Meaning

Meaning: The Inspirational Thread Running Through Only the Most Impactful Cultures

“If you know the ‘why’, you can live any ‘how’.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Recently I led a CEO Roundtable in Lyon…the topic? Creating Meaning at work for leaders and their teams. And it was a lively discussion – this despite the fact we were all nearly strangers at the start of the meal.

Indeed, with the lingering effects of two years of COVID and now new, hybrid working models, the ever-present Ukraine upheaval and resulting dispossession from home for millions of people and drain on world fuel options, etc. – all of them are facing the unprecedented at-work crisis of depressed workers.

Absenteeism and resignations are at an all-time high. And these CEOs – already dealing with their own sense of chaos and loss – are simply out of ideas for what to do.

The Meaning Quotient: a New Concept for Leaders

That’s where meaning comes in. That’s why our discussion was so energizing.

Even in a country like France which most professionals would agree is behind the curve in understanding what it means to develop leaders, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is now a known factor for creating better relationships at the office.

But MQ – Meaning Quotient – was completely new to them. And, in my experience working with leaders across the world, they are not alone.

In their 2011 business strategy book Beyond Performance, McKinsey Senior Partner Scott Keller and Leadership Expert Colin Price point out that when MQ is low, employees put less energy into their work…they tend to see it as ‘just a job’/ paycheck.

But with high MQ, there’s a strong sense of excitement and challenge, a belief that “this matters” and “I can make a difference,” and a freedom to innovate and adapt to do “what’s never been done before.”

Clearly, then, meaning is worth learning more about and embedding more deeply into the day-to-day of our companies.

Leaders, we have the power to give our lives and careers meaning.

“When you’re surrounded by people who share
a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”
– Howard Schultz, Starbucks

As with the Lyon CEOs with whom I met, the route we choose towards a fuller life begins within each of us. Not only is this the only way to truly embody meaning in all that we do, but also role modeling what we would love to see more of in our organizations is a sure-fire way to get it.

Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries cites an example common to many leaders I work with:

As CEO of a large and profitable company, to the outside world, Philip {seemed to} ha{ve} it all.
But all was not what it seemed: his inner world was falling apart.
He felt that life was simply an endless task and felt he was drowning in a sea of other people’s needs.
And because he was never present on the home front – physically or emotionally – his wife left, and his children more or less ignored him.
He felt without hope and wanted a new life.

It’s a hopeful truth that several of the highly successful leaders – partners in upper-end consulting firms, VPs in tech companies and global humanitarian professionals alike – all reach a point of no return when they realize that the “why” they had been working so hard to fulfill up until now far from satisfies their inner longings for meaning.

Yes, the titles of status, multiple homes, and walk-in closets filled with designer goods can feel good – up to a certain point.

But when that’s all we are shooting for, we are setting ourselves up for emptiness indeed.

In his discussions with senior leaders, Kets de Vries found that a common thread emerged: most had a desire to become the best version of themselves.

But how do we get there?

Moving past our current selves and take control by targeting things that we can act on like defining and living our values and purpose is the only way to accomplish this.

Kets de Vries further writes that “life can only be meaningful if we give it meaning.” He breaks it down by noting that meaning applies to how we experience life by our valued goals: does whatever we are doing truly matter to us?

Here are some suggestions Kets de Vries offers on leading a more fulfilling life:

  • Define what makes us feel alive
  • Release the unpleasant relationships or situations around us
  • Convey empathy and compassion by kind deeds
  • Create more meaning at work
  • Be grateful for what you already have

What Predicts a Meaningful Life?

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others,
devote yourself to your community around you, and
devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
– Mitch Albom

Research has found that meaning in life is closely linked with a sense of purpose and direction. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. As Arash Emamzadeh writes in Psychology Today,

“…despite engaging in activities you consider meaningful (e.g., volunteering or teaching), you may feel your life as a whole is not meaningful.

In addition, people may perceive certain aspects of their worldview or self-view (e.g., occupation, talents, abilities, intimate relationships) as more meaningful than others.”

Meaning is Very Subjective

What may look meaningful to some people may not feel meaningful to us. It’s all about the meaning we give to, well, meaning.

My two little girls are the lights of my life. But I have also set a strong intention to be very present in their lives, which can be challenging at times. If I hadn’t had such a clear intention, then I could easily be one of those folks who claims to be Mom, but who also secretly feels resentful about the time and energy any sweet little being requires.

And while I definitely have my moments (lol), instead, I get to enjoy tremendous meaning with my daughters through actively living out my values of family and motherhood and my purpose of helping these bright lights live their own purposes.

And so it is with all of us: to what degree are we actually giving our attention to what matters most in our lives?

Believe it or not, research has come up with some predictors of a meaningful life, even if as mentioned above, how we each define meaning is indeed subjective.

These predictors are:

  • Existential mattering
  • Coherence
  • A sense of purpose

To Enjoy a Meaningful Life, Ask Deep Questions

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”
-Kofi Annan

We all deserve to experience a deeply meaningful life – in the workplace and beyond. In order to enjoy meaning at work and in life, we must first be willing to look within.

We may not think we have time to slow down for the space such contemplation necessitates. But as a single mom and successful business owner completing her second Masters (and buying her first property abroad!), I can promise you that none of these things would be possible for me without my daily quiet time. I would be too off-centered and veering in all directions otherwise. Once we are able to create some quiet moments for ourselves, Emamzadeh proposes a contemplation of some deep questions to gauge where we are on.

  • Existential mattering: If you had never existed, do you think the world would have noticed or cared? Do you believe your existence has value? What impact(s) have you made?
  • Coherence: Does it feel like you’re always in the middle of a windstorm, tossed to and fro in an endless cycle of confusion? Or does it usually seem that all the pieces of life fit together?
  • Purpose: Where is your life headed? Are you aiming for (and committed to) clear goals? Or does life feel fuzzy, like you’re not striving for any particular target?

These questions aren’t meant to be answered once then forgotten.

They are meant to be chewed on, creating space for realizations to come and then more chewing, deeper realizations, etc.

By regularly (and honestly) asking ourselves these questions – through mere reflection or through journaling – we can gain clarity on how meaningful we perceive our life experience to be in the present moment – and over time.

And clarity gives us the power of choice: we can them choose to shift where we put our attention so we can gain greater enjoyment – and meaning – through more of how we spend our time.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
-Viktor Frankl

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Trust

Trust Building: the Long, Slow, Unavoidable Process to Truly Bolder Leadership

Trust is the highest form of human motivation.
It brings out the very best in people.
But it takes time and patience.”
-Stephen Covey, Speed of Trust

In nearly every team I work with, trust – or some form of it – proves to be the missing link. Consequently, the real conversations aren’t had, people say “yes” when they mean “no”, and things generally don’t get done in the most optimal way they can. A break in trust is also the number one reason why individual leaders I work with feel blocked or unmotivated to carry out their work at the highest level of which they are capable.

And all of them are absolutely right: trust is at the very core of any – in and out of work – relationship worth having. Who wants to work with anyone who acts unreliably, out of congruence, or in a cagey, uncaring way? Not me. Neither does any leader I know who wants to do their absolute best work.

But many companies don’t yet see the value of distinguishing trust as the essential element in their operating models.

Impactful Leadership Starts with Trust

Indeed, trust is the foundation for just about everything meaningful we do, in leadership and in life.

This simple, 5-letter word can offer an impressive breadth of benefits to organizations large and small:

  • Enhanced productivity
  • More optimal results
  • Deeper meaning and sense of purpose
  • Greater creativity and innovation
  • Stronger collaboration
  • Higher levels of employee retention

Even better, those working in high-trust workplaces typically experience lower stress levels and greater happiness – which in turn fuels all the benefits above.

It makes sense: just ask yourself where you would rather work – in an environment that emphasizes a culture of trust and support – or one where trust is just another empty buzzword-of-the-moment? It’s a no-brainer for most of us.

Even though, sadly, many toxic cultures – and relationships – abound.

Bolder Leaders Know This Isn’t Just A “Feel-Good” Concept

“Trust has to be the highest value in your company,
and if it’s not, something bad is going to happen to you.”
– Marc Benioff

Trust has very real impacts at every level of the organization. Check out the results of a 2020 global survey, “Trust in the Modern Workplace,” of nearly 4,000 employees and business leaders in 11 countries. Commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted by Workplace Intelligence:

  • Employees who do not feel trusted are less productive: two-thirds (68%) say that the perception of low trust hurts their daily effort.
  • More than half (58%) of employees say a lack of trust affects their career choices, including nearly a quarter (24%) who left a company because they did not feel trusted.
  • Half of all employees surveyed globally (55%) feel a lack of trust impacts their mental health.
  • Low trust even hurts talent pools: one in five employees (22%) intentionally did not refer a loved one or acquaintance to an open role because they did not trust their company.

On the other hand, consider these powerful stats that compare people working at low-trust companies versus those at high-trust ones. In stark contrast to their counterparts stuck in a low-trust company, those at high-trust organizations reported (amongst other benefits like fewer sick days and way more energy):

  • 74% less stress
  • 50% greater productivity
  • 76% more engagement,
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives

And I can attest to this: ever since I became part of a global network of transformational facilitators who walk the talk and embody trustfully relating at every turn, my life, career and business has never been the same. Not that I or the system have always been perfect, but because I have felt held in my development by highly competent and deeply caring people, I have had the courage to overcome my limitations, to flourish and to give back to this community in whatever way I can.

This is how trust can be a virtuous cycle for all of us: the more we become trustworthy, the more we build healthy, more productive relationships, the more inspired we are to take ourselves and those we’re in relationship with even further in our skills and talents, then we become even more trustworthy at a higher level, etc.

There’s no way to lose with trust. And although bringing it about can at times require a focus of time and energy, once it’s there, the rewards are endless.

Simple Strategies to Cultivate Trust in the Workplace

“Trust is a currency; you can’t afford not to invest in it.”
– Juliana Vergara

In The Neuroscience of Trust printed in HBR, author Paul J. Zak shares several key strategies that leaders can implement to encourage a culture of trust. These were the result of Zak’s neuroscience research efforts, and if you care to understand the science behind his concepts, I highly recommend checking out the HBR article.

Here are some of Zak’s top tips for encouraging trust. The best part? Any leader can start right now to integrate these strategies into the workplace environment:

  1. Acknowledge excellence – and consider making it a public display. That’s because we can leverage the “power of the crowd” while also inspiring others to strive for their own version of greatness.
  2. Give others the benefit of following their own unique path. Once someone is trained in their role, give them the opportunity to figure stuff out. Why? It’s a powerful motivator when we let others know we trust them to figure things out.
  3. Be transparent. Cliché? Yes. But most people aren’t truly transparent – still withholding their truth. Furthermore, being transparent emphasizes a very real issue in many workplaces: a lack of clear direction. One stat suggests 40% of employees said they were “well informed about their company’s goals, strategies, and tactics.” For the other 60%, this can increase stress levels – and send productivity plummeting.

And this isn’t even mentioning the potentially lost opportunity in building trust even further with teams by co-creating the team’s/organization’s goals, strategies and tactics. Even better, co-creating our common purpose and vision is one of the most effective trust-building activities a company can engage in. Yet, most don’t think of these.

Another key trust building move which Zak doesn’t mention is being vulnerable to those around us – yes, even at work. In Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability Ted Talk, she reveals how showing who we really are to others – our thoughts, emotions, values and needs – can build trust in a flash. Indeed, choosing to remove the layers of protection so many of us armor ourselves with can convince others of our approachability, care and trustworthiness.

Navigating the Leadership Journey in Our “New Normal”

It seems the “new normal” that we all talked about for so long is finally here. In most places around the world, life has moved on: kids are back in school, employees have returned to the office, and life feels…well, anything but “normal” (if it ever existed at all).

Instead, most of us face mounting stressors in a rapidly evolving world. Our employees may be facing significant financial impacts, strained relationships, increasing roles and responsibilities…even food insecurity and long-term health concerns.

That’s why this is precisely the time to develop a high-trust workplace. The Center for Creative Leadership gives a strong, simple assertion: “Our research underscores the need for trust in organizations.”

Unsurprisingly, they cite many of the same reasons we’ve already covered – and then some. Think:

  • Alignment around a shared purpose
  • Confidence in taking risks
  • More authentic communication
  • A sense of community support

If we aren’t yet convinced, we need to be: trust should be the very foundation of our “new normal.” Our world, with its every-increasing ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty just can’t wait any more for real, dependable and meaningful relationships to develop.

Oh, and one more important tip before you go: Bolder Leaders know that trust begins within: we can’t give what we don’t have. Today, explore your inner feelings more deeply to connect to your intuition. In other words – trust yourself first. Then go out there and lead boldly 😊

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Listening

Deeper Listeners, More Impactful Leaders: How Really Listening is a Leadership Game Changer

“The quality of our attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking…
Attention is that powerful:  it generates thinking.  It is an act of creations.”
– Nancy Klein

It always amazes me how very simple acts can be the most powerful.  Like giving someone my full attention when she speaks.  As simple as it might seem, depending on my own levels of stress or fatigue, this can be the most challenging for me at times.

We’ve all been there: checking our phones for messages or in our minds jumping ahead to the next meeting or next part of the conversation.  First thing might just be understanding that we diminish our own impact when we “check out” of the conversation.

Then we can choose to listen more fully. With time, we may even notice that in addition to drawing people toward us more easily, we are actually also deriving more meaning from these exchanges.  At this point, we are probably also helping to create more meaning for the person with whom we are in conversation.

How well do you really listen when someone speaks?

Listening is a skill that we all could stand to deepen, not only to become more effective and successful leaders, but to enrich our lives as well.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
-Stephen R. Covey

Listening is a Basic Leadership Skill

Research says most of us will draw a blank on about half of what was said.  Do we really want to lead like that?

Good listeners are like diamonds – rare finds.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes in Fast Company that not only is quality listening an often ignored ability, but the skill of listening – and how effective we are at it – can determine our leadership potential.

He cites a study that revealed those who listen well oftentimes are better workers and have a greater sense of wellbeing. They are viewed as empathetic and interested.

We all might benefit from reflecting on these questions:

  • How much do I remember what my team says?
  • How often do I often interrupt?
  • While the other person is talking, where is my own mind (already focused on my response? somewhere other than what they’re actually saying, etc.)?
  • How often do I secretly harbor the feeling that I’ve got so much on my plate as a leader, no one could possibly offer anything that’s worth listening to?
  • To what extent do I believe that being the dominant speaker (rather than the listener) is what constitutes an effective leader?

It might be time to take a step back.

And truly listen.

Deeper Listeners, More Impactful Leaders

Julian Saipe brings up valid points in Forbes: young executives can sometimes be hesitant to admit they don’t know everything, while long-time senior executives may become confined in a rut, and do things simply for the reason that ‘they’ve always been done that way.’

As a result, a limbo exists: each maintains his/her own position without seeking new avenues, new opinions, new thoughts about doing things better. They’re not listening to anyone but themselves – and, even then, I would argue that they’re only listening to the fear voice and not the one of wisdom.

Additionally, society too often grooms us to push our views onto others. There seems to be a (scarily) widespread perception that great leaders are loud, opinionated and live by a “my way or the highway” mantra.  Just look at one of them who recently got elected to the highest position in the US…scary stuff.

Neither promotes creative or healthy work environments.  And neither leads to impactful leadership.

Listening to diverse opinions or perspectives encourages more inclusive work environments and higher performing teams, ones where workers know they are valued.  Innovation and productivity often flourish as a result.

“I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen.
Businesspeople need to listen at least as much as they need to talk.
Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”
— Lee Iacocca

Learning to Really Listen as a Leader

Listening makes better leaders.

Writing in Forbes, Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D. cites research that proves listening and better leaders go together.  Effective listening within a business setting has many positive effects:

  • Develops deeper levels of trust
  • Builds stronger team collaborations
  • Encourages greater levels of creativity
  • Engenders higher productivity

Every human wants to feel that we are important enough, worthy enough, to be listened to.  When we sense that what we are saying has little meaning or value to the other person, we become disengaged.  Imagine, therefore the effect on the people at work when they don’t feel listened to.

But how does one begin to listen more effectively?

Tami Corwin and Donato Tramuto writing in Fast Company offer a few tips:

  1. Be focused and present. Avoid distractions. Make a conscious choice to set aside time for genuine, authentic Simon Sinek suggests ‘be the last to speak.’
  2. Be curious. Ask many questions. Make listening an opportunity to learn.

Chamorro-Premuzic offers additional suggestions to becoming a more impactful listener:

  • Learn to see things from another person’s perspective by being empathetic.
  • Exercise self-control. Stop interrupting. Let people make their point.
  • Develop a reputation for being a good listener. Include everyone.

Like any other skill in life, listening is one from which we all can benefit by intentionally choosing to put our focus there. Today, I invite you to challenge yourself to listen with intention – the positive results may ripple out far beyond the experience of the moment.

“When we listen, we hear someone into existence.”
― Laurie Buchanan, PhD

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forgiveness

The Transformative Power of Forgiveness in Leadership

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age?

My will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness,
Forgiveness”

-Don Henley,“Heart of the Matter”

What word in our human language is so powerful when acted upon that it can dissolve anger, crumble away resentment, and literally change lives?

Forgiveness.

It doesn’t mean giving in. It doesn’t mean forgetting what happened. And it doesn’t mean that what another person did was acceptable.

Forgiveness goes beyond that.

It’s an acceptance of what took place – not an agreement – and a moving beyond it. When we let go of our hurts, we break the bond that holds us to the person (or circumstance) that hurt us.

Without that resistance, that grudge, we can create a space for healing, positivity, and success.

And for leaders, working in an environment free from the dark cloud of non-forgiveness creates a workplace that can foster greater success and fulfillment.

Forgive: It Has Great Power in Leadership & Life

Nominated for a Nobel Prize, Project Forgive founder Dr. Shawne Duperon noted the positive effects of forgiveness in the workplace, benefits that all authentic leaders strive for.

Forgiveness:

  • fosters a workplace environment where there is no judgement or condemnation for mistakes, thereby raising levels of productivity and encouraging a more engaged workforce
  • encourages higher levels of creativity that generates effective problem-solving & greater teamwork
  • attracts higher levels of talent, notably from millennials, who thrive in team atmospheres & will make up 70% of the workforce by 2024

Of course, it’s totally human to make mistakes. We all do it all the time.  Thing is, we can hold onto our grudge of ourselves or others, or we can see it for what it is:  just another human being doing what humans do.

Duperon explains that when we can move beyond not forgiving, it enhances the workplace in many areas.

“When fostered in business and leadership environments, you cultivate greater loyalty, adventurous creativity, and increased productivity,” she added. “Leaders make mistakes all the time. At least the good ones do,” explained Duperon.

When We Forgive, We Give

Without forgiveness, anger thrives. Grudges are held…and justified.

When we forgive, we give someone a chance to do better – without the negative cloud of anger hanging over their every move. Forgiveness releases both us and them.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
-Lewis B. Smedes

Sometimes stereotyped as a “feminine” leadership attribute, forgiveness is a powerfully positive trait that both genders of leaders should cultivate. Writing in Forbes, Manpreet Dhillon notes that of the other feminine leadership traits, such as empathy, collaboration and cooperation, among others, forgiveness is one of the most critical to nurture. She offers a few suggestions to incorporate forgiveness in the workplace:

  • Emphasize all the good that a person does, instead of focusing on the mistakes.
  • Discover why a person made a mistake. Many times, we assume we know. Ask.
  • Remember that generally, people are good at heart.
  • Talk with the person and learn how/why the mistake was made – and how it might be corrected in the future.
  • Self-reflect: Might you be judging people too critically, while overlooking their positive traits?

Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter notes that for a more positive future, leaders must forgive past wrongs.

The best leaders forgo the temptation to take revenge on those who may have worked against their climb up the ladder. “The most important aspect of making mistakes is to own them and learn from them so we don’t repeat them. This is how we move forward, rather than staying in the past,” Kanter notes.

Incorporate Forgiveness in the Workplace

Conflict goes along with the job of being a leader: it’s inevitable. Smart leaders know how to capitalize on the opportunity which conflict presents – the chance to work through difficulties, thereby developing closer relationships – and, from those, more connected and more productive teams.

A great leader knows the power of forgiveness and makes it an everyday part of the job. Others, however, may be tempted (as some people are) to hold and nourish a grudge.

Grudge holding and ‘making people pay’ for their mistakes have no place in leadership. Mahatma Gandhi summed it up succinctly:

“An eye-for-an-eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

One of my beloved professors, Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, writing in HBR, notes that unfortunately for many leaders, revenge is more the practice than forgiveness, explaining that we have an innate sense of justice that serves as a way of protecting ourselves. How ironic, though, that revenge actually ends up hurting us more than others.

The flip side, notes Kets de Vries, is that revenge only breeds more revenge. “When you cannot forgive the people who have hurt you, these feelings become a mental poison that destroys the system from within,” he noted.

According to Kets de Vries, studies have shown that the venomous effects of revenge and hatred even negatively affects our immune systems. Additionally, he notes, not being able to forgive fosters depression, hostility and anxiety, and is linked to premature death.

Be a Better Leader Through the Power of Forgiveness

Leaders – and our entire world – need to practice the power of forgiveness.

It is not always easy. Especially in this crazy world we live in where by and large higher-level values and behavior seem to have been swept under the rug.  Perhaps societal (and political, unfortunately) influences have touted successful leaders as hard and unforgiving, but not forgiving only fosters anger, resentments and hurt feelings, hardly a foundation upon which a healthy, inclusive workplace atmosphere is cultivated. Forgiveness is a key component of a heart-centered leadership approach.

Forgiving doesn’t condone wrong behaviors or actions. After all, we can’t change what happened, but we do have a say in how we accept and move past it.

Forgiveness gives us that space to breathe, move forward, let go, and learn from mistakes – a valuable skill we all need to nourish.

Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.
-Cherie Carter-Scott

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How Frustration – yes, Frustration – can be the Transformation Catalyst for Authentic Leaders

How Frustration – Yes, Frustration – Can Be the Transformation Catalyst for Authentic Leaders


“What I resist, persists.”
Anonymous


How annoying, but true!

When I first heard this adage, while sitting in a circle of other leaders seeking a better life, I wanted to scream.  After all, who wants to hear that the solution is actually embracing what frustrates us?  But then I sat with it a bit, and I realized that by working through whatever was bothering me, I would indeed be free because that barrier would melt away.

When I wanted to avoid a person, I started looking at – and working through – the shame and inadequacy within me.  Consequently, not only did I have fewer resentments around me, but my client list has also expanded.  When I wanted to hide from a work opportunity several notches above where I was, I applied myself instead, studying part of the new content every day.  In doing so, not only did I master my new role, but I also taught myself that I can indeed take on increasing responsibility.

So slowly, but surely, I became a fan of seeking out – and stepping into – whatever was challenging me at that moment.  And while, yes, at times heavy, that weight has only ever been temporary. In its place, I have enjoyed a mastery over a situation which once seemed to hold me hostage and, consequently, gained freedom.

In leadership – and in life – our most meaningful lessons can come in the form of triggers and upsets, some trivial, others life-changing.

No matter what, it’s up to us as leaders to see and use those situations as opportunities to rise higher to the next level.

Negative Emotions: Contagion…or Catalyst?

Not one of us walking this earth is immune to life’s inevitable challenges.  A missed connection we desperately wanted to have…a dropped opportunity that seemingly would have taken us to the next level…a lost promotion…health setbacks…relationship heartache…Doesn’t it seem that just when we think we’ve got everything “under control” … life throws yet another curveball in our path?

And if these obstacles get us as individual leaders down and out, what do you think the knock-on effect might be for our teams?  If we are not able to reframe our own experiences into something to learn and grow from, how do we expect to be able to inspire our team to do so?

“Most leaders, confronted with an upset team member, view negative emotions as a contagion to contain before it infects the broader team.
Or, they see them as a problem to be solved quickly so that people can return to normal.”
Dane Jensen, HBR

However, asserts Jensen, we can guide those we lead (and ourselves) to see uncomfortable emotions as powerful catalysts that can raise our awareness about what our real needs might be.  As such, we become happier, more fulfilled, and consequently more productive and focused in all areas of our lives.

Employee morale gets a boost, our teams discover new ways to unleash their potential – and best of all, the results are often meaningful, lasting and more impactful.

How to Transform Frustration into Motivation

What does frustration signify? That we need to persevere in finding more creative ways to go about realizing our vision.  Forbes contributor Amy Blaschka challenges us to think about frustration in a way that may be different for many of us – “As maddening as it can be to feel like you’re not making progress despite your best efforts, the frustration you’re feeling isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Here are some tips to work through frustration and rise above it:

Change the way “frustration” is perceived. Yes, frustration can be…uncomfortable…maddening…frustrating! But what if we started to think about it differently, in a more empowering light? Far from being an annoyance to be quickly cast off, frustration can actually be an incredible impetus to accelerated growth and creativity. As Forbes author John Hittler reminds us, frustration “acts as the required first step in the creative process.”

Consider if clarity is the bigger issue. Think of it as the “why” behind frustration. Ask honestly: “Why am I frustrated?” The answer might be a lack of clarity. When we’re spinning our wheels and can’t seem to find a way to motor out, it may be worthwhile to look within, rather than without to external circumstances.  This is why it’s important to get clear on our values and goals – and to reevaluate them as needed.

Decide if a detour might be needed. Remember that cringeworthy, worn-out phrase “It’s always been done this way”? Sometimes it’s hard to recognize when we ourselves have fallen into a path that just isn’t the right one for us anymore. If you’ve been hitting it hard for a while but those wheels are still stuck…consider moving past your own comfort zone.

Top Leadership Tip: Listen to Emotions.

This golden nugget is so important, it deserves special recognition. Emotions have much to teach, but many of us have been conditioned to stifle our feelings – labeling them as “bad,” “wrong” or “inappropriate.”  Yes, society, family and even friends tell most of us to keep those emotions in check.  Even more, most of our parents or other family members infused their beliefs into us during our formative years, impacting how we respond to our own emotions.

But that is where our own leadership of ourselves comes in: choosing to learn – rather than runfrom our feelings. This is the springboard for the most impactful leadership – of ourselves and others – because by learning from what holds us back, we break down the barriers within and outside us.  And isn’t that the quintessential idea of leadership in the first place?


“Frustration is fuel that can lead to the development of an innovative and useful idea.”
― Marley Dias


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