Comfortably Uncomfortable

As a leadership coach, I am always excited when a powerful question or statement crosses my path or better yet, slams me in the face! Yesterday, I had such an encounter. Seth Godin got my attention when he stated, “If you’re not uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader”. He was talking about the discomfort we sometimes feel as a leader and furthermore, when we identify the discomfort, we’ve found a place where leadership is needed. His list includes:

  • Standing up in front of strangers
  • Proposing an idea that may fail
  • Challenging the status quo
  • Resisting the urge to settle

I DO love those moments that move me out of my comfort zone and into what I call a “seat squirming” state. I know when I start squirming, I am onto to something, and that something is usually growth!

Of course, I also like to state things in a positive frame, so my list may look something like:

  • Motivating people in the direction of a shared goal
  • Creating and innovating with others, living in a synergy zone
  • Thinking outside the box and trying something that “hasn’t been done before”
  • Pushing myself and others to live in creativity and authenticity, even when it may be more work

My list not only feels good when I put it on, but it moves me beyond comfort to electric energy.

What are your thoughts? Comfortable? Discomfort? What would you add to the list?

As always, I truly appreciate your insight.

With love,
Maria

The Other F-Word

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at a Women in Action conference. I discussed the impact that the F-word is having on our relationships, families, teams, organizations, and communities.

The F-word we discussed was FEAR. We can re-frame fear, looking at it from different lenses. One of my favorite ways to think of fear is as an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. At the conference, I also shared how leading with love guides us out of the fear in which we are deeply immersed, especially during these times of fear-based thinking and living. Love is still stronger than fear every day of the week.

During a panel discussion with three extraordinary women leaders in the community from local government, financial services, and higher education, we discussed the other F-word – failure. When asked about their biggest failure, I was pleasantly surprised at their responses. Each one, in their own way expressed a belief that they do not experience failure. In fact, they do not even use that F-word!

One stated that she does not believe in failure, only opportunities for growth. Another stated that she too, does not look at “mistakes” as failure. Instead, she simply acknowledges a mistake. Wow, how empowering this way of thinking is for learning, humility, and perseverance – all of which are outstanding leadership qualities! When we fully embrace “failure” as a growth opportunity and a decision that did not work out, it immediately frees us to think of another decision that could give us a better result.

This is not rocket science.

This frame is actually quite simple, and simple is profound. I am so grateful to be introduced to this liberating way of thinking. Oh, how I love to learn! Thank you ladies, for sharing your insight.

How much different would our lives be if we would not get stuck in failure and only empowered by making a better decision?

With love,
Maria

Get a Grip on Organization

I’ve always considered myself as an organized person, but I must admit that sometimes I get overwhelmed and lose control of my time and organization. In those times of overwhelm, I need to get a grip!

Very recently, I found myself in this space of needing to regain control of my time and organization. I realized that nearly every time I got to this place I experienced the same symptoms in my thoughts and behaviors. I feel:

  • Overwhelmed and find it difficult to concentrate.
  • Unorganized and cannot find key files, papers, or other information.
  • Paralyzed by uncertainty and just where to begin.
  • Forgetful and miss deadlines or appointments.

Unable to plan due to many, many dark clouds hanging over my head, these are telling signs that I need to get a grip on my organization. When I recognize these symptoms, I do the following simple steps to re-gain control over my life (especially as part of my New Year’s Resolution!):

  • Write everything down that is in my head and hanging out in those dark clouds. When I do this, I create white space literally and figuratively.
  • Determine and/or revamp my file system to capture notes, to-do action items, projects, and other information.
  • Create a plan with timelines and stick to it.
  • Celebrate the mini-successes!

The simple steps outlined above give me structure, which in turn gives me freedom! When I am free of clutter and dark clouds, I am able to concentrate, create, and plan. On Thursday, I will share with you my most recent file system, my Freedom Filing System.

With love and no overwhelm,
Maria

Love and Trust

Love of Self, Love of Source, and Love of Others (the love-based leadership model) all require love, trust, and commitment to growth and development in the workplace. If trust and love are not ever-present, then fear-based decisions will result.

“For centuries the human species has been discovering that it is the creator of its own reality, making the discovery, and retreating from it in disappointment (because the wizard [referring to the Wizard of Oz story] is not what we expected) and in fear (because the freedom the discovery brings is unknown and terrifying).”1.

Fear is powerful; so powerful that it alone creates a false reality of that which is feared in the first place. Victor Frankl illustrates, “It is characteristic of this fear that it produces precisely that of which the patient is afraid…the wish is father to the thought…the fear is mother to the event.”2.

Once again, choice is everywhere, calling for a decision between choosing love to guide us or fear to guide us. “Man is not born slave or free, but creates himself as one or the other through free or voluntary action.”3.

Fear, again, holds us back from achieving so much. We are afraid to show that we care, afraid to open our hearts, and afraid that we may appear vulnerable. The irony in this is that when we really care about the individuals we lead, love multiplies. When people know, see, and feel that you care—they do the same. “Love really does keep on giving.”4.

How do you give your love?

With love,
Maria

  1. Walter Truett Anderson, Reality Isn’t What it Used to Be (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990), p. 29.
  2. Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 125
  3. Madan Sarup, An Introduction Guide to Post-structuralism and Postmodernism (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1993), p. 18.
  4. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal, Leading with Soul, p. 88.

Light Of Leadership

I love this quote by Edith Wharton, “There are two ways of spreading light…To be a candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

In this season of light, I ponder what light represents in our lives and how that relates to our leadership. I love Edith Wharton’s perspective of spreading light, but what exactly does that mean?

Spreading light comes in the form of lighting up a room. As leaders, we can light up a room with our presence; you know, by being fully present to others. We do this by listening without distraction and giving our full attention to those around us.

We can also spread light through our attitudes and behaviors. We spread light through love, care, and compassion. Light takes away the darkness. We know that smiles are contagious and can be a great conduit to spreading light and love.

As leaders, we can also be the mirror that reflects light. Through encouragement and support of those we lead, we see the light in their eyes, their behaviors, and in their attitudes. Mentoring those we lead and reflecting back their greatness is one of the most profound activities we can do as leaders.

We also reflect light by “lightening” the load of others. We can help lighten the heaviness of others by supporting our teams literally and figuratively. We can support others in a variety of ways that don’t cost any money. Sometimes small acts of just listening, giving an encouraging word, or acknowledging others can be extraordinary and have lasting profound effects. Serving those we lead is an example of love-based leadership.

Light in the darkness and lightening the load are profound ways we demonstrate love-based leadership. In this season of light, I wish you a blessed holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

As always, I love to hear from you. How can you be a light to others today?

With love,
Maria

Prioritization In Life and Leadership

I know there is quite of bit of talk going around about balance. Unfortunately, the discussion only seems to pile on guilt because many of us are already aware that we are out of balance. The purpose of this post is not to engender guilt, but to help a miracle come into your life with awareness and practical strategies to regain order and balance.

Let’s look to nature for our lesson in balance. Nature teaches us about seasons. Our life also has seasons. Sometimes our seasons are busy, other times our seasons may offer renewal, and sometimes, our seasons may call for hibernation. Seasons do not go on forever—there is always a change of season. Listen and learn this lesson from nature: you cannot indefinitely go on at a frenetic pace by sheer adrenaline; it is unnatural and could be extremely dangerous to you.

Nature also teaches us that unless we shed the old way, we cannot begin anew. This is nature’s miracle—shifting. A caterpillar shifts to a butterfly, and the snake sheds its skin. We cannot move forward and look for something new if we don’t let go of the old; and we cannot experience the miracle of a different perspective or idea if we hold on to old and limiting beliefs.

We spend a lot of time in leadership and management seminars discussing how to prioritize. Many of us have handled this lesson fairly well at work; but we forget the idea of adding balance to this equation.

Like the balance of seasons, we can work at a fast pace for a while, meeting deadlines and seizing opportunities. Without looking at the bigger picture, however, we could end-up spinning our wheels on the perceived priority and everything else goes to pot. That is where order comes into play. Without order, we will continue to drop things, even with our priority list.

What are your priorities for this winter? What are you doing to prepare for the next year?

With love,
Maria

Dr. Martin Luther King On Leadership, Love, And Political Unrest

Ordinarily every January we celebrate the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—his life, his work, and his love. His most famous speech, “I Have a Dream” inspired us toward action for equality, justice, and love. From his masterful and inspirational orations, I’ve selected 11 key quotes on leadership that encourage me even now.

I have a dream, too. In fact, I am sure you too, have a dream… and I venture to guess that it is similar to my dream…a collective dream. That dream is the radical, necessary, ubiquitous dream of shifting from a world steeped in fear, to a love-based world.

I want to share with you some inspiring words from Dr. King and a great leadership lesson in the message:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Remember, it ALWAYS comes back to love, so why not just start with love?

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” As leaders, we must step out and up on faith, because what else do we REALLY have?

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” The time is NOW to return to our spiritual compass, guidance, and Source.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Again, simply, LOVE.

“A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.” Stand firm, erect in your power, and do not succumb to the fear of victimhood.

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” The call of a love-based leader…to serve others.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Love-based leaders continue to grow, learn, and live in wisdom.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” Forgiveness, to give it and receive it is the POWER of LOVE.

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Speak up and out; show up and lead.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” DO NOT die with the song of passion still in you.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” … and the time is always right to love.

As always, I love to hear from you. What would you say is your favorite quote on love? Tag me on Facebook!

With love,
Maria

What Were You Thinking?

Thoughts are powerful; they are the seeds of ideas, beliefs, creativity, attitudes, knowledge, wisdom, and reality. Thoughts can be our best friends or our worst enemies. Not by happenstance do thoughts come to us; these powerful seeds come to us through choice. Choice and thoughts are action movements, directed by us, whether we are conscious of these activities or not. The key lies in awareness of these two incredible gifts—thoughts, and choices.

Unconscious thoughts are just as powerful as thoughts steeped in awareness. Earl Nightingale, in The Strangest Secret, likened the mind to a fertile field with two planted seeds—one with corn and one with poisonous nightshade. Both seeds, watered and nurtured, grew—because to the field, the type of seeds planted did not matter.

Our minds are the same way, growing whatever our attention plants and nurtures. I saw a sign the other day that stated ‘Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want.’ With the continued nurturing and care (attention) given to the seeds of worry, the source of worry will grow and become reality. That is how our minds work; we create our realities.

In Thoughts & Feelings, Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning identify fifteen key groups of disempowering perspectives:

  • Filtering – Focusing on the negative details of a situation and filtering out all positive aspects.
  • Polarized Thinking – Seeing a situation as either good or bad, right, or wrong, perfect or a failure.
  • Over-generalization – Making a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence.
  • Mind Reading – Making assumptions about what people are feeling, why they are acting as they are, and how they feel about you.
  • Catastrophizing – Assuming the worst possible outcome will happen.
  • Personalization – Thinking that everything people do or say is a reaction to you.
  • Control Fallacy – Thinking that you are responsible for everyone or everything around you.
  • Fallacy of Fairness – Being resentful because you believe that everything in life should be fair.
  • Emotional Reasoning – Believing that what you feel is the truth. For example, if you feel unwise, it means that you are unwise.
  • Fallacy of Change – Believing that you can’t be happy unless you can change those around you to behave, believe, or think the way you want them to.
  • Global Labeling – Generalizing one or two qualities into the negative global judgment.
  • Blaming – Thinking that someone else causes everything negative in your life.
  • Shoulds – You keep a list of rules about the way the world should operate and become angry or disappointed if others don’t follow your rules.
  • Being Right – Going to any length to demonstrate your rightness because being wrong is terrible.
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy – Feeling bitter when the rewards do not come that you think you deserve after working hard.

Awareness is the first step to disassembling disempowering thoughts. For today, be in awareness of your thoughts and please share your Aha moments!

With love,
Maria

6 Steps To Effective Leadership Storytelling

One of the most effective ways to teach is through storytelling. Nietzsche stated, “The more abstract the truth you wish to teach, the more you must allure the senses to it.” That is exactly what storytelling does; it allures the senses.

Throughout history, the art of storytelling demonstrates this powerful technique used to teach. Aristotle, Plato, Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, Gibran, Hemingway, Emerson, and even Bob Dylan and Smokey Robinson have allured us with their gifted storytelling. This clear form of teaching captures us through our feelings, connecting with us through our hearts.

The emotional heart-tug we get with good stories heightens our attention and holds us captive. We are fully present in those captive moments of a great story, giving our undivided attention to the details. This technique presents an incredible opportunity for the learner to not only be present with full attention, but also to retain the information ready to call upon it when needed.

An ironic yet valuable benefit of storytelling is that the audience (the learner) is present in the moment of learning and the story helps us prepare for future use of the content. When we learn from stories, we learn how they may relate to us. This is a critical element to successful storytelling: the ability to relate.

When we teach through stories, we are essentially saying, “When Ann experienced this event, she felt ___________, and when she did ___________, she was successful. So when you feel ___________, try as Ann did and ____________, because you too may be successful!” This mental process the learner experiences helps them to remember the story concept because they are relating it to themselves.

Identify a story you believe to be a good one and follow these six simple steps to practice the art of leadership storytelling:

  1. Describe the main characters. Include yourself because when leaders are humble, open, and willing to share stories portraying themselves as human, it helps to connect with their team.
  2. Portray the situation, challenge, or problem in detail. Explain what is at stake with the issue.
  3. Reveal the characters’ intentions, thoughts, and feelings with the situation. Also, express what their thoughts are with potential outcomes and how they feel about what is at stake.
  4. Explain the actions taken by the character, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more in-depth you are with the description of the actions, the more you may heighten the learner’s interest in the outcome.
  5. Discuss the tools that the characters used to take action. Include which tools worked and which ones did not. Keep in mind that the tools may be thoughts, perspectives, strategies, and so forth.
  6. Finally, share the outcome.

As always, I love to hear from you. What is the best story you’ve told about your leadership?

With love,
Maria

Student of Leadership

I love the Buddhist saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” In my many years of teaching formal courses at the university level, I am a student right along with the class I am teaching. When I teach, I learn. I have yet to teach a class where I have not learned something from my many teachers, also known as my students. We are ever changing in this world and the cycle of learning and teaching never changes, unless of course we find ourselves closed off from learning. In order to be a good teacher, we must first be a good student.

As we teach, we must remember that we are not transmitting information—we are transforming lives. That may sound a bit dramatic, but that is exactly what good teaching does; it transforms. Transformation comes about through many different forms: motivation, persuasion, mobilization, influence, and of course miracles. When we teach, we are in essence saying, I care about you, you are important, and I want to help. Wow, who wouldn’t be motivated forward with that type of message? Motivation also comes from demonstrating belief in others. Teaching affords us an opportunity to build esteem and self-efficacy. Think of Maslow’s needs hierarchy; esteem and self-actualization are the top highest levels. Teaching and learning meet both of the high order needs for yourself and for those you teach.

Through the process of teaching, we build trust when we facilitate teaching with a learner-centered approach. Remembering that we are not just transferring information, but transforming others, we teach according to the needs of others. I use the same approach when I do training, coaching, or motivational speaking. First, I discover the needs of the audience and tailor my work to meet those needs. Of course, I provide resources and information to support their transformation, but first I must find out where they are stuck and where they want to grow.

Effective teachers in a classroom setting know this and adjust their lesson plans to accommodate emerging needs that come up during instruction. We call these moments, teachable moments, when we can seize the opportunity and use it as a springboard for learning. A Native American proverb illustrates this concept, Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand. Once we identify the needs of the people and address those needs, then learning occurs and the outcome is performance.

Remember this acronym:

  • Time – Take the time to invest in the development of others.
  • Empathy – Have empathy for those you teach, respecting the place they are in at that moment.
  • Awareness – Come into the teaching exchange with full awareness and presence.
  • Care – Create a safe space for learning to occur that is filled with care and compassion.
  • Help –Remember that when we serve others, we are truly love-based leaders.

How do you teach in your leadership roles? I love hearing from you.

With love,
Maria