leadership

Leadership means cleaning up.

Do you take out your own garbage? My neighbor doesn't.

Every week, he brings the bags down from his apartment and plops them on the street which means the landlord gets fined or, even better, puts them in MY garbage barrel. I get to haul his trash out each week and then roll the barrel back around the house.

Image  source .

Image source.

A part of me wants to say something to him. Another part of me feels bad for him. I feel sad that his integrity and personal responsibility is so lacking that he can't manage to take out his own trash, regardless of how it impacts other people. He also had his power turned off three times in less than a year and had a boot put on his car wheel for unpaid parking tickets.

Man, do I remember when my life was like this. I had a hard time seeing my part and cleaning up the messes I made. It's still a muscle I'm building but life feels much better now. Dodging things only makes them pile up, you know? And that pile can stink after a while.

Cleaning up after ourselves is part of what it means to be an adult. But people can age chronologically and never actually mature. You might know a few people in your life like this. It might be you. It's definitely me from time to time. We can go through the motions of "playing house" but may still struggle with being responsible for cleaning up the messes we make in our lives, both the literal and metaphorical ones. 

This doesn't mean we have to be perfect. It means we have to show up for when we make mistakes or errors or maybe look more closely at the areas of our lives we've been avoiding. 

Last week, a client of mine messed up. She was late to our session and she was already over the limit for late appearances with her supervisor (I'm coaching a team of people). She was in a bit of a tailspin when we met and she was honest enough to tell me that her being late again might mean some dire consequences. I could have let it go, but would I have been really serving her in her position as a leader? Nope. Facing the music of our humanness only builds our character, even if there's a difficult or unsavory consequence.

Instead, I coached her to show up for herself and clean up her mess. She battled it a little but I reassured her of my support and helped her release any attachment to the outcome. She was checking in about being late because her supervisor requested that. I reminded her of this and she felt better.

And what happened? Her supervisor thanked her and let it go. There was no negative consequence. What mattered to the supervisor was this person's integrity and courage to be responsible for her actions. The supervisor needs honest people in leadership positions--not perfect people. Since that exchange, my client pulled out of the tailspin she'd been in for a few weeks and she's feeling GREAT. 

When we avoid being responsible and cleaning up, we perpetuate whatever caused the "mess", be it lateness or some other issue. When we stop and look at what isn't working, for ourselves or other people, we communicate what matters to us, namely our personal integrity. Being responsible requires courage and self-confidence. It means forgiving ourselves for being human and helps us mess up less in the future. 

You're human. I am too. We will mess us. What matters is how we clean it up.

 

See Yourself as the Source

 

You know those people who tell you that you can have/do/be anything you want in your life?

 

Like unlimited power and freedom? Incredible results personally and professionally? Like anything is possible?

For the longest time, I hated those people. HATED. With a fiery rage.

I've come to see why, and it's a little sad but I'll tell you about it.

Basically, I was doing this health coach thing for years and still felt like my life wasn't working. Why wasn't I happy? Why wasn't I feeling fulfilled? I was doing all the right things! Eating good things often, bad things less often, sleeping, exercising, all that. But my relationship was falling apart. Everyone and their mother was up in my business about my transition, asking really intrusive questions. I wasn't losing weight. My business wasn't growing. I wasn't getting opportunities I wanted. 

So, eventually I got angry. I hated those uber-positive people on all the social media telling me to love more. NO. No. I needed money and recognition, not love. Screw that.

Hmm.

Then I hit the wall. 

I'll spare the details and leave that for my book, but basically I came to see that I was holding myself back and getting in my own way. Me. Moi. Those things I craved weren't coming because I was giving the Universe mixed-messages. I was in complete and utter internal conflict with what I said I wanted to feel or have and what I was doing to actually make it happen. 

And the worst part? I didn't even SEE that I was doing this. 

It didn't feel like that at the time. I felt like I was in a hamster wheel doing all the things I could think of to make progress, personally or professionally. But it was the WAY I was doing it all that was the problem. Perspective showed me this, nothing else. Not even the many people who kept trying to tell me. Because I am one stubborn person, indeed. 

Can I share the perspective with you that finally helped me?

Here's the thing: you're smart. You've lived a pretty decent life so far, hopefully. You've done many things. Seen a lot. You have certain skills and strengths and abilities, all that. You've collected things from experiences you've had--either some lessons learned from living your life to literal skill-building in school(s) over the years. And all that has gotten you really far.

But you're stuck right now. Maxed out. At your limit. Something isn't working. Except you might not being seeing yourself as the source of making it work well or better. You might think everyone else is the problem. You might see yourself as doing everything right, but everyone else isn't on board and that's where the breakdown is.

Personally or professionally, you are the source to make or break something.

It's intense that you're that powerful--I know. But you are. It's your life, after all. And it's unfolding according to choices, habits and behaviors you're practicing day in and day out. 

If it's working well, I'm glad! It might mean you're being really effective and perhaps even loving your life. I hope you are, anyway.

If it isn't working well, are you seeing yourself as the source as to why? I'm not saying you are to blame (this isn't a guilt thing) but are you blaming other people? Do you see yourself as doing things "right" and people just can't get on board? Or they don't understand you? Or they aren't listening to you?

Are you coming from the perspective that "if everyone would just _________________" then things would be perfect.

Hmm.

Have you considered this is actually why things aren't working? I mean, it could be those people--sure. But what if, WHAT IF, you chose to see yourself as the source for something working or not working? What if you totally shifted or transformed your point-of-view (POV) and saw things differently? What would be possible for you, in your personal or professional life? (not that they are separate, because wherever you go, there you are)

OK. Enough hypothesizing. You need some actual advice. Here ya go.

Consider these three ways you can see yourself as the source moving forward:

Be Responsible: I don't care whether you're the boss or not. Consider everything, EVERYTHING, is your job. You are responsible. I don't mean you have to actually DO IT ALL but you can consider that you could do anything that's asked or needs to be done. Anything versus everything. There's a distinction. Do you see it? Nothing is above or below you and your capacity. If something you did goes right, you can take credit. If something you did goes wrong, you can step up to make it work better. This goes for conversation, too. That's another blog post coming soon. For now, just sit with this one.

Listen Better: If you're multitasking, you aren't listening. The human brain can only process so much at once. Yes, even yours, as magnificent as it is. As soon as you take your focus away from someone, you cease to listen to them. You might hear them, but I'm not talking about hearing. You can HEAR noise all day. When you want to be the source of something working, you need to listen to people. Otherwise, you're adding to the miscommunication. Here's something else: when someone is talking, are you listening to their voice or the one in your own head? Are you constantly judging and assessing their words? Are you waiting for a chance to speak? To be right? To justify yourself? Get off the hook? Correct, redirect, etc.? Have you even just listened to someone without waiting for your turn to talk? Try it. It will change your life!

Stop with the Shoulds: This is like listening, but it's specifically about your expectations. It's not wrong to have goals. It's not wrong to have aspirations. It's not wrong to have boundaries or ideals. It's not wrong to have hopes, even! But as soon as it goes from COULD to SHOULD, that's you being the source of forcing something to happen. An agenda. Limited possibilities. You're attached. Fixed. Inflexible. You're "right". Someone is "wrong". Yikes! What if your version of right isn't actually right at all? This could show up as "people shouldn't be doing that" or "it should have been done this way". Bringing that kind of energy to personal or professional interactions pretty much guarantees another person will resist, deflect or react in some way. Physics is a thing, after all. 

Give these three ways of being a try for two weeks. Focus on using them in personal relationships and professional ones and see what you're the source of shifting in the next 14 days.

Sorry needs to stop.

Not the new song by Justin Bieber, that sorry can stay.

I'm talking about your incessant use of the word sorry in personal and professional exchanges. It needs to end. It's eroding your integrity. It's in the way of your success.

I want you to take a second to scroll back through texts and emails and see how often you've said 'sorry' in the past week. Now the past month. 

 

Good ol' Bart.

Good ol' Bart.

 

What is up with your use of this word? Why are you apologizing for being imperfect? Why are you constantly late? Why are you missing deadlines? What are you promising and not delivering on and, most importantly, WHY?

Your use of sorry needs to stop. I want you to have more power in your life. I don't want you to feel constantly behind the 8-ball.  I want for you to feel focused, clear, organized and confident. And reliable. And accountable. And professional. 

How does all that sorry make you feel? How does it affect your day-to-day interactions with friends, family and colleagues? I'm guessing it feels like crap. It did for me when I said it all the time.

We use sorry when we are out of integrity. And by that, I mean we compromise our own happiness and boundaries. Or we promise something and don't follow through to make it happen. And then, we don't show up to be accountable for that. This pattern becomes a hamster wheel of diminished self-esteem and credibility and it sucks. It just doesn't work AT ALL.

So, stop saying sorry. Stop overworking to the point of dropping balls left and right. Stop apologizing for fear of what people will think because you aren't perfect. Stop overcommitting to people and things that bring you so far out of balance that you don't even know the meaning of that word anymore. STOP APOLOGIZING and START TRANSFORMING.

If, and I mean IF, I use the word sorry it happens on a very limited basis these days. Know why? Because I overcame the old voice in my head that said I wasn't worthy or didn't have value if I didn't try to do a million things for a million people.

Or if I didn't try to make everyone happy.

Or try to be everywhere doing everything because I was afraid to sit in my own company.

Or to win my mother's validation and approval.

Or the boss's praise (same theme as the mom thing).

Or to look like I had it all together in front of my colleagues. 

That list, it could go on. Add your own items to it, if you know them.

Stop saying you're sorry and start living from integrity, starting with yourself. Here are three simple ways to begin:

1) carve out YOU time every day. Not once a week. No. EVERY DAY. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to an hour or more. By prioritizing yourself, you will learn what does and does not make you happy or your life better and you will be able to sort other things more effectively. 

2) think and wait before you commit. If anyone asks you to do anything, use this phrase, "thanks for the offer. Let me check my calendar and I'll get back to you." While it's tempting to agree on the fly, it works better in the long run for you to check your commitments and decide if you want and need to squeeze another meeting or hang out or anything into your jam-packed week. 

3) don't promise if you can't deliver. Unless you KNOW beyond the shadow of a doubt that nothing, and I mean nothing, will prevent you from being somewhere or doing something, don't promise it. A half-assed promise is a promise and it's waiting to be broken and then you have to say the S-word again. Don't do it. Only agree or commit to people and things that light you up and you know you can and WANT to do. Easy. If you do agree to something, make sure you do it unless there is an absolute emergency. 

 

Those are just a few ideas, and I have more, so come back and read often. And share this with someone who keeps saying sorry and needs to stop.