“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” ~ Rosa Parks
When you look at a powerful, inspiring leader, you’re seeing the results of her years of growing into her leadership skills. Behind her polished appearance are tears, disappointments, frustrations, and hard-learned lessons. She has experienced hiccups in her plans, inadequacies in her preparation, and unseen circumstances that sidelined her attempts. But she kept striving to improve until she achieved excellence. You can do the same by applying the principles of thoughtful leadership.
How the principles of thoughtful leadership can make a good leader into an excellent leader…
Practice. Every skill is learned through practice; the same is true of leadership. Even if you don’t think you have a natural ability to lead, you can practice, practice, practice, until it becomes a part of you.
A major area to work on is your ability to make decisions quickly and wisely. You may be good at quick decisions, but are they always good ones? If not, don’t give up. Lean into decision-making. View each decision as a practice run and pay attention to the consequences. Ask yourself why it turned out well or why it didn’t. That’s how you learn, if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
There’s a lot of wisdom in the advice to “fail early and fail often,” even though I don’t think of anything as failure. Life is a journey full of lessons, because often you’re making decisions on incomplete or contradictory information. It’s what you learn that matters. Along the way, it’s also important to practice self-forgiveness, gratitude, and other somatic practices.
Lead from Different Directions. If you think a leader can only be the person out in front, like a controlling CEO or president, then it’s time to rethink your definition of leadership.
Thoughtful leaders don’t need to control everything. They recognize the talent of the team, and they encourage the most qualified person to run with a project or initiative. They step out of the way and guide from the background, when needed.
I love how the National Outdoor Leadership School describes the four approaches to leadership. As a designated leader, you take responsibility for the group and keep it on track. But you often ask your active followers to participate in group decisions, as their input gives you a clearer picture. Everyone on the team helps each other as peer leaders. And everyone carries their own weight because they exercise self-leadership and remain organized and motivated.
Be a Team Player. It’s more important to build solid relationships within your organization than “getting the job done,” if that means trampling on your team cohesion. It’s not always easy to effectively resolve conflict among a diverse group of people, but if you show you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside them, or you’re willing to fill in for them when necessary, that goes a long way to building a “collaborative, family feeling.” This approach fosters a spirit of understanding, communication, motivation, and even a sense of humor.
Stay Calm. Maintaining flexibility under adversity is another vital leadership skill. Embodied leaders don’t become leaders despite those adversities. They’ve become leaders because they used those adversities to their advantage.
There may be times you may want to throw in the towel, but a wiser course is to weigh your options. Ask yourself, “if I do that, what good will it do? …what harm will it do?”
Trying to control everything leads to burnout faster than anything. Learn to let go of things you can’t control, and become comfortable with changes. Maintain your composure and calm, as you switch on your problem-solving skills.
Develop the presence of mind to look past the immediate disaster/challenge/distraction and focus on the most important task at hand. You can’t afford to panic or become paralyzed with fear. It’s only by embracing discomfort that you can purposefully expand your comfort zone.
Disconnect to Reconnect. Technology is sapping our ability to analyze, strategize and dream big. We must remain connected to nature. You’ll find that regularly immersing yourself in nature removes distractions so you can make decisions for the right reasons.
Are you ready to claim the leader within you? My colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within, and identify ways to live differently, love fully, and be, wholly, who we are meant to be. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. (We’ll be arriving on September 5th and leaving September 11th.) It’s going to be a wonderful, life-changing experience.
“The world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.” ~ Margaret Wheatley
It’s exciting to see millions of women embrace their place in the business world today. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, as of 2017, “11.6 million firms are owned by women.” Yet, it is disappointing to see that many leadership positions are still closed to them.
Why do women find leadership positions so elusive? Because leadership has long been “a man’s world,” women feel like they have to act like men to succeed. They think they have to be just as tough and competitive as a man. But when they’re confronted with office politics, they falter, because men and women fundamentally differ in their views on power and influence. And that’s not a bad thing.
It’s important to recognize the strengths that you, as a woman, bring to the table. You don’t have to act like a man. You have a powerful asset that they don’t – the power of collaboration. We, as women, use our influence as collaborators all the time in our families and communities. Now it’s time to learn to authentically use your influence as a collaborator in business, as well.
The book, “The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders,” by Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, Mary Davis Holt, Diana Faison shares some wonderful suggestions…
Think bigger. I love the visualization exercise they recommend: image yourself achieving everything you want professionally under these two conditions – you can’t remain in your current position, and you can’t fail. Try it and see how it expands your thinking.
Be prepared for self-limiting beliefs to creep in. They’ll try to keep you small, but you can mindfully shift them to positive ones. If they’re really stubborn, find a friend, colleague, or mentor who can be your “truth teller.”
Manage relationships and collaborate. Even when you “don’t feel like it,” work to build genuine relationships and strategic connections. Take advantage of casual office settings and social networking events. Greet people warmly every morning. Be well prepared for your meetings and actively participate with a view to performing well. Even organize group events that your business associates will enjoy.
It’s important to pay attention to the following people within your business sphere:
- colleagues who will support you,
- key decision makers or influencers who can sponsor and promote you, and
- opponents who can make political maneuvering less complex.
Anticipate the long-term impact and cumulative results. Engage your curiosity as you visualize the outcome you desire. Consider all the options and think two or three moves ahead. This will help you identify what you need to do next to obtain your ideal results.
Acquire an executive presence. Take ownership of your career. You determine your vision, goals and path. No one can do it for you. Don’t let people underestimate you, because of the way you present yourself. NLP techniques will help you earn respect and inspire trust, so people want to work with you, recommend you and promote you.
Turn challenges into advantages. For example, women aren’t getting important feedback from male executives. That’s a challenge! You don’t know how to improve, because no one is talking. Take the initiative and ask for specific feedback. Now you have the advantage of knowing exactly what’s expected of you.
Companies that encourage and develop women in leadership positions benefit in a number of ways. Women tend to bring fresh perspectives because of their life experience and talents. Their collaborative influence increases employee engagement and higher productivity, which translates into more revenue. These advantages alone give companies a global competitive edge.
Are you ready to uncover the leader within you? My colleague Louise Santiago and I are hosting “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world” in Mindo, Ecuador. Together, we’ll explore how to recognize, name, and support the leader within, and identify ways to live differently, love fully, and be, wholly, who we are meant to be. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. (Also note the dates have changed slightly, since our first announcement. We’ll be arriving on September 5th and leaving September 11th.) I sincerely hope you take advantage of this life-changing opportunity.
Do you think that striving for excellence takes a lot of work, effort and struggle? Would you be shocked if I told you excellence should be easy? Yes, it takes a lot of work, but not in the way you’re probably thinking. The work comes, not from checking off major hurdles on your to-do list, but rather from finding your zone of genius, which, in turn, makes it easy and fun.
I know this goes against the current trend. Many life coaches advise their clients: “If you want to make it big, you’ve got to hustle!” Or, “Push yourself outside of your comfort zone.” Or, “Fight for every advantage you can get.”
When people buy into this philosophy, they push, fight and claw their way to some measure of success. In the process, they almost kill themselves. They don’t make time for exercise. They eat on the run, if at all. They survive on caffeine and adrenaline. And then they’re too keyed up to sleep at night. Day after day, they follow this same routine. Soon exhaustion, overwhelm, burnout and illness catch up with them.
If hustling and pushing yourself relentlessly were the best way to achieve excellence, these damaging results wouldn’t happen.
In reality, excellence results from giving yourself permission to be yourself and finding your zone of genius. Gay Hendricks, author of “The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level,” brought the phrase “zone of genius” to our attention. It describes the one thing you do better than almost anyone; the thing you do joyfully and effortlessly, which creates value for yourself and others.
Before you can find your zone of genius, however, it’s necessary to identify the fear that keeps it hidden from your own sight.
For example, do you find yourself saying, “I could do great things and be someone special if it wasn’t for…my job, my marriage, my race, my education, my social status, my looks…” and the list goes on and on. Beware, that way of thinking blinds you to your own genius.
In order to find your zone of genius, here are some other self-defeating thoughts to identify and explore. Keep in mind your goal is greater self-awareness, so it behooves you to mindfully adopt a more self-compassionate way of living.
- Your desire for security makes you afraid to change the status quo.
- Your attachment to money and prestige keeps you in a job you hate.
- Your fear of vulnerability makes your relationships shallow and unfulfilling.
- Your belief that success only comes from hard work relentlessly drives you to dismiss self-care.
- Your feelings of unworthiness prevent you from claiming your uniqueness.
- Your addiction to drama sidetracks and distracts you.
- Your misplaced loyalty makes you choose smallness rather than disappoint a colleague, boss or loved one.
It’s all too easy to be comfortable with living a miserable life. Most people rather live with what they know, rather than risk the unknown.
This is where the “hard work” begins because it calls for radically changing your approach. Instead of always pushing, pushing, pushing, it’s okay to pursue what comes easily. You don’t have to suffer to be great. It’s okay to enjoy life.
Rather than beating your head against closed doors by setting lofty goals and doing it by yourself, look for open doors of opportunity. Ask yourself what you really want in this moment of time. Give yourself permission to try things and do them imperfectly. It is hard to let go of ingrained habits and self-defeating thoughts, but this kind of “hard work” brings you health, vitality, a sense of fulfillment and balance.
One way to know you’re working in your genius is when you’re so absorbed in your project that time flies. You feel a deep sense of satisfaction and can’t wait to start again tomorrow. If you’re not quite in that zone yet, please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you identify your zone of genius.
“You seem like you’re miles away.” It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Your body is there but you’re mind is somewhere else. Conversely, it’s also easy to be engaged mentally, but not physically. You know (the brain function) how to do something (lose weight, quit smoking, run a business, be a parent) but you don’t do (the body function) what is required to follow through.
If this only happens occasionally, that’s not a problem. However, if that’s your continual state of being, it’s a sign that you’re not fully connected with yourself or others. Not being fully present causes great strain on your relationships. And even more damaging, it makes it impossible for you to listen to what your own body is saying. It prevents your parts from being fully integrated.
There is great value in paying attention to your whole body as a source of wisdom and learning. You can learn to minimize distraction and become more fully present by incorporating somatic practices in you day-to-day activities.
What are somatic practices?
Somatic practices create an elevated level of self-awareness. Rather than focusing solely on thoughts and emotions, somatic coaching incorporates your entire body. The word somatic comes from the Greek root word “soma”, which means “the living body in its wholeness.” The body, mind, emotions and spirit influence each other constantly, even when you’re not aware of it.
Our society teaches us to concentrate on doing brain work. In school we memorize facts and pass tests, but we’re not taught how to live as a wholly integrated person. In business we sit at computers and strain our brains to the limits. But by the end of the day we’re exhausted mentally and just want to “veg out”. However, the body hasn’t been stretched or worked, so it’s too keyed up to settle down, therefore sleepless nights ensue.
By integrating simple somatic practices, you will get your work done, plus feel more centered and less tired. By bringing your whole integrated self to the table, your head is not doing all the work, and you’re not fighting with the parts of you that are distracted.
What are some basic somatic practices you can do to create deeper mind/body awareness?
- Mindfulness. Daily make a practice of noticing your body sensations and emotional responses.
- Monitor and become more aware of your breathing patterns. Here are some resources for you:
Tap into the Powerful Anatomy of Breathing to Promote Better Health
Five Breathing Exercises for Balancing Your Life, Your Mood and Your Relationships
Breathe Your Way to Wellness With the Yoga Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique
- Suspend judgment as you scan your body. Self-acceptance, self-awareness and self-motivation empower you to let go of self-judgments.
- Centering. Find that space within you that keeps you calm and at peace. Here are some resources to discover the best centering practice for you:
How to Center Yourself to Achieve Greatness.
10 Centering Techniques to Live an Embodied Life.
Discover Centering Practices That Promote Excellence.
- Grounding. After you’ve centered yourself, connect yourself to the ground. Move your attention from your head down the length of your body – your heart center, belly, legs, and feet. Feel yourself connected to the ground. Think about the time someone pushed you before you were aware that they would. You almost toppled over, didn’t you? Then think about how being aware ahead of time makes you able to hold your ground. You instinctively use your awareness to drop your energy and settle more into your body to ground yourself.
- The Feldenkrais Method®. Create a daily practice of body awareness through movement. I continually use this method to resource my back and make my body more resilient to stress.
- Visualization. Mindfully use the power of your thoughts to your advantage and engage your body in the new awareness.
- Reframing exercises. Rewire your brain to handle any negative event in a positive way and anchor the new action into your body.
- Anchoring techniques. Preset your response to specific situations by choosing positive somatic states.
These are just some of the somatic practices I use to help my clients feel more resourceful and excel in life. It’s empowering to know that you can mindfully choose to respond in a way that leaves you feeling whole and at peace. It just takes practice. With practice, your body will become more flexible and resourceful and you will become the person you want to be.
I’d love to explain further how you can use these and other powerful somatic practices. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
“When your desires are strong enough, you will appear to possess superhuman powers to achieve.” ~ Napoleon Hill
Eagles effortlessly soar for hours, because they instinctively look for updrafts and downdrafts that take them where they want to go. We have more than instinct on our side. Even if, at times, our emotional triggers sidetrack us, we can learn to actually use them to get back on track and create the life we want.
It’s true that many people get stuck, because they’re hardwired toward self-defeating negativity and doubt. Try as you might, it feels like you can’t turn those emotions off. If that’s true in your case, take heart. You can use these emotions to trigger new, more useful thoughts that will take you where you want to be.
Here are three emotional triggers that will let you navigate through difficulties and excel at whatever you want…
- Let negativity trigger your ability to look for the “updrafts” of positivity. We are hardwired to see what’s wrong, so we don’t get hurt. Our “gut” or intuition tells us when we’re in a life-threatening situation. Problems arise, however, when we get out of balance physically, mentally and spiritually, and we can become too sensitive, feeling like everything is a challenge or attack—even when that’s not the intention.
You can regain your balance, by learning to identify defensive feelings and practicing relaxation techniques that make you feel safe and grounded. Before speaking negatively of yourself or others, mindfully retrain yourself to think positive thoughts. It will change your feelings, thoughts, behaviors and even relationships. You absolutely do get what you focus on.
- Let the “down drafts” of pressure trigger your sense of wonder. Though it may sound cliché, life is a journey, not a destination. If you rigidly hold to a set destination or outcome, you’ll put so much pressure on yourself your performance will suffer. You’ll miss opportunities that let you grow or experience new joys and discoveries. Pressure to perform does create stress, but remember that you, and everyone else, are practicing human beings, not perfect human beings. Everyone is a work in progress.
You don’t have to have all the answers. Cultivate greater awareness so you see that life is full of opportunities to try something new, rather than tests. This will help you mindfully transform a moment of panic into one of empowerment. You just have to have the courage to move forward, stretch yourself and do your best. Practice acceptance, rather than judgment as you let whatever happens, happen. And when you feel discomfort, choose to do the thing that scares you the most.
- Let insecurities trigger empowerment. All throughout life we take leaps of faith, just like eagle chicks tumble out of the nest for their first flight. You can do and be whoever you want. Who you were as a child is not who you are today. Who you are now, is not who you will be a year from now.
Feeling insecure means you’ve discovered an area where you can learn something new. You can master anything, if you’re willing to put in the time. Each step forward empowers you to take the next step and then the next, until you’re soaring with the eagles.
It’s been scientifically proven that we can reshape our brains. Each thought and behavior wears a path in the brain. That’s why we can do so many things without thinking about them, like making dinner or driving a car. The amazing thing is that if you don’t like a thought or behavior, you can create a new path that eventually overwrites the previous path.
I’d love to partner with you on this exciting part of your life’s journey. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).