“Climb a Different Ladder” (the importance of self awareness)

by Walter Bellin (a combined blog post and book review for Climb a Different Ladder)

Firstly, full disclosure. I am a Q12 change agent, which is the profiling system discussed in this book. Walter Bellin designed and developed Q12 with his colleague Robert Prinable. I was accredited in 2009, and met the author at that time. I have a business coaching people (either face to face or via Skype) using the Q12 profiling system.

Climb BookI have been waiting for this book for quite some time. What interests me most is mass consciousness shifting (such as societal or organisational change), and deep personal transformation. The link between the levels of self awareness/personal growth of the individual and the urgent requirements of organisations to adapt to their ever changing environment are strong to me, and are neatly outlined in this book. Walter Bellin has been a teacher and leader in both personal and organisational transformation for decades, and his extraordinary knowledge and experience has resulted in a powerful book.

Organisational culture directly impacts the ability of an organisation to respond to its challenges. Walter Bellin: “The first major statistical study of the effects of organisational culture on performance was published back in 1992. John Kotter and James Heskett studied 207 large multinational companies over an 11 year period. They identified 17 of these companies, from a wide range of industries, as having superb, high performance cultures. They so massively outperformed the others that they were in a class unto themselves. For example, their profitability increased over 11 years by 756% versus 1% for the others, and their share price increased by 901% versus 74% for the others.”

In the 20 years since this study, an effective organisational culture can only have increased its importance yet seems even harder to achieve. Everyone is aware of how rapidly expectations have changed, how much more is expected of our workforce, how even very large companies must become more agile and flexible. There are far higher levels of uncertainty in so many aspects of an organisation these days, not the least of it is the decreasing tenure of CEOs and other executives.

Expectations of our leaders continue to increase, and certainly the number of consultants and courses and books available to help people become better leaders is increasing. And I am reviewing one of these books.

While much of the advice available to people who want to be better leaders is prescriptive (“do this” “say this” “behave this way”), a notably different approach is taken with this book. It’s about building leadership skills from the perspective of deep personal growth, building a better understanding of who you are, and taking the time to deal with the issues that are holding you back. The book argues that effective leadership is best achieved through a path of self-exploration, to resolve past hurts and shine light on ingrained habits, to uncover one’s authentic self and learn to be fully conscious in your choices and improve your ability to respond to life’s daily challenges.

As the author, Walter Bellin says, “Personal development is the most important factor underlying leadership development. Personal development is always a process of personal change and the kind of personal change illustrated through this book is transformational change.”

Climb a Different Ladder brings us to understand that certain deficits in our childhood caused us to interpret the world a certain way, and that we often respond to our current world from that early interpretation in an automatic, reactionary way that can leave little room for appreciating different interpretations and responses. While we all have strengths and limitations inherent in our own worldview, it is the lack of contextual understanding of our automatic reactions and how we fit within the broader community that prevent us from understanding, healing, integrating and then maturing our ability to make better decisions.

Walter discusses the three ‘maps’ of the Q12 profiling system that shape how we relate to our world – the relationship map, the action map and the thinking map. Within each map are four quadrants, and the characteristics of each of these quadrants are discussed within the book. As an example, some of these 12 quadrants include Optimist, Pragmatist, Entrepreneur, Motivator, Supporter, Analyst and Idealist. These quadrants are explained in greater detail in a Q12 profile. Each quadrant has inherent strengths and potential limitations, which are likely relevant to you depending on how strongly you inhabit that particular quadrant. The Q12 profiling system also explores the formative experiences that formed those resultant automatic patterns of behaviour and then gives you, most importantly of all, tips and techniques of how to move past these automatic reactions and create a higher awareness, resulting in improved choices in your life.

There are four case studies – Tina, Mike, James and Tim – that directly link behaviours borne from childhood deficits to each person’s maps, and then shows how each person moved through increased self understanding to transformation. The road may be difficult (there are no guarantees of quick fixes here), but we see the path each person has taken to achieve a happier and more successful life.

Walter writes well and openly, and his points are easy to follow. The introduction to the Q12 profiling system is interesting, straightforward and engaging, and the case studies are well rounded and fascinating. However this isn’t a book in which a couple of nights reading will have you understand everything that’s going on. Your first read will give you the basics – yes, I can see myself reflected here, and this profiling system makes sense – but to fully appreciate the path of personal transformation it may take a couple of readings.

The last quarter of the book is where Walter outlines his model for the development of higher consciousness that underpins the Q12 profiling system, revealing his deep understanding of consciousness and the metaphysical, and he introduces concepts such as the transpersonal self and the unitive self. These are the chapters that will need to be read more carefully to be fully appreciated and understood, especially if this is new territory for you. Walter has laid out a straightforward model and roadmap for personal transformation (or ‘enlightenment’) that is echoed across many spiritual and psychological traditions. His model is built on the works of Dr Abraham Maslow, Ken Wilber, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Dr Robert Kegan, Dr Brian Hall and Richard Barrett. This work is gold, and it is worth taking the time to understand it.

The Transpersonal Leader

So what does an effective leader look like using this model? Reminiscent of the servant leadership concept, the “transpersonal leader” has a focus on the common good, and will have the necessary skills and commitment to achieve their vision and goals. They tend to have highly facilitative leadership styles and build cultures based on trust, respect, and synergy.

Walter outlines the transpersonal level as having the following four qualities: “deep understanding of other’s ‘reality perspective’, unconditional empathy and compassion, recognition of and a deep appreciation for our interdependence, and a co-creative approach to all important activities.”

Walter continues: “For leaders at the transpersonal level, the deepest, most natural expression of their consciousness is to influence and inspire others to embrace, own and embody the mission, vision and values…. The most important influence will be the leader’s authenticity in walking the talk. The deepest instinct and natural ability for leaders at the transpersonal level is to be a living embodiment of the organisation’s mission, vision and values in all that they do!”

Authenticity is key here. Authenticity is a powerful quality of any good leader, and one cannot be an effective, authentic leader without a strong knowledge of oneself. Working in organisational change for over ten years, it has always been clear to me that effective, sustainable organisational change can only occur when leaders exhibit commitment to their vision, personal awareness, and integrity. Otherwise, many employees just won’t believe in them and the culture won’t shift.

But wait! This book is not just for leaders!

While this book is aimed at aspiring leaders, it is just as valuable for anyone who wants to better navigate the choppy waters of their industry or workplace. So many industries and organisations are undergoing seismic shifts, and many of us are looking for a stability that will be increasingly difficult to find. While understandable, I think it’s time to look elsewhere.

When it is so difficult to make sense of the environment in which we are all working, when change is so fast that things never slow down, let alone stabilise, the best investment we can make is to know who we are: our strengths and limitations, understanding how to make the most of any situation that we are presented with, and how to better understand others and learn from the strengths of others.

As Neale Donald Walsch just tweeted (while I was writing this): “Who am I and who do I choose to be? That is what life gives me an opportunity to decide.”

We need to learn to dance on hot coals!

This book, and the Q12 profiling system, help you do just that. 🙂

Climb A Different Ladder was released 1 November, 2012. The author Walter Bellin was born and educated in the US and has lived in Australia for some time. He is the CEO of Corporate Crossroads in Sydney.

To find out more, you can visit Walter Bellin’s website or mine: Think Act Relate.

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