Clear intentions are the foundation of personal integrity

Vila Taranto Verbania Italy - Sacred Lotus 7

At times we might say things because we feel they are the ‘right’ thing to say, even though we don’t really believe them, deep down. Perhaps we say them so that we don’t upset a relationship or for the sake of keeping our jobs. We might momentarily feel good by saying what’s expected, although when our beliefs and words are out of sync, we tend to experience a discordance. Over time this lack of harmony between our thoughts and actions causes stress and blocks energy. We simply are not at our best when we are out of integrity with ourselves.

On the other hand, when our beliefs and actions are in alignment, we feel a sense of inner harmony. We act in a way that is consistent with our values. When we proceed by honoring our higher selves, it is positively affirming and boosts our sense of self-worth. We are in integrity with ourselves.

A critical starting point to being in integrity is having clear intentions.

A critical starting point to being in integrity is having clear intentions. When our intentions come from our deepest heartfelt desires, they lay the foundation for living in integrity. Our intention might be to create a workplace that honors individual strengths or values diversity, it might focus on our relationships or caring for our bodies, or any of an infinity of deeply felt desires we might have for our work or lives.

Intentions are not goals or plans, like designing a new program or winning a contract or getting a new car or finding your life partner, they are higher order desires that stem from a knowing deep inside. We might find our intentions by looking at our goals or plans and exploring why we desire them. For example, perhaps at the heart of a new program is leading with courage or the reason for winning a contract is to make a difference in the world. Or, we might want a new car because we feel it will make us feel vibrantly alive or we desire a relationship so that we can feel a deep personal connection.

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The pathway to our deepest desires is self-awareness.

The pathway to our deepest desires is self-awareness. From a place of noticing what is true in the moment, we gain clarity. We always have data to inform us: 1) the thoughts running through our minds, 2) the emotions that arise from those thoughts, and 3) the physical sensations that accompany our thoughts and emotions. When we continually listen inside, we can make ongoing adjustments to stay in alignment with our intentions.

Our thoughts have a creative power that can strategically shape our lives.

Our thoughts have a creative power that can strategically shape our lives. The key is being aware of our thoughts, actually noticing what our mind is saying in the moment. If we can catch ourselves at that point – when we have a thought, before any associated emotions and physical reactions come – we find a place of choice. We can either stay caught up in the thought, or we can let it go and choose another thought that aligns with our intention.

For example, if I think we’re about to move from gentle stretching to something more challenging during my yoga practice, I might think “Oh, know! This is going to be hard.” And I immediately lose any feeling of calm and my body tenses up. I can go with that thought and I’ll surely struggle through whatever challenging posture might come next, or I can simply let that thought go and return to the moment, feeling what’s there now. When I choose now, I have a sense of being alive and I’m closer to joy I intend to create in my life.

To cultivate present-moment awareness, we make time

to listen to the dialogue inside our minds.

To cultivate present-moment awareness, we make time to listen to the dialogue inside our minds. The idea is to notice what is naturally happening in our minds all the time. We just observe it, not judging, resisting, or getting attached . Maybe we do this for a few seconds before we get out of bed or as we are getting ready to fall asleep. Maybe when we brush our teeth or wash our face. Or when we sit down for a meal or at our desk, or when we come to a halt in rush-hour traffic. Observing what’s going on inside our heads, even momentarily, can provide such powerful information, even if it’s just once a day.

When we become familiar with the chatter in our heads, we start to notice particular thoughts and how we respond to them. We see habits of thought that don’t serve us – the very thoughts that get us out of alignment and lead us to places of disharmony. Once we notice, we can take action, perhaps by taking a breath (which can help hold the emotions and physical response at bay momentarily) and let go of the thought.

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The noticing is key because it is from here that we can take action. We can let go of the thought and that might be enough, or we might consciously choose another thought that aligns with what we want to be creating in our lives – so we can live in integrity. We have the power to build new habits of mind that move our lives in synchronicity with our intentions.

We have the power to build new habits of mind that

move our lives in synchronicity with our intentions.

Below are some questions that we can use to begin exploring with curiosity the interplay of our intentions, thoughts, moments of choice and actions.

  • What would I like to be creating in my life?
  • What do I value? How is that important to me?
  • When do I feel like I am in integrity, having a sense of harmony in my thoughts and actions?
  • When do I feel a lack of alignment in my thoughts and actions?
  • How do I experience discordance? What is the relationship between my thoughts and actions? What are my thoughts, emotions, physical sensations?
  • When might I pause to notice my thoughts, emotions, physical sensations?
  • What do I hear when I tune into my mental dialogue?
Other posts you might be interested in:
Being Intentional
Feeling it

 

* I took these photos of Sacred Lotus flowers at Vila Taranto in Verbania, Italy, which sits along Lake Maggiore.

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Where’s the inspiration?

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I have been somewhat sporadic in posting here over the past year or so, despite the encouragement of many of you to stay active. Each month I pause to explore what I might have to share, and I often come up empty.

Why am I drawing blanks? Maybe it’s what I call the ‘lotus blossom phenomenon’. Perhaps the mud and muck that is a natural part of work created the perfect ground for my ideas to blossom and push me to share. I’d see myself or colleagues suffering or obstacles getting in our way, and I would be called to bring forth some healing, helping energy and ideas. My reaction to challenging experiences compelled me to capture thoughts about personal leadership and the power of our awareness, intention, choice and action.

The workplace was my inspiration. Given that I have been moving through a transition, retiring from IBM, perhaps it’s natural that the stimuli that will guide me now are different.

I’ve wondered whether it’s time to close Leading with Intention. I’m uncertain so I’m taking a dose of my own medicine — see Asking for Help — and reaching out to you for your ideas.

  • How can I be most helpful?
  • What do you like most about my blogs?
  • What is challenging you?
  • What would best support your greatness?
  • What inspires you to share your truth and wisdom?
  • Would you be interested in co-creating something with me?
  • Would you like to be a guest blogger?

Maybe it’s time to close up shop, maybe my energy is best used in the other places I’ve been blogging: Where Possibility Awaits, The Small Things, thejoyfulleye, And Then Opens Possibility, or maybe it’s just time for a blog make-over?

I welcome your ideas and input! Let me hear from YOU! (Don’t want to leave a WordPress comment, please email me at vflahert@mchsi.com.)

 

* I took this photo along the Amalfi Coast, Italy. I selected it because I love the sense of companionship of the two boats together.

Thank you, IBM

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After more than 20 years with IBM, I officially retire from the company this month. When I started at ‘Big Blue’ back in 1998, I had no idea what a long and wonderful ride I would have.

Thank you, IBM, for a fulfilling career.

Work enables us to grow not only as a professional but also a person. 

I joined the services organization as a business transformation consultant focused on maximizing human performance and helped clients to develop the skills of their workforce, to embrace change and transformation, to measure their impact/success, and more. About 7 years in, I moved into human resources where I led a variety of talent initiatives, including developing a global career framework, an award-winning onboarding program, a global leadership competency model, a corporate learning university for emerging technical skills, and a variety of executive leadership programs. Each role and project not only leveraged core strengths but also challenged me in ways that made me stronger and more capable. I grew not just as a professional but also as a person.

Thank you, IBM, for the flexibility of working from home.

When we appreciate what makes others unique, honor who they are, and treat them with kindness and compassion, connection happens almost magically.

I was fortunate to work from home during my entire tenure – across three moves made for my husband’s career. I always appreciated the flexibility of working remotely as well as the skills I developed working ‘virtually’, especially the ability to collaborate globally using technology. I credit strong achievement orientation and self- motivation as key characteristics supporting success as a ‘remote’ employee. Perhaps the most valuable take-away of working mostly from my home office is an ability to create meaningful relationships with people I have never me in person. I’ve found that when I appreciate what makes others unique, honor who they are, and treat them with kindness and compassion, connection happens almost magically.

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Thank you, IBM, for connecting me with so many amazing people.

What a wonderful gift to create deep, meaningful friendships at work that nourish you throughout your life.

What I’ve heard so many say is true: it’s the people that make the company. My colleagues are amazingly talented and dedicated professionals, committed to making the world a better place. I had the chance to co-create with people in a broad variety of roles across virtually all of IBM’s many businesses and around the world. I engaged with a broad spectrum of clients, both internal and external – and grew in my capacity to understand how people and organizations work. I learned from people managers, program managers, consultants, sellers, hardware technicians, software developers, and people working across all HR functions. Our shared values around trust, relationships, and innovation guided us and enabled us to break through challenges. I leave with deep friendships that will nourish me through the rest of my life – for this I am so very grateful.

Thank you, IBM, for incredible opportunities.

Sometimes our own limiting stories hold us back, and what we most need is a friend or coach to help us see the possibility within us.

Working in two organizations in at least 7 different roles, opportunities were always in abundance in the form of fresh challenges and projects. Opportunity did not always sit where I could see it clearly. Sometimes I had to dig deep to gather the courage to venture into dark and scary alleys to find an opportunity that ignited my spirit. Sometimes I shaped opportunities with my unique qualities and perspective – and, it brought me such joy to guide others in doing the same. Sometimes our own limiting stories hold us back, and what we most need is a friend or coach to help us see the possibility within us. I am grateful for those who pointed me in the right direction at the many crossroads I encountered.

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Thank you, IBM, for rich cultural awareness and appreciation for diversity.

At our core, we all share a common humanity that can be tapped into regardless of background or language.

I learned so much over the years that I couldn’t begin to keep track (although IBM has phenomenal HR tools to help employees do just that)! One area – cultural awareness and appreciation for diversity – stands out. A career highlight was traveling the globe facilitating leadership focus groups, where I had a first-hand look at diverse cultures and the different ways that people with different traditions see and approach work and life. (And, I came away with another deep appreciation – that, at our core, we all share a common humanity that can be tapped into regardless of background or language.) A related career peak was being selected for IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, where I got to spend a month in Turkey helping clients with innovation – what fun I had learning their language and customs, eating their delicious food, and experiencing the incredible hospitality of the generous Turkish people.

Thank you, IBM, for supporting me in taking care of myself – and helping others do the same.  

It’s up to each of us to determine what we need in order to bring our best to our work.

A key discovery is that the only one who can take care of me is me! A company will take as much of you as you are willing to give, and it’s up to you to determine what you need to bring your best to your work every day. When diagnosed with breast cancer I learned the value of taking time away for not only physical but also emotional well-being — I am forever grateful to my management and team for their support. One of my final projects focused on ‘leading with resilience’ and it was an honor to spread the message that self-care is essential for success. I engaged with leaders across the business and around the globe, helping them focus on how their mindset, movement, nutrition & hydration, and recovery impact their performance. I smile with joy as I remember how great if felt leading that work.

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Thank you, IBM, for allowing me to bring my passion to my work.

There is power in vulnerability for moving through change, in authenticity for connecting with others, and in integrity for standing with calm and strength.

I’ve had opportunities to run with things that brought me joy, including designing solutions and experiences that help people be their best, facilitating leadership and learning programs, leading diverse teams, and being a mentor and coach for others. I love that my colleagues trusted me as part of our coaching community leadership team and guided me through a patent application for a popular coaching approach I co-created with a dear colleague. I was literally flying high in my final years, leading a mindfulness movement, thanks in part to the available collaborative tools and inclusive culture of the organization. I’m grateful to the managers I had along the way who trusted me and encouraged me to shine my light. Through my work I discovered that there is power in vulnerability for moving through change, in authenticity for connecting with others, and in integrity for standing with calm and strength.

Thank you, IBM, for helping me be strong, resilient, and focused.

Our experiences make us stronger and teach us about who we are and what matters.

Oh, at times I felt like I was being squeezed and sucked in by quicksand, or pushed through a mudslide, or swimming against the flow of a mighty river. And, each breath, step and stroke taught me about who I am and what matters. My experiences made me stronger. I am grateful for the challenges I found before me, and all those who helped me move through them.

Thank you, IBM. I carry so many delicious memories and so much learning with me into the next chapter. I will always have blue specks in my blood.

Final Collage

 

Note: You can also follow me at:

Where Possibility Awaits (weekly inspiring photos & quotes)

And Then Opens Possibility (poetry)

the joyfull eye (photography)

the small things (gratitude)

 

Have a little compassion, starting with you

Santa Clarita CA

The mind has a tendency to set very high standards, holding ourselves and others to perfectionistic expectations. The voice of the mind judges and evaluates our every thought and action. Activated by fear, this voice takes action when it senses danger. Our response might be to fight – criticize or belittle ourselves; to take flight – distract ourselves; to freeze – stay stuck and ruminate; or to submit – resign ourselves and end up feeling unworthy or ashamed.

Practicing self-compassion breaks the patterns of the harsh critic of our mind. By understanding what we want, recognizing our feelings, and letting go of self-judgment, we begin to move away from fear. Exercising such loving-kindness for ourselves, we are better able to offer it to others.

Consistently try one or all of these 3 mindful practices and note any shifts in your attention, awareness, and judgment.

Exploring What You Want

“We betray our true selves when we do not follow the heart’s desire, For what the heart is attracted to, is your destiny.” ~Leon Brown

 At least once a day, pause and explore one of these questions: “What do I want?” “What do I value?” “What is my heart’s desire?” You might start with the ‘stuff’ you want (a warm or cool room to sleep in, a meal of your favorite food) and then after getting used to considering what you want on this level, look underneath for insights into why these things are important to you (to treat yourself well, to celebrate an accomplishment).

Digging Underneath the Feeling

“Suffering is due to our disconnection with our inner soul.Meditation is establishing that connection. ~Amit Ray

Find a place where you can reflect for a few minutes. Remember a time when you felt very angry. Go back to that experience. Recall how you felt the anger in your body, and in your mind.

  1. What physical sensations did you experience? What thoughts were you having?
  2. What tender feeling might the anger might be hiding? What is not being seen, listened to, recognized, or loved?
  3. What would you tell a dear friend if they were feeling this? What words and tone would you share? What gestures would you display?

Letting Go of Self Judgment

“Our self judgement is the biggest barrier to our friendship…with ourselves.” ~Tsunyota Kohe’t

Next time you notice your inner critic at work, invite it to take a little break with you.

  1. Acknowledge the critic (e.g., “I notice that I am feeling inadequate.”).
  2. Accept the feeling (e.g., “Feeling insecure is a natural human response.”)
  3. Just sit with the feeling for 90 seconds, focusing on your breathing.
  4. Check in and see if see if there is some space for more choices about how you respond to the critic.

You might combine these practices with focused breathinggratitude practice, and mini-habits to understand better why mindfulness matters.

 


 

NOTE: This post was co-authored by Katiuscia Barretta and first appeared on the IBM Jobs Blog on June 2, 2016.

* I took this photo in Kruja, Albania.

5 Ways to Make a Difference with Mindful Meetings

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Time is really the only capital that any human being has

and the thing that he can least afford to waste or lose. 

― Thomas Edison

Pre-Meeting Self Check-In

Did you know that over 50% of communication is non-verbal? How you feel is likely to be picked up by others. So before the meeting, check in with yourself. What’s on your mind? How are you feeling? Anxious, sad, or energized. Take a moment to clear your mind, perhaps by focusing on your breath. Enter the meeting without unneeded thoughts and emotions interfering.

Mindful Meeting Start

Start your meetings with a short activity that invites the group to be present, focused and create a sense of shared purpose. It could be as simple as inviting everyone to take several deep breaths and to bring their attention to the meeting, letting go of what came before and all that will come after.  Your mindful opening might even involve the group sharing their intentions for the meeting, or providing context through a personal story or highlighting the strategic context. Where possible, take time for everyone to check-in and share how they are; it’s a great way to get everyone engaged and to gauge energy levels.

Late Arrivals United

If someone enters late to a meeting you are leading, welcome them. Take a moment to greet them, check in to see how they are doing, and help them feel united with the group. Show you care that they are there and that you believe they are an important part of accomplishing the team’s objectives.

Appreciation and positive acknowledgment

Be positive! Acknowledgment and appreciation can be extremely powerful. During the meeting, clearly state the value of what’s being co-created by the group. For example, after a presentation, instead of sitting in silence or being critical, you could say something such as: “Let me share with you my key take-aways.” or something as simple as “Thank you for sharing your perspective with us.”

Wrap-up with clarity

Take time at the end of the meeting to review decisions made and actions that will follow, and ensure everyone is in agreement. It is helpful to reflect on the value of what was accomplished. Be intentional about ending with enthusiasm and offer a smile. Even in virtual meetings where people can’t see you, smiling is helpful because it affects how you feel, and how you feel is picked up by participants.

Life is about the people you meet and

the things you create with them.

So go out and start creating. 

― Unknown

 

NOTE: This post was co-authored by Patrick Kozakiewicz and first appeared on the IBM Jobs Blog on October 13, 2016.

* I took the photo during a strategic planning meeting of my leadership development team at IBM.

 

Three Ways to Greater Authenticity

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To be authentic is literally to be your own author –
to discover your own nature energies and desires,
and then to find your own way of acting on them.
~Warren G. Bennis

To be authentic is to act in alignment with who you are. To be authentic is to feel right about what you say and do. To be authentic is to be real. Being authentic involves being in tune with what’s happening inside of you. Webster defines authenticity as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”There is no fixed ‘authentic’ self. We don’t one day realize ‘this is who I am” and then become authentic. We change and evolve over time. Our day-to-day experiences tell us who we are, and when we are present in the moment, we can tune into what feels right. We discover whether we are being true or faking it by how we feel in the moment. When we notice what’s happening in our lives – how we feel and what gives us energy – we gain insights that inform and guide authentic actions, aligned with what we value and want to be creating in our lives.

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go
of who we think we’re supposed to be
and embracing who we are.
~Brene Brown

Only you know if you are being authentic. Only you truly know if your actions align with your values. Only you know if how you respond to a situation feels right. Of course, others sense when you are being authentic. There is a power in being courageous enough to show our true selves. Even when someone doesn’t agree with you or like how you behave, often they respect you for your clarity and confidence.

We have to dare to be ourselves,
however frightening or strange
that self may prove to be.
~Mary Sarton

Three ways to open to greater authenticity.
1. Explore what gives your life meaning. Clarity about your mission in life can help you live each day with purpose. Clear intentions can guide you toward authentic action.
2. Notice your thoughts, feelings, and actions. When do you say yes/no? How often does what others want guide your behavior? Do you feel pressure to fit in or seek others’ approval? Be open to the answers you find, without judging yourself as good or bad.
3. Explore what it’s like to let go of others’ expectations and judgments. When others make requests of you, pause to consider whether what they want is what you want. Sure, listen to what they have to say and consider their perspective, but tune into your feelings to guide you.

The body has its own way of knowing,
a knowing that has little to do with logic,
and much to do with truth, little to do with control,
and much to do with acceptance,
little to do with division and analysis,
and much to do with union.
~Marilyn Sewell


 

NOTE: This post first appeared on the IBM Jobs Blog on March 30, 2017.

I wrote about authenticity here on Leading with Intention earlier this year: Be Who You Are.

I’ve also written about it on some of my other blogs – posts listed below. Did you know I blog regularly over at And Then Opens Possibility (inspired by my 2nd book of poetry) and Where Possibility Awaits (includes inspiring quotes with photos I’ve taken)? I’d love to see you over there.

* I took this photo of a Jay at Vila Taranto in Verbania, on Lago Maggiore, Italy.

Mind Your Words – They Are Powerful Seeds of Change

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All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind. ~Kahlil Gibran 

What did you just say? Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve said so far today, or if it’s early in the day, consider your conversations yesterday. How many words do you estimate you spoke? What was the impact of your speaking?

It is so easy for our words to just come falling out, without even thinking about what we are saying, or what we will create in the process of uttering them.

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.  ~Buddha

Think about the words others have spoken to you? Pick one person from the past week. What words did they say to you? What did you sense was underneath those words? How did what they said make you feel?

There is such power in words, especially when they are thoughtful and come from beyond the logic of our minds and are washed over by the kindness of our hearts.

Words are just words and without heart they have no meaning. ~Chinese proverb. 

We create with our words. Words are the building blocks of our thoughts. And our thoughts are the building blocks for big things – creative ideas that lead to innovative solutions, emotional connection with others that builds longstanding relationships, the way we feel about ourselves and how that impacts what we do in the world.

And, it’s not just the words we speak out loud to others. It is also the words we say to ourselves. Are you aware of how you talk to yourself? What are the dominant words that you tend to use?

Our words have incredible power: power to move us and others to action, to make amazing things happen, to create powerful change. How are you using your power?

Words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. ~Ingrid Bengis

Below are a couple of suggestions designed to help mind your words and to explore how they can create powerful shifts in your life and relationships.

Word Play

Experiment with using different words and noticing how they make you – and others – feel.  Some suggestions are provided below. Come up with substitutions of your own by noticing when something you say (to yourself or out loud) or something someone else says creates fear or negative energy for you. Then, consider other ways something that was said might be phrased to create something more encouraging or positive.

Instead of this word… Use this word…
Attack (e.g., attack barriers) Discover, overcome
But And
Criticize, correct Guide
Determine, decide, figure out Explore
Drive (e.g., drive change) Create
Explain Share
Have to Get to
Motivate Inspire, energize
Permit (e.g., permit action) Accept, allow
Problem, challenge Opportunity, possibility
Should Could
Tolerate Understand
Weakness Area for growth
Why What
Work Play

Reflection Time

Take a few minutes each day to give some thought to your words. Pick a time of the day when you will sit quietly in an introspective moment. For those of you following this mindfulness series, perhaps you use the time that you are already using for a mindful pause. Take a few intentional breaths to tune into the moment – like dialing in to a station – and consider what you’ve said in the past hour, to others or just inside your head to yourself, and ask what energy your are creating and putting out in the world? Is it what you want? How is it shaping yours or others’ feelings, beliefs and attitudes, choices and actions?

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. ~Mother Teresa

 


 

NOTE: This post first appeared on the IBM Jobs Blog on July 26, 2016.

I’ve written other posts here on Leading with Intention about the power of words and communication:

And below are some posts from some of my other blogs. Did you know I blog regularly over at And Then Opens Possibility (inspired by my 2nd book of poetry) and Where Possibility Awaits (includes inspiring quotes with photos I’ve taken) I’d love to see you over there.

* I took the photo of a sign outside of a shop in Santinilla del Mar, Cantabria, Spain.

Creating a social movement for organizational transformation

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I often learn without even realizing it. My view of the world is shaped not just by in-depth classes and formal developmental programs, but also through small bits of information consumed over time. Images or photos inspire fresh ideas, quotes provide different perspectives, and a personal stories invite trying something new.

This awareness led me to experiment with social ways of engaging individuals. With many colleagues creating formal learning programs (e.g., webinar series, online classes, in-person development events), I began dabbling with micro blogs, thematic blogs, curation blogs, various types of campaigns, and more. People began to approach me for insight related to the topics I was sharing – initially, career growth, personal development, and leadership, and most recently, mindfulness and resilience.

This was part of the foundation that resulted in my quite unexpectedly leading a mindfulness movement (read highlights) inside the organization I work. That experience carried over when I was tapped by my executive leadership last year to support our leaders in strengthening their resilience. Both of these initiatives took on a life of their own – in effect, they became social movements.

 

A social movement is a group of people with a shared purpose who create change together. A movement can support cultural transformation and shift the ways people behave and engage. Read more about the definition of a social movement here and here.

Others tapped into their passion and began to bring to life the possibility they saw for their teams and organizations. They shared and reused resources, they connected with  others who shared their interest, they started to co-create and seize their collective energy.

While I don’t claim to be an expert on creating social movements, I’ve been giving some thought to how I might have contributed to some exciting things happening in support of my organization’s transformation.

Top Tips

Put some “YOU” into it. People are hungry for connection, are inspired by something personal, and gravitate to what’s real. Tap into your interests, strengths, and experiences to engage and energize others in a unique way. Being too formal can create a distance between you and those you want to touch.

Meet others where they are. Sometimes other individuals are not able to see what you see or are not ready to join you. And, that’s OK. Where you meet resistance, take it as a sign the particular person or path may not be the way, and, either move on down the road, or adjust your course. Hold tight to your desired outcomes and loosely to your plans.

Be courageous. Finding co-creators who share your passion can be hard work. If you want people to connect with your ideas, they have to be able to find them. Be willing to go stand out in the field, alone and vulnerable, until someone else also sees the possibility out there and joins you. What you see and want matters. There ARE others who will see it and want it, too. They will come. Have faith.  (Check out Derek Sivers TedTalk)

My Truths

Passion is a powerful game-changer. Seizing your own and others passion is guaranteed to be messy, but the impact can be huge. Passion is not linear; it is chaotic. Passion is not additive; it is multiplicative. Without passion, you are just another sound in a noisy world. Sing your song with your special voice.

What you can’t see is real. Measuring transformation driven by passion can be difficult. Just because you can’t see or capture something, does not mean that it is not real or valuable. When what’s happening involves relationships formed, ideas generated, energy created, movement initiated, paths eliminated – all as precursors to action taken –  you may have to get creative with your metrics (think stories and pictures that show individual accomplishments and collective impact).

Trust others’ brilliance. Be intentional about how you engage with others – at every turn. Each individual with whom you engage brings something unique, based on their personal experience, work environment, and cultural context. Be curious about how you can allow open space for co-creation. Try leaning into what others see as possible and letting go of your preconceived notions. Avoid the temptation to want to ‘get it right’ and do things the way you are most comfortable. Openness keeps things moving, however messily.

Exploratory Questions

  1. What do you see as possible?
  2. What energizes and inspires you?
  3. How do you envision things being new or different?
  4. What impact to you want to have?
  5. What do others experience when engaging with you?
  6. What does being courageous and vulnerable look like for you?
  7. How do you invite people in?
  8. What does success look like?
  9. How can you capture your progress?
  10. What is the next small step you can take right now to move in the direction of creating what you see as possible?

Are you active in a cause that is meaningful to you? Are you leading a movement? I’d love to learn more about what you are passionate about and how you engage others on the journey…

 

* I took this photo in San Agustinillo, Mexico.

Great Leadership: Mindful = Radical

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Have you ever met someone new and immediately felt a strong connection? I had one of those experiences recently.

In my work, I have the honor of collaborating with truly amazing people. One of my networks centers around mindfulness, and a leader of the IBM Canada local practice group introduced me to Maria Gonzalez, bestselling author of Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others. From the moment I first interacted with Maria, I knew she was special. I love how she embodies what she writes and talks about. Just being with her invites calm, focus, presence, intentionality…she gives her undivided attention, brings an open heart, and follows the energy of the conversation. Before long the possibility of her joining as a guest for our 2nd annual Mindfulness@IBM Summit became a reality. (Learn more about Mindfulness@IBM)

I had the honor of interviewing Maria live last week on April 26th with over 3,00 IBMers enrolled in our 90-minute session about Mindful Leadership. I realized that many of tenets of her leadership philosophy directly aligned with mine, mine being rooted in Radical Leadership, which I learned from an amazing Master Certified Coach, Therese Kienast. I thought it would be fun to explore some of the unifying themes of these to incredible leader’s philosophies.

“A leader is anyone who is in a position to influence another person.” – Maria Gonzalez

 Everyone is a leader.

Leadership is about how we show up, not about a particular title or role. Maria defines a leader as anyone who is in a position to influence another person. Therese’s view focuses on the impact we have as individuals. I can hear her voice echoing in my ear: “We always have an impact, even when we do nothing.”

Even the smallest child can be a leader, any individual in any size organization can be a leader. And, the reverse is true, even the most senior executive in an organization might not be a strong leader.

Leadership is grounded in awareness.

Awareness comes from noticing what is happening in the moment – being present in the here and now. Maria defines mindfulness as ‘simply noticing the way things are’, and Therese defines a leader, in part, as someone who is ‘aware and awake to what it is’.

“A radical leader is aware and awake to what is, while completely responsible and at choice for creating what she wants.” – Therese Kienast

Leaders pay attention at multiple levels.

Therese taught me SOS – paying attention to Self, Others, Surroundings. I can place my attention and awareness on any one of these, and, on rare occasion, lightly hold all three in my field. Maria, too, speaks about the power of mindfulness at several levels – how it starts with understanding ourselves and expands out to others and all that’s happening. Our ability to pay attention to others, and to what’s happening in the larger context, starts with our ability to pay attention to what’s happening within us.

Leaders choose their narrative.

I left Therese’s Radical Leadership workshops with this question squarely in front of me: “What story am I making up?” It’s a great test of reality – so much of what happens in our lives is just the habitual pattern of stories moving through our minds all day. Maria, as a 30-some year meditator, speaks to how meditation helps us see more clearly the constant activity of our minds. As we become familiar with this constant chatter, we recognize when it shows up in our thoughts at work or with our relationships.

The power is in noticing. From this place of awareness, we become at choice. At choice for reframing our story, setting intentions for what we want, and taking aligned action that creates what we want (instead of more of what we don’t want).

“Mindfulness is not a technique, it’s a skill — one that you can learn. Mindfulness meditation helps to train your mind to become more aware and to stay in the present moment.” – Maria Gonzalez

Leadership develops by practicing, consistently and over time.

Maria presents a wide variety of mindfulness practices in her book. She believes that meditation practice is of no value unless it shows up in the way we engage with the world around us. So, her book is filled with practical activities that you can integrate into your life and work, such as doing one thing at a time and really noticing your experience of it, like walking and feeling your legs move and feet touch the ground, or visualizing your best performance.

One of the most powerful things I learned in Radical Leadership from Therese is to notice when I’m on the Trickster’s Triangle. That is, to notice when I am feeling like a victim, villain or hero, and with that as a trigger, pausing and taking a cleansing breath – and in that space, making a choice to either stay on course or take responsibility for my experience. Doing this repeatedly, day after day, I strengthen the muscle for reframing my experience, for being intentional and being at choice.

What I’ve learned from both amazing women is that, it IS as simple as taking a deep breath, or pausing to notice my breath, to bring myself squarely in the present moment…and from there comes an opportunity to clarify my intention, ground myself in what I want, and center on what makes me feel alive.

How do you define leadership? Whose leadership philosophy do you live by? What is it about their ideas that resonates for you?

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* I took this photo in San Agustinillo, Mexico

Optimal Performance and Amazing Outcomes

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Over the past 5 years I’ve increasingly been focused on the role of wellbeing and resilience for great leadership.

You sleep well and are well rested, so then you make smart choices about what you eat and drink, and then you have the energy to move and exercise, and then your body and brain are at their best, working together to support optimal performance so you can achieve outcomes that matter.

When we take care of ourselves physically, there’s a carry-over impact mentally and emotionally.

It’s a virtuous cycle. When we take care of ourselves physically, there’s a carry-over impact mentally and emotionally. We are better able to pay attention to the wealth of data available to us – to our experiences and the physical and emotional feelings we have, to what is going on for others in our family or teams, to what’s happening in our environment. And we are better able to turn these signals into insights that lead to ideas and vision, intentions and plans, questions and choices, and decisions and actions. Bottom line: we awaken to the opportunities before us and are best equipped to seize them.

My team creates leadership experiences for managers and executives. We’ve created online self-paced learning modules and delivered in-person learning events that deepen leader’s appreciation for the importance of taking care of themselves so they show up at their best and deliver amazing results.

There’s no better way to learn the true value of something than to actually experience it.

While it’s important to learn the facts about how something works and to understand its scientific underpinnings, there’s no better way to learn the true value of something than to actually experience it. Someone can tell you the importance of movement for fueling your creativity and show you all the physiological connections, however, it’s not until you actually move and notice its effect on your thinking that you’ll be inspired to move as a strategy for getting your ideas flowing.

Below I’ve captured some approaches we’ve been using to create a more holistic experience for our leaders.

The Overall Experience

  • Starting and stopping meetings at times that allow for eating, exercise and recovery time
  • Honoring mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon breaks where nutritional food and healthy liquids are available and there’s time to move around the building or environs
  • Offering a quiet room and hosting morning yoga and mindfulness sessions
  • Offering group walks and morning bootcamp exercise sessions
  • Providing optional 1:1 and group coaching for fitness, nutrition, and leadership
  • Hosting healthy receptions and interactive dinners that allow people to decompress together as they appreciate good food
  • Posting inspirational quotes around the venue to open thinking, offer fresh perspective, shift mindset

During the Sessions

  • Beginning sessions with a clear sense of purpose and storytelling to create personal connection
  • Applying design thinking and other interactive strategies that engage everyone, get them up and moving and interacting
  • Checking in on energy level throughout, incorporating stretching and movement to keep minds active
  • Building in pauses to reflect on our personal experience, consider learning, identify decisions, commit to actions, celebrate accomplishments, for example

Think about your day as an experience. Are there any of these approaches you could apply to your work and life? Are you planning your day so you have time for what’s important? Are you taking breaks, eating nutritious food, moving and exercising, feeling energized, socializing, interacting and engaging, reflecting on your experiences, finding purpose, staying inspired, feeling energized, celebrating your accomplishments? What one thing could you start today to create more of what you want?

Try a little “experiential experimentation” and give something new a try.

If you identify anything you do in your work and life that we might translate to our leadership experiences, I’d love for you to share!

 

Related:

Being Resilient: The Role of Regular Recovery

Sense of Purpose: The Pathway to Success

What Yoga Taught Me About Being a Leader

 

* I took the photo during a morning run along country roads when staying at the Double JJ Ranch near Rothbury, Michigan.