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“The God of all things … it is tough describing Mukul Deva.” —Business World “Deva has a Nostradamus touch.” —The Statesman “India’s literary storm trooper.” —Business Standard “You can smell the gunpowder. Such is the power of the words of Mukul Deva … India’s first military action thriller writer.” —The Hindu “Here comes India’s Clancy or Ludlum or Forsyth.” —Outlook “Mukul Deva wears the crown of India’s premier military thriller writer with great skill and panache.” — “India finally has a writer of international caliber in the genre of military fiction.” —First City “Deva is a quintessential literary storm trooper … his books are fast-paced thrillers that have broken new ground.” —Yuva


© 2013 Mukul Deva Designed by Bernard Go Kwang Meng Published by Marshall Cavendish Editions An imprint of Marshall Cavendish International 1 New Industrial Road. Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Private Limited. stored in a retrieval system or transmitted. Success in business.K.1 — dc23 OCN829883549 Printed in Markono Print Media Pte Ltd . Fax: (65) 6285 4871. Bangkok Website: www. Thailand • Marshall Cavendish (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd. recording or otherwise. Wattana. Lot 46.C. E-mail: genrefsales@sg. Batu The publisher makes no representation or warranties with respect to the contents of this book. — Singapore : Marshall Cavendish Editions. USA • Marshall Cavendish International (Thailand) Co Ltd. 1961F. without the prior permission of the copyright owner.U. Singapore 536196 All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced. your way to success : the art of maximizing results with minimum effort / Mukul Deva. Marshall Cavendish is a trademark of Times Publishing Limited National Library Board Singapore Cataloguing in Publication Data Deva. including but not limited to special. Selangor Darul Ehsan. 253 Asoke. consequential. I. Creative ability in business. or other damages. Malaysia. Times Subang. and shall in no event be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damage. Tarrytown NY 10591-9001. Sukhumvit 21 Road. incidental. 1 New Industrial Road. 99 White Plains Road. Subang Hi-Tech Industrial Park. photocopying. Tel: (65) 6213 9300. pages cm eISBN : 978 981 4484 55 8 1. Request for permission should be addressed to the Publisher. Mukul.marshallcavendish. 12th Flr. Title. in any form or by any means. 2013. mechanical. Singapore 536196. Other Marshall Cavendish Offices Marshall Cavendish Corporation. and specifically disclaims any implied warranties or merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose. 40000 Shah Alam. 2. Klongtoey Nua. HF5386 650. electronic.marshallcavendish.

K. And to those who are tired of on-demand business and want more on-demand life. YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS! .DEDICATION This book is dedicated to those leaders who find it lonely at the top and are perpetually struggling to balance the needs of a dozen different stakeholders. JUST F.U. Start living. who are often ground to dust by (the above) harried.C. Stop stressing. To those led. overworked and overwhelmed leaders.

C.E.U.C.U.C.U.K.U.K.-ing the Boss F.K.W.C.U.C.C.K.K.-ing Success Go Forth and F. Anywhere Reinforce the F.-ing Process An Exemplary F. F — Focus C — Change U — Uncover K — Knowing The F.K.K. F.C.R.U.C.K. Your Way to Success Acknowledgements About the Author .K.C.U.-ing Boss The Other F. Anytime. Amazing Grace The F.C.CONTENTS Preface About this Book After the S. Anyone.U.U.-ing Foundation Inspiring and Empowering Conversations The F.

becoming simpler and even more powerful.PREFACE Sometimes the story of how something happened (or was created) is as interesting as the thing itself. Archimedes may have got away with running out of his bath (if legend is to be believed) but we must understand that the Greeks of yore probably followed a different set of moral standards.C.M. . we were soon helping people to S. One that delivers the power of Breakthrough Thinking to the way we lead. which means “naked” for those of you whose French is like my Latin—rudimentary. When Karen Leong.E.W. my co-director at Influence Solutions Pte Ltd.R. That book (S..U.E. thus causing minimal disruption to the training and development (T&D) budget and work schedules. Your Way to Success came to life.M.R. I also began to write a book on this programme so that I could reach out and deliver the benefits to more people. That was my EUREKA moment. We found that most leaders and organizations were struggling to cope with one or both of these issues.R. programme that we had to deliver to the leaders of a bank.M.R. The S.W.M. You see.) would have been out by now if Destiny hadn’t delivered a twist in the tale and led me to write this one first. Not only was it exceedingly impactful but companies also loved it because it could be delivered at an affordable price in short and sweet half-day formats. This is very true in the case of this book.C.E. As a result. even though it will now come out at a later date. workshops became so popular that not only were we running them almost every other week. like any responsible L&D company. So moved and excited was I by this realization that I almost did the Archimedes thing. that is. It did not take me long to confirm that it was a valid concept. and are led.C. I have a sneaking suspicion that the police in Singapore would have taken a dim view of my running around the streets au naturel.E. This solution (the Breakthrough Thinker) delivered such transformational results that it soon became the lead product in our pack.K. leading to the development of yet another L&D solution.C. we began to evolve solutions specifically to address these two pressing needs. book as though it has already been written. I mean.E. Luckily.E. regardless of the country we were in or the industry we happened to be working with. it did not take us long to realize that CHANGE and EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT were the two things that scared the hell out of many leaders.E. The next few weeks were lost in frantic thought and an outpouring of words.W.W.M. one day. It not only transforms our lives but also the lives of those around us. whilst customizing the case studies for a S.C.E.W. and we were delivering it several times every month. It was from these numerous deliveries as well as the interaction with hundreds of leaders and executives that F. These were the two words that we heard the most often.E. So simple and (perhaps that is why) so powerful was this realization that I was momentarily stunned. better sense prevailed and I contained my celebrations to the four walls of my apartment.R.E. Consequently. the Breakthrough Thinker was fine-tuned. I was hit by a major realization. human resource (HR) and organizational development (OD) managers.C. and I entered the Learning and Development (L&D) arena. Support Change and Revitalize Engagement with Minimal Effort. That is why in this book I talk about the S. With every successive delivery.

Mukul Deva .

This is why I have deliberately used a tongue-in-cheek tone and approach in this book. I believe there are a couple of things that need to be talked about before I show you how you too can F. Second. My reason for selecting such exciting titles is fairly simple. First. the topic at hand. religion and product notwithstanding. it also made it easy for people to remember the Principles of War. there are those who have expressed dismay at the titles that I have chosen for some of my books. The title not only made the book stand out on the bookshelves and generated sales. the less you value it. I realized this when I summarized the Principles of War into my book S. To all such disbelievers and naysayers. Given the preponderance of (easily aroused) baser instincts that abound in people. Third. we tend to learn. Indeed it is but there is no reason why it can’t be fun as well. or F. race. is more memorable than something as obscure as BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) or BUFNA (I’ve forgotten what this stands for … see I told you that no one remembers the inane ones).C.E. These titles are not an act of rebellion but of common sense.W.K. In fact. They accuse me of sensationalizing and titillating purely for commercial profit. retain and apply more. forty pieces of silver today do not hold for me the same appeal they did when I was forty.U. that is.U. This was also my realization while we were running the change and engagement workshops—people were so happily learning to S. which is what the acronym stood for. This 24/7 functioning leads to a lousy quality of life. less work and higher pay.E.ABOUT THIS BOOK In order to set the context straight.C. it is obvious that leaders today are constantly under fire from a variety of stakeholders.A.R. From the shareholder seeking higher and always increasing return on investment to the customer seeking cheaper. each with directly conflicting demands and all wanting answers (or results) now. I believe that when learning is fun. I am more aware that money has diminishing value—the more you have. an . I find that to be true of most L&D activities too. I have always wondered if this has anything to do with the belief that learning is a serious business.: The Art of Corporate Warfare . all I would like to say is “Since when is profit a bad word?” Though not at all unwelcome.K. Today.P. I am sure. The demands are endless and constantly changing.T.E. your way to success. I realize that a titillating acronym like S. The consequence is that leaders have to make rapid decisions. And such results don’t seem to be getting us to where we want to go.I. it is safe to say that most companies expend considerable time and money in developing their leaders and helping them lead more effectively.R.C. to ensure the process will be remembered by those seeking to make Breakthrough Thinking a part of their lives. traditional thinking and leadership development will always yield traditional results only. Having worked with leaders in several countries at various levels.E.E.T. Country. On the contrary. with tons of data coming at them from all directions and little time to analyse it. You see the point. always evolving (to meet changing expectations) and better products to the workforce demanding a better quality of life.E.M.C.R. namely Breakthrough Thinking.S. I did this only because most L&D books I have come across are pedantic and boring as hell. However. the flippant tone and story format that I’ve used in this book. Just because the subject (helping leaders lead more effectively and the led to be led more happily) is serious does not mean the tone should be too.M.W.

“How do you manage to get so much done? How on earth do you find the time?” While I was reflecting on this oft-asked question. Fourth. causing their productivity to flounder too. a school dropout and not an intellectual giant by even the most dubious standards. there was no conceivable reason why the more competent and capable people in my team could not do more. After diving deep into this problem and talking to several thousand people. And allows the led to show they are creative. As Einstein succinctly put it: The thinking that got us into this mess is obviously not enough to get us out of it. It simply inverts everything. I found they could. conversations remain a reality none of us can walk away from. However. Initially. simpler to implement and generally delivers results hugely out of proportion to the effort invested. I was asked several times if the characters and incidents in this book are real so I thought it would be good to shed some light on this. It takes away the complexity from the end users. Whether we like it or not. Based on decades of experience. To put it simply. the Breakthrough Thinker programme has been developed and evolved after tons of research. All the coaching stories and examples used by me have been taken from real coaching sessions. And it achieves all this simply by leveraging the most common currency of all human interaction—conversation. It aims to reduce the efforts (of the leader and the led) and either enhance or at the very least sustain the results we get. It became obvious to me that our thinking needs to change. something had to change.K. Simplicity is simple to understand. this put a terrible dent in my ego. to lead by empowering the people they lead and letting them get on with it. My belief is that F. Stressed leaders impact adversely on the people they are leading. your efforts will also be reduced and your results multiplied. And the future is pretty much here. . Everything came together in my head due to a question that journalists often asked me. it gave the quality of my life a much bigger boost and left me free to surge ahead and do more. I do believe that the workplace of the future will look largely Indo-Chinese. This thought had been in the back of my mind for many years but I had never acted on it. when I withdrew from the active management of my company and allowed my team to get on with it. leaving them with something really simple to understand and even simpler to implement. competent and capable.extremely poor work-life balance and a shockingly high burnout rate. Here is hoping that. Hence. If I. could achieve so much. However. Fifth. people have become so fond of over-thinking and evolving fancy solutions that they have forgotten how powerful SIMPLICITY can be. if we can simply alter the impact of our conversations. This is where Breakthrough Thinking comes into play. it will entail no additional effort from anyone and benefit everyone.C. Breakthrough Thinking enables leaders to reduce effort. is the Apple of all L&D products. Hence. Or a simpler way to put it would be that we need to change the way we look at things. the proof of how badly this change was needed was my realization that people are more limited by their belief in their capabilities than by any actual lack of capability. a few years ago. with the help of Breakthrough Thinking. I found the most common cause was COMPLEXITY.U. I think it is also important to explain why the primary characters are mostly Indian and Chinese. moving from complexity to simplicity. And they did it a darned sight better than before. For some reason. I realized the answer was actually pretty simple. there are so many of us. During the editing process.

And on that very day.E. For many years. self-confident (enough to ask questions without fear of feeling silly) and … oh. even gender and nationality have been changed to ensure client confidentiality. even today. And. even if she does at first.M. her and get her to change her mind. And Coleen D’Mage is the collateral damage of such a misguided leadership style. The character Om Prakash (which means “light of God”) has been used to bring out facts and ideas from an impartial and objective point of view. As real as can be.C. that is. to be an observer. and thus off limits. is supposed to be wise (in that he knows he does not know everything). I can see her hair billowing in the wind. Lou Seah and Coleen D’Mage are hybrids. Lou Seah represents the overworked and overstressed leader who is forever trying to get things done the right way. like all leaders. the primary point-of-view character.. Arjun.E.R. And each character used by me to get points across is based on one or more people whom I have encountered. I am eagerly awaiting that day. inquisitive (for we learn only when we ask questions and listen to the answers without judgement). at times. which literally means “big” (Maha) “dick” (Lingam) for those of you who don’t know Hindi. Arjun stands at the very core of what all L&D activity is supposed to do—to help people to: • THINK with Clarity • LISTEN for Potential • SPEAK with Intent • ACT with Purpose Then. is very much like the warrior he is named after—a very focused guy. I’m sure. I am the Change Maker after all … . So real that if I close my eyes. Not as large as I would like it to be but what can I do? She is a client. And hey. Arjun represents the ultimate leader and. when I do get down to writing it). But I sense the day is not far away when the situation will change. there is Win Ing.C. Because I really like Win Ing. She is real. her perfume reaches out and tickles my senses. his way. she has occupied a large part of my life. assembled from a number of people working in a number of companies located in several countries whom I have had the pleasure of working with.However. I know I can F. as it were.W. names and. the context. you get the drift.U. In other words. he had to be a Mahalingam. I will ask her out and I know she will not say no. of course. I can feel the touch of her fingers in mine.K. considering the role he plays in this book (and S.


Sapphire lay smack between Ruby and Diamond. It is visible in the energy and enthusiasm that people show. they now sought it out at every possible opportunity and were ever eager to exploit any opportunity it presented.M. I had been a big part of them.E. In sync with its new name.R. the charming smile that Win Ing greeted me with provided further validation. workshops. The S. Her emails and the feedback during the S.C. developed and delivered by our company. They had been swept away. I had been unable to suppress my smile of satisfaction at this sight. and the led that they did not need to be led so much. I wasn’t surprised. BIG CORP had continued to . Once it had been a force to be reckoned with. As I entered Sapphire. It had helped BIG CORP leaders realize that they did not need to lead so hard.E. If this was not engagement. Amethyst and Turquoise. we humans are fickle creatures and can never get enough validation. Equally heartening to me had been the noticeable elevation in the buzz that now abounded in the corridors and cubicles of BIG CORP. however. affirmation and appreciation.E. It was easy to see that the BIG CORP family enjoyed coming into work these days. their attitude to change had completely changed.W. BIG CORP was a giant immersed in a slew of businesses in the Asia-Pacific region. These days all meetings and conferences in BIG CORP took place amidst these temples of wisdom. Au contraire. And many BIG CORP citizens had told me that with these changes in décor the mood and tenor of meetings had changed too.E. Win Ing was the HR director of BIG CORP. to the overstressed leaders of BIG CORP and the overworked lot they led that had spearheaded these changes. workshops had already validated our efforts.R. Gone were the blooming flowers that I had encountered a year back. and the change in names of the conference halls was only the tip of the iceberg. On the other side of a well-lit and carpeted corridor were Emerald. Her entry had coincided with an employee survey which had shown that BIG CORP people were not engaged.E. programme had been incredibly invigorating. designed. It had been so big and had acquired so much momentum that even when the economy downturned and its competitors began hounding hard on its heels. I had noticed it even today as I had made my way to Sapphire. Nay! Truth be told. and now they welcomed change.Win Ing was deep in conversation with Om Prakash when I entered Sapphire. like leaves in autumn. She’d inherited the portfolio a year ago when the erstwhile director cashed in his chips. it was the S.M. merely a tiny manifestation of this change.E. each room now had a distinctive colour combination with furniture and fitments to match.W. Though an external consultant.R.W. the designated conference room. At least not engaged enough to allow the company to remain profitable for much longer.C. it had warmed the cockles of my heart.C. In fact. then it was time for me to disengage and do something less demanding than deliver L&D solutions to humankind.M. Several changes had swept across BIG CORP over the last few months. The programme had so enthused the denizens of BIG CORP that change (something they had always dreaded) no longer bothered them. The impact of this transformed mindset towards change was remarkable. You will agree that employee engagement is not something that needs to be measured. Garnet was across the corridor.

stressing the a and running the r and j together. to be honest.” I loved the way she pronounced my name. and comfortable with the fact that no one could know all the answers. They had worked together in another company. programme. About 1. black trouser suit with a lawyerly white cotton top. In marked contrast to Win. I suddenly realized I was still holding Win’s hand. Somehow I had a feeling she would be pleased. Win.W. Both of us were roughly the same age but I had yet to achieve his inner peace. “How is it going. I wondered if this had anything to do with the fact that Win lived a fairly stress-free life. Arjun. Releasing it. I guess Win now had the maturity of curiosity guarding her beauty and sanity. had been inducted by the board. I knew Win was pushing the fun side of forty but did not look a day over thirty.M. “Anyone home?” “Right here. leaving me short of breath. “Hullo!” Her grip tightened. in other areas further south. Arjun?” she asked as we shook hands.” I added. Luckily. No longer fettered by the need to prove a point to others.R. with large brown-black eyes and perfect teeth set behind luscious lips. Perhaps that is why a new CEO.C.W. An appropriate analogy since the sight of her never failed to unleash spirited thoughts in the pit of my stomach and.” I returned to Sapphire with a sheepish start. She tugged my hand again.C.6 metres in her svelte stockings … and all of it deliciously curvy … black shoulder-length hair framing an oval face. Her touch seared through me. man. But I knew that Win knew I was only talking about her. I could tell. “That seems to be pretty cool . Win was toting a smart. Nick had arrived in the nick of time. Unfettered by make-up. Having spent enough time with her during the S. “I can see that. I sensed that Win too was affected by my presence and I think she was checking to see if I was still single. “It’s always great to meet you … guys. Once again. “What’s new and exciting in your life?” On the surface. simultaneously soothing and exciting. for anyone savvy enough to read the writing on the wall. Nick Teck Beng. workshops that our company had run for BIG CORP over the past year. Om Prakash provided a suitable diversion. Her aroma receded. I could see a riot of colours all over it. Win Ing was terrifically easy on the eyes. The Hugo Boss Woman perfume she was wearing reached out and licked my senses. I thought with a pleased smile. for the benefit of Om Prakash. good to see you. but with some help from yours truly. he was toting a bright saffron shirt and baggy khakis. As usual. It reminded me of church bells calling the faithful to prayer. She did succeed.chug along on past glories. Win’s question seemed mundane but I thought there was more to it. Om. filling me with regret.” I ensured a smile accompanied my repartee to keep it within the bounds of acceptable corporate behaviour. I retreated to the other side of the table. How would she feel about the way I felt about her? I wondered for the nth time. Win. I noticed he was busy stroking his iPad screen with a brushtipped stylus.E. her remarkably young skin shone with the gorgeous gleam that the Chinese are blessed with.” I returned his smile.E. The turning point had been the S. His attire complemented the Zen-like peace radiating from him. and it was he who had brought in Win Ing. wondering if she could read my thoughts. who was lounging a few chairs to her left.E. “It goes well. the company began to run out of steam. and then pointed at the iPad.R. However. She held her expression intact but there was a subtle shift in her eyes. and Nick trusted her ability to turn things around.” Draped comfortably in the chair. “You are. “Hey Arjun.E. The iPad was lying flat on the table so the screen was visible to me.M. Om Prakash bestowed a benign smile and a graceful wave.

Oh well.” I took a closer look.” “Yeah.” “I look forward to that. workshops about the lack of resources and the unwillingness of those higher up the food chain to invest in even the most basic of things. As a matter of fact.M. In vain.W. Both of them had changed a lot. all I could see was an unruly mess of colours.” He had given me the perfect excuse to return my attention Win-wards. it didn’t look anything like me. I wanted to tell her.E.” He tapped one of the figures in it and continued.M. primarily about the forty pieces of silver they had grudgingly agreed to part with. “How about you.E..” She displayed those fabulous. But as I settled down.” “You must tell me more.” he gestured towards Win. “That’s the visual representation of a meeting we just finished with the CEO. “The meeting was about you … like … a review of the S. barring a few things that looked vaguely like flow charts.” I disengaged the Mac and pushed the projector’s connector cable towards him.” He must have seen the query in my eyes and added.M. Gone was the huge medieval appliance I had encountered here the year before.M. “Soon. Maybe now that we are done with the SCREWS … I was guessing they had called me in today to say a formal thank you as the results of the first post-S. As I’ve already told you. I didn’t think she would be unhappy with the sentiment. It must have shown. I unpacked my trusty Mac and was about to hook it up to the projector when Om Prakash asked.E. “That’s a great idea.R.E. if you get what I mean. The lack of make-up and those almost masculine business suits that she always wore did little to detract from her appeal.E. but my curiosity was aroused.” He swivelled the iPad around. Om swiped the screen clean and began connecting his iPad. Win had already communicated to me that the big shots at BIG CORP were delighted with the results. snazzy thing. Wanting to get closer. “She will.C. workshops.C. He was busy doing that when Lou Seah and Coleen D’Mage hustled in.W. even teeth again. All the griping during the initial months when we had started to make them S. He .R.C. “That’s you. employee survey had come in the previous week and engagement was now up to a thumping 83 per cent.C. during which we had been busy with the S. I’m learning visual note-taking.R. “It’s about translating everything that happens during a meeting … or any event … into pictures and graphs.E.” “Sounds cool. The projector was new.W.R. The sight of the new projector delighted me because most BIG CORP personnel had complained during the S.R.” You have no idea . it is.M.stuff. from the earlier 42 per cent that BIG CORP had been struggling with.” He tapped the screen lightly with his stylus.W. had been hard for me. was now a thing of the past.” “It is. I can record this meeting as well and show you how it is done. A compact. The past year. “Would you like me to hook up my iPad and show you the visual notes as I make them?” He tilted his head questioningly. trying to make sense of the onscreen action. I couldn’t help wondering if I should get her on her own and ask her out.” “That would be fun. “If you want.W. I had wanted to get closer to Win Ing from the moment I first set eyes on her. “Always good to see you too.” Frankly. programme. Win? How are you doing?” “Great.E.E.E. Lou looked a lot more relaxed and with it. But I couldn’t do that. Or that I wanted so badly to see more of her.C. yet knowing that mixing business and pleasure is never a good idea. however expressing it in front of Om Prakash wouldn’t quite have been cricket.E.

” Lou had been showing signs of wanting to jump in and take charge of the meeting but Win pre-empted him. his direct report. Om Prakash’s stylus was poised over his iPad. Previously.” Checking my surprise. He no longer stayed within the comforting. we don’t yet have a clear picture but we would certainly like them to lead in a more inspiring manner and. cultures and countries too numerous to count. I put my consultant’s hat back on. being open to change. “He also asked me to tell you that we would now like to do something about our leaders. and hence the wider the array of options open to you. It was most probably this change in him that had had a positive impact on Coleen.” I accepted the accolade with a modest smile and (what I hoped was) a regal incline of the noggin. yet oh-so-limiting confines of what little he knew. • The wider the range of options open to you. I could clearly remember her plight last year. the more numerous and more varying the results that you will be able to achieve will be. change can only happen when we open ourselves to what we do not know.” So far the conversation was moving along expected lines. both Coleen and Lou seemed happy to see me. This is the first sign of maturity. brought up my most intelligent consultant look and got ready to help them see a clearer picture. we would really like to enhance the quality of their lives. the larger your sense of perspective will be. “What would he like to achieve?” “To be honest with you. Only then would they value the . Caught between the astute but yet-to-settle-in Win Ing and a paused visibly before speaking. We soon settled down. That is why I was very happy to notice this change in Lou. She certainly looked less frazzled and considerably happier. But Win’s next words caught me by surprise. Large mugs of Jasmine tea and notepads were arrayed in front of us. my one great realization has been that the best leaders know that they cannot possibly know everything. he had always operated from a position of knowing. Arjun. how much can any one person know? Now he was increasingly ready to operate from a position of inquiry and exploration. “We had a review session with the CEO and Nick specifically asked me to convey this to you. Perhaps not as much as he should be … but at least he had started walking in the right direction. Having worked with leaders of all hues. Only then would I be able to evolve solutions.” I marshalled my thoughts. equally important. which you will agree can be fairly self-limiting. thus they learn to ask questions. To the possibility that there are viewpoints other than our own. Arjun. Even more visible was that Lou now asked a lot more questions. Judging by the warmth of their greetings.” “I see. “I speak for all of us when I say that we are really very happy with the SCREWS you gave us. “It has been a great year. but was much more open to (at least) trying to see the value that might lie in other people’s viewpoints. as though he was actually thinking about what he was going to say. his expectant expression making it clear that he was looking forward to displaying his newly acquired prowess. she had started looking and behaving like the hapless villagers in Afghanistan caught between the Americans and the Taliban—mere collateral damage. uncertain Lou Seah. colours and capabilities in industries. GREAT REALIZATIONS • Asking questions and listening to the answers is the simplest way to broaden the observer within. After all.” “Right. After all. which may also be right. organizations. • The broader your observer.

results.” I gently corrected.K.” Win’s delightful laugh pealed out. Though it was again Lou who shattered it.” I murmured. “Well.” “So?” he prodded again with a grin. Then asked.” It was a long thoughtful right.” “Basically.” “So tell us.” “How?” Lou persisted.” Lou grinned. “But you didn’t say how it is possible. ‘Is it possible?’.C. “So that’s what we should be doing all the time.R. “You know how things have been the past few weeks with the survey going on. “That’s what I do.” I elaborated. I could see that she was intrigued.M. not an invitation. if we stay with the first.U. I allowed their expectations to build. “What’s the difference. “What?” I raised a quizzical eyebrow.” But I could not help laughing. “That makes perfect sense. it’s about a slight realignment in the way leaders see themselves and their roles. when we ask the second. “Is that possible?” “‘How is that possible?’ would be a far more useful question.” “Right. Once we have done that. “That’s pretty powerful … and simple. “If I understand you correctly. we will be expending our energy on trying to determine just that—whether it is possible or not.C. ‘How is it possible?’. we can then select the option we think is the most suitable for us. I sensed something was up.” It was Coleen again. Arjun Mahalingam?” The play on the last word was to remind me that she still remembered what the meaning of my name was. we assume it is possible and seek options … ways in which we can make it happen. “I’m not going to say that this time. actually you can just F. “However. it is about what you wish to focus on—your perception of your capabilities or the various ways in which the task can be done. Arjun?” This was the first time that I had heard Coleen ask a question. “Do less and achieve more?” Lou could not contain himself either. aroused. I began to explain when I noticed that all four of them were wearing extremely expectant expressions. delighting me with her enhanced participation. Instead of asking ‘Can I do it?’. It has held me in good stead all these years. And I also noted that Win was looking pleased. you’re saying that you’d like to see your leaders do less but achieve more?” “Come again. . “Why am I not surprised. your reply had been ‘Screw me’.” Coleen nodded. “And S.” I let that sink in. your way to success. “Between the two questions?” I queried. his tone was somewhat muted. I sensed she was as pleased by the quality of Coleen’s question as she was by the fact that Coleen had started speaking up. “Well. was an acronym. So …” he broke off with a shrug. Even the usually laid-back Om Prakash.” Silence seized Sapphire as everyone pondered that.W. Just doing that can ensure maximum results with minimal effort.E.E. Lou nodded. Clearly Coleen was thinking through the answer. this do-less-and-achieve-more thing. we should be asking ‘How can I do it?’ Right?” “I think so.” “Not really. “Eh?” He looked nonplussed.” Win leant forward.” “True. How can we get more by doing less?” “Well. “Do you remember the programme I shared with you a while ago? The Breakthrough Thinker.” “Briefly. “the last time I asked you such a question.

Om nodded again.” “You’re so full of them.-er. Though I was ready to give it a try. I had been doing it for a while. do we find out if it is possible … and what the possibilities are.K. baby!” Baby? Baby! Did she realize she had just called me baby ? It took all my willpower to rein myself in and focus on the matter at hand.U. Did she have any clue how difficult I was finding it to concentrate? “Pray do tell. Those lips. And look at the results it has got me. I was confident. them.” I did not want to tell him that I was not really sure what his pictures would look like. It is very simple but … no. I didn’t just sound confident. it is incredibly powerful. primed my thoughts and got ready to F.C. Om?” He nodded.” And no. “It would be great even if you could just capture the context in graphs and flow charts. . And never stop.K. not but … because it is so simple. “For this? For reducing effort and enhancing results? You bet. I am the ultimate F. “What I am going to share with you will change your lives.C.” she prodded. “Then sit back and lend me your ears. The way her eyes crinkled up.” Win unleashed her fatal smile again. “You have a couple of hours?” I asked her.U. only when we give something a try. “Are you ready. After all. After all.K. I ran my fingers along my clicker.I wanted to tell Win to keep laughing. our way to success?” “And that by the way is also an acronym.U.” I said confidently.C. Those shiny even teeth. “how can we F.


And that I have noticed is generally always the case—those who believe they can generally can.“Before we begin to F. And also because they wanted to leverage the strengths and experience of their star performers to generate peer learning and.U. her curiosity obviously piqued.” Her brow unfurrowed. “Absolutely right. “And to put this into context. “MDRT? Million Dollar Round Table … they are their best insurance advisors … people who generate a specified amount of premium collections during an accounting year.” “Ah right.” “You mean. winning generally remains an elusive goal.” “Why did they throw in some existing MDRTs?” Coleen queried. An enigmatic consultant’s smile. we were engaged by an insurance company to enhance the number of MDRTs as well as the sales results of their existing ones. the company added its top five existing MDRTs.” “What’s that?” A frown creased Win’s brow.” Win replied almost instantly.. Arjun … the way they picked these people.” Win sounded eager and very intrigued. “Explain that again please. “And I mean each of you because this is an individual choice that we need to make. It makes them feel supported and good about themselves and it helps them to start believing in themselves. “believing in people doesn’t help?” “Of course it helps.” “One sec. And unless we make this choice. “Because these five were their stars.” I reluctantly returned to reality. “Which one do you think?” “The ones who believed they could. “And also pretty simple.” “Sure.” Lou shattered my reverie. provide additional motivation to the other twenty. “Bingo!” I gave a soundless clap.” “Go on. we all tend to become what we believe we are … or achieve what we believe we are capable of. I would like to spend a moment finding out and understanding what each of you really want. “The first twenty comprised two categories of people: ten whom the company believed had what it took to become MDRTs and ten who believed they had it in themselves. I’d like to share a story with you. There was only a slight hint of doubt in her voice. I caught myself gazing at Win.” I did. Last year.” Win appeared intrigued. in the end.K. a studied look.” “What was the basis of selection?” “Good question. which group proved more successful? The ones who believed they could or the ones the company believed could?” I smiled. the road ahead will remain murky.” I eyeballed all four of them.” Coleen asked. “This insurance company was keen to enhance its market share and so chose twenty-five advisors for the pilot group. people whom the company believed could achieve much more.C.” That made me pause. “So. of course. . Until that happens. Did I believe Win and I could be together? Did I really? Is that why … “It’s fascinating.” Coleen now seemed impatient. She pondered that for a moment. More often than not. “Yes. it is.” I acknowledged Coleen with a smile. To this. But ultimately you have to believe in yourself. talk about Break through Thinking and how we can maximize results while minimizing effort. She looked amazingly good today.

When we shook hands. when we believe we know. and then help them discover ways to overcome these barriers. “That’s perfectly right. and an MDRT for at least half that . we also wanted to isolate challenges that were holding them back from hitting MDRT status.” I noticed the quizzical look on Lou’s face. these guys knew the trade and their industry far better than any external consultant ever could. Deep blue. A light blue top with a matching cotton jacket. “You see. After all. “Are you the guys who are going to help me achieve more as an MDRT?” I looked up. ankle-length skirt.” Solemn nods. the comfortable. This generally empowers people with the required attitude advantage. Actually. She was the first one in.” “I didn’t get that. flared out type.” “Doesn’t it hamper you? Not knowing the client’s industry?” I was really impressed with the change in Coleen’s attitude.” Lou interjected this time. “So.” Coleen nodded. Hence. not ladycompensating-to-be-a-man firm. Late-fifties. automatically switched on my put-them-at-ease smile and took her in. “To my mind not knowing the industry can be very useful because we do not get blocked in by what we know.“So … the first day. we block new ideas and options. our aim is to enable them to identify what their individual strengths are and help them to leverage these. There seemed to be none. I checked to see if there were any more queries. “Not to mention that if we only operate in industries we are familiar with. I allowed the storyteller in me to run amok. Win’s eyes egged me to continue with my story. I was so busy unpacking the laptop and notebook that I only became aware of her presence when she asked. You see Coleen.” “I see. “We also needed a sense of their strengths as we planned to leverage these to enhance their confidence and group learning. our aim is not to focus on the products or the sales process. She was now so ready to show more of herself and confident enough to ask lots of good questions.” I allowed that bit to sink in. They are good as long as they get you thinking and make you want to find out more because they can help to broaden the perspective and make more actions and options available. we arrived at the insurance company’s office for one-to-one meetings with each of the chosen ones. The diamond was big. and what they believed was standing between them and the MDRT status because our approach is always to ensure our training solutions are precisely designed to address these individual blocks. “In this case.” Coleen murmured. We try to help them break up their processes and identify which parts they are really good at and which parts they need to enhance.” I replied as I synthesized the visual input. “Comfortable” and “poised” were the two words that sprang to mind. and when that happens. let me clarify that—almost all questions are good. an external consultant will generally not know the industry as well as the people working in it. A tiny golden cross riding high on her neck and a diamond ring on her wedding finger. her grip was firm. Instead.” “That is logical. “I’ve been an insurance advisor for over thirty years.” “Makes sense. but not nouveau-riche big. what are you going to teach me that I don’t already know?” Her guileless smile took the sting out of the words. we stop asking questions. “It was important for us to have an understanding of how these people saw themselves. but ladylike firm. it would severely restrict us and also hardly ever allow new thoughts and ideas to enter any industry. before we actually began the training programme.

I could see all four of them were thinking hard. His iPad screen was still blank.” This was so good. I’m sure. If she was any indication of the kind of people who would be walking in through the door today.” Her grin mutated into a laugh now. I would like to ask you—what would you like from this training programme? Would you like to retain your efforts and increase the results you’re getting? Or would you like to reduce your efforts and retain your results?” I could see that the questions had struck a chord. it is critical to know where we stand and where exactly we want to go. if you have identified your destination … your end goals … it will enable you to know you have succeeded when you reach there … or periodically measure how far you are from there. I could see some exciting learning times ahead. “I like you already. but each of us sees a different picture in our head. Om Prakash’s generally benign smile seemed a little wider. Only then would the process ahead be meaningful to them.” She gave an I-am-not-flattered-but-do-go-on smile. The others followed suit a moment later. “What did you say your name was?” “Grace.time.” This was an extremely important point and I felt compelled to stress it. trust me.” After a while. I already liked this woman even more. “And. Effectiveness and goals are very personal things. We may often use the same words.” I grinned back. I saw Win reach out and scribble something in her notebook. And I suggest you write it down somewhere. “When you’re my age kid. As was the image being projected on . Lou and Coleen were slightly open-mouthed. “Because you want to know what we wan …” he changed course midway. “So? What does personal effectiveness mean to you? Do you wish to retain your efforts at current levels and enhance the results or would you like to reduce your effort and yet retain your results?” I allowed them to set up the framework in their heads. “I don’t need to know the answer. More enthused and energetic than when she had come in. of course. Her finger stabbed the air gently.” And I meant it. you don’t want to increase your efforts any more. How do I reduce my efforts and yet retain the results I’m already getting?” “Ah. I mentally rubbed my hands in anticipation.” I relapsed into silence. Even Om Prakash. equally important. Only then will we reach the correct place. That is why. “So why did I share this story with you?” I surveyed the four faces in front of me. “but I would like to learn from you … all of us would. I love your directness and look forward to a fascinating learning journey with you.” It had been a long while since anyone had called me kid. at the start of any learning journey. He was the one who responded.” “And I you.” Grace departed.” “That’s right. It was imperative that they did. allowing them space to figure it out. When I felt the point had sunk in. Grace. I could see that I was in for an exciting time. but you already know the answer. “no … you want us to know what we want. “Nothing really. And that’s what I am here to find out … and help you to find out. you just don’t know that you know it. “Tell me more. smiling.” “You’re absolutely amazing. It is like getting into a car and keying in our destination into the GPS. Win seemed to be thinking hard. There was now a new light in her eyes. “And. You do. I resumed.

” “What kind of problem?” Coleen looked troubled. As though waiting to receive. And if my bank balance improved along the way. Not surprising. Use a scale of ten. what objection could I possibly have? “Figuring out what you want for yourselves is the most important first step.” Win’s melodious voice resonated in my head.K. However. Then I asked. our way to success?” “Not yet. Symbolic.” It took a while before any of them began to speak but once they did. If these four could see the bigger picture … if they could create the required frame in their heads. I noticed that the energy in the room had fallen. Only then will you know what you need to focus on—the effort or the result.” Lou looked so disappointed that I added.” The pause this time was really brief. I could see that the meeting had just mutated into a training session and was going to be a long one. “How to F. Even talking about a solution has that effect on people.C.K. I allowed them to continue until all four had finished sharing before calling them to order. After all.” With that. Again not surprising. the energy level in the room was fairly high.U. “Now may I request each of you to write down what you believe is the biggest problem confronting you right now. Personal. I had no doubt it would be worthwhile. “It doesn’t matter. “Fabulous. “Not really. “Now please explain to the person beside you the two or three most important things that you will be able to achieve once you have solved this problem. I was certain we would be doing a lot more work with many more BIG CORP leaders.C. “Remember! No discussing the problem. A sombre mood now gripped all four of them. Thinking about problems always has that effect. And you.” I raised a cautionary finger.” I gave them an encouraging smile.U. knowing how powerful the F. By now. is. with one being least confident and ten being totally confident. changing lives is my passion. dear reader? Have you figured out what you want? And where you want to go? Personal Effectiveness = Retain Effort + Enhance Results or Personal Effectiveness = Reduce Effort + Retain Results or Personal Effectiveness = Reduce Effort + Enhance Results or Is there any other answer that you have for yourself? If so. Solving your problems is not part of my job description. “Beneath the problem. please write down how confident you are of handling it. animated discussions ensued. we moved on to the next logical step.” “Are you going to show us now?” Lou asked eagerly. professional … whatever you believe is posing the biggest challenge for you at this point in your life. Lou took the longest time to finish. “Why did we do this?” “You’re going to solve these problems for us?” Coleen queried. “I think we have all worked out our answers. only the rustle of paper filled the room. Only share what you will be able to achieve once the problem has been solved. “Soon. Just as solving the problems of .the screen—a blank white rectangle.” For a while. write it in the space below.

” Long pause. It told me that he would be one enthusiastic F. Some more silence. Smiling and nodding. “Perfect!” I said with a smile. our way to success?” It was Lou again. And why else did I ask you to spell out the benefits or the results?” “So that when we see those things happen … the results … we will know we have succeeded.your team players is not part of yours. why would you want to expend effort on it?” I let that settle in.K. “And we can always keep those two or three clearly visible things in sight to periodically measure how far we are from them.” That was Win. Very soon. We are going to apply Breakthrough Thinking and see where that takes us.-er. Lou. Actually. in fact. Coleen. “First. Okay?” Four quicker. Four tentative nods. “Yes! I am going to help you look at the problems differently.U. please put away these problem sheets.C. More vehement nods. All the time.” They were all smiling now. Okay?” Four more nods.U. help me understand why I asked you to share the things you will achieve once the problem is solved?” “So that we are clear about why exactly we are putting in the effort to solve this problem.” I loved his enthusiasm. Let us finish laying the foundation first.” “Now are you going to show us how to F. I could have hugged her anyway. more decisive nods. “Right. “For the moment. “Soon.K. “Do remember this when you task people to work on things. Help them to clearly see the benefits that will accrue and establish the value of the work they do. We will come back to them later.C. I could have hugged her. “If you cannot see the tangible benefits of solving a problem.” “Bravo.” I was delighted that she had been the one to identify this first. .


“And what in your opinion would help enhance productivity?” I asked when they had finished admiring his handiwork. . I decided it would be too much of a distraction. that about sums it up. ‘What does a company want? Any and every company. “Let us now stop and ask. “When you cut past the big words and all the hoopla.” Om Prakash was keeping pace now.” Win answered. That is why we must stop regularly to check and carry out any necessary correction in the course. I thought I would share with them the various occasions this had happened to me as I travelled down this journey called Life.” Lou added. Om Prakash had finally begun his visual notes because this is what had come up on the screen. Perhaps Om.” Coleen and Lou chimed in like Siamese twins.” For a moment.” I concurred. we need people who are engaged and enthusiastic. was still not confident of his artistic ability because I noticed that he had added explanatory text near each picture. “Exactly what we needed when we spoke to you last year. Please remember. “Totally. “people who are enterprising—willing to think.’” “Higher profits.” “And. The diagram had grown while they had been speaking. much as I adore talking about myself.“An understanding of what we want is the true north. there may be many occasions when we will deviate … or be compelled to deviate … because of life or circumstance. “To enhance productivity. However. And would I be correct in saying that the company needs to enhance productivity to achieve higher profits?” A series of that-is-obvious nods. A tangible way for us to measure the results of our efforts and know when we have succeeded. Do keep a firm fix on it as we move along. Win and Om Prakash smiled simultaneously at the synchronicity. evolve solutions and prepared to act on them.

if I may say so. “I am coming to that.” he shrugged. “Whatever. the consultant was more resilient than the homo sap that resided within and resolutely regained control. it always is.C. We have to find a way to make them see the picture. they will be happier.” Lou thought hard.” “But what would that look like in real terms?” Lou’s doubts persisted. Luckily. and a Foreign Affairs man. then they just don’t. “Would you concur that everyone wants to feel good about themselves?” “That’s perfectly logical. “But how does that help us here?” “How it helps us is that if we can make our people feel good about themselves.” “Simplistic or simple?” I knew it was futile to push harder. Sure enough. let us step back for a moment and focus on what they want. and thus more engaged. stating it louder or trying to use logic to convince them seldom gets us different results. Setting fire to my heartstrings yet again.?” I grinned at his eagerness to start F. “Is it okay if I share another little story with you first?” That’s usually a safe question. A senior civil servant. we all like to feel good about ourselves.” “Now are you going to show us how to F.U. Simon had struck me as pretty calm and collected the first time we had met. Simon was looking pretty upset when he walked in that day.C. It was very distracting and I almost lost the thread.U. Repeating it. People seldom say no to a story.” Win concurred. If people don’t see the value of something. “That is true but a bit simplistic. “No matter who we are or what we do.K.K.“Since people are the common factor here.-ing.” Win appeared to like the way the conversation was going.” “Hmm. As part of a leadership . She was grinning broadly. none of them did.

Obviously. which surprisingly is ignored often by even the most experienced people. “But all she keeps saying is stuff like ‘Give me real work’ …” he stopped abruptly as it hit him. “What do you think?” Simon reflected. the conversation had been more than a little difficult. “I see. Loud enough to jerk him back into the moment. “And that is why she is not happy doing it?” I didn’t say anything. And you may also like to help her see the one or two most prominent outcomes that would enable her to see that she is engaging them properly. I decided to tackle it head-on. I again had to counsel her … and that conversation did not go well. At times like this. briefing her about the process and explaining the dos and don’ts but I have never sat down and shown her the value of doing it. “You’re looking a bit upset today. Simon soon continued. Realizing that his upset feeling had no intention of calling it a day and.” Another sigh.” Simon gave a rueful look. “Well. “You want to talk about it?” I asked supportively. has been giving me a really hard time …” he paused to collect his thoughts. she rambles on about it being a waste of time. It’s pretty amazing how simple things can be if we actually listen to people when they talk rather than just hear their words and then attach our own assumptions to them. “So you think she sees no value in engaging external stakeholders?” Simon asked. One can lend such gravitas to even the most mundane words.” “Have you?” I was gentle. Simon’s gaze was caught in the distance. “No matter how much I try. is an important part of the job in my department. she just refuses to put any real effort into it. “I have tried …” “What do you think she is actually saying to you?” I asked.” he continued slowly. “I see. I think I see it now. a bit louder this time. who the hell asks a coach a question? Simon must have got the drift because he surged ahead eventually. except that she really sucks at engaging external stakeholders. Today. Preferably some simple things that she can see and . His irritation manifested itself several times as we chatted to re-establish and reinforce rapport. a very basic requirement for any human interaction. I was providing him with one-to-one executive coaching support. would get in the way of our coaching session. “You see. “you think I have missed something. who joined my department a couple of months back. with clarity. to cut a long story short. “One of my deputies is giving me a really hard time. That’s why …” he broke off. “What do you think she is trying to tell me?” “I’d suggest you focus on what she is telling you rather than on what you think she is trying to tell you. “I told you that she keeps on saying …” he halted in mid sentence and gave me a curious look. I have been trying to get her to do the job properly by counselling her. There was no need to. I took that to be a rhetorical question and didn’t deign to reply. I’ve just had another difficult conversation with her. which.programme he was doing. organized and good at her work. he actually did. but grave. and says she would rather do real work instead. “What does Mary say when you speak to her?” “Oh.” Simon sighed. Mary. I love being a coach.” Deep in thought. I mean.” After a moment. and this was our second session.” “Yeah. if ignored. this one tinged with exasperation. unfortunately.” He hummed and hawed for a moment.” “I agree. no matter how many times I speak to her about it. “Yes. Having thought it through. Mary is brilliant … she is very hardworking.

“But …” “You don’t see the value behind it?” He grinned at the wordplay but didn’t answer. He told me a few weeks later that he had been able to make Mary see the value of engaging the department’s external stakeholders. When he nodded. In fact.” Simon mulled over that. they tend to be more engaged and enthusiastic. His attention was still focused on the screen. And we will come to that. “It all worked out in the end. I do see where you’re going with this but I am not able to understand how we can ensure people are always able to see the value of everything they have to do. “I am. I did a quick check to see if the others had any other queries and then continued. “Yes.” Win answered before I could. “Coming back to what people want.measure. would it also be fair to say that people want the freedom to think for themselves and be able to evolve their own solutions?” This time my question provoked a longer silence.” His expression communicated otherwise.” However. I added. Once that happened.” “Great point. But before we move onto that.” “Capability was not the issue?” Coleen enquired. That will be easy for me to do. . Lou. Everyone seemed riveted by Om Prakash’s picturization. that is the essence of Breakthrough Thinking. she was happy to apply herself to it enthusiastically. No?” “I suppose they are. “It isn’t that. “And when they’re feeling good about themselves. can we just go through the rest of the things that people want?” He nodded. I could see that they were thinking hard. “It seldom is. “Aren’t they?” I asked.” “What happened then?” Coleen enquired when I finished. I noticed Lou had a dubious note in his tone. “So you’re saying that people are happy when they see the value of the work they have to do and then they feel good about themselves?” Lou double-checked. “With Simon and Mary?” She nodded. “You’re not convinced?” I asked him. I see where you are going.

“For the moment. they will seldom own the solutions and so their commitment to making them work will not be as high.” I could see it was bothering her a lot.” “Fair enough. but if we don’t allow them to start. I turned back to Coleen. “Does everyone want that? Aren’t a lot of people happy to be told what they have to do and how they should do it?” “Are you?” I challenged her. “Sometimes they don’t have the experience … to figure out what’s the best thing to do.” she said even though the doubt on her face had not receded. I next threw a questioning look at Win and then at Om Prakash. but gently.” Lou looked affronted. not the effect. thank you. shall we focus on why people often let their leaders do the thinking?” .“Isn’t that a bit of a generalization?” Coleen finally asked. “No.” “Okay. “But …” I interrupted her before she had the chance to go on.” The last two words had more than a hint of sarcasm. So we have to give them that right … in fact. “And you. I see the point you are trying to make. confirming that they too preferred to do their own thinking. actively encourage them to think and find ways to temper their inexperience and likely mistakes. how will they gain this experience?” “So you’re saying a leader should allow someone inexperienced to think up solutions. “but that is generally not what we see in the workplace. even when they are likely to be wrong?” “I am saying that unless we allow people to do their own thinking. Both of them shook their heads. “I know I would like to be able to do my own thinking. “And why do you think that is so?” I wanted her to look at the cause. Lou?” “Certainly not. “I’m quite capable of doing my own thinking. Otherwise how will new ideas and thoughts emerge?” I changed tack.” She shook her head firmly.

I quickly Bluetooth-ed the iceberg slide to Om Prakash’s iPad. Even Om Prakash looked up from his sketching. The others nodded.” He clarified. “Don’t we often come across managers who get seriously upset if they don’t get appropriate behaviour?” Four firm nods. I do believe that even in such cases. “They may need the benefit of the helicopter vision of their leader … to ensure that the best possible decisions are taken.” “I agree. I’m going to invite you to think about this—what do most leaders … in fact.” Then realizing I didn’t want my lousy drawing up on the flip chart. “Let me share the iceberg theory with you. . Few who have been at any workplace for any length of time could dispute this. equally firmly. “And the rest?” I didn’t wait for a reply. leaders should encourage their staff to think. I sensed I would lose her if I did not allow this to be discussed further. I am sure most of you will have already heard of this.Win rode in to the rescue.” “Or the leaders don’t make their teams feel safe or supported enough to act on their own. leaning back a bit. “Coleen. sometimes. “Sometimes they may sense that their leaders would rather make the decisions themselves … because they don’t want to relinquish control or because the leaders don’t trust anyone else’s judgement. people would rather have the leaders do the thinking.” Coleen withdrew.” I shrugged. adjacent to the screen. which he then beamed onto the screen for me. “And also because. four resolute nods. “However. Getting up.” Lou added. and lend them the comfort and support of knowing that their experience and higher vision will help to enhance their plans and vision. I walked across to the flip chart in the far corner. what do most people focus on?” “Results.” Coleen answered firmly. the bigger picture may not be as clear for people at the lower levels.” “Fair enough. “Even when it is pretty clear that the so-called appropriate behaviour is not translating into the required results?” Yet again. In such cases.

“And that is surprising if we appreciate the simple fact that both results and behaviour are merely the manifestations of the way we think, not what we think but how we think,” I tapped the iceberg with my laser pointer, “and how we feel.” “I agree with you, Arjun,” Win chipped in. “I’d say most people do want the freedom to think and evolve their own solutions and if they were encouraged to do this, they would own the solutions and hence be more invested in making sure their plans work and …” “And,” Lou interrupted, “people also want to be rewarded.” “Sure. Being rewarded will make them feel even better about themselves.” Coleen was also on board now. “It is an acknowledgement of their hard work. And also an affirmation of their self-worth.” Lou clarified further, “In fact, reward in itself can often make people more willing to think up solutions for themselves.” I was happy to note that everyone was again on the same page. It was now starting to feel like a lovefest. “Very true. For the purpose of this discussion, let us put aside the fiscal reward part of it … let’s assume that when the company becomes more profitable, it will share that through higher rewards for its people.” They all nodded. I did a final check to see if there were any more issues to be thrashed out. There appeared to be none. “And that completes the cycle.” I flashed my clicker at the screen, unable to withhold a theatrical flourish. “And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the basis of Breakthrough Thinking. Two very simple and fundamental facts of life: first, people need to feel good about themselves and, second, they want the freedom to think for themselves.” I laser-tapped the first onto the screen. “That is why every leader needs to make people feel good about themselves by appreciating them and helping them see the value of what they do. This will ensure they are engaged and enthusiastic.” After giving them a moment to let this sink in, I resumed, “Second, every leader also needs to give his people the encouragement to think and evolve their own solutions, and give them the freedom and support to act. This will ensure they are enterprising, that is, ready to present new options and solutions they have evolved so that they own them and will be more committed to making them succeed.” With a your-honour-the-defence-now-rests flourish, I directed their attention to the projector screen. “Please tell me if we aren’t all on the same page with this.”

Judging by their animated expressions as they studied Om Prakash’s handiwork on the screen, I had scored. They looked like they had hit upon the holy grail. Which in a way they had. More often than not, we tend to overlook the simpler facts of life. “That’s fine but …” Lou looked somewhat overwhelmed. “The problem is how? What does the leader have to do to ensure this?” “It is not about doing, Lou. As a matter of fact, the aim of Breakthrough Thinking is to do as little as possible.” “But how?” Lou persisted. “What’s the one thing that every leader in every company is required to do all the time?” I wanted them to work at getting the answers. People seldom appreciate anything they have not realized for themselves. “Hold meetings.” There was no question mark at the end of Coleen’s remark. “Mostly,” I laughed. “Hold meetings, give presentations, give instructions, get feedback, counsel people, appreciate them, applaud them … basically talk. Right?” “Right. Talk, talk and talk … all the time.” “So why not leverage all that talk and do it in a way that will help people feel good about themselves and ensure they feel empowered to think for themselves and evolve their solutions.” “That’s a lot to try and do in a conversation,” Lou clicked his tongue thoughtfully. “What if I shared a simple method with you?” I countered. “A simple and proven method.” “That would be great.” Win gave an enthusiastic smile. “So it’s all in the conversation, eh?” Lou was still looking pensive. I could sense the message was getting through to him, but I could also see that some doubts still lingered. Tactical ones, most probably. Not surprising really, given that I had just shifted the paradigm for him. For all four of them from the looks of it. “Well … conversation does comprise the bulk of our interaction with the people we work with.” “That it does.”

“Which is why the Breakthrough Leader focuses a lot on changing the nature of the conversations he has.” “And how does he do that?” Lou asked, confirming what I had sensed, that he was unclear about the process, but sure of the intent. I felt a sense of relief at that because people often confuse the two. Sometimes when they cannot see the process, they disregard the intent too, and then brilliant though an idea may be, it falls by the wayside. I now knew that the harder part, the reframing of the situation, had been done. My experience was that a lot of people get stuck at this point of the process, perhaps because it all seems so simple that they mistake it for being simplistic and don’t bother to delve deeper. I focused on the foursome facing me. Now they just needed to get the hang of how to do it. I knew this was the easy part. All it needed was some more discussion and a bit of practice. “So I take it that we are all in agreement so far?” I pointed at the screen, on which Om Prakash’s iPad artistry had come alive. “Sure,” Lou mused aloud. “It seems pretty straightforward. If people are appreciated and can see the value of the work they’re expected to do, then they will feel good about themselves and so will be more enthusiastic and engaged.” I nodded encouragingly. “And if they are empowered to think and encouraged to act on the solutions they evolve,” he continued, “they will own the solutions and thus work harder to make sure they succeed.” Then he paused. “But isn’t it risky to have everyone thinking up their own solutions? There is bound to be a higher risk of failure.” I was glad he had brought that up. It is always helpful to lay the fundamental doubts to rest as early as possible so that people can then focus on the real issue at hand—making it happen. “That’s true, Lou. As leaders, we have to ensure that our people have the freedom to think but, at times, we may have to temper the solutions they evolve with our wider perspective and experience. The important thing here is that we must do it in a manner that makes them realize we are enhancing their solutions, not shooting them down,” I emphasized. “We will come to that as we go further. Right now, let us focus on the big picture … on understanding the process.” “Then we are good to go,” Lou said as he waved at the screen again. “This is common sense.”

“Great. Coming back to your question,” I turned to Lou, “you asked how a leader can change the quality of the conversations he has with people.” Lou waved confirmation. “Before we go there, shall we have a brief look at the kinds of conversation we can have?” “Sounds like a plan.” Win leant back. The others followed her lead. With one regal swipe, Om Prakash cleared the iPad screen. They all seemed ready to receive.

It is a very complete conversation that seeks to identify the optimal solution to the problem.” I paused briefly to check that Om Prakash was ready. ethical. there are four basic types. however. “As the word suggests.“The other day. the situation as it stands currently. generally requires very skilled conversationalists.” There was a final flourish to the right.” Om Prakash was looking pleased with his work. Such a conversation could include the background.” The hand pointed down now. “Obviously these seek to best describe the problem that is being currently experienced. The aim of every such conversation would be to determine the best possible solution. which seek to address the moral. He was. metaphysical.” “Next. “Again. then followed by criticism of the solution by the other(s) and counter proposals. The screen showed this: . rational and logical aspects of the issue at hand. possible aims. I came across a really interesting book about the types of conversation we can have. “There are philosophical conversations.” I was unable to stop my right hand pointing heavenwards.” “And solutions-focused.” “Then there are detailed conversations. such a conversation generally focuses on the various options available to resolve the matter at hand and the advantages and disadvantages of each option. enunciating a solution and justifying it. which would generally be either the one that requires least effort and resources or the one that would provide the maximum possible result … preferably both. problem-focused conversations. reasons why a particular course of action was adopted and. this type of conversation provides us with all possible details about the subject at hand. as the name suggests. and perhaps even why it is not possible to resolve it. According to this book. stating the problem. of course. “Such a conversation begins with a sense of doubt and wonder.” The hand went to the left instinctively.

reflective for sure. “and troubling conversations. she punched Mocha. “I’d say so.” Coleen added. however. my friend. I went to stand beside her at the machine. consequently. they are generally troubled. virginal coyness and struggled to find the right words. Yet I was afflicted by a strange. Win and I were alone. Suddenly. Then she got up and headed for the dispensing machine behind me. for the first time in all the months that we had known each other. through all the meetings. and how each one makes us think. he had been the eternal observer. is the bedrock of Breakthrough Thinking. “Now let us see how each of these four kinds of conversation makes us feel. I had never heard him ask a question. Self-conscious. they could be useful. especially if we need a deeper understanding of the issues. I thought she sounded a little breathless. Or perhaps. Until now. “Then what are we waiting for?” Om Prakash spoke up. “Well. And I now knew that the day would end very differently for the four people in front of me. Over the past year. “Perhaps a short break?” Lou suggested.” I was happy we had made it to this point so quickly. Perhaps the visual note-taking had got through to him at a deeper level. I knew I could curb it no longer.” “True. At least not in the everyday workplace. may not make us feel good? Is that right. Coleen?” “Yes. After placing a cup inside the dispenser. “To freshen up. These are generally empowering and inspiring. they may become problem-focused so. That’s why I think they are not likely to make us feel good about ourselves. He looked even more pleased. “But I sense that they could easily move into the problem-focused zone if one is not careful. “And what does an empowering and inspiring conversation really look like?” “That. “But can every conversation be solutions-focused? And can every solutions-focused conversation be empowering and inspiring?” He seemed to be searching for the right words. Win?” I wanted to clarify this. perhaps? Her perfume strengthened its hold on me as she passed by.” Win nodded. A tentative nod. “That’s pretty much what this book also said.” “And philosophical conversations?” “Philosophical ones can often make us feel good.” When Win nodded. Breakthrough Thinking had broken through.” She mulled over it a bit more.” I pointed out. “The way to go is to have solutionsfocused conversations.” I got the words out with some difficulty. impacting him strongly enough for him to break his apparently avowed silence. and in the right circumstances … especially when time is not at a premium. Either way I was happy. he headed out. It is easy for them to gravitate into problem-focused conversations because we tend to want to talk about whatever is bothering us. “Coffee would be great.” Lou concurred.” “But they may not have much practical use.” “Is that how a problem-focused conversation makes you feel.” Coleen responded. Om Prakash and Coleen then followed.” Win responded first. her attention on the screen. “Detailed conversations can be pretty useful. surprising me. . “Would you like something? Coffee? Tea?” she asked as she skirted around me. I watched the cup fill. watching everything. I encouraged myself. Would that be useful?” “It would. The impulse to ask her out exploded inside of me.” began Lou but he again had that dubious look on his face.” “That is true.” “So are you saying that detailed conversations can help us think deeper about an issue. but silently and from afar. “I always feel kind of heavy when discussing problems … even confused and unsure at times.I gave him a thumbs up. Rising. leaving me more than a little short of breath. Appreciation does that … it makes people feel good about themselves.

too. seemed to be moving slower than the rest of me. Three. and help others do the same. With a deep breath. fingers and eyes both maintained contact. Now let me explain what F. like my feelings. I reminded myself as I swivelled and headed back to my seat.” A pregnant silence fell upon the room.” Coleen. Then Coleen and Om Prakash breezed in. I stepped away from Win immediately. And the message in her eyes was unequivocal. felt desolate again. Mixing business and pleasure is never a good idea . to help them understand this process so that they are able to solve such problems on their own in future. wouldn’t it?” Win queried. heavy with regret. “It is an acronym. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that Lou had returned when he did. bringing us back to order. “It certainly would. . “Finally.” Lou nodded in concurrence. And to do that …” “Are you going to F. Perhaps caught in the same dilemma as me.” “However. “That was useful. “I’ll have some coffee. she also held her peace. to empower the person facing a problem to find a solution on their own so that they have automatic buy-in and their leader does not need to invest time and energy into selling them the solution.” “Yes!” He pumped the air.U.U. “So what does an empowering and inspiring conversation look like?” Lou asked again.C. At that precise moment. who had been making notes.” I saw I had their attention and so resumed. “Good.-ing process better. first I’d like to clarify the four specific aims of an empowering and inspiring conversation. That fragile moment of togetherness was blown away.bubbling hotly.U. “Yes. however.” I affirmed.K. Our fingers touched as I took the proffered cup.” “That would also enhance their confidence further. a long moment. For a moment. which had been relishing the soft warmth of hers. “One. “I was wondering if you would like to …” The door blew open and Lou entered like Superstorm Sandy. This will help us understand the F. heading towards us. I was sure.” All four eyed me expectantly. Two. This would again enable the leader to focus on other things. is.K us now?” Lou again.” he announced.C. I knew my feelings for her were not unrequited.C. to allow them to find the most time. “And can every conversation be one?” “Let us take the first question first.and costefficient solution by helping them evaluate the various options available.K. But my heart. “And four. looked up now. Win. to enhance their confidence to handle the problem by helping them to convert the challenge into an opportunity. My fingers. For the first time. I jumped off the cliff of caution. I could see it in Win’s eyes too. I almost gave vent to my irritation at a client but checked myself.


“Sounds great! Go on. what should you focus the conversation on? The problem or the person?” “If we have to empower the person. I’d like to empower them to solve the problem on their own.U. Why do you think our leaders are so badly overworked and stressed?” “And if you help them to solve the problem?” “That’s better than solving it for them but still leaves them dependent on me.C. “It is obvious that we should focus on the person. Every conversation. Win was deep in thought. “But …” she stalled. Finally.” Coleen replied.U. A conversation that achieves the four stated goals leaves people feeling good and thinking for themselves. She seemed to be replaying scenes from her past in her head. almost on autopilot. I could see the others processing her answer and trying to relate it to their own experiences. Does that make sense?” “Go on.” This time I allowed the silence to continue. “Focus on the person. help them to solve the problem or empower them to solve the problem on their own?” “Ideally.” Coleen explained. Empowering and inspiring.K.” “Four goals. “That’s what keeps happening.” “Absolutely. Four steps. “when someone comes to you with a problem. not the problem. “So that is the F … of the F. “Why?” “If I solve it for them. If the focus of the conversation is not on the person. represents the four essential steps of a process that the Break through Thinker uses to ensure every conversation is an empowering and inspiring one.K. what do you prefer to do? Solve the problem for them.?” Lou asked. but that is not what we generally do. That is why. then we obviously need to focus on the person. “My focus should clearly be on the person. not the problem. they will keep coming back to me whenever they have a problem.” Coleen replied immediately. “And?” I prompted.“F. Then her voice petered out. her gaze trapped in the distance. the best option is to empower them to solve the problem on their own.” Lou smacked his lips. as far as I am concerned.” “In that case. pointing at the screen.” she repeated. then it will invariably lapse into a problem-focused or detailed conversation.” I began.C.” “Tell me.” Like the others. “Though this does seem to be a lot harder to do than it appears.” .

” “That sounds logical … and powerful. “And I’d again like to suggest that we just stay with the process for the moment. and all of us look at things differently.” “Well. Now.” When he acknowledged that. the problem may no longer remain a problem. Very often. instead of seeing a problem. Let us .” “Fair enough. “In that case. There were none. Not with a little practice. For now.” I needed to emphasize this so added. “So some people would look at the same situation and see an opportunity. if we can help them to see it from another viewpoint.” Coleen replied. the aim is to enhance confidence. It may well become an opportunity … or a smaller problem … or perhaps a more manageable problem. not a problem?” Another nod.” “Now that our focus is on the person. for now let’s just focus on understanding the process first.” I changed tack. Not everyone finds the same things problematic. “that’s theoretically correct. “That is a very valid question. “The key question is this: Do we want them to grapple or deal with a problem or do we want them to exploit the opportunity and grow with it?” There was an exploit-the-opportunity murmur. the least we can do as their leader is expose them to other viewpoints that help them to either reduce the size of the problem or sharpen the picture so that the solved puzzle looks clearer … this will certainly enhance their confidence in dealing with it. help them to see the opportunity.” “I hear you.” Lou’s lips were tautly compressed. Anyway. let us just stick to the theory so that we can get the hang of the process. “So we use the C to help them change the way they have been looking at the problem. I resumed. “Are you saying that the problem is only a problem because that person is looking at it from a particular viewpoint?” She nodded.” I elaborated. firmer this time. the difference between success and failure is the confidence with which we approach the task.” “You’re assuming that every problem has an opportunity?” Lou checked with me. that’s where the C comes in. “But that is not surprising. Helping them change the point of view from which they are looking at the problem.” Her reply was not so quick this time.“Not really.” “Really? Why?” “We are all different people. “No matter which of the above we achieve. “And like I mentioned earlier. Please do remember that more often than not. Good. “Right. tell me.” Lou unleashed a vigorous nod. even if we are not able to help them spot an opportunity.” I waited to see if there were any queries. “have you ever had someone discuss a problem with you and been perplexed because you couldn’t understand why they were finding it a problem?” “Of course. Lou. It showed that she was thinking it through thoroughly. I reminded him.

“In the end. As we discussed.” I waited silently while they pondered this some more.” Win added. “The U is pretty simple. too.” Win was certainly looking charged up. I guess she could sense all her B-school leadership training being flushed away. Lou. It was obviously more of a statement than a question.” “Well.” “But what about helping people grow by giving them stretch goals?” Coleen communicated her confusion.” “It’s not a very good feeling. Coleen gave a desultory nod. “And that sorts out the C.” “Isn’t this also the best possible opportunity to help them identify the possible pitfalls that may exist in a particular option?” Win asked. “Right. “Yeah.” Lou jabbed at the screen. Definitely more enthused. It helps us to help them uncover the best possible way to exploit the opportunity they have now identified. “So not only do they come up with a well-reasoned plan. I liked it. And that’s why the C simply seeks to charge up confidence by changing the way we are looking at an issue. What tangible difference would that make?” “That’s valid.” “That’s powerful. “The leader enables this by ensuring he encourages them to discuss as many options as they can think of instead of allowing them to dive deeper into the problem. more excitedly now. How would you feel?” “Excited. “And I’d certainly be thinking of options and solutions. pointing triumphantly at Om Prakash’s artwork adorning the screen. From any other point of view. heavy for sure.” He pumped the air.come back to this later and look at it in detail. “Go on. He was becoming positively cheerleaderish. It was important that they remembered the heaviness.” “Okay … I think I can see where you’re going with this but explain something to me. up and right. if you want people to grow with the opportunity. I mean. The more options he discusses. how do you feel exactly?” “When dealing with a problem?” His eyes wandered away.” Pause. I chose not to answer. “How relevant is the C? In practical terms. “A bit confused and overwhelmed. She didn’t even attempt to reply.” concluded Lou. please.” “I see where you’re going with this now. And how are you thinking … when you’re dealing with a problem or coping with a challenge?” “Hmm … not very clearly. as he peered within. Only then would they notice and appreciate the difference. “Now gimme a U. please. Given the choice would you rather have a boss who always sets challenges and stretch goals for you or would you prefer a boss who kept you excited and enthusiastic by giving you opportunities to exploit?” The question was obviously rhetorical. but what practical difference would it make?” “May I invite you to step back and look within yourself … when you’re dealing with a problem or coping with a challenge. “Please think about it. that’s for sure.” Lou murmured. the problem is a problem only because we are looking at it from a particular point of view. it may well be an opportunity. “And now imagine you were looking to exploit an opportunity. Wisely. the more likely it is that the other person will find a solution that resonates with him the most. His enthusiasm was uplifting the others. and the more deeply he helps them analyse each option. After all. “Heavy.” “True. Om wordlessly drew a gloomy face on the screen. we can also ensure that the plan conforms to our policies and possible pitfalls have been thoroughly . it’s all about confidence … the confidence with which we approach an issue.” Coleen even looked chirpier now. Coleen. the problem itself will not change … all that is changing is the way in which we are helping the person to look at the problem.” Then I added. you have to help them change the way they’re looking at the problem and ensure they feel more confident.” Lou also seemed suddenly enthused. She added.

That’s the initial reflexive response and prevents us from even analysing the suggestion. more powerful. It doesn’t feel like a suggestion at all and makes me want to explore the suggestion with an open mind. “Normally. “Ah!” Win smiled. “How do you normally respond to suggestions?” I noticed all of them stop and check within.evaluated.” Coleen exclaimed. I could see she was checking to see how the what-if made her feel. you keep telling us to avoid the word ‘but’.” “What if I can think of some options that the other person has not thought of?” Coleen asked.” I thought it helpful to table this. I added. most people tend to reject suggestions at first. “But what-if I notice the person has suggested something I know will fail?” Win queried. “I remember now. And enables the leader to catch possible pitfalls in the solution likely to be adopted by the person proposing it. “When you put it like that.” I couldn’t help grinning. ‘What-if we tried to do this?’ Or ‘What-if we did this in the following way?’ Or ‘What-if suchand-such a thing happened?’” Four sets of brows collectively cleared. “The first impulse is to resist.” . “Right. One possibility is the What-If question … exactly the way Coleen did just now when she asked this question. She looked puzzled. Another. way to look at it is that it helps us to help them to discover the solution they feel would be best for them by discussing the options they have thought of.” I pointed out.” “Which is generally not the case when a suggestion is made directly. I knew she was mature enough to handle the correction. it’s their options and solutions we want … so that they own them and feel good about themselves.” Win replied. “And … or however. Yet how many of us are mindful of this? Coleen had retreated deep inside herself. “For example.” I suggested gently. “That’s why it may be better to offer the suggestion as a question. “Remember.” said Lou slowly. He absorbed that. “That makes sense.” I saw the others nod and was happy the point had been drilled in adequately. I know we all know that it is not what we say that is important but how we say it. Yeah. “That’s the normal response. though a trifle hesitantly. it does feel nice.” I explained. Arjun … as a what-if question. “Not but.” Seeing some signs of confusion persisting on Lou’s face. “Is it okay to suggest them?” “Sure it is.” She was looking confused so I elaborated. then nodded.” “True. “So the U helps us to uncover solutions by discussing options.” Om Prakash was grinning widely as he did the honours on his iPad. but I feel it may be better to do that through questions. the fact that the way in which something is presented is important. “Would you like to share with us why?” I was keen to dwell on this.

let’s do a quick re-cap. Lou had only been comfortable operating within the bounds of what he knew. “ however.” Lou responded immediately. Which was good because feeling good always puts me on top of my game. And I was wondering what-if you had not shown us the power of the what-if?” That got everyone laughing. Right?” .” “That word. “So? What-if I notice the person has suggested something that will fail?” “I love the way you have used the what-if. “Then I should ask that person … right?” Another set of nods. ‘know’.” “In that case. It sums up the situation.I gave the just-a-suggestion shrug. It is whatever we see in it. At that time. “That would free up my time as the team leader.” I stressed the next word. “What-if other people have new ideas or thoughts that never get to see the light of day just because we assume we already know the answer? Just because we know the idea is bad and will fail. I could see the conversation had stirred her.” Win was sitting up now.” I reluctantly tore my gaze away from Win. “They will then be able to handle such problems on their own in future. “What you’re saying is that an idea is just like a problem—neither good nor bad. “We are likely to fail as long as we operate within the bounds of what we know … since we really cannot know everything. “knowing how to break it down and solve the problem is imperative for them. And that made me feel good.” Lou replied. and prone to rejecting anything new. “One can never be sure what else may come up.” Her grin widened.” Win added. “What-if all of us stopped using but … what would that be like?” She laughed.” “And they would also be able to help others solve problems.” “That’s true but … I mean. They were also nodding away.” “Ah! I see now. He had travelled a long way since our first meeting last year. there are many things that we know for certain will fail. the level of excitement in the room was remarkably high.” Coleen brought me out of my reverie. “I love the way you have used the what-if so effectively. “Before the K. “So that brings us to the K. Lou.” “I couldn’t have put that better.” Lou corrected himself.” I checked with the others. It was heartening to note the change in Lou. what do you think I should do? Should I assume my knowledge is complete and that there is no solution to it or should I check to see if they have already factored it in and thought of something to deal with it … something that may not have occurred to me at all?” “It obviously makes sense to find out if they have already solved such issues or have thought of something. And we know that only because we cannot think of a solution for it. “You see how phrasing it that way focuses my attention precisely on what you want me to think about. Lou. “What-if such-and-such a thing happens … that is beautiful. What do we want to achieve through our conversations? Do we want them only to solve the problem or do we want them to also have a process to solve all such problems in future?” “Obviously it’s best if they have a problem-solving process in place. “And how often do we do that?” It was a rhetorical question and no one bothered to answer. “Now if I notice something that I feel may be problematic. and then repeated her question.” He gave a mock bow. can we?” I saw that sink in. her face slightly flushed. By now.” Lou mused after some reflection.

” Coleen seemed to have the bit firmly between her teeth and was impatient to keep going.“Right. “That is why it is imperative we help them to see how to break down a problem. I simply nodded. Not that I needed any encouragement.-ing process. The minute we do that. “Fascinating. Or the F.” “So the K is knowing how to break down a problem?” Coleen queried. The minute you can break down an issue. Her smile egged me on. the parts that could be better and the parts that are not working well at all. . the picture becomes sharper and the solutions pretty obvious.U. it will always become much simpler because it will separate the parts that are already working well from those that are not. “It will definitely reduce the size of the problem into more manageable bits and certainly boost confidence.C.” Win looked excited. I will never forget this acronym. mulling them over simultaneously. “Break it down into the parts that are working. “May I do that with the help of a story?” “Stories are nice.K.” “F. settling back in her chair.” Win assented.U.” “Now help us understand how to implement this process.” “I agree.K.” smiled Win.” Lou enunciated each letter separately..C. the storyteller in me is always willing to break free. And we can do this simply by structuring the conversation.


Perhaps I had been noticing an emerging pattern subconsciously … I’m not sure.U.” I grinned to take the sting out of it. It will revolutionize the way you lead and live your life. so added. . fine-tuned it. Second. bro. Then I started thinking about it and realized that I had been doing it for many years. speak with intent and act with purpose. “Yep. “Let me share how I chanced upon the F.” I began. I did.” I replied drily. “It is a very simple. too. in all walks of life. emerge. people seldom read books when they get them for free. Peter.U. “First.?” Win appeared amused.“The most appropriate story that springs to mind is that of a coaching session during which I first noticed this process. listen for potential.-ing process. We generally value the things that we spend time. I went deep into the F.C. It is titled F.C. you should have given us signed copies. The ensuing laughter reminded me that I needed to get back to my story. “How come you never mentioned it before?” I was a trifle touched by the hurt in Lou’s voice. After all.” I felt the urge to soothe him. “To enable you to F. That it was what so many companies had been asking for when they contacted us for leadership development. and I have given it often enough. It’s against our religion to give away books for free. tabled this problem: My team is not as engaged or as motivated as it should be.C.C. Both of these soon became our most sought-after programmes and have helped hundreds of people.C.K. that is true for most things. Your Way to Success.” “Website?” He gave that who-has-the-time look. my publisher would shoot me … or at the very least excommunicate me.” I could see I had them. “Over the next few months. one of my coachees. That day. and writing a book about it.” “You have written a book on how to F. This speech. “I’m a writer.U. even as a business leader.K.K. In fact. Remind me to call Sotheby’s.K. at all levels. along with the other books I’ve written. “No specific reason. always left me considerably stirred. right.K.U. to think with clarity. yet incredibly powerful process that will power you to success. energy or money in acquiring. No?” “Darn!” Om Prakash pointed at the screen.” That got their attention.” I paused for a sip of water. “Come on Arjun. “I should be charging for this art. “It all began with that particular coaching conversation and soon became so powerful that I ended up evolving the F.U.” Win said wryly.C. wrote a book about it and also developed the Breakthrough Leader and Breakthrough Thinker programmes.” “Yeah.K.” With that I cast forward the F. but I do remember it was during this conversation that it became crystal clear to me.-ing subject.C. I am going to take it forward one letter at a time.” I could see my four-person audience was enthralled.U. “The problem itself was not unusual but during that coaching session I clearly saw the F. It will ensure maximum results with minimum effort.K. properly. I could not resist a theatrical finale. they had been grappling with the same issue not too long ago.U.” “Yeah. “I thought you guys would check out my website … it is listed there.” “How appropriate!” Win’s smile turned Dennis the Menace-ish.

No matter how strong the urge. However. Perhaps that is why it has such a powerful effect. For example. looking for the simplest and most efficient way to ensure this. I could see them trying out the trick in their heads. “I had been trying out various tricks and tips. before you realize it. each differently coloured side represented a different perspective … a different way to look at the issue. Good. . The reverence ratcheted up when I nodded. “How could you ensure that he was looking at it?” Lou’s gaze was still riveted on the cube. I planned to use it to symbolize the problem because. “Through my questions.” Lou looked relieved. “Be aware that keeping the focus on the person and not the problem is not as simple as it sounds because of our deeply ingrained tendency to try and find solutions. NOT THE PROBLEM “One of the basic challenges of coaching is to refrain from getting sucked into the coachees’ problems. It is a pretty simple thing. a primary leadership challenge is to ensure we do not get consumed and overwhelmed by the problems of the people we lead.F FOCUS ON THE PERSON. The BIG CORP four were again nodding away. in other words.” Nod. You let your guard down and.” “Does it have to be a Rubik’s Cube?” Lou interrupted. I am sure this happens to you often. really liked it and picked it up. nod. I would keep my eyes on Peter and ensure he was looking down at the cube. and reminded myself that it would symbolize whatever issue was tabled by him. what would you be seeing?’ Or even something as basic as ‘What two or three questions do you need answered so that you can take action to get the results you desire?’” “Ah. I was carrying a miniature Rubik’s Cube. “It worked so well that I eventually began to refer to my Rubik’s Cube as the Opportunity Object. of course. I thought. I had chanced upon it at the dollar shop. The day I met Peter.” I hesitated slightly when I said this as I do not like to do or say anything that may make things appear difficult. the problem. “When the coaching session began. even when the problem is not ours. “Is that the same cube you used with Peter?” Lou asked in a hushed. “Did it work?” Coleen was looking excited. The cube had been solved. I believed this was an obvious pitfall that they needed to be wary of.” Lou still looked a bit confused so I added.” Four sets of eyes watched as I pulled out a cube and placed it on the table between us. I promised myself that I would keep my eyes on Peter and not look down at the cube. almost reverent tone.” I held up a cautionary finger. I placed the cube on the table between Peter and me. so each side showed only one colour. Win grinned. nod. I see. you become enmeshed in the problem. nod. “As corporate leaders yourselves. ‘Which part of this problem would you like to discuss?’ … ‘What do you think is already working well and what could be better?’ … ‘What aspect of this would be most useful for you to explore?’ … ‘What precisely do you need clarity on?’ … ‘Which two or three things would need to be done differently in order for you to believe the problem has been resolved?’ … ‘If things were working well. “Simple questions that sharpen the way they are looking at the problem. Om too. Similarly.” The BIG CORP quartet was still nodding away. Coleen could not take her eyes off it. to me. He reached out and touched it with a tentative finger.

“It’s a very popular programme and people always ask me where they can find these cubes when I tell them this story. whether you are a leader. a coach or both … or even the led … fix the focus always on the person.” I laughed at her double entendre.” I swivelled the cube before me so that each of them saw a different colour. “Always packing. C CHANGE CHALLENGES TO OPPORTUNITIES Now that I had a handle on the F. “I was free to concentrate my efforts on broadening the observer in Peter by shifting the point from where he was viewing the problem so that he would have more options available to him and. the problem could cease to be a problem. Only when their fingers and minds had settled did I move on to the C. “Precisely. and not on the problem. “Changing the way he was looking at the problem would be invaluable because every new viewpoint would yield new actions and options.” Lou rubbed his chin thoughtfully. he would end up exploiting an opportunity rather than coping with a problem. “It is good to pick something you can keep on you because problems can arise anywhere and at anytime so you never know when you will need it.” “Wow! You’re carrying around a lot of cubes!” Win gave a wicked smile.” I reached into my briefcase. I had to first make him accept that there were other possible ways to look at his problem and then allow him to pick one … whichever one he found most useful in his current context. “To do that. or whatever you find easy to carry around.” Win finished for me. It happened so many times that I started carrying some around. fondling hers. Such questions ensure you are focused on their viewpoint and needs.” I continued.” ‘That’s useful.” I could see they were trying out the F in their heads. “Basically. I had to keep making him look at different sides until that happened. “Try it out the next time you find yourself in that situation. I needed to ensure that Peter started seeing a different side of the cube/problem because when …” “… that happened. even simple questions like ‘What would you like to discuss?’ or ‘What would be most useful for you to discuss?’ can help to keep the focus on the person. You will notice it will help you focus on the person. and not the problem. get the different results he sought.” I gave her a thank-you nod. pulled out four miniature cubes and pushed one towards each of them.” I stopped for a midpoint check to ensure that my audience was with me and resumed the story. eh?” “I use them for the seminar we run on Breakthrough Thinking. And if he picked the most appropriate other viewpoint. Then added. . “Good.“No.” I clarified this.” This was an important point and I succumbed to the urge to elaborate. So please remember. “As I mentioned earlier. It can be anything … whatever tickles your fancy. thus.” I gave them a few moments to play with the cubes.

What do you see?” “Really? But what possible opportunity can one see here?” “That depends on what you’re looking for. Good! I could see that he was now thinking hard. I realized that this change had occurred the moment his view of the issue at hand had changed. to get the coachee to start thinking. “Go on. I am always impressed with how amazing people are once they finally start thinking with clarity and are ready to take the responsibility to act. “How can I ensure my team is able to see the value of the work they do?” The first time he said it tentatively. And reinforces my belief that all human beings are born creative. And I find the emphasis on I most empowering. however what I see doesn’t matter. . “What’s true for Peter is true for Paul. He was now looking very pleased. Peter. adding a warm smile to my nod of encouragement to let him know he was getting warmer. “That’s very powerful.” He reflected and then elaborated. as though he were talking to himself. and gives me the flexibility to choose the method. Peter?” I asked instead. I am already thinking of possible actions and trying to figure out which one would be most appropriate. God knows why this gets lost so often. It is up to us what we choose to see in it. “So? What is the opportunity that you see here?” “That my team’s results would be way better if I got them to be more engaged. “When I begin with ‘how’. Once that was done. He was sitting up straighter than before. which part do you find the most powerful?” “I find the how-can-I most powerful. all I had to do was nudge him gently into channels he was not accustomed to entering.” I gave him a smiling raised eyebrow. I wanted him to clearly understand how his viewpoint had changed.” I explained. “Really? Why?” “I’m the coach.“What is the opportunity here?” I asked Peter. “I ask the questions here. It puts me in control. however. But this is about my team and not about …” he broke off. and only then. dude. would he be able to help others do it too. “Does that make sense to you?” “It makes perfect sense when you put it like that. competent. Is that what you’re saying?” I saw no need to answer. and there was excitement writ large on his face. Peter was obviously looking forward to forging ahead.” His tone was tentative. “Opportunity?” Peter raised a sceptical eyebrow. confident and intuitive.” My encouraging tone let him know that he had got off to a good start. it floors me. “So what is the opportunity for you. earlier. Then. An issue just is.” “Very good.” Peter spoke softly. However. we see the world the way we are. his voice was firmer and louder. By the time he said it the third time. he had been bogged down with a challenge. Every time I see this happen. then you will surely be able to find it. “Ah!” The word erupted like a soft explosion. “You see an opportunity in the fact that my team is not engaged and motivated?” “As a matter of fact I do. Then he repeated it. the time and the place in which I will act. The frown creasing his forehead vanished abruptly.” I was impressed. You tell me. “There is no such thing as only a problem or only an opportunity in any issue. He had now started seeing an opportunity whereas. By now the change in Peter’s posture and demeanour was very noticeable. You see. That was always the critical part. “When are you most engaged?” “Me? When I see the value of what I am doing.” I acknowledged.” Peter sat up. If you believe there is an opportunity.

” That broke the gravity of the moment. So I shared the story of Matthew with him. I was requested to assist Matthew with six one-to-one coaching sessions. I can see that this situation is of great concern to you. shall we?” Peter nodded. “That would be awesome. “I’ve got a handle on this now. However.” Matthew shared with me during our first coaching session. I permitted myself a quiet smile. So how best would you be able to tap this wealth of experience? Would it help for us to …” Before I could go on. “Because you asked me to look for one?” “True. “To help bring this out. “And it bothers me a lot because almost half of my team comprises guys who have been with the company for twelve to fifteen years.” I now returned to Peter’s story.” I emphasized to my BIG CORP audience. bringing my story to an end. “I mean … some of these guys have been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth. In his early thirties.“And that is what every leader is supposed to do. He repeated it again. “When you put it like that. Matthew was a high performer who had excelled in his company’s fast track programme and was soon asked to head up his division. Then I heard him mutter my question to himself. How many times have I seen this before? Once people spotted an opportunity.” Another pause. I understand how exasperating that can be at times. tell me. Placing my Opportunity Object between us on the table. as though to wrap his head around it.” His sudden enthusiasm was visible in the way he had started to tap the table. I first offered him some support. . they also have huge networks that they have developed over the years.” He spoke decisively. may I share a story with you … about another coachee of mine?” “Sure. And so easy to do … we simply have to get them to keep on reframing the issue until it becomes an opportunity statement. I can see that the best course of action for me is to figure out how I can leverage the experience of these veterans. Humour helps. I was also ensuring that it got embedded in him—the fact that he was now going to capitalize on an opportunity. Excited. Peter? Could you please help me understand how you stopped seeing a problem and started seeing an opportunity?” By framing my sentence in that manner. let us dig a bit deeper. Lou leant forward and rapped on the table.” he said gravely. what is the opportunity that this preponderance of such senior and experienced people in your team presents to you?” “Opportunity?” He looked stumped and didn’t say anything for a bit. you know.” he went on. “Yes. With a view to supporting his transition to his new leadership position. a rapid drumming.” He laughed. It lifts our spirits and frees up room for fresh thoughts. “because the other half of my team is still quite green behind the ears. and reminding myself to keep my eye on the ball (Matthew in this case). I was thrilled to notice that they were listening spellbound. “And. “I am finding it really hard to deal with the old timers in my team. his brow cleared and he looked up. “Great. “These guys are so inflexible and rigid that …” “True. these older guys not only have a very thorough understanding of the way things work in our company. “Leaders have to ensure their teams are exploiting opportunities and not coping with challenges. However.” Peter also loved stories. They are so used to working in a particular manner …” I noticed that the issue was really troubling him.” “That it is. It is an absolute game-changer. they seldom needed to be shown how to capitalize on it. Suddenly. “What happened here.

beneath the gentle façade lay a razor-sharp brain and a nippy sense of humour.” Win attached one of her charming smiles to the plea.” Peter nodded at my explanation. the other person stops thinking about anything else because his attention is now focused on whatever you have directed it at. And please do explain why you framed the question the way you did.” Recharging the batteries of the storyteller within. “Well … the problem with them is that they generally have no eye for detail and are always in a hurry to get the work over with … kind of just rush things through. It can speed up the process but it may also cut off new thoughts and ideas. It was a common problem for many leaders.” “I am sure it can be tough.” I wanted Peter to have a mental picture of the subject.” “Hmm … so is it okay to lead at times?” “I avoid it as much as I can.” Peter was nodding when I shared Andrew’s dilemma. which may otherwise emerge. You see. it was not surprising that most of our first session went into building rapport and getting a sense of where he was and what he wanted out of the coaching programme. What Win wants.” “Sounds logical.” Lou was doing all the talking. Andrew was athletically built. “That is what Peter also shared when I finished telling him Matthew’s story.” “I would like to hear it.“That was really well done. and also clarifies how the viewpoint can be changed very easily. carried himself well. “I love stories. Win gets. “Whatever you want. I have a lot of Gen Y guys … and gals … and they are quite a handful. the minute you start leading. not much. I wanted you all to see another way in which the situation can be reframed if the person is too caught up in the challenge to spot the opportunity easily. I knew I could not but tell another story. I sensed at the time that Matthew was really caught up in the issue and his emotions were blocking a lot of constructive thought. “The next story I am going to share provides a beautiful contrast to the first story. With me that was a given. Keeping in mind his personality. It often causes the quality of work to suffer.” I gave Andrew some sympathy. Lou. and did not have the hustle-bustle busy look that most Singaporeans sport all the time. “Please tell me more Andrew. “the word would be ‘laid-back’. That sudden shift in the way he was looking at the situation was beautiful. too. spoke calmly and deliberately. like a Spaniard at siesta time.” And I was lost. but just enough to let him feel that I was being supportive.” The others were smiling too. “I really liked the way you framed that question and helped him reframe the issue. Glad to have made you see the C more clearly. However. “In my new team. Or in a real work situation when time is at a premium … which it always is for most leaders. I took them back to Peter. He had that air around him. more senior role in his organization. Did you mean to lead him to the answer?” “I am not so sure … it was an intuitive thing. It also gave me a chance to mull things over and decide the best way to help . That’s why I thought I would be a little more suggestive than usual.” Is that politically correct? I contemplated briefly. It was only during our second session that Andrew tabled the first challenge he was facing.” “That you did. “If I had to use one word to describe Andrew. It so happened that it coincided with his move to a new. Arjun.” “Thank you. I was appointed as Andrew’s executive coach to support the leadership development programme he was attending. in what way can they be a handful?” I asked. Yet I noticed that Win and Coleen were also looking a lot more alert. Also. But he had still not shared with me how the challenge had been converted into an opportunity so I told him yet another story.

“In fact. I will put in the effort to find more options.” “I must confess that in every story you shared. I know that the U will not pose any major issues. I think. Let me try that first. “That was brilliant. I began pushing the solution by forcing him to bring out and discuss options. “I can also see that the C is possibly the most critical part of the process. and your department. As a coach.” “Uncovering options is seldom a problem when we are looking to capitalize on an opportunity.Andrew reframe the issue. “I don’t think I need to stress about that.” “How else could you do it?” He gave that some thought. for a guy with my kind of profile … yeah. So won’t the number of mistakes increase? Won’t the quality suffer even more?” “Yes. I could see that he had the answers he needed. It thrilled me.” He leant back. “the burden of coping with a problem. For the problem he had wished to resolve. I could feel the transference.” “Absolutely. In fact. I could give you a hug for that. “The team. there is bound to be a surge of energy and excitement. And help them to see opportunities instead of challenges. it doesn’t work. And when that happens. “What do you think would be the simplest way to get the team to do it?” “That’s easy. I know I’m laid back … everyone tells me that … for a person like me it would be fabulous. I just need to show them how we would all benefit from it. it would help me to get things moving faster. for some reason. man.” “Thank you. a rare event on most days. “I can now see various ways in which the C can be used to help people reframe any issue.” I liked that approach. Lou.” “That’s great. it is so high that I sometimes think we don’t need electricity in the office. At times. definitely the team.” Lou’s voice again tugged me back into Sapphire. And would it be useful for you.” He mulled it over momentarily.” “But you mentioned that the Gen Y guys don’t have an eye for detail.” Coleen chimed in. that is true … but not if I kept an eye on some critical touch points … and got my senior guys to do the same.” Om Prakash gave voice again. It works more often than we believe it will. if you could tap this energy and enthusiasm?” “Of course it would. yeah. The minute they see the value … that should do the trick. Getting the team to do it would be the easiest.” “Which it was. “Yes.” He gave a that’s-obvious laugh. Trying the simplest thing first is a great idea. “their enthusiasm and their high energy. “Arjun.” “But? You mean and?” He was really cracking us up. “but still no free books for you.” .” I eyed him warily.” “In what way?” “For one thing. I threw Win a rueful glance.” Andrew was sitting much straighter now. “every time when the C was applied and the opportunity was identified. If. “And what would these touch points look like? Will you identify them or ask your team to do it?” With the reframe over. “These Gen Y folks. For that day. what do you think their most obvious quality is?” “That’s obvious. this is the biggest and most invigorating indicator that progress is being made. now that I see the C more clearly. wishing it had been her offering the free hugs. “That was really very helpful. Content. And the jump in his energy was evident.” his eyes crinkled into an easy smile.” Lou gave a vigorous nod. But I know it will work just fine. And certainly the most satisfying. I could almost feel the coachee’s relief … as though a burden had been lifted from their shoulders.” Win elaborated.

” I was not surprised that Win answered first.“Just as we are seeing in this room right now.” I pointed out with a smile. Coleen spoke up. Win wrote “GEN Y”. You helped your coachee see a different one from the one he had initially been seeing.” “Explain that a bit more. “The Gen Y characteristic that your coachee Andrew was seeing was that they were always in a hurry and so didn’t have an eye for detail. she wrote “HURRY/NO EYE FOR DETAIL”. to one side of the words “GEN Y”. “They are also IT savvy. Now I asked them the same question that I had asked Peter all those months ago. and how it can change the way in which we communicate.U. then turned to Om Prakash and pointed to his iPad. It invigorated me.” The others too chimed in.” Everyone paused.K. “Now that you guys are able to visualize how powerful the F. And. and generally more willing to try new things.” Win’s smile surpassed anything I had seen. “May I use that for a moment?” He cleared the screen and passed it to her. All four of them took note of the energy in the room.” On the iPad. “in barely a few seconds. “Gen Y is also full of new ideas.” As Win was writing that down.” Caught in the flow.” That got a laugh from everyone. in this particular case tabled by Andrew. can be referred to as the problem group.” Now. “Could you please explain the process to me? Of converting a challenge into an opportunity?” “It is pretty simple actually.C. can be.” I took charge again. Lou added. I am sure. “They are also more curious and inquisitive than us old-timers. “Let’s take the Gen Y guys. we have been able to identify several traits of Gen Y which. “Thank you. “So you see. the projector screen looked like this: . please. “Every so-called problem group or individual has various characteristics. just to ensure it enhanced his confidence in applying the C. The words appeared in the middle of the projector display.” I had made Peter do the same.” The words “FULL OF ENERGY” appeared on the other side of “GEN Y”. She thought for a moment.” I inclined my head modestly. the primary realization had yet to be driven home. checked within to see how they were feeling. Arjun. “I didn’t realize that until you pointed it out. “However. Gen Y also has many other characteristics: they are full of energy.” By now. However. “That’s so true. as far as I was concerned.

All four of them pulled out their problem sheets and got busy. “Please note that none of you has actually done anything.” She looked as pleased as Punch. “Mine went from six to eight.” Win said. “Now you’re going to ask us to rephrase the problem we wrote down earlier. Second. then the challenge automatically becomes an opportunity. “Bingo!” I could see they had understood how to apply the C. I didn’t need to reply. your confidence has gone up. “Converting any challenge into an opportunity is basically a two-step process. “Now some of these qualities may have some negative connotations and some mostly positive ones. as expectant as eager beavers.” smiled Win. Om Prakash’s benign smile indicated his confidence too had increased. Pretty fast. It took nine minutes and thirty-nine seconds before the last one looked up. That is why you will notice that when most people talk about exploiting an opportunity. we need to decide what action we are going to take to capitalize on this quality. First.” Yet another set of nods. with a beatific smile. I told you she was as clever as hell. “Mine also. we need to look at all the characteristics of the problem and decide which aspect or quality we wish to focus on. they tend to use phrases like ‘How can I …’ or ‘What should I do to …’” I allowed that to sink in. we tend to focus on one or two of these characteristics … or perhaps only on the negative aspect of a particular characteristic. “Before we proceed. I instinctively started to time them.” This statement was met with thoughtful nods. “How much has your confidence level increased?” I asked Coleen. “So if we choose to focus on a quality that has positive connotations.” I . may I urge you to again grade your confidence. “From five to seven.” Win summarized. or on the positive aspect of any quality. I have seldom seen anyone take more than ten minutes once they have got the hang of the process.“Depending on the kind of observer we are.” Lou did not wait to be asked. It did. How confident do you feel now about solving your problem?” This took less than a minute. Despite that. The four were eyeing me closely.

” When he arrived for the coaching session. Arjun. Win. “because that will happen far more often than we want it to. which he relinquished happily. the words appeared on the screen: CHANGE THE WAY THEY ARE LOOKING AT THE PROBLEM (THUS ENHANCE CONFIDENCE) A thoughtful silence held the room as the foursome studied the writing on the wall.” “That’s amazingly powerful.” They looked at me expectantly as I marshalled my thoughts. ladies and gentlemen. “Four simple ways to implement the C are …” As I wrote on the iPad. This can also be achieved by …” I broke off and. “And Coleen.” Win looked pensive.stressed this point by adding. is the power of the C. They can be applied singularly or in tandem … in fact applying them in tandem enhances their impact. Benjamin was sporting the same harried look that most sales directors of most organizations wear like a badge of honour. “It would be useful if you could share an example of each of the above. “That. It is to enhance the confidence with which the person will now approach the same issue that he had been struggling with earlier.” I pointed at the diagram. and not struggling with challenges. reached out for Om’s iPad. “That is how the Breakthrough Leader ensures his people are always exploiting opportunities.” I was grateful she had spotted and articulated it so clearly. “Please remember the aim of applying the C. In such cases. “Though I can see how you used them in some form or another in Peter’s story … and the stories of the old timers and Gen Y.” “That’s a very valid question. And I was happy that this had been tabled.” I smiled reassuringly. .” I allowed that to sink in. there are a couple of other equally simple and powerful methods for you to use to apply the C. “Another good example of converting a challenge into an opportunity is the case of Benjamin. after an unspoken request.” Win murmured. “I don’t want to be a doubting Thomas but I was wondering what I should do if. for some reason. I would be delighted to share four specific conversations just to drive home the four approaches more clearly. the other person is unable to spot any opportunity at all. Win.” The room had sobered up. “Let us take the first.” Coleen finally said. “And I notice there are several overlaps possible between the four … so I was wondering … are they applied separately or in tandem?” “Good observation.

” “Oh!” Benjamin went silent.” Win mimed a clap. “Yes. “And when you put it like that. Benjamin?” “My team.“What would you like to talk about today.” I waited until she had done that before I asked. “Well …” Her answer came discernibly slower. much straighter than before. “And all three are a problem?” I prompted. by reframing his initial problem he had just given himself an opportunity to exploit. I observed that the BIG CORP four before me were grinning widely too. “I didn’t quite see it like that.” “Wow! They must be really good if they can achieve the whole year’s target in only two months.” I acknowledged with a gracious nod. but held my tongue. “And which of these eight delay sending the data? Let’s make a list and pin it down … just so that we know for sure whom we need to focus on.” She was now looking a trifle sheepish. “It is impossible for me to get my reports to the board on time … or correctly. I did too. “Thank you. “And now let us look at the second method of using the C … cutting down the size of the problem. Finally he spoke.” Benjamin was grinning widely now. they only work at the end of the year to achieve their targets. but a lot more softly. “Every month. “Slick. For this.” The way all four of them were looking at me reminded me again of how much people love stories.” Some more silent reflection. I am wondering …” “… what you can do to exploit this opportunity?” I gently nudged him into the channel of change. “From many places. “You know what I mean. Very slick.” “Everywhere?” I repeated with as much sarcasm as the Coach’s Code of Conduct permitted. Then he sat up. “How many?” “Eight.” And I noticed that she could see it too.” she finally said. Imagine what they could achieve if they could see the value of working for a few more of the remaining ten months. “Once you’d helped her to cut down the size of the problem to such specifics. “No matter what I do. Christine was pretty agitated when she told me. I met her gaze evenly. Arjun. “And which of them repeatedly send reports with erroneous data?” “Nicely done. “How many reports do you need to submit to the board?” “Three. murky picture.” “And the sales one is a problem because …” “Because the data has to come from everywhere. but it causes me a lot of stress because they only work for the last two months. and definitely a lot more sheepishly.” she finally replied after a finger count.” he replied with a cluck of annoyance. articulating it had made the difference. “Precisely.” “I see. It is becoming so exasperating that …” “And do they manage to achieve their targets?” I interrupted. She’d become thoughtful. And I knew that I not only needed to clear the picture for her but also needed to help her reduce the size of the issue.” she replied. I’d like to tell you about Christine. “The sales and collections report is the main problem … the other two are more manageable.” Om surprised me once again as he did not normally speak during our meetings. unwilling to disrupt his reflection zone.” From the way Christine had worded the problem. she wouldn’t have had much of a problem coming up with an action plan to sort things . the finance director of a company that operates in several Asia-Pacific countries. I could sense that she was seeing one big.

” “And?” I could not mask my enthusiasm. “That’s all. “Hey! I didn’t know you were a closet coach. It is rare that everything will work as perfectly as we desire. “That is true. still a bit nervous at being in the spotlight. he was silent for quite a while and then finally said. the other day my brother-in-law. And yet I find that this is ignored more often than not. they fail to realize that generally only a few things are not working as well as they should be. “He was pretty upset and several times he mentioned he was unable to see any solution to his problem. and then sensing that further clarification would be useful. “Not many people have a problem finding a solution once the problem has become clearer … and bite-sized. Sometimes. Coleen.out. “Okay. “We all are.” “She didn’t. Lou. told me that he was very upset because he did not have enough resources to complete the task assigned to him. I guess. and she suddenly seemed shy. and it immediately struck me that his real problem was how to provide his boss with proper justification as to why the additional resources were required.” I gave an encouraging smile. ‘I don’t think preparing a statement of case to justify the additional resources would be a major issue. In most cases.” Another bout of laughter rang out.” Lou was looking charged up again.” He looked relieved and nodded.” And I was not the only one in the room who was impressed. “No.” she giggled. because people have not done this. Coleen did. I could see that focusing on the things already working well resonated with her a lot.” I needed to emphasize the next point so halted momentarily. I could see that Win was too. so added.” “You’re right. It’s a basic leadership function.” Coleen was a trifle red-faced but gamely took up the gauntlet. “I sensed that it would not go down well with him. “The act of separating what is already working from what is not is a simple but powerful step forward. but leveraging our strengths takes the minimum effort and generally achieves maximum results.” I was delighted when Coleen said that because most people’s first instinct is to resist and reject suggestions without even giving them thought. “I had faced a similar challenge in my previous company. who is a manager in an engineering company. Lou. “I just asked him what he planned to do to justify this need for additional resources. I resumed. “Another simple step is to help people separate the WHAT they wish to achieve from the HOW they have to go about doing it. Not directly. It is not that I don’t believe in improving things.” I noticed Lou looked slightly stressed so I tried to reassure him by adding.” I shrugged. “I think I have an example of this … I’m not sure but if that means what I think it means. please come out of the closet now. I thought it would be beneficial to expand on this a bit more.” I paused. it sometimes helps people to realize that they can simply get the required results by focusing on the things that are already working well … instead of fretting about a few things that could be better. old chap. I always prefer to have other people do the work. Coleen? That would be great.” Coleen looked around. “Don’t get me wrong. “Now clarify what you mean by ‘clarify if it is the right problem’.” Win looked as pleased as Punch. but determined nonetheless. “Even better.” “That was very well done. then …” her voice petered out.” “Hmm … the ‘what’ from the ‘how’ … makes sense … Jolly good.’” She shrugged.” He was looking pleased with his wordplay.” Then I turned to Coleen. resumed. it requires far less effort to get results from what is working well … or from what we are already doing well … instead of trying to fix every little thing that is broken. “Well. “Why don’t you share it with us. “Oh. Arjun. but good-naturedly.” Lou laughed.” “So? Did you suggest that to him?” I asked gently. . Before I could respond.

” Win looked crestfallen. “if mood can drive actions.” “Life can be like that. eating properly. “I can now see how the C can help enhance confidence.” Lou looked sad. satisfied. “For example. “I never thought of it like that. “To explain how the U may be applied.” Then I added. I gave a solemn shrug. “And?” “And he eventually came up with a list of actions that he thought he would be taking. I was beaming my ass off as I got ready to unleash the U. What can we do? After all. all one can do is to assist them in identifying actions that help them to manage their emotions better.I gave Coleen an additional moment to bask in the glory of applause she got from us before moving on to the fourth and final C. “Simply by asking him what he would be doing if he knew he was coping well with the situation and eventually the loss. his sole surviving parent.” U UNCOVER . However. there’s not much anyone can do about that. “And this will become even clearer as we discuss the U … you will then notice there are several simple ways to reframe the problem. By now. “That is so succinct …” “Oh yes. such as exercising regularly.” “Cool!” That was again Lou. There was no way I was dishing out free copies. unable to mask his anxiety. let us return to Peter. “I guess most of us will face the loss of a parent at one point or another.” Lou looked hopeful.” “Oh heck. a modest nod. “Guys.” “True. “Poor guy. “And I am correct in guessing you have covered all this in your book?” I merely nodded. reduce its size or realign the focus towards things that are already working. It took all of my willpower not to get up and take a bow when Lou began to clap.” I felt the urge to elaborate. I could sense that the confidence level had hit a new high. the person’s confidence will increase. the mood in the room was electric yet again.” Win looked intrigued. Win. “Now in such cases. each one of us is born with only a birth certificate.” “Bingo!” I leant back.” “How did you do that?” Lou leant forward. the one whose team was not as engaged or as motivated as it should have been.” “Well. and not a warranty card. then why can’t actions drive mood?” “Wow!” The sudden explosion came from Lou. And no matter which of these happens. the other day someone told me he had just been informed that his mother. in an awed whisper.” Coleen chipped in. had terminal cancer and would not survive more than a few weeks. I ignored him. “I must get hold of a copy.” I explained. sleeping regularly …” “Wow!” Lou exhaled.” “And a goddamn expiry date too.” “This is the first time I have heard you suggest that something could be beyond salvage. very often people will come to you with problems for which there are no possible solutions and it is for such cases that the fourth C is invaluable.

” “Sounds good.” I asked Peter after he had declared that he was going to show his team the value of the work they were doing. he was also able to see that exploiting the opportunity was going to require less effort than he had initially supposed. “That about sums it up.” “I notice that you have listed them out in the order in which they are engaged. Finally. with the one at the top being the one you know the best. Several moments and corrections later. as it were. “I would be better off looking at them as individual people instead of lumping them together as a team? Right?” “What do you think.” The name at the top had an eight marked against it. I realize that some of them are pretty engaged already so I am now dealing with a much smaller issue. he appeared satisfied. Peter?” I kept my tone soft. but I could see the list had his undivided attention and he appeared to be thinking hard. “Let’s use a scale of ten.” “And I also notice that the degree of your knowing them is also the same. and reducing its size. each of …” he broke off and gave me a long look. his journey of reflection had begun. Now a twocolumn list lay before him. It was time to boost it further by giving the process some structure. Not only had the size of his original problem suddenly got smaller. now my efforts can be much more focused since they will be addressed at specific people. I know neither these people nor your relationship with them … except what you have chosen to share with me.” He nodded. Logical.” He gave a dismissive wave.” Grinning at the analogy. “Is that where I went wrong? Looking at them as one big problem?” I didn’t see any need to reply. And. “That must be a coinci …” he broke off. “I think that would be more useful.” He did not lose a beat. “I guess because I was thinking of how engaged they are as I was writing down their names.” I could almost sense Peter’s relief. I swivelled the paper around and added a third column. “You think there is a correlation?” “I have no idea. .” “And all nine of them are equally disengaged?” “Of course not. one means that you don’t know that person at all while ten is when you know her or him almost biblically. “Why would it be more useful?” “They are all different people after all.” Silence set in as Peter jotted down the names in a column and began to mark each person’s engagement level. “There are nine people in my team. he got down to the task at hand and several more moments passed in silence.SOLUTIONS BY DISCUSSING OPTIONS “Tell me more about your team.” “Nah. Reframing had helped to make the picture in his head sharper and thus had boosted his confidence. “How about you make a list of the people in your team and grade how engaged each one of them is?” I pushed a clean sheet of paper towards him. “Would you now please list out how well you know each of them. There wasn’t. again on a scale of one to ten. he nudged the list towards me. where one is not at all engaged and ten is engaged to the maximum. with the most engaged at the top. Here again. having thought it over. The last one on the list had two marked against it. Also.

” he pointed further down the list. Right?” I helped him along with a supportive nod. Joanna.” He pointed at the last three names on his list.” I wanted him to look at the situation more closely.” I explained to my BIG CORP audience. which is why you’re more comfortable with him.” he indicated to the name at the top.” I let that thought stand. the better I’d be able to task them. “And every time. “You’re saying that I like the person at the top the most? That’s why I know him better and deal with him more effectively.” Peter was silent for a very long moment.” I matched his grin. and that is why he is more engaged?” “Perhaps.” he grinned. and thus behave differently with him. get to know them better. However. can we?” “No. I would ensure he had given due thought to ensuring that the actions chosen by him to get the desired results were simple. “Coming back to what you wanted to do. “is quiet and reserved … she likes her space. You have to decide if you wish to take any action at all … and if so what.” “Of course I will. So what action are you going to take?” “I told you. Paul.” “And when will you start doing this?” “Tomorrow.” “Would you like to be more specific? How much more time? How often? When would be the best time to do so?” “Ah!” Some reflection.” “Is that an action or an aim. “How about I have lunch with them in the office cafeteria twice a week?” “Sounds good to me. . “is a very outgoing. “Or perhaps you have taken the effort to find out more about the person at the top of your list. Peter? Could that be possible?” “Hmm … I guess it could be. And we don’t even need to know everyone to the level of an eight or nine out of ten. “It is totally your call.“So if I were to ask you to grade how much you liked each of them. I don’t know. She is not reserved with everyone. “You’re pretty relentless.” “You know that or you’re assuming that she is? I’m asking because you yourself have indicated that you barely know her. “What do you think. aren’t you?” “Just ensuring that you start doing what you have to do. “No. and that is why he is more engaged. but I don’t think that’s what has happened here.” he finally admitted. his uncertainty was more audible now. However.” I smiled back.” “To get to know them better. “Not really. “I guess the better I know them. “Wow! I can see that you’re not going to let me get away with it so easily.” I pointed at her name at the bottom of his list. “But we really can’t know everyone equally. That’s why I leave her alone as much as possible. I need to spend more time with them obviously.” he laughed. I do have lunch every day. and motivate them. We all do. As long as you’re clear that you will make the time to do it. “I think I should invest some time and energy into getting to know them better. You have to decide how well you need to know a person to ensure you can get the best out of them. “ And is Joanna reserved and quiet with everyone?” “I see. Peter?” That hit home. repetitive and visible.” “Okay. “Especially these three. would that also be in the same order?” He emitted a brief laugh.” “I see your point. jovial person and always makes the effort to seek out and engage other people.” Then he added. what action will you take to help the people in your team see the value of their work?” We then went over his team personnel one at a time and he started picking specific actions for each one of them.

In fact.” Lou nodded. Generally.” I explained to them.” K KNOWING HOW TO BREAK DOWN THE PROBLEM IS AS IMPORTANT AS SOLVING IT . “You ensured Peter kept looking at options and discussing solutions. right?” Lou nodded again. a safe zone in which to reflect and someone to bounce off their ideas.” I explained. That’s what I realize every time. repetitive and visible. “Peter only picked actions for four people on his list. “I will start by getting to know them. However.” “Sounds great. “Have you guys got a sense of the U?” I asked my BIG CORP foursome. “You will agree that the actions Peter takes to get the new results he desires from his team will not have any impact if they are not visible to the team. I understand.” “Sounds like a plan. repetitive and visible actions instead of allowing him to get away with just stating a broad aim. all they need is time. “And isn’t it also logical that if Peter selects actions that are repetitive. Doing so usually gets the best results. Most people already know what needs to be done once they have framed the outcome properly—as an opportunity.” Peter was firm.” How often have I heard people say that? Makes sense when you put it like that . thus Peter would be more inclined to take those.” However. Then I will be better poised to decide what I need to do to help them to see the value of their work.” “I also noticed how you used it to cut down the size of the problem. When I asked him why he didn’t want to take any action regarding the others. it was time to get back to Peter’s story and complete the U. especially the less engaged ones at the bottom of his list. cocking an eyebrow. “And when his team sees Peter taking the same action again and again.” Lou interrupted. new insights will emerge. “Simple actions would not need much effort or time investment. “It helped me understand how the C and U interlock. “You also ensured that he selected simple. then it is more likely to have a bigger impact. I was unable to hide my smile. It elicited a quizzical look from Lou. “That’s why the actions we take to create any change must be simple.” Lou added.” Lou responded with a that’s-obvious shrug.” I had not seen Om Prakash look so animated. The two at the top are already very engaged.” I clarified. “Now show us the K.” I nodded. I am confident that as I get to know them better.“Simple.” And it was. “It’s not what we say but how we say it that makes the difference. Right?” “That’s logical. “What?” he asked. “I already told you. then they will soon become hardwired in his brain … that is. Numbers three to six from the top. “Just what you said.” “Makes sense when you put it like that. As for the last three … right now I don’t want to take any action with them. what do you mean by ‘visible’ and ‘repetitive’?” “They’re linked. they would become habits. “That’s pretty much what you need to do. I was happy that Peter had decided to keep things simple.” Win replied. Peter just shook his head.

” “What was the most powerful thing for you today?” I asked Peter after we had gone through the process again. you will be able to break it down the way we broke this one down?” “I’m pretty confident actually. Peter. I have just one more question for you. “Now are we done?” he asked again. Forcing myself to focus. “And if it is one of your team members facing a problem and not you? Will you be able to help them break it down too?” “Yes. “The last question.” With that. By doing this.” I explained to my BIG CORP foursome.” he responded. I pulled them back into the matrix. Not just with this issue but with the assurance of knowing I can help others with the same approach. I loved the way her mouth remained slightly open when she was in that mood. “I loved the way you helped me understand the process of breaking down an issue. I was enthralled. “Almost done. Win especially. “Peter. I could see that he was raring to get started on his action plan. “Do you feel the need to take any other actions right now?” Peter’s response was immediate. Peter.” Peter replied after some thought. “Are we done for the day then?” Peter asked when we had finished with his action list: to help four of his team members see the value of their work and to get to know the last three on his list better. I then made him go over the actions he had chosen to enable him to identify which ones were common and could thus be grouped. It was extremely empowering. I’m going to start with this and assess the impact before I do any more.” I thought that was a good idea and told him so. Arjun. I will.” .” I said. “Almost. I noticed he had gone quiet. Peter.” “It was time for me to unleash the K. how confident are you that when you are next confronted by an issue.” Peter replied instantly. “Is there anything we can talk about that would help you feel even more confident?” “Perhaps if we went through the process once again and you explained to me why you asked the questions you did. I returned to the story. He was really pleased that his effort had dramatically reduced.” “Just doing my job. That would help. They were listening with rapt attention. Now I feel much more confident. “Why bother when the one action may well do the trick. let us return to Peter’s story. Thank you. However. he managed to reduce his action list by half.“To show you how the K is applied.


Lou had turned away from the screen and was watching me carefully. By doing that. pleased beyond words.U.” I murmured. Lou?” “There are several. you have certainly worked out the K.K.” I could not control my joyous laugh. “Which part of the process would you like to discuss in more detail to help you become a confident F.U. The screen was a clutter of text boxes and arrows. Lou?” I sensed he had a doubt.” Win finally spoke up. you will empower them and reduce your work—minimum effort. “So.C.C. what’s the biggest opportunity you can see now.-er?” “If I were to break it down …” Lou marshalled his thoughts. Coleen was busy with her writing pad.” “Judging by the way you’ve just broken down the process.C.K better. I also think I have the U well in hand.K.” I acknowledged. Lou was lost in Om Prakash’s visual notes. “Let’s see. she seemed to be working out the F. Lou had exceeded all my expectations. “but … no … and the one I would like to explore right now is how I can help people to F. He glowed.” “Thank you. come alive in my head. Win seemed lost in thought.C. “Yes. maximum .U. “Fascinating! Truly fascinating.U. “I loved the story. I will have to try out the F to see how I can best make it work. “You really made the F.K. which shimmered colourfully on the screen. I noticed that Om Prakash had given up trying to say everything with pictures and was now going with a kind of flow chart.The silence in Sapphire lingered long after I had finished Peter’s story. The C seems to be pretty clear.” he began immediately.

U. what next?” I rushed on.” the author in me couldn’t resist adding. And I was wondering.K. in any organization. It was getting pretty late.U.U.K. “I know it’s running really late but …” her voice petered out.C.K.C. How can the reverse be done? Can the team members also F. “Let us see how the others can also F.C. now a trifle embarrassed by the attention. to achieve maximum results with very little effort. “Could you share something about that also? Please.” The room was full of smiles now.U.results. I must confess. their leaders?” “Of course they can!” I pointed at the copy of my book in front of Lou. It can be used very effectively by anyone at any level.U. “Not to worry. his team members to empower. buy it and then read it. The others clapped and cheered.C. In fact. Your Way to Success. their way to success. “I can see how a leader can F.K. Once again. Luckily. before we F. “This certainly calls for a prize. “So.” She threw an apologetic look at her watch.? Or is there any other aspect of it that you’d like to dwell on?” This time it was Win who raised the query.C.K.K.C.U.” .U.” “Wow!” That came from Coleen. encourage.” I gave a deprecating wave. “Are we all now ready to go forth and F. “You guys must go through that book. engage and enthuse them. With a flourish. my diary was clear for the rest of the day and BIG CORP was a major client. I pulled out a copy of F. the boss.K. make as many people from your company as you can read it … I mean. Basically by altering the nature of the conversations they have. is all about—is not just for leaders. “BreakThrough Thinking—and that is what the F. in any situation. I had obviously hit a nerve.C. let us take a closer look at the process.” Reaching into my briefcase. signed it and handed it over to Lou.


” . capable and confident.” “So Adam needs to keep his focus on Eve. seeking affirmation with raised eyebrows. But not right now. giving him the required endorsement. just imagine what the impact on Eve would be if Adam showcased it as an opportunity that could be exploited to further team goals.” “True. in this case Eve. and he does not get sucked into the problem. and let her see that he is competent. “Does Adam also use an Opportunity Object?” “Why not? Anything that ensures he keeps his eye on what counts. “So what should Adam focus on?” “The boss obviously. And how best would he be able to do that?” I gave them an encouraging look.” “Perfect. Lou laughed. “By changing the way he presents the problem. I’d like to impress upon the boss that I am competent. guys!” I admonished. his boss.” Coleen and Om Prakash grinned.” Before I could continue. “I like women on top. I love it. I’d like to find the simplest way to solve the problem. Okay?” “That’s nice. Was that a hint ? I pushed away the disruptive thought and focused on the story. In fact. of course.” Lou suggested.” “Let’s assume a problem needs to be solved. “Eve is the one from whom he requires value. Lou asked. everyday occurrence.” Lou and Coleen both replied. So let’s say that Adam is the team member who is taking a problem to Eve. “And. Not that I have a problem with women on top.” “Bingo Win.“Let us take a very simple. “Let’s start with the F. Okay?” “Okay.” Lou looked around. and that’s your C. “Focus.” I began. capable and confident. “Right. “Instead of talking about it as a problem that he is struggling with. What is Adam’s aim when he goes to Eve?” “If I were Adam.” I thumped the table. acknowledgement and respect.” Win murmured with a mischievous smile. “of a team member going to his boss to discuss a problem that needs to be solved or a task that needs to be done. almost simultaneously.” Coleen piped in.

“Yes. and proceeded to do so. If poorly worded.” Win responded. Imagine how she will feel when Adam lets her know that he is relying on her wider perspective. to the fullest. judgement and experience to help him and the team to succeed. we agree that when Adam is able to showcase the opportunity inherent in the situation. it might. “You may be right.“It would be powerful. instead of asking Eve what to do. “So. “Remember that the bedrock of Breakthrough Thinking is that we have to make the other person feel good about themselves and think for themselves.” She paused again before adding.” Coleen conceded.” “May that not come across as indecisive?” Coleen queried. more effectively … or even let him know if she can spot any pitfalls. “Now put yourself in Eve’s shoes. Adam offers suggestions and asks her what she feels about them. that should do it. Eve will be suitably impressed?” “She will be.” I realized that this was an excellent opportunity to drive home the most fundamental aspect of Breakthrough Thinking. confident also. For that. So. “It still does not show Eve that he is capable or competent.C.” “True. let us see how we can use the U. spelt out the various advantages of each option. “Also consider this. “Perhaps if he gave her the options. And I said so. Is it possible for Eve to suggest better or different ways to solve a problem without thinking them through?” .” I was impressed.U. Right?” Four quick nods. but that only shows her that Adam is an optimist … well.” Lou commented. What-if.” “She would feel great. recommended what he believed to be the best one and then asked Eve to use her perspective and experience to point out what could be done better. “Do you know how amazingly simple and powerful that is?” Coleen looked delighted.K. how do you think he should present options to ensure she does not see him as indecisive or confused?” Coleen replied after several moments of thought. “The best thing is that you have used the power of the F.

“Let’s pull back and review the situation.” “That sounds familiar. “Adam is focusing on Eve. “He presents the opportunity that can be exploited to further team goals. let’s kill the K.” The thumb came up now. This lets Eve see that Adam is capable of independent thought. Coleen?” . “That’s so incredible. Lou was happy with her concurrence. she can’t.” Then he added.” Lou was completely caught up in the conversation.” Lou looked a trifle sheepish. thus highlighting the fact that he is confident. using Eve’s wider perspective as the boss and making her feel good in the process. “What is the opportunity you see here. recommend what he believes to be the best one and seek her opinion and input about it?” “It should make Eve see Adam as a valued resource. Would you like to suggest an example?” “Okay.” “Good idea. He was so caught up in the moment that I don’t think he realized that she may have been referring to him.” I stressed. Win. “So Adam has made her feel good and got her to think. But words were not required. “could we try this out once … just to help me see it more clearly.” Finger two.” Long silence. highlight their pros and cons.” “Simple is good. Adam will be able to find a solution to the problem. Lou. “How do you think Eve will feel when she sees that Adam has been able to convert the challenge into an opportunity. Would that also not suggest to her that Adam is ready to move to the next level?” She nodded. “Adam also presents options to exploit this opportunity and highlights the pros and cons of each option. after all. And simple. “I couldn’t have put it better.” Third finger. “And do you believe that by now he would have Eve’s support for his action plan? And she would be eager to ensure he succeeds?” I could see that all four of them were really excited. “By the time he finishes discussing the options and their pros and cons. “Arjun. That my boss does not appreciate the good things I do but is ready to jump on me and find fault the minute something goes wrong. He was her boss. competent to think through things and confident enough to project them. “In that case. So did Coleen. And he also makes Eve reflect upon his options and suggest if there is a better way to do the job.“No. “Let’s take a really common problem. then present various options.” I dropped my hand to my side.” Finger four. not the problem.” Coleen muttered with a grim smile.” He dragged out the word. “Adam also uses this conversation to understand whether his options have any obvious pitfalls.” Win suggested.” I held up one finger.

K. competent and confident. She caught the insinuation and grinned back.U. Please remember to always keep the aim in sight—Adam wants Eve to see that he is capable. I like that. and sat up straighter. She was ready.-ing it. her. “Does that work for you.C. competent and confident?” “Cool.K. “Coleen.” she replied immediately. his boss. by F. are you ready to play Adam’s role?” She nodded. the hallmark of a good leader. “How can I ensure my boss sees I am capable. “Since we have already used the C to reframe the situation.C. So we are going to explore the F.U.K. She was secure and comfortable with herself. Lou?” “It works. . I instinctively slid the Rubik’s Cube between us and began to F.U. Arjun.” Coleen-Adam nodded.” I thought it was pretty clever of Coleen to kill two birds with one stone. let’s go straight for the U.” He gave a pointed look at Win.“Exactly what you were talking about just now.C. Would definitely be fun to solve this one. That was the other thing I liked about Win Ing.


how do you normally talk?” “The way I am now. Not normally. “Evenly. Now. I sensed there was no need. there may be a situation where time will be an issue but. What . And I also see myself offering simple workable solutions when we are troubleshooting.” I bestowed a supportive smile. work problems are pretty straightforward and I can solve most of them on my own.” “How come?” “Generally. who was now in the Adam avatar.” “And do you see any problem doing that?” “No. I waited until she had processed this. when that happens. “We have already seen how you can focus on your breathing to talk calmly and thus feel confident.” “I see. generally what do the conversations look like?” “Tough.” Then she added.” She made a face. what do you need to do to ensure you present data and details logically?” “That’s easy.” She splayed her hands. And is that how you normally talk to Eve?” Her gaze shifted to some point above Lou’s head. by and large.” I didn’t say anything. I need to spend a little time gathering the data and organizing it before I sit with Eve.” she replied instantly. I will be able to manage this.” “But you can solve most of the work stuff yourself?” Coleen-Adam responded with an of-course shrug.” “So what is the one thing that you can do to ensure you’re talking calmly and evenly?” “Focus on keeping my breathing slow and deep. “No. Am I right that your aim is to ensure that Eve sees you as a confident. And when you do go to Eve. presenting data and details logically.“How often do you go to your boss?” I asked Coleen. She had started to think. I am generally flustered and I always feel my pitch is too high. “So.” “Great! Let us take stock of the aim again.” “And what do you see yourself having to do in order for you to believe that Eve is regarding you as competent and at your most capable?” “Hmm … I see myself talking to her calmly. Once in a while. competent and capable person?” Coleen nodded. Eve does have the big picture but I know the nitty-gritty of my work far better. So let us now see how you could best present simple workable solutions to Eve. “Of course. “I suppose because I only go to her when there is a …” she broke off suddenly.” I could see she had immersed herself into Adam’s role. “Our conversations are almost always problem-focused. “Not very often. She had moved into the zone where reflections and realizations would come thick and fast. Nothing that I cannot manage. It makes me feel silly … perhaps because my breathing is very shallow when I am in this state. when you feel confident.” “I see. “Generally only when Eve calls me or when there is a problem that needs to be discussed … or when something has gone wrong and I need her help to sort it out.” “Fantastic. I often do need her support and approval. “You see.” Some mulling. she shook her head.” “That’s great. “How often do you go to Eve when you need her help to work out a problem?” “Not very often. I know I will talk calmly … and feel confident. “Is that part of the problem? Perhaps I should go to her even otherwise. calmly and logically. “Of course. Finally.

I could tell from her expression that she had spotted a new side of Coleen. I wanted her to explore possible pitfalls and be ready for them. Now I realize that itself is the opportunity.K. It is truly fascinating how new learning comes from the most unexpected conversations. they find ways to overcome the obstacles. still examining something in the middledistance. “Keeping the focus on Eve. I kept my peace. I would even think about how I could get more from whatever is working well. what would it look like?” Yet another thought-laden pause followed.” And it did. However. Just when I was thinking that the new insights were over. “I’m convinced that the F.” “Sounds like a great plan to me. I am sure I would be able to present it as an opportunity and suggest some options to exploit it.” “Brilliant. “Would Eve give you that much time?” “Maybe. ask her to help me find the possible opportunities in it and then start discussing options with her … and. “That should work. So often we are so wrapped up with what’s not working that we forget to focus on what is—our strengths. “Sounds great to me.C.” I was intrigued now and found myself leaning forward. Coleen resumed.” Coleen appeared pleased with her solution. too. Whatever she was seeing seemed to become clearer. “I was trying to see how it was possible to spot an opportunity in every challenge.” Coleen admitted.U. I would also have separated what’s working from what is not and tried to see what ways there are to get around the blocks.would you need to do to enable that?” This time she reflected for a moment before speaking. I would present the problem to her.C. I’m pretty sure that’s workable. “I would first spend some time spotting the possible opportunities available in that issue.C.” Lou added.U.” she grinned.C.” “Interesting. I have been F. and then a firmer nod. And that conversation would be shorter … and a darned sight easier. “In fact. capable and confident worker?” “I think my best option would be to apply the F. “That puts to bed another aspect of the C that had been bothering me. ask her to help me. I also knew that if she thought it would work. When we believe we can. However.” Boy! That floored me. Simple and well thought through. “I would do all this before I go to Eve.” “That looks like a long conversation to me.K. There was another thought pause. “I would be able to do that if I spent some time thinking through the issue. maybe not. Win spoke.K.” And it was. “I know I would have to try and keep it short … perhaps have an initial conversation with her until I could get the C sorted … just in case I’m unable to do that on my own. And was impressed by what she was seeing. as Lou suggested. what if you did not have time to do all this before meeting Eve? How would you still ensure that Eve sees you as a competent. think it through and come up with some options before going back to Eve.” “After you’ve broken up the issue.U. If I broke up the issue before going to Eve. I was really impressed with Coleen’s conversation and approach.” “Sounds good to me. in reverse. And believe me. knowing thoughts were still fermenting in her head.K. Lou and Om were nodding thoughtfully. I have noticed that when we start playing the devil’s advocate and challenge the other person.” she nodded. we generally can.-ing for quite some time now. I was trying to remember the last time I had discovered so many new aspects of the F. “Yes. I would definitely be able to break it down. “Yeah. “How would you do that?” “It’s pretty straightforward actually.” Win concurred.” To be honest. taking on board the benefit of her experience and wider perspective.U.” She paused. . Once I have spotted the opportunity. it most probably would. She is generally very busy.” She thought some more.

U.” Win clarified. can be.” I was delighted at the opportunity to display how versatile the F. now I’m a colleague who is going to help you prepare for the difficult conversation?” Win nodded. We were about to begin when Win held up her hand. unwilling to step beyond the boundaries of his knowledge and unwilling to try anything that did not fit into his vision. the client?” “Let me do that. “Sounds cool. “Would you like to share your thought process a bit more?” I asked.” “Right.K. the F. And I was wondering how we can also apply the F. “One second. They got ready for the coming conversation. facing her squarely. both ways: for the leaders and the led. but this was not about me. The new Lou before me was looking for ways to do whatever was put on the table before him.U. calling a halt. like a veteran F. Arjun. How about we change the scenario? Let’s say I am the company manager who is due to have a difficult conversation with an irate client and I have gone to my colleague to ask him to help me prepare for this conversation. Who wants to play the role of the company manager who will F.K. and better. it would have restricted the scope to that client’s problem alone.U. The Lou of yore had been so different. “Let’s take the case of an irate client. “Such as … is it possible to F. a client or a vendor or any other business partner for that matter?” Win clarified. and I was thrilled to see it acquire even bigger.C. if not baby was mine.” He swivelled his chair towards Win.U.C. proportions.” Lou volunteered.U. “The previous scenario was also very good. “I’d like to see if I have got the hang of it.” Personally I liked both scenarios. That was something that (in their team) only Win Ing used to display.K. “I see what you mean. Well.” “What’s the situation we are facing?” “I am a major client and very upset with a service failure. . How does that sound?” She looked around expectantly. After all. “I think this would be more empowering and give me a better insight into how to manage all such difficult conversations … no matter who I am having them with. And at the opportunity to find newer. Someone who is very angry at a service lapse or product failure.C.” “If you feel so. however.C.U. to other situations?” “Such as?” Now I was as caught up in the excitement as they were.K. I loved his newfound confidence. That version of Lou had also found reasons why he could not do something.C. “Moi. I have come down to meet the manager responsible for the service. “So who is going to play the client?” Win raised a finger. I just thought of something else. How should we do this? May I suggest another role play?” They all nodded.K. yet-to-be-explored aspects of it. Lou hummed thoughtfully. at least he had started doing so.K.C.-er.


and receive. as it was meant to. Lou was now ensuring Win framed her own requirements from the conversation. Especially the casual tone he had adopted. Win.” Immersed in the role play. Right?” This new Lou was beginning to impress me more and more. my brother got it for me.” Despite the role play. “Would you prefer to discuss if it is possible to transform this conversation from difficult to inspiring or would you rather explore options on how this can be done?” “Hmm. . I saw him mutter something. Who knows what we can or cannot achieve? All we can do is try.” “That’s cool. New?” Win’s expression altered. Initially.” I liked the way Lou was handling this. possibly reminding himself to keep his eyes on Win. She is very upset and I sense the conversation is going to be a real pain and …” “You were wondering how you could ensure it could be turned into an inspiring and empowering conversation?” Lou took charge smoothly. “Like you mentioned. “Yes.” “Could you ask him where he got it from? I’d love to get one for my wife. so added. That’s generally an astute thing to do. her answer would now be doubly important. The rest of us got ready to observe.Lou expertly slid the Rubik’s Cube I had given him onto the table. but not as tense as it had been when they’d first begun. Win?” Lou smiled. Lou said. “I’d mentioned to you that I’m going to have a really difficult conversation this afternoon with a client who has been facing problems for several weeks now. The compliment had distracted her. do we work to make it come alive. however phrasing it like a question. placing it between Win and himself. laying out a very positive agenda. had assumed a somewhat harried expression. “So what would be the most useful thing for you to discuss right now?” Having planted the seed. it would be most useful to see if I can convert this difficult conversation into an empowering and inspiring one.” she stated firmly.” Win’s expression became a trifle tense again. “How are you doing today. It was obvious that Lou was doing a great job. Also. “How. I’ll find out and let you know. who had been focused completely on her issue. also immersed in the role play. “That’s a cool scarf. It had broken the momentum for Win. she had come to Lou for help to prepare for a difficult conversation so her initial aim had been fairly limited. I think he noticed Win’s worried expression and sensed she was going to pour out her problems. Win actually looked a little relieved. Win’s pause was clearly audible. I made a quick note to highlight this during the debriefing. Win smiled. I did too. “Thanks.” “If or how?” Lou queried.” “Sure. He had again chosen his timing and method to introduce the issue into the conversation.” The short sally was expertly done. “Right. Only when we own the picture. I see. “You mentioned you wanted me to help you prepare for something. Then. Yeah. She had looked ready to burst out with it until Lou distracted her with the scarf. seeing that he had not forgotten to build rapport. After a couple of minutes of chit-chat. “Well … I’m not sure if I can achieve all of that but I would love to try.

” Win leapt at that. “Hypothetically. his brush-tipped stylus poised in mid-air. You were right.C. So did Coleen. what would need to happen to transform her from an irate client into a repeat customer?” Lou asked softly.” “That would be cool. “Before we do that Win. maintaining the rapport and keeping the conversation light and solutionsfocused. “I am happy to see that you are clear about the various outcomes you want from this meeting. Lou matched her grin. anytime. I don’t think she would ever have given me so much time if it hadn’t been for this problem. Lou had helped her to distance herself from the problem.” Lou mused. her tone was firm. the C had begun. “I never thought of it like that. problem or even at the negotiating table. Even his soft.” I stopped to allow them to ascertain the best possible outcome of this conversation. wouldn’t it?” Lou allowed the positive pause to shine a bit brighter. “ We care is a really powerful thought. Lou’s question was a masterpiece.K. Win. anywhere. Win actually sat up straighter.” It was easy to see that it resonated with her.” “And you’d be happier when …” “Well. That we accept things went wrong. and yet not pushy.-er Lou was turning out to be. When she finally did. Arjun.” She sat back. I totally get it. I was overawed. Should we see how we can make each of them happen one by one?” Win gave Lou a round of applause and turned to me. I would be happier if she continued to remain a client.I was pleased that Lou had so far kept his focus on Win and had forced her (with simple questions) to look at the issue in a positive light. Then leant forward again. As soon as you can see the best possible outcome for all concerned in a conflict. No matter what the situation. I would be happiest if I could use this conversation to make her buy our premium service. “I get it. the rest becomes easy.” Coleen contributed.” Win grinned. “And what would make you even happier?” The pause lasted slightly longer this time. anyone.” “She would possibly want the emotional satisfaction of an apology. The minute Win rephrased her agenda for this conversation. if you put it like that. It is possible to F. Win did not reply for quite a long time.” “So your focus is going to be to ensure she clearly gets the message that you care?” “That’s right. “And we care enough to find out what we can do to make up for the inconvenience caused. Even Om Prakash looked up from his iPad screen. That all products and services are prone to failure. may I ask what opportunity is presenting itself to you here … in getting to spend some valuable one-to-one time with such an important customer?” “Well. Win. we just have to focus on the person involved in the situation.U. what do you think would be the best possible outcome she would want?” “Interesting.” “Absolutely right. gentle tone was so appropriate—suggestive. It was obvious that the picture in her head was now clear.C. “All that would need to happen is for her to understand that we care. What an expert F. “If you now re-examine the conversation we just role-played from the eyes of the irate client. “Yeah. and whatever is most important to that person. deeply regret the problems she faced and will do our best to ensure the same thing does not happen again.K. “For all the .” “And what is the best possible outcome you can see from this conversation?” “I would be happy if she didn’t give me a very hard time.” “So.U. that would be really cool.

” “Generally true. I was too. They can block everything else. Lou. “We do need to get emotions out of the way upfront. So was everyone in the room.” Win interrupted. “Yes. All four of them were feeling good about themselves and were now actively thinking for themselves. “I don’t think anyone can promise that no problems will ever occur. It was so powerful. After that. that knowing the best possible outcome from both viewpoints could be useful when identifying the opportunity.” Win pointed out. As would the company’s balance sheet. and change the way they look at the issue. Om Prakash threw him a high-five and drew a big smiley on the screen. Win’s next words established that.” Now there was a lull. I sensed the point had been adequately driven home.” “She could also want legal recompense for the problems she has faced. “so that she doesn’t face the same agro again. Lou.” Lou interjected. “It would be covered in our contract with the client.” “She would certainly want the assurance that such problems would not recur.” Coleen chipped in. It was now time to deliver the finishing touch. which now vibrated with energy. Win swung back to Lou. “I loved the way you did that. wanting them to explore that option too. “That was very well done. “Such problems or any problems?” I probed. the most critical part has been done. And at that very moment I knew that life for the BIG CORP leaders was about to change.” Coleen added. we will act swiftly to rectify it. let us leave legal issues aside and try to determine what else she would want as an outcome from this meeting with Win. “so I guess …” “She would want to know that when any problem occurs.” “That’s so true. the minute we can apply the C. “That’s a legal issue.” From the far end.” Win agreed.” “I agree. “For the moment. Theirs and mine. My aim for the day had been achieved.” I needed them to stay focused on the topic at hand. .aggravation she suffered.” He was beaming. And how.” Lou countered. applying the U and the K seems fairly straightforward.


Lou.K.K. Then please share with me. “If everyone in the company became a Breakthrough Thinker. may I ask if you’d like to work on the problems you identified at the beginning of this meeting?” “I have an idea.K.K.U. your way to success in any situation. “Should we start from the top or the bottom?” Coleen mused. calm and confident people … all of them F.U.K. making it clear that the question was in jest. I would intervene only if I saw them stall or head down the wrong path.” “I can see that employee engagement would rise even more once people became happier and started thinking up their own solutions.C.U.“Great.-ing. I was starting to feel like the darned Pied Piper.” The four of them exchanged glances and then turned to me as one.” Lou held up a little finger.” “Perfect.” I had lowered my voice to a mesmerizing pitch. we may also find several ways to solve them. each other? Not only would we be able to practise F. “They would be able to lead inspiringly. I could see that they were all keen to start F. still lost in the pretty picture.” Lou added. Now that you guys know how you can F.” Coleen held up a finger. a hundred and thirty leaders at levels two and three and a total of seventeen hundred others.” Chins were up. what is the most timeefficient and cost-effective way to make this happen?” “We have about sixteen senior leaders.K. “What would that be like. “I think we should start at both ends.C. as excited as the rest. “Just imagine … a bunch of relaxed. Arjun.K.C.” “Question.K. guys?” “It would be awesome. “I know that we would see more promotions and progress on many fronts.C.U. Only Lou could have come up with that. and resolute. The others agreed that it would be a very useful thing to do. I laughed. “Excellent.C. so what would differentiate one from the other?” He was smiling broadly. then everyone would be ready for promotion.C.” Win summed up the size of the population that had to be taught how to F.U. and allowed the picture to grow (and glow) in their heads. “We are ready.” I murmured. “In that case. properly.-ing each other all the time … doing less and yet achieving so much more … everyone happier and enjoying coming to work. .U.” I thought that was an excellent idea and said so.” Om Prakash had sheathed his stylus and joined the fray. all you have to do is be ready to operate beyond the boundaries of what you already know. I didn’t say a word.” Win went to bat right away. Though the question was addressed to me. So did the others. It was now their call. momentarily breaking the F.” Lou breathed.C.-ing. Nick’s aim for our leaders would be achieved.-fest.” Coleen said enthusiastically.C. “Oh and our people would also be so much more appreciated and empowered. what are the possible opportunities here for BIG CORP?” “To begin with. “Ensure we help everyone to F. But imagine what your company would be like if everyone was applying Breakthrough Thinking. “So what will you do to make it happen?” Win leant forward.U.” I allowed the picture to blossom. “How about we use them to F. “Just remember. “That’s true. and their quality of life would definitely improve once they start doing less.U.

And rightly so.U.” replied Lou. how many people can you guys teach how to F. “so start with the least effort and escalate it only if you don’t get the results you seek. Once you have learnt how to F. “the foreplay can be a bit challenging.” “Arjun. . otherwise F. “So will they.U.-ing session usually take?” “Twenty to twenty-five people is a good number to go with. It didn’t take long. right? That’s all? Are you sure?” “Did you guys get it?” They all nodded.” I reminded them. They looked at me expectantly.U. maximum results. “And how long does a F.” Lou checked his watch. nudging her chin at the diagram on the screen. no problem remains a problem.C. I returned the compliment wordlessly.K. “You mean productivity.“That would be optimal.K. It is just the initial part.” Coleen reminded him.C.C.K. “Two hours and … so a half-day session.” Lou suggested. “It would get the process rolling much faster.” Om Prakash gave a mischievous smile.C. They got the message and went back to their huddle. “Let’s start with the ones who have the maximum impact on profitability.U.” “Whom should we start with?” Win pulled them back to the next item on their agenda.” Win nodded in concurrence.” “True. “And it would take about the same time that we took today.” I replied.K. at one time?” Lou asked me.” “Yeah.. “Fair enough. The conversation flowed back and forth as they worked out the modalities for bringing the Breakthrough Leader to their leaders and the Breakthrough Thinker to the other citizens of BIG CORP.” “The aim is minimum effort.-ing is pretty simple.


I felt her fragrance reach out and touch me. only opportunities. turned and started to talk to him. Lou emerged and called out to her. There are no problems. I would know that I had given it my best shot. Just then. For a moment. These thoughts were randomly going through my mind as I waited for a taxi near the exit gate. But at least try it. She looked up as my taxi began to move. Just F. The F. A radiant. I was laughing even more happily as the driver accelerated out of the gate and we hit the main road. Reluctantly.” I said to the taxi driver as I watched Win standing there. giving it a lovely auburn glow.C. head tilted slightly to one side as she looked at the paper in Lou’s hand. Problem? What problem? Practise what you preach.A little over three hours had elapsed by the time we exited Sapphire.U. Win waved and smiled happily when she spotted me.-ing them. I knew then that propriety aside. Just then a taxi pulled up beside me. There was promise in hers.U.U.K. never fails.K. I wondered if I should wait for Win Ing to finish but I sensed Lou would be with her for a while and did not think it would be proper. I saw her change direction and start towards me. Like sunshine. However. For one long second. I knew I just had to spot the opportunity.C.C.K. I would call her soon. Isn’t that what counts? You decide. dude. So? What’s the opportunity for you here? I asked myself. I got in. either way. yourself. I was amazed how quickly the time had flown past. I had started to laugh by the time the taxi driver had engaged gears. The sun caught her hair. It is at times like this that I wish I were a lawyer so that I could bill by the hour. .C. either way I would win. To ask Win Ing out or not … this was definitely a good one to F. For the ones who understood that just because it is simple does not mean it will not work. our eyes met. Is it okay to ask a client out on a date? Though I already knew my current answer. The new BIG CORP contract in my briefcase was radiating warmth. The best possible outcome. My decision must have been clear in mine because she suddenly smiled. For some of them at least. I could see the reluctance in her eyes as she stopped.U. and held. Methinks Win may have sensed my laughter. They would be the ones who would end up doing less and achieving more. After all. In my mind’s eye. As soon as I found another way to look at this problem. I was unable to keep the thought at bay. Filling me up. heart-stopping Win Ing smile.K. Just then the front doors of the office opened and disgorged Win Ing. I was glowing with a sense of having accomplished something big. Then I could not stop smiling. around with. For both of us. And no matter the outcome. There has to be another way to look at this. “Hillview Avenue. And I was certain that life for their people would never be the same again once we started F. She was heading towards the car park. Very soon.

C.K.U. Be with You! .THE BEGINNING May the F.

They have left me with a treasure trove of stories and experiences that helped fine-tune the F.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS For every major change that happens in your life. there is generally one person or incident responsible for it. Paul Vinay Kumar and Karthik Venkatesh at Westland Ltd India. at least every book that has been written by me. That is why the primary credit for this book goes to Karen Leong. And as always to the National Arts Council of Singapore for their support and good wishes. Katharine Carpenter. It was at her behest that I embarked on my journey in the field of Learning and Development and. The same is true for every book. my favourite younger daughter. this book came about.C. The next most important person I need to acknowledge for this book is Meher. . They helped me put this book together so quickly and so well. Thanks also to the following people for their invaluable guidance: Chris Newson. for patiently sitting through my numerous ramblings on this topic and for going through the endless drafts.K. as a result. Mei Lin Lee. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the hundreds of people whom I have had the pleasure of coaching and working with in various classrooms and on various topics. Mindy Pang and Bernard Go at MCIA in Singapore and Gautam Padmanabhan.U.-ing process. my co-director at Influence Solutions Pte Ltd.

mukuldeva. Mukul Deva was commissioned in December 1981 into the Sikh Light Infantry of the Indian Army. please visit www. the National Defence Academy. Deva is an .ABOUT THE AUTHOR An alumnus of La Martiniere College. Pune. He is also a Mentor with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Afghanistan Fellowship. Business and Creativity Coach. Now settled in Singapore and widely acknowledged as the Change Maker. Dehradun. Lucknow. and the Indian Military Academy. He took early retirement from the army after fifteen years of service. For more about him. including a decade of combat operations in India and overseas. motivational speaker and an Executive.

S.P.O. is the easiest way to learn from the great history of warfare and transform your business into an even more successful and profitable organization. Other published works include: • • • • • • • • Time After Time … It All Happened (Minerva. economic use of resources.: The Return of the Employee (Sage.S.A. 2010) Tanzeem (HarperCollins India. The book highlights the importance of selecting and maintaining an aim.I. The Art of Corporate Warfare ISBN: 978-981-4398-50-3 In today’s competitive corporate world. To achieve greater success.E.: The Art of Corporate Warfare studies military strategies. (Westland Ltd. 2012) R.T.T.E.T.P.OTHER BOOKS BY MUKUL DEVA S. some brilliant. boosting the morale of your workforce and surprising your competitor S.T.I.S.E.T. 2000) M. 2011) The Dust Will Never Settle (HarperCollins India.A. concentrating force at the decisive point. S.T.P.E. they must have proper strategies.E.R. CEOs must go beyond applying the management theories that they have learnt in classrooms.I. 2012) .L. others flawed. 2006) Lashkar (HarperCollins India. 2009) Blowback (HarperCollins India. and applies them to the dynamic.A. discipline and determination—and there is no better place to learn those from than the battlefield.R.D.R.E.E. 2008) Salim Must Die (HarperCollins India. cut-throat world of modern business where ignoring minor details can spell disaster. taken from the times of Alexander the Great right up to recent military campaigns.I.P.