5 leadership gifts that keep giving

5 leadership gifts that keep giving

leadership gifts

It would be great, wouldn’t it, if chocolate was one of the four food groups?

That’s an idea I’ve suggested (just a wee bit tongue in cheek) for lots of years. Despite my extreme fondness for chocolate, though, I don’t indulge every day. Some days I want a different treat. Why? The joy of variety.

Over a caffe mocha (of course!), a friend and I were discussing the general state of world affairs, which led to talking about success, civility, inclusion, leadership, and respect. My friend and I both worked in corporate America for many years, sometimes at the same company at the same time.

None of our corporate employers were interested in the joy of variety; they were interested in only one flavor—numbers.  Reports, meetings, discussions, performance evaluations, etc., centered around the bottom line. We were ambitious, so we conformed and played along in valuing results more than relationships. Today, the memories—and shame—of my complicity haunt me.

If you love chocolate like I do, imagine how frustrating it would be to walk into ice cream parlor after ice cream parlor to find that vanilla was the only flavor sold. If you own an ice cream parlor and love vanilla, imagine how wearisome it would be to have to deal with those people “who can’t get with the program” and keep demanding chocolate.

Don’t these situations parallel what many people encounter when they go to work? The expectation to do things “one way” or else? The pressure to conform or else? The frustration? No wonder employee engagement is at an all-time low.

Having standardized business processes and procedures makes good business sense; otherwise, there’s confusion and chaos. But standardized everything, the one flavor approach from processes to thinking to doing leaves no room for joy of variety (the 31 flavors!) in thought, opinion, perspective, and experience that brings zest to life, love, and leadership.

Being ‘right’ is the easy part. Finding the ‘rightness’ within the opposite point of view is the challenge. ~Barry Johnson, author Polarity Management

One corporate boss was extreme in his preference for numbers and results. I struggled with his unyielding orientation.

As you might imagine, that boss and I had our challenges. While our approaches were different, we had the advantage of liking and respecting each other. Our spirited debates were sometimes epic.

Over time we realized our region was most successful when there was a focus on both results and relationships. Our path of learning to accept “multiple flavors” was a bumpy yet rewarding one filled with lessons, loud voices, and laughter as we learned about our blind spots and tested our tolerance for seeing beyond our own preferences.

5 leadership gifts that keep giving and giving

While that boss and I learned many things, five items made a profound difference in how we approached one other, issues, and those around us.

We learned:

1) To be mindful about using the word should. Thoughts about what should be introduce personal bias, which reduces open-mindedness, which in turn increases right versus wrong arguments, which leads to reduced opportunity and morale.

2) To replace the word or with “and.” Either/or thinking zaps innovation and inclusion; both/and thinking boosts them. Using “and” expands comfort zones, too. That boss and I discovered that we usually preferred one side of “or” to the other. However, when we considered the big picture, it became easy to see that the words existing on either side of the word or were both equally important over time, like results and relationships.

3) To be curious. Taking Walt Whitman’s advice to be curious, not judgmental, was a game changer. We learned more, reduced bias, and had fun seeing things we would have missed before.

4) To pay attention to our hot buttons. When people or events set us off, we reflected instead of reacting, which made a positive difference in us as leaders and people.

5) To express gratitude and appreciation. We discovered that letting go of being the all-knowing tough guy who’s got everything under control is liberating, that recognizing others is great fun, and that focusing on what we had instead of what we didn’t have lightened the mental and emotional load.

Instead of contradicting each other’s view, the task is to supplement each other’s view in order to see the whole picture. Each of them has key pieces to the puzzle. Paradoxically, opposition becomes resource. ~Barry Johnson, author Polarity Management

Five little big things made all the difference in us becoming “31 flavors” leaders and, more importantly, better people—a gift to ourselves and others that keeps giving.

 

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

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The incredible, healing power of forgiveness

The incredible, healing power of forgiveness

power of forgiveness and grace of goodness

“After the first finger was pointed, the meeting went downhill fast,” said a distressed friend describing a really awful day at work.

“Everyone was in a race to the bottom to throw each other under the bus. Such hateful things were said that I wanted to disappear.”

What a lost opportunity! Imagine if someone had stepped up and stopped the downward spiral with what I call the “Charleston approach.”

That’s choosing to act with grace, curiosity, appreciation, and kindness.

That’s what the family members of the victims of the horrific Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina did a year ago.

In facing the one who took the lives of their loved ones, they could have resorted to rancor and labels. They didn’t.

Incredibly, they reached across the divide and offered not judgment but forgiveness.

The lesson I’ve taken from their example is that if one chooses, the grace of goodness can transcend polarization.

Leadership is both something you are and something you do. ~Fred Smith, Founder Fed-Ex

Hate won’t win. ~Emanuel surviving family member

We get to choose.

That’s incredibly powerful. The surviving Mother Emanuel family members could have pointed the “I’m right, you’re wrong” finger.

No one would have thought ill of them if they had.

What they chose was to transcend differences of thought because they saw a greater good.

To see the greater good, they had to think big. Not thinking bigger—that is, not looking for the greater good that rises above individual preferences—gives rise to mistrust.

Mistrust then fuels all the ugly “isms”—racism, sexism, ageism, and the like—that divide us unnecessarily.

Wrapping ourselves in our “rightness” and others in their “wrongness” builds walls, not connections that serve a greater good.

In a world where the six degrees of separation have become four, where we’re dealing with the hate and horror of the Orlando shooting, where we’re experiencing the animosity of a contentious presidential campaign, it’s time, isn’t it, to replace mean-spiritedness with curiosity, compassion, and a skoosh of vulnerability?

Being mean and lashing out is easy.

Deciding, choosing, and using the “Charleston approach” is hard. Really hard but really purposeful.

It means stepping up to be our best self. We must develop self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-control, and open-mindedness.

It means being eternally vigilant in assessing if our beliefs have hardened into dogma. When we’re no longer open to considering what others have to say because we know our position is the right one, we’re putting our lack of skill in doubting on display.

It means being mindful of the degree of our skepticism. Asking questions is a good thing that can become a bad thing if we’re unwilling to believe other’s answers.

It means being willing to seek out the hidden flaws and virtues that lurk in our blind spots and being gentle with others regarding theirs.

If we choose, we can replace our unfounded judgments—thoughts like liberals are idiots, feminists are bad, and the like—with curiosity. When curiosity takes the lead, we approach what’s different with the orientation that there might be something to be learned from other’s points of view.

When we chose to make this shift, we let go of our absolute rightness. When we let go of the need to alway be right, there’s room to accept ambiguity and paradox because we’ve decided to exchange automatic rejection based on selective facts for openness.

That choice is liberating.

When we use the “Charleston approach,” we’re choosing to think big, not small.

We’re choosing to react with curiosity and compassion, not hate or violence.

We choose to be the tipping point in which we start to appreciate differences rather than work to extinguish them.

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox:  what is soft is strong. ~Lao Tzu

To end the “-isms” that divide us, we have to resist being the rock that sees anger, judgment, and harshness as the answer.

When we decide to be the water, we can:

  • Bridge the distance between races, sexes, and generations in a world primed to respond with bias and ill will.
  • Celebrate the power and possibility that comes from differences in thought, opinion, and perspective.
  • Engage in courageous-yet-respectful conversations in which we use our head to manage and our heart to lead.

If I had enough “Charleston approach” pixie dust and the help to spread it, we could end the polarization that gets us nowhere. Ready to be the water, join in, and scatter some “Charleston approach” pixie dust in your corner of the world?

 

Image source:  Pixabay

 

 

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5 ways to lead from your head AND your heart

5 ways to lead from your head AND your heart

heart to lead

Even though we often act as if it was true, many of the options we face in life, love, and leadership aren’t limited to an either/or choice. Many times, if we look at little deeper, we’ll see a bountiful array of both head and heart opportunities.

One area where an either/or or both/and orientation shows up in stark contrast is in how we work with others, whether it’s at the office, home, in the community. (more…)

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Live with courage, not regret

Live with courage, not regret

live with courage not regretMy movement from hurt feelings to sympathy happened fairly quickly after a friend apologized for not reaching out to me during my sick leave.

She said she had meant to call or send a card countless times but that something for work always got in the way.

Her remorse was obvious.

What resonated so much was how I could identify with her good intentions getting lost in the swirl of appointments; endless to-do lists; and dealing with grumpy, impatient bosses addicted to impossibly short deadlines. (more…)

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In praise of civility

In praise of civility

disagree with grace and civilityIt was a day of the triple rudeness whammy.

One was delivered in my Twitter stream.

The  second and third ones happened in meetings when an individual shared their point of view and was vigorously pommelled with personal attacks. It was brutal, and I wanted out of there. (more…)

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