A couple of months ago I was delighted to sit down (albeit at our respective computers) and have an excellent discussion with Martin Palethorpe from Unbounded. Martin has spent the last five or six years focussing on working with people to teach them about the power and capabilities of their mind, enabling them to shift their mindset and be as effective as they can possibly be in their work and life.
I hope this discussion leads you to consider your own quality of mind, helps you to explore the potential reasons you might be struggling to put new concepts into practice and gives you some food for thought in relation to trust and connections with employees.
As an advisor to business leaders, I wanted to ask Martin about a real world scenario around flexible working that has cropped up a number of times in discussions with clients over the past few months:
“I know that my staff want to work more flexibly, and it feel like the right thing to do, but for some reason I’m dragging my feet.”
Allowing people to engage with work in a way that’s more suitable for them is something my clients are all saying they are onboard with – however a number seem to be struggling to create guidelines AND a clear plan or framework to allow for true flexible working. The question is, why?
During the discussion Martin and I touched on a number of key points including:
- The concept of ‘Quality of Mind
- The power of procrastination as a tool to reflect
- The Inference Ladder – how building stories about those around based on inferences is getting in the way of a great quality of mind and hindering the ability to make plans and decisions
- The impact of trust on quality of mind
- Why there is never a ‘perfect moment’
Quality of Mind – What is it?
Sometimes your mind is low quality, for example when you are judgemental, frustrated
worried, depressed or overwhelmed. At other times, your mind is working with staggering efficiency, often when you are self-expressed, calm, clear thinking or creative.
To work towards a greater quality of mind, people should use their feelings as a measure of the quality of their thinking. Feelings are often betraying the quality of mind. If you are feeling anxious, cross or irritated – quality of mind isn’t as high as it could be.
Due to the invisible nature of Quality of Mind, often it is seen as ‘that’s just how things are’ and so there is a general apathy and acceptance to people’s low Quality of Mind getting in the way of personal and organisational performance. It is seen as one of the givens of being in business – but it doesn’t need to be like that.
The Power of Procrastination
Numerous cognitive neuroscientists have conducted studies that have revealed that only around 5% of our cognitive activities (decisions, emotions, actions, behaviour) is conscious whereas the remaining 95% is generated in a non-conscious manner.
We discuss the idea that procrastination gives leaders time to explore what is going on and lets their subconscious do the heavy lifting. Procrastination around new scenarios such as flexible working may well allow leaders to dwell and understand their reticence to getting started, forcing them to consider:
- Why am I resisting when I know on a base level it is the right thing to do?
- Why do I find the idea of flexible working confronting?
- Am I frightened of losing control?
- Is my stereotypical approach to managing people being challenged?
- Do I consciously or unconsciously lack trust in my employees?
- Am I stuck in the paradigm of the 90’s, rather than the societal paradigm around work in 2020?
The Inference Ladder
A concept stemming from Harvard Business School back in the 70’s, The Infants Ladder is a concept that concludes we as humans are constantly inferring things and as such adding layers of thought that create stories about those around us, building personas that may not necessarily be true or even just.
- I see someone frown, I infer meaning into that (they are upset, confused, mocking)
- I see someone is late, I infer that this person is always late
- Someone presents poorly once – I infer that they are bad at presenting and decide I will not allow them to present again
Before you know it, you are up a ladder about those around you, and this prevents you from building relationships and real connections. It impacts on trust toward employees and is likely a reason for flexible working foot dragging. Martin and I discuss how it is the responsibility of a leader or manager to do something about these inferences and focus on building relationships.
Is your thinking getting in your way or enabling you to do great things?
Trust and its impact on your decisions and relationships
Many leaders have conscious or unconscious ‘high bars’ of expectation – which in reality inhibit leadership styles and influence quality of mind. When it comes to new working practices such as flexible working, many leaders are concerned with the trust they have in employees.
We discuss how leaders can:
- Explore their relationship to trusting other people in organisations
- Challenge people but always extend trust?
- Question themselves on whether they were brought up or taught to be controlling?
- Explore how a notion of ‘trust must be earned’ is detrimental to building relationships and empowering employees
No such thing as a ‘perfect moment’
Many business leaders are often waiting for the ‘perfect moment’ before actioning a new plan. But in our discussion we consider that there really is no value in waiting for utter clarity. There is no exact formula when it comes to flexible working, there is only going with what you think at the time. Working with people to create a plan that can be modified is by far a better option than playing the waiting game and in turn creating confusion.
The discussion between Martin opens up so many questions and considerations for how reflection and quality of mind can impact everything in business and life. Applying it to the flexible working question felt like a great way to apply the concept to a relevant and current problem for many business leaders.
I would love to hear what you thought of the discussion, do you take time to consider your quality of mind before making decisions? Do you class procrastination as a worthwhile ‘endeavour’? Youn can add your comments here or head over to the LinkedIn article to see what others think.