Leadership Perspectives: A Perfect Storm
I’ve been told that the biggest mistake you can make when blogging is to talk about yourself. I’ve also been told that when you make things personal, people begin to recognize and respect that you are human, and have experiences you can share and others can learn through.
Several situations have created a perfect storm in my life in the last few weeks and with your permission I would like to share them with you.
I have talked frequently about the need to be authentically who you are, and lead from that place of peace. Like many of you, I get there fairly frequently, but I’m not always there. My values, principles, actions and behaviors are not ALWAYS aligned. And, when they aren’t, I don’t feel well. Literally. I get sick. And, I’ve learned to pay close attention when that happens.
I also believe that when we make a decision to make a conscious change in our character – to intentionally practice the change we would like to see in the world, to be willing to be – that the universe conspires to send us what we need to make that change happen.
Most of you who follow me know that I’ve been practicing and teaching the Four Agreements, a Toltec wisdom published by don Miguel Ruiz. My classes are almost finished for each group of students, but the lessons are not. The first agreement is “Be impeccable with your word.” The essence of the First Agreement is about not passing judgment or blaming yourself or anyone else, no gossip, taking responsibility for your actions, and learning to rely on your internal knowledge rather than external knowledge for your truth.
In the last week, it has been almost comical as I have watched myself take on multiple personalities. And, I have learned so much around those five words! Additionally, each situation brought the lessons I needed more quickly than the one before.
Along with many people this year, I have been engrossed with the elections. And, because of that, friends and family who don’t agree with my “liberalness” have been poking me, and some of those pokes have felt like they were made with very sharp instruments. In addition, I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty harsh judgment around my character because even after long conversations with people, I still haven’t changed my choice of political candidate, and I haven’t stopped asking questions. I’ve been able to create common ground with many, and we have cheerfully agreed to disagree, and love each other anyway by using the Four Agreements as a guide to the conversation.
On the other hand, late one evening after a difficult day, another person poked hard on a couple of things I started a conversation around, passing broad sweeping judgment on the character and ability of huge numbers of people, and completely discounting the ideas and facts presented by a very successful businessman that did not happen to coincide with his ideas and facts. Because I was completely exhausted from maneuvering through these types of conversations for days on end, I rebelled at yet another tirade from him; I finally told him that he was “belligerent, judgmental and harsh, leaving no room for discussion. He was looking for an argument – and I refused to join him”. Oh my, because he looks for external confirmation from others, he felt badly. I think I felt worse – I was not at my best. I quickly recognized that I made an assumption that he wanted an argument, and that setting my boundaries did not require me to be judgmental. About him, or the fact that I was not at my best.
In and around all of this, I was asked, along with a colleague, to facilitate a meeting at my church that could have ended in a completely splintered congregation. The good news is – it didn’t. More good news – I really felt the Four Agreements helped with many of the conversations throughout the meeting.
The bad news: I became very angry with one speaker – passing some fairly harsh judgment on them internally, and was literally shaking with the effort to keep that anger inside. This rarely happens to me. So, why now?
I have a focused value on truth telling – being factual and making an effort not to put a spin on what I have to say. And, because of my family background, I don’t have a lot of patience with people who play the victim and point the finger everywhere but at themselves. I don’t like being manipulated and controlled! And, in my mind, this is exactly what was happening.
What a great lesson! I got it immediately, and was able to release my anger, and let it go:
I don’t like being judged or hearing others being judged, and yet I judge. Especially when my values are being stepped on – thereby, I am making it personal and it isn’t.
1) Be impeccable with your word.
2) Discern, but don’t take it personally.
3) Don’t make assumptions.
Why did I entitle this article “The Perfect Storm”, and ask you to walk down my lane of success and failure as a leader this last week? When we are consciously, and intentionally, working on some aspect of our character, people and situations that will test you present themselves one on top of the other until you have the “ah-ha” you need to up your awareness. You receive a great deal of practice until you get it – and the trials continue until the choices are being made before the reaction because they have become part of who you are.
As leaders, we often judge others – it is a daily occurrence – and in fact, we are frequently paid to do this. Most of the time, it isn’t so focused and fraught with such a painful emotional reaction. But, it should be! Judging is seeing yourself as superior or inferior to another person – and that emotional reaction is the trigger we need to really pay attention to what is going on. You grow and learn about yourself from what you feel.
“Anyone you obsess about, positively or negatively, is showing
something in yourself that you aren’t yet acknowledging.” ~ Martha Beck
When you judge, it is because you would like a person to be different, or a situation to be something other than what it is. You have expectations that are not satisfied, and when that happens you lose energy; you lose effectiveness as a leader. Discerning is recognizing a person or an event for what it is without being affected by it. Because you don’t lose energy, you retain and even grow your effectiveness as a leader.
The lessons are still coming every day. But now, I’m recognizing them as opportunities to detach from the personal much earlier in the process so I might stop my knee-jerk reaction and discern enough about the situation to determine my response. I remember I have choices – and I can respectfully make them without passing judgment.
Do your best at all times. Don’t judge yourself when your best is not perfect, and remember that when you are tired or drained emotionally, your best will not be as good as when you are refreshed and emotionally whole. But, you are still doing your best.
What steps can you take to be an effective leader without passing judgment?
Feel free to reblog this article. Please, include the following acknowledgment of the author:
Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, and Phoenix, AZ, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.