By Hayley Robins, Senior Accountant at Hive Business
I’ve been on an NLP course learning about meta programs, a metaphor from computer science that describes the styles in which we manage our biological information processing systems — a key part of why we behave like we do.
One meta program is about how we get validation, assurance and confidence before making decisions. Do we look to others to tell us how to do something properly or judge it by our own standards? Do we prefer to seek guidance or work alone? These different styles are known respectively as external and internal frames of reference.
If you lean strongly one way, don’t be fooled. It might not be so. If you prefer to work things out yourself you’ll be drawing on any information around whether you’re aware of it or not. I know dentists who pay for business advice but don’t engage with it, yet they do lots of background reading and make their own decisions. There’s nothing wrong with that, apart from the lack of consciousness around it.
Conversely, I’ve seen people with an insatiable appetite for guidance. That’s fine too, so long as you give yourself time to digest and reflect on the advice and arrive at your own position, rather than shifting your outlook and orientation every time you hear something new and interesting. You need a coherent synthesis of beliefs and values to lay a foundation for your life, and that must come from you. Otherwise you will be endlessly chopping and changing and re-evaluating your past decisions.
So start with your needs. It’s too easy to tick a box and say you have a strategy, but your strategy has to be right for you, and it can only be right if it’s genuinely aligned to your values. That’s quite a challenge to figure out, and we can help with it, and to start it may help to be aware of your frame of reference meta program.
You may want to reflect too on how your team members are disposed. When commanding special operations, rather than issue specific orders, US general Stanley McChrystal handed his teams the brief and then settled for any plan they came up with that seemed workable. He felt they had a higher chance of delivering the objective if they had space to bring their own insights to bear in the planning stage, plus, if they owned the mission they would be even more invested in making it work.
So if you have a headstrong associate you feel you can’t manage, perhaps it’s time to approach them in a different way. Accept they have their own way of doing things, let them come up with the plan, and give them the freedom to implement it. Meanwhile, ask yourself whether your way of working with yourself is really working.