Have you ever achieved a goal that wasn’t as fulfilling as you thought it would be?
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?
It’s not that we want to avoid hard work, which really does have its rewards. It’s about enjoying the journey a little more. 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.
The best leaders are not those who have all the answers, but rather 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.
A vision quest doesn’t have to be all consuming.
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 can be vital to our journeys.
Like pieces of a puzzle, they 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. These may be 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!
If you are interested in additional strategies for helping you navigate a path aligned with who you truly are – one that leads to lasting freedom and fulfillment, I invite you to 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 is now open!
This 13-week leadership development program is designed to help high achieving professionals bring out their very best performance in such a way that fills them up rather than depleting them – and allows them to make a bigger impact doing meaningful, inspiring work while leading others to do the same.
The program will kick off in late September and go through early December. Enrollment is limited, so save your seat as soon as you can.
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with over the course of my career who believe that to be a credible, strong leader, you must come across as infallible, having all the answers – being rock solid. Newer leaders often feel as though they do not have a lot to offer in meetings and other gatherings because they do not know much yet. Out of fear of being exposed as someone who is not on top of their game, many times they remain silent – when in actuality the questions they would otherwise ask out of sheer curiosity and desire to learn could become the very impetus the organization needs to see things with fresh eyes and recognize opportunities they previously missed.
On the other extreme, I occasionally meet with people who on the face of things have it all together. They are poised, polished, and seemingly the picture of perfection. And they are often stumped at why they have been unable to motivate and inspire their people to new levels of performance and success. Initially, I sometimes find it difficult to connect to people like this and often go on to learn while gathering feedback for them that others do too.
I think it’s because the rock solid persona they project is rarely a true representation of who they really are. And before you can engage the hearts and minds of others as visionary leaders do, you must be able to connect with them – and they must feel a connection to you.
The problem with needing to have a bulletproof image is that very few, if any, people in this world are really “bulletproof.” In fact, if ever there were a trait or characteristic that is shared by virtually the whole human race, it is that we all have fears, insecurities and misgivings. We all make mistakes. We all know far less than we would like to or even have the capacity for. These things that make us humble and vulnerable connect us to each other in profound ways that are often overlooked and/or unacknowledged.
Think of the people in your life who have inspired you over the years. Maybe it was someone close to you – like a parent, teacher, or coach. Or perhaps it was a public or historical figure. If you try to identify the qualities in that person that really made an impact on you, it is likely not so much what they achieved in life as what they had to overcome in order to do it – disappointment, failure, challenge, fear, perhaps even an illness or handicap of some kind.
So it seems there may be something to gain by allowing these little things we have been conditioned to hide from each other to be a bit more visible. First of all, it takes a lot of pressure off of you. When we learn to take ourselves a little less seriously and give ourselves permission to not know everything, we move beyond worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of us to be truly present with other people – to really listen to them, to be curious about their unique perspectives, ideas, and insights. The emphasis goes from having to showcase our knowledge, competence and stature to learning from others and helping them to feel valued and appreciated.
Secondly, when we are less guarded about our fears, misgivings and challenges, we realize that these things are nothing to be ashamed of. Because in spite of them, we have risen up to the challenges in our lives. And sometimes the most inspiring thing we can do for others is help them to realize that though they are in the thick of their own fear, they too can find something within them that will allow them to bounce back or rise up – to recognize a strength they didn’t realize they had – and to use it in a way that truly benefits not just themselves, but everyone around them.
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates
Implications for Real Leaders
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When my daughter was eleven years old, she handed me a piece of paper one Friday afternoon. Across the top of the page written in hot pink were the words “Why You Should Let Me Have a Friend Over Tonight.”
Beneath the heading, in various bright colors adorned with hearts and smiley faces were five or six bullet points meticulously printed with the most perfect of penmanship. One of them said “I’ll share my super sour gummy worms with you,” and another promised “we will only make a little mess.”
While I was impressed with my daughter’s effort and artistic flair, I made a mental note that at some point I ought to help her with her negotiating skills. I winced as I recalled the last time I tried one of her super sour gummy worms, whose pungent flavor immediately led me to regret the decision as soon as I put it in my mouth — and then again hours later when most of it was still stuck to my teeth.
You wouldn’t expect a senior executive to have the same errors in judgment in an attempt at persuasion. And yet, often even the most professional of people make similar blunders. Today I’ll cover three of the most common mistakes people make in their attempts to influence others:
(1) Making invalid assumptions about what people value
(2) Overlooking the importance of objections
(3) Talking more than listening
Let’s talk about making invalid assumptions about what people value.
This was my lovely daughter’s critical error. While her offer to share super sour gummy worms may have been very compelling to her thirteen year old brother, it was actually rather repulsive to me. In her precious little mind, everyone loves those squishy sweet treats. It never occurred to her that wasn’t universally true.
And professional people often make this mistake as well. Not with gummy worms, but with questions of value.
One of my clients, Jan, learned the importance of checking her assumptions after pitching a proposal to senior executives with the argument that her program would allow employee satisfaction and morale to increase, leading to a happier workplace and less interdepartmental conflict.
While these were certainly attributes of a program she worked very hard to develop — and benefits that were quite meaningful to her — her audience was far more interested in financial gain than employee satisfaction.
Did she have to completely revamp her program to get their support? Absolutely not. She simply needed to amend her case to show the return on investment her program would generate after factoring in lower absenteeism and turnover rates, increased productivity, and reduced waste.
“Treat everyone the way you want to be treated,” we are taught from an early age. But unfortunately, not everyone values the same things. A better adage might be, “find out what is most important to the people around you and make an effort to respect their preferences.”
Unfortunately, understanding what people value isn’t always enough to cinch the deal — even when it appears that you have agreement. Let’s move on to the next most common mistake, overlooking the importance of objections.
Why is it important to surface objections?
Things are moving along well. You see heads nodding. It seems you are gaining the support of most the people sitting around the table. Wouldn’t surfacing objections at this point throw a monkey wrench in the works? Why allow people who are already with you to be swayed by people who have dissenting opinions?
The problem with those head nods is that you don’t really know exactly what people are agreeing with. They might be on the same page when it comes to the way you described the problem that needs to be solved. But not necessarily on board with your solution.
They may agree with part of your solution, but not all of it. They may be nodding their heads because their peers are doing that, and they feel compelled to follow suit.
The problem with partial agreement is that it usually only gets you part of the way there.
That may not be the case if all you are negotiating for is a onetime event — as in the case of my daughter. But more often than not, what executives really need is ongoing support and commitment. Sure, they want to get their program funded, their product launched, or their order filled.
But in order to have lasting success, they need champions within the organization, people who are committed to their projects, and customers that will continue to place more orders. And that takes more than a simple head nod or even a signed contract.
Partial agreement falls apart when things get difficult. People don’t follow through. Your calls stop being returned. Your funding gets pulled. And you are left scratching your head wondering what happened.
Those people who aren’t nodding their heads in agreement could be worth their weight in gold. But only if you get them to talk.
This leads us to the third mistake many executives make in their attempts to influence others: talking more than listening. Anytime people are being pitched with a proposal, a call to action, a request for support or funds or business, there will be concerns and skepticism.
Often these reservations don’t get voiced. Instead, people adopt a “wait and see attitude.” But the questions rattling around at the back of their minds may very well be valid — and if you knew what they were, you could take steps to address them and sidestep potential pitfalls you would otherwise unwittingly fall into.
So, the first step is to intentionally encourage people to voice their dissent. They could very well tell you something you really need to know. And if you acknowledge that they may see something important that you may not be aware of, you are sending a message that you value and respect them and care enough about them to address what they care about.
When your audience takes you up on your invitation to share their concerns and reservations, it is more important than ever to resist the temptation to talk and listen instead.
But many executives don’t do that. They figure a stronger argument is required. More data. Sexier examples. Better stories. Increased persuasion. So, they tell, and they sell while their audience feels less and less understood and slowly slips away.
When you feel the inclination to begin defending your case, hold your tongue and get curious instead. Ask for more details. Recap what they’ve said to be sure you heard them correctly. Paraphrase what you think is most important to them.
Continue asking clarifying questions until you begin to see things from their perspective. Because when you do, you will earn their trust.
You may have to rework your proposal. It may not be the reaction you were hoping for. But you have won for yourself the chance to truly gain the support you endeavored to secure — and when you take the steps to listen and respond to the concerns of your most important stakeholders, you increase the chances that the support you have just won will stand the test of time.
Let’s recap the most common mistakes executives make when attempting to influence — and what to do instead.
(1) Making invalid assumptions about what people value. Instead, recognize that not everyone likes the same thing you do. Find out what is most important to the people around you and make an effort to respect their preferences.
(2) Overlooking the importance of objections. Instead, realize that objections help you recognize what your audience cares most about and gives you an opportunity to deliver it. It earns you trust, respect and ultimately, their support.
(3) Talking more than listening. Resist the temptation to diffuse your audience’s objections and concerns with more information, telling and selling. Instead, probe to get a better understanding of what they really need and take steps to deliver it.
Influencing others is about more than crafting a polished presentation and a bulletproof case for action. You will get much further if you treat the art of influence more like a dance with your audience than a performance in front of them.
Invite them in and get them to participate. Listen to their needs, their desires, their concerns and their recommendations. Take action to address what they consider to be most important.
And whatever you do, please don’t offer anyone super sour gummy worms.
As an executive coach, I work with leaders in both large and small organizations – who are passionate about creating inspired workplaces.
They want to break the unspoken, unwritten rules of organizations that say…
- …that the version of yourself you bring to work is different than who you are at home.
- …that work is a place where you do what your boss says and don’t ask a lot of questions.
- …that you have to suck it up when what you are tasked to do doesn’t jive with who you are.
- …that you have to keep your head down and just make it through the day, the week, the month, the year and collect your paycheck regularly enough to feed your family and make ends meet.
These leaders inspire me.
They have come to a place where they know there has to be more to life than just going through the motions, getting through the day, doing what’s required, going home and turning on the TV until the next day comes. They want more for themselves and they want more for their people.
Some of them are in organizations with traditional structures and old paradigms.
Not intentionally designed to limit people, but born of cultures that despite the latest management trends and empowerment classes on possibility thinking and shared vision still reward command and control, lead to power plays and foster the idea that if you don’t watch your back you could get stabbed.
One of my clients was discouraged by his boss from getting too close to his subordinates.
He was told doing so could cause him to lose his “edge” with them. He was told he may not be viewed as a leader if his people know too much about him and see him as a real person with fears and dreams and idiosyncrasies and humor.
But he knows that kind of leadership won’t unlock the potential in his organization. He knows that won’t light people up. He knows that won’t foster trust. He knows that isn’t what makes people go the extra mile when they are already tired and beaten. And he’s sick of playing that game.
So he’s trying something new. He’s sharing more of himself. More of his vision. More of his hopes and concerns and experiences for better or worse. He is encouraging dialogue. He’s asking what people think and sticking around long enough to hear (and really listen to) what they have to say. He is helping them find ways to breathe life into their greatest ideas and visions. And he is learning to get out of the way and trade the illusion of control for embracing possibilities that lead people (including himself) to enter into and navigate through uncertainty.
Another client is getting ready to engage his leadership team in ways that they aren’t used to.
He wants to roll out a whole new paradigm of doing things. And he is quite aware that words like “increasing shareholder value,” “fostering excellence” and “exceeding customer expectations” – while good concepts, tend to make people’s eyes glaze over and dismiss what is being said as the latest corporate speak, rah rah, Dilbert like rant.
He realizes that he needs to get very clear about what he sees as possible for his organization and all the people in it. He needs to be able to distinguish what they are moving away from and moving toward and find out what they think is important and what it will take to get them there.
He wants to encourage dissention and constructive disagreement. He knows that if they don’t voice their concerns and questions and hesitations to him, they will do it with each other in a way that could invoke fear and resistance and squash the seeds of possibility as they begin to germinate and grow. He knows that a silent room doesn’t mean everyone agrees. He has the courage to delve underneath the surface to find out what’s really going on – even, and perhaps especially if it means they don’t agree with anything he is saying.
A third client heads up an organization already known as the very best at what they do.
They have customers lining up at the door. They have been recognized in their community as the go to for what they do. They are well respected in their industry. And yet, they are burned out. They are overwhelmed and just trying to make it through the day. Things fall through the cracks. Important details get overlooked.
And my client has run around fixing things as they break, preventing undesirable consequences and instituting practices that keep the organization profitable, efficient and effective. But his partners haven’t embraced them – in fact, in some cases they even harbor resentment. He knows he cannot create an inspired workplace singlehandedly. But he realizes his partners aren’t inspired – and that no amount of talking at them will get them there. So he is slowing down and beginning to have authentic conversations with each of them.
He wants to connect with them as people, to see what they believe in, what they are passionate about, what they want to create together, and what they think needs to be done to make it fly. He is opening himself up to their criticism, their doubts, their worries and also hoping to hear about their dreams. He doesn’t know if it is going to work. He isn’t sure how to begin these conversations, or whether people will really engage with him. But he is willing to do it anyway.
This is the essence of true leadership.
Some call it conscious leadership. It is the ability to authentically engage with people in the workplace in a way that promotes shared value, meaning and purpose and leads them to work together in service to something greater than themselves. It requires courage, patience, faith, trust, intuition, and self awareness.
And I salute them.
Creating an inspired workplace and exercising conscious leadership is something that doesn’t happen overnight. If you are interested learning about approaches and strategies for building an engaged, enthusiastic work culture that leads to high performance without burning people out in the process (starting with yourself), check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Registration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 to take advantage of the early bird discount!
We have all experienced times of pressure, anxiety and sudden change.
When jobs are tenuous or organizations are restructuring, it might feel as though life itself is turning upside down. Frustration and turmoil is a common response to this kind of uncertainty and disorientation. It can lead to exhaustion and hopelessness. But consider this as you think about the things in your life and career that may feel as though they are spinning out of control…
What if the only thing standing in your way of perfect peace, true productivity and the satisfaction of living a life of purpose – was your thinking?
I know it may feel as though you are at the mercy of your circumstances. However, even in the worst of situations you have more control than you might realize. One of the key attributes embodied by extraordinary leaders in all walks of life is encapsulated in the word “responsibility” – not just in a moral or ethical sense of being accountable for our actions, but also – and perhaps just as essential in times of change and chaos – remembering that there is wisdom in recognizing that we have the ability to choose our response. And that the response we choose will have a resounding impact on ourselves and everyone around us.
Start with awareness.
The greatest change agents start by recognizing what they have to work with before they can create change that will be sustained. They assess their environment to determine what the best entry point for that change is before they make their move. They don’t waste their time worrying about things that are truly out of their control, like changing the weather. Instead, they focus their attention and energy on those things that they do have the ability to influence and start there.
Extraordinary leaders know that the most powerful and sustainable change must start from within themselves.
Watch your stories.
The thing that fascinates me about a seemingly chaotic state of affairs is not so much what is happening, but the stories we are telling ourselves about what it means — and the impact those stories are having on the way we are responding to it. When we react to things with fear, we end up amplifying that which we are afraid of and adding to the anxiety. Our fears drive us to act in ways that keep us from acting on our intuition and finding the answers that will truly serve us. Sometimes, we end up behaving in ways that make our fictional stories become real.
As an example, when you tell yourself a story about what is happening that leaves you feeling threatened, you may find yourself closing up and treating others with suspicion and mistrust. The way you are behaving toward people may well provoke a response in them that appears to validate your fearful story. However, in this scenario, it is very likely that their behavior is more of a reaction to the actions your story led you to take than anything else.
Our fearful stories are like the viruses we protect our computers from.
These nasty viruses are often embedded in emails that pique our curiosity or rouse our fear. When we unwittingly activate them, they spread often uncontrollably and we risk passing them to the computer of our friends, associates and countless others. The viruses corrupt our systems until they no longer function effectively. Like computer viruses, our stories have a way of spinning us out of control and interfering with our ability to rise up to our challenges to find the opportunity that is always there waiting for us to discover and leverage it.
Our rational minds want answers and security.
They need to figure everything out and almost automatically occupy themselves with trying to sort through data to arrive at conclusions. The problem is that our minds are plugging imaginary variables into the equation that end up further exacerbating the anxiety we are already experiencing. When they are done with one variable, they plug in another and the churning continues, leaving us with an uneasiness that keeps us on edge.
What’s the worst that can happen?
In the grip of this madness, sometimes the best thing you can do is indulge your mind with a variable that will allow it to do its thing. Go ahead and plug in the worst case scenario. If the worst possible thing happened, what would you do? Alloy yourself to sit with that question for awhile. Let the fear move through you and keep asking the question, what would I do that would allow everything to be OK? If you sit long enough with your question, you will arrive at some workable alternatives and reconnect with that part of yourself that is strong, resourceful and resilient.
Armed with the knowledge that you will be OK in the worst of scenarios, you can come back into the present and recognize your fearful thoughts for what they are – fearful thoughts. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, which I pass along frequently is don’t believe everything you think.
You have everything you need.
In the present moment, devoid of your stories about variables that are truly unknown, you are OK. And when new events begin to unfold, if you stay in the moment and access your inner wisdom, you will know exactly what you need to do – or not to do – to be OK then too. And as you go about your daily life in this way, your calm resolve will permeate your interactions with others and through your example, you will help others to rise up to their challenges in ways that unearth the greatness in themselves as well.
For more tips on navigating through change and uncertainty, check out my book, The Pinocchio Principle ~ Becoming a Real Leader, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
How do I motivate and inspire my team in the midst of uncertainty that could lead to the whole department being eliminated? I mean, I’m not even sure I know whether I’ll have a job myself!
This is a question a client of mine recently asked. A tough one. I didn’t have an immediate answer for him. He didn’t want to blow smoke in their faces or hand them a bunch of rose colored glasses. Nor should he. When an organization (or life itself, for that matter) is in flux, it can be scary for people. And there are no easy answers.
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 when you find yourself in a situation similar to the one my client was in:
(1) There is nothing that 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 up 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 have the ability to 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 doing 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.
Speaking to people in terms of what they are capable of as a group can be helpful, but speaking to each person individually will have a far more powerful impact. Think about each person you lead. What have they 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.
(3) Keep people’s focus (including your own) on possibilities rather than frustrations. As with everything in life, whatever we focus on has a way of becoming amplified. When we allow ourselves to become consumed with fear and doubt, our brains have a way of finding things that feed those states and we find that there seems to be even more to be afraid of or frustrated by. This phenomenon often happens without our conscious awareness, and it is a vicious cycle that can keep us falling deeper and deeper into despair.
Reversing this cycle requires a conscious effort. When we notice we 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.” We need to figure out what is more important – more worthy of our attention and energy and focus on that. As we do, our innate talents and strengths have a way of rising to the occasion.
With any change that brings uncertainty, there is a process of renewal involved. The old must fall way in order for the new to be revealed. This is true in nature as well as in our communities, organizations and in our very selves. We can focus on what we are losing and experience a great deal of sadness and grief, or we can focus on what is newly emerging around us – and within us.
Sometimes the most difficult changes are the very things we need to experience to get closer to what we really want in life. We may not realize the gifts change and uncertainty bring for weeks, months, and even years. But we can recognize how it has served us in the past and trust in the process, in each other, and in ourselves.
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.” ~ Richard Bach
For more tips on navigating through change and uncertainty, check out my book, The Pinocchio Principle ~ Becoming a Real Leader, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
I’m delighted to announce that my book, The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader is now available as an ebook on the Amazon Kindle store! Today’s post on bringing life back into work is an excerpt from the Preface. I hope you enjoy it.
The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader
I have always been amazed by the number of people who seem to think of work as something of a necessary evil — simply what must be done in order to earn a paycheck. For so many who toil through their workday, the primary goal is to make it to the weekend so they can really live. Going through the motions, working side by side with others whose hearts and minds they seldom truly connect with, they withhold the very parts of themselves that make them come alive.
For some it wasn’t always this way. Many began their careers ignited with passion and optimism, only to find that their flames began to flicker as they encountered obstacle after obstacle that kept them from achieving what they believed would be success. Succumbing to the unwritten rules of the organizations and other environments they found themselves in, which suggested they needed to act or think in a certain way to get ahead, they may have slowly sold out on their dreams and relegated themselves to quiet complacency.
Many of us were not brought up to expect that work would be fun or gratifying in any way – nor should it be. That’s why they call it work, we may have been told. As a result, we may have never really expected much from our careers or professional lives. And as the saying goes, life has a way of living up to our expectations. In just about every corporation, nonprofit or other organization, you will find people in jobs that do not ignite their talents and passions. Some remain dormant in those jobs because they fear that if they pursue their hearts’ desires, they won’t be able to put food on their tables. Many don’t realize that there might be a better alternative.
Most of us have learned how to turn ourselves on and off at will, in an effort to spare ourselves the pain of disappointment or frustration — or to maintain what we have come to believe is a professional demeanor. It is not uncommon to hear people say that they are very different at work than they are at home. Those golden parts of ourselves that we think we are protecting suffer when we do not let them breathe and interact in the very realms that provide us opportunities to learn more about who we are and what we are here to do in the world. We miss the chance to become a part of something greater than ourselves. And the organizations and communities we are a part of miss out on the unique contribution each of us has the potential to make.
We can no longer afford to fragment ourselves in this way, denying the fulfillment of our secret dreams and downplaying the insights we have about what we can do to make life better — for ourselves, and everyone around us. As more and more of us feel the pain that accompanies the denial of our spirits, we start to realize that the time has come for us to bring the totality of who we are to what we do, no matter our vocation, title or role.
For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.
~ Jim Collins, American business consultant, author and lecturer
We are beginning to awaken to our unique calls to service, creativity and innovation. As we find ways to unleash our distinctive talents and passions at work, we will significantly increase the quality of our own lives, as well as the lives of everyone around us. Corporations that take steps to create environments that allow people to thrive will be met with rich rewards as ingenuity pours forth in ways that lead to increased profit and market share, as well as the creation of self-sustaining cultures that inspire people to sustain success by doing what they do best.
There are people among us who have the ability to snap us out of our trances — our states of quiet desperation —and help us bring more of who we truly are to everything that we do.
They can do this for others because they have done it for themselves.
They are called leaders.
You may be one of them. The Pinocchio Principle is dedicated to allowing you to play a bigger, more significant and meaningful part in the world by unearthing your own leadership in ways that bring about a greater good — and showing others the way to rise through your own example.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
~ George Eliot, English novelist, 1819-1880
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