How Did You Leave Them Feeling?
How Do You Walk in the World?
“Did you leave a trail of kindness behind you today?” Ever since a colleague shared this wonderful phrase, it has become a guiding light. Think about it. If we were to engage with everyone this way, wouldn’t our time here be well-lived?
Because, whether we care to admit it or not, we always know who we’re being on the inside – deep down. About both the visible and invisible moments of truth (when nobody is looking), Jon Kabat Zinn reminds us, “no matter where you go, there you are.” Yes, it is a choice whether to leave a trail of kindness or destruction in your wake.
It’s About Your Personal Leadership
And, personal leadership has nothing to do with your title or job responsibilities. You can be a CEO or President without acquiring followers. Or, you can hold a non-managerial title and yet engage everyone by walking your talk.
So, what creates the magic? The answer lies in your personal integrity, vision and values. Position power doesn’t cut it. Personal power does. It’s about the all-important “how”. Sure, you can achieve a great “what” (i.e. results) but if these come at the cost of beleaguered colleagues and toxic interactions, you’d have to question the ultimate accomplishment. No?
The Top Ten List
More specifically, personal leadership is about uplifting others and igniting their enthusiasm. It’s about consistently living your principles. It’s about accountability for how you walk in the world.
So, here’s my invitation: Please consider this Top Ten list as the secrets for being an inspiring personal leader in business and in life.
1) Be authentic. Drop your masks. Model openness and sincerity.
2) Accept that “how we really are around here” starts with you.
3) Think of yourself as a “servant” to others rather than “what’s in it for me”.
4) Build relationships by making time to get to know people as individuals.
5) Bring out the best in others by recognizing their unique talents and gifts.
6) Catch your team mates doing something right – not wrong.
7) Be courageous and engage in tough conversations by fostering truth-telling.
8) Ask questions to understand – not to ram your views down others’ throats.
9) Even when disagreeing, find sources of commonality.
10) Remember what’s really important in life by maintaining a sense of balance…for not even the most entrenched workaholic wishes they had worked more on their deathbed.
We stand at a hugely transformational time in history. Imagine what could happen across the planet if we listened with a generosity that dignifies the individual. What forces for good could be unleashed if we promoted one another’s self-actualization? All is possible when we encourage others’ vast potential – mining their in-born wisdom.
The way I see to tap into this powerful time is to become that personal leader who transforms the workplace by leaving a trail of kindness wherever you go. Each of us is 100% responsible for our impact on others. Remember…people will forget a lot of what you tell them, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Until next time, let me leave you with a parting question that may make all the difference in the path you forge from today forward:
What if you considered every interaction with the people in your life to be your last? How would that thought change the quality of your relationships?
Returning to Yourself
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, which frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love)
Your Authentic Self
Let me then start by asking: Who do you bring to work each day? Do others get the full you, or do you shelve some part of yourself when you head out the door? Important questions! For, authenticity in corporate life has to do with offering your unique gifts and talents to others and encouraging them to do the same. As you commit to unveiling your real self, you inspire others to undergo their own emergence. If even one person bumps up their voltage, everyone is enabled to bring greater clarity to work.
As Marianne Williamson’s quote attests, you already are all that you seek. Your yearned-for qualities are part of you, not separate. As such, your journey in life is about uncovering plus reclaiming ‘Who You Really Are’ (i.e., your essential joy, creativity and possibility). It’s not about trying to become somebody else.
Couple authenticity with what science is now proving. Namely, our thoughts create our reality. In addition, what we focus on expands. Given we have about 45,000 thousand thoughts per day (some even suggest 60,000), can you imagine the electricity unleashed if all of us were to focus our power on positivity in the workplace?
I believe it’s Einstein who speculated that even the most advanced thought leaders of our time tap only 2% of their potential. Wow! If it’s true (and it is) that people constantly pick up on the energy you emit, what frequency do you broadcast daily? Does your ‘signal’ align with what you want to attract into your life and what you want to offer to others in the business context surrounding you?
The Top Ten List
Yes, we come back to the repeated message: Change begins with us. Isn’t it Gandhi who declared, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”? If so, then this involves turning the mirror of examination once again upon ourselves.
Therefore, please consider this month’s Top Ten list as my set of provocations asking you to reflect upon your authenticity plus how you demonstrate personal mastery.
1) To what extent do you live according to your inner truth?
2) How would you describe your authentic self (values, needs, motivations)?
3) To what degree do you bring your best self to work?
4) How much of your time do you spend in negativity versus optimism?
5) Do you stop during the day to notice what you’re thinking and feeling?
6) Do you regularly examine your behavior plus impact on others?
7) Are you prepared to release self-imposed restrictions that no longer serve you?
8) To what extent are you prepared to upset the status quo?
9) What messages from your past are standing in the way of your unique destiny?
10) Are you ready to reclaim your true power?
As a new era dawns around the globe, evidence of people’s quest for renewal is to be found everywhere. It’s located, for example, in a burgeoning interest to discover and create lives of individual meaning and purpose.
In this sense, it becomes vital to create nurturing spaces where we can listen to the still voice within that invites us to step into our bigger purpose on the planet. In so doing, we gain new understanding that allows us to reclaim, integrate and celebrate our Authentic Self.
Another way to “unleash your spirit” is to engage in fill-in-the-blank exercises of the sort that follow. Enjoy!
- I am _____________.
- I keep being drawn to ___________.
- I shine when ____________.
- I would like to change in the world _________.
Claiming Your Power
You Make a Difference
Can you agree that each of us possesses huge (untapped) capacity to actively direct the course of our individual and collective lives?
If you’re doubtful, just look at how one person can significantly alter global events. Think Gandhi. Think Guttenberg – inventor of the printing press – or Edison. Now, some of you may be thinking we can’t all invent light bulbs! That’s true. Then again, maybe not all of us were cut out to.
What we are responsible for is to fully embrace our unique power. Unfortunately, many of us allow the “what I do can’t possibly matter” mindset to silently creep into our daily thinking. How many of you believe your election ballet counts? How soon would a park look and smell different if every visitor left behind a piece of garbage? What if every employee in every company stole office supplies? How soon would the results show up on your personal salary through reduced pay hikes?
See what I mean? Notice how often you conclude your actions don’t matter while overlooking your impact. Yet in these examples, isn’t each of us ‘just’ one person? For now, can you at least allow that you absolutely affect your immediate circles? I’ve heard it said this way: “To one person in the world, you are the world.”
Meet Your “Gremlin”
So, what’s going on to cause us to spend so little time acknowledging the difference we make? Bet you’re giving yourself some nasty self-talk on the order of “How dare I brag about myself?” or “Who do you think you are?” Am I right? I suspect so – regrettably.
In coaching, Gremlin is the name given to this negative inner voice that robs us of our glory. Do you recognize yours? We all have one. And, the Gremlin uses exactly the right tone and words to put us in our place. Where did it come from, you wonder? Originally, many of us received well-intentioned messages from teachers, parents and other authority figures discouraging us from boasting and other “inappropriate” behaviours. When we didn’t have the right information, we didn’t know how to separate such unhelpful scripts from the useful advice.
Today, we own the power of conscious choice. If we let it, this task-master would weaken us with self-created smallness twenty-four hours a day. That means it’s up to us to purposefully shut off the ‘tap’ on the Gremlin’s endless ‘drip’.
The Top Ten List
This month’s Top Ten list offers five Do’s and five Don’ts to strongly counter-act the voice of your harsh critic:
1) Do stand proudly in your individuality.
2) Do examine your belief systems about your “power of one”.
3) Do itemize whose lives you impact.
4) Do specify how you make a difference in their worlds.
5) Do name 25 ways you’re unique.
6) Don’t shy away from your greatness.
7) Don’t internalize others’ messages.
8) Don’t stop yourself in your tracks!
9) Don’t abdicate responsibility for your part on planet Earth.
10) Don’t believe the world would be the same without you.
As a “bonus” to help you reclaim your splendour, here’s an exercise from my coaching studies that involves writing a life purpose statement on this model: “I am the…that has others…” To fill in the blanks, my statement reads: “I am the reflecting pool that has others bask in their brilliance and reclaim their inner truth.”
Just like the vision statements you see defined at work, this is what my purpose means to me – and by extension to others:
- Reflecting pool – by gazing into ‘my’ pool, you see reflected back your true essence
- Bask – giving yourself the right to relish how ‘x-ceptional’ you really are
- Brilliance – suggests great brightness, sparkling, radiant qualities
- Reclaim – as in, taking back what was yours in the first place
- Inner truth – your truth about what’s right by you and nobody else
I share my statement to illustrate my commitment to all of you. I so want you to ‘get’ the brilliance that is yours alone. Breathe in how wonderful you are! There has never been – and never will be again – anyone quite like you. Can you imagine that?
Drawing Out Your Awareness
What Do You Notice?
The first practice we’ll look at is Mindfulness. As Jon Kabat-Zinn points to in Wherever You Go There You Are, many of us go through our days quite unaware of how we’re thinking or feeling. Such ‘unconsciousness’ creates huge problems. These include the dangerous lead-in to unattended fears and negativity taking over our thoughts. Over time, we lose confidence in our ability to redirect our energies toward greater fulfillment.
I liken Mindfulness to the Noticing Journal I keep each day (see Parting Reflections). Its purpose is to notice who I’m being (e.g., character traits, attitudes and beliefs) and my impact on others. Noticing at heart is a way-of-thinking. It involves all the presence of mind about which Jon Kabat-Zinn writes.
Can You Be a “Beginner”?
The observer-of-life mode embodied by Mindfulness leads us right into our second practice called Beginner’s Mind.
Beginner’s Mind adopts the attitude, “Hmmm…is that so…?” There’s no preconceived way of doing things – no assumptions or conclusions. You don’t need to figure out everything. Beginner’s Mind is akin to curiosity. Curiosity is open – almost playful.
Such a way of looking at the world is completely contrary to typical North American thought. Yes, we love to place labels on everything that happens – good, bad, right, wrong, etc.
What if we instead adopted an inquisitive posture? Do you think more neutrality would allow you to merely notice people and events without judging them? I do!
The Top Ten List
Imagine you were a character in a play (where the play is your life). As you ‘act out’ your role, observe your feelings and actions – as if you were standing in the wings while watching your performance. To guide your thinking, here are some introspective questions:
1) Who are you typically ‘being’ in a day? (i.e., qualities, character, personality traits, attitudes, beliefs)
2) What do you observe about your impact on others?
3) What triggers tend to derail you from your ideal state?
4) What (common) patterns or themes do you notice as you take an observer’s stance?
5) What do you learn when you take a ‘mindful’ look at your daily interactions?
6) How can you get more ‘curious’?
7) How can you be more ‘playful’ as you watch yourself?
8) Do you ever preconceive how things ‘should’ be? If so, how can you stop?
9) What can you to do make sure you don’t apply judgments or negative labels upon what you see and experience?
10) When you go off your game plan (in terms of what you notice), what are three things you can do to get back on course?
It should come as no surprise that I would encourage you to take away the Action Exercise of opening up your own Noticing Journal. Simply, you write five short statements of observation per day that capture your emotions and/or reactions to situations. That’s it.
The intent is to promote self-awareness. Over time, you’ll locate distinct patterns. These will yield further excellent clues about your strengths. Keep building on them!
For those unused to journaling, it may feel like this practice would take a lot of time. It doesn’t nor shouldn’t. In fact, if you’re spending more than minutes on this daily exercise, you’re spending way too long! After all, we’re not talking about a complicated meditation process here.
Anyone can do this. So, the next time you’re starting to feel yourself go ‘unconscious’, remember Richard Eyre’s words: “Don’t just do something, sit there!” Think about that one for a moment.