Today we’ll mix it up a bit here at theBigRocks. I’ll yield the floor to a guest. He’s a great Change Agent who’s developed some amazing insights based on several decades guiding change from the trenches to the executive suites of organizations around the world.
I’d like you to meet Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan. If you haven’t already worked with Rodger or read his material, you should. He’s solid and he’s sincere. His techniques are utterly practical. I’ll talk a bit more about Rodger and his work in my next post, but for now, let me step aside and have him share a few thoughts on how our natural motivations can get in the way of our being great Change Agents. He’ll also share ways that we can overcome these tendencies and be more effective.
Your Brain Has a Mind of Its Own. No kidding.
On its own accord, the brain tends to act more out of self-preservation than out of rationality. We have a natural tendency to tell ourselves stories that justify what we’re doing or failing to do. We have a natural tendency to allow our stories to masquerade as facts. We have a natural tendency to seek information that reinforces our view and to filter out or ignore information that contradicts our view.
This isn’t a character flaw, it’s just part of being human. But these natural tendencies can be crippling. The good news is that we can teach ourselves a new set of behaviors that serve us better.
Here’s an approach to challenging our own conclusions. I’ve given it a name: FIND-IT, which stands for Focus, Inquire, Notice, Discern – Integrate, Translate.
Let’s examine the nuances of each of these action verbs.
To Focus is to clarify, to concentrate, to define more carefully.
To Inquire is to investigate, to seek information by questioning. Effective inquiry requires an openness, a willingness to discover and accept information that differs from our first impressions or pre-conceived notions. Appreciative inquiry involves searching for solutions or explanations that may already exist and looking for the good and reasonable. That’s not to suggest that we wear blinders that prevent our seeing what’s dangerous or harmful. It’s to suggest that we honestly consider the possibility of bright sunshine obscured by the dark clouds.
To Notice is to pay mindful attention to details, to become more aware of the individual parts that comprise the whole. I took my grandchildren an art gallery. A major exhibit featured the playful work of Walter Wick, the photographer whose I SPY and Can You See What I See books for children are longtime bestsellers. With careful examination, I was able to notice things in Wick’s work that were completely missed in my initial, cursory look. In some situations there may be less than meets the eye. In others, there is definitely more than meets the eye. The only way to know is to notice mindfully.
To Discern is to distinguish, to recognize as distinct or different. True discernment also involves wisdom. Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz may have said it best: “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
In addition to its spiritual components, discernment is an outgrowth of honest inquiry and mindful noticing.
To Integrate involves incorporating parts into a whole, giving fair consideration to the possible interdependency of the individual pieces. A related word is integral, which denotes something that is necessary to complete the whole.
Another related word is integrity, which denotes a state of being that’s whole or complete, and, of course, soundness of moral character. All of these are essential to behavior that produces the best results.
To illustrate the utility of the FIND-IT model, let’s consider Stephen Covey’s classic story of his experience on a subway. Stephen met a man with several small children who were unruly and disruptive. At first, Stephen judged the man to be uncaring because he wasn’t controlling his children’s behavior. When Stephen learned that the man’s wife had just died at a nearby hospital, his perspective instantly changed.
Rather than seeing the man as rude, he now saw him for what he was – a fellow human swallowed by grief and shock. And when Stephen’s viewpoint changed, his own behavior changed. His urge to judge and lecture was replaced by the urge to comfort and help. He offered to cancel his appointments and help the man, a total stranger who was suddenly humanized by more complete – and more accurate – information.
When we respectfully Inquire – not for the purpose of playing “gotcha” but rather for the purpose of discovering possibilities we had not considered – we are often surprised by what we learn.
When we mindfully Notice the details of a situation we begin to see and appreciate the individual pixels that comprise the landscape.
When we carefully Discern what’s going on in a situation, we honestly distinguish between the facts (verifiable data) and our assumptions (the unsubstantiated stories we tell ourselves).
When we Integrate what we’ve noticed and discerned, we’re well on our path to appropriate and useful conclusions, decisions, and behaviors.
The next time you’re struggling for a useful approach to a situation – as a leader, as a parent, as an employee – do yourself and others a favor. FIND-IT.
Adapted from Change-Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance, by Rodger Dean Duncan.
Thanks Rodger. In my next article, I’ll share my impressions of Rodger’s new book: Change-Friendly Leadership.
Spoiler Alert: It’s good. Really good.