I have this ritual. Before I write a program for a client, I review my notes (I take lots), my impressions (those instant intuitive flashes that come while I’m taking notes) grab a stack of index cards to tuck into my fanny pack and head for a walk on the beach. Sometimes I play music, sometimes not.

By the time the walk is over I have an overall context of what I want to present and usually what my key purpose with that client is. Along with that kind of eagle eye view I also come home with ideas of what books I might need to take off my shelves for inspiration and wisdom.

Next week, I will be with a client in NY and one of the things we will be talking about is vision. I love the discussion about vision. I love helping clients get clear and specific on their values and vision and purpose.

One of the books that made it to the pile on the floor was Rosamund Stone Zander and husband Ben Zander’s well used and dogeared book, The Art of Possibility.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of sharing the platform with the incredible, amazing and fascinating Benjamin Zander, conductor for the Boston Philharmonic, which I got the opportunity to do after I had already fallen in love with his book.

Ben is famous for giving his music students an “A” at the beginning of the semester (and then suggesting that they fall passionately in love with the person who earned the “A”). He also has a unique way of looking at mistakes. (This guy has a unique way of looking at everything!)

Whenever someone makes a mistake, rather than participate in the “blame/shame game” Zander throws his arms and legs up and out forming what looks like the letter “X” with his body while shouting,quite loud, “Thaaat’s fascinating!”

And fascinated he is. He’s curious about everything, he’s interested in hearing other points of view, he wants to know how other people think ~ Bravo! We would all benefit with more of this habit.

In one of my last customer care leadership workshops I taught almost 30 people to toss their arms up and stretch their legs out while giving feedback like, “Fascinating! Fabulous! Faaantastic!”

While it may feel really weird to do so, using your body and your voice at the same time anchors the feeling in you. So when one member of your group reacts to another member with that lively gesture and the word “Fascinating!” it cues their nervous systems to react in a new way – to view a challenging situation as a problem and an opportunity at the same time.

It anchors them in a way of looking at a situation that gives them more options. Sounds crazy, I know. It’s fun to try.

It’s called “The Law of Requisite Variety.” The more possibilities you create, the better your chances for success. The more choices you have, the better your odds that one of them will be the right one.

It’s one of the reasons optimists get better results. They are more open to them and so they see more opportunities.

Ben Zander has created a safe space for people to work and learn in. When people are not afraid that they will lose their jobs, be humiliated, embarrass themselves, or appear stupid to their peers, they’re more likely to contribute their brilliance to the organization.

Here’s my theory – organizations would be much nicer to work in if they gave people the freedom to fail. Places that set up safe emotional environments by building trust and respecting people simply get more from their people – more ideas, more effort, more brilliance. One of our foundation principles (#8) at the

Customer Care Coach® is:

“Everyone on your team is smart, talented and has something to contribute. In order to bring out the brilliance in everyone in your organization, you must believe this (or ‘act as if’ you do until you realize it’s true). In holding open the possibility that people will shine they usually do.

People live up (or down) to our expectations of them. If we expect and empower them to be competent, creative, innovative problem solvers who create Exquisite Experiences for customers, they’re more likely to do so.”

Often the only thing that keeps people from expressing their true feelings about a situation is the environment – the “eco-system” the leader and manager has created. Check your culture – do you have a fail-safe zone?

Do have a ‘sacred’ space (perhaps brainstorming times) where people can say the silly things – the crazy things?

Strategy expert Gary Hamel said that in order for the crazy brilliant ideas to emerge, the culture needs to be organic, like a forest. The oak has to drop a lot of acorns before one will take root strong enough to rival its parent. You need to keep generating LOTS of ideas to find the few that will revolutionize your business in this hyper competitive world.

Give people the freedom to fail. That’s how they learn. It’s nature’s way of encouraging us to try something many different ways, failing at most, until we find the best of ways. Start a “Mistake of the Month Club” and celebrate what you’ve learned from your failures!

It’s all fascinating!


Watch Benjamin Zander talk about The Art of Possibility:

Quote of the Week

“How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”~ Anne Frank

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