According to Gallup, employees who exercise their strengths on a daily basis are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.
But sadly, in many organizations people are not given many opportunities to do what they are best at.
Worse, some people are routinely put into situations that are dissatisfying to them, leading them to shut down and leaving an untold amount of talent, energy and potential untapped in many organizations.
Identifying what people are skilled at and ensuring the roles, projects and initiatives they work on are a good fit requires discernment and dialogue. Having a better understanding of behavioral styles and what motivates people with each of those styles can really help.
In my last post, How to Create Synergy and Collaborate with People’s Differing Styles, I explained that there are two continuums that people fall on: task versus people orientation and introversion versus extraversion. If you overlay each of these continuums, you will create a matrix with four quadrants that make up each of the four behavioral styles of the DISC Behavioral Style Model.
D = Dominance (Task-oriented + Extraverted)
I = Influence (People-oriented + Extraverted)
S = Steadiness (People-oriented + Introverted)
C = Compliance (Task-oriented + Introverted)
Today, I’ll provide you with some tips for leveraging the strengths of people that operate with each of these four behavioral styles. Remember, sometimes people operate with more than one, so you may want to check out recommendations for all that could potentially apply. See my last post for an overview on how to determine which style others most likely operate from.
Matching Work to Task Oriented, Extraverted Individuals (Style = Dominance)
People who are extraverted toward task are energized by challenges – the more daunting the better. They thrive in turnaround situations where they can make sweeping changes to save a struggling enterprise, venture or initiative.
They like to be in charge and tend to be very directive and decisive. They come to life in situations that require them to get others to act on things quickly but will quickly get frustrated if they are not given authority along with responsibility.
Those whose primary style is Dominance are big picture people who get bogged down with too many details and frustrated with anything that keeps them from taking quick, intense action. Inefficiency will drive them crazy and they will feel hemmed in when surrounded by constraints that get in the way of progress.
They prefer to work autonomously and will feel stifled by managers who hover and appear to be overly controlling.
Matching Work to People Oriented, Extraverted Individuals (Style = Influence)
People who are extraverted toward people thrive on social interaction. They like (and want to be liked) by everyone they meet and often possess the kind of charm that can win others over in a relatively short period of time. The excitement and buzz they generate around things they believe in allows them to be highly persuasive, which lends itself well to situations where influencing others is paramount.
Natural cheerleaders, they excel in situations that require enthusiasm and optimism. They have the ability to infuse energy and lightness into the dreariest of environments and often rely on humor that allows others to loosen up and get unstuck and revitalized.
Those whose primary style is Influence are also big picture people who get bogged down in details. They are highly creative and visionary people who get excited about things even though they may not have data that suggests their optimism is merited.
Because they tend to take things personally, they can be deflated by people who are overly skeptical and negative. They work best with people who support them and provide them with the data they need in a way that doesn’t rein them in or dampen their spirits.
Matching Work to People Oriented, Introverted Individuals (Style = Steadiness)
People who are introverted toward people are extraordinary listeners who hear and notice things others do not. They also have a natural tendency to diffuse tension among people who are overly stressed, frustrated and worked up – sometimes without even saying a word.
People whose primary style is Steadiness love to contribute and be of service to others and are content to operate in the background rather than the spotlight. Their ability to understand and connect with others allows them to serve as a bridge between people who are having difficulty seeing eye to eye. They gain and sustain support and buy in from others because of the solid level of trust they cultivate.
They are also very insightful, but often are unlikely to share their observations and ideas with others because they are uncomfortable drawing attention to themselves and tend to underestimate the impact they could potentially have. They do best in settings that encourage them to provide input but allow them time necessary to organize their thoughts before having to present them to others.
These people are steady, thorough, easy going and warm hearted. They can be depended on to deliver and follow through consistently, though often at a slower, more methodical pace.
Matching Work to Task Oriented, Introverted Individuals (Style = Compliance)
People who are introverted toward task strive for perfection, order and consistency. They thrive in situations where processes and procedures are clearly spelled out and place a high value on data that allows them to achieve and maintain a high level of accuracy, precision and security.
People whose primary style is Compliance have a high attention to detail. They prefer to rely on the tried and true rather than reinventing the wheel and tend to be somewhat risk averse. Because of this, they excel at making sure work is up to or above standard and nothing significant gets overlooked.
They often enjoy doing research and analysis – a welcome complement to other styles who would rather work at higher levels and surrounded by people. They do best in an environment that allows them to spend the time necessary to ensure things are done right the first time, where processes and standard procedures are clearly spelled out and enforced and high quality is essential.
Because they tend to be driven by logic and data, they can get frustrated in situations where people are overly emotional for reasons that do not appear to be rational.
What You Can Do Right Now
Think about the people who report to you or serve on teams you oversee. Use the information above (and/or see my recent article on recognizing styles) to identify what is likely to be the predominant style of each person. Ask yourself whether the projects they are currently working on and/or the roles they are playing are well matched to those styles.
You don’t need to drastically reengineer people’s jobs to ensure the work they are doing is a good fit for them. Sometimes the smallest tweaks make the biggest differences. Use your insight to begin a conversation with them that will open the door to better understanding and utilization of their talent, energy and styles.
If you would like to utilize the DISC Behavioral Style assessment to see how you and others in your organization score in each of the four behavioral styles, contact me at Diane@DianeBolden.com or give me a call at (602) 840-3627. The assessment is completed online and will provide you with a comprehensive twenty plus page report that provides a tremendous amount of insight – including a full page on Keys to Motivating and another on Keys to Managing.
And if you are interested in learning more about behavioral styles and how you can leverage them to dramatically increase your individual and organizational effectiveness, consider enrolling in my new self-study version of Communicating With Style: DISC Behavioral Style Workshop or bringing this workshop in house.
Implications for Real Leaders
The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.
To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
When my daughter was eleven years old, she handed me a piece of paper one Friday afternoon. Across the top of the page written in hot pink were the words “Why You Should Let Me Have a Friend Over Tonight.”
Beneath the heading, in various bright colors adorned with hearts and smiley faces were five or six bullet points meticulously printed with the most perfect of penmanship. One of them said “I’ll share my super sour gummy worms with you,” and another promised “we will only make a little mess.”
While I was impressed with my daughter’s effort and artistic flair, I made a mental note that at some point I ought to help her with her negotiating skills. I winced as I recalled the last time I tried one of her super sour gummy worms, whose pungent flavor immediately led me to regret the decision as soon as I put it in my mouth — and then again hours later when most of it was still stuck to my teeth.
You wouldn’t expect a senior executive to have the same errors in judgment in an attempt at persuasion. And yet, often even the most professional of people make similar blunders. Today I’ll cover three of the most common mistakes people make in their attempts to influence others:
(1) Making invalid assumptions about what people value
(2) Overlooking the importance of objections
(3) Talking more than listening
Let’s talk about making invalid assumptions about what people value.
This was my lovely daughter’s critical error. While her offer to share super sour gummy worms may have been very compelling to her thirteen year old brother, it was actually rather repulsive to me. In her precious little mind, everyone loves those squishy sweet treats. It never occurred to her that wasn’t universally true.
And professional people often make this mistake as well. Not with gummy worms, but with questions of value.
One of my clients, Jan, learned the importance of checking her assumptions after pitching a proposal to senior executives with the argument that her program would allow employee satisfaction and morale to increase, leading to a happier workplace and less interdepartmental conflict.
While these were certainly attributes of a program she worked very hard to develop — and benefits that were quite meaningful to her — her audience was far more interested in financial gain than employee satisfaction.
Did she have to completely revamp her program to get their support? Absolutely not. She simply needed to amend her case to show the return on investment her program would generate after factoring in lower absenteeism and turnover rates, increased productivity, and reduced waste.
“Treat everyone the way you want to be treated,” we are taught from an early age. But unfortunately, not everyone values the same things. A better adage might be, “find out what is most important to the people around you and make an effort to respect their preferences.”
Unfortunately, understanding what people value isn’t always enough to cinch the deal — even when it appears that you have agreement. Let’s move on to the next most common mistake, overlooking the importance of objections.
Why is it important to surface objections?
Things are moving along well. You see heads nodding. It seems you are gaining the support of most the people sitting around the table. Wouldn’t surfacing objections at this point throw a monkey wrench in the works? Why allow people who are already with you to be swayed by people who have dissenting opinions?
The problem with those head nods is that you don’t really know exactly what people are agreeing with. They might be on the same page when it comes to the way you described the problem that needs to be solved. But not necessarily on board with your solution.
They may agree with part of your solution, but not all of it. They may be nodding their heads because their peers are doing that, and they feel compelled to follow suit.
The problem with partial agreement is that it usually only gets you part of the way there.
That may not be the case if all you are negotiating for is a onetime event — as in the case of my daughter. But more often than not, what executives really need is ongoing support and commitment. Sure, they want to get their program funded, their product launched, or their order filled.
But in order to have lasting success, they need champions within the organization, people who are committed to their projects, and customers that will continue to place more orders. And that takes more than a simple head nod or even a signed contract.
Partial agreement falls apart when things get difficult. People don’t follow through. Your calls stop being returned. Your funding gets pulled. And you are left scratching your head wondering what happened.
Those people who aren’t nodding their heads in agreement could be worth their weight in gold. But only if you get them to talk.
This leads us to the third mistake many executives make in their attempts to influence others: talking more than listening. Anytime people are being pitched with a proposal, a call to action, a request for support or funds or business, there will be concerns and skepticism.
Often these reservations don’t get voiced. Instead, people adopt a “wait and see attitude.” But the questions rattling around at the back of their minds may very well be valid — and if you knew what they were, you could take steps to address them and sidestep potential pitfalls you would otherwise unwittingly fall into.
So, the first step is to intentionally encourage people to voice their dissent. They could very well tell you something you really need to know. And if you acknowledge that they may see something important that you may not be aware of, you are sending a message that you value and respect them and care enough about them to address what they care about.
When your audience takes you up on your invitation to share their concerns and reservations, it is more important than ever to resist the temptation to talk and listen instead.
But many executives don’t do that. They figure a stronger argument is required. More data. Sexier examples. Better stories. Increased persuasion. So, they tell, and they sell while their audience feels less and less understood and slowly slips away.
When you feel the inclination to begin defending your case, hold your tongue and get curious instead. Ask for more details. Recap what they’ve said to be sure you heard them correctly. Paraphrase what you think is most important to them.
Continue asking clarifying questions until you begin to see things from their perspective. Because when you do, you will earn their trust.
You may have to rework your proposal. It may not be the reaction you were hoping for. But you have won for yourself the chance to truly gain the support you endeavored to secure — and when you take the steps to listen and respond to the concerns of your most important stakeholders, you increase the chances that the support you have just won will stand the test of time.
Let’s recap the most common mistakes executives make when attempting to influence — and what to do instead.
(1) Making invalid assumptions about what people value. Instead, recognize that not everyone likes the same thing you do. Find out what is most important to the people around you and make an effort to respect their preferences.
(2) Overlooking the importance of objections. Instead, realize that objections help you recognize what your audience cares most about and gives you an opportunity to deliver it. It earns you trust, respect and ultimately, their support.
(3) Talking more than listening. Resist the temptation to diffuse your audience’s objections and concerns with more information, telling and selling. Instead, probe to get a better understanding of what they really need and take steps to deliver it.
Influencing others is about more than crafting a polished presentation and a bulletproof case for action. You will get much further if you treat the art of influence more like a dance with your audience than a performance in front of them.
Invite them in and get them to participate. Listen to their needs, their desires, their concerns and their recommendations. Take action to address what they consider to be most important.
And whatever you do, please don’t offer anyone super sour gummy worms.
The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for executives at all levels of organizations large and small to voice their ideas, concerns and suggestions in a way that can move their businesses forward. For more on why this is so vital right now, as well as how you can advance your own ideas while inspiring and empowering others to do the same, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Today’s article is the fifth in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #5: Real leadership brings life to our greatest dreams and visions.
Leadership is about taking people to a higher place. But before you can go there, you must envision it and create it. You must pay attention to the ideas, thoughts and inspirations that land gently on you and beckon to be given a vehicle to enter the world.
To do that, you need to take steps in your own life to nurture them. These ideas will come when you are relaxed, thoughtful, and open. It won’t happen when you are rushing around putting out fires.
You must create the time in your daily life to honor and develop your dreams, and to take care of yourself in such a way that those dreams continue to come to you. You must pay at least as much attention to the possibilities for change and improvement that exist all around you as you do trying to keep things running the way you think they should.
Many of the things you’ve devoted your time to trying to control and improve have likely served their purpose and need to be replaced by something else. Real leaders are those who ask the tough questions about whether what we are doing and have been doing is still in everyone’s best interests.
When times change greatly, Real Leaders know we all must change with them.
Pay attention to the small still voice within you that dares us to be greater. Quiet yourself enough to truly hear what it has to say. Then have the courage to act in spite of your fears. Be willing to move out of your comfort zone and act boldly. As you do these things, you’ll model the way for others to do the same.
Together, we can create true and lasting transformation throughout Corporate America. The Real Leader Revolution is enabling people at all levels of businesses and organizations to make a bigger, more meaningful impact being who they truly are, access and sustain unprecedented levels of performance and live more fulfilling lives – both on and off the job.
To learn more, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is available.
Today’s article is the fourth in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #4: Real leadership unites. It does not divide.
Conflict is an inevitable part of life and relationships. It exists because we are different. We need to look at it in a way that allows us to come together and learn more about who we are and what we can do together.
In every conflict, each party truly believes they are right, and most of the time they have good reason (at least in their own minds) to think that way. But often our conclusions are based more in conjecture than fact.
We all tell ourselves stories of why people do the things they do. And if you believe a story that convinces you someone else has ill intent, chances are your reaction to that person will create problems that could have otherwise been prevented.
To rise above this pitfall, get in the habit of asking yourself questions such as “What am I believing about this situation (or person)? What do I really know? What am I not seeing?” When you ask questions like these, your brain expands its orientation to allow new information to come in.
Real leaders treat their stories more as hypothesis or possible explanations and are willing to entertain that there may be alternate explanations and view. Simply said, things are not always what they seem.
It is essential to be open to the views of others and go a step further to actively seek those alternative viewpoints out. Encourage people to challenge the way you are seeing things with the knowledge that you could be wrong.
When you are able to relax your filters in this way, true learning and innovation can take place. Solutions to problems that were right in front of you suddenly become visible. You’ll go beyond your limited views to see what is really possible – in yourself and others, your relationships, projects, positions, and organizations.
The trust and respect you’ll create in your working relationships will give rise to solid partnership and collaboration. The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for this kind of collaboration, and the need to handle conflict in ways that bring transformation and new vision into our organizations, businesses and lives.
To find out more about how you can be a forerunner in this new way of doing business and achieve higher profitability, greater market share and sustained levels of exceptional performance, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Today’s article is the third in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #3: Real Leadership is not a one man or woman show.
We are all familiar with the idea of a mighty hero, who is infallible, fearless, and all powerful. When you believe those should also be the characteristics of leaders, you’ll likely act in ways that can become more disempowering than anything. Leaders who believe they have all the answers seldom listen much to others, except to know how to better defend their own positions.
If leadership is truly about bringing out the best in people, leaders need to learn how to better listen to and connect with others, with a mind that is open and has room for ideas and thoughts that may oppose their own. Only then will we find the solutions that truly benefit a greater good.
No one person has all the answers themselves. As a leader, you are there to help others unearth and do something with their ideas so that they can become a part of a collective solution. To do this, you must place just as much importance on what others have to say as you do on their own thoughts and ideas.
When you can honestly admit you don’t have all the answers, you build trust and strengthen relationships while cultivating the ability of your people to find those answers together. In acknowledging your need for partnership with others and encouraging them to share their own vital pieces of the puzzle, you will create a strong, self-sustaining culture that works together to produce excellence.
You do not need to be the hero. In fact, some of the most effective leaders are those who are more concerned about elevating the status of others than raising their own. Lao Tzu, one of the greatest mystics of all time said “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves.”
The Real Leader Revolution is allowing executives to free up significant levels of energy by letting go of thinking they must have all the answers – and in so doing inspire and empower their people to get better results, make a bigger impact and contributions.
To find out more about how you can exercise Real Leadership to create the kind of vibrant, inspired workplace that unleashes unprecedented levels of performance and attracts key talent and loyal customers, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Today’s article is the second in a series of five highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #2: Real Leadership is more than position, title, status or power – it starts within.
Leadership is not the private reserve of people who hold fancy titles, have others reporting to them, or are even in organizations at all. Real Leadership is about bringing out the best in everyone and helping them focus their unique talent, passion, energy and style into something that benefits a greater good.
But you have to start with yourself. You can’t wait for someone to come in and make everything right or rely on people in high positions to do that for you (whether than be in organizations, communities or governments).
The more we look “out there” for our solutions, the further we get away from the solutions each one of us holds within. We are all pieces of an intricate puzzle, and every single one of them is essential.
It is essential to take responsibility for what you have control over in your life and make whatever impact is yours to make, even if that is only in your thoughts – in what you are paying attention to, in what you say and do, and in the example you set for others.
To do this, you must become vigilantly aware of assumptions you may me making that lead you to believe there is nothing you can do – and ask yourself if they are really true. Sometimes, though you may not have the authority to bring about wide scale change, you can exercise the influence to begin a conversation that – approached constructively and respectfully – can get things moving in a better direction.
We are collectively creating a reality that mirrors our thoughts. We must do what we can to keep that positive and constructive, so that our actions are that way as well. Real leaders help others move from feeling like they are at the mercy of their circumstances to recognizing what is, in fact within their ability to influence and impact.
And they start by modeling that behavior themselves.
The Real Leader Revolution is already underway, providing ample opportunities for leaders at all levels to have a more significant impact on their organizations while accessing higher levels of performance, bringing more of who they really are to their work, and living more meaningful lives both on and off the job.
If you would like to read more about how you can exercise and nurture Real Leadership in yourself and others, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
Leaders are people who shine a light on their surroundings and everyone around them. The light they shine comes from within them, a product of the unique combination of their talent, energy and passion.
The very best, what I call “Real Leaders”, are those who help others ignite their own sparks so that they too may serve as a beacon of hope, inspiration and courage. Illuminated by this light, our paths become brighter and we can clearly see any obstacles that lie before us so that we may swiftly and effectively overcome them and grow stronger in the process.
This light also allows us to recognize and bring out the strengths in ourselves and others that enables us to persevere and emerge victorious in the face of our greatest challenges and setbacks.
Exercising Real Leadership does not require that you have a degree from Harvard, or anywhere for that matter. As you endeavor to practice leadership in every aspect of your life, no matter what your vocation or role, shining your light brightly requires that you remember a few key points.
This is the first in a five-part series highlighting key attributes of Real Leadership: a practice that allows you to inspire exceptional (and sustainable) performance in yourself and others to achieve record profitability, customer loyalty and growing market share – even in saturated and highly commoditized markets.
KEY POINT #1: Real Leadership focuses on possibility and potential.
In times of widespread change, there is great fear. It is easy to become immersed and overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness, frustration, anger, and sadness. These feelings can lead you and others to become engaged in defensive routines that seek to place blame, or to resign yourselves to victim status, waiting for rescue.
It is essential to reframe what you are seeing and make sure the lens is clear. Shakespeare once said, “It is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.”
You can look at what is happening around you and instead of focusing on frustration and potential loss, pay attention to what you (and others) have within that allows you to rise to the challenge. We are stronger than we think we are. We are resourceful. Together we can create far more than we can individually.
Often our greatest attributes, talents and strengths lie dormant inside of us until something happens that requires we summon them up. Real Leaders effectively galvanize these forces and channel them in constructive ways.
As you shift your attention from obstacles to opportunities and put your energy on what is possible, you’ll see solutions that previously evaded you and recognize that you are capable of far more than you initially realized. And when you act from this frame of reference, you’ll inspire others to do the same.
When you focus on the positive attributes in others, you help them recognize they have greatness within as well and catalyze their potential. In this way, you can exercise leadership regardless of what your job or role is. This is what is needed most in times of change, challenge and uncertainty.
The rapid pace of change in business today brings with it a high level of challenge and uncertainty. The Real Leader Revolution is a movement that empowers people at all levels of businesses and organizations to rise to the occasion and navigate unchartered territory with courage and grace.
To find out more about how you can maximize your leadership to make a bigger impact, sign up below to receive a copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.
As we move through the holiday season and approach the end of the calendar year, people often find themselves in a bit of a frenzy racing from one activity to the next, their heads filled with chatter and a continually growing list of things to do. It is easy to lose ourselves in a flurry of activity and miss out on the purpose behind all the things we tend to do at this time of the year.
If you have ever found yourself collapsing in a heap wondering where the time went and feeling depleted rather than filled by the holiday spirit, you know what I’m talking about.
When your pocketbook has reached the place where there just isn’t a lot more give, take comfort in the fact that there is a gift you can share that transcends all others and won’t cost you a thing. It is the gift of presence, a state that allows us to truly bring out the best in ourselves so that we can do the same for others.
The gift of presence is one that allows everyone to receive its benefits, and you can experience it wherever you are — whether in a meeting, running an errand, sitting at your desk, or in a conversation with someone important to you. This practice has the power to transform the way you experience your daily life and what it allows you to create for yourself and others — without really doing anything at all.
Can you recall the last time you felt totally and completely attended to?
Chances are it wasn’t when someone was giving you advice or telling you what to do. It may not have even been when someone was engaging in an activity on your behalf or watching you tear open a gift. And yet when we think of giving something to others our minds often immediately jump to what we can do, say or buy for someone. Many times, the best gift we can give someone is that of our presence.
But what exactly is presence?
The word present derives from the Latin past participle praesse meaning “to be before one”, from the roots pra – pre + esse – to be. I believe presence is a state of being that’s achieved when we are truly in the moment, allowing it to unfold without judging it, labeling it, or getting lost in our thoughts about what it means or what we believe should be happening next (or instead).
Presence allows us to cut through the clamor of our preoccupations, worries and fears so that our true selves can emerge. It is a gateway through which our intuition and inner wisdom enters and expresses itself. A moment of presence is a state of grace that can produce great insights that help us to truly learn from our experiences, make the most of our opportunities and rise up to our challenges in creative ways.
In these moments of presence, we know who we really are and what we are truly capable of.
Have you ever noticed that people tend to match each other’s intensity and tone when they are together? Comments about trivial matters are often matched with similar banter. Expressions of fear or dread often elicit responses that are equally charged, and expressions of anger have a way of provoking reactions that people later regret.
In a similar manner, moments of presence when shared with others can evoke powerful responses that can be revealing and transformational.
This is because when you are truly present with another human being you create a space that allows that person’s true self to come out as well. This is why the best leaders have learned to become comfortable with silence, to listen more than they talk, and to allow themselves to become instruments that help others to recognize their own greatness – not necessarily through anything that say or do, but rather through moments of presence that are created and shared with others.
So how does one cultivate a moment of presence?
It is really rather simple, though far easier said than done.
- The first step is to be still. That’s right. Sit still. I know it goes against everything you were probably taught about getting things done and being useful. But do it anyway. You can practice now, while you read this. Become aware of your breathing, of the space you are sitting in, of the weight of your body and how it feels in this moment. Feel the life inside you and trace it to each part of your body. Listen to the sounds around you. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.
- Become aware of your thoughts. Observe the activity of your mind as it continues to process whatever is there– thoughts like, “this is silly, really – I have way too much to do to be sitting here, doing this…” and “I have to remember to call so and so back today,” and “What did my [boss, colleague, friend, etc.] mean when he/she said…”. Recognize that you are not your thoughts, but rather the thinker of your thoughts. Simply watch them parade around, without getting sucked into them. Feel how much bigger you are than all of that. Continue to breathe it in.
- Step three…. There really is no step three. Simply continue to repeat steps one and two, immersing yourself more deeply into the experience with each breath. You don’t need to do this for an extended period of time, unless you want to. Often even a couple of minutes are sufficient to bring you to a more intense state of awareness and aliveness.
In these moments of presence, you will experience things on a different level – one that allows you to respond from a deeper, wiser part of yourself. And when you are with others, you will bring out that deeper, wiser part of them as well. Presence is incredibly powerful to practice with others. The process is the same, except that you expand your awareness to take in the other person as well.
Look into their eyes, and listen to what they are saying. But listen to what they are not saying as well. Presence is more about being than doing. So allow yourself to truly BE with another, devoid of judgments, labels, and agendas. When you listen from this place, you are like water to a thirsty plant, allowing others to open up and soak in needed nutrients.
And in this space, they may just find the answers they seek as well – not because you are giving them, but because you have created a space that is illuminating for everyone.
For more on cultivating presence and how it can enrich both your leadership and your life, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.
As an executive coach, I work with leaders in both large and small organizations – who are passionate about creating inspired workplaces.
They want to break the unspoken, unwritten rules of organizations that say…
- …that the version of yourself you bring to work is different than who you are at home.
- …that work is a place where you do what your boss says and don’t ask a lot of questions.
- …that you have to suck it up when what you are tasked to do doesn’t jive with who you are.
- …that you have to keep your head down and just make it through the day, the week, the month, the year and collect your paycheck regularly enough to feed your family and make ends meet.
These leaders inspire me.
They have come to a place where they know there has to be more to life than just going through the motions, getting through the day, doing what’s required, going home and turning on the TV until the next day comes. They want more for themselves and they want more for their people.
Some of them are in organizations with traditional structures and old paradigms.
Not intentionally designed to limit people, but born of cultures that despite the latest management trends and empowerment classes on possibility thinking and shared vision still reward command and control, lead to power plays and foster the idea that if you don’t watch your back you could get stabbed.
One of my clients was discouraged by his boss from getting too close to his subordinates.
He was told doing so could cause him to lose his “edge” with them. He was told he may not be viewed as a leader if his people know too much about him and see him as a real person with fears and dreams and idiosyncrasies and humor.
But he knows that kind of leadership won’t unlock the potential in his organization. He knows that won’t light people up. He knows that won’t foster trust. He knows that isn’t what makes people go the extra mile when they are already tired and beaten. And he’s sick of playing that game.
So he’s trying something new. He’s sharing more of himself. More of his vision. More of his hopes and concerns and experiences for better or worse. He is encouraging dialogue. He’s asking what people think and sticking around long enough to hear (and really listen to) what they have to say. He is helping them find ways to breathe life into their greatest ideas and visions. And he is learning to get out of the way and trade the illusion of control for embracing possibilities that lead people (including himself) to enter into and navigate through uncertainty.
Another client is getting ready to engage his leadership team in ways that they aren’t used to.
He wants to roll out a whole new paradigm of doing things. And he is quite aware that words like “increasing shareholder value,” “fostering excellence” and “exceeding customer expectations” – while good concepts, tend to make people’s eyes glaze over and dismiss what is being said as the latest corporate speak, rah rah, Dilbert like rant.
He realizes that he needs to get very clear about what he sees as possible for his organization and all the people in it. He needs to be able to distinguish what they are moving away from and moving toward and find out what they think is important and what it will take to get them there.
He wants to encourage dissention and constructive disagreement. He knows that if they don’t voice their concerns and questions and hesitations to him, they will do it with each other in a way that could invoke fear and resistance and squash the seeds of possibility as they begin to germinate and grow. He knows that a silent room doesn’t mean everyone agrees. He has the courage to delve underneath the surface to find out what’s really going on – even, and perhaps especially if it means they don’t agree with anything he is saying.
A third client heads up an organization already known as the very best at what they do.
They have customers lining up at the door. They have been recognized in their community as the go to for what they do. They are well respected in their industry. And yet, they are burned out. They are overwhelmed and just trying to make it through the day. Things fall through the cracks. Important details get overlooked.
And my client has run around fixing things as they break, preventing undesirable consequences and instituting practices that keep the organization profitable, efficient and effective. But his partners haven’t embraced them – in fact, in some cases they even harbor resentment. He knows he cannot create an inspired workplace singlehandedly. But he realizes his partners aren’t inspired – and that no amount of talking at them will get them there. So he is slowing down and beginning to have authentic conversations with each of them.
He wants to connect with them as people, to see what they believe in, what they are passionate about, what they want to create together, and what they think needs to be done to make it fly. He is opening himself up to their criticism, their doubts, their worries and also hoping to hear about their dreams. He doesn’t know if it is going to work. He isn’t sure how to begin these conversations, or whether people will really engage with him. But he is willing to do it anyway.
This is the essence of true leadership.
Some call it conscious leadership. It is the ability to authentically engage with people in the workplace in a way that promotes shared value, meaning and purpose and leads them to work together in service to something greater than themselves. It requires courage, patience, faith, trust, intuition, and self awareness.
And I salute them.
Creating an inspired workplace and exercising conscious leadership is something that doesn’t happen overnight. If you are interested learning about approaches and strategies for building an engaged, enthusiastic work culture that leads to high performance without burning people out in the process (starting with yourself), check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Registration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 to take advantage of the early bird discount!
“The key thing to remember is not that we need to be fast but that we are running a race that has no finish line. So the fuel that drives us needs to be made of something substantial — something for the heart that the head can also follow.”
~ Vincent Kralyevich, American film producer, director, author, art director and composer
Have you ever had an idea that made the hair on your arms stand up?
Maybe it’s a dream that beckons to you – one that holds promise for your future and that of others as well. When you think of the possibilities, you may find yourself feeling light, energized, and connected to something greater than yourself.
This is what inspiration feel like.
It is buoyant and powerful. Simple, yet strong. And it is contagious. Inspired action tends to touch others in a way that activates something inside of them as well. It connects them not only to you, but also to themselves. I like to think of inspiration as a pull – like a magnet that draws us toward something and gives us the power to bridge the gap – even if we aren’t sure exactly how to do it. Inspiration is something we receive and it comes to us when we are receptive to it. It requires trust, faith and patience.
Sometimes inspiration gets blocked.
What gets in the way of inspiration is our doubts, fears and faulty assumptions about what we can or cannot do, or what is even possible. These doubts are like layers of stuff that dilute the magnetic force of inspiration. Inspiration still beckons to us, but something stands in our way. This is where motivation comes in. It is something we summon up inside ourselves to get us to overcome the obstacles that are in front of us. And as leaders (regardless of your vocation, title, or role), it is something we often try to summon up in others to get them to do the same.
Motivation often takes the form of the carrot or the stick.
What gets us off the dime when we are balled up in our own fear is the willingness and the will to take action. Where inspiration is the pull, motivation is the push. The word motive is derived from motivation. Our motives can be in service to a higher good, or they can be in service to ourselves alone.
When motivation is aligned with inspiration, miracles can happen.
But when it is not, we will find ourselves feeling out of sync. Inspiration (a higher calling) without motivation (the will to act on it) leaves us feeling stagnant, stuck, and/or unfulfilled. When we refuse to answer our calls to greatness and play small instead, it is often because we have let our fear and doubt get the better of us. Though we may be very busy, we will likely feel as though we are not accomplishing anything of great significance.
Motivation serves us best when it works through obstacles in our own thinking that get in the way of acting on our inspiration.
Motivation without inspiration feels a lot like driving a car without power steering. Or it can be like trying to run through mud. It requires a lot of effort and strength and leaves us feeling exhausted. When motivation serves a higher purpose (that provided by inspiration), the load is lightened and the way becomes clear. But when the object of our desire is one that derives solely from our ego’s need for things like power, prestige, control, approval, or wealth, the push of motivation is not aligned with the pull of inspiration and we stray off course. That’s when things get difficult – we may feel as though we are exerting a lot of effort but not really getting anywhere.
Sometimes motivation and inspiration begin in alignment and then gradually become disconnected.
We start out feeling in sync, making great progress and experiencing a state of flow, and then hit a bump in the road. The bump may be a fear or some other kind of assumption that we need to examine and disempower before we can move on. Or, it may be that we simply need to wait awhile.
The cool thing about inspiration is that it comes from a higher source.
One that sees a bigger picture than we do. Sometimes there will be delays that we do not understand. Our egos can become impatient and steal the show – trying to push through these barriers with sheer force and exhausting us and everyone around us in the process. And once our egos are in charge, things have a way of deteriorating. Our motivation (or motive) mutates from being in service to a greater good to being in service to ourselves – or some ego need.
What do you do when things stall out?
It can be tough to discern what kind of action (or inaction) is required when we encounter an impasse. But if we get quiet, we can tap our source of inner wisdom to find the answers we need. When we purify our motives (motivation) so that they are in service to a higher calling (inspiration) we get back on the path that leads to greatest fulfillment for ourselves and everyone around us. And using motivation to remove the blocks that stand in our way will ensure that we actually make progress on that path and bring our greatness into the world in a way that inspires others to do the same.
My life’s work has largely been around unleashing inspiration in my own work and helping others to do the same.
And I’m so excited about a new program I’m about to launch where I will partner with a very small group (limited to eight people) in a highly transformational process. If you are interested in delving deeper into how you can infuse your life and leadership with inspiration and experience a greater sense of meaning, higher level of performance, and lasting fulfillment, I encourage you to check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow Group Intensive, an exclusive twelve-week group mastermind/coaching program/online training course kicking off on March 20. Sign up before March 10 and receive a 15% early bird discount!