Category Archives: Inspiring Yourself & Others

Centered in Conflict

 

flat shaped rocks stacked on top of each other representing being centered in conflict When was the last time someone caught you off guard with a piece of feedback or a message that felt like an attack?  How did you respond?

If it took you by surprise, chances are for a moment you may have lost your balance, moving  either away from the bearer of the message, or toward him or her (literally or figuratively).  If you leaned away, in an effort to avoid conflict or to crawl inside your comfort zone, you may have withheld your point of view or any response for that matter.  If you leaned forward, you may have thrust your point of view upon the other in a way that was more like a counter attack than a response.  Or perhaps you accommodated and sacrificed your own needs in order to maintain harmony.  Either way, you fell away from your center – your true place of power.

What does this mean?  If I am too attached to my own point of view, I am likely to force it on others and become rigid to anything that doesn’t seem to fit with it.  When I am stiff and lean too far forward, I am easily knocked over.  On the other hand, if I forget what I know and allow others to dictate what I believe, I will lose my footing and become easily manipulated.

But if I can get to a place of curiosity, where I can really listen to what someone else is saying and be willing to test my own assumptions without automatically believing they are absolute, I will be relaxed, agile, and strong.  When I am pushed, I will absorb the shock by allowing myself to be temporarily moved, and then come back to center – my place of strength.  I can integrate what others are saying, broaden my perspective, and allow myself to grow stronger as a result.  From this place of strength I will engage in communication that is far more productive.

Most of us will be knocked off balance periodically.  We may find ourselves swaying from one direction to the other.  But each time it happens, we can practice coming back to center – being willing to let go, relax, listen, and adjust accordingly.  In doing so, we will learn and grow.  We will transform ourselves and set powerful examples for others.  And in so doing, we will truly lead.

 

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”

~ Michael McGriffy, MD

If you’re feeling a bit off balance check out the The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, an exclusive 13-week leadership development program designed to help high achieving (and often overextended) leaders minimize pressure and stress so they can access their best work — and enjoy their lives more both on and off the job.

Though the spring program has now closed, registration for the fall program will open soon. To get on the waiting list, email Support@DianeBolden.com.

How You Can Use Frustration To Improve Your Effectiveness

Diane Bolden | Phoenix, Arizona Executive Leadership Coach

 

“I’m so tired of feeling unorganized and scattered all the time.”

A client told me in a recent meeting. He added, “I come into the office and there are papers flung all over my desk, half started projects buried in piles with new requests heaped on top of them. But I never seem to have time to go through them because by the time I get there, a line of people waiting to talk to me has already formed outside my door and I have no choice but to spring into action. And my days are full of requests that add new papers, projects and action items to a pile that grows faster than it shrinks.”

He felt like Sisyphus – like he was constantly pushing a big rock up a hill only to have it roll back down as soon as he got near the top.

“What do you think I should do about it?” he asked me. I knew he wouldn’t like my answer.

“Move into it,” I told him. “Tell me more about how starting your day like that affects the quality of your life.”

He was perplexed. “Why would I want to move into something so awful? Shouldn’t I be figuring out how I can move away from it? Rise above it?”

He was essentially living as Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, constantly reliving the same day over and over again. However, there are hidden gifts in such a predicament.

Fuel

That is the reaction most of us (including yours truly) have when faced with an unpleasant predicament. But rising above an unpleasant predicament often requires us to change habits or patterns that are ingrained and comfortable. And initiating and sustaining a change like that requires fuel — fuel that will allow us to break through our obstacles and limitations at the very moment when it seems most difficult.

Change occurs when the pain of the current state is greater than the perceived pain of making a change, and the pleasure of making a change is greater than the pleasure (or payoff) of staying the same. 

When you truly move into your frustration, you begin to open your eyes widely to recognize the impact a problem is having on your life. You allow yourself to accept that this pain will continue until you do something about it. And until you are truly ready to do something about it, you will continue to do what you’ve always done and suffer as a result.

This can be done long before you know what that solution is. And just as you can move into your pain, so too can you move into the pleasure of what life would be like without your problem. This too, serves as fuel that will ultimately allow you to do what it takes to create and implement a lasting solution.

Insight

Moving into your frustration illuminates not only the problem, but also the underlying factors that contribute to and exacerbate that problem. It gives you insight.

Most of us instinctively move away from pain, firing shots over our shoulder at what we believe to be the antagonist without really recognizing or locking onto a target.

To really know what needs to be done to slay the beast, my client needed to take a closer look and recognize what it eats, how it grows stronger, and how he might unwittingly be feeding and nurturing it. That’s exactly what moving into the frustration with a spirit of curiosity does.

When he got curious about his predicament, he began to notice that he had a tendency to book his appointments back-to-back, starting first thing in the morning and say yes to more things than he could realistically accomplish. He realized that he didn’t have a clear sense of what was truly a priority and that in the absence of that clarity, he was making everything number one — except his own sanity.

The more awareness he cultivated in the presence of his frustration, the more he began to identify and understand what was really causing your frustration. This also led my client to discover and embrace the third gift of frustration.

Possibility

Insight opens the door to possibility. Once you have an understanding of the factors that cause or contribute to a problem, you begin to recognize a multitude of options that can lead to lasting resolution.

In the days and weeks that followed, my client identified a number of strategies that could potentially work for him, including scheduling, communication, and delegation tactics.

The next time you feel like you are living the life of Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day, remind yourself that frustration comes bearing gifts. Reliving the same experience over and over again isn’t so bad if it ultimately yields fuel, insight, and possibility. Move into your discomfort, pay attention, get curious, and connect the dots. Then, you too will find a way to transform your frustration into freedom.

If you are interested in additional strategies for recognizing and moving beyond self-limiting patterns of behavior and thought, I encourage you to check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed:  The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, an exclusive 13-week leadership development program kicking off the week of April 1st.

How to Get What You Really Want

 

DianeBolden_FB_06.06.17“What do you really want?”

I ask my clients and myself this question. We answer:

  • I want things to go my way.
  • I want to come out on top.
  • I more wins and fewer losses.
  • I want my problems to disappear.
  • I want to be profitable.
  • I want to be successful.
  • I want to be respected.

All understandable, relatable.

But the follow-up question is just as important.

“What would that give you?”

This one stumps people. But the answer is usually something about getting peace of mind, satisfaction, happiness and a feeling that all is as it should be in the world.

What if you could have that now?

Sign you up, right?

It starts by recognizing that that the quality of your day – the feeling of getting what you want – is a direct reflection of your thoughts.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

You are about to go into a high-pressure meeting.

You know what you need to do to come out on top. Of course, you want to win, you want to be respected and your agenda dictates that the meeting must unfold in a certain way. Already your mind has created a definition of winning, of GETTING WHAT YOU WANT, that involves you playing your part and others in the meeting playing the part you have imagined for them.

If things don’t go exactly the way you envision, you are disappointed.

You may feel disrespected. If they do go your way, and someone else loses in the process because they must bow to your agenda, then the victory of that win is likely to fade quickly, leading you to seek another win.

What if you go into that same high-pressure meeting with a different mindset?

A mindset that views the meeting through the lens of all parties winning – even if the way to do that was not part of your original agenda? Go into the meeting seeking the best solution for everyone and watch what happens.

Up leveling your mindset allows you to see new possibilities and get better results.

Your mind will begin to entertain the thought that there could actually be a solution in which everyone wins. As a result, you will listen more intently. You will ask different questions. You will be more genuinely interested in what others have to say, because they are an important part of your solution. You will show respect others, and in so doing receive respect.

If you hold the intention of a meeting that everyone walks away from feeling better than when it started, you’ll go into that meeting with a quiet confidence, faith, trust and patience. You’ll take comfort in the wisdom of the group. You’ll start to find you are NOW getting what you want.

It sounds too easy.

Magical even. It’s no wonder since we’re conditioned to believe that we have to do something to get what we want, whether that’s money, respect or peace.

Let’s start again.

Think about whatever your mind if most occupied with and ask the question, What do I really want?

And then, what would that give me?

Take those questions to a higher level, one in which everyone involved benefits in some way.

Feel the ultimate end state as though it has already happened, even though you have no idea how it will happen. Can you rest in the certainty that things will happen in everyone’s best interest?

Let it flow.

Then as you go about your day or face this situation, let your actions flow from the state of mind you wish to achieve. Over time, you’ll realize that instead of having to see it to believe it, what you see will be a direct reflection of what you believe. Allow yourself to believe in the highest possible good for everyone, let go of how it will happen and watch miracles unfold in your life and those of everyone around you.

You won’t have to do anything to achieve that peace of mind, satisfaction and a feeling that all is as it should be because you already possess it.

This process is just one of the many techniques taught in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius to help you get the results you want with less stress and greater fulfillment. This exclusive 13-week leadership development program kicks off the week of April 1st and is limited to the first 25 people who enroll. Reserve your spot today!

Feel Like You’re Spinning Your Wheels? How to Get Unstuck

Diane Bolden - Leadership and Executive Coach

 

Have you ever had a really hard time getting something done? Something big?

When you are up against a large task or project, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the details and the magnitude of what is before you. Sometimes it hard to know where to start, and once you do it can feel like a never-ending process. To make matters worse, when the project you are working on necessitates that you do something new—something uncomfortable and challenging—it often elicits fear, frustration, and anxiety. All of these things can keep you feeling stuck.

In a state of overwhelm, the focus goes from the joy of getting something done to the aggravation of having something undone.

We can become mechanized in our attempts to figure out what needs to get done and exactly how to go about it. We may also put a lot of pressure on ourselves and beat ourselves up for things we haven’t done, rather than recognizing and acknowledging ourselves for what we have done.

In what is often an unconscious attempt to regain a sense of control, we are easily lulled into doing things that we know will be easier and potentially more enjoyable.

Some tasks don’t really need to get done right now (or ever) or should really be delegated to others, but we often prefer those. Some of the time-wasters we get sucked into include surfing the web, making idle conversation, cleaning out your inbox, or—my personal favorite—making more lists of everything we think needs to get done and identifying all the steps we need to take. This is actually a great thing to do when you’re focused, but, in a procrastination mode, it becomes to planning to plan—and then plan some more—until you have a rock solid strategy that you never actually execute.

It may feel like you are spinning your wheelsrunning like hell and just not getting anywhere.

 I know this, of course, because I have been there. Repeatedly. And I’ve worked with others who fall into this pattern, as well, to stop the madness by recognizing what’s happening and making a shift to get back on a road that leads them where they need to go.

One of the most powerful things I have found for breaking out of a “spinning your wheels” cycle is to take some time to revisit your purposeor the larger mission or goal behind what you are doing.

  • Get clear about what­—or who—the work is for.
  • Identify how it will improve the quality of life for yourself or those around you.
  • Reflect on the degree to which it will help people, contribute to something greater, or allow you to achieve a meaningful goal for yourself.

This doesn’t have to take hours and hours. Just pause for a few moments and ask, when this project/task/ initiative is finished, what larger goal or purpose will it accomplish? What would you like to accomplish? Write it down. Add to it as you think of additional bonuses. Then, sit for a moment and see if you can envision what it would feel like to satisfy that larger purpose, vision or goal. See if you can feel it so clearly that you are actually grateful for it.

This simple act will help you reconnect with something inside you that will propel you beyond the minutia. It will give you the courage and strength to walk through your fear or resistance to do something that you may not be so good at yet. And it will help you to get back to the joy that comes through the process as well as the attainment of the end goal.

When you approach things in this manner, all that you do will be instilled with a new energyone that uplifts, delights, and inspires.

Whatever you experience as you work on a project will be the same thing people will feel when they partake of the fruit of your efforts. The more we remember this, the more we will experience the satisfaction and gratification of having done something truly meaningful—something that lifts us out of the humdrum and into a place of brilliance. And all who come into contact with our work will be better off because of it.

Interested in additional strategies and practices for getting out of overwhelm so you can have more traction, make a greater impact, and infuse more life and meaning into your work? Check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Unleashing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.

Living the Dream

different size white ladders with the tallest ladder leading to a red and white bullseye target the represents living the dream

NOTE FROM DIANE…

Last week I did a Facebook Live video on how to overcome the three biggest obstacles to achieving your intentions, visions and goals.  The below article elaborates on some of the points I made in that video.  If you haven’t had a chance to see the Facebook Live, I encourage you to check it out.  It’s only my second one – something I’ve been inspired to do as a way of fulfilling my own personal vision for 2019.

Stay tuned (or subscribe) for more, and scroll to the end of this message for a time sensitive opportunity to work directly with me in an exclusive program that will kick off in April.  Now for today’s article…

What do you find easier – dreaming big, or finding a way to make those dreams come true? 

Most of us have more difficulty with the latter.  If you don’t, you may not be dreaming big enough.  I remember a time when one of my clients and I were musing about what makes realizing those dreams and visions so difficult.  We felt that the toughest part is connecting the vision to reality: Identifying and executing the steps that must be taken to get from here to there.

FROM VISION TO REALITY…

For years, I was convinced that having a vision and goals meant perceiving a clear and specific picture of what was to come and creating a plan that would ensure that certain milestones were met at designated intervals.  I was taught that goals had to be specific, measurable, and time bound (and have spent a good part of my career teaching others the same).  I would spend a significant amount of time wordsmithing these goals and creating something similar to a detailed project plan as though I could bend reality to my will.   And then life would happen and I’d get exceedingly frustrated when things didn’t fall into place the way I had planned.

The part of us that wants to identify a course of action that mitigates risk and controls all the variables is akin to a manager, whose responsibility is to plan, direct, organize, and control.  The challenge is that preconceived ideas of what must be and all that has to happen to bring it to fruition can never take into account all the unexpected twists and turns that each day throws at us.  So, the manager in each of us needs to take its orders from a higher authority.

FOLLOW YOUR HIGHER AUTHORITY

This higher authority is our inner leader.  The leader lives in the present, takes its cues from its inner and outer environment, and speaks to the hearts as well as the heads of its people.  It is often that part of us that rises up and recognizes when we must make a change in course in order to realize our greater visions.  It blends concrete data with intuitive hunches and moves much more fluidly.

The manager in each of us often wants to fix things and tends to place more attention on what is wrong than what is right.  It is so concerned with problems that it has a way of identifying with them and unwittingly propagating them.  The manager would have us set goals about the behaviors we want to stop, and the things about ourselves that aren’t good enough.

These goals almost always fail because they lead us to identify with the very state we wish to rise above.  We enter into them from a state of lack, and though our behaviors may temporarily change in accordance with detailed plans we have outlined for ourselves, our thoughts about who we are and what’s wrong keep us tethered and ultimately lead us to act in ways that reinforce old habits and patterns.

MOVE INTO POSSIBILITY AND POTENTIAL

The leader focuses on possibilities and speaks to that part of ourselves and others that has the capability and potential to achieve it.  It sees through the eyes of someone who has already realized their goals and visions rather than identifying with the experience of not having been able to do something in the past.  The leader in each of us knows that action follows thought and invests time in identifying limiting beliefs and trading them for something more empowering.  Rather than moving away from an undesirable place, it focuses on moving toward that which it desires to create.

With the leader in charge, the manager’s willfulness is balanced with willingness – willingness to change and adapt even the best laid plans, to reach higher, and to trust that something greater than ourselves will help us get where we most need to go.

Interested in more on how to bridge the gap between vision and reality and follow the cues of your inner leader?  The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Unleashing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius is coming soon!  Registration will be limited to 25 people, and I’m in the process of hand selecting participants.  If you would like to schedule a complimentary consultation call to see if you (and/or others from your organization) are a good fit, contact support@DianeBolden.com.

Let Go and Lead

 

two fists in the air breaking free from the chains to let go and leadOne day I had the opportunity to listen to Marshall Goldsmith, one of America’s finest executive coaches speak.  Though the man has a number of incredibly insightful things to say on any given moment, one thing he said that day made an impact on me that I still feel years later.  The audience was eager to benefit from his wisdom.  He took the stage and paused a moment before speaking.  Then he told us to hold onto our seats while he told us something we probably didn’t want to hear.

“Those ‘to do’ lists you are carrying around – your inboxes and piles of papers – all those thing you seek to get to the bottom of,” he said.  “You need to realize right now THAT YOU WILL NEVER EVER FINISH THEM ALL.”

I remember my heart sinking when I heard that news, though I knew in my soul what he was saying was true.  He went on to explain that once we grasp this little piece of knowledge we will be so much more productive, effective and creative.

His wise words echo in my mind when I feel I have become a slave to my productivity principles.  How many times did you feel that everything had to be in its place before you could really move forward – start on that project you have been putting off, write that book, return those calls, launch that campaign?  And how many times did you allow your need for perfection to keep you from acting at all?

Now, don’t get me wrong – I do believe order is important.  But it must be in service to our larger purposes, not a substitute for them.  Perhaps there is wisdom in a bit of chaos.  Maybe if we weren’t so preoccupied about planning out every little detail and needing to feel “in control” of it all, we could let go and allow our inner knowing to cut through the piles and tell us exactly what we need to focus on in each moment, whether that be a project or a person.  Perhaps there is inspiration just waiting for us to create enough space for it to get through.  We cannot do this by becoming busier, hunkering down and trying harder to do that which may not even need to be done at all.

The inspiring, confident, courageous voice of a leader often starts as a small still voice that competes for our attention among all the other things we think we need to be doing.  How will you quiet yourself for a few moments today to hear what it is telling you?

“It is always amazing how many of the things we do will never be missed. And nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”

~ Peter F. Drucker

 

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.


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Bouncing Back: Perseverance Personified

 

plant growing through crack and bouncing backWinston Churchill once said, “Success is not final and failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts.”   Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  These words of wisdom lead me to ponder even the definitions of the words “success” and “failure“.  Perhaps they are nothing more than labels we use for experiences that could very well be integral stepping stones for the people having them.  Both words are laden with judgment, leading us to want to move toward one and away from the other.  But what if they are simply two sides of the same coin?

“The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure.  These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.”       

~ Vince Lombardi

Consider the following events in each of these people’s lives:

  • It has been said that Abraham Lincoln failed in business twice, had a nervous breakdown and was defeated in eight elections.
  •  Walt Disney was fired by the editor of a newspaper who felt he lacked creative ideas.
  •  As a boy, Thomas Edison was told by his teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything.
  •  Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda, was turned down for an engineering job by Toyota.
  •  Before becoming a successful actor, John Wayne was rejected from the United States Naval Academy.
  •  Lucille Ball was dismissed by drama school with a note that read, “Wasting her time… she’s too shy to put her best foot forward.”
  •  Steven Spielberg unsuccessfully applied to film school three separate times.
  •  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
  •  Baseball legend Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times.
  •  The first novel of best-selling novelist John Grisham was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses.
  •  Robert M. Pirsig’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by 121 publishers before it was published in 1974 and went on to sell millions of copies in 27 languages.
  • The Beatles were turned down by the Deca recording company, who said, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on its way out.”

This list could go on and on.  What each of these people have in common is that they didn’t let labels like “success” or “failure” define who they are.  They didn’t allow the events in their lives (or their thoughts and judgments about them) to get in the way of their dreams or their beliefs in what they were capable of – and what was possible.  And their courage, perseverance and determination benefitted not just themselves, but countless others – many of whom came generations later.

I came across another great quote by a woman named Susan Taylor who said, “Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth.”  If this is true, perhaps what some call “failure” is actually a catalyst – or even a prerequisite –  for what others call “success”.

What is going on in your life right now?  What if it is exactly what you need to experience in order to get where you most want to go?

 

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.


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Become a Leader – The One Factor that Can Make or Break You

female sitting in a chair with a lightbulb lit up above her head and thinking about becoming a leader

In fall of 2010, I was interviewed by an Arizona Republic reporter for an article on how to best position yourself to move from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager.  As I prepared for the interview, I began to reflect on the question of what differentiates successful leaders from struggling managers.  Among the several factors I could identify, one loomed larger than any of the others – your MOTIVATION for wanting to become a leader will make all the difference in the level of success you will have. 

Many people believe that becoming a manager is the next best step because of the increased pay, prestige and upward mobility it will bring.  And while it is often true that such a promotion will allow you to enjoy these things – if that is your only reason for wanting it, you will do yourself, the organization you work for, and all the people with whom you will interact a huge service if think a little more about your options before you charge full speed ahead.

Moving into management requires people to shift their focus from achieving individual success to achieving collective success.  And the determining factor of that success changes from what you are able to do on your own to what you are able to accomplish through others.  If your main interest is your own career mobility, you will have difficulty gaining the trust and respect of others that is necessary to influence and enable them to succeed.  And if they do not succeed, neither will you.

Wanting them to succeed is not enough.  You must be committed enough to their success to take the time to coach, mentor and otherwise support them to reach their career goals.  If this does not appeal to you, it will feel like drudgery –something you must do that takes you away from all the things you would rather be doing.  But if this work does appeal to you, every day will offer new opportunities to find meaning and fulfillment in your work – by helping others discover themselves to be greater than they initially realized, and working toward something bigger than yourself.

Moving into management requires people to shift from the tactical and operational to the strategic.  That means that all the things you were good at as an individual contributor will no longer be sufficient to enable you to succeed as a manager and a leader.  You will need to enable and rely on others to do those things so that you are freed up to do more strategic, big picture things – things that will require you to go out of your comfort zone.

Your focus must shift from the workings of your individual job to how all the jobs in your department complement each other and what you can do to allow the work of your department to best mesh with other departments and contribute to the organization as a whole.  The problems you’ll address will have a larger span and impact those you were previously accustomed to working on and you will need to collaborate with people you may not have otherwise had to interface with.  Additionally, a large part of your job will be envisioning and helping to create a better future – one that will allow the organization as a whole to succeed.  Identifying and addressing opportunities that are coming around the bend and matching them to people with the talent necessary to seize them will become a vital part of your work.

It is not uncommon for people in management positions to find that these jobs don’t feel like they’re all they were cracked up to be.  If you are one of them, it is important to realize that this doesn’t mean you failed.  It simply means that you have succeeded in getting that much closer to finding work that is aligned with your true self – work that will not only bring you satisfaction and fulfillment but also the opportunity to make a vital contribution.

Get busy identifying what you are truly motivated to do.  Many organizations have technical tracks that offer the same (or more) upward mobility and financial reward that management tracks do.  Pay attention to the opportunities that have beckoned to you in the past – even the ones you thought were too crazy to entertain.  If you have a recurring dream of doing anything other than what you are doing now, give it more credence.  It just may be the ticket that allows you to find the job of your dreams – and the chance to exercise your own distinct form of leadership, by doing what you were truly meant to do.

 

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.


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Transcending Tradition – Becoming You

a bright pink tulip standing out from a field of only white tulips transcending tradition

Several years ago, I started learning karate with my kids.  It began with the desire to do something fun with my children that would help us all to learn new things and grow together.  Like many people who begin martial arts, my thoughts were mostly around learning the physical application of a practice that would help me and my children defend ourselves and learn to do things we didn’t know how to do before.  What I didn’t realize back then was how much I would learn about myself and life in general.

Karate students are typically taught the basic techniques when they begin – strikes, kicks, blocks, etc.  In the beginning stage, the emphasis is on how to physically perform these techniques, rather than understanding the application – which comes later, once the performance of the technique is a bit more solid.  Gradually, we learned to perform choreographed sequences of basic techniques called katas and one steps.  The next level of difficulty we were introduced to, was to utilize these techniques in a non-choreographed way doing things like sparring or self-defense.

One day, we were asked to perform something called a Shuhari kata.  This was rather unnerving, because unlike the choreographed katas we had been learning, a Shuhari kata is purely the creation of the person doing it.  In other words, you begin the sequence standing in the middle of a floor with people expectantly watching you.  After a command is issued, your task is to create your own sequence and flow using basic techniques that you have learned up to this point.  It requires you to break free of tradition and anything that has been done before, to invent your own application and creative form – one that is completely unique to you.  Shuhari, we were told, would never be the same from one person to another – or even one application to another, as they are performed in the moment in response to each person’s imaginative and inspired impulses, which constantly change and evolve.

So there we were, called up one by one to perform these Shuhari katas, while being carefully observed by karate masters who had taught us everything we had learned, and fellow students.  My first Shuhari kata was rather stilted.  I was self-conscious, consumed by the thoughts in my head of wanting to get “right” something that I was told there was no right way to do.  I felt certain that I would do something completely inappropriate, something that would draw laughter or judgment.  I wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.

I still feel that way to some degree about doing a Shuhari kata.  But over time, I learned that there is something freeing and exhilarating that happens when you give yourself completely to something – when you forget about the people watching you and your own need to do it any certain way, and you give yourself license to invent and to go with whatever you are feeling in the moment.

Upon reflection, I realize how similar Shuhari is to life itself.  During the early parts of our lives we are taught how to survive in the world –what is appropriate and not, how to speak, act and otherwise behave in any given environment – at school, at work and within a variety of other social settings.   The “Shu” in Shuhari is roughly translated as learned from tradition, which is where we all begin from an early age.

At some point, we realize that independent thought is necessary. The rules we were taught as children don’t always apply in every situation.  We must use some discernment to determine what behavior will best meet the needs of both our environments and ourselves.  We begin to recognize the individual styles and preferences we all have and how in some cases they may go against the “norm.”  The “Ha” in Shuhari means to break free of traditional training.  When we take a stand against a status quo we believe is no longer serving the greatest good, we have reached this new stage of development.

I believe that at some point in our lives, we will find ourselves in a place where we are called to transcend all that we have been taught and conditioned to do and to learn to recognize and flow with our own unique gifts and creative inclinations.  The “Ri” in Shuhari represents that stage in martial arts, when the student is able to go beyond tradition because of their understanding and insight into the martial arts.  All of the greatest artists and masters – in any discipline – have at some point gone beyond emulating the techniques and styles of others to find and applied their own.

It will not always be easy.  Just as those who are asked to perform a Shuhari kata, we will be carefully observed by others who engage in and may have even taught us the traditional ways.  We will feel exposed, vulnerable and we may lose our nerve.  But the more we learn to give ourselves to the inner promptings of our own unique gifts, talent and intuitive insights and inclinations, the freer we will be, and the more beautiful the world around us will become – as a result of what we have given to it from the very core of our being.

“Insist on yourself; never imitate… Every great man is unique.”  

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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.


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Beyond the Bulletproof Image – How Being Vulnerable Makes You Strong

 

dandelion withstanding the elements outside representing a bulletproof imageI can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with over the course of my career who believe that to be a credible, strong leader, you must come across as infallible, having all the answers – being rock solid.  Newer leaders often feel as though they do not have a lot to offer in meetings and other gatherings because they do not know much yet.  Out of fear of being exposed as someone who is not on top of their game, many times they remain silent – when in actuality the questions they would otherwise ask out of sheer curiosity and desire to learn could become the very impetus the organization needs to see things with fresh eyes and recognize opportunities they previously missed.

On the other extreme, I occasionally meet with people who on the face of things have it all together.  They are poised, polished, and seemingly the picture of perfection.  And they are often stumped at why they have been unable to motivate and inspire their people to new levels of performance and success.  Initially, I sometimes find it difficult to connect to people like this and often go on to learn while gathering feedback for them that others do too.

I think it’s because the rock solid persona they project is rarely a true representation of who they really are. And before you can engage the hearts and minds of others as visionary leaders do, you must be able to connect with them – and they must feel a connection to you.

The problem with needing to have a bulletproof image is that very few, if any, people in this world are really “bulletproof.”  In fact, if ever there were a trait or characteristic that is shared by virtually the whole human race, it is that we all have fears, insecurities and misgivings.  We all make mistakes.  We all know far less than we would like to or even have the capacity for.  These things that make us humble and vulnerable connect us to each other in profound ways that are often overlooked and/or unacknowledged.

Think of the people in your life who have inspired you over the years.  Maybe it was someone close to you – like a parent, teacher, or coach.  Or perhaps it was a public or historical figure.  If you try to identify the qualities in that person that really made an impact on you, it is likely not so much what they achieved in life as what they had to overcome in order to do it – disappointment, failure, challenge, fear, perhaps even an illness or handicap of some kind.

So it seems there may be something to gain by allowing these little things we have been conditioned to hide from each other to be a bit more visible.  First of all, it takes a lot of pressure off of you.  When we learn to take ourselves a little less seriously and give ourselves permission to not know everything, we move beyond worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of us to be truly present with other people – to really listen to them, to be curious about their unique perspectives, ideas, and insights.  The emphasis goes from having to showcase our knowledge, competence and stature to learning from others and helping them to feel valued and appreciated. 

Secondly, when we are less guarded about our fears, misgivings and challenges, we realize that these things are nothing to be ashamed of.  Because in spite of them, we have risen up to the challenges in our lives.  And sometimes the most inspiring thing we can do for others is help them to realize that though they are in the thick of their own fear, they too can find something within them that will allow them to bounce back or rise up – to recognize a strength they didn’t realize they had – and to use it in a way that truly benefits not just themselves, but everyone around them.

“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates

 

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.


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