Recently, I was enjoying an afternoon with my dad and 18 month old niece when she found a fancy LEGO toy and lifted it over her head. She looked about proudly. My dad said, ‘don’t you throw that…’ at which point she continued to hold it over her head and got a sort of glint in her eye. I don’t think she had considered throwing it until he suggested she shouldn’t. While it’s fair to say my dad has more parenting experience than I do, I decided to experiment in that of moment of potential minor LEGO crash by telling her what I DID want her to do. With her still holding it over her head I asked, ‘Could you put that in my hand please?’ at which point she handed it over immediately and went on to something else. She had done what I wanted of her own choice. I give her a yes plan and she took me up on it. It’s all a bit of play — let me explain —
In a recent performance coaching the executive said, “I want to look normal when I walk up on stage.” I could have asked what normal looks like…? Instead I decided to coach on his plan as stated. His want to “look normal when he walk[ed] up on stage” was really a want not to look abnormal. Since it sounds like a want, but is really about what he’s trying to avoid, I think of this as a Secret No. And I could see that his body heard the difference based on the tension in his cervical spine.
In the next experiment we tried a new want where he invited the audience to be with him while he was with them so he could share a compelling story. Bam! His presence, tone of voice and pace of speaking immediately reflected the shift in his thinking and mindset. He was pleased. He had gotten what he wanted by experimenting with a yes.
We are always whole and when the invitation to get what you want is also whole, the results can be astounding. Cognitive neuroscience, and maybe common sense, shows we respond to desire, to yes. “Looking normal” vs “inviting you to be with me as I share something I’m super excited about” might sound trivial but your body, your being, knows the difference.
If you’re a leader to more than yourself, this plays out in your team dynamics and results as well. Giving a no plan can crush creativity and drive. A yes plan that is vibrant and allows for possibility can draw out the smarts in other people and yield the unexpected. Whereas that executive walked into the coaching session saying, “I’ve never given a pitch before and I’m not great at this stuff,” he was a completely different CEO, leader and storyteller just 45 minutes later. Now he gets to play with new experiments that help him do the next thing he wants to do.
Can you hear the yes and no plans around you? Can you make a plan for a yesplan? And what do you notice? I’d love to hear your story and experiments.