Byron's Babbles

Self-Awareness

The following is an excerpt from The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success.

 

 

Self-Awareness

By David Nielson

 

Patrick Lencioni wrote in the Foreword of the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0:

Not education. Not experience. Not knowledge or intellectual horsepower. None of these serve as an adequate predictor as to why one person succeedsand another doesn’t. There is something else going on that society doesn’t seem to
account for.

 

I believe that “something else” is self-awareness.

When the film Animal House was released in 1978, some of my closest friends from college were convinced it was a “documentary” based on their real fraternity experiences. As entertainment, it contains many funny scenes, lines, and some great performances by popular actors of the day. I’ve always thought it was a very funny film and it certainly highlights many elements of college-level humor and bad behavior for that time. That’s clearly part of the “funny factor.” It’s designed to entertain, not to be a model for young people to follow. That said, the film can teach a lesson about the consequences of stumbling through life in a totally carefree, reactive manner (notwithstanding the humorous futures identified for the key characters at the conclusion of the movie, especially Bluto, John Belushi’scharacter).

 

The characters didn’t seem to demonstrate a very conscious intent with high awareness. The characters were not unconscious (except maybe after the toga party), but they certainly were not totally conscious either. Being clear about the various consequences of their choices was not much of a priority. I have to say I probably operated similarly at times when I was that age.

 

My simple definition of self-awareness is having the capacity for introspection and knowing at any point in time what is going on with you. It means you can see yourself as separate from others and the environment and can focus on your thoughts, feelings, physical state, and belief systems. This capacity or ability creates the solid foundation for much of life.

As my mentor John Jones used to say, “Awareness precedes meaningful choice.” From an early age, making good choices is a big part of life. It’s near impossible to make great choices with no self-awareness. As someone who has been in the business of helping others with their own development for many years, I can say that it truly is impossible to improve yourself without self-awareness.

 

 

About David Nielson
David Nielson brings over four decades of corporate, Fortune 500, and private consulting experience in organizational change management, leadership development, and training. David has helped guide large-scale change initiatives and business strategy driven by ERP, mergers, restructuring, and the need for cultural change. He’s been a featured and frequent speaker at PMI, Project World, Chief Executive Network, Management Resources Association, TEC, IABC, Training Director’s Forum, and the Alliance of Organizational Systems Designers.

David has worked around the world delivering training and consulting Services. In all those years, those countries, those clients; David has observed, learned and collected great experiences and teaching points. David decided to work on a way to “give back.”  His latest book, The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success helps readers identify their definition of purpose professionally and personally to achieve conscious success.

 

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When Leaders Go Bad

This guest post originally appeared on the Giant Leap Consulting Blog.

When Leaders Go Bad

By Bill Treasurer

 

 

 

When you think of the word “leadership,” what comes up?

 

Most people view leadership as connoting the best of the best, the demonstration of high ideals, and living and acting with high integrity.

 

But as long as there have been leaders, there have been leaders who compromised their integrity.

 

In fact, the very first story ever put to the written word, The Epic of Gilgamesh, centers on immoral leadership. Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, brings us the idea of droit de seigneur, or “lord’s right”, which is the right of the leader to exercise jus primae noctis – the king gets to deflower the community’s virgins on their wedding nights. Why? Because he could, that’s why.

 

It’s the behavioral latitude, the “because I can” freedom, that necessitates the joining of morality to leadership. Just because you can do things that non-leader’s can’t, doesn’t mean you should. But it is also the “because I can” freedom that cause some leaders to lead in a compromised and self-serving way. The unwritten understanding that leaders and followers share is that when you’re the one who set the rules, judge others’ performance, and doles out the rewards, you have more power and freedom than those who don’t get to do these things. Others serve at your pleasure and are accountable to you, not the other way around.

 

Leadership is massively important, particularly during times of intense challenge and change. But leadership is also massively seductive. Leaders are constantly being told how special they are. Think, for example, of the privileges that leaders are afforded that non-leaders don’t get. Leaders get bigger office spaces, more agenda airtime, better perks, more deference, and fatter salaries. They also get less flak when they show up late for meetings, interrupt people, or skirt around policies or processes that everyone else has to follow. Even the simple fact that there are far fewer leaders than followers illustrates their comparative specialness. The fact that not everyone gets to be a leader suggests that they are born of a different cloth, a cut above the rest of us mere mortals.

 

Followers, too, as the hands who build the pedestals that leaders sit on, contribute to, and often enable, the embellishment of the specialness of leadership. Every time followers bite their tongues, say “yes” when thinking “no”, mimic their leaders’ style, or capitulate to unethical directives, the specialness of leadership is reinforced. Very often, the more special followers treat leaders, the more leaders start to believe in their own specialness. It feels good to have one’s ego stroked by eager-to-please followers, and, before long, some leaders start surrounding themselves with suck-ups and sycophants just to keep the pampering going.

 

Given how special leaders are told they are, is it really surprising that some would be seduced into thinking that they are “better” than everyone else, that they deserve more of the spoils, or that they should be free to act with impunity?

 

Should it really catch our attention that some leaders are more concerned with the privileges that they can get by being a leader, instead of being grateful for the deep privilege it is to make a positive and lasting impact on people’s lives when you’re entrusted with leading them? Is it really shocking that some would succumb to thinking that they are the focal point of leadership and not the people that they’re charged with leading? There really isn’t anything surprising or shocking about it. Hubris is what you get when a leader becomes spoiled.

 

While all of the real-time costs of hubris are high, perhaps none is as costly as the sheer loss of potential for all the good that could have been done–and all the lives the leader could have positively impacted–had he not become so enamored with his own power. The most damaging impact these “leadership killers” have is on a leader’s potential legacy.

 

The primary job of a leader is to develop other leaders.

 

Above all, leadership is a tradition that is carried and passed from generation to generation. A leader’s legacy is built by nurturing and developing the talent and skills of the people who are doing the work on the leader’s behalf during his tenure.

 

At the core, a leader’s most important job is not to acquire more power, but to help empower others so they, too, can find their leadership and do some good in this world, thus extending the tradition of leadership. The potential to inspire new generations of leaders gets snuffed out when the “leadership killers,” including hubris, are calling all the shots.

 

THINK ABOUT: How are your actions today going to affect your legacy tomorrow? What will those whom you’ve led in the past will say about you long after you are gone?

 

About Bill Treasurer: 

Bill Treasurer is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting and author of five books on courage and leadership, including the international bestseller, Courage Goes to Work. His latest book The Leadership Killer is co-authored with CAPT John “Coach” Havlik, U.S. Navy SEAL (Retired).

 

Giant Leap has led over 1,000 leadership programs across the world for clients that include NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, UBS Bank, and eBay. More at: CourageBuilding.com. 

Harvesting Time

IMG_4802I heard someone mention the thought of harvesting time this week. Really, I had never given much thought to the idea of time being something to be harvested. But, really it is something that we need to think about and be very deliberate about how we harvest. Most of the philosophical thought on time is spent thinking about the sowing of the seeds for harvest, but the timing and how we harvest is just as important. In agriculture we must have machines set properly and know the exact time when the crop is right – whether that be ripeness, moisture content, or ground conditions. We should also take this same care in the thought of the harvesting of our time.

Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.” W.E.B Du Bois

I love the quote above. As a civil rights activist and first African American doctoral graduate from Harvard University, W.E.B. Du Bois certainly understood the idea of harvesting as much out of the time we have available today – not for some other time that might be convenient. Even though I do not at all believe the socialist ideals that Du Bois did, particularly related to communism, I do share some of his other ideals. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Du Bois was not afraid to speak his mind regarding what he believed was best for others.” W.E.B. Du Bois represents a great example of how leaders are not always liked by all.

An important lesson to be learned from Du Bois is the fact that he used every moment for accomplishing good. We must consciously decide what we want to spend our time on. Time is our most valuable possession. Our time on Earth is limited. Therefore, we must be productive, harvest our time wisely, and improve the lives of others.

Leading With Natural Self-Expression

Apple 🍎 Instead Of Potato 🥔

Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head are great examples to use as models for leadership development activities. The idea for the original Mr. Potato Head came from a Brooklyn-born toy inventor by the name of George Lerner.  He developed the idea of pronged like body parts that could be pinned into fruits, and vegetables.  He sold the idea to Hasbro toys in 1952 and they developed his idea into Mr. Potato Head which sold for 98 cents. We love using Mr. & Mrs. Potato Heads as a model to use during our first gathering of each cohort of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program. I am also proud we are one of the largest distributors for Hasbro of Mr. & Mrs. Potato Heads. Pretty cool to get pallets of these great toys delivered.

Our sixth President, John Quincy Adams, said, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you’re a leader.” I would like to change this and say, “If you have been inspired to dream more, learn more, and become more, you’ve been engaged in a 3D Leadership gathering.” This is how I always feel, and I believe the attendees do too, after one of our 3D Leadership gatherings.

This past week was no exception. I was in Florida and at the last gathering I facilitated in Apollo Beach, Florida one of our teachers redid the configuration of his Mr. Potato Head and really inspired the group and myself. He took an apple from the table (we always have fruit available for eating) and used it as the body instead of the provided plastic potato.

His explanation is what blew us away. He told us he not want to be constrained as a leader by using only the standard, provided pieces. He did not want to be constrained by the pre-made holes for the then pieces to be placed – with the apple, he could put them anywhere. The key to what he was saying was “constraint.” I love that he realized he needed to break the shackles of what has always been done. He did not want to be constrained by the “standard” Mr. Potato Head design. He had not let himself be constrained and took chances to run with an idea that allowed for maximum success.

When we do not let ourselves become constrained by the standard ways that things have always been done, or the way things have always been thought about then our personal way of being and acting will result naturally in our being our best. This is really an ontological approach to leadership. Personally, I want to be a part of developing leaders that leaves the individuals actually being leaders by exercising leadership effectively as their natural self-expression.

By thinking about natural self-expression, I want participants to understand we all have a way of being and acting in any leadership situation that is a spontaneous and intuitive effective response to what we are dealing with. We also want leaders whose world view is not constrained by what already exists and uses symbols and ideas to foster meaningful change. I believe our young teacher leader was exhibiting these leadership dispositions.

Leadership development should always be future oriented. We need to continue to think outside the normal pieces provided in the standard package and look for ways to develop our own effective natural self-expression leadership skills.

We Must Listen For What Is Not Being Said

img_4774One of the things I love most about facilitating our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership gatherings is when participants say things that really make the group dig in and think. This is heuristic learning at its best. Last night one of our central Florida participants made the comment that as a leader she needs to “listen for what is not being said.” This caused a good discussion around the idea of why was something not being said or were the things not being said even known about to be said. That’s quite a mouthful, don’t you think?

So, how does one get better at paying attention to what is not being said? Good question, right?

Sometimes the challenge is on the end of the person or group communicating with us. If you think about it, we’ve all been in this situation, or at least I have. There are times when we just don’t have the knowledge, words, or correct vocabulary to express what we are thinking. Additionally, the other person does not have the emotional self awareness to convey what they are feeling to get their needs on the table for discussion. Furthermore, there are times when people are just afraid or uncomfortable to intimate their honest thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

We must, as leaders, listen for avoidance of topics, vague communication, or lack of knowledge. These are all cues that something may not be being said that should be. We can combat this by doing more listening than talking. Also, we need to listen to understand, not listen to respond with an answer. We should think more in terms of what is the right next question. Word clues are great to listen for. Finally, we need to pay attention to body language and other non-verbal cues that tell us the person or group we are convening with has more information that is not being told.

In our discussion, we decided there is to perfect equation for listening for what is not being said, but that we must be curious and listen for underlying issues or topics. We need to ask clarifying questions to make sure we we understand before moving on from a topic. Listen and clarify!

Get Some Sleep

The following is an excerpt from The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success.

Get Some Sleep

By David Nielson

One time I was working with a company with change-management issues. I thought I was doing a solid job for the company until one of the senior executives approached me in the hall and said, “Listen, David, I only have a minute, but I needed to ask you a favor. I need your help convincing the senior leaders about the value of the work you are doing, the value of change management for the company, and why we are investing in it. I’m sorry I don’t have more time to discuss it, but I’m rushing off to a meeting right now. We can talk about it more later.”

She rushed off to her meeting before I could really respond, and I didn’t see her the rest of the day. A deadly seed of doubt had been planted within me. I went back to my hotel room that night deflated. I thought, They don’t think I’m doing a good job…that what I’m offering the company doesn’t have value. I knew better, but I took it personally. I was afraid my time with them was coming to an abrupt end.

The doubt triggered my insecurities, and because I had low self-awareness, I was not in touch with what was happening and what the potential impact was going to be. I tossed and turned all night, extremely stressed about what was going to happen— and what I could do about it.

The next morning, I had a presentation to give to a group. I knew the material backward and forward, and all of my materials were prepared. I was tired, stressed, and insecure and did not have the awareness to predict what would happen next.

I gave the presentation and received a lukewarm response. I was asked questions that I did not answer very well. I was totally off my game. In fact, one of my colleagues noticed and asked me what was wrong after the meeting. My low self-awareness had a negative impact, not only on my presentation but also on my purpose of delivering excellent material, content, and support to the company.

I had to clear the air, so I found the senior executive who had approached me. 

Listen, I need more clarification on what you need from me to help you relay the value of what I’m doing.”

“David, we all think you’re doing a fantastic job. We all can see the changes within the organization. The trouble I’m having is clearly articulating those changes to the rest of the team. I just need your help in the proper language and examples of your work.”

Oh! I had gone straight to the dark side. As my wife puts it, I had a “disaster fantasy.” Sometimes parents have these dark thoughts if they don’t see their child for a period of time and immediately go to thinking something terrible has happened to the child.

Having a strong self-awareness will filter out these disaster fantasies because we are more aware of our feelings, thoughts, and triggers. When we begin to feel something is amiss, with self-awareness we can begin to ask questions, seek clarification, and assume the best based on our skill sets and abilities.

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About David Nielson

David Nielson brings over four decades of corporate, Fortune 500, and private consulting experience in organizational change management, leadership development, and training. David has helped guide large-scale change initiatives and business strategy driven by ERP, mergers, restructuring, and the need for cultural change. He’s been a featured and frequent speaker at PMI, Project World, Chief Executive Network, Management Resources Association, TEC, IABC, Training Director’s Forum, and the Alliance of Organizational Systems Designers.


David has worked around the world delivering training and consulting Services. In all those years, those countries, those clients; David has observed, learned and collected great experiences and teaching points. David decided to work on a way to “give back.”  His latest book, The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success helps readers identify their definition of purpose professionally and personally to achieve conscious success.

“Old Hickory” Leadership

General Jackson’s Home At The Hermitage

Our family had the opportunity to visit The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s farm and home, near Nashville, Tennessee, this past week. We love going to historical sites of past presidents and this one of our seventh president was awesome. General Jackson’s, as we learned he wanted to be referred as, home is very well preserved and cared for. Our tour guide, Stewart, was incredible and very knowledgeable. To be on the farm where General Jackson worked, stand outside the room where he met with other presidents, and be next to the bed where he died was awe inspiring and caused a great deal of reflection about the leadership of this great American.

Some praise his strength and audacity. My son and I had learned about his great military leadership prowess this time last year when we walked the grounds of the Battle of New Orleans where General Jackson led the defeat of the British and soaked up all the history. We learned how his servant leadership, dedication to his troops, and toughness gain him the affectionate title “Old Hickory”. Others see our seventh President as having been vengeful and self-obsessed. To admirers he stands as a shining symbol of American accomplishment, the ultimate individualist and patriot.

Andrew Jackson, the President, believed republican government should be simple, frugal, and accessible. As President he was very accessible and was know as the people’s President. By 1835, President Jackson had reduced the national debt to a mere $33,733.05 and would eventually pay it off, making him the only president to ever accomplish that feat. He was an ardent supporter of state’s rights, and individual liberty fostered political and governmental change, including many prominent and lasting national policies. Many believe it was his stubbornness and tenacity to keep fighting for what he believed was right that made him a great leader. There was a lot that happened in our great country under the many leadership roles that Jackson held during his lifetime. We can agree and disagree on his decisions and policies, but it is important to reflect on the General’s leadership influence and learn from our history.

A Focus on What Is Working

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

A Focus on What Is Working

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

In a problem-based world, it is very challenging to keep a leadership focus on what is working. We believe that focusing on what is working matters as a practice that builds appreciative resilience. Leaders are bombarded by problems every day. A focus on what is working pulls them out of that mindset of problem- and deficit-based thinking to begin to see what is right and what is good inside a team or an organization. Joan worked for a president who made this a practiced part of her leadership. She started every meeting with the question “What do we have to celebrate?” As Joan and other leaders in the room shifted their mind-set to uplift the stories worth celebrating, the entire feeling in the room shifted. The thinking shifted from “We have problems” to “Yes, we have problems needing to be solved, but we also are doing some things right.” 

This particular leader had several catastrophic events occur within the organization in a short period of time. Joan always noted that she started every conversation during those very difficult times with some version of celebrating the skills of the people handling those events.

Focusing on what is working inside a team or organization builds resilience for the individuals and the group by constantly reinforcing a drive to be excellent, not because of fear, but because their successes are celebrated. Celebrating what is working is like depositing resilience into an emotional bank account for later use. This bank account helps leaders deal with uncertainty, fear, and stress. In a crisis, a leader can tell others, verbally or through action, that their jobs, livelihood, and reputation are on the line, or they can share what is working well and uplift the drive of people to repair and rebuild.

It takes a conscious and mindful effort to focus on what is working. It takes the practice of pausing and thinking through the situation from multiple perspectives and asking powerful questions. This practice is easier in hopeful times, and we suggest that these are the times to begin the practice. If leaders practice a focus on what is working in hopeful times, they will find it much easier to do when a crisis arises. It is difficult to focus on what is working in times of despair, yet it is possible if one has practiced in times of hope. As leaders move through the element or state of despair, it is very difficult not to assign blame, seek justice, dole out retribution, or withdraw. In forgiveness, one must hold what is working close to one’s leadership heart, because a focus on what is working and forgiveness are linked together. Without leaders focusing on what is working or on what is possible, forgiveness cannot happen. 

Focusing on what is working well is a practice that trains leaders to seek out the appreciative stance and, in doing so, discover what can be built on and taken into the future.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

Forgiveness: Rising Again

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

Forgiveness: Rising Again

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

How do we put down the burden of nonforgiveness when carrying it seems so justified? There are so many experiences in organizations that seem unforgivable. People who are otherwise good betray others, become in one’s eyes untrustworthy or incompetent. In the larger world, there are acts that are perpetrated in hate and anger that seem undeserving of forgiveness.

When we first began the journey of exploring building resilience with appreciative inquiry, we wondered about what it is that opens the door to the possibility of returning to a state of hope, however transient that might be. We deeply understood that the practice of hope and a hopeful view offered the ability to find hope in the tiniest of places. In finding that hope and a hopeful view greater resilience could be created. We also recognized that tapping into strengths and capabilities in times of despair was a powerful sustaining force. 

As we read, thought, and worked with leaders, we began to recognize another element at play in resilience: forgiveness. It wasn’t something that just happened along the way. Leaders decided to enter into the state of forgiveness with grace and power so that they could move themselves and their organizations forward. In the appreciative resilience model, forgiveness is the most difficult element to practice, because in organizations, the thinking often is that people should be punished, removed, or banished. In forgiving self and others, a leader chooses to be in a state of acceptance of what is and begins to move forward from that place.

Forgiveness offers a place where dialogue can begin and change can take place. Practicing forgiveness is very challenging because of the sheer will it takes to enact. Forgiveness is a conscious act that requires one to examine one’s leadership and deeply forgive failures—others’ and one’s own. As one interviewee stated:

Forgiveness is one of the fundamental necessary things we need to have happen in our lives. I wish I had more. I wish forgiveness came easier to me. Forgiveness is very important. In any human system, you are going to have a problem with someone else. Somebody’s going to do something that offends you, or you misperceive and it is offensive to you; whatever it is, you see it as a slight or an attack, and if you hold on to that, you really can’t move forward in a human system together.

It is only through forgiveness that we literally have our minds changed and can see the possibilities before us. Forgiveness is a means of moving toward hope and sometimes of just living with what is unchangeable in our leadership lives. Forgiveness creates a space for leaders to let go of anger and hurt and look forward with realistic expectations.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

 

That’s A Little Too Far Out There!

This past weekend, at our Carolinas 3D Leadership gathering, I was recording comments during a planning discussion for a project they were working one. It struck me that at one point they went from talking transformation to the comment, “That’s a little too far out there.” I’m thinking to myself, “Uhm…if it’s going to be transformational, it probably needs to be out there.” I’ve always believed, and I we often see this; the idea that seems crazy at first turns out to be the idea that propels the organization forward or enables the desired transformation.

As I see it, passion, purpose, and capacity are the only requirements for coming up with and participation in “way out there” ideas. And, once the freedom to try out new ideas becomes ingrained in employees’ behavior, it can spread and transform the entire culture of your organization to be nimbler and more creative.

We need to create environments where we can challenge the status quo as if no one’s judging you. If being open and willing to try out new ways of working isn’t practiced and encouraged in the culture at the top of the organization, how anyone ever have the courage to voice their ideas?

The secret to truly agile and innovative organizations is this: they encourage and invite new ideas from all levels and see leaders at every level. So, next time you have that idea that might just go too far, voice that “crazy” idea regardless of your title or level; lead from where you are!