by Mark Mudford (Australia)
‘To the man who only has a hammer,
everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.’
Choosing the right model, tool or technique is not easy.
Out there, in the ‘real world’, it seems as if every website or social media group is showcasing a new tool, approach or solution…or building on the success of a prior one.
So, which instrument should you choose?
Here’s a couple of things I keep in mind when considering this very question.
Knowledge and Ageless Wisdom
Truth is eternal. And there appear to be a set of principles that are, likewise, timeless. This is evident in written records dating back thousands of years: from the Far East, the Confucian Golden Rule of never imposing on others what you would not choose for yourself; or Buddha’s dangers of attachment as he pursued Release from Suffering; through to ancient Greece and Zeno’s paradoxes[i], we see principles that remain relevant today. And there are many other examples. From the modern focus on building resilience, which is rooted in the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius[ii]. Or our modern understanding of Mindfulness[iii], where we can see elements of the ancient practice of Mediation.
However, in a world where the speed of technological change is ever increasing, it can sometimes feel that everything is new. And urgent. Even chaotic. Because of this, we may forget we are only really discovering our new awareness of the principle–that these truths have already guided leaders for millennia.
Our modern world has created a shift in our approach to these principles. While in many cases we now have better insight into them, there has also been innovation in the way we apply them. Stephen Covey identified this phenomenon. For most of our written history, he saw examples of character ethic–basic principles of living, integrated into one’s character. He then noted that, early in the 20th century, the literature shifted towards what he called the personality ethic–which considered success to be a function of personality, of skills and techniques. These techniques could either be applied externally to a given situation, or internalised in the form of ‘positive mental attitude’[iv].
Whether our client chooses to work within the character or personality construct, Sir John Whitmore also reminds us that ‘coaching and high-performance come out of awareness and responsibility’[v]. In order to assist our client gaining these, we may employ instruments (tools, techniques and models). These may be something as simple as Whitmore’s definition of SMART goals[vi], or as intricate as introducing Conversational Intelligence® to change an organisation’s culture[vii]. However, the primary purpose of any instrument is to assist our clients in identifying and delivering their own, unique, success.