I often fall into the trap of trying to logically explain what the 3 day Servant Leadership and 2 day Personal Mastery workshops are about. In a nutshell I create a space where a small group of people feel safe enough to experience themselves. By this I mean they get to see themselves in action and so see the impact they are actually having on flow, people and team dynamics. We use 2 mental models to allow people to see their behaviour in a different way and to create their own changes through choosing a new set of beliefs about the world – which automatically and with remarkable ease changes behaviour.

Yes! It really is that simple. I don’t convince anyone, I allow them to experience how they show up for themselves and provide a framework that they can use to see themselves in a new way.

As they always say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so here is one in a series of stories of people who have been through the 3 day Servant Leadership workshop and the shifts they have made.

The Story of ‘The Expert’

Every workshop there is one really strong individual who is certain that they absolutely must use command and control to get anything done. They maintain that this is essentiall to how business operates, it can not be changed! They have generally been asked to do the workshop because they are, umm, how do I put this – difficult to work with. They get things done but they are often rude, aggressive, condescending, arrogant …. the list is quite long. All descriptions I guess of what we have come to expect leaders to be. Only not in a new Agile world.  Here we are looking for collaborative leaders who are interested in other opinions and USE these.

This is the story of one expert who spent the first day of the workshop fighting with me, trying to convince me that he was right and I was wrong. I don’t fall for these conversations. They aren’t productive and they don’t change anything. This isn’t about the person with the best rational argument winning, it is about experiencing your beliefs and behaviour and then deciding for yourself if they are having the impact you thought. It is about deciding if this is really who you want to be.

On the second day we get into the video playbacks where the group gets to watch themselves in action using the two mental models to give them a feel as to whether they are coming from unilateral control or servant leadership. (Quick hint, they almost always come from unilateral control). This is when the expert starts to get quiet. The arguments around how he has to tell everyone the answer and they have to listen to him and do what he says suddenly dissolve as he sees himself for the first time. Even more importantly, he sees how other people are reacting to him. He sees them switch off. He sees the humiliation, the condescension and often, he hears from his team mates what it really feels like to be in a space with an expert.

By the end of Day 2 my expert was very, very quiet – almost embarrassed. Even though the space isn’t about embarrassing or humiliating anyone, we are our harshest critics. So it was with a reminder to be gentle with what you are learning about yourself and to treat himself with gentleness that he went home that night.

The next day he showed up and really tried the new ways of behaving and we were all blown away by the impact he had on the team. Everything flowed, conversation and ideas were being freely exchanged, there was laughter and real pride in what they were achieving together. It was only when we did the final check out that I got to see how intense and deep his shift and been. Here he shared the fact that he no longer wished to put back fear and defensiveness into the world. If someone was that way with him he no longer would respond in kind. He had experienced how light and easy it was to not use unilateral control and he liked that. He also shared how he had walked in thinking the workshop was a waste of time and how surprised he was and grateful for the opportunity.

This is one of those stories that doesn’t stop at the end of the workshop. The next week he shared his weekend with me. His mother needed to be rushed to hospital only his wife hadn’t paid the medical aid so they wouldn’t admit her and he had to borrow 30k in cash to get her in while they resolved the medical aid issues. He shared how instead of shouting and making a scene how he remained calm and used the 9 rules to engage and get clarity and move forward. He didn’t bully or accuse or or or. His biggest surprise was how his relationship with his wife was affected. He recalled how afraid she was of having to tell him that she had messed up the premiums and how he would normally react – only he didn’t. That night after getting his Mom into hospital he went to bed and to his surprise (and delight), after one an extremely testing day, his wife snuggled up to him.

The shift he made impacted his team. Instead of people being intimidated and scared, they now approach him. Work now flows better and the team is no longer walking on egg shells.

This is just the story of ONE of the over 200 delegates I have had the privilege of taking through servant leadership. People do change! All it takes is a space where they are able to observer themselves and choose for themselves! All it takes is a way that they can use and practice.