On September 19th I will be presenting our model of “Being-centered” Leadership to a group of professionals
Jung’s Psychological Types and Midlife
To illustrate these stages, he used the analogy of the sun’s journey from the horizon:
The sun thus rises out of the sea in early youth to its zenith, and descends after midlife.
“At the stroke of noon the descent begins. And the descent means the reversal of all the ideals and values that were cherished in the morning”(C.G. Jung, CW8 par 778).
The aim of childhood and youth is to build a strong ego and develop an adequate persona. Young people are expansive and future-oriented. They spend a lot of time in social relationships, studying, establishing a career, and setting up a family. In terms of psychological types, they tend to use their best gifts, relying on the function that is most natural. For example, if a boy is adept at sports, he will tend to do more sports. Because he can use his sensation function well, he will get a lot of recognition for it, building a feeling of identity around it: “I am good at sports.”
“Aging people should know that their lives are not mounting and expanding . . . For the aging person it is a duty and a necessity to devote serious attention to oneself” (C.G. Jung, CW8 par 785).
Developing our best gifts in early life is necessary, but it creates a one-sided development. After midlife the process of individuation often sets in, when one comes to terms with this inner split through the integration of the inferior function:“But this one-sided development must inevitably lead to a reaction, since the suppressed inferior function cannot be definitively excluded from participation in our life and development. The time will come when the division in the inner man must be abolished, in order that the undeveloped may be granted an opportunity to live” (C.G. Jung, W8 par 112).
Many of the difficulties we face at work, or in our own lives, are often due to miscommunication in one form or another. At work, poor communication can lead to diminished collaboration, fruitless meetings, conflicts and overall dissatisfaction.
Communication can be influenced by many factors. First of all, our own personality, and the kind of relationship we have with the other person, will play an important role. The wider context in which the communication takes place will also determine its quality. This can be the atmosphere at work or other cultural factors in general.
For example, whereas in some cultures, making direct eye contact is seen as a sign of openness (“you have nothing to hide”) , in other cultures it can be perceived as offensive.
Imagine you start talking to your boss about an important problem, and he/she starts giving you advice before you’ve even had time to fully explain the situation. How would you feel?
One of the most important communication tools is active listening. Too often, people get into heated discussions without having first taken the time to really understand what the other person is saying.
By the way, listening doesn’t mean you need to agree with the other person but simply that you are open to hearing what they have to say- which is the first step to any real dialogue.
The 3 ingredients of active listening
When practicing active listening, you need to be fully present and engaged. You can do this by using the following 3 strategies.
Show the other person that you are listening and interested in what he/she has to say. This can be done by using verbal as well as non-verbal communication. Saying very simple things such as “yes”, “oh really?” or making utterances (Humh). Non-verbal communication might also include looking at the person, nodding, and having a relaxed and open body posture.
2 Check that you understood
By reflecting, paraphrasing and summarizing, you can check that you understood what has been said. The other person can then correct you, add information, or go further in their narration.
Paraphrasing is repeating what the other person said by using your own words. For example, John might say to his boss: “Mary hasn’t sent me the spread-sheets for this quarter yet. This is really a problem. She does this every time. I don’t think I will be able to finalize my report by the end of the week.”
Boss: “Mary hasn’t provided you with the information you needed yet. so you don’t think you will be able to finish your report on time?”
If the person has been talking for a while, you can also summarize what he/she said: “So, if I understand you correctly, this is what happened”
At a deeper level, you can also reflect the emotional layer of the communication: “So Mary didn’t send you the information on time. Do you feel kind of angry at her?”
You can also ask questions to clarify something that wasn’t clear to you. When doing this, the best way is to use open questions. Closed questions can only be answered in a given way (yes or no, A or B). Open questions invite the other person to say more. For example:
“What did you mean by,..?”
“Can you give me an example of when this happened last?”
Using active listening into your daily communication will result in fewer misunderstandings in the workplace and at home, and will contribute better relationships.
In today’s work environment, the pressure to be highly productive often results in people feeling rushed, overworked or generally dissatisfied. And, thanks to our modern technology, we are constantly online, juggling various urgent problems at the same time. There is also an increased expectation for people to work faster, and for longer hours, so we tend to continue working from home during evenings, and weekends, resulting in ever growing rates of burn-out.
In a recent article, Manfred Kets de Vries writes about the importance of “doing nothing”. He advocates for people to have enough quiet time for reflection. For him, it is only when our brains are at rest that we can have truly creative ideas (Financieel Dagblad – 3 October 2015).
What is stress?
Our autonomous nervous system is made up of two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. Using the analogy of a car, these would respectively be the accelerator pedal and the brakes.
The sympathetic system is active in stress related situations. It produces a higher heart rate, higher vigilance and an increased level of energy, which are very necessary if we need to face an immediate danger. But this state cannot be maintained for too long without producing stress related symptoms such as fatigue, concentration and sleeping problems, irritability and muscle pain.
Brain research has shown that stress might impair the proper functioning of the pre-frontal cortex that is responsible for working memory and the regulation of thoughts and emotions.
In a recent interview, Prof. Mark Williams said that after about 8 hours of hard work, our brains are no longer that active,. so working longer hours doesn’t guarantee higher productivity. On the contrary, in some cases, working less makes us more productive. (Online Mindfulness Summit , October 2015).
So in order keep being productive in a sustainable way, we need to find ways to manage stress and lead a balanced life.
7 tips to manage stress
- Integrate short relaxing exercises into your daily life. There are many good apps available
- Take a Mindfulness class
- Set some periods of time when you are “offline” and/or not to be disturbed
- Take up a hobby that relaxes your mind, like photography or sailing
- Make sure you get enough exercise and enough sleep
- Set clear priorities, say no more often
- Improve your time management
In todays fast moving and highly competitive world economy, managers and leaders need to be highly productive. Given this pressure, they tend to focus on pressing business matters and planning their next move. They tend do be doing a lot, but not taking enough time to think and reflect.
Managers should take enough time to step back and reflect about their work. Or else they might keep operating on “automatic pilot” mode or jump from one opportunity to the next without learning from their experiences. They need time to reflect about the business, and also about their personal behavior.
Manfred Kets de Vries once said about successful leaders:
“The first thing I look for is emotional intelligence—basically, how self-reflective is the person?” ( https://hbr.org/2004/01/putting-leaders-on-the-couch)
When under pressure, we tend to react to a situation, using old strategies or defensive behaviors that might not be effective and might even turn out to be destructive at times.
Self-reflection helps us to know ourselves better and stand more firmly when dealing with tensions in the work place. It also enables us to learn both from positive and negative experiences and adjust to new situations.
Managers should be able to take some quiet time to reflect on their performance in their work. This could be a specific situation (an important meeting or the completion of a given project) or a more general theme.
Writing a diary
A useful tool to enhance self-reflection is writing a diary. When writing, it’s important to be spontaneous and write down all that comes to your mind.
A diary is something private which you might not wish to share with anyone.
You can write, but also draw, doodle, and add photo’s in it.
Possible questions are:
- What was the situation?
- What was I thinking/feeling at the beginning, and later?
- What did I say or do, was it effective?
- What did the other people say or do, and how did this affect the situation?
- What went well?
- How could I (or the group) do things differently next time?
Given our busy schedules, we might need to make self-reflection a priority in our lives, and make a commitment to this
- Set a time in your schedule for it. Use a reminder
- Jot down key points during the day in your smart phone, which you can use when you sit down and reflect
- Buy a special note book for this, or create a special file on your computer.
- Regularly assess how the reflection is going, perhaps with the help of a coach or a trusted person.
As always, when you are developing a new habit: it might take some time and effort in the beginning, but eventually it will make enhance the quality of your life!
In his new book, Kets de Vries takes us deeper into in inner-theater of leaders, into some of their dysfunctional patterns of behavior. The book also gives practical tips on how to deal with these and create an organisationnal culture which sustains productive behavior .