Category Archives: Distinctions

Distinctions are ideas the help us understand our world or operating environment, different than we may have done before

Mirroring Distinction

 


I have noticed, that when participating in group activities, I often reflect or mirror the emotional state of the group in my own body.   I have also seen when I am in a group that is interacting with another group, our group can take on the emotions of that other group.  
This happens in team sports; but I have seen this show up in military and business units, and often not in a positive way.
For a leader (authority), this is really important data.    But before getting practical, what is really (scientifically) going on?   I have recently read about mirror neurons that exist in our ventral pre-motor cortex that actually relates or mirrors inputs and activity happening to someone else and matching them through physical stimuli to ourselves.

 

Studies about these mirroring neurons show that our brains are actually capable of mirroring complex emotional states in others.    These mirror neurons will activate physical responses in us that are often the precursors of emotions within us.  If we are caught unaware, these physical changes create the same emotional state within ourselves that we saw in another, thus creating the mirror.

I should note that the psychology & biology communities are in debate about of the true science here… but it makes sense to me; like why visualization is so effective when learning a new skill or mastering a sport.

As an experiment, next time you feel an emotional shift (like being tired, upset, sad or happy) do a quick gauge of the emotional state of the people around you and see if this shift isn’t an emotional contagion impacting you from the group.   Or worse, is it your emotional shift causing the same reflection to others.

Back to leadership…

So,  when a leader takes on an emotional or physical state, his group or team will often mirror and reflect that energy.    So a leader has a great responsibility to provide safe space for the group to work.   I can just imagine General MacArthur strongly leading his troops into battle at Inchon (see picture above) and how that committed state provided reassurance and comfort to the landing troops.

But, if the leader lets his emotions get away from him, it can quickly spread throughout the team and then, potentially, to other groups. For example, a leader’s anger about an issue spreads to the group; which then engages the next group, causing some type of physical or emotional brawl.

However, a conscious leader can use this mirroring to judge the emotional state of his team by examining his emotions and feelings while interacting with it.  I am most often aware of this when I see my group acting in confusion.   The mirror of confusion is then typically a reflection of the project or activity we are working on.

Through this awareness, the leader can modify the emotional state of the group by modifying his own emotional state and then transmitting it with intention.   In the same example, a leader feeling confusion can stop the group, ask clarifying questions, set a new plan of action and eliminate the members disorientation, creating harmony and comfort.

Finally, as a side note, I have seen this phenomenon happen in many military units.  We always say the personality of the unit or squadron is reflective of the personally of its commander; or  how a pet often reflects the personality of its owner.

In summary, physical and emotional mirroring is real.  Being a leader, we need to use awareness of our emotional states as data to determine the state of our group.   When the group engages in inappropriate emotional activity, a leader should sense those changes within himself, and then use the appropriate interventions to reorient the group back toward  the mission.

With blessings – Pierre

Fester and Die

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Have you ever hiked through a forest and come upon a stagnant pond or bog?   You know, the kind which it is filled with water and there is no exit.   It is dark, disgusting, and smells of rot and decay; with unhealthy bacteria and algae growing in it; and maybe dead animals floating that even the vultures avoid.   Can you see it?

This metaphor represents what happens in our homes, our businesses and with our well-being when we let things fester.   It is a leadership distinction delineating the difference between expansion and atrophy.   In every moment of every day, we are either growing or dying.    Growth requires activity, action, and “flow”.   Dying occurs when we avoid, escape, profess ignorance or just allow things to fester…

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Think of our physical bodies.  Sitting on the couch eating bon-bons is a sure path towards death.   Physical activity supports function in the body, circulates blood and moves toxins out of our muscles, fat, and joints.   Recently, I have been “voodoo” wrapping my ankle, which is a tight band wrapped around it for about 2 minutes to restrict all the fluids (blood and inflammation).   Then, when loosened, fresh blood rushes into the area, providing accelerated healing.   The metaphor could extend to the importance of fiber in our bowels, but I think you get the idea.      We all understand the importance of movement and activity in the health of our bodies.

How about materialism.   I’ve seen a cultural shift from the post-depression post WW II desire to obtain things and then protect them to a millennial desire for downsizing, decluttering, and simplicity.   I believe this plays into our societies climb up the hierarchy of needs.   As we begin toward actualizing, we determine the need to hold on to “things” causes us stress, frustration, responsibility and becomes unnecessary.  I am often shocked at the amount of food that goes bad in my refrigerator after shopping at COSTCO.   Stuff requires management.   Hoarding kills flow.  Think of all that junk in the trunk (attic).   As it sits, its usefulness devalues.   The longer it remains untouched, the less chance it will be useful to me or anyone.  Its purpose disappears.   Do we hold on to it because we love it, or do we hold on to it because we are scared to lose it or waste it.   It served a purpose in our life, it had meaning, but now it is our fear that if we let it go we are losing something of ourselves that is (vs was) important.    Unfortunately, like many of our paradoxes, by holding on to it, we are stagnating the opportunity to repurpose it and repurpose ourselves.

I can see this play with money.   If we live in fear and caution (and I believe there is a place for this) money in the mattress devalues in terms of utility and inflation.   Money reinvested creates flow in the economy.   An old commander used to say, you need to give something sunlight for it to grow.   (Of course he was talking about measurement and accountability, but the shoe fits).   Think of how the passing of money from one business to another grows our economy.

OK, lets move to a psychological bent.   I am often stuck when I reflect on my AF career.   I grieve and morn and hold it tight to my heart.   Often I can’t let it go and it holds power over who I am  and who I might be in the future.   When I hold onto my past success and past wounds, I allow them to fester within me.   And as they get covered with bacteria and algae (bs stories that I believe define me), they contribute to my decay.   Acknowledging “what happened” and accepting the natural flow of our lives allows me to grow into all of who I am and who I can be.

I hope that works as a leadership distinction.    Growth requires change and change requires activity or flow.   Change is critical as a natural rhythm of the environment and the natural evolution of our lives.   Those places, whether physically, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually that we allow to stagnate or fester will lay hold on the speed of our growth or the speed of our death.   Love to hear your thoughts!

In Truth – Pierre

Integrity Defined

When I was an F-15 maintenance group commander, a St Louis Air National Guard F-15 crashed because one of it’s four fuselage longerons broke, disintegrating the fuselage and ultimately sending the pilot on a wild ride without an aircraft (he survived with a broken arm).    I believe we grounded our jets for 57 days, using various techniques to evaluate the integrity of these longerons.  What we found was shocking.   Many of the longerons installed in F-15s were not fully in specification (some out of tolerance by 40%) based on 1970s milling issues.   Some of our jets were permanently grounded.

Integrity First – Is the first Core Value of the  US Air Force,  codified in 1997 by General Ronald Folgeman & Secretary Shiela Widnall.     I have contemplated and studied it both in and out of the Air Force, and frankly,  surprisingly, I think they got it right AND wrong at the same time.    Integrity is first but not as defined in the little blue book (AF Core Value Book).

I believe that Integrity is the most important distinction in leadership.  Integrity is the universal truth that defines effective activity from the misaligned.   Integrity is… the coop de grace, it is the holy grail.   It is the “BE” all..

However, it is not “having integrity” that makes us human, it is “not having integrity” that makes us human.   A play on words that is the struggle of most organizations and activities involving us people … or teenagers (sorry, editorial inclusion as I have four teenagers).

OK – a bit of a prelude to many foreseen blog discussions around integrity.   But this blog entry is a stage-setter.  It is the foundation of my leadership syllabus and defines, for me, why I am here (i.e. my integrity).   I request your feedback as you contemplate integrity in your life.

Definitions include complementary ideas like being honest, being of great character, doing the “right” thing, aligning our actions with our words, or honoring our agreements and commitments.    I am not saying that integrity is or is not these things, but integrity is not moral or ethical, it just is…

I believe that integrity means acting in alignment with ones highest purpose of BEing.

It is not that honesty and integrity aren’t similar.   Telling the truth has an ethical implication regarding our words.     Integrity has an fundamental implication that we are living our truth with our actions. Here is a philosophical question, if the “Devil” is the great deceiver, is he is in or out of integrity when deceiving and spreading lies?   My definition would say he is integrity and expecting him to be honest would be foolhardy.

That is the bane of leadership.   How do I keep my organization (or my person) acting in alignment with its integrity/purpose?    That leads to the challenge of leadership.   Who am I (what is my purpose) and What am I currently doing?   (where am I misaligned with my purpose).   When we understand those two positions, then we can act in leadership to realign them.   Thus leadership is ultimately realigning our activities with that which in which we were created.  (I’m talking an organization, but there is certainly a spiritual play here).

To close, imagine that longeron which was designed to maintain loads up to 12 G-forces before breaking.     But if it was actually built it 40% thinner than designed, it is out of integrity with the expected 12-G loads.   Luckily, other factors in the F-15 design limited it to a 9-G aircraft.    And for that reason, the longeron hung in there for as much as 20 years, bending and cracking and fighting to do its job until it couldn’t take it any more.   And once it broke, the accompanying forces destroyed this aircraft and grounded many more.

Where in our lives do we live outside of our integrity.   Bon-bons on the couch?  How about escapism, addictions, pornography, etc.?   Are there stresses and cracks growing in your life or that of your organization that are going to bring it all down?

Like a longeron, living in integrity, is THE critical component to ensure the effectiveness of our well-being and the organizations we serve.

Live in your Truth!

Pierre