Lockdown Learnings #2 Rescue Drama Anyone?

Lockdown Learnings #2 Rescue Drama Anyone?

So here I am with the second of my musings about the awe-some learnings I’ve had during this pandemic…this time all about the rescue drama!

From my last musing ‘What you Resist, Persists’ you may remember the premise of my realisation that all my challenges were already present in me and my mindset. The big illumination was really about how I was locking myself down in my leadership and life. 

I suggest keeping this in mind as you read on.  Where may you behaving this way in your own leadership or life? When does your care become fear driven…the hero…the fixer…the rescuer. And does this play out in a well-rehearsed, well-travelled, well known drama.

Tiara anyone? 

The ‘Rescue’ Drama

So one of the other things that I noticed in my own behaviour during the early 2021 lockdown was how I launched into a ‘rescue’ attempt a couple of times. This was for those that I assumed were at risk of suffering – particularly emotional – suffering. We had a couple of serious illnesses in my family in the early part of this year and this is when I started to notice my behaviour around this scenario much more.  I offered my heartfelt emotional support – but not in a I’m here lean on me way – but in heroic I have to save you way!  I could feel the physical pull of fear in my body. Gosh I feel some shame as I type and remember this now…

So there I was, putting on my golden lasso of truth, my silver bracelets and a razor-sharp tiara. I realised later that this emotional ‘rescue drama’ was a behaviour/habit I developed from early experiences in my childhood – when I was really, really terrified.  At the time I very much needed emotional strength and resilience from others. Sadly this was not what I got. Thus my young mind decided that I had to put myself aside and ‘take care of others’. My story was that I wasn’t important enough to be focused on. My young mind believed I was the cause of the suffering and I had to fix it – or fix me so others would be happy.

What Does This Behaviour Matter?

For me I realise – as an adult – this can be a form of hiding out.  This can have a huge impact on my willingness in leadership. When I invest my time and energy in ‘saving’ others I’m not looking at myself or my own leadership. Not looking at what is really going on for me, for others or actually what I or they are truly capable of. And most importantly for me as a leader and a human being it meant more fully embracing my own wants/needs. In my personal context this was not being a ‘coach’ or emotional crutch to my family. Of course I want to supportive, compassionate and empathetic. But that is enough. They are adults. They are more than capable of choosing to ask for support if they need it.  And actually this is an important process in their own development, particularly self-esteem. I can actually do them a disservice with my rescue drama, which doesn’t encourage them to take responsibility for themselves.  I’m feeling tearful and heartfelt gratitude now as I type this, for me there is such a bigger piece on offer. To really get deep down that my wants and needs matter equally. 

This is vital as a leader, holding my space as an equal whilst also modelling this and facilitating this for others. This is how we work – and excel – as a high performing team.

The ‘Rescue’ Drama Triangle

A rescue drama theory well researched and documented in psychotherapy is the Karpman Drama Triangle. For myself the drama I’ve engaged at times has been the back-and-forth victim/rescuer. Here I am the Hero! I shall sweep in with my masterful qualities and fix you and your problem! In my experience though, the hero/rescuer usually makes many assumptions about what the victim is thinking, feeling and wanting. Really their ‘rescue’ or ‘fix’ is a projection of their own thoughts, feelings and wants. Because really how would they know what the ‘victim’ wants or needs?  When I’ve been in this role my purpose is to reduce MY fears in the rescue drama – with MY idea, solutions or ‘fix’.  This is not a scenario where my victim is empowered or included in the discussion. There’s little or no ‘we’re in this together’ attitude, which again is vital for a high performing team – and for innovation.  I’ve popped on my tiara and bracelets and I’m off on my crusade!  

The Empowering Value of Coaching

For myself these days as a coach, one of the vital skills and elements of self-mastery has been the ability to notice and step away from any form of rescuing/fixing. So you can imagine my surprise when I witness myself doing this behaviour with my loved ones. It was a shock my friends. And an absolute gift to be woken up to how this has played out in my leadership and life ♥.  Only when we are awake and aware can we change our behaviour.   

For me the practice to ‘get myself out of the way’ is a huge part of the reason I adore coaching so much. This is both as a professional and as a concept. When I’m there awake and aware, I am FOR my coachee and myself in a way that is empowering – and can sometimes be a transformational energy in itself.  How I show up, my ability to be in-tune and aware of myself is essential to my coachees empowered experience.  If at any time I believe I know how they or their path should be, the conversation has become limited and more about me not them. There is no empowerment in me believing the illusion that ‘I know best’.          

Who or What Creates My Thoughts and Feelings?

What strikes me right in the heart about this idea of rescuing and fixing is the notion that I or you can make somebody else think or feel something. This notion that simply by something I do, say or don’t say – I can determine your thoughts and feelings. This is an incredible illusion my friends.

There’s a tool that I learned about 16 years ago when I took a powerful self-esteem course. This course, the concepts…tools…context completely transformed my perceptions of myself and how I’d been experiencing my life. I am to this day very, very grateful for this wake up. What I learnt was a complete eradication of the notion that I have the power to determine another human beings thoughts or feelings. This was HUGE for me, however it did mean…

Taking RADICAL Responsibility

If I don’t have the power to determine another’s thoughts or feelings, they also don’t have the power or ability to make me feel, think or believe anything. This means everything inside me comes from me, my own thoughts – not anything outside of me.  Oh my! I can no longer abdicate responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings. I then don’t get to blame others for my feelings, thoughts, behaviour – including justifying my behaviour in light of how others are behaving. So what now? 

What’s on offer is me taking complete responsibility for everything that is created from my own thoughts and feelings. And importantly the part I play in what’s created in any interaction. Can you imagine not blaming anyone of anything anymore for your mental or emotional state? When I was enlightened to this reality I really had quite mixed feelings. On one hand I felt scared as all my blame, justifications were no longer valid it seemed. And I felt excited as I felt this inner power knowing that at any time I could transform my perception and my experience of others, myself and the world.

Mastering Your Mind…

When I’m working with coaching clients in the arena of shifting behaviours, the awareness and reality of what is happening in the mind is essential to taking radical responsibility for our behaviour (the Event, the Mind and Our Reaction). Only when we acknowledge and wake up to the reality that we (our thoughts) – nothing else – creates our reactions will we be truly empowered. And a large part of the shift in behaviour patterns happens when we take full responsibility for our part. 

This means stopping attaching to the illusion that others or anything outside of us create our state or behaviour. In my experience this is not an easy thing to master, I am still practising this after 16years.  A practise well worth committing to though as this is where empowerment and freedom lives.  And, sometimes the ongoing awareness of the illusion in itself can be transformational in our inner and outer experience of life.

What’s on Offer

So here’s my top 5 wonderful life-giving benefits to taking on and practising this reality:

  1. Awareness – once we are aware of our thought patterns and beliefs we have the awe-some opportunity to change them, resulting in transformation of our experience
  2. Tell the Truth – when we see how our thoughts/mind is ‘running the show’ we have the opportunity to be honest with ourselves and others. This in turn creates the opportunity to have more authentic, real relationships based on who we really are (essential self) rather than who our mind fears we might be (feared self)
  3. Humanity – when we can see the reality of judgements, accusations and assumptions we are making about ourselves and others. This creates an opportunity to be human, compassionate and see the humanity in others
  4. Interconnectedness – when we take full responsibility for our part, we can choose to see this as an opportunity to connect with ourselves and others rather than separate. We may even start to see the mirroring of ourselves in others and the beautiful interconnectedness that is on offer…   
  5. Freedom – when we tell those truths about our own fears, judgements and assumptions we FREE ourselves from the mental and physical tyranny that this creates. This does mean taking that radical responsibility BUT it also means we are free to value ourselves for who we are 

What You Can Test for Yourself

So here’s an exercise for you to test this for yourself …

  • Event – recall an event where you remember yourself reacting, particularly negatively. What happened…it may be something somebody said or a specific moment that you didn’t want or like. Close your eyes, take yourself back to that moment and ‘tune into’ your mind and body…
  • Reaction (Feelings)  – what are the emotional feelings (e.g. sadness, anger, resentment, hurt, disappointment)     
  • Mind – what is your mind telling you about the event that happened? Look out for judgements, assumptions, accusations, conclusions…  

The big question…are the judgements, assumptions, conclusions that are running through your mind actually true?

And…I have the ongoing opportunity for you to have a look at your own lockdown reflections.  Here’s an invitation for you to complete a FREE lockdown learnings reflection exercise for yourself Lockdown Self-Reflections.  You have the option to submit your responses and have some feedback from me if you would like to…

Lockdown Behaviour Change Learnings #1…

Lockdown Behaviour Change Learnings #1…

So here I am with the first of three musings about the awesome behaviour change learnings I’ve been having during this pandemic. Especially the lockdowns!

The Notion of ‘Restrictions’

I remember hearing a lot in the media and from leaders I spoke to about the struggle, difficulty with restrictions. Totally understandable of course, a massive shift in context can generate much resistance to change. I wonder though if this resistance was a big fat ‘NO’ to being woken up to all the things that we may have been avoiding or got attached to in our leadership and lives. Whether this was being stuck indoors, not going to events, too busy, relationships that weren’t working, physical distance, working at home, furlough, not travelling…the list goes on… For myself I resisted what I saw as the lack of freedom to be out and about. I resisted the lack of human/physical connection, the mundanity…and in a way the push from life to be with myself and at home, A LOT…

What Constitutes Freedom?

Interestingly I’ve recently completed a silent Buddhist retreat as part of my CPD and was reminded of the enlightening difference in their take on the notion of ‘attachments’ – or clinging as they call it. This is where we cling to things we have developed an attachment to, including habits and behaviours. What struck me is the difference in perspective of what constitutes freedom. In lockdown(s) the perception seemed to be that freedom was severely restricted or pressured, yet in Buddhism they teach that when we are attached we (or more so our hearts) are not free. And is it largely our attachments to things outside of ourselves that create ‘dukkha’… suffering. Maybe what was really restricted was avoidance and the escape routes that we’d constructed…    

What Is Really Being ‘Locked Down’?

I notice in my own leadership resistance that what I was really avoiding was how I feeling. Essentially my resistance is to uncomfortable feelings that ranged from agitation, frustration, loneliness, fear, unease to boredom. I set about delving into my feelings, reactions and here’s some of what I uncovered:

  • Fears – FOMO…the fear of missing out, fear of scarcity, fear of loneliness, fear of being online too much. Fear that if I wasn’t ‘doing’ I wasn’t enough in some way or wasting time…
  • Beliefs – the belief that I was trapped, isolated, that the grass was greener in some future situation (especially where I could have what I wanted!)
  • Demands – that things should be different, that I had to know what the future was going to be, that I shouldn’t be feeling how I was feeling… 

For me the beautiful, life giving thing about lockdown was the awareness that all these things were already present in me and my mindset. Lockdown didn’t create these, it just shone a bright effing light on what was already present.  A massive magnification of ways I was already locking myself down in my leadership roles and life. 

I am oh so grateful for this ♥

Is the Grass Greener?

The other piece that’s really struck me, especially in relation to behaviour change and attitude is ‘the grass is greener’. I can really get into this myself…this notion that ‘there’ is better than ‘here’. Wanting to be in some future reality where we get a result we want, get to do something we want, get to become something we’re not at the moment. In Buddhism they call this an attachment to the desire of ‘becoming…’.  It really hit me that I can get into this internal demand – which then creates agitation – all because I am in some way attempting to insist reality is different. 

I’m also pondering an additional piece about habits, behaviours we get attached to in leadership. Even simple things in our daily routine or automatic reactive behaviour(s). This was highlighted on my retreat too and got me thinking about unconscious habits. When do we question the purpose of ‘how’ we do things, how we behave, how we lead? For me on retreat this was an insightful reflection on how we (I) can become a slave to an unconscious habit. A habit that may have originally been put in place to support me or my team, but now has become something else. Is the habit actually serving me/us now or have we moved into a state of obligation? There is no freedom – agility or innovation – in obligation.

Mastering Behaviour Change…

I work all the time with clients in the arena of shifting leadership behaviours, especially those behaviours that are limiting, creating negative emotional reactivity or unwanted results. The process of self awareness and delving into what is driving behaviours is essential to mastering them. The driver(s), in my experience, are never about the actual behaviours themselves but the beliefs through which we constructed them (usually from previous experiences). This process is vital for behaviour change to:

  1. Notice, Become Aware – bring the thoughts/feelings/beliefs that are in play up to conscious level
  2. Tell the Truth – have the courage to go beyond fearful feelings and tell the truth about the beliefs and the grip they have on us as leaders
  3. Willingness – to commit to practising awareness and consciously choosing something different. Choosing a different response which serves ourselves, our teams, our communities and greater reflects our deepest leadership values.

What You Can Ask Yourself

So here’s some reflective questions for you…

  • Habits/behaviours – what habits or ways of behaving are you holding onto as a leader that are no longer serving you? What would it take for you to be open to something different…
  • The Grass is Greener – what ‘there’ is perceptively better than your current ‘here’. Is there a future scenario that your mind has as its ‘salvation’ or ‘perfection’. What could you appreciate in the here and now… 
  • Resistance to Reality – what are you demanding, right now, that should be different to how it is? This could be a result, how your team or colleagues are or how a situation is. What is your payoff for holding this resistance? Payoffs can be things like being attached to being ‘right’, being superior, avoiding being honest, avoiding vulnerability, avoiding facing reality…    

And…I have the ongoing opportunity for you to have a look at your own lockdown reflections.  Here’s an invitation for you to complete a FREE lockdown learnings reflection exercise for yourself Lockdown Self-Reflections.  You have the option to submit your responses and have some feedback from me if you would like to…

Self-Stewardship & the Law of Karma…

Self-Stewardship & the Law of Karma…

So, I’ve been doing a 21-day abundance meditation challenge for the last week and I’m loving it! 

What’s been somewhat surprising though is the coming together of 2 themes that have been emerging for me over the last 18 months – the first being Trust. Not at all the sense of trusting of others or even myself. My self-trust has been exponentially honed from coaching practise and numerous other pieces of development. 

The trust I’m talking about is trusting the universe, life, whatever you want to call it. This notion of not just trusting what is or isn’t happening – but the much BIGger trust that there is always other possibilities and endless MORE. More of me, more of others, more possibilities, more money, more time – and even if there isn’t it’ll all work out anyway. 

One of the golden gems that came up in my 21-day challenge today was the realisation that Truth and Honesty are at the core of my being. Telling it, asking for it, living it. This for me means being INtegrity with my soul.  And this I have learnt is success for me and always will be – inside not outside. I meet many people who believe that their state, results, happiness is determined by what’s going on outside of them. I used to believe this myself. Now I realise – something I’ll be eternally grateful for – I create my experiences, no one or no-thing else does.

The second emergence has been so very connecting and grounding is Giving. And here I’m not at all talking about monetary giving. I’m talking about giving my heart, time, compassion, unconditional love and kindness. 

And Unconditional Generosity.  Interestingly what popped up in my meditation today was ‘the Law of Karma’. We reap what we sow…

So what’s been evolving in me is a natural congruence in being generous with my soul. I have some sadness as I realise this depth of wanting to give of myself has come about from – at times – utter despair from not creating some of the things I dearly want in my life.  

I’m tearful as I feel this sadness and at the same time grateful that I’ve got to experience what its like to be free. Free of the demands I used to have on myself to get the result I wanted – attached, stressed and then the ensuing wave of disappointment when I didn’t get what I wanted. Grateful that I know how to recognise when I’m in auto-pilot and can consciously choose trust over fear – getting into that ‘busy’ drama which is really about fear of scarcity or impossibility.

And I also self-remember that it’s not over yet! And I’m a very tenacious lady. What’s been really beautiful is honing my tenacity in a way that embraces serenity and vulnerability. Interestingly since I’ve been embracing just giving, I’ve noticed there’s much more of me in everything I do and I’m attracting much more of what I want into my life.

One of the concepts that’s really resonated with me today is this idea of Stewardship – taking great care of the things that we value. Making choices that are generous to ourselves and others – as they are grounded in a sense of endless more and possibility. Grounded in ‘we are one’ and connecting. The other way – as can be so very common in leadership and teams – of choice making that is grounded the ego’s fear of scarcity or survival. Cultivating a ‘me first’ attitude – separating. 

There is enough, there has always been enough and there always will be. And of course in that there’s trusting it’s all exactly how it’s meant to be… 

What I love about what came to me in ‘stewardship’ is this way I’ve learnt to reflect all learning – it starts at home. So how about Self Stewardship, taking care of yourself as something of great value. Love it!

How About a Challenge?

So here’s 3 questions and challenges for you:

  • Choices – where are you making choices that are fear based? Not enoughness or with limits. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough resources or there are limited opportunities, choices, possibilities. You’ll know it’s fear based when you feel any kind of tension, anxiety, stress in your body. Challenge: for 7 days NOTICE when you are choosing out of fear and make a different choice. Breath into the fear and trust;     
  • Giving Conditionally – where do you give or engage conditionally?What’s the payback or payoff? This could be your time, your % of effort, your 100% willingness. Challenge: Practise giving unconditionally for 7 days, check in with your heart and choose what to give 100% to – regardless of the outcome; 
  • Self-Stewardship – where are you not putting your gas mask on first? Do you treat yourself as something of great value that matters? Challenge: Identify 2 ways that you could daily fill up your own tank and do this for 7 days.  

Namaste ❤

No Strings Attached…?

No Strings Attached…?

Well Happy New Year!

It’s a funny thing isn’t beginning a new year – my mind likes to get into believing that I should make a ground-breaking discovery on 1st January.  Or I should have this sense of ‘this is it!!’ followed by some sort of epiphany to do less of something/more of something else…

The truth is for me is that I did realise at in the early days of this year that I have been on an incredible, deliberate journey of self discovery during 2019. I really trusted the deep need I felt inside to regroup, re-discover myself and realign with my soul.

And this journey was essentially me shining a bright fucking light on my life, disrupting it, throwing some mental and physical attachments up in the air – seeing what fell back down. The vital piece…my purpose was to get aligned with my soul and my integrity that supports this. This really has been (and continues to be) a profound exploration in getting to know myself with a specific intention to keep looking within. To keep letting my soul guide my leadership and my daily life. 

You see I had a sense of great dissatisfaction towards the end of 2018. I’d been evoked as a result of various life events that I’d experienced – both professionally and personally. It seemed like I was literally jolted into reality, mainly from the big resistance at times to what was happening. Or sometimes what wasn’t happening. Something was ‘off’, something didn’t feel congruent and that something was me!

Sitting here right now remembering, and acknowledging actually, how much I have thrown myself into this intention of unpicking and freeing myself up is very grounding. Getting to know me. Getting connected with what I really want – from a place of ‘anything is possible’ rather than ‘something is wrong and I need to fix it’. 

And so ensued no less that 7 retreats, an ongoing exploration of Buddhism, setting clearer boundaries, more saying no, more being fearless and letting go of behaviours, roles, relationships, beliefs, ways of being that were not serving me – or were not congruent with who I am and what I stand for. 

I spent large amounts of time reading, watching videos, completing courses, reflecting, being coached, processing and debriefing. A ‘drilling down’ if you will on questions like: What do I really want? What am I accepting that is incongruent?  What excites me? What do I really care about? What do I want to give my time and attention to? Who am I and what is my life about REALLY?

This was very painful at times – the loss and grief of letting go and the huge fear of trusting that all would be ok in the end. And there has been amazing moments of utter awe and joy in what I’ve discovered. I’ve been evoked in ways that I never imagined was possible.  

What I didn’t realise in the midst of this – when it was all happening, changing, landing – was that I was in much bigger space of UNKNOWN. Seems funny to share about this now as it seems obvious that everything is unknown, all the time. But for me it has been a pretty fearful place at times – consciously, deliberately letting go of particularly behaviours that I have employed for 30+ years – and not knowing what the fall out would be. It hit me how for most of my life I’ve held onto a number of things purely out of fear of losing something or someone. So I started to consciously embrace loss and go for fearless letting go and TRUST instead. Argggh!   

Tears have come into my eyes now as I recall how I spent a time in hospital having an ‘emotional crisis’ when I was very young. Back then I really didn’t know how to handle my emotions or what was coming up in my life – the unknown of it all. Within this early experience I remember mostly is being frightened, living with a day to day fear of not knowing whether I was safe and whether I would find my way home. 

Working through all of this and releasing, connecting, discovering has connected me powerfully with who I am and what I care about.  I recognise these days that I have an innate capacity for honour, acceptance and huge depth of unlimited compassion for human suffering. This is precious to me as I truly value being able to ‘get in’ with others when I see self limiting beliefs, behaviours or blind spots. And I SEE a lot. This depth has evolved as I’ve been willing again and again to look at my own beliefs and face my fears. I have a tenacious strength and commitment to getting free again and again. Getting back to a YES to myself and a YES to how it is.

So my friends, one of the deeper learnings that I am very grateful for in my exploration (particularly Buddhism) is that when I free myself from ‘attachments’ my mind expands, opens up and my heart is free. I’m willing and open to be with life as it is – not as my mind gets into believing it should be. 

In leadership this is VITAL – the ability to be open, agile, responsive. The willingness and ability to be aware, pull out self insight and thus respond from a ‘clear space’. Not from a space that is pre-conditioned, pre-loaded or fixed. How often do we see or hear leaders that go into the same auto-pilot behaviour or reaction, regardless of the context? Where do you do this in your leadership or life?

One of the biggest, most effective things I have ever learnt as a coach and as a leader is to trust myself, trust my instinct and be brave. This has always served me well. In fact this has created powerful connection, insight and opportunities. The upshot is though – to enable this to happen – we must free up what’s in our way. The unconscious beliefs, the conditioned thinking, the fears. The willingness to look within, to face those fears and limiting beliefs, and to keep doing so is crucial.    

One of the amazing ways I’ve learnt to shine a light on these fears is to become aware of and let go of attachments.  We all have them. So here’s a suggestion and challenge for you…   

Suggestion

Start noticing what you are attached to. You’ll know you are attached when you have a strong desire, physical or emotional reaction to something you want in your leadership or life. There will likely be a physical ‘pull’ or mental tension, drivenness. 

Challenge

Are you willing – right now – to shine a light on and even ‘give up’ one of your attachments? These could be:

  • Results – ‘getting’ something. Could be a yes from someone, winning something, producing something, achieving something…anything. Also ‘proving’ something…who you are…what your capable of…that you can ‘get’ results etc
  • Views/Opinions – hands up who likes to ‘be right’? What we’re looking for here is any attachment to you being ‘right’ and someone else being ‘wrong’. Is your way the right or only way? Could as simple as how you cook pasta!
  • Possessions – having or keeping something. Device anyone? I mean how would it be if you didn’t look at or check your devices for 48hrs?  Another good one here is any kind of ‘status’ possessions…
  • Context/environment – any attachment to your environment being different. This could be things like peace and quiet, noise, how something looks, how someone behaves. Does that man really need to slurp his drink so loudly?   

Interesting isn’t it? 

Start with one small thing. All roads lead to Rome. I remember reading one of my many Buddhism books where one of the monks was speaking about their journey in ‘giving everything up’. The hardest one for her was her views/opinions. This clinging to being ‘right’ – so common for this to be an attachment to our identity or self worth…

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The Art of Letting Go…

The Art of Letting Go…

MY or NO way? How often do we not get what we want…the results we wants, the response we want.

I’ve been pondering this on a much deeper level after experiencing an intense Buddhist retreat a few weeks ago. This notion of REALLY letting go of everything – even if it’s in this moment. I mean everything, every desire, pleasure, want, attachment, aversion, resistance…all of it. 

This was a most intriguing experience, this ability to truly be at peace with everything – just as it is. And of course the crux of all this was being at peace with myself, just as I am. At any given moment that may be happy, sad, excited, anxious, disappointed, joyful, tense, serene, angry…any number of different states or feelings…

I’ve been having a very challenging time personally and professionally this year – on and off – after deliberately disrupting and changing various elements of my life. This has been, and continues to be, a combination of letting go of things that aren’t serving me, taking a stand and honouring myself more. Being more real and authentic. Who knew there were so many layers to this?! 

I realise now that my hope was this was nearing completion – however life has had different ideas. This has meant – especially in the last few months – being in very big ‘don’t know’ space with myself, my purposes and in some of my most precious relationships. At times I’ve found this utterly uncomfortable, disorientating and frightening. And on the flip side this is proving to be liberating, expansive, revealing, exciting – and the thing I’m most enjoying is a growing sense of my self expression and more of ME emerging. As a leader and as a woman.

As part of this I have been consciously practising the art of trusting. And the art of welcoming loss actually. Trusting that things will work out even if I let things I care about go…trusting that all will be well…trusting that the universe ‘has my back’ and the powerful vision I am holding for myself is being created. Even if I cant see it yet.  Que sera sera eh? I made myself really smile yesterday by writing a mantra about what I’m aiming for “trusting deeply that I can master trusting deeply”…

This may seem like a hands off leadership strategy but I tell you what my friends, in a letting go space there is a natural alignment with things as they are. An alignment with the ability to go with the flow of life, event by event, adapting and course correcting. Not being attached to a particular path or how we get there opens up a world of possibilities. This isn’t about being passive but actually actively managing our energy to be allowing, accepting, conscious and responsive. Seeing what emerges. Focusing on the here and now, responding to what’s actually happening rather than being tied to a fixed idea of how it ‘should be’.

I share this partly because it seems to be so ingrained in our culture this push to ‘get’. Get ahead, get something or get somewhere. As if the goal of our lives was to get more and more – and as fast as possible. What’s the purpose of that? How about slowing down and enjoying the ride, being more fully present to the ride. We need a bigger purpose, a bigger vision to see us through – especially when the going gets tough. 

One of the things I LOVE about purpose is that there always is one, whether we are conscious of it or not. One of the most revealing exercises I’ve ever done is to make a list of my actual behaviour with different things and then ask myself ‘what’s my purpose?’. Our real purpose is always revealed in our actual behaviour.

So if your driving, demanding, insisting on having things your way – in a fixed mindset about anything – maybe what’s required, essential even, is some letting go. In that space peace and freedom can be found. The space of awakening to life as it is – not as we demand it to be. 

I’ve worked with many leaders who struggle to delegate, let alone empower their teams. So this is where the challenge eh – letting go and trusting.

And of course this all starts at home. Can you let go and be with yourself just as you are, right now?

You can access your free copy of my ‘Five Leadership Powerhouses’ right here, right now…!

New Year…New Inner You?

New Year…New Inner You?

Wow the New Year can be such a catalyst can’t it? For me the build up to Christmas and that momentum of switching over to a new year has created a fire in me to change!! How about you?

I spent quite some time during the build up to Christmas reflecting on what behaviours I wanted to develop, master, enjoy. Yes enjoy! The major theme for me has been about focusing more on the quality of the moment – the NOW, each present moment. As ever my focus is on how I am BEing, not what I am DOing. 

It’s very easy isn’t it to focus on changing things external to us – getting into New Year’s resolutions that focus on the DOing to improve our lot or indeed fix something that we perceive to be a failure or weakness of how we are.  

So for me development, personal and professional, is predominantly focused on BEing not DOing. How do I want to BE different, how do I want to create or change a behaviour.

‘Our attitude is like perfume…people can smell it’. And we get what we get as a result.

A few insights occurred to me during my period of reflection:

  • Fixing – the momentous amount of time I’ve spent trying to ‘fix’ something about myself has been huge! This is all good because it has lead me to where I am now. However, acceptance of me as I am and where I am is really where I can propel myself to come alive and step forward
  • My Experience – EVERYTHING that I experience is happening on the inside, not outside of me…particularly my perception of myself, others, the leadership context. This perception dictates how I behave
  • BEing – I can DO a lot of things, however how I am BEing whilst I am doing them is what makes a real difference to me, my leadership and the resulting impact

Thus right now, in the context of behaviour change, I realise some of my biggest learnings in all the 20 plus years I‘ve been proactively developing myself comes down to 3 fundamental things:

  • Willingness, openness, acceptance – this is never ending…
  • Getting off self condemnation…again…and again…and again…
  • Challenging…my beliefs…perceptions…assumptions…

I shared in my last article about the ‘Building Inner Confidence for Professional Impact’ on-line course that I have spent the last 18 months developing. At the crux of this are some of these insights…especially the approach that the course isn’t a sticking plaster. It’s a combination of the last 20 years of self insight and learning.

It’s not about telling yourself that you are this or that or indeed that anything external is going to give you the confidence or assurance you want. The course is asking you to be willing to go inside, dig deep and see what’s there. Pick at the uncomfortableness, see what your perceptions and beliefs are about yourself. See that those negative beliefs and perceptions are fundamentally complete rubbish! And the real truth is something only you can discover because that is inside you – or is yet to be revealed. That’s empowernment my friends…

Writing this I remember how scared I was to go inside me and take those first steps. So I have a huge empathy with anyone who may be feeling terrified, apprehensive, scared, anxious about doing so. I was so fearful that I’d find something awful, something fundamental about me that was just life changingly terrible. Or something that would mean all my concerns and fears were actually true. I was a liability, a burden – and essentially not good enough. Well of course I didn’t find anything like that. It was all hot air, fears, complete crap, self created illusion. Hard to know that though right? Unless you take that courageous first step…

So here we are…a New Year and the golden opportunity to use this catalyst, this energy to fuel change. Take the plunge to invest in yourself and your ongoing journey that is your life and leadership… 

What’s the worst that can happen? Or more importantly what’s the amazing BEST of you that could emerge?

Obligation in Leadership – Does it Serve you Well?

Obligation in Leadership – Does it Serve you Well?

There’s a motivational state that has been evident around me the last few weeks and months – and in myself sometimes – obligation.

Do you know this one? It’s the state of mind we can get into with a commitment that sounds like:

  • I have to go along, see this through, keep going…
  • I can’t say no – or what I really think…
  • I’m bored…frustrated…tired…distracted
  • This isn’t working…this isn’t what is should be…this should be…
  • So-and-so doesn’t know what they are doing…
  • I’ve tried to change it but it doesn’t work, if I say anything it won’t make any difference
  • Here we go again…
  • I have no choice…

So you show up for a meeting and this is your state of mind. ‘Going through the motions’ comes to my mind as I’m writing this. I have done this many times! Something at some point may peak my interested, but other than that I’m 50% – sometimes – 25% in.

At some point I said YES to this commitment and now I’m acting out a NO.

And then what most likely nicely piles up is resentment and/or resignation. We then go about (consciously or unconsciously) playing this out with some of the following behaviours:

  • Distracted, disengaged, not giving our full attention (playing with our phone is a popular one)
  • Withholding of information, knowledge or contribution
  • Acting bored or indifferent
  • Not really fully participating or speaking up about what one is unhappy or frustrated about
  • Moaning, complaining – we do like to do that don’t we!
  • Colluding with others outside of the meeting to diagnose ‘what’s wrong’
  • Mentally justifying one’s own disengagement, inactivity or lack of attention

We are literally rejecting or resisting the situation right now – AS IT IS. Well we have tried haven’t we?

The thing is when we show up in a state of obligation, not only are we not taking responsibility for our part – we have also already condemned the situation as ‘over’.  We have closed the door our willingness to see possibility, get creative or be open to the conversation as it is happening. There is nowhere to go after that. Obligation is the path we are on and there’s a perceived self preservation in that – and a nice familiar place to hide out – being a martyr or a victim or ‘knowing better’.

There’s a big fat NO in us and the essence of that will trickle out affecting the atmosphere.  And of course the ensuing resentment is like poison, slowing sucking the life out of everything. This may sound dramatic but it’s very real when it happens and can be extremely toxic in an organisational culture.

As Nelson Mandela said:

‘Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’

My question is: Would you really want to keep this going? We all play a part in the context, what’s created in any given moment. You have the absolute power – at any time – to choose something different.  To choose a different way to BE and behave.

Don’t underestimate how much one person’s willingness – yours – can affect the atmosphere and outcome. As a very wise person once said to me ‘your way of being, your behaviour are like perfume – people can smell it’.

People in high performing, empowered cultures show up much more in a motivational state of willingness. A willingness to be open, to say what is so for them – even if this is uncomfortable. There’s a willingness to be honest, fully participate, focus on the quality of their own experience and that of the team. There’s a willingness to be uncertain, creative, uncomfortable, collaborative. They take personal responsibility for the part they play and how this contributes to the bigger picture.

So here are five suggestions and insights that I’m hopeful will support you (and indeed the bigger picture in your own organisational culture):

  • Purpose – what’s your purpose for being there? For saying yes in the first place. Is your purpose still valid or true? Are you and/or the team getting what you came for? Is your purpose big enough to see you through when things don’t go how you would like? Sometimes admitting to ourselves that we don’t want something anymore or it’s not working out is tough. And letting go can take huge amounts of courage…however it can also create room for discourse, something else, other ideas, people or possibilities…
  • Choice – Is it really true that we have no choice? There may be consequences to making a different choice – however I put it to you that this is not the same as not having a choice. What we can always choose is how we are with the choices we make. There is a big psychological difference and impact between and attitude of ‘obligation’ and ‘willingness’
  • Are you IN or OUT – in light of your or the team’s purpose, do you really to keep going? Is it serving you, others or the purpose to keep going? Are you contributing in the way you want to? Are you creating the results you want? What needs to happen for you/the team to be more engaged, committed…fully IN…100%
  • Tell the TRUTH – if you are not happy or don’t what to be there. Speak up, leave, say no, let go. Tell the truth about how you are feeling and what you’d like to see change. No guarantee of course that you will get what you want! Have your voice though, even if it is not what others want to hear. You do yourself and others a disservice by not speaking up. I can’t count the times I have been fearful to say something and then when I do there are countless others who say ‘yes, I thought that’. And then we have course corrected or cleared up what was in the way. Your willingness to be open and truthful creates the space for others to do the same
  • You – by being in a state of obligation the person who loses out most is YOU. You diminish your voice, you minimise your wants and needs, you minimise that fact that YOU matter and your contribution matters. Avoiding taking responsibility for yourself in this way also diminishes the part YOU can play in creating something different – whether that’s staying where you are or not. Contexts shift constantly – you can choose to change yours proactively and consciously or ‘ride along’ in obligation.

So, as always the choice is yours…

Leadership Development – What do YOU stand for?

Leadership Development – What do YOU stand for?

I’ve worked with many clients, particularly public sector, who want to transform their stakeholder engagement results, predominantly staff engagement. They want a higher performing culture – a culture where staff are much more empowered, forward thinking and engaged. They want this to transform their organisation, solve their retention or HR issues and lead to significant improvement of services. The ‘golden alchemy’ if you will.

What I’ve noticed is that there’s a big piece missing for me in how this goal is tackled or even debated. I see a kind of flatness, blandness, sometimes a lot of resignation and particularly individual leaders with-holding their individuality. I rarely see a leader truly engaged in their own strategy – where’s the passion, where’s the emotionally compelling vision for a transformed future? For me sometimes there’s a big disconnection in HOW the vision and strategies are put forward.  I want to see leaders take a stand.  I want to see leaders authentically sharing what they stand for and engaging me into a compelling vision for the future – because they are engaged and fired up themselves.

As with all hopes for change, this starts at home – in all of us as leaders. How are you being? What do you stand for?

In the same respect, I have huge compassion that this may not be the ‘done thing’, showing one’s self in this way. It takes courage and the willingness to stand out. It’s more common to portray a ‘persona’ or a culturally accepted norm – to maintain a conscious or unconscious consensus. Completely understandable .

My question is, how can you as a leader expect your teams to BE something which isn’t role modelled in your own behaviour?  Isn’t that confusing and incongruent? The most powerful way we can engage and transform is to role model the courage and willingness to do this ourselves.  Engage yourself first, transform your attitude first.

I hear a lot about different organisational development strategies, all brilliant initiatives that will be part of this or improvement journey.  I am a passionate believer however that creating a coaching culture is one of the most effective and sustainable ways to transform cultures, particularly for organisations that are going for higher performance, empowerment or engagement.

This is something I have a great deal of experience in. Some years ago I created a ‘coaching for culture’ programme with an awesome educational client. This was a powerful way to not only develop leadership and teams but also create a more purposeful, open, empowered culture where the emphasis shifted from ‘telling’ to ‘learning’. The starting part of course is to role model this through the executive team – through their own journey of empowerment and development. Who knows what’s possible after that!

So here’s my four key steps to creating an empowered coaching culture:

– Live it – have your own coaching, be empowered, see how this transforms your own performance or engagement. This could even be the purpose of your coaching

– Creating a Vision and Purpose – intentionally create a powerful, compelling vision and purpose that engages YOU and sets the context for coaching

– Coaching Strategy – underpinned by your vision and purpose, create a strategy or framework that is going to bring about your coaching culture

– Tipping point – be clear about the ‘how’ in your strategy, how are going to create a tipping point in coaching culture? Who are you going to enrol into your vision, how are you going to engage internal and external stakeholders, how are you going to create the context which will bring about your results (particularly how staff will keep practising and keep their learning going).

There you are. Go create!

 

Legal Leadership – Visionary or Vacant?

Legal Leadership – Visionary or Vacant?

I was just reading a Forbes article about the top 3 burning issues in law firm’s – highlighted in 2017. I’ve worked with a number of legal professionals and this top 3 really resonated with what I’ve been experiencing and hearing. Here’s my take on the key challenges:

  • Vision and Strategy – gone are the times when being the top fee earner was all a firm is strategically focused on – or indeed extremely reactive leadership which only reacts to day to day events. MORE is required these days to engage firm staff, clients and other stakeholders in a meaningful strategic vision and aspirational brand values.  More forward thinking firms are moving into this evolving paradigm because they recognise the world has moved on. People want a more common purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Being technically excellent is no longer enough
  • Succession Planning & Developing Talent – many firms are in a new era of leadership transition. They are looking at one or two years ahead where managing partners who have been in the firm for 10-20, sometime nearly 30 years are about to retire. Reflection on the old paradigm of this kind of term is bringing about a realisation that in order for firms to grow, their leadership needs to be more fresh, creative and forward thinking. The old paradigm of long serving partners may be consistent and solid but can also create stagnation and client silos. Firms need emerging partners, associates who have the strategic engagement skills to deliver client development AND bring about a compelling strategic vision
  • Cultural Congruency – the practise in many law firms has been to segregate departments and recruit laterally based on industry groupings or areas of law. However cross cultural alignment can be a big issue across firms. Employment law departments can foster a very different culture in comparison to say conveyancing which can be far more transactional. Firm leaders need to have the aptitude and adaptability to engage and serve clients across the firm. It’s a real challenge for firms to create a common culture when head of departments may be at odds in both their leadership style and their willingness to invest in the firm’s strategic leadership development

I’ve recently been doing some research for a leadership programme – with varied feedback from legal firms of different sizes and complexity. The themes I’ve pulled from this so far, plus feedback from clients, has reflected similar challenges. I think it’s immensely positive that some firms are aware of their barriers to growth – the next step is doing something about it! And of course engaging their firm is key – enrolling themselves, teams, clients and other stakeholders to ‘get on the train’ as it were.

Here are 3 top tips then to reflect on…

  • Leadership Capacity – invest the time to look at where the firm’s leadership is in relation to both current growth and challenges, where’s the gap? What are the challenges telling you? I’m a great believer in challenges being the biggest opportunity for growth. Is the leadership resisting challenges or getting aligned with the reality of change – and most importantly what clients needs are
  • Pro-active Leadership – engage partners and stakeholders in developing a vision for the future – one which is not just about technical or financial growth but HOW this vision is going to be lead. What is it going to take in the existing (or up and coming) leadership to build the firm’s evolving world? Making the time and investment to consciously choose how to lead is very different from batting off challenges as they arise
  • Collective Leadership Vision – invest in the development of both existing leadership and emerging talent. Review how the firm can commit to empowering and harnessing talent, those who are going to be leading the firm into the distant future. Create openness and honesty about the existing capabilities and barriers of current leadership behaviours. Develop both individual leadership visions and a collective leadership vision which inspires, creates clarity and ambition

So there you go! I’m passionate about individual and collective self awareness in firms, mostly because self awareness = choice. The choice to respond differently. The choice to be pro-active rather than reactive. How powerful would your firm be if you were consciously choosing how to behave? Wow!

Want to create that vision or proactive leadership in your firm?

Ask me about a FREE leadership group taster session to propel your greatest challenges into a powerful strategic vision.

I can’t wait to hear from you…

Book FREE Leadership Group Taster Session

3 Crucial Steps to Engage Your Team

3 Crucial Steps to Engage Your Team

I have many conversations with clients and others about how important it is to enrol your team into your leadership – and ultimately – YOU.

After all, as a leader you are engaging your team and others into you and your vision. They are looking to you for leadership albeit even at a basic level for a role, a task, a purpose. Even as a parent you lead in this respect.

Its well know these days that an empowered, connecting and common purpose is a fundamental motivator for a high performing, well engaged workforce.

I’ve heard many complaints over the last month about how teams don’t speak up, aren’t proactive or don’t think for themselves. They should know how to just get on with things right? Why do they keep taking up your time by asking questions – even worse the same questions!

Or the other popular complaint: team members not speaking up in team meetings, or indeed at other crucial times when something is going on. There is big consequences to that of course – you want better client relationships, quality of service, client satisfaction – they may be hiding poor service, mistakes or withholding potential golden information about client opportunities.

You are frequently hearing the sound of your own voice…complaining or saying the same spiel to keep things moving and it can be pretty lonely in that place.

Now, where is your part in this? Check in with yourself and ask the following:

  • Realness – now this is a biggie. How REAL are you being with your team? Yourself… truthful…open & honest about your frustrations or purpose. Its very common (some may say human nature) to put up a facade, persona at work – especially in leadership. This usually comes down to concerns about being ‘found out’ or believing we need to look ‘competent’, ‘strong’ or my personal favourite ‘all seeing, all knowing’. It’s a very different mindset to be in partnership with your team
  • Communication – have you communicated not just tasks but the bigger picture? Especially if you are noticing some dis-engagement. Its so important to communicate vision and INTENT as well as the practical stuff. How else do teams know what the purpose is or what they are going for? I hear a lot of clients assuming that their purpose or expectations are known
  • Open Your Ears and Your Heart – its all very well saying, ‘I want to hear from everyone’ in a team meeting but do you REALLY? Do you listen and seriously allow your team to speak freely, put ideas forward – even if you don’t agree with them? Do you ask questions, get curious? And are there other ways in your day to day behaviour that you dismiss comments, concerns or ideas? There is usually a much bigger cultural picture that stems from patterns of behaviour. You may be all ears in a team meeting but do you dismiss day to day comments outside of this? I’ve seen this happen many times!

This is no-ones fault of course, if your team aren’t responding or being as proactive as you would like. Its just as it is right now. That’s what I am passionate about – that leadership is always learning, growing. There’s no right or wrong to how things are – it just is what it is.

What’s more important is whether your current behaviour is working, serving you and your organisation well. Not just in terms of numbers but the quality of day to day work life. If you want something different from your team or the context has shifted – something different is required from you and them. Herein lies your golden opportunity.

How great is that! Some of our greatest challenges or changes can be a huge fertile ground for growth…

‘When you change your behaviour you can transform your experience and how people respond to you’