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01 November 2011
If you ask Clare Mann where she grew up, she’s quick to answer, I haven’t yet…
(Her childhood was spent in Plymouth in the UK, in fact.)
And if you ask, who’d she have for dinner if she had a choice, she may laugh… but think about it, the way it’s phrased is tantamount to asking if she is a cannibal.
(Thirty years ago, Clare chose to stop eating meat, a decision that’s had “outstanding benefits for my health”, and which she made because of her commitment to animal welfare.)
In the end a conversation with Clare comes down to her passion for clear communication.
“To communicate effectively, over time and situation, you must go deep. This doesn’t mean being in permanent psychotherapy [something Clare did on a weekly basis as part of completing her existential psychotherapy and counseling Masters degree]. It means going deep, learning to have an ongoing conversation with yourself, listening clearly to your needs and emotions and understanding the cost of not taking responsibility for your part in communicating effectively with others,” says Clare, who goes on to explain how poor communication frustrates and can create explosive and damaging situations.
“Without understanding why buttons get pushed or why you avoid raising difficult issues with other people, you will never communicate effectively. Instead you become frustrated, avoid conflict and end up feeling frustrated in relationships. Acquiring basic communication skills – including the ability to say ‘no’ – are the first rung on the ladder.”
Ten years ago Clare Mann arrived in Australia for love. She came with a successful international career in organizational psychology and existential psychotherapy. The latter arrow-in-her-quiver had come about through her work with executives and managers around organizational change. Often, she’d found herself seeing many of the same executives on a one-on-one basis for their own self-management issues: including burnout and poor work-life balance.
“Existential psychotherapy,” explains Clare, “starts from the premise that people are not sick just stuck and that we each have the same opportunities around us to create our own destiny. The abiding principle in this is that once people take responsibility for their own lives and communicate who they are, they can then make changes at individual, local, community, organisational and societal levels.”
Clare’s ongoing success in the business of change and communication is well recognised, and has included her teaching courses as part of management degrees in places as diverse as London, Southeast Asia and Israel.
One of her most unusual career moments was finding herself teaching the Governor of the four prisons in the Negev Desert: what is management.
Clare describes her encounter with him as both humbling and eye-opening: “To be teaching a person who managed thousands of staff, and oversaw the welfare of thousands more people in the most difficult of political, social, economic and environmental conditions, about management, left me very aware of the wider picture and my place in it.
“Every communication we have says something about our values, who we are, what type of world we want to create” Clare continues.
Walking the talk is one of Clare’s “things” and Clare’s longstanding dedication to the welfare of animals is a great example: “The decision not to eat meat is a controversial one. Being part of a movement that does not sanction cruelty to animals is not controversial. One of my greatest achievements has been to serve as MC at the recent Ban Live Exports rally in Sydney at the request of Lyn White, the Australian animal advocate.
“Lyn is one of the most conscious leaders I’ve ever met. She holds a real vision for a more compassionate world for animals and a society that has integrity and that is extremely important in a leader,” acknowledges Clare, thoughtfully.
Walking the talk is the same with work performance and career establishment, believes Clare. It is her dream to inspire people to create truly collaborative workplaces, similar to those established by Ricardo Semler, the CEO and majority owner of Brazilian company Semco SA.
Semler, who wrote the book “Maverick” about the radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering he successfully introduced to his company, would be one of Clare’s fantasy-dinner guests, along with ‘The Dean of Personal Development’, Earl Nightingale, and animal advocate Lyn White.
In Semler’s company, employees choose managers’ salaries, staff can access financial reports of the company and each person is equipped with the language to understand and speak knowledgably about company matters.
This is much more than just participative management, where a leader, designated so by years of service or by perceived experience, says ‘I have this great idea, now follow me and give me your ideas’.
Instead, Clare explains, “collaboration is about people in workplaces being able to say I hold a vision but I don’t know how to get there, let’s do it together.”
The struggle for all of us, Clare believes, comes because our beliefs and values are based on old ideas of hierarchy, reward rather than respect, and presentee-ism, as well as the masculine stereotypes we attach to leading.
These beliefs also explain why we lack female leaders, explains Clare: “We are in a state of transition. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers still emulate traditional male role models. We are still too close to the fact that our role models are male – not just men, but based wholly on stereotypic male traits: logic, rationality, being goal driven.
“In men and women are both feminine and masculine qualities. The feminine ones are about steering, rather than taking control; holding and celebrating differences; being prepared to be wrong and allowing people from different levels within an organisation the chance to rise from within and lead.”
Clare believes these feminine qualities in both sexes have been ignored, disenfranchised, relegated to the domestic and stripped of credit and credibility. Having to emulate masculine qualities at the expense of the feminine is doing no one a service. Women struggle to fit a mould that is basically foreign and, Clare says, when we consider how organisations and work are changing, men are now in the same boat.
Men and women are struggling to change their leadership styles within a system they can see wants to change but has not yet been able to action that change.
“Most male executives have those ‘feminine’ qualities that were once dismissed,” says Clare. “It’s now about pinpointing and elevating those attributes. However, for either sex to leap ahead along this new path, that’s hard. It takes courage to brave criticism and blaze a trail.”
Faced with change and the discomfort it brings (usually because we don’t know or can’t comprehend the full picture), most of us will rush to tell stories to make sense of the situation. According to Clare, this is when classic communication blunders take place.
Take the case of workplace promotion among peers. One night you’re out with a colleague having drinks and the next they’ve been promoted and will be managing and assessing you at your next performance review. Unless there is clear communication between the parties to explain what and who they are in the new role, and to address the uncertainty inherent in change, people will tell ‘stories’ about the person in their new role, usually around competence or incompetence.
Leaving explanations to chance in any situation – as tempting as it is to ignore potential conflict – is asking for trouble, explains Clare, knowledgably.
Clear, honest and timely communication has better results for everyone. This is what Clare calls “Calm Communication”, which she describes as “incorporating personal changes on the inside with sophisticated skills training to communicate in any situation”.
** For a free copy of her upcoming book Communicate: How To Say What Needs To Be Said, When It Needs To Be Said, In The Way It Needs To Be Said, visit: http://communicate31.com