I am lying in the sauna, eyes closed at the gym. I’m trying to focus on what it is I’d like to communicate in this week’s Heart in Business blog. Words and concepts are swirling around yet I don’t seem to be getting to the kernel of the matter. I give up trying to work it out, trying to find it and I relax into the idea of the heart of the matter finding me. How do I define the greater purpose of Heart in Business?
My silence and and solitude are broken by two large men entering the sauna. They start chatting and I note my irritation by this disturbance. Don’t they know I have a deadline and that I’m waiting for inspiration?
The topic of conversation is rugby, which is hardly a surprise these days as I live near Twickenham and the World Cup is everywhere. My ears start to prick up when I hear the word ‘coaching’. John and Dave (let’s call the two men by these names) are discussing coaching. Dave says he’s very interested in the different coaching styles that exist. John says that the best type of coaching is done by keeping things really simple. ‘Ha! What a coincidence’ I think, this is the topic I’ve been trying to communicate. I decide to keep my eyes firmly closed and eavesdrop on John and Dave’s conversation. Perhaps this is my inspiration? John is a coach who coaches coaches in the military and trains one of the military rugby teams. Dave is a World Cup rugby player. I ask John how he would sum up coaching in a sentence, he responds immediately ‘coaching is about creating a safe environment so that the person being coached feels no fear or pressure but instead is able to be themselves and feels safe to explore unknown avenues to grow and develop’.
I begin to realise how the worlds of professional sport, the military, business and raising a child all face similar hurdles and dilemmas. In order for the individual and the group (team/organisation/family) to do well and grow, a safe, trusting environment needs to exist. An individual needs to feels safe to be themselves, explore who they really are in order to be able to grow and develop which ultimately leads to discovering how to function effectively within the group.
John shared with me that ‘the military have discovered that the old fashioned Chain of Command isn’t the most effective way of operating as a group. The military have found that they are more effective and produce better results when the individual feels able to be part of the decision making process and where their skills are respected. It is from this place that the individual can become an integral part of a team. The Commander-in-chief sets the intention but it’s the military on the ground that have the local knowledge to make the intention turn into effective action’. The same can be said for business. It’s the staff doing the day-to-day running of the business who know what’s happening and it’s for the CEO to set the intention, the direction. If the military personnel on the ground, the rugby player on the pitch, the customer facing staff member or the child within the family unit doesn’t feel heard, actively listened to and part of the decision making process then they will at some point decide override the orders from above and take matters into their own hands. And if the Commander-in-chief/the coach/the manager/the parent has only given commands without sharing the responsibility and decision making process, then they can feel threatened when they feel their commands are being ignored. In business this could lead to financial losses, in the the military this can lead to lives being lost.
John shared with me that as a coach within the military, he ‘creates safe enough situations for the individual soldiers to be able to make their mistakes and through their mistakes they learn to grow together as a unit. I told John that as a mother of a small child, I did the same. I try to give my daughter large enough, yet safe enough frameworks in which she can learn and grow both through her mistakes and self discoveries. When difficulties arise, my daughter and I discuss what happened and how we can both learn and improve in the future. John nodded, ‘yes that’s what I do when I coach soldiers’.
I remember hearing about a colleague in a company I worked for, who supposedly called in sick so he could spend a few days moving house closer to his son’s school. Gossip spread like wildfire and he was judged as unprofessional. When I asked John how the military would respond to such a situation, again his response was immediate, ‘moving house and his sons new school were upmost in his mind. Your former colleague needed to be given time to move house so that that he could then get back to his job. He wasn’t going to be able to do a good job if he was being distracted by a house move’. By having an organisational environment where staff feel able to be honest with their employers and where their needs are heard, this can lead to loyalty and improved productivity. If my former colleague had felt able to approach his line manger, and be given time to move house, he would have felt a sense of loyalty towards the organisation and invested more of himself. By creating intimacy (closeness, familiarity, safety and trust) with the individuals within a group (team/organisation/family), you become stronger and more successful together.
Just before the start of the Rugby World Cup, I was swimming in the pool with my daughter, when one by one the pool started filling up with large, muscular, tattooed men. It took me a good ten minutes to realise it was the entire All Blacks’ squad. What struck me about these men was how comfortable they were with each other. How there was a clear sense of intimacy, acceptance, ease and joviality amongst the group and yet simultaneously a sense of the individual. The book ‘Legacy’ is about ‘What the All Blacks can teach us about the business of life, 15 lessons in leadership’. The book is about how the sharing of one’s personal stories within a group leads to recognition of the individual, to greater intimacy and connection within the group and therefore to a more successful team. The All Blacks share their heart and soul, the set backs and the winning moments but most of all they share their greater purpose, as the whole, made up of individuals.
I left the gym with a sense of how connected and similar the worlds within our one world really was and with a sense of relief that inspiration and clarity can be found in the most unexpected of places!
Eudora Ralph Pascall
Eudora Ralph Pascall is a founding partner of Heart in Business Limited and the founder and director of Dare to Rethink, which encourages businesses and individuals to Rethink their patterns of behaviour and Reconnect to their life purpose.
Eudora Ralph Pascall
M: 07900 568 745