LTExtract 29: The HERE to THERE…..continued

By Patrick Teague on 22nd January 2013 in Stories

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 continues with Chapter 7 which covers Learning and Growing.

Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ of Enabling

What are the ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ for the Enabler?

First – ask the right questions to enable the learner to find and apply the right answers for themselves. The right answers are the ones that work for the learner, not the Enabler. Never ask questions to which you only want one right answer (yours!).

Second – never be judgemental or prescriptive. Enable the learner to be his own judge and work out his own value systems and solutions. Always ask the ‘why’ questions to ensure the learner works out for himself his actions and the motives behind them.

Third – never avoid issues or allow ‘let-outs’ or ‘scapegoating’. Individuals and groups inevitably seek scapegoats for disasters and ‘let-outs’ to avoid sensitive areas. Few people willingly want to leave their comfort zone and get into the heat of the kitchen. The real raw meat of learning is in the ‘uncomfortable’ areas. A good Enabler encourages his learner to be comfortable with being ‘uncomfortable’. It is only when we can dig into the difficult areas that need addressing that we can sort them out.

Fourth – always hold onto silences. Give the learner space and time for his answers. Never pre-empt him.

Fifth – always ‘zip up’ before moving on. (‘Zipping up’ means ensuring that the learning is accepted, both mentally and emotionally, before moving on. If it is not, then one has to stay with the problem until resolved. Otherwise, anyone and everyone else involved may opt to move on, for the sake of ‘progress’, while any unresolved problem will always be left dangerously festering. Zipping up also – and always – means making sure the other person is OK before moving on.

Using the Model

There is always one question which I am frequently asked about a fundamental of the model. This is: ‘what is the relevant connection between the ‘practical’, the ‘experimental’ and the ‘emotional learning curve’?

Let’s use the model itself to answer that question. For simplicity’s sake, let us imagine a practical HERE to THERE journey: for example, learning to swim, and that the Enabler is the swimming coach. (All great coaches have an understanding of psychology and a gift of ‘enabling’. They could not be great without it.)

In this situation we would ideally start at the beginning of the intellectual route, establishing the HERE and the THERE first. This is not always the case as, in some subjects; we may need to experience the ‘emotional learning curve’ first. Only then, perhaps, can we truly perceive the intellectual needs that connect and relate to it, the ones that have to be thought through in order to arrive at THERE.

However, in this case, let us start by asking the right intellectual questions. For instance, can we swim at all? How we ever been in the water before? Why do we want to swim? And to what standard? What do we know about swimming? What is our concept of it?

We then need information about swimming – perhaps some diagrams, films, theoretical instructions on how to swim and keep afloat, how to move our arms and legs to propel ourselves forward, how to breathe, details about dangers and safety drills.  We need to know what learning to swim will entail.  All this will help identify for us and the coach where we are starting from, where we want to get to, and give us a perception of how to swim and what it will achieve for us.

Yet at this stage, despite all the theory, we can no more swim than jump over the moon.  To swim we have to get into the water and put these theories into practice.  We have to move to the emotional learning route and start going down it.

We may find that we have a great fear of water, which may preclude us from wanting to go anywhere near the swimming pool.  It may also have closed off our ability to listen and take in advice and instructions of our coach.  So our Enabler/coach may need to provide reassurance that if we get into the shallow end of the pool, we can stand up and won’t drown; that we can confront this fear by going down the steps and into the water, experiencing this and confirming it for ourselves.

Once he has got us into the pool, his next step may be to tell us to take a deep breath, lie on the bottom and open our eyes.  This, he may assure us, will enable us to ‘feel’ and adjust to our new environment.   Once we are able to accomplish this satisfactorily, then we automatically begin to de-sensitise our fear.  Our original feelings of panic, generating a total block against doing anything or being able to listen and take things in, can then dramatically change.

Fear may then become a positive factor.  It may generate excitement and confidence.  Suddenly our whole attitude can change.  We become eager to learn more.  Now we can listen to and hear the theories our coach is expounding and begin to interpret and apply them effectively.  If so, we can start travelling forward along the emotional learning curve.

If measured in practical terms, we may, by the end of the first session, have learnt how to hold our breath and lie flat out on the surface of the water without sinking at all.  The pace of growth will have been as rapid as the changes in our feelings.  The two are indivisibly connected. If our feelings continue with the same totally positive attitude, we can progress comfortably within the ceiling of our ability to swim and our capacity to learn. Once again, in practical and experiential terms, we may progress from a dog paddle to the breaststroke – perhaps even further! Theory and practice will now be working together a treat.

With confidence still growing, our feelings may change to competitiveness.  We may want to challenge our classmates, show off perhaps, and be the best in the group as we drive ourselves further and further along the emotional learning curve.  We may come to realise that we have the potential to become Olympic swimmers so our THERE may shift and keep shifting forward to distant horizons as we travel along.

Alternatively, if we lack confidence, dislike swimming and become demotivated, we can be left sulking on the side, seeking something else.  THERE will be put on hold if our need to swim remains adamant.  To make progress once again we will have to dig down deep to find the emotional blocks within us and work them through.  Our emotional blocks, reflected in our negative attitude, will deter any further practical progress.  If this continues we may rebel against swimming altogether.  We have to clear these emotional blocks before we can make further progress at all.

But how do we clear blocks?  The first fundamental is to accept the block(s) and identify them; to listen closely to the feedback, critical and/or otherwise, and examine the implications.  Only then can we work out the remedies.  It is always better for the Enabler to help us work out our own answers to the emotional blocks by a question-and-answer process rather than ‘telling’ us what is wrong with us and what we should do to put it right.

It is only on the technical blocks and on practical application that the coach can be directive.  Self-awareness is always ten times more effective than being told.  We take ownership and pride when we work out our own problems and the implement our own solutions successfully.  It puts us in control of ourselves.

Accepting feedback and criticism means accepting it intellectually and emotionally.  It is no good accepting it intellectually if we are hurting so much that we cannot take it on board.  We have not accepted it at all.  Nothing has changed, and nothing positive will happen.

Conversely, if we accept something emotionally but not intellectually, it may happen in spite of ourselves.  It may well be activated from our subconscious for all the wrong reasons.  Thus we need to take the time and trouble to understand the logic and rationale behind the ‘accepting.’ This in turn may mean more resolving of our feelings until both are in tune.

Accepting must always be at both levels.  If the emotional pain is too unbearable, or our immaturity too great to accept feedback and criticism, then we become embroiled in a process of ‘deny, rationalise and dump’.  We rationalise away the facts and reality of our poor attitude, behaviour and performance.  Thus, do we seek to reassure ourselves it was not our fault?

We dump the blame for all our failings onto substitute targets, principally others.  We are back in our comfort zone.  In the process we have shed all learning and progress.

To reverse this negative process we have to examine the emotional block within us; we have to get into the pain, identify the cause and accept our own responsibility for it.  This is often the greatest pain of all.  We then need to ‘work our feelings through’ until we come up with a positive resolution.  All this takes courage.  It is only then that we can ‘turn the corner’ of the emotional learning curve and go into ‘learning and growing’.

Now if we relate this analogy to leadership, we will see that we go through a similar process of learning and growing.  Along our route of learning we may well come across highly critical and painful feedback; for example, that we failed to make a decision at a crucial stage and this resulted in total failure.  Accepting the facts at an intellectual level only would mean that we can only sort them our technically.  Practically, nothing will change if the underlying cause is emotional.

Failure to make a decision at a crucial stage may have traumatic associations with our childhood or with more recent experiences.  It may imply weakness, lack of moral fibre, cowardice, and be a direct attack on our very manhood.  Our fear of living with this may be too painful.  It becomes ‘unacceptable’. So we may go into another common form of denial, that of ‘defend, justify and explain’.  The more we attempt to duck and avoid the cause of the pain, the more it will not go away.  We can only ever resolve it by facing and accepting it.  ‘Accepting’ means taking both ownership and responsibility; we then gain control over it, and only then can we rectify it.

In this way we turn weakness into strength.  The immense courage it takes to do this will make a huge positive impact upon us as well.

The three processes that take us along the HERE to THERE model are awareness, acceptance and application.

All learning starts with awareness. Without this we cannot begin. Acceptance enables us to ‘turn the corner’ on the model and take responsibility for and control over our own problems, which can then become positive.  Then, we can learn and grow apace from them. Application enables us to apply the learning in the right way to the right circumstances.  Thus do we arrive at our THERE.

Once we can apply this process, we can progress from one THERE to another throughout life.  We can move from peak to peak until we reach the ultimate pinnacle, where we become masters of ourselves.