In our strategic leadership workshops, we often hear from people some version of “But so and so won’t let me …” or “I’ve complained many times about our company’s … ” or “Our organization is so messed up that …” to which we sometimes say (kindly of course that “Whining is not a strategy.” If you are whining or looking at what is wrong, you cannot see opportunities and will not develop your skills. If, for example, you don’t think you are being provided with enough clarity about your job, instead of continuing to complain about or ask, over and over again, for clarity, ask yourself what you could learn about dealing with ambiguity. That will definitely lead to your next opportunity to learn and grow which is indeed a better strategy than whining!
I would love to say that I always trust my intuition, but sadly I do not. And sadly, not trusting my intuition has resulted in me taking on work and projects that were not good for me, inevitably leaving me with confidence and competence shaken.
So why do we ask our heads when our guts are screaming? For me, it usually comes down to two patterns:
- Wanting people to say good things about me. I have taken on projects or agreed to work with people when my gut was screaming no. I went ahead anyway because I was worried what they might say about me. Ironically, the outcomes were even worse than if I had said no to begin with. I rationalize the decision by saying things like “you never know what they might say to …” but really I get work by doing good work, not by trying to figure out who might say what to whom. And I do good work when I listen to my intuition. Duh.
- Thinking there’s not enough – of whatever. When I’m in scarcity mode I ignore my intuition and get involved in messy projects. I rationalize it by saying I could learn something, this could be an adventure, I shouldn’t be uppity about the type of work I take, I need the money, be glad you’ve got work, etc. When I reflect on these situations honestly, it has always cost more, whether emotionally or financially, when I ignored my intuition.
What has helped me listen more to my intuition is to think long term and develop better skills at saying no in a respectful way. When don’t you trust your intuition and how have you addressed this?
I remember listening to an author once (sorry I can’t recall who it was!) who was asked about how she dealt with critics of her work. She replied, “I go where I am loved.” Most of us already have really well developed inner critics and so we don’t need to seek them out. Going where we are loved to find an audience for our work and our style (whatever work that might be!), leaves more energy to continue developing ourselves. Continually going down a path with people who don’t appreciate who we are leaves us demotivated, uninspired and worn out. Find those who love you and nurture them!
I’m a bit of a biography nut and was intrigued by an article on Bruce Springsteen in a recent Vanity Fair article. In it he stated that, ““You have to create the show anew, and find it anew, on a nightly basis,” Springsteen said. “And sometimes,” he concluded, laughing, “it takes me longer than I thought it would.” Later on in the article, he says, “I’ve always felt a lot in common with Sisyphus. I’m always rolling that rock, man. One way or another, I’m always rolling that rock.”
I was struck by the connections to creativity and leadership in what he said. Our creativity gets expressed when we continue to push that rock uphill. In my case, just because I may have created a blog I really liked yesterday (or many other previous days!), doesn’t mean I don’t have to go through my creative process again and find some inspiration. While my creative process might become familiar to me, I don’t know that it’s gotten any easier. Some days that rock is pretty heavy!
And this is certainly true of leadership as well. We need to show up every day and find the inspiration and best parts of ourselves. Just because we made a difference one day doesn’t mean we don’t need to do the same the next day. We have to recreate our passion and commitment for leadership every day. And that, too, can feel like pushing a big rock uphill.
In our creativity workshops, we talk about managing your energy which means paying attention to how and when you get your best ideas. While we talk about the importance of taking walks, we don’t mention as often that both Dave and I find that some of our best ideas come when we are in the shower! It feels like too much information to say this in a workshop, but alas it turns out that there is research to back this up!
Gregoire and Kaufman in their 2015 book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind highlight their 2014 research that 72% of respondents around the world reported having some kind of new insight in the shower! So the next time you are struggling for insight at work, just head to the locker room Hmmm … now that might just be TMI!
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung
“What most concerns you about the upcoming team session?” I asked one of my clients. I had been hired by the manager to help the team rebuild trust after a rather messy and complicated situation left many deeply hurt.
“That things will get really emotional and end up being worse.”
“That’s a pretty normal response,” I replied, “but surfacing those emotions in a healthy way will lead to healing and transformation for the team.”
My client looked skeptical but knew that not doing anything was no longer an option as people were avoiding each other and the morale was in the tank.
Dealing with those dark emotions we go to great lengths to hide is indeed uncomfortable. But hiding them leaves us depressed, anxious and stuck (and perhaps broke, overweight and alcoholic, depending upon what you do to keep them hidden!)
The next time you find yourself hiding from a dark emotion, take a moment, breathe, and:
- Surface the emotion.
- Name it.
- Experience it fully – where do you feel it in your body?
- Accept it as a part of being human.
- Ask yourself “What’s possible from here?”
- Consider developing a mantra, like the one I developed in the image above to help you move into those dark emotions.
A big thanks to Lisa Sonora whose 30 day journal challenge led to me developing this mantra and blog.
Transforming dark emotions is at the heart of my book, How to Forgive Your Boss. Visit the website and you can download the first chapter free.
I’ve done several 30 day challenges related to blogging and drawing over the past few years and on January 1, I decided to go in a different direction with yoga.
I chose yoga for 2 reasons, to increase my flexibility and become more mindful, as my past forays into meditation weren’t all that successful! Today, day 24, I came to the following insights:
- Yoga slows me down for at least a few minutes every day.
- I’m getting out of my head (a big relief trust me!) and into my body.
- I do feel more calm, more centered and more optimistic after I’ve done it.
- I feel I’ve made progress on something every day which might not be what true yoga practitioners would say is the point of yoga. I have so many big abstract projects, however, that accomplishing this one little thing a day is comforting.
It seems to me these are all great leadership practices as well. Yoga doesn’t have to be your thing but what do you do to slow down, get out of your head, become more centered and make progress everyday?
We had just spent two days with a very diverse group of participants facilitating a Future Search process and had asked for closing comments. I was struck by two of them:
“I am excited by what we have created and feel hope for our future.”
“If you all follow through on the projects we identified, things might change.”
The second comment struck me as somewhat cynical and it got me thinking about what distinguishes hope from cynicism. As I reflected on how these two people had participated in the two days and thought about other situations, four themes emerged:
Own your part – Hopeful people own their role in situations, both the good and the bad, and don’t look to others to “fix things.” Cynical people only own the good, are oblivious to the bad, and expect others to “fix things” for them.
Assume good intent – Hopeful people trust that others are doing the best they can, while cynical people assume others are out to make their lives miserable.
Accept reality – Hopeful people don’t sugarcoat or assume doom and gloom, they accept current circumstances and don’t wish they were different. Cynical people are always searching for some perfect condition that is different from the current one.
Give - Hopeful people give their time, energy and resources to others without condition. Cynical people wait for others to give to them.
As we approach the holiday season, are you hopeful or cynical? Which of these four areas might hold insight for you?