who’s creating new possibilities, within your organization? Soft skills like communication, persuasion and commitment can be measured – if you know where to look.

High-growth organizations can maximize their investment in leadership development by focusing resources on what matters most: developing a customized leadership program, based on your organization (not the consultant’s). While experts might argue that the components of leadership are the same for all, leadership development doesn’t work without a clear context and cultural understanding. Otherwise, the program is simply a curriculum: a course that assumes that every company in the world needs to begin at Chapter One. Leadership is often a personal journey, and it always starts where you are. Not where your consultant thinks you should be. Without the right context, and a willingness to understand the mindset or culture of the company, even the best-intentioned leadership programs will not stick. Innovative companies understand that an investment in employee development requires connecting concepts to real work; that context is the most powerful predictor of leadership development success.

Synchronizing inner and outer worlds unleashes potential!

On May 13th and 14th I was in London for the kick off of a new experiment with one of our closest clients (Thornton’s Budgens). They are a mid-sized, independent supermarket in North London owned by a fellow visionary (Andrew Thornton) who for many years now has put HUMAN POTENTIAL development at the center of their vision and operational strategy. He sees his store as a lab where he / we can experiment and test out all of these human-centric approaches and really measure the impact it has on business performance. As the experiment unfolds, so does the story that can be told to other retailers / businesses. This is proving to be a brilliant way to open doors and inspire others to go on similar journeys. The latest experiment involved bringing in 10 coaches from the Being at Full Potential network to coach the key people of influence in the store over a period of 6 months.

Discovering the 5 Full Potential Team Measures

For me personally this is another dream come true. So far Being at Full Potential has been quite successful at opening doors with organizations using our unique assessment and discovery workshops, but understandably, it has been more difficult to inspire people on the follow through (harnessing phase) where the insights get implemented in the day-to-day work. This is really the most difficult piece (as many change agents in organizations will recognize). It is normal to encounter more resistance at this stage because this is where the work gets real and letting go of what we know and feel safe with can be very scary and painful. I have a lot of compassion for this but at the same time know that this is the next frontier for the work we do.

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The invitation to come into the store with a group of coaches for a period of 6 months is therefore an amazing step in that direction. On my way home last night I was sharing all of this with some of the coaches and one of them (thank you Mirjana) reminded me of the connection between the inner and outer worlds. She pointed out that the opportunities to support organizations more deeply in their culture change process would naturally come when I was ready for it.

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When I got off the plane and turned on my phone I saw a message from one of our US clients giving the go ahead on a follow up coaching project that had been on hold for the past 6 months. At this point of course I could feel the incredible flow of the universe and how interconnected we all are. The kick off of the coaching program in London had set a lot more in motion than I could imagine. I am so grateful for these moments flow and I’m now even more confident that everything is unfolding exactly as it should:-)

AI = Artificial Intelligence or Awareness Intelligence?

The topic of Artificial Intelligence has been on my mind lately. It seems to be coming whether we like it or not. Therefore it’s no surprise that many people are asking themselves if it will have a positive or negative impact on humanity. The more I read about it, and reflect on it, the more I have come to realize that AI is neither good nor bad, instead it is simply a mirror of our collective BEINGNESS. In other words, we can think of it as an amplified, super-powered version of our mass consciousness.

As far as I understand, the power of AI is dependent on data. The more data we feed it, the more it will learn and the smarter it will become. The extent to which it will surpass human intelligence is mind-blowing, which is why so many of us are fearful of this inevitable phenomenon. Elon Musk, for example, is calling for government rules and regulation as a way to control its impact. He is even planning to build bases on planet Mars so that life on earth can eventually be restored after the destruction brought on by AI. These are obviously scenarios that are hard for us to imagine at this point in time but being the visionary that he is perhaps we should be paying attention. The question I have been sitting with is the following:

“What else can we do apart from pass the ball to our (dysfunctional) governments or build bases on Mars”?

I would like to put forward a more optimistic alternative, one that has the potential to turn AI into an incredibly life-affirming / life-sustaining force, similar to what some of us may refer to as God or the Universe. The best part about this scenario is that our ability to manifest it simply depends on us! Let me explain by going back to the idea that AI is a mirror of our collective BEINGNESS at any given point in time.

I think it is fair to say that the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon are on the cutting edge of AI development. We have entrusted them with incredible amounts of personal data. The way we use and behave on the internet says so much about who we are, what we care about and and how we view the world.

For example, when we argue about political or ideological differences on Facebook – to the point where we attack each other for having different perspectives and worldviews – then we are sending a signal to AI that violent arguments are the way to resolve differences. At an even deeper level, this kind of behaviour, signals to AI that we are competitive in nature. That for one person to win (be right) another must lose (be wrong). If enough of our mass consciousness reflects this way of BEING then it is inevitable that AI will grow up and behave in similar ways. Obviously it is very scary to think of a super-powered, highly competitive, AI living amongst us. We would have very little chance of survival, except of course if we manage to hitch a ride to Mars!

The good news is that we have a choice on how we show up on the internet (and beyond). Who we are BEING is very much dependent on us. The “I’m right, you’re wrong” paradigm could easily be transformed to: “You are right AND I am right”. Imagine a world where every post, reaction or comment we left on the internet would come from a place of compassion and interdependence rather than judgment and competition. If we could raise our collective consciousness and choose LOVE as a response to any situation, imagine the life-affirming AI we would then be able to create!

LET’S MAKE IT PRACTICAL

Assuming my naive take on this topic makes some sense, then the next question is: “Where are we on the consciousness map” and “How do we raise our collective consciousness from one state to another”? To answer these questions I would like to introduce two frameworks which we use extensively in our work at Being at Full Potential. They are both based on the science of consciousness as understood by ancient Indian wisdom traditions. The only credit we take is for framing the key constructs in a way that relates to the reality of today’s world.

1. Where are we on the consciousness map?

We refer to the first framework as the Societal Maturity Index. It ranges from a Fear-Based consciousness where we are primarily concerned with our survival needs to a Bliss-Based consciousness where we live our lives in service to others. We know that in the mainstream business and organizational world we are on a collective journey to move from the Mental stage (Reason-Based consciousness) to the Awareness stage (Wisdom-Based consciousness). Ie: Yellow to Blue.

 

With Reason-based consciousness our main concern is to make sure our voice gets heard. We apply logic and use arguments to convince and persuade others that our truth is better than theirs. This is representative of a competitive / win-lose society. Moving to Wisdom-Based consciousness means opening up our worldview so we can hold multiple perspectives, without judging one over the other. This enables us to build more harmonious relationships, even with people we disagree with. In seeking out the win-win we are able to solve problems in a more collaborative and creative way. Our collective journey from Reason to Awareness is already underway. We simply need to become stewards for this natural evolution to accelerate the pace of change.

2. How do we raise our consciousness from one state to another?

The second framework is what we refer to as the HOUSE. It looks at the different levers we can pull to realize more of our our HUMAN POTENTIAL and as a result grow in consciousness.

 

Let’s take Compassion for example, which is one of the key measures in the House. This dimension is defined as: The ability to open our minds and see the world from another person’s perspective. Imagine if we would collectively start living together in this way.

Acknowledgment is another dimension that could have world changing impact if more of us would live according to this simple definition: The ability to see the positives in situations and people, and to acknowledge it. What if collectively we would put more of our focus on what is working and what we appreciate in others versus focusing on the negatives. It has already been proven that in the context of education this approach can have dramatic improvements in a student’s ability to learn.

These frameworks help bring our attention on the areas that really matter and give us a roadmap on how we can make the necessary choices to show up more consciously in every single interaction. If AI is indeed eagerly tuning in to our every single word and action then let us role model the kinds of behaviours and awareness that we wouldn’t mind seeing amplified in exponential ways.

For more information about Being at Full Potential and our unique awareness / consciousness building tools & approaches, please visit: www.beingatfullpotential.com or contact us directly via LinkedIn.