Who Makes It Happen – the Captain or the Crew?

by | 15 Apr 2015 | Change

I’ve always been intrigued by conscious mind, and unconscious mind – so much of our behaviour is driven by processes we just aren’t conscious of.

Sometimes with my life coaching clients I’ll use the analogy of a captain and his/her crew.

We like to think that the captain (our conscious mind) is in charge and responsible for the results we get, and place a lot of faith and trust in the power of our captain. But in truth it is the crew (our unconscious mind) who really make things happen. This crew is extensive, with a staggeringly huge and varied range of complex tasks to perform. There’s simply no way the captain can be ‘on’ or know everything the crew is dealing with.

However, how the captain behaves will certainly have an impact on how the crew performs. Say our captain decides it’s time to change something about the ship (perhaps to exercise more and eat healthy food) and throws out the order to ‘make it so’.

But just saying it may well not be enough – this particular order is a complex change, involving changing a great many parts of the crew’s usual routines; the captain has no concept of just how big a task this is for the crew. Now the crew may well know what to do, or they may need some retraining, but the danger is that the captain keeps interfering and getting in the way – at worst the captain can become very critical of the crew “you’re so lazy, you’ve no willpower, you’re not good enough, look at all the other crews- they’re so much better than you” and so on.

Unsurprisingly the crew become resentful of the change, and of the captain, and can strongly resist – possibly even mutiny (and we’ve all experienced our inner rebel or saboteur at times, when we end up making choices that consciously we know aren’t good, but we seem powerless to resist)!

But actually, we all have a very skilled and experienced crew, well able to make the right changes if only the captain would trust them and concentrate instead on helping to create the optimal environment for the crew to operate in; they are part of the same team, ultimately working towards the same thing.

Yes, if this is a task or skill the crew just haven’t yet learned to do yet, the captain may need time and focus on going through the process step by step, practising (consciously) until the skill is consolidated – the captain can’t expect the crew to be quick, expert and skilled after only one attempt. It may well take some patience and understanding on the part of the captain whilst the crew adjusts. But sometimes the crew are much more expert and quicker than the captain can possibly be, and the captain needs to listen carefully to whatever the crew may raise.

So bring this analogy back to your own experience – when you are making changes, how does your captain behave with your crew? Patiently, with compassion, understanding and support, encouraging good alignment? Or interfering, critical, impatient and destructive?

And which type of ‘conscious leadership’ do you think the crew is more likely to respond positively to?




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