Aren’t there times when you just wonder what movie you’re in? Maybe it’s a good movie. People are surprising you with the quality of their listening and their thoughtful, generous and responsive actions. You show up as your best Self, even in conversations or situations you anticipated would be difficult or damaging. You experience that special quality of flow and notice the multiple events that suggest the possibility that everything is linked, for good. There seems to be a matrix supporting you in moving to fulfill meaningful commitments. Give that movie a title and press “save” somewhere in your being. You need the experience and cellular memory of days like that to get you through the other ones.
We all have versions of the other life movies. A possible title could be: “Things Fall Apart.” Things do not happen as you planned. People you rely on behave out of character, don’t keep agreements and create costly mischief. Timing is off and things are not coordinating as you think they need to. You, your team, your company, your project…all keep hitting obstacles. It doesn’t seem right; it doesn’t seem fair. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it does. Now what? Who and what are going to fix this!?
Let’s just say that you’re a leader in both types of movie. Does that feel familiar? Who are you when things go your way and, importantly, when they don’t? What happens to your mood, your ability to stay focused on opportunities, your willingness to see, hear and respond creatively to what is true and to what is needed? Are you aware and curious about the impact you have on the people around you?
We all create our reality to some extent by how we “read” our world, name it and move in it. As a leader, one of your most important jobs is to create a shared sense of reality. The people you lead orient to what they perceive is “real” in what you communicate (intentionally and unintentionally). They gauge how much to show up and what they willingly will contribute to working together. If you are listening carefully, you can get essential clues about the reality they are living, whether it matches yours and what course corrections are needed. If you are too caught up in your own reality to listen, it will surely cost you.
How about that willingness to listen? It includes being willing to listen to yourself, to what you need. Indeed, your capacity to listen to and trust yourself is the measure of your capacity to listen to and build trust with others. What self-talk are you listening to and validating in yourself? Is it helping you? Is there something else you would rather affirm?
And how about the willingness to acknowledge and address what is true? How do you rate yourself with respect to your own capacity to:
- Cultivate trust in yourself and with others
- Anticipate and constructively take care of conflict
- Articulate and fulfill life-enhancing commitments
- Show up as accountable yourself and as inspiring and requiring accountability in others
- Dedicate consistent and appreciative attention to results?
Considered in the negative, the absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results show up as dysfunctions that undermine the efforts of even the best-intentioned and most highly qualified leaders and teams. (See Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick Lencioni). Once you “see” the dysfunction, is there something you can do about it? Yes.
Creating a new reality for yourself and the group of creative, intelligent people you lead requires new qualities of attention, intention and interaction. You will have to “see” what you are practicing and what those practices produce. Under pressure, we mostly perform to the level of our practice, not to the level of our potential or expectations. Where you are falling short, you have to acknowledge the cost and pain that “breakdowns” produce. You need to be willing to learn from that, not just quickly apologize and insist that everyone simply move on. You need to identify what you really want, individually and together, and then be willing to practice anew so you can have that instead. And most important of all, you have the option of taking this on with joy, in a mood that energizes you and opens you to possibility.
Where do you turn for support? One option is to work with a leadership coach and consultant who will help you cultivate mastery of Self as a leader of productive, creative and spirited collaboration. Are you curious about what that could produce and the difference that could make? Ready for a different movie somewhere important in your life?
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