"You must practice assessments (to work on truth) and generate commitments (to work on trust)."
Flores knows about words and how they translate directly into deeds. He knows that talk is never cheap -- he often charges more than $1 million for his services, a fee that is linked directly to specific promises of increased revenues and savings. He also knows that talk is the source of these executives' failure. Their words work against them -- which is why they can't get anything to work for them.
Talk all you want to, Flores says, but if you want to act powerfully, you need to master "speech acts": language rituals that build trust between colleagues and customers, word practices that open your eyes to new possibilities. Speech acts are powerful because most of the actions that people engage in -- in business, in marriage, in parenting -- are carried out through conversation. But most people speak without intention; they simply say whatever comes to mind. Speak with intention, and your actions take on new purpose. Speak with power, and you act with power. [...]
"When I left prison, I had to figure out how to embrace my past," Flores says. "Those three years represented a tragedy that I used to re-create myself, not something that was done to me. I never blamed Pinochet, or my torturers, or external circumstances. I feel 'co-responsible' for the events that took place. I never told a victim story about my imprisonment. Instead, I told a transformation story -- about how prison changed my outlook, about how I saw that communication, truth, and trust are at the heart of power. I made my own assessment of my life, and I began to live it. That was freedom."
In 1976, nearly broke, Flores came to the United States. In 1977, he began a PhD program at the University of California at Berkeley, drawing together several fields: the philosophy of language, computing, operations research, and management. He found himself drawn to the work of Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher whose dictum "Language is the house of being" defined for Flores the link between words and the self. From Heidegger, Flores learned that language conveys not only information but also commitment, and that people act by expressing assessments and promises. Computers, he concluded, would be more effective if they recorded and tracked commitments, rather than simply moving information. [...]
But more than that, Flores is committed to living what he calls "life at its best." He chooses his clients. He rewards himself for his hard work with shopping splurges, sometimes buying $1,000 worth of books -- and then rearranging his work schedule to give himself time to read them. Last year, he bought a majority interest in a school in Santiago, Chile in order to test and teach his theories. It is a life filled with commitments -- a life based on freedom. [...]
Become practiced in making assessments, and you come to see others clearly, well beyond their fictions and lies. You also come to see how much influence you have over your own life. "We don't realize how much we create reality through language," Flores says. "If we say that life is hard, it will be hard. If, on the other hand, we make commitments to our colleagues to improve our productivity, we also improve our mood, and as a result, clarity and happiness will increase. People talk about changing their thinking, but they have no idea what that is, let alone how to do it. The key is to stop producing interpretations that have no power."
-- Profile of Fernando Flores, strongly endorsed by the amazing Zanders