What appeared as two inverted “v” silhouettes emerging in the foreground, turned out to be a furry-eared donkey.
As my friend Mar and I enjoyed an early evening hike, by chance I looked up just in time to catch him surface from behind the hill. There was Mr. Donkey set against the backdrop of the limestone mountains, lit up by the setting sun.
This was a precious moment I would have missed, had I not looked up in time. I delight in the unexpected and life is full of them … if we are open, awake and present.
How much of life passes us by when we forget to look up, and glance around instead of just focusing on what’s ahead?
These last several years, I have engaged in the joyful practice of relishing the moment. Instead of judging what is, wanting it to be different/people to be different, I have been graced with arriving at a place in my life where (when I am at my Wendy best), I accept and appreciate ‘what is.’
‘What is’ for me today? An ending that is simultaneously opening to a new beginning. Once again, I prepare to say good-bye and step into the unknown. On my last few walks through the village, I smile at a fisherman untangling his nets, knowing he will soon be a relic of the past, pause to caress the donkey’s face, smile inwardly as I glance around at the people I have come to know and love because of all of who they are …
There are so many sights and sounds and I just want to inhale them all; to burn them into my mind’s eye so I can recall this place I have called
home, at will. And yet, time is like grains of sand slipping through my fingers the tighter I try to hold on. These endings have become excruciatingly and exquisitely painful.
Since an early age, I’ve had a deeply felt sense for the temporal nature of life. The choices I have made along my journey have brought me face to face with a series of continual endings and beginnings, good-byes and hellos and the vast spaces in-between.
Some call me a nomad, but I didn’t set out to live that way. For those of you who have uprooted, you may have learned what I didn’t know until my roots were planted in new soil. Once you leave a place you cannot go back, at least not in the same way. You are different, people are different, the place has changed with time. That’s the nature of life–ever-changing.
What have I learned about beginnings and endings — about change? Here are 10 Valuable tips to help you ease your way into new beginnings.
- Beginnings come first. Have a vision for your life. Know what’s important to you; why you are making a change and what you’d like to be different as a result of your change in circumstance. Be clear. The end result is unlikely to match your vision exactly, but it may even be better. When you create with conscious intent, you have a much greater likelihood of materializing your vision
- Beginnings always require a leap of faith–nothing is certain
- Ask for help–it will come
- You don’t have to “make bad or wrong” your current circumstances in order to look forward to the next. Appreciate fully what you have; what was and what gifts this place, this person, this job provided
- Don’t rush through your ending to relieve the pain of letting go. Closing things down, readying for the change, saying good-bye is important. This process aids in the acceptance of change
- What loose ends do you need to tie up? Who or what do you need to make peace with? Do it. Don’t leave a trail of litter behind you because it will keep you from fully moving forward
- Throw 100% of your commitment (energy, focus, intent … ) behind the change. If you’re ambivalent, you’ll have a hard time materializing your vision
- New beginnings take time. You are a learner once again. Give yourself permission to feel awkward, to make mistakes, to feel incompetent in your new circumstances
- It will take awhile to find your new rhythm. But you will
- How do you want to be in this new beginning? Go forward with conscious intent. How do you want to show up — for yourself, others, in your new situation? You can choose to start anew; to let go of habits that don’t serve you and create new ones that do.
How have I been changed by my current circumstances?
In this place, I have learned to look up, pause, linger, deeply listen, lighten my load, experience the vastness of my heart and to accept …
… and that roosters crow all day and night, that people are more lovable because of their imperfections, that slowing down opens the senses, that there are benefits to nosy neighbors, that living a life at scale is possible and desirable, and so much more. I hope to carry these treasures with me like a turtle carries it’s home.
This poem helped me (and no doubt, countless others) be courageous in the letting go into new beginnings. May it gift you with the same.
For a New Beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never
think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting
until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness
growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety , And the gray
promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise
and relent, Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped
onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of
this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at
one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease
in risk; Soon you will be home in a new rhythm, For your soul senses
the world that awaits you.
~ John O’Donohue ~
I have neglected my blog of late because of my impending move and I imagine that settling into my new home will also be getting most of my attention. It will take me a little while to find my new rhythm, so please hang in there with me. I love to write and hope to have some good stuff to share coming soon!
In the meantime, what beginnings are taking form in you?
Add to my list: what have you learned about endings and beginnings?
When the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter landed in my inbox, I clicked on their link that took me to an excellent summary of the book: Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, Ph.D. I have not yet read the book, however I found the review intriguing.
According to the review, the book breaks people out into three interaction or reciprocity styles (Givers, Takers and Matchers) and how each one leads to varying degrees of success. What grabbed my attention was this quote about givers:
… But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades … Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.
Givers are the type of people who use their own gifts and talents to “amplify the smarts and capabilities of others,” like Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers. In the workplace, givers share their ideas, knowledge, information, time and energy. They are neither doormats nor do they give for strategic purposes. I know many people for whom this is natural.
However, each one of us can be a giver. It’s a choice.
A little story. I met Sam (not his real name) less than a year ago by a chance encounter, and he is most definitely a giver who contributes to the lives of many, without strings. He shares his experience and hard-earned wisdom, generously. Through his mentoring, we have learned to expand our ability to see more broadly and with finer distinctions. He’s taught us a language to articulate what we see that provides clarity. As a result, we have become more skilled at our craft, and our clients and relations are beneficiaries.
Sam brings out my best and my desire to pay it forward. Meeting Sam has changed the course of my life.
We may never know the ripple effect our acts of generosity, kindness, caring, listening, support, and sharing of ourselves–have on another. When we give each other a hand up, it’s a win-win.
We feel good, we help someone else, others are happy for our success (according to the article, people tend to be happy for the success of givers), and it has a multiplying effect.
Can you remember that special adult who made a difference in your life? The teacher who believed in you and your talents? The boss who shared her earlier career mistakes so you would know you were not alone? The important stranger who said a kind word just when you most needed it?
The thing is, regardless of whether we are a giver, taker or matcher, what we say and do has a ripple-on effect.
What a profound responsibility that is.
With each action we take, each sentence we utter or write, each tweet, FB or G+ post, we make a difference to someone, somewhere.
Each of us has the possibility to forward and change the course of humanity for the better … We can leave a legacy that lives on in the hearts and minds of others, well beyond the death of our physical form.
Recently, I watched an interview of a physician on one of the major news networks in the US, who shared the story of her near death experience. While unconscious, she went through a life review and saw the ripple-on effect of her words and deeds. She was able to witness at least 35 layers beyond the person immediately affected.
What if that’s true? It begs the question, “what are the ripples you intend to spread, even if you never know how what you do, matters?”
Please join the conversation. Who has given generously and made a difference in your life? What was the effect on you and others?
(For a terrific article that delves into the book, check out Kare Anderson’s review in Forbes)
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you know I commune with the natural world regularly for solace, inspiration, clarity, deeper contact with myself, to integrate experiences, to source meaning …
I meander and let my intuition do the walking. On a recent outing, I chose not to let my mind wander but to continue to bring it back to the here and now. What was before me was too spectacular, beautiful, inspiring to miss. More than that, I wanted now. I didn’t want to miss out on my life while I occupied my head.
Do you want to know a little secret? All we have is now.
We hardly experience here while wanting to be there. We are always on our way to something more, something better, someplace else.
Most of us are in the present-past or the present-future, but we rarely occupy the now. Why not?
How much of life do we miss while we ride the rails of our habituated patterns of thinking and feeling, over and over? How well do we know ourselves when we endlessly distract and stay stuck in these well worn feelings and thoughts?
These thoughts and feelings are not ours to have.
They simply are.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, I Choose Now became my mantra. Each time I found my mind wandering, I brought my attention back to what was right in front of me with the words, I Choose Now.
I let go of whatever thought or feeling tried to occupy me. With each repetition of the phrase I inhaled the beauty around me. I allowed the miracle that is our natural world to touch me. It was excruciating … and sublime.
This poem continues to inspire me as I journey through life. It’s meaning still unfolding.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner ~
Rays of sunshine burst through clouds and sweep across citrus orchards and olive groves
Thousands of seagulls circle in tornado formation and squawk in revelry
Sunlight reflects off grey-green olive and blue-green carob trees leaves
Orbs of yellow and gold citrus framed against blue sky
Donkeys bay, roosters crow, lambs baaah, bird songs all echo across the valley
Ecstatic joy brings tears to my eyes – allow the joy. Don’t try to hold on, don’t shut it out.
And when you relax and accept here; when you stop beating up on yourself for not being someplace that you’re not, embrace where you are and keep your eye on where you’re going – that’s where the magic of life happens. That’s where “you happen” as you create yourself in every moment.
I choose now
Today’s post was originally published on the Lead Change Group blog in 2012.
A recent Forbes article: 31 Telltale Signs You Are A Horrible Boss got me thinking and it inspired this post. Many of us will recognize our former or present bosses described there and, worse yet, we may recognize ourselves!
I began to wonder what happens to someone when they become a boss?
Which led to … do we need to have bosses?
What practical function do they provide and do the negatives outweigh the benefits?
If you become a mom, dad, grandparent, policeman or policewoman and you step into that skin and/or uniform, you take on a role. That role is informed by your perception of what it means to be a mom. How you have experienced others in that role, and even wearing the uniform shifts your sense of self and effects how you play your role.
Recently, my friend Joan asked a friend of hers to become godfather to her son Daniel. She described a big shift in his behavior. He stepped up and took on the responsibility and the role. His subsequent relationship to my friend and her son changed noticeably.
When someone takes on the moniker “boss” he begins to embody his perception and definition of what it means to be a boss and takes on that role as he interprets it. “I am here to boss you around,” could be one interpretation, along with many others.
Think about how the word immediately sets up a power dynamic and a parent/child relationship.
Boss is synonymous with authority figure and the role presumes that people need to be told what to do, punishments and rewards should be meted out.
Remember the Stanford Prison experiment? It was a simulation where the prison guards became sadistic and the prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress. When people took on the roles they began to do, say, and feel things that were congruent with the roles they were playing. It got so bad, they had to end the experiment after six days.
So I continued to wonder, “What necessary functions does a boss serve and could those functions be served in another way?”
The most valuable things my former bosses did was to share information from above and across the organization; to set the vision and direction; to jointly set my goals and objectives; to advocate for me and my ideas; to make sure I got salary increases and bonuses; to approve vacation dates.
My former bosses also held me accountable to honor my agreements and commitments, to adhere to the organization’s ethics and standards and to be the best I could be.
One of the most unnecessary functions they performed was the annual performance review. By the time I got my review, the information was so stale, it grew mold and had to be tossed.
A comprehensive list of destructive boss behaviors can be found in the Forbes article. If the list weren’t so real and tragic, it would be funny.
Ideally, bosses are available to advise and give council, to sooth and encourage, to help build confidence, to motivate and inspire. Ideally a boss is someone who is wise and transmits that wisdom to help their direct reports develop, grow and thrive both personally and professionally.
If part of the problem is the title Boss / Manager, I continued to wonder, what alternative is there?
In Greek mythology, in his old age Mentor was a friend of Odysseus who placed Mentor in charge of his son Telemachus and of Odysseus’ palace, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.
When Athena visited Telemachus she took the disguise of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors of Telemachus’ mother Penelope.
Because of Mentor’s relationship with Telemachus, and the disguised Athena’s encouragement and practical plans for dealing with dilemmas, the name Mentor has been adopted in English as a term meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
Mentor suggests a type of relationship: I am here for you. I am here to help you develop and grow. I trust that you are fully capable of doing your job. I know you will rise to my high expectations of you. I will model the way by my words and behaviors. Come to me when you need advice, counseling, guidance.
A mentor sponsors, supports, nurtures and advises.
A mentor is a wise and trusted ‘counselor’ who passes on knowledge, experience and wisdom and who opens doors to opportunities that may otherwise be out of reach.
I am aware that there are certain leadership styles for which the role of mentor would be more challenging than for others. Take, for example, someone who is prone to have an autocratic style. 
However, I do believe that if the title and role was mentor, even someone with autocratic tendencies might start to adopt a different set of behaviors–perhaps with some coaching. Just by the change in title, it sets up a whole other set of expectations with associated behaviors.
What kind of organizational and individual changes can you imagine as a result of this?
Perhaps you’ve seen this or a similar model implemented?
Please comment, engage and share!
 You can review the nine Enneagram Styles to see the different approaches to leadership and how they might warm to and/or be challenged by the role.
It addresses some of the experiments around self-managed teams and takes a different but complimentary tack to my post.
In a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine, author Robin Rosenberg offers, “As a clinical psychologist who has written books about the psychology of superheroes, I think origin stories show us not how to become super but how to be heroes, choosing altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power.” Rosenberg suggests that perhaps the best super power of all is empathy. I’d like to take it a few steps farther.
Perhaps it’s time to be your own hero.
“In his study of the “myth of the hero,” Joseph Campbell asserted that there is a single pattern of heroic journey and that all cultures share this essential pattern in their various heroic myths. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces he outlined the basic conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero’s journey.” (excerpt from the author page on Amazon)
Campbell saw the Hero’s Journey as a journey to becoming our authentic selves.
The hero’s journey is often described in literature and film, from Odysseus in the Iliad to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Siddhartha, Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy, and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.
(I explore this and describe the steps in my book InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders)
As I came to discover on my own journey, The Enneagram is an invaluable map for our self-exploration. Many people arrive at the Enneagram, discover their Type and then take it no further. They have found a system that accurately describes their habitual behaviors and worldviews and a way to better understand their families, colleagues, friends.
Others take it further. They want to develop a broader range of strategies to relate to themselves and others; they want to play to their strengths and to stop repeating the same mistakes; to lessen the hold of compulsions and patterns.
But there is more.
Notice, the Enneagram symbol exists within a circle. All Types are subtly distinct from one another and are aspects of a whole, like facets of a sparkling diamond. The Enneagram can provide a map for the process of individuation as described by Carl Jung and depicted by the Hero’s Journey, to integrate all of the nine Enneagram Types within us.
We don’t need to look to others to fulfill our need for heroes. What if each of us were brave enough to take off our defensive armor and go exploring like the hero of myth and story.
The hero lies within.
As for those in leadership positions, we know that what gets us there isn’t necessarily what we need to excel at leading others. What is essential for effective leadership is how we show up. We have an opportunity and I suggest, a responsibility to take on our personal development; to bring unconscious habits and patterns to the light of day, drop what no longer serves us, try on new ways of being and responding and act from our authentic selves.
Joseph Campbell wrote:
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
The big question is, will you say “yes” to your adventure?”
In last’s weeks post, I wrote about the role of curiosity. Join me on my journey in this week’s post to see where curiosity led me as I explored the role and meaning of community. Learn what I discovered.
I grew up living in a village of 13,000 people and have had the good fortune to return to village life and experience it again, as if for the first time.
Community has been something elusive to me–both in concept and experience. We use words like network, tribe, community, and friends interchangeably. But what is it we’re really saying? I’ve turned this over and over in my mind.
It wasn’t until I returned to live in a village of 10,000 people that the fog lifted. I found what had been eluding me and what I longed for but didn’t know it until I experienced it.
If you are old enough and grew up in the US, you’ll remember TV shows like Petticoat Junction with Uncle Jo, Bobbi Jo, Betty Jo and Billy Jo, Green Acres, and Andy of Mayberry. These shows did their best to depict life in a village or small town with their quirky characters, ongoing relationships, the apparent intrusive nature of neighbors and shopkeepers and the gossip that goes on in daily village life. We laughed, we cried and we squirmed.
As I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of my village. My bags were packed for university two years in advance of my departure. I never felt like I fit in and I couldn’t wait to find my peeps. I was anxious to find my tribe although I didn’t have a way to name it at that time.
San Francisco was my post university destination and there, I could remain anonymous. No one was aware of my comings and goings. People didn’t drop in on one another either–I learned that very quickly. With this new life came a sense of isolation, although I didn’t understand it at the time. Why was I surrounded by friends yet felt alone?
In his book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us Seth Godin describes a Tribe as ”… a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, connected to an idea… A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate… One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people.”
Notice this description is distinct from Tribe as it relates to Native American or Indigenous People’s which would be more relevant to how I think about and define community. I would amend that last sentence of Godin’s to include community, in terms of one of our “most power survival mechanisms.”
How is a tribe distinct from a community?
What I managed to create over the years, I now understand is my tribe and my tribe also intersects with my community. Since the explosion of social media my tribe extends globally. Before this, my tribe mostly extended to people I met along the way through work, professional affiliations, interest groups and those friendships that survived from my past based on some common interests, values, and/or shared experiences.
Tribe is not dependent upon geography.
What is community then? Community exists in a place.
Community is made up of the people we affiliate with regularly and most often, in person. People in a community rely upon one another. While the downside is that people in community are aware of our daily goings on, the upside is that we look out for one another.
My community knows when I am feeling unwell, when I am going out-of-town, when I am alone. They call and ask whether I need help moving, a ride to the airport, food or medicines because I am sick. They care.
My community consists of friends, neighbors, shopkeepers, landlords. For example, my former landlord helped me move into my new house. That is community.
Each member of my community is quirky (including me) and made up of people who I probably wouldn’t know otherwise. I have learned to care less about the gossip and that people know about my comings and goings, because more importantly, we care about and for one another.
In some ways, I was like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz who regained consciousness in her home back in Kansas. I didn’t recognize that I had community all along. Nor did I realize the essence of it and how to fully show up in and for my community.
I no longer fear community, I treasure it. This is what I have rediscovered. This is precious. I had it in me all along … if only I knew that I just had to click my heels.
Have you found your tribe?
Have you created your community?
I’d love to engage with you around your experience of community and tribe. Please comment.
On your leadership and life journey, an essential travel companion is your curiosity.
When you invite curiosity to join you on your journey, your defenses drop, your inner critic subsides, your “I know” or “I should know” is no longer such a dominant voice. Your openness and availability to others and yourself grows and deepens. As it does, you feel drawn further and further along to what is around the next bend.
Questions you can ask yourself and others to invite curiosity are:
I wonder … “Why do I believe that?” ”Is it true?” “Why did I do that?” “When did I stop doing that?” “How do other people experience me?” “What if I/we could … ?” “What do you think of that?” “Tell me more … ” “What is behind the question (being asked of me)?” “When did you notice?” “What can I/we learn from … ?” “How might I/we …?” “Is it possible that/to …?”
These are some of the undefended questions that curiosity asks.
Curiosity doesn’t judge, criticize, critique, or have answers. Curiosity is living the questions until the insights appear. Curiosity notices, is awake and aware. Curiosity takes an interest in what and who is around it and asks, “What can I learn from you?” Curiosity moves toward, not away from.
Curiosity is a bridge to the unknown.
Curiosity asks a question for clarification before reacting or responding—and we usually find out that we are reacting to something that we project onto the other person rather than what is really there.
Curiosity invites connection, ideas, innovation, intuition.
If you are a leader, curiosity is one of your most trusted allies. It will take you far.
Curiosity is interested in subtlety. It is the doorway to being present and available to yourself and for others. It will guide you to your insights, your deepest longings, and back to your true self.
This is an excerpt from my book: InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders and includes specific practices to bring more your curiosity your inner and outer conversations.
Today I’m pleased to share a guest post from Dr. Roxanne Howe-Murphy of Deep Living Institute.
While it’s not something talked openly about in “polite” conversation, there’s one thing that everyone in the world has in common—the inner critic. It is found in every hard-held opinion and judgment, in every comparison, in the loud inner voice or the nearly inaudible buzz that fills up our inner space.
When you feel stuck or find yourself procrastinating on something really important, the Inner Critic is active. It’s also at the core of many interpersonal conflicts and unresolved racial, ethnic and religious/secular relations.
There is no question, the way we experience ourselves is intimately related to the amount of internal space we give to the inner critic! Whether you work hard to bolster your sense of worth, or carry a certain resignation that simply being enough will forever evade you, you know the Inner Critic is active.
It can’t help but affect your relationship to yourself and to others, to the decisions that shape your life, how you do life, and how you lead.
Left to operate on its own, it exacts a heavy price that’s ultimately paid by a scarred and deadened soul.
With such profound consequences, our Inner Critic presents perhaps some of our most significant opportunities to open our eyes to the truth of who we really are.
Here’s the kicker, while it can show up under any and all circumstances in life, the Inner Critic becomes particularly activated and accelerated when an individual is on the path of real change and growth.
If you ask, “What can I do to make a positive difference in my own life and in my interactions with others?” one of the most tangible and potent places to focus your energy is in changing your relationship to the Inner Critic.
You can begin by learning to decrease the amount of power you give to it. As you do so, you make room for your more authentic inner guidance and authority.
Not surprisingly, the Enneagram offers enormous insight into the Inner Critic and its relationship to the experience of inner authority that is possible for each Type. When your relationship to the Inner Critic shifts, you have more energy and momentum for your life purpose and more room for what your soul and heart are destined to express.
On Wednesday, Jan 23, I’m presenting a two-hour tele-conference workshop, From Inner Critic to Inner Authority: Healing Your Relationship to the Inner Critic Shifts Your Relationship to Yourself based on a chapter from my new book, Deep Living: Transforming Your Relationship to Everything That Matters Through the Enneagram. The teleconference is hosted by Enneagram expert, Wendy Appel. Click here to register.
Dr. Roxanne Howe-Murphy is a pioneer and global leader integrating the Enneagram and coaching. She founded the Deep Coaching Institute, a leading Enneagram coaching school that serves an international student body, and the Deep Living Institute for spiritual and life practice. She is the author of Deep Coaching: Using the Enneagram as a Catalyst for Profound Change, which has provided guidance to thousands of coaches around the world. For information on Roxanne’s work, go to www.deeplivinginstitute.com.
Marissa Mayer, newly appointed CEO of Yahoo, announced she was pregnant just after her appointment. Could she take on the turnaround of Yahoo and be a “good mom?” Would one or both suffer? Would she really want to return to work just after the birth? And on … Endless speculation by the media.
These questions were widely discussed and debated in the social media as well, via blogs, Twitter, Linkedin discussions, Facebook, etc. Marissa was just listed in Forbes Magazine as among “The Most Fascinating Women of 2012.”
The announcement about her pregnancy stirred up sentiments about the implications for her ability to right the Yahoo ship and be a first-time mom, all at the same time. Women weighed in heavily.
Last week, I watched CNN International broadcast an interview with Marissa, and she impressed me. The CNN international newscasters had some repartee after airing the interview. The female newscaster’s comment was something to the effect of, “You could tell her analogy to Vince Lombardi was rehearsed.”
Is that all she could say about this young woman who has taken on a huge turnaround responsibility, is under the glare of the spot light and tremendous pressure while bringing a new child into the world? It was petty.
These are subtle/not so subtle ways that women undermine each other. Would she have made the same comment about a man? Where was the awe? This young woman has demonstrated tremendous courage by taking on such a huge responsibility and challenge, while knowing she would be under the microscope and have to endure endless criticism, second-guessing, critique and commentary about her every move.
Interestingly, the male newscaster who reported the story came to Melissa’s defense and said something like, “Of course, at her level she will have had these lines rehearsed.” And he was right.
I am all for critiquing, but just to find something to pick at and criticize smacks of undermining. Until this point, I had enjoyed this particular newscaster. In her defense, some of this stuff is so insidious, we don’t realize we are doing it. But we are.
Women’s leadership means giving a hand up, mentoring, supporting, building up … not tearing down. How are we going to make it, break the glass ceiling and help bring our world back into balance without caring about and for one another?
There are a ton of women’s organizations, Linkedin groups, radio shows, TV shows, etc., who purport to all about women, yet I see some of the same undermining going on in many of these groups as well.
Perhaps first, we have to accept that this is our human condition. Maybe it’s some kind of human survival urge. We need to be aware of our tendency to compete in some subtle and not so subtle ways. Then, we must commit to transcend it. Our survival, in fact is going to count on all of us pulling together, not tearing each other down. With awareness, we have the possibility to alter the way we act and interact … to gently lean into our very human tendencies rather then play them out. And evolve.
I offer this as a possibility for hope:
The next time you see one of your friends or colleagues doing well, succeeding against the odds, just sprouting new courage–find ways to support them. Tell them how amazed you are by their strength and courage. Tell them how you see them, in the best possible light. It will put fuel in their tank to carry on … and you know what? It will make you feel really good too.
A pivotal moment of self-awareness came in grad school. I offered a T-Group workshop to several of my classmates and set the context with a talk on group and interpersonal dynamics along with an explanation of an interpersonal feedback model. This stuff was my passion.
I was prepared. With my 3×5 cards in hand I was certain not to forget anything, and I would be able to follow a logical sequence.
I loved to transfer knowledge and I wanted to appear smart, clever and competent. Yes, it was true then and still is still true now.
What happened? About 10 minutes into my speil, one of the participants turned her head away to gaze in the distance. It was clear she was disengaged and wanted to send me that message.
So I asked what was up and she told me that it was distracting to have me read from my cards. “Why don’t you just tell us what you know? I’m bored listening to you read from your cards.” I turned to others in the group and they concurred. Ouch.
I put down my cards and spoke from my experience; from memory. The group energy shifted from disengaged to engaged. We shared, conversed and they got what they needed. They may not have learned everything I could have shared, but that wasn’t really important.
Most of the time, less is more.
This was a hard lesson. I had feelings of shame. Yet, the outcome was superb and I learned. It took many more trips and spills to develop trust in myself and let go of my crutches.
This year has been filled with opportunities to practice what I learned all those years ago in grad school. Since launching my book, I have traveled to the UAE, France, South Africa, and the USA. There have been radio, newspaper and magazine interviews; opportunities to speak to a variety of groups, at conference and lead workshops. Each time I showed up, it was without cards.
I had to trust what I knew, trust that whatever I was meant to communicate would come through me. I had to trust that I could respond effectively to whatever I was asked. I had to remember to take whatever time I needed to respond; that I could decline to answer; that I could say, “I don’t know.” I have been told on more than one occasion that I “come alive” when I speak without a crutch. But it is so darn hard to just let go and trust.
The results have been magical. My experience with each person or group has felt like time outside of time and the feedback has been better than I could have imagined.
I have come to realize that it’s also about the conversation; about what is co-created in the room (or in the interviews), rather than one-way communication. We all have something to share, something to offer, and something to learn from one another.
What does it take to develop this ability?
- Know your subject matter
- Prepare and let go
- Remember that you are an expert in your chosen field
- Be fully present; listen in, while listening out
When I do this, I am in tune with my inner dialog and inner sensations that guide me to know when to say something and when to hold back, how to respond, and what to share. I am tuned into the group or person and sense into their needs. This is leading from your center (the center of yourself).
It’s not so much about what you know or about being clever. It’s how you show up and how you make people feel around you.
By being self-aware, you invite self-awareness in others. By being present, you invite presence in others. By being real, you give permissions for others to do the same.
To develop this ability takes practice. Try it in low risk situations and see what happens. You’ll be delighted with the results.
If you have had similar experiences, please share. I’d love to hear from you.
I’d like to share a success story. It’s a case study of a leader and team that soared, how they did it and the specific results they achieved.
I had the privilege of coaching and consulting to a health care department (made up of four teams) for two years. Personally, I had very high satisfaction because I was able to work with the team step-by-step and witness their evolution and the gains they sustained over an extended period of time.
The situation: As luck would have it, the department chief, Dr. Chan and the department manager, Janice were both newly appointed and highly motivated. Dr. Chan was open to learn, willing, and dedicated. He was not a charismatic leader but he was respected for his technical skills. He was known as responsible and reliable and therefore had earned some trust going into his new role. By dedicating resources to the team’s development and education, he demonstrated his commitment to the team.
The department’s physical work environment was antiquated and cramped. Although they had been promised a new clinic for several years, there was no new construction on the horizon.
Metrics: The department was measured quarterly in five key areas against 18 other like-departments within the organization.
- Employee Satisfaction
- Service / Customer satisfaction
- Access to care
They occupied the bottom 1-3 positions Service / Customer Service metric for a few years running. Additionally, they broke records for workers comp claims and sick days. There was team divisiveness. And as you might imagine low employee satisfaction.
Recruiting for new hires was tough because of its reputation as a dysfunctional place to work and the cramped and inadequate working conditions. There was high turnover, they were continually short-staffed, all of this adding to their stress and job dissatisfaction.
So let me get to the punch line now. As a result of effective leadership, this department pulled together, soared to the number one position and stayed there for several consecutive quarters. Last I checked, they were still the top performers after two years.
- They became Service Stars
- Employee satisfaction improved significantly
- Quality Maintained
- Access Targets Met and Maintained
- Efficiency Increased
- Lowered cost of care
- New workers’ Comp claims reduced
- Absenteeism reduced significantly
If you want to know how we did it, read on …
What were the conditions for success?
- Dept. leadership agreed that change was needed
- Dept. leadership agreed to commit to team development for the duration
- Dept. leadership secured sponsorship of Medical Center administration
- Dept. leadership and medical center administration alignment
- Secured OD consultant and coach resource for ongoing leader and team development
What did we do?
I did a department-wide assessment, wrote up my findings and proposed a plan of action. Together with the department chief and manager we formed a plan to engage and involve the entire department in developing a vision, goals and strategy. Dr. Chan and Janice agreed to commit to three department offsite meetings per year, monthly team meetings and weekly department leadership meetings. We added a two more members to the leadership team: the chief of service and physician communication, and the labor partner.
Based upon the assessment, the focus for team development was to:
- build trust by:
- getting to know themselves and each other better
- using diversity as strengths
- learning to communication effectively
- learning to collaborate
- engaging in healthy and productive conflict
- learn how to make decisions together
- hold each other accountable
- learn how to run effective meetings
- have fun together
Together, they built a department culture to engender
- Open communication
- High involvement and engagement
- Collaborative problem solving
- Consensus building
- Labor / Management collaboration
- Celebration of success
- Reward and recognition
The leadership behaviors that contributed to the overall success of this department are not necessarily the ones you hear about. Dr. Chan was fairly quiet and unassuming, he was humble and he was open and willing to learn. Janice was a bit of a maverick, optimistic, creative and extroverted. They aligned and stayed in sync so that nobody could work one against the other. They both demonstrated caring and warmth. Despite his discomfort, Dr. Chan learned to confront the disruptors.
By dedicating resources to team development and agreeing to implement decisions generated by the department, they both demonstrated a commitment to change.
With skin in the game, they built trust with staff and administration. As administration witnessed the results of their focus on team development, they continued to resource it. This department was recognized for their successes within the medical center and across the region.
We didn’t do anything fancy, there was no charismatic leader, and Steve Jobs was not needed for this assignment. They used leadership basics, and that goes a long, long way.
Engage and involve your people, give them an opportunity to influence business operations and make a difference. Surface the wisdom of your team collectively and individually.
Take care of your people and they’ll care for each other and the customers.
Build team trust–that is the foundation for everything else. That singular focus had a positive and lasting impact on all the metrics.
Your two greatest assets: The way you lead and your team. These are your key leverage points to shift the system and change everything.
Does this sound familiar? Love to hear your comments!
I was gratified to hear the president of the American Management Association say, “We expect leader-like behavior from many many more people in today’s organizations.”And It turns out that the American military has begun to train leaders to lead by intent rather than lead by being prescriptive.
In psychological theory, Carl Jung called this process of getting to know ourselves; of bringing our unconscious material to light, the process of individuation. It is the journey of human evolution.
Individuation means that we embrace all that we are, (individually and collectively) and become brave enough to take off our defensive armor and go exploring like the hero of myth and story.
Individuation builds our capacity to see ourselves and each other for all our attributes, complexities and creative gifts as well as our messier, perhaps less preferred character traits.
This process of individuation also applies to the development of teams–to create leader-full teams. More on that shortly.
The most well known team development model is: forming / storming / norming / performing
Many teams get stuck and never move beyond the forming / storming phase. Why? A key contributor is that most of us walk around with an unconscious assumption that people see what we see, perceive what we perceive, hear what we hear, and think like we think. If they don’t, they damn well should.
We have to get beyond this to tap into the team’s creativity and unlock the doors to innovation.
The most effective way I have found to address the “be like me” syndrome is to use the Enneagram system with teams.
When people discover their Type and learn each other’s Types, it opens the windows of perception. People begin to see the value of differences.
I love seeing flashes of insight when team members “get” that people are different from them and perceive the world differently. In these precious moments, we learn to listen differently, “see” through a wide angle lens, and begin to appreciate differing world views and individual attributes.
In these moments we begin to understand one another and to better understand ourselves.
Then the real work begins. The team needs to develop its muscle to integrate the differences and leverage them for performance. Differences can tear us apart if we judge them or we can harness their strengths.
Individuation (the process of differentiation and integration) needs to take place at both the individual and team level.
Our self-awareness and self-management can strengthen group effectiveness.
The brain is an open loop system; in other words, it is not just an organ that resides in our heads. We activate each other’s triggers and moods catch like the flu.
Think of a time you entered a group and were feeling positive and upbeat. After awhile, you noticed that people were complaining and their energy was lack luster and disengaged. How long did it take before you started feeling the same?
Less aware individuals contribute to an unhealthy team environment. An unhealthy team environment can take down some of the healthiest individual players–or they leave.
Individual development aids team development and vice-versa. They feed each other.
The beauty of working with the Enneagram for team development is that it brings to light key underlying drivers for our habitual patterns of interacting, thinking, feeling and acting. It uncovers team strengths to be harnessed and liabilities to be managed. We get to know ourselves and each other in ways we never imagined.
If you can’t see it and acknowledge it,
you can’t manage it
Once we surface some of our patterns, we can begin to unravel them and develop new ways of interacting and acting. We can take concrete steps to develop new ways of being–individually and as a team.
Now we’ve entered Norming / Performing–until the new team members join, and then we start again … Teams are a bit amoeba-like, constantly forming and reforming; reintegrating and differentiating. And so are we, if we are committed to learn, grow and evolve.
Leader-full teams are teams made up of people who take responsibility for their work, their words and their actions. They are committed to grow and evolve. The person in authority (read, Boss), needs to create an environment where people can learn and grow and make a difference that matters; where each person can contribute their unique gifts and talents.
I just heard Robert Tobias, American University speak about leadership development. He said:
There is a necessity for leaders to develop their inner life—to challenge themselves to become who they are and be relationally transparent—that is, to become authentic and to care.
I’d love to hear how you help grow leader-full teams. Please weigh in and join the conversation!
I’m pleased to share a guest post from Janet Crawford today. Janet and I will be co-hosting a workshop October 17th. I hope after reading this post you’ll understand why I’m so excited to hear more from her.
It happened again just last week. My brother and I were out to dinner with friends from college when I decided to tell a family story. Mid sentence, he interjected with a correction, “No, no….that’s not exactly right….what really happened was….”
I politely conceded that it was possible that I’d gotten it wrong and continued the story, but barely a few lines later, he grinned and rolled his eyes for comic effect, “Here, let me tell it…”
I wondered, “Were we describing the same event? Was my memory really that bad? Was his? Oh dear! Had I inherited my mother’s charming, but often exasperating tendency to rewrite history so as to be able to tell a more entertaining story?”
About 15 years ago, I became fascinated with studying the brain and how, from a biological standpoint, we make sense of reality. That study has helped me better understand these episodes.
It should come as no surprise to anyone with siblings, that disagreement over the content of shared family experiences isn’t unique to my brother and me. Likewise, in my role as an executive coach, I can tell you there are often as many interpretations of a tense meeting as there are people in the room. But why is this a universal phenomenon and what does it have to do with the Enneagram
The Memory Myth
For a very long time, our understanding of memory resembled a kind of internal video/audio recording system. Perhaps part of the tape would get lost or erased, but our “equipment’ recorded a shared sensory “reality” and the tapes remained static over time.
Neuroscientists will now tell you definitively that it doesn’t work that way. Even during the original experience, we are all encoding different information based on sets of deeply held patterns through which we filter reality.
Over time, those original memories constantly shift based on new information that impacts how we view what happened way back then. Immediately after an event, reports from two individuals won’t be the same.
Our internal filters have us notice different things and interpret them through different stories. After twenty or forty years of constant re-filtering, the memories often have very little in common.
What are these deeply held patterns and where do they come from?
Infants enter into the world hungry for sensory experience. While they delight in their explorations, they are not equipped to make sense of them. They have no roadmaps for how to respond emotionally or intellectually to all that surrounds them.
For that, they rely on copying their caregivers’ physiological response to conditions in the environment. Our crude biological logic informs us that our best bet would be to behave as our parents do. After all, they survived long enough to produce us!
If they tense up under certain conditions, so do we. If they remain relaxed, our infant bodies do the same. From those physiological expressions, we know to feel fear, anxiety, excitement, openness, guardedness, etc. Little by little, we form a set of fundamental emotional perspectives on the world that will likely endure throughout our lives.
Almost all of these basic emotional filters are acquired before the age of 18 months, a critical point in brain development marking the beginning of explicit autobiographical memory.
Because our emotional patterns were formed in response to events that preceded our ability to remember them, we don’t “see” our patterns. Our emotional interpretations and responses just seem like “the way it is.” They are transparent.
It appears that the deepest emotional filters seem to boil down to a handful of patterns, things like our sensitivity to vulnerability, deprivation, abandonment and exclusion.
The Enneagram, I believe, may be a very elegant system based on centuries of observational data, for naming and working with those fundamental patterns. As central to our identity as our emotional programming is, it is possible to rise above it and choose when, how and if to be under its sway.
The world is populated with people who carry differing perspectives, stories and filters on reality. The lesson learned from interactions like the one with my brother is something I carry into all parts of my life.
When someone vehemently disagrees with me or misunderstandings crop up, I’m less quick to judge and more likely to ask, “How might my lens be creating a distorted (or partial) view?”
My brother and I were both there, we both have a memory and we both have at best only part of the “truth.” Fortunately, we get that and over the years we’ve gained an appreciation for the unique perspective we each bring to the here and now. All of us have important relationships where perspectives differ. Whose lens could you understand better and what tools and practices do you need to get there?
“Applying neuroscience to leadership matters. Science is revolutionizing our understanding of what it is to be human. An explosion of advances in human neuroscience is giving us a window into why people behave as they do and how we can manage our environments and behaviors with others to maximize results. These new scientific findings challenge old assumptions of what it means to lead.” – Janet Crawford
Janet Crawford, expert in the application of neuroscience research to coaching and leadership, will explain what’s happening at a biological level when you play out Enneagram habits in our upcoming Insight to Action tele-workshop on October 17. She’ll facilitate practical explorations of ways to recognize our patterns and relax their grip. For more on this workshop, click here.
On a recent hike with friends I mentioned, “Usually I see ‘heart rocks’ when I am walking, but I haven’t been paying attention today.” No sooner had those words left my mouth, when we all noticed a heart-shaped rock on the trail ahead.
Today I set my attention on finding heart rocks. I saw at least 10.
What we pay attention to, we amplify. Our focus shifts and we begin to see what was there all along, while our attention was elsewhere.
Have you ever had the experience of something (a word, a concept, a brand …) brought to your attention, and immediately you notice it everywhere? Did you wonder whether it was synchronicity? Perhaps something you were unaware of before is now in your field of vision?
There are Two Essential Ways of Being for leaders that motivate their followers, help bring out their best and help them see beyond what they think is possible:
- Pay attention to your seeing. What you focus on, you amplify.
- Where is your focus of attention? Is it on problems, what’s wrong, what’s not working … do you easily find fault with others?
- If we focus on problems, what’s not working or someone’s annoying character traits–that is what we see and we often see it to the exclusion of other things. We see more problems, more of the character traits we expect, more …
- Problems start to grow
Several years ago, I lead a meeting to improve the interactions, information and patient flow and overall processes between in-patient and out-patient OBGyn and Maternity.
The group began to identify all of the ways the processes didn’t work, all of the problems, patient complaints, MD complaints, and on … until someone finally said, “What are we doing?” Great question.
The group vitality and energy had been sucked right out of the room. We created a list of problems and issues vast enough to overwhelm the best of us.
In a moment of inspiration, I restarted the conversation by asking, “If you could create your ideal department with smooth transitions, rewarding interactions, satisfied members, patients and physicians and you were highly motivated and happy at work, what would would be going on? What would you see, do, hear; what would be in place in terms of process and flow?”
The group energy soared! The wall was full of sticky notes. Ideas and associated actions to further develop the ideas, had been generated. When the meeting ended, we were poised to join the physicians the next day and build on the work we did together. As we began to leave the room, someone turned to me and said, “What did you just do?”
2. People live up (or down) to your expectations of them.
- This goes for how leaders act toward and view others as well as how others act toward and view people in positions of authority. Remember the Pygmalion Effect?
In their study, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) set out to demonstrate that our reality can be influenced by other’s expectations and set up self-fulfilling prophecies. Their research demonstrated that if teachers expected a higher performance from some children rather than others, those children did, in fact rise to their expectations. Rosenthal identified four ways teachers behaved differently towards the students for whom they had more favorable expectations:
- They created a warmer climate. They are nicer in the things they say and also in the non-verbal channels of communication
- Input. They teach more material to students for whom they have more favorable expectations
- Response / Opportunity. They call on these students more often and let them talk longer. The teachers help and shape the responses with them and help the student articulate the response.
- Feedback. If more is expected of a student, the student is praised more for giving a “good answer.” These students receive more positive feedback. Interestingly, the teacher will accept a lower quality response from these students.
Now let’s connect these two human tendencies and see how we can shift our focus and actions:
- Pay attention to your seeing. What you focus on, you amplify.
- People live up (or down) to your expectations of them.
Suggestion: Seek out the best in others and give feedback accordingly. Dr Lois P. Frankel, author of See Jane Lead, wrote about the 7:1 rule:
Give people seven pieces of positive feedback for every developmental criticism.
Most of us avoid giving developmental criticism and when we finally do, it is unplanned and ends up coming out as sharp, blunt or abrupt. OR we give feedback without specific suggestions or an offer of assistance to develop the desired behavior. OR we behave in ways that let people know we disapprove or are dissatisfied, and then leave them guessing.
From personal experience, it feels so delicious and rewarding when I offer positive, authentic feedback. I found this to be largely true for both for the giver and the recipient. You are in essence, filling up their tank with jet fuel when the recipient feels seen and valued.
Experiment: Look for the inherent gifts, the positive in someone who pushes your buttons, someone you don’t like, someone who you believe is a low performer. Then give authentic, positive feedback to that person. Notice how you feel and how that person responds. See what happens over time.
Do you treat certain people differentially in meetings? What can you do to shift that? See what happens when you do?
So what is in your line of sight? What are you paying attention to? Shift your focus and see what happens. On your next outing, look for hearts in nature. You don’t have to search, just pay attention. You’ll see …
Last night I went to a dinner party and a friend commented, “you look 10 years younger!” Gee, why did I wait so long to take a vacation. Frankly, it was a bit disturbing to think about what I must have looked like before I left!
For those of you who read my last post about the importance of unplugging to recharge, you’ll be happy to know that I unplugged. Mostly. As a business owner, the prospect of doing this was daunting. But I did. Here’s what happened and here’s what I learned. Take note, for those of you haven’t yet risked it.
We prepared. My social media team was in place and ready to post and promote my pre-written blogs, to send out my pre-written newsletter and to continue to send out my pre-written tweets. We changed my Facebook page photo to show that I was unplugged. Clients and colleagues were notified, and I initiated a gone fishin’ email notification auto-responder for folks that sent me emails. I was ready!
How did it go?
- WiFi access was often non-existent and spotty at best, so that really helped
- With each passing day, the pull of the internet slowly subsided from a continual drum beat to a soft murmur vying for my attention
- I did use my iPhone to check emails for anything urgent and only sent out one email response for something that was time sensitive
- My traveling companion, one of the least plugged-in people I know, requested at the last minute that I bring my computer along. She was in charge of booking our lodging and wanted to book the B&B’s while en route. Ugh, another temptation.
- My traveling companion wanted to get access to email frequently throughout our trip and look for internet hotspots. It took extra discipline not to succumb.
- I found myself concerned about how my Twitter connections would respond to my lack of interaction.
- I loved being unplugged and wish I could have, with confidence, let the email go too.
What were the results?
- My Twitter followers were still there and still retweeting and sending me direct messages, despite my absence and lack of response
- I was able to be fully present in my experience and delight in my travels
- I had much needed time for reflection and was able to make space for inner focus
- I really did return recharged
- I have still not caught up with all of my email and work that piled up while I was gone, but am chipping away daily.
With time to reflect on and integrate all that had transpired over the last several months–I walked away with some pearls — areas for my growth and development as a leader and that are good reminders for all of us.
My seven leadership pearls of wisdom
- Find that still point inside even though there are waves crashing around you
- Maintain your own rhythm when others travel to the beat of a different drum
- Remember that everything and everyone is a mirror to reflect aspects of yourself to you
- Prepare, then trust your team and let go
- Make sure to take your time off–and enough time to renew and replenish!
- Be present to your experiences and the world around you
- Let joy be your wellspring of energy and connection
My self-work continues … practice:
Maintain contact with that still point inside no matter what is happening around me
Keep playing my own rhythm while others play theirs’