The Transcend Point of View
As William James, often regarded as the “founder” of modern, Western, psychology said 100 years or so ago, “…in any moment, what we are “attending to” is our reality”. This simple statement, well ahead of its time, is now backed up by modern neuroscience and thought leadership in adult learning theory. Today’s world of rapid and profound systemic and technological change throws up conditions which collide with our basic core evolutionary biology to create difficulties in maintaining focus on our goals, particularly where the achievement of those goals requires behaviours which are different from what we habitually do.
By default, many, if not most of us, find it especially difficult to keep steady movement towards our goals when are under stress or surrounded by distractions. In fact, it has been shown by numerous studies that, more than 50 percent of the time (on average), we are distracted from our tasks and goals due to this “attentional hijack” in key moments (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010)! To make matters worse, this distraction is “involuntary” and without conscious awareness.
Success is more than simply learning skills
In the PAID paradigm as as described above, it turns out that our “attention” is the scarcest of our resources. It is the ability to understand and manage our “attention” that has been shown in numerous studies to be the “most important determinant of organizational and individual success” (Davenport & Beck, 2013), as it is in this way that we are able to optimize choices and actions and therefore results, even under stress.
People may go off on training programs, acquire skills, knowledge and experience, gain teams, technology and other resources. All of these things are very important. However, if they are unable to orient their “attention” to these internal resources (as well as external enabling resources) in key “moments of choice” where these are called for, then optimal results will not occur. Results will depend on where attention is in those key moments. In other words, what is “available to the mind” in these moments. In such moments, we may be mindful of all the resources and strengths we have which can be applied to a situation, or more often than not, we may be attending, as if on autopilot, to habitual pattern of thinking related to the topic. This may be an old reactive pattern driven “hidden assumptions” or, a simple distraction which has caused us to lose the “target”.
What are we attending to, the signal or the noise?
Transcend’s goal is, firstly, to help ensure that leaders have the inter and intra-personal skills necessary to do their jobs optimally, and then to improve the “signal to noise ratio”, so that they are using all their internal and external resources to make skillful decisions, moment-by-moment, in turn leading to optimal results.
The “signal” is what we describe as the “matter at hand”. This may be a developmental target or goal (such as developing “executive presence”, “emotional intelligence” or improving communication / collaboration skills etc), or it may simply be an organisational goal, task, priority or project which needs attention. Matters at hand also encompass all the mental and external resources available to the learner to help them on the journey to the target. The “noise” is whatever may be causing one to “lose” the target. These could be anxieties or habitual patterns of behaviour which “pop up” into attention under stress, or they may be simple distractions or activities which are incorrectly appraised, in the moment, as being higher priority than the activity which will leading to the target.
The goal is to help keep attention oriented to the target and all the positive impacts of achieving or moving towards the target, even when “old reactive patterns” or other “distractions” pop up and threaten to hijack attention. This requires the cultivation of a number of core faculties and competencies beginning with “acute self awareness”.
Transcend’s programs address the above conditions by helping clients cultivate the skills of attention management and emotional self-management. These go “hand in hand”. We help people connect to their and their organisations deepest motivations, values and preferences, so that they can be “available to the mind” in key moments of choice, dealing with phenomena which create “leakage” or “interference” and loss of attention to the goal.
The various coaching and training programs offered by Transcend help individuals to “embody” learned skills and competencies, so that these, in effect, sink “into the bones” and become part of who the individual is. In this way such competency remains available to the learners at all times, even when under stress or when busy.
In summary, Transcend’s programs are grounded in the following principals
- The understanding that individuals, managers and leaders need to adapt styles and behaviours to optimise results in the rapidly changing world of work (the Pressured, Always-on Information-overloaded and Distracted (PAID) reality) described above.
- The need to remain conscious of short and long term developmental objectives moment-by-moment, even in the midst of difficulties and stress.
- The need for to be able to manage attention moment-by-moment, even under stress.
- The need to bridge the gap between “what we know” and “what we do” (the “knowing-doing gap)!
- That leaders and managers are increasingly expected to coach their people to enable growth and development. and that most of what happens when leaders / managers think they are coaching and developing their people is having the opposite impact (“when too much help is given, self- confidence, self efficacy and ability are taken away”).
- The need for competencies to be not only developed but embodied, and that default behaviours, driven by “old reactive patterns”, must change for development to occur.
- The need to build “adaptive” as rather than simply “technical” capacity.
- That with focused awareness and effective attention regulation, literally, anything can be changed, even previously held “long term” traits which interfere with the success of individuals.