Experiencing our strengths…

In my work, words are privileged. They can communicate and persuade. They speak to the reason within us, the cognitive rational part of us. Most importantly, as we utter words and then narratives of who we are and how we are, these stories become part of us, they begin to form a part of our identity.

Words can prompt actions in, and change how we perceive, the world we inhabit, whether professional or personal.

Yet true transformation comes from our experience of ourselves in relation to another.

Peter [a pseudonym, of course] consulted me as he could not see a way forward in his career. It seemed to him that every step he took in his professional life was fraught with challenges and less than satisfactory resolutions. He was wondering if he was indeed in the right career and if he ought to move on. Peter also adopted some maladaptive habits to bolster his sense of loss of control.

One aspect of Peter’s problem was a lack of confidence. His success was “just good luck”, his failures were his fault. Our initial conversations revolved around the rational sensible steps to be taken in the face of challenges in his work – some of which resulted in his commitment to take certain steps – the notion of “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Peter would bring the outcomes back into our conversations, most of which were positive and he patted himself on the back, though not entirely convinced. Peter’s resistance to “stepping up” remains, the fear still takes hold at “crunch time”, as he called it, immobilizing him.

Ironic though it may seem, that at times of real conflict, we choose to trust a (professional) stranger than close ones no matter how supportive they can be. A stranger has no preconception or expectations of us as individuals. This gives us a level of freedom to experiment with being “different” to our “usual” self. It allows us to see ourselves through fresh eyes. This was how, I as psychotherapist/coach stepped into a relationship of trust with Peter, and established a foundation of safety upon which he could explore his “stuff” without fear or favour.

So what to do with Peter’s continued hesitance? It was not the ‘do’ but rather the being in our connection that provided rich evidence of his capabilities. It was not my job to tell him what to do with his work; each time there was a challenge, he was the one with the courage to face it with varying degrees of success. So it was that I bore witness to his courage, his analytical and critical mind, his creativity and his tenacity.

And it was through fresh eyes that he began to experience a different version of himself.  As Peter cautiously put on this new cloak, a new story of himself emerges – a self-assured man.

And the journey of self-discovery continues.

 

Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.

~ Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

The ABC of leadership

As a leader, you have to be visible.

One cannot be a leader on one’s own. To be a leader is to be recognized as one.

And to be recognized as a leader, one has to Be, to Do and to Relate.

 

This is the second post on leadership, about ‘doing’ leadership.

Leadership can be learned. It is a series of skills which, practiced over time, becomes ‘natural’… as neuroscience indicates, habit-forming. The time and effort invested to learn to lead and to lead often go unrecognized unless we truly see.

How does a leader lead?

  1. Acquire knowledge and improve

A leader aspires and is seen to be aspirational. Bearing the qualities set out in the first post about being in leadership, a leader seeks knowledge. Leaders are humble and ever prepare to admit that we do not have all the answers, that we are researching or obtaining more information, and that we are open to new idea and propositions.

Leaders will be those who seek continuous personal growth, encourage authentic interpersonal relationships, to contemplate product and ways of working beyond what is known.

  1. Bring safety and inspire

Leaders are those who create a safe space within work groups or organisations to allow for creativity to emerge and risk-taking to occur. Creative ventures can fail and this alone will be terrifying for anyone working in an environment that is not tolerant of this. Unless one knows that her job will not be jeopardised for voicing a creative new idea, for trialling an innovative process, for being herself while doing so, nothing will be proffered and all will remain the same.

By being visible in making mistakes, in admitting to mistakes, a leader demonstrates the acceptance of make mistakes, to have gotten it ‘wrong’. A leader will speak of the learning to be had and how to overcome thus signifying the will to continue the good work.

  1. Challenge and support

Leaders see the people around us – people with real emotions, with personal aspirations, hopes and joys, people who face personal trials and challenges. Most importantly, leaders see the strengths, resources and skills of those with whom we work.

With empathy and understanding, leaders challenge and support our colleagues to growth, to aspire, to improve, to be better at what they do and how they contribute to the workplace.

  1. Decide and act

Little can be achieved without our deciding to step into it. Our attention and intention to go into a space of improvement, development and innovation are critical to our leadership abilities. We take risks, we stand convicted of our decisions and we act.

The mark of a leader is one of astute discernment, borne from constant practice of intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligence; and of incisive unwavering action.

  1. Engage and communicate

Leadership is not without its turbulence… the buzz, I call it, is what informs us. The buzz could be from our personal excitement, nerves… yes, leaders are human after all; or the resistance from within the organization; or an instinctive warning. Listen, evaluate and learn. Positive and negative buzz have lessons to teach.

Leaders engage with emotions and feelings, our own and of those around us. And instead of being a cauldron of emotions or feelings, we communicate them in a constructive way, by asking questions and listening to the answers, without judgement and prior expectations. Leaders have real conversations.

  1. Focus on vision

It is also through conversations that leaders uphold visions. It is easy with everyday humdrum of routine, unavoidable passivity and pessimism to distract us from our vision.

Leaders maintain vision and see how something fits into that vision, not welded to rigidity, instead are prepared to be reflexive.

 

Leadership requires generosity of spirit, dynamic adaptability and grounded vision, all of which are within our grasps, if we commit to it. Yes, leadership can be learned, as every element of what I have indicated above can be learned.

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2016