Are You Safe or Trapped?

Dave and I have been teaching and giving talks for over 30 years and so it was surprising to both of us just how much angst we both experienced getting ready to present at DisruptHR Victoria. To be fair, it was a bit of a different format – 20 slides automatically forwarded every 15 seconds – and it was being video taped but nonetheless I have given hundreds of talks over the years … WTF? Why did my inner critic rear its ugly head to such a degree? My first thought was that my angst was all about not having control over when the slides advanced, but upon reflection there was a lot more going on.

Serendipity being what it is, I was just reading Tara Mohr’s Playing Big and Denise Jacobs’ Banish your Inner Critic, both of which offer insight and tips for dealing with your inner critic, albeit from slightly different perspectives.  Both of them suggest that the inner critic is a hardwired safety instinct. The role of the inner critic is to protect us from harm,  whether that’s physical or emotional.  This insight alone has helped me reframe what’s happening. Instead of the usual “this is ridiculous” message I give myself, I’m now saying, “Thank you for trying to  protect me, but I’ve got enough experience to handle this.” It’s a subtle but powerful shift that leaves me feeling more grounded.

My next insight came from Tara’s book … that our inner critic will yell most loudly when we are getting ready to play a bigger game. I realized that while I have given many talks, I can only think of one or two that were actually videotaped and none were going to get circulated more broadly.  There were several firsts in this talk … first time with a 5 minute, highly structured talk, and first time with a video about to be circulated. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to be “perfect,” another sign that the inner critic truly has a hold on you. I reminded myself of the Leonard Cohen quote I often say when perfectionism is taking over

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

My final insight came from Denise Jacobs’ book. She has a chapter on “comparison syndrome” that really resonated for me. She talks a lot about the role of social media in feeding the inner critic and how to deal with that by tracking your triggers and then eliminating some of those sources. It was her ideas around becoming self-referential, however, that were so helpful to me. In preparing for the DisruptHR talk, I watched quite a few talks from the previous year, watched a number of shorter TED talks and read quite a few blogs about what to do/not do. The more I did this “preparation” the more freaked out I became. I was becoming other referential, not self referential. I needed to stop preparing and comparing,  get centered in on what I wanted to say and trust my own experience.

Jacobs’ suggests that to be self referential you determine your success by looking at who you’ve become over time. You then focus on becoming the best version of yourself. I was so anxious my first day of teaching high school English (many years ago now), I actually vomited in the staff washroom before I made it up to the class to teach! I realized that I had come a long way.  Embracing my “onlyness,” the space in which only you can stand, allowed me to embrace who I am and what I have to offer and do the talk “Tammy style” instead of “everyone else style.”

I’m happy to say that I got myself centered and, while I did feel many nervous flutters while waiting to give my talk, I did not vomit 😉 I have not seen the tape yet, but I will deal with that inner critic when the time comes 😉 In the meantime, I’m excited that I took the risk and very appreciative of the entire learning experience!

Getting Over Procrastination

 Getting Over Procrastination perfectionism learning happiness emotional intelligence decision making change

I can be a procrastinator at times (even about things I want to do!) and have been thinking about the combination of things that leads me to procrastinate and how I might address that. I realized that it`s the intersection of three things … thinking that whatever I need to do is too big, too hard and that I have to do it all at once. I love blogging, for example, but if you have been following my blog you know I go through periods of regular blogging followed by no blogs for months!

I realized this past fall (after not having blogged for over six months!) that these three things were at play. So I was able to start again by telling myself to spend 10 minutes just thinking about the blog, even if I didn`t do anything else with it that day. Well, to my amazement I did an entire blog that day!

I have a work project right now that feels too big and too hard and so I am reminding myself of bigger and harder projects I have done. Then, I am committing 10 minutes towards the project. This combination seems to be working for me for now!

What are your patterns of procrastination and how have you deal with them?

Whining is Not a Strategy!

 Whining is Not a Strategy! strategy 2 leadership emotional intelligence decision making communication appreciative inquiry

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  Whining is Not a Strategy! strategy 2 leadership emotional intelligence decision making communication appreciative inquiry  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!

Why Ask Your Head When Your Gut is Screaming?

 Why Ask Your Head When Your Gut is Screaming? learning emotional intelligence decision making
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

Go Where You’re Loved

 Go Where Youre Loved learning leadership happiness engagement decision making creativity appreciative inquiry

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!

Take a Break from the Backpack

 Take a Break from the Backpack uncategorized perfectionism happiness forgiveness emotional intelligence decision making   
Today’s blog is inspired by a recent book, The Best Advice in Six Words, an inspiring and provocative book full of advice from famous and not so famous authors. 

The holiday season can be full of unpleasant memories, high expectations and emotional stress. Take a break from that backpack.

Embrace what is possible from there. (Second 6 word advice 😉

Silence Is Not A Problem To Solve

  Silence Is Not A Problem To Solve learning leadership facilitation emotional intelligence decision making communication

Learning to manage anxiety in the presence of silence is another insight from the work of Weisbord and Janoff. As they suggest, “We are mindful that each time we break the silence, we deprive someone of a chance to make a valuable observation.” Waiting even 10 seconds will seem like an eternity, but it allows people to experience whatever is happening and come up with insights about what’s next.

Letting Go Of The Right Way

  Letting Go Of The Right Way leadership decision making communication coaching   
I have had the honour of working with many talented leaders who are so people oriented that they drive themselves crazy trying to ensure people are happy. These leaders often have to make tough decisions, though, and it’s not possible for everyone to be happy all the time.

Even though intellectually I think most of these leaders know this, they still keep thinking that if they had done something different, people would be happy.

They won’t be – there is no one right way. That’s the reality of work and life – there is pain at times. Helping everyone accept this might just start to ease people’s suffering.

Who’s In Your Network?

  Whos In Your Network? strategy 2 learning leadership decision making creativity   
I’ve written about the importance of having cheerleaders in your life, especially when you are trying something new and/or taking risks. 

But we also need to step back and analyze who’s in our network more broadly in order that we don’t get blindsided by circumstances and perspectives we hadn’t considered.

Who do you interact with most and/or consult with around projects? Are they all like you? Or is your network diverse?