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Lead From Love

For three mornings in a row last week, my little girl Lali woke up as angry as a hornet. On the third morning of fury, exhausted from her highly charged storm clouds, I wept openly in front of her. It happened spontaneously as I allowed her to bring me to my breaking point.

About 30 seconds in, I became conscious of my impact on her. She was crying too, in a calm and quiet way, observing me. And then the clouds lifted for both of us. We were able to hug and connect, to recover. The rest of the morning was smooth, happy even.

Hearing about my difficult week, my best friend Alana sent me this cheat sheet for when our children get angry. The tips were a great reminder for me to come back to consciousness with Lali. I quickly realized they were also the perfect tie-in to deep listening for leaders.  

It’s not the first time I’ve borrowed from education and parenting to write about leadership.

Parenting and leadership are excellent arenas to practice consciousness for the sake of better outcomes at home and at work.

Earlier in the week, my colleague Monica Callon and I had coached a leadership team. We’d focused part of our session on a fundamental coaching skill—deep listening, at three levels¹, to improve their leadership effectiveness. It struck me that the cheat sheet is a good supplement to our work with our leaders on listening.

The next time your colleague or child gets angry, or even slightly irritated, try these:

  1. Use your Pause Button. Stop what you’re doing; drop your agenda, just for now, and breathe. This will give you a few seconds to choose how to respond.
  2. Choose love. Make the conscious choice not to act while you’re triggered. 
  3. Change your mind. Reframe mentally. Use a mantra to talk yourself down and reshape your perceptions, so your mind turns off its alarm system. Maybe remind yourself of some wonderful things about your child/colleague to put this current “offense” into perspective.
  4. Choose to see things from the other person’s perspective. This is the key to being able to understand another person’s anger. In any disagreement, each person thinks they’re right. Consider how they could, indeed, be right. And maybe even consider how this situation, as awful as it may feel, is a perfect ally for your own growth.
  5. Acknowledge your child’s/colleague’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with it. Rage doesn’t dispel until it feels heard.
  6. Open your heart. Connect, and wait until your child/colleague feels heard, long before you make your own points or correct.

That’s it.

Less drama.

More listening.

More connection.

More love.

Yep. I said it. Love!

Maybe you don’t think love has a place in the workplace?

And I’d say this.  

How can you truly lead without it?

 

P.S. As I press send on this post, we’re still having some stormy weather on the home front. I got coaching on it today and left my coaching session with a big tweak to the above list. My coach encouraged me to “feel my feelings all the way through”, even in front of Lali. That would have meant continuing to cry until all my tears dried up instead of cutting them off to protect her. This doesn’t come easy to me (and to many of you) as I have learned to be in control of my emotions and keep them hidden. Perhaps a part two will be in order after my homefront experiments!

 


¹ Email me if you want our handout on Levels of Listening.

My client, Laura¹, was late for her own wedding. Not traditionally late. Really late. The minister almost called it off. And she’s been late for almost everything for decades since.  Lateness has been her life-long pattern.

She wants it to stop yet feels powerless.

We jumped in by exploring the costs of her lateness habit. For her, there were no serious outward consequences. She is such a hard worker that her boss doesn’t care. But she cares. She feels out of integrity leading others to be on time when she is always late. And she berates herself every day. That is a serious cost.

I started to understand why this issue was a big one.

We explored the pay-off for being late. A pay-off for being late? Sure. Turns out, her older sibling excelled at everything and got a lot of attention. My client did the opposite and became “bad”. When asked if she could have compassion for the girl who cleverly figured out how to get noticed (and loved) by being bad, she teared up. She could have compassion for that girl, she said, and also for the woman who has kept this pattern going ever since, however subtly.

A decade ago, I would have excitedly helped Laura set a goal for being on time and figured out superficial strategies to support her goal.

And it would have worked for a few days at best. Now I know better.

Life-long patterns come from deep beliefs and assumptions. We don’t break them with a bulleted list of strategies like getting up earlier to be on time.

Harvard faculty Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey pioneered a process called The Immunity to Change X-ray to uncover the big assumptions that drive our behaviours.

Let’s look at Laura’s x-ray to find her immunity to change²:

Her goal: Be at work 5 minutes early every day.

  1. What she’s doing instead: Distracting herself with silly things in the morning before work. Berating herself daily for the “stupidity”.
  2. What she’s worried about: Worried that if she keeps being late she will lose credibility not being able to keep the job she loves not being able to share her special gift becoming a just a cog in the wheel…
  3. Her hidden competing commitments: Committed to holding back (her gifts) and not being too successful / playing small.
  4. Her assumptions: She believes that the way to get attention is to act out (even if very subtly). She believes that if she succeeds that others will get hurt or left behind.

Now let’s read it from the bottom up:

She believes that if she is very successful others will get hurt or left behind. She commits (unconsciously) to always holding back a little and playing small so she doesn’t hurt anyone. She worries that if she keeps being late she might lose what she already has (but keeps being late so she doesn’t become more successful). She distracts herself with trivial things to run late day after day and berates herself every time. And she never achieves her goal to be to work at least 5 minutes early.

I received this lovely note from her yesterday morning.

I’m really in the space of owning how I’ve been living small and holding back and it’s not negative. It’s being in a different perspective and it feels quite good.  With very little extra effort, I was three minutes early today.  I didn’t feel like holding myself back and there was no internal drama.  Of course, it is only day one but I truly feel different. 

I am willing to wager that if Laura truly unleashed her gifts, no one would give a damn what time she showed up. And she wouldn’t either.

When she’s ready, of course.   

 

 


¹ Name changed.
² Failure to meet our goals may be the result of an emotional immune system that helps protect us from the fall out that can come from change, namely disappointment and shame.

…that I think A LOT. That I hold myself to impossible standards.

…that I often feel scared. Angry. Jealous. Wronged.  Blaming. Overwhelmed—there’s not enough time, money, love, whatever.  Sometimes I feel powerless to change things.

I am below the line often.

And it is all fine.  It’s perfect in fact. I am starting to truly understand this and believe it.

And so, if you really knew me, you’d also know…

…that I drain myself. I go to bed at night feeling fully used up. Sometimes it is a delicious feeling of having given all my gifts. Other times I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. Most of my dreams are struggles to solve real and imagined problems. Oh, and I worry in my awake time too. I slip into hero mode to avert disaster, to prove my worth. I control as much as I can so that I don’t fail and you won’t either. I am scared you won’t think I am smart. I am scared you won’t think I am experienced enough. I am scared you won’t think “I am enough”.

And you’d know…

…that I am so emotionally porous at times, I cause myself suffering. I am especially prone to absorbing the moods and dramas of my six-year-old daughter…and my clients! This can be a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

…that I do all kinds of things to function well. I work-out. I dance swing. I do yoga stretches most mornings. I dabble in meditation. I go to bed early. I eat well, mostly. I have a coach myself. I’m in a new conscious leadership group with my coach colleagues. There are a lot of interlocking elements that keep me going.

You’d also know…

…that I still second guess myself and look to others for confirmation and validation. I grew up taking things home “on approval”.  In our small city, this meant we could take items home from local stores without paying so we could try them on at home. For us, this allowed us to seek approval from others before committing to a purchase. We wanted to make the perfect choice.  It turns out that “on approval” became my way of living.  Now I am learning (slowly) to have compassion for myself (and my mother). We were/ are both scared to make the wrong choices. We are so human.

I have learned more this past year than I ever have. And it's been a gift. | Chandler CoachesAnd you’d know…

…that I sometimes worry that all this focus on consciousness will drive a distance between me and the people I love. Maybe they will push me away?  Or worse, maybe I will push them away because they aren’t as conscious (as if it were a competition!). I even worry that as a single woman that I will never find a conscious man, one who accepts me for who I am and the path I am on. And then I remember that for me to do anything other than allow this path to unfold would stifle me to my core and squash my purpose.

And finally, if you really knew me, you’d know

I have learned more this past year than I ever have. My life is offering up experiences every day that challenge me to stay present, to figure out what is mine to own, to make clear agreements, to practice patience, compassion and love for myself and others.

If you read what I share above as bleak, I see it as just the opposite. I feel very alive.  I feel courageous. I feel powerful. I feel expansive. I feel incredibly grateful. So much is possible. I feel more connected to people and the flow of life than I ever have.  

And while I feel a little scared to put this blog post into the world, I mostly feel excited. Revealing some of me brings a freedom and lightness. 

I am a complicated human and so are you.

And now, if I really knew you, what I would I know?

 

 

 

___________________

If you are craving a more traditional year-end wrap-up, check out these recycled posts from years past:

Unified Front

Have you ever been part of a leadership team so aligned that they were able to maintain a unified front even in the face of complex challenges? Lucky you! What a beautiful thing to behold. Sadly, it’s so rare that most of us have never experienced it. It doesn’t have to be. The world of… Read the full post here

Plunging Into Feelings

  Don’t drink at the water’s edge, throw yourself in. Become the water. Only then will your thirst be quenched. - Jeanette Berson Sometimes we throw ourselves into the metaphorical water and get in over our heads, drowning in failure or loss. Sometimes, even from the water’s edge, circumstances beyond our control wreak havoc in… Read the full post here

A Crack in Everything

Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything) That's how the light gets in¹ ~ Leonard Cohen Our imagined March Break plans cracked at the last minute. Forget our perfect offering… And I found some moments of provocation… Read the full post here

The Dance Between Purpose and Safety

If you are an average leader (Who wants to be average? I know!), you are likely subject to your thoughts and feelings much of the time.  You don’t have your feelings. They HAVE you. You aren’t conscious that you’re often afraid, you just ARE scared. You likely won’t easily see it or admit it though… Read the full post here

Introducing Heroine Helen

Her most important thing is to be helpful, sweet, caring and loving. She rescues by easing pain and suffering, at least temporarily. She prides herself on making homemade treats for those she loves, who are in “need”; she makes homemade cards too.   She’s proud of her listening ear, how her thoughtful deeds will have you… Read the full post here

Lead From Love

For three mornings in a row last week, my little girl Lali woke up as angry as a hornet. On the third morning of fury, exhausted from her highly charged storm clouds, I wept openly in front of her. It happened spontaneously as I allowed her to bring me to my breaking point. About 30… Read the full post here

You Cannot Change Until You Overcome Your Own Immunity

My client, Laura¹, was late for her own wedding. Not traditionally late. Really late. The minister almost called it off. And she’s been late for almost everything for decades since.  Lateness has been her life-long pattern. We jumped in by exploring the costs of her lateness habit. For her, there were no serious outward consequences… Read the full post here

If You Really Knew Me…

…that I think A LOT. That I hold myself to impossible standards. …that I often feel scared. Angry. Jealous. Wronged.  Blaming. Overwhelmed—there’s not enough time, money, love, whatever.  Sometimes I feel powerless to change things. I am below the line often. And it is all fine.  It’s perfect in fact. I am starting to truly… Read the full post here

Blame or Shift?

Recently a friend texted for advice about a “hard client he was working with” (his words). He indicated he thought she needed some tough love. He asked me to tell him how to do that. I agreed to have a conversation to explore his situation.   He wanted me to read it but didn’t feel… Read the full post here

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast…¹

You’ve just hired Selma as your new controller. She has lunch in the staff room on Day 1 to quickly to get to know her new colleagues. She tells one of them that she’s excited to have found a company that develops and promotes their people. After all, she’s been told that by every leader… Read the full post here