How much of ourselves do we really control?

“So much of control is not authoritative action but mindful waiting.”               ~Cameron Conaway, Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet

In his book Drunk Tank Pink, Adam Alter describes a classic study which created quite a stir amongst sports coaches and prison warders, as well as psychologists and parents. The study by Schauss in 1979 suggested that simple exposure to one of two colours made a significant difference to people’s display of strength.  A large group of men were tested, one by one, on a simple strength test.  They were asked to raise their arms in front of their body while a moderate downward and opposite pressure was applied by the researcher to their arms. Nothing remarkable in this so far.  However, when the men were asked to stare at a large piece of cardboard which was coloured pink, their strength was dramatically weaker than when they were asked to stare at a piece of blue cardboard. Blue appeared to leave the subject’s strength intact, while pink depleted their strength.

source: http://www.mobypicture.com/user/PeterM_KOMO/view/10334383

source: http://www.mobypicture.com/user/ PeterM_KOMO/view/10334383

This curious finding quickly found practical application across a number of situations, one of which was the use of pink holding cells in correctional facilities. Angry inmates were reported as being calmed almost immediately by being placed in pink cells. The phenomenon went on to have wider application, and was even used in the world of sport, with boxers wearing pink shorts to ‘weaken’ their opponents, and American football teams painting their opponents’ locker rooms pink in order to reduce the visiting teams’ combativeness just prior to the start of the game.

Psychologists are now aware of many such phenomena which similarly influence our behaviour and our subconscious thoughts. They refer to these forces as cues. 

Within Drunk Tank Pink, the author goes on to chronicle a number of fascinating examples: Continue reading

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Selfless Leadership

Think back to an occasion when you earned yourself a new leadership position, perhaps a hard-earned promotion within an established corporate, or a great new opportunity with an ambitious go-getting young company. Maybe it was your first management role, maybe you had climbed the ladder and it was a C-suite position.

What was your first thought?  (I mean after your well-deserved celebrations had subsided).  When you first sat down and had a moment of quiet reflection on your own, perhaps in your new corner office, what went through your mind?

How many of you actually let your mind drift into the future and a time when you would be leaving this role; the day when your work would be done and time for you to move on? How long would that take, before you could leave the patch in a better state than when you joined, with better equipped people; new leaders who had developed themselves into your space?  How many of you actually set a target date for your own removal as one of your top measures of success?

source: billarends bit.ly/XYDsiG

source: billarends bit.ly/XYDsiG

Continue reading

Are you in Control? Time to let go.

Imagine yourself riding a motorcycle in a high-speed race. You are at full throttle going round the final bend. Only a delicate balance between gravity and centrifugal forces are preventing you from flying off the track. At that moment, are you in control of your bike, or are you out of control? The answer is you are ‘right on the edge’. Too much ‘in control’ and you probably aren’t taking enough risk, and are unlikely to win the race. Too much ‘out of control’ and the likelihood is you are in for a very painful crash.

In your life, are you in control or out of control? Or, have you found the right balance – not just for you, but for your teams, your colleagues, and for your organisation? Are you pushing the limits constantly, in order to win the race, and, as a result, are you in danger of spinning out of control? Or, are you driving a safe race, within the pack, within your comfort zone, making sure you finish, but never in danger of winning? What about the people you see around you? Do you recognise the cruisers and the risk takers?

The reality of course is that Continue reading

How do you Influence People?

How often have you thought about your own personal influencing style?  And, has it changed over the course of time?  If it has changed, has that been as a result of your own careful thought-out intervention and change, or has it happened subconsciously, so that you are only aware of the change as a result of reflection?  I suspect that, like most of us, you have not often given it too much thought, especially when in the thick of the action, when deadlines are looming, and decisions just have to be made.

Influencing others is at the very core of Leadership. While that has always been the case, in today’s complex, inter-connected world, it is even more true. To be successful in a world where a leader had direct control over their troops, in an environment where command-and-control was all that was needed, where the tasks expected of people were simply expressed (basically “do-it”, or the slightly more persuasive JFDI), influence was probably less important than straightforward authoritarian directorship.

Effective leaders in today’s business world, recognise that Continue reading