It has been a shock to me to realise I need to learn assertive communication! Following my last article “On what price Integrity in the workplace?” several things have happened to cause a delicious internal shift. Don’t you love those…where clarity pops out of the blue? Even better, when a friend or random person or event shows up and gives you the exact jolt you need?
It is true that the existing model of business has a very obvious “boys club”, where membership is about ego posturing and status seeking with a secret membership code that includes high doses of testosterone (and may include women with high doses of testosterone as well), a lot of “talk” and bluster (also known as piss and wind), often a high dose of intellectual BS, and regularly some quite under-hand activities where membership will protect their own by becoming complicit in some “not so quite above board operations”. (All the way to some very extremely crafty and illicit activities…think Enron and Lehman Brothers)
However, I was aware that if the existing reality gets up my nose, then that is my stuff, not the current system. Or as Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
So I have been sitting in the question, “What new model can I create?” and “How can I bring more value and relevance to the senior team within corporate business in a way that invites only the recognition of that value?”
When I ran the Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains on the 13th March 2010, I had the experience of sitting behind a group of people on a very narrow downhill trail, feeling like I was trapped and unable to move. The feeling was my own wrong perception. When finally I had had enough of running more slowly than I would have liked, I politely asked if I could get passed. People where happy to oblige. They would have been happy to oblige at any time, if only I had asked. I was trapped in my mind. I needed to learn assertive communication. (Which is very funny, considering I often have to put a leash on my natural assertiveness.)
Then out of the blue a week ago, late one afternoon, I got a phone call from my friend. Lindley is ex Macquaire Bank (the deep south of Australia’s boys club) and is now the CEO of a Venture group throughout Australia and Asia. She knows about the ‘group mind’ that occurs when testosterone and ego’s mix in the heady halls of money and power. (And on one level, it is as if really smart, good men (and some women) fall under some collective spell when they get together in this way. The ego, the testosterone, the power, the games…it becomes intoxicating and addictive.)
Rather than focus on the existing reality, I wanted to focus on what in me was limiting me within this model. Who did I need to be for my view and world to be different?
Lindley said I simply needed to invite myself to the table. (Learn assertive communication!) To not wait for the invitation, and to certainly not feel resentful when I wasn’t invited. It was the Six Foot Track experience. I needed to simply say I was coming through. To be proactive, assertive without being aggressive, firm and aligned. And to know that the value and perspective I bring is essential. We all know that the balanced perspective of the yin and yang is what is desperately needed. Not just Yin, and not just Yang. Both. The Western world has been suffering from way too much yang. Too much burn and churn, not enough reflection, consideration, care.
As we were talking, I was aware that the limiting part of me was the part that didn’t feel worthy enough. In the model of society today, it is the ‘dragon slaying’ that gives us the right. How much money you have, or stuff you own; or, who you work for, or what empire you have created, or best seller you have written.
At the same time, I was also aware to honor the values I do bring.
1. Comprehensive Integrity, applied with rigor and love. Where people cannot get away with petty games, ego posturing, their small BS selves, and the more extremes of incongruence, outright lies, win lose, deception etc. On this point I do not need to learn assertive communication. I have it in spades.
2. Health and vitality of mind, body, spirit, relationships, and time. There are no hero games where he or she who ‘is’ their work, wins. We work hard, AND have a healthy exercise and diet, AND spend time with our loved ones, AND take regular contemplation breaks, celebrate life, be inspired by other artists. Pause, Breath. Again no requirement for learning or applying assertive communication in these domains.
3. Positive Deviant creative thinking and being. Ask a better question, challenge assumptions, seek always to find the way that walks with integrity.
4. Systemic thinking. The ability to start with Universe first, to see/feel/get the bigger picture. And to be able to bring this down into the field in a highly pragmatic way.
5. The ability to get on with it and ‘ship’ as Seth Godin says in his wonderful book, Linchpin. Roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. Take great thinking and build models.
That instead of feeling resentful about why I was not being invited to the table, to invite myself, knowing that what I have to bring is very needed, and usually missing. And if what I have is not wanted, truth is I probably need to find a different table to join, because it is highly unlikely that this table will move beyond the current model.
Moving forward…no more energy spent on resentment of what is. (Resentment is such a nasty, insidious, toxic emotion.)
Time now for a deep recognition of value and the willingness to own that by inviting participation, not because the other view or position is wrong, but because it may be incomplete without the perspective I, and other women bring.
What do you think? Is it time? Are you up for this? Do we need more yin to the yang?