The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    What Robin Williams Taught Us About Complexity

    by Kathy Collins / August 21, 2014

    Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography

    I loved being a student, and especially loved my classes where the focus was literature, writing and creativity.  It was my first year of college and I was placed in an honors English class at the University of Nebraska.  I was a nervous wreck on my first day. I was right to be nervous, but once I took my seat I knew I was in for a memorable moment in my educational experience.  We were empowered from the first day to be brave in our writing, in our classroom conversations with one another and in our efforts to create a piece of writing that would raise the bar on our expectations of ourselves.  It was my first experience with complexity within academics and experiencing the catalytic factor, and it would serve me very well in the years to come. It was also the same year Dead Poets Society was released, watching it now is as powerful speaking to my love of learning as it was then.

    Being able to master being thrown into complexity in the platform of business is what truly differentiates average or exceptional leaders. It's vital to performance growth to move people out of their comfort zone. Much like the clip from Dead Poet's Society where Todd is forced into a situation where he was made to perform outside of his comfort zone, forced to think originally, to get in touch with his inner genius, the short and long-term affects of mastering the moment cannot be more valuable.  There is no doubt that we may not master feeling uncomfortable in complex situations, but the way we address and enhance the situation from that moment forward is our opportunity for greatness.

    The catalytic factor, or the C-Factor is defined as, creating or embracing a catalytic element that pushes people into the high-growth zone of complexity.  In other words, in order to truly harness the most out of our sales team's performance as well as our own, we need to harness the collective power of team members’ knowledge and abilities to lead others into the unknown. To do this effectively, the sales coach must understand how to challenge the team beyond their perceived limitations by this idea of the catalytic factor. This catalytic factor will push individuals and organizations outside their comfort zone which is also known as "complexity." This can be done in a variety of ways, including regularly scheduled one-to-one meetings, joint sales calls or possibly team meetings. Ultimately, the catalytic factor causes team members to approach challenges and opportunities with new perspective and confidence. 

    Dr. Peter Jensen in his best seller, Igniting the Third Factor, speaks to the advantage of creating adversity to test a performer's resilience.   Complexity through competence is best achieved through performing under pressure. This practice addresses the benefit of building confidence with sales team members through the completion of a challenging goal. This is how real, lasting confidence can be built within a team.

    Generally speaking, there are two types of reactions a person thrown into complexity can exhibit. The first being, extinguisher.  The extinguisher can be categorized by:

    • They don't see it coming, and are caught unprepared for complexity.
    • They blame rather than re-frame their thinking to problem-solving mode.
    • He/She will create lots of adversity, or reasons that the task at hand cannot be accomplished.

    The second reaction is to be an ignitor.  The ignitor can be characterized by:

    • They anticipate/lay groundwork for a quick recovery.
    • They re-frame as quickly as possibly so as not to lose time in solving the issue.
    • They create adversity to test the resilience of their team and their performance1.

    Also, according to Dr. Peter Jensen, there are 5 ways that we can help ourselves ignite rather than extinguish under situations that involve being thrown into complexity, thus igniting the C-factor. They include:

    Manage Yourself First: We can sometimes be our worst ally when we get in our own way when tackling a difficult situation. Take time to acclimate before setting the wheels in motion for yourself and/or your team when working to be your most effective coaching leader.  Adjust to the situation, before you ask your team to adjust to it as well.

    Build Trust: Depending on the person, trust can be earned in one conversation, or for others perhaps it's conversation #100.  Every person trusts at their own speed and by their own internal compass. If a team member believes that you are competent, knowledgeable and engaged, that helps build engagement from the team and belief that they can trust you as a coach.

    Encourage and Use Imagery: Create clear pictures for your sales performers. It is nearly impossible to accomplish what you cannot imagine.  To do this the coach needs to:

    • Paint clear pictures so that they are able to gain clarity as to expectations.
    • Create a line of sight so that are able to create a commitment for what who are able to see a direct connection in what they are doing and how it will affect the team's end goal.
    • Encourage team members to translate so that they are able to give feedback and are able to role play how this complexity will play out in the real world. As coaches, we need to be able to 'see' what they are seeing in order to create a dialog as to how these situations can be mastered.

    Uncover and Work through Blocks:  We often lead to discovering road blocks in the process. How you deal with uncovering this 'blocks' is significant in your role as coach.  Patience is key in this process. Developmental blocks are normal and provide us with an opportunity to view a situation from all sides, problem solve with a collaboration with the team and experience the process together. You only can get better at the things you work consciously work on.  Road blocks provide an excellent opportunity to do just that.

    Embrace Adversity: Easier said than done, right? Exceptional leaders channel adversity in a manner that elevates the performance of the team as a whole. Challenges happen, that's just the way it is. Your team is watching you closely to truly establish trust by seeing if you practice what you preach. Turn adversity into advantage...the converse of that is truly not a desirable outcome for any of us, right? It's important not only to survival in the world of sales performance, but in life in general. 

    Robin Williams illustrated for me years ago and reminded me recently in the short clip from Dead Poet's Society that complexity should not be feared, is embraceable, and if brought in as part of the process that can be positive--has the potential to make us truly great leaders.  

    Resource: Igniting the Third Factor, Lessons from a lifetime of working with Olympic athletes, coaches and business leaders, Dr. Peter Jensen, 2008.

    Tags: Catalytic Coaching/Factor

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    Kathy Collins

    Kathy Collins

    Kathy Collins is the VP of Client Success at Ecsell Institute. She currently handles software maintenance, client needs and support and all company operations. As an empowered facilitator, she dedicates her work to efficiently improving upon strong organizational process and the corresponding measurement and tracking that coincides.