Saturday, 29 March 2014

Case Study from the Book

Link to the book:


We are very good at being neutral, emotionally, but we are not very much aware about it. We are unconsciously competent in being neutral.  Which means, sometimes it works for us and some time it does not work for us. What I have just stated, may not be clear to some of us right now.  And I will circle back to this, after a short while to explain at length: how we can bring back our emotional stance to neutral state using a conscious competence model.

The realism that evades most of us, and which is best for our body to be in, is to stay neutral. It enhances our performance.

We function at our best when we are emotionally neutral. This is one of the reasons why top athletes and performers are trained to do away with their emotions that are tied to their game or performance.

Many world class athletes and performers have admitted managing their psychology, as their most significant challenge. Their ability to control their emotions and to get “in the zone”, to perform at a world class level requires near perfect focus.

To better understand the above concept, let me use a case study and some of its related components to illustrate what this means. One of the components used in this example is ‘Ethos’, a Greek term for the recommended characteristics of a good speaker.  It represents the moral elements which control a person’s actions, rather than his thoughts or emotions. However, I would like to broaden its concept to include a few things for this particular case study:

State of Ethos:

You are fully focused on the task at hand -- even if it’s an unpleasant or unwelcome task.
You are bringing your best talents (available to you), which the task at hand requires.
You have a pretty high degree of confidence, and you feel you will succeed.
Even though the task may not be easy, you have a sense of complete ease and relaxation.

Case Study :

You are the marketing director for a technology company which is about to launch a new product. After months of preparation and meetings with all the required groups along with inputs from your technology team, you feel you have missed nothing and you have prepared a great presentation.

Based on the above, as you step out for your presentation to the senior management team, one would expect that you would be in a state of ethos; you would be fully focused on whatever you should be doing, or want to be doing at the time of the presentation. Unfortunately, the reality for some of us is different. There are, countless number of things which are competing for your attention as you start the presentation.

Some of the common thoughts in your mind during times such as these are:

Do I have all the people focused on my presentation?
Have all the VP’s, senior management (who I want to impress) made it to my presentation?
I hope I am clear in my speech and thought presentation etc (note - this comes under the category of under assured).

The other thing, that can take us away from state of ethos, is distractions.

Now, one could easily question my suggestion on the above situation by stating that the state of ethos brings out the best talents that we possess, that the situation requires. Secondly, the talents that we have developed so far, aren’t they available to us at all times (matter of fact - they are not).

If so, why can’t I continue to be in a state of ethos during my entire presentation?

While it would be nice if we could approach everything like this and many of you would say, “don’t we?”, let us look at a relevant model of distraction to crystallize where I am going with this.

Distraction: Imagine a situation where one of your colleagues, who worked with you on this project, poses a question that exposes some weakness or defects in your presentation model. In most cases the following would flash through your mind: “How dare you ask me this question now!  You have been working with me on this for so many days. During that time you had ample opportunities to bring up this issue. You could have helped me improve this model and deal with it in a more productive way, instead of questioning me now.”

The above could occur in other ways too where someone in the audience could have easily ticked you off, and you start to think how to get even with him. Also, there could be another complicated problem added to the above situation. There could be someone in the audience who wants to help you and comes to your rescue.  And now, even your credibility is in question.

You may want to say “thank you, but leave me alone” and risk displeasing off the person who came to help you. So it does not matter, whatever be the reason -- if you slip out of ethos state (due to distraction or lack of self-confidence ), you are not going to get the results you were looking for in terms of the quality of your presentation.

So what is it that gets in our way and we slip out of ethos state? I would like to call it self or ego.  Let me first qualify, what I mean by self or ego. Normally when we think of ego, the following portrayal /interpretation comes to our mind:

Mocking nature/haughtiness
All about me/self-centered/self-importance etc.

In this particular case, I would like to qualify ego or self as a state of anger, frustration or frayed nerves caused by a particular distraction.  Many things, other than distraction, can drive us from ethos to a state of ego. For example: some very senior person had decided to attend your presentation, and he is well known for tearing down almost every presentation he encounters. Now you are nervous, under assured, shy, self-conscious etc. Such situations also move us from state of ethos to ego or self-state. Now, instead of concentrating on the task at hand, you are concentrating on self.

But, if we can control our emotions and move out of ego state (upset frame of mind), we can bring our best talent to the task at hand to easily achieve the following:

To calmly position our views in the face of differences
Remain calm, engaged and mentally focused during heated discussions
Translate unwelcome messages into polite two-way communication process that generates results
To clearly think on our feet, embrace spontaneity, handle challenging questions with ease and create a win-win situation
Getting back into state of ethos lets you communicate your brilliance - where and when it matters most to you.

In summary, even though we have the ability to choose the three different ways to feel (positive, neutral or negative in terms of our emotional stance, which in turn cascades down to our ability to stay in the state of ethos) depending on the situation, it mostly happens unconsciously. As a consequence, our choices may not always serve us best.

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