The art of scooping poop

"No matter who you are or what you do, if you've got a dog you'll be scooping poo!"
My hairdresser shared this little realisation yesterday as we discussed what a leveller it is to walk behind your dog and perform the scooping ritual. We both laughed. Earlier in the week I had attended a workshop on the work of Milton Erickson, one of the great psychotherapists of the 20th century. I think Erickson would have appreciated our poop discussion because he was a master at using unusual stories and metaphors to help people get a fresh perspective.

I really enjoyed learning about Milton Erickson and the groundbreaking work he did in the field of interpersonal communication from the 1940s to the 1970s. Many of the communication and motivational techniques taught today, such as NLP, were developed from watching the way Erickson was able to naturally influence and inspire positive, profound changes in his clients who came to him with all manner of problems.

Working with people's energy

While Erickson was Jedi-like in his ability to teach and influence others, his greatness was more defined by the compassion and creativity he showed in working with his clients. For instance when Erickson started working at a psychiatric hospital, a particular patient was causing a lot of distraction because he believed he was Jesus Christ. This patient spent his days blessing everyone and giving sermons. Erickson walked up to the man and said, "Hello, I was wondering if you could help me."
The man responded with a gentle smile and a grand wave of his arms, "Certainly my son, how may I help you?" 
"I hear you are a carpenter."
The man thought for a moment. "Yes that is true my son."
Erickson asked if the man could follow him and led him to the woodwork shop. He explained the workshop was in need of someone with the skills of a carpenter to take care of the facilities. The man accepted and was put to work looking after the workshop, giving him something useful to do and keeping him out of trouble. It's a great example of what psychologists call "utilisation", where a characteristic that is causing a problem is harnessed and used creatively as a strength.

Many years ago I was a franchisee in a bakery group and I was somewhat troublesome, giving advice to the franchisor on how they should be doing this and not doing that. I also started experimenting with the recipes. Rather than fight with me, the Operations Manager was able to harness my creative urges by inviting me to work with him on some R&D projects. His only condition was that I fill out the necessary forms and keep him up to date on what I was doing. This was great for me as I got to try out new things. One of my team came up with the idea of a pizza roll and we were the first store to test out a new fangled french product called a croissant! The franchisor team was also happy as we did the market testing for them and worked out the operational kinks in these products.

Four ways to deal with the wind

The Erickson workshop closed with a story on the four ways to deal with the wind. Some people use up a lot of energy fighting the wind and end up angry and defensive. Others allow themselves to get blown along and end up where they don't want to be, feeling powerless and depressed. Some people bury their head in the sand because they don't want to face up to things, so they end up confused. But some people study the wind. They study its ways and they harness its power like a sail. They learn to weave back and forth or to ride the wind like a kite pushing them higher and higher.

Speaking of studying things, we are conducting a special Webinar on Tuesday, 17 September where we will review the key lessons to emerge from the 4th Multi-unit Summit held earlier this year. It's free and you can register here.

Enjoying the wind after a walk.
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