Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pattern recognition as a leadership skill

Pattern recognition is a key skill used by futurists. My friend Craig Rispin is Australia's leading thinker on 'Tomorrow'. He has written a brilliant book called How to Think Like a Futurist . It is this issues gift to all readers.

One of the Futurist skills that I think all leaders can develop is the ability to recognise patterns .
In his latest best seller How to Love , Psychotherapist Gordon Livingston MD explains that when choosing partners in business and life, we need to see the clusters of peoples behaviours and what they indicate, rather than reacting to the single incidents. He makes a case for the challenges of reacting to peoples ‘stuff'.

My friend Lorna Patten is a relationship expert who teaches people the power of getting above the content in communication and understanding the context of what is going on in any relationship dynamic. This is pattern recognition . It is about treating causes not symptoms.
One exercise you can use to develop this ability is to recall several turning points in your life and explore what meaning you have attached to those events. You are looking for repeating patterns. Once you understand the pattern, you get to choose new responses.
You ask yourself, ‘what have I made that incident mean?' You then get to rise above the incident and get to the real issue behind it. In mediation, conflict resolution and any communication dynamic this is an essential skill. It breaks deadlocks, shifts behaviour and helps replace confusion with clarity.

Think in levels
  1. What happened? the content or stuff
  2. What am I making that mean? the concept or meaning
  3. What is it really about? the context or big picture
For example, you may think
  1. What happened? A staff member does not meet a deadline for a project.
  2. What am I making that mean? They are not reliable.
  3. What is it really about? Trust.
Don't get bogged down in the stuff, but try to understand through step 2 what they are making it about.

For example, they may be thinking
  1. What happened? Did not meet a deadline.
  2. What are they making that mean? Was not given as much direction by my boss and did not feel confident I could ask for it.
  3. What is it really about? Support
If you keep having the TRUST conversation, but your staff is having the SUPPORT conversation in their head, you will have a failure to communicate.

Leaders are adaptable and if you choose to be the leader in any situation, you are choosing to be the one who changes their approach to move or shift people toward a better future.

Look for patterns and address the patterns instead of the stuff.

Matt Church

1 comment:

  1. Hi, very interesting. Do you Twitter as would like to follow your thoughts?