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The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

–Rumi

 

Rumi encourages us to open, with equanimity, to what comes to us, whether joy or sorrow.  As people and as leaders, we have two choices: to face our (sometimes brutal) reality or resist it and ramp up our delusions.

As I evolve my own consciousness as a woman, mother and leader, I want to be a guest house for present moment happenings and feelings, even when they are tough. Yet as much as I want to face reality, I find ways to distract myself. Sometimes I resist strenuously.

It’s easy to be in present moment awareness in good times; it is harder to stay present when “more difficult” emotions come up. Even boredom can cause us to want to escape the present. | Chandler Coaches

It’s easy to be in present moment awareness in good times; it is harder to stay present when “more difficult” emotions come up. Even boredom can cause us to want to escape the present.

There were many magical moments over the holidays where I noticed how grateful and peaceful I was feeling. Being present to these moments and feelings was easy. Sometimes, in the very next breath, I felt sad, angry or a bit despairing. These more difficult feelings would come up as I started ruminating over difficult past events or worrying about current global crises, business challenges or imagined future losses.

Dwelling on the past and projecting into the future are sure ways to come out of present moment awareness. And most of us have developed ways to numb to unpleasant present moment awareness and uncomfortable feelings. Some of us, ahem, fill our schedules to the brim and focus on productivity. Some of us turn overly to work, Facebook, Netflix, food, booze, smoking, or exercise, etc., to avoid them. Even involving ourselves too much in the lives of other people (like friends or kids) can be a way to avoid our reality or feel our feelings.

Full disclosure … through present moment awareness, I recognize I’ve been irritated the whole time I have been writing this post.  Despite a sunny window and a hot coffee at hand, I’ve been more focused on how this blog post felt like an unwanted guest taking up my mindshare over the holidays as a flip-flopped on a topic and my thoughts. I have made the whole thing a bad experience when really it is neither good nor bad, it just is.

And so, my commitment to myself on present moment awareness is to embark on Michael Brown’s The Presence Process for the next 10 weeks.  His book, which details his guided process, comes highly recommended by my Montreal coach friend and colleague, Monica Callon.  I suspect The Presence Process will be challenging for me. I often prefer to be in action (or distraction). Monica and I are taking a strategic time out in March to reflect on our coaching, our businesses, our lives and our leadership. The Laurentians will be our backdrop.

As I enter into 2017 with hopes and trepidations, I wonder who my guests will be? And I wonder how welcoming will I be in all the moments?

The present moment is now. How welcoming are you?

Ebenezer Scrooge (a well known character in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol–Summary here) was a miserable and miserly business owner who seemingly hated Christmas and people.  He’s known for his Bah! Humbug! response to his nephew’s Merry Christmas.

My colleague Tim Edris and I are fortunate to not have any true Scrooges in our practice. After all, a real Scrooge would never hire a us! Nonetheless, dear old Scrooge can teach us a lot.

My colleague Tim Edris and I are fortunate to not have any true Scrooges in our practice. After all, a real Scrooge would never hire a us! Nonetheless, dear old Scrooge can teach us a lot. | Three Cheers for Scrooge | Chandler CoachesIn the novel, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited in his dreams by his deceased partner Jacob Marley.  Marley’s ghost, because of his own selfish life, is condemned to walk the earth in heavy chains. He visits from the grave in his effort to protect his partner Scrooge from the same awful fate.  He promises Scrooge he’ll be visited by three spirits on Christmas eve.

If we applied this narrative arc to your leadership journey, how would it read? What would the spirits of leadership development show you?

First for Scrooge comes the Ghost of Christmas Past. Scrooge is full of regrets as he visits his past.

If the Ghost of Leadership Past visited you, what would you notice about your past leadership? How did you hold back on casting vision? Neglect relationships? Control too much? Disengage? Alternatively, how were you generous? Collaborative? Courageous? Visionary? Achieving?

Next for Ebenezer came the Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge watches the lives of his family and employees in celebration. He realizes how he’s cutting himself off from joy and wonder in his choice to be distant.

What would The Ghost of Leadership Present reveal to you about your present life and leadership?  If you had access to your peoples’ thoughts and feelings about you as a leader, what would they say? What would they praise? Where would they say you fall short? What would they want more of from you and for your leadership?

My colleague Tim Edris and I are fortunate to not have any true Scrooges in our practice. After all, a real Scrooge would never hire a us! Nonetheless, dear old Scrooge can teach us a lot. | Three Cheers for Scrooge | Chandler CoachesThe last visit for Scrooge comes from The Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come. He’s brought to a churchyard cemetery where he hears businessmen discussing the dead man’s riches. He sees vagabonds trading the dead man’s personal effects and a poor couple celebrating that their unforgiving creditor is gone.  Scrooge is horrified to read his own name on the tombstone.  In this moment, he pleads with the spirit to let him change his miserly ways.

Lest you feel this post is leading you to a most dismal place, the wonderful news for Scrooge is that he wakes up with the realization that Christmas hasn’t happened yet. He gets to choose to be different, having learned so much from the three spirits.  He goes on to have a wonderful and generous Christmas, a changed man forevermore.

At this time of year or anytime, we can look objectively at ourselves and our leadership.  We can celebrate our connections, contributions, courage and results. And we can face with bravery the brutal truth of our reality.  If it is not as we want it to be, we can embrace a growth mindset to learn and change.

My colleague Tim Edris and I are fortunate to not have any true Scrooges in our practice. After all, a real Scrooge would never hire a us! Nonetheless, dear old Scrooge can teach us a lot. | Three Cheers for Scrooge | Chandler CoachesIf the Ghost of Leadership Yet to Come visited you, what do you want to be seeing in your life and leadership this time next year?  At the end of your life, what do you want to be your leadership legacy?

If you’re a little Scrooge-like in some aspects of your life or leadership at the moment, take heart.  We are too.

But Bah Humbug? Not a chance!

May your year in leadership be full of light and learning.

Merry Christmas to you,

 

My colleague Tim Edris and I are fortunate to not have any true Scrooges in our practice. After all, a real Scrooge would never hire a us! Nonetheless, dear old Scrooge can teach us a lot. | Three Cheers for Scrooge | Chandler Coaches

Fact: Many of the leaders I coach are scared to say what they really think to their people.

They withhold facts¹: One of my direct reports is interviewing elsewhere.

They withhold thoughts and opinions: I don’t support expanding into the US market right now.

They withhold feelings: I feel anger that I was not consulted on that hire.

They withhold sensations: I feel a lump in my throat when the VP Sales talks about our targets.

They hold back on speaking their truth because they believe it is safer. They hold back on speaking their truth because to do otherwise feels so dangerous.

Candor can be hard, leaving us exposed and vulnerable.

Fact: I sometimes withhold, too, in my business and personal relationships. At times, I even withhold during coaching sessions. I am paid to be frank and I still find myself holding back at times. Happily, as I commit to candor in my life, it happens less and less.

Here’s why it happens for me and the leaders I coach.

We have deep underlying assumptions/beliefs that speaking our truth will push people away. We believe (somewhere in reptile part of our brains) that if we push people away we will end up failed and alone. Sound extreme? It is shockingly common.

A while back I provided a formula for feedback that I stand by.  It’s a great place to start when you want to tell a colleague (boss, peer, direct report, supplier, etc.) what happened, how you felt about it and what the impact was. When done well, a feedback conversation like this can help both you and the other person grow, can build trust in your relationship, and can improve results.  

Since formulas help us remember concepts, here’s another from Kim Scott of Radical Candor Inc.

Care Personally + Challenge Directly = Radical Candor™ (4 minute video here)

A framework for Radical Candor, featured on Chandler Coaches: Leader: Step Into Your TruthSay what you think, with this caveat: You need to care personally and challenge directly to have impact.

For a full explanation, watch: The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss. (It’s 21 minutes).

It’s time to challenge our belief that bad things happen if we speak our truth.  The truth is, bad things can happen when we don’t speak up. Bad things can happen when we avoid asking for candid feedback, too. Something to ponder.


The Fast Feedback Test²

When is it appropriate to speak your truth? When is it a fast feedback conversation and when does it need to be a longer coaching conversation?

  1. Will the information be useful to the recipient?  Y/N
  2. Do I have a trust-based relationship in place that will support the conversation? Y/N
  3. Is the behaviour change critical for the individual’s success? Y/N
  4. Will the feedback be new or surprising to hear? Will the data fall into a blind spot for the individual and perhaps be shocking to him/her? Y/N
  5. Will the behaviour change take significant time, effort, or support? Y/N
  6. Am I personally invested in the behaviour change? Y/N

Yes to #1 and #2 = Jump in with candor in the moment. Remember that improvising in the moment can be powerful.

No to #2 = What would make it worthwhile to build trust in the relationship first?

Yes to #3-5 = Consider a longer coaching conversation.

The deciding question is #6. If your answer is no – i.e., you don’t care personally and are not vested in helping with the change — you might be wasting your breath.


¹These examples of the ways leaders withhold comes from The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman & Kaley Warner Klemp.

² The Fast Feedback Test is modified from The Extraordinary Coach by John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett.

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