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The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your
riches, but to reveal to him his own. – Benjamin Disrael
Cover picture: Freedom - - zenos frukadis - philadelphia
TABLE OF CONTENTS
4/ USEFUL SKILLS ..............................................................878
4.1. PROBLEM SOLVING ...................................................878
4.2 DEALING WITH OBSTACLES AND RESISTANCE901
4.3 FIXING GOALS..............................................................934
4.4 MOTIVATING OTHERS ..............................................949
4.5 SURFING THE FLOW SPIRAL ...................................956
4.6 INCREASING SELF ESTEEM .....................................976
4.7 RESOLVING CONFLICT .............................................995
4.8 DYSFUNCTIONAL PERSONALITY TYPES...........1008
4.9 DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE ...................1013
4.10 LEARNING STYLES .................................................1034
4.11 CHANGE MANAGEMENT .......................................1050
4.12 THE GRIEF CYCLE ...................................................1082
4.13 KNOWING AND NOT KNOWING...........................1089
4.14 RELAPSE PREVENTION..........................................1156
4.17 BUILDING ASSERTIVENESS ..................................1176
4.18 ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS.........................................1178
4.19 THE JOHARI WINDOW............................................1180
4.20 DECISION MAKING..................................................1183
4.21 TIME MANAGEMENT ..............................................1188
4.22 STRATEGIC PLANNING ..........................................1223
4.23 ACTION PLANNING..................................................1244
4.24 THE POWER OF HABITS .........................................1254
4.25 THE ART OF DELEGATION...................................1258
4.26 AFFIRMATIONS AND POSITIVE THINKING .....1266
4.27 STAGES OF THE CHANGE CONTINUUM............1275
4.28 CONGRUENCE ..........................................................1280
4.30 PARADIGMS ..............................................................1286
4.31 BALANCE ...................................................................1290
4.32 EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE (E.Q.)...................1297
4.33 THE FIVE FREEDOMS.............................................1305
4.34 GENDER DIFFERENCES.........................................1311
4.35 PITFALLS FOR COACHING...................................1314
4.36 FEAR ............................................................................1315
4.37 TEAMWORKING AND TEAMROLES ...................1322
4.38 ANGER MANAGEMENT ..........................................1326
4.39 LEADERSHIP STYLES..............................................1358
4.40 SWOT ANALYSIS.......................................................1392
4.41 THINGS YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN SOONER1416
4.42 HOW TO INFLUENCE PEOPLE..............................1447
4.43 THE MINTO PYRAMID PRINCIPLE......................1457
5 EXAMPLES OF COACHING DOCUMENTS ..............1460
5.1 EXAMPLE OF GENERAL INFORMATON FORM1460
5.2 EXAMPLE OF COACHING AGREEMENT............1466
5.3 EXAMPLE OF COACHING COMMITMENTS.......1471
5.4 EXAMPLE OF ASSESSMENT FORM ......................1473
This is the third part in a series of three books about
Part 1, “Personal Coaching” is about what Personal Coaching
is and offers a surview of the most popular models for
Personal Coaching (or “Life Coaching”) and Self Coaching.
Part 2, “Techniques for Personal Coaching and Self
Coaching” introduces you to the most powerful coaching
techniques in use and describes the most successful
questions and strategies for coaching.
Part 3, “Essential Knowledge for Personal Coaches”, is a
practical standard reference work highlighting the
knowledge and skills that are indispensable for anybody
who is considering life coaching as a career or as a serious
self coaching process,
Dean Amory's Complete Life Coaching and Personal
Coaching Course is your best guide for coaching your
coachees and yourself towards maximizing your life
potential and achieving a happier and more fulfilled life.
Personal Coaching is an invaluable training manual for
anybody who takes life coaching seriously.
4/ Useful Skills
4.1 PROBLEM SOLVING
The ability to respond effectively to problems is associated with
improved treatment outcome.
Supporting development of problem solving skills can be
clinically useful and is best achieved through:
- a combination of verbal and written information
- demonstration (when possible)
- learning through practice and feedback
Developing problem solving skills can consist of identifying
occasions when the coachee has solved other problems and
noting the steps they took.
Effective problem solving can be learned.
It consists of five steps:
Stand back from the problem; view it as a challenge, not a
catastrophe. How might someone else solve this?
2. Define the problem
it is important to be specific
Coachee: ‘My wife and I do not get on’
Clinician: ‘Give me an example of what you mean’
Coachee: ‘She doesn’t like me being out on Friday nights’
3. Brainstorm solutions
At this stage, anything goes. Identify as many solutions as
possible — discourage evaluation and a search for quality.
4. Decision making
The coachee (with your help, but not direction) reviews the
positives and negatives of each of the options, and their ability to
implement them, and makes an informed choice of the best
option(s) to embrace.
A plan of action is developed and the option is implemented.
Sometimes it is useful to rehearse the option (where possible) to
test out the viability of the strategy and to increase self-efficacy
It is not the coach’s responsibility to solve the coachee’s
problems, but to teach a skill that he or she can use in a variety of
IDEAL METHODE OF PROBLEM SOLVING
Whatever issue you are faced with, some steps are fundamental:
Identify the problem
Define the problem
Examine the options
Act on a plan
Look at the consequences
There are several stages to solving a problem:
1) Evaluating the problem
Clarifying the nature of a problem
Gathering information systematically
Collating and organising data
Condensing and summarising information
Defining the desired objective
2) Managing the problem
Using the information gathered effectively
Breaking down a problem into smaller, more
Using techniques such as brainstorming and lateral
thinking to consider options
Analysing these options in greater depth
Identifying steps that can be taken to achieve the
deciding between the possible options for what
action to take
deciding on further information to be gathered before
deciding on resources (time, funding, staff etc) to be
allocated to this problem
4) Resolving the problem
Providing information to other stakeholders;
5) Examining the results
Monitoring the outcome of the action taken
Reviewing the problem and problem-solving
process to avoid similar situations in future
At any stage of this process, it may be necessary to return to
an earlier stage – for example, if further problems arise or if a
solution does not appear to be working as desired.
B. Robert Holland set out a typical problem solving process in his
manual “Sequential analysis” with the following steps:
Step 1 Analytical
What is the
question do you
want your analysis
the results you get
and the results you
between the results
you get and what
Where does the
problem lie? How
can be picture the
of the present
State the traditional
assumptions of the
theory that give
rise to the
Why does the
problem exist? How
can we isolate the
element whether it
is the cause.
What can we do
about it? What
options do we
that will exclude
What should we do
about it? What
can we give?
Create a new
theory on the basis
of the experimental
Questions and observerations for Problem Solving and
1. Definition of the problem
1. What can you see that causes you to think there's a problem?
2. Where is it happening?
3. How is it happening?
4. When is it happening?
5. With whom is it happening? (HINT: Don't jump to "Who is
causing the problem?" When we're stressed, blaming is often
one of our first reactions. To be an effective manager, you
need to address issues more than people.)
6. Why is it happening?
7. Write down a five-sentence description of the problem in
terms of "The following should be happening, but isn't ..." or
"The following is happening and should be: ..." As much as
possible, be specific in your description, including what is
happening, where, how, with whom and why. (It may be
helpful at this point to use a variety of research methods.
Defining complex problems:
If the problem still seems overwhelming, break it down by
repeating steps 1-7 until you have descriptions of several related
Verifying your understanding of the problems:
It helps a great deal to verify your problem analysis for
conferring with a peer or someone else.
Prioritize the problems:
If you discover that you are looking at several related problems,
then prioritize which ones you should address first.
Note the difference between "important" and "urgent" problems.
Often, what we consider to be important problems to consider
are really just urgent problems. Important problems deserve
more attention. For example, if you're continually answering
"urgent" phone calls, then you've probably got a more
"important" problem and that's to design a system that screens
and prioritizes your phone calls.
Understand your role in the problem:
Your role in the problem can greatly influence how you perceive
the role of others. For example, if you're very stressed out, it'll
probably look like others are, too, or, you may resort too quickly
to blaming and reprimanding others. Or, you are feel very guilty
about your role in the problem, you may ignore the
accountabilities of others.
2. Look at potential causes for the problem
It's amazing how much you don't know about what you don't
know. Therefore, in this phase, it's critical to get input from
other people who notice the problem and who are effected by
It's often useful to collect input from other individuals one at a
time (at least at first). Otherwise, people tend to be inhibited
about offering their impressions of the real causes of
Write down what your opinions and what you've heard from
Regarding what you think might be performance problems
associated with an employee, it's often useful to seek advice
from a peer or your supervisor in order to verify your
impression of the problem.
Write down a description of the cause of the problem and in
terms of what is happening, where, when, how, with whom
3. Identify alternatives for approaches to resolve the
At this point, it's useful to keep others involved (unless you're
facing a personal and/or employee performance problem).
Brainstorm for solutions to the problem. Very simply put,
brainstorming is collecting as many ideas as possible, then
screening them to find the best idea. It's critical when collecting
the ideas to not pass any judgment on the ideas -- just write them
down as you hear them. (A wonderful set of skills used to
identify the underlying cause of issues is Systems Thinking.)
4. Select an approach to resolve the problem
When selecting the best approach, consider:
Which approach is the most likely to solve the problem for the
Which approach is the most realistic to accomplish for now?
Do you have the resources? Are they affordable? Do you have
enough time to implement the approach?
What is the extent of risk associated with each alternative?
(The nature of this step, in particular, in the problem solving
process is why problem solving and decision making are highly
5. Plan the implementation of the best alternative (this is
your action plan)
1. Carefully consider "What will the situation look like when the
problem is solved?"
2. What steps should be taken to implement the best alternative
to solving the problem? What systems or processes should be
changed in your organization, for example, a new policy or
procedure? Don't resort to solutions where someone is "just
going to try harder".
3. How will you know if the steps are being followed or not?
(these are your indicators of the success of your plan)
4. What resources will you need in terms of people, money and
5. How much time will you need to implement the solution?
Write a schedule that includes the start and stop times, and
when you expect to see certain indicators of success.
6. Who will primarily be responsible for ensuring
implementation of the plan?
7. Write down the answers to the above questions and consider
this as your action plan.
8. Communicate the plan to those who will involved in
implementing it and, at least, to your immediate supervisor.
(An important aspect of this step in the problem-solving process
is continually observation and feedback.)
6. Monitor implementation of the plan
Monitor the indicators of success:
1. Are you seeing what you would expect from the indicators?
2. Will the plan be done according to schedule?
3. If the plan is not being followed as expected, then consider:
Was the plan realistic? Are there sufficient resources to
accomplish the plan on schedule? Should more priority be
placed on various aspects of the plan? Should the plan be
7. Verify if the problem has been resolved or not
One of the best ways to verify if a problem has been solved or not
is to resume normal operations in the organization. Still, you
1. What changes should be made to avoid this type of problem in
the future? Consider changes to policies and procedures,
2. Lastly, consider "What did you learn from this problem
solving?" Consider new knowledge, understanding and/or
3. Consider writing a brief memo that highlights the success of
the problem solving effort, and what you learned as a result.
Share it with your supervisor, peers and subordinates.
Rational Versus Organic Approach to Problem Solving
A person with this preference often prefers using a
comprehensive and logical approach similar to the guidelines in
the above section. For example, the rational approach, described
below, is often used when addressing large, complex matters in
1. Define the problem.
2. Examine all potential causes for the problem.
3. Identify all alternatives to resolve the problem.
4. Carefully select an alternative.
5. Develop an orderly implementation plan to implement that
6. Carefully monitor implementation of the plan.
7. Verify if the problem has been resolved or not.
A major advantage of this approach is that it gives a strong sense
of order in an otherwise chaotic situation and provides a
common frame of reference from which people can communicate
in the situation. A major disadvantage of this approach is that it
can take a long time to finish. Some people might argue, too, that
the world is much too chaotic for the rational approach to be
Some people assert that the dynamics of organizations and
people are not nearly so mechanistic as to be improved by
solving one problem after another. Often, the quality of an
organization or life comes from how one handles being “on the
road” itself, rather than the “arriving at the destination.” The
quality comes from the ongoing process of trying, rather than
from having fixed a lot of problems. For many people it is an
approach to organizational consulting. The following quote is
often used when explaining the organic (or holistic) approach to
“All the greatest and most important problems in life are
fundamentally insoluble … They can never be solved, but only
outgrown. This “outgrowing” proves on further investigation
to require a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider
interest appeared on the horizon and through this
broadening of outlook, the insoluble lost its urgency. It was
not solved logically in its own terms, but faded when
confronted with a new and stronger life urge.”
From Jung, Carl, Psychological Types (Pantheon Books, 1923)
A major advantage of the organic approach is that it is highly
adaptable to understanding the chaotic changes that occur in
projects and everyday life. It also suits the nature of people who
shun linear and mechanistic approaches to projects. The major
disadvantage is that the approach often provides no clear frame
of reference around which people can communicate, feel
comfortable and measure progress toward solutions to
Problem Solving is very important but problem solvers often
misunderstand it. This report proposes the definition of
problems, terminology for Problem Solving and useful Problem
We should define what is the problem as the first step of
Problem Solving. Yet problem solvers often forget this first
Further, we should recognize common terminology such as
Purpose, Situation, Problem, Cause, Solvable Cause, Issue, and
Solution. Even Consultants, who should be professional
problem solvers, are often confused with the terminology of
Problem Solving. For example, some consultants may think of
issues as problems, or some of them think of problems as
causes. But issues must be the proposal to solve problems and
problems should be negative expressions while issues should
be a positive expression. Some consultants do not mind this
type of minute terminology, but clear terminology is helpful to
increase the efficiency of Problem Solving. Third, there are
several useful thinking patterns such as strategic thinking,
emotional thinking, realistic thinking, empirical thinking and so
on. The thinking pattern means how we think. So far, I
recognized fourteen thinking patterns. If we choose an
appropriate pattern at each step in Problem Solving, we can
improve the efficiency of Problem Solving.
This report will explain the above three points such as the
definition of problems, the terminology of Problem Solving, and
useful thinking patterns.
Definition of problem
A problem is decided by purposes. If someone wants money
and when he or she has little money, he or she has a problem.
But if someone does not want money, little money is not a
For example, manufacturing managers are usually evaluated
with line-operation rate, which is shown as a percentage of
operated hours to potential total operation hours. Therefore
manufacturing managers sometimes operate lines without
orders from their sales division. This operation may produce
more than demand and make excessive inventories. The
excessive inventories may be a problem for general managers.
But for the manufacturing managers, the excessive inventories
may not be a problem.
If a purpose is different between managers, they see the
identical situation in different ways. One may see a problem but
the others may not see the problem. Therefore, in order to
identify a problem, problem solvers such as consultants must
clarify the differences of purposes. But oftentimes, problem
solvers frequently forget to clarify the differences of purposes
and incur confusion among their problem solving projects.
Therefore problem solvers should start their problem solving
projects from the definition of purposes and problems
Terminology of Problem Solving
We should know the basic terminology for Problem Solving.
This report proposes seven terms such as Purpose, Situation,
Problem, Cause, Solvable Cause, Issue, and Solution.
Purpose is what we want to do or what we want to be. Purpose
is an easy term to understand. But problem solvers frequently
forget to confirm Purpose, at the first step of Problem Solving.
Without clear purposes, we can not think about problems.
Situation is just what a circumstance is. Situation is neither
good nor bad. We should recognize situations objectively as
much as we can. Usually almost all situations are not problems.
But some problem solvers think of all situations as problems.
Before we recognize a problem, we should capture situations
clearly without recognizing them as problems or non-problems.
Without recognizing situations objectively, Problem Solving is
likely to be narrow sighted, because problem solvers recognize
problems with their prejudice.
Problem is some portions of a situation, which cannot realize
purposes. Since problem solvers often neglect the differences of
purposes, they cannot capture the true problems. If the purpose
is different, the identical situation may be a problem or may not
be a problem.
Cause is what brings about a problem. Some problem solvers
do not distinguish causes from problems. But since problems
are some portions of a situation, problems are more general
than causes are. In other words causes are more specific facts,
which bring about problems. Without distinguishing causes
from problems, Problem Solving can not be specific. Finding
specific facts which causes problems is the essential step in
Solvable cause is some portions of causes. When we solve a
problem, we should focus on solvable causes. Finding solvable
causes is another essential step in Problem Solving. But
problem solvers frequently do not extract solvable causes
among causes. If we try to solve unsolvable causes, we waste
time. Extracting solvable causes is a useful step to make
Problem Solving efficient.
Issue is the opposite expression of a problem. If a problem is
that we do not have money, the issue is that we get money.
Some problem splvers do not know what Issue is. They may
think of "we do not have money" as an issue. At the worst case,
they may mix the problems, which should be negative
expressions, and the issues, which should be positive
Solution is a specific action to solve a problem, which is equal to
a specific action to realize an issue. Some problem solvers do
not break down issues into more specific actions. Issues are not
solutions. Problem solvers must break down issues into specific
This report lists fourteen thinking patters. Problem solvers
should choose appropriate patterns, responding to situations.
This report categorized these fourteen patterns into three more
general groups such as thinking patterns for judgements,
thinking patterns for thinking processes and thinking patterns
for efficient thinking. The following is the outlines of those
Thinking patterns for judgements
In order to create a value through thinking we need to judge
whether what we think is right or wrong. This report lists four
judging patterns such as strategic thinking, emotional thinking,
realistic thinking, and empirical thinking.
Focus, or bias, is the criterion for strategic thinking. If you judge
whether a situation is right or wrong based on whether the
situation is focused or not, your judgement is strategic. A
strategy is not necessarily strategic. Historically, many
strategists such as Sonfucis in ancient China, Naplon, M. Porter
proposed strategic thinking when they develop strategies.
In organizations, an emotional aspect is essential. Tactical
leaders judge whether a situation is right or wrong based on
the participantsf emotional commitment. They think that if
participants can be positive to a situation, the situation is right.
Start from what we can do
Fix the essential problem first
These two criteria are very useful. "Starting" is very important,
even if we do very little. We do not have to start from the
essential part. Even if we start from an easier part, starting is a
better judgement than a judgement of not-starting in terms of
the first part of realistic thinking. Further, after we start, we
should search key factors to make the Problem Solving more
efficient. Usually, 80 % of the problems are caused by only 20
% of the causes. If we can find the essential 20 % of the causes,
we can fix 80 % of problems very efficiently. Then if we try to
find the essential problem, what we are doing is right in terms
of the second part of realistic thinking.
When we use empirical thinking, we judge whether the
situation is right or wrong based on our past experiences.
Sometimes, this thinking pattern persists on the past criteria
too much, even if a situation has changed. But when it comes to
our daily lives, situations do not change frequently. Further, if
we have the experience of the identical situation before, we can
utilize the experience as a reliable knowledge data base.
Thinking patterns for thinking processes
If we can think systematically, we do not have to be frustrated
when we think. In contrast, if we have no systematic method,
Problem Solving frustrate us. This reports lists five systematic
thinking processes such as rational thinking, systems thinking,
cause & effect thinking, contingent thinking, and the Toyotafs
five times WHYs method .
Rational thinking is one of the most common Problem Solving
methods. This report will briefly show this Problem Solving
1. Set the ideal situation
2. Identify a current situation
3. Compare the ideal situation and the current situation, and
identify the problem situation
4. Break down the problem to its causes
5. Conceive the solution alternatives to the causes
6. Evaluate and choose the reasonable solution alternatives
7. Implement the solutions
We can use rational thinking as a Problem Solving method for
almost all problems.
Systems thinking is a more scientific Problem Solving approach
than the rational thinking approach. We set the system, which
causes problems and analyze them based on systemsf
functions. The following arre the system and how the system
Inside cause (Solvable cause)
Outside cause (Unsolvable cause)
In order to realize Purpose, we prepare Input and through
Function we can get Output. But Output does not necessarily
realize Purpose. Result of the Function may be different from
Purpose. This difference is created by Outside Cause and Inside
Cause. We can not solve Outside Cause but we can solve Inside
Cause. For example, when we want to play golf, Purpose is to
play golf. If we can not play golf, this situation is Output. If we
can not play golf because of a bad weather, the bad weather is
Outside Cause, because we can not change the weather. In
contrast, if we cannot play golf because we left golf bags in our
home, this cause is solvable. Then, that we left bags in our home
is an Inside Cause.
Systems thinking is a very clear and useful method to solve
Cause & effect thinking
Traditionally, we like to clarify cause and effect relations. We
usually think of finding causes as solving problems. Finding a
cause and effect relation is a conventional basic Problem
Game Theory is a typical contingent thinking method. If we
think about as many situations as possible, which may happen,
and prepare solutions for each situation, this process is a
contingent thinking approach.
Toyota fs five times WHYs
At Toyota, employees are taught to think WHY consecutively
five times. This is an adaptation of cause and effect thinking. If
employees think WHY and find a cause, they try to ask
themselves WHY again. They continue five times. Through
these five WHYS, they can break down causes into a very
specific level. This five times WHYs approach is very useful to
Thinking patterns for efficient thinking
In order to think efficiently, there are several useful thinking
patterns. This report lists five patterns for efficient thinking
such as hypothesis thinking, conception thinking, structure
thinking, convergence & divergence thinking, and time order
If we can collect all information quickly and easily, you can
solve problems very efficiently. But actually, we can not collect
every information. If we try to collect all information, we need
so long time. Hypothesis thinking does not require collecting all
information. We develop a hypothesis based on available
information. After we developed a hypothesis, we collect
minimum information to prove the hypothesis. If the first
hypothesis is right, you do not have to collect any more
information. If the first hypothesis is wrong, we will develop
the next hypothesis based on available information. Hypothesis
thinking is a very efficient problem-solving method, because we
do not have to waste time to collect unnecessary information.
Problem Solving is not necessarily logical or rational. Creativity
and flexibility are other important aspects for Problem Solving.
We can not recognize these aspects clearly. This report shows
only what kinds of tips are useful for creative and flexible
conception. Following are portions of tips.
To be visual.
To write down what we think.
Use cards to draw, write and arrange ideas in many ways.
Change positions, forms, and viewpoints, physically and
We can imagine without words and logic, but in order to
communicate to others, we must explain by words and logic.
Therefore after we create ideas, we must explain them literally.
Creative conception must be translated into reasonable
explanations. Without explanations, conception does not make
If we make a structure like a tree to grasp a complex situation,
we can understand very clearly.
Upper level should be more abstract and lower level should be
more concrete. Dividing abstract situations from concrete
situations is helpful to clarify the complex situations. Very
frequently, problem solvers cannot arrange a situation clearly.
A clear recognition of a complex situation increases efficiency
4.2 DEALING WITH OBSTACLES AND
Do you know how to calculate the amount of fear holding you
back in life? Take a pen and a piece of paper. On top of the page,
write down your current age, for instance "34 years old." At the
bottom, indicate how old you intend to grow before you die.
"Death at 80" is a reasonable target.
Now comes the mathematical part of the exercise. Draw a
straight line connecting your current age with your death. That
line represents the number of days that you have left on earth. In
our example, the difference between 80 and 34 leaves you with
46 years, that is, almost 17.000 days. The last part of the game
consists of deciding how you are going to use those 17.000 days.
Now, draw a vertical line on your page, which divides your
future in two areas. On the left side of the line, you can write
down safe and commonplace goals. On the right side, difficult
and disruptive ambitions. The rules of the exercise allow you to
list as many activities as you wish, provided that you don't run
out of time to live.
Boring projects are easy to name and quantify. They include,
amongst others, looking for better jobs, cleaning the house and
going on holidays. Don’t forget mundane tasks such as working
five days a week, watching television, walking the dog, washing
your car once per month and shopping for new clothes. When
your remaining term of 46 years is up, you are dead.
You only need to worry about the opposite side of the line if you
have unused time, which is unlikely. The truth is that most
people will allocate their complete lifespan to left-side tasks.
What about the right side of the line? Does anyone actually write
down adventurous, risky goals? Are there people foolish enough
to risk total failure in order to pursue their dreams? Is it not
better to stick to attainable objectives? This is the type of
activities that usually come up under the label "difficult and
1. Live in Paris for a year (500 days, including preparation and
2. Start up and grow a global business (3000 days)
3. Write twenty great books (3000 days)
4. Save and invest until you are able to live from dividends (6000
5. Learn to cook according to good nutrition principles (300
6. Lose weight and acquire habits that allow you to stay in good
shape (500 days)
One could argue that this game is useless, since it has no winner
and no loser. Since the same individual appears on both sides of
the line, what is the point? What is the purpose of the exercise?
The answer is that, paradoxically, the subjects on each side of the
line are different persons.
One of them is boring, the other fearless. One of them is aimless,
the other determined. One of them is predictable, the other
exciting. The lesson is that, one day, the 46 years will be
consumed all the same. At the end, results will be trivial or
spectacular, meaningless or irreplaceable.
If you don't like the outcome of your calculations, take a blank
piece of paper, draw a new vertical line, and start the exercise
again. After a few times, you will get quite good at it. At one
point, you will begin to fear boring activities more than risky
ones. If you are already there, congratulations, now you know
how to win the game.
TheThe ArtArt ofof ObstacleObstacle RemovalRemoval
One of the best ways to go faster is to remove the things that
slow you down. This "obstacle removal" is an integral part of
many agile methods including Scrum and Lean. Sometimes it is
obvious where an obstacle is. There are a few small things that
can be done easily to go faster. But to get going really fast, we
need to have a deeper understanding of obstacles... and the Art of
What are Obstacles?
An obstacle is any behavior, physical arrangement, procedure or
checkpoint that makes getting work done slower without adding
any actual contribution to the work. Activities that do add value
to our work may be slowed down by obstacles, but are not
obstacles in and of themselves.
Obstacles and Waste
Obstacles are the causes of waste in a process. There are many
types of waste, and for every type of waste there are many
possible sources (obstacles).
Types of Obstacles
Personal obstacles are related to us as individuals. There are
several levels at which these obstacles can show up.
Outside factors in our lives such as illness or family obligations
can become obstacles to our work at hand. These obstacles are
hard to remove or avoid. Even if we would want to avoid an
obstacle such as illness, it is hard to do anything about it in an
immediate sense. However, as part of our commitment to the
group we are working with, we should consider doing things to
generally improve our health. Good sleep, healthy and moderate
eating, exercise and avoidance of illness-causing things and
circumstances are all possible commitments we can make to the
group. Likewise, we can make sure our personal affairs are in
order so that unexpected events have the least impact possible.
This topic is vast and there are many good sources of
Obstacles in the physical environment can consist of barriers to
movement or communication, or a lack of adequate physical
resources. Sometimes these obstacles are easy to see because
their effects are immediate. For example, if a team room lacks a
whiteboard for diagrams, keeping notes, etc., then the team may
not be able to communicate as effectively.
Other physical obstacles are not so obvious. The effects of
physical environment can be subtle and not well-understood.
Poor ergonomics take weeks, months or years for their effects to
be felt... but it is inevitable. A too-small team room can lead to a
feeling of being cooped up and desperation to get out... and
eventually to resentment. Again this can take weeks or months.
A lack of knowledge or the inability to access information are
obstacles. A team composed of junior people who don't have
diverse experience and who don't have a good knowledge of the
work they are doing will have trouble working effectively. There
may be barriers preventing the team from learning. Common
barriers include over-work leading to a lack of time or mental
energy for learning. With junior people in particular, there is a
lot of pressure to be productive and that can often be at the
expense of a solid foundation of learning.
Other times, knowledge-related barriers can be more immediate.
If a critical piece of information is delayed or lost this can have a
large impact on an Agile team that is working in short cycles. The
team may be temporarily halted while they wait for information.
Building effective information flow is critical to a team's
Bureaucratic procedures, organizational mis-alignment,
conflicting goals, and inefficient organizational structures can all
be significant obstacles.
One of the best sources of information about this is the two
books by Jim Collins: "Good to Great" (Review) and "Built to
Sometimes the beliefs we have about how to work can become
obstacles to working more effectively. These beliefs are often in
place because they have been part of what we think makes us
successful. Cultural assumptions can come from our families, our
communities, our religious affiliation and our national identity.
In organizational culture, one thing I constantly see is a public
espoused value of teamwork, but a conflicting behavior of
individual performance reviews and ranking. This is cultural. It is
also a barrier to the effective functioning of an Agile team. For
corporate environments I highly recommend the Corporate
Culture Survival Guide by Edgar Schein.
Dis-unity is one of the most subtle and common forms of
obstacle. Competition, legal and cultural assumption of the
goodness of "opposition" and habits of interaction including
gossip and backbiting all combine to make united action and
thought very difficult.
This is an extremely deep topic. There are many tools and
techniques available to assist with team building. If you are
interested in this topic, I highly recommend reading "The
Prosperity of Humankind".
Waste is the result of activities or environmental conditions that
prevent a team from reaching its goal. The opposite of waste is
something that adds value (more, faster or higher quality) to the
The whole notion of eliminating waste comes from lean
manufacturing. More recently, Mary and Tom Poppendieck
applied this idea to software in their book "Lean Software
Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development
Managers". In this (excellent) book, the authors list the wastes of
manufacturing and the wastes of software.
As wastes are eliminated or reduced, a team will function faster
and with higher quality. However, not all waste can be
eliminated. Sometimes waste is legislated, sometimes waste is an
unavoidable by-product of work, sometimes mistakes are made,
and sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to eliminate a waste.
Here I have summarized and generalized these types of wastes
so that they apply in any situation:
TheThe SevenSeven WastesWastes
1. waiting - caused by delays, unreadiness, or simple
2. partially done work or inventory - caused by sub-optimal
3. extra processing or processes - caused by poor organization
4. defects and rework - caused by insufficient skill, tools,
inspection or filtering
5. movement of people or work - caused by physical separation
6. overproduction or extra features - caused by working
towards speculative goals
7. task switching - caused by multiple commitments
In order to eliminate waste, first waste has to be detected and
identified, then the underlying causes of the waste have to be
identified, and finally changes to the work environment need to
be made to both eliminate the cause of the waste and the waste
itself. Many agile work practices help with this process.
Value stream mapping is one particular tool that can be used by
a team or organization to identify wasteful activities. The team
describes the amount of time that work takes to go through each
activity in their overall work process. Next, the team determines
if each activity adds value or does not add value to the end goal.
All activities are subject to speed improvements, and activities
that do not add value are subject to elimination.
In order to determine the causes of waste, special attention
should be paid to incentives and motivations. Wasteful behavior
often exists because there is some incentive for people to do it.
Sometimes these incentives are explicit, but sometimes they are
the side-effects of other things going on in the team's
environment. Changing the incentives can be an effective way of
By eliminating waste, the team will find it has reduced
frustrations, and enabled greater productivity and creativity. The
team will also increase its speed and delivery of value, and at the
same time reduce defects.
The ability to identify obstacles and understand why they are
causing problems is only the first step in removing obstacles. In
Agile Work, the person primarily responsible for identifying and
removing obstacles is the Process Facilitator. The Process
Facilitator has several approaches available for the removal of
obstacles. A process facilitator has similar responsibilities to a
Deal with the obstacle directly without involving other people.
This can be as simple as getting up and moving an obstacle
impairing vision, or as nuanced as running interviews and
workshops throughout an organization to gradually change a
Command and Control
Identify the obstacle and give precise instructions for its removal
to a person who will directly perform the removal. This can
sometimes work if removing an obstacle takes a great deal of
time, effort or specialized skills that you yourself do not possess.
However, the overall approach of "command and control" is not
recommended for Agile environments since it is disempowering.
Identify the obstacle and suggest means to deal with it to a
person who has the authority or influence to get others to deal
with it. This indirect method of obstacle removal can be slow and
frustrating. However it usually has better long-term effects than
command and control.
Offer to assist and encourage the removal of obstacles that have
been identified by other people. In many respects this is a very
effective method. It can assist with team-building and learning
by example. People are usually grateful for assistance.
Train others on the art of obstacle removal including obstacle
identification, types of obstacles and strategies for dealing with
obstacles. Observe people's attempts to remove obstacles and
give them feedback on their actions.
Creating a Culture of Obstacle Removal
Encourage and measure obstacle removal at all organizational
levels until it becomes habitual. In many ways this is the essence
of the lean organization.
StrategiesStrategies forfor DealingDealing withwith ObstaclesObstacles
Diagrams are a great way of communicating the essense of a
concept. Feel free to share the following diagrams with anyone
(but of course keep the copyright notice on them).
Remove the obstacle altogether. This method of dealing with an
obstacle is usually the most immediately effective, but is also one
of the most difficult methods.
The best way to actually remove an obstacle is to get at the root
cause of the obstacle and change that. This type of change results
in the longest-lasting and most stable elimination of an obstacle.
Take the obstacle and put it in a place or situation where it is no
longer in the path of the team.
In a team's physical environment, this may be as simple as
changing the tools that the team is using. For example, if the
team is all in a room together, move computer monitors that are
blocking team member's views of each other. If there is a useless
checkpoint that work results have to go through, get
management to eliminate it.
Build a shield or barrier to hide the obstacle so that it's effects no
longer touch your team.
If a team is distracted by noisy neighbors, put up a sound barrier.
If a team is unable to see their computers due to late afternoon
sunlight, put up window shades. If a manager is bothering the
team with meetings or tasks unrelated to the work of the team,
then put yourself between the team and the manager (or get
someone in upper management to do that).
Shielding is excellent for immediate relief, but remember that
the obstacle is still there and may become a problem again if the
shield cannot be maintained.
Change the structure or form of the obstacle so that it no longer
In general, this method requires a great deal of creativity and
open-mindedness. This is one that works particularly well on
people who are obstacles: convert them into friends of the team!
For example if the team needs approval of an expert who is not
part of the team, this can cause extra work preparing
documentation for this person and long delays while the expert
revies the documents. If the expert becomes part of the team,
then they are well-informed of the work being done and can give
approval with very little overhead.
If done well, this can be a very long-lasting method of dealing
with an obstacle. Make sure that the transformation is true and
that it takes hold... and beware that the obstacle doesn't revert
back to its old nature.
Find an activity that negates the effects of the obstacle by
boosting effectiveness in another area.
As a coach or Process Facilitator, this is what we spend our time
in early in a team's adoption of Agile Work: we get them to work
in the same room, use iterations and adaptive planning, we focus
them on delivering work valued by the stakeholders as defined
by the Product Owner. All these things are enhancing the team's
ability to get work done without actually directly dealing with
Watch out for barriers avoided this way to come back and bite
you later on.
Removing Obstacles and Learning
Organizational learning, as well as adult learning have a strong
relationship to obstacle removal. Organizational learning can be
either single-loop or double-loop learning. Adult learning can be
either normal or transformative. We can approach obstacle
removal from a surface level where we only deal with the
immediate symptom, or we can work at a deeper level where we
deal with the symptom and its chain of preceding causes. One
effective method for examining the deeper causes is the 5-why's
Obstacles Inherent in Agile
Agile methods do not perfectly eliminate all obstacles. Some
obstacles that are inherent in agile methods include overhead
due to planning meetings at the start of iterations, the use of a
dedicated process facilitator. As well, the use of iterations can
become a barrier to certain types of work items: repeating items,
investment in infrastructure, one-off tasks that are not directly
related to the work at hand.
At some point, our teams will have matured to the point where
agile methods are no longer necessary and we can pick and
choose what parts of agile we use.
4.2.2 DEALING WITH RESISTANCE
There's old wisdom that advises that we can only lean against
that which resists.
This suggests that there might just be something good, or at least
useful, about resistance. Discovering what this is and learning to
work with it is key to understanding reluctance to change.
After all, change often occurs as a direct result of resistance.
Great men, such as Nelson Mandela, are testimony to this.
Resistance can be viewed as alternative, negative, or wrong. But
we need to balance this with a healthy view of resistance which
points to positive processes rather than placid acceptance.
Benjamin Franklin valued this, telling us that questioning
authority is the "first responsibility of every citizen".
It helps to understand that resistance is a normal response and
that trying to avoid any resistance is futile. Accepting this
immediately allows a different response to resistance in which
we anticipate it and work with it.
Why people resist change:
Don’t see a need to change
Needs are being met
Invested in what they have now
Don’t know how to change
Poor communication regarding change
Change comes from an external source and they haven’t
Fears: losing control, failure
Don’t know why they should do it
No negative consequences
New situation worse than existing one
There are in fact many
reasons people resist
change, most of these
reasons however have a
common source. Fear.
Most of us hold a deep
fear of change and our
ability to adapt. Many of
the reasons for people's
reluctance or refusal to
change are related to the
fear of change.
These fears can also be
related to loss associated
with the change. All
change involves loss at
some level and this can be
difficult to contemplate.
Loss associated with change can be very practical such as loss of
work, colleagues, or office environment. Or it can be less obvious,
relating to concerns about loss of status, self esteem, or ability to
perform new work.
Fear of change can leave us feeling lost, confused, and torn
between the need to take action and doing nothing.
How to recognise resistance
There are a number of behaviours that are signs and symptoms
of an adverse reaction to change. These include:
Aggression and anger
Unusual flare-ups of emotion
Coachees portraying themselves as innocent victims of
Insensitive and disagreeable behaviour
Not meeting key performance areas (missing meetings , failing
assignments, not responding to emails, for example)
Not responding, not listening, seems disinterested
Active attempts to disrupt or undermine the project
Of course, each of these do not necessarily mean that people are
opposing change. They might be indicators, but could just as
easily be indicators of other issues in the person's life.
Real resistance usually occurs after people's uncertainties and
questions regarding change have not been adequately answered.
How to deal with it
The best laid plans and systems fail if the people side of change
management is ignored.
Resistance to change is a normal response, so plan for it, expect
it and accept it. Resistance does not mean that the change is bad,
or that the management of change has failed. Nor does it mean
that those resisting change are 'bad seeds' that need to be
Rather anticipate resistance and direct your energy to facilitating
what Kurt Lewin would refer to as the Unfreezing and
Kurt Lewin's Force Field Analysis is a powerful strategic tool to
help you analyse aspects of the change that may lead to
Assessing resistance to change is an important part of a change
impact assessment that should be conducted very early in the
Even if you're introducing small changes don't assume that that
these will be easier for people to accept - especially if they
already feel threatened or have low trust in the process.
If you're aware of any indicators of resistance to change then
you'll need to take some time out to listen to people's concerns.
Yup, listen. Don't talk, just listen (or get someone else they trust
The clue to overcoming resistance is understanding that you
cannot avoid resistance, but you can manage it.
Remember that people experience change in personal ways.
Addressing people's values when you encounter resistance to
change can reduce any negative impact of resistance.
Changing your attitude towards resistance is what's needed to
ensure successful change. Anticipating resistance to change is
part of a successful change management strategy and will help to
keep people motivated and positive about change.
Here are some great tips:
1. Let your client speak his peace and/or vent if necessary. Give
him space to express himself. If you react emotionally and try to
stop him, argue, or immediately explain why he is off base, you
will just fuel the fire. Sometimes letting off steam is the first step
to opening to a healing path and moving in a more positive
2. Reflect back to the client what you heard her say, so she knows
that she has been listened to. “Wow, you are really angry at your
boss, and you don’t see any other option but to retaliate.” Or
“Your daughter won’t move out and support herself, and you are
completely frustrated.” Or “I’m hearing that you are disappointed
that you haven’t made more progress in coaching thus far.”
When your client feels heard and acknowledged, he may lighten
up and be willing to see and explore more healthy options.
3. Reflect back to the client behaviors that might be a sign of
resistance, of which the client may be unaware. “You’ve been
[late to your sessions] [cancelled] three times now. Is there
anything going on that you are having a hard time with that may
be uncomfortable to look at?” Or “You’ve had the same situation
going on with your last three jobs. Do you see any connection
between what’s going on out there and what’s happening inside
4. Dealing with “Yes, but. . . ”s: “I’ve made three suggestions for
reframes on your situation that could help you feel freer and
move beyond what is troubling you, and you’ve answered “Yes,
but. . . “ to each of them. Are you really ready or willing to get
5. Illuminate cost and payoff. “What do you think is the payoff for
you continuing to feud with your ex-? What is the cost? What
would be the payoff of harmonizing? What would be the cost?”
6. Direct approach: “I have been working with you on this for
_______ length of time now, and it sounds to me like you have a
pretty strong investment, for whatever reason, in this situation
continuing. Is there any way you can see yourself shifting on
this? I hope you will. If not, let’s not talk about this anymore, and
let’s turn our attention to issues you’d rather make progress on.”
You may even tell the client that you do not see anything more
you can do for her at this point, and if she wants to continue
coaching, you will need to see some movement.
7. Tune into your intuition. The above suggestions may all work
in different situations, yet every coaching situation is unique. If
you sincerely ask inside yourself, you will receive guidance as to
how to deal with a particular form or moment of resistance.
Sometimes you may need to be gentle and soft, and other
situations may require a firmer stand or compassionate
confrontation. Set your intention that your sessions will be
resistance free, and if any instances of resistance come up, you
will know how to deal with them and move on.
8. Check in with yourself as to what beliefs, feelings, attitudes, or
expectations within yourself that your client may be reflecting.
Are you worried about having a resistant client? Do you question
your ability as a coach? Do you have judgments about something
that the client is reflecting? Why have you attracted this person
or this moment with this person into your experience? The
clearer you get about your intentions, your purpose, and your
confidence, the clearer your clients will get about the situations
and energies they bring to your practice.
9. Sometimes resistant clients can become your biggest success
stories. At the first retreat I presented, a woman bucked me and
the program at every turn. On the last day of the program
something clicked for her and she came to me with a big smile
and proclaimed “I finally got it!” Her healing and transformation
were as powerful as her resistance had been. She ultimately
came to many more programs and was a “star student.”
Excuses the coach will hear for tasks not being accomplished
Trying: “I implemented a numeracy strategy and it didn’t work,
but I did what the consultant said to do.”
Blame: “Manny said he’d have the data reports ready last Friday
but he didn’t get them to me until yesterday.”
Doubt: “Group projects never work in math classes. Students
need to be held individually accountable.”
Reacting: “You expect me to find time to add something else?”
Delay: “It’s a good idea, and I’ll get to it as soon as I finish the
work on next month’s science fair.”
INQUIRY –A Best Practice
Ask Questions that Promote Discovery for the Other Person
Ask Questions that Focus on the Person Being Coached
Invite clarity, action, and discovery at a new level
Create greater possibility for expanded learning and fresh
Powerful requests are ways to cause change; to stir thought
forward and cause action.
“I request that you . . .”
“I have a bold request for you.”
The Power of Story Listening
Stories make sense of experience in ways that integrate emotion
and meaning –facilitating movement, direction, and purpose.
Stories evoke power.
FEED FORWARD instead of feedback.
Is there a problem with feedback?
Feedback focuses on a past, what has already occurred –not on
opportunities in the future. Not fun.
Feedforwardlooks at future actions, is fun as well as not
Some Powerful Coaching Questions
(adapted from Co-Active Coaching by Whitworth, Kimsey-House
What do you think will happen?
What’s you back-up plan?
How does it look to you?
How do you feel about it?
What do you mean?
Can you say more?
What do you want?
How will you know that you have reached it?
What will it look like?
How does this fit with your plans/values?
What do you think that means?
May we explore that some more?
What are your other options?
Would you like to brainstorm this idea?
Will you give an example?
What would it look like?
Will you tell me more about it?
Is there more?
How can you make it be fun?
If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?
If it were you, what would you have done?
What have you tried so far?
How is this working?
What is the action plan?
What support do you need to accomplish …?
What will you take away from this?
What are the possibilities?
What’s moving you forward?
What’s stopping you?
What resources do you need to help you decide?
What action will you take? And after that?
Where do you go from here? When will you do that?
What are your next steps? By when?
Powerful Coaching Inquiries
(adapted from Co-Active Coaching by Whitworth, Kimsey-House
An inquiry is a type of powerful question that is not meant to be
answered immediately, but instead, offers the “coachee” an
opportunity for reflection, discovery and learning.
What do I want?
What am I tolerating?
Where am I not being realistic/practical?
What is the difference between a wish and a goal?
Where is my attention?
If my whole attention is focused on producing the result,
what will I have to give up?
What is working for me?
What will it take to keep me on track?
What am I willing/unwilling to change?
What am I settling for?
What is it to be creative/passionate/focused/a leader?
What is it to speak/act from my heart?
What does it mean to be proactive/centered/optimistic?
What is present when I am at my best?
What motivates me?
What am I resisting?
If I were at my best, what would I do right now?
What are my assumptions?
Where do I limit myself?
Where do I hold back?
What are my expectations?
How can I have this be easy?
Who can I get to play with me on this project?
What have I learned about myself?
Kurt Lewin - Change Management Model
Kurt Lewin emigrated from Germany to America during the
1930's. Lewin is recognised as the "founder of social psychology"
which immediately points to his interest in the human aspect of
His interest in groups led to research focusing on factors
that influence people to change, and three stages needed to
make change successful.
Unfreeze, Change, Freeze
Kurt Lewin proposed a three stage theory of change commonly
referred to as Unfreeze, Change, Freeze (or Refreeze). It is
possible to take these stages to quite complicated levels but I
don't believe this is necessary to be able to work with the theory.
But be aware that the theory has been criticised for being too
A lot has changed since the theory was originally presented in
1947, but the Kurt Lewin model is still extremely relevant. Many
other more modern change models are actually based on the
Kurt Lewin model. I'm going to head down a middle road and
give you just enough information to make you dangerous...and
perhaps a little more to whet your appetite!
Let's look at each of the three stages:
Stage 1: Unfreezing
The Unfreezing stage is probably one of the more important
stages to understand in the world of change we live in today.
This stage is about getting ready to change. It involves getting to
a point of understanding that change is necessary, and getting
ready to move away from our current comfort zone.
This first stage is about preparing ourselves, or others, before
the change (and ideally creating a situation in which we want the
The more we feel that change is necessary, the more urgent it is,
the more motivated we are to make the change. Right? Yes, of
course! If you understand procrastination (like I do!) then you'd
recognise that the closer the deadline, the more likely you are to
snap into action and actually get the job started!
With the deadline comes some sort of reward or punishment
linked to the job. If there's no deadline, then the urge to change is
lower than the need to change. There's much lower motivation to
make a change and get on with it.
Unfreezing and getting motivated for the change is all about
weighing up the 'pro's' and 'con's' and deciding if the 'pro's'
outnumber the 'con's' before you take any action. This is the
basis of what Kurt Lewin called the Force Field Analysis.
Force Field Analysis is a fancy way of saying that there are lots of
different factors (forces) for and against making change that we
need to be aware of (analysis). If the factors for change outweigh
the factors against change we'll make the change. If not, then
there's low motivation to change - and if we feel pushed to
change we're likely to get grumpy and dig in our heels.
This first 'Unfreezing' stage involves moving ourselves, or a
department, or an entire business towards motivation for
change. The Kurt Lewin Force Field Analysis is a useful way to
understand this process and there are plenty of ideas of how this
can be done.
Stage 2: Change - or Transition
Kurt Lewin was aware that change is not an event, but rather a
process. He called that process a transition. Transition is the
inner movement or journey we make in reaction to a change.
This second stage occurs as we make the changes that are
People are 'unfrozen' and moving towards a new way of being.
That said this stage is often the hardest as people are unsure or
even fearful. Imagine bungey jumping or parachuting. You may
have convinced yourself that there is a great benefit for you to
make the jump, but now you find yourself on the edge looking
down. Scary stuff! But when you do it you may learn a lot about
This is not an easy time as people are learning about the changes
and need to be given time to understand and work with them.
Support is really important here and can be in the form of
training, coaching, and expecting mistakes as part of the process.
Using role models and allowing people to develop their own
solutions also help to make the changes. It's also really useful to
keep communicating a clear picture of the desired change and
the benefits to people so they don't lose sight of where they are
Stage 3: Freezing (or Refreezing)
Kurt Lewin refers to this stage as freezing although a lot of
people refer to it as 'refreezing'. As the name suggests this stage
is about establishing stability once the changes have been made.
The changes are accepted and become the new norm. People
form new relationships and become comfortable with their
routines. This can take time.
It's often at this point that people laugh and tell me that
practically there is never time for this 'freezing' stage. And it's
just this that's drawn criticism to the Kurt Lewin model.
In todays world of change the next new change could happen in
weeks or less. There is just no time to settle into comfortable
routines. This rigidity of freezing does not fit with modern
thinking about change being a continuous, sometimes chaotic
process in which great flexibility is demanded.
So popular thought has moved away from the concept of
freezing. Instead, we should think about this final stage as being
more flexible, something like a milkshake or soft serv icecream,
in the current favourite flavour, rather than a rigid frozen block.
This way 'Unfreezing' for the next change might be easier.
Given today's pace of change this is a reasonable criticism. But it
might help to get in touch with what Kurt Lewin was actually
saying. In 1947 he wrote:
A change towards a higher level of group performance is
frequently short-lived, after a "shot in the arm", group life soon
returns to the previous level. This indicates that it does not
suffice to define the objective of planned change in group
performance as the reaching of a different level. Permanency of
the new level, or permanency for a desired period, should be
included in the objective. (Kurt Lewin, "Frontiers of Group
Dynamics", Human Relations, Volume 1, pp. 5-41)
Lewin's concern is about reinforcing the change and ensuring
that the desired change is accepted and maintained into the
future. Without this people tend to go back to doing what they
are used to doing. This is probably what Kurt Lewin meant by
freezing - supporting the desired change to make sure it
continues and is not lost.
More modern models of change, such as the ADKAR model, are
more explicit about this step and include Reinforcement as one of
their phases. I've also read this final step of freezing referred to
as the lock-in effect. Establishing stability only happens when the
new changes are locked-in.
Thinking about change as a journey might make you think that a
journey has a beginning , middle, and an end. While this is useful
when thinking about the process of change the reality is that this
journey doesn't have an end. Lots of rest stops maybe! Some
opportunities for settling down for a while. But no end. So be
careful about thinking that a change process has a definite end,
as the Lewin change management model might seem to suggest.
In what ways do you think this model might be useful for you?
I've found the Kurt Lewin model useful to frame a process of
change for people that is quite easy to understand. Of course
each stage can be expanded to aid better understanding of the
process. Applying the concepts of Unfreezing, and especially the
Force Field Analysis, at a personal level can give us insight and
help us better understand how we deal with change.
Force Field Analysis - Kurt Lewin
Kurt Lewin's Force Field Analysis is a powerful strategic tool
used to understand what's needed for change in both corporate
and personal environments. Best of all - it's easy to use and has
complete credibility as a professional tool.
We'll use a little basic science to introduce the concept, after
which you'll find enough information to allow you to unleash
your knowledge of force fields on colleagues!
Let's start with a simple science experiment (this really is
relevant, so stay with me for a moment please).
You'll need to sit down for this one. You're sitting? Good. Now,
what's keeping you in the chair?
Well, there are two answers really. One is gravity which is
pushing you down into the chair. A driving force, if you like.
The other is the chair itself, which provides an opposing force,
pushing up against gravity, and stopping you falling to the
So it would seem that while you are sitting you're in an
equilibrium of sorts.
Two forces keep you there. Gravity pushes down, keeping you in
the chair, and the chair resists this, stopping you from falling to
Two equal forces, a driving force and a resisting or restraining
force, working to keep the equilibrium or status quo.
Agreed? Okay, now let's play. Let's say we want to move away
from this equilibrium and get you to fall to the floor. What could
Well, on the one hand we could increase the amount of gravity.
The chair will give way eventually and you will fall.
On the other hand, we could leave gravity alone and decide to
weaken the chair to get the same result.
If you've followed me this far then you've just completed a force
field analysis and understood the basic concepts of the force field
analysis. It also helps to explain why our science experiment is
You see, Kurt Lewin applied exactly this thinking to his theory of
change within social situations - to people.
May the Force be with you, or against you.
Kurt Lewin wrote that "An issue is held in balance by the
interaction of two opposing sets of forces - those seeking to
promote change (driving forces) and those attempting to
maintain the status quo (restraining forces)". This is much the
same as the experiment we just did and is summarised in the
So before change the force field is in equilibrium between forces
favourable to change and those resisting it. Lewin spoke about
the existence of a quasi-stationary social equilibrium.
For change to happen the status quo, or equilibrium must be
upset – either by adding conditions favourable to the change or
by reducing resisting forces.
What Kurt Lewin proposes is that whenever driving forces are
stronger than restraining forces, the status quo or equilibrium
Now that's useful. Especially if we apply this to understanding
how people move through change and why they resist change.
There will always be driving forces that make change attractive
to people, and restraining forces that work to keep things as they
Successful change is achieved by either strengthening the driving
forces or weakening the restraining forces.
The force field analysis integrates with Lewin’s three stage
theory of change as you work towards unfreezing the existing
equilibrium, moving towards the desired change, and then
freezing the change at the new level so that a new equilibrum
exists that resists further change.
Using the Force Field Analysis
Lewin's force field analysis is used to distinguish which factors
within a situation or organisation drive a person towards or
away from a desired state, and which oppose the driving forces.
These can be analysed in order to inform decisions that will
make change more acceptable.
'Forces' are more than attitudes to change. Kurt Lewin was
aware that there is a lot of emotion underlying people's attitude
To understand what makes people resist or accept change we
need to understand the values and experiences of that person or
Developing self awareness and emotional intelligence can help to
understand these forces that work within us and others. It’s the
behaviour of others that will alert you to the presence of driving
and restraining forces at work.
The following steps are a guide to using the force field analysis.
You might find it useful to follow the process using the Force
Field Analysis Application Tool available .
1. Define the change you want to see. Write down the goal or
vision of a future desired state. Or you might prefer to
understand the present status quo or equilibrium.
2. Brainstorm or Mind Map the Driving Forces - those that are
favourable to change. Record these on a force field diagram.
3. Brainstorm or Mind Map the Restraining Forces - those that
are unfavourable to, or oppose change. Record these on the
force field diagram.
4. Evaluate the Driving and Restraining forces. You can do this
by rating each force, from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong), and total
each side. Or you can leave the numbers out completely and
focus holistically on the impact each has.
5. Review the forces. Decide which of the forces have some
flexibility for change or which can be influenced.
6. Strategise! Create a strategy to strengthen the driving forces
or weaken the restraining forces, or both.
If you've rated each force how can you raise the scores of the
Driving Forces or lower the scores of the Restraining Forces, or
7. Prioritise action steps. What action steps can you take that
will achieve the greatest impact? Identify the resources you
will need and decide how to implement the action steps.
Hint: Sometimes it's easier to reduce the impact of restraining
forces than it is to strengthen driving forces.
Criticism of the force field analysis usually focuses on the
subjectivity of attributing scores to the driving or restraining
Some writers suggest the model applies within limited settings
and that there are situations outside of these settings in which
Lewin’s theory may be less applicable.
At the end of the day the force field analysis is a tool that may or
may not be useful in your situation. You can decide this or allow
others to make a decision.
The force field analysis is backed by the Lewin change
management model and has, over time, developed credibility as
a professional change management tool
"Unleashing Potential – The Promise of Coaching"
Yvonne Freitas McGookin & Matt Aspin
4.3 EFFECTIVE GOAL SETTING
A study revealed that amongst people with the same
background, the top three percent outperform the next twenty-
seven percent by a factor of ten. One of very few differences
between these two groups was their attitude to goal setting.
The top three percent have clear, written goals. For the twenty-
seven percent group to join the top group would only take a shift
in some attitudes and a realization that the art of goal setting
would make them more successful to an amazing degree.
In order to be effective, goal setting should be :
- consistent with the coachee’s stage of change’ (e.g. a ‘pre-
contemplator’ may resist a goal of total abstinence, but
mayembrace reducing the risk of infection)
- negotiated. Negotiation is not bestowed on a coachee . It is a
strategy to influence behaviour. Negotiated goals are more
likely to generate patient commitment and adherence.
- specific and achievable. A broad goal may be broken down
into several component parts
- short-term; so that progress can be monitored and success
- solution-focused and defined in positive terms. Changing
behaviour will be more successful if couched in positive
terms of acquisition, rather than reduction; presence, not
absence (e.g. increasing the number of days without smoking
as opposed to decreasing the number of smoking days)
FIVE EASY STEPS TO SMART GOAL SETTING
In order to have a good chance of being accomplished, a goal has
to be specific.
The point is, you need to know HOW TO SET SMART GOALS if
you want to make SMART decisions in your life.
Developing the skill of smart goal setting has the potential to
make a significant difference in your life - it provides a solid
Starting personal and business projects
Making strategic decisions
Creating excellent action plans which incorporate your
short and long term development goals
If you don't know how to set SMART GOALS, then you may well
not be realizing your full potential.
Any SMART person will tell you the
same thing: “if you don't know where
it is you want to go, you are going to
wind up somewhere else!”
This would be so sorry, because you
don't want to invest your precious
time into any adventures without
knowing exactly what it is you want
to achieve, both in the short and long term.
A lot of people go into a venture, having some vague idea about
what they want to achieve and where they want to be in 6
months, 1 year, 5 and 10 years down the track. Well, I'm here to
tell you that unless those ideas can be translated into specific
and measurable SMART GOALS, they are wasting their time -
they just ain't gonna get there………sorry!
WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN - Think about your DREAMS and
aspirations - where do you see yourself down the track, what are
you doing, who are you doing it with, who do you want to help,
do you own the house of your dreams, the car of your dreams,
are you traveling the world, etc, - You get the picture………!
The problem is that the words GOALS and DREAMS all too often
become synonymous and that is where confusion sets in!
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a vision for your
business and your life,. In fact it is absolutely a key ingredient for
However, if you think a goal looks like this: "I would like to be
financially free, able to give up my JOB, stay at home and
look after my kids, take them on world trips and live in a
million dollar house"
Then think again!!!
That's a dream alright,
the kind you have in your pillow at night!
But it's NOT a Goal!
Sure, it could be your vision and it could become your reality, but
in order to achieve this wildly inspiring picture you need to
immerse yourself in some "real" goal setting activity, not just
So let's cut to the chase!
What is SMART goal setting?
S M A R T is a mnemonic used in management.
S M A R T is a way to evaluate that the objectives for a particular
project are relevant and appropriate for that project.
S M A R T Objectives are an integral part of Management By
Objectives (MBO). Management by objectives has been used
extensively by managers as a planning tool. It is a process by
which managers and employees work together and agree on
specific and defined objectives for a particular project. This
process ensures that both managers and employees agree on and
are committed to the project outcomes.
The origin of the term S M A R T objectives is unknown, however,
Peter Drucker in his 1954 book "The Practice of Management"
outlined a system that was very similar to S M A R T objectives as
part of his discussion on Management by Objectives (MBO).
The process of writing S M A R T objectives or smart goal setting
has become a business management tool used extensively for
project management and also for performance appraisal
Learning how to write and use SMART goal setting is a skill you
definitely want to master
if you want to be successful in YOUR life and in YOUR business!
Success does not just happen to the
lucky, nor is working hard sufficient. It
is all about developing skills for success
and those skills are many and varied.
If you really want to make your life
hum, you'll develop the skill of SMART
goal setting and include this process as
an integral part of your action plan.
Smart goal setting adds clarity, focus and purpose to every action
Without objectives, planning is often non existent or at best done
at the same time that you are about to take action! This is
problematic and not good practice. Plans can often change as a
result of either a lack of time to consider all options or because
there was no predetermined outcome in the first place. In other
words, you are flying by the seat of your pants instead of having
a well thought through plan of attack.
So what do you do if you've got NO IDEA how to set goals for
your life and you need some goal setting tips - some simple
techniques to get started?
Well, I've got GREAT NEWS for you!
It is really not that complex if you follow………
The 5 Easy Steps to SMART goal setting!
Before we get started on those 5 Easy Steps, I want to make sure
you are 100% clear on the following:
Firstly, what is an objective or goal?
An objective or goal is a specific statement describing a RESULT.
Secondly, why set goals?
Setting and clarifying goals is an essential part of the path to
Thirdly - what do objectives or goals provide for YOU?
Direction for activities
A clear process for defining expected results
The criteria against which actual accomplishments can
Targets to motivate performance improvements
A common sense of purpose, which enhances teamwork
SMART goal setting is one of the most positive and rewarding
habits you can develop in your personal life, as it is in any
business. It is a process by which you can evaluate the current
situation and develop strategies to move forward. Moving
forward is what gives you the growth and success that most
people aspire too.
If it is your desire to be successful in your life, then you most
certainly don't want to accept the "status quo". The only way to
make sure you are not sitting in exactly the same place you are
sitting in today, in 6 months, 1 year or 10 years time is to
implement smart goal setting as one of your primary practices.
SMART Goal Setting assists YOU to PLAN AHEAD
and develop a STRATEGIC APPROACH
to creating SUCCESS inYOUR life!
Here is how you do it:
OK, so that's the goal setting theory - how would you apply this S
M A R T model to your life?
If a goal or objective is going to be an effective success building
tool it needs to be S M A R T. In other words you need to write
your goals so that they measure up against the S M A R T criteria
from the 5 Easy Steps chart above.
Let's take a look at a real life example.
How about this:
** "I want to save enough in order to be able to buy a new car by
the end of next year.” **
Is this a SMART Goal - does it measure up?
Let's break up this goal and see if it's SMART using the goal
setting form below.
Can we can tick all the boxes right?
It doesn’t really look like this could be an excellent example of
smart goal setting, does it?
Let's look at this more closely by evaluating this objective in
terms of each of the 5 Easy Steps:
STEP ONE - SPECIFIC - is this objective specific?
Do we know WHAT we are looking at here? NO, we do not - our
objective is too vague: we do not know how much we will have
to save, nor what car we want to buy.
Vague objectives are not inspiring. We have to be able to
visualize our goal: see ourselves enjoying the success when the
goal will be met.
STEP TWO - MEASURABLE - Do we know HOW MUCH or HOW
You may have a perfectly clear idea about the price of the car you
want to buy and the amount of money you will have to save, but
you omitted to write the numbers down. In three months from
now, how will you know that you are on the good track? How
will you know when an extra effort is required?
STEP THREE - ACTION ORIENTATED - Does it describe a result?
Again, the words "save" and “buy a car” are too vague I'm afraid.
What do they really represent? How would you measure this?
How could you know that you are actually saving enough? Can
you find a better way to describe the result you are looking for?
STEP FOUR - REALISTIC - Is this goal realistic and relevant to the
Again, it doesn’t show from the description of your goal. How
much are you earning? How much can you save? How will you
spread your saving effort? How will you anticipate possible
changes in earnings, expenses, price of the car, unexpected costs,
…? In a smart goal you will have taken these elements into
The key to remember here is this: smart goal setting is about
setting goals that are challenging but realistically achievable - no
point setting a goal for the sake of it and knowing there isn't a
hope that you'll ever achieve it - that would be pretty
demoralizing, not to mention slightly stupid!
STEP FIVE - TIME-BASED - BY WHEN should this be done?
In this case do we have a deadline by which this goal should be
achieved in order that we might measure the outcome? The
short answer is YES, we do.
So, in this example, out of the 5 steps, only one has been
correctly defined. How helpful would it be to you if your goals
are this vague? - Is this SMART goal setting? ----- Well, NO!
The solution to better planning is to
define challenging, but realistic goals,
then think ahead about what, how and by
when exactly you want to achieve, be very
specific about your data ... and to plan
The "5 EASY STEPS TO SMART GOAL SETTING".
Smart Goal Setting is a very important part of your skill
development and overall success in life. Don't ever
underestimate the power of this skill to make your life hum!
LEARN it, PRACTICE it and APPLY it to YOUR life.
You'll be very glad you did!
GoalsGoals andand Goal-SettingGoal-Setting
Goal-setting is the one activity that sets apart self-developers
from those who survive or just get by. Goal-setting enables us to
create the future we want to happen rather than live the future
that others want to happen. In goal-setting, we take charge. Here
are 7 ways to set reachable goals.
1. Start With Your Strengths
Although you can base your goals on anything you want, your
chances of success are greater if, first, you base them on your
strengths and second, on the current opportunities in your field.
To find out your strengths, do some self-research, such as a
personal SWOT: your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and
2. Put Your Goals In Writing
Written goals have a way of transforming wishes into wants,
can'ts into cans, dreams into plans and plans into reality. The act
of writing clarifies your goals and provides you with a way to
check your progress. You can even add reasons to give you more
motivation. So don't just think it - ink it!
3. Dream Big
One of the factors that restricts the realisation of our full
potential is the belief that we shouldn't go for big goals. Yet all
the evidence of those who realize big goals is that we can always
achieve far more than we think. David Schwartz says in his book
"The Magic of Thinking Big": "Big goals attract big resources like
4. Pitch Each Goal
Once you have set your ultimate goal, you then need to set the
intermediate goals that will get you where you want. Don't pitch
these too easily or too ambitiously or they will drop into the
Drop Zone. Aim to make them challenging: out of reach, but not
out of sight.
5. Express Them Right
It's important to express your goals in the right way.
• never express your goal in terms of what you don't want;
always in terms of what you do want
• express your goals in performance terms not reward terms
• express your goals in terms of how others benefit
• express your goals according to the principles which matter.
6. Set Goals In Terms of Behaviour
When we set goals for ourselves, they should be expressed in
behavioural terms, rather than in terms of status, rewards or
position. That’s because behaviour is something within our
power, while status, rewards and position are not. Formulating
goals in behavioural terms also means we present a strong
positive image of ourselves to our brains. The brain, not knowing
the difference between a real or imagined experience, then seeks
to act in accordance with the presented image.
7. Pursue Your Goals With Passion
The driving force behind your goal-achievement is Desire. You
must desire your goals constantly, vividly and with a burning
passion, knowing that you have already achieved them and now
only need to realise them. If you do, you cannot fail to achieve
them. It was said of Michaelangelo that, such was his focus and
desire, he could blot out every distraction while working on a
project such as the statue of David, until it was completed.
Goal-setting is central to maximising our potential because it
enables us to create something unique and new in our lives.
Goal-setting allows us to feed our goal-oriented brain and puts
us in control of our futures.
ProgrammingProgramming YourYour GoalsGoals
Programming is a computer term that aptly describes what
happens when we feed a goal into the network of our minds. We
give it the goal and then programme it to achieve it. It then
works like a locked-on missile seeking out its target. The
following are 7 proven programming techniques that will ensure
you land right on target.
1. Affirm What You Want
Affirming what you want means stating your goal in the present
tense as if you'd already achieved it. The brain takes whatever
action needed to comply with the affirmation. Affirmations
should be positive, realistic and expressed in emotive words
such as “I love…” and “I enjoy…”. All of life’s outstanding
achievers use affirmations. World champion boxer Muhammed
Ali said, "I am the greatest". Composer Ludwig van Beethoven
said, "I know that I am an artist".
2. Visualise It
Visualisation means seeing yourself in your mind's eye having
achieved your goal. The secret of visualisation is to do it in such
rich detail, and with all your senses, that you are fully there. Ray
Kroc, founder of restaurant chain McDonalds, had a regular
bedtime routine, in which he would imagine all the day’s
problems written on a blackboard. One by one, he would
visualise them being solved. As a result, he managed to sleep like
3. Associate Your Goal With Rewards
Associate your goal with something you desire such as money, a
desired object, or simply the feeling of pleasure and you will be
motivated towards it. Alternatively, associate not getting your
goal with something you don't want, such as loss of money or
physical pain and you will remind yourself of what to avoid.
These two feelings, pleasure and pain, are powerful
4. Act As If
The more you act as if you've already achieved what you want,
the more likely you are to achieve it. It's what cricketers do in the
nets. Or teams that rehearse fire drills each week. Or
entrepreneurs who visit their dream home each day as if they
already owned it. The brain cannot tell the difference between
actual reality and imagined reality and so will simply believe you
have already achieved your goals.
5. De-Bug With Positive Self-Talk
Just as a computer programme occasionally gets infected with
viruses and bugs, so your own goal-setting programming can get
infected with setbacks, doubts, and feelings of failure. That’s
when you need an anti-virus mental programme to get rid of the
bugs. One such programming is Positive Suggestion which is
activated whenever you have thoughts of fear, panic or doom.
Simply replace your negative thoughts with positive ones and
remind yourself of your progress: “Every day in every way I am
getting nearer and nearer my goals.”
6.Leave It Alone
Once we feed our goals into our subconscious brains, it’s very
important that we let our brains get on with the job without
interference. The conscious brain is like the machine operator
while the sub-conscious is the machine itself. This means that
you have to let go and resist the temptation to analyse or check
how it’s doing. When you let go, you let God or, if you like, let
good into your life.
7. Pray With Heartfelt Gratitude
Prayers are a form of programming that people have practised
for centuries. But with one important difference from other
kinds of programming. As well as verbalizing or internalizing
something you want, you give thanks as if you already possessed
it. Such gratitude connects you to a mightier power than you
possess and unleashes great forces that work on your behalf.
When you practise these 7 programming techniques to achieve
your goals, you will achieve with scientific certainty whatever
4.4 MOTIVATING OTHERS
Using Motivation Theories to Help Influence Behavior
Written by: N Nayab • Edited by: Ginny Edwards
Research has established a relationship between motivation
theories and organizational behavior. Read on for an
explanation of how employees behave in an organization and
how to motivate them to work to their potential.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory
The Need Hierarchy theory of
Abraham Maslow, first expounded in
1943, ranks amongst the earliest
studies linking motivational theory
and organizational behavior.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory
lists a hierarchy of five need levels:
1. Physiological needs, or the need for basic necessities
such as food, water, and shelter
2. Safety needs, or the need for security in both home
3. Social needs, or the need for loving, acceptance, and
4. Esteem needs, or the need for recognition and
acknowledgment, and self-respect
5. Self-actualization needs, or the need to develop to
one's fullest potential
An employee works his way up the need hierarchy, and on
fulfilling a need level, aspires for the next level. For instance, an
employee already having attained recognition and
acknowledgment no longer remains motivated by rewards such
as recognition and acknowledgment, and would instead require
opportunities for self-actualization to remain motivated.
Conversely, an employee frustrated by the inability to fulfill
higher-level needs may strive to fulfill lower level needs.
Organizations can motivate employees by identifying the
individual employee’s position in the need hierarchy and
creating conditions that make it possible for him or her to
achieve such needs through efforts in the workplace. For
example, good leadership can facilitate better group
Alfred Alderfer’s ERG Theory
Alderfer’s ERG theory is a modification of Maslow’s need
hierarchy theory, and holds motivation dependent on three need
dimensions: Existence, Relatedness, and Growth. Existence
refers to desire for physiological and materialistic well-being,
Relatedness refers to the desire to have significant positive
relationships with other people of consequence, and growth
refers to the desire to grow and use one’s innate abilities to the
The theory holds that an individual remains motivated to any of
these three need categories:
Need for achievement (nAch), such as the desire to do
things in a better or efficient way, to solve complex
problems, and the like
Need for affiliation (nAff) such as the desire to
establish and maintain good relations with others, to
become part of a group, and the like
Need for power (nPower), such as the desire to
assume leadership, become a decision making
authority, and the like
The order of importance of these three needs varies among
individuals. Organizations looking to motivate an employee need
to focus on individual thought processes to identify the dominant
need category, and establish performance rewards that fulfill
Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory
Victor Vroom’s Expectancy theory holds that employees perform
to the level that they believe maximize their overall best
interests. The prospects of desirable rewards that satisfy needs
and a strong desire to satisfy needs motivate employees to
perform to their potential.
The Expectancy Theory holds motivation as a function of
Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valence.
Expectancy refers to the expectations and confidence of
employees regarding their ability to perform a task, and depends
on factors such as basic skills required for the task, support
expected from superiors and subordinates, availability of
required tools and equipment, and the like.
Instrumentality refers to the perception of whether
accomplishment of the task leads to the desired results. This
depends on factors such as rules of performance and reward,
transparency and trust in the process, and the like.
Valence refers to the emotional orientations of people regarding
the outcomes or rewards, or the level of satisfaction they expect
to get from the rewards. A reward motivates only if employees
have a positive valence, or a preference to have the specified
reward to not having it. For instance, some employees may
prefer having time off, whereas other employees might not have
the need for time off and might prefer money or achievement.
Organizations looking to motivating employees in the workplace
need to ensure that all the three factors: Expectancy,
Instrumentality, and Valence remain positive or high. Even
achieving two out of these three factors does not motivate the
John Adam’s equity theory of motivation holds that people gauge
the fairness of their work outcomes not based on the rewards
they get in return for their work, but the extent of their rewards
for the work put in relative to what others get. Individuals who
perceive that they receive relatively less than others in
proportion to their work inputs experience negative equity, and
individuals who perceive that they receive relatively more than
others in proportion to their work inputs experience positive
Organizations looking to motivate employees in the workplace
need to ensure positive equity and avoid negative equity. Factors
that trigger positive or negative equity are changes in work
inputs, changes in outcomes, changes in the comparison person,
and the like. The key to redress negative equity includes effective
communication of reliable evaluation standards and comparison
points to the employees.
B. F. Skinner’s reinforcement theory states that the individual’s
behavior is a function of its reinforcement, which in turn bases
itself on the “law of effect.”
Reinforcement is the administration of a behavior resultant
consequence, and proper management of reinforcement helps
change the direction, level, and persistence of an individual’s
behavior. The law of effect holds people repeat behavior that
results in a pleasant outcome and avoid behavior that results in
unpleasant outcomes. Organizations looking to motivate
employees need to indulge in the systematic reinforcement of
desirable work behavior.
The strategies to reinforce desirable work behaviors include
1. using positive reinforcement through immediate
rewards and encouragement whenever positive
2. withdrawal of negative consequences to increase the
likelihood of repeating the desired behavior in a
3. inflicting punishment or the administration of
negative consequences to reduce the likelihood of
repeating an undesired behavior in similar settings
4. extinction, or withdrawal of the reinforcing
consequences for a given behavior to discourage
Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene Theory
Herzberg’s Motivator-Hygiene theory ranks among the earliest
studies of motivational theories and organizational behavior.
This theory approaches motivation through job satisfaction, and
hold that jobs that do not offer achievement, recognition,
stimulating work, responsibility and advancement do not
provide satisfaction whereas jobs that offer achievement,
recognition, stimulating work, responsibility and advancement
provide satisfaction, and hence motivation.
Poor company policies, administration, supervision, pay,
interpersonal relationships with supervisors, and working
conditions cause dissatisfaction and demotivate employees
whereas good policies, efficient administration, effective
supervision, good pay, and good interpersonal relationships and
working conditions create job satisfaction that motivates
employees to work to their potential.
Motivating the coachee
As you read in the part on challenging the coachee, in spite of the
fact that the coachee knows he is in trouble and has come to see
you about it, he isn't always motivated to really work on his
problems. He can also get discouraged in the course of the
sessions. It is up to you then to motivate him again by
encouraging him to look at it from different angles.
Here are some motivating sentences that you could use:
What would encourage you?
What would swing you into action?
What inner resources could possibly strengthen your will to
How could you speed things up?
How much time do you allocate yourself?
The sooner you start, the quicker you can reach your goal.
We could go over everything again, but how about 'starting'
Every journey starts with the first step.
Sometimes you need to just grin and bear it, and go on.
Despite the counselling I give up. I just can't make it through the
I think you've come a long way, hold on. Let's look at what
we can come up with to make it through the coming week.
What do you think you need for that?
I really think I should cancel the evaluation with my boss. It's no
Look, once you've had the evaluation with your boss, at least
you'll know where you stand. It might not go as you wish,
but things will be clearer then. And then you can make new
4.5 SURFING THE FLOW SPIRAL
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an
activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full
involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed
by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the positive psychology concept has
been widely referenced across a variety of fields.
According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused
motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents
perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of
performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just
contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned
with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or
the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of
flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while
performing a task,. although flow is also described (below) as a
deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one's
Colloquial terms for this or similar mental states include: to be
on the ball, in the moment, present, in the zone, wired in, in the
groove, or owning.
Components of flow
Csíkszentmihályi identifies the following ten factors as
accompanying an experience of flow
1. Clear goals (expectations and rules are discernible and goals
are attainable and align appropriately with one's skill set and
abilities). Moreover, the challenge level and skill level should
both be high.
2. Concentrating, a high degree of concentration on a limited
field of attention (a person engaged in the activity will have
the opportunity to focus and to delve deeply into it).
3. A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, the merging of
action and awareness.
4. Distorted sense of time, one's subjective experience of time is
5. Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the
course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be
adjusted as needed).
6. Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is
neither too easy nor too difficult).
7. A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
8. The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there is an
effortlessness of action.
9. A lack of awareness of bodily needs (to the extent that one
can reach a point of great hunger or fatigue without realizing
10. Absorption into the activity, narrowing of the focus of
awareness down to the activity itself, action awareness
Not all are needed for flow to be experienced.
Flow is so named because during Csíkszentmihályi's 1975
interviews several people described their "flow" experiences
using the metaphor of a water current carrying them along. The
psychological concept of flow as becoming absorbed in an
activity is thus unrelated to the older phrase go with the flow.
The study of the concept of flow came about in the 1960s. Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, who is considered to be the founder of flow,
and his fellow researchers began researching flow after
Csikszentmihalyi became fascinated by artists who would
essentially get lost in their work.
Artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that
they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep.
Thus, the origin of research on the theory of flow came about
when Csikszentmihalyi tried to understand this phenomenon
experienced by these artists. Flow research became prevalent in
the 1980s and 1990s, still with Csikszentmihalyi and his
colleagues in Italy at the forefront. Researchers interested in
optimal experiences and emphasizing positive experiences,
especially in places such as schools and the business world, also
began studying the theory of flow in this time period. The theory
of flow was greatly used in the theories of Maslow and Rogers in
their development of the humanistic tradition of psychology.
Flow has been experienced throughout history and across
cultures. The teachings of Buddhism and Taoism speak of a state
of mind known as the "action of inaction" or "doing without
doing" that greatly resembles the idea of flow. Also, Indian texts
on Advaita philosophy such as Ashtavakra Gita and the Yoga of
Knowledge such as Bhagavad-Gita refer to this similar state.
Historical sources hint that Michelangelo may have painted the
ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel while in a flow state. It is
reported that he painted for days at a time, and he was so
absorbed in his work that he did not stop for food or sleep until
he reached the point of passing out. He would wake up refreshed
and, upon starting to paint again, re-entered a state of complete
Bruce Lee also spoke of a psychological state similar to flow in
his book the Tao of Jeet Kune Do.
Mechanism of flow
In every given moment, there is a great deal of information made
available to each individual. Psychologists have found that one's
mind can attend to only a certain amount of information at a
time. According to Miller's 1956 study, that number is about 126
bits of information per second. That may seem like a large
number (and a lot of information), but simple daily tasks take
quite a lot of information. Just having a conversation takes about
40 bits of information per second; that's 1/3 of one's capacity.
That is why when one is having a conversation he or she cannot
focus as much of his or her attention on other things.
For the most part (except for basic bodily feelings like hunger
and pain, which are innate), people are able to decide what they
want to focus their attention on. However, when one is in the
flow state, he or she is completely engrossed with the one task at
hand and, without making the conscious decision to do so, loses
awareness of all other things: time, people, distractions, and
even basic bodily needs. This occurs because all of the attention
of the person in the flow state is on the task at hand; there is no
more attention to be allocated.
One cannot force oneself to enter flow. It just happens. A flow
state can be entered while performing any activity, although it is
most likely to occur when one is wholeheartedly performing a
task or activity for intrinsic purposes.
Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level, according
Conditions for flow
There are three conditions that are necessary to achieve the flow
1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of
goals. This adds direction and structure to the task.
2. One must have a good balance between the perceived
challenges of the task at hand and his or her own
perceived skills. One must have confidence that he or
she is capable to do the task at hand.
3. The task at hand must have clear and immediate
feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing
demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her
performance to maintain the flow state.
In 1997, Csíkszentmihályi published the graph to the right. This
graph depicts the relationship between the perceived challenges
of a task and one's perceived skills. This graph illustrates one
further aspect of flow: it can only occur when the activity at hand
is a higher-than-average challenge (above the center point) and
requires above-average skills (to the right of the center point).
The center of this graph (where the sectors meet) represents
one's average levels of challenge and skill. The further from the
center an experience is, the greater the intensity of that state of
being (whether it is flow or anxiety or boredom or relaxation).
The autotelic personality
Csíkszentmihályi hypothesized that people with several very
specific personality traits may be better able to achieve flow
more often than the average person. These personality traits
include curiosity, persistence, low self-centeredness, and a high
rate of performing activities for intrinsic reasons only. People
with most of these personality traits are said to have an autotelic
It has not yet been documented whether people with an autotelic
personality are truly more likely to achieve a flow state. One
researcher (Abuhamdeh, 2000) did find that people with an
autotelic personality have a greater preference for "high-action-
opportunity, high-skills situations that stimulate them and
encourage growth" than those without an autotelic personality.
It is in such high-challenge, high-skills situations that people are
most likely to enter the flow state.
Csíkszentmihályi suggests several ways a group can work
together so that each individual member achieves flow. The
characteristics of such a group include:
Creative spatial arrangements: Chairs, pin walls, charts,
but no tables; thus work primarily standing and moving
Playground design: Charts for information inputs, flow
graphs, project summary, craziness (here also craziness
has a place), safe place (here all may say what is
otherwise only thought), result wall, open topics
Parallel, organized working
Target group focus
Advancement of existing one (prototyping)
Increase in efficiency through visualization
Using differences among participants as an opportunity,
rather than an obstacle
Applications suggested by Csíkszentmihályi versus other
Only Csíkszentmihályi seems to have published suggestions for
extrinsic applications of the flow concept, such as design
methods for playgrounds to elicit the flow experience. Other
practitioners of Csíkszentmihályi's flow concept focus on
intrinsic applications, such as spirituality, performance
improvement, or self-help. Reinterpretations of
Csíkszentmihályi's flow process exist to improve performance in
areas as diverse as business, piano improvisation, sport
psychology, computer programming, and standup comedy.
In education, there is the concept of overlearning, which seems
to be an important factor in this technique, in that
Csíkszentmihályi states that overlearning enables the mind to
concentrate on visualizing the desired performance as a singular,
integrated action instead of a set of actions. Challenging
assignments that (slightly) stretch one's skills lead to flow.
Around 2000, it came to the attention of Csíkszentmihályi that
the principles and practices of the Montessori Method of
education seemed to purposefully set up continuous flow
opportunities and experiences for students. Csíkszentmihályi
and psychologist Kevin Rathunde embarked on a multi-year
study of student experiences in Montessori settings and
traditional educational settings. The research supported
observations that students achieved flow experiences more
frequently in Montessori settings.
Musicians, especially improvisational soloists may experience a
similar state of mind while playing their instrument. Research
has shown that performers in a flow state have a heightened
quality of performance as opposed to when they are not in a flow
state. In a study performed with professional classical pianists
who played piano pieces several times to induce a flow state, a
significant relationship was found between the flow state of the
pianist and the pianist’s heart rate, blood pressure, and major
facial muscles. As the pianist entered the flow state, heart rate
and blood pressure decreased and the major facial muscles
relaxed. This study further emphasized that flow is a state of
effortless attention. In spite of the effortless attention and overall
relaxation of the body, the performance of the pianist during the
flow state improved.
Groups of drummers experience a state of flow when they sense
a collective energy that drives the beat, something they refer to
as getting into the groove. Bass guitarists often describe a state
of flow when properly playing between the percussion and
melody as being in the pocket.
Flow may occur in challenging sports such as Eventing.
The concept of being in the zone during an athletic performance
fits within Csíkszentmihályi's description of the flow experience,
and theories and applications of being in the zone and its
relationship with athletic competitive advantage are topics
studied in the field of sport psychology.
Timothy Gallwey’s influential works on the "inner game" of
sports such as golf and tennis described the mental coaching and
attitudes required to "get in the zone" and fully internalize
mastery of the sport.
Roy Palmer suggests that "being in the zone" may also influence
movement patterns as better integration of the conscious and
subconscious reflex functions improves coordination. Many
athletes describe the effortless nature of their performance while
achieving personal bests – see references.
The Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, who during qualifying for
the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix explained: "I was already on pole,
[...] and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds
faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same
car. And suddenly I realised that I was no longer driving the car
consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a
different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel."
When challenges and skills are simultaneously above average, a
broadly positive experience emerges. Also vital to the flow state
is a sense of control, which nevertheless seems simultaneously
effortless and masterful. Control and concentration manifest
with a transcendence of normal awareness; one aspect of this
transcendence is the loss of self-consciousness.
Religion and spirituality
Csíkszentmihályi may have been the first to describe this concept
in Western psychology, but as he himself readily acknowledges
he was most certainly not the first to quantify the concept of flow
or develop applications based on the concept.
For millennia, practitioners of Eastern religions such as
Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism have honed the discipline of
overcoming the duality of self and object as a central feature of
spiritual development. Eastern spiritual practitioners have
developed a very thorough and holistic set of theories around
overcoming duality of self and object, tested and refined through
spiritual practice instead of the systematic rigor and controls of
The phrase being at one with things is a metaphor of
Csíkszentmihályi's flow concept. Practitioners of the varied
schools of Zen Buddhism apply concepts similar to flow to aid
their mastery of art forms, including, in the case of Japanese Zen
Buddhism, Aikido, Cheng Hsin, Judo, Honkyoku, Kendo and
Ikebana. In yogic traditions such as Raja Yoga reference is made
to a state of flow in the practice of Samyama, a psychological
absorption in the object of meditation. Theravada Buddhism
refers to "access concentration," which is a state of flow achieved
through meditation and used to further strengthen
concentration into jhana, and/or to develop insight.
In Islam the first mental state that precedes human action is
known as al-khatir. In this state an image or thought is born in
the mind. When in this mental state and contemplating upon an
ayat or an imprint of God, one may experience a profound state
of Oneness or flow whereby the phenomena of nature, the
macrocosmic world and the souls of people are understood as a
sign of God. Also, the teaching in the Qu'ran of different nations
of people existing so that they may come to know each other is
an example of Oneness. All members of society and the world are
considered to be in flow of Oneness, one family, one body.
GamingThis is especially true since the primary goal of games is
to create entertainment through intrinsic motivation. The use of
flow in games helps foster an enjoyable experience which
increases motivation and draws players to continue playing.
Game designers, in particular, benefit from integration of flow
principles into game design. Games facilitate flow as either an
individual or group activity.
Flow in games has been linked to the Laws of Learning as part of
the explanation for why learning games (the use of games to
introduce material, improve understanding, or increase
retention) can show such incredible results. In particular, flow is
intrinsically motivating, which is part of the Law of Readiness.
The condition of feedback, required for flow, is associated with
the feedback aspects of the Law of Exercise. The positive
emotions associated with flow are associated with the Law of
Effect. The intense experiences of being in a state of flow are
directly associated with the Law of Intensity.
Using the Web
Researchers suggest that using the internet can cause a flow
state for users. If individuals are going through a flow state,
which is a pleasurable experience, web users eventually improve
their subjective well-being through accumulated ephemeral
moments. Many web users report certain descriptions of flow
when using the web, for example, absorbed interest, a feeling of
discovery, immersed pleasure, and time going very fast.
Flow Activities on the Web
Web users state that activities in the web atmosphere lead to a
flow state. There are four common activities that promote flow,
searching, surfing, reading and writing, and chatting.
The first and the most common activity to reach the flow state on
the web is searching on the web. An example of searching is
solving a problem such as the following responses from
participants in a study of web flow:
"I was very involved in several projects and used the net
resources to look up items to supplement/back-up/provide
information on those projects."
"Doing research into emotional intelligence theory ± following
links and leads to more information."
"Trying to find some scientific references for my research."
"Anytime I get involved in a new research project on the Web, I
get so excited and into it, I can have someone talking to me right
next to my desk . . . and I won't even hear them talking."
Surfing or Navigating
The second activity to reach flow state on the web is surfing or
navigating. An example of surfing or navigating is going through
hyperlinks such as the following responses from participants in a
study of web flow:
"Going from site to site, following links that were related."
"Doing some Web searches for information on a hobby of mine."
"I was going to a Web site which had a new song by my favorite
punk band. I was surprised and enmeshed in it."
"Looking for information on a specific book, and got off on some
links that were interesting and related [sort of] to what I started
out looking for."
Reading and Writing
The third activity to reach flow state on the web are reading and
writing. Reading consists of reading incoming emails, news,
articles, etc. on web pages. In addition, writing consists of
composing letters, articles, speeches, etc. on web pages. The
activity of reading e-mail and articles is one of the routes to
experience flow because the text usually contains some new or
relatively unfamiliar aspects, providing the challenges to sustain
flow, which in turn usually caused growth and perceived benefits
from increased knowledge and/or personal development.
Furthermore, writing articles, speeches, or emails corresponds
with the flow model due to the fact that an individual is
arranging his or her thoughts positively.
The fourth activity to reach flow state on the web is chatting
online. An example of chatting online is communicating with
other individuals such as the following responses from
participants in a study of web flow:
"I was simply engaged in a running series of conversations with
friends . . ."
"Chatroom outside normal business hours."
"Involved in a nine-way chat session with some friends I've made
on the alt.fan.sailor-moon newsgroup."
There are many other activities people can partake in while
using the web. Some individuals statethat they achieve flow by
coding a program, hacking into a small business, building their
own web page, watching a movie preview, troubleshooting
computer problems, and many more.
Components/Symptoms of flow on the Web
Merging of action and awareness
When an individual is in flow, they are concentrating and
narrowing down their activity. Therefore, an individual’s inner
experience may reveal the phenomenon of merging action and
awareness. The mind and action merge when individuals
experience high concentration in the flow state. An example of
high concentration in the flow state is a tennis player focusing
only on his or her opponent and tennis ball, disregarding all
external and internal activities, such as losing or yelling from an
audience. In the web environment, the merging of action and
awareness is realized when a user becomes the issue he or she is
debating, the words he or she is typing, the sentences he or she is
reading, or the machine he or she is working on. As a result,
people “just sit here and keep clicking and reading away”.
Examples of merging action and awareness are responses from
participants in a study of web flow:
"Connected to the material, like I had several books open at the
same time and was moving between them without pause."
"I feel [am!] totally concentrated on my task. There is nothing but
the keyboard, the screen and my thought. If someone talks to me
I will answer and I am still on ``stand by awareness with my
environment, but I wouldn't think of doing or saying anything."
"When I was unemployed and desperately searching for work, a
task that seemed increasingly worthless, I began reading
newsgroups and involving myself in discussions and
disagreements there. The more involved I became in the *issues*
that I was discussing and arguing, the less important my own
petty problems became."
"Just that my whole concentration is focused in what I'm doing ±
I become the words I'm typing or reading. It's not that the
outside world doesn't exist ± if one of my roommates knocks on
my door, I notice them and it's not a shock to return to the
outside world. But until that happens I'm totally engrossed."
"In chat sessions ± I chat often enough that ``talking through the
keyboard has become second nature."
"Relaxed . . . I guess just . . . well . . . nothing. I wasn't feeling
anything until I'd sit back and relax my eyes a bit . . . then I'd
realize that I had more stuff that I should be doing, but I'd just sit
here and keep clicking and reading away."
"I was in a heated discussion on a chat network for the better
part of two hours. I cannot remember what the subject was
about, but all I knew was I was totally blind to the world."
A Loss of Self-Consciousness
People tend to lose awareness of self, due to the experiencing of
flow state. In addition, people tend to lose the function of
defending and protecting themselves because of flow. This is a
common experience from web users, such as the following
responses below from participants in a study of web flow:
"Whether it is reading newsgroups or doing a search for a
particular thing I tend to concentrate and ``lose myself."
"I become the persona I present in the newsgroup, not my ``real
self. It's my other identity."
"I am a smoker, I can't smoke in my office, and sometimes I won't
even want a cigarette for several hours [when in the flow state]."
"How do I feel? I tend to shut out my feelings too ± if I'm
reading/interacting with good content, I put off my feeling that I
need to go to the bathroom, that I am hungry, etc."
"I feel like there is no ``Me; I feel there has been a merging of
man and machine."
"I feel agitated and compelled to get the job done to the point of
ignoring hunger, thirst or the need to go to the bathroom."
"I get so disconnected from the world that someone else has to
pull me out. Like they were there with me to keep my mind off of
the ``real world. Oblivious. The physical world and its demands
cease to exist. My own mind and intelligence are the only
limitations I encounter."
"I heard the radio, drank beer, and smoked cigarettes. I was
aware of my surroundings, but yes I was less aware of my
"I don't know. I was working not looking at me working . . ."
Sense of Time Distortion
When a person is experiencing flow, their internal clock slows
down or speeds up, but the external clock is constant.
Furthermore, people state that hours seem to change into
minutes and vice versa. The sense of time distortion is frequent
in the web environment, such as the following responses from
"Even though I have a program that audibly announces the time
in a female voice every 15 minutes on my computer, I don't hear
it . . . When I leave my computer from the newsgroup I have a
slightly dazed, disassociated feeling. While in the newsgroup I
have lost all sense of time. What subjectively seems like 20
minutes turns out to have actually been 2 and 1/2 hours."
"Time went by extremely fast. Two hours had passed before I
had ever realized it. I was quite shocked that so much time had
passed without me being aware of it."
"Just that feeling of being totally absorbed in what you're doing,
looking at the clock and saying ``Dang, how can it be 4 a.m., I just
started this project!
"I felt involved and like the time was a half-hour but it was more
like three hours."
"Finding content material for a series of class presentations. I
began putting the material together at 10 a.m. and floundered for
a few minutes, when I began finding detailed information I kept
working of what seemed like an hour ± it was actually 3 p.m."
"I don't remember specifics, but I have several memories of head
jerking (as in when you fall asleep and your head falls forward
and jerks back) that caused me to realize that my perception of
what time it should be was several hours behind the time it
Professions and work
Developers of computer software reference getting into a flow
state, sometimes referred to as The Zone or hack mode,[ when
developing in an undistracted state. Stock market operators
often use the term "in the pipe" to describe the psychological
state of flow when trading during high volume days and market
corrections. Professional poker players use the term "playing the
A-game" when referring to the state of highest concentration and
Flow in the Workplace
Conditions of flow, defined as a state in which challenges and
skills are equally matched, play an extremely important role in
the workplace. Because flow is associated with achievement, its
development could have concrete implications in increasing
workplace satisfaction and accomplishment. Flow researchers,
such as Csikszentmihalyi, believe that certain interventions may
be performed to enhance and increase flow in the workplace,
through which people would gain ‘intrinsic rewards that
encourage persistence” and provide benefits. In his consultation
work, Csikszentmihalyi emphasizes finding activities and
environments that are conducive to flow, and then identifying
and developing personal characteristics to increase experiences
of flow. Applying these methods in the workplace, such as
Csikszentmihalyi did with Swedish police officers, can improve
morale by fostering a sense of greater happiness and
accomplishment, and in correlated to increased performance. In
his review of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book “Good Business:
Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning,” Coert Vissar
introduces the ideas presented by Csikszentmihalyi, including
“good work” in which one “enjoys doing your best while at the
same time contributing to something beyond yourself.” He then
provides tools by which managers and employees can create an
atmosphere that encourages good work. First, Csikszentmihalyi
explains that experiencing flow, in which a task requires full
involvement, and the challenge of a task matches one’s ability.
In order to achieve flow,
Csikszentmihalyi lays out the following eight conditions:
1. goals are clear
2. feedback is immediate
3. a balance between opportunity and capacity
4. concentration deepens
5. the present is what matters
6. control is no problem
7. the sense of time is altered
8. the loss of ego
Csikszentmihalyi argues that with increased experiences of flow,
people experience “growth towards complexity,” in which people
flourish as their achievements grow and with that comes
development of increasing “emotional, cognitive, and social
complexity” (Vissar). By creating a workplace atmosphere that
allows for flow and growth, Csikszentmihalyi argues, can
increase the happiness and achievement of employees. There
are, however, barriers to achieving flow in the workplace. In his
chapter “Why Flow Doesn’t Happen on the Job,” Csikszentmihalyi
argues the first reason that flow does not occur is that the goals
of one’s job are not clear. He explains that while some tasks at
work may fit into a larger, organization plan, the individual
worker may not see where their individual task fits it. Second,
limited feedback about one’s work can reduce motivation and
leaves the employee unaware of whether or not they did a good
job. When there is little communication of feedback, an employee
may not be assigned tasks that challenge them or seem
important, which could potentially prevent an opportunity for
flow. In the study “Predicting flow at work: Investigating the
activities and job characteristics that predict flow states at work”
Karina Nielsen and Bryan Clean used a 9- item flow scale to
examine predictors of flow at two levels: activity level (such as
brainstorming, problem solving, and evaluation) and at a more
stable level (such as role clarity, influence, and cognitive
demands). They found that activities such as planning, problem
solving, and evaluation predicted transient flow states, but that
more stable job characteristics were not found to predict flow at
work. This study can help us identify which task at work can be
cultivated and emphasized in order to help employees
experience flow on the job.
In her article in Positive Psychology News Daily, Kathryn Britton
examines the importance of experiencing flow in the workplace
beyond the individual benefits it creates. She writes, “Flow isn’t
just valuable to individuals; it also contributes to organizational
goals. For example, frequent experiences of flow at work lead to
higher productivity, innovation, and employee development
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1991, 2004). So finding ways to increase the
frequency of flow experiences can be one way for people to work
together to increase the effectiveness of their workplaces.”
Benefits of flow
Flow is an innately positive experience; it is known to "produce
intense feelings of enjoyment and its improvement of
performance results in satisfying achievement.
Flow has a strong, documented correlation with performance
enhancement. Researchers have found that achieving a flow
state is positively correlated with optimal performance in the
fields of artistic and scientific creativity (Perry, 1999; Sawyer,
1992), teaching (Csíkszentmihályi, 1996), learning
(Csíkszentmihályi et al., 1993), and sports (Jackson, Thomas,
Marsh, & Smethurst, 2002; Stein, Kimiecik, Daniels, & Jackson,
Flow also has a strong correlation with the further development
of skills and personal growth. When one is in a flow state, he or
she is working to master the activity at hand. To maintain that
flow state, one must seek increasingly greater challenges.
Attempting these new, difficult challenges stretches one's skills.
One emerges from such a flow experience with a bit of personal
growth and great "feelings of competence and efficacy".
Further, flow is positively correlated with a higher subsequent
motivation to perform and to perform well.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
4.6 INCREASING SELF ESTEEM
4.6.1 What You See is What You Get!
How do you see
yourself? Do you see
yourself as someone
attractive? Are you
surrounded by positive
influences and great
Or, do you see yourself
negativity or bad
vior? What do YOU
see? What you see is
essential because what
you see is what you
We often have a distorted view of ourselves. For instance when
people look in the mirror it’s like a fun house, they see this
completely ridiculous image, only in this case it’s not fun and it’s
not always reality. It’s very often not as bad as they perceive it to
How you see yourself is critical to your life because your
thoughts dictate your feelings and your actions.
The person we believe ourselves to be will always act in a
manner consistent with our self-image. ~Brian Tracy
Time to Detox
If you always see yourself as average, dumb or overweight then
you certainly will remain that way. If you change the image that
you see inside your mind, then it will change that image outside
of your mind. It cannot happen any other way. You are what your
thoughts are. First a thought, then an action.
Think about it. Is it better to see yourself failing or succeeding?
What if you think you’ll fail an exam, or ruin a relationship? If a
thought is followed by an action, how can negative thoughts be
beneficial to anything? Negative thoughts can only have a
negative impact on the outcome of the event you’re thinking
about, and then you will act on that negativity. People do it in
their relationships all the time, they don’t ask, they just assume
the worst and then act as if it’s true. It alters their mood and
their relationship, all because of a negative thought or
Even though you may not be where you want to be in your life,
what’s stopping you from doing something about it? If you’re not
happy with your career or relationship, how will it change? It can
only change if you change.
The “self-image” is the key to human personality and human
behavior. Change the self image and you change the
personality and the behavior. ~Maxwell Maltz
Reign over the Brain
If you’re not familiar
with how powerful
thoughts truly are
then this should
A study conducted by
Dr. Blaslotto at the
University of Chicago
was done where he
split people into three
groups and tested
each group on how
many free throws
they could make
shooting a basketball. It went like so.
The first group practiced free throws every day for an hour.
The second group did nothing.
The third group just visualized themselves making free
After 30 days, he tested them again and the results were quite
The first group improved by 24%.
The second group did not improve which was expected
The third group improved by 23% without ever touching
Imagine the improvement if they implemented both physical
practice along with the mental rehearsal through positive
thoughts and successful visualization. They were only instructed
to harness the power of thought and that alone had a positive
You become what you think about. ~Earl Nightingale
One Flesh, One Bone . . . One Vision
You have one life, one body and one mind so use it to the best of
your abilities! Do not believe what others think of you, even if
they’re right, right now. You can prove them wrong from this day
forward. You can turn your life around. You can learn and grow
because creative visualization doesn’t just pertain to sports, it’s
equally effective in all aspects of life.
Will visualization work every time? No, but it will always create a
better outcome than if you focus on negative thoughts. Before I
was a sales trainer and success coach, I was a salesperson, and I
always assumed the best. I never thought “why would this
person be interested?” or “maybe I’m bothering them,” instead I
felt that every person I spoke to was going to want my product,
and coincidentally I was the top producer in my company. All
because I acted on the thought that they were going to do
business with me. I didn’t let them think it over nor did I
send/leave information for them, and why would I? As far as I
was concerned, they were buying! And they did more often than
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re
right. ~Henry Ford
Change your mind, change your thoughts and change your life,
it’s all up to you, no one else can do it for you. You have the
power to decide exactly how you want your life to go, so take it
back and make it a fun house!!
Rob Liano - Rock Star Success Coach & Sales Trainer
www.rockstarsalestraining.com - 1.888.379.8315
1.6.2 Beyond Encouragement.
Validating Self-Worth and Character Through the Use
of “Directed Reflections”
Encouragement is a basic element in our work as coachs and
therapists. Through the use of a new strategy, “directed
reflections,” we can go beyond encouragement, focusing on the
36 core components of character, and truly validate self-worth
and character. The results of this technique are profound and all
coachs/therapists can benefit from its application. In this article,
the strategy of directed reflections is defined and demonstrated.
Suggestions for use, such as in debriefing “homework” and in
character education, are offered.
Although Alfred Adler, the creator of Individual Psychology, did
not focus directly on character education, he did offer one of the
more important concepts to be found in the counseling
For Adler, the single criterion for “success” in life was embodied
in the extent to which the individual possesses “social interest.”
It is this concept that describes the ideal state of the individual’s
mental health or what we might term today as “character.” Adler
described social interest as being an aptitude or innate
potentiality for living cooperatively and contributing to the good
of others. However, according to Adler, social interest or
character had to be consciously developed (Milliren, Evans, &
If we are to draw out and help develop social interest or
character in others, it is important that we validate it when we
see (or hear about) it happening. Our coachees report the
changes they are making all the time, yet we rarely see these
reports as opportunities for developing character. A chance
remark from a coachee “My wife and I were able to have a long
talk together last night”—presents a tremendous opportunity to
draw out character traits that are already there. We have an
opportunity to reflect the underlying character components and
thereby reinforce the life choices that our coachees are making.
Thus, character education can become an everyday opportunity.
Messer (2001) related character to the concept of self-respect.
He quoted Rudolf Dreikurs, a student of Alfred Adler, as defining
self-respect as “the feeling that one is a worthwhile human being
in spite of one’s faults and imperfections” (Messer,2001,p. 265).
This represents the “courage to be imperfect” that Dreikurs
discussed on numerous occasions (Terner & Pew, 1978) and is
the key to the development of character. Messer went on to say
that self-respect (or character) “is not expressed in terms of
‘knowing,’ but of ‘feeling.’ It is not based on objective conditions.
It is a subjective experience” (p. 265).
Table 1 lists 36 “characteristics” or components that help to
define one’s character. These serve as the traits or qualities that
can be directly reflected to a coachee in response to his/her
The intention of a directed reflection is to draw out the elements
of character that already exist for the person. The purpose is to
“tag” that inner core where belief in self lies. Try to “hear” the
following responses and note the differences.
(1) “How did you feel about that?”
(2) “You must feel good about how that turned out for you.”
(3) “It feels really good inside when you realize that you are
capable of handling things for yourself.”
The third example is a directed reflection. It is focused on the
feeling component of the experience (which is similar to the skill
of reflective listening, as in the second response above) as well as
on the character component that is being evidenced by the
person. It is this latter element that is so critical to identify in and
for the person.
We need to draw that component out in our responses and
demonstrate to the individual that he/she already is acting in
positive, useful, and constructive ways.
In the example that follows, the various components of
character, noted in Table 1, are deliberately reflected back to the
person. Each response is designed to capture a different
character component. In the example, these components are
noted in parentheses. We have discovered that it is best to use a
five-step response sequence that includes a variation of five
different components of character. This system seems to provide
a broader range of validation and is most reinforcing for the
coachee. At a minimum, a three-step system will suffice; at a
maximum, anything that exceeds five different responses
becomes overkill and begins to lose effectiveness.
In this example, a young woman is reporting what might be
termed a “negative” success. However, even in some of the
sadness about losing a relationship there are opportunities to
directly reflect the underlying positive elements of character that
made it possible for her to end the relationship.
YW: “I finally broke up with my boyfriend last night. You know,
he was pretty abusive to me.”
CO: “As much as that may hurt right now, you sound pretty
confident about what you did.” (Confidence)
YW: “I was kind of scared for a long time but I made up my mind
to do it and now it’s done.”
CO: “So, you overcame your fear and took a big step.” (Freedom
YW: “It was—especially for me—I don’t like to cause trouble.”
CO: “You’d rather keep the peace if you can but now you know
you can take charge like this yourself!”
(Power and Control)
YW: “I deserve better—he always put me down and told me I
CO: “And you have more worth and value than that.” (Equality)
YW: “Duhhhhh! Of course I do!”
CO: “And now you are feeling really in control of the situation.”
YW: “Yeah. He wants to make up but I’m not interested any
You will note that the preceding example includes five different
directed reflections. This is important because we want the
person to really “hear” what we are saying. In the event that one
reflection of a character component does not quite take, we
increase the odds by adding the other four. The general outcome,
however, is that each of the directed reflections connects in some
way with the core of a person’s being and serves to reinforce
some aspect of the individual’s “inner self.”
Directed reflections require the skill of intelligent or “educated”
guessing. Guessing, whether right or wrong, allows the coach to
arrive at the core of the situation much more quickly than
endless fact-gathering and questioning. As we debrief the
“homework” our coachees have participated in, we can listen for
the components of character and use the directed reflections to
respond to the successful elements. However, as seen in the
example dialogue, we do not have to limit our responses to
If we do not get reports of successes spontaneously, we might
wish to open our individual (and even group) contacts with
coachees with the following statements or questions:
“Tell me about one of your ‘wins’ or successes.”
“Tell me what you accomplished lately.”
“Have you done something new that you’ve never done before?”
“What kind of positive risks have you taken?”
Then, get set to listen and focus on the character component. If
the person’s first response does not seem to lead anywhere, then
an appropriate response might be: “And how was that for you?”
In classroom groups, we can select a story with a theme or
character issue. These stories can serve as a stimulus to our
discussions and directed reflections. We can ask, “Have you ever
had to make a similar choice?” “Tell me about it.” As the
student(s) relate their stories, respond to their telling with
appropriate directed reflections from the 36 components of
The directed reflection is a new technique for validating the self-
worth and character of others. A directed reflection is a response
to another person that consists of a reflection of feeling coupled
with a statement of one (or more) of the 36 components of
character. For example, we might say: “You’re feeling really
pumped (a reflection of feeling) when you are in control of
yourself and can make positive things happen for you (two of the
components of character).”
Responses such as this provide an excellent means for debriefing
a coachee’s “success” experience. For the greatest impact, three
to five directed reflections should be used at any one time.
This strategy should only be used to “catch” character when it is
occurring. We cannot force the issue of character development.
We can only reinforce the appropriate components of character
when we have an opportunity to “observe” them in action. The
observations can be in “real” time or in the success stories others
tell us—but they
must exist. This is not a technique that serves as a subtle means
of imparting values when they are not there, even though such
action may be tempting. Moreover, it is not intended as a
technique for influencing behavior change, although this is also a
tempting alternative. When used inappropriately, genuineness
disappears and the words sound hollow and mechanical.
When used with appropriate timing and sincerity, directed
reflections usually catch just a little piece of the person’s core
beliefs. It is at that core where character and social interest
reside. The directed reflections go beyond merely encouraging
another person. As Messer (2001) explains, we are helping the
individual discover the he/she is a worthwhile human being in
spite of his/her faults and imperfections.
Al Milliren and Linda Maier
Messer, M. (2001). Managing anger. Chicago, IL: Anger Institute.
Messer, m. (1995). The Components of Our Character. Chicago,
IL: Anger Institute.
Milliren, A. P., Evans, T. D., & Newbauer, J. F. (2003). Adlerian
counseling and psychotherapy. In D. Capuzzi, & D. R. Gross,
(Eds.), Counseling and psychotherapy: Theories and
interventions. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill – Prentice Hall.
Terner, J. & Pew, W. L. (1978). The courage to be imperfect: The
lifeand work of Rudolf Dreikurs. New York: Hawthorn Books
Relaxation and scripts for self-help, personal change and
I deserve to be, - I want to be, - I can be, - I will be, - I am
If you want to change your life you need to change how you
think and change what you do. Self-help, personal change, being
happy: it's up to you. No-one else.
You decide. This is the first step. Self-help starts with you. Self-
help and personal change starts with your realisation that it
really is in your own hands, and your decision to do something
Your own self-belief is the key to successful life-change,
achievement, contentment, and happiness.
Your own mind, particularly positive suggestion and
visualisation, will develop your self-belief, and your
determination to make successful change to your life.
This page will help you begin to change the way you think, feel
Visit it any time you want to boost your self-belief, to relax, and
to regain control of your life and direction.
Print this page and put it above your mirror, above your bed,
above your desk, anywhere you'll see it every day.
Make time - actually schedule some time in your planner or diary
to do this. It will dramatically improve your mood, attitude, and
approach to life, and therefore what you get from life.
Positive suggestion and visualisation, combined with deep
relaxation, is an easy way to make powerful positive personal
Just going through this relaxation exercise alone will help to
change and improve the way you feel. If you combine the
relaxation techniques with a repeated script of positive
statements, such as the 'I am' script below, you will begin change
the way you think, and feel, and act, and all that life offers as a
The more you use the relaxation exercise and say or hear the
script, then the greater and more sustainable will be the effect.
The time it takes to change depends on different people. Stick
with it and it will become easier, more natural, more enjoyable,
and it will work.
1. Sit or lie down comfortably. Properly comfortably.
Straighten your back, put your shoulders back to open your
2. Relax your shoulder muscles particularly. Relax your whole
body, and empty your mind.
3. Close your eyes (obviously open them when you need to
read the next stage).
4. Take ten deep, slow breaths. Breathe from the pit of your
stomach and feel your lungs filling.
5. Focus on your breathing. Feel it getting deeper and slower.
Feel yourself relaxing and any tension drifting away.
6. Relax your shoulders and neck again.
7. Visualise yourself being happy, succeeding, winning, being
loved, laughing, feeling good.
8. Relax your forehead, your mouth and your eyes.
9. Allow a gentle smile to appear on your face as you feel a
calmness enter your mind.
10. Then say (out load ideally) the words below (a script for
personal change) to yourself:
I am good person.
I have integrity.
I do what is ethically right and good.
Whatever life puts before me will be useful experience that
will make me stronger, wiser, and more tolerant.
I am strong enough to understand and make allowances for
other people's weaknesses, and their behaviour towards
me. Other people's behaviour is about them, not me.
I focus on the joy of living my life and helping others where
and when I can.
I am what I eat and drink, so I eat and drink good things.
I am what I watch and play and listen, so I watch and play
and listen to good positive things.
I take exercise which I enjoy. I walk when I don't need to
drive or take the bus or train.
I smile and laugh whenever I can - life is good - getting
caught in the rain reminds me that it is good to be alive to
I forgive other people. Deep down everyone is a good
person, just like me.
I am a compassionate and loving, caring person.
I am a good person.
Using and changing scripts - what the 'i am' words mean
The 'I am' element alone is a powerful one because it embodies
the sense of self-determination, which nobody and nothing can
ever take away from you, and it emphasises the value of simply
We each exist as a person of value and worth in our own right,
irrespective of possessions and achievements. Accepting and
reinforcing this concept is good for each of us. This, at its
simplest level, is what 'I am' means.
"There is wisdom in accepting what you are. It is difficult to be
what you are not. Being what you are doesn't require any effort.
When you become wise, you accept yourself the way you are,
and the complete acceptance of yourself becomes the complete
acceptance of everyone else." (From 'The Mastery of Love' by
Don Miguel Ruiz, with thanks to Allspirit.co.uk)
You can use the relaxation exercise, combined with a script, to
change many aspects of your life and feelings.
You do this by adding, removing, or replacing statements in the
Keep the statements positive and in the present tense.
For example, if you want to be more confident, use a statement
such as 'I am a confident person' rather than 'I will be a more
confident person' or 'I will try to be a more confident person'.
If you want to stop smoking, use a statement such as 'I am a non-
smoker, because I value my life and body' rather than 'I will try
to give up smoking'.
If you do not want to give up smoking, merely to cut down,
adjust the script accordingly, for example: 'I smoke only
five/ten/fifteen cigarettes a day, because this is improving my
health and my life' (better than smoking twenty or thirty day).
If you keep telling your sub-conscious that you 'are', then in time
you will 'be'.
Use script statements that describe yourself as you want to be.
Repeating positive scripts, combined with deep relaxation, will
change your behaviour from deep within.
Making tapes or script recordings
You can increase the ease of using scripts if you make a tape or
CD recording of yourself reading your script. You can then use
the recording any time you want.
Using a recording also means you can relax completely while
listening to the words, with no need to open your eyes to read.
You can also listen to your recorded script at bed-time, before
you go to sleep every night, which is also an effective way to
reach and change your sub-conscious feelings.
Most people judge themselves against entirely artificial criteria.
Material success is not what life is about.
You can change your frame of reference. You do not have to
accept a frame of reference that others have given you.
Many of the most materially 'successful' people are deeply
unhappy, yet they strive and search (unsuccessfully) even harder
for more material success.
Most ordinary good, honest 'being' people are fooled into
believing that what they have is not worth anything. Don't be
The answer to happiness and fulfilment is usually found in
achieving a simple acceptance of, and joy of living, a good life.
Enjoy 'being' and living a good life.
Next time you get caught in the rain, or bump the car, or get a
headache - enjoy being alive to feel it and experience it.
(With acknowledgements to Carole Byrd and Buddha Maitreya.)
IF - by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
4.7 RESOLVING CONFLICT
Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann
PUBLISHED BY CONSULTING PSYCHOLOGISTS PRESS, INC.
Copyright 1974, 2001 by Xicom, Incorporated. Xicom,
Incorporated is a subsidiary of Consulting Psychologists Press,
Inc. All rights reserved.
The Five Conflict-Handling Modes
The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is designed
to assess an individual’s behavior in conflict situations - that is,
situations in which the concerns of two people appear to be
incompatible. In such situations, we can describe a person’s
behavior along two basic dimensions: (1) assertiveness, the
extent to which the individual attempts to satisfy his or her own
concerns, and (2) cooperativeness, the extent to which the
individual attempts to satisfy the other person’s concerns. These
two basic dimensions of behavior can be used to define five
specific methods of dealing with conflicts. These five "conflict-
handling modes" are shown below.
1. Competing is assertive and uncooperative, a power-oriented
mode. When competing, an individual pursues his or her own
concerns at the other person’s expense, using whatever
power seems appropriate to win his or her position.
Competing might mean standing up for your rights, defending
a position you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.
2. Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative - the
opposite of competing. When accommodating, an individual
neglects his or her own concerns to satisfy the concerns of
the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this
mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless
generosity or charity, obeying another person’s order when
you would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of
3. Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative. When avoiding,
an individual does not immediately pursue either his or her
own concerns or those of the other person. He or she does
not address the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of
diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue
until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening
4. Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative - the
opposite of avoiding. When collaborating, an individual
attempts to work with the other person to find a solution that
fully satisfies the concerns of both. It involves digging into an
issue to identify the underlying concerns of the two
individuals and to find an alternative that meets both sets of
concerns. Collaborating between two persons might take the
form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s
insights, with the goal of resolving some condition that would
otherwise have them competing for resources, or confronting
and trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal
5. Compromising is intermediate in both assertiveness and
cooperativeness. When compromising, the objective is to find
an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially
satisfies both parties. Compromising falls on a middle ground
between competing and accommodating, giving up more than
competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it
addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but doesn’t
explore it in as much depth as collaborating. Compromising
might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions,
or seeking a quick middle-ground position.
"What is the correct handling mode?"
In the case of conflict-handling behavior, there are no right or
wrong handling modes. All five modes are useful in some
situations: each represents a set of useful social skills. Our
conventional wisdom recognizes, for example, that often "Two
heads are better than one" (Collaborating). But it also says, "Kill
your enemies with kindness" (Accommodating), "Split the
difference" (Compromising), "Leave well enough alone"
(Avoiding), and "Might makes right" (Competing). The
effectiveness of a given conflict-handling mode depends upon
the requirements of the specific conflict situation and the skill
with which you use that mode.
You are capable of using all five conflict-handling modes: you
cannot be characterized as having a single, rigid style of dealing
with conflict. However, it may be possible that you use some
modes more readily than others and therefore tend to rely upon
those modes more heavily. The conflict behaviors you use are the
result of both your personal predispositions and the
requirements of the situations in which you find yourself. Also,
your social skills may lead you to rely upon some conflict
behaviors more or less than others.
• When quick, decisive action is vital - for example, in an
• On important issues where unpopular courses of action need
implementing - for example, cost cutting, enforcing unpopular
• On issues vital to company welfare when you know you're right
• To protect yourself against people who take advantage of
Questions to Ask
In some situations, you may wish to ask yourself:
• Do you sometimes feel powerless in situations? You may be
unaware of the power you do have, unskilled in its use, or
uncomfortable with the idea of using it. This may hinder your
effectiveness by restricting your influence.
• Do you sometimes have trouble taking a firm stand, even when
you see the need? Sometimes concerns for others' feelings or
anxieties about the use of power causes us to vacillate, which
may mean postponing the decision and adding to the suffering
and/or resentment of others.
• When you realize that you are wrong - to allow a better solution
to be considered, to learn from others, and to show that you are
• When the issue is much more important to the other person than
to yourself - to satisfy the needs of others, and as a goodwill
gesture to help maintain a cooperative relationship
• To build up social credits for later issues that are important to
• When continued competition would only damage your cause -
when you are outmatched and losing
• When preserving harmony and avoiding disruption are especially
• To aid in the development of your employees by allowing them to
experiment and learn from their own mistakes
Questions to Ask
You may wish to ask yourself:
• Do you feel that your ideas and concerns sometimes do not get
the attention they deserve? Deferring too much to the concerns
of others can deprive you of influence, respect, and recognition.
It can also deprive the organization of your potential
• Is discipline lax? Although discipline for its own sake may be of
little value, there are often rules, procedures, and assignments
whose implementation is crucial for you or the organization.
• When an issue is trivial or of only passing importance, or when
other, more important issues are pressing
• When you perceive no chance of satisfying your concerns - for
example, when you have low power or you are frustrated by
something that would be very difficult to change (national
policies, someone's personality structure, and so on)
• When the potential costs of confronting a conflict outweigh the
benefits of its resolution
• To let people cool down - to reduce tensions to a productive level
and to regain perspective and composure
• When gathering more information outweighs the advantages of
an immediate decision
• When others can resolve the conflict more effectively
• When the issue seems tangential or symptomatic of another,
more basic issue
Questions to Ask
You may wish to ask yourself:
• Do you sometimes find yourself hurting others' feelings or
stirring up hostilities? You may need to exercise more discretion
and tact in framing issues in non-threatening ways.
• Do you sometimes feel harried or overwhelmed by a number of
issues? You may need to devote more time to setting priorities-
that is, deciding which issues are relatively unimportant, and
perhaps delegating them to others.
• To find an integrative solution when the concerns of both parties
are too important to be compromised
• When your objective is to learn - for example, testing your own
assumptions, understanding the views of others
• To merge insights from people with different perspectives on a
• To gain commitment by incorporating others' concerns into a
• To work through hard feelings that have been interfering with an
Questions to Ask
You may wish to ask yourself:
• Is it difficult for you to see differences as opportunities for joint
gain - that is, as opportunities to learn or solve problems?
Although conflict situations often involve threatening or
unproductive aspects, approaching all such situations with
pessimism can prevent you from seeing collaborative
possibilities and thus deprive you of the mutual gains and
satisfactions that accompany successful collaboration.
• Are your employees uncommitted to your decisions or policies?
Perhaps their concerns are not being incorporated into those
decisions or policies.
• When goals are moderately important but not worth the effort or
the potential disruption involved in using more assertive modes
• When two opponents with equal power are strongly committed
to mutually exclusive goals - as in labor-management bargaining
• To achieve temporary settlement of complex issues
• To arrive at an expedient solution under time pressure
• As a backup mode when collaboration or competition fails
Questions to Ask
You may wish to ask yourself:
• Do you find yourself too sensitive or embarrassed to be effective
in some bargaining situations?
• Do you sometimes find it difficult to make concessions? Without
this safety valve, you may have trouble gracefully getting out of
mutually destructive arguments, power struggles, and so on.
Of the five modes described in the matrix, only the strategy
employing collaboration as a mode of conflict management breaks
free of the win-lose paradigm. It has become almost habitual to fall
back on the win-win alternative, but this was not the authors'
original intention. They did not reject win-lose configurations out
of hand. Instead, strategic considerations for managing conflict
according to varied circumstances were identified. For instance, in
a conflict centered on bids by two alternative suppliers, the best
choice might well be a competing strategy with a winner and loser.
After all, the objective in such a situation is to win the contract for
one's own company. In most cases, winning the contract can be
accomplished only at the expense of the competing supplier, who
by definition becomes the loser.
In contrast, a competing approach almost never works well in the
interpersonal conflict of people working in the same office. Unlike
the case of competing suppliers, coworkers—both the winner and
the loser—must go on working together. Indeed, in many conflicts
revolving around office politics, an accommodating strategy may
actually enable individuals to strengthen their future negotiating
position through allowing themselves to lose in conflicts over
issues they do not feel particularly strongly about. In such
situations, accommodating can be seen as a form of winning
THE FIVE A'S TECHNIQUE
Borisoff and Victor identify five steps in the conflict management
process that they call the "five A's" of conflict management:
assessment, acknowledgement, attitude, action, and analysis.
They assert that these five steps allow for a sustained, ongoing
process of problem-solving-oriented conflict management.
In the assessment step, the parties involved collect appropriate
information regarding the problem. The parties involved also
choose which of the conflict-handling modes is most appropriate
for the situation. The parties collectively decide what is and what
is not central to the problem. The parties involved also indicate
areas in which they may be willing to compromise, and what
each party actually wants.
The acknowledgement step is one in which each party attempts
to hear out the other. Acknowledgement allows both parties to
build the empathy needed for the motivation of a synergistic
solution to the problem. The acknowledgement acts as feedback
to the other party and it demonstrates that one understands
(without necessarily agreeing with) the other party's position.
Acknowledgement goes beyond merely responding to what is
said, however; it involves actively encouraging the other party to
openly communicate its concerns. This is aided by the use of
active listening techniques and overt, nonverbal encouragement.
The attitude step tries to remove the foundation for pseudo-
conflict. Stereotypical assumptions about different, culturally-
based behaviors are uncovered. For example, a member of a
high-context culture may misinterpret what a member of a low-
context culture says as being needlessly blunt or even rude.
Conversely, a member of a low-context culture may misinterpret
what a person from a high-context culture says as being
needlessly indirect or even outright deceptive. Such
communication variations (as the works of Edward Hall have
explained) have little to do with the actual intent or content of
the messages, but represent instead culturally learned
approaches to using implicit versus explicit communication
styles. Similarly, in the attitude step, one acknowledges
differences in the way that men and women are generally
conditioned to communicate. Experts such as Borisoff and
Merrill, for example, have delineated clearly differentiated
communication styles between men and women, which are
compounded by sex-trait stereotyping regarding issues of
assertiveness, interruptive behavior, and perceptions of
politeness. Finally, in the attitude step, one analyzes potentially
problematic variations in styles of writing, speaking, and
nonverbal mannerisms. Such differences may blur meanings. It is
the role of the effective conflict participant to maintain an open
mind toward all parties involved.
The action step begins to actively implement the chosen conflict-
handling mode. If the selected mode is the problem-solving
approach, the manager conveys the opportunity for a conflict
resolution based on trust and ongoing feedback on those points
on which the parties have already agreed. Simultaneously, each
individual evaluates the behavior of the other parties (often,
little more than subtle hints) to ascertain where potential
trouble spots might arise. Also, each individual must remain
aware of his or her own communication style and general
behavior. Finally, all parties must stay alert to new issues that
are raised and look for productive solutions.
In this last step participants decide on what they will do, and
then summarize and review what they have agreed upon. Part of
the analysis step is to ascertain whether every participant's
requirements have been addressed (and met, if possible). Finally,
the analysis step initiates the impetus for approaching conflict
management as an ongoing process. Analysis enables
participants to monitor both the short-term and long-term
results of the conflict resolution.
Shelton and Darling suggest a new set of management skills,
more appropriate for the ever-changing, conflict-ridden
contemporary organization. They refer to these skills as the
quantum skills. The suggested managerial skills are derived from
the field of quantum physics. They are as follows:
1. Quantum seeing. This skill is defined as the ability to see
intentionally. When conflict occurs, managers must explore their
own assumptions about the parties and search for the
underlying intentions that are creating the conflict. Each party
must then come to recognize the relationship between individual
thought processes and perceptions, and set clear intentions for
positively resolving the situation.
2. Quantum thinking. This skill involves the ability to think
paradoxically. Effective conflict resolution is a paradoxical
process. "Win-win solutions require paradoxical thinking. They
require the ability to find a fully acceptable solution to divergent
points of view" (Shelton and Darling 2004, p. 30). In other words,
collaborative solutions to conflicts that involve diametrically-
opposed positions are unlikely to be achieved through linear
problem-solving processes and thus require more unorthodox
3. Quantum feeling. This skill is defined as the ability to feel vitally
alive. It is based on the premise that the level of organizational
conflict is influenced by the negative emotions pervasive
throughout the business world. As schedules have become more
fast-paced and jobs have become more stressful, the level of
organizational conflict has increased. Managers committed to the
quantum feeling technique of conflict management must train
themselves to view even negative events positively. They must
challenge all parties in conflict to utilize creative, brain-storming
techniques in an effort to construct "impossible" win-win
4. Quantum knowing. This skill is the ability to know intuitively.
Managers wishing to develop this skill must integrate times of
relaxation and reflection into their work routines. This skill
focuses on staying mindful or aware of the organizational
environment. Managers involved in conflict situations must
guide all parties towards a more centered response to the
5. Quantum acting. This skill is based on the ability to act
responsibly. Quantum acting is predicated on the belief that
everything in the universe is a part of a complex whole in which
each part is influenced by every other part. Therefore, a
manager's thoughts affect the entire organizational unit. Thus, if
managers want to encourage more creative responses to conflict,
they must begin by modeling this behavior themselves.
6. Quantum trusting. This skill is the ability to trust life's process. It
is derived from chaos theory. This theory suggests that without
chaos organizations will become stagnant and, if left alone, they
will return to a nonchaotic state. This skill may be appealing to
managers experiencing conflict. It suggests that managers must
simply "ride the rapids of conflict, fully participating in the dance
without attempting to actively manage the course of resolution"
(Shelton and Darling 2004, p. 37). The organizational unit will
7. Quantum being. This skill is the ability to be in a relationship,
specifically, "the ability to literally become so connected to
another that one can see the world through the other's eyes"
(Shelton and Darling 2004, p.38). This skill provides the
foundation for all parties to learn from and understand each
other. It is a relationship of continuous learning.
This set of skills is grounded in a new science: worldview. These
skills provide a whole-brained alternative for managing people
Conflict management is an ongoing procedure. It entails
continual communication and supervision. "Conflict-handling
behavior is not a static procedure; rather it is a process that
requires flexibility and constant evaluation to truly be
productive and effective" (Borisoff and Victor 1998).
David A. Victor - Revised by Patricia A. Lanier
4.8 RECOGNIZING DYSFUNCTIONAL
Signs that Indicate You are Dealing with Dysfunctional
*After spending time with them, you feel “fogged” -- like you
aren’t thinking clearly.
*You thought you were thinking correctly about a situation, but
after being with them, you now feel your approach to life is being
*You feel blamed for another person’s situation.
*You feel responsible to “fix” a situation that is a result of
another person’s (repetitive) choices.
*You feel if you were a “good person” you maybe should help
*You are concerned about how innocent people (e.g. children)
will suffer from the poor choices made by another person.
*Other people are mad at you because you won’t “help them out”
(just this once!).
*You are being blamed for being unreasonable and insensitive to
*You have been in this situation before (or one very similar to it)
with this person. Probably previously you “helped them out” and
they are in the same predicament again.
*You are concerned that if you don’t rescue them from their
current situation, the consequences are so significant that it may
ruin their life in the future.
Key Differences between Functional & Dysfunctional
Honesty, Integrity Deceit, Not telling the whole story
Direct Communication Indirect Communication
(talking “through” others)
Responsibility Privileges Sense of Entitlement
Accept responsibility Blame others, Make excuses
For choices & results
Delay gratification Have to meet desires now
Live in reality Escape from reality (TV, movies,
on day to day basis videogames, drugs, alcohol, sleep)
Save, do without Spend, go into debt
Learn from mistakes Expect to be rescued from choices
Forgive & Hold on to grudges, Revenge
let go of past hurts
Keep commitments Make verbal commitments with
Say what they mean Hidden agendas
Being “real” Focus on image & appearance
Can disagree without Disagreement leads to anger,
Gettinh “personal” personal attacks & hatred
Appropriate personal “Smother” others, try to be too close
boundaries too soon
They let you be “you”. Use guilt to manipulate.
How to Deal With a Neurotic Person
By Bridgett Michele Lawrence, eHow Contributor
Understanding neurosis is essential to dealing with a neurotic
Most people are
behavior at one
time or another.
But some people
disorder" is a
term used to
describe a wide
that cause a
person to have
an inability to
adapt to a certain
People with neurotic disorders exhibit symptoms such as
anxiety, depression, extreme phobias and insecurity.
Understanding these neurotic disorders is key to learning how to
deal with a neurotic person.
How to Deal With a Neurotic Person
1. Be tolerant and patient. Remember that the neurotic
behavior is most likely a coping mechanism that the person
uses to deal with a much larger issue. Being impatient with a
neurotic person will only cause strife and make the situation
2. Don't be overly critical. In many cases, a neurotic person
knows when she is being neurotic but is unable to change her
behavior. Many neurotic people are extremely self-critical
already, so you don't need to be.
3. Give him space. If you find yourself in an argument with a
neurotic person, it is futile to argue with him in the heat of
the moment. In many cases, the argument stems from a
larger issue about which you may know nothing. Wait until
he has calmed down before approaching him about the
situation. Discuss the issue in a calm tone, using language
that is not offensive. For example, avoid calling him names or
pointing out his personal flaws that lead to the conflict.
Instead, seek to find a compromise that will satisfy both
4. Encourage her to seek help. Many people with neurotic
personalities don't seek help because of embarrassment,
pride, fear or the belief that no one will understand or be able
to help. This could not be further from the truth. Help exists
for those who seek it. Psychotherapy is the form of treatment
used to help people overcome neurosis. Therapists
encourage patients to discuss the situation that brings on
neurotic behavior. With therapy, she can find the source of
her problem and develop strategies to help her cope.
4.9 DEALING WITH DIFFICULT
Most people with personality disorders have what is sometimes
referred to as "disorders of the self," because they often don’t
believe that there is anything wrong with them. They think, “This
is me,” or “This is the way I have always been,” and self-
preservation makes them want to stay that way. Personality
disordered people are the ones who usually come to mind when
we think of the term, “toxic person.” Here are some insights and
steps for dealing with these highly difficult - even, impossible -
1. Recognize that impossible people exist; there isn't a
thing you can do about it. The first step is all about facing
reality: if you think you might be dealing with an impossible
person, you're probably right. When in doubt, proceed as
instructed below. The headaches you save will be your own.
2. Do not call them out because it will frustrate them. They
could become more difficult, but just stand your ground and
3. Be aware that some people simply aren't compatible.
Sometimes, a person who gets along with everybody else
quite well is an impossible person for you personally. Most
relationships between people contain many shades of gray,
but some people simply mix as well as oil and water. It is
common to hear your impossible person proclaim that
"Everyone else likes me." This is an attempt to shift the blame
to you, so don't buy it. It doesn't matter how this person
interacts with others. The fact is, the way the two of you
interact together is terrible. Remember that blame never
changes the facts.
4. Understand that it's not you, it's them. This can be
surprisingly difficult, considering that impossible people
have complete mastery of blaming skills. Chances are, the
more often they blame you, the more they themselves are
actually at fault. Keep in mind that this is not to be used as a
way to blame them. Blaming is what impossible people do,
and they do it well. Instead, you are only facing the facts, for
your own sake. That being said, here's a simple way to tell: if
you accept responsibility for your own faults and resolve to
improve yourself, it's probably not you. Remember,
impossible people "can do no wrong."
5. Defuse them. Stay calm, don't spit angry words at them, and
whatever you do don't cry - this will only stimulate them to
do more of the difficult behavior. Try ignoring them. Do not,
under any circumstances, join them in bashing, blaming or
complaining. Do not bad talk to their face or to anyone else
because then you are sinking down to their level. Add
something positive. Redirect by focusing on something,
anything, positive in the situation or in the conversation.
Whatever you do just stay calm!
6. It can help to realize that the side of a conversation that
contains the most truth will always win out, and it's best to
"name the game" that an impossible person is playing,
usually by asking them or the group a question that starts
"Why...," (rephrasing their "impossible" position to illuminate
the consequences). You will move the conversation to a
higher level, and the group, or even just the impossible
individual, in a one-on-one, will respond to this "higher
truth," although the individual will usually respond by
Avoid one-on-ones with this type of person, actively; in other
words, when you see them coming to corner you, suggest,
and then demand that at least a third party be brought in.
This will often thwart the impossible person's plans, and a
typical response from them will be to unilaterally decide that
"we don't need anyone else." You are perfectly free to claim
your need for a third party to help your understanding, and
insist upon it. Bullies never stand up to a crowd.
7. Realize that you cannot deal with impossible people the
same way you deal with everyone else. In some ways, they
need to be treated like children. Give up all hope of engaging
these folks in any kind of reasonable conversation. It will
never happen, at least with you. Remember what happened
the last fifty times you tried to have a civilized discussion
about the status of your relationship with this person.
Chances are, every such attempt ended in you being blamed
for everything. Decide now to quit banging your head against
a brick wall.
8. Protect your self-esteem. If you have regular dealings with
someone who tries to portray you as the source of all evil,
you need to take active steps to maintain a positive self-
image. Remind yourself that this person's opinion is not
necessarily the truth. Understand that oftentimes, impossible
people are particularly "fact-challenged." If the attacks have
little basis in raw fact, dismiss them. You can't possibly be as
bad as this person would like you to believe you are. Do not
defend yourself out loud, however. It will only provoke the
impossible person into another tirade.
9. Guard against anger. If it helps, consider the fact that your
anger is actually a precious gift to the impossible person.
Anything you do or say while angry will be used against you
over and over again. Impossible people tend to have amazing
memories, and they will not hesitate to use a nearly endless
laundry list of complaints from the past against you. Five
years from now, you could be hearing about the angry
remark you made today (which you didn't even mean in the
first place). Impossible people will seize anything that
provides them the opportunity to lay blame like it was gold.
10. Give up self-defense. Understand very clearly that you
cannot beat these kinds of people; they're called "impossible"
for a reason. In their minds, you are the source of all
wrongdoing, and nothing you can say is going to make them
consider your side of the story. Your opinion is of no
consequence, because you are already guilty, no matter what.
11. Understand that eventually, you and the impossible
person will have to part ways. Whether they are a friend, a
family member, a parent, even a spouse, the time to leave will
eventually manifest. Maintaining a relationship with an
impossible person is, literally, impossible. If you can't (or
won't) make a physical departure immediately, make a
mental one. In your mind, you've already left the relationship.
The only thing left to do is wait for physical reality to reflect
12. Avoid letting the impossible person make you into a
"clone" of them. If you aren't careful, you could find yourself
adopting much of the offender's own behavior, even if you
aren't voluntarily trying. Eschew blame entirely by
understanding that this is just the way the other person is.
These things define the impossible person's actions, and
nothing you do can change any part of their past.
13. Be a manager. Until it is over, your task in the relationship is
to manage the impossible person, so that he or she deals less
damage to you. As a manager, your best resources are silence
(it really is golden in some cases such as this), humoring the
other, and abandoning all hope of "fixing" the impossible
person. Impossible people do not listen to reason. They can't
(and even if they could, they wouldn't). You can't convince
them that they have any responsibility for the problems
between you. They don't recognize (or if they did, wouldn't
try to improve) their flaws for a very logical reason; they
don't have any flaws. You must understand and manage this
mindset without casting blame and without giving in to
anger. It's far easier said than done, and you will slip from
time to time, but as time goes on, you'll become a better
14. Realize that impossible people engage in projection.
Understand that you are going to be accused of much (or all)
of this behavior yourself. If your impossible person gets a
look at this text, to them it will look like a page about you.
Prepare yourself for the fact that the impossible person's
flaws and failings will always be attributed to you.
Remember, in their minds, you are at fault for everything!
They will have an endless supply of arguments to support
this, and if you make the mistake of encouraging them, they
will be more than happy to tell you why you are the
impossible person, and how ironic it is that you are under the
mistaken impression that it is them.
15. Be the opposite of them: a possible person. Live as an
example of tolerance, patience, humility, and even some
kindness (as difficult as that may be). We are all influenced
by the people in our environment--they don't have to be
perfect all the time and neither do you. Give respect because
you are human. If you don't receive respect, that's -sadly-
their problem. Give understanding, and you get
understanding. Ultimately this sort of behavior is probably
the only thing that might get through to them. They may not
change in everything, but you can safely expect a change.
16. Don't try to fight back and spit anger back to them.
Photo: Stock Photo
Can you recall the last time you had to deal with a negative or
difficult person? Or the last time someone said something with
the intention of hurting you? How did you handle it? What was
the result? What can you do in the future to get through these
situations with peace and grace?
No matter where we go, we will face people who are negative,
people who oppose our ideas, people who piss us off or people
who simply do not like us. There are 6.4 billion people out there
and conflict is a fact of life. This fact isn’t the cause of conflict but
it is the trigger to our emotions and our emotions are what drive
us back to our most basic survival instinct; react and attack back
to defend ourselves.
In these instinctual moments, we may lose track of our higher
selves and become the human animal with an urge to protect
ourselves when attacked. This too is natural. However, we are
the only animal blessed with intelligence and having the ability
to control our responses. So how can we do that?
I regularly get asked “How do you deal with the negative
comments about your articles? They are brutal. I don’t think I
could handle them.” My answer is simple, “I don’t let it bother me
to begin with.” It wasn’t always this simple, and took me some
time before overcoming this natural urgency to protect myself
and attack back.
I know it’s not easy, if it was easy, there wouldn’t be difficult or
negative people to begin with.
Why Bother Controlling Our Responses?
1. Hurting Ourselves
One of my favorite sayings is “Holding a grudge against someone
is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
The only person we hurt is ourselves. When we react to
negativity, we are disturbing our inner space and mentally
creating pain within ourselves.
2. It’s Not About You, It’s About Them
I’ve learned that when people initiate negativity, it is a reflection
of their inner state expressed externally and you just happen to
be in front of that expression. It’s not personal, so why do we
take it personally? In short: Because our ego likes problems and
conflict. People are often so bored and unhappy with their own
lives that they want to take others down with them.
3. Battle of the Ego
When we respond impulsively, it is a natural and honest
response. However, is it the smart thing to do? What can be
resolved by doing so? The answer: Nothing. It does however feed
our ego’s need for conflict.
Have you noticed that when we fight back, it feels really
satisfying in our heads? But it doesn’t feel very good in our soul?
Our stomach becomes tight, and we start having violent
When we do respond irrationally, it turns the conversation from
a one-sided negative expression into a battle of two egos. It
becomes an unnecessary and unproductive battle for Who is
4. Anger Feeds Anger. Negativity Feeds Negativity.
Rarely can any good come out of reacting against someone who
is in a negative state. It will only trigger anger and an additional
reactive response from that person. If we do respond
impulsively, we’ll have invested energy in the defending of
ourselves and we’ll feel more psychologically compelled to
defend ourselves going forward.
Have you noticed that the angrier our thoughts become, the
angrier we become? It’s a negative downward spiral.
5. Waste of Energy
Where attention goes, energy flows. What we focus on tends to
expand itself. Since we can only focus on one thing at a time,
energy spent on negativity is energy that could have been spent
on our personal wellbeing.
6. Negativity Spreads
I’ve found that once I allow negativity in one area of my life, it
starts to subtly bleed into other areas as well. When we are in a
negative state or holding a grudge against someone, we don’t feel
very good. We carry that energy with us as we go about our day.
When we don’t feel very good, we lose sight of clarity and may
react unconsciously to matters in other areas of our lives,
7. Freedom of Speech
People are as entitled to their opinions as you are. Allow them to
express how they feel and let it be. Remember that it’s all relative
and a matter of perspective. What we consider positive can be
perceived by another as negative. When we react, it becomes me-
versus-you, who is right?
Some people may have a less than eloquent way of expressing
themselves – it may even be offensive, but they are still entitled
to do so. They have the right to express their own opinions and
we have the right and will power to choose our responses. We
can choose peace or we can choose conflict.
15 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People
While I’ve had a lot of practice dealing with negativity, it is
something I find myself having to actively work on. When I’m
caught off guard and end up resorting to a defensive position, the
result rarely turns out well.
The point is, we are humans after all, and we have emotions and
egos. However, by keeping our egos in-check and inserting
emotional intelligence, we’ll not only be doing a favor for our
health and mental space, but we’ll also have intercepted a
situation that would have gone bad, unnecessarily.
Photo by Kara Pecknold
Here are some tips for dealing with a difficult person or negative
What would the Dali Lama do if he was in the situation? He
would most likely forgive. Remember that at our very core, we
are good, but our judgment becomes clouded and we may say
hurtful things. Ask yourself, “What is it about this situation or
person that I can seek to understand and forgive?“
2. Wait it Out
Sometimes I feel compelled to instantly send an email defending
myself. I’ve learned that emotionally charged emails never get us
the result we want; they only add oil to the fire. What is helpful is
inserting time to allow ourselves to cool off. You can write the
emotionally charged email to the person, just don’t send it off.
Wait until you’ve cooled off before responding, if you choose to
respond at all.
3. “Does it really matter if I am right?“
Sometimes we respond with the intention of defending the side
we took a position on. If you find yourself arguing for the sake of
being right, ask “Does it matter if I am right?” If yes, then ask
“Why do I need to be right? What will I gain?“
4. Don’t Respond
Many times when a person initiates a negative message or
difficult attitude, they are trying to trigger a response from you.
When we react, we are actually giving them what they want.
Let’s stop the cycle of negative snowballing and sell them short
on what they’re looking for; don’t bother responding.
5. Stop Talking About It
When you have a problem or a conflict in your life, don’t you find
that people just love talking about it? We end up repeating the
story to anyone who’ll listen. We express how much we hate the
situation or person. What we fail to recognize in these moments
is that the more we talk about something, the more of that thing
Example, the more we talk about how much we dislike a person,
the more hate we will feel towards them and the more we’ll
notice things about them that we dislike. Stop giving it energy,
stop thinking about it, and stop talking about it. Do your best to
not repeat the story to others.
6. Be In Their Shoes
As cliché as this may sound, we tend to forget that we become
blind-sided in the situation. Try putting yourself in their position
and consider how you may have hurt their feelings. This
understanding will give you a new perspective on becoming
rational again, and may help you develop compassion for the
7. Look for the Lessons
No situation is ever lost if we can take away from it some lessons
that will help us grow and become a better person. Regardless of
how negative a scenario may appear, there is always a hidden
gift in the form of a lesson. Find the lesson(s).
8. Choose to Eliminate Negative People In Your Life
Negative people can be a source of energy drain. And deeply
unhappy people will want to bring you down emotionally, so that
they are not down there alone. Be aware of this. Unless you have
a lot of time on your hands and do not mind the energy drain, I
recommend that you cut them off from your life.
Cut them out by avoiding interactions with them as much as
possible. Remember that you have the choice to commit to being
surrounded by people who have the qualities you admire:
optimistic, positive, peaceful and encouraging people. As Kathy
Sierra said, “Be around the change you want to see in the world.”
9. Become the Observer
When we practice becoming the observer of our feelings, our
thoughts and the situation, we separate ourselves away from the
emotions. Instead of identifying with the emotions and letting
them consume us, we observe them with clarity and detachment.
When you find yourself identifying with emotions and thoughts,
bring your focus on your breathe.
10. Go for a Run
… or a swim, or some other workout. Physical exercise can help
to release the negative and excess energy in us. Use exercise as a
tool to clear your mind and release built up negative energy.
11. Worst Case Scenario
Ask yourself two questions,
1. “If I do not respond, what is the worst thing that can result
2. “If I do respond, what is the worst thing that can result from
Answering these questions often adds perspectives to the
situation, and you’ll realize that nothing good will come out of
reacting. Your energy will be wasted, and your inner space
12. Avoid Heated Discussions
When we’re emotionally charged, we are so much in our heads
that we argue out of an impulse to be right, to defend ourselves,
for the sake of our egos. Rationality and resolution can rarely
arise out of these discussions. If a discussion is necessary, wait
until everyone has cooled off before diving into one.
13. Most Important
List out things in your life most important to you. Then ask
yourself, “Will a reaction to this person contribute to the things
that matter most to me?“
14. Pour Honey
This doesn’t always work, but sometimes catches people off
guard when they’re trying to “Pour Poison” on you. Compliment
the other person for something they did well, tell them you’ve
learned something new through interacting with them, and
maybe offer to become friends. Remember to be genuine. You
might have to dig deep to find something that you appreciate
about this person.
15. Express It
Take out some scrap paper and dump all the random and
negative thoughts out of you by writing freely without editing.
Continue to do so until you have nothing else to say. Now, roll
the paper up into a ball, close your eyes and visualize that all the
negative energy is now inside that paper ball. Toss the paper ball
in the trash. Let it go!
About the Author:
Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple
products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer)
for our motivational community: Think Simple
Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and
empowering people to lead conscious and
The following are tips for dealing with difficult people who
are in your life, for better or for worse:
1. Keep Conversations Neutral Avoid discussing divisive and
personal issues, like religion and politics, or other issues
that tend to cause conflict. If the other person tries to
engage you in a discussion that will probably become an
argument, change the subject or leave the room.
2. Accept The Reality of Who They Are In dealing with
difficult people, don’t try to change the other person; you
will only get into a power struggle, cause defensiveness,
invite criticism, or otherwise make things worse. It also
makes you a more difficult person to deal with.
3. Know What's Under Your Control Change your response to
the other person; this is all you have the power to change.
For example, don’t feel you need to accept abusive behavior.
You can use assertive communication to draw boundaries
when the other person chooses to treat you in an
4. Create Healthier Patterns Remember that most
relationship difficulties are due to a dynamic between two
people rather than one person being unilaterally "bad."
Chances are good that you're repeating the same patterns of
interaction over and over; changing your response could get
you out of this rut, and responding in a healthy way can
improve your chances of a healthier pattern forming. Here’s
a list of things to avoid in dealing with conflict. Do you do
any of them? Also, here are some healthy communication
skills to remember.
5. See The Best In People Try to look for the positive aspects
of others, especially when dealing with family, and focus on
them. (Developing your optimism and reframin skills can
help here!) The other person will feel more appreciated, and
you will likely enjoy your time together more.
6. Remember Who You're Dealing With Seeing the best in
someone is important; however, don’t pretend the other
person’s negative traits don’t exist. Don’t tell your secrets to
a gossip, rely on a flake, or look for affection from someone
who isn’t able to give it. This is part of accepting them for
who they are.
7. Get Support Where You Can Find It Get your needs met
from others who are able to meet your needs. Tell your
secrets to a trustworthy friend who's a good listener, or
process your feelings through journaling, for example. Rely
on people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy
and supportive, or find a good therapist if you need one.
This will help you and the other person by taking pressure
off the relationship and removing a source of conflict.
8. Let Go Or Get Space If You Need It Know when it’s time to
distance yourself, and do so. If the other person can’t be
around you without antagonizing you, minimizing contact
may be key. If they’re continually abusive, it's best to cut ties
and let them know why. Explain what needs to happen if
there ever is to be a relationship, and let it go. (If the
offending party is a boss or co-worker, you may consider
1. Try not to place blame on yourself or the other person for the
negative interactions. It may just be a case of your two
personalities fitting poorly.
2. Remember that you don't have to be close with everyone;
just being polite goes a long way toward getting along and
appropriately dealing with difficult people.
3. Work to maintain a sense of humor -- difficulties will roll off
your back much more easily. Shows like "Modern Family and
books like David Sedaris' Naked can help you see the humor
in dealing with difficult people.
4. Be sure to cultivate other more positive relationships in your
life to offset the negativity of dealing with difficult people.
Elizabeth Scott, M.S.
Stress Management Guide
Dealing with Difficult People
November 20th, 2004 by Steve Pavlina
How do you deal with difficult, irrational, or abusive people,
especially those in positions of authority who have some degree
of control over your life?
I’ve never met a totally rational human being. Our ability to store
and process information is far too imperfect for that. But our
emotions are a shortcut. The book Emotional Intelligence by
Daniel Goleman describes people diagnosed with alexathemia,
the condition whereby people either don’t feel emotions or are
completely out of touch with their emotions. You’d think such
people would be hyper-rational, but they aren’t. They can’t even
function in society. They have no emotional context for deciding
what’s important to them, so earning a dime is just as important
as earning a million dollars. They’ll spend hours on tasks others
would consider trivialities, like deciding what time to schedule a
dentist appointment. Our emotions are a logical shortcut — we
“feel” the difference between the relevant and the irrelevant.
On to dealing with difficult or irrational people…
I certainly haven’t been sheltered from such people, even though
I’ve only been an “employee” for a total of six months of my life
when I was in college. They’re everywhere! I’ve still had to deal
with irrational/abusive people in business deals, landlords, etc.
But such people rarely get to me because of how I deal with them
on two levels:
1) There was a story about the Buddha where a verbally abusive
man came to see him and starting hurling insults. But the
Buddha just sat there calmly. Finally the man asked the Buddha
why he failed to respond to the insults and abuse. The Buddha
replied, “If someone offers you a gift, and you decline to accept it,
to whom does the gift belong?” If someone is irrational, abusive,
etc., you can mentally decline to accept “the gift.” Let that person
keep their anger and insanity, and don’t let it affect you. This
takes practice, but there are many mental imagery techniques
that can help. I usually visualize the anger as a red energy that
bounces off me or passes through me and simply returns to the
source. This is a message to my subconscious mind to
acknowledge that the anger belongs completely to the other
person. So this part tackles the other person’s effect on my
emotional state. And it works very well. I never lose my cool
unless I’m doing it on purpose for some specific reason.
Sometimes it’s better to respond to an angry person with some
shouting of your own and then slowly bring them back down. I
also mentally acknowledge that it’s probably a lack of love and
happiness in their life that causes them to behave as they do.
2) Now that you’ve gotten your emotions handled, you still have
to deal with the practicalities of this person and their effect on
your life. Sometimes it’s enough to just manage your emotions,
but other times that isn’t enough — you need to take action to
address the situation. In this case I use my logic and intelligence
to decide what to do, depending on the specifics of the situation.
It’s like playing a game of chess — if I do this, then how will this
person react? Even with irrational and hurtful people, their
behavior is often predictable to some degree if you know a little
about them. Human behavior is purposeful, but it can be hard to
figure out the other person’s intentions. Use what you do know
to anticipate their responses to various possible actions you
might take. Your information may be imperfect, but do the best
you can. Think of it as an exercise in risk management. Here are
some possible actions:
Remove the person from your life. This is a bit extreme, but
sometimes it’s the best option. If your landlord is really bad,
consider moving. If your boss or coworkers are terrible, leave.
Many years ago I once told a friend I could no longer continue
to have him in my life because he was deeply into software
piracy, and I just didn’t want that kind of influence in my life.
Confront the person about his/her behavior directly. Raise
your standards for what you’re willing to accept in your life,
and enforce them. This strategy is my personal favorite, but
some people aren’t comfortable with it. The advantage of this
approach is that you stop playing games, and you find out
exactly where you stand with the other person. This is what I’d
use if I had a difficult boss or coworker — I’d just lay
everything out on the table with that person, explain why
certain things were no longer tolerable for me, and detail what
I wanted to see happen. Now the other person may decline
your “demands,” but then at least you know where you stand
and can decide based on that. Paint a line, and if the other
person crosses it, you now know the abuse is willful.
Use behavioral conditioning on the other person. I know of
a team that did this with their verbally abusive boss. They
conditioned their boss to be encouraging and supportive.
Going to their boss and confronting him just didn’t work, so
they got together and worked out a behavioral conditioning
strategy. They stopped rewarding his negative behavior and
began rewarding his positive behavior. Whenever he was
abusive, he would either be ignored, or his employee(s) would
say, “Are you intending to manipulate me through verbal
abuse?” They would constantly point out to their boss when he
was being abusive. But whenever he was the least bit
encouraging, like if he said, “good work” or “thank you,” they’d
thank him for his kindness and encouragement. Within a few
weeks, this boss had completely turned around. I wrote a
previous entry on behavioral conditioning techniques, so there
are other ways to gently change another person. But this
assumes you have enough leverage on the person.
Get leverage, and use that leverage to force action. This can
be risky, but sometimes it’s the best option. You might need to
see if you can get another person fired if they really are hurting
productivity. In software companies it isn’t uncommon for a
team to petition management to fire a weak member that’s
holding them back. I use this a lot myself when dealing with
difficult people in business in cases of willful misconduct. You
contact everyone who does business with that person to let
them know what’s happening. And if it’s a big enough deal,
throw in local govt reps and members of the press too. You
might think of this as the whistleblower strategy.
Let it go. Sometimes this is the best option if someone injures
you in some way. Just let it go and move on.
There’s a deeper issue here too… Are the reasons you’re allowing
this difficult person to remain in your life valid? For example, if
you make money a higher priority than quality of life, then how
can you complain when you get the former but sacrifice the
I think people often have a hard time making quality of life a high
enough priority — we’re taught to just suck it up and tolerate it if
we have a difficult boss (and then die of a heart attack or stroke).
The one time I was an employee, I didn’t particularly like my
boss; he behaved like a jerk and didn’t seem too bright either.
But I also figured that if I was a lifelong employee, I might have
other bosses like this too, and it wouldn’t always be convenient
to quit. So I decided not to be an employee. Then when I worked
with retail game publishers, I encountered dishonesty and
incompetence, and this was so common that I felt it would be
hard to run that kind of business and not have to deal with such
people, so I decided not to work with those people either. When I
switched to doing game development independently, I loved the
people and really enjoyed it, so I stuck with that for years. I chose
not to base my career around working with difficult people. And
now that I’m getting into speaking, I’m having a great time at that
too, and I get along great with the people, so I’m happy on this
It seems that different kinds of careers attract different kinds of
people, and some industries seem to attract more jerks than
others. You don’t have to work in a slaughterhouse (which
reportedly has the highest turnover rate for any kind of job), but
you don’t have to work in a tech sweathouse either. You might
think that dealing with a difficult boss is a “have to,” but it isn’t.
You can’t control everything, but in most cases you have enough
control over your life to avoid having to deal with such people.
Just because everyone else around you tolerates an abusive boss
doesn’t mean you have to.
4.10 LEARNING STYLES
There are almost as many definitions as there do theorists in
the area. For people working within an aducational setting,
wishing to utilise learning style to promote more effective
learning, or identifying learner preferences, operationalising
learning style is a necessary but highly problematic endeavour.
The failure to identify and agree upon style charactristics is a
major concern in the field, as are the weaknesses in reliability
and validity and the confusion surrounding the definitions and
terminology. (Simon Cassidy, University of Salford, UK)
4.10.1 Kolb's learning styles
David Kolb has defined one of the most commonly used models
of learning. As in the diagram below, it is based on two
preference dimensions, giving four different styles of learning.
Preference dimensions / Perception dimension
In the vertical Perception dimension, people will have a
preference along the continuum between:
Concrete experience: Looking at things as they are, without
any change, in raw detail.
Abstract conceptualization: Looking at things as concepts
and ideas, after a degree of processing that turns the raw detail
into an internal model.
People who prefer concrete experience will argue that thinking
about something changes it, and that direct empirical data is
essential. Those who prefer abstraction will argue that meaning
is created only after internal processing and that idealism is a
more real approach.
This spectrum is very similar to the Jungian scale of Sensing vs.
In the horizontal Processing dimension, people will take the
results of their Perception and process it in preferred ways
along the continuum between:
Active experimentation: Taking what they have concluded
and trying it out to prove that it works.
Reflective observation: Taking what they have concluded
and watching to see if it works.
Four learning styles
The experimenter, like the concrete experiencer, takes a hands-
on route to see if their ideas will work, whilst the reflective
observers prefer to watch and think to work things out.
1. Divergers (Concrete experiencer/Reflective observer)
Divergers take experiences and think deeply about them, thus
diverging from a single experience to multiple possibilities in
terms of what this might mean. They like to ask 'why', and will
start from detail to constructively work up to the big picture.
They enjoy participating and working with others but they like
a calm ship and fret over conflicts. They are generally
influenced by other people and like to receive constructive
They like to learn via logical instruction or hands-one
exploration with conversations that lead to discovery.
2. Convergers (Abstract conceptualization/Active
Convergers think about things and then try out their ideas to
see if they work in practice. They like to ask 'how' about a
situation, understanding how things work in practice. They like
facts and will seek to make things efficient by making small and
They prefer to work by themselves, thinking carefully and
acting independently. They learn through interaction and
computer-based learning is more effective with them than
3. Accomodators (Concrete experiencer/Active experimenter)
Accommodators have the most hands-on approach, with a
strong preference for doing rather than thinking. They like to
ask 'what if?' and 'why not?' to support their action-first
approach. They do not like routine and will take creative risks
to see what happens.
They like to explore complexity by direct interaction and learn
better by themselves than with other people. As might be
expected, they like hands-on and practical learning rather than
4. Assimilators (Abstract conceptualizer/Reflective observer)
Assimilators have the most cognitive approach, preferring to
think than to act. The ask 'What is there I can know?' and like
organized and structured understanding.
They prefer lectures for learning, with demonstrations where
possible, and will respect the knowledge of experts. They will
also learn through conversation that takes a logical and
They often have a strong control need and prefer the clean and
simple predictability of internal models to external messiness.
The best way to teach an assimilator is with lectures that start
from high-level concepts and work down to the detail. Give
them reading material, especially academic stuff and they'll
gobble it down. Do not teach through play with them as they
like to stay serious.
So design learning for the people you are working with. If you
cannot customize the design for specific people, use varied
styles of delivery to help everyone learn. It can also be useful to
describe this model to people, both to help them understand
how they learn and also so they can appreciate that some of
your delivery will for others more than them (and vice versa).
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Kolb's Model of Learning Styles
Kolb (1981) developed the Learning Style Inventory (LSI) to
evaluate the way people learn and work with ideas in day-to-day
life. He used the LSI to help people understand how they make
career choices, solve problems, set goals, manage others, and
deal with new situations. The instrument consists of twelve
questions in which the subject selects one of four possible
responses. The four columns in the instrument relate to the four
stages Kolb identified as a cycle of learning: Concrete Experience
(CE), Reflective Observation (RO), Abstract Conceptualization
(AC), and Active Experimentation (AE). He paired AE and RO as
polar opposites (doing vs. watching), and CE and AC as polar
opposites (feeling vs. thinking).
According to Kolb (1981),
1. Concrete Experience (CE) emphasizes active involvement,
relating with other people, and learning by experience. Learners
in the CE phase of learning are open-minded and adaptable, and
are sensitive to the feelings of themselves and others.
2. Reflective Observation (RO) is the stage in which the learner
watches and listens, views issues from different points of view,
and discovers meaning in the learning material.
3. Abstract Conceptualization (AC) is the application of thought
and logic, as opposed to feelings, to the learning situation.
Planning, developing theories, and analysis are part of this stage.
4. The last stage is Active Experimentation (AE) and involves
testing theories, carrying out plans, and influencing people and
events through activity. Kolb believed that a complete cycle of
learning involved each of these stages.
Since people use all four stages in many learning situations, Kolb
(1981) used combined scores to determine which of four
learning styles an individual preferred. He encouraged learners
to become familiar with their own learning style, including its
strengths and weaknesses, as a means to getting more out of
each learning experience. The combined scores are derived from
the polar pairs (AC minus CE) and (AE minus RO). The results
are then plotted on a two axis grid, and finding the point of
interception in one of the four quadrants.
Hashaway (1998) described Kolb's four learning styles.
Divergers combine Reflective Observation (RO) and Concrete
Experience (CE); they can see situations from many perspectives,
and chunk up to forma a "gestalt". They do well in idea-
generating processes such as brain-storming; they are
imaginative and emotional. They tend to develop broad cultural
interests, and specialize in the arts, humanities and liberal arts.
Convergers combine Abstract Conceptualization and Active
They have the opposite style to the Diverger. These learners do
well in conventional testing situations and other contexts where
there is a single correct answer or solution. They use
hypothetical- deductive reasoning, and can focus on specific
problems. They are relatively unemotional, are highly procedural
and prefer to work with inanimate objects than people. They
may have narrow interests and often choose to specialize in
science, engineering, and other exact fields. Figure 1 illustrates
the quadrants for the Diverger and the Converger.
According to Hashaway (1998), Assimilators combine Reflective
Observation and Abstract Conceptualization. They excel at
creating theoretical models. They have a tendency toward
inductive reasoning (chunking up), and are more interested in
abstract concepts than in application or in people. Basic sciences
and mathematics attract Assimilators, who excel in these fields
The Accomodator's strength is doing things, carrying out
plans and performing experiments.
They like novel experiences and adapt to change easily. Of the
four types, Accomodators are highest in risk-taking and most
easily adapt to immediate circumstances. They solve problems in
an intuitive, trial-and-error manner. They rely on other people
for information more than their own analytical ability. They can
appear impatient or pushy.
Kolb (1981) believed that the most effective problem solving and
learning occurred when people used the skills of all four types of
learners. Nearly every problem requires (1) Identifying a
problem, (2) Selecting which problem to solve, (3) Considering a
variety of possible solutions, (4) Evaluating possible results of
the solutions, and (5) Implementing the solution of choice.
Figure 3, which is adapted from Kolb, shows how this cycle of
learning and problem solving moves through all four of the
learning styles, and utilizes all four stages of learning.
McCarthy (1987) developed the 4Mat system based on Kolb's
learning types, and recommended teaching in a cyclical process
that addresses each phase in the cycle of learning, and each of
the learning styles in the instruction of any subject matter. Her
method of teaching started with the Diverger (values and
meanings), then Assimilator (conceptual connections), then
Converger (problem solving skills), and finally Accommodator
(new creations). Movement around the circle includes all
learners in their natural preferences, and encourages them to
develop skills in the other three styles. It respects the natural
cycle of learning suggested by Kolb. (1981). McCarthy's system
was to teach to each style in sequence for each lesson or content
chunk. For each lesson or content chunk the teacher was to
answer the question most relevant for each quadrant: “Why?”
(relevance), “What?” (facts and descriptive material),” How?”
(methods and procedures), and “What If?” (exceptions,
applications, creative combination with other material).
McCarthy offered additional insights into the four leaning styles,
as summarized below.
Characteristics of the Four Learning Types (McCarthy, 1987)
Learning Style Characteristics as
Diverger Perceive information
imaginative, believe in
their own experience,
are insight thinkers,
thrive on harmony
meaning, and clarity,
and have high interest
in people and culture.
Have interest in
growth, help people
become more self-
work, feelings, and
cooperation, and help
They may be fearful
under pressure and
may lack risk-taking.
Assimilator Perceive abstractly,
devise theories, seek
continuity, need to
know what experts
think, love ideas, and
are detail oriented.
facts, and details; use
love of knowledge, but
can have a dominating
attitude that can
Converger Perceive abstractly,
integrate theory and
fuzzy ideas, value
strategic thinking, are
skill oriented, like to
experiment, and seek
high values, teach
skills for adult life,
tend to be inflexible
and may lack team
Accommodator Perceive concretely
and process actively,
learn by trial and
error, are interested
in self-discovery, are
new things, are
adaptable and flexible,
like change, are risk
takers, people are
important to them,
and they seek to
Enable student self-
discovery, help people
act on their own
curricula should be
geared to learner
knowledge as a tool
for improving society,
and are dramatic,
David Kolb published his learning styles model in 1984 from
which he developed his learning style inventory. Kolb's learning
theory works on two levels: a four stage cycle of learning and
four separate learning styles. Much of Kolb’s learning theory is
concerned with the learner’s internal cognitive processes.
Kolb states that learning involves the acquisition of abstract
concepts that can be applied flexibly in a range of situations. In
Kolb’s theory, the impetus for the development of new concepts
is provided by new experiences.
“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through
the transformation of experience” (David A. Kolb, 1984).
Kolb's experiental learning style theory is typically represented
by a four stage learning cycle in which the learner 'touches all
1. Concrete Experience - (a new experience of situation is
encountered, or a reinterpretation of existing experience)
2. Reflective Observation (of the new experience. Of particular
importance are any inconsistencies between experience and
3. Abstract Conceptualisation (Reflection gives rise to a new
idea, or a modification of an existing abstract concept)
4. Active Experimentation (the learner applies them to the
world around them to see what results)
Kolb Experiental Learning Styles
Kolb's learning theory sets out four distinct learning styles,
which are based on a four-stage learning cycle.
Kolb explains that different people naturally prefer a certain
single different learning style. Various factors influence a
person's preferred style. For example, social environment,
educational experiences, or the basic cognitive structure of the
Whatever influences the choice of style, the learning style
preference itself is actually the product of two pairs of variables,
or two separate 'choices' that we make, which Kolb presented as
lines of axis, each with 'conflicting' modes at either end:
Concrete Experience - CE
Conceptualization - AC
Active Experimentation - AE
(doing)--- V---- Reflective
Observation - RO (watching)
A typical presentation of Kolb's
two continuums is that the east-west axis is called the
Processing Continuum (how we approach a task), and the
north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum (our
emotional response, or how we think or feel about it).
Kolb believed that we cannot perform both variables on a single
axis at the same time (e.g. think and feel).
Our learning style is a product of these two choice decisions.
It's often easier to see the construction of Kolb's learning styles
in terms of a two-by-two matrix. Each learning style represents a
combination of two preferred styles. The diagram also highlights
Kolb's terminology for the four learning styles; diverging,
assimilating, and converging, accommodating:
Observation - RO)
Experience - CE)
Conceptualization - AC)
Kolb Learning Styles Definitions
Knowing a person's (and your own) learning style enables
learning to be orientated according to the preferred method.
That said, everyone responds to and needs the stimulus of all
types of learning styles to one extent or another - it's a matter of
using emphasis that fits best with the given situation and a
person's learning style preferences.
Here are brief descriptions of the four Kolb learning styles:
Diverging (feeling and watching – CE/RO)
These people are able to look at things from different
perspectives. They are sensitive.
They prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather
information and use imagination to solve problems.
They are best at viewing concrete situations several different
Kolb called this style 'Diverging' because these people perform
better in situations that require ideas-generation, for example,
brainstorming. People with a Diverging learning style have broad
cultural interests and like to gather information. They are
interested in people, tend to be imaginative and emotional, and
tend to be strong in the arts. People with the Diverging style
prefer to work in groups, to listen with an open mind and to
receive personal feedback.
Assimilating (watching and thinking - AC/RO)
The Assimilating learning preference is for a concise, logical
approach. Ideas and concepts are more important than people.
These people require good clear explanation rather than
practical opportunity. They excel at understanding wide-ranging
information and organising it a clear logical format. People with
an Assimilating learning style are less focused on people and
more interested in ideas and abstract concepts. People with this
style are more attracted to logically sound theories than
approaches based on practical value.
These learning style people is important for effectiveness in
information and science careers. In formal learning situations,
people with this style prefer readings, lectures, exploring
analytical models, and having time to think things through.
Converging (doing and thinking - AC/AE)
People with a Converging learning style can solve problems and
will use their learning to find solutions to practical issues. They
prefer technical tasks, and are less concerned with people and
interpersonal aspects. People with a Converging learning style
are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They can
solve problems and make decisions by finding solutions to
questions and problems.
People with a Converging learning style are more attracted to
technical tasks and problems than social or interpersonal issues.
A Converging learning style enables specialist and technology
abilities. People with a Converging style like to experiment with
new ideas, to simulate, and to work with practical applications.
Accommodating (doing and feeling - CE/AE)
The Accommodating learning style is 'hands-on', and relies on
intuition rather than logic. These people use other people's
analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach.
They are attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to
carrying out plans. They commonly act on 'gut' instinct rather
than logical analysis. People with an Accommodating learning
style will tend to rely on others for information than carry out
their own analysis. This learning style is prevalent.
Honey and Mumford's Typology of Learners
Based on Kolb's (1982) experiential learning model, Honey and
Mumford proposed a similar categorization of individual
learning styles and which seems to be popular in management
1. Activists, prefer to act and are well equipped to experiment
2. Reflectors, prefer to study data and are well equipped to
3. Theorists, need to tidy up and have answers, are well
equipped for concluding (concluding)
4. Pragmatists, like things practical, are well equipped for
According to various practionners' websites (e.g. there are
important consequences for instructional designers:
o learn best when: they can immediately do something, when
they are exposed to new experiences and problems, work
with others in task teams
o learn least when: they have to listen to long explanations,
absorb a lot of data, follow precise instructions, read, write
and think a lot on their own, ...
o Pedagogical activities: brainstorms, problem solving, group
discussions, role plays, competitions, etc.
o learn best when: they can observe, review and think about
what is happening
o learn least when: they are rushed, have to act as leaders,
o Pedagogical activities: observing activities, paired
discussions, coached activities, questionnaires, interviews, ...
o learn best when: they can study theories, models, concepts,
stories etc. behind, they can ask questions and engage in
analysis and synthesis.
o learn least when: the activity is ill structured, no principles
are taught, ...
o Pedagogical activities: Provide models, background
o learn best when: they can apply new information to a real
world problem, etc.
o learn least when: "everything is theory", the isn't an
immediate benefit, etc.
o Pedagogical activities: Case studies, discussion, problem
4.10.2 Myers-Briggs (MBTI)
According to Felder (1996), this model classifies students
according to their preferences on scales derived from
psychologist Carl Jung's theory of psychological types. Students
1. Extraverts (try things out, focus on the outer world of people)
or introverts (think things through, focus on the inner world
2. Sensors (practical, detail-oriented, focus on facts and
procedures) or intuitors (imaginative, concept-oriented,
focus on meanings and possibilities);
3. Thinkers (skeptical, tend to make decisions based on logic
and rules) or feelers (appreciative, tend to make decisions
based on personal and humanistic considerations);
4. Judgers (set and follow agendas, seek closure even with
incomplete data) or perceivers (adapt to changing
circumstances, resist closure to obtain more data).
The MBTI type preferences can be combined to form 16 different
learning style types. For example, one student may be an ESTJ
(extravert, sensor, thinker, perceiver) and another may be an
INFJ (introvert, intuitor, feeler, judger).
Myer-Briggs types do have similar practical implications for
education to the Honey-Mumford approach.
Mcleod, S. A. (2010). Simply Psychology; , from
4.11 CHANGE MANAGEMENT
"Change occurs when one becomes what one is, not when one
tries to become what one is not." * Arnold R. Beisser
The Transition Curve
The three stages of transition are shown in a Transition Curve
and whilst this curve is over simplified, it is a useful tool for
understanding the sorts of issues people might be facing during a
Here are some points to bear in mind when assessing where
people are on the transition curve.
Some people repeat sections of the curve to best handle
transition (there's no right or wrong sequence).
People will exhibit different emotions depending upon the
nature and number of changes occurring to them at the same
time and their 'emotional intelligence'. This is normal.
Realising where you and the people around you are on the
curve will help you initiate appropriate actions and respond
Teams may travel the curve together but individuals will
arrive at 'beginnings' at their own personal rate.
It's OK to be slow so long as you're moving and not stuck
It's OK to be slow so long as you're planning on arriving
It's OK to be fast so long as you're tolerant and supportive of
It's OK to be fast so long as you honestly acknowledge your
1. Understanding Endings
In the 'Endings' stage, staff may want to deny the existence of the
initiative and other related change events. Their denial can move
them to fear and uncertainty about the future. This diminishes
their level of activity and readiness to deal with the accelerating
pace of change as the process starts to impact on the
Staff may acutely feel the loss of the familiarity and security they
felt in the organization before this and other changes occurred.
They are likely to be trying to reconcile or accept the fact that
things will now be different from the way they have been. They
will be trying to accept that they will have to let go of their
current sense of identity in the organization.
Follow this link for a checklist of actions to consider in the
Checklist for Managing Endings
Have I studied the change carefully and
identified who is likely to lose what including
what I myself am likely to lose?
Do I understand the subjective realities of these
losses to the people who experience them, even
when they seem like over-reaction to me?
Have I acknowledged these losses with
Have I permitted people to grieve and publicly
expressed my own sense of loss?
Have I found ways to compensate people for
Am I giving people accurate information and
doing it again and again?
Have I defined clearly what is over and what
Have I found ways to 'mark the ending'? Y/N
Am I being careful not to denigrate the past but,
when possible, to find ways to honour it?
Have I made a plan for giving people a piece of
the past to take with them?
Have I made it clear how the ending we are
making is necessary to protect the continuity of
the organization or conditions on which the
Is the ending we are making big enough to get
the job done in one step?
2. Understanding the Neutral Zone
The Neutral Zone or exploration stage is the time between the
current and the desired state. Staff will be attempting to orient
themselves to the new requirements and behaviours. During this
time, they will be confused about the future and will feel
overloaded with competing demands.
This can have a negative impact on activities. Because things can
be chaotic at this stage, staff may question the status quo or the
accepted way of doing things. It is important to note that with
encouragement this stage can be a time of exploration that is
ripe with creative opportunity.
Follow this link for a checklist of actions to consider in the
Checklist for Managing the Neutral Zone
Have I done my best to normalise the neutral
zone by explaining it is an uncomfortable time
which, with careful attention, can be turned to
Have I redefined it by choosing a new and more
affirmative metaphor with which to describe it?
Have I reinforced that metaphor with training
programmes, policy changes, and financial
rewards for people to keep doing their jobs
during the neutral zone
Am I protecting people adequately from further
If I can't protect them, am I clustering those
Have I created the temporary policies and
procedures that we need to get us through the
Have I set short-range goals and checkpoints? Y/N
Have I set realistic output objectives? Y/N
Have I found what special training programs we
need to deal successfully with the neutral zone?
Have I found ways to keep people feeling that
they still belong to the organisation and are
valued by our part of it? And have I taken care
that perks and other forms of 'privilege' are not
undermining the solidarity of the group?
Do I have a means of gathering feedback during
the time in the neutral zone?
Are my people willing to experiment and take
risks in intelligently conceived ventures - or are
we punishing all failures?
Have I stepped back and taken stock of how
things are being done in my part of the
organisation? (This is worth doing both for its
own sake and as a visible model for others
Have I provided others with opportunities to do
the same thing? Have I provided them with the
resources - facilitators, survey instruments and
so on - that will help them do that?
Have I seen to it that people build their skills in
creative thinking and innovation?
Have I encouraged experiment and seen to it
that people are not punished for failing in
intelligent efforts that did not pan out?
Have I set an example by brainstorming many
answers to my old problems - the ones that
people say you just have to live with? Am I
encouraging others to do the same?
Am I regularly checking to see that I am not
pushing for certainty and closure where it
would be more conducive to creativity to live a
little longer with - uncertainty and questions?
Am I using my time in the neutral zone as an
opportunity to replace old systems with
3. Understanding New Beginnings
The New Beginnings stage of the Transition Curve is that time
when people are ready to commit to the new direction and the
change. They feel secure in the new organization and are ready
to function as a significant contributor. This typically occurs as
the initiative starts to achieve some of its desired goals.
Checklist for Managing New Beginnings
Am I distinguishing in my own mind and in my
expectations of others, between the start, which
can happen on a planned schedule, and the
beginning, which will not?
Do I accept the fact that people are going to be
ambivalent towards the beginning I am trying to
Have I taken care of the ending(s) and the
neutral zone, or am I trying to make a beginning
happen before it possibly can?
Have I clarified and communicated the purpose
of (the idea behind) the change?
Have I created an effective picture of the change
and found ways to communicate it effectively?
Have I created a plan for bringing people
through the three phases of transition - and
distinguished it in my own mind from the
Have I helped people to discover as soon as
possible the part that they will play in the new
system - or how the new system will affect the
part they play within the organisation?
Have I ensured that everyone has a part to play
in the transition management process and that
they understand that part?
Have I checked to see that policies, procedures
and priorities are consistent with the new
beginning I am trying to make so that
inconsistencies are not sending a mixed
Am I watching my own actions carefully to be
sure that I am effectively modelling the
attitudes and behaviours I am asking others to
Have I found ways, financial and non financial,
to reward people for becoming the new people I
am calling upon them to become?
Have I built into my plans some occasions for
quick success to help people rebuild their self-
confidence and to build the image of the
transition as successful?
Have I found ways to symbolise the new
identity - organisational and personal - that is
emerging from this period of transition?
Have I given people a piece of the transition to
keep as a reminder of the difficult and
rewarding journey we all took together?
'It can be a bit scary... I think managers should come clean on
it and say it will be a bit scary and if they don't and say 'Oh no
it will be fine' there will be people who will be sitting there
and thinking 'Oh no they are saying it should be fine and I am
scared to death so there must be something wrong with me'
and there will be managers who are scared too.'
Head of Support Department, Pre '92 University.
'I thought it sounded exciting but was also filled with horror
at the thought of it becoming part of my working life. I had so
many questions about how it would work and not do me out of
Hair & Beauty Therapy Tutor, FE College, on implementation
of a VLE
In a transition there are emotional responses to the losses that
people experience because of the changes. This is normal but
often these responses are taken by others as signs that the
change is being resisted. Those leading change need to recognise
these emotions in others and themselves, and develop ways to
manage their own emotions and assist others to manage theirs.
Unmanaged, these responses may undermine the changes and
have personal consequences.
This process has been likened, psychologically, to the grieving
'I think you can follow it back if you want to bereavement and
all sorts of things like that. Saying that you cannot move
through bereavement and become creative at the other end
till you have got hold of what the loss means’
Head of Support Department, Pre '92 University.
Everyone deals with such major changes in their own way but
we can identify a number of stages that staff might go through.
Shock and Denial
Anger and Guilt
Depression, Anxiety and Stress
For a discussion of each of the stages together with some typical
views from those who have experienced such a process follow
the link to Emotional Responses to Change and Transition.
Each of the stages in the process needs to be recognised and
responded to accordingly. For example, it's no good expecting
grudging acceptance when staff are still in shock. You are more
likely to get anger and no argument, no matter how reasonable
to you, is likely to win staff around.
For those, managing the change, the challenge is to get staff
through from shock to grudging acceptance in as fast a time as
possible whilst minimising stress and limiting the effect on other
areas of the organisation.
The Change Curve, or transition curve, helps us to understand
the emotions that people may go through when changing
This page explains the change curve which is one of the change
management tools that would be on every change management
checklist. It is a change management model that is essential in
understanding how to be in control when going through the
change management process.
What's in it for me to understand the transition curve?
Why should I bother?
The change curve above illustrates typical emotions and
reactions when people are going through transition.
Knowing that the emotions involved are temporary and
"normal" will prevent you:
* from becoming swamped by them or
* from being stuck in negative emotions or
* from being overcome by fear or
* from becoming a victim.
It will empower you to be proactive and take control so that you
can experience the change process positively with a sense of
achievement and enhanced self esteem.
Ok, so what is the change curve? Let's go through it stage by
Each specific situation, and each person involved, may vary
somewhat from this, of course, depending on the scale of the
change they are facing and the stakes involved.
The change curve model above shows how you may react when
involved in managing personal change that you may not have
created, may not agree with, think you have (and may have)
something to lose, and feel that you can’t do anything about it -
that is, you are not in control of the change management process.
Typically, as shown on the change curve, the first reactions
involve the red negative emotions (on the left hand side of the
curve) as you feel to be a victim.
You may initially feel shock and be overwhelmed, depending on
the significance and scale of the changes.
This may be followed by denial, a refusal to accept or even
recognise that change is happening.
This may be followed by blame, sometimes of others or of self.
All the while, the change is not going away - it keeps on coming,
like the tide coming in, you can’t stop it.
This may cause confusion or resistance and sabotage, especially
if there is significant uncertainty.
As these emotions unfold, you may (or may not) suffer a
deterioration of performance, including your relationships with
others or a decline in your self-esteem.
Typically, what then happens is that, as the change is still
coming, you may come to accept the fact and let go of your
If so, you will have reached the bottom of the transition curve
and will then begin the process of moving up the right hand side
of the curve (with the green positive emotions).
You may, for example, begin to explore options in dealing with
the change or options that the change itself creates.
This will often be followed by testing out new behaviours in
the changed situation, searching for meaning and how to make it
As experience with the new situation builds, you may move into
problem solving and decision making mode - now contributing to
the changes and, maybe, beginning to experience the benefits of
Finally, you integrate and internalise the changes into new
At this point, your behaviour (and performance) is at a higher
level than when the change management process began.
In other words, the change curve shows a typical situation
where the outcome is success (ie the change has been
implemented and you have developed as a result).
Whilst going through the change experience may have been
uncomfortable (especially in the first stages), this positive
outcome is likely to boost your personal development self
confidence, self help and determination
How long will it take?
Depending on the significance of the change, it could take hours
or days or weeks or months or years or, maybe, you might get
stuck somewhere on the curve and never reach integration.
In addition, how people have encountered change is important.
If change is being done TO them, their emotions are likely to run
higher and be more negative than if change is being done BY
A key learning point is that the very same people who have been
proactive in extending their property, investing in the latest hi-fi
or high definition home cinema, acquiring the most up-to-date
mobile ‘phone or computer, setting up their own website,
holidaying in exotic places with very different cultures and food,
trading in their car for the latest model every two years etc. -
those very same people can, and do, go through the change curve
when change is done TO them (rather than BY them).
So, two key points:
1. the change curve above summarises typical reactions when
you have change thrust or forced upon you
2. however, when change is owned and initiated by you it is a
different kettle of fish (e.g. you will avoid the negative red
emotions shown on the change curve and enjoy the green
emotions and a great sense of achievement).
Therefore, the best way to manage change is to help create it.
This is undoubtedly the best change management model of all.
How do I use the change curve?
Firstly, use it to understand that negative emotions during
change are "normal" and, most of the time, are transient (i.e.
they will pass).
This is very helpful in supporting yourself or others during
change, especially if you or they are well outside your comfort
Secondly, use it to show empathy and to communicate to
people going through change that getting stuck in the negative
red emotions on the change curve (or in feeling a victim) will, in
the longer run, be self-hurting.
This can help people's motivation to take control and be
proactive in moving quickly to the green states shown on the
Thirdly, use it for feedback and learning by checking
periodically where people are on the change curve and how they
are moving along it (or not).
This can help people develop or maintain their perspective and,
to some extent, de-personalise the process they are going
through and thus reduce the intensity of any negative emotions
they are feeling.
It will also facilitate the planning of positive actions to accelerate
progress to integation of new behaviours and habits.
The Change Curve shows us that whilst there can be no formula
for change management, we can achieve self improvement by
being proactive to boost our self esteem and control our
KILLING ATTITUDE KILLER ATTITUDE
Fear Try, Experiment
E nvy Cultivate Diversity
Reject others Value others
Feel victimized Admire others
Feel dependent Compliment others
Emphasize the importance of
contribution of others
Overcoming internal resistance to change:
in many ways, the hallmark of a great leader is how well he
or she manages change
by Robert A. Sevier
People, and the organizations they create and inhabit, seldom
welcome change. For the most part, they are resistant and
reluctant, believing that there is great comfort in the familiar and
greater security in the status qua. As a result, they tend to resist
new ideas and new ways to think about old ideas. They suffer, as
one wag reminded me, from hardening of the categories.
Unfortunately, our present, and certainly our future, is all about
change. In fact, there is a wonderful adage that describes the
issue succinctly: The only constant is change. Ultimately, both
individual and organizational success may well depend not on
how well we resist change, but how well we embrace it. After all,
at its most basic, leadership is all about managing change. It is
about anticipating it; framing it in ways the organization
understands; finding a path through it In many ways, the
hallmark of a great leader is how well he or she manages change.
But why are people on campus so darn change-averse?
CHANGE AND FEAR
What is it about change that people in general--and faculty and
staff in particular--most fear? Based on the work I have done
with strategic planning and organizational change, it appears
that members of the campus community are often concerned
* Loss of power and prestige
* Reallocation or loss of resources
* Loss of autonomy
* Intrusion into personal and professional domains
* Changing definitions of success
* Altered reward systems
* Fear of technology
* Fear of having to relearn
On campus, times of change are usually seen as times of angst
(True to that tendency, Lily Tomlin once quipped, "Why walk
boldly when I can be driven by leaf?") Now that we have a basic
understanding of the reasons behind change resistance, let's look
at a handful of strategies for overcoming internal resistance to
change to do that, we need to first understand the physics of
THE PHYSICS OF CHANGE
There is a saying among Newtonians that a body at rest will
remain at rest unless acted upon by a (greater) outside force. In
other words, if the pressure to change is not greater than the
resistance to change, little will happen. Stasis has been achieved.
Understanding and sometimes applying these outside forces is
critical to understanding and bringing about change, especially
transformational change. For colleges and universities, these
outside forces typically involve:
A major threat or pressure from the external environment.
In the mid '90s, following a series of lawsuits and mounting
public pressure, The Citadel (SC) was forced to become
coeducational. This was a major pressure from the external
An unanticipated opportunity.
In 1981, Macalester College (MN) received a significant gift of
stock from DeWitt and Lila Wallace. The gift, coupled with other
gifts, keen leadership, and careful management, not only allowed
the school to control its own destiny, but challenged the college
to think about the larger responsibility it had to serve society.
An internal crisis or setback.
In the mid '90s, following disclosure that the New Era
Foundation was bankrupt, a number of colleges and universities
that had invested heavily in the fund found themselves without
the necessary cash flow to finance some short-term obligations.
These kinds of catalysts, either singularly or in tandem, can serve
as the genesis for change.
7 STRATEGIES TO OVERCOME RESISTANCE
Now that we understand both the fear and physics of change,
let's take a look at seven strategies designed to help you
overcome resistance to change.
1--Clarify the change "event." First and foremost, always clarify
the change event. In other words, what's the itch? If you cannot
clarify the specific threat or opportunity in real, concrete a
terms, you can't advance. What's more, the change event must be
identifiable not only to senior administrators, but also to the
faculty and staff actually in the trenches.
2--Create a sense of urgency. Next, you must create a sense of
urgency. A college or university might suffer declining
enrollment for a number of years with little real concern.
However, showing that this decline will affect faculty salaries or
might cause a loss of accreditation is more likely to generate a
sense that something must be done. To create a sense of urgency,
key audiences must understand in real and concrete terms how
the change event will affect them. Either show them how their
lives will be diminished if the threat is not dealt with, or how
their lives will be improved if the opportunity is accommodated.
3--Develop a course of action. Once you have identified a threat
or opportunity, you must develop a course of action that is clear
and simple. If it is not dear, people won't understand how it will
deal with the issue. If it is not simple, people will get bogged
down. A simple decision to freeze tuition increases, for example,
is a lot easier to understand than a complex financial aid
leveraging scheme that takes a raft of Ph.D.s in Economics to
understand and implement. As you think about your course of
action, however, keep in mind two important fundamentals:
First, a good response created and acted upon quickly is much
better than a perfect response that takes forever to Formulate.
Second, don't get too focused on a need for consensus.
Consensus sounds great, and change-management literature is
chock-full of strategies for achieving it. But the fact is, total
consensus almost never occurs. So, rather than consensus, seek
just enough consensus. Get enough people on board, especially
the right people. Don't worry about the vocal 10 percent who
seem to oppose your every move. Let their peers work on them;
you work with the go percent who are willing to be led.
4--Establish a guiding coalition. While the vision for a change
may originate with one person, the actual change process must
be accomplished through a coalition of believers who, in
response to a threat or opportunity, developed a unified
response. This guiding coalition must be large enough to have an
impact on the organization, but small enough to act in a truly
coordinated fashion. Furthermore, this coalition must include
major and minor players and be as cross-functional as possible,
drawing from all segments of the campus. A coalition that
includes people from Admissions, Advancement, and senior
faculty will likely be more credible than a team comprising
people only from Advancement.
5--Communicate your course of action widely. With the key
elements in place, you must communicate your course of action
widely and continually. Not only must people understand in
general the institutional response, but they must understand
specifically their role in the change process. What is the role that
the people in Parking or the Registrar's office have in the change
process? If they don't understand their role, they will not be
wedded to the change event. Furthermore, they might
unintentionally undermine what you are trying to accomplish.
6--Generate and celebrate near-term wins. While significant
change is typically a long-term undertaking, people need to
know immediately that their efforts are having some impact.
This is much like the overweight person who decides to lose 50
pounds over the next year. After a week of struggling with a new
food plan, a dieter wants to know that she's dropped a few
pounds Without that near-term win, she'll become discouraged
and drop out before the long haul. So, celebrate your near-term
wins. If you decide to open an off-campus center for adult
students, people on the main campus need to be aware that the
center is successful and that adults are enrolling. And if you are
smart, you'll also tell them how the revenue from that new
center is going to help them in their day-to-day activities.
7--Anchor change in the organization. Change begins with
people, but it is institutionalized through artfully developed
policies and procedures, realistic budgets, measures of success,
and ongoing training. You simply cannot ask people to change
without giving them the tools to change. This support must be
real, obvious, and given freely. At the same time, people who opt
not to change must be dealt with or their recalcitrance will
spread. One of the quickest ways to undermine change is to
ignore people who will not embrace--and even sabotage--the
IN A NUTSHELL ...
Educator and philosopher Clarke Kerr once wrote, "The major
test of a modern U.S. university is how wisely and how quickly it
is able to adjust to important new possibilities." Bottom Line? It's
all about change.
TWO TOMES ON CHANGE
There Ore a great number of books on change, but my two
Kotter, John. Leading Change [Boston; Harvard Business School
Kouzes, James M, and Barry Z. Posner. Credibility: How Leaders
Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It [San Francisco, Jossey-
Break Through Inner Resistance To Your Success
By Suzanne Zacharia
So many people feel stuck in the same old problem. Maybe they
have been trying to make more money and somehow there is
always a limit stopping them from moving further. Or perhaps
they keep repeating the same unhappy patterns in love and
relationships. Some people contact me with an emotional or
physical condition that just would not shift. They may have seen
excellent practitioners, therapists, and coaches, but still, they
have the challenge to deal with. It often seems like there is no
hope and can be very frustrating. The biggest source of
frustration is that the person would be doing everything they can
to get over this hurdle and totally committed, so they cannot
understand why there is this internal block stopping them.
With EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques, this block is called
Psychological Reversal. It is a state where you want to move
forward, but your energy is holding you back. Usually, this
psychological reversal is easy to treat with every time you do the
EFT procedure. However, in some cases, this simple treatment is
not enough. With trial and error, I have found three solutions to
this kind of stubborn block.
1. The Sentinel negotiation. Most stubborn blocks is because
part of you sees harm in moving forward and blocks you
from doing so. As strange as it may seem, this is because part
of you is protecting you. The idea of the Sentinel is one
derived from NLP, and I find that once the negotiation is
complete, then that block is no longer needed and your
Sentinel protector simply removes it and lets you move on to
your success. For example, you may want to have more
money, but your Sentinel thinks that if you does, you will be
taken advantage of by someone and treated badly by them,
so it stops you dead in your tracks every time you come near
to realizing that goal. Or maybe you want to meet a love
partner, but your Sentinel is afraid that if you do, you will
have children and treat them as badly as your mother or
father treated you; so your Sentinel will do anything to stop
you from having a stable relationship. Also, resistant phobias
and addictions are notorious for having an element of
protection stopping you from moving forward. If you have a
fear or anxiety that simply will not go away, ask your
Sentinel for help; that is my advice. Most people will try to
push their way past their Sentinel and try to force the
change, only to be thwarted again at some point. The answer
lies with talking to your Sentinel and negotiating a way
forward together. As strange as it may seem, what is in the
way is actually your way forward.
2. The Mountains of Self Worth program. I found that one
reason why some people gets stuck in a negative way of
thinking is that they are always comparing themselves
unfavourably to others. For example, if you think your
colleague is better than you, when it comes to promotion,
you will somehow block yourself from taking that position
instead of him/her. Or if you think you are unattractive or
unworthy as a partner or lover compared to most of your
friends or family, this belief may hold you back from having
a happy relationship. Or you may feel anxious in social
situations or when doing a presentation, comparing yourself
unfavourably with others whom you see as better than you.
By releasing this constant comparison, you can see yourself
as you really are rather as a lesser-than kind of person. Then
the lesser-than block will melt away and you can simply
move forward to your success. After all, it is your path to
success that you are treading, not the other people you
compare yourself to. You are the only one that matters on
this path, regardless of what they do on theirs. It is your
3. The third block is a very low level of self-love or self-
acceptance, and sometimes a very low level of love and
acceptance for others. I have found that when this is about
20% or lower, the person is thwarted in any effort of self-
improvement, or that they get extremely slow progress. For
example, someone who wants to lose weight but hates
themselves often would overeat to fill the emotional void
from lack of self-love. Or someone who wants to get the most
out of their staff but finds them uncooperative may at a
subconscious level not accept their staff, and they sense that
and react accordingly. Someone who has bitterness in their
heart to certain people may be subconsciously concentrating
so much on this bitterness that they may have no energy left
to propel themselves to their own success. The solution is to
learn how to accept and/or send unconditional love healing
energy. You can train yourself to channel love healing from
the Universe all around you. This love is unconditional love,
and by its definition it has no conditions. The only person
blocking it would be you. But the good news is that you can
train in how to let it in and how to channel it, or let it flow
through you. Once you do, you will find it much easier to
move forward to the success that your heart truly desires.
I hope this gives you ideas on the way forward. By removing
these inner resistance blocks, you can find the success that you
The Habit Change Cheatsheet:
29 Ways to Successfully Ingrain a Behavior
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but
a habit. - Aristotle
Our daily lives are often a series of habits played out through the
day, a trammeled existence fettered by the slow accretion of our
previous actions. But habits can be changed, as difficult as that
may seem sometimes.
There are so many examples around us: people do quit smoking,
stop impulse spending, get out of debt, begin running and
waking early and eating healthier, become frugal and simplify
their lifes, become organized and focused and productive, … you
get the picture.
Keep it simple
Habit change is not that complicated. While the tips below will
seem overwhelming, there’s really only a few things you need to
know. Everything else is just helping these to become reality.
The simple steps of habit change:
1. Write down your plan.
2. Identify your triggers and replacement habits.
3. Focus on doing the replacement habits every single
time the triggers happen, for about 30 days.
That’s it. We’ll talk more about each of these steps, and much
more, in the cheatsheet below.
The Habit Change Cheatsheet
The following is a compilation of tips to help you change a habit.
Don’t be overwhelmed — always remember the simple steps
above. The rest are different ways to help you become more
successful in your habit change.
1. Do just one habit at a time. Extremely important. Habit
change is difficult, even with just one habit. If you do more than
one habit at a time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Keep it
simple, allow yourself to focus, and give yourself the best chance
for success. Btw, this is why New Year’s resolutions often fail —
people try to tackle more than one change at a time.
2. Start small. The smaller the better, because habit change is
difficult, and trying to take on too much is a recipe for disaster.
Want to exercise? Start with just 5-10 minutes. Want to wake up
earlier? Try just 10 minutes earlier for now. Or consider half
3. Do a 30-day Challenge. In my experience, it takes about 30
days to change a habit, if you’re focused and consistent. This is a
round number and will vary from person to person and habit to
habit. Often you’ll read a magical “21 days” to change a habit, but
this is a myth with no evidence. Seriously — try to find the
evidence from a scientific study for this. A more recent study
shows that 66 days is a better number. But 30 days is a good
number to get you started. Your challenge: stick with a habit
every day for 30 days, and post your daily progress updates to a
4. Write it down. Just saying you’re going to change the habit is
not enough of a commitment. You need to actually write it down,
on paper. Write what habit you’re going to change.
5. Make a plan. While you’re writing, also write down a plan.
This will ensure you’re really prepared. The plan should include
your reasons (motivations) for changing, obstacles, triggers,
support buddies, and other ways you’re going to make this a
success. More on each of these below.
6. Know your motivations, and be sure they’re strong. Write
them down in your plan. You have to be very clear why you’re
doing this, and the benefits of doing it need to be clear in your
head. If you’re just doing it for vanity, while that can be a good
motivator, it’s not usually enough. We need something stronger.
For me, I quit smoking for my wife and kids. I made a promise to
them. I knew if I didn’t smoke, not only would they be without a
husband and father, but they’d be more likely to smoke
themselves (my wife was a smoker and quit with me).
7. Don’t start right away. In your plan, write down a start date.
Maybe a week or two from the date you start writing out the
plan. When you start right away (like today), you are not giving
the plan the seriousness it deserves. When you have a “Quit
Date” or “Start Date”, it gives that date an air of significance. Tell
everyone about your quit date (or start date). Put it up on your
wall or computer desktop. Make this a Big Day. It builds up
anticipation and excitement, and helps you to prepare.
8. Write down all your obstacles. If you’ve tried this habit
change before (odds are you have), you’ve likely failed. Reflect
on those failures, and figure out what stopped you from
succeeding. Write down every obstacle that’s happened to you,
and others that are likely to happen. Then write down how you
plan to overcome them. That’s the key: write down your solution
before the obstacles arrive, so you’re prepared.
9. Identify your triggers. What situations trigger your current
habit? For the smoking habit, for example, triggers might include
waking in the morning, having coffee, drinking alcohol, stressful
meetings, going out with friends, driving, etc. Most habits have
multiple triggers. Identify all of them and write them in your
10. For every single trigger, identify a positive habit you’re
going to do instead. When you first wake in the morning,
instead of smoking, what will you do? What about when you get
stressed? When you go out with friends? Some positive habits
could include: exercise, meditation, deep breathing, organizing,
decluttering, and more.
“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any
man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” - Mark Twain
11. Plan a support system. Who will you turn to when you have
a strong urge? Write these people into your plan. Support forums
online are a great tool as well — I used a smoking cessation
forum on about.com when I quit smoking, and it really helped.
Don’t underestimate the power of support — it’s really
12. Ask for help. Get your family and friends and co-workers to
support you. Ask them for their help, and let them know how
important this is. Find an AA group in your area. Join online
forums where people are trying to quit. When you have really
strong urges or a really difficult time, call on your support
network for help. Don’t smoke a cigarette, for example, without
posting to your online quit forum. Don’t have a drop of alcohol
before calling your AA buddy.
13. Become aware of self-talk. You talk to yourself, in your
head, all the time — but often we’re not aware of these thoughts.
Start listening. These thoughts can derail any habit change, any
goal. Often they’re negative: “I can’t do this. This is too difficult.
Why am I putting myself through this? How bad is this for me
anyway? I’m not strong enough. I don’t have enough discipline. I
suck.” It’s important to know you’re doing this.
14. Stay positive. You will have negative thoughts — the
important thing is to realize when you’re having them, and push
them out of your head. Squash them like a bug! Then replace
them with a positive thought. “I can do this! If Leo can do it, so
can I!” :)
15. Have strategies to defeat the urge. Urges are going to come
— they’re inevitable, and they’re strong. But they’re also
temporary, and beatable. Urges usually last about a minute or
two, and they come in waves of varying strength. You just need
to ride out the wave, and the urge will go away. Some strategies
for making it through the urge: deep breathing, self-massage, eat
some frozen grapes, take a walk, exercise, drink a glass of water,
call a support buddy, post on a support forum.
16. Prepare for the sabotagers. There will always be people
who are negative, who try to get you to do your old habit. Be
ready for them. Confront them, and be direct: you don’t need
them to try to sabotage you, you need their support, and if they
can’t support you then you don’t want to be around them.
17. Talk to yourself. Be your own cheerleader, give yourself pep
talks, repeat your mantra (below), and don’t be afraid to seem
crazy to others. We’ll see who’s crazy when you’ve changed your
habit and they’re still lazy, unhealthy slobs!
18. Have a mantra. For quitting smoking, mine was “Not One
Puff Ever” (I didn’t make this up, but it worked — more on this
below). When I wanted to quit my day job, it was “Liberate
Yourself”. This is just a way to remind yourself of what you’re
trying to do.
19. Use visualization. This is powerful. Vividly picture, in your
head, successfully changing your habit. Visualize doing your new
habit after each trigger, overcoming urges, and what it will look
like when you’re done. This seems new-agey, but it really works.
20. Have rewards. Regular ones. You might see these as bribes,
but actually they’re just positive feedback. Put these into your
plan, along with the milestones at which you’ll receive them.
21. Take it one urge at a time. Often we’re told to take it one
day at a time — which is good advice — but really it’s one urge at
a time. Just make it through this urge.
22. Not One Puff Ever (in other words, no exceptions). This
seems harsh, but it’s a necessity: when you’re trying to break the
bonds between an old habit and a trigger, and form a new bond
between the trigger and a new habit, you need to be really
consistent. You can’t do it sometimes, or there will be no new
bond, or at least it will take a really really long time to form. So,
at least for the first 30 days (and preferably 60), you need to
have no exceptions. Each time a trigger happens, you need to do
the new habit and not the old one. No exceptions, or you’ll have a
backslide. If you do mess up, regroup, learn from your mistake,
plan for your success, and try again (see the last item on this list).
23. Get rest. Being tired leaves us vulnerable to relapse. Get a lot
of rest so you can have the energy to overcome urges.
24. Drink lots of water. Similar to the item above, being
dehydrated leaves us open to failure. Stay hydrated!
25. Renew your commitment often. Remind yourself of your
commitment hourly, and at the beginning and end of each day.
Read your plan. Celebrate your success. Prepare yourself for
obstacles and urges.
26. Set up public accountability. Blog about it, post on a forum,
email your commitment and daily progress to friend and family,
post a chart up at your office, write a column for your local
newspaper (I did this when I ran my first marathon). When we
make it public — not just the commitment but the progress
updates — we don’t want to fail.
27. Engineer it so it’s hard to fail. Create a groove that’s harder
to get out of than to stay in: increase positive feedback for
sticking with the habit, and increase negative feedback for not
doing the habit.
28. Avoid some situations where you normally do your old
habit, at least for awhile, to make it a bit easier on yourself. If
you normally drink when you go out with friends, consider not
going out for a little while. If you normally go outside your office
with co-workers to smoke, avoid going out with them. This
applies to any bad habit — whether it be eating junk food or
doing drugs, there are some situations you can avoid that are
especially difficult for someone trying to change a bad habit.
Realize, though, that when you go back to those situations, you
will still get the old urges, and when that happens you should be
29. If you fail, figure out what went wrong, plan for it, and
try again. Don’t let failure and guilt stop you. They’re just
obstacles, but they can be overcome. In fact, if you learn from
each failure, they become stepping stones to your success.
Regroup. Let go of guilt. Learn. Plan. And get back on that horse.
Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what
remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good
ones. - Benjamin Franklin
4.22 THE KÜBLER-ROSS GRIEF CYCLE
For many years, people with terminal illnesses were an
embarrassment for doctors. Someone who could not be cured
was evidence of the doctors' fallibility, and as a result the
doctors regularly shunned the dying with the excuse that there
was nothing more that could be done (and that there was
plenty of other demand on the doctors' time).
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was a doctor in Switzerland who railed
against this unkindness and spent a lot of time with dying
people, both comforting and studying them. She wrote a book,
called 'On Death and Dying' which included a cycle of emotional
states that is often referred to (but not exclusively called) the
In the ensuing years, it was noticed that this emotional cycle
was not exclusive just to the terminally ill, but also other people
who were affected by bad news, such as losing their jobs or
otherwise being negatively affected by change. The important
factor is not that the change is good or bad, but that they
perceive it as a significantly negative event.
The Extended Grief Cycle
The Extended Grief Cycle can be shown as in the chart below,
indicating the roller-coaster ride of activity and passivity as the
person wriggles and turns in their desperate efforts to avoid
The initial state before the cycle is received is stable, at least in
terms of the subsequent reaction on hearing the bad news.
Compared with the ups and downs to come, even if there is
some variation, this is indeed a stable state.
And then, into the calm of this relative paradise, a bombshell
Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.
This model is extended slightly from the original Kubler-Ross
model, which does not explicitly include the Shock and Testing
stages. These stages however are often useful to understand
and facilitating change.
Sticking and cycling
A common problem with the above cycle is that people get
stuck in one phase. Thus a person may become stuck in denial,
never moving on from the position of not accepting the
inevitable future. When it happens, they still keep on denying it,
such as the person who has lost their job still going into the city
only to sit on a park bench all day.
Getting stuck in denial is common in 'cool' cultures (such as in
Britain, particularly Southern England) where expressing anger
is not acceptable. The person may feel that anger, but may then
repress it, bottling it up inside.
Likewise, a person may be stuck in permanent anger (which is
itself a form of flight from reality) or repeated bargaining. It is
more difficult to get stuck in active states than in passivity, and
getting stuck in depression is perhaps a more common ailment.
Going in cycles
Another trap is that when a person moves on to the next phase,
they have not completed an earlier phase and so move
backwards in cyclic loops that repeat previous emotion and
actions. Thus, for example, a person that finds bargaining not to
be working, may go back into anger or denial.
Cycling is itself a form of avoidance of the inevitable, and going
backwards in time may seem to be a way of extending the time
before the perceived bad thing happens.
Source: Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying, Macmillan,
Shock and Denial.
"This can't be happening, not to me."; "I don't have true
infertility since I've already had a child."
Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts,
information, reality, etc., relating to the situation concerned. It's
a defence mechanism and perfectly natural. Some people can
become locked in this stage when dealing with a traumatic
change that can be ignored.
"Why me? After all I've been through. It's not fair!"; "How can
this happen to me?"; '"Who is to blame?"
Anger can manifest in different ways. People dealing with
emotional upset can be angry with themselves, and/or with
others, especially those close to them. Knowing this helps keep
detached and non-judgemental when experiencing the anger of
someone who is very upset.
"Please God. I would give anything."; "If I don't get pregnant we
will just adopt, either way it will happen."; "I know there must
be a reason this is happening."
Traditionally the bargaining stage for people facing
death can involve attempting to bargain with whatever God the
person believes in. People facing less serious trauma can bargain
or seek to negotiate a compromise. For example "Can we still be
friends?.." when facing a break-up. Bargaining rarely provides a
sustainable solution, especially if it's a matter of life or death.
"I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "No matter what I do
it's just not going to happen."; "Why try anymore?"; "Everyone is
moving on without me."
During the fourth stage, the dying person begins to
understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual
may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time
crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to
disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not
recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this
stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
"It's going to be okay."; "There's nothing I can do to change it so
why stay bitter?"; "It will happen eventually."
In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with
their mortality, or that of a loved one, or other tragic event.
Not everyone even that has gone through infertility, loss of a
loved one, or a preemie may experience these stages. Some are
strong enough to be in acceptance for most of the time...oh gosh
how I wish I could be that strong. Some will deny it until those
two lines appear or until their baby comes home. But I can
guarantee that I have felt each stage and most do. Some days its
easy to accept and other days I just refuse to accept this. Either
way I will be real about those feelings be that good, bad or ugly.
And I refuse to apologize for that.
Recognizing Grief Over the Loss of Income
Shock and denial are the first reactions of people
experiencing unplanned changes.
When people experience a major income loss they go through
certain stages of grief. Figure 2 shows these and what happens at
each stage. People often move back and forth between the stages
and sometimes get stuck at a particular stage for a while.
To express anger in a positive way, people need to change
how they view the situation.
Stage 1 - Shock and Denial
Shock and denial are the first reactions of people experiencing
unplanned changes. At this stage in the loss cycle, it is normal for
people to feel confused and afraid, and to want to place blame.
However, many people are just numb when facing an unplanned
change as if they were on automatic pilot. It is very common for
people to avoid making decisions or taking action at this point.
Figure 2. Stages of the Grief Cycle
People are often unable to function or perform simple, routine
tasks during this stage.
Denial can occasionally be healthy for a short time, but
prolonged denial can have devastating consequences for the
person and for the situation. Denial of something that has
happened or of the pain and fear being experienced is a way in
which people protect themselves when faced with a painful
situation. Continued denial of the pain and fear, however, will
block them from doing something about it.
Stage 2 - Anger
Anger is a feeling that is often intensely felt during this time.
Anger is identified by feelings of second-guessing, hate, self-
doubt, embarrassment, irritation, shame, hurt, frustration, and
anxiety. People usually understand more clearly what is
happening, but they may look for someone to blame at this stage.
If there is no one on whom to focus the anger or blame, a feeling
of helplessness may take over and the anger may be turned
inside. Some people take it out on themselves by taking
responsibility for a situation over which they have had little
People are often afraid that if they let themselves acknowledge
the anger they feel, they will immediately need to express it and
act on it in a way that they will regret later. However, by not
admitting to themselves and others close to them the loss and
pain they feel, they will be blocked from doing something about
the situation. It will also prevent them from moving on. Some
people get stuck at this stage.
To express anger in a positive way, people need to change how
they view the situation. It is also helpful to talk to others about it
or write down their feelings in order to figure out what they
need to do to make the feelings less intense. Another option is to
turn the anger into energy through an active sport or brisk
physical activity or to express it through playing a musical
Stage 3 - Depression and Detachment
The third stage of the loss cycle, depression and detachment, is
characterized by feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and
being overwhelmed. People often feel down, lack energy, and
have no desire to do anything. Withdrawal from activities and
other people is common. Because it is also hard to make
decisions at this stage, ask a family member, friend, or
professional to help you if important decisions need to be made.
Stage 4 - Dialogue and Bargaining
The fourth stage, dialogue and bargaining, is a time when people
struggle to find meaning in what has happened. They begin to
reach out to others and want to tell their story. People become
more willing to explore alternatives after expressing their
feelings. They may, however, still be angry or depressed. People
do not move neatly from one stage to another. Rather, the stages
overlap and people often slip back to earlier stages.
Stage 5 - Acceptance
At this stage, people are ready to explore and consider options.
As the acceptance stage progresses, a new plan begins to take
shape or, at the very least, people are open to new options.
Getting Back to "Normal"
A person's "normal" state of functioning becomes disrupted by a
sudden income loss. It is possible to return to a purposeful state
of functioning after going through the stages described above
and after exploring options and setting a plan. People then begin
to feel secure and in control and have a more positive self-
esteem. People get renewed energy to tackle life again but in
different ways than before the sudden income change. It is
perhaps better to think of the end of the grief cycle as returning
to a meaningful life rather than returning to a "normal" life.
"Normal" at this stage will not be the same as "normal" before
Source: University of Minnesota
4.13 Knowing and Not Knowing
If I don't know I don't know
I think I know
If I don't know I know
I think I don't know
Laing R D (1970) Knots Harmondsworth; Penguin (p.55)
"He that knows not, and knows not that he knows not is a fool.
He that knows not, and knows that he knows not is a pupil.
He that knows, and knows not that he knows is asleep
He that knows, and knows that he knows is a teacher.
NEIGHBOUR R (1992) The Inner Apprentice London; Kluwer
Academic Publishers. p.xvii
"We know what we know, we know that there are things we do
not know, and we know that there are things we don't know we
Donald Rumsfeld (4 Sept 2002) (Woodward, 2004: 171)
It is ironic, perhaps, that the initial insight is allegedly Arabic.
This paper is playing around with a conceit: two senses of the
term "know". However, it is all in a professional cause.
The two senses are those of:
awareness of self, (represented by the vertical red line
in the diagram below) and
knowledge of the world (the horizontal blue line)
There are of course four possible combinations, which are
You may find parallels with the witting and willing practice
model, and also with the familiar "unconscious incompetence"
to "unconscious competence" model. which relates primarily to
practical skills: here we are exploring knowledge. Laing's poetic
exploration of its interpersonal convolutions cited above (it goes
on for another 21 pages), and the citation of the idea by
Neighbour (1992) credited as an Arabic proverb demonstrate
that it has a considerable provenance.
Not knowing you don't know
The first possibility is that of being unaware that you don't know
something. This is the "ignorance is bliss" state, enjoyed by
everyone who pontificates about politics in pubs. It is also the
position of many people on "soft" occupations (such as teaching,
or social work) which look from the outside as if "any fool could
do it". (Some do.) And it is engendered by consummate
professionals who make what they do look easy (such as
plasterers and chefs and popular novelists and...).
Many students start from this position, and although the
Neighbour proverb calls them "fools", it is not really fair. Let's go
So the first move is often to make learners aware of their
ignorance. This is tricky, in practice. Unless they are a captive
audience it is quite easy to frighten them off. (It is also quite
seductive, because it is a chance to show off your own level of
knowledge or competence.) On the other hand, it is a crucial step
in developing motivation to learn.
There are various ways of doing it.
In my first German lesson, a young teacher recited a poem
to us in German: it sounded great, but we couldn't
understand a word of it, of course. He didn't really need to
do it, because we already knew we didn't know any of it
apart from a couple of phrases picked up from war films.
He was trying to show what we might aspire to, and went
on to explain that. (It must have made an impact because I
can remember the lesson fifty years later.)
You can ask a student (usually either one who is a bit
full of himself and needs to be "taken down a peg", or
one who is mature enough not to be humiliated) to do
something practical in the certainty that he will fail.
Only do this if you are confident that when you do it, as
you will be challenged to, you can manage it yourself.
You can pose a problem which has a seemingly simple
answer (political, economic, legal—or in Neighbour's
case, medical), and then show the problems in reaching
that simple solution, which stem from ignorance of the
The trick is to show something which is (so far) beyond the
students' reach, but not so far beyond it that they will despair.
The second trick is to make it interesting. I have deliberately not
mentioned strategies for doing this in accountancy.
In continuing professional development courses in
particular, you may be challenging survival-oriented
practice in which people have a substantial vested
interest: this is the key to the whole un-
Unless you have to do it, don't. Many learners
(particularly those who have signed up for your course
of their own free will) are only too aware of what they
don't know. The last thing they need is for you to rub it
Skill in this area is of course a core competence for
charlatans. Whether self-help gurus who must convince
you of your personal inadequacy or potential ill-health,
religious proselytisers who must convict you of sins
only they believe are sinful, or salespeople who have to
create a "need" for their product, they all have to
manage this stage. Study and learn from them—just
don't believe them.
Knowing you don't know
This move, from "knowing that you don't know" to "knowing
that you know" is what most learning and hence teaching is all
Knowing and not knowing that you know
The interaction between knowing and not knowing that you
know is however more complex and much neglected.
There are two kinds of knowledge (in a third sense) or
practice involved here.
The first is that for which the move to "not knowing
that you know" or "unconscious competence" is the
highest stage of development. This applies to the basic
skills of driving, or knitting; the kind of thing you can
"do without thinking".
The second is where people who have informally
learned a great deal mistakenly put themelves in the
"knowing that they don't know" category because they
have never received any academic or professional
accreditation for their learning. This is the downside of
our qualification-driven culture, which dismisses those
whom Gramsci called "organic intellectuals" because
they do not have the recognition of the formal
Neighbour's Arabic proverb enjoins us to "awaken"
someone in this position, which means to take them
back, counter-clockwise on the diagram, to an
awareness of their knowledge. There is a link here with
Mezirow's concept of "transformative learning", in
which education leads to a re-evaluation of life so far.
(There is perhaps a third possibility here, too, which is
the fit with the willing but unwitting category in the
model of practice on this site.)
The problematic expert
The fourth possibility is touched on in the discussion of
expertise.This the person who (wait for it!) knows that she knows
but does not know how she knows—or cannot express it. Ask
about a particularly brilliant bit of practice and you will get a
banal answer which might have come out of the textbook, but
which totally fails to do justice to the complexity of what she has
done. Sometimes that answer will be given because she does not
want to appear a "smart-arse" ("Ass" if you are American, but I
wouldn't wish to confuse you with references to donkeys.)
Sometimes, though, she might claim that it is a matter of "not
being able to put it into words" or even, disconcertingly, of a
She may even be afraid of trying to express her expertise, for fear
that an inadequate exposition will somehow jeopardise fragile
knowledge. Once she has said it, it might become ossified. She
might feel obliged to live up to her exposition and limit that
insight and creativity which goes beyond words.
Some things we can teach, and some we can't.
So that's the whole story. Or is it? Is there any connection
between the "Don't know that you know" stage and the "Don't
know that you don't know" stage? Possibly (but not always).
There may occasionally be a cycle: if you don't know
what you do know, you probably don't know what you
don't know, either. This may be the case for people who
are stuck at a survival learning level. They have learned
to get by with what they know, to the extent that they
do not give themselves credit for it, or are even
unaware of knowing it, as we have discussed. However,
they can't take it any further because it is out of
awareness, so they are unaware of how they could
move on from mere competence or proficiency to real
For such people, because they do not know what they
know, they may be unsure of their knowledge, and may
be threatened by the prospect of moving on, which
leads to a degree of resistance to new learning.
The Bottom Line
Clearly we have to get people to realise what they don't know, if
necessary. But fascinating though it is, the inarticulate expertise
of not knowing that you know is a dead end from the learning
and teaching point of view. The only open position, with
potential for development, is that of knowing what you know.
Dubin, P (1962) 'Human Relations in Administration',
Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall
Kirkpatrick, D. L. (1971). A practical guide for supervisory
training and development. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley
There's a fascinating exploration of the whole story at
The medical school at the University of Arizona has taken similar
ideas further with their Curriculum on Medical Ignorance (CMI)
and developed the Q-Cubed; Questions, questioning and
questioners project. Here is their "Ignorance Map", which
Known Unknowns: all the things you know you don't
Unknown Unknowns: all the things you don't know you
Errors: all the things you think you know but don't
Unknown Knowns: all the things you don't know you
Taboos: dangerous, polluting or forbidden knowledge
Denials: all the things too painful to know, so you don't
[acknowledgements to Perkins D (2009) Making Learning
Whole: how seven principles of teaching can transform
education San Francisco; Jossey Bass p 241 for the link.]
Ref: WOODWARD B (2004) Plan of Attack New York; Simon and
Atherton J S (2011) Doceo; Knowing and not knowing [On-line:
UK] retrieved 1 February 2012 from
Read more: Knowing and not knowing
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial
conscious competence learning model
stages of learning - unconscious incompetence to
unconscious competence - and other theories and models for
learning and change
Here first is the 'conscious competence' learning model and
matrix, and below other other theories and models for learning
The earliest origins of the conscious competence theory are not
entirely clear, although the US Gordon Training International
organisation has certainly played a major role in defining it and
and promoting its use .The conscious competence model
explains the process and stages of learning a new skill (or
behaviour, ability, technique, etc.) It most commonly known as
the 'conscious competence learning model', sometimes
'conscious competence ladder' or 'conscious competence matrix',
although other descriptions are used, including terminology
relating to 'conscious skilled' and 'conscious unskilled' which is
preferred by Gordon Training. Occasionally a fifth stage or level
is added in more recent adapted versions. Whatever you call it,
the 'conscious competence' model is a simple explanation of how
we learn, and a useful reminder of the need to train people in
The learner or trainee always begins at stage 1 - 'unconscious
incompetence', and ends at stage 4 - 'unconscious competence',
having passed through stage 2 - 'conscious incompetence' and - 3
Teachers and trainers commonly assume trainees to be at
stage 2, and focus effort towards achieving stage 3, when
often trainees are still at stage 1. The trainer assumes the
trainee is aware of the skill existence, nature, relevance,
deficiency, and benefit offered from the acquisition of the new
skill. Whereas trainees at stage 1 - unconscious incompetence -
have none of these things in place, and will not be able to address
achieving conscious competence until they've become
consciously and fully aware of their own incompetence. This is a
fundamental reason for the failure of a lot of training and
If the awareness of skill and deficiency is low or non-existent -
ie., the learner is at the unconscious incompetence stage - the
trainee or learner will simply not see the need for learning. It's
essential to establish awareness of a weakness or training need
(conscious incompetence) prior to attempting to impart or
arrange training or skills necessary to move trainees from stage
2 to 3.
People only respond to training when they are aware of their
own need for it, and the personal benefit they will derive from
Conscious competence learning matrix
The progression is from quadrant 1 through 2 and 3 to 4. It is not
possible to jump stages. For some skills, especially advanced
ones, people can regress to previous stages, particularly from 4
to 3, or from 3 to 2, if they fail to practise and exercise their new
skills. A person regressing from 4, back through 3, to 2, will need
to develop again through 3 to achieve stage 4 - unconscious
For certain skills in certain roles stage 3 conscious competence is
Progression from stage to stage is often accompanied by a feeling
of awakening - 'the penny drops' - things 'click' into place for the
learner - the person feels like they've made a big step forward,
which of course they have.
There are other representations of the conscious competence
model. Ladders and staircase diagrams are popular, which
probably stem from the Gordon Training organisation's
Certain brain (personality) types favour certain skills (see for
example the Benziger theory). We each possess natural strengths
and preferences. We each therefore find progression to stage 3,
and particularly to stage 4, easier in some skills rather than in
others. Some people will resist progression even to stage 2,
because they refuse to acknowledge or accept the relevance and
benefit of a particular skill or ability. In these cases it's obviously
not too clever to attempt to progress the person to stage 3.
Instead find the person a more suitable role, or allow an adapted
approach to the current role if appropriate and viable.
People develop competence only after they recognise the
relevance of their own incompetence in the skill concerned.
conscious 3 - conscious
the person achieves
competence' in a
2 - conscious
the person becomes
aware of the
skill when they can
perform it reliably at
the person will need
to concentrate and
think in order to
perform the skill
the person can
perform the skill
the person will not
reliably perform the
skill unless thinking
about it - the skill is
not yet 'second
the person should be
able to demonstrate
the skill to another,
but is unlikely to be
able to teach it well
to another person
the person should
ideally continue to
practise the new
skill, and if
competent' at the
relevance of the skill
the person is
therefore also aware
of their deficiency in
this area, ideally by
attempting or trying
to use the skill
the person realises
that by improving
their skill or ability
in this area their
ideally the person
has a measure of the
extent of their
deficiency in the
relevant skill, and a
measure of what
level of skill is
required for their
the person ideally
commitment to learn
and practice the new
skill, and to move to
practise is the
way to move from
stage 3 to 4
unconscious 4 - unconscious
the skill becomes so
practised that it
unconscious parts of
the brain - it
are driving, sports
tasks, listening and
it becomes possible
for certain skills to
be performed while
else, for example,
reading a book
the person might
now be able to teach
others in the skill
1 - unconscious
the person is not
aware of the
relevance of the skill
the person is not
aware that they have
deficiency in the area
the person might
deny the relevance
or usefulness of the
the person must
become conscious of
of the new skill or
learning can begin
the aim of the trainee
or learner and the
trainer or teacher is
after some time of
how they do it - the
skill has become
this arguably gives
rise to the need for
competence to be
to move the person
into the 'conscious
the skill or ability
and the benefit that
it will bring to the
Suggested fifth stage of conscious competence model
As with many simple and effective models, attempts have been
made to add to the conscious competence model, notably a fifth
stage, normally represented as:
'Conscious competence of unconscious competence', which
describes a person's ability to recognise and develop
unconscious incompetence in others.
Personally I think this is a development in a different direction:
ability to recognise and develop skill deficiencies in others
involves a separate skill set altogether, far outside of an
extension of the unconscious competence stage of any particular
skill. As already mentioned, there are plenty of people who
become so instinctual at a particular skill that they forget the
theory - because they no longer need it - and as such make worse
teachers than someone who has good ability at the conscious
Alternatively a fifth stage of sorts has been represented as
One will only know a maximum of 80% of anything ... and the
remaining 20% is never the same. (Ack W McLaughlin) I
understand (from another mediation colleague in Ireland) that
one Bateman may be the source of the model.
And another suggestion, from David Baume, which I like very
David wrote, May 2004: As a fifth level, I like what I call
'reflective competence'. As a teacher, I thought "If unconscious
competence is the top level, then how on earth can I teach things
I'm unconsciously competent at?" I didn't want to regress to
conscious competence - and I'm not sure if I could even I wanted
to! So, reflective competence - a step beyond unconscious
competence. Conscious of my own unconscious competence, yes,
as you suggest. But additionally looking at my unconscious
competence from the outside, digging to find and understand the
theories and models and beliefs that clearly, based on looking at
what I do, now inform what I do and how I do it. These won't be
the exact same theories and models and beliefs that I learned
consciously and then became unconscious of. They'll include new
ones, the ones that comprise my particular expertise. And when
I've surfaced them, I can talk about them and test them. Nonaka
is good on this (Nonaka, I. (1994). "A Dynamic Theory of
Organizational Knowledge Creation." Organization Science 5: 14-
37. (David Baume, May 2004).
And from Linda Gilbert along similar lines, May 2004:
Responding to your inquiry about "fifth stage of learning model"
on your conscious competence learning model webpage... I've
heard of one that belongs - I think it was called "re-conscious
competence." It indicates a stage where you can operate with
fluency yourself on an instinctive level, but are ALSO able to
articulate what you are doing for yourself and others. That stage
takes attention to process at a meta-cognitive level. Many people
never reach it - we all know experts who can't tell you how
they're doing what they're doing. (Linda Gilbert, Ph.D., May
2004) If you can shed further light on origins of this thinking
please get in touch.
And from John Addy, Aug 2004: "I suggest the 5th stage can be
'complacency.' That is, when the person continues to practise the
skill which has become automatic and second nature, but, over
time, allows bad habits to form. For example, an exemplary
driver makes a silly mistake. Or, a trainer, believing himself or
herself to be an expert, fails to prepare adequately for a training
session and drops a clanger. These are the dangers of thinking
you can do something so easily, you become complacent.
Complacency can also cause problems if the person doesn't keep
up-to-date with the skill. As techniques and approaches move
forward, the person remains behind using set methods which
have perhaps become stale, out-dated or less relevant to today.
In each case above the person must reassess personal
competence (perhaps against a new standard) and step back to
the conscious competence stage until mastery is attained once
again. Complacency provides a useful warning to those who
think they have reached the limit of mastery. It can also
encourage people to search for continuous improvement." (John
Addy, Aug 2004)
From Lorgene A Mata, PhD, December 2004: "First, I think calling
this model 'conscious competence learning model' is not
appropriate or accurate because it gives the impression that the
model considers conscious competence as the highest level of
learning when in fact, it is only the third level. Based on this
model, it is 'unconscious competence' that is the end-goal of
learning. But, calling the model unconscious competence
learning model may not sound fitting either. I therefore suggest
to call this model simply as 'competence leaning model' without
the qualifying term 'conscious'. Secondly, I find this model
applicable mainly if not exclusively to the acquisition of physical
skills or competencies and not to higher mental skills where
conscious, non-repetitive, complex and creative mental
operations are demanded. Thirdly, I believe the highest level of
competence learning is not level 4, 'unconscious competence',
but a higher 5th level which I call 'enlightened competence'. At
this level, the person has not only mastered the physical skill to a
highly efficient and accurate level which does not anymore
require of him conscious, deliberate and careful execution of the
skill but instead done instinctively and reflexively, requiring
minimum efforts with maximum quality output, and is able to
understand the very dynamics and scientific explanation of his
own physical skills. In other words, he comprehends fully and
accurately the what, when, how and why of his own skill and
possibly those of others on the same skill he has. In addition to
this, he is able to transcend and reflect on the physical skill itself
and be able to improve on how it is acquired and learned at even
greater efficiency with lower energy investment. Having fully
understood all necessary steps and components of the skill to be
learned and the manner how they are dynamically integrated to
produce the desired level of overall competence, he is thereby
able to teach the skill to others in a manner that is effective and
expedient. You wrote in your website that this 5th level may be
called 'conscious competence of unconscious competence'. But to
me, this term is too complex and unwieldy to most people. My
suggested label which is 'enlightened competence', I believe, is
more appropriate for this 5th level of competence that indeed
exists and is attainable in some cases." (Lorgene A Mata, PhD,
From Roger Kane, November 2005: "I have been aware of and
using this four level model's concepts for a great number of
years... But, I always felt that there was another level (level 5),
based upon the skills of level 4, that reflected an ability to be
reactively creative. That is, to do for the first time something
never before considered. The ability to intuitively react to a new
situation with an optimally accurate response. The "Wow, I
didn't know I could really go to that level!" experience. I have
occasionally happened upon this in both snow and water skiing,
tennis and driving race cars when there was no time to think
about how to solve a new puzzle, but my instinctive reaction did
so. I have also seen skiers I coach momentarily get there without
understanding why or knowing how to get back there. I suspect
this is what is often referred to as 'being in the flow' or 'in the
zone' and is more dependent on 'allowing' and holistic trust of
the 'body genius' rather than causing from linear thoughts or
inputs. While potential for this level 5 of performance can be
trained and prepared for, few can produce it on demand (i.e.,
Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods). The foundation definitely lies in
level 4 but the results are expressed as the ultimate performance
potential of an individual." (Roger Kane, Director of Education
and Training Sunburst Ski Area, Kewaskum, Wisconsin,
From Mike McGinn, December 2005: "Another suggested parallel
for a further stage beyond 'unconscious competence'... The
Capability Maturity Model* has echoes in numerous disciplines,
and I would suggest that 'optimizing unconscious competence'
or something similar could be appropriate. This to me would
encompass the unconscious operation of the process or delivery
of the task alongside the unconscious measurement and
improvement of the task delivery process. Perhaps that also
introduces another whole layer of variables, though- whether it
is helpful or not is moot!" [*The Capability Maturity Model was it
seems developed by the Software Engineering Institute at
Carnegie-Mellon University; it describes five stages of maturity:
'Initial, Repeatable, Defined, Managed, Optimized', and is a
protected system belonging to the US Mellon financial services
corporation.] (Mike McGinn December 2005)
From Andrew Dyckhoff, January 2007: "My suggestion for the
5th level would be 'Chosen Conscious Competence'. People often
use the driving analogy to explain the model. In the analogy
people normally relate the transition from a learner having to
think: mirror, signal, manoeuvre, engage, etc., to jumping in and
driving off without consciously thinking about the process. When
we go on an advanced driving course we learn that there are
certain things we should ALWAYS CONSCIOUSLY CHECK. These
include looking to see whether there is an idiot coming the other
way through a red light, and stopping so you can see the road
behind the tyres of the car in front of you, etc. The sales example
is that excellent sales people discipline themselves never to
assume and always to check.. To summarise, there are some
elements of what we do that are so critical to successful
performance that the highest level of learning is to choose to
remain consciously competent, as with the advanced driving
analogy: unconscious competence is fine when we are changing
gear, but not when passing through a green light..." (Ack Andrew
Dyckhoff, January 2007)
From Will Taylor, March 2007: "Re '5th stage' - see the ideas in
the diagram. This is more of a spiral model than a hierarchical
matrix. It would seem that mature practice involves a mature
recognition that one is inevitably ignorant of many things one
does not know (i.e., we revisit 'unconscious incompetence'
repeatedly or continually; i.e., 'consciousness of unconscious
incompetence'). Repeatedly, we are continuously rediscovering
"We revisit conscious incompetence, making discoveries in
the holes in our knowledge and skills, becoming
discouraged, which fuels incentive to proceed (when it does
not defeat). We perpetually learn, inviting ongoing tutelage,
mentoring and self-study (ongoing conscious competence).
We continually challenge our 'unconscious competence' in
the face of complacency, areas of ignorance, unconscious
errors, and the changing world and knowledge base: We
challenge our unconscious competence when we recognize
that a return to unconscious incompetence would be
inevitable. We do this in part by self-study and use of peer
review - such that mature practice encompasses the entire
'conscious competence' model, rather than supercedes it as
the hierarchical model might suggest."
(Courtesy of Will Taylor, Chair, Department of Homeopathic
Medicine, National College of Natural Medicine, Portland, Oregon,
USA, March 2007. Please reference the diagram accordingly if you
And these wonderful observations from from Richard Moore,
May 2007: "...I studied with Chris Argyris at Harvard and always
had a bit of discomfort at his notion of 'incompetence.' Most
people will not acknowledge that they are incompetent. They
will, however, acknowledge that they are unaware, possibly
ignorant of something, or simply unmotivated by it. Indeed, until
one has a purpose for a thing, it is simply irrelevant. That then
introduces the issue of power relationships, a debate I had with
Chris. If one person defines another as 'incompetent,' but the
other sees no need for the 'competence,' then the one is imposing
a worldview on the other, which if permitted to prevail is
essentially imperial - or at the least, dominating. This fits the
model which Paulo Freire critiqued in Pedagogy of the
Oppressed and his other works. In the spirit of a 'liberating
praxis' and related notions of empowerment through one's
ability to define one's world and one's self and relations within
it, I would propose 5 stages somewhat along the lines of Will
Taylor's: accidental, intentional, skillful, masterful, and
enlightened. The accidental stage is simply the stage in which
one recognizes no particular need for a skill or competency, but
may come across it accidentally nonetheless. Whether one
chooses or comes to value it is determined by an intentionality
or willful choice ('desire'). That intentionality then can lead to
skillfulness. Skillfulness can become mastery. Mastery has the
potential for enlightenment.
I would not call mastery 'unconscious.' It is simply 'wired in.'
That, literally, occurs when the neuro-cognitive system acquires
new brain cells (e.g., see
This does not mean that one is 'unconscious' but that one's
responses become automatic; about which, one can be highly
conscious. Consequently, 'enlightenment' is an appropriate label
for the stage beyond 'mastery.' This can also be called 'reflective,'
although one is often reflective beginning with intentionality.
The distinction is that 'enlightenment' represents a particular
attainment of higher awareness, whereas reflection per se is the
directing of attention toward an object. I would emphasize the
nature of enlightenment as a dissolution of boundaries to the
point where one is conscious of a higher level of reality in which
self and other become part of a unified field, albeit from the point
of awareness of an enlightened master, as it were. This is that
form of mentoring referred to as guruship (assuming the guru is,
in fact, qualified through this degree of enlightened competence).
What should be apparent is that there is learning distinct from
awareness. One 'learns' through means independent of
awareness, although awareness may accompany learning.
Awareness can also interfere with learning. The two are simply
not the same. One may in fact be a capable teacher with
awareness and lack the actual skill one is teaching. This may be
unusual, but is certainly not unheard of. It can arise with persons
who become disabled, but are still aware, or it may arise with
persons who are aware but never acquired the physical skill.
Certainly Einstein was never 'God' to have thought experiments
enabling him to imagine how 'God' might have designed the
universe. More illustratively, athletes can improve their
performance through visualization. Visualization, in fact, can
improve the efficacy of exercise in general, whether physical or
mental. This should be telling us that awareness and the physical
process of learning occur somewhat independently, albeit
Anyhow, I suggest that 'conscious competence' is really just
'learning' in 5 stages, from accidental to enlightened, passing
through intentional, skillful, and masterful. Many other labels can
be applied, as many other cultures have done. The learning must
be accompanied by a corresponding degree of awareness that
then differentiates automatic learning from sentient learning. We
can 'teach' a machine, but enlightenment requires some degree
of 'spiritual' transcendence or insight. Whether artificial
intelligence can attain this is of less concern than the simple
acknowledgement in functional or operational terms that
'enlightenment' is attained through intentionality that unifies
mastery with awareness - even if the mastery in physical terms
is exhibited by someone or something other than the enlightened
master (shades of 'the Force'). Effective leaders in organizations
accomplish this through the organizations. Gurus accomplish
this through their disciples. I would also remark, in closing, that
Buddhism distinguishes the Arhat from the Boddhisattva. Both
are considered 'enlightened,' except the Arhat is essentially
selfish about attaining nirvana, whereas the Boddhisattva sticks
around to bring everyone else along. One might ask if it is truly
'enlightened' to cash in on nirvana without mentoring others.
This is the essential distinction between Hinayana, or 'small boat
(or vessel),' and Mahayana, or 'big boat (or vessel),' in regard to
schools of Buddhism. I like the idea that an 'Enlightened Master'
is one who acts compassionately toward others by mentoring
And a follow-up note from Richard on five stages:
Evelyn Underhill, in her classic work Mysticism, identifies five
stages of development:
4. Dark Night of the Soul
5. Union with the Ultimate
(Courtesy of Richard H Moore, US Dept of Energy Professor,
Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science, Leadership and
Information Strategy Department, Industrial College of the
Armed Forces, National Defense University, Washington, DC, May
2007. Please reference Richard Moore if you use any of his
Here is another helpful and interesting perspective from
Mussarat Mashhadi, December 2007: "... I feel there is another
stage which is important; this I believe is the stage in which a
person having reached the fourth level is capable of enhancing
the same skill or may be if required has the ability to retrace his
learning in order to develop a new set of skills for the same
function (type writer vs. computer). So maybe the fifth level can
be enhancement and enrichment stage. For example people who
are computer savvy have to every other month learn, unlearn or
relearn (Toefler, 1991) one or the other skill. To be able to
achieve this there has to be in my opinion, an acceptance about
personal limitations and receptiveness to learn. Having a high
self efficacy (Bandura) might be a factor restricting a person to
the fourth stage only...." (Ack Mussarat Mashhadi, December
S Baker posed this questioning observation (March 2008), to
which I've added my response afterwards: "... I have made my
living in the equine industry for better than 38 years. I am now
involved in instruction and clinics about riding skills to a high
level. I have a saying that I came across and use frequently
because I run into a lot of people it fits. 'The greatest obstacle to
discovery is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge' by
Daniel J. Boorstin. Hence people that think they know something
or everything and can't/won't learn something new. I don't
doubt I've been there myself. Hopefully I'm into learning and
growth pretty consistently. Where does that fit in with the four
stages of competence?..." My (AC's) reply was: "I would say it's
either a (usually, but not always) negative aspect of unconscious
competence, or a fifth stage (albeit not inevitably following the
prior learning), or perhaps more appropriately stage one
(unconscious incompetence) of a new learning cycle -
unconscious due to ignorance or denial - since the ignorance
concerns a new form of competence or capability."
The above exchange prompted this from C Thompson (April
2008): "...I think the stages are fixed places where people are at a
point in time on a specific topic. People can move through the
stages but there need to be certain elements present for this
progression to take place... they would include the environment
for learning, the teacher’s skill and style, and most importantly
the student's interest in and reason for learning. There are
probably many other elements. So back to the quote, the person
that "knows" (the illusion of knowledge) does not need to learn.
When a person thinks they are full of knowledge there is no
room for more knowledge and learning stops or is slowed
considerably. Progression from one stage to the next stops or is
slowed considerably. I think this refers less to where someone is
and more toward where they are capable of going..."
This helpful and elegant interpretation of the 5th stage of the
Conscious Competence learning model was submitted by G
Sharples (June 2008): "... I was reading your contributors'
discussions regarding the 5th level of learning and thought I'd
join in with my own definition: The 5th level is achieved when
the individual is able to perform consistently at Level 4, and then
de-construct their experience for both themselves and others, so
each may learn to apply the skill consistently. I like the
suggestions that this stage is called Enlightened Competence..."
The following observations are from S March (Feb 2009), which
my (AC) reactions beneath: "... Re the 5th Step (and beyond): Is
there any any additional element to describe a Reflective
Competence practitioner who knows that, whilst the current job
practice is as good as is available, there must be a better way to
do something - i.e., the eventual output is product/service
innovation that revolutionises the way the world regards and
uses the product or service. This approach may well involve
disregarding the knowledge that has led to the practitioner's
current scale of competence, and possibly requires assumption
of a conscious incompetence state (though conscious
incompetence is not a flattering, or indeed, accurate label for
such an experienced and knowledgable practitoner) so that the
problem can be viewed without any pre-conceptions?..."
The above is an interesting question. The scenario raises the
possibility that learning a new method/skill (in response to
external innovation or demands for example) for an existing area
of conscious/reflective competence might suitably be regarded
as the start of a new Conscious Competence cycle. The last
4th/5th stage of the first cycle is for many people the early
stage(s) of a new cycle of learning in new methods. Conscious
Competence in an existing skill can easily equate to Unconscious
Incompetence in a new method now required to replace the
hitherto consciously competent capability. The Refective
Competence level (suggested fifth level - see Will Taylor's
diagram above) in the first cycle could equate to the Consciously
Incompetent level in the new cycle. Reflective learners possess
expert competence in the subject at a determined skill or
method, but not in different and new methods. So perhaps
representing the learning of new methods for existing expertise
(at say level 4 or 4) in terms of a repeating 4/5-part cycle is a
reasonable way to approach the 'response to external
innovation' scenario, or 'internal innovation' for the same
The observations which follow are from M Singh (23 Feb 2009):
"...I have read the discussion especially with reference to the 5th
stage, and have tried to integrate J M Fisher's theory of the Process
of Transition to add extra emotional perspective. When someone
becomes conscious of incompetence, emotions of 'anxiety',
'happiness', 'fear' and or 'denial' may be experienced. Feelings of
'threat' (to previous learning), 'guilt' (at departing from previous
learning) and possibly 'depression' (at having to relearn) can
arise until a firm commitment is made to the new learning. If the
commitment to the new learning is not strong, feelings of
'hostility' or 'disillusionment' can arise. The ability to
demonstrate the skill partially is the beginning of a 'gradual
acceptance', which through practice then naturally leads to
Conscious Competence. A lack of discipline in this area could
repeat emotional sequences of earlier transitions. Mastery at this
stage enables Unconscious Competence and builds confidence to
teach others the skill. This is arguably the fifth 'reflective' stage.
The Cognitive Domain of Blooms Taxonomy offers further useful
perspective, by which we can overlay the Bloom Cognitive
Domain learnings stages onto the Conscious Competence stages:
Bloom's 'Recall' and 'Understand' knowledge fall within
Conscious Incompetence. 'Application' is within Conscious
Competence. 'Analysis' is within Unconscious Competence. The
'create and build' aspects of 'Synthesis' equate to what some
suggest is a 5th stage of the Conscious Competence model.
Bloom's 'Evaluation' is a step beyond this - moving to objective
detachment from the subjective involvement present up to and
included in the Bloom 'Synthesis' stage, equating to the fifth
'reflective' stage of the Conscious Competence model. At the
higher end of the reflective stage, mastery can be directed
outwardly towards innovation for a wider (not self-directed)
purpose, in which the master is critical of even his own
achievements. Two driving factors here are concern for the
greater good and humility regarding success of self." (Edited and
abridged from a longer piece entitled 'Emotions in the Conscious
Competence learning Model' from, and with thanks to, Maanveer
Singh, CPBA, Kingfisher Training Academy, Mumbai, India, 23
I received this amusing contribution from Dr V Kumar (19 Apr
2009): "...Some 20 years ago, a colleague suggested to me that
the 5th stage in the Conscious Competence cycle should be
'Confident Incompetence'. He was referring to some of our
professors and senior teachers, somewhat past their prime..."
The joke is a warning of the dangers of lapsing into complacency
after attaining mastery in anything, and is therefore a very useful
And this, from Lee Freeman (May 2009): "...Regarding the
conscious competence model, I came up with this little thought...
'The unconscious incompetent doesn't know he's incompetent
and when he is competent, is unconscious of his competence.
And when his meta-conscious competence imparts vigilant
omniscience, truly he's a fool when he believes he's omnipotent!
Or maybe he's just unconscious of this…"
Here are interesting comments from Charles H Grover (March
2010): "...I have been reading the discussions about adding a 5th
step to this model, and suggest that the first four are simply out
of step. I refer you to the 'He who knows not...' proverb (below).
The old Confucious/Persian/Arabic saying has step three
(Conscious Competence) as the ultimate, while step four
(Unconscious Competence) is the person asleep, and he/she
needs to be woken up. I believe this really makes Will Taylor's
excellent diagram clearer; discovery, learning, practice,
mentorship. Who are we to hold their hands when they are
inviting us to climb on their shoulders? A fifth stage is easier to
define when we get the first four in order..."
Origins and of conscious competence model
It is not clear who originated the very first 'conscious
competence' learning model. As well as various modern authors,
sources as old as Confucius and Socrates are cited as possible
You will see here that Gordon Training International is popularly
considered to be the originator of the conscious competence
model. The Gordon Training 'Learning Stages' model certainly
matches the definitions within what we know as the conscious
competence model, although it refers to the stages as 'skilled and
unskilled', rather than 'competence and incompetence'.
Interestingly many people prefer the words skilled/unskilled
terms because they are less likely to offend people. Gordon
Training have confirmed to me that they did use the terminology
competent/incompetent prior to redefining the terminology, but
they did not develop the matrix presentation of the concept, and
it remains unclear where the 'competence' originally term came
from, and whether it pre-dated the Gordon model, or was a
subsequent interpretation. The California-based Gordon
Training organisation, founded by Dr Thomas Thomas Gordon,
states that their Learning Stages model (called 'The Four Stages
for Learning Any New Skill') was developed by former GTI
employee, Noel Burch over 30 years ago. To what extent GTI and
Noel Burch based their Learning Stages concept on earlier ideas
is not clear - perhaps none, perhaps a little. Whatever, Gordon
Training International certainly seem today to be the most
commonly referenced source in connection with the conscious
competence ('skilled/unskilled learning stages') theory.
Here are some other suggestions and comments about the
conscious competence model's origins.
Many people compare the Conscious Competence model with
Ingham and Luft's Johari Window, which is a similarly elegant
2x2 matrix. Johari deals with self-awareness; Conscious
Competence with learning stages. The models are different, and
Ingham and Luft most certainly were not responsible for the
Conscious Competence concept.
Some know the conscious competence matrix better as the
'conscious competence learning ladder', and I've received a
specific suggestion (ack Sue Turner) that the learning model was
originated in this 'ladder' form by someone called Kogg;
however, this is where that particular trail starts and ends;
unless you know better...
Some believe that W C Howell was responsible for Conscious
Competence in its modern form - apparently the model can be
found in W C Howell and E A Fleishman (eds.), Human
Performance and Productivity. Vol 2: Information Processing and
Decision Making. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum; 1982. (Thanks A Trost)
Other origin suggestions are as follows (the www.learning-
org.com message board contains much on the subject):
Linda Adams, president of Gordon Training International
suggested that the "Learning Stages (model) i.e., unconsciously
unskilled, consciously unskilled, consciously skilled,
unconsciously skilled ... was developed by one of our employees
and course developers (Noel Burch) in the 1970s and first
appeared in our Teacher Effectiveness Training Instructor Guide
in the early 70s..."
The model has been a part of all of GTI's training programs since
that time, but they never added a fifth stage, and did not devise
the matrix representation, the origins of which remain a
mystery. Separately Linda has kindly informed me (August
2006) that Noel Burch used the 'competence/incompetence'
terminology prior to redefining it as 'skilled/unskilled' so as to
fit better with their training. It is not known what Noel Burch's
prior notions, or influences in developing the model (if there
were any), might have been.
The following suggestions for the most part actually pre-date the
above details about Gordon Training but are nevertheless
interesting as regards other reference points and possible earlier
Kenn Martin suggested the originator is identified by Michael A.
Konopka, Professor of Leadership and Management Army
Management Staff College Fort Belvoir, Virginia, as being DL
Kirkpatrick, 1971, (presumably Donald Kirkpatrick, originator
of the Kirkpatrick Learning Evaluation Model) from 'A Practical
Guide for Supervisory Training and Development', Reading, MA:
Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
A suggestion attributed by Bob Williams to Paul Denley, who "...
writes about his learning in terms of a movement from
Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence,
Unconscious Competence and Conscious Competence........." goes
on to say that "...Paul's reference to this model is: P. Dubin
(1962) from Human Relations in Administration, Englewood
Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall."
Bob Williams also includes a suggestion by Susan Gair: "... I have
been interested for a long time to know the source of this adult
learning model (unconscious incompetence etc). I have a
document which discusses it, and then cites Howell 1977, p38-
Development and conflict resolution expert Bill McLaughlin
suggests Bateman is the Conscious Competence model
originator. Any additional information about this would be
gratefully received. (See Tony Thacker's comments below)
David Hurst, Ontario-based speaker, writer and consultant on
management, has looked for origins of the conscious competence
model, and suggests that the first mention he could find was in
an interview with W Lewis Robinson in the Personnel Journal v
53, No. 7 July 1974 pages 538-539, in which Robinson cited the
four categories (UC/IC, C/IC, C/C and UC/C) in the context of
training, and pointed out that UC/C practitioners often weren't
effective as teachers. Hurst says the next mention was in an
article by Harvey Dodgson "Management Learning in Markstrat:
The ICL Experience", Journal of Business Research 15, 481-489
(1987), which used Kolb's learning styles and then showed the
four conscious competence categories in a cycle but gave no
references for it. Hurst corresponded with Dodgson but never
got to the bottom of where the model came from. Hurst says also
that Maslow has been suggested as a possibile original source
but that he's not been able to find reference in Maslow's
And from Andrew Newton, UK consultant trainer (Jan 2005):
"When I came across the conscious competence model, it seemed
to fit my counselling skills development: Initially couldn’t do it
and was unaware that I couldn’t (unconscious incompetence). I
then trained with Relate and realized I wasn’t very good
(conscious incompetence). I worked hard and improved
(conscious competence) until I found increasingly that I did this
naturally in my work with colleagues and students (unconscious
competence). I continued to use these skills (I thought, quite
effectively) but realized years later, when I went on more
training, that I was in fact quite rusty and had regressed into
unconscious incompetence again (from 4 to 1). I would suggest
that, unless you are a reflective practitioner, you run the risk of
this dramatic shift (how many car drivers are not as good as they
think when they have been driving for 30 years?). This may be
similar to David Baume’s 'reflective competence'. " (Ack A
Carole Schubert suggests (Jan 2005) the following: The
unconsciously competent/consciously competent model I have
known for many years as a skills development framework. I feel
that a final category adds completeness, and use the analogy of
learning to drive a car to explain it:
non-driver = unconscious incompetence
beginner = conscious incompetence
just passed driving test = conscious competence
driver who gets to work without remembering the drive (or
drunk driver!!) = unconscious competence
The fifth level is the advanced driver who is processing what is
happening 'in the here and now' without their cognisance
interfering with their abilities; understanding why they are
doing what they are doing and making conscious subtle changes
in light of this understanding. Carole Schubert also points out a
reference by worldtrans.org to the fifth level, which the
unidentified writer calls: 'meta-conscious competence',
whereby a capability is mastered to the point that the
practitioner is consciously aware at all times of what
unconscious or sub-conscious abilities he/she is using, and is
able to analyse, adapt and augment their activity in other ways.
This inerpretation is consistent with many other people's ideas
that the fifth level represents a level of cognisance, which is
above and beyond the fourth level of 'subconscious automation'.
Furthermore, (Carole Schubert is another to suggest that) Dr
Thomas Gordon, founder of Gordon Training International,
originally developed the Conscious Competence Learning Stages
Model in the early 1970s, when it first appeared in Gordon's
'Teacher Effectiveness Training Instructor Guide'. Its
terminology was then unconsciously unskilled, consciously
unskilled, consciously skilled, unconsciously skilled, and there
was no fifth level. (Ack C Schubert)
And this train-the-trainer perspective, from James Matthews
(Feb 2005), who points out that bringing skills back into
(keeping skills at) conscious competence is necessary where a
person needs to maintain vigilance, or needs to do something
different, notably correct bad habits, or to keep skills fresh and
relevant. In these cases moving skills from unconscious
competence into conscious competence is a necessary step.
Indeed certain types of skills - especially those which concern
safety - should arguably be maintained within the consciously
competence stage, and never be encouraged to 'progress' to
unconscious competence. (Ack James Matthews)
This from Marcia Corenman (Feb 2005): "The Performance
Potential Model bears a resemblance to the Dimensional Model
that was developed in the late 1940’s by psychologists Coffey,
Rey Carr adds (Mar 2005): "Back in the early 1970s I taught
classes called Parent Effectiveness Training. I was trained as an
instructor by (and is another to suggest) Tom Gordon, probably
now called the Gordon Effectiveness Institute. Trainers often met
together to discuss various issues associated with experiences
and improving the curriculum. One of our group talked about
four learning stages as unconscious incompetent through
unconscious competent. However, I came up with a different
model at the time because we thought the language of that four
stage model might be too jargon like for the parents we worked
with in the classes. The model I developed, which we then
adapted for our training materials was also a four stage model,
but the stages were (are) unskilled, skilled, competent,
expert. In the unskilled stage the learner didn't know what to
do, why it might be necessary or valuable to use the skill and if
they did try it, would give up very quickly if encountering any
difficulty whatsoever. In the skilled stage the learner would be
able to perform the skill with some consistency, but often did so
in a robotic or formulaic fashion. In the competent stage the
learner was able to perform the skill with great consistency, but
was mostly a clone of the person who taught them how to do it.
The learner strongly resisted alternative ways to perform the
skill and was strongly connected to the original teacher. In the
expert stage the learner finally found his or her own voice or
style and was continually modifying the skill to fit circumstances,
new learning, and context. Thus while the group of us started out
using the unconscious competence model, eventually each of us
(like myself) went past the wording of the model and became
"expert" in learning stages (no longer needing to explain it the
same way we originally heard it..)" (Ack Rey Carr)
Jillian Duncan suggests (April 2005) the conscious competence
model relates to the work of Professor Albert Bandura, a
pioneer of socil cognitive theory, human efficacy and 'mastery'.
(Ack J Duncan) [Following on from this suggestion I asked
Professor Bandura for his comments about the origins of the
conscious competence model and he replied (15 Apr) "I am not
familiar with the model you describe," which effectively
eliminates Professor Bandura from the list of possible
And another reference to Tom Gordon (from Ingrid Crosser,
Australia, April 2005) "... Regarding your question about the
origins of the Conscious Competence Learning Model, it might
help you to know I came accross the same concept with slightly
different wording in the Parent Effectiveness and the Teacher
Effectiveness Training courses by Thomas Gordon in the late 70s.
It was referred to as the Unconsciously Unskilled to
Unconsciously Skilled stages of learning. I still use it today in my
group work with parents regarding parenting. (Ack Ingrid
Tom Gagnon wrote (April 2006) "I have experienced the
'conscious-competent' material here in Minnesota, USA. It is used
for sales training at the Larry Wilson Learning Center in
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. I do not know if Larry Wilson
developed the material or modified it to meet his training
programs." (Ack Tom Gagnon)
Robert Wright suggests (July 2006) that the model can be traced
back to Holmes and Rahe. (Holmes and Rahe are more usually
associated with the Holmes-Rahe crisis/stress life changes scale
- if anyone has knowledge about any work of theirs which relates
to the conscious competence stages then please let me know).
Tina Thuermer (August 2006) is another suggesting Gordon
Training origins: "I think what you are referring to is 'Gordon's
Skill Development Ladder', which is used by Performance
Learning Systems in training teachers in peer coaching. I have
also used it with grad students becoming teachers, and with my
11th and 12th grade students. It's a staircase with the first one
being 'Unconsciously Unskilled' (the fantasy stage - 'Oh, I can do
this, I've been taught, teaching doesn't look too hard'), the
second being 'Consciously Unskilled,' (survival stage: 'Oh my
God, what have I gotten myself into - this is so much harder than
I thought.'), the third being 'Consciously Skilled' (or the
competence stage: 'I know what to do, and I am concentrating
very hard and on a very conscious level to use the techniques I
know I need to be successful') and the final, one, Unconsciously
Skilled (mastery stage: 'I don't have to be consciously operating
all the time - some of the techniques and practices I have
acquired are now wired into me, some of my skills are automatic
- I can save my conscious energy for the ones I'm still working on
developing.'). He (or she) also posits the existence of the
'Unconsciously Talented' - those annoying people who are really
good at something from the beginning - they are wired for that
activity." (Ack Tina Thuermer, Washington International School,
Tony Thacker made the following contribution (October 2006)
in reference to the above comments about Bateman being a
possible origin. "In the item on the four stages of learning
(conscious competence model) you ask for references to
'Bateman'... Did your original informant perhaps mean Gregory
Bateson? In 'Steps to an Ecology of Mind' (page 293) Bateson
describes five stages of learning: 'learning three' seems to
correspond to the process of becoming conscious of what is
going on when we are operating in unconscious competence;
Bateson's five stages of learning are:
Zero learning is characterised by specificity of response,
which, right or wrong, is not subject to correction
Learning I is change in specificity of response by correction of
errors within a set of alternatives
Learning II is change in the process of Learning I, eg, a
corrective change in the set of alternatives from which choice
is made, or a change in how the sequence of experience is
Learning III is change in the process of Learning II, eg, a
corrective change in the sets of alternatives from which
choice is made (Bateson goes on here to say that 'to demand
this level of performance of some men and mammals is
Learning IV would be change in Learning III, but, says
Bateson, probably does not occur in any living organism on
Sam Webbon offered this additional perspective: "...As regards
the model's uncertain origins, the suggested link to Buddhism
seemed fitting... True enlightenment involves acting
compassionately towards and mentoring others... I like this ethic
and can imagine that the author of the Conscious Competence
model did too... The absence of ownership of the model is
consistent with the Buddhist philosophy of sharing, mentoring
and encouraging others, as would a bodhisattva..." (Thanks Sam
Webbon, May 2010)
He who knows not...
Aside from these discussions, there are indications that the
model existed in similar but different form. Various references
can be found to an ancient Oriental proverb, which inverts the
order of the highest two states:
He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool -
shun him, (= Unconscious Incompetent)
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not is ignorant -
teach him, (= Conscious Incompetent)
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep - wake
him, (= Unconscious Competent)
But he who knows, and knows that he knows, is a wise man -
follow him. (= Conscious Competent)
This is similar to the Conscious Competence model, but not the
same. It is expressing a different perspective.
Gordon Training International (as they are now called) clearly
originated their own version of this model in the early 1970s.
However we do not know where and when the 'conscious
competence' terminology originated, nor the origins of the 2x2
matrix presentation, and whether these aspects pre-dated of
followed GTI's work.
Prochaska and Di Clemente's stages of change model
Initially developed in the field of personal counselling and
clinical therapy during the 1980s and 90s, Prochaska and
DiClemente's personal change methodology is now adapted for
various personal therapeutic, healthcare and clinical
interventions, and is also transferable to facilitating personal
change in work and management areas, especially for
developmental situations, as distinct from mandatory or
disciplinary situations which usually necessarily require a more
prescriptive and firmer approach.
The 'Stages of Change' model was developed by Prochaska and
Di Clemente in association with their 'motivational interviewing
algorithm', which is a staged and (suggested) scripted approach
to therapeutic discussion or couselling - entailing key aspects of:
validation of experience and feelings
confirmation of decision-making control with the
acknowledgement of the reality of the challenge
clarification of options and implications, and
encouragement to progress in small steps,
within which an assessment of the other person's readiness
to attempt change is crucial.
For now, here's the basic structure of the Stages of Change
model. I intend to present a more detailed interpretation of these
ideas in the future, meanwhile this is a brief summary. The
Stages of Change model very sensibly breaks down the dynamics
and process of personal change into several steps that we can
see as conditional and inter-dependent. Thus we are reminded
that meaningful and sustainable personal change cannot be
imposed or forced arbitrarily. Successful personal change
depends on a careful response to individual situations and
perceptions - in which the role of the helper or coach (or
supervisor or manager or boss, whatever) is to assess,
illuminate, inform, encourage and enable. There are actually
some interesting overlaps with aspects of the conscious
The Prochaska and DiClemente stages of change are typically
This is a beautifully elegant model, in which the steps make
complete sense, and as importantly, the responses and initiatives
of the helper/coach are appropriate and pragmatic according to
the stage and the individual. One might argue that this states the
obvious for any coaching or change-enabling methodology, but
sometimes the simplest things are not actually so simple to do
without a reference of some sort.
Prochaska and DiClemente's stages of change theory forms the
basis of the Transtheoretical Model - a more complex theory to
be covered here separately in due course.
Solution-focused brief therapy (SFT, or brief therapy, or solution
A relatively modern methodology, growing in popularity. The
concept and therapy can be practised one-to-one, or self-taught
and self-applied. The emphasis is strongly on quick forward-
looking intervention, contrasting with much traditional therapy
which looks back and seeks to find problems and causes, which
for many can become traumatic, negative, and painstakingly
slow, not to mention expensive.
Instead SFT, or 'Brief Therapy', focuses on solutions and change,
in an individual and pragmatic way.
There are clear overlaps with ideas found in NLP and
STEPPPA (also STEPPA)
The STEPPPA method (alternatively STEPPA) is represented by
the acronym made from Subject, Target, Emotion, Perception,
Plan, Pace, Adapt/Act. STEPPPA is a coaching model (notably in
life-coaching in a business context) advocated by expert coach
Angus McLeod, which is now central to much UK formal
accredited life-coaching training. Based partly on NLP (Neuro-
Linguistic programming) principles, the STEPPPA process
1. Subject - validating the subject (the issue or matter) that is
the focus of the person being coached (coachee)
2. Target - validating or helping to establish the specific target
(or goal) of the coachee
3. Emotion - ensure emotional context is addressed and
resolved relating to the coachee, the issue, and the target,
which if appropriate should be re-evaluated
4. Perception - widen perception and choice in the mind of the
5. Plan - help the coachee establish a clear plan (process with
steps, not choices),
6. Pace - and pace (timescale and milestones); or perhaps a
timeline that incorporates both plan and pace
7. Adapt/Act - review plan, adapt if necessary, before
committing to action.
Egan's three-stage change model
Gerard Egan's three-stage change model is used especially in
Essentially for enabling self or another person to:
1. Explore personal history and reflect on opportunities.
2. Explore what personal success would be like, suggesting
choices, through considering results and implications.
3. Decide and proceed with implementation according to what
More coming. Contributions and expansion welcome. My thanks
to Phil Nathan for raising this.
Erik erikson's eight stages of human (psychosocial) development
Erik Erikson published his remarkable eight stage theory of
human development in the 1950s. It is also referred to as the
'epigenetic principle', in which our passage through eight
'psychosocial crises' influences our growth and personality,
ideally resulting in a tendency towards the positive possible
outcomes at each stage.
1. 0-1 yrs Infant Trust v Mistrust
2. 2-3 Toddler
3. 3-6 Preschool Initiative v Guilt
4. 6-12 School Industry v Inferiority
5. 12-18 Adolescent Identity v Role Confusion
6. 18-30 Young Adult
Intimacy (relationships) v
7. 30-50 Mid Adult
Generativity (giving) v
8. 50+ Late Adult
Integrity (acceptance) v
This is a brief summary of the model, not a full explanation. Ages
ranges vary for different people.
Erikson's human development theory is a powerful model for
parenting, teaching, and understanding self and other people,
young and old.
Parallels can be seen with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Elisabeth kübler-ross's stages of grief
In detail on the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross 'Grief Cycle' essentially the
model explains the stages of personal change related to
impending death and dealing with bereavement - and all sorts of
other personal traumatic change - as follows:
(Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969.)
Reynold's model of developing competence
The learner passes through stages, each prompting a release of
2. have a go
3. hit and miss
5. relative mastery
6. second nature
(Adapted by James Atherton, thank you James. See the wonderful
teaching and learning materials on James Atherton's websites.)
Various interpretations exist. The basic idea is that people will
only change when:
the combination of the desire for change, the vision of the
change, and the knowledge of the change process is greater
than the value of leaving things as they are.
This can alternatively be expressed as dissatisfaction + vision +
change process = the cost of change (Managing Complex
Change, Beckhard and Harris, 1987).
John fisher's process of personal change
A more complex model involving positive and negative change
1. anxiety (can I deal with this change that I'm facing) -
potentially leading negatively to denial
2. happiness (something's going to change)
3. fear (of imminent personal change)
4. threat (from reactions of others to the new 'me') - potentially
leading to disillusionment
5. guilt (for previous behaviour) - potentially leading negatively
to depression and thereafter hostility
6. gradual acceptance (I can see myself in the future)
7. moving forward (this can work and be good)
See the John Fisher Personal Change webpage.
Erik Erikson's Psychosocial Theory of Human Development
Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory and the VAK
(visual auditory kinesthetic) learning styles inventory
Bloom's Taxonomy or Learning Domains
Donald Kirkpatrick's Learning Evaluation Model
David Kolb's Learning Styles Model
Process of personal change
John Fisher's transition curve - the stages of personal
transition - and introduction to personal construct
Originally presented at the Tenth International Personal
Construct Congress, Berlin, 1999, and subsequently developed in
his work on constructivist theory in relation to service provision
organisations at Leicester University, England, John Fisher's
model of personal change - The Transition Curve - is an excellent
analysis of how individuals deal with personal change.
This model is an extremely useful reference for individuals
dealing with personal change and for managers and
organizations helping staff to deal with personal change.
John Fisher's personal transition curve
The awareness that events lie outside one's range of
understanding or control. I believe the problem here is that
individuals are unable to adequately picture the future. They do
not have enough information to allow them to anticipate
behaving in a different way within the new organization. They
are unsure how to adequately construe acting in the new work
and social situations.
The awareness that one's viewpoint is recognised and shared by
others. The impact of this is two-fold. At the basic level there is a
feeling of relief that something is going to change, and not
continue as before. Whether the past is perceived positively or
negatively, there is still a feeling of anticipation, and possibly
excitement, at the prospect of improvement. On another level,
there is the satisfaction of knowing that some of your thoughts
about the old system were correct (generally no matter how well
we like the status quo, there is something that is unsatisfactory
about it) and that something is going to be done about it. In this
phase we generally expect the best and anticipate a bright future,
placing our own construct system onto the change and seeing
ourselves succeeding. One of the dangers in this phase is that of
the inappropriate psychological contract. We may perceive more
to the change, or believe we will get more from the change than
is actually the case. The organization needs to manage this phase
and ensure unrealistic expectations are managed and redefined
in the organizations terms, without alienating the individual.
The awareness of an imminent incidental change in one's core
behavioural system. People will need to act in a different manner
and this will have an impact on both their self-perception and on
how others externally see them. However, in the main, they see
little change in their normal interactions and believe they will be
operating in much the same way, merely choosing a more
appropriate, but new, action.
The awareness of an imminent comprehensive change in one's
core behavioural structures. Here clients perceive a major
lifestyle change, one that will radically alter their future choices
and other people's perception of them. They are unsure as to
how they will be able to act/react in what is, potentially, a totally
new and alien environment - one where the "old rules" no longer
apply and there are no "new" ones established as yet.
Awareness of dislodgement of self from one's core self
perception. Once the individual begins exploring their self-
perception, how they acted/reacted in the past and looking at
alternative interpretations they begin to re-define their sense of
self. This, generally, involves identifying what are their core
beliefs and how closely they have been to meeting them.
Recognition of the inappropriateness of their previous actions
and the implications for them as people can cause guilt as they
realise the impact of their behaviour.
This phase is characterised by a general lack of motivation and
confusion. Individuals are uncertain as to what the future holds
and how they can fit into the future "world". Their
representations are inappropriate and the resultant
undermining of their core sense of self leaves them adrift with no
sense of identity and no clear vision of how to operate.
The awareness that your values, beliefs and goals are
incompatible with those of the organization. The pitfalls
associated with this phase are that the employee becomes
unmotivated, unfocused and increasingly dissatisfied and
gradually withdraws their labour, either mentally (by just "going
through the motions", doing the bare minimum, actively
undermining the change by criticising/complaining) or
physically by resigning.
Continued effort to validate social predictions that have already
proved to be a failure. The problem here is that individual's
continue to operate processes that have repeatedly failed to
achieve a successful outcome and are no longer part of the new
process or are surplus to the new way of working. The new
processes are ignored at best and actively undermined at worst.
This stage is defined by a lack of acceptance of any change and
denies that there will be any impact on the individual. People
keep acting as if the change has not happened, using old
practices and processes and ignoring evidence or information
contrary to their belief systems.
It can be seen from the transition curve that it is important for an
individual to understand the impact that the change will have on
their own personal construct systems; and for them to be able to
work through the implications for their self perception. Any
change, no matter how small, has the potential to impact on an
individual and may generate conflict between existing values and
beliefs and anticipated altered ones.
One danger for the individual, team and organization occurs
when an individual persists in operating a set of practices that
have been consistently shown to fail (or result in an undesirable
consequence) in the past and that do not help extend and
elaborate their world-view. Another danger area is that of denial
where people maintain operating as they always have denying
that there is any change at all. Both of these can have detrimental
impact on an organization trying to change the culture and focus
of its people.
John M Fisher 2000 updated 2003 (disillusionment stage added).
References: The Person In Society: Challenges To A
Constructivist Theory, Geissen, Psychosozial-Verlag, and George
Kelly's Personal Construct Psychology Theories.
In detailing John Fisher's Transition Curve here it is appropriate
to acknowledge the quite separate and independent work of
Ralph Lewis and Chris Parker, who described a change concept
also called 'Transition Curve' in their paper 'Beyond The Peter
Principle - Managing Successful Transitions', published in the
Journal of European Industrial Training, 1981. The Lewis-Parker
'Transition Curve' model approaches personal change from a
different perspective to the Fisher model, and is represented in a
seven stage graph, based on original work by Adams, Hayes and
Hopson in their 1976 book Transition, Understanding and
Managing Personal Change.
The Lewis-Parker 'Transition Curve' seven stages are
summarised as follows:
1. Immobilisation - Shock. Overwhelmed mismatch:
expectations v reality.
2. Denial of Change - Temporary retreat. False competence.
3. Incompetence - Awareness and frustration.
4. Acceptance of Reality - 'Letting go'.
5. Testing - New ways to deal with new reality.
6. Search for Meaning - Internalisation and seeking to
7. Integration - Incorporation of meanings within behaviours.
The Lewis-Parker 'Transition Curve' contains interesting
parallels at certain stages with the 'Conscious Competence'
learning model, which is another helpful perspective for
understanding change and personal development.
John Fisher's personal change model - questions and answers
Here are some helpful questions and answers which John Fisher
provided regarding his personal change 'Transition Curve' model
which is described above and featured on the diagrams linked
from this page:
1) How do we recognize what phases we are in?
Part of the problem is that we do not recognise which element of
the curve we may be in. The goal of the 'manager'/change agent
is to help make the transition as effective and painless as
possible. By providing education, information, support, etc. we
can help people transition through the curve and emerge on the
other side. One of the dangers is that once we are caught up in
the emotion of the change we may miss the signs of threat,
anxiety, etc. and 'react'/cope by complaining or attempting to
make things as they were (and also increase our stress levels as a
2) Does everyone go through all the 9 phases, or will there
be people who will say, begin their personal transition from
the depression stage instead of the anxiety stage?
I would argue that we transit through all stages (although the old
caveat of some of these stages may be extremely quickly
traversed and not consciously recognisable applies). In the main
the theory proposed a linear transition and each stage builds on
the last so we can see our perception escalating in
'severity'/importance as we go into the trough of depression via
a small impact on our sense of self (anxiety) through a greater
realisation of impact/meaning (fear, threat) and then an
understanding that (potentially) our core sense of self has been
impacted and our 'self belief system' undermined to an extent
(guilt, depression). Now if someone is going through multiple
transitions at the same time these could have a cumulative
impact and people could go through the initial stages almost
simultaneously - it then becomes a case of more
'evidence'/information supporting previous negative self image
and compounding the impression.
3) Is it possible that some people might skip some phases, as
in, after the anxiety phase, they go on to the fear phase,
instead of the happiness phase?
The happiness phase is one of the more interesting phases and
may be (almost) passed through without knowing. In this phase
it is the "Thank Goodness, something is happening at last!"
feeling coupled with the knowledge that we may be able to have
an impact, or take control, of our destiny and that if we are
lucky/involved/contribute things can only get better. If we can
start interventions at this stage we can minimise the impact of
the rest of the curve and virtually flatten the curve. By involving,
informing, getting 'buy in' at this time we can help people move
through the process.
4) Do the phases take place in the particular order that you
I have not undertaken any structured experimental research per
se, however anecdotal and 'participant observation' would imply
that this is a fairly robust model. It is also partially based on
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's bereavement concept (five stages of
grief model) which has widespread acceptance. However...
5) How does the transition take place? For instance, suppose
I know that I am in the anxiety phase. So when does it transit
into the next one, that is, the happiness phase?
As with question 1, it is more a case of helping people through
the process as effectively as possible. Also each person will
experience transition through the curve at slightly different
speeds (and we may be at different places on different curves -
depending on just what is happening to us at the time). As above,
much of the speed of transition will depend on the individual's
self perception, locus of control, and other past experiences, and
how these all combine to create their anticipation of future
events. Much of the transition is done subconsciously. It may not
be initially noticeable and only becomes clear if we look back and
reflect on our situation. If we do adopt an introspective approach
and recognise where we are in the process, our reaction will
depend on our personal style of interacting with our
environment and how 'proactive' we feel we can be at seeking
out support, or leaving the organisation, as appropriate.
Obviously should we feel disempowered this may well cause us
to descend further down the slide into a deeper depression;
reinforced by our perceived helplessness and all the implications
associated with that.
John Fisher 2006
Personal Construct Psychology - an introduction
Personal Construct Psychology (PCP), (or Personal Construct
Theory - PCT) is a concept pioneered by George Kelly. Personal
Construct Psychology theory proposes that we must
understand how the other person sees their world and what
meaning they attribute to things in order to effectively
communicate and connect with them. Personal Construct
Psychology theory is extremely relevant to developing personal
emotional maturity and self-awareness in self and others, and for
understanding behaviour in others, and as such the concepts of
Personal Construct Psychology augment and support many of
the behavioural models and methodologies explained on this
Personal Construct Psychology theory provides a very useful and
accessible additional perspective to the world and how we relate
This article was written by John Fisher and Dr David Savage. It
first appeared in Fisher and Savage (eds), 1999, Beyond
Experimentation Into Meaning, EPCA Publications, Farnborough.
Permission to reprint this article here is gratefully
Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) is a psychology that places
the individual at its central focal point. It is based on
understanding the individual from within their own world view -
that is by understanding how they see the world not how we
interpret their picture of the world. We all interact with the
world from a unique perspective - our own, this interaction is
built up of all our past and potential future experiences and
dictates how we approach situations.
Psychological theory, generally, purports that we observe other
people's behaviours and actions and place our own
interpretations on them, attributing meaning based on our own
past (childhood) experiences. Personal Construct Psychology is a
more liberating theory, allowing the individual to develop and
grow throughout their life constantly observing, assimilating,
developing actions/reactions, experimenting and testing beliefs.
Kelly (1955/1991) used the phrase 'man the scientist' (sic) to
explain how we interact with our world.
Due to the constantly changing nature of our nature we are not
'the victim of our biography' and have the choice (although
sometimes it may not appear as such) to adopt a new way of
How we interact with others is the result of our past experiences
and an assessment of the current situation which is then mapped
onto possible alternative courses of action, we then chose that
course of action which we
think will best suit our
needs. Kelly (1955/91)
proposed that we are all
scientists - by this he meant
that we are constantly
with our world,
about what will happen,
acting, and testing the
resulting outcome against
our prediction. It can
be seen from this that
our behaviours are
not static. We do not
become 'the adult'
during childhood, nor
are we forever
condemned to sail the seven
the Flying Dutchman making the same mistakes.
Personal Construct Psychology is a very free and empowering
psychology. We are not seen as victims of circumstance, we have
the power to change and grow. We are only limited in our vision
of ourselves and our future by our own internal 'blinkers' - these
limit the possible futures we can see for ourselves and hence
restrict our ability to develop. One of the fundamental tenets of
PCP is that of 'Constructive Alternativism'. In simple terms this
means that there are as many different interpretations of any
situation and possible future outcomes as we can think of - how
many different uses can you think of for a paper clip?
Our collection of experience's and actions form the basis of our
mental map (or logic bubble) of the world. In PCP terms the
working tools of our mental map are known as 'Constructs'. A
construct is simply a way of differentiating between objects.
Each construct can be equated to a line connecting two points.
These two points, or poles, each have a (different) label
identifying the opposite extremes of the construct. Based on our
perceptions of other people's behaviour we can then place them
somewhere on the scale between the two poles and hence build
our mental map of the world. We also place ourselves along
these same dimensions and use them as a guide to choosing not
only our behaviours but also our friends etc. As a result of our
experimenting we are constantly assessing our constructs for
their level of 'fit' in our world. This results in either a validation
of the construct or an invalidation of (and hence potential change
to) our constructs. Problems occur when we consistently try to
use invalidated constructs in our interactions.
For example we might define people by the way they act in
company and decide that some people are 'extravert' and others
'introvert', other constructs may be physical, e.g. tall or small, fat
or thin. Objects can fall into more than one category so we can
have small, thin extroverted people. Within Klienian psychology
one example of a construct would be 'Good Breast/Bad Breast'.
One point here, the opposite of 'introvert' may not be extravert
for some people; it could be loud or aggressive. Hence just
because we associate one with another doesn't mean everybody
does. This is why we need some understanding of other people's
construct system to be able to effectively communicate with
To be able to interact with each other we need to have some
understanding of how the other person perceives their world.
What do they mean when they call someone 'extroverted'?, are
they the life and soul of the party? or are they loud and over
bearing? How we, and they, treat the extrovert depends on
whether it is viewed it as a positive or negative character trait.
Kelly defined his theory in a formal structured way by devising
what he called his 'fundamental postulate' - basically a posh term
for the statement which underpins the whole of Personal
Construct Psychology. A further eleven corollaries (or clarifying
statements) were also developed which extended the theory and
added more elaboration to how the theory impacts and is used.
These eleven have over time been expanded and added to as the
range of the theory has been developed (e.g. see Dallos 1991,
Procter 1981, Balnaves and Caputi 1993). In fairness it must be
said that these additions have not been universally acclaimed
and many people only recognise the original eleven.
You may have got the impression that Personal Construct
Psychology is very individual focused - which it is - and that it
has nothing to offer in terms of group development. The
principles of Personal Construct Psychology can be applied to
individuals, groups and culture with equal ease. Various books
and papers have been published exploring the nomothetic
aspects of Personal Construct Psychology (e.g. Balnaves and
Caputi 1993, Kalekin-Fishman and Walker 1996).
Te fundamental postulate and the eleven corollaries
The Fundamental Postulate states that "A person's processes are
psychologically 'channellised' by the ways in which they
anticipate events". My interpretation of this is that our
expectations dictate our choice of action.
The Construction corollary - "A person anticipates events by
construing their replication". Again I interpret this as meaning
that we approach the future by looking at similar past
experiences and basing our actions on those previous events.
The Experience corollary - "A person's construct system varies
as they successively construe the replication of events". I take
this to imply that our construct system is in a state of constant
change based on our experiences.
The Individuality corollary - "People differ from each other in
their construction of events". We all see things differently.
The Choice corollary - "People choose for themselves that
alternative in a dichotomised construct through which they
anticipate the greater possibility for the elaboration of their
system". Therefore, in my opinion, we choose that alternative
which gives us the best chance of extending (and confirming) our
The Sociality corollary - "To the extent that one person construes
the construction process of another, they may play a role in a
social process involving the other person". If we understand
where someone is coming from we can interact with them in a
productive meaningful manner.
The Commonality corollary - "To the extent that one person
employs a construction of experience which is similar to that
employed by another, their processes are psychologically similar
to of the other person". i.e. Great minds think alike.
The Organisational corollary - "Each person characteristically
evolves, for their convenience in anticipating events, a
construction system embracing ordinal relationships between
constructs". This I take to mean that we create a hierarchical
The Dichotomy corollary - "A person's construction system is
composed of a finite number of dichotomous constructs".
('Dichotomous' in this sense means divided and potentially
opposing and contradictory.)
The Range corollary - "A construct is convenient for the
anticipation of a finite range of events only". Some constructs are
applicable to certain things and not others e.g., a car may be 'fast,
sporty and sexy' but an apple may not be.
The Modulation corollary - "The variation in a person's
construction system is limited by the permeability of the
constructs within whose range of convenience the variants lie".
By this I understand that our construct system is only as flexible
as we allow it to be. If our constructs are 'open to suggestion'
then so will we.
The Fragmentation corollary - "A person may successively
employ a variety of construction systems which are inferentially
incompatible with each other". In other words we can hold
contradictory constructs at the same time.
Constructs in use
Constructs form the building blocks of our 'personality' and as
such come in various shapes and sizes. From the Organisation
corollary it follows that some constructs are more important
than others. The most important constructs are those which are
'core' to our sense of being. These are very resistant to change
and include things like moral code, religious beliefs etc. and
cause significant psychological impact if they are threatened in
any way. The other constructs are called 'peripheral' constructs
and a change to them does not have the same impact. It also
follows that some constructs will actually subsume other
constructs as we move up the hierarchy.
Categories of constructs come in three types. There are 'pre-
emptive' constructs, these are constructs which are applied in an
all or nothing way. If this is a ball then it is nothing else but a ball
- very black and white type of thinking. The second type is
'constellatory' constructs. These constructs are the stereotyping
constructs - if this is a ball then it must be round, made of leather
and used in football matches. Constructs in this category bring a
lot of ancillary baggage with them (be it right or wrong). The last
type of construct category is 'propositional'. This one carries no
implications or additional labels and is the most open form of
construct. It should be noted that constructs do not have to have
'words' attached to them. We can, and do, have constructs which
were either formed before we could speak or which has a non
verbal symbol identifying it. Something like the 'gut feeling' or 'it
feels right' would be a non verbal construct. Kelly originally
called these 'preverbal' constructs, but in line with others
(notably Tom Ravenette 1997) I prefer the term non verbal.
Constructs, themselves, can be either Loose or Tight. A loose
construct is one which may or may not lead to the same
behaviour every time. Obviously this can make life difficult for
others as they will be unable to predict the construer's actions
consistently. A tight construct on the other hand always leads to
the same behaviour. These people are those with regular habits
and firmly held views. Our creativity is helped by moving from
loose to tight constructs. We start off with loose constructs,
trying things out for size, seeing what works and what doesn't, as
we move towards the new we tighten up our construing,
narrowing down our experimentation and so we begin making
clearer associations and developing more clearly the 'new'. One
way of loosening our constructs is via play and imagination. By
using play as an experiment we can (safely) try out new things.
The CPC cycle directs our method of choosing. The CPC cycle
consists of Circumspection, Pre-emption and Control. This is
basically a form of 'Review, Plan, Do'. Initially we review the
alternatives open to us (circumspection), narrow down the
choice to one and devise a plan of action (pre-empt), finally you
exercise control and do something. The cycle continues as every
action leads to both a review of the success of that action as well
as opening new choices.
One of the criticisms levelled at Personal Construct Psychology
(unfairly in my view) is that it does not deal with emotions. This
myth has been effectively address by others (e.g. Fransella 1995,
McCoy 1977). Kelly uses different terms to deal with emotions.
He sees emotions as transitional stages. For example threat is
defined as 'the awareness of an imminent comprehensive change
in one's core structure', fear is an incidental change in one's core
constructs. One example of threat can be seen in the way which
people of different belief systems are treated by the dominant
religion - the persecution of the Cathars during the middle ages
because they threatened the societal structure. One feels guilt
when one has done something which is contrary to ones core
constructs. Someone who sees themselves as 'an honest upright
citizen' would feel guilt if caught in some dishonest act (even
unwittingly). Happiness and joy are seen as support to
peripheral and core constructs. Think about how happy you feel
when you do something right or are complimented on
Tools and techniques
Personal Construct Psychology has a wide variety of tools and
techniques at its disposal. Probably the most widely used is the
Repertory Grid. This is a method of eliciting constructs by asking
participants to compare three elements (objects, things, etc.,)
and state how two are similar and different from the third.
Answers are recorded in a matrix, which can then be analysed to
produce a construct map. This has been used for research into a
wide range of issues from business problems to
psychotherapeutic interventions (some examples of the latter
can be found in various chapters within this book). The Rep Grid
(as it is known) has a wide following and can be used without
any other PCP theory (and has been!). There are many variations
of Rep Grids including those looking at resistance to change as
well as implications grids and problem solving (for a more
comprehensive review of grids I would suggest Beail 1985,
Fransella and Bannister 1997, Stewart & Stewart 1981).
The Rep Grid can be compared to a 'hard measure', eliciting, as it
does, quantifiable data. There are, however a lot of softer, more
'touchy feely' construct elicitation techniques available. One of
the more popular is the 'Self Characterisation'. In this the client
has to write a character sketch of themselves in the third person
and from a sympathetic viewpoint. This can then be assessed for
recurring themes and constructs, these can be discussed with the
Once constructs have been elicited their hierarchy and
interlinking can be found by 'laddering' and 'pyramiding'. The
former takes one upwards towards the highest core constructs
whilst the latter provides a detailed map of a person's lower
level construct map in any particular area. By asking questions
like "which is more important a or b?" and then asking 'why?'
questions one can ladder quite quickly and easily.
Pyramiding, on the other hand, requires questions like "what
kind of person does y?", "How does that/they differ from x?", this
process allows the client to narrow down their definitions and
arrive at the lower level constructs. This exercise does require a
reasonable sized piece of paper to record all the answers and
provide a sensible construct map.
One powerful tool for understanding why people are not willing
to change is the ABC technique (Tschudi 1977). Here A is the
desired change with constructs B1 and B2 elicited. B1 being the
disadvantages about the present state and B2 the advantages
about moving to the new state. However it is possible (if not
probable) that the current situation has some advantages which
may outweigh the disadvantages. Therefore C1 are constructs
which show the negative side of moving whilst C2 are the
positive aspects of staying the same. But, by looking at the pay-
offs for not changing we can identify the barriers and put
measures in place to overcome them (if necessary).
Kelly also proposed a form of dramatherapy for use with clients.
In his version, which he called 'Fixed Role Therapy', in
conjunction with the client he drew up a new persona (including
a new name and history) and encouraged the client to act as if
they were this new person. This allowed the client to 'try out'
new ways of looking at the world in a safe environment (if it
didn't work they just became themselves again). Hypnotherapy
has also been used to loosen (and tighten) constructs.
personal construct theory - conclusion
I hope that this brief introduction to Personal Construct
Psychology has shown some of the breadth and depth of PCP. Far
from being a static, restrictive psychology that only perceives
people as having finished growing at the end of childhood or
merely reacting to external stimulation, it is an extremely
liberating and eclectic psychology. Ownership of one's future is
placed in the hands of the individual concerned.
Personal Construct Psychology theory references
Balnaves M. & Caputi P., 1993, Corporate Constructs; To what
Extent are Personal Constructs Personal?, International Journal
of Personal Construct Psychology, 6, 2 p119 - 138
Beail N. (ed), 1985, Repertory Grid technique and Personal
Constructs, Croom Helm
Dallos R. (1991), Family Belief Systems, Therapy and Change,
Open University Press, Milton Keynes
Fransella F. (1995), George Kelly, Sage, London
Fransella F. and Bannister D. (1977), A Manual for Repertory
Grid Technique, Academic Press, London
Kalekin-Fishman D. & Walker B. (eds) 1996, The Construction of
Group Realities: Culture, Society, and Personal Construct Theory,
Kelly G.A. (1955/1991), The Psychology of Personal Constructs,
McCoy M. M. (1977), A Reconstruction of Emotion, in Bannister D
(ed), Issues and Approaches in Personal Construct Theory,
Academic Press, London
Procter H. (1981), Family Construct Psychology, in Walrond-
Skinner S (ed), Family Therapy and Approaches, Routledge and
Kegan Paul, London
Ravenette T (1977),
Selected papers: Personal
Psychology and the
practice of an
Stewart V. & Stewart A.
Applications of Repertory
Grid Technique, McGraw
Tschudi F. (1977), Loaded
Questions, in Bannister
D (ed), New
Perspectives in Personal Construct Theory, Academic Press,
4.14 RELAPSE PREVENTION
Relapse is a common experience when people change habits.
Relapse Prevention is about revealing and resolving those
issues that has been sabotaging your progress or recovery
process. Relapse can encompass behavior or drug addiction.
After changin one habit or recovering from one addiction, people
are at risk to become cross addicted or dually addicted to sex,
gambling, work, caffeine, food, you name it. We call this
changing seats on the titanic.
Or they recovery become plagued with depression or anxiety.
The true goal of going to a change process or recovering from a
bad attitude, habit or addiction, is to be comfortable in your
own skin, living life peacefully. Relapse Prevention is about
assisting the coachee in revealing and resolving those issues
that drove them to the wrong choices. Relapse prevention will
give them the freedom from bondage to live peacefully in their
Relapse Prevention Coaching includes:
False Beliefs – Research evidence indicates that major
predictors of relapse risk are belief systems consistent with
negative models (‘I’m too weak to change’), and the absence
of coping skills.
What you do comes out of your beliefs about yourself, others
and God. In order to have a new life, not just a change of
destructive behavior, you must examine your current belief
Identity - Begin to identify and detach from unhealthy things
you've put your faith in and used to cope with life. You will
learn how these things have under-mind your attempts at
success. You will discover areas of false identity that are
based on false gods or idols, such as alcohol/drugs, food, sex,
money, beauty, work, anger, judgment, etc.
Life-Management Skills – You will begin to understand the
addictive brain and gain life-management skills for coping
with the emotions that contribute to relapse.
Dead Ends – You begin to learn and understand how your
subconscious thoughts, feelings and behaviors have
contributed to your relapse.
Deja-Vu – You will begin to see how double binds (damned if
you do and damned if you don't) have kept you from making
the right choices for recovery.
Accountability – You will create a personal support and
accountability team for your balanced recovery plan.
Exodus - Through prayer and forgiveness, you will resolve
past hurts and mistakes, empowering you to begin to walk
into a new life of full recovery. This process deals with
acceptance of a new life and release of the guilt and shame
associated with the old addictive/compulsive behaviors.
The following strategies are useful in preventing and managing
- enhance commitment to change (e.g. use motivational
- identify high-risk situations (e.g. What situations
- have been associated with relapse in the past? When is it
most difficult for coachee to keep to the agreements made?)
- teach coping skills (e.g. problem solving; social skills; self-
management skills; selfmonitoring, …)
- develop strategies that can be part of a relapse drill
- what should the coachee do in the event of a lapse occurring?
- where can they get support?
- what role can friends/family provide?
- How soon should the coachee make an appointment to come
back to you?
Tammy Hardin -
Brainstorming technique for problem-solving, team-building and
Brainstorming with a group of people is a powerful technique.
Brainstorming creates new ideas, solves problems, motivates
and develops teams. Brainstorming motivates because it
involves members of a team in bigger management issues, and it
gets a team working together. However, brainstorming is not
simply a random activity. Brainstorming needs to be structured
and it follows brainstorming rules. The brainstorming process is
described below, for which you will need a flip-chart or
alternative. This is crucial as Brainstorming needs to involve the
team, which means that everyone must be able to see what's
happening. Brainstorming places a significant burden on the
facilitator to manage the process, people's involvement and
sensitivities, and then to manage the follow up actions. Use
Brainstorming well and you will see excellent results in
improving the organization, performance, and developing the
N.B. There has been some discussion in recent years - much of it
plainly daft - that the term 'brainstorming' might be 'political
incorrect' by virtue of possible perceived reference to brain-
related health issues. It was suggested by some that the
alternative, but less than catchy 'thought-showers' should be
used instead, which presumably was not considered to be
offensive to raindrops (this is serious…). Happily recent research
among relevant groups has dispelled this non-pc notion, and we
can continue to use the brainstorming expression without fear of
ending up in the law courts…
The Brainstorming process
1. Define and agree the objective.
2. Brainstorm ideas and suggestions having agreed a time limit.
4. Assess/analyse effects or results.
5. Prioritise options/rank list as appropriate.
6. Agree action and timescale.
7. Control and monitor follow-up.
The Brainstorming Phases Explained
Define the problem to be studied for the participants, clarify the
rules of the game.
Gather data and information necessary to approach the problem
in an efficient manner.
Carry -out the exercise: redefine a problem different from the
one to be studied, experiment with it for a few minutes.
4. Production of ideas
Generate the maximum of ideas without prior judgement –
always ask “what else” - quantity of ideas is quality - no limits –
no criticise - modify other’s ideas to produce new ones.
Let the subconscious work.
Gather the ideas generated - analyse them - work with logical
Evaluate the ideas gathered and analysed - develop and combine
them before proceeding to put them in practice.
Source: European Commission, Innovation Management
Techniques in Operation, European Commission, DG XIII,
In other words ….
Plan and agree the brainstorming aim
Ensure everyone participating in the brainstorm session
understands and agrees the aim of the session (eg, to formulate a
new job description for a customer services clerk; to formulate a
series of new promotional activities for the next trading year; to
suggest ways of improving cooperation between the sales and
service departments; to identify costs saving opportunities that
will not reduce performance or morale, etc). Keep the
brainstorming objective simple. Allocate a time limit. This will
enable you to keep the random brainstorming activity under
control and on track.
Manage the actual brainstorming activity
Brainstorming enables people to suggest ideas at random. Your
job as facilitator is to encourage everyone to participate, to
dismiss nothing, and to prevent others from pouring scorn on
the wilder suggestions (some of the best ideas are initially the
daftest ones - added to which people won't participate if their
suggestions are criticised). During the random collection of ideas
the facilitator must record every suggestion on the flip-chart. Use
Blu-Tack or sticky tape to hang the sheets around the walls. At
the end of the time limit or when ideas have been exhausted, use
different coloured pens to categorise, group, connect and link the
random ideas. Condense and refine the ideas by making new
headings or lists. You can diplomatically combine or include the
weaker ideas within other themes to avoid dismissing or
rejecting contributions (remember brainstorming is about team
building and motivation too - you don't want it to have the
reverse effect on some people). With the group, assess, evaluate
and analyse the effects and validity of the ideas or the list.
Develop and prioritise the ideas into a more finished list or set of
actions or options.
Implement the actions agreed from the brainstorming
Agree what the next actions will be. Agree a timescale, who's
responsible. After the session circulate notes, monitor and give
feedback. It's crucial to develop a clear and positive outcome, so
that people feel their effort and contribution was worthwhile.
When people see that their efforts have resulted in action and
change, they will be motivated and keen to help again.
For creativity, planning, presentations, decision-making,
and organizing your ideas
Personal brainstorming - just by yourself - is very useful for the
start of any new project, especially if you can be prone to put
things off until tomorrow.
Planning a new venture, a presentation, or any new initiative, is
generally much easier if you begin simply by thinking of ideas -
in no particular order or structure - and jotting them down on a
sheet of paper or in a notebook. Basically this is personal
brainstorming, and it can follow the same process as described
above for groups, except that it's just you doing it.
Sometimes it's very difficult to begin planning something new -
because you don't know where and how to start. Brainstoming is
a great way to begin. The method also generates lots of
possibilities which you might otherwise miss by getting into
detailed structured planning too early.
A really useful tool for personal brainstorming - and note-taking
generally - is the wonderful Bic 4-colour ballpen.
The pen enables you quickly to switch colours between red, blue,
black and green, without having to walk around with a pocket-
full of biros.
Using different colours in your creative jottings and written
records helps you to make your notes and diagrams clearer, and
dramatically increases the ways in which you can develop and
refine your ideas and notes on paper. To prove the point, review
some previous notes in black or blue ink using a red pen - see
how you can organize/connect the content, still keeping it all
clear and legible.
This simple pen is therefore a brilliant tool for organizing your
thoughts on paper much more clearly and creatively than by
being limited to a single colour - especially if you think in visual
terms and find diagrams helpful.
For example, using different colours enables you to identify and
link common items within a random list, or to show patterns and
categories, or to over-write notes without making a confusing
mess, and generally to generate far more value from your
thoughts and ideas. Keeping connected notes and ideas on a
single sheet of paper greatly helps the brain to absorb and
develop them. Try it - you'll be surprised how much more useful
your notes become.
The principle is the same as using different colours of marker
pens on a flip-chart. Other manufacturers produce similar pens,
but the Bic is reliable, widely available, and very inexpensive.
The usefulness of different colours in written notes is further
illustrated in a wider organizational sense in the UK health
industry. Apparently, black is the standard colour; green is used
by pharmacy services, red is used after death and for allergies,
and blue tends to be avoided due to poorer reprographic
qualities (thanks M Belcher).
Additionally I am informed (thanks T Kalota, Oct 2008) of a
useful brainstorming/organizing technique using coloured pens
when reviewing a written specification, or potentially any set of
notes for a design or plan.
Underline or circle the words according to the following:
nouns/people/things black (entities)
This technique was apparently used for clarifying written
specifications or notes for a database design, and was termed
'extended relational architecture', advocated by a company of
the same name, at one time.
This method of colour-coding notes (using underlines or circles
or boxes) to help clarification/prioritization/organization/etc
can itself naturally be extended and adapted, for example:
nouns/people/things black (entities)
adjectives (describing a
adverbs (describing a
timings/costs/quantities yellow (measures)
The colours and categories are not a fixed industry standard. It's
an entirely flexible technique. You can use any colours you want,
and devise your own coding structures to suit the situation.
In relation to the group brainstorming process above, see also
the guidelines for running workshops. Workshops provide good
situations for group brainstorming, and brainstorming helps to
make workshops more productive, motivational and successful.
To create more structured brainstorming activities which
illustrate or address particular themes, methods, media, etc.,
there is a helpful set of reference points on the team building
games section. Unless you have special reasons for omitting
control factors, ensure you retain the the essence of the rules
above, especially defining the task, stating clear timings,
organising participants and materials, and managing the review
Kaleidoscope brainstorming process
advanced brainstorming technique for problem-solving,
team-building and creative process
Brainstorming is a powerful technique for problem-solving,
learning and development, planning and team building.
Brainstorming creates new ideas, motivates and develops teams
because it involves team members in bigger management issues,
and it gets the brainstorming participants working together.
Brainstorming is not a random activity; it follows a process. See
the process for basic brainstorming. Below is an more innovative
advanced method of brainstorming - called 'Silent
Brainstorming' or 'Kaleidoscope Brainstorming' - developed by
Dr KRS Murthy of Nisvara Inc, and the contribution of this model
is gratefully acknowledged. Dr Murthy also refers to the
brainstorming technique as 'Multiple Mind Conferencing'.
Kaleidoscope Brainstorming, Dr Murthy suggests, not only
produces vastly more ideas than conventional brainstorming,
but also acts at a deep level to build teams and harmonious work
As with the basic brainstorming process, the facilitator has a big
responsibility to manage the activity, people's involvement and
sensitivities, and then to manage the follow up actions. Use
Brainstorming well and you will see excellent results in
improving the organization, performance, and developing the
team. It is useful to review the Johari Window concept and Johari
model diagram along with this article, and when using the
process. This is because much of the value of this concept lies in
developing awareness of self, others, and what others think of
Kaleidoscope brainstorming technique
Have you attended any brain storming sessions in your life? The
sessions are normally run by a facilitator, who introduces the
purpose of the session to the participants, explains the ground
rules and coordinates the process. A note taker or scribe may be
used to document all the ideas generated in the session.
Generally, the session is open to any ideas. Important guideline is
that no idea is too simple, stupid or wild.
Kaleidoscope advanced brainstorming techniques are applicable
to any subject or situation, and any type of forum where people
can work as a group, including internet-based conferencing and
This is a new approach to the brainstorming process, including
different variations as to its use.
Dr Murthy regards 'Kaleidoscope Brainstorming' (KBS) or
Multiple Mind Conferencing (MMC) as a "...Romantic interplay
between silence and interaction.... a heavenly marriage of thesis
The process makes efficient use of silence and communication,
which are interleaved in the brainstorming session. The various
degrees and modes of silence and communication effectively use
as 'tools' in the Kaleidoscope brainstorming approach. Notably
the power of silence is used to supplement the communications-
oriented parts of the session.
The technique may seem 'anti-thematic' at the first glance.
However, the intention is to make the brainstorming process
more 'holistic', by exploiting the different modes and degrees of
silence, absence of communication and a variety of
communication and interaction.
The kaleidoscope brainstorming process
1 - Initial ideas generation brainstorming session
The session should start with a facilitator detailing the process
steps used for the particular session. The session is conducted in
a normal fashion with the participants speaking out their ideas
in a round robin or random fashion for an agreed period. The
facilitator can use any normal brainstorming format for this
session. It is a good idea to use a format that is comfortable for
the facilitator and the participants. See the example of a standard
brainstorming session if you've not done so already.
2 - Silent brainstorming session
The silent brainstorming session stage requires all team
members or participants to stop talking, and to think of ideas,
but not speak out. The facilitator can ring a bell or use another
method to indicate the start and end of this part of the exercise.
Ideas are to written down by each brainstorming participant. In
addition, the participants must guess the ideas that others may
be thinking and writing down. Ideally participants should guess
the ideas of the other participants for each person, one after the
other. For example, if the participants are A, B, C, D, E, F and G,
then A would not only write his or her her ideas, but also
afterwards guess what B, C, D, E, F, and G may have as their
ideas. Participants should do this using deep thinking, and base
their guesses on the manner that other participants answered
during the first speaking part of the session. Participants should
be encouraged to think how each of the other participants' minds
are working - to empathise, to 'put themselves in the other
person's shoes' - as a method of guessing as intuitively and
accurately as possible. 'Think how the other person will be
thinking' is the sort of guidance that the facilitator can give.
At this stage what's happening is that each participant is coming
up with ideas from their own perspective of how each of the
other participants is thinking. All participants work on this stage
of the session at the same time. You can imagine the multiplicity
of ideas and perspectives that this stage produces.
Each participant should logically end up with a list of ideas
alongside, or below, the names of each participant, including
After a reasonable period, when it is clear that participants have
completed their lists, the facilitator can ring the bell again,
indicating the end of the silent brainstorming stage.
3 - Presentation of brainstorming ideas session
In this session, each of of the delegates reads out or shows their
own ideas and also their best guesses of the ideas for others. The
presentation made by A would look like the following:
1. Ideas generated by A
2. Guess of ideas of B
3. Guess of ideas of C
4. Guess of ideas of D
5. Guess of ideas of E
6. Guess of ideas of F
7. Guess of ideas of G
During A's presentation, others simply listen. In turn each
delegate gives a similar presentation. It is best if there is no
discussion during the presentations. The facilitator should
encourage delegates to make notes which people can raise later.
4 - Discussion of brainstorming ideas session
The presentations are followed by a detailed discussion session.
In this session, the participants may discuss why and how they
guessed about others. Each participant can also comment on the
guesses of the other participants, and validate or clarify. The
highlights and conclusions resulting from discussion should be
noted by the facilitator or an appointed 'scribe'. The individual
participants can be encouraged also make their own notes,
which might for example contain their mental models and
appropriate revisions of the creative thinking process of others.
In this sense the activity helps open hidden areas of awareness
(self and others), which in turn promotes better understanding,
relationships, communications, team-building and co-operation.
(See and refer to the Johari Window to help explain these
5 - Further silent and speaking sessions - the kaleidoscope effect
Further sessions can repeat and extend the silent session so that
participants increase the depth and complexity of their thinking
still more. Specifically participants should now think about and
guess how other delegates are thinking about the ideas of of
others. This again is done silently, together. Each delegate will be
thinking in deeper levels about each of the other participant's
thinking. These complexities of thinking result, for example:
A is thinking and noting down of any of his/her own new
A is also (as in stage 4) thinking afresh about and noting
down any thoughts as to what B, C, D, E, F and G are thinking
and, A is now additionally thinking of what B is thinking
of A, C, D, E, F and G, plus what C is thinking of A, B, D, E, F
and G, and so on.
Obviously the exercise at this stage has expanded massively.
From a simple individual brainstorming activity involving say
seven people and seven sets of personal ideas (seven
perspectives), the session has expanded to entail seven people
each considering six other people's thoughts about the ideas of
six other people's ideas (that's 242 perspectives!). Clearly it is
not reasonable to expect delegates to formulate 242 lists, so it is
useful to place certain limits on people's activities, which can
include for example:
allowing delegates to leave blanks against certain delegates
limiting the number of ideas required to be guessed for each
stating a maximum number of perspectives
allocating responsibility to each delegate to think about
certain named delegates
and in any event giving a time limit for each stage of the
As with any team building or team working activity, the
facilitator needs to be able to assess progress and to adapt,
adjust and give clarifying or steadying guidelines during the
activity to maintain the group's focus and effectiveness.
At the fifth stage, all participants will in their own way be
thinking in a highly complex fashion. The participants minds are
acting as mirrors creating multiple reflections of each other,
rather like the few small objects inside a kaleidoscope creating
wonderful arrays and patterns. Hence the 'Kaleidoscope
It is easy to imagine how using this process the number of ideas
generated are many times more than when using normal
Dr Murthy reports that typically after a number of Kaleidoscope
Brainstorming sessions a group experiences an 'asymptotic
approximation of their thinking process'. (Asymptotic refers to
the 'asymptotic' effect whereby two or more things increasingly
converge as if to become joined and together, but never actually
join or become one). He says this is enabled by successive
convergence and cross-fertilization among a group or team of
each members thinking process, thoughts and ideas. He adds
interestingly that groups ultimately do not need to be talking to
each other for their minds to be conferencing with each other. In
fact, they can be as far geographically apart as they need to be for
their routine life, but still efficiently conferencing and in tune
with each other.
Dr Murthy adds: "The most important aspect is the discipline
developed by the silent brainstorming paradigm. Regular teams
or 'virtual' teams can be brought together to practice this
technique. It is a good idea for the team members to branch out