Monday, January 12, 2009

Nikola Mount on fear, choices and consequences

While attending motivating workshops or self-help sessions or coaching meetings I often ask myself, what are the credentials or that person in front of me allowing him or her to actually supposedly sympathize with my situation, giving him or her the right to - sometimes - patronize me, and sadly sometimes talk at rather than talk to me. I ask myself, how can a man wearing a very expensive suit talk to me about efficient asset management or how can someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth talk to me about beating internal obstacles when he obviously has suffered none. Enter Nicola Mount the workshop facilitator with Eagle's Flight who led the Windjammer session that was held on the 8th of January 2009 at the Metropolitan Hotel. Her hyperactivity is showing as she is coordinating the sound check, the computer installation, the table and chairs division all while smiling with teeth worthy of a toothpaste commercial. Cheerful and contagiously son, Nicola - just fresh from finishing the session - sits rather exhausted to tell her convoluted tale. "I am actually from Northern Ireland, from County Cork," she begins her exotic tale. If the Irish accent is nowhere to be seen that's because she moved with her family to Montreal at the age of six. "My father was working in the textile industry and he had the choice to go to either New Zealand or Canada, so he chose the latter." For better of for worse? "For the better, definitely!" asserts Nicola. "I see no value criticizing things that I do not know," she replies when I ask her if she feels patronizing while leading workshops. "The best respect we owe to someone is to stop them from failure and pitch in to help them." But words like "failure" and "success" tend to make us judgmental I argue. To this she thoughtfully but always cheerfully replies "not if we understand how these people define success, and I am sure everyone defines it differently." Well, our group achieved 45% of its potential, that's not much of a success I say. "Well, to begin with, no team in the room went bankrupt today, which is a major achievement, besides, you have seen your colleagues under stress during the workshop so next time they exhibit a similar behavior at work you will know that he or she is under stress and so you will change your own behavior with them, you will loosen up, you will back off a little, and the company will run more smoothly, that in itself is a success for example." She then continues by saying "I have given this workshop with lots of different industries, the car industry, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, you name it, and they are all so similar in their dysfunctional patterns. You would be amazed at how identical some of the management problems were." The workshop, no matter how efficient, is however to short to change thought patterns, could one seriously expect people to change ways of thinking in three hours? "No, we all have our luggage" Nicola asserts. "Take me for example, I came from a very poor background in Northern Ireland, we have no food at all and all the fruits I would take in a week was half an apple. And so when I moved to Canada and someone gave me an apple, my first question was "Who do I share it with?" and the answer was: No one, it is all yours! So yes, we all have our preconditioned ways of thinking. On the same point, she adds: "Naturally, growing up with no money, I was afraid to spend money once I came in the possession of it. But I also realized that no spending money, meant no investment, and no investment meant no return on investment, and so I invested even if that went against my original luggage and thought patterns." The she drops the bomb by saying "Fear or circumstance should not influence decisions, choices or therefore consequences." But since we are all influenced by our earlier life, we are somehow confined into a set of choices I retaliate. "The definition of insanity is to do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results," she sarcastically says, but even her sarcasm is joyful as not dipped in venom. "But whereas we cannot expect things to change in three hours, just being aware of the shortfall is sometimes all too important. As a matter of fact, sometimes we "measure" the individual in the before and after situation to see what he or she needs and how closer he or she has gotten to the potential in question. I actually see the potential in everyone, and I never found anyone unattractive in my life!" Does this translate into her own personal life or is it just the workshop facilitator speaking? She smiles and confesses that her husband had been a salesperson in the paper industry and because I saw the potential in him, I knew there were other things he could do specifically that he wasn't too good at his job because his heart wasn't in it and because he had been told he's be no good at anything else and he believe that. And now I inquire? "Now he works for companies doing surgical equipments guiding surgeons in the operating room as to the use of new machinery, he made his career change at the age of 45 and without a prior background in science. Now he transforms people's lives. When Marie wakes up from the operating room expecting a colostomy bag that would diminish her life quality severely and instead finds an internal pouch because my husband trained the surgeon on how to do it he comes back home on a cloud knowing he has transformed someone's life for the better." So it's all a matter of decision? "Well, once you understand you want to change your behavior things get easier. There is the right choice to do. Well, the word "right" implies the word "wrong" next to it, but since it doesn't exist in my lexicon let's call the other decision "less right."" So it easy to change such patterns of working inside companies once the Windjammer is taken? "Not really, but it helps tremendously. I have had teams who made 296% of the potential as a collective entity. The way they did it is that they joined into this huge work group and decided that all groups were to unite and pitch in for helping each other. Once the animosity wasn't there everyone was able to rise to his potential as an individual and therefore as a group." Considering that the teams with different colors did not have the same original potential, does this mean that "all men are not created equal"? Nicola retorts by saying that "rising up to the potential is what matters. So all individuals could ask questions to enhance their chances to achieve better. Even in Poker one can win with a bad hand if one bluffs!" But isn't bluffing like faking and faking like lying? "Well, let's not call it bluffing, let's say it's actually pursuing till the end." As an individual I ask, doesn't she ever feel like a victim knowing that she has come across a harsh set of circumstances? "I am a total optimist, I do not ever get "victimitis" - you know, the disease of being a victim. I would feel like a fake if I did because it is against my nature." And how Nicola measure success? "Through others!" Pensively she adds "let me confess to something: I am petrified of public speaking. I throw up before every session. My boss know that and I still get sent to places like Chad and Lebanon and elsewhere. Fear should not dictate results!" She illustrates he point with some practical cases: "I was giving a workshop in Thailand and most of these people were making 40 USD per month, and so one participant later tells me that he is now capable of making 400 USD in 4 hours due to the workshop and he was so enthusiastic about what to with the money. He started off with wanting to change his prosthetic leg, then changing the roof of the house, then eventually settled on sending his children to school.... In another example a company phones me and says they had 14% increase in sales in the three days that followed the session, or sometimes the results are so personal as the woman who pledged to communicate more with her daughter. It's all so altruistic!" But does altruism have to go through self-negation? "I don't self-negate, I self-fulfill!" However, shouldn't one show some personal vulnerability to tell others that he is just as human as they are? "In a normal session, a personal connection gets established, but today because the attendance was so high there was no place for me to display that. It would have been showy and out of place. Well, when it comes to being vulnerable, I am quite so. I feel like a failure everyday, I request myself endlessly. Socially, I tend not to socialize a lot giving time to the house with my husband which allows for some wonderful connectivity." Each one of us has a self-destruct button, one we push when we want to sabotage our own success, where's Nicola's button? "I am not sure I have one per se, but well, being Irish I give answers out before even pondering them and this can be dangerous. I always say, if you don't want an honest answer do not ask me the question... So I may be a bit impulsive in that respect." Cursiosity being a journalist's bread and butter, I ask what brought her to coaching and workshop facilitating? "It was Zig Ziegler!" Ziegler being one of the big master's of the coaching industry, I am amazed at the answer. She elaborates saying that he arranged for a workshop, and then arranged for him not to appear pushing her therefore to do the session instead of him. "There are 5 or 6 people who can do what I do... And you are one of them" Ziegler told Nicola... No mean feat. But obviously, just like Nicola sees the potential in all of us, she too needed someone to see the potential in her. From County Cork in Northern Ireland to Montreal in Canada, Nicola windjammers through life motivating, facilitating, and discovering potentials.
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