Beyond Striving – Inspired Connection

Pinkish daisies

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.

Clouds to Sunshine

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.

let go

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.

authenticity quote

I was ultimately able to create what I really wanted because:

  1. I brought something of who I am to it…such power in a good dose of authenticity and vulnerability to connect with others.
  2. The session became fully about the audience. In the end it’s not perfect delivery, it’s about delivery that enables you to connect.

maya angelou feel quoteJPG

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?

vulnerability quote


Learn more about what I’m co-creating with my colleagues related to Mindfulness@IBM and follow my mindfulness series on the IBM Jobs Blog.

Author: Vicki L Flaherty

I am most alive when I am creating, whether through writing, photography, gardening, cooking, crafting, sewing, yoga. I enjoy traveling because it opens me to greater awareness and new possibilities. I find a special joy when I’ve helped someone see their brilliance and express their full potential. As I've focused on living more mindfully, I've found special joy in expressing myself through poetry and photography, and in truly being in relationship with those I meet along my journey.

6 thoughts on “Beyond Striving – Inspired Connection”

  1. Vicky … as always your blog inspired me … this week is on many things … my faciliation for Technical Leadership in Singapore (it is about delivery that enable you to connect :)) Continue this beautiful sharing with us, d

  2. Love this Vicki! What a great recap of your emotions and how you eventually prepared and delivered a WONDERFUL session. Time and time again I feel that designing AccEL has forced us both to realize that “when you let go, you are creating space for something better.” !!!!

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