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.
In the midst of change, challenge and uncertainty as massive as what are collectively facing, every one of us is being called upon to exercise a very important kind of leadership. Whether you are at the helm of an organization, a team, a community or a family, people are likely looking to you for strength and guidance – at a time when you, yourself are seeking it as well.
In times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever
to hold fast to the conviction that each one of us has what it takes to rise above anything life may bring us.
This is what the greatest leaders have done throughout history. It’s easy to lead when things are stable and successful. It’s when all chaos breaks loose and the chances of survival are slim that the world’s heroes have inspired people to remember who they are and rise up to their most daunting challenges.
Here are three things to remember to help you summon true leadership in yourself and others:
(1) Nothing will come your way that you cannot handle.
If you want proof, consider the fact that you are still here. Think back to the last struggle or setback you faced. What did you do? How did you get through it? What did you learn? In retrospect, what would you tell yourself in order to help you get through that? And what will you tell yourself now?
Sometimes it helps to think of the worst-case scenario. What would you do? Really. What would you do? If you sit with that question and allow yourself to remain calm, you will find an answer.
Because when you get quiet, you summon that which is timeless within you – that which will not change with the uncertainty, but rather grow stronger in the face of it – your inner strength, resilience, creativity and ingenuity.
Benjamin Franklin said it well many years ago: “To be thrown upon one’s own resources, is to be cast into the very lap of fortune; four our faculties then undergo a development and display an energy of which they were previously unsusceptible.”
Getting connected to your core strength is essential and must be done before you can provide any real inspiration and motivation to others. Your confidence will emanate at a level that people will feel – before you even say a word.
(2) Once you have reconnected with your own inner reserves, help others reconnect with theirs.
Extraordinary leaders connect with people at a deeper level. They see not only what each person they lead has done in the past, but also what they are capable of in the future.
In times of chaos and uncertainty, people need to be reminded of their strengths because trying times tend to lead us to doubt ourselves and forget how very capable and strong we really are.
Think about the people who look to you for guidance and support. What has each of them done in the past that has impressed you? What are their natural talents – the things they are so good at that they make look easy? What do they tend to do that has a positive impact on themselves and everyone around them?
Maybe it is a sense of humor. Perhaps it is an ability to foresee obstacles no one anticipated and create a plan for overcoming them. Maybe it is an ability to think outside the box, a dogged determination to make things work, or a natural tendency to partner with others.
What is it that gives you faith that no matter what happens, this person will rise above it? Speak to it with sincere appreciation and encouragement. Help that person to embody those qualities once again.
When you focus on the positive attributes in others, you help them recognize they have greatness within and catalyze their potential. This is what is needed most in times of change, challenge and uncertainty.
(3) Keep people’s focus (including your own) on possibilities rather than frustrations.
As with everything in life, whatever you focus on has a way of becoming amplified. When you allow yourself to become consumed with fear and doubt, your brain has a way of finding things that feed those states. As a result, you’ll find there seems to be even more to be afraid of or frustrated by.
This phenomenon often happens without your conscious awareness, and it is a vicious cycle that can keep you falling deeper and deeper into despair.
Reversing this cycle requires a conscious effort.
When you notice you are feeling upset by a certain thought, the first step is to become aware of the thought that has caused the reaction and deliberately choose another one to focus on. There is always something positive or hopeful to focus on. Sometimes finding it takes a bit of work, but that effort will be met with rich rewards.
A man named Ambrose Redmoon once said “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important.”
So, figure out what is more important – more worthy of your attention and energy and focus on that. As you do, your innate talents and strengths will rise to the occasion.
As you shift your attention from obstacles to opportunities and put your energy on what is possible, you’ll see solutions that previously evaded you and recognize that you are capable of far more than you initially realized. And when you act from this frame of reference, you’ll inspire others to do the same.
Regardless of your title, position or role, you have an opportunity to practice REAL leadership at a time when people around you need it the most. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have on yourself and others. Remember:
(1) Nothing will come your way that you cannot handle.
(2) Once you have reconnected with your own inner reserves, help others reconnect with theirs.
(3) Keep people’s focus (including your own) on possibilities rather than frustrations.
For more tips on navigating through change and uncertainty, check out my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
To say we are living in a time of great challenge and uncertainty would be a major understatement.
There’s no dispute that we’re currently facing a virus over which we have very little control.
But there is another contagion being propagated that we have every ability to contain.
And that is FEAR.
Fear does funny things to people. At its worst, it produces panic — a physical state that literally disables the brain’s ability to think clearly. There is seemingly no other explanation for the current shortage of toilet paper. It just isn’t rational. But the greater the shortage, the higher the demand.
When people are in fear, they bypass their ability to think and are easily influenced by mass hysteria and knee jerk reactions. They also tend to put their own needs above those of others.
Fear triggers our instinct for self-preservation, leading us to scan our environment for anything that indicates that danger is present.
But when we’re gripped by fear, we just don’t see things clearly. And the more fear there is, the more evidence there seems to be to suggest there is something to fear, which of course elicits more fear.
Fear narrows the aperture of the lens we view things through. In other words, we are only seeing a small fraction of the entire picture. It’s like staring at a dot on the wall by smashing your face against it. The dot is all you’ll see, even though the room you are in is exponentially larger than the small dot right in front of you.
- You’ll put your attention on what is wrong, rather than what is right.
- You’ll spend more time and energy on describing, complaining about, and magnifying the problem than on finding the solution.
- You’ll be more concerned with what you can get rather than what you have to give.
- You’ll focus more on what is out of your control than on things you are able to influence.
- You’ll tend to feel helpless rather than hopeful – and you’ll act in ways that lead others to feel that way too.
But each of us has the power to turn this fear response around. And it is imperative that we do it now.
Though most of us have never lived through a pandemic as extensive as COVID-19, we have all likely weathered a few storms over the course of our lives.
And we’ve not only lived to tell about it, but also learned a thing or two along the way. In times like these it is essential to draw upon that wiser, calmer part of ourselves that knows this too will pass – and that we can rise to these challenges with courage and grace.
I call this vital part of ourselves Genius. Here are three simple ways to activate it:
1. Do whatever you can to quiet your mind and calm yourself down.
When fear hijacks your system, your thinking will be cloudy, and your body will be on high alert. The cortisol that gets released will increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Your neural activity will be diverted from the most highly developed part of your brain to the most primal.
As a result, you’ll experience a fight, flight or freeze response. You’ll be prone to seeing dangerous things that aren’t there – and inclined to screen out helpful things that are.
To counter that reaction, take some deep breaths. Get oxygen flowing back into your cells. Then, ask yourself a question that moves your neural activity back into your prefrontal cortex, the part that allows you to think deeply and make good decisions.
A question like, “What do I really want?” or “What could I do to make this situation better?” will help you get back on the right track.
The more you can quiet your mind, the more space you’ll create for inspiration and answers to come in – and the more likely you will be to recognize and act on them when they do. Rather than unconsciously reacting, you can respond with thoughtful intention.
2. Choose curiosity over judgment.
Once you’ve come to a fixed conclusion about something, you are not likely to consider other perspectives. Cognitive science tells us that confirmation bias leads us to take in information that aligns with our current beliefs and screen anything that contradicts them out.
And from that mindset, you’ll run the risk of behaving in ways that make things worse.
But while judgment narrows your aperture and keeps you in a fixed position, curiosity opens it and allows you to get unstuck. Your lens zooms OUT rather than IN.
Instead of only seeing that small black dot, you’ll take in more of your surroundings. In place of the wall that once blocked your progress, you’ll see possibilities and solutions that can move you forward.
Notice anything you may currently be believing that could be shutting you down or causing more stress – and challenge it. Ask yourself, “Is it really true?”. Rather than paying attention to what your eyes are showing you, get curious and ask, “What am I NOT seeing?”
3. Shift your focus from what you stand to lose to what you have to gain.
In the face of this international calamity, we have all had to make sacrifices. Life as we know it has drastically changed.
Offices, schools, stores, restaurants and other establishments are closed (or have limited access). Travel has been halted. The market is taking a hit. Your daily routine has likely been obliterated. The safety of people you love (and you, yourself) is in question. And as a result, social distancing has become an imperative.
But amidst all this, there are things to be optimistic about.
- For many of us, the crazy hustle bustle that compelled us to run from one thing to another is giving way to opportunities to slow down, rest and find our bearings.
- Our true priorities are coming into focus, allowing us to find more meaning and purpose in the things that we do and the way that we do them.
- Though we cannot always be in each other’s physical presence, we can stay connected. We can (and must) lean on our advancing technology to communicate with, support and care for one another without being in the same room.
- We are facing a collective challenge that has the power to bring us together despite our differences. As we worry less about ourselves and find ways to help each other, we activate reserves of strength and resilience we may not have realized we had.
- When nothing is certain, anything is possible. We can view the current disruptions we must deal with as opportunities to find better ways of doing things we never had reason to evaluate. We can be more intentional and conscious in everything we do.
1. Do whatever you can to quiet your mind and calm yourself down.
2. Choose curiosity over judgment.
3. Shift your focus from what you stand to lose to what you have to gain.
As you take these steps to become more connected with your own Genius, you’ll hold a space for others to do the same. Your ability to remain calm and optimistic will rub off. And you’ll not only quell the virus of fear but also proactively extend the hope and optimism that will allow us to prevail both individually and collectively.
Now THAT’s something worth spreading.
For more on connecting with your Genius, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Others.
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*Image: Pixabay 2020
Have you ever set a goal for yourself that left you feeling less than fulfilled when you actually achieved it?
Maybe it was a target you wanted to meet, a possession you longed to acquire, or a promotion you were hoping to receive. You kept your eye on the ball and hunkered down to do whatever it took to get there.
When obstacles presented themselves, you busted through them and may have felt as though you were repeatedly banging your head against a wall. “The reward for your exhaustion would be the sweet taste of victory in the end,” you may have told yourself.
I did. And when I got to the top of the hill I was climbing I realized the mountain I was scaling was not mine, but someone else’s.
What if it didn’t have to be that hard?
Contrary to what we’ve been conditioned to believe, success doesn’t have to involve suffering or sacrifice. It is not only possible, but also advantageous to enjoy the journey along the way. And if we didn’t insist on having to blaze the trail in front of us, we might find that off in the distance a lovely path is being revealed – if only we would stop long enough to pay attention.
When I take on new clients, they are often in the same state I have often found myself in. They have worked hard to get somewhere, but they know in their hearts there is something greater available to them. Perhaps they haven’t been getting the results they wanted, have been experiencing a great deal of stress or even burnout, or are just ready for a change. During times like these often the best thing we can do is not to speed up, but to slow down – way down.
If the path you’re running on isn’t getting you where you want to go, moving faster won’t do you any favors.
I have found over the years that the best leaders are not those who have all the answers, but rather those who ask the best questions. What are the possibilities? What are the opportunities? How are we uniquely positioned to make the most of them? In what ways can we leverage our strengths to rise up to our challenges?
In asking such questions, these leaders bring to the surface answers, insights and knowledge people hold inside that allow great things to happen. Rather than imposing a vision on others, they allow it to develop collectively, with the knowledge that they can’t possibly see and accomplish everything singlehandedly.
Before these great leaders can do this for others, they must do it for themselves. So I challenge you (and myself as well) to focus on asking the important questions and to be still long enough to hear the answers.
In Native American cultures, young adults are sent on vision quests. These rituals involve sending the youth on a journey, packed with provisions that allow basic needs to be met. Instructions are simply to wander around and find a place that calls to them.
Upon doing so, further direction is simply to sit and reflect. The belief behind this is that we do not necessarily need to actively find our vision. When we quiet ourselves and pay attention, our visions find us.
In our complex society, few of us have the time to go wander around the desert and sit for indefinite periods of time. So we need to make the time in our busy schedules to connect the dots. This may be a few minutes here and there. You may find yourself repeatedly daydreaming about something, or playfully entertaining an idea or possibility that will not allow itself to be dismissed.
These are critical pieces of information that, like pieces of a puzzle, will eventually come together to reveal a bigger picture. Pay attention to them, and do whatever is necessary to nurture and protect them. Capture these thoughts on paper or in your computer and add to them as new ideas continue to emerge. Some of these nuggets will become more valuable to you than others – like gold in the miner’s pan, they will begin to shine amongst the grains of sand.
Notice also the synchronicities that occur all around you that help make your visions real – chance encounters with people uniquely connected or qualified to help you, valuable information that effortlessly comes your way, and little serendipities that allow you to feel as though you are in the flow of something bigger than yourself. Chances are, you will be.
Enjoy the ride!
This article contains an excerpt from my book The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader – How to Unleash Genius in Yourself and Those You Lead.
Are you at a crossroads in your life or your career?
Do you feel like something amazing is ready to bust through but not sure exactly what it is, or how it will take form? Does it scare you? Do you find that things you used to be really good at are no longer satisfying or even interesting? Have you been daydreaming or even just longing for something different but not sure where to start? It might feel disconcerting and even overwhelming. Maybe you think you need to change jobs or even careers.
Or perhaps you just feel you need a change of scene – different projects, new challenges, new opportunities. You might have already experienced some kind of significant change and are still reeling from it, not sure what to do next.
Is there a great idea brewing that you just haven’t had the time (or the courage) to explore? Is something new and different beckoning? Perhaps you’ve put it on the back burner and tried to dismiss recurring daydreams to go back to the tried and true, but it just doesn’t seem to work for you anymore. In fact, it could be becoming downright miserable. And though you continue to resist the feeling that there’s got to be more than this, you can’t help but wonder if it might be true.
If any of this resonates with you, you are on the verge of an exciting, energizing, transformation. But it may or may not feel exciting and energizing. Right now it could just be disconcerting and uncomfortable. And you may not know exactly what to do about it.
What if you were not alone?
Would it help to know that many people are feeling the same way? Some of them have just quit their jobs because they were miserable. Some have been laid off. Others are at the pinnacles of their careers, by all appearances wildly successful but dying on the inside. Some are at the helms of corporations or large organizations, wanting to take things in new, exciting directions but not sure where to go or how to get there. Others are inside organizations, acutely aware of what is possible and what is not working, but not sure it is their place to volunteer their thoughts and ideas or fearful that doing so is just too risky. Still more are entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, writers, and other creative, innovative, and resourceful people that are playing (or wrestling) with the idea of entering unchartered territory.
The good news is, you don’t have to go off the deep end.
Though change is knocking at your door (and may already have come through it), you don’t necessarily have to tear everything down and start over again. You just need to learn to see things differently – your opportunities, your challenges, your very self. And you need to learn to tap the reserves and the brilliance that is within you. Everything you have done up to this point has prepared you for what you are about to do. The world is waiting for it.
Because you are human, you will resist it.
It may overwhelm you because you can’t figure it out. As hard as you try to create a solid plan for moving through it and making sense of it, you will most likely continue to be baffled. Because it is not a matter for your head. You need to trust in something bigger than that — the same way that great visionaries, inventors, scientists, writers, artists, musicians and leaders have throughout the history of time. Your head and your ego will create illusions that will terrify you. They will weigh you down and exhaust you. Under their influence, you’ll talk yourself out of your greatest ideas, dreams and visions before you can even get your key in the ignition.
What has helped me (and is still helping me) is enlisting the support of other people who are in the same place.
People who are dreaming and searching and even suffering, people who are knee deep in their own fear and resistance and trudging through it, people who are REAL and not afraid to let others see that they don’t have all the answers but are STILL SHOWING UP, doing what they are called to do each day, and asking powerful questions that get them closer to finding their answers. These people inspire me. They support and challenge me. And they give me the courage to keep at it.
Do you have someone in your life that helps you in that way?
If you don’t, FIND someone. It isn’t as hard as you think. Start by being honest with yourself about where you are and what you want. Challenge the fears and assumptions that keep you from sharing that side of yourself with people. You may be surprised to find there might be someone right next to you who is feeling the same way you are and will welcome the opportunity to confide in you.
What I have discovered and rediscovered is that the moment I connect with someone in a similar place that I am in, I become infused with the very wisdom and answers I need myself.
In the act of sharing it with others, I am able to benefit from it too. Similarly, those I have connected with in the past have unlocked their own wisdom and found their answers as they endeavored to tell me things we both needed to hear.
Being at a crossroads means you are on the verge of an exciting, energizing transformation. Embrace the journey – all of these moments, good and bad are opportunities for growth.
Implications for Real Leaders
Becoming REAL is about moving beyond all the conditioning that you’ve internalized over the years about who you need to be and what you have to do in order to “succeed”. When you’re ready to bust out of the box and experience the freedom of being who you really are, you can trade those old illusions for truth. And once you experience the freedom of doing that for yourself, you can help those you lead do it too. If you’re interested in learning more about how that’s done, download your free copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto: How to Stop Doing Business as Usual and Start Liberating the Power of the Human Spirit to Achieve Unprecedented and Sustainable Success.
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.
One day when my kids were younger, they had a play date with some friends. I heard one of them telling the other that Santa Claus wasn’t real. My son, who was eight years old at the time, vehemently defended the jolly old man, with elaborate explanations of why something not easily proven was worth believing in anyway.
It reminded me of my own childhood.
I had to laugh, as I flashed back to one of my own experiences with a little girl in my neighborhood who made fun of me for believing that a fat man in a red coat actually came down my chimney every year. I was so mad that, when she wasn’t looking, I broke all her crayons and put them back in the box (and spent the rest of the holiday season worrying that I had just put myself on the naughty list).
I have since learned that it is okay if everyone doesn’t believe what I do.
And if he hasn’t already, my son will learn that too. But he is the one who taught me something that day. I was buoyed by his unwavering belief and faith in something he’s never really seen and inspired by his example.
I can’t help but believe that those who trust in something magical will experience that magic in ways the skeptics will not. And I think the same is true in life.
There will always be someone around to tell us what cannot be done.
And there will also always be people who, upon being so told, will do it anyway. Their faith, determination, and belief in something they have yet to see will allow them to persevere until their dreams become reality.
One of my favorite authors on personal and spiritual growth, Alan Cohen, once said “You do not need to get others to believe in your truth. You just need to live it.”
Trust, faith, and perseverance go a long way.
In a world where much is uncertain and the old success formulas no longer seem to work, I believe it is more important than ever to trust in what we know to be true in hearts, even if our minds cannot figure it all out. It may go against what we have been conditioned to believe, see, and do – but perhaps this makes it even more important.
To bust out of old paradigms that keep us from realizing our greatness, perhaps we need to stop questioning what is possible and start challenging our limits instead. As we do, we will begin to make manifest that which we previously only dreamed was possible and, through our example, show others the way to rise.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a bright blessed New Year!
If you are interested in moving beyond old success formulas to unlock the greatness within you and those you lead, consider enrolling for the Spring session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius, kicking off the week of 2/17/20.
Register before 12/31/19 to lock in the 2019 price before it goes up. Click here for more information and to save your seat today!
“You ready for the holidays?”
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 everyday lives.
And maybe it’s never too late to start.
If you want to enjoy more meaning and fulfillment along with stellar results all year round (both at work and at home), consider enrolling in the spring 2020 session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius.
This exclusive 13-week leadership development experience goes beneath the surface of what most programs deliver, to help you learn to unleash genius in yourself and those you lead. The price will be increasing in 2020, but for a limited time you can click the above link to lock in your seat at the 2019 rates.
To ensure the highest level of support and individualized attention for each participant in the group, enrollment will be capped at ten people. Save your seat today!
Wishing you and yours a beautiful and blessed holiday season!
“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?
If you’re ready to play a bigger game, consider enrolling in the spring 2020 session of The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius. It’s an exclusive thirteen week leadership development program that will help you push through the resistance and sidestep the pitfalls that keep you from unleashing GENIUS in yourself and those you lead — and unlock extraordinary performance in yourself and other while experiencing greater joy and fulfillment both on and off the job.
For a limited time, you can lock in the 2019 prices before they go up in 2020. Give yourself an early holiday gift that’ll help you usher in a bigger, brighter 2020 by claiming one of the ten seats that are now available.
The Thanksgiving season naturally lends itself to recognizing what we have to be grateful for. Health, family, friends, and prosperity are among the most commonly cited blessings. What comes most easily to mind are the warm, fuzzy areas of our lives that naturally lend themselves to feelings of appreciation.
But the power of gratitude reaches far beyond those things that bring immediate smiles to our faces.
And leveraging this power requires that we embrace not only the happy times but also the tougher experiences we’ve had that we would often rather forget about. Because the most challenging times in our lives and our careers are often accompanied by some of the richest blessings.
- That proposal that you worked day and night on but ended up going nowhere.
- The difficult customer/coworker/boss/direct report that continually pushed all your buttons.
- The presentation you made that didn’t have the impact you would have liked.
- The restructuring in your division that took you to the edges of your comfort zone and required you to navigate through uncertainty that was as unfamiliar as it was unsettling.
These things that push us to our edges come bearing gifts.
And we tend to move so quickly that we fail to pause long enough to unpack those blessings and truly integrate them. But when we do, we often realize in hindsight that these less than ideal circumstances allow us to grow, to become stronger, to more resilient, more compassionate, more insightful, more wise.
The circumstances themselves pass, but the gifts remain.
Cultivating this deeper level of gratitude allows us to contemplate the idea that perhaps life isn’t happening to us, but rather for us. These challenges that test our patience, push us to our edges, and appear to be nothing more than irritating obstacles are often the very things we need in order to become the best versions of ourselves.
It’s easier to see the perfect order of things in retrospect.
Can you think of a challenge you faced in the recent (or not so recent) past that stretched your limits? Consider for a moment what you learned as a result of that experience. What did the experience itself require that you activate within yourself to successfully move through it? And how did it make you a better leader? A stronger performer? A wiser and more compassionate person?
The reason these insights come to us in hindsight is that our thinking settles.
When we are not so frazzled and pressured by the need for an immediate response, or plagued by worried and doubt, the static that prevented us from seeing and appreciating the deeper purpose and significance subsides. And there is space for gratitude to emerge.
Gratitude, yes for all the things that are going well in our lives – our health, the precious people in our lives, our prosperity – but also gratitude for the experiences that allow us to see who we really are when our backs are to the wall, to step up and into our true potential, to realize ourselves to be much stronger and more capable than we thought we were.
What if you could leverage the power of hindsight in the present?
What if you could learn to look beyond the tangle of thoughts that may have you in a knot as you approach a current or emerging challenge – with the knowing that this unsettling, less than optimal situation also comes bearing gifts and blessings?
What if instead of focusing on the uncertainty of the situation and the external circumstances you could turn your attention to the knowing that you have what it takes to rise up to this and any other challenge? All you have to do is look to your past for evidence that it is there.
If you take it a step further, you can become grateful for the situations and circumstances you previously wished would go away. Because you know that along with the struggle, they provide you with gateways that invite you to discover and unearth who you really are. This approach allows you to face your challenges with curiosity, playfulness and grace – mindsets that catalyze insight, creativity, and the resilience you need to find your way and emerge victorious.
Now that’s something to be grateful for.
Using the wisdom of hindsight in the present is just one approach I teach in The Pinocchio Principle Unleashed: The Real Leader’s Guide to Accessing the Freedom & Flow of Your Authentic Genius to help high achieving executives appreciate and leverage the perfect order of their most challenging experiences to unleash their greatness. Enrollment for Spring 2020 will open soon, and for a limited time you can secure your seat at the 2019 rates before they increase. Stay tuned for more information or join the waiting list to be the first to know when registration opens.