Do you consider yourself flexible?
Can you adapt to any situation?
Then you are likely the person to control the system.
Read-on or watch the video, as red10 ‘s Piers Carter reveals how his own limited flexibility meant he learned “the Law of Requisite Variety” the hard way.
Did I really just say that?
“Right you miserable maggots, time to cut the crap and grab your sacks!”
OMG, did I really just say that?
It was day-1 of a charity trek in Namibia, the year is 1995 and I am 27. My proper job is a Physical Training Instructor for the Police. However, on that day I was taking holiday time to lead a group of enthusiastic fundraisers on the trip of a lifetime, all raising much needed money for the Learning Disability charity, Mencap … and I had just shouted at them as if they were a group of new recruit Police Officers in basic training.
One of my colleagues, Hannah, a nurse from A & E in London quickly apologised, took over and encouraged the group to pick up their rucksacks and begin walking.
I was only joking … wasn’t I?
Initially, I couldn’t see what the problem was, I said it with a smile on my face, surely they knew I was joking, just having a laugh?
The truth was, I was accustomed to the shouting, no nonsense, and at times abusive, communication style of the Police Academy. That may be acceptable in that situation (it no longer is by the way) but it really wasn’t acceptable here.
It reminded me of The Law of Requisite Variety, which comes from a coaching discipline called Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). It states that the system/person with the most flexibility of behaviour will control the system.
I was inflexible. I lost the confidence of the group. It took the next 3 days for me to relax, show some compassion and build my relationship with these generous, caring people.
Awareness + Range = Choice
Since then I have made it a mission of mine to build awareness, range and therefore choice. Awareness of how I am being perceived, range of my style and way of communicating and therefore choice about what I do next. (Credit to Mark Walsh for teaching so much about these aspects)
In front of those fundraisers, I didn’t see a choice, I defaulted to my habitual way of talking to groups.
I see this dynamic all the time with my coaching clients, they can be hard-charging, business-focused go-getters; they work and play hard, run marathons in their spare time but ask them to sit and listen to – and comfort – a grieving colleague and they aren’t able. Limited range.
Or perhaps they are technically brilliant in their chosen field, an engineer or scientist, able to process data and make informed decisions. They are considered, well-organised and disciplined. Put them in charge of a creative process, an ideas session looking to involve and motivate the team and they do not have the skills, attitude and resources to draw upon. They lack flexibility.
My coaching work boils down to helping people develop awareness, range and therefore choice.
In 1995 I didn’t have that.
How much flexibility do you want to have?
Since that day I have actively sought new and novel groups and situations to help develop my social and emotional flexibility. How much range and flexibility do you have?