courageous conversation

Want to be more confident? Transform Conflict into Courageous Conversations.

Conflict – constructive conflict – can present an outstanding leadership opportunity for positive growth and transformation, along with a deepened capacity for understanding ourselves and the world around us.

Transform Conflict into a Courageous Conversation

Transforming conflict into courageous conversations that achieve results can be thought of as an art form. First, it is helpful to recognize when we may be trying to dodge conflict altogether.

The reasons why we may wish to avoid conflict are many. Perhaps some of these statements sound familiar:

  • I want to be the person everyone likes, to fit in.
  • It’s better not to rock the apple cart.
  • I don’t want to get involved. What good would it do?
  • This is going nowhere. Why bother?
  • I might strain or erode the relationship.
  • I don’t know what to say or do.
  • What if I say something I later regret?
  • It would just feel too awkward.

Leadership conversations

To Authentic Leaders, Conflict = Opportunity

If you tend to see conflict as something to be avoided at all costs, I invite you to think of it in a fresh new way – as an opportunity to achieve greater levels of fulfillment. There’s no doubt: shifting unproductive conflict into a courageous conversation can have powerful results.

In truth, conflict in leadership and in life is unavoidable. Let’s focus on what you can do – as an authentic leader and as a human being – to transform that next conflicting situation into a courageous conversation.

5 Strategies for a Successful Courageous Conversation

1- Begin by listening loudly. Before you jump into the conversation, take time to listen – really listen – to what’s going on around you. What’s being said? Listening loudly doesn’t stop with your ears. Go below the waterline of what you can visually perceive to consider what might be happening just beneath the surface to influence behaviors.

2- Before you speak, pause. All leaders feel stressed from time to time. When we feel strained, we may say or do something that feels “out of character” or totally misaligned with our values. Instead of being pulled in by the heat of the moment and reacting instinctively, take a deep breath first to realign yourself before responding. And if that doesn’t work, then…

3- Press your internal “reset” button. Resetting allows us to come back to ourselves, to back up and punt when things are getting out of hand or feel overwhelming. Pausing, taking stock, breathing deeply, and then determining the “right” next move create the foundation you need to move forward most effectively. Whether it’s for a couple minutes or much longer, this is one restorative tactic you’ll want to employ again and again.

4- Change the way you view your world. What if there were no labels like “good” and “bad”? Imagine how much differently your perception might become if you viewed emotions as a gauge to help you understand when your needs are being met – and when they are not. You may find these resources from The Center for Non-Violent Communication on feelings and needs very helpful.

5- Clearly define your intentions. Even if this means scribbling down your thoughts on a piece of paper, it’s vitally important that you understand what your intentions are. Why? Because no matter what the situation, being able to articulate your intentions effectually increases your chances of achieving what you want.

BONUS Tip: Be mindful of body language. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, focusing on what’s being said verbally. Yet, over 90% of our communication with others is actually nonverbal. Therefore, make your nonverbal cues count – here are some body language strategies to know about.

Have courageous conversationFocus on the Benefits of Having That Courageous Conversation

I’ll leave you today with a powerful quote from Forbes author Margie Warrell:

“Issues that aren’t talked out get acted out in snide remarks and innuendoes, higher absenteeism and turnover, and lower productivity and engagement.

When you are discussing something sensitive, what is left unsaid is often what the conversation really needs to be about.”

Think about the positive implications of having that courageous conversation. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather bring up what needs to be discussed (even if it is a sensitive topic). When we break the chains of unproductive conflict, we discover the freedom we need to soar to new heights of fulfillment.

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Want to be a truly authentic leader? Lead with your values.

Authentic leaders go much deeper than their life story, what they have been through, or the issues they have. They embrace their true self and their ethical values along with their weaknesses and use their strengths to their advantage without worrying about what others think.

-Peter Economy, in 9 Powerful Ways Great Leaders Show Real Authenticity

You want to live – and lead – authentically.

This happens in a variety of ways depending on people and circumstances. For instance, you may wish to deepen your capacity to:

  • Be a leader your team can trust.
  • Influence others in positive ways.
  • Make a greater impact in your organization.

How can you achieve these lofty leadership visions? The answer might be simpler than you think.

Align with your values to lead with authenticity…

You can start building a firm foundation today to lead with authenticity by coming into greater alignment with your values. In fact, living your values is one of the five practices of authentic leaders.

According to Richard Barrett, living authentically in alignment with our values and beliefs is associated with the fourth level of personal consciousness, transformation. If you’re unfamiliar with the 7 Levels of Personal Consciousness, I encourage you to explore this topic at www.valuescentre.com.

At the transformation level, you get to know your authentic self and establish your own voice. Part of the journey involves a release of subliminal, fear-based beliefs around not being able to meet your most basic needs. These beliefs may have been holding you back from living your values and reaching higher levels of consciousness and of fulfillment.

In turn, this release allows you to begin the ascension process into the next three levels of consciousness:

  • Internal Cohesion
  • Making a Difference
  • Service

A word of caution here, though: only 30% of humans make the choice and exhibit the courage necessary to cross the bridge from the “me-me-me” mindset into that of the greater good. This gap in choice for levels of values shows that making the switch to higher values takes courage, practice and commitment.

3 Strategies to Live (and Lead) in Alignment With Your Values

To get there, here are three of my favorite tips to guide you to live in greater alignment with your values:

  1. Leave perfection behind. Instead, emphasize acceptance. Acceptance is not “giving in.” “Just accepting” a disagreeable situation is not what is called for here. Quite the opposite, conscious acceptance can support a creative approach to problem-solving – a win-win for you and your team!
  2. Express yourself. Truly authentic leaders express who they are. They don’t “fake it till they make it” or hide behind a false façade. They are rooted in who they truly are and have the courage to call it how it is, even going against the grain when the situation dictates.
  3. Stand your ground. Your values are uniquely your own. The desire to “be liked” – or outside circumstances and opinions – needn’t influence what is important to you. Of course, leaders can modify strategies or approaches to a problem. But, never alter your core beliefs and principles.

Over time, you’ll start to realize some appreciable benefits. As you’re able to bring the full range of your capacity to a situation, your presence will be more meaningful, powerful, and engaging.

You can’t force anyone to trust you. They’ll chose to when you are genuine and authentic, not an imitation of someone else.

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Iceberg Model for Leaders

Want to increase your impact as a leader? Go below the waterline.

As a leader, you’re well aware that challenges at work (and in life) are a given. From tight deadlines and budget demands to HR issues, it can feel like the minute one issue is solved, another is there to take its place.

Instead of emphasizing how to avoid disagreeable situations, what matters more is how you respond to life’s changes and challenges.

In leadership and in life, we all face challenging situations.

What about you? Can you recall a time recently when you faced a distressing situation? Maybe:

  • You took offense to something that a colleague said or did.
  • A disagreement at work escalated into an all-out conflict.
  • At a key meeting, you felt ignored when you shared your insights.

When we encounter a challenge, many of us respond with the familiar fight, flight, or freeze approach (or a combination of all three!). After the dust settles, we may find ourselves saying things like:

  • I can’t believe I said that. What was I thinking?!
  • I know I should have responded more effectively, but I just had to get out of there fast.
  • I wish I could have done something differently, but I just shut down.

At the height of the challenging circumstance, you’ll likely experience some unpleasant physical symptoms, such as:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Facial flushing; an influx of warmth
  • Muscle tightening and/or clenched jaw, fists
  • A knot or heaviness in your stomach
  • Breathing troubles – hyperventilation, rapid breathing

Impactful leaders know this simple secret.

Consider this question posed in a 2014 McKinsey&Company article, Lead at your best:

“Instead of that “fight, flight, or freeze” reaction, what if you could pause, reflect, and then manage—creatively and effectively—what you’re experiencing?”

The most influential leaders worldwide know that you can choose to respond more effectively. As you deepen your capacity to better manage your reactions, you’ll also inspire others to follow your lead.Iceberg Model for Leaders

You might be thinking, “That sounds great – but where do I start?” The answer is more straightforward than you think. It all starts with a simple metaphor about an iceberg…

We humans share an interesting similarity with icebergs. Moving along the open waters, at first glance it may seem that what you see is what you get – just a towering piece of ice broken off from a glacier.

The waterline only represents the tip of the iceberg (literally).

It’s when we take a moment to consider what’s going on below the waterline that we increase our ability to understand our behaviors.

In ourselves and in others, we tend to observe surface behaviors and actions. That approach isn’t particularly effective. Why? Because 90% of what’s really happening – what drives human behavior – is happening below the waterline.

With this analogy in mind, think about a time when you responded in a less than desirable way. Let’s explore what’s happening beneath the surface.

McKinsey authors Barsh and Lavoie present some thought-provoking questions that I’ve summarized below, but I strongly encourage you to read the entire article to deepen your perspective even more.

To be an impactful leader, go below the waterline.

1) Start at the “tip of the iceberg.” How are you behaving? What are you saying? Think about the impact your words and actions had in that moment…and beyond.Effective leadership

2) Dare to descend below the waterline. Be honest. What thoughts and feelings did you have, but kept to yourself? Were you influenced less than productive (but very common) desires to be liked, seek approval, or conform in some way?

3) Make a bold move by navigating deep waters. Ask how you can you bring your values into this situation. Meaning, what matters to you? What are your beliefs related to this event – and about yourself and others? Might these have shaped your response?

4) If you’re ready, dive even deeper. What are your underlying needs? What might be at risk for you in this situation? Can you define what your deepest desires are?

How often have you heard cliché statements such as “like attracts like” or “what you fear, you create”? Actually, there is truth to both statements.

Transform unproductive behaviors while deepening your leadership capacity

Say for instance that it’s important to you to be seen as calm and competent, and you often worry about “coming undone”. At work, a major project deadline is missed. Before you know it, you’ve just unleashed some harsh comments to a team lead in the heat of the moment. Your greatest fear just happened.

Enter: the iceberg metaphor. Using this technique can help you transform unproductive behaviors into ones that are better aligned with your core values and that produce more desirable outcomes. There’s a bonus, too: you may find that you experience a deeper understanding of yourself – and of those you lead.

Over the next coming months, I’ll be taking a close look at this topic, sharing tips and tools that will inspire you to think differently. So, stay tuned!

Take action today: try this quick leadership tip.

I’d like to leave you with a simple tool that you can start using right away: Before your next meeting officially begins, check in with everyone present. Have each person share a tidbit about what might be happening “below the waterline,” starting with yourself.

Doing this encourages more open, honest conversation while deepening everyone’s understanding of how their colleagues may be feeling. As you make this a habit, you’ll notice that meetings become more productive. Now go on, try it today!

If you’d like a quick burst of leadership inspiration delivered fresh to your inbox each week, be sure to sign up for my weekly Bolder Moves Messages here.

Purpose Statement

Why You Need a Purpose Statement – and How To Write Yours

Last month, I wrote about knowing your “why.”  Knowing your why is crucial to anything you do.

It can help:

  • Inspire you to remain focused on what’s really important
  • Deepen your capacity for meaningful introspection
  • Guide you to set intentions which will help you become all that you are meant to be
  • Help you make decisions more effectively – and mindfully
  • Save you time and energy by avoiding wasted effort on meaningless things
  • Help you create much more joy, fulfillment and, yes, purpose in your life

The deeper we can get down on the “why” scale, the better. “Getting ahead”, for example, will only keep us like a hamster in a wheel.

“Helping women leaders over 40 understand their innate worth”, however, will help us to narrow down our activities to those helping move this “why” forward.

Purpose StatementOne concrete way to get crystal clear on our why is to have a purpose statement.

This is different than a mission statement.

Forbes contributor Steve Cooper makes the analogy of your purpose being like your guiding light when the going gets tough. He also makes an important distinction between your personal purpose and a business mission:

“It might be easy to understand that your business mission is to create a suite of apps that will help educate children, but that doesn’t answer the question of why you are doing it.

What’s your personal mission?”

-Steve Cooper

The Oxford Dictionary refers to “purpose” as “The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” In other words, your purpose is very closely linked with your “why”.

A brief history on personal purpose statements…

Decades ago, the renowned author Stephen Covey recommended that we create a “purpose statement” as part of his now infamous 7 Habits of Highly Successful People –specifically, Habit #2: begin with the end in mind.

Covey observed that people were working harder and harder without enjoying the fruits of their efforts. Why? A deficiency of clarity and vision. He compared this to “pushing a rope with all of their might.”

How many times have we done the same? Pushing and pushing, like being on a continuous treadmill – thinking we are taking all the right actions and yet wondering why we are still so unhappy.

It’s because either we are doing the right things for the wrong reasons or because we are doing the wrong things. Either way, when we are not clear on our purpose, things get all muddled up in our heads and we begin living someone else’s life – or, at least, the life we think we are supposed to be living according to society’s or someone else’s standards.

We have forgotten who we are and why we are here.Purpose Statement

Purpose statements can help with that.

Today, some of the world’s most powerful leaders use purpose statements to set the stage for greater alignment with self, for growth and ultimately, for higher levels of success and fulfillment.

Here are some sample purpose statements from well-known business leaders, courtesy of this Fast Company article:

Sir Richard Branson, founder of The Virgin Group:

“To have fun in [my] journey through life and learn from [my] mistakes.”

Oprah Winfrey, founder of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network:

“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”

Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell Soup Company:

“To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.”

A purpose statement isn’t set in stone – a ‘one and done’ exercise. In fact, your purpose statement is meant to be revisited, revised…and sometimes entirely re-written. As you transform and understand more about yourself, so, too will your purpose statement evolve!

To take more of a hand in your own evolution, please sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.

Inspirational Leadership

How One Little Word Sets Inspirational Leaders Apart from the Rest

“Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we

have to, but because we want to.”

-Simon Sinek

Inspirational leaders often share a common attribute. They know the seed of success can grow from one small but powerful word: Why?

People inspired by their leaders will follow not because they’re being told to by someone in authority—but because they want to out of sense of shared values and beliefs.

Before you can motivate others, you must know your own “why” behind your values, your beliefs. It’s not about “how” you do what you do – but “why.”  More precisely, as long as we know our “why”, the “how” and the “what” will take care of themselves.

As you read through the following post, explore the “why” behind what really inspires you. As you do, you’ll find that you’re more easily able to inspire and empower those you lead to greater levels of success and fulfillment.

Inspirational Leadership

Understanding Your “Why” So Others Can, Too

In a well-known Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last,” brings home the value of knowing the why for your actions. He believes that people aren’t inspired by what you do as a leader as much as why you do it, and that what you do is proof of what you believe.

Sinek believes that the most inspiring leaders and organizations in the world share a powerful commonality that is in opposition to everyone else. He says they all think, act, and communicate in the same way.

Why Are Some Leaders Inspirational – and Others Aren’t?

If you’ve ever wondered why some leaders have the ability to inspire while others do not, Sinek says the explanation is quite simple: few people or organizations know the “why” behind what they do. Sounds surprising, right? But it’s very true.

Being driven by a cause, a purpose, or a belief will bring the right people to you who share those same values, who believe what you believe. And, says Sinek, those folks will work for you “with blood, sweat, and tears.”

Stop and let that soak in for a moment. By getting clear on your purpose, your why, people will follow you with their full selves.

So, How Clear Are You on the “Why” Behind What You Do?

Sinek masterfully deepens this concept: “But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”

Contrast this with the 70% or so of us humans running around on the earth operating from the outside-in. We can try (and “try” is the operative word here!) to get our needs of security, belonging and self-esteem met through others and, consequently, frequently feel disappointed and frustrated because we will never succeed getting from others what only lies within us. Living from the outside-in is therefore a set-up to a dissatisfying life and way of operating in the world. Living from the inside-out is another story.

To live – and lead – from the inside-out, start by finding your why – your cause – that drives you forward. Getting very clear on what your values are- and ensuring they are indeed your values and not someone else’s – s one sure-fire way to begin understanding your “why.” Another is to listen to that quiet, steady voice inside you, the one that has never steered you wrong.

4 Easy Questions to Help You Discover Your Why

This Forbes article has four simple questions you can ask yourself to better understand your “why.” Here they are:

1) What inspires you – what makes you come alive?

2) What would you say are your natural talents and strengths?

3) In what areas do you add the most value?

4) What matters most to you? How will you measure your life?

As you get clearer on what you stand for, watch as your team begins filling up with people who believe in the similar things you do. Watch as, together with you, these people put their all into manifesting the same, expanded results your vision had in mind.

Transformational Leaders Inspire Top-Notch Performance

Knowing that all-important “why” can guide you as a leader to use your own special combination of skills and strengths to excite and inspire both individuals and teams toward success.

Transformational leaders create the space for their teams to think bigger, to come up with creative ways to navigate challenges and to take on bold new projects. Transformational leaders inspire excellence from people through empowerment – rather than from “command and control” tactics.

Think about it – which of these motivates you more: Being “told” what to do – or feeling empowered…inspired…to move to greater levels of success? I’m willing to bet you’d rather listen – maybe even relate to – someone’s “why” than listen to a leader drone on about mission statements and goals that have little meaning for you.

Understanding Your “Why” Isn’t Just About You…

Having a clear understanding of your “why” has an important trickle-down effect. As others relate to and are inspired by you, others in your organization will also be motivated to reach their full potential as well. A win-win!

Honestly contemplating your “why” might open up new pathways you weren’t even aware of previously. Consider journaling for a week or two and scribbling down “why” you do what you do every day. I’d love to hear your results!

Looking for strategies on how to become a more inspirational—and effective—leader? Sign up here to access my free Weekly Bold Move.