By Elisabeth Goodman, 18th August 2017
Why write about vulnerability and mastery?
We pick a different theme for each of our bi-monthly newsletters, to reflect on a topic that relates to our work with managers and teams, as well as providing a medium to update you on some of our activities and events.
Our choice of the theme of vulnerability and mastery was prompted by a couple of videos that we came across in Marcel Schwantes’ 9 Best TED Talks to Help You Become a Better Leader. These included Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability and Dan Pink’s The Puzzle of Motivation.
Brené Brown’s advocacy of vulnerability as a leadership quality gave me a lot of food for thought. Whilst “mastery” is one of three key motivators endorsed by Dan Pink. I believe that vulnerability and mastery are inextricably linked, and of great significance to managers and teams. Hence the choice of this theme for this newsletter.
Vulnerability is the first step towards eventual mastery!
When was the last time you learnt something new? How did you feel at the start? What was your inner voice saying?
In the early stages of learning something new, we can feel very vulnerable. We can feel awkward or embarrassed. Our inner voice may be telling us “I’ll never be able to do it”. Alternatively, we might be filled with enthusiasm, eagerness and energy..
We are in that state of “conscious incompetence” as illustrated in this variation on the competence / consciousness model.
Although we might not all remember what it felt like when we started to walk, many of us can remember our early driving lessons. The whole thing might have looked very straightforward as a passenger or observer, and yet almost impossible when we actually started to learn. Yet through determined perseverance, trial and error, lots of practice, many of us are at the stage now where our driving skills are almost automatic: it’s not unusual for example to barely remember everything that was involved in getting from point A to B on a regular journey.
The same pathway from vulnerability to mastery, from conscious incompetence to unconscious competence, is likely to be true with any of our undertakings, whether in our personal or professional lives.
Accepting and acknowledging our vulnerability will enhance our authenticity! (Step 2)
Although the focus of Brené Brown’s TED talk is on vulnerability in the context of connecting with, or relating to other people, her message translates to the context of this newsletter too.
Brené recounts her own experience, and the results of her research with others, which highlights the difficulties people have in accepting and acknowledging their vulnerability. Vulnerability is the opposite of feeling in control, or of having certainty, perfection even – this applies to emotions, personal and professional capability. And so there may be a temptation to pretend that we know more or are more capable than is the case. That route will lead to misunderstanding and potential disaster!
Accepting and acknowledging our vulnerability, enables us to be authentic and open to others, open to real connection (as Brené argues) and also open to the learning that will eventually lead to mastery.
To what extent does mastery of a field of knowledge or skill motivate you? (Step 3)
I referenced Dan Pink’s The Puzzle of Motivation in a recent blog: Motivation a refresher…eight years on.” Mastery” is one of three key motivators that he endorses, along with autonomy (the ability to work on something under our own direction) and purpose (feeling that we are doing something towards a greater good).
People coming on our courses often cite the ability to learn something new, or to improve on something they already do or know as a motivator in their work. As trainers, facilitators and coaches, we are very aware that we work best with delegates and clients who are motivated to learn about the subject that we are addressing.
To achieve mastery in a field of knowledge or skill requires a lot of determination and perseverance. If we are not motivated, we will not get there!
Achieving mastery requires concerted practice (Step 4)
Although there is some controversy about exactly how many hours are required to master an area of knowledge or skill, there is no doubt that some amount of concerted practice does help!
Concerted practice reinforces the neuronal pathways involved, and so trains memory, muscles and coordination. The sooner we apply and re-apply what we have learnt, and the more often we repeat it, the closer we will get towards mastery.
We will also be most successful if we choose the format and medium for learning that is most effective for us.
Choose the approach for learning that is most effective for you (Step 5)
Some of us learn better through discussion and interaction with others, either in a group, or with an individual mentor or coach.
Others like to learn on their own, with written or auditory access to printed or electronic resources.
Or we might like a combination of both, and it might also vary with the subject matter.
The important thing is to find the approach that works best for you.
If you would like to know more
RiverRhee’s training courses, workshops for teams and one-to-one coaching are designed to help you on your vulnerability to mastery journey!
People attending our management courses for example appreciate the opportunity to meet other people who are experiencing similar challenges to themselves. They are often transitioning from being an expert in their scientific or technical field, to the novelty of managing others – and can feel quite vulnerable about it. We have recently added two new courses “Transition to Management”, and “Coaching Skills for Managers” for those who are ready to take the next steps in their management development journey.
We also have a new course – Presentation Skills – for those who are wanting to gain more confidence and competence in how they present.
And we have consolidated the information available on our website for those seeking one-to-one coaching.
We also have a range of workbooks available for purchase for those who prefer to study on their own.
Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house workshops and one-to-one coaching, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers and teams.