Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Shine a light

I was struck by the following quote from Nietszhe, and felt it had some relevance in the context of coaching, mentoring , performance management… hell just most aspects of management in general I reckon! (shout out to Robbie Steinhouse from previous posts whose book I found it in):

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”

It really made me stop and think about how if we have a purpose to what we do we can always find a means to reach our goals – where there is a will and all that. Maybe it is a little too high brow for your liking? I know, for all that I got from that quote, if you asked me who this guy was I would most probably struggle to give you anything beyond a garbled recount of information from Wikipedia.

So how about a metaphor I can help explain a little more to keep in mind when dealing with issues of development or performance? And that you might not be questioned about so deeply if you bump in to some Stephen Fry types when you want to throw the example in to conversation? I think you could do a lot worse than consider the Green Lantern.

‘Green who?’ I hear you say - shame on you!

Green LanternHands up who wants pizza? (Image via Wikipedia)

I’ll avoid going in to a detailed account of the character, I will leave that up to you to investigate though I encourage you to do so. (I am a bias comic nut but I think aside from the sheer escapism there can be real benefits to engrossing yourself in this field of fiction – if anything else you don’t want to be lost when this summer’s latest cinematic blockbuster arrives)

The character traits that set it from alien predecessors or other multi-coloured Lanterns (no really – get in to this and there is a strict colour code) are twofold: will and humanity.

Before I am corrected on the details of the former, this is just a brief synopsis is for the benefit of those new to the character. By default a Green Lantern must have the ‘power’ of will – the idea being that they are the person who is able to step up in the face of challenges and adversity to make the hard choice or face the insurmountable foe, etc.

But what set Hal Jordan and those that followed him apart was their humanity. Will being applied without humanity loses some of its power, as it lacks sincerity and becomes more about coercion for those parties affected. View it in the context of performance management – one of the first things you ask of someone when trying to establish the reasons for a faltering performance is ‘are there issues outside of work we can help you with?’ We show concern for the individuals well being. Or perhaps look at it in the arena of mentoring or coaching.

With a mentoring example, one might ask “How will you feel when you achieve this? What difference will it make to your life, both professional and personal?” You look to try to play to peoples values, their sense of worth and so on.

So next time you have a project or a tough client to deal with, where you need to rely on others or want to bring them on board, keep in mind two points – what is creating the why/ the cause of what is being discussed, along with to what degree this is

Failing that ask yourself – what would the Green Lantern do? Beyond save the planet, of course…

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