Before fixing what you are looking at, check what you are looking through…
- Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
In his book, The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo speaks about how we see the world using the example of his grandmother looking out through her only window and complaining about how gray the day was, only to realize that the window was dirty. When he discovered this, his grandmother with humor stated, “Got a dirty eye, see a dirty world…. ”Whether it is a dirty window, a pair of glasses with smudges or reflections of something else, or a mood that affects everything that happens to us, he offers a reminder that we see the world as we choose to see it.
While we do not control all the events in our lives, we do have the capability to see things as they are, naked of all the baggage we pile on. It’s not only a question of perspective, but perhaps also one of simplicity devoid of assumptions and or expectations. We don’t control the all the events in our lives, but we do choose what we see and how we interpret those events. Finally, we choose what to do in the face of these events.
While coaching clients who want to improve how they manage conflict in their professional or personal lives, I often ask my client to walk through an event, step by step, as it is a movie played on a screen in front of them. First observing what is seen, heard, the actual words and motions. As we dive deeper, the client is often surprised when I play back the words used by the client to describe the situation. Or, the client is surprised when I ask whether some portion of the event that was critical in their interpretation came from the scene itself or from something he or she interpreted from a past experience or an expectation.
There is something to be said about learning from our past experiences or using our intuition in dealing with the events in front of us. The tricky part is to be aware of what is an assumption or comes from within ourselves and what is actually being done by another person in front of us. When we become aware of our own internal dialogue or assumptions, it is only then that we can put forth those assumptions to check with the other person if that is what they truly intended. Through more simple questions and communication to clarify, some of the conflicts and misunderstandings could perhaps be avoided.
The other factor that can dirty our windows, so to speak, can be our beliefs and expectations. Whether in the office or at home, if we expect the worst from someone without giving them the benefit of the doubt, we will for sure end up with an unpleasant experience that reinforces our beliefs about that person. It can make a simple misunderstanding evolve into an overall sentiment that all is terrible with that person, therefore labeling the identity of the person as “bad.” Likewise, we may also miss critical clues if we expect that anything that a given person does is perfect. Later, we can experience an unpleasant surprise because we “did not see it coming.”
Another example of this is a senior leader that is preparing to “fight” for his department at a management meeting. Whether for new product development budget or for issues that his department has encountered, by seeing the meeting as a battlefield, the executive found himself in a defensive position, using terms like “my department” and digging his heels, wondering why no one was listening to his ideas and concerns. In doing so, he probably positioned himself as sitting across the table against his peers, rather than sitting together trying to find the best solutions for the business as a whole. After our discussion, he liked the analogy of being in a boat, each leader having an oar, and each oarsman playing a critical role to move the boat forward. It gave him food for thought as he prepared for his next management meeting.
Mark Nepo speaks about the window washing in our minds and in our hearts. He asks us to contemplate what are the ideas and conclusions we have in our minds and in our hearts, and how we can wash these windows through which we see the world. It was a great reminder for me, an invitation for me to see things and other people for what and who they are, not as I believe them to be.
I hope that it can also offer you an opportunity for reflection. Thanks !
Calming Your Brain During Conflict
Four steps to get out of “fight or flight.”
by Diane Musho Hamilton
"Conflict wreaks havoc on our brains. We are groomed by evolution to protect ourselves whenever we sense a threat. In our modern context, we don’t fight like a badger with a coyote, or run away like a rabbit from a fox. But our basic impulse to protect ourselves is automatic and unconscious....Mindfulness is the perfect awareness technique to employ when a conflict arises — whether it’s at work or home. It allows us to override the conditioned nervous system with conscious awareness. Instead of attacking or recoiling, and later justifying our reactions, we can learn to stay present, participate in regulating our own nervous system, and eventually, develop new, more free and helpful ways of interacting."
read the full article here
from the Enterprisers Project,
download a free pdf of an HBR article
I often speak to clients about being authentic while enabling others to gain trust and to engage by getting to know you better as a person, not just as a manager. This article helps illustrate where leaders sometimes fail in their attempt to gain more intimacy with their teams, then puts forth five simple steps to help leaders achieve more effective and authentic disclosure. Starting with self-awareness, relevance, keeping revelations genuine, knowing the context in which you are operating, and finally, what may be too personal.
read the full article here
Be Yourself, But Carefully
Learn how to be authentic without oversharing, by Lisa Rosh and Lynn Offerman
from INC. Magazine
As I think to the leaders I have admired over the years, I found that this article hit the spot. I share it with you as something to reflect upon for your own self as a leader - do you recognize these as a part of your daily repertoire? Which areas do you need to re-incorporate into your daily leadership?
Want to Be a Highly Respected Boss? 20 Things to Do Every Day
Think about the best boss you've ever known. Here are 20 things I'll bet he or she never stopped doing
by Bill Murphy Jr..
read the full article here:
Sometimes my clients struggle to connect with their leadership team members. Everyone is polite, does what they need to do to get the job done, but interactions are polite, brief... there seems to be a lack of engagement. One of the first areas I check is how well does the team really know you - as a person, as a human being, understanding the context of the challenge you face? When I speak of leadership vulnerability, often times the first reaction I get is a fear to show themselves as weak or incapable. Actually, over the years I have learned the opposite. Leaders who can show vulnerability invite a connection and relationship with their team members that is far stronger than a leader who tries to appear perfect and knows all the answers. This article is a great summary of some of the real life experience I have had as a leader myself as well as with my clients.
from Entrepreneur Magazine
Practice the Magical Strength of Vulnerability
by Beth Miller
Read the full article here
Stress Literally Shrinks Your Brain.
Here Are 7 Ways To Reverse This Effect.
by Travis Bradberry
"We all know that living under stressful conditions has serious emotional, even physical, consequences. So why do we have so much trouble taking action to reduce our stress levels and improve our lives? Researchers at Yale University finally have the answer. They found that stress reduces the volume of grey matter in the areas of the brain responsible for self-control. So experiencing stress actually makes it more difficult to deal with future stress because it diminishes your ability to take control of the situation, manage your stress and keep things from getting out of control..."
read the full article here
A very common challenge facing my clients is the overwhelming amount of work they face as they step into the senior executive role. Have you heard of the term "drinking from a fire hose"? Not a very flattering image, yet it can be the perception left with your colleagues and direct reports as you step into your new role. Responding to emails after midnight just doesn't send the message that you are on top of things. In comparison, as I think to leaders that I have aspired to over time, I see a calm and purposeful demeanor, yet they seem to accomplish more and be more knowledgeable than those around them. How do they do it? I like this article by Jacquelyn Smith at Inc. Magazine because it speaks about focus, priorities, creating capacity, and knowing one's own value. A simple yet refreshing read... take a look.
from INC. Magazine
3 Qualities that Make High Performers
Different from Workaholics
While both look like they work hard, high performers have a sustainable work ethic, while workaholics are on the fast track to burnout
by Jacquelyn Smith
read the full article here
An interesting article on Creating a Strategy that Works & Closing the Strategy-to-Execution Gap from Strategy+Business. Oftentimes organizations invest a significant amount on building a strategy that in the end becomes a deck of slides with no real teeth. This article speaks about five unconventional practices for building and using distinctive capabilities. No rocket science here, just a stark reminder of what many of us forget while buried in our daily operational activities.
Creating a Strategy that Works
The most farsighted enterprises have mastered five unconventional practices for building and using distinctive capabilities
by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi
Read the article here
from LinkedIn Pulse by Daniel Goleman
It's a great reminder for leaders... Often times leaders think they are masking what's going on inside, but in the end, your team can feel it. I also believe that your emotions, thoughts and feelings are reflected in what and how you say things to your team.
Take this concept of emotional contagion one step further... If you are a leader working until the wee hours of the night responding to emails, jumping from meeting to meeting, without time to stop and catch up with a colleague, how do you think this is affecting the mood of your team? A common challenge facing my senior executive clients...
read the article by Daniel Goleman here