At a Human Potential Conference in Hong Kong I had the privilege of presenting a break out session on ‘Self-Actualising Learning Leaders’. The focus of this session was about stepping beyond the roadblocks to unleashing our authentic self and to creating self-actualising learning communities. Communities that provide an environment where learning is transformational and where people can tap into their full potential. A topic that is very close to my heart as a transformation professional and learning leader. Let me tell you a little why that is close to my heart and my thinking behind it!
One of the key ingredients that has attracted me to join and learn with certain professional learning communities and alliances is that they operate within the core principle of Self-Actualisation and what it stands for. The idea of living and operating through Maslow’s description of our higher levels of needs (see http://www.businessballs.com/maslow.htm). A place from which we can be present to life, unleash our highest potential and those of others and through that make a difference to the wider community in harmonious ways.
A place where people have the awareness and the embodied understanding that they are more than their meanings. Where they can operate outside or above any illusionary thinking that limits their ability to maintain healthy relationships and connect with themselves and others, and contribute to the wellbeing and prosperity of the communities they live in.
From my experience, having worked with many people, including frontline workers to senior managers, much of the world as I know it, is still getting caught up in the distortive assumptions of their mind. Playing toxic mind games that show up in everyday life, at home, at work, in business, in politics, etc. And the reason for that is not for the lack of trying to stay out of them rather than the lack of understanding the inside-out nature of the meaning making process and the skill of deliberately influencing that process.
This is where leaders and learning professionals, who understand this core principle have a tremendous opportunity and to some extent a responsibility to lead out and create environments where people can step outside themselves. Step outside of their habitual meanings that they have grown so familiar with, through which they filter how they see the world and which they act out.
This may happen overtly in a learning space, when we teach our craft or share our wisdom with others. But in terms of contributing to the wellbeing of the wider community that also happens covertly. In the everyday interactions and conversations that we have and in the way that we show up to those interactions. Personally, I like to show up to ‘be present’ with others and to ‘connect’. That is when I am most engaged with people and have the most impact and influence on them. That’s generally when transformational experiences occur for them as well as myself.
Our job as transformation leaders to show the way …
If we, as transformation leaders, are about creating environments where people can experience self-actualisation, a state of flow and quality meanings through which they can fully experience their potential. It is our job as transformation leaders to show the way. That means, we have to go there first. Operating from the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid pointing up to the peak may evoke a different experience to operating from the peak reaching out to others and encouraging them to step up.
The quality of our interactions will greatly depend on where we engage from and through, the deficiency needs (lower needs – physiological, emotional & social) or the abundance needs (higher needs – spiritual, higher consciousness). Where do you connect from?
The importance of understanding … WHY do you do what you do?
Here is where our WHY comes in. Why do we exist? Why do we do what we do? It was after I watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’ and what he called the ‘Golden Circle’ for about the 5th time that that I really began to understand the significance of purpose and intention. It was one of those experiences where the light bulb went off and it dropped right into my neurology. I clearly saw the difference between when I connected deeply with others and had the most positive impact on them and when I didn’t. It is all in the alignment with our highest purpose defined by what we about and why we exist.
Essentially, the golden circle is about how you define yourself and show up to engage with your audience. Are you defined by ‘WHY you do what you do’ or ‘HOW you do what do you’ or by ‘What you do what you do’. Using the example of Apple’s approach versus and a conventional one.
Apple is defined by their WHY:
- WHY: In everything that we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
- HOW: The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products – beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.
- WHAT: We just happen do built computers.
- Do you want to buy one? YES!
Conventional approach is defined by WHAT:
- WHAT: We just happen do built great computers.
- HOW: They are beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly.
- Do you want to buy one? Maybe!
When we operate through our WHY we appeal to people and audiences who are attracted to what we stand for, to what we believe in, and are much more likely to want to engage and do business with us. In accordance to Sinek, this is anchored in biology. Our WHY connects at the feeling level. The part of the brain that is attributed to feelings including trust and loyalty as well as behaviour and decision making, is the limbic system (the inner region of the brain). This part of the brain has no capacity for language and does not take care of our rational nor analytical thinking. That is attributed to the neocortex (the outer region of the brain). The WHAT we do connects at the language and rational thought level (neocortex).
When I got that insight, I immediately understood the secret to when I hold an audience with ease and when I am not. For example, when the way (HOW) I deliver an Inside-Out Leadership workshop (WHAT) is driven through my highest and felt (embodied) intention, ‘I am part of something greater than myself that contributes to the greater good and enrichment of all humanity’ (WHY), I connect at the feeling and trust level. When I drop out of my WHY and communicate from the WHAT space, there is less connection and engagement.
When Your WHY is HIGH, it shows up through your WHAT and HOW!
WHY is about the meanings or assumptions that we hold about our world and the level of meaningfulness that we bring to those meanings. Do you have a clear WHY and where does it sit on Maslow’s Hierarchy? Your WHY is observable in the delivery of your ‘WHAT you do’ and ‘HOW you do it’. It shows up in your energy, your feel, your language, your behaviours and your actions. If you don’t have a WHY or are unclear about it or it does not align with your WHAT and HOW, most likely the way you engage with people and your customers at that level will feel transactional, a behavioural exchange. You give me this, I give you that. When your WHY is HIGH i.e. is clear, driven from higher consciousness, aligned and focused on contributing to the live of another it feels transformational. It connects with the needs and values of people, in other words, with what’s important to them. It can change minds and transforms lives. And that has a feeling attached to it, it connects emotionally.
Leading through the peak of the pyramid is magic and transformational for ourselves, the people we engage with and humanity.
So, WHY, HOW or WHAT … from where do you reach out to the world and how does that show up in your behaviours and how you connect?
Are you curious to learn more about honing your craft as a transformation leader who connects and leads with a compelling WHY? Then contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If not, I like to thank you and I look forward to serving you with my next reflection!
to your highest learning and growth
About Mike Schwarzer
Mike is a Transformation Professional and an Internationally Certified Trainer in Applied Neuro Synergy & NLP with the Global Association of Applied Neuro Synergy, GAANS. An experienced facilitator and coach, with an ability to connect and align people, he helps leaders and organisations to solve the problems that they have not been able to solve elsewhere and create the results they want to achieve.