the Boss's Brain
By Casey Sugarman, Behavior Specialist
The best story I tell about what it’s like to acquire the YES skill came from a Boston executive. This tall, ominous yet distinguished looking gentleman came to my one day class because he had been threatened by Human Resources. He was being mandated to learn how to get along with people. “No matter what you have to do to get it done!” said they in HR.
He introduced himself to our little workshop this way, “I can’t tell you my name, who my employer is, or what I do. Trust me when I say it’s a big company you’d all know and someone like me doing something like this has to fly under the radar, so let’s get on it and get this done. I’m a senior vice president and everyone who works for me hates me. I don’t have a lot of time to piss around, I really need to learn something, like right now.”
The class went like routine clockwork. All eight participants were getting the skills down and, as if they were on a very fruitful Easter egg hunt, they all had half a dozen new skills in their baskets, everyone except for Mr. VP. He was getting frustrated and starting to shut down, so I focused in on him while the others were chugging along. Even though he had a terrific towering presence, as partners and puzzles swapped around, people were starting to avoid him.
Mr. VP’s goal was to use only the single word “YES” to teach another perfect stranger from class, Mark, how to go to the blackboard, pick up the white chalk, not the yellow chalk, and draw a huge circle on the blackboard, of course all without speaking or using any body language at all.
In short order, the class was starting to see why Mr. VP’s employees couldn’t stand him. Mr. VP waited, and waited, with arms crossed, and when Mark happened to walk near the black board, Mr. VP said, “Well…..” So right here, Mr. VP became MY "stranger to teach".
Who hates the boss, now?
...Here’s the play by play of my conversation with Mr. VP, about Mark, who he was responsible for supervising in our Saturday Will Skill class:
Mark: Staring at floor near chalkboard
VP: Staring at Mark
Casey (C): Is he doing what you want right now?
C: Is he doing something wrong?
C: Is there any tiny part of what he’s doing that could be construed as useful to you?
C: Could you say that?
C: Could you tell that to Mark?
VP: Tell him what?
C: What you just said to me.
VP: What, you mean the partial correct thing?
C: Exactly, how could you explain that to Mark?
VP: By saying that he was right?
VP: Already. I mean before.
C: What could you have said before?
VP: I could have said…
VP: Yeeessss… In the middle... I could have said yes in the middle…! ...yes to something small instead of waiting for something big that never comes.
VP: I HAD NO IDEA IT WAS OK TO SAY YES TO SOMETHING THAT HASN’T BEEN COMPLETED YET!
C: Yup, your YES was just out of joint, simple as that.
VP: “I truly love all of my employees, so much so that I have been convinced all these years that giving them encouragement was belittling them; they are already very successful at what they do so what would they need me for? I thought approval was a power trip. I had no idea that it was the basis for transferring information and independent of anyone’s judgment of anyone. Oh my God. I’ve left my people in the dark my whole career when I thought I was honoring them. No wonder they hate me. I’d hate me! I don’t though, because I get it now. …but if I had to work for me, I mean.”
“I can’t believe it. I actually learned what I came here to learn, and I found it myself, I mean you, I mean I, I mean you helped me find it myself. From an animal behaviorist, no less. I can’t believe it! Do you understand how convinced I am that my success at work is about to change?”
“YES.” I said with a wide smile.
When simple conversations turn into convoluted ‘Who’s on First’ volleys, that’s your stone cold evidence that there is an active kink in will alignment. A kink is not just something that’s not known, it’s something that’s actively, yet subconsciously avoided, usually for some good reason. In this case, the necessary tool was avoided in order to honor his employees. Intentions are usually just fine; it’s just simply the Will (the expression of that intention) that’s out of whack.
After about 15-20 minutes of trying out his new pair of YES shoes, Mr. VP instantly became the BEST supervisor/teacher/explainer/approver in the room, by far. He had real talent. His continence shifted, his face lifted, he became happy, at ease, connected, and incredibly in tune, possessing the fine detail attention of a spider repairing a web. The love and respect he had said he truly felt for those around him finally got a place to perch, and before the class was over, Mr. VP was the favorite teacher, winning all of the spontaneous applause from the other participants, and then he started coaching others in the last half hour.