Be who you are and empowered

What an incredible weekend!

Spending time with my sisters in Law at the Aust. Women Lawyers Conference reminds me of why I chose to be a lawyer. The stories these amazing women told also sadly reminds me of why I left the practice of law. Though I am never far… for I am inspired to create change. These familiar stories are not intended to reinforce “victimhood” rather to make our, and women’s stories in general, visible. They are told in the spirit of recognition, solidarity and support.

They and the many actions women lawyers have taken to stake their claim to their rightful inheritance in the law, and to better the lives of women add to my inspiration and motivation. There was much discussion, and provocative and innovative ideas.

Some key messages (taken from my Tweets as I live-tweeted the event):

Lawyers need to engage their curiosity, be adaptable to change, collaborate, be inclusive, develop business acumen, have great communication skills and to not lose sight of the humanity in law.

These are essential human skills, salvaged from the trench of the “soft skills” label.

I will not be defined by the many labels you may put on me. I am complex.

And knowing who we are and what we stand for, are precursors to being fulfilled in our personal and professional lives, to being successful.

Inclusion and diversity require – in the words of Aretha Franklin, RESPECT.

Respect is a conscious act. What does it look like in practice? How do we do it?

Investing in the future (as was the theme of the Conference) begins with investing in the now, in ourselves.

Do we value ourselves enough to proclaim through our words and actions, “I am worthy”, “I am enough” and thus, “I belong”, feeling comfortable in the space we inhabit.

Sounding much like the work I do in Transfigure to empower professionals. Perhaps this is the reason why I am now more energised than before, to create change by facilitating others

  • to engage with their human skills,
  • to own their true selves and stand tall,
  • to practice compassion and kindness on themselves and others, and
  • most importantly, to take time for themselves for personal and professional development.

Fuelled by the passion of these incredible women, and to quote the AGS AWL Award recipient, the estimable Fiona McLeod SC, I will “get to it”.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

How to connect

 

Building relationship is a “thing” now, a mantra within the networking, management and leadership circles. And rightly so. Seeking to build relationships honors our humanity, we are more than conduits engaging in mere exchange of insights and information, time and money and the cost-benefit analysis of these currencies.

We cannot build relationships unless we learn how to connect.

And the essence of real connection which we find so appealing, supportive, enriching and rewarding is intimacy. Intimacy is the glue that binds people. Without it, any connection is barren, void of the positive meaning.

But what is intimacy? It is a close, familiar and affectionate personal relationship with another and it arrives in different ways. We may have cognitive or intellectual intimacy with another with the sharing of ideas, visions, viewpoints, dreams and hopes. We may have experiential intimacy as we do work, however defined, together. We may also have emotional intimacy where feelings are shared between two or more people and our emotional needs are met or affirmed. And we have sexual intimacy which involves the sharing of sensual expression. This would include for example, the person whom we share our epicurean or creative interests.

There are many ways through which we develop intimacy in our professional life and connect.

And which comes first? Do we connect to enable intimacy to grow? Or is intimacy a prerequisite to connection? Instead of a linear cause-and-effect correlation, the relationship between intimacy and connection is reflexive.

Intimacy and connection are deliberate and conscious processes.

We must be willing to explore, to be interested in another’s life, to be present and available to them. Most importantly, we must be real. And we have to give it time to develop.

Hold new interactions lightly, watch it and see where it will grow. Let go of preconceived notions of how, what and why. Not every interaction becomes positive connection.

So how do we connect?

Be open and sociable. This does not mean be naive and gullible. It does however mean you do not approach every person you meet as a threat. Keep your head, open your heart.

Be authentic. Show who you really are. Stop being so guarded. It may feel vulnerable but my experience has been that most people are happy to receive the real you. Few people are out to harm.

Maintain your values. People with whom you connect will be those who share a certain ‘thing’ with you; this ‘thing’ which calls to you are underpinned by your values. Be yourself. Be honest.

In this endeavour of building relationships especially as a leader, let us be gentle, kind and respectful.

Which of us would refuse a genuine connection? On this premise, building relationship need not feel like an unsurpassable challenge.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

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

One thing you must do when resolving conflict

 

What is the singular most important thing we must do, without which communication breaks down?  Communication is the key to resolving conflict. In fact, it is also the key to preventing and minimising conflict whether in our personal or professional lives. Often the word “communication” brings imagery of speaking and gestures, making oneself understood.

However, authentic listening is imperative. William Ury, the author of seminal book on negotiation “Getting to Yes” emphasized this aspect of communication as fundamental, yet often overlooked, to any conflict resolution. Without authentic listening, we are merely waiting our turn to speak.

So how do we do authentic listening?

  1. Be empathic.

Empathy is the art of walking in another’s shoes, stranger or otherwise. It is to acknowledge and take in another’s experiences from their perspective, not from our own experience, views, ideas or values. It is seeking to understand. We may not agree, but we can understand.

Empathy is a component of the widely known skillset of emotional intelligence. It can be learned.

  1. Pay attention.

Listening requires attending to the speaker and the content. It is a matter of integrity to prepare ourselves mentally to meet the other. To orientate ourselves to acknowledge, to be open and to accept the other, without preconception. This is not to disregard our experiences, our ‘instinct’, our intelligence but rather to move them slightly aside to make space for other possibilities, constructive ones perhaps. This is the essence of not being closed-minded, and to maybe believe in surprise and a little magic. J

  1. Put your ego aside

Sometimes we hear things which are unpleasant… about ourselves. Sometimes we hear things that seems to be stranger than fiction and inaccurate. It’s confronting, and our first instinct is to deny, to return volley, to give as good as we got if not harder. Don’t.

It is not about whether we are right or wrong, or whether we look good or bad in the speaker’s eyes, nor the effect of what is being said to us. It’s not about us. It is how we take this opportunity to understand the speaker’s perspective, how he or she could have arrived at a certain conclusion, to see their truth.

It is about the speaker and the opportunity provided to express their experience, views, ideas or value. The listener’s job is to pay attention, to listen with empathy without judgment.

  1. Silence is necessary

When we hold space for more, more arrive. To do this, we keep silent. The speaker may be considering whether to add, to elaborate, to divulge… sometimes the speaker is expecting a return argument, a denial, a scoff… many things are happening in the speaker’s mind, what we cannot know for sure. But if we stay silent, just for a little bit longer, perhaps we would find out. It is not a competition as to who should speak faster or more. So give the speaker, and the conversation time.

  1. Demonstrate you have heard

To build a relationship, it is important over the course of the conversation to indicate to the speaker that we have listened and heard.

We do this when we ask discerning questions seeking clarification, when we acknowledge the emotional content of what’s been said, when we recount the facts told to us as the other sees them. We are able to convey this when we imbue the conversation with a generosity of spirit in receiving the speaker and giving the speaker the attention and empathy necessary in the situation.

Authentic listening, as with any skill, will require practice, practice and more practice. Enjoy!

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2016

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