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Microsoft Word - HandOut Final[1].docx

Microsoft Word - HandOut Final[1].docx

 

StarMaker Vlog #4 – Gen-y and working in China

 

StarMaker Vlog #3 – Dealing with Stress

 

StarMaker Vlog #2 – Communication with Confidence

 

BlogChangeImageYour Very Own “Action” Hero

By Sam Bobertz

One of the biggest obstacles I face in both my professional and personal life has always been straddling the line between theory and practice. So often we find ourselves baffled as we continue to exhibit behaviors that we know are holding us back. Being aware of a shortcoming does not make us immune to practicing it. An example, in my case, is procrastination, which I describe as a dichotomy of selves. It goes something like this….

I have something that I know I need to do, but I really I am too engrossed in what I am doing now to allow it to take priority. In fact I almost literally say to myself that ‘future Sam’ will take care of it and leave ‘him’ to worry about, my current reality naturally taking precedent over any hypothetical future that ‘future Sam’ will be dealing with. However, as we all know, the present self is fleeting and the future self is fast-a-comin. Next thing I know, my present self is looking back at my ‘past self’ with ironic disdain. I know full well that if I just suck it up and get whatever it is I am avoiding done I will get all the boxes ticked but as long as I continue to delude myself that a series of different temporal entities will manage my to do list, I will continue to step into my own trap of inaction.
In the end I generally do learn from my mistakes and have gotten better at commandeering myself and just getting on with it. What I have found particularly useful in shifting me into action has been the application of improvisational theater tools. Practitioners of this form of performance art are entirely action driven and living in the present because, improvised (unscripted) theater demands that they create and take action in real time. They prescribe a worldview that empowers the “present self” with all the tools necessary to make informed decisions right here, right now.

An example that I find particularly empowering is the improv axiom “Don’t do your best, just do!” in other words, instead of second-guessing myself, trust my gut. At this point in my career I can feel confidant that with most things that come up in my work, my initial reaction is well enough informed for me to act on it and not to let self doubt get in the way. Historically I would be transfixed on trying to make something perfect and the process itself became so laden with stress and self-doubt that I would end up putting the whole thing off. Learning to trust my instincts when making decisions, knowing that I can revise, often with a fresh perspective and make amendments, is extremely liberating. I am finding that there are very few decisions we make in life that are truly final so why let the fear of not getting things just right, stop you from pushing the button?

The next time you need to write up a report or proposal, try free flow association. List words, ideas, whole paragraphs that come to mind when you think about the topic ‘freely’ allowing one though lead to the next. Once you have all the elements laid out, you can stitch the pieces together into a more structured document. Worry about form and format at the end.

The benefits to “Don’t do your best, just do” are not just for the ‘doer’. Inaction keeps people waiting. If fine tuning and polishing needs to be done, tell them, but don’t leave people hanging. In the long run you come off as incompetent and unreliable, no matter the quality of the work. Next time you catch yourself putting something off that you know needs to be done find a mirror. Look at yourself and outwardly tell yourself (by name) to ‘just do it’. I have always found that breaking the internal chatter with a direct personal address can be enough of a shock to get myself in gear. There will be times that diligence trumps expedience – but in most situations the hero is the person who takes action.
“Never confuse movement with action.” – Ernest Hemingway

 

StarMaker Vlog #1 – Brevity and Making Your Point Clear

 

 

BlogChangeImageFinding Your Power In the Face of Change

By Teresa Norton

Change. It drives most of us crazy. We thought we had all our ducks in a row and then, “kapow”, and they are flying off in all directions and usually because of somebody else’s bright ideas: “I’ve decided not to go ahead with the project,” or “You’ve been a real asset to the organization but we’re restructuring and I’m afraid we are going to have to let you go,” or “IT is updating the system so you’ll need to learn a whole new process for inputting data.” And then there’s “The new CEO has some very different ideas about the direction we should be taking. He’s all about change!”

The truth is there is only one change over which you wield any control and that is how you choose to accept or battle against change.

The good news is that you have complete and absolutely control over three critical things: How you choose to view things, what you choose to say and what you choose to do. And that is more than enough to change your world dramatically

The bad news is that in order to harness this power you will have to take an honest look back at some uncomfortable situations and identify some patterns in your life, looking specifically at where and how you have been getting in your own way.

I have found that for most people the trouble caused is based on an unwillingness to accept the other person’s choices or the realities of the circumstances combined with a conviction that if something doesn’t get said or done right now, things were going to change… for the worse. That feeling of urgency is exacerbated by the threat of not looking good or not appearing right, not getting your fair share, not being able to do well and, at its core, not being in control of what is going to happen next.

Leaping directly from discomfort into action because you view change, as a threat without taking a moment to get honest with ourselves about why we feel threatened is the catalyst for all sorts of self-defeating actions. It drives you to send that email you really should have put in the draft file until tomorrow morning. It frames telling the boss (for the fifth time) why you really don’t think his idea is going to work. It stops you from staying in a job you really like because a new and unfamiliar process is being introduced.

So how to exert your power?

1. Accept the reality of the situation.
2. Get to know yourself a little more intimately. Ask yourself what this change threatens in you and how this might be corrupting your perspective
3. Take a breath. How urgent is it? What’s something you could occupy yourself with for a while to avoid reacting right this minute?
4. Look at your options. There are a myriad of ways to respond to every situation. Your ‘go to’ responses may just be bad habits. Try something new.

The most challenging and rewarding changes you will face in life, and the ones over which you alone have total control, are the changes you choose to make in yourself.

 

dog-acting-like-human-4-600x397Old Tricks, New Dogs – Transformational Leadership a BestFit for Gen-Y

By Sam Bobertz

I was doing some research into different types of leadership theory recently and I came across a fella named James Burns. He was a historian, political scientist, presidential biographer and an authority on leadership studies. He is also known for what is called ‘Transformational Leadership’ (TL), coining the term back in the 1970’s.  I went on to do some more reading around the subject and found “6 Ways to Empower Your Employees With Transformational Leadership”a Forbes online publication, and noticed how much of what was being prescribed by Burns back then, was very similar to many of the issues concerning organizations today in terms of managing millennials.

In my work with and reading on the subject of generational diversity, Millennials are described as requiring constant feedback, needing to see their role within the bigger picture. They expect a continuing education that doesn’t stop once they begin their careers and will likely leave an organization if they are left feeling stagnant. Millennials generally want enough structure to ensure that they feel supported and the flexibility to conduct their business when and how they want. The needs and expectations are almost identical to what Burns proposed leaders do in TL.

I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a reason for this. Is it that leadership theory is evolving at a faster rate than it can be implemented? Possibly much of what Burns was identifying at the time represented a shift in mindset and general worldview. A ‘new generation’ whose ideals, while logical, may not have caught on at the office back in the mid 70’s.

Could it be that these values manifested themselves into parenting styles rather than into business? It would certainly be easier to raise a child in a way that was inline with a set of principles than it would be to try and change an organization from the inside out. Are Gen-Y’s demands on companies just a byproduct of their upbringing and if so what does this mean for Gen-Z and beyond? Is the way we run our teams based on an assumption about an existing corporate culture or are we actively creating the kind work environment we want to see for the future? Organizations will evolve naturally, however it is the individual leaders that can be the catalyst for change. A businesses that is preemptive in assessing the future needs of their workforce has a better chance of finding the ‘best-fit’ for their ‘new dogs’ and will see more longevity, engagement and growth in their teams.

 

 

 

GenSunA Generation Apart – Adapting to the Next Gen Chinese Employee

By Sam Bobertz

The 八零后 - 九零后, the “After 80’s – after 90’s generation” in China, known as Millennials in the West, are following in their parents’ footsteps, however the mark they are leaving is more defined, more thoughtful and less predictable. As with their Millennial counterparts around the world, companies are struggling to attract and retain them.

From my perspective, one of the main differences between Chinese National Millennials (CNM) and say their counterparts in other parts of the world, including other countries in Asia, is a general optimism and curiosity about the future. Where statistically most other Gen-Y feel that “their country’s best days are behind them”. CNMs are looking to the future with anticipation. This is due, in part, to the rapid growth and modernization that has taken place in their lifetime. Although the economy has slowed, the big cities are rich with opportunities, especially in tech and startups. Innovation seems to be the name of the game and the trend suggest that CNMs are looking for a ‘modern’ workplace where creativity is nurtured and in many cases are opting for the alternative of just becoming an entrepreneur.

This modernization is not to be confused with Westernization. CNMs still hold fast to their own sense of culture and this plays out in what motivates their career choices. For instance, if in the West, Millennials are defined as self-centered, working to make money for their own gratification, the JingDaily reports that 75% of China’s Millennials feel a fillial duty to amass a certain amount of wealth in order to ensure that their parents can live ‘happily’.

To do this, CNM are looking to attain a certain level of mastery. There is a great deal of focus put onto developing a deeper understanding of the inner workings of their profession. This is in contrast to their parents’ generation, for whom this idea of self efficacy took a back seat to fast track prosperity; leading to haphazard growth with little long term vision. Here we see a clear shift: CNM’s have begun to travel the world and want to see the standards raised for themselves and their ‘families’ over the long term.

What they do share with Millennials the world over is the demand for a more holistic career experience with their personal identity reflected in the work that they do.

So what does this mean for organizations dealing with recruitment and retention? Know your audience. Training and personal development are ranked as highly amongst CNMs as salary and career path. They want to learn as much as they can in their work, even if it is not specific to their role within the organization. HR should develop ‘learning paths’ for new recruits that define what the individual will be able to absorb if they stay with the company and that path needs to be tailored to the individual’s interests. Be as curious about what makes them tick as they are about how they can contribute to your business. This will not only lead to higher levels of retention and ownership, but to a more competent and well-rounded workforce.

 

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“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boss?”

By Teresa Norton

I haven’t actually coached anybody who would qualify as an actual villain but I have coached people who are extremely stressed about pleasing a boss who comes across as “too demanding”, “hot tempered”, or “rude”.

Not all people who make it to the top demonstrate good leadership behavior. They have their ‘issues’, just like the rest of us.

So, what to do if you feel you are being held hostage by a Big Bad Boss?

1) Feeling that you’re a hostage is just that – a feeling, not a fact. Shift your mindset and you change your role.

2) Your job is not to ‘please’ anybody. Your job is to do your job while treating direct reports, peers and seniors with the same level of respect and goodwill that you expect from them. Be the boss you want to see in the world.

3) Your boss’ behavior is none of your business. He is responsible for his behavior – you are responsible for choosing how you want to respond. Try becoming an audience member rather than a fellow performer. If your boss is blowing her top, detach and observe her behavior while silently reflecting on how unfortunate it is for her that she can’t control herself and how grateful you are that you can.

 

COMPETENCES R&D INC. - Play Your Way to a Smarter Brain

Improvised Solutions – Brain Training in the Race with Technology

By Sam Bobertz

The speed of day-to-day business dealings and decision making is accelerating at an incredible rate. Where the technology is more than capable, it is the people who are having trouble keeping up. The need to be able to spontaneously make informed business decisions is imperative and is a source of anxiety for many professionals, primarily because it is difficult to ensure quality under such tight time constraints.
So how do you adapt? One increasingly sought out solution has its roots in the not-so-obvious field of improvised theater. There is a growing community of international practitioners, trainers and coaches who adapt the skills and tools used by actors to perform without a script and apply them to the corporate world. The astounding success rate and glowing testimonials from leaders around the world are a clear indication of the relevance and usefulness of this unlikely approach.
Three basic tenants of ‘improv theater’ are: Actively look for solutions, communicate clearly and make decisions ‘rapid fire’, in real time. As with any skill, the more you practice the better you get. Assuming you are already a competent professional and are knowledgeable in your job, then the skills you can gain from ‘improv’ will only heighten your abilities and help you draw logical conclusions in the most expedient way. In short, you can train your brain to make the best and most relevant connections. And as technology surges ahead, this may be the best way for the humans to keep up.

 

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Why “Average” is the new “Creative”

By Teresa Norton

The first time I was told to “be average” in an improv theater class, I wanted to bolt out the door. Honestly. I did. I had a ‘fear’ of being just ‘average’ – which gives you a little insight into the size of my ego! Keith Johnstone, the guy who literally ‘wrote the book’ on improvised theater, suggests that in our efforts to demonstrate how exceptional, clever, creative we are, we stifle the perfectly ‘average’ useful ideas that contribute to the co-creation of something exceptional. When he saw me hesitating to participate in a scene he put his hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Don’t do your best. Just do.” The message was that my fellow improvisors would look after whatever I contributed and make something out of it. The sweet liberation of not having to be best! I leapt onstage, contributing something perfectly ordinary and my fellow players used it to move the story forward. Creative problem solving has become the goal for businesses today but we find ourselves stumped in meetings, reluctant to point out obvious solutions to a problem because we are afraid what we say won’t be seen as creative enough. Imagine the liberation of hearing the boss say, “Team, I’d like to find an average solution to this problem. Any ideas?”

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 Travel Tips: The Ups and Downs of Taxis in Asia

 Frequent-Flier Teresa Norton Recalls Memorable Cab Drivers in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur

Teresa Norton: ‘The international terminal in Bangkok is really good. There’s a lot of wandering around you can do.’ PHOTO: TERESA NORTON

Teresa Norton: ‘The international terminal in Bangkok is really good. There’s a lot of wandering around you can do.’ PHOTO: TERESA NORTON

March 26, 2015 8:06 a.m. ET

Hong Kong-based Teresa Norton is the founder of Starmaker, a corporate-training company that offers workshops on leadership, teamwork and cross-cultural communication. The American—a former actress—spoke with the Journal about two memorable taxi rides, why she is incapable of traveling light, and the joys of working with her son.

How often do you travel?

A lot. Probably a week-and-a-half to two weeks a month.

Where do you go most?

I do a lot of trips up to China—my son is based in Beijing—and I do longer travel, either to Europe or Australia. I also still have family from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Favorite airline?

Cathay [Pacific] for international travel from Hong Kong and Virgin America domestically [in the U.S.].

Best airport?

In the early days, there weren’t very many choices. There’s a great airport in Amsterdam. Then Singapore was Asia’s only great airport, but now I think the international terminal in Bangkok is really good. There’s a lot of wandering around you can do. I’m a Hong Kong girl—I always end up shopping.

Favorite taxi drivers?

I love my hometown, Hong Kong, for taxi drivers. When I first went to Hong Kong, I had a desire to learn some Cantonese, but I have learned it all from my taxi drivers.

Hong Kong taxis PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK

Hong Kong taxis PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK

I have one lovely story. One time I was in a taxi with a guy who was whistling as he was driving: “From this valley, they say you are going…” [the lyrics to “Red River Valley”]. I started singing along with him. At my apartment, he turned off the meter because we weren’t finished yet, and we sat in the car and finished the song.

Favorite luggage?

Samsonite. It’s got to have the universal wheels. And when I was in Istanbul at the Grand Bazaar, I got myself a nice leather backpack purse. With two suitcases, I cannot have a bag dangling off my arm as well. And the wheels mean I’m not pulling something behind me. I’m a woman in her prime in full bloom, so to speak, so I’m trying to be mindful about being comfortable when I travel. If I’m going to be schlepping 8,000 options of costumes, I don’t want to be dragging them behind me.

How do you fight jet lag?

Generally, I just try to avoid any kind of caffeine after a certain point. I also discovered audio books are good for putting me to sleep.

Best food in Asia?

Kuala Lumpur. Food is a big thing for me. My deal [with clients] is that my meals will be taken in the hotel, so I’m always looking for hotels that have nice food. And in KL, you’d have a hard time finding anywhere where you would not get a fabulous meal.

Worst travel experience?

I was at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, I got this taxi driver, and it was one of those things where you get in the cab and you just think, “Huh.” He kept looking in the rearview mirror. And then there was this clap of thunder and it was one of those tropical downpours with rain drops the size of plums. Meanwhile, this guy was texting and driving very fast, and I said, “I really don’t want you texting. We’re going to get into a…” and ka-bam, we got into an accident. The whole front of the car was pushed up and the windshield wipers were not working.

I was freaking out. I suddenly became the ugly expat tourist, saying, “You need to let me out.” He finally pulled up to my hotel, and I got my huge suitcase, got to my room and realized that once the car was hit, my cellphone had flown off the seat and had disappeared in the cab. Then [in] the room, I couldn’t get an Internet connection. So I did the only thing I could do: call room service and order a bottle of champagne, and draw a hot bath.

Best travel experience?

My last trip to Shanghai was wonderful for a couple of different reasons. But the main thing that made it fun was that for the first time, I now have a partner. To have my son traveling with me was amazing. It’s something extraordinarily magical and fun to be working and to say, “Meet you in the lobby” and have dinner with my business-partner colleague, who happens to be my very cool 28-year-old son.

Any good travel advice?

Travel light, but it’s not what I do. Part of the reason is, for me, when I go in to do my training I bring lots of costume options. People don’t hire somebody from the theater to work with corporate people and show up looking like Betty Businesswoman. So I bring a lot of options and I travel heavy.

—Edited from an interview by Debra Bruno

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Taming the Tiger Boss

By Teresa Norton

Christine was a smart and driven Chinese senior executive, a self-declared perfectionist, she set the bar as high for those around her as she did for herself. It was, of course, a recipe for frustration, as this complaint about a subordinate clearly showed: “If I’m willing to put in the hours to get it perfect, why can’t she? I tell her what is wrong and when she gives it back to me it’s still not the way I want it so I end up doing it myself. Oh, and it’s not just her,” she sighed in exasperation, “it’s the whole team.” As it turned out, it wasn’t just the whole team, it was pretty much her whole world: “And my children are satisfied with being average as well! Every Saturday afternoon I have to sit all day with them to be sure they are doing their best.” She was a Tiger Boss and a Tiger Mom to boot. I had been asked to work with Christine because she was in line for a promotion to CFO. The China-based multinational she worked for had put her name forward to a number of their business units but she wasn’t getting any takers. “Christine has the skills, the experience, the desire, and the drive but she comes across as too demanding and negative”, was the word from HR. “She doesn’t suffer fools gladly and it comes across more as if she gladly makes them suffer. She’s just too critical.” I’m not a therapist — my coaching work draws on my experience in theater — but you don’t need a degree in psychology to know that the problems we have communicating with colleagues and staff are often reflected in challenges we face interacting with friends and family. We learn to navigate through life in ways that works for us. Christine’s compass was set to look for what is not working perfectly and this set her, and those around her, up for endless frustration and stress. Over a number of sessions we struggled unsuccessfully to find ways to help her manage this stress. It was only in our final session that I remembered a beautifully simple concept that a fellow improv pal shared with me. Stress, he explained, is the gap between our ideal situation and reality. In order to reduce stress, we need to be aware of our expectations, accept the realities of the situation and then take action to close the gap. Christine’s problem had been that she was putting all the emphasis on shifting reality to meet her expectations of perfection. So I shared with her my own a-ha moment about perfectionism. Years ago on a show with improv theatre guru and author Keith Johnstone I was having trouble entering a scene with more experienced improvisers. I wanted to be wonderful. As I dithered on the sidelines, he leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Don’t do your best.” With expectations lowered and stress reduced, I fairly leapt onstage. By lowering the bar he freed me to just get on with it. Christine, by the way, has been working as CFO for one of her company’s business units the past two years. HR did find a taker. Is she a perfect leader? I certainly hope not.

Untitled1A Leader Who Needed a Pause Button

By Teresa Norton

Simon Leung had just completed a role-play in my office when he told me “I need to learn how to pause.” We’d improvised a real conversation he needed to have with a talented staff member who recently had been turning up late from lunch during a very busy period for Simon’s department. The first time we ran the scene Simon talked non-stop. This was a lecture not a conversation and Jack, the actor brought in for the role-play, was visibly demoralized by the relentless reprimand. When I stopped the scene and asked Jack what his character was experiencing, he said: “I don’t get a chance to explain”. I suggested Simon shift from telling to asking. “Be present, curious and quiet — and just see what happens.” We ran the scene again and as soon as Jack began to respond, Simon leapt back into the conversation. I tried again: “Simon, imagine you have a television remote control in front of you and every time you are tempted to correct, reprimand, explain… hit the ‘pause’ button and just listen to what Jack is telling you. Try not to make any assumptions about his guilt or innocence. Stay curious and just listen.” I pulled the actor aside and quietly asked him to come up with a serious personal reason for being late. We ran the scene again and after Simon asked why Jack was taking such long lunch breaks of late, there was a long silence. Simon resisted the urge to fill the empty space, remaining attentive and quiet as Jack haltingly explained that his wife was in hospital and he’d been visiting her during his lunch period. As Jack’s story unfolded Simon stopped struggling and became truly engaged and supportive, ending the scene by simply stating he was available to talk with Jack anytime and that additional staff would be found to help cover during this difficult period. After the actor left, Simon reflected, “I make assumptions about other people’s motives. I need to break this habit of interrupting. I’m getting in my own way.” I told him about the different ways that actors prepare for a role, some working from the inside out using techniques like The Method and others (famously Sir Laurence Olivier) from the outside in by bringing costume bits or props with them into rehearsal as they experiment to find their way to an authentic performance. “Why don’t you experiment with a prop?” I suggested. “Get a remote control and place it on your desk where you can see it. You don’t have to use it but it might serve as a visual reminder.” Two weeks later, Simon came to my office with a success story to share — a meeting during which he had listened without interrupting and had an assumption debunked that saved time and resources. As I congratulated him Simon surprised me by pulling a small remote control out of his jacket pocket. “Feeling the weight of it in my pocket helps.” Simon wanted to bring new facets to his role as a leader and, working from the outside in, he brought about changes in his performance. Leaders spend their work lives centre stage and in the spotlight and it was terrific to see Simon putting what he discovered in rehearsal into action — he just needed a bit of propping up.

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A Simple Exercise to Help You Get Unstuck

By Teresa Norton

Winston Leung came into my office a tense and frustrated fellow. He knew he needed to do things differently but he didn’t want to change who he was. He was visibly relieved to hear that the goal of our work together was just that — to adjust the ‘do’ not the ‘who’. He had been recently moved into a position that had been held for almost 20 years by a much older man who, upon retiring, had left what Winston and others in the company perceived as enormous shoes to fill. This former boss had been a strong, charismatic father figure to the team that Winston inherited and was a no-nonsense negotiator with internal clients who perceived as Winston ‘too nice’. Winston was an interesting dichotomy — conflict averse and overly eager to ‘get along’ with those he perceived as his superiors while dictatorial and unable or unwilling to address the needs of his overworked team. He was seen as both a pushover and a detached and demanding taskmaster depending on which end of the corporate ladder he was being viewed. Our work together was to get him to own his status and stand his ground while developing a leadership style that demonstrated respect for his staff, enabling them to feel connected and cared for. At our first session I had him list words he would use to describe himself and then make a list of words he believed others would use to describe him. There were some big gaps in perception! His feeling was that they didn’t ‘get’ him. The next week he came in with a pretty significant insight. “I always thought that the problem was with other people and their expectations but I think the person that needs to change is me”. We used a story spine to help identify what changes he could make while living truthfully and how that change in might impact his work relationships. The Story Spine is a tool developed by Ken Adams as a way for improvisers (actors who work without a script) to build a classic story. The basic structure is: Once there was… And every day… Until one day… And because of that… And because of that… And because of that… Until finally… And so… Winston’s story spine went something like this: Once there was a leader who struggled in his new role because of his predecessor’s talent in dealing with staff and internal clients. And every day he became more frustrated at his inability to be more like his former boss. Until one day he decided to start developing his own leadership style, that was very different from the previous boss’ and because of that he was able to focus on changing his mindset about what natural gifts he brought to his role and because of that he was able to feel more comfortable to own and share his opinions with clients and listen with more caring to his team and because of that clients developed more respect for him and his staff felt more respected by him. Until finally he gained a reputation as someone who was determined, fair and caring. And so he learned that there are many different kinds of leaders and the secret is not to try and fit in someone else’s shoes but to walk into work each day being honest with yourself about the gifts you bring and mindful of where you need to improve. Over months of working with Winston I have been privileged to see his desire and resolve to retain the ‘who’ and adjust the ‘do’ paying off. The feedback is that he is better at holding his ground in meetings with clients and he has been taking more time both in and out of meetings to encourage his staff, getting to know more about what interests them and sharing more of himself. The story continues to unfold. Every issue solved makes way for a new challenge so while it may be three steps forward, one step back, they are taken in shoes that Winston has cobbled for himself.

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Forgiving Makes You More Important

By Teresa Norton

Honestly, you’d like to beat the other person over the head with your briefcase. Possibly, you walk out with a sliver of dignity, promising yourself you will never put up with that sort of abuse again. Actually, you force a smile, avoid eye contact and tell the client, through gritted teeth, that you look forward to getting their feedback. Ideally, you detach for a moment, taking in the measure of the man, smile graciously, extending your hand and saying you’ll be interested to see how things progress. You walk out feeling that you have demonstrated grace under pressure, maintaining your dignity and your status. I do a lot of work around status and how it impacts our interactions in the workplace and recently had the pleasure of reconnecting with a client, now based in China, for whom I had worked when she was heading up Leadership and Development at one of Hong Kong’s busiest hotels. She and her GM were concerned by high staff turnover and the low satisfaction results coming out of the hotel’s most recent employee survey. “Our staff, particularly those working on the front desk, is under extreme pressure,” they told me. “This is a busy hotel with very demanding guests and we would really like to provide our people with something that will help them cope with the stress and build their self confidence.” My sense was that a lot of the problems had to do with the employees’ perception of their status. There is a natural pecking order in any group of people and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with their position or title, it has to do with their attitude towards the other characters. Confusion around status is the source of many problems. In theatre, for example, we often find that when a scene isn’t playing truthfully in rehearsals, it is because the status relationships between the characters have not been defined for the actors. You have to begin with some kind of understanding of what status actually means. In my work, I define person’s status as his or her estimation of self worth rather than the estimation placed on that person by others. It is a personal and internal judgment and as such is completely-self controlled — nobody can ‘make’ you feel unimportant. They can certainly ‘act’ in ways that are either consciously or unconsciously designed to ‘raise’ their own status but only you can lower your own status. I applied this definition in a series of improv game sessions including Augusto Boal’s “Colombian Hypnosis” and the old standby, “Please the Queen.” After playing the games, we discussed how we could take what we learned from them and apply in practical situations in the workplace. The idea that took hold with this group was the notion that only high status players were able to ‘pardon’ another person’s rudeness. In role-play with actors who performed as rude, unreasonable guests, we found that once participants identified that the other person was behaving badly and then silently, internally chose to pardon the person for their rudeness, they were not only able to comfortably deal with the situation but found they came away feeling rather proud of themselves for way they had handled it. To give this idea a concrete form, the participants laminated and put on the front desk (where only the staff could see it) a little sign that simply read: I forgive you.