The other day I came across a piece of paper that brought back a rather unsettling memory of a pivotal conversation I had long ago, about something that was very important to me. I didn’t realize just what an impact it had on me until I stopped to recall it – and consider all the things that have unfolded in the years that passed.
I filmed a video about it that you can find on my LinkedIn page.
I’d love to hear your thoughts after you watch – you can leave a comment right on LinkedIn. And if we are not yet connected there, hit that blue “Connect” button while you’re at it.
Sometimes it takes a while to embody the things you strive for. The journey may have a lot of twists and turns and ups and downs. But it’s definitely well worth traveling.
If you’d like some support on your journey, there are still a couple of seats remaining in the spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius kicking off on Wednesday (3/3). It’s a thirteen-week leadership development program that will help you move beyond the conditioning that keeps you from rising to the extraordinary results you are capable of achieving – with less effort and more joy along the way.
I’d love to have the opportunity to work with you.
Here’s to the journey – and the ever-unfolding destination!
Imagine that software you’ve relied on for years stops working for you. You notice your computer has been freezing up a lot and you’ve been experiencing some glitches. At first, it didn’t really bother you. You just made do and went on. But now it’s happening so often that you’re having trouble getting things done.
When you look into the problem, you find you’re not the only one experiencing it. In fact, after receiving numerous user complaints, the company discovered its software was having incompatibilities. Much to your relief, a new version of the program is being rolled out that has fixed all the bugs. And happily, this updated program is now available for you to download.
The same thing happens to each of us. You’re cruising along doing what you’ve always done only to find it just isn’t working so well anymore. You aren’t getting the results you wanted. Or worse, what worked before is actually causing new problems. And despite your best efforts, these problems are throwing a big monkey wrench in things.
Take Shiela as an example.
Shiela is a high achieving executive who has always prided herself on her ability to be the “go to” person for solutions. Her energy and enthusiasm led her to be sought out for plum projects and invited to serve on numerous committees and boards. She happily took these things on and went the extra mile to deliver excellence in everything she did. And her career trajectory was headed ever upward.
But over time, the number of initiatives she was regularly involved in began to wear on her. Her calendar was packed and she hit the ground running each day only to find that her to do list was growing faster than her ability to get things done. She had multiple balls in the air and lived in constant fear that one of them would come crashing down at any moment.
Her solution was to double down on what helped her succeed in the past. She worked more, slept less, and pushed herself beyond the limits of her own exhaustion. And though she was working harder than ever, her performance began to suffer. The work that once energized and inspired her was beginning to feel like an endless grind she just couldn’t rise above. And people began to notice.
Well-intentioned friends and colleagues gave her books and advice, and she did her best to try to institute new approaches, take better care of herself, delegate, prioritize, rely on systems and get support. But when things got tense, she reverted to old patterns of behavior that were deeply ingrained.
Shiela’s old program was interfering with her new one. And this interference was causing major glitches. But those glitches didn’t have to keep her from achieving her desired results. She just had to find the bug that was creating the havoc and take steps to eliminate it.
So how do you find a bug in your program?
Like Shiela, you start by recognizing that you aren’t getting the results you want. And then you work backward. Finding the bug in your program requires that you detach from your actions in such a way that you can observe and evaluate them.
One way to do this is to replay events in your mind to identify any causal factors. You can designate time at the end of the day to mentally review the day’s events and evaluate what went well and what didn’t. You can journal about it. Or you can talk with someone who is an objective third party, like a friend, family member, mentor or coach.
The bug in your program is almost always a knee jerk reaction.
When Shiela replayed her interactions with others, she realized that what she really wanted (and needed) to do when someone asked her to become involved in yet another project, committee or board was to ensure that it was the best fit and use of her time before responding. But she also recognized that before her mental faculty was engaged, she had already pledged her sole support and involvement. And before she knew it, despite her best intentions, she had unwittingly pushed herself further into overwhelm.
She was reacting instead of responding.
Knee jerk reactions are the product of conditioning.
Conditioning is what happens when a behavior becomes so automatic that you no longer need to think about it. And conditioning is good when it leads you to behave in a way that is constructive — like when you practice a new skill over and over again until you can do it without having to remind yourself of each step.
But conditioning that leads you to spring into action when what you really need to do is give a little more consideration to your response can get you into trouble.
There is a neurobiological component to conditioning. Every time you practice something or respond to a stimulus in a certain way, you are creating neural networks in your brain. Neurons that fire together wire together. And the more they fire, the stronger and more automatic their connections (and your behaviors) get. Conversely, when a neural network is interrupted or not used for a certain period of time, these connections begin to weaken.
Once you have identified the bug, you can begin to eliminate it.
Simply being aware of a knee jerk reaction will begin to loosen its grip on you. When Sheila realized she had a tendency to override her true intention by launching into an old undesirable pattern before she even knew what was happening, she also became increasingly aware of the negative consequences that behavior created.
This is not to say that Sheila could instantaneously eradicate her bug and immediately improve her results. On the contrary, she grew increasingly frustrated because now she was not only engaging in problematic behavior — she was doing it even though she knew better. But this awareness is half the battle.
Initially, she didn’t recognize her oversights until after the fact, but with increased awareness and attention Sheila noticed them sooner and sooner. The time it took her to catch herself went from hours to minutes and with continued diligence, she was able to take steps to correct them in real-time. Ultimately, she got to the point where she could prevent herself from engaging in this automatic reaction altogether.
As the bug is eliminated, the program can be upgraded.
Upgrading the program is a matter of replacing an old behavior with a new one. Unlike software upgrades, this one isn’t a matter of a simple download. It requires attention, thought and persistence.
As mentioned previously, neural networks that correspond to old, undesirable patterns of behavior weaken when they are not engaged. And as they weaken, repeated practice allows new neural nets to be formed that support a more desirable behavior.
But doesn’t creating new neural networks require a huge amount of practice?
The interesting thing about the formation of these neural networks is that they do not have to happen in real-time. Research has shown that mentally rehearsing a new pattern of behavior leads to the same growth in neural networks that physical practice does.
As Sheila began mentally reviewing the way she handled herself in conversations, she reflected on what she would have liked to do differently. And then she replayed the scene in her mind with a new, more desirable ending. She continued to do this daily. As she did, she literally rewired her brain.
Doing so allowed her to create and increasingly rely on new neural networks in situations that necessitated a different response. Gradually she was able to replace her tendency to automatically take more and more on with a more thoughtful, respectful response that offered solutions without adding to her overload. She began to recognize opportunities to involve and empower others to do things that would allow them to grow and buy her much needed time to regroup and reengage in a more focused, less frenetic way.
And over time Sheila once again became known not only for getting results but for making a more strategic impact and growing talent within her organization.
Let’s review the process of upgrading your internal programming
• Step One: Find your bug. The first step is to recognize when you have a tendency to engage in behavior that keeps you from getting the results you desire. Most likely this will be a knee jerk reaction that propels you into action before you have a chance to think.
• Step Two: Disempower your bug. Becoming aware of behavior you fall into and the impact it has on your effectiveness ultimately weakens its hold on you because while it still may be automatic, it is no longer unconscious. Though falling into old patterns when you know better is frustrating, this awareness is a sign of tremendous progress.
• Step Three: Substitute a new program for the old one. As your old habits and the corresponding neural nets that lead you to engage in them begin to weaken, you can replace them with new behaviors. The more you practice these new behaviors (whether physically or mentally), the stronger the new neural networks and your new patterns will become. And the less you engage the old behaviors, the weaker and less prominent the old neural networks (and the corresponding behaviors) get.
If you find yourself engaging in behavior that is interfering with your effectiveness, the most important thing to remember is that you are not the program that is running it. You are the programmer. You have the ability to consciously choose the behaviors and the responses you have to any given stimulus.
Though interrupting and upgrading your internal programming takes time, the results will be well worth your effort. And the best part is that you don’t have to lodge a complaint with or rely on anyone but yourself in order to do it.
If you’d like some support in recognizing and overcoming bugs in your programming, consider joining me in the Spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. A few seats remain for this exclusive 13-week leadership development program, which kicks off on March 3. If you have questions or would like to chat about whether the program is a fit for you, you can schedule a call directly with me.
Here’s what a previous participant had to say…
“My professional goals were not going the way that I wanted them to and I had a suspicion that I was pounding my head against the wall trying the same tools or switching the tools differently and I just needed a fresh perspective on them. I enrolled in the Freedom & Flow program after receiving encouragement from people who work with Diane who raved about their interactions with her and how impactful she’s been in their life.
One of the things that this course helped me realize is that I always believed the tools that made me successful early in my life and my career would be the same tools that would see me through to the end. The truth is that my toolbox needed more tools, or different tools in it.
This is important for folks that would be thinking about this program, and it was revolutionary for me – what worked for me early in my career isn’t going to work all the time, I can’t say that enough. You need to reexamine. You can’t have the same script for your whole professional career, you just can’t. You have to adjust the script. I’m in leadership positions versus before, I was a follower. I was trying to get somewhere. Now I’m somewhere and it’s different.
I’ve taken a lot of leadership courses. They’re usually big group settings. This is a smaller more intimate group. The one on one calls are terrific and super helpful. Diane is energetic, vibrant, engaged, open-minded, and thoughtful. Her program has helped me better influence and connect to others, decrease my stress, and get much more done. I’m more mindful and have replaced old, ineffective tools with new ones – it feels great, it’s really refreshing.
My message to folks who are considering this course is pretty simple: you will learn new skills, new tools that you haven’t used before which are going to help move you forward. The program is awesome, and I highly recommend it.”
Dr. Tony Sciscione, Director, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Christiana Care Health System
Last week I posted a video about the story of Pinocchio and the relevance it has as a metaphor for each of us as leaders. As I mentioned in that video, that story is about much more than a puppet whose nose grew when he lied.
It’s the story of a puppet that longs to become REAL. It’s also the story of anyone who feels like they’re trapped by their circumstances – who knows there’s got to be something more than the way things have been going, who doesn’t quite feel ALIVE and may feel like life is beating them down.
Like Pinocchio, we too have a burning desire to become REAL – to access the greatness (Genius) within, to be a part of something meaningful, to make a greater impact as only we can. We’re born with these impulses.
But until we become REAL LEADERS, we function largely as puppets – bound by our conditioning, trapped by our well-worn habits and patterns, operated by external forces pulling our strings, and confined by the programming we’ve inherited or internalized.
And when we exercise the courage to embrace our own journey toward becoming a Real Leader, we free ourselves from those strings and unleash our GENIUS.
What is Genius, exactly?
People often think of genius as an extreme level of intelligence that only certain people have. But it is more than just intellectual capacity. And we are all born with it.
Genius is the masterpiece in the marble – what stands after everything that is not the masterpiece is carved away. It is the life blood of our organizations, our people, our very selves. It is what unites us and makes us strong. It allows us to overcome our most formidable obstacles and rise to our most daunting challenges and promising opportunities.
GENIUS is the power of the human spirit.
How do you know if you are operating from your Puppet or your Genius?
Here are a few indicators that I teach in my thirteen-week signature program, The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.
When you are operating from your puppet, you are largely focused on…
- …what you are afraid of (fear)
- …getting something (for yourself)
- …self-doubt (inadequacy)
- …what’s out of your control
- …worry, anxiety and preoccupations
- …what brings you down (irritation)
- …what you want to move away from (“have to’s”)
- …judgement and set stories about how things are
In contrast, when you are operating from your Genius, you’ll see things quite differently:
And when you move from your Puppet to your Genius, you’ll have a very different experience too.
- the energy and vitality to perform at your highest level without getting beaten down by stress, pressure and overwhelm,
- a renewed passion and sense of meaning that gives you the strength to overcome obstacles and resilience to bounce back from setbacks,
- heightened creativity and ingenuity to find answers to problems that previously stumped you – and to navigate change, challenge and uncertainty with courage, confidence and ease, and
- the ability to create strong connections with people that inspire trust and increase your ability to influence and truly lead.
What can you do to better align with your Genius more of the time?
It all starts with awareness. Most of us do not realize the degree to which we operate as Puppets. Nor do we appreciate the Genius that is waiting in the wings, eager to emerge.
Start by checking in with yourself regularly to determine where your focus is. Notice how you feel when you are operating from Puppet, as well as Genius. Referencing the chart above, ask yourself what you can do to make the necessary shift.
And if you’d like more support on the journey, consider enrolling in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. Registration for the spring session, which will kick off in March, is now open. To maximize personal interaction and individualized support, enrollment is limited to 10 people.
Many of us are on the verge of entering new, unchartered territory.
Some are having to do that by necessity, as a result of changing circumstances. Others are recognizing – and answering – the call to step out and try something we’ve never done before.
Either way, it isn’t easy. Especially if you are accustomed to (and pride yourself on) being able to do something really well.
Anytime you try something new or different, you will encounter resistance.
To assist you through these vital transitions – and to help you overcome what I call “the curse of competence”, I wanted to share something with you that I teach in my 13 week Pinocchio Principle Unleashed program.
It’s an excerpt from a video on embracing uncertainty and redefining failure. In less than 6 minutes, you’ll gain a whole new perspective that’ll help you move beyond your greatest resistance to create and enjoy the success you are truly capable of.
Interested in enrolling in the spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed? Join the waiting list to be the first to hear when registration is open.
And change is naturally somewhat disconcerting.
But it can also be liberating and empowering – if you use it as a doorway to rediscover you who really are at your core – to unleash your GENIUS.
When you access your Genius, you’ll not only unlock your highest levels of performance and advance your career, you’ll also enjoy more freedom and fulfillment both on and off the job.
The Pinocchio Principle: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, my 13 week signature program, is designed to help high achieving executives do just that. The fall session is kicking off on Wednesday, September 30.
I believe it’s more timely now than ever. I filmed a short (5 min) video to tell you why…
You can find all the details about the program here: The Pinocchio Principle: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. If you have questions or just want to chat about it, you can also schedule a call with me.
But don’t wait long! The fall session will start on Wednesday, September 30 and I intentionally limit enrollment to a small, intimate size so that each person can have the highest level of support and personalized attention.
Here’s to your Genius!
“I shared before that your program was life changing, but I wanted you to know that is even more true now. I was going through some of my session notes and I had written down some of the characteristics when you are operating in your genius, which I wrote down – trust, faith and curiosity. In a time when it would be so easy to be in fear, judgement and anxiety, I have operated in my genius during this time more than ever before at any point in my life. I have you to thank for that and I am truly grateful. Thank you!”
Porsha M. Caddell, Sr. Manager, Customer Service Business Planning, Southern California Edison
We’re all working through our share of change – change that comes to us from the outside in.
But there’s another kind of change that happens from the inside out.
And that feels a little different. It usually comes on gradually – so gradually you may not even notice it at first.
In the video below, I’ll share the five phases of transformation that I’ve observed in my own life as well as the lives of executives I’ve coached over the years. You’ll learn what you can expect in each phase – and I’ll give you some tips for making the most of it, so you can move through it with ease and grace.
Change – even the kind that comes from the inside out – can be unsettling and anxiety producing. But it is a doorway that leads us to some of the greatest gifts life has to offer.
If you’d like some support and guidance navigating through your own transformation, I encourage you to consider joining me and a small group of fellow leaders in the fall session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed – The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius kicking off on Wednesday, 9/30.
I’ll be personally guiding an intimate group of executives through this process over the next thirteen weeks utilizing a powerful blend of online training, small group mastermind meetings and one-on-one coaching support. Space is limited and there are a few seats remaining.
If you have questions or want to chat about the program, feel free to set up a call.
If you stir muddy water, it will become murky and dark.
But if you allow the water to settle, the debris will eventually sink and you’ll be able to see more clearly.
The same is true of each of us.
There’s a lot to be stirred up about right now. And perhaps that’s why it’s more important than ever for us to find our calm.
Though our current Covid-19 response is leading us to drive less and stay home more, many of us are having difficulty finding places of peace and stillness. You might feel like you’re working more than ever, now that the lines between work and home are completely blurred.
Throw a kid or two into the mix whose routines (and lives) have been completely upended and you have a perfect mix for chaos.
And of course, there is the ever-present temptation to grab your phone or iPad or fire up the television to tune into the latest news or binge watch those shows on Netflix you’ve been wanting to see.
In addition to our external distractions there is the internal commotion of our never-ending thoughts, worries, and preoccupations.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
But perhaps there is hope amidst the chaos…
I recently read that for the first time in thirty years, the Himalayas are visible from northern India. Air quality has improved in several areas of the world, including right here in the United States. These improvements are said to largely be a product of the coronavirus response that has led to fewer emissions.
What if in addition to cleaning up our air we could find a way to clear our heads as well?
What if our future depended on it?
In such an unpredictable time as this, one thing is fairly certain: there is no more “business as usual”. Even after our social distancing and stay at home mandates have been lifted, things are likely to be different moving forward than they’ve ever been in the past.
Out of necessity, much of life as we’ve known it has had to change – often for the better. Many of the ways we have always done things will likely no longer be effective (or even relevant).
We have the opportunity to reinvent ways of working and being that weren’t serving us all that well and chart a new course into our future.
Now more than ever, we must cultivate the insight necessary to know what we need to do next.
And insight is a product of slowing down, quieting our minds and tuning in to ourselves and each other. It requires us to cut through the noise and create space for new ideas to land.
The best way to do that is to practice presence.
What exactly is presence?
The word present derives from the Latin past participle praesse meaning “to be before one”, from the roots pra – pre + esse – to be.
Presence is a state of being that’s achieved when we are truly in the moment, allowing it to unfold without judging it, labeling it, or getting lost in our thoughts about what it means or what we believe should be happening.
Presence allows us to cut through the clamor of our preoccupations, worries and fears so that our true selves can emerge. It is a gateway through which our intuition and inner wisdom enters and expresses itself.
A moment of presence is a state of grace that can produce great insights that help us to truly learn from our experiences, make the most of our opportunities and rise to our challenges in creative ways.
In moments of presence, we know who we really are and what we are truly capable of.
Have you ever noticed that people tend to match each other’s intensity and tone when they are together?
Comments about trivial matters are often matched with similar banter. Expressions of fear or dread often elicit responses that are equally charged, and expressions of anger have a way of provoking reactions that people later regret.
In a similar manner, moments of presence when shared with others can evoke powerful responses that can be revealing and transformational.
This is because when you are truly present with another human being you create a space that allows that person’s true self to come out as well.
This is why the best leaders have learned to become comfortable with silence. They listen more than they talk, and to allow themselves to become instruments that help others to recognize their own greatness – not necessarily through anything that say or do, but rather through moments of presence that are created and shared with others.
So how does one cultivate a moment of presence?
It is really rather simple, though far easier said than done.
1) The first step is to be still.
That’s right. Sit still. I know it goes against everything you were probably taught about getting things done and being useful. But do it anyway.
You can practice now, while you read this. Become aware of your breathing, of the space you are sitting in, of the weight of your body and how it feels in this moment. Feel the life inside you and trace it to each part of your body. Listen to the sounds around you. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.
2) Become aware of your thoughts.
Observe the activity of your mind as it continues to process whatever is there – thoughts like, “this is silly, really – I have way too much to do to be sitting here, doing this…” and “I have to remember to call so and so back today,” and “What did my [boss, colleague, friend, etc.] mean when he/she said…”.
Recognize that you are not your thoughts, but rather the thinker of your thoughts. Simply watch them parade around, without getting sucked into them. Feel how much bigger you are than all of that. Continue to breathe it in.
3) There really is no step three.
Simply continue to repeat steps one and two, immersing yourself more deeply into the experience with each breath.
You don’t need to do this for an extended period of time, unless you want to. Often even a couple of minutes are sufficient to bring you to a more intense state of awareness and aliveness.
In these moments of presence, you will experience things on a different level – one that allows you to respond from a deeper, wiser part of yourself. And when you are with others, you will bring out that deeper, wiser part of them as well.
The wonderful thing about practicing presence is that it creates a fertile landing place for creativity and new ideas. The more often you do, the more frequently you may find yourself receiving inklings (often when you least expect them) about solutions to even the most confounding of problems.
Presence is incredibly powerful to practice with others as well, and a wonderful thing to engage in with the family members in your home (who you are likely seeing more of than ever before). The process is the same, except that you expand your awareness to take in the other person as well.
First, put your phone down. Turn off your IPad, computer, television and/or any other device that could potentially steal your attention and focus.
Then, look into the eyes of the person in front of you, and listen to what they are saying. But listen to what they are not saying as well.
Presence is more about being than doing. So, allow yourself to truly BE with another, devoid of judgments, labels, and agendas. When you listen from this place, you are like water to a thirsty plant, allowing others to open up and soak in needed nutrients.
And in this space, they may just find the answers they seek as well – not because you are giving them, but because you have created a space that is illuminating for everyone.
For more on practicing presence, cultivating insight, and reinventing the way you live and lead, check out The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. Registration for the fall session will open soon (and if you join the waiting list, you’ll have first dibs on the limited seats that will become available).
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.
As we ponder what 2020 will bring, an adage comes to mind: the only thing that’s certain is change.
You can plan and prepare all you want, but the best way to be agile in a shifting environment is to stay connected to the undercurrent of emerging events and patterns – and utilize ingenuity to find the best way to rise to the coming challenges and opportunities.
And, whether you realize it or not, we’ve all been conditioned to tune out or disregard this vital source of intelligence.
The reason is, these days the speed of change (and innovation) moves very quickly …
And it becomes far too easy to rely on plans and approaches that were designed in the past, using old ways of thinking.
In the end utilizing information that is no longer relevant comes with heavy opportunity costs.
Albert Einstein once said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind it’s faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
This seems especially true in corporate America, where systems, processes and standard operating procedures are often revered as a means to minimize risk, variation and chaos and exert control over our environment. People go to great lengths to plan and research best practices, set guidelines in place and create controls that ensure people follow them.
And when it’s time to execute – you put your head down and run from one thing to the next, juggling multiple priorities and putting out fires, only stopping to troubleshoot when things don’t go to plan… There never seems to be enough time to pause long enough to determine whether the path you’re running on or the tactics you’re engaging in will get you to where you want to go.
After many conversations with colleagues and clients, it’s a clear consensus that real leaders are ready for a revolution of sorts. It’s time to capitalize on the opportunity to create positive change at all levels of an organization, from top down, to bottom up, because…
If the route you’re taking isn’t aligned with your desired destination, moving faster won’t do you any favors. And relying on your plan to tell you where to go next won’t either.
When you put more importance on the tactics than you do on the strategy and cling to a plan without continually reevaluating it, you have sacrificed the strategic in the name of the operational.
As an executive coach, this is one of the major challenges I work with executives to overcome. Operational is clean. It has defined edges and finite solutions. You can check the boxes and feel a sense of closure and control with an operational approach.
Strategic on the other hand can be a bit messier. It involves stepping into uncertainty to address challenges and opportunities that are new and unfamiliar. There is usually no one right answer. It often involves taking steps out of your comfort zone. And it requires that you slow down instead of speeding up, something that most of us tend to resist because slowing down flies in the face of what we’ve been conditioned to do.
To avoid this discomfort, many executives prefer being busy to being strategic. It gives them the illusion of being productive and the burst of adrenaline that is a nice (yet ultimately unsatisfying and addictive) placebo for real progress.
But busyness isn’t going to help you hit the target necessary to advance your business. Because until you slow down long enough to assess your environment and allow your intuitive mind to partner with your rational mind, you may not even realize what your true target is, let alone how to get there.
Malcolm Gladwell echoed the wisdom of Albert Einstein his iconic book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. He wrote, “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”
Knowledge is the product of absorbing information. Understanding is the product of insight. And insight comes from the integration of information with experience, from slowing down long enough to practice reflection and discernment.
And that’s an important key to successfully navigating the changing landscape of “business as usual”.
We live in an age of information. You can find an abundance of resources – articles, books, dissertations, webinars, workshops, best practices, etc. on any given topic. This information tends to be descriptive of what worked in the past to address the challenges faced by people and organizations whose situations are rarely identical to our emerging challenges and opportunities.
Acting on information without discernment is like taking someone else’s prescription given for a diagnosis that you aren’t entirely certain matches your own.
And yet all too often we move full speed ahead with seeming solutions that don’t really address the true underlying problems (and often make the problem worse). Ask yourself how many times have you’ve overlooked, disregarded or suppressed inklings or rumblings that told you something is just not right.
It happens to the best of us, because we get so attached to our plans that we resist (consciously or unconsciously) anything that could potentially interfere or slow us down.
Sometimes the inklings come from within, accompanied by a sense of incongruence. It might feel as if you are wearing someone else’s clothes while trying to convince yourself that they fit just fine, even though they are way too tight. But in the name of efficiency (and because you think slowing down to address it is a luxury you can’t afford), you press on anyway.
Other times the rumbles come from others within the organization, people who aren’t so attached to the predetermined plan, who are a little closer to the real problems and issues and have a sense of what needs to be done to address them. And they are all too often shushed by others (usually a few levels above in the hierarchy) who measure performance based on how well predetermined plans are implemented and adhered to.
So how do you turn this short-sighted, self-defeating old way of thinking dynamic around?
Here are five practical tips to get you moving in a new, more progressive and productive direction:
- Carve out time regularly for yourself to reflect, integrate and think strategically. Block this time on your calendar and hold it sacred in the same way you would a meeting with your boss or your most important customer. It doesn’t have to be a large block of time. The important thing is to slow down long enough to consider how things are going and to determine whether your approach is aligned with your desired goal. Identify what, if any, tweaks to your plan are necessary, and write down your ideas.
- Put just as much weight on the questions as you do the answers. Ask, “What are the problems I am/we are trying to solve? Could they be symptoms of a larger issue that has not yet been addressed? What are we seeing? What are we not seeing? How can we get the information and knowledge necessary to truly understand the problem and what needs to be done to effectively address it?”
- Encourage dialogue. This is a big one. Give people who are closest to the challenges and issues that are being addressed an opportunity to communicate with those who have the bigger, more strategic picture. Take steps to integrate top down and bottom up approaches by creating a forum for discussing emerging patterns, trends, problems and opportunities and dialoguing about what the best approaches and solutions may be.
- Welcome and embrace dissent. This may not be comfortable at first, but the more you can encourage people who have concerns with the current course of action to speak up, and give them opportunities to constructively express those concerns, the more likely you’ll gain the support and momentum you need to move forward. When you value people’s perspectives and contributions by listening with an open mind and a willingness to act, you’ll also have access to information that will dramatically increase your chances of success.
- Use discernment. When looking to best practices or considering recommendations from experts, determine whether they are truly a good fit (and to what degree they should be tweaked or tailored to meet the specific needs of the organization) before they are implemented.
The tendency to act operationally instead of strategically and overlook, disregard or suppress the very insight that will lead you to the best solutions and innovations, is only one of many common practices that are being challenged and improved on within the emerging real leader revolution. The focus of these new conversations and perspectives is helping both executives and the organizations they are a part of to unleash unprecedented performance, make a bigger impact and enjoy a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment in their work and their lives.
This translates into increased profitability, greater market share and stronger relationships with customers who become their biggest advocates.
If you are interested in learning more about how to liberate yourself and your organization from unproductive, self-defeating and potentially damaging ways of doing business as usual, visit www.RealLeaderRevolution.com and download your free copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto.
“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
~ Robert H. Schuller
I have come across the above quote often and pondered it reflectively. It inspires me to think big – contemplating all the many things I have dreamed of creating or being a part of. I often feel compelled to make a list – and have done so many times. I encourage my clients to do this as well.
But the most interesting and show stopping part of that quote for me is the idea of “failure”.
It’s easy to think of shooting for the moon when the idea of crashing down to the ground doesn’t enter the picture. We can dream and scheme all we want, but in order to make our dreams real, we must take action. And when we do, this idea of failure seems to have a way of creeping in despite our best attempts to move forward in spite of it.
Failure means different things to different people. But I think the most debilitating thing about the idea of failure is having to experience or endure some kind of pain – pain of rejection, embarrassment, loss, financial ruin – not to mention its actual physical variations.
The interesting thing to me about pain is that – thankfully – it is usually finite. It comes and it goes. And while we don’t always have any control over whether we experience it, we do seem to play a part in how long it lasts and how uncomfortable it gets.
As a kid, getting immunizations was terrifying. I remember how worked up I would get before the needle even came close to my skin. And I’ve watched my kids do the same thing – even screaming or wailing before contact was ever actually made. But a few seconds later, the injections were completed before the kids even realized it.
They got off the exam table and immediately went onto other things – except perhaps when one of them needed a little more sympathy and deliberately focused on the site of the shot and the blood on the bandage – prolonging the unpleasant experience and making it into something far more painful than it really needed to be.
I think we do the same thing when we contemplate the pain that accompanies what we believe would be “failure”. Our minds have a way of making it far more ominous than it ever is in reality. And if we happen to find ourselves experiencing it, we can also fall into the trap of unwittingly making it more uncomfortable than it really needs to be.
But we can also exercise resilience and determination in our ability to bounce back and focus on something that will allow us to move forward in spite of an otherwise unpleasant experience.
Because what it really comes down to is what your experience – regardless of the way it turns out – has given you, rather than cost you. People who have accomplished extraordinary things in the world are the first to tell you that what many refer to as “failure” has plagued them time after time – and many will tell you those experiences were prerequisites for their success.
What differentiates them from those who allowed “failure” to defeat them is that they picked themselves up, figured out what they could learn, and moved forward armed with a new awareness, a new understanding, and a renewed commitment to their greatest dreams and visions.
I think we all need a shot from time to time. A shot of humility, compassion – and humor. A shot that will only serve to make us stronger, more determined, and far more resilient than we were before. What great thing can YOU achieve today, knowing that you simply cannot fail?
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My recent article, “How to Meet Change, Challenge and Uncertainty with Courage and Grace” discussed the importance of shifting from a reactive mode that is (often unthinkingly) triggered by fear and conditioning to the conscious, thoughtful, and intentionally constructive response that is characteristic of Real Leadership.
Today, I’d like to give you a concrete tool for helping you do just that – one that I often share in my presentations and workshops and also work with participants in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius program to apply. It’s called Using the Wisdom of Hindsight in the Present.
Are you in the midst of some kind of change or challenge right now? What is occupying your thoughts and energy these days? Think about it until you can come up with a concrete example of something you may be struggling with – or simply in the process of working through.
See if you can tune into the way this challenge is leading you to feel. Frustration? Uneasiness? Doubt? Worry? Can you put your finger on what is most unnerving about the situation at hand?
Now, think back to another time that you have felt this same way. A time when you had to work through an earlier challenge. One that was perhaps equally difficult and/or anxiety provoking – or even worse than the issue you are currently facing.
Can you recall what you were thinking at the time? What were you telling yourself? What questions were you asking yourself? What worries were plaguing you? What doubts were eroding your confidence?
Imagine that you can go visit that younger version of yourself and share some advice. What would you tell yourself? What do you wish you would have known back then that you know now? What encouragement would you provide? What would you tell yourself to stop, start or continue?
You may want to pause for a moment and write that advice down.
Chances are the advice you would give to your younger self is pretty darn good guidance for you now. Rainer Maria Wilke once wrote, “The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.”
What if the very experiences you have had over the course of your life happened in perfect order to prepare you for what you would experience in your future?
What if those challenges that that left you stumped or feeling uneasy or pushed you to your edge served the purpose of helping you to discover in yourself a strength you didn’t know you had – and develop a muscle that would allow you to lift heavier weight and move bigger mountains?
Much of my work as a coach is helping people connect the dots of their own experiences in ways that help them see they have exactly what it takes to successfully address and rise above their current issues and obstacles. It is not uncommon for people to realize that what they thought was unchartered territory at its core is in fact something they are not all that unfamiliar with.
Even something you may have written off as “failure” may reveal rich insights and answers if you take the time to identify what you learned in your past that you can potentially apply to your present.
Most of us don’t pause long enough to realize the ways life has prepared us for what we face. We are all too quick to want to forget about the frustrations and anxieties of the past rather than leverage them in ways that allow us to learn and grow. And when presented with what feels like an insurmountable challenge, we tend to think we need to speed up rather than slow down.
So, you have to make a deliberate, concerted effort to turn that pattern around.
When you do that using The Wisdom of Hindsight in the Present process, you’ll begin to recognize that the biggest source of anxiety and frustration is largely based on conjecture and hypothetical situations.
You’ll also realize as you examine your past, that you likely have concrete data – evidence-based proof that you have what it takes to successfully navigate through uncertainty, to think on your feet, and to find solutions where it appeared none existed.
In so doing, you’ll shift from doubt to confidence – from what you don’t know to what you do know. And you’ll focus on what is in your control to influence rather than all the things that are beyond it.
From that mindset, you are infinitely more likely to access the courage, confidence, ingenuity, determination and resilience necessary to be successful in any situation. You’ll be more likely to see solutions to the problems that once confounded you – and to lead and inspire others to do the same.
This is the essence of Real Leadership.
If you are interested in learning more about Real Leadership and how you can unearth it in yourself and your organization, download your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto, my most recent white paper on how to stop doing business as usual and start liberating the power of the human spirit to achieve unprecedented and sustainable success.