Dear Friends and Clients,

There’s an old saying that if you want to learn something well, teach it to others. One reason this works is that when you are teaching a body of knowledge you become deeply involved in the information.

Beyond that, if you are fortunate, the understanding and creativity of your students will lead you to insights that you would never find on your own. I had this wonderful experience recently.

I am engaged in a leadership development program with a talented cohort at the Organization of American States. The opportunity is particularly rich because not only do I have I the pleasure of teaching the seminar, but also I am able to continue the dialogue through coaching sessions.

The group is reading one of my favorite books on leadership, “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander. I had read it several times, and thought I knew the book well. But the OAS group has given me a deeper understanding of what it is all about.

Group members have embraced various Zander recommendations and have tried them out at work and at home. They have had some wonderful growing experiences, as they have put the Zanders’ suggestions to the test. I’m pleased that the group seems to love the book as much as I do, and with this issue will share some of the Zanders' points with you.

Warm Wishes, Bev

Try These Practices &
Broaden Your Possibilities

June 2nd, 2009 * Number 105

In “The Art of Possibility,” the Zanders draw on their very different perspectives to create a how-to manual for changing your perspective and “sailing into a vast universe of possibility.”

Ben Zander is an accomplished orchestra conductor, teacher and speaker, and Roz is a family therapist. Together they weave stories and theories to describe a series of practices with the potential to change the way you approach your business and your daily life.

When the Zanders talk about a “practice” they mean something that you do on a regular basis as an integral part of your life – something that you do not in order to gain something, but rather for it’s own sake. You might think of yoga, running or daily prayer as a practice.

Here are some points and practices suggested by the Zanders:
  • Give yourself an A. Ben describes an advanced performance class where he announced in the beginning that every student would earn an A. The one requirement was that each student write a letter, dated at the end of the term, beginning with the words, “Dear Mr. Zander, I got an A because…” The students wrote from a future perspective, and in the process they were able to envision the kind of performers they needed to become. The idea is to imagine a winning approach, then practice acting like that kind of winner.

  • Give others an A. Research suggests that teachers treat students they perceive as gifted in different ways than students thought to be slow. We all share the tendency to judge others, then treat them in accordance with our judgments. But if we can “give an A” to our colleagues, we may inspire them to act up to our expectations. Roz Zander says that “the freely granted A expresses a vision of partnership, teamwork and relationship.”

  • Know it’s all invented. What we think we see actually is just a limited view shaped by our assumptions. For example, we never really know all about our organization. Instead, we navigate it by using a sort of map shaped by what we assume to be true. But if we question our limiting assumptions, and take into account other data, we may create other choices. By the practice of challenging our own assumptions, the Zanders say, we may step into a universe of new options.

  • Be a contribution. When we recognize that the games we play at work are invented and shaped by our assumptions, we have an opportunity to change our assumptions and play different games. The Zanders describe a game called “be a contribution.” The idea is to look for ways to add value as a practice, without worrying about credit or reward. You can take a lot of stress out of a bad day by putting aside ego games and simply asking yourself: in what way might I make a contribution to this situation?

  • Don’t take yourself so seriously. There is a measuring, calculating part of ourselves that we may experience as a voice in our head, threatening failure and pushing us to work harder. That negative, repetitive voice can motivate us with fear and help us to do well in school. But as we grow, fear becomes a less effective motivator, and we are wise to learn to distinguish between what the Zanders call our “calculating self” and our more grounded “central self”. Often when we are upset at work it may be because of an assault perceived by our calculating self. If we lighten up and take ourselves less seriously, the Zanders say, we can be transported to a new, more cooperative universe.

Want to explore more resources for expanding your career? In addition to providing executive coaching, Bev is available to speak about a broad range of issues related to your work life. Visit her website at www.ClearWaysConsulting.com or email to Bev directly. Bev is associated with Executive Coaching & Consulting Associates.

Bev’s Tips for a Better Work Life is published on the first and third Tuesday of each month by Beverly E. Jones of ClearWays Consulting, LLC.   Bev is a lawyer and former executive who now coaches accomplished executives and other professionals to bring new direction, energy and enjoyment to their work lives.

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