Getting to Yes, And

Ben Ramalingam: Upshift


Ben Ramalingam

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Kelly connects with Ben Ramalingam, who just became the Director of Strategy for the British Red Cross and has been a senior leader, innovator, and researcher specializing in international crisis management and development. His new book is called "Upshift: Turning Pressure into Performance and Crisis into Creativity.”

I found it fascinating that you are able to link a sense of play to how you navigated the crisis of a war growing up.

“The fact that I played games and found ways of adapting and having some agency in that process, I don't think it's some something that I chose, but it's definitely something that benefited me through that process. And it has benefited me ever since in adapting to being in a foreign country, adapting in all the different things that refugees have to do. I would say the start of it was right there during the war.”

And a lot of what you talk about in the book is shifting your mental and physical frame to turn a problem into an opportunity.

“Actually, it's a plausible lie to tell yourself you feel excited to the symptoms of excitement and the symptoms of panic. So, what you actually are doing is creating a new mental context for yourself which turns anxiety into excitement, and you feel like you're taking on a challenge rather than facing a fear and it gives you a boost to your performance.”

You cite some interesting research on the effectiveness of orchestra conductors as leaders. Talk about that.

“The reality is, conductors are people who lead without seeming to lead to the silent musician. They're neither completely authoritarian nor completely powerless. But, actually, the critical thing that other leaders could learn from orchestra leaders wasn't actually about control and shame and ego, which obviously is how many bad leaders lead. But leading quietly and unobtrusively, not to extract obedience, but to inspire performance - and that that was the kind of critical thing.”  

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