Getting unstuck using innovative inner technologies and connecting to how you can manage and influence up.

When you are stuck you need to come from a different level of mind to solve the problem. You may have heard the Einstein quote but never know how you could apply it. In this article I show you how a leader I worked with shifted from feeling frozen, helpless and defeated to enlivened and invigorated with fresh ideas in just one coaching session.  

Ever feel so stuck in a system that seems to be made up of archaic rules and people who hold the resources you need to make great changes in your unit/department, who seem to have different values and priorities to you?

Your story is like many leaders I have worked with and interviewed who have said one of their biggest challenges is not being able to ‘manage up’. They have a vision or an idea about how things can be done better but they can’t seem to relay it to their departmental leader or Director. We know the practicalities of running a big facility or hospital, but we all know initiatives are always being undertaken. Why not yours? 

As a Nurse manager of a very busy unit her mind is very logical and active and the usual coaching questions I use didn’t seem to shift her thinking to see past the issue. To get into a different level of mind, I brought out my LEGO serious play pack that I use sometimes in coaching and for innovative thinking in teams. To say she was sceptical at the beginning is putting it mildly. She gave me this look over the top of her glasses, like really Michelle? Luckily I had a lot of trust banked up from the past sessions 😊 

Persevering I explained to her about the way our mind works going over and over the problem/situation in the same old way and we needed to jump this mode of thinking off the tracks. We needed to get a bit playful and get her unconscious mind on board to explore the situation differently. I got her to connect first to the situation. The goal she had and the block she felt and place herself in the model. So with the clock ticking with the timer set for 5 minutes and the ‘ Happiness’ song playing in the background, I encouraged her to ‘think with her hands and start to put the model together without too much thinking. Let her hands start grabbing blocks and putting them into place. 

This is the first model. She was the horse, and you can barely see her image for the future behind the shield of people and the ‘block’ she saw of the system (grey wheels) and the budget issues (little gold coins on the ground). We spoke a bit about this and with the music and timer on again, get to explore a way to think from her vision of the future and find a way to it. 

What happens next always puts a smile on my face when I see my clients face light up in inspiration and excitement. She described that she has lots of resources she can use to make her vision come alive. She can be a bit more playful around the issue and hold it lightly (the monkey) and moved herself the horse to the see the vision for the future on the side of the shield. She said that the situation is still there (she decided not to move the people and the shield) but explained if she keeps the vision in her mind she can see both their concerns and her vision at the same time. So she could then communicate to them that she understands where they come from but she could also communicate to them what could be possible in the unit if they invest in developing the leadership team. 

Photos were taken of the models as she couldn’t stop smiling looking at them. It might seem simple to others reading this, but the leader simply didn’t have access to this at a deep place. Then we just started a conversation that will go over the next couple of sessions around how to influence and communicate effectively around this goal she had to make it a reality. 

Transformation comes from play and from the right questions at the right time. This process of using LEGO serious play can be used in teams to connect to their vision for the unit, planning change management, for team building and even work on resilience. The applications give serious transformations and innovations for your department. 

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