IMAGE: County Clare, Ireland | Vicki L. Flaherty
This past week I had the opportunity to speak about mindfulness with a class of over 150 new IBM executives as part of a leadership event that I run in New York with my colleague Jennifer Montana. At first I was super excited about my 15-minute time slot, followed by uncertainty about what exactly to share and worry about the perfect delivery.
I desperately wanted to make a difference for my clients. How could I guide these amazing professionals, tasked with transforming one of the biggest corporations in the world, in seeing the opportunity of mindfulness for strengthening their leadership? I had so much I could share with them. I wrote it down, organized it, filtered it, rehearsed it.
With messages from a previous incredible speaker, one of my colleague’s Angela de Longchamps on executive presence and communications, echoing in my ears: “say it and stop,” no verbal litter’, and ‘own’ the stage, I knew what perfect delivery looked like. Oh, how I wanted to role model it.
The weight of what to say and how to say it started to become very heavy. I felt like I was standing in a storm. Holding myself firm amidst the clouds and wind exhausted me.
IMAGE: San Agustinillo, Oaxaca, Mexico | Vicki L. Flaherty
Once I let go of the need for perfection and opted to be curious about what might show up to guide me, the way clouds gave way to sunshine. I listened more intently to what our speakers were saying and sensing the energy of the class. I began to hear mindful nuggets of wisdom embedded in the speakers’ comments, and I found loose threads that I could weave together in a unique and meaningful way.
A fortuitous interaction with a special colleague friend, Cristina Gonzalez, reminded me of how my poetry sometimes invites mindfulness. I decided to make my poem A New Day a punctuation mark at the end of the session. The relief and joy I felt when I saw members of the audience sitting with closed eyes taking in the words of the poem assured me that following my intuition and letting go of my tight script was a winning approach.
I was ultimately able to create what I really wanted because:
- I brought something of who I am to it…such power in a good dose of authenticity and vulnerability to connect with others.
- The session became fully about the audience. In the end it’s not perfect delivery, it’s about delivery that enables you to connect.
I listened – to what I truly wanted to create, to what I sensed the executives would most value, and to what would benefit our organization most. My mind and intellect did the heavy lifting, and then I remembered to let my heart lead the way.
Some questions I asked along the way to move me to the magic place of openness are provided below. I share them that they might prove valuable to you next time you have an important challenge.
- What do I really want?
- What am I holding on to?
- What makes it hard for me?
- How can I make it easier?
- How can I let go and open to what might be possible?
- What is needed of me in this moment?