The Anatomy of Leadership

Dear Friends,

As I adjourn an emerging leaders forum for high potential employees, I’m reminded that the traditional notion of leadership as top-down is no longer valid.  The 21st century is calling for a new brand of leadership, one that is holistic in nature and summons from within.  The call is for a deeper level of self-awareness and self-discovery than traditional leadership concepts enabled.  This type of leadership is a bottom-up shared approach that emphasizes internal qualities rather than external status.  It’s what I refer to as inner leadership.

Inner leadership is a learned set of capabilities born out of strong commitment and passion to an idea or cause.  It capitalizes on the whole person by integrating authentic leadership qualities into all aspects of life.  The assumption of inner leadership is that we all have talents and contributions that are needed to foster organizational success.  Since we all share in the responsibility of creating a better society, leading others begins with leading oneself.  While you may not be able to influence change from the top of your organization, you do have the innate ability to identify creative ways to drive change from behind or from the middle, which can be especially effective during times of transition and transformation.

Be-Attitudes of Inner Leadership

Regardless of your current professional status, you can become a strong and impactful leader and initiate powerful change in your organization and community by creating an environment where you are fully utilized.  The following be-attitudes can help you take the initiative to lead from within.

Be passionate. Passion provides an internal spark to get you moving and an internal flame to keep you going. It engages mind, body and spirit in pursuing possibilities by having the innate belief that people want to work together to create the best future imaginable.

Be authentic. Grounding yourself in truth means knowing who and why you are. You understand and can articulate your purpose, gifts, talents, vision, values and beliefs. You also recognize your strengths and shortcomings, and are not afraid to admit either.

Be adaptable. Our natural preferences are to maintain the status quo, but today’s complex issues require the ability to readily adapt to changing conditions.  Sharpen your adaptability skills by: (1) engaging curiosity; (2) inviting and accepting diverse perspectives; (3) anticipating change; and (4) creating value-added solutions.

Be credible. Credibility is the cornerstone of effective leadership. When you are credible you demonstrate personal integrity by being honest and consistent in thought, speech and action and following through on your commitments.

Be ethical.  Selfish ambition disconnects us from others. Ethical behavior enhances the well-being of everyone because it stems from positive motives and emotions such as love, compassion, and generosity.  Setting the standard as an effective leader means keeping your actions above reproach.

Be an expert. Knowledge is a leader’s greatest resource. Become an expert in your field by immersing yourself in the chosen subject matter through reading, thought-provoking dialogue and conference/workshop attendance.

Be open. Actively listen to and understand others’ point of view, even if it conflicts with your own.  While you may have great ideas, other perspectives do exist; so don’t hesitate to leverage diverse points of view to achieve more extraordinary results.

Be facilitative. The art of leadership hinges on the ability to enable others to succeed.  In helping others we help ourselves. Rather than hoarding your knowledge and skills, seek ways to create win/win situations by turning competition into collaboration.

Be big-picture focused. Focus on the overall job to be done, rather than your individual role in completing tasks. Create a vision for yourself and think strategically about concepts and ideas that you can use to enhance your job and performance. This way, you’re better prepared to anticipate and capitalize on change.

Be a prudent risk-taker. Risk taking involves a willingness to advocate unconventional positions, take a new approach, or tackle challenging problems without obvious solutions. Taking calculated risks is a great way to stimulate creativity and innovation.  It also obligates you to take full responsibility for failures and successes.

Be positive. Harness the power of optimism by making a positive commitment to yourself to: (1) stay focused on what really matters; (2) view change as an opportunity for personal and professional growth; (3) assume that others have the best intentions; (4) look for the value in every situation; and (5) modify your self-talk, because you are what you think.

Inner leadership is a critical skill to be developed, but it allows you to tap into your internal sources of freedom and power to move boulders, create change and enjoy long-term success.  In the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Until Next Time,

Mary

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Are You Hanging with Chickens or Soaring with Eagles?

Dear Friends,

When clients ask me how they can differentiate themselves from the competition and add increased value, I like to use the “birds of a feather” axiom.  If you want to make a fresh start and revolutionize your future, read on.

As you consider ways to differentiate yourself, consider the differences between the chicken and the eagle. Chickens cluster in flocks at ground level, and among their population a pecking order exists. This pecking order seldom changes because weaker chickens lack the courage to confront stronger ones. While chickens have sophisticated social skills, they’re fearful of the unfamiliar, so play it safe and stick with what they know. Chickens produce for a few years, then they either become unproductive, or die.

Eagles, on the other hand, are spectacular birds that represent power and success. Their eyes are keen and always alert for opportunities. Unlike chickens, eagles build their nests on high. They continue to build year after year until their nests are as much as nine feet high. From this vantage point, they’re able to see the big picture. Eagles soar on the currents of the wind, reaching great heights above the earth in peaceful solitude.

The chicken and the eagle are both birds, but they approach life differently. Like the majestic eagle, you must rise above ground level to sharpen your vision, so you’re not influenced by negativity and impossibility. So what are you going to do… hang with the chickens, or soar with the eagles?

Until Next Time,

Mary

5 Ways to Increase Your Market Value

Dear Friends,

In the midst of difficult times, it’s easy to become disenchanted or overcome by fear to the point of stagnation. Maybe you’re wondering if you will have a job tomorrow. Maybe you’re feeling uninspired and unmotivated after being in the same rut for a long time. Maybe you’re standing at a crossroads pondering what to do with the rest of your life. Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to understand that during uncertain economic times you are compensated for the value that you bring to the organization. To deliver that value, you must create the conditions that will evoke greater possibilities.

Repositioning for Greater Success

If you do not have a measurable response to the question, “Why should we hire you, or keep you employed?” perhaps it’s time to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack by increasing your market value. Here are five ways to strategically position yourself for greater success:

1. Reassess your value proposition. Your value proposition describes what you produce in terms of tangible business results. A value proposition grows out of need. So think of yourself as a provider of solutions that satisfy or address unmet needs, key inefficiencies or significant performance gaps. Make the competition irrelevant by identifying innovative ways to cut costs, enhance revenue, improve performance and efficiency or increase quality. This establishes a clear distinction between you and others in a way that draws interest and support and expands opportunities.

2. Take action over the things which you can control. Dwelling on things you cannot control breeds anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration and depression. These feelings, in turn, lead to manipulative behaviors. Stop squandering your health, integrity and productivity and shift your attention to those things that are within your control. You can control your thoughts, attitudes, choices, actions and contributions. Train your mind to self-correct by asking yourself, “What aspect(s) of this situation can I control?” Then develop a viable plan of action.

3. Rebuild your capabilities. Rather than defining yourself by your title or job, emphasize your capabilities and transferable skills. If you’re unemployed, your job is under siege or you’re preparing for your next job, turn crisis into opportunity by rebuilding your capabilities for long-term growth: disassemble your sphere of comfort; design a strategy to propel you to the next level; apply enough pressure to stretch the outer limits of your thinking; align your strengths to address critical and challenging needs; cut yourself some slack because progress takes time; install an entrepreneurial mindset to create continuous opportunity; calibrate your internal compass to keep you on track; grind any distractions, unreasonable goals and expectations; prime your passion to withstand any doubts; supply sufficient effort to exceed specifications; and test your complete system. Now you’re ready to launch yourself towards new endeavors!

4. Manage your expectations. While it’s important to maintain a vision of the future, managing your expectations is a key part of framing your success. This does not mean lowering your expectations, having realistic guidelines. Our expectations are usually based on what we want to happen, which may not be the best course of action. Expectations can alter your sense of reality, so take an honest look at your situation before exploring options. Be open to new ways of thinking and learning and take proactive steps to achieve your desired outcomes.

5. Maintain an attitude of gratitude. Energy flows where attention goes and whatever you consistently think about expands. Focusing on what you don’t want or have creates a downward spiral of negativity and despair. Gratitude keeps you centered, turns chaos into clarity and unlocks the fullness of life. Acknowledge the people and things in your life that bring about joy and empowerment. Reflect on the ways that you’ve achieved success (by your own definition). Stay focused on what really matters and view change as an opportunity for personal and professional transformation. Seek the hidden value in every situation… and stop sweating the small stuff!

Onward and Upward

Life is full of choices and opportunities, if we have the courage to seek them. Starting today, consider yourself a brand. Seize each moment by expanding your focus and taking responsibility for your challenges and successes, one building block at a time.

Until Next Time,

Mary

Learning the Language of Silence

Dear Friends,

In modern society, we have become so accustomed to a frenetic pace and the gravitational pull of noise that we rarely consider what it means to be silent. Noise allows us to temporarily ignore our inner dysfunctions, because it’s often too distressing to face our own struggles. Yet, our outer world mirrors our inner conflicts.

Noise and constant activity separate us from the essence of who we are by leaving us in a fast, furious and futile attempt to manipulate ourselves around our psychological, emotional and physical discomforts to escape our painful realities. Despite our efforts, there will always be situations to come along that we cannot wish away, cure or escape. 

When we cease to wrestle with our circumstances and their outcomes and let go of our agenda, its through calming stillness that our breakthroughs will often emerge. Control produces known patterns and results; but silence invites us to face our unpleasant experiences and feelings, and makes room for the unknown and unexpected.

Silence challenges the purely intellectual thinking of our times with a deeper truth emanating from within. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonious’ immortal advice to his son Laertes is, “This above all: to thine own self be true… [and] thou canst not then be false to any man.” Our life’s answers do no lie in the external environment, they lie within us — the last place we often consider searching. Self-understanding increases our ability to have a more fulfilling and productive relationship with ourselves and others. Silence heightens self-awareness of our own attitudes, emotions, behaviors and intentions and is a key ingredient for personal transformation and our capacity to be of service to others.

The Encounter with Silence

To tap into the power of silence, we must move beyond the noise of words and chaotic experiences to reconnect with our inner voice. While learning to be comfortable with silence takes practice, here are some ways to begin the cultivation process:

1. Take a walk alone, so you can naturally listen. Consider a quiet neighborhood, park or nature trail where you can listen to your thoughts, interact with them, and pay attention to the feelings that emerge. There’s no need to draw conclusions, just be present with your thoughts and emotions.

2. Make room for self-exploration. Use the practice of silence to increase self-awareness, gain clarity about purpose and assess progress towards your goals. For example,  you might ask, Who am I? What am I here to do? How are my activities aligned with my purpose? What areas of my life are calling (or screaming) for attention?

3. Pose a provocative question, then stop talking. The next time you’re having a conversation with a boss, peer, direct report, or client, ask them, “If success was guaranteed, what bold steps would you take to make a dramatic improvement in company productivity (or sales, marketing, staffing, operations, morale, etc.)?”  Then despite any overwhelming urge to interject your own thoughts or ideas, wait in silence for a response. You’ll learn a lot more about others’ perspectives regarding organizational issues, challenges and potential solutions.

4. Quietly reflect on your experiences. After a meeting where something important was mentioned, discussed or decided, or after a stressful experience, a period of silence can help you to become clear about your interpretations, feelings, conclusions and next steps.

Regularly planned periods of silence allow us to become quietly reflective, blocking out the distractions of our mental chatter and the busyness of the world around us. A period of silence can occur at any point during the day. Morning silence allows us to focus and picture ourselves moving through the day on purpose. Evening silence allows us to reflect on the day’s experiences and how we can use them for personal growth and change. A silent interlude can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a week-long retreat. The length of time is not as important as how intentional we are about making the time.

Silence speaks more profoundly than all the collective words in the universe. Tap into your inner realm of silence to call forth your highest truth, ignite your deepest passion and achieve your greatest potential!

Until Next Time,

Mary

The Myth-Understanding of Multitasking

Dear Friends,

Technological advances have limited our attention span to the point where we believe we must achieve as much as possible in less time, or we’re doomed for failure. But don’t be deceived, multitasking is a myth that creates a false sense of accomplishment as we rush from project to project, without doing any one thing well.

Continuously dividing your attention between multiple tasks causes you to lose focus, minimizing any deep fulfillment that you ever hope to experience.  To be truly effective, you must emphasize quality over quantity, so here are nine ways to boost productivity by taking a more intentional approach to goal achievement:

1.  Be clear about your priorities. Know exactly what you need to get done and by when, and schedule your time accordingly.

2.  Scrap the To-Do List. It’s nothing more than an annoying reminder of how much you haven’t gotten done. Add tasks as an appointment on your calendar and dedicate that time for getting them done.

3.  Delegate responsibly. Delegation frees up time for more opportunities; but simply off-loading tasks that you don’t want to do can come back to bite you. Before delegating, quickly decide if it makes sense. If so, determine to whom you should delegate the task by considering individual skills, abilities and workload.

4.  Focus on the moment. Eliminate distractions and focus your attention and energy on the task at hand. Urgent tasks will arise from time to time, so it’s important to recognize the difference between what’s urgent and what appears to be urgent.

5.  Handle correspondence once. Whenever correspondence comes across your desk, handle it only once. If the message requires more thought or action add it to your calendar. If it’s FYI, print it or store it in an electronic reference file. If it’s junk mail, trash it.

6.  Minimize interruptions. Interruptions break concentration, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to regain focus. Cut idle chatter short and schedule a mutual time to connect with colleagues. Turn off e-mail notification and schedule periodic e-mail checks. Instead of answering every phone call, allow callers to leave a message and set aside a specific time to return calls.

7.  Build in time for creativity. Rather than reacting to everything that comes your way, carve out time each week to focus on creativity so that you can make more valuable contributions to your organization.

8.  Know your body. Know when your energy level is highest by monitoring your productivity. Use this time to tackle your most important tasks first.

9. Take time for self-renewal. Keeping your nose to the grindstone leads to burnout, resentment and physical ailments. Take small breaks between tasks to re-energize and re-focus. Dedicate time each week to self-renewal by doing something that brings you joy.

Losing a few minutes here and there may seem insignificant, but when translating those minutes into hours, multitasking has far-reaching consequences. The next time you find yourself getting sucked into this productivity-busting phenomenon, consider the overall costs to yourself, your staff and your organization.

Until Next Time,

Mary

What Are You Tolerating?

Good Day Friends,

To increase self-awareness and inspire change, I often ask my clients “What are you tolerating?”  Since we can’t lead others to places we haven’t been, we must be willing to confront our own demons.  Therefore, after pondering this emotionally-charged question, I’m ready to admit that one of the things I’ve been tolerating for months is procrastination

Time and again, I’ve promised myself that I would reignite my passion for reflective journaling to promote greater self-awareness and understanding.  However, I have repeatedly broken this promise by using my demanding schedule as an excuse for not taking action.  As a result, I’m feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and unfocused.

Now that I’ve come clean and shared with you one of my life’s major frustrations, I’m going to get personal and ask, “What are YOU tolerating?”  Is it self-limiting beliefs?  Unproductive attitudes?  Unmet needs?  Other people’s bad behaviors?  Your own bad behaviors?  Ongoing frustrations?  Violated boundaries?  Paralyzing fear?  Poor performance?  Unfinished business?  If you’re honest with yourself, you can probably name at least five tolerations that are robbing you of personal power by depleting your time, energy, enthusiasm and spirit.

Each time we choose to tolerate an unfavorable situation in our lives, we sacrifice a piece of our soul.  Over time, it chips away at our self-esteem, joy, and inner peace which can lead to denial,  depression, stagnation, and even irrelevance.  To anesthetize or block our feelings, we may resort to unproductive behaviors such as procastination, lying, cheating, self-deprecation, or overindulgence — all of which ultimately render us powerless and ineffective.  Whenever we are tolerating any situation that impedes our progress and well-being, our mind, body and spirit respond in kind.

To make a positive shift and reclaim our power, we must honestly confront those hindering forces that chain us to mediocrity.  If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired of draining life forces, here’s a reflective exercise to help raise your consciousness, remove self-imposed limitations, and propel you to new levels of performance and satisfaction:

1.  What am I tolerating?  (Make a list of those things that you are tolerating.)

2.  What am I doing to help sustain the things that I am tolerating? (Make a list of your behaviors that help sustain the things that you are tolerating and sabotage your success.)

3.  How does this make me feel?  (Write down how what you are tolerating makes you feel.  To really expand your awareness of feelings, you can find a comprehensive list of “feeling” words at http://eqi.org/fw.htm.)

4.  What are these tolerations costing me on a mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, social and professional level?  (Make an honest assessment of the high price you are paying in every aspect of your life for the things you are tolerating.)

5.  What can I do differently to let go of the things that I am tolerating?  (Write a positive statement of change for each of the things that you are tolerating and what it means to achieve this goal.  Identify the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, knowledge and skills that will better serve you in making this change.)

6. How can I model my new behaviors?  (List the ways in which you begin to model your new behaviors to become the best of who you are meant to be — then do it!)

Change is a step-by-step process that requires awareness, commitment, action and perseverance; so be patient with yourself.  However, don’t use the fear of change or a temporary relapse as an excuse for not taking control of your circumstances and your life.

Some tolerations are much easier to release than others.  Sometimes, we have endured situations for so long that we unconsciously accept them as normal or think “that’s just the way life is.”  In such instances, we may need to seek professional assistance from a therapist, counselor, coach or mentor to help us get unstuck.  Regardless of what helping resource(s) you choose, know that taking direct action — sooner rather than later — to eliminate tolerations from your life will help you reduce stress, access your hidden potential, seize new opportunities, and produce breakthrough results.  If that’s not enough, it will redirect your focus and give you a better sense of control by releasing time and energy, so you can fully enjoy more of the things that bring you pleasure.

In closing, I am making a personal (and now public) commitment to create change in my own life by carving out at least 10 minutes each day for personal reflection, refocus and renewal around the things I want to accomplish in myself, my career and my life.

What personal commitment are you making to free yourself and move forward on purpose?

Until next time,

Mary