Your “strategy” bears the seeds of defeat. Create a “new sense of self”!

by Didier Marlier on Friday February 27th, 2015

My duty, when coaching, isn’t so much about teaching leaders new skills. It is to help them identify barriers (that they had once appropriately erected) or understand the self-inflicted “coping strategies” (that once were useful), which have now become unconscious burdens.

As Campbell’s Hero’s Journey suggests, one of the most painful challenges for a “leader of their own life” is to let go of a “winning formula”, which they have become so intimate with, that they see it as a part of themselves.

A lot of my work is to help clients unlearn some of their unconscious “automatisms”, let them realize the beliefs that they started to develop about themselves and the mask they have shaped for the outside world. My mission, when I coach is to “give a new sense of self” to my clients.

“Give a new sense of self”? That is exactly how Strategist Gary Hamel sees his mission when he advises business leaders on the design of their strategy…

How does Gary Hamel help his clients do that? “By staring down their orthodoxies and determine that they are not going to be bound by them anymore”. In his excellent interview by Strategy & Business (an old interview from… 1997 but so actual), Gary Hamel talks about “insight” (as Jay Rao does in this clip brought to you late last year) and mentions that “The reason for a company’s blindness is an unwillingness or inability to look outside of current experiences”… This is exactly the same for individuals: It is far more comfortable to remain in our comfort zone, or unconscious “automatic pilot”, than question ourselves.

Gary Hamel suggests three rules, which I find as valid for individual coaching than for “strategizing”:

  • “Systematically deconstruct orthodoxies and dogmas that rule a business”: This is exactly why we, at Enablers, claim that “We believe that our clients’ success is a function of the quality of their interactions, thinking patterns, behaviours and dialogues”. In the same way, that a coachee will not identify their implicit beliefs nor see the mask they have been using for so long, simply by talking to friends, family or people who collude with them, an organization will not understand its hidden dogmas by calling in “orthodoxy consultants”… It is the quality of its dialogues, the invitation by the leaders to be challenged and questioned at appropriate moments, the emergence of a high challenge/high support culture that will ensure that, little by little the right questions will be asked, that difficult conversations will be held and that challenge will be seen as a sign of engagement. As Gary Hamel says: “The Future is more often created by heretics than by prophets”… Leaders, protect your heretics!
  • “Develop a deeper sense of self, one that frees a company to do something that it would not have conceived of doing before”: “Man is limited not so much by his tools but by his vision” said management “guru” Richard Pascale. “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” explained Ludwig Wittgenstein. Steinerians believe that students already possess knowledge when they join their schools and that the work of their professors is to let it out rather than inculcate it… What Hamel also means here, is that a company needs to go back to understand its core competence, which for a human being amounts to their Deep Intent. Nokia fared well as long as it lived “Connecting people”. It died when it started to think of itself as a smartphone manufacturer. At Enablers we believe that our Deep Intent is to “support our clients to remain masters of their own destiny, in an increasingly complex and sometimes chaotic environment”. It leaves us with a lot to think of.
  • “Understand the discontinuities in the environment that can be leveraged for remaking the structure of an industry to your advantage”: That is what the Disruption Economy is about! My partners and I strongly believe that “Scanning the periphery and recognizing emerging trends faster than competition are critical skills” to be develop by our clients. This is valid for individual leaders as well as for whole organizations. When Roselinde Torres asks her three questions (1/ Where are you looking, to anticipate change? 2/ What is the diversity measure of your network? 3/ Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?) it is because people who cultivate true diversity (not the politically correct B.S. that too many companies waste their time with), curiosity and are emphatic bridge builders will be in a better position than the narrow minded, transactional and full of certainties heroes of the past…

Everybody wants to be more innovative. Everybody dreams of creating disruptions or at least hopes not to be its next victim. But that “strategy” will only be the consequence of the major shift in thinking patterns, awareness and culture that you will create in your organizations. And, as we say in our front page statement: “Our clients should not outsource such leading edge skills to consultants or specialists. They need to learn to practice them…”

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