Leading in Uncertain Times: The Power of Perception

Leading in Uncertain Times: The Power of Perception

It is an understatement to say that we live in uncertain times. In this challenging period, characterized by worldwide conflict, sharp political divisions, and racism, you may feel uncertain about your future, the future of your family, your organization, and the planet. You may think there is little you can do in your day-to-day life and work to make a significant difference. You are a natural leader, yet in the current climate you may be wondering how you can lead with greater compassion, understanding, clarity and confidence.

What I know to be true is that HOW you perceive uncertainty has a powerful influence on your effectiveness and your ability to lead.

A number of years ago I read in Freedom to Love, Freedom to Heal[1], a phrase that stuck with me, and that I pondered for some time:

“Uncertainty is the path to freedom”

When we are in a sea of change or chaos, and much of what we know is being questioned, disassembled or is foreign, it is difficult to believe this is true. How CAN uncertainty be the path to freedom?

When I’ve worked in conflict zones and foreign countries where I didn’t speak the language, every day was uncertain. In Afghanistan on the way to work, my vehicle with its armed Afghan driver could be pulled over by police at any time, and we could be questioned at length or commanded to drive to the nearest police station for further questioning. At any moment, a suicide bomb attack could occur nearby.

To work effectively in these environments, I couldn’t be fearful and focus on the negative possibilities. To do so would result in stress hormones constantly pumping through my body, and an inability to function effectively. I had to focus on the positive difference I was making on the people and within the organizations whose capacity I was building. Many times I had to be creative about the processes and solutions I chose, and trust that they would work. One example was when I met with the Minister of the Department who I was working with to develop their first strategic plan. Within that first meeting she asked me for a report based on what I thought of the policy development and planning processes within her Ministry. She wanted this report within a month, and I had just arrived in a country that I’d never before worked in whose language I did not speak! The first thing I did was ask an Afghan colleague if he had or knew where to obtain an organizational chart in English. He said he didn’t think one existed so I asked him for one in local language. Then I pointed to the 15 highest-level “boxes” on the org chart and asked what departments they were and the names of each Director. Shortly after, I approached my colleague to take me in person and introduce me to each Director. At each introduction, I would ask for an hour or so of their time to be interviewed and stated that I would follow up with some questions prior to each interview. All those approached were happy to accommodate me. The result was, I met the top 15 key decision-makers in the Ministry within the first month. I asked them how they developed policy and did planning, what was working, what wasn’t and what suggestions they would offer to improve policy development and planning processes within their Ministry. I “rolled up” their data, teasing out the key strengths, weaknesses and their suggestions for improvement, and added my own observations and recommendations. In about a month I submitted my report to the Minister. Months later when I was in meetings with many of those I’d interviewed and they asked why a certain action had been taken, I was able to refer to those interviews and the fact that a particular action had been taken to address an issue they had raised with me months before.

Perhaps the reason I enjoy working in foreign countries and cultures is because many processes I’ve used have never before been tested in a particular culture or language, OR I am challenged to come up with creative solutions for situations I’ve never before encountered.

So how can we lead effectively in times of uncertainty?

Key Beliefs for Effective Leadership in Uncertain Times

1) It is important to believe that uncertain times provide opportunities for creativity, and new and innovative approaches versus playing it safe and doing things “like we’ve always done”. Belief and what we believe is powerful! Did you know that you CAN change your life by changing your beliefs? Bruce Lipton, an internationally recognized stem cell biologist, demonstrated in his research that “the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environmental signals that propel life.”[2] Epigenetics “… the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off”[3] further supports Lipton’s work, as it reveals that our perceptions influence our biology.

As leaders we have an incredible opportunity to influence the beliefs of those around us. What if we truly believed that uncertain times provide opportunities for creativity and new and innovative approaches? Imagine leading from a place of hope, rather than fear and uncertainty.

2) You have the power to change the world.

The butterfly effect[4] demonstrates that powerful outcomes are extremely sensitive to initial conditions; such that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can result in a tornado over Kansas 2 years later. Another example is how the black woman, Rosa Parks, refusing to go to the back of the bus, resulted in the birth of the civil rights movement in the United States. If you believe that you have the power to change the world, the values you emanate and the courageous actions you take influence those around you.

3) The Power of Collaboration and Synergy – When I was young, I believed that I could get things done better if I did them all myself, based on my experiences working with groups in elementary and high school. You may relate. It wasn’t until I was chairing a national strategy in my 30s with representatives from a number of organizations, facilitated by a skilled facilitator, when I realized that a group of diverse individuals when focused around a common and powerful vision CAN make an incredible difference. It was then that I understood the power of synergy; the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

4) Understanding and Compassion is the way forward – One of the lessons I’ve learned from living and working in a number of diverse cultures, is that if we seek to understand why someone does or says something, rather than judge them based on our own perspective, our life and work is much more interesting and fulfilling. Rather than becoming angry, judgmental and imposing our beliefs on others, coming from a place of curiosity and compassion builds connection and enables people to do their best work. … What I’ve learned is that people always do things for a reason that makes sense to them.

Our perceptions have a powerful influence on our effectiveness as leaders in uncertain times. I welcome your comments and invite you to share your experiences below. Feel free to share this post with others.

Together we CAN change the world!

[1] A book by Dr. David Simon, neurologist, and internationally renowned expert in mind-body medicine.

[2] The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, xiv

[3] http://www.whatisepigenetics.com/what-is-epigenetics/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

 

New Beginnings: What will You Do Differently This Year?

New Beginnings: What will You Do Differently This Year?

The beginning of a new year is a great time to think about what you will do differently in the coming year. I love the image of a butterfly as it makes me realize I CAN reinvent myself in some ways, and the start of a new year is an optimal time to do this. 2017 is a particularly special year, as according to numerology, it is the first year of a 9-year cycle. This means that what do you in 2017 sets the path for the following 8 years. I am excited and rejuvenated thinking about what I am going to do differently this year! What will support me to awaken each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart?

Here’s what I plan to do differently this year (in my life and in my work).

  • More “being” – open to possibilities, and to listening to the messages I receive
  • More “receiving” – self-nurturing; taking time for myself doing things I enjoy
  • More adventure – sleeping on a sailboat and taking a trip to Europe or Asia with my Sweetie
  • More time in nature
  • More cycling
  • More video
  • More speaking “gigs”
  • New/Updated website
  • More leverage in my business
  • More writing – perhaps start my memoir?

What would you like to do differently this year?

Take a few moments to ground yourself and get present. Write down the question above, and the responses that come to you. Try to stay in your body and write from your “heart” instead of your head. When you finish writing, go through each statement, say it aloud, and notice how your body responds to it. I suggest only including things that excite you, and will support you to awaken each day with a smile on your face, and a song in your heart.

I’d love to hear what exciting plans you have for 2017! Feel free to share them and your comments below. I appreciate you sharing the post with others.

 

You Can Become an Entrepreneur at Any Age!

You Can Become an Entrepreneur at Any Age!

I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit for almost as long as I can remember. I recall catching minnows and selling them to local fisherman at about age 8, making bracelets out of seashells and selling them at the roadside with a girlfriend at about the same age. Having a greeting card and small gifts business from age 9 to 14. Perhaps you relate. However, once I graduated from university I got into the mindset that I had to have a “real” job and work for someone else in order to have security and benefits. When our kids were growing up, my husband was an international consulting engineer who travelled about 6 months of the year, so even though I yearned to be an international consultant I felt I needed to have a “real” job with benefits, and be the stable one in the family. Throughout my career I held a number of well-paying positions that were stimulating and allowed me much independence.

When I attended a course on Project Management in a Government Environment my life began to change. The course instructor was a partner in a management consulting company. He spotted my facilitation skills and before long we met and he offered me to be a contractor with his consulting group. About 6 months following the course, I left my “secure” and well-paying government position to become a contractor/independent consultant on a handshake. I worked with the consulting group for about 6 months learning a lot of processes and gaining experience designing and facilitating everything from town hall meetings, to national consultation processes, to strategic plans, to multi-stakeholder partnership-building activities. After 6 months, the partner who had brought me in had a philosophical split with the other two, and invited me to join him in his new company. I thought about it, and decided I didn’t want to “take sides” so then I began working in my own process/management consulting business. Before long my business took off and within two years I was thoroughly enjoying working for myself and was making 6 figures. I haven’t look back since having launched two successful management consulting businesses and a life and business coaching company.

Recently I was connected with an amazing woman, Pat Duckworth, through the Evolutionary Business Council/Institute of which I am a member. She invited me to be part of a book she was writing on “midlife women entrepreneurs”. It was an extremely positive experience, and I’m happy to announce that today Pat is launching Hot Women Rock, a book that chronicles the journeys and wisdom of Pat herself and 21 other midlife women entrepreneurs including myself. You may obtain your complimentary copy on launch day October 4 at https://www.amazon.com/Hot-Women-Rock-discover-entrepreneurial-ebook/dp/B01JEV9T6Q

I’d love to hear from you about your entrepreneurial journey and lessons, and welcome your comments below. Please share with others who you think might find this of interest.

Is a Mini-Sabbatical for You?

Is a Mini-Sabbatical for You?

At a recent retreat, one of the commitments I made was to gift myself a mini-sabbatical. This meant taking Mondays and Fridays off through July and August to do what I wished, and to free myself from work-related activities. As an entrepreneur, I often don’t take large blocks of time off during the summer as it’s when I typically design new programs, write or make website changes. So a mini-sabbatical sounded like a good idea.

Last Monday, the first day of my mini-sabbatical, was easy as we had moved the day before and had not retired till close to 3 am, so it was easy to sleep in and to not work. The first Friday was more challenging. I was “pulled” to check my email and to start writing down the design for my new group coaching program. That said, I found a nearby yoga studio online and tried out my first yoga class there. Amazingly I connected with a woman after class who has a similar background to mine, and who may become a new friend.

The first question I’ve started to ask myself on awakening is What will I do to nurture myself today? To me nurturing involves: doing yoga, meditating, going for walks in nature, being by, in, or on water, connecting with family and friends in person and virtually, and cooking a special meal for my Sweetie and myself. What do you do to nurture yourself? My mantra for 2016 is I am open to possibility, and I repeat it once or twice daily. I also am increasingly listening to and trusting in the messages my body sends me. Here’s a process my clients and I have found useful in making decisions – http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-do-you-make-decisions/.

So far on my mini-sabbatical I’ve noticed I feel more relaxed, more creative, more energized, lighter, and I’m finding that new like-minded people and opportunities are coming my way.

What would a mini-sabbatical look and feel like for you? Perhaps you’ve tried one before? I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Feel free to share this with a friend, colleague or family member.

Balanced and Mindful Leadership: What Do You Think?

Balanced and Mindful Leadership: What Do You Think?

I believe it’s time for a new type of leader, and a new type of organizational culture; one that focuses on people, understanding, and collaboration; instead of money, results, and competition. … This is the first in a series of blog posts on balanced and mindful leadership.

In my coaching with business and professional women from around the world, greater and greater numbers, and younger and younger women are coming to me exhausted, “juggling so many balls”, feeling that there is no longer any fun in their lives; they are all about work with little or no time for themselves, or to spend with people they love. Some of them have health concerns. They are looking for tools and support to help them find peace amongst the chaos of daily life and work.

Well-educated professional women are leaving their senior positions or turning down career advancements when they have children, as there is not enough time to do it all. Those who try to do it all, often become ill[1] or end up in separation and divorce.

The old paradigm of working harder to get ahead is no longer working. In fact, productivity starts to decline after a certain number of hours of consistent work. It’s time for a new paradigm and new type of leader: a balanced and mindful one.

What are the attributes of a balanced and mindful leader?

  • Lives life in alignment with their core values
  • Runs an organization or operates within an organization in alignment with the organizational values
  • Knows their BIG WHY (life purpose)
  • Understands the importance of Work/Life Balance and models that for others
  • Rewards teams rather than individuals for their performance
  • Models and rewards inter and intra-organizational collaboration
  • Recognizes the need for space to encourage creativity and innovation
  • Uses their body as well as their minds to make decisions; e.g. Leadership is an art as well as a science.
  • Inspires and supports others to be the best they can be
  • Is emotionally intelligent and aware of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Surrounds self with folks with complementary skill-sets to shore up their weaknesses and complement their strengths, rather than people like themselves.
  • Encourages brainstorming and questioning of the status quo.
  • Allows their managers and staff to make mistakes, share and learn from them; encourages a culture of innovation – e.g. Engineers without Borders Annual Failure report – http://reports.ewb.ca/

Do you agree with the need for a new type of leader? What are your thoughts? I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share the post with others who you think might like to join in the discussion.

[1] http://creativelivingcommunity.com/how-to-know-if-youre-burning-out-what-to-do-about-it/

 

Is Your Presence Enough?

Is Your Presence Enough?

YourPresence

While recently visiting a friend who was recovering from surgery, she said something to me that really made me sit up and take notice. After opening the card and gift I brought her she said, “Your presence is enough.” When I reflect on my life and my driven nature, I realize that I’ve lived much of my life as if my presence is NOT enough; from a place of feeling like I need to perform and achieve in order to be loved and to BE enough. Do you relate?

I invite you take a few moments to reflect on your life. Have you been living it as if “Your presence is enough?” Think about what your life would look and feel like if you truly believed that your presence was enough? … You might feel free, confident, unconditionally loved, in the flow, like you didn’t have to constantly strive and give 110% when 100% was sufficient. I encourage you to “try on” the vision and feeling of living like “Your presence is enough” and notice any differences. Is life easier and more fun?

I welcome your comments below. Feel free to share this post with others.