Planting Intentional Seeds

Planting Intentional Seeds

Looking ahead and embracing the seasons…

Autumn is the time to plant bulbs in the knowledge that in the Spring those actions will be rewarded with wonderful colour and new life. And we also ‘take stock’, we create the conditions for how our gardens can thrive next year and we take time to rest.

This October, join 4D’s Matt as he looks forward to Autumn and opportunities for new growth…

On the 30th September 1859, Abraham Lincoln recounted this story:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words:

 

 

 

 

“And this, too, shall pass away”

 

How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

It has been a very tough year for all of us. An extraordinary year in many ways. And whilst you MAY have used this time to be creative, learn five languages and become a sourdough-baking-genius, the chances are that you may have had quite enough of home-schooling, one-way systems and mask-wearing and have been looking forward to the steady return of normality.

So, if you are living in a country that is experiencing ongoing, or the recent re-imposition, of restrictions to our lives this can be a disheartening experience. It is easy to slip into melancholy, perhaps even despair, that hope, happiness, frivolity, joy – some of the emotions that really make life worth living – will ever come again. The challenges may not be so much the specific constraints on our life (my time of going out with ‘the lads’ until 2am are long gone) but that when we thought we could see the light at the end of the tunnel it now seems much further away.


And this is also literally true as we enter Autumn across the Northern hemisphere – the days are getting shorter, the temperatures cooler and (certainly in the UK!) the promise of grey and rainy days to come. Autumn is a time that can be disheartening for all sorts of reasons, the darker evenings and mornings encouraging us to hunker down for the months of dark and gloom ahead of us.

 

 

 

At the centre of the 4D2C model is the Intentional Dimension. That dimension that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom – the ability we have to act with an awareness of the likely impact of our actions on our future selves and those with whom we interact. This is our blessing as well as our curse – being the only species on the planet with a heightened consciousness about ourselves, our actions and our future.

 


As Dean Buonomano tells us on the first page of his book, Your Brain Is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time.

“The human brain is a time machine that allows us to mentally travel backward and forward, to plan for the future and agonizingly regret that past like no other animal”

And when the future is highly unpredictable it can be extremely disorientating. Our life normally consists of a degree of predictability, of exciting plans and hopes for the future so when we are robbed of this it can affect us profoundly. Buonomano goes on:

“And it’s the ability to see the long-term future that I think is distinctly human. It’s impossible to overestimate how important that is, how much of your life is future-oriented….And one of the most transformative inventions humans have ever engaged in was agriculture. The notion of planting a seed and coming back a year later is something we take for granted now, but it’s hard to think of anything more important than that ability.”

Farming provides rich metaphors for many aspects of our life, from the building of healthy habits to the ability of leaders to patiently enable autonomy and time to grow.

Indeed, many of us have found joy connecting with simple things during this period – whether that’s baking, cooking or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, time in the garden.

Autumn is the time to plant bulbs in the knowledge that in the Spring those actions will be rewarded with wonderful colour and new life. And we also ‘take stock’, we create the conditions for how our gardens can thrive next year and we take time to rest.

As a keen gardener myself I follow the methods of British expert Charles Dowding. Dowding’s philosophy rejects the use of fertilisers and chemicals to feed plants. Instead he focuses on feeding the soil to create the conditions in which plants can flourish. In the autumn we spread a layer of compost on the beds and allow the worms to do their thing, drawing it into the soil and breaking it down. According to Dowding by not digging over the soil we preserve its structure enabling it to nurture our plants better. And it’s a lot less hard work!

One of the other things we also know about Autumn is that Spring will come again… That, despite the cold, the darkness and the drizzle, there will be daffodils once more, sunshine, lush grass, and new growth.

And it’s not just about looking to the future and ‘getting through’ the next few months. Some of the cultures that face the harshest winters have adapted their mindset to embrace the opportunity that winter brings. Health Psychologist Kari Liebowitz spent the Winter in Tromso, Norway in 2014/5 and found that she could predict the ongoing wellbeing of residents during the winter based on the way they responded to statements such as…

  •  There are many things to enjoy about the winter
  •  I love the cosiness of the winter months
  •  Winter brings many wonderful seasonal changes

Our mindset makes an enormous difference to how we see the world and respond to the challenges that new seasons, political decisions and tough environmental challenges present us with. By being more conscious of our mindset we can also be more conscious of the behaviours and actions that will bring us solace. That doesn’t mean we have to learn Russian or write a novel, but that we take greater control of our attitude and focus on the small actions that can bring us growth and comfort.

What can we nurture now in ourselves, and those we love, to carry us through these next few months? This year more than ever might be ideal for fully embracing the Danish quality of ‘hygge’ as we spend even more time than normal at home.

One of the challenges of this period is the lack of control we feel over our own life and the future. If, as Buonomo argues, we are ‘prediction machines’, then the inability to predict the future, let alone a future of happiness and joy can be very damaging to us.

Francesca Gino and Michael Norton in their 2013 research, Why Rituals Work, explored how human beings respond to rituals. According to Gino and Norton:

“Humans feel uncertain and anxious in a host of situations….Creating personal rituals can help people take control of otherwise out-of-control seeming situations.”

Whilst you may not quite want to go as far as creating full blown rituals, concentrating on small things that you can predict and control can increase our sense of agency and leave us feeling less buffeted by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that are affecting us all.

When other people and the environment are impacting on us like never before, how might we employ our physical, intellectual and emotional choices to maintain control over our lives?

Whilst the future remains so unpredictable it can be hugely valuable to concentrate on the now. To bring the torch beam in from a hundred metres away to what is right in front of our feet so we can navigate one step at a time.

What Intentional activities and behaviours can you commit to through this time? Consider all three dimensions. For example:

 

  • Physically – your diet, exercise, rest and time outdoors to stock up on Vitamin D
  • Emotional – who are you spending time with, how are you finding joy? Can a discipline like conscious breathing, meditation or mindfulness help to keep you on an even keel?
  •  Intellectual – how are you spending your precious attention? How is your work/life balance? Notice how what you consume impacts your mood – especially in the news and social media.

As well as helping to bring you through challenging times these ‘seeds’ that you plant now may help you to flourish more in the Spring.

As we at 4D have said throughout this pandemic it is also worth remembering not to be too hard on yourself or expect too much. This is an unprecedented period, the most extraordinary of our lifetimes, and, taking care of yourself and your relationships really is enough.

Spring will arrive, joy will return, Covid will no longer be front page news.

We’ll all have been changed by this period, for better and for worse… but this too shall pass.

 

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Video Conferencing: You’ve got the tech. Now what…

Video Conferencing: You’ve got the tech. Now what…

The impact of the Coronavirus will be felt by all of us. Most importantly those people whose health will be affected. As an asthmatic, I watch the news with the same concern as many of you. Let us hope that the actions taken by governments and each one of us will save lives and get us back to normal soon.

There seems no doubt that the current situation will also accelerate the adoption of business tools for remote collaboration and communication. Indeed, we have seen our friends at Cisco offer free Webex licenses to help people stay connected during this challenging time.

This technology was already growing rapidly as a result of increased cost pressures, environmental concerns and the continuing improvement in what video conferencing and unified comms are capable of.

But are we making the most of the investment we have made?

For five years I worked with the irrepressible Mark Grady at Google, a superb team at Tech Data, and some terrific resellers to help build a B2B channel for Google’s video conferencing platform Hangouts Meet. We were also lucky enough to spend time collaborating on G Suite, which transformed the way our team worked internally, with partners and customers.

 

It’s clear that every major technology company has recognised this space as a huge opportunity – the large platform players like Cisco, Microsoft and Google have been jockeying for position for some time with Amazon’s Chime and Facebook’s Portal, Whatsapp Video Calling and Messenger gaining traction too. And that’s before we get to the other players like Zoom, Go To Meeting and the list goes on…

The immediate challenges business is facing – trying to keep employees productive, maintaining relationships with customers and partners, whilst also protecting the health of valued colleagues – is likely to see the requirement for remote working and Video Conferencing jump up the priority list for IT Directors and other Lines of Business leads.

My Linked In timeline is certainly busy with thought leaders and technology companies offering their perspectives on how businesses can meet the challenge.

What few people are talking about however is that, when it comes to successful virtual collaboration, it’s not enough to install and understand how to use the technology – we also need to get far better at understanding how to ‘be’ on a video conference call to make it successful.

What effect do we want to have? How do we want to make people feel? How can we maximise our personal impact to connect with people over video? How can we run a successful and productive virtual team meeting where people leave the call more motivated than when they joined it?

Like everyone else who has spent any time working in large corporations I have had my fair share of soul-destroying calls – the ones with no energy, no clarity of purpose and the ones where it feels most people are answering their emails…

At 4D we have been working with leading players in the technology sector for many years delivering a wide range of coaching and training courses centred on communication between human beings. We have seen the demand for how to maximise impact and improve the effectiveness in the virtual space grow enormously in the last few years.

We are continually asked:

  • How do we ensure that our attendees are engaged?
  • How do we keep the meeting focused?
  • How do we ensure that everyone understands the meeting’s purpose?
  • How do we use the visual and audio technology to best effect?

We have developed a series of online programmes focused on exactly these problems. These provide delegates with an opportunity to think about the energy they bring to virtual communication, the atmosphere they are trying to create and how to be more conscious of the way they guide meeting attendees through a call.

Whilst the courses are very experiential, we’d love to share some of our top tips with you here:

1. Cameras On! – so much of our impact is in our facial expressions and our gestures. If you remove this you are reducing your impact by a huge amount (perhaps more than 50%). If your company, or that call, doesn’t have ‘camera on culture’ you can be the person that makes an even stronger impact!

2. Framing – once your camera is on, be aware of the framing. How much of you is visible? What height is the camera set at? Would a separate webcam be helpful? How is the lighting? Is there a pile of washing behind you…?!

3. Navigation – are you helping to guide people through the call, being clear on what they can expect to get from it? Are you providing an agenda? Are you creating a positive, engaging atmosphere? What expectations of the attendees have you communicated to ensure that they will bring something to the call and not simply be passive observers?

4. Energy – at 4D we are energy obsessed! We talk about it all the time because it’s absolutely crucial in our interactions with other human beings. One of the biggest challenges on VC is the energy gradually dropping out of the call, with a lack of interaction and a feeling that people are becoming disengaged. In a virtual meeting, the energy of the host is crucial – we often need to use more energy than we think if we want to maintain high energy on a call – it can feel strange to push more energy in when the camera is only 50cm away from you, but it can be the difference between a call that keeps people engaged and one that leaves people drifting away. We use a couple of very simple tools to help hosts maintain their energy and the energy of the attendees.

 

 

Whatever platform you are using to equip your teams with the right technology to work remotely if you’d also like to ensure that your teams are trained in the best interpersonal tools and techniques to get the most from their fellow human beings, do get in touch with the team at 4D Human Being.

Whether through face to face workshops and training or via virtual coaching and webinars, we help leaders, teams and individuals consciously communicate with impact every day.

The Fresh Start Effect

The Fresh Start Effect

Why new beginnings bring new energy to life

 

 

In this article, 4D’s Matt Beresford is exploring the power of Fresh Starts. Why do beginnings have more energy, than ‘middles’ and ‘ends’? And how might we capture some of this fresh start energy, wherever we are in our careers or relationships? Fresh starts and fresh approaches can help us to see our lives in a whole new way. What might you discover, if you start something new, or step in, as if for the first time?

 

Join Matt as he begins again…

Spring has always had a special place in my heart. For many of us, the longer, warmer days that follow Winter bring a sense of anticipation for the seasons to come and a promise of sunshine, colour and harvest. I am also a keen gardener, so after the enforced rest of Winter, I always find myself keen to get back into the garden, planting and sowing for the year ahead.

Plants aside – my birthday is also on the 20th March, and often coincides with the first day of Spring. So there’s always a lot to celebrate! And this year there’s been an additional fresh start to celebrate as I finally took the leap from a career in the IT industry to a vocation working full time with the team at 4D Human Being. I am hugely excited about the harvest we will reap in the months and years ahead as we grow the business and continue to develop ourselves, our work and the impact we have on the lives of those we work with.

Of course, at forty-four, this is also a step I make with some trepidation!

 

The Second Mountain

 

Whilst I have been planning this career move for some time, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to make the ‘leap’ this year. As I may have only 21 further springs in my working life (!), I’d like each of them to be spent in pursuit of something that I deeply care about rather than a career which ‘pays the bills’.

David Brooks’ recent book ‘The Second Mountain’ concerns itself, amongst other things, with exactly this challenge:

Some people get to the top of that first mountain, taste success, and find it … unsatisfying. “Is this all there is?” they wonder…At this point, people realise, Oh, that first mountain wasn’t my mountain after all. There’s another, bigger mountain out there that is actually my mountain. The second mountain is not the opposite of the first mountain. To climb it doesn’t mean rejecting the first mountain. It’s the journey after it. It’s the more generous and satisfying phase of life.”

This is where I had been for some time – enjoying the people aspects of my role in the IT industry more than anything else. Through my time managing Google for Tech Data, I found myself increasingly interested in finding ways to connect it to the people who would be impacted by the technology that I was promoting – the schools and businesses I believed would become better connected, more collaborative and more creative by using Google Chrome.

 

For Brooks, that’s a crucial way to tell whether you are looking to start climbing your Second Mountain. “Where is your ultimate appeal? To self, or to something outside of self?”

Many of us, of course, also have substantial responsibilities that we cannot simply drop to follow a dream – we have mortgages to pay and families to provide for. I certainly still want nice things, nice wine, holidays, trips to the theatre…

So, the Second Mountain could be a major change, the banker who is now a teacher, for example, but it needn’t be – for many of us it may be a shift in emphasis:

“Still others stay in their same jobs but are transformed. It’s not about self anymore. If they work in a company, they no longer see themselves as managers but as mentors; their energies are devoted to helping others get better. They want their organisations to be thick places, where people find purpose, and not thin places, where people come just to draw a salary. “

 

 

Transformation through Work

 

One of the challenges of making ‘big step changes’, like a change in career, is that it will inevitably change you as well. My new role will require a new routine and will see me primarily working from home and interacting with different people. And that will transform me too – perhaps quite dramatically.

“Never underestimate the power of the environment you work in to gradually transform who you are. When you choose to work at a certain company, you are turning yourself into the sort of person who works in that company. That’s great if the culture of McKinsey or General Mills satisfies your very soul. But if it doesn’t, there will be some little piece of yourself that will go unfed and get hungrier and hungrier.

Martin Luther King, Jr., once advised that your work should have length—something you get better at over a lifetime. It should have breadth—it should touch many other people. And it should have height—it should put you in service to some ideal and satisfy the soul’s yearning for righteousness.

 

 

Your obvious is your talent

 

If you have been feeling this tug towards another path it’s worth asking, ‘What are your unique set of skills?’ For me, it was years of directing and performing in theatre, twenty years of business experience, a lot of energy, a love of learning and wide, eclectic interests. You will have a set of skills that might build into an offering that is perfectly unique to you.

Scott Adams in ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big’ says: “Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value. I have a long history of profiting from failure. My cartooning career, for example, is a direct result of failing to succeed in the corporate environment.” Adams likes to make the point that whilst he wasn’t great at any one particular thing – drawing, comedy, middle management – by combining the three he could create Dilbert, one of the best known and best-loved cartoons of the last twenty years.

 

 

What is your portfolio of ‘failure’ from which you have learnt something? What set of skills, experiences and relationships are unique to you and that can help you identify the talents you might bring to your Second Mountain?

At 4D we like to say: “Your obvious is your talent” – a favourite saying of improvisation teacher Keith Johnstone. What seems to you to be the most simple and basic skill may be one that many others have to work very hard to emulate. This might be something as seemingly ‘obvious’ as powerful listening, being organised, or being able to host a dinner for customers. What do others value you for that you barely give a moment’s thought to and that, by doubling down on, might unlock new opportunities for you?

 

A System of Living

 

When making a fresh start it is tempting to set oneself lofty goals for what one wishes to achieve – the weight we will lose, the language we’ll learn or the money we’ll earn. The 4D2C model provides a great tool for thinking about communication, whether 1-1 or 1 to many, with a much broader lens than the one we normally bring. It can also be a way of thinking about one’s life and how to ‘be’ and ‘grow’ in all four dimensions. It provides a system of living, rather than a goal with an end destination.

 

Instead of setting ourselves goals and being in a constant state of what Scott Adams calls “a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst’ we can use the 4D2C ‘system’ to provide a way of committing to a set of behaviours or attitudes that we believe will provide success in a given endeavour.

We cannot control what is out there in the world, however as Adams says:

Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The system-versus-goals model can be applied to most human endeavours. In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system”

The 4D2C model provides a useful way of checking on how I am choosing to grow and behave, within what environment and with what people. It encourages us to ask questions like: is this an environment and culture within which I can learn, grow and create the kind of impact I want to have on the world? And will it allow my 4-dimensional self to develop and find creative expression?

 

When to Start

 

If you’re thinking of making a fresh start in your life, in whatever field, Daniel Pink’s recent book, ‘When’ provides some great ideas for starts (as well as middles and ends!)

“The recipe is straightforward. In most endeavours, we should be awake to the power of beginnings and aim to make a strong start. If that fails, we can try to make a fresh start.” Pink also celebrates what he calls Temporal Landmarks for making those starts:

“The first day of the year is what social scientists call a “temporal landmark.” Just as human beings rely on landmarks to navigate space—“To get to my house, turn left at the Shell station”—we also use landmarks to navigate time.

First days of the year, month and week are commonly used for these Fresh Starts. Other landmarks are personal – say for example landmark birthdays and anniversaries. These dates “allowed people to open “new mental accounts” in the same way that a business closes the books at the end of one fiscal year and opens a fresh ledger for the new year.

Spring Beginnings

 

Whether it’s dedicating your working life to a different vocation, training for an Ironman or learning a new language, as George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be who you were meant to be”. 

So, do join me in embracing a Fresh Start this Spring. Whether big or small, it’s the ideal time to find a landmark and make a change that will move you closer to being who you were meant to be. If that also involves growing your first vegetables, I am happy to provide advice!