You’ve just been promoted. The excellent work you have been recognized for has landed you a new job with expanded responsibility and significance. Perhaps you lead an organization of other talented professionals who now look to you for guidance and support. Maybe you are a leader of leaders.
The game you were playing just got bigger – and so did the playing field.
And your role has changed. What earned you this promotion will not be enough to allow you to succeed in your new role. In fact, if you continue to do what you did before, you may actually sabotage your newfound success.
You have gone from player to coach — or perhaps manager/owner. And if you jump back into the game, no one will be there to call the shots, to develop the talent, to create a strategy to advance the standing of the team, to gain the supporters and funding that will allow the team to continue to play.
Yet despite these consequences, you — like many leaders faced with similar opportunities — may have difficulty with the transition. You may have fears:
- Fear than no one can do things as well (or better)
- Fear of becoming obsolete
- Fear of failure
Fear that no one can do things as well (or better)
The problem with this fear is that it is actually well-founded. Chances are, especially if you are at the top of your field, very few will be able to do the job as well as or better than you can. But that doesn’t mean you should be doing it for them — or even along with them.
And yet you will be tempted to. Especially when the stakes are high. Or when things get extremely busy and it seems like targets will not be met if you don’t jump in or take over altogether. You may hover over people, micromanaging them or smothering them with well-intentioned guidance.
But your very fear that things will fall through the cracks may well cause that which you most want to avoid. Maybe not in the short term. In the short term, you may revel in your ability to keep the balls from dropping and save the day. But as more and more begins to be added to your plate, your problem of not having people who are skilled enough to take the baton will be even greater than it was before.
Worse yet, you will have conditioned the very people you need to develop to become dependent on you and quite comfortable performing at much less than their true capacity. In the meantime, the bigger, more strategic work that you have graduated to will be piling up and fairly significant opportunities will pass you by.
Your people may well be on a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning. They won’t get everything right. And they may resist taking on the responsibilities you used to perform. But you need to transition from performer to coach.
Give them opportunities to try things out. Let them make mistakes. Then help them to learn from those mistakes and perfect their craft. And do the same for yourself in your new role.
This leads us to the second common fear that keeps leaders from playing a bigger game.
Fear of becoming obsolete
It’s not necessarily a rational fear. After all, leaders who are on the brink of playing a bigger game have plenty to do. They have a whole new role to fill. But that doesn’t stop people from worrying at some level that if they teach and empower others to do what got them accolades and attention that they will somehow lose their edge and fade into obscurity.
Often when people have performed a certain role or become masterful at a particular skill, it can become infused with their very identity. And until they have performed in their new role for awhile and become accustomed to the different kinds of activities and opportunities that it brings, they are likely to continue to identify with their old role. Which may lead them to wonder, “if I’m not that anymore, who am I?”
This ambiguity and lack of role clarity can send people back to what they know is comfortable and familiar, even when they have outgrown it. And even when going back there isn’t in their best interest (or the best interest of those they lead.)
To counteract this, it is important to fully grasp the opportunities and possibilities that playing a bigger game brings. It allows you to go from being immersed in the game with a view limited from one point on the playing field to seeing the game from several different angles. You can evaluate each player’s contribution and the way they work together.
You can change the way the game is played — and in some cases, even change the rules. But only if you free yourself up from the myriad of tasks that will always be there beckoning you to come back into the operational and out of the strategic. And the lure of the old role becomes even more enticing when you factor in the next fear that keeps many leaders from playing a bigger game.
Fear of failure
When you go from executing the plays to determining what those plays should be, you enter unchartered territory. First off, it is likely something you won’t have a lot of experience doing. And when you don’t have a lot of experience doing something, it is uncomfortable.
You may not be very good at it in the beginning. It will be messy. You will second-guess yourself. And you will likely miss being able to do your work with the same level of confidence and ease that you did before.
It will feel a lot like going from being a senior to becoming a freshman again.
Second, the very nature being a strategic player will require you to navigate through uncertainty and ambiguity. You will be called on to blaze a trail where none previously existed. While this can be incredibly exciting and invigorating, it can also be somewhat daunting and stressful.
And when the pressure gets high, you may find it incredibly tempting to get sucked back into doing things you shouldn’t be doing anymore. Things you can check off your list and feel a sense of accomplishment from. Things that restore your confidence and give you the illusion of being in control. Things that would be better delegated to others. Or not done at all.
So when that happens, you need to remind yourself that whatever you did that allowed you to rise to new heights wasn’t likely something that always came easily to you. You had to start somewhere and struggle in the beginning before you began to gain competence and confidence. But you stuck with it and gradually got better and better. And you can do that again now.
Leadership is about “going before” others. Your new promotion will require that you wade through your fear, your discomfort, your resistance and your uncertainty to find within you the core of your true potential and act from it. And as you do so, by your very example, you will lead others to grow, expand, push their limits and play a bigger game as well.
Playing a bigger game often brings pressure and anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. You can make a bigger impact without running yourself ragged – and enjoy the process along the way. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive will show you how. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.
Lately, I have been marveling over the wonder that is the internet.
My kids called me “ancient” when I explained that when I was a student, doing a research paper entailed spending hours in a library pouring over books and periodicals to get the required information. They can’t imagine what a world without the internet would be like. And frankly, neither can I. The vast amount of data available at our fingertips at any given moment is truly amazing. Most of us don’t really think all that much about it anymore. We just expect it.
What if you had a faster way of accessing your inner wisdom?
After musing a little more, it hit me that the logical mind is to the library as intuition (or gut instinct) is to the internet. When we are in our heads, using logical, analytical thought it’s a lot like only being able to read the books on a bookshelf, or using a computer that is offline. We only have access to the data that is stored in the immediate vicinity, which can be largely outdated or even obsolete.
And living in our heads often requires quite a bit of time and energy to try to figure stuff out and make things happen just the way we think they should. When it doesn’t, we often get frustrated, try harder to get everything to work, and ultimately feel like we just keep hitting walls. The frustration can lead us to cut ourselves off from our intuition, which like the internet, has access to far greater things than we might realize.
Intuition connects us to a rich source of data we may not otherwise notice.
Accessing our intuition allows us to connect to knowledge that surpasses what we can directly see, feel, hear, touch, or taste. We plug into information that allows us to feel connected to others – to hear beyond the words they are speaking to what they are not saying but feeling. We tap into the realm of possibilities and opportunities and begin to discern what we can do to leverage and act on them. We can also pick up warnings about options that are not in our best interest. When we are in our heads, we miss these things and/or inclined to resist them because they are seemingly irrational or inexplicable.
Connecting to intuition allows us not only to receive data but also to send it.
It’s a lot like doing a search on the internet. When you want to learn about something, you enter a key word and then receive a variety of links that will take you to more information on the subject. Similarly, when you set your intention on something you want in your life – peace, clarity, or a satisfying resolution in some conflict or challenge – you send a signal to the vast field beyond what is in your head that gathers information and energy aligned with that intention and brings it into your awareness. You access an infinite field of creativity and wisdom from which the greatest inventions, discoveries, and creations of our time originated.
We all access intuition in our own way.
For some, it is visual – like seeing a picture or words on a screen or in the mind. Others can get it through audio, perhaps picking up words in a song, a conversation, or even hearing words in their heads. And many of us get a feeling or a strong prompting to do one thing or another. Sometimes our experiences themselves take on increased significance when we begin to recognize that what is taking place has some relation to our inquiry or intention. When we act on these inklings, things have a way of falling into place in such a way that our intention comes to pass.
Unlike the internet, our connection to this greater field is always accessible.
When we consciously rely on it, keeping our thoughts focused on what we want most in life, we will experience a sense of flow, peace, and deep satisfaction that mirrors our state of mind. When we allow our connections to become interrupted with frustration, doubt, anxiety and fear, we tend to draw to ourselves experiences that match those thoughts.
Try it and see for yourself.
The next time you catch yourself feeling anxious or stressed—frustrated about not being able to solve a problem, resolve a conflict, tackle a challenge—make a conscious decision to move from your head to your gut, and then balance the two. Choose what you want to experience and allow that to be your guiding intention. Your intuition will allow you access to ideas and possibilities that are just outside the boundaries of your mind, and your head will help you process and act on that information in a way that brings you what you want.
Accessing your intuition enables you to up level your leadership and your life.
If you are interested in a guided experience that allows you to reconnect to your inner wisdom and strength and find the answers you need to usher in 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 small group mastermind/coaching program/online training course kicking off on March 20. Sign up before March 10 and receive a 15% early bird discount!
It’s a question people often ask each other this time of year. I don’t know if I’m ever ready – from the standpoint of having all the boxes checked, anyway.
I know there are people out there – you may be one of them – who finished their holiday shopping weeks ago, had their houses beautifully decorated on or before Thanksgiving day, and seem to find the time to send handmade cards to everyone they know. I have secretly dreamt of being one of those people, and maybe someday I will be.
I tend to identify more with those still scurrying around at the last minute. You know, the ones dashing to the mall on Christmas eve for that one last present they forgot about and return home to feverishly wrap gifts before people come over – all the while swearing that next year will be different.
What I really long for is to simply enjoy every aspect of the holidays.
It is a season of giving, sharing, and celebrating something bigger than ourselves. It brings us together and transforms our everyday lives into something sacred.
And this opportunity is always available to us.
With every gift we buy or wrap, every card we send, or every decoration we hang, we have the ability to infuse it with presence – our ability to be truly engaged not only with whatever it is we are doing, but with the bigger reason of WHY we are doing it – even if we get a late start.
Perhaps the ideal is not in being able to do more things sooner, but to put more of ourselves into the things we are able to do now despite whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
When people pour their hearts into whatever they are doing, you can feel it.
The cards that arrive in our mailbox that have been perfunctorily generated don’t seem to move us as much as those people have taken the time to hand write something on – even if it is just our name. Likewise, the gifts that had some element of thought in them often end up meaning more to us than those someone spent a lot of money on. The true spirit of giving is more about the spirit than the gift itself.
And the spirit of giving and celebration doesn’t have to end in December.
We have the ability to enrich every moment of our lives with it. Albert Camus once said, “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” That means forgetting about all our preoccupations and busyness and being right here, right now – truly engaged in the purpose of whatever it is we are doing and deeply connected to whoever we are with.
In business and in life, this practice separates the most truly prosperous and successful people from all the rest. They have a knack for making others feel valued and for infusing meaning into whatever it is they do or invite others to do. They spend their time doing what is most important and pour their hearts and souls into it. As a result, they are living examples of whatever they believe most strongly in.
Perhaps this is the true art of giving, living, and leading – one that transcends holidays and spills over into our every day lives.
It’s never too late to start bringing more presence and engagement into your life amidst the frenzy of a crazy schedule and ongoing demands, despite the time of year. Stay tuned for more information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow, or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.
Wishing you and yours a beautiful and blessed holiday!
It is especially enjoyable when my muscles are sore. I make a special effort to be as aware of every little sensation as I can – so that nothing escapes my perception. I want to completely immerse myself in the experience and enjoy every second of it. And when I do this, I have often felt as though it might be possible to slow time down. While this is likely not possible, I do think being intensely present allows us to fill each second of our time with more awareness, more enjoyment and more of life’s sweetness than ever.
I contrast this to how I have felt at the end of a long day.
Faced with somewhat banal or unpleasant activities as being stuck in traffic, cleaning up after our dog or cat, or getting a cavity filled, I’ve found that I can disengage altogether and occupy my mind with other things. And when I do, things seem to have a way of speeding up. The whole experience becomes distant and a bit blurred. I can drive all the way home and not be able to recall a single landmark I passed along the way.
Knowing I can slow down or speed up time for myself like this is interesting to me.
But what is even more intriguing – and somewhat unsettling – is the thought of how much of my life is spent somewhere between these two extremes, on a kind of auto pilot. How many times when talking with a friend has my mind been somewhere else – reviewing my “to do” list, thinking of what I could cook for dinner, or even determining what I want to say next? How many times when my kids came proudly marching into the house to show me their latest artwork did I half-heartedly glanced up from what I was doing and offer feigned enthusiasm? What I missed in those moments is something I can never get back.
I used to think it was vital to capture special times on film.
I lugged around a camera, camcorder (or both) at the kids’ recitals, ball games, or during vacations and holiday dinners. Then one day I realized I was so caught up in getting the perfect shot that I missed those precious moments altogether. And it’s never quite the same when you watch the video.
So I started resisting the urge to reach for those devices (or even bring them at all).
Instead, I made it a point to simply immerse myself in whatever was going on. And I believe the quality of my memories has improved significantly – even if I don’t have a lot of photos or videos to show for it.
What if we lived more often with the presence of not wanting to miss a thing?
How much stronger would we connect with each other? How much more of our special moments together would we actually experience and enjoy? How much more trust could we inspire and cultivate? How much more joy could we create?
How many more problems would we solve with solutions that addressed those little things that previously escaped our awareness and came back to bite us? How much more of our very selves could we bring to everything we do and everyone we are with? And how much better the world would be because of it!
Perhaps as we become more aware of the degree to which we are really showing up, we can begin to gauge how much of our lives we are truly living. And then we can consciously create – and enjoy – lives worth living for.
Conscious living is akin to engagement, a topic about which much has been written over the last several years. It is the lifeblood of not only enjoying our work and bringing our very best to it, but also to creating thriving organizational cultures that lead people to come alive, attract raving customers and allow people and organizations to stand out in the marketplace. If you are interested in increasing your own level of engagement and learning how to help others do the same, stay tuned for my upcoming online course and group intensive: The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow.
This program is designed to help high achieving professionals bring out their very best performance in such a way that fills them up rather than depleting them – and allows them to make a bigger impact doing meaningful, inspiring work while leading others to do the same. Stay tuned for more information or click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.
Have you ever had one of those days/weeks/months where it felt like one darn thing after another?
But these ideas enter into us long before they are ready to be brought into the world. They prepare us, transform us, and lead us through a myriad of experiences that allow us to develop what we need in order to manifest them.
These experiences are not always pleasant.
We suffer disappointments, setbacks, frustrations. During times like these it is easy to feel as though life would be just fine as soon as these turbulences subside. But what if these little disturbances are the very things we need in order to breathe life into these visions that lie within us?
How many of the world’s greatest healers once experienced some kind of malady that they needed to overcome on their own before they had what it took to help others through the same challenge? How many people transcended their suffering by finding meaning in it and then went on to help others do the same? How many leaders rose to great heights charged with a mission of improving an organization or a community after having experienced something that needed to be changed?
What does this suggest for you?
If your journey as a leader will require you to exercise courage, you may find yourself in several situations that scare the hell out of you. If it requires you to show compassion, you may find yourself in situations where you must learn to transform your anger into something more constructive.
You will continue to draw to yourself the experiences you need to develop what is required to bring your vision into the world. The blessing and the curse in all of this is that those experiences will continue to present themselves until you finally learn the things you need to learn.
We learn best through action.
Early in my career as an instructor and developer of courses and workshops, I realized that an effective learning experience required a balance of lecture and discussion with some kind of experiential activity that would allow participants to translate into action what they just learned in theory. Life has a beautiful way of doing this for us.
The funny thing is that in the classroom no one ever much seemed to enjoy breaking into pairs and triads and having to practice something they were not very good at yet, and the same thing seems to be true when those experiences present themselves in our daily lives.
But life doesn’t give up on us.
If it doesn’t go so well with one person or situation, we get another to practice on. And it doesn’t even matter so much how well we do with these challenges, as long as we show up and do what’s in front of us. We will continue to be given opportunities to choose different responses, learn from them and adapt our behavior once again.
Think about anything you ever had to learn.
You began at the beginning. You started with the easy stuff. Then when you became stronger and more capable, you went onto a more advanced level, where the challenges were tougher and you had to apply greater skill, muscle and intellect. You emerged from each of these lessons with something you didn’t have before. And you couldn’t have acquired it through any other route than your own experience.
Low and behold – there is order in chaos.
As I began coaching executives several years ago, the emphasis in my work shifted from trying to impart a lesson to helping people learn from their own experiences and see the perfect order in which things are unfolding in their personal and professional lives to help them get where they truly want to go.
The pertinent thing was no longer to give people answers, but rather to help them find their own and to recognize they already possess everything they need to get them through whatever challenge is before them. And this is something each of us can do as leaders to help those around us on their own journeys as well.
What is life trying to teach you or prepare you for right now?
And how can you seize these opportunities in front of you to bring out your very best so that you can help someone else do the same?
“The future enters into us in order to transform us, long before it happens.” – Rainer Maria Wilke
Several years ago I was rushing around trying to get somewhere quickly while worrying about what felt like a million things that were competing for attention inside my head. And then suddenly I felt the impact of a collision and the somewhat distinctive scent of burnt powder being released by the air bags in my car as my body was thrown into one of them. Just like that, everything stopped. And hours later, I sat in the passenger seat of a tow truck staring back at the crushed metal of the sports car I had purchased two months prior as my gaze went from the bed of the tow truck to the vehicles on the road below, each filled with people hurrying and scurrying to their destinations. It was as though I had been yanked from my own frenetically chaotic routine and made to sit still while I objectively observed that same mindless mania from a distance.
Earlier this week, I sat in a cardiovascular intensive care unit watching my husband recover from the seven plus hour surgery he had just endured. I felt a strangely similar sense of having been removed from the somewhat banal yet seemingly urgent tasks that tend to occupy my days and directly inserted into something that led me to feel as though time had somehow come to a complete halt. It was as though the volume on all the background noise in my life had been somehow silenced to allow the most integral parts to have their solo. Knowing that he was unconscious, but hoping he could somehow hear my voice or feel my presence, I realized words were completely inadequate to capture how I felt about him at that moment anyway – even if he could hear them.
All the craziness of the previous weeks somehow went away and everything that only one day before seemed so pivotal no longer even shared the same scale. Life’s momentous events have a way of trumping everything else in such a way that we question what it was we were so worked up about before anyway. And in these critical moments it seems the most vital things take on a razor-sharp focus. We remember what is really important. It’s as though we have been granted some kind of highly sophisticated vision that allows us to instantly and almost unconsciously differentiate the significant from the trivial. We feel that which we know in our hearts with such strength and magnitude that it almost bursts right out of us.
As I looked around others in the ICU – patients as well as their family members, I realized that in these places, people are at their rawest and most human. There are no facades, no airs, no agendas. And it isn’t just the gowns that leave people feeling exposed. We are ripped wide open in such a way that we come face to face with our very essence. In these moments, life takes on new meaning. These gut wrenching experiences that cut us to our cores give us the gift of returning us to our cores – so that we can remember how strong we really are, and come back to that which gives us true strength. We awaken to what is most real within us and find the ability to connect to what is most real in others.
I don’t think the only way to experience such a profound wake-up call is through tragedy, illness or trauma. We have the ability – and the choice – every day to pay attention to what we are paying attention to, and determine whether it is really worthy of our time and precious energy. We can open our eyes to the unfolding of each moment and allow the questions that haunt and beckon in the furthest corners of our minds to become magnified in such a way that we cannot help but hear and respond to them.
What gives your life meaning?
What are you really here to do?
And are you doing it?
If not, when will you start?
How about now?
Copyright Synchronistics Coaching & Consulting 2010. All rights reserved.
The more I work with people, the more I realize how very similar and connected we all are. At one time or another, we all ponder deeper questions of who we are, what it all means, and how we can take what we’ve got and use it to make an impact in some small (or large) way. More and more, people seem to be focusing their energy and attention on creating a life of meaning and significance and bringing more of who they really are to what they do.
This act of bringing out the very best of ourselves and others and focusing unique talents, strengths and energy into something that contributes to a greater good is what I call leadership. It transcends vocation, title and role. And it is more important now than ever.
Every day gives us a new opportunity to learn more about what we are capable of, what is possible, and how we can become part of something greater than ourselves. We learn both through our disappointments and our successes, as well as those of others. The best leaders habitually look beneath the surface to behold something greater and find a way to leverage it. There is much to be said on the convergence of life, learning and leadership. And that is exactly what this blog is about.
I believe there is something to be gained from collectively musing and reflecting on every day experiences. Perhaps by examining seemingly unrelated events, we can understand and appreciate the synchronistic current that seems to pulse through all of our lives. In the process we can unearth and harness the raw potential that lies waiting to be rediscovered within each of us – and in so doing, practice true leadership.
I don’t have all the answers. It seems no one really does. But I do have a lot of questions. And sometimes all it takes to find what we seek is curiosity coupled with the awareness that these answers come from many sources. May this blog be one more source of that wisdom – through the collective pondering and musing of a community of seekers like me and all the people I have had the good fortune to cross paths with over the course of my life.
Welcome friends, and Namaste.
For more on learning from and leveraging your everyday experiences, download Life’s Perfect Classroom at www.DianeBolden.com/articles and subscribe to the Synchronistically Speaking ezine while you are there.