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.
It is like climbing to the top long staircase to find ourselves on a landing, standing before a large glimmering door just waiting to be opened. As we look down, we realize how far we have climbed to get here. Yet, we cannot help but wonder what lies behind the door.
Often we underestimate the amount of growth we have achieved.
It’s important to take some time to reflect on the unique combination of experiences that have led to both successes and disappointments and what we have learned from them. When we do, we often gain the insight that helps us become aware of what we most need to do from this point forward.
I often work with people who feel they are ready for a change, but aren’t sure what that change should be. They aren’t necessarily miserable in their jobs or other areas of their lives – they just long for something that will fill them up in ways they haven’t been fulfilled in the past.
When I coach people who feel this way, they often want me to tell them what the next best step is – give them the answer, or perhaps a step-by-step process that will lead them to find what they seek. Of course, no person has these answers for another. Our greatest challenge and opportunity is to find them for ourselves.
Each of our lives has a story with perfect order and meaning.
As within a novel or screenplay, each character has a specific relationship to the main character and every scene has some relevance to his growth and evolution. There will be victories and disappointments, as well as twists and turns that transition us from one to another and back again.
We will have occasion to laugh, cry, and experience a myriad of other emotions that are somewhere in between. And as a result of this perfect combination of events and mini-plots, we discover ourselves to be better people.
When we are reading a book or watching a movie, the perfect order is often easier for us to see than it is for the characters enmeshed in the stories we are watching. Yet, the mystery and intrigue, the humor over each misstep, and the courage we see the characters exude to find their way give substance to the story and allow us to leave the book or the theatre feeling moved or inspired in some way.
As you reflect on 2016, can you identify your story’s most pivotal turns? What did you learn from them? Think about your character sketch. What are the endearing qualities you have that make you unique and special? How can you leverage them to build on the previous events to create a story worth telling?
Think also about the people that surround you. In what ways are they helping you grow? What are they teaching you about yourself – whether in joyful or painful ways? And what are the qualities they possess that are similar to and different than yours? How do you compliment each other, and what might it be that you can create together?
You now sit at the threshold of another chapter in your story.
Contemplate what you have already experienced and ask yourself how you might build upon it to add a bit of intrigue and adventure. Identify the ways that you could add a little lightness and humor. Think about the interplay between the characters and how you could spice things up a little.
We have each been given the makings of a beautiful tale. Open your eyes and survey them the way you would the perfectly planned detail of your favorite movie or novel. Give yourself completely to the adventure, the possibilities, and the humor in your life.
Then find a way to revel in the joy of living it.
As you turn the page to your life’s next chapter, consider emphasizing the experiences that help you gain clarity, wisdom, and momentum for years—or chapters—to come. Stay tuned for more insight into those moments and information on my upcoming online course and group intensive, The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom and Flow. Click here to get on the waiting list and get first priority (with no obligation) at the limited spots that will soon be available.
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.
My last couple of posts (A Story about Signs, Synchronicity & Meaningful Coincidences and Another Story about Signs, Synchronicity & Meaningful Coincidences) featured videos about experiences I had that gave me the courage I needed to take action toward something that I was excited about and a little scared of. The signs were clear and empowering. But sometimes we get signs or have experiences that are not so supportive or uplifting. And other times the signs we get are conflicting. What do you make of THAT?
Well, on that note, I have another story to tell you. Shortly after I gave my notice six years ago to leave my cushy job and start my own business, I met some friends/colleagues for dinner and was excited to tell them the news of my recent decision. I was still reeling from the sudden turn of events and though I was thrilled about the leap I had just taken, I was also feeling a bit nervous and vulnerable (as most people do when they move out of their comfort zones). I was hoping that they would give me added encouragement and support.
Unfortunately, they did not. In fact, they were quite adamant with their cautionary tales about several people they knew who had left their stable jobs only to find themselves barely scraping by and lamenting their decisions. GREAT. This is NOT what I wanted to hear. And it bothered me that two people I respected and admired — who were in fact successful independent consultants in their own right — were chastising me for my decision instead of congratulating me. (Yes, there was a little ego in there too.)
I left the restaurant feeling beaten and discouraged. I began to question myself and doubt my abilities. I worried that I had made a costly mistake. Was this a sign?
The next day I went running on a canal bank near my house, which I frequently do to clear my head and tune in to something bigger than myself. I reflected on the previous evening’s conversation. I felt the worry well up inside of me and ran harder and faster as though I could possibly outrun it. Did I make the right decision?
In the next moment, a sign caught my eye. It was a mile marker placed on the side of the canal by a running club for people who were training for an upcoming 10K. Beneath the number on the sign, there was a quote. It said “Those who believe it cannot be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it.”
I felt the hair on my arms stand up. The worry gave way to relief and then laughter. I knew this little sign was for me.
Here’s what I learned from that. When it is really a sign that has significance, it will resonate with your inner wisdom – not your inner critic. It will make you feel strong, at peace, and calm. The sign or experience itself isn’t as important as the feeling it evokes and the messages we intuit.
There have been times when I was considering a course of action that wasn’t right for me. As I reflect on what might have been signs that confirmed an inner knowing that I should not proceed, those signs were never shameful or disparaging. Rather, they simply heightened my awareness of an incongruence I was already experiencing on some level – kind of like the way I’ve felt after trying something on that I really wanted to wear, but just didn’t fit right, or playing the piano and landing on a note that was in the wrong key.
Sometimes I paid attention to those little signs, and sometimes I didn’t — perhaps a story for another post. Suffice it to say that when I paused long enough to ask, listen, and really discern what was going on, it made all the difference in the world.
For more information on Signs, Synchronicity and Meaningful Coincidences:
This week’s post features a video of an even more unbelievable story than the last one I shared with you — about a series of seemingly random and recurring events that had a profound impact on me. These experiences provided the courage and the nudge I needed to take action on something that simultaneously excited and terrified me — leaving my stable, well paid job to launch my dream of having my own business. Below is a written version of the story (as it appears in my new book The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be), minus a few details I added in the above video version.
For years I worked as an internal consultant and executive coach for a large corporation in a job I loved. Gradually, I began to recognize my longing to break out to start my own business and have more flexibility and time to spend with my family. Initially, I dismissed these yearnings as something everyone encounters. Then I began looking into what it would take to actually start a corporation. Though I daydreamed of the possibilities, the thought of leaving my job altogether seemed impractical since I was enjoying my work and had wonderful working conditions. I reasoned that I would stay there unless things changed to the point that I didn’t enjoy it anymore.
I kept waiting for things to take a turn for the worse — for someone to tell me I couldn’t do the work I was passionate about anymore, or for the organization to be restructured in such a way that was no longer optimal for me. None of that happened. In fact, things just seemed to get better and better there. Still, these visions and dreams continued to beckon. They became more and more pronounced, until finally I began to seriously entertain the notion of taking action on them.
I began to find screws everywhere I went. I walked across the kitchen floor and stepped on one. An elevator opened up and I saw another one on the floor in front of me. They were turning up when I cleaned my kids’ rooms, and in other odd places. In a meeting, a co-worker and I were pouring over some documents when a tiny screw popped out of her reading glasses and landed on the papers in front of us. Initially, I didn’t think anything of finding these screws. But after several occurrences, I became curious as to whether there could be significance.
One day while on the phone with a very good friend, I related my experiences. “Maybe you’re screwed,” she joked. “Or I have a few screws loose?” I retorted. She suggested we look up the definition of a screw in the dictionary. As she went to get her dictionary, I wandered around the house, phone in hand, straightening things up. When she came back to the phone, among the many definitions she read was one that said “something that must be turned or acted upon in some manner.” As she said the words, I reached into the small drawer of a sewing table in our living room and felt my hand wrap around a zip-lock bag. I lifted the bag out of the drawer to find — you guessed it — a bag of screws in assorted sizes.
This act held profound meaning for me, as it seemed to be the crowning event of a series of seemingly coincidental incidents that became more and more pronounced until they finally got my attention. Whether it was my subconscious mind, the screws, or both, I felt sure there was a message for me. The following week, I gave my notice at work (and didn’t encounter any more screws after that).
For more information on Signs, Synchronicity and Meaningful Coincidences:
A Story About Signs, Synchronicity and Meaningful Coincidences (the first one)
My last post, A Story About Signs, Synchronicities and Meaningful Coincidences, featured a video about a series of seemingly random events that gave me needed encouragement while I was writing my book, The Pinocchio Principle. If you didn’t catch the video, you can watch it below or click here for the last post. I know it seems somewhat unlikely that these things actually happened, but they did. And after talking with many others about their own experiences of this sort, I have come to believe that signs and synchronicities such as these are not all that uncommon.
Many of us simply dismiss them as random and insignificant coincidences, which is completely understandable. It’s not all that different than having bought a car only to finally notice other cars on the road just like yours. They were always there, but you didn’t really notice them before. Is that a meaningful coincidence? Well, it depends on how you look at it. Those cars hold meaning for you after you’ve bought yours because now you identify with them. They are no longer just other cars on the road; they are cars that are identical to the one that you most likely went through a very long process to procure for yourself. And after buying that same model, you now have an affinity for it. It jumps out at you because it feels good.
So when other things repeatedly catch our attention, they probably hold some kind of meaning for us as well. We just may not realize what that meaning is. Like my experience with finding Pinocchio memorabilia, what repeatedly catches your attention could be an object. But it could also be a person, or a phrase. It might be an image, or a song or even a movie that recurs. What is most important is not so much the objects or experiences but rather what we associate with them and how these things make us feel.
Often we are so busy or preoccupied that we don’t slow down long enough to realize what these things are trying to tell us. But when we do, we are often surprised and delighted to discover that they give credence to our deepest longings, most inspiring visions and grandest dreams — you know, the ones that beckon to us and attempt to break through all our doubt and mental chatter to show us a whole new field of possibility. Every time I see a sign like that, I like to think of it as something or someone gently encouraging me to go stop questioning my ability and instead begin to question and move beyond my doubts.
In the next few days, pay attention to what jumps out at you. See if there are recurring themes. Slow down long enough to inquire into what these experiences are trying to tell you. Move into it. Feel it. Even if you don’t immediately know the answer, the act of paying attention and asking the question will get you closer to finding it. And it could be the beginning of something really big and wonderful.
Here’s that video, in case you missed it: (if you don’t see it below, click here)
In my next post, I’ll share another series of signs, synchronicities and meaningful coincidences I had that gave me the courage to finally take action toward my lifelong dream of having my own business. If you’d like to read more on deciphering signs, synchronicities and meaningful coincidences, I’ve written a whole chapter called Navigational Tools in my new book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, now available on Amazon. You can find out more at http://www.PinocchioPrinciple.com.