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Experiencing the June 2000
Collaborative Leadership Workshop

A Participant's View

By Mike Fink

The term "leadership" has been so widely used and abused that I was really curious to see in what sauce it would be presented this time. I ended up learning and acquiring many skills to use in every human interaction for effective results. Collaborative Leadership to me now means leadership though mutual understanding. Out of the many, here are two of the concepts that struck me during the workshop.

A fish is probably not aware of the water in which it swims as being "water." In the same way we are so involved in our interactions that we can hardly become aware of our personal style and how it is affects other people's responses to our communication.

Try the following exercise (the answer is on the last page of this Newsletter): link all the nine points of the following figure with just four lines, without ever lifting the pen from the paper:

Very few people are able to solve it on their own, yet when they see the solution they are surprised by its simplicity. Most people try to solve the problem with the implicit assumption that they must remain within the limits of the imaginary square.

In our professional and personal life, much of our frustration and lack of effectiveness in communicating is the result of implicit assumptions of which we are unaware. These assumptions limit our ability to understand and be understood, and therefore to achieve our goals, the same way staying inside the square limits our ability to solve the problem.

The Syntax Collaborative Leadership workshop provided me with opportunities to leap out of the ocean and to get out of the square. I have learned the skills that enable me to become aware, in any human interaction, of potential limiting assumptions and to supersede them so that all parties can beneficially achieve their goals.

Another key learning was that "the (real) meaning of our communication is the response that we get." When we interact with non-English speakers we do not get angry or think they are stupid if they do not react as we intend if we speak in English. Rather we try to gather our scholarly knowledge of either French or Spanish (or whatever the foreigner's mother language is) to speak a language they can understand.

When we interact with children we adjust our vocabulary and language to a level they can comprehend. We do not get angry or think they are stupid if they do not understand properly what we would say in scientific jargon or in terms referring to life experiences they could not possibly have had. We strive to speak the child's language so as to make our communication accessible to his/her knowledge and understanding of the world.

Yet, when English speakers interact with English-speaking adults, probably because of the illusion of a common language and of a common background, we get upset and moan about others being so stupid "because they just don't understand… ". The Collaborative Leadership workshop showed me how to speak the other person's language and meet him/her where he/she is, in order to achieve mutual understanding and hence results, the same way we spontaneously do with foreigners and children.

There are many other concepts and skills worth sharing but a newsletter article would not do justice to the richness of experiencing the real thing. Therefore I leave it to you to attend the next workshop…
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