• Priya Venkatesan

Head in the clouds or feet on the ground?



The job of a coach is to show a mirror to the clients where they can consciously perceive their thinking patterns and mental models. The client then has a choice to continue with resourceful ones and leave the un-resourceful ones. Exercising choice removes the feeling of being stuck for the client. From such a state, a field of possibility is accessible.


Given below are two statements which give hints about what could possibly be the model that the client is using to make sense of his inner and outer world.


Statement 1: “I want my program to run like a well oiled ship. Order and discipline is what we need. No surprises. Excellence is a habit. I would like for my team members to match me in my capability and commitment and be extremely reliable. “


Statement 2: “I am a goto person for new ideas, models, experiments . I am futuristic and I believe my ideas will change the world forever. My dreams are big and they challenge the status quo. I love for my team to innovate every day and surprise me.”


Some leaders that I coach, prefer “sameness” as a dominant matching pattern while scanning their environment and people around (Statement 1). They like their world to be as constant as possible. The more the world matches their expectations, the more at home they feel. They value safety and security and do not like change a lot. They don’t like conflicts and confrontations. They want Business As Usual (BAU) to be peaceful with less stress. Their vision is for their ship to sail in smooth waters. They have 'reliability' as one of their core strengths. They are sure that they have their feet on the ground. They are not worried where their head is. Many are pragmatists.


There are also other leaders who predominantly scan for differences/ mismatches (Statement 2). The greater the difference the better. They like newness and freshness of ideas. They like to get multiple view points on the subject. They love 'change' as part of BAU. They seek novelty and variety. Their vision is for their ship to sail in uncharted territory, weather storms. They don’t want their days to repeat. Their meetings never end on time. There is most often no agreement in their team meetings. They live in a field of possibility that their head alone knows and that changes everyday. Their head sways in the clouds, and they can’t see where their feet is. They don't mind. Many are Visionaries.


In today's context with the unprecedented COVID crisis we are facing, people who match for sameness will try to go back to the old normal. People who match for difference will prefer to define the new normal.


All of us fall in the continuum between these seemingly polar matching patterns. So the question is definitely not to see which pattern is better.


So what’s the question - The question is 'how to be resourceful with your preferences or inspite of them?' and even before that - why would someone want to change?


Look at your aspirational next role. Invariably it will involve stretching you on your mental model. If that is not enough, having an ability to be flexible on your model, increases your influence which adds to your career growth.


So now the how.


  1. Complement with polar opposite: If you are finding yourself extremely polar on one of the patterns - ‘Sameness’ or ‘Difference’, then it is prudent for you to have a person with a polar opposite mental model in your team/life, as a first step. That will assure balance even though you may not see eye to eye on several issues initially. The presence of the other will be an anchor to not get carried away by one’s preference alone. This is, in essence building 'diversity' of view points. It may appear stressful in the beginning but in time, it does more good than bad. Building a team with complementary mindset/skillset is one established way to create a high performance team.

  2. Building Exceptions: If you notice that you are 80% either way, you already know how to build exceptions (20%). You could keep a portion of your work context ( organisation/ type of role/ tasks) matching your preference as a comfort zone and build flexibility on accessing the other.

  3. Ideal : If you observe that you are able to navigate step 2, you can build a capability to be “Balanced” on context preferring sameness and differences equally. This comes with consciously playing the polar opposite and becoming better each day. Your ability to work with other matching patterns will grow exponentially with balance and influence will be a by-product.


What would it mean for you to keep your head in the clouds and feet on the ground?


#coaching #leadership #leadershipcoaching #mentalmodel







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