A mindful approach

Life is change. I know this. Even the reliable turns of the seasons do not go as expected, do they? If we are to see, there is beauty in the everyday minutiae of change.

And I believe in progress, less of the advancement of human enterprise, rather of the mindful approach to our human experience

  • towards greater awareness of who we are in the worlds we inhabit, whether personal or professional,
  • towards greater connection to these worlds,
  • towards greater understanding of our impact on them,

and to these, I have unwittingly been seduced since a young age, fuelled by an insatiable curiosity.

It is a beautiful seduction, though not necessarily easy or without pain.

This mindful approach requires an open mind and a vulnerable heart. And I am not without the scars to prove them.

The greater awareness to life also requires us to let go of the past and our ideas of the future, to have the willingness to be present without judgment and to see the world afresh. The wonder and intrigue that come our way when we allow ourselves to experience them.

Put aside the critical thoughts based on a past conditioning of what the future should be.

My daughter recently sang in a concert and for the first time, she did so in her school uniform. It was a school day after all. I remember when she eschewed the idea of changing from her school uniform, judgment flooded my mind questioning her dedication to her craft and fear that she wouldn’t be taken seriously.  This lasted for a brief moment then I let those thoughts go. These are unwarranted worries and anxieties. My mind has always been an incredible trickster.

Her performance that evening was her best so far, for she captivated with her voice and composure, expressing her emotions from within. I looked around the room, and saw an audience rapt with attention, spellbound by her haunting rendition of “Burn” from the musical “Hamilton”. It seems she had developed a confidence grounded within herself; a fragile bubble at times for creative people. I am truly grateful that I did not prod at it with my unruly thoughts. To trust the process and let things unfold is not easy, but do-able.

Not all things change however… at least not at the speed or time that we expect them to. It is our expectation then which creates disappointment, hurt and pain.

Hope is present, expectation is merely a conditioned thought.

Expectations interfere with our connection to the world, for it is because of our fear for the myriad of unmet expectations – that our love will be betrayed, our vulnerability will be shamed, our curiosity mocked – that we distance ourselves from being alive in the moment to our work and relationships.

Identify a destination by all means, chart our course and trust that we have the capacity to undertake the journey. We do. Planning may be useful, but the fixation with each manoeuvre will inhibit our adaptability to change.

A mindful approach requires us to employ our senses in each moment, untainted by the past. Memories, “good or bad”, have their uses; we may not forget but we sure don’t need to be ruled by them.

Being mindful in a changing world requires trust, in ourselves and the unfolding life.

Each moment is a new moment.

 

~ FlorenceT

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Impact of digitised delivery of legal services

 

“The features of digitized legal providers are becoming well- defined– they are customer centric, tech and process enabled, agile, diverse, accessible to clients in real-time, intelligent, globally branded, scalable, multi-disciplinary, and enterprise focused.”

What does the impact of technology on legal services mean for the humans in that space?

Customer-entric, agile, diverse, accessible, intelligent and enterprise-focused apply to lawyers (and other professionals). What skills are required to respond to a changing workplace?

They include the ability to grow and manage relationships, an ability to process and consolidate large amount of information, and the psychological agility to remain calm and focused in times of transition and change.

For article in Forbes magazine, see here.

Solitude – the key to self awareness and success

Resilience and adaptability – key to success

The NSW Law Society Journal reported in October 2016 that the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Commission of Inquiry had been told by heads of law school that resilience and adaptability are important in order for lawyers to have a sustainable career in the profession.

Self-awareness is paramount to success

Whether in Law or other professions, to be resilient and adaptable necessitate identifying the existing state of which we operate and the places to which we aspire, and the ease we experience through that process of change and often stress. The recognition must therefore be underpinned by self-awareness.

Self- awareness is an accurate understanding of our personality traits, personal values, habits, emotions, and psychological needs, and their implications for ourselves or impact on others.

Through self-awareness,

  • we begin to realise what triggers negative stress within us,
  • we discern methods of coping and ways of being appropriate for us, and
  • we have better response-ability to the demands and changes we encounter daily in our professional work.

Self-awareness comes from being alone.

Solitude, a prerequisite to self-awareness, creativity and innovation

A study undertaken through a collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and the Wellcome Collection’s researchers in residence, Hubbub, showed that the best outcome of ‘rest’ derives from activities undertaken alone. Solitude is a prerequisite to getting real rest.

And it is rest that gives respite to a busy mind and brings clarity and releases creativity. It opens space for introspection and reflection which leads to self-awareness.

Solitude is about being or doing for yourself, alone. Solitude is not being inactive.

Here are some ways in which you can practise solitude:

1.      Have a cup of coffee, alone.

The in-between time when you have finished one job, and about to begin the other. Take a coffee or tea break to put aside what’s gone before, to gather your thoughts and emotions, and to re-balance your sense of identity and purpose. Do this alone. Have a beverage break.

2.      Take a walk, alone.

Beverage doesn’t appeal? Have more time? Take a walk. It need not be in nature. A walk in the bustle of the city is fine. The criteria are be alone and to notice your surroundings. Let your mind wonder about the man in the grey suit, the woman with red umbrella, the children, the cars, the architecture, even the noise. This can be a fabulous time for reflection. Go with it.

3.      Have a meal, alone

Take yourself to a restaurant with an ambience you’ll enjoy. How often do you merely eat and not pay attention to the process of eating? Well, alone in a restaurant, savour the sight and sound, taste the food … let your mind wonder and wander. Enjoy!

4.      Read, alone

Most of us do read on our own, hard not to. This time however, find a spot that you can claim for yourself, away from a communal space. There, read and let yourself journey into the book. Fiction or non-fiction, they are stories to take you into yourself, your reaction or response to the stories. Ask yourself why and lightly explore these reasons. Revel in a different life.

5.      Train or exercise, alone

Heading to the gym with a buddy or two is fun. Doing it alone gives you time to notice and sense your body in action without distraction. It is time to review your routine, and to feel its capabilities. Notice the energy surging within you. Feel alright for yourself.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” ~ Maya Angelou

Check out the meaning of solitude, in my personal blog here.

Many things that you do, you can do alone. Try it some time, and solitude – that space for introspection, will relieve the busy mind, recharge the tired body, and boost the creativity we so need in our work as lawyers.

 

What activity do you do in solitude which contributes to your success?    How do you occupy the space of solitude?

 

[An earlier version of this article was published on LinkedIn.]

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Emotional intelligence for lawyers & corporate executive leaders

(M)en decide far more problems by hate, or love, or lust, or rage, or sorrow, or joy, or hope, or fear, or illusion, or some other inward emotion, than by reality or authority or any legal standard, or judicial precedent, or statute.

If you are curious whose quote that is, it’s Cicero – the Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. As it turns out, human nature hasn’t changed much in two thousand years.

We’re Emotional Beings

We’re still profoundly emotional beings. EI (emotional intelligence) has come a long way since Yale research (1990) and popular books by Goleman (1995). Like the study of “mindfulness”, EI has more mainstream recognition and a greater amount of professional “success” attributed to it than IQ and technical skills.

Mindfulness Training is Gaining Professional Recognition

Gone are the days where law firms and the corporate world recruits by academic achievements and IQ alone. So what in brief, is emotional intelligence good for in the professional workplace, business and law?

  • Better judgement
  • Higher productivity
  • More team cohesion and client relationships
  • Higher sales and conversion percentages
  • Great work satisfaction in teams, leading to higher retention rates.
  • Improved customer or client service (due to improved listening and empathy skills)
  • Better organizational communication
  • More effective leadership (leading to a competitive edge).

Specifically for law firms and the daily lives of lawyers, EI can have a significant impact. Historically, the legal profession has been heavily influenced by the Stoic/Puritan frame of reference and an emphasis on ‘reason’, this is changing towards a more holistic model of human behavior.

The “Nimble Heart” in the Workplace

How might emotional intelligence help those in the Legal Profession?

  1. The ability to correctly identify client values and motivations
  2. The ability to suppress emotions that might cloud objectivity
  3. Psycho-social identification & sensitivity, namely: active listening, empathy and compassion
  4. Reading body language, non-verbal cues and facial micro emotions
  5. Correctly matching persuasion strategies with the target audience
  6. Manage stress and self-regulate effectively in high-pressured environments and long work-weeks
  7. Conflict resolution, halting escalations and defusing negative emotions
  8. Establishing rapport, trust and warmth
  9. Facilitating easy exchanges of information
  10. Adapting not just to frames of reference, but to people more effectively
  11. Influencing the emotions of others through effective communication, feedback and motivational impact.

Clearly EI embodies a broad spectrum of rather holistic “soft skills” that are essential to all professional industry for leaders, managers, consultants and employees.

Can Emotional Intelligence be Taught?

In the “real world” of corporate hierarchies and law firm politics, given that candidates have comparable IQ, experience and technical skills, EQ then becomes the unique qualifying differentiator (UQD).

There’s a significant moment now for MBA programs among others, to actively integrate EI and soft skills training in their curriculum, sometimes called applied human science.

  • Graduate leadership programs continue to integrate EI training into their programs
  • Corporate training programs now specialize in EI training
  • Emotional intelligence has been correlated with leadership qualities

 

Professional efficacy is no longer solely correlated with IQ, so what then can it be attributed to?

A Most Vital Trait in a Top CEO

For CEOs and top executives, EI has a lot to offer in terms of global corporate identity.

EI underpins the ability to inspire discretionary effort—the extent to which employees and team members go above and beyond the call of duty.

This is an “intangible” of the charismatic CEO, who champions the corporate entity internally, much as some CEOs harness their personal brand for effective PR external to the organization and corporate brand.

To earn the respect and fidelity, and to motivate and mobilize talent, are what true visionaries do.

Many HR recruiters and analytics talk about a “skills gap”, EI could well be this “gap”. What we might be seeing as well is a “leadership shortage”.

Never in human history has Emotional Intelligence been at such a higher premium. Never has leadership been such a corporate differentiator in its ability to drive ROI.

 

[An earlier version of this article was published on LinkedIn.]

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

One thing you must do when resolving conflict

 

What is the singular most important thing we must do, without which communication breaks down?  Communication is the key to resolving conflict. In fact, it is also the key to preventing and minimising conflict whether in our personal or professional lives. Often the word “communication” brings imagery of speaking and gestures, making oneself understood.

However, authentic listening is imperative. William Ury, the author of seminal book on negotiation “Getting to Yes” emphasized this aspect of communication as fundamental, yet often overlooked, to any conflict resolution. Without authentic listening, we are merely waiting our turn to speak.

So how do we do authentic listening?

  1. Be empathic.

Empathy is the art of walking in another’s shoes, stranger or otherwise. It is to acknowledge and take in another’s experiences from their perspective, not from our own experience, views, ideas or values. It is seeking to understand. We may not agree, but we can understand.

Empathy is a component of the widely known skillset of emotional intelligence. It can be learned.

  1. Pay attention.

Listening requires attending to the speaker and the content. It is a matter of integrity to prepare ourselves mentally to meet the other. To orientate ourselves to acknowledge, to be open and to accept the other, without preconception. This is not to disregard our experiences, our ‘instinct’, our intelligence but rather to move them slightly aside to make space for other possibilities, constructive ones perhaps. This is the essence of not being closed-minded, and to maybe believe in surprise and a little magic. J

  1. Put your ego aside

Sometimes we hear things which are unpleasant… about ourselves. Sometimes we hear things that seems to be stranger than fiction and inaccurate. It’s confronting, and our first instinct is to deny, to return volley, to give as good as we got if not harder. Don’t.

It is not about whether we are right or wrong, or whether we look good or bad in the speaker’s eyes, nor the effect of what is being said to us. It’s not about us. It is how we take this opportunity to understand the speaker’s perspective, how he or she could have arrived at a certain conclusion, to see their truth.

It is about the speaker and the opportunity provided to express their experience, views, ideas or value. The listener’s job is to pay attention, to listen with empathy without judgment.

  1. Silence is necessary

When we hold space for more, more arrive. To do this, we keep silent. The speaker may be considering whether to add, to elaborate, to divulge… sometimes the speaker is expecting a return argument, a denial, a scoff… many things are happening in the speaker’s mind, what we cannot know for sure. But if we stay silent, just for a little bit longer, perhaps we would find out. It is not a competition as to who should speak faster or more. So give the speaker, and the conversation time.

  1. Demonstrate you have heard

To build a relationship, it is important over the course of the conversation to indicate to the speaker that we have listened and heard.

We do this when we ask discerning questions seeking clarification, when we acknowledge the emotional content of what’s been said, when we recount the facts told to us as the other sees them. We are able to convey this when we imbue the conversation with a generosity of spirit in receiving the speaker and giving the speaker the attention and empathy necessary in the situation.

Authentic listening, as with any skill, will require practice, practice and more practice. Enjoy!

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2016