Ton Voogt’s speech on specific way of Training of Schouten China

I am honored to be able to speak to you today at this conference. You have come here to acquire a better picture of the training methods that Schouten China has applied, and continues to apply, with such success. Today, five of the people who have successfully completed the course will be presented with a certificate proving that they are now qualified as Soft Skill Trainers. The IRCES certificate confirms that their names have been added to this register, which can be openly accessed on the Internet.

What are the key features of the Schouten training method?

From the social sciences we have learned that all people’s actions are always driven by two basic motives. First, everyone is motivated to fulfill his or her talents, to achieve certain specific goals. Second, everyone is motivated by a desire to ‘belong’.

In pursuing these basic goals, people develop habits. Habits that are sometimes effective and efficient for a while. But then, they may outgrow their usefulness. Schouten’s training focuses on these habits at that stage in time.

Schouten China bases its work on fundamental values: it appreciates people’s efforts to find personal happiness; it seeks to contribute to organizational success and harmonious societies. We find it important for people to be able to choose for themselves between a selfish, ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality, putting others first, and sharing advantages. Each unique situation calls for a specific choice. In principle, there is something to be said for each of these choices. Everything depends on the situation and the rules. Doing business is about winning, and the winner does ‘take all’. But in a team, if each of the members is going after his own self-interest, the results of the  team as a whole will suffer. On the other hand, putting others first all the time will leave you empty-handed.

Schouten China’s training courses help to strengthen self-respect. We set out to expand social skills, helping people to build up relationships in which people respect each other without giving up their own self-respect. We work for individuals, and with individuals. We engage with their values, their attitudes, their self-confidence and their skills to express themselves and to improve their relationships with others.

Why does this matter so much? Let me tell you very briefly how we look at people and their habits. People develop habits. These habits help them to act efficiently without  spending too much time and energy weighing things up and reflecting. And they continue to be effective as long as the results continue to be satisfying. But what happens when they are no longer satisfied with the result? Or when others make it clear that they are not satisfied with the effects of these habits? People often respond by making resolutions: “I’m going to do things differently from now on”. They may say, “You’re quite right, I’ll change the way I do things.” But often, it just doesn’t happen. Why not?

The efficiency of a habit comes from the fact that it is internalized; you act without being conscious of it. It’s like a reflex, which takes effect before the conscious mind even has time to notice. We say, “I did it without thinking” or “I’d already done it before I became aware of it”. We often feel bad about admitting this: we prefer to think we have everything under our conscious control. But habits don’t belong in that area. Habits take effect before we become conscious of what we’re doing. Conscious control doesn’t work, however much we might like to think it does. That’s because habits have become ingrained in our  emotional and physical constitution. This has very important implications for the kind of training that is needed to change habits. Schouten China is geared towards changing habits. So it has to use special methods, which are effective in changing habits. If all we were to do would be to make people aware of their habits, encourage reflection and new resolutions, make recommendations and encourage people to copy others – that’s not the way to achieve permanent changes.

Since habits are anchored in people’s emotional and physical constitution, they are highly resistant to changing influences. A habitual response takes place independently of the situation. Habits are anchored with feelings of fear which arise if the habits can’t be applied, or if they’re blocked. Fear of negative repercussions, fear of negative reactions from other people, fear of failure. On the other hand, they’re also anchored with feelings of relief or satisfaction which arise when these habits are applied.

Take the following example. Some people have the habit of avoiding the anxiety and stress they feel when they have to stand up and speak in front of a group of people by avoiding the situation altogether. But this means that they miss out on an opportunity to show that they have good ideas. As a result, their own career may stagnate, and the company does not get the benefit of their ideas. This in turn will make them feel very dissatisfied. So they make a new resolution: next time they will grab that chance. But then they often discover that they don’t have the necessary tools to avoid the feelings of anxiety and stress. So they end up avoiding the situation again and achieving a temporary sense of relief, and as a result, their sense of self-worth is eroded still further.

The methods applied by SchoutenChina involves first inviting participants to formulate some precise goals. Then we encourage them to break the old habit in very stressful situations. We encourage them to go through the stress and display more desirable behavior. After that, they can repeat it dozens more times – not just in training sessions, but in real situations too: in shops, in the street, or in the office. People gradually learn which specific techniques work for them, and practice them.

The people who take part in Training for Trainers realize that as prospective trainers,  they too have habits they need to break. Habits that may be much valued in everyday life, but which are not useful in a training situation. In everyday life, the ability not to put people under stress is valued very highly. It is considered good not to confront people with stressful situations. In normal life, challenging so-called ‘normal’ views is not appreciated. But trainers have to be able to create difficulties and put people in situations that are stressful. They have to be able to create uncertainty and to make their limitations visible. They also learn how to create an environment in which people feel safe enough to dare to confront their own weaknesses.

Opening Speech at the MLP2 Programme for DSM China

We hear lots of talk about the power of managers, about how highly they’re valued and their big salaries, but the bottom line is that managers are powerless. No manager can achieve the results he has in mind, the results to which he is committed, by himself. He has to rely on the work of other people. You are totally dependent on other people for your success.

One of the instruments you have at your disposal, when you are persuading people to sign up to your goals and objectives, is yourself. Your own behavior. Behavior that is personal, in the sense of being attached to you, as an individual. You are the one who behaves in a particular way. How you behave is an important factor in helping you to achieve your objectives. In helping to persuade other people to make an effort, to dedicate themselves to achieving the goals you have set.

You will be getting to know yourself better over the next few days. You will be looking at things from a new perspective, colored by a specific view, and looking at yourself and others from this unfamiliar vantage point. You will see similarities and differences. Other people will also see you in the similarities and differences. You will get a better understanding of yourself and of the others around you. So what comes next? Then you find yourself facing the real puzzle: ‘Given your own predisposition, your own inclinations, how do you deal with people who have a different nature?’

The point is that given your own nature, you don’t immediately understand what makes these other people tick, since their natural

reactions are not the same as yours. But luckily, thousands have people have faced this puzzle before you, and have found ways of dealing with it. Not that there is a standard solution that you can simply learn and plug in, that you can apply to every person you meet. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist. The puzzle will always be there. And with each new person, you have to find a new key to open the door to communication. In fact, you even need to do so with people you already know. After all, they carry on developing. And meanwhile, you too change and develop. You become more mature. You understand more as you grow older, especially other people.

And here comes the really tricky part: a solution you may have found today for dealing with the person called Smith doesn’t work at all with the person called Jones. Worse still, tomorrow it doesn’t even work with the person called Smith, since you have changed in the meantime. But fortunately, things don’t get as bad as that in practice, since you make routines. You disregard some ways of behavior and focus on a spectrum of variations. Your standardized solution fits inside that spectrum of variations. Totally effective and efficient. After a while, the routine turns out to be obsolete, it no longer works, and you have to start again, devise a new solution.

Since as managers we are so dependent on our staff to achieve success, every step we take towards modern self-knowledge must help us to acquire a better understanding of what makes individual members of our staff tick. The better I understand my staff as individuals, and the better I understand myself, the easier it will be to find the right solutions.

The main thing I had to learn when I was having difficulty getting my staff interested, getting them enthusiastic about particular goals, or to perform tasks in a particular way, was not to use my power over them to impose my will. Not to deprive them of rewards or to punish them indirectly by ignoring, excluding or humiliating them. It just didn’t work. In fact, it always produced the opposite result. It made my staff into slaves: when I was there, they did what I wanted. As soon as I was out of the way, they did nothing. I didn’t achieve my goals, or only barely. They would give me one excuse after the other for everything that went wrong. It really got me down.

So what’s the right way to get things back on line?

The idea of myself as an instrument in achieving success as a manager was not always easy. In fact, it proved an obstacle at least as often as it helped me. I wish you more luck with yourselves that I had dealing with my own character. I still have to work really hard to behave in ways that are useful and effective. To find ways of persuading others to sign up to, and to strive to achieve, objectives that I have defined. Luckily, there’s hope even for me. And of course, there’s plenty of hope for you!
Thank you very much!

Four Cornerstones of Effective Cooperation: Selfishness, Competitiveness, Giving and Alignment

Fours Cornerstones of Effective Cooperation: Selfishness, Competitiveness, Giving and Alignment
— Speech at the Opening Ceremony of Schouten China Shanghai Office

Ton Voogt 16th November 2010

I should like to invite you to join me briefly in some reflections on cooperation. After all, one of the reasons we have come here is to see if we can step up our cooperation. Allow me share with you some of my own personal experiences.

When I was 5 years old, I decided that cooperation did not exist. I was a child, and adults made all the decisions. That was perfectly obvious.

On the outside I conformed, and meanwhile I created my own world. Carefully protected within my own body. A haven where I was different, more myself. On the outside I was someone who could cooperate well with adults. I did what was expected, and dreamed of later, when I would be able to make all the decisions myself.

When I was studying to become a teacher, I could reverse the roles. I thought: “Now I’m free, and it’s me who decides how the children have to behave.” But in that pattern of thinking too, I absorbed the rules prescribed by the designers of educational systems, and complied with them: that’s called being “professional.”

Studying at university. A sanctuary for ideas, that was how I had imagined it. Finally I could follow my own ideas. But while it was true that I could experiment, I discovered a new norm with which I had to comply: I had to follow narrowly defined routes on the path to “the truth.”

The business world: Ah yes, that was where I could finally develop my own ideas, and do so 100% in my own way. However, it soon became clear that property relations determined much of what I could do. The laws of the market economy determine whether you succeed or fail. Once more I found that I had to subordinate my ideas to “objective” norms.

I got married, had children, played my part in the life of the community. I conformed to expectations that had been unknown to me before.

So the conclusion is that there’s no such thing as cooperation. Instead, there’s conforming and adjusting: following the laws of scholarship; the laws of market forces; the laws of management. The laws of marriage. My life is a successful story of constant conformity.

Before you start thinking that I have sunk into a deep depression and am about to reveal plans to put an end to all this misery, allow me to talk about the other side of the coin. For there is one. There is hope.
The other, secret, line nourishes me in the midst of all the conformity, extracting what I need. This line is not subject to rules and compliance. And it’s a line I keep secret. My “real life” is what I call it. Since I was 5 years old, in my real life, I feel and think quite differently. I dream distant journeys. Have encounters that truly move me, with people whose lives are utterly different from mine. And intriguingly, they’re always willing to share their wisdom with me, to initiate me into their world view. Life opens up for me. I still have that life today. In fact, it feels as though that’s where I live. Sometimes part of that life coincides for a time with the shared, cooperative life outside, but usually it does not.

I don’t know any way of joining these two lines, other than the way I’m about to describe.
One day – by then I was 45 years old – I read an academic article about “building up cooperation.” The subject made an enormous impression on me, quite unexpectedly. I still study it today. Since then, I have read everything that has been written about it. But how does it work in practice?

According to the accepted theory, cooperation is based on two basic principles. One is that the whole has priority. Everything has its own place, and if everything is in its designated place, everything will go well. All you need to do is to correct the deviation. I’m familiar with that: my secret life-line is my escape route.
The other principle revolves around individuals. Every human being pursues his own objectives, strives to develop his own talents, and because he needs other people for them, he forges coalitions. Sometimes for long periods of time, sometimes only temporarily. Every human being is driven by two basic needs: self-fulfillment and the desire to belong. These two needs lead him to forge cooperative links with others. This was a helpful idea. I started to think: “How can I build bridges and forge cooperation with others, from the premise of my own dream world?” I felt liberated from the dilemma of having to choose between subordination and exclusion.

How could I live according to this new, liberating concept? I was, and am, a perfectly well-adjusted man, the ideal employee, son-in-law, father. A model member of society. How could it work?

Research turned up some simple rules of conduct. You want to build up a cooperative relationship? Then start by offering cooperation. The first gesture is “giving.” But here’s an important rule: if the other doesn’t take up your offer, don’t pursue it. Not interested? OK, then forget it. It’s their turn to act if they want it. And if they don’t want it, and leave me to my own devices? Hmmm. Will there always be people who will want to work with me? How many “no’s” can I bear, before I decide to conform? And another thing: what I show someone when I meet up with them – will that be interesting enough to persuade the other party to take up my offer?

Giving: that’s not a problem. But I do have trouble stepping back after a rejection. So I’m supposed to just shrug my shoulders and wait for a response? I’ve also discovered a weakness in myself: I’m afraid that if I don’t make the next move, I’ll remain excluded for ever. I forget who plays tricks on me, and continue to give to someone who is exploiting me. I don’t make lists of tricks that people play on me. Very unhelpful – for me in any case, not for those who know this about me.

Now I delve even deeper. What kind of behavior is needed, to produce good cooperation? Oh, that’s not so easy. I must be capable of selfishness. I must know what I want myself and what the other party wants. I must be capable of calling it quits if my goals are incompatible with the other party’s. I must also be able to draw a line when the other party expects more from me than I want to give. I have to brave the competition. Otherwise, others will always walk off with the prize. I also have to want to win, and to become good at it. And one more thing, the area in which I’m most vulnerable: I must be able to give without drawing any immediate benefit from it. I don’t like that, because I know that I have that tendency anyway, which means I’m easy to exploit. I can easily be induced to give.

But is there any point in learning these vulnerable kinds of behavior in a world, in companies, between companies, where competition is the norm? Where there is one winner, and a great many losers. A world in which someone may take everything you have and breeze off with a smile. Leaving me empty-handed. Only the strongest survive.

Can cooperative and altruistic behavior survive at all in a society based mainly on competition and selfishness? I’m happy to report that this question has been answered in studies that have “calculated” the consequences in computer simulations. So what did they discover? Even in a society that is based almost entirely (up to 95%) on competitive, selfish behavior, altruistic and cooperative behavior will survive. People who often apply such patterns of behavior will survive.

How? By seeking kindred spirits. By forging alliances with others who also favor cooperation – who see altruism and cooperation as valuable and useful kinds of behavior. People who have “calculated” the added value of such behavior to themselves and the other party. They’re not softies – they can be selfish when necessary. And in competition, they also like to be the best. They want to win, to cooperate with one another. They build up win-win relationships to fulfill all the important conditions of life. Caring for each other, helping each other, saving for each other. One may give now, while another will give later. They help out when necessary. Then it doesn’t hurt if they occasionally miss the boat in a competitive clash, or if they are occasionally exploited by self-seekers.

The family may be the pivotal alliance that helps to forge these relationships.
There is a challenge for organizations here. The challenge of creating an internal culture that promotes the kinds of values and behavior that will produce a strong structure, able to withstand external competition. Forging alliances with clients who have the same attitude.

Of course, all this only works if it’s voluntary. I give and I take. I’m happy to say that when I look at the patterns of behavior within Schouten China, I see people frequently helping each other out. I see a lot of cooperation, and that makes Schouten China a strong, cohesive organization. Given that strong foundation, Chris, Joanne, Rocky, Lisa, Debra, Linda, and Jessica, with the support of [. . . alle andere namen] can forge and develop strong professional ties with you.

Thank you.

“Story of the Stone” by Ton Voogt

What a nice surprise. Reading the “Story of the Stone” also known as “The Dream of the Red Chamber”, the number one famous Chinese novel written by Cao Xueqin about 1760 management advises that I like to pass on to you.

Xi Feng is asked to take over the management of an other household (company) immediately. The lady of the house died unexpectedly. Before entering the job she made clear agreements with the master of the House about the results and the lines of command. Who to report to; the freedom to make decisions. The rules of communication and support. All in one page and so clear. I hope every manager can tell that in five minutes.

The evening before she shows up in the household she asks herself: “What will be big problems in a household that cause most trouble?” People do not take responsibilities originating of no clear division of labour and responsibilities. People are constant dissatisfied because they do not have clear output agreements. Problems are not solved because nothing has consequences: no rewards and no punishments related to the performance. Probably a lot of money will be lost: no one is responsible. The cooperation will be very poor when everyone is focussed on his own benefit. Probably no serving attitude to each other.

Her first act early in the morning is to set clear responsibilities, output standards and communication (report and support) rules. And she says: “do not make the remark: this does not fit, here we do things differently. Now all is done in the way I tell you”. May be look for “a Xi Feng” to handle your company.

Coaching: the real change instrument for the manager

Coaching differs from other important activities in an organisation.

Managing is about designing a structure for an organisation; a strategy to set targets by combining the market and the unique products and services of the company.

Training is learning specific new behaviour or the unlearning of unwanted habits.

Leading people is getting commitment on goals and organise the work of the people.

Consulting is giving advice about the best way to do; the best organisation; the best…

Lecturing is talking about theories, practices, ideas, and models.

All these activities are necessary. They are used for the proper goals.

What can be the proper goal for coaching?

A story. A manager in a rather new company wants an assistance that can do all the practical contact with clients, visitors. She makes a detailed job description. Talked with ten candidates and those one that had experience.

She thought: “Nice, I solved a problem, now I can go to my real work.” She went out of office and did not look at the assistance for ten days. Then one day she heard the assistance talking with a client in a way she did not like. She made a note of it. Three days later she overheard a phone conversation and some sentences she did not like. Four days later she saw the assistance dressed with clothes she thought are not proper. Two days later she saw a letter the assistance had written. She did not like the layout. The volcano in her burst out. She called for the assistant and told him she was totally dissatisfied with his behaviour and he was fired at the spot.

Confused the assistant reflected silently on his behaviour. “How to better understand a manager?” He looked for a course on “mind reading”. The manager too reflected: “How can I better select?” She enlisted to a very expensive course on “improving your selection skills”

Both choices are probably without the desired effect. Why? Because the training actions they choose do not fit the real causes.

The real causes are (a) not having agreed in the beginning on the detailed expectations of the manager; (b) the manager did not give any feedback; (c) she did not ask for feedback by the assistant.

This might not have happened when both had reflected on their behaviour in a coaching way. Guided by another person. What are the coaching activities?

A short statement: coaching is not doing what the person himself must do; the person must focus on the ways he solved or wants to solve a problem. Asking questions starts reflecting on behaviour.

Coaching can be done by the manager or the leader. The leader must be able to distinguish his leader actions from his coaching actions. He must know when to switch and how to switch. When the manager assigns a specific job and the person asks “how can I best…?” or “what do you advise me….?” “Tell me what I….?”.

The leader must choose. Leading actions, lecturing, giving advice or coaching. When he chooses for coaching he asks questions like: “what is you goal?”” What do you think you are going to do to reach the goal”; “ what do you think the effect will be?”” Is this the effect you really want?” When talking about the past he asks for detailed descriptions of the behaviour. He invites to reflect on behaviour. In coaching you do not solve the problem. The coach puts the other to work. A person can try to avoid thinking and experimenting himself. When he does what the master wants and it is wrong he is excused:”the master told me…” In coaching the aim is to let a person decide and act independently.

Effective coaching actions fulfil three requirements: the relation is based on respect; the method is proven in scientific research and the coaching person adds understanding to his actions.

In organisations two behaviours are often changed with coaching. One is too independent behaviour and the other is too dependent behaviour. Coaching to more independent behaviour is done by rewarding all revolting, initiative behaviour and punishes hiding behind others. Neglect asking for permission and accepts mistakes.

Managers need special reflection on their behaviour. They are mostly the people who get less comments on their behaviour. They often have nobody to talk to. Nobody gives them direct feedback. Most difficult for managers are: motivating people. For themselves they have big problem in handling emotions as: disappointment; annoying and impatience.

Managers can coach each other when they act coaching.
Coaching is contrary to the general high valued act of helping. Sometimes coaching provokes someone to solve the problem on his own. This is a long-term positive contribution to the problem solving ability.

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