Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

Inspiration, intelligence & the bottom line

I received an email response to my last blog from a pal of mine who suggested I include some more on “the inspiration of running such courses”.

 I was struck by this and realised it kind of went to the core of things. Why do I do this work for a living? I certainly gave clues in my last blog, but feel prompted to expand and approach this from another angle.

 In order to do so, I think I need to go right back to my schooldays….

 I was a youngster who seemed to lack the conventional talent set. I didn’t excel in any of the clear cut disciplines such as the academic, sport, music, art etc.  I flopped around in my formal education, coming away with two mediocre A level passes and a failed HND to my name a few years later.

 So, was I a “failure”? I guess that in conventional terms I could have been seen as such. But was I really?

 I remember being approached by a fellow delegate on my coach training a few years back. She was a highly intelligent woman who had all manner of formal professional and academic achievements to her name. She said “Chris, I admire you so much, because you seem to be able to do this work without feeling the need to hold any formal qualifications”. She was admiring me for having no qualifications? Excuse me…..

 I often handle the fact that I have no such qualifications by quipping that there are enough letters in my name without having to add more after it!

 What this woman appeared to be saying was that she could see an intelligent man, effectively engaging in a highly skilled profession, yet without the formal paraphernalia. How so?

 This, for me prompts the question of how we define ‘intelligent’.

 On leaving college I fell into a career in sales. It gave me the opportunity to discover and develop skills that hadn’t been identified or nurtured during my formal education. I came to realise that I was, indeed intelligent but not in the usual sense of the word.

 In the early 80’s the American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner came up with the suggestion that, in fact each of us carry multiple intelligences. He identified eight of these intelligences. Every individual will have their own combination in which they excel and others that are less to the fore.

 Gardner lists these eight as: linguistic, logic-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal and intrapersonal.

 The work I do allows me to apply my own predominant intelligences:  “interpersonal” and “intrapersonal” along with a smattering of the “linguistic”. In a nutshell, interpersonal refers to the ability to engage, understand and feel empathy for others and the intrapersonal refers to intuition and self awareness. I also have a love of language, enjoy playing with words, mimicry as well as writing, which are all signs of “linguistic” intelligence.

 These predominant intelligences were applied during my time in sales and seem to fit like a glove into my current professional activities.

 I thoroughly enjoy using my intelligences in my work and feel very blessed that I have found a profession where I can do so. For example, I gain much satisfaction from skilfully raising peoples’ awareness of what they do – how they behave. This is very similar to what many stand up comics do – they reflect life and its absurdities back at their audience in a humorous way. They hold a kind of mirror up to the audience. The same thing happens in the training room or coaching session. Here though, the mirror may be used to reflect back a behaviour that isn’t necessarily absurd but which is counterproductive and adversely affects the person’s work performance, progress or potential.

 It’s interesting that I have often been told by delegates that I should be an actor or a stand up comic.  I’ll admit that the latter holds some appeal, although I’ve never fancied the treadmill of having to learn lines, so the acting’s not quite so enticing. Also, with my total lack of peripheral vision, I dread to think what havoc I could cause on stage or on a film set!

 So, as well labelling myself as a trainer/facilitator/coach (or euphemisms such as learning consultant), I could add the identity of “awareness raiser”.  I will often repeat  mantra-like the idea that a significant proportion of changing a behaviour lies in being aware of it in the first place. I find too many of us are myopic to the behaviours we project and the effect they can have. The ability to notice what we are doing is what the philosopher Ken Wilbur terms “witness consciousness” – a step that takes us beyond the ego.

 It is a delicate balancing act for a trainer or facilitator to be able to feed back observed behaviours with impact and yet with appropriate levels of sensitivity.

 “I never realised I do that” is the kind of statement from a participant on a programme or coaching client that demonstrates real progress.

 A particularly powerful example of this occurred about a year ago on an open conflict resolution course I was running in London. One of the attendees was a man in his 50’s who was a senior manager within a large public sector organisation.

 As a result of some work we did on listening skills, he came to realise that a particular behaviour he engaged in was having a detrimental effect on relationships with his team members and colleagues. Whenever someone came to talk to him in his office he would continue working at his computer while they were talking to him – pretending to listen.

 Hardly crime of the century you may think

 However, when I pointed out to him that this was tantamount to aggression (aggressive people do not listen), he was flabbergasted. Once he settled down, things clicked big time for him: “No wonder I get grief from people, I don’t listen to them!”.

 This behaviour was probably just one example of any number of ways in which he showed disregard for his colleagues – not because he was a “bad” person or intentionally disrespectful, but because he simply wasn’t aware. Lack of awareness could be classed as a modern epidemic, leaving an inadvertent trail of destruction in its wake.

 I am not saying that he left that course transformed, forever to be the perfect manager, however it felt like a pretty good first step.

 Reading this piece may even boost your own awareness around getting on with other things while someone is speaking to you. I think we can all be guilty of that at times! However, when it becomes a habitual part of who you are and how you are perceived, it gets particularly dangerous. This is what came to light for this particular manager.

 A colleague of his was also on the course – he had 16 out of his team of 60 people on long term sick leave. Again, this manager was, in turn able to identify attitudes and behaviours that will have contributed to that extraordinary state of affairs.

 Finally, what impact does all this have back in the workplace and ultimately on the bottom line? I suggest that there is a strong link. How much do misunderstandings and the ensuing foul ups, conflicts and crises cost any organisation? How much money, for example might an organisation save per annum if every one of their people simply listened more?

 Lack of awareness and poor interpersonal skills probably cost industry billions a year in lost productivity. soured relationships and wasted opportunities.

 I felt hugely satisfied and privileged to have been able to work with those individuals towards finding a more constructive way of engaging and working with others, as I can see the tangible benefits to themselves and their organisation.

 This is a big part of what inspires me to continue with the work I do – with intelligence.

2 Responses to “Inspiration, intelligence & the bottom line”

  1. I have 2 comments firstly: The difference between intelligence and education is that intelligence will always make you a good living.

    And secondly; I agree with you that there are many “ intelligences ”, On my travels I have noticed that Dolphins are also intelligent and that within a few weeks they can train Americans to stand at the edge of the pool and throw fish at them. Obviously Good Trainers too !

    Keep Up The Bloggin.

  2. Hi Chris
    As one of your 100 it’s interesting to find out more about your journey and see where the similarities are with mine.
    See you soon and well done for the Blog!

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