Inner natural guidance

Photo by Pratham Books

I have been reading Tal Ben-Shahar’s fascinating book The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life and came across a reference to the Montessori Method of Education. As I was reading about it, I thought that it actually describes a big part of my approach to the practice of management. And as I wrote in the past, I believe that education and management are closely related (see for example here). I took a paragraph from Wikipedia describing the method and added the words manager and employee where teacher and child were originally written and this is what you get:

Applying this method involves the [teacher] manager in viewing the [child] employee as having an inner natural guidance for his or her own perfect self-directed development. The role of the [teacher] manager (sometimes called director, directress, or guide) is therefore to watch over the environment to remove any obstacles that would interfere with this natural development. The [teacher] manager‘s role of observation sometimes includes experimental interactions with [children] employees, commonly referred to as “lessons,” to resolve misbehavior or to show how to use the various [self-teaching] managerial materials that are provided in the environment for the [children] employee‘s free use.

Take away hurdles. No more rules but environments that support the development of practical wisdom. Experimentation and reflection.

I could not describe it better myself.




What happens when they make a mistake?

Photo by Plindberg


Bob Sutton writes:

Failure will never be eliminated, and so the best we can hope for from human beings and organizations is that they learn from their mistakes, that rather than making the same mistakes over and over again, they make new and different mistakes.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about reflection and how to introduce it into the everyday life of an organization. There are many studies that show a clear relationship between people’s personal reflection time, creativity and leadership. People who devote special time to reflect and to extract meaning out of their experience and surroundings are able to break into new realms of ideas, values and productivity.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of such a reflection period in a team setting:

Just like every person needs to incorporate weekly thinking-time into his schedule, so does a team need to set maintenance time to work on its effectiveness (and not on the results). Time to talk about how the team is doing. Time to get to know each other. Time to reflect about the team’s purpose and every individual’s role in it.

And this process is all about learning from mistakes. Sometimes we are so entrenched in our everyday lives that we forget that we need to be active in order to learn. Sutton points out the attitude towards mistakes and failure and says that managers should embrace them and not condone them. That is one aspect of the issue. I think the other aspect is the actual active learning.

How many times did you say in a meeting that something is not going to work and it ended up working? I am sure that many times. That is both great and OK. Great, because your team took risks in the face of uncertainty and OK, because everybody makes mistakes about the future. The more important questions is how many times did you sit afterwards and asked yourself – “last week I said this would not work, but it did. What can I learn about my beliefs, assumptions or thinking process? What is the lesson from my mistake?”. I guess the answer to this one is not many times.

Now, I am not sure you will always find answers. But as I read in Developing Management Skills: “Being intelligent is interpreted as already knowing the answers, instead of asking good questions”.

Can you think of ways to incorporate reflection into individuals and teams work schedule?