Tag Archives: leadership

Stay, Damn it!

Screen shot 2013-08-18 at 1.44.24 PM

One of the things that we’re learning in my leadership class is the concept of “stay.” Stay means having something that it’s important to you (your “stake”) and sticking with it through the highs and lows. Through the uncertainty and difficulty. It means keeping your focus when everyone around you knowingly or unknowingly seeks to divert you.

I’ve found the concept of “stay” useful in my runs. Yesterday, for example, I was only a half mile into my planned four mile run and I wanted to stop. But I was determined not to quit. I reminded myself that the first mile is the hardest, and told myself to stay with it. By Mile 2 I was feeling great. Then I hit another low just before the three-mile mark. It was hotter than I expected, I was getting tired. I wanted to walk the rest of the way home. “Stay,”  I told myself again. I slowed a bit, I tinkered with my breathing rate, adjusted my gait, and was back in the groove for the last mile.

“Stay” also comes in handy for the final miles of a long run.  For sticking with a training schedule, and yes, in those final 6.2 miles of a marathon.

What tricks do you use to “stay” when the going gets tough?

Aside

This week’s email featured an essay from Harvard Business Review by Umair Haque on leadership called “How and Why to be a Leader (not a Wannabe).  I enjoyed reading it, especially because Haque touched on the subject of love and … Continue reading

Asking for Help

In my leadership program we’ve all been given the challenge of asking for help in the two months between retreats — to stretch out of our comfort zones and ask for assistance in situations where we might not normally be inclined to do that. And also to notice how we feel about asking for help as we do this.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that I’m terrible at asking for help. Interestingly, so are many of the other people in the class.  And the reasons are all strikingly similar…

We are having trouble asking for help because we don’t want to seem weak or vulnerable. We have pride in our competence, we don’t want to admit that we might need help.  We’ve been taught to be independent and that there is shame in being needy.  We don’t want to be a bother to others or we believe ourselves unworthy of being helped by others.  We don’t want to take their valuable time or think we might be asking for too much. We may worry about rejection. We hire help, but we often won’t ask for it from the people closest to us. And sometimes we just don’t know what to ask for.

A 2008 study found that people routinely underestimate by 50% others’ willingness to help them.  In short, people are more likely to say yes to requests for assistance than we think they are.

I’m trying to remember that asking for help can be good for me and for the person I’m asking.  Asking for help creates connections and broadens possibilities.  I might learn something completely new or experience a new perspective. And asking for help gets easier with practice.

I’d welcome your thoughts on asking for help… it is easy or hard for you and why? Do you have any good resources on asking for help?

Our Agreements

I’ve just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It’s a simple little book that makes for quick reading and a lot of pondering and I’ll be discussing it with the members of my leadership tribe over the next few weeks.

Most interesting to me was the first chapter on how we humans are “domesticated” and taught stories, beliefs and values that become our unconscious reality as we grow into adults.  Ruiz calls these the “agreements” that rule our lives. We learn to be the people that others want us to be and “live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands.”  We judge ourselves and others against these expectations — often harshly — and we try to change ourselves and others to fit these expectations.   Ruiz argues for rejecting those agreements that don’t serve us and replacing them with new agreements so that we can be more free, starting with the four in the book.

The Four Agreements as summarized on the book jacket are:

  • Be Impeccable with Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
  • Don’t Take Things Personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. Ruiz argues that “there is a huge amount of freedom when you take nothing personally.”
  • Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid, misunderstanding, sadness and drama.
  • Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

I have work to do on each of these.  For the short term, I’m trying to be aware of my tendency to “go into my head” and judge myself and others.  I’ve been telling that voice to stop, just stop, and instead focus on being present and letting of assumptions and judgments. I’m consciously trying to write a different story in my mind when I start to take things personally or make an assumption about why someone has behaved in a certain way.  And when I’m not sure, I’m asking rather than guessing or assuming.  I’m hoping that with enough practice these will become new habits and new agreements for me.  And maybe I’ll be a little less domesticated!

Throw Yourself

64555_378267128947158_1959004633_n

This feels like an appropriate Seth Godin quote to share as I head off to my first of four leadership retreats and literally and metaphorically “throw myself” out into the open with a group of 25 strangers, facing some very real fears:

“Leadership is scarce because few people are willing to go through the discomfort required to lead.

The scarcity makes leadership valuable. If everyone tries to lead all the time, not much happens. It’s discomfort that creates the leverage that makes leadership worthwhile.

In other words, if everyone could do it, they would, and it wouldn’t be worth much.

It’s uncomfortable to stand up in front of strangers.
It’s uncomfortable to propose an idea that might fail.
It’s uncomfortable to challenge the status quo.
It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to settle.

When you identify the discomfort, you’ve found the place where a leader is needed.

If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader.

-Seth Godin, Tribes

And special thanks to the friend who sent me this photo and inspiration the other day:

“The little guy is coming out of his shell to conquer the world armed with all the instincts he was born with.  He’ll (she’ll?) finish crawling out of the egg, scurry around a little, get oriented, then head out to the ocean to start an amazing journey.  Just made me think of you as you embark on the first retreat.”

facebook_-48879564

Guest Musings

This week I thought I’d take a break from writing and just offer up a few quotes and snips  that I’ve gathered in the past few weeks that have gotten me thinking:

“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.”   -Alan Alda

“To be sincerely loyal to yourself is to allow yourself the freedom to grow, change and challenge who you are and what you think at any given moment in time.  The only thing you ever are for sure is unsure, and this means you’re growing, and not stagnant or imprisoned by old ways of thinking.” – Marc and Angel Hack Life

“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.  And as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela

“I doesn’t take as much as we think to step outside our comfort zone, it only takes a willingness.” – Mike Robbins

“Perfection, as it’s revered and pursued in our culture, is an unhealthy lie. A myth. A human construct. A marketing concept. In many cases, it’s a story told by people who want to manipulate your mindset and behavior to buy what they’re selling. And while it means different things to different people, the pursuit of it rarely leads to anything more positive than anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt and misery.” – Craig Harper

Do any of these resonate with you?   How so?

Quote

A Failure to Communicate

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw

For some cosmic coincidence, communication issues have been the dominant theme at work recently.  It’s been a good reminder that communication is not necessary what is said, but what is actually heard.   I’ve noticed a few common categories of communication challenges lately:

  • Things that should have been said but weren’t — a complete failure to tell someone who should have known about something.  They forgot… they didn’t realize… they assumed someone knew.  But for whatever reason, they didn’t speak up.
  • Things that were unknowingly said to the wrong person and never communicated to the right person — In these cases, the communication about the issue occurred, but never reached the most appropriate recipient, who remained completely ignorant about the issue.
  • Things that were actually said but not fully heard by the recipient, or not said firmly enough to make an impression — in these situations the information was shared, but the communication wasn’t completely effective.

The details aren’t important, but the end result in all of these cases was the same. Someone who thought they should have known about something didn’t.  And in each case, that “someone” thought they had been wronged or aggrieved — and perhaps disrespected — in the failure to communicate.

I think there are lessons on both sides —

1. Make sure your message has actually reached the right recipient.  If you’re not sure, seek confirmation.  “Is there anyone else that needs to know about this?” or “I just wanted to make sure you got my email…”

2. Make sure you’re being clear.  Sometimes when we’re in uncomfortable message territory or fearful of conflict we may “soften” our messages, and the result is that we aren’t clear about what we’re saying.  When in doubt, check for understanding with the recipient! “I just want to make sure that you understand that you need to be at work by 9 am everyday unless you’ve let me know in advance…”

3. Assume good intent.  You didn’t know about something that you should have known about?  Perhaps there’s a logical explanation for what happened.   Don’t assume that you have the full story until you’ve taken the time to talk it through.  Be curious not judgmental.

We’re all in the communication business.  I’m always struck by how two people can see or hear the same thing and have completely different impressions of what has just happened.  That’s because we all filter our day-to-day experiences through different lenses.   Don’t let your filters create communication illusions!