Do you run away when you are afraid?
If you have ever experienced fear; the drop in your gut, sweaty palms, shortness of breath or inability to speak, you probably pulled back. “Yikes” you said! “This is not a safe place for me.” You then probably retreated to your safety zone.
We've all experienced fear
Think of a time when you were put on the spot. A time when you had to speak in a new situation and maybe noticed your voice quaver a bit? Perhaps you were asked to address an issue with someone and you were scared of how they would respond. Maybe you were asked to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
Fear is a reaction to a thought
All of these things have a tendency to make your insides do the flip-flop. That is fear. Fear is a reaction to a thought. Fear is an emotion. The feeling, sweaty palms, shortness of breath or your stomach churning are body sensations that send messages to you.
What this video for more about moving through your fear, then keep reading.
We make up stories in our head about what is going on
When you get that physical sensation, red cheeks for example, you make up a story about what that physical sensation means. “My stomach is tight, that means something is wrong. I'm in a bad situation.” And so you run away. If your face burns red, you tell yourself what you just said was “silly” and so “I am embarrassed.”
You tell yourself you are afraid
Your face turning red is a physical experience. You then have a thought about your face turning red. You might think that what you just said was foolish. You might tell yourself that it was an inappropriate comment for the situation. You might tell yourself you shared too much information! It is then, only after you make up a story, after you think something about the event that you experience the feeling of being embarrassed.
Why aren't we all afraid about the same things?
Not everyone is afraid of heights, not everyone is scared of mice and not everyone fears public speaking. Those that do tell themselves it is a scary experience. Then they feel the fear.
Fear is an emotion, after a thought, that you had about something that happened.
Question your thoughts
If you want to really develop yourself and your skills and you want to grow, you will need to question the truth behind your thoughts.
Widen the gap between what happens and what you do
First you need to slow down enough and realize there was a thought that created the fear in the first place! You need to practice mindfulness. You will then widen the gap between what happens and your response to it!
Gord Cummings has provided me with another thought provoking post. What are the most overused words in leadership? What should we replace them with?
I've been exploring this myself a bit lately. Some words that come to mind for me that we might use more would be listening, silence, intuition, presence and I love Gord's suggestion of curiousity. Read more for Gord's thoughts and include your comments below.
What do you think? Are there other words that are overused? What words should we be including more often?
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4 Overused Words in Leadership (and 3 you’re not using enough)
I really wanted to discuss this specifically in context with 2013, but the more I thought about it the use of these words go back further and have been overused throughout the past five years at least. Of course you use these words, and I do too. It’s just that the overuse of these words have likely dampened the meaning behind them and have become buzzwords that have been associated with our leadership lexicon. With it the overuse of words comes the underuse of words as well which should hit to the core of our leadership.
It’s as if we’ve now entered into an age of innovation where technology has moved so rapidly in improving our lives that change and the introduction of new practices is a daily occurrence. This is great news for businesses where Google and Westjet build on the dynasty of 3M. This is fine and has sent the dialogue of every self styled visionary into a ruckus of overuse. The surge in usage of the word innovation has brought with it this assumption that people weren’t innovating to begin with. There’s no way that’s true and we don’t have to look that far back. Most of the organizations that we work for today are innovations in themselves and have been around for over twenty five years. Suddenly everyone is innovating. If you think of a new form with which to count beans, this is an innovation. If you take a new route in getting to work, this too is technically innovation. Innovation is the introduction of new concepts or processes and a new route of commute could be interpreted as that. Using Twitter to let the world know about your ear infection is innovative.
Why don’t we stop the use of this word and replace it with something a bit more meaningful. Revolution comes to mind but this word is one that itself gets used a little too much. Every industry has had a revolution. What we need is something that captures both the introduction of something new and a level of dramatic impact that comes with the things that truly are innovative. Advancement is a word that also comes to mind and likely fits. Rather than being a innovator, try being an advancer.
2. Evidence Based
There has been a much needed movement towards making decisions based less on gut and more on truth that exists elsewhere. This has given way for “evidence based management”. Unfortunately, when one uses the evidence provided to them from their experiences this is confused as evidence based judgement when really it is thoroughly entrenched in bias. My gut tells me that this is from laziness and a lack of humility, but evidence would state otherwise. The need for productivity and generations of top down management have created an expectation for decisions to be made on the fly. This is not a condition conducive to evidence based management. And even if there were time for the manager to consult outside sources who could they consult? The could consult other self professed experts. This costs money and not every organization is able to justify such an expense. Or they could consult the literature available to them. Unfortunately this is basically whatever comes up on a Google search. The great thing about the internet is that you can find a third party to back up whatever claim you want to make, but this doesn`t make it evidence based. What companies need access to is third party refereed publications that outline best practices based on experiments or surveys. This is the best evidence out there. It too is not immune from the threat of impartiality but at its likely got the best checks in place to prevent tinkering.
3. Transformational Leadership
Just because this is included in this list doesn`t mean that it isn`t valuable in its purest meaning. Getting staff to do more than they thought previously possible is a great practice and is what we should all strive to do in management. If you look at the evidence based reasons this is a good practice, you will see elements of humility and trust on the part of the leader that excel the practice of the staff. If you take it merely at face value you will be satisfied when staff are merely doing what you hired them for without ever striving for advancement of the organization. Transformational leadership is not based on the act of having staff appreciation days or competitive benefits. Competitive benefits are expected. Staff appreciation should occur with every interaction.
The overuse of this term dilutes the concept. Managers and leaders are stating they have a transformational style without really knowing what that means. Even scholars have jumped on this train of thought and diluted the term further to use it interchangeably with charismatic leadership. These are not the same things, and check yourself to make sure you are practicing what it is you say you are practicing. In this same category of overuse see retention.
Just as there are lots of evidence based managers out there, there are even more leaders or those who are proclaiming themselves masters of the mystical art of leadership. This term has taken on a whole new life and really is a buzzword to use in a job interview for that management position. Where I would lay the biggest blame is on organizations who still have not divided in their culture the difference between leadership and management. This is an old conundrum in the leadership arena, but unfortunately most organizations are seeing leadership as their hierarchies. What they don`t realize is that likely most of the frontline staff are practicing more of the qualities that are associated with leadership and that those of us higher on the ladder are really just managing.
At its core, leadership is the process of guiding others through change. I would be surprised if that`s what organizations expect of their managers unless there is a problem that can`t be handled by time or turnover.
As promised, here is a list of words that are underused in our leadership conversations. Their simplicity makes them self evident.
As more contracts are granted on the basis of cooperation we have to have the consciousness that we are not the pivotal part, however we are a necessary ingredient in the pivotal part. This requires a healthy measure of humility. As well, we need to have the humility to recognize that we don’t always know or don’t always have the solution to the issue. The easy part is saying
“I don’t know” however allowing people the grace to respect that is even more difficult. When we practice true transformational leadership and true coaching, we do so with others. The solution can be found together. Because you aren’t a wizard. I’m sorry if you thought you were and I’m sorry if this news is unwelcome but it’s true. You don’t have all the evidence you need to make the best decision. Look around you though, because the people who are there are magical when they work together.
As above, interaction is necessary in all industries. We are a social economy where financial success is the by-product. People know when you are faking your interest. The only way to be truly interested is having the humility to say “I don’t know, but I want to know.” Doing this also communicates that you care enough about the input of others. In fact you don’t just care for that input but you crave it. A word closely associated with this is listening which also doesn’t get used enough.
3. Positive Psychology
In leadership culture, we haven’t yet hit that tipping point where our movement is synonymous with what is good in the world and what is valued. We know what we are heading towards but we aren’t yet there and the practices mentioned above are the reason why. When we start to look at the evidence behind why we should practice in one way as opposed to another, that road leads very quickly to positive psychology. In that you will find the school of appreciative inquiry. You will find attachment theory. You will find neuropsychology. You will also find conversations where the synthesis of those schools of thought challenge the ways you once thought about how people work, but the information will still be validating.
Gord Cummings is a Calgarian adding to the social fabric. He is a student of Leadership through University of Guelph as well as through those he meets. He is a family man, author of Boundary Road, and is passionate about comic books as a medium. He also might have started to collect vintage action figures. He's not sure yet, but it certainly looks that way.
Perfectionism will never get you anywhere
If I waited until I had the wording just perfect to post this blog, you would have never seen it. if I waited to get my programs just perfect before I marketed them, I'd never launch them. If I had waited until my kids had grown up, work had slowed down and the moon aligned perfectly, I would never have taken my management degree.
Push aside perfectionism to keep moving
If you wait until things are perfect, you won't ever get going. You won't send the email, finish the proposal, join the group or apply on that position. You will get stuck where you are and feel like you aren't moving. You won't get anywhere. You will spend your time thinking it's not quite right, not good enough or needs more and so you delay. You hold off. You don't do it. You don't get anywhere.
Perfectionism Slows us down
When we allow the mind chatter to get in the way, it tells us we haven't quite got it right. It needs more. Those voices in our head become quite loud saying, not just yet. Hold off until you get it perfect. Those bossy perfectionist in your head slows you down.
The reality is you just need to do your best.
Your best may change from day to day, but if you always do your best you will continue to move forward and not be bogged down by perfectionism. Do good work. Do work you can be proud of. That kind of work is different than perfect work. It is the real honest to goodness you showing up with all your skills, talents and energy of your day and doing what you are capable of doing.
Perfectionism sets you and those around you up with unrealistic expectations
We have a set of criteria that we measure our success by. We measure how good we are doing things by this set of rules. If the rules say everything needs to be perfect, you are setting an extremely high bar to reach.
When you expect nothing less than perfection from others, they are stretched beyond ability. Instead of people feeling encouraged and inspired, they feel discouraged and disempowered.
When I feel I have to make something perfect, my confidence starts to fade. I worry. I fret. I second guess myself. I hedge. I get caught up in listing what is wrong and not working rather than focusing on what is working well.
Instead, set a realistic bar.
Set a bar that both stretches you but also allows you to grow. Look at the task in front of you and ask, "What is the perfect outcome?" Now ask "If I do my very best at this, what will I produce". Your likely to get a different answer than the first one, a bar that you can more realistically meet.
Don't ... strive for perfection
Do ... Do Your Best
Work towards doing your best and then move on to the next thing. You will feel more confident and find more successes on a daily basis.
WATCH the video below to see me in my not perfect mode
What provoked tears in me?
The tears are running down my face as I write this. I am angry and sad after reading this article in the Alberta Huffington Post regarding deaths in the Alberta Foster Care system. So many children’s deaths uncalled for. So many undervalued and stressed workers. Both pull at my heart. The second is why I do the work I do. My mission is to change the culture in organizations so leaders can support their teams to do the work they were meant to do. I give leaders confidence and awareness’s to be their best self and run great programs.
Leaders struggle to do their best work
I have seen time and time again leaders who are struggling to do a good job. They are struggling because they lack support, training and guidance, among other things. I have seen it in ministry positions and non-profits around the province whether they work with children, seniors, people with disabilities or in community programs. The leaders are overwhelmed with shortages of staff, huge workloads and honestly with the politics of doing their job.
I’ve been thereI have been in this struggle too
I worked for years with children and families. I was involved with work for people affected by disabilities and in community development. I felt challenged as a front line worker to stretch myself between many families’ needs, the paperwork, travel and my own health and wellness. I wanted to be able to grow personal and professionally yet could barely fit in the time to do the work let alone anything extra. When I moved into management positions I faced helping staff with those same problems. In addition as a leader, I was pulled between the staff, the organizations, the funder and the communities in which I was supporting.
These challenges aren’t just in children’s programs
Everyone deals with it. This isn’t seen in just one agency, one program, one ministry or one community. It spans sectors, demographics and geography. It is prevalent in industry as well as social services. Leaders around the world are so stretched, under supported and undervalued they can’t do their best work.
People believe in people
What makes me most angry with this is that it doesn’t have to be this way. People want to do a good job. They want to be competent, capable and efficient. They want to care. Whether it is a front line staff, a middle manager or senior leader, they are all people with values and beliefs. All of us believe in mankind. The majority of us believe essentially that we are all good people who mean well. We just don’t always have the resources available to act on it.
Leaders spend too much time putting out fires
What gets in the way of workers and leaders ability to “keep the faith” is overwhelm, exhaustion, stress and misunderstandings. Instead they become bitter, annoyed and frustrated. Without the ability to “do it all”, things get dropped. Conversations tend to be around the fires we are putting out instead of the relationships we are building. And in human services work, children may die as a result.
I’ve believe in my work
What keeps me motivated in this work is that I see it changing and I am thrilled to see more and more people working towards this. I was involved in an Emerging Leader project last fall where the Government of Alberta funded emerging leaders to receive Leadership Coaching. I am speaking at theAlberta Association of Services for Children and Families (AASCF) conference this month and am proud to be a part of the work they do around the province supporting funded agencies. I am working with agencies and leaders who are implementing programs, training, coaching and policies to chance the situations. I am in partnerships and conversations with other coaches and consultants around North America working to make a difference.
It is rewarding work. It is empowering work. If I can do this and make the difference in the life of one child, one family and one leader and one organization, I know I am doing the work I was meant to do.
I lead a full life full of love, adventure and growth. Check out my latest thoughts here.
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