Too Cool For School

How do you show up?  Are you cautious, concerned about how you will be perceived and what effect that will have on whatever it is that you are showing up for?  Or do you dive right in, excited and passionate, just sucking up every shred of value on offer?

I often experience these contrasting types on courses, in life and even at our daughters recent birthday party.    There is the nature/nurture angle to this, clearly some people are just naturally more cautious and others are more naturally ebullient and that is fair enough.  There are others who have been so “slapped” about at school, work or at home that they are nervous and wary of every interaction.

Between those extremes lie the majority of the rest  of us, neither naturally ebullient nor psychologically damaged.

We have a choice.  We can choose to show up in a variety of ways.  The key bit for me is that we are honest.  If we are enthusiastic about something – let’s say so.  If we are uncertain or actively negative about something – let’s also say so.

My experience is that the more honest we can be the more we will get from any situation.  Let me give two examples:

On a course I was facilitating last week, one participant was clearly resentful of his participation.  It is a “mandatory” course and he felt that he had other priorities to resolve than wasting two days on a course.  During a quick check in with the whole group he had the courage to say that he was “frustrated”, this gave a colleague and I permission to discuss his frustration with him.  It turned out that he had some issues in his work that were relevant to the course and we could support him in finding solutions.

In another situation a participant was very keen on a new role in their organisation.  They had emailed the relevant people, but had no response.  In order to avoid appearing too enthusiastic, they had deliberately avoided following up – even just to check if the mail had been received.  They were deeply disappointed at the apparent “rejection”, even though they had not established whether it was a rejection or an oversight.

Honesty, especially when it is carefully communicated, is far, far easier to deal with than politics, hidden agendas, moodiness or any other form of dishonesty.

The key skill is learning how to tell the truth in a way that adds value to all involved.

In the case of the first example, it was great that he raised it, but the frustration could have been avoided altogether if he had raised the issue with the relevant people before he ever arrived at the course.  Another alternative would have been to have raised it with the facilitators earlier on in the course and set us the challenge of helping him solve the the problem with him during the course – to make the course worth his while.  Another participant had stated his objective for the course, up front, as “Stealing Knowledge” from facilitators and other participants.

In the case of the second example, if you want something – go and get it!  If you are concerned about appearing vulnerable or putting someone else on the spot, just take the time to think about your communication and find a way to do it that achieves your objectives and avoids any risks you are concerned about.

By contrast another individual I have met recently could not be more honest.  He is excited about what he is doing and does not mind who knows it.  His enthusiasm is enlivening for all who come into contact with him.  You immediately want to be part of whatever he is part of, because he is so clearly passionate about it.

Honesty is not just about avoiding lies, it is about telling your truth.  It is about expressing your feelings and needs clearly to those for whom they are relevant – at the time that they are relevant.  Whether it is telling a loved one how much you adore them – or telling someone you want a job with their organisation (or don’t).  Honesty is the key skill to finding success, happiness and fulfilment in life.  By coincidence I have just seen this Ted Talk by Pamela Meyer on How to Spot a Liar.

Learn it, master it, love it.

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With love


Neil Crofts
authentic business
+34 646391384
Skype – neilcrofts










About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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One Response to Too Cool For School

  1. Vicky says:

    Hi Neil, thanks for sharing the Pamela Meyer Ted Talk – it was really interesting. She made some fascinating and true points – liars over-compensate sometimes, they provide too much detail and maintain eye contact like a great sales person – but I’m not sure what to make of certain other ‘lie-catching tactics’ suggested in the speech. In the corporate scenario about a person being interviewed about a fraud in the workplace, she suggested that a truthful person would be truly cooperative and suggest that the culprit should be given a strict form of punishment. However, this didn’t sit well with me. A liberal, compassionate person might not agree with strict punishment, seeking first to find out more about the reasons behind the fraud. Likewise, an anti-authoritarian may be uncomfortable with being helpful in this scenario. The other insight that made me uncomfortable related to two mothers whose children were killed in horrific circumstances. It was discovered that one mother – who on video seemed most dispassionate – had murdered her child. The inference is that deep displays of emotion proved that the other mother – who was shown confronting her daughter’s killer – was truly grieving. However, haven’t we seen murderers show deep displays of grief and emotion on screen, only to be discovered later as the killer? Surely, all that’s required to tell a lie successfully is the ability to get ‘in character’ like a good actor. I’ve found that uncovering lies – those we tell ourselves or those we are told by others – often has a great deal to do with instinct, that in-built human ability which helps us to pick up subtle signs that all is not well, regardless of how sincere the interaction seem on the surface. And that’s my truth 😉

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