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LTExtract 28: Chapter 7: Learning and Growing - The HERE to THERE
The serialisation continues of our Founders book ‘Winning hearts and minds’ right here. Every Tuesday we will publish a section of this fascinating, insightful and interesting read in our blog. This extract commences with Chapter 6 which covers Creating Trust. Enjoy.
‘The one thing we learn from history is that we never learn’. However much we advance our technology, we still find the same old human being underneath, struggling to fight life’s same old battles. Only now, these are more virulent than ever. Improved medicine, the computer, the nuclear age, space travel – all have helped to stress the human animal, overpopulate his world and threaten him with an ever-increasing cycle of violence and potential extinction.
It takes a lifetime to learn about life and just as we are become wise elder statesmen, we reach retirement age or die. Why can we no lead from generation to generation? Start from where our parents left off? Why is it that we always seem to revolve in circles, finding ourselves constantly back at the starting point rather than going steadily forward in a straight line?
Is it because we cannot put an old head on young shoulders? We can learn the theories and principles of any and every subject in the world. Yet without experience in those subjects, we cannot put theory into practice.
I remember an example of this so clearly described by a senior Director of a company I knew well. She and her colleagues had been on an excellent management course and came back to the office with their action check lists of all they were going to do nearly laid out. But on Monday morning reality struck. All the lovely words they had noted down from the whiteboard fractionalised into atoms in a millisecond. Change was in the air. Fear, insecurity, power struggles, attention-seeking behaviour, aggression, resentment and hurt swept them aside in an instant. The course had not prepared them to cope with the emotional and practical side of returning to work and implementing what they had learned in a very different setting from the training environment. The course had been run in one-dimension only, the theoretical and intellectual one.
Conversely, we may have great experience in a certain field, yet without the intellectual competence to go with it, its application and development is greatly inhibited.
Our tangible experience is contained in our emotions – in our ‘heart’ – whist our theoretical knowledge – conceptual and rational thinking – is contained in our ‘head’. Every journey of ‘learning and growing’, be it practical, psychological, emotional or whatever, needs that combination of ‘heart’ and ‘head’. This especially applies to leadership, which is both an intellectual and a practical subject.
The HERE to THERE model
So let us turn to the ‘HERE to THERE’ model (see diagram 12, below).
Let us start at our ‘HERE’, with identifying and confirming to ourselves the present position we are in and the present knowledge and relevant experience we have under our belt. Once this is clear we can then cast our minds forward to THERE, to conceive where we want to get to and/or need to be and why. Getting these factors – where, want/need and why – into focus may be quite a struggle! We also need to know how to recognise our destination and know when we have arrived THERE.
I recall talking to Sir John Harvey-Jones, the former head of I.C.I., about this very point at one of our memorable ‘putting the world to rights’ lunches at the Leadership Trust. ‘What is your aim for the Trust?’ he asked. ‘To be the best of our kind in the world’, I replied. ‘How do you know you’re not already there? And if so, why spend the rest of your life knocking on the same door instead of knocking on other doors?’ Point made!
Diagram 12 – ‘Here to There’ Model
Once we have our HERE to THERE in place, we can then draw a straight line to connect them both. This becomes our ‘intellectual route’ and we can now plan to organise how to get from HERE to THERE. We can factually work out what we have to do, when, how, where, with whom and with what in order to get THERE.
On an intellectual plane there need be no curves or bends in the line. We can make a straight connecting line. Obstructions are only made in the mind. Once we have sketched in our intellectual route we can then draw in our emotional learning curve beneath it. We will not know the shape or depth of its curvature until we reach the other end. This will depend on the depth of our experiences, the blocks in our emotions and our ability to handle them in the right way.
The pace of our growth is determined by the pace at which we progress along the emotional leadership curve. Intellectually we can be signed up for our next THERE, but unless we are emotionally signed up as well, we are going nowhere.
The reverse is not the case. Our ‘head’ may wisely speak out against a particular course of action, but if our ‘heart’ wants it, it will happen, perhaps subconsciously. When ‘heart’ and ‘head’ are in conflict, ‘heart’ nearly always wins. People who are trying to slim, give up alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, know the problem. Thus it is always wise to discuss internally any difference between ‘heart’ and ‘head’ and resolve them satisfactorily before proceeding. The will to reach THERE must be matched by a rational need for the same end and the same means.
The emotion pace of growth is determined by how closely we are in touch with our feelings and how truthfully we can work them trough this pace also marks the pace of our maturity.
Once we have sketched in the emotional learning curve on our model, we next need an ‘Enabler’ to help us get from HERE to THERE. Preferably, this Enabler will be a skilled counsellor, tutor or an honest friend who has the gift of asking the right questions to enable us to find and apply the right answers. He will need the sensitivity and courage to probe right through our emotional defences, to get to the root of our feelings, to help us ‘work them through’ and reach constructive positive resolution in order to go forward.
The Enabler will also need to have the skill to open up our thinking, as well as to get ‘head’ and ‘heart’ in support of each other. Only then can he help us to move them forward together until we reach out THERE.
To work effectively, the Enabler needs to operate from ‘a helicopter position’ above us, from where he can look down into both our ‘head’ and our ‘hearts’. From there, he can best ask the right questions to help us find the right answers. Furthermore, from that position, he can best help us to connect and apply them to the outside world as appropriate. The good Enabler will invite us to climb aboard ‘the helicopter’ from time to time in order to gain an outside perspective of ourselves.
Many people have asked me if it is possible to be one’s own Enabler. The answer is no, I do not believe so, for we are often too close to our own emotions to pose the objective questions that need to be asked. We may not be able to get true outside view of ourselves, to ‘see ourselves as others see us’. We may be too protective, too subjective or immature in our responses and perhaps not broad or skilled enough to facilitate new thinking and horizons.
The clear function of the Enabler is to facilitate our change and growth all the way from HERE to THERE. So he needs to be very clear what both these are. Enabling is a vital element of leadership. Those who have a natural gift for it are able to transform people’s lives. They can enhance their abilities and then enable them to contribute their strengths and competencies to the common cause.
 G.W.F. Hegel, 19th century German idealist philosopherBack