Darden School’s Ryan Quinn delivers “Breakfast with a Lift” at SFU

Sep 27, 2011

By Lisa Dalla Vecchia

Ryan Quinn, author of the book Lift: Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation, recently spoke to a sold-out audience of management professionals about how anyone, in any situation, and any role, can become a positive force and positively impact those around them. The September 23 event, hosted by the Beedie School of Business’ CMA Centre for Strategic Change, was held in partnership with the Certified Management Accountants and BC Human Resources Management Association – at the Segal Graduate School campus in downtown Vancouver.

Quinn, Assistant Professor at the University of Virigina’s Darden School of Business, teaches and conducts research on change management, with specific interests in integration, conversations, innovation, energizing the workplace, high-performance experiences, organizational learning, power and courage.

Using sample scenarios to both illustrate the main points of his presentation and encourage lively dialogue among audience members, Quinn began by asserting that most people naturally want to be a positive influence in life and do something meaningful in the world. In order to achieve this state, which is purpose-centred, internally-directed, other-focused, and externally open, he explained that rather than focus on tactics, the focus should be on asking four simple, and yet profound questions.

Purpose-Centred: wanting to create extraordinary results. “What result do I want to create?” Just by asking this question, the focus shifts from problem-solving to purpose-finding, from “what” to “how”, and importantly, to creativity. This resonated with the audience; at some point, we have all felt that a potential solution to a problem is impossible, and have not fully explored all possibilities. However, by changing our focus and seeing things differently, we change the frame in which we see the world, visualize new possibilities, empower those around us to see new possibilities, and the results will better impact the world.

Internally Directed: examining personal integrity gaps and trying to close them. “What would my story be if I were living up to the values I expect of others?” It is extremely important to live up to the values that we expect of others, but before we can do this, we need to know what those values are. It is these values that distinguish leaders from non-leaders. When we witness people living their values, we tend to experience an elevation in emotions, and a desire to live out our own values.

Other-Focused: seeing others as people with legitimate needs, feelings, wants, and perspectives. “How do others feel about this situation?” When we interact with others, our natural impulse is to empathize with them. If we reject those impulses, we need to rationalize it, deflate the other person, and imagine the other person as an obstacle, or an object. This often happens when we’re busy and feel that others are a burden, adding one more thing to our never-ending to do list. However, studies have shown that when we shift our thinking, no actual burden exists. Therefore, we need to practice feeling how others feel about something and empathize and rationalize with them.

Externally Open: having malleable traits and being open to learn. We are all capable of learning and growing, but we need an open mind-set. It is important to recognize that while we may not be naturally inclined toward something (i.e. piano playing) we do not know what our upper limits are. This has enormous implications for: 1) quitting (if we don’t think we are capable, how long would we spend practicing before giving up?); 2) accepting feedback (what would we do with feedback if we don’t believe we are capable in the first place?); and management (if managers do not feel that their subordinates are capable, it hugely impacts an employee’s ability to learn and grow).

The presentation ended with a discussion on a few strategies that could help people achieve this redefined purpose for living a purpose-centred, internally directed, other-focused, and externally open life.

For more information about the next CMA Centre Practitioner Series, please visit https://beedie.sfu.ca/cma-centre/

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