In one moment, I knew I’d eroded her trust in me. Recently I had one of those days where I should’ve just stayed at home. The kind of day where I felt overwhelmed caring for family members and too many deliverables in the hopper. Instead of paying attention, I ventured out and met a friend and colleague. She shared a decision and plans she’s making. My stress meter kicked in and I made unsupportive comments. I could feel the trust slip away.
We’ve all done it. No excuses.
It’s stressful days like this that the option of hiding under the covers isn’t possible. The question becomes, what could I have done better? And, what have I learned from this.
Stress and Trust are two very different concepts. And yet, put together the result can be devastating.
Let’s talk first about stress. We all have our own triggers and reactions to it. Yet we can learn to understand what it means for us, and the best way to go about our day without impacting others.
For me it’s spreading myself too thin, especially in caring for others. What is your trigger? Not enough sleep? Taking on too much?
Understanding our reaction to stress is equally important. I don’t focus and am distracted. This means I don’t practice active listening. I let my own narrative rule my head instead of paying attention to what others are saying and experiencing. And like my scenario above, I can blurt out instead of filtering my reaction.
How do you react when you’re stressed?
Unlike stress, trust is a delicate thing. Once we have it, we must tenderly nurture its presence. Philosophers have hotly debated the meaning of trust, but tend to agree that trust is a kind of reliance: to trust someone is to rely on them in a certain kind of way. We create trusting relationships that lean on the social construct of expectation.
My friend expected me to support her decision and be excited about her prospects. Her expectation represents her trust in me.
Trust is earned. But trust can just as easily slip away – often when we’re overwhelmed. This intersection of trust and stress requires that we be deeply in tune to what another expects of us and to show up wholeheartedly to maintain their trust.
And when we don’t? There is only one viable path forward.
I contacted my friend and shared how sorry I was for my reaction. There were no excuses. I acknowledged her reaction in the moment. I shared how sorry I was to be insensitive and to not provide the reaction she was expecting.
My friend responded with her truth and the willingness to talk about how we move forward as friends and colleagues. I am deeply grateful.
What have I learned? Just how delicate trust is. I’m facing my own imperfection in the face of stress. I’m committed to noticing when I’m overwhelmed and to act/react with integrity. And I’m learning that letting trust slip away is never an option.
The Internet is rife with advice on how to be self-aware. I’m not here to give you the top 10 ways of how to be self-aware. What I will do is help you understand why it’s the foundation of successful leadership.
Think of this blog as a “back to basics”. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know how often I refer to developing your self-awareness as the most important thing you can ever do for yourself.
Self-awareness means understanding yourself, as objectively as possible, and leveraging it to create a life that aligns with your natural inclinations – not challenge them.
Back in 1972, Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund published their landmark theory of self-awareness. They determined a person can focus both on themselves and their surroundings at any given time; they can think about what they’re thinking, doing, and experiencing.
Recent self-awareness research reveals that people use their external surroundings as a comparison of self to external standards.
Recent studies take this a step further in suggesting self-concept isn’t static knowledge garnered once, but rather it’s fluid, complex, and contextual.
In doing research for a training program I’m developing for new and mid -level managers, I combed my shelf of leadership books. While they’re written by the top leadership gurus, it’s Steven Covey who talks about the importance of cultivating self-awareness. He refers to it as the space between stimulus and response – the space where you can pause and make a choice. Covey believes cultivating self-awareness is one of the highest leverage activities we can engage in.
So what does all this mean for leadership? Likely more than you think.
Quite simply, the greater our quest for self-understanding the more we can predict, choose and be flexible in our behaviors and responses.
Let’s say you’re finding yourself overwhelmed and, as a result, short on patience. You know this is a pattern of response when your stress meter rises. Because you know this, you can make choices to manage your behavior. You may decide to take several deep breaths when you feel yourself tensing up. You may choose to take a short walk, or close your office door with a DO NOT DISTURB. This is where your positive self-talk can be critical in pulling you off the ledge of impatience.
Your own self-awareness is also a way of understanding how you show up to others. A client of mine was feeling distressed with her new directive-style boss. This style was in conflict with my client’s collaborative and affiliative approach. I suggested that both my client and her boss have blind spots on how others see them. This lack of self-awareness was contributing to the tension between them.
This knowledge produced an “aha” moment for my client. She admitted greater compassion for her boss and humility for herself. The way was paved for a productive dialogue between them.
As leaders in large organizations, my client’s example is common. In the quest to drive results, make a difference and meet incredible demands on time, leaders tend not to spend enough effort on self-reflection.
The more we reflect, the greater our awareness and the greater our ability to show up authentically and respectfully. It opens the space for us to pause and make positive choices on how we’ll show up. This, in turn, engenders trust with those around us.
By now you likely realize how impassioned I am about self-awareness. It truly is the cornerstone of authentic and effective leadership.
I said I wouldn’t give you advice on how to develop your own awareness. I will offer this. There are simple ways to set you on your journey including daily meditation, mindfulness, doing a psychometric assessment or coaching sessions that are scientifically proven to facilitate increases in self-awareness.
Are you taking the time to invest in yourself?
DISCLAIMER – THIS IS ADVICE ON SOMETHING REALLY SIMPLE
This spring and summer was incredibly busy for me – knee surgery, daughter’s wedding, elderly parents’ health issues… You get the picture. By August I couldn’t move! I had nothing left in my gas tank to give.
This wasn’t the same experience I’ve had of being overworked and completely burnt out. This was different. There were no specific issues bringing me down other than an accumulation of life events and other people’s needs of me.
The obvious thing for me to do was take a break. And I did. I re-calibrated by enjoying walking, spending lazy evenings with my husband and basking in the warm sun. Of course I didn’t disengage completely. I still worked with my clients and did the household chores. But I gave myself permission to slow right down and put myself first – no guilt, no shame.
It’s autumn now and I’m back in the saddle full speed ahead with my business, social life and energy to burn.
So why is it we have such a hard time giving ourselves a break?
I know, you’ve heard it before – especially if you have family obligations. How you have to take two hours to pamper yourself or meditate just so you can be alone. Great ideas, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m curious about why, when we’re in the middle of “our time”, does guilt rear its ugly head? That little voice in our head asks, “who am I to sit here lounging when there’s so much to do?”
If who’ve read or listened to Brene Brown you know what I’m talking about! And if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. She has the research to back up this intersection of guilt, shame and putting yourself first.
And here’s a reminder to you: you’re living your life for the long game – the marathon. You need down time to refuel your physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional selves.
Trust me when I say it’ll be worth it. A little magic happens when we remove ourselves from the daily grind, noise, or whatever else you call it. It forces us to slow the pace and look inward, which in turn enables us to become open. Openness is the key to aligning to your authentic self and seeing opportunities, possibilities, hearing what others are really saying and experiencing the beauty of the everyday.
Sound a little flaky? It’s not! Sure there’re times when the speed and intensity of your life increases. But living with constant haste should not be your normal. Giving yourself a break more than occasionally is actually how you’re meant to live. I’m not talking about mental health days. This is about building “you time” into your daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly schedules. Your life and those closest to you depend on it.
I went looking for an inspirational quote about guilt to end this blog. I couldn’t find one because guilt is really only useful when you’ve done something detrimental to yourself or others. It isn’t related to doing something right or good for you like taking a much-needed break.
So go ahead and give yourself permission to put yourself first and take a break. It’s that simple. Chances are, others will thank you for it!
A career success consultant whose blogs I follow, Kathy Caprino, wrote “How Authenticity Can Prevent Professionals From Growing Into Leaders”. I hit upon a paragraph quoted by Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader that knocked me over:
Don’t stick to your story. Most of us have stories about critical events in our lives that shaped who we are today and taught us important lessons. Consciously or not, we allow our stories… to guide us in new situations. But our stories can become outdated as we grow our skills and styles, so occasionally it’s necessary to alter them dramatically or even throw them out and start from scratch.
Not only was I surprised to read something original and fresh, I could feel the light bulb switch on above my head.
We not only allow old stories to guide us in the present, we run the risk of letting those stories define who we will be in the future.
And that my friends, can have a huge impact on your career success!
There’s two reasons I’m excited about this idea. First, I went through a tough period and after two years, a coach colleague of mine asked why I was letting my story define me? Why indeed! It was time to shed the crazy narrative I was clinging to. And quite frankly, it wasn’t doing anything except hold me back. At that moment I realized I’m the one that gets to create my own narrative.
I also learned the stories that got us here will not, I repeat, not get us to where we want to go. Think of the snake that sheds its skin in order to live and thrive. So too must we let go of the stories we tell ourselves, the beliefs that no longer serve us and the tried and not always true behaviours and approaches we’ve clung to.
There’s no place more important to adopt this perspective than in our careers. I work with many new senior leaders. The absolute one thing they share is the idea that what got them to where they are right now will definitely not get them to where they want to go. In fact, it’s unlikely they’ll be successful in their leadership if they don’t shed their skin. More often than not, this is what brings them to seek a coach.
Even the most accomplished leaders get caught up with their old stories and history, allowing these to blind them to what’s really going on in the present moment.
I worked with a client who’d lost her job months earlier. The story she told herself was about being victimized by her Board of Director’s mismanagement. She saw no other options than to be an Executive Director. She so identified with her story, she believed her only way forward was to vindicate and prove herself worthy of leading a similar organization.
We deconstructed her story and separated her emotions from the events. Through lots of work, she eventually realized her version of the story was holding her back from being open to a world of new opportunities. So powerful was this awareness that she ceremoniously let go of the old narrative. She’s since moved on to a whole new career based.
We all have the tendency toward a one-dimensional view, especially with events that have strong emotions attached. Holding our view long after the story is over can be a way of justifying our actions, soothing our fraught emotions or simply a way of making sense of a confusing or difficult situation.
Here’s the difference between a perspective based on what’s current and one that’s manufactured through the past, our emotions and imagination. A healthy perspective has us open to possibilities and unlimited ways of seeing things. It offers a respectful way of engaging with other colleagues and making good decisions. Ultimately, with old stories left in the past, our burdens can be lifted and we can be present and wholehearted.
How can you leave behind your old stories? I suggest these four practices:
- Begin by realizing you may be showing up with tainted lenses from your past – good or bad. Is there one particular story that’s emotionally charged when you think about it? One that still doesn’t make sense or one that you still talk about all these years later?
- Revisit each story one last time. Hold it up like a globe and look at it from different vantage points. See it through the lens of others and you’ll likely discover aspects of your story that weren’t quite as you’d imagined or believed them to be.
- Notice how the story may be getting in your way. It happened, it’s over. Be compassionate with yourself. Take one key learning from the story and let the rest fall away. You may even find it useful to symbolically let the story go by setting free a balloon or throwing a stone in the ocean.
- Hold the value of the learning close, tapping into it when you find yourself slipping into the past. The learning is all that matters and all that should influence your present and future.
As for me, I’m learning to not give someone trust without it being earned. I rarely think about the old story. It’s been shed. Since then, it’s not that my world has opened up, rather it’s that I’ve opened up to my world!
What stories are holding you back from career success?
Its no secret that social media has given birth to a new breed of entrepreneurs – the online, work anywhere, small team types. While I think this is a great thing (full disclosure: I’m one of them), I also have some serious hesitations about recommending it to my friends.
Don’t get me wrong; I love going from my bedroom to kitchen to office down the hall with latte in hand. And I answer only to my clients and me. But if you were wondering if it’s easy you would be completely wrong.
Let me explain by telling you how this type of business really works. Over the past couple of years since I began my business I have listened to everyone and their dog on the perfect formula for success, bought “courses” from other on-line entrepreneurs and learned lots I don’t need, and “hung out” with people via social media groups whom I actually have nothing in common with.
Before you click delete, this isn’t a rant. In fact I’m one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. So stay with me on this.
The truth is, there’s no easy path to being an entrepreneur. It takes time, commitment to your clients/customers, ingenuity, trials and failures, guts (of the intuitive kind), and sheer grit. Kind of fun really.
What I’ve found to be the toughest part though, is figuring out the great differentiator. Cause let’s face it, coaches, wellness gurus, candle makers etc. are a dime a dozen. What do I mean by differentiator?
Having a differentiator means knowing who I am and exactly who and why I attract certain people to work with me – and then capitalizing on it.
I know you know we can’t be everything to everybody. And yet for some reason, the majority of us end up unconsciously trying to do exactly that. Impossible!
So who are YOU? And why do you attract certain people? What are you doing that is so unique and special that others want in on your community?
No worries, you don’t have to answer that right away. Let me tell you how I’m doing it. I’ve ditched the formulas, stopped looking for the magic genie (think Marie F) and scrapped the launch of an e-course that’s ready to roll. Back to the drawing board cause the process just didn’t feel right for me.
Instead, I’m spending my energy to thoughtfully – eyes wide open – look at exactly what I show up with and how that is attractive to others. As a coach, people are buying me, my time and my expertise. So the question I’m faced with is what makes me different? What is that special something extra I bring to my clients?
The weekend before my webinar I had this queasy feeling that a piece of the puzzle wasn’t fitting. With the help of my Angel Amy, we’d spent hours on marketing, sales funnel and webinar in prep for the big launch. Of course it didn’t help I was heading into knee surgery in ten days.
As often happens, my good friend and fellow executive coach Diane called me on the phone Monday morning. After she asked about my launch I fessed up to having second thoughts and a hunch it related to the audience I was marketing to. Without skipping a beat, Diane piped up, “When I think of you, Eve, I think of women executives. Those are your peeps!”
Not only was Diane right, the truth is that I’ve always been a mentor to corporate women. I speak their language. I know what it’s like to climb, fall, dust off and keep going through the glass ceiling.
Even the majority of my current roster of 1×1 clients is new senior managers and executives. So why didn’t I make the connection? The answer is, I’ve been looking at what everyone else is doing and trying out their formulas and connecting with their communities. Guess what? It doesn’t work! It can’t work because I’m not them and they aren’t me.
So now, post-surgery, I’m switching things up to spend more time where it counts. My social media time has dropped significantly. Sure I’m still posting on FB and active in a few FB groups (love the professional Nathalie Lussier, beautiful Jennifer-Dawn Gabiola and super-smart Dr. Kelly Edmonds), but I know that isn’t where my people spend their days. They’re linking up on LinkedIn.
I’m getting back in touch with Eve, the professional, polished, caring, direct, insightful coach with dynamic presence and credibility that makes people feel like they just want to open up (actual clients’ words). This is my differentiator!
I plan to re-launch my course in early fall to my people and continue creating value and offerings based on what they want and need. This time it will be way easier, just like the rest of my business. Because when you know your differentiator and your audience, everything flows.
I’d love to know what your differentiator is. Go ahead and share in the comments below. Not sure? Drop me a line and let’s figure it out!
There are very few of us who can create and build a thriving business completely on our own. I admire those who can.
I don’t know about you, but I have a small list of go-to women (okay, plus one man) whose expertise and encouragement enables me to grow and prosper in my business.
Each person has some piece of the “must have” information, perspective or expertise that I don’t have. For example, my pal in Toronto is a marketing whiz. I have my content strategist who always steps in and grabs the details out from under me at just the right moment (in case you didn’t know I’m a big picture kind of girl). There’s my techie guru across the continent and my mastermind American coach/entrepreneur buddies who help me wrestle down my next big idea. And not to forget my own executive coach – she’s always got my back.
Grateful is an understatement.
Naturally, we all come with unique skills, experiences, and viewpoints so no two businesses will ever look alike. I’ve taken courses and bought the books; learned the winning formulas for this and that; tested and failed; adapted and flourished. And my truth from these experiences is that, yes, I can learn the logistics but I will never succeed to my own standard of achievement if I don’t bring ME to the business equation.
Let me explain.
I’m driven by my values of uniqueness and professionalism. Therefore, I believe that for me to be successful, I must bring my distinctive thinking and way of being to my business. And I must do that by using my expertise to provide my clients with a respectful, encouraging and authentic experience.
My differentiator in business is me.
I’m super clear on what strengths I bring to the equation. I’m also well aware of where I fall short.
I’ve always placed a high value on self-development and I’ve done tons to understand who I am and what makes me – well, me.
When I started my business I relied heavily on my strengths, and I still do. Unlike many people, I didn’t have fear or doubts. I didn’t have sleepless nights of worry and panic.
What I did have is a deep belief in myself.
And that, my friends, has come from being really committed to working on my personal and professional development.
Doing the work includes time, curiosity, coaching and a deep-seeded focus on the process. And now I bring a similar process to my business.
The best part is that I’ve created flow in how I run my business. I know what I’m good at and what causes me sheer havoc. I know how to shift things around to draw on natural strengths that minimize my stress when my computer crashes!
Why am I telling you all this? Because I believe we all have the capacity to succeed. And the truth is, we just need to understand our uniqueness and our qualities and capitalize on them to create our own flow.
I quickly became tired of the “formulas to success” – other people’s methods. I’m sure they work wonders for them, but not for me. Having my business isn’t about cutting corners. It’s hard work. And when I use my strengths and fill the gaps by hiring others who have those talents, I can move mountains and I am happy!
I tell my husband that my quality-of-life-meter when up 50% the day I hired a graphic designer, brand strategist and technologist. And it zoomed higher when I added my content strategist to the mix. You see I’m a knucklehead when it comes to labouring over details. Ask me to create the vision and I’m good.
By now you may be wondering why I’m focused on my business and what it takes to run it. Here’s the thing, this same approach, no matter what you do or where you do it is key to your career. Know yourself, understand your own process that works for you and surround yourself with top-notch people who are better than you at what they do!
My team gets me and I give them space to do what they’re great at. With them, I’ve created my own specific, unique and successful process for my business.
You get to where you want to be by knowing exactly who you are. (Tweet It!)
Personality profiling and assessments are a common and useful tool for coaches.
But, there are so, so many.
When I first started my coaching practice, I was overwhelmed at the sheer volume of tools available to coaches to help them help their clients understand themselves as the first step to development (personal or professional).
Most typically provide a self-report inventory (questionnaire) or other standardized instrument designed to reveal aspects of an individual’s character or psychological makeup. They are a way of digging a bit deeper into self-understanding.
Corporations, the military, and the government use them to understand different leadership styles and the dynamics of working in groups.
Personality assessments have been used since the 1800’s. The modern version dates back to psychologist Carl Jung – arguably the granddaddy of personality testing. Since then, many academics have developed variations on Jung’s work.
There are a myriad of assessments available which all offer many things to many people. Assessments based on the self-report inventory depend on how you answer or respond to questions or items in a survey. The more honest we are in our answers, the more likely the accuracy.
But not all profiling tools are created equal.
In my career, I’ve done at least eight different assessments and at face value the results are similar. They tell me I’m a big picture thinker, a motivator, spontaneous, and a people-person. All good information to know. But what many don’t do is give me my underlying motivations and how to use my strengths and understand my gaps.
For my practice, I went on a hunt. I wanted to find the personality assessment that would be of greatest value to my clients – one that doesn’t put us in a box.
In his blog, Peter J. Smyth, PhD explains why Lumina is different. Most other assessments measure you as having one or the other opposing aspects (eg. either one is introvert or extravert, outcome focused or people focused, flexible or structured – never truly both). Lumina incorporates the opposite aspects of your personality across a continuum. For example, you can have strength as an extrovert while still having some extroverted tendencies in your personality.
Lumina Learning offers our personalized portrait through three unique yet integrated views (personas): underlying, everyday and overextended self.
Let’s dig into these a little more.
This is our preferred behaviour. These qualities feel natural and motivate us. It’s our closest family or friends that get glimpses of us in our underlying persona. It’s my husband and daughters who see me in my imperfect yet natural glory.
Our everyday behaviors are the ones we make a conscious effort to use, especially when we take perceived expectations into account. For many of us, showing up at our workplace often means we adapt ourselves to the culture and demands of that environment. We may put on an outgoing face even though we’re more comfortable shutting our office door.
We all have those times when we’re stressed and start to use too much of a quality. This is when we are overextended. I know that when I get overwhelmed I can’t make a decision if my life depended on it. Naturally strong at making quick, solid decisions, being hesitant is a sure sign I need to take notice and slow down.
What I find so useful about looking at things this way is that rather than beating ourselves up for certain qualities, we can learn that certain traits only come out when we’re overextended. Consequently we can work to avoid putting ourselves in situations when stressed.
Or, say we’re feeling really great when we operate within our underlying persona. We can then work to create conditions that allow for more of that. Becoming a coach has meant I work at aligning my underlying self with how I show up in my coaching practice. It’s important to me that clients experience the authentic me.
We can use the understanding of how we function in our three personas to understand ourselves better in different environments and under different circumstances.
How then can we bring this level of deep self-awareness and understanding into our business? Check out more about Lumina by clicking on the Lumina link on my Corporate page!
The truth can hurt sometimes and we often find out our hard truths indirectly.
Maybe you’re left out of a gathering of friends.
Or a job you thought you were perfect for, didn’t pan out.
Of course, one-off situations like this are not cause for alarm but paying attention to patterns in the way people respond to you can give some clues as to where your blind spots lie.
Your friends tell you that you weren’t included because you aren’t flexible and it was a last minute event.
And the hiring panel provides feedback and tells you they need a candidate who is conceptual.
Do any of these stories resonate with you? If you’re like many clients I’ve worked with, when faced with a truth about yourself (from someone else) – you might feel gob-smacked.
The good news is that you’re in great company. Almost all of us have qualities we don’t have full awareness about. Or we believe we have certain shortfalls or characteristics and they’re not at all how we’re perceived.
How does this happen?
Let’s break this down by starting with how others perceive us versus how we see ourselves. These two perspectives could be miles apart like in the examples above. But before you jump to the conclusion that others’ perspectives of you must be the truth, it’s important to understand that self-awareness does in fact have two sides:
Internal awareness – your own perceptions of yourself
External awareness – how others perceive you
Now here’s the key – it’s as important to know who we are as to know how we show up in the world.
Let me give you an example.
I’m highly resilient but I hate conflict. I tend to avoid difficult situations and challenging conversations with others. In the way I see myself, I run to the hills when the going gets tough but I’m known to others as being able to handle high-pressure situations. Funny that.
So what does this mean? What I think of myself and how others see me in the frame of conflict is miles apart. There must be something here I’m just not getting. Shouldn’t the two perceptions – internal and external – be congruent?
Let’s dig a little deeper.
We all have a persona from which we think and behave. But did you know your persona could actually be broken down into three distinct personas?
You have your:
underlying persona – you at your most natural (this is where you get your motivation from)
everyday persona – how you tend to behave and how others might see you
overextended persona – who you are and how you react under stress
Lumina Learning, a tool that I use to help my clients build self-awareness, makes use of years of research and psychometric testing to figure out exactly how we show up in different situations and how to leverage the strengths in each area. Lumina testing measures 24 different qualities that make up you and figure out the amount of each quality for your three personas.
So when I was thinking about writing this blog, I became really curious about my tough quality. So I pulled out my Lumina Spark portrait and guess what I discovered? My peeps are right!
My tough quality measures at 3% when I show up in the world (everyday) but I have 64% toughness in my underlying persona. Hmmm. For years I’ve bought into the idea that I just didn’t have the ability to face conflict despite the fact that underneath it all I’ve got a fair amount of capacity for facing conflict.
So why is this?
Well it could be many reasons. But, I do know that even though I naturally have toughness, somewhere along the way I must have believed it wasn’t a “good” quality to have or didn’t value it enough to develop aligning behaviours. It really is just undeveloped.
Whatever the reason, the point how others see me is spot on. I know that people see me as being able to be tough when it’s called for. But my take on my own ability is off. So, now that I have that bit of information, I can focus on how I can show up comfortably (to me) and appropriately when conflict does arise. I actually have it in me to do it.
The same goes for when people perceive you one way and we know differently. When this happens, it’s time to sleuth out which is closer to the truth. And then put that strong quality to work or stop using up energy when it isn’t in you.
That my friends, is self-awareness!
It’s understanding yourself, as objectively as possible, and leveraging that understanding to create a life and business that aligns with our natural inclinations, not challenges them.
Curious and want more? I’ve got a FREE webinar May 12th that takes a deep dive into why getting to know yourself is critical for your business – Build your Biz by Being YOU!
For years I thought that competitiveness was non-negotiable – a survival skill, a tool of war, a race for first and the only path to success.
Growing up in an all girl family with three very smart and accomplished sisters, being competitive was the only way to stand out. I didn’t know any other way to shine.
It didn’t matter that I don’t have a competitive bone in my body. Who cares what my preference is – this was about doing what I needed to do. It was about fitting in, showing up and rising above my sisters.
Of course, this belief didn’t stop there. I carried it into my career and used my practice of competitiveness to climb the corporate ladder and step boldly into conversations and situations that made me cringe.
I didn’t know at the time that I was exercising a muscle that just simply did not want to grow (and didn’t need to, either). I always had a really uncomfortable feeling in my tummy when I attempted to be competitive. It bordered on traumatic. And yet this is what I thought was expected of me.
As I shifted my career to one of executive coaching, I focused on the process of self discovery. Not just what I’m good at or what I like but deeply insightful and disruptive learning about who I really am and what my natural tendencies are.
I learned one day that I have ZERO tendency for competition. This was equally earth-shattering and liberating at the same time.
On one hand, I had spent years trying to be good at something that just doesn’t fit.
On the other hand, I felt so free. I gave myself permission to sit back and watch while others fought the race. And the funny thing is that I wasn’t left behind. I moved at exactly my pace so I could be successful without the noise and stress of someone else’s game.
FINALLY, I could work with my strengths and stop worrying about anyone else’s expectations about what I should or shouldn’t be doing.
Here’s the beautiful colorful splash that set me free:
What is it, you ask?
It’s my personal Lumina Spark Mandala. No one else has exactly the same splash. It tells me where my strengths and tendencies are as well as my gaps or non-preferred qualities.
The mandala is made up of four quadrants marked by different colored energy. I have a high degree of yellow energy, which denotes enthusiasm and optimism, conceptual thinking and ease in social situations. Big Picture Thinking and Extraversion mark this.
The green energy in the top left quadrant speaks to being in touch with feelings and the ability to resolve conflict through listening. Inspiration Driven and People Focused mark this.
Red energy comes across as very direct and upfront. It can mean comfort with competition and the willingness to initiate and provide direction within a group. Outcome Focused and Discipline Driven mark this.
The lower left quadrant, of which I have very little, is reserved for organized people, having a penchant for evidence-based behavior. These are often our introverted friends who like to work independently. Introversion and Down to Earth mark this blue quadrant.
It’s not that we have one thing and not another. We all have all qualities to varying degrees – like a continuum for each characteristic. Unlike many other personality assessments, we aren’t one or the other of opposing aspects. We can have both – it isn’t either/or.
It’s not that I didn’t know myself before I used Lumina testing. It’s just that it provided insight that I just couldn’t put my finger on. It revealed truths about who I am that helped me step into those qualities instead of trying to conceal or override them.
All this to say it’s had a profound effect on how I manage my business. I continue to refer to my mandala and my Lumina Portrait to make sure that I’m not straying too far from the things that make me, me. I have to – my business depends on it!
What about you? Could your business benefit from a little more YOU?
What would you say is the number one barrier between where you are and where you want to be?
A) I don’t know where I want to be!
B) I know where I want to go but have no idea how to make it happen.
C) I’m scared!
D) I don’t think I have the skills/knowledge that I need to get to my goal.
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I remember taking a big sigh and letting out a lot of unwanted air when I stopped working for a large organization.
Slipping into my home office every morning with my hot latte felt like heaven – no chitter chatter, no one else’s lunch bag ruffling and best of all, not having to listen to the unsubstantiated theories on who’s going to get then next coveted job.
Fast forward a couple of years and I noticed my shoulders starting to tighten and my head slightly ache by the end of my workday. I don’t keep music on when I work, and my client appointments don’t take up every hour. So what was underneath this tension? These feeling were the same as I used to get at my former workplace.
At first I felt a little panic creep in. Was I headed to toward the big S(tress), god forbid. Was I afraid? You bet!
So then I started to purposely pay attention to what was going on around me. Where was I letting my attention roam? What was I hearing? What was I doing?
Eureka! I discovered that I was, in fact, in the early stages of noise stress.
But how could that be? My ears weren’t hearing banter, shuffling, clicking or muffled sounds of tense board meetings.
The noise was coming from my computer in the form of emails, instant messaging and social media in the form of a constant onslaught of written words aimed at grabbing my attention.
In my quest to feel “connected” with the world, I had managed to follow every successful on-line entrepreneur, coach, techie and writer out there! They all seem so smart and successful. I could learn from each of them. They could be my online mentors. And they offer great free advice.
And don’t get me started on Groupon and other online markets. Like a great fashion or home décor magazine, they have everything I don’t need!
Now I don’t for a second blame anyone else for enabling this noise – and it’s definitely noise – creep into my head. I did it to myself.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t take control over what you let into your inbox and social media feeds, the noise level will just keep rising. It’ll draw you into the care and feeding cycle of social media. Worst of all, it’ll impact your production, your time, your mental health and even your confidence (cause let’s face it, there’s always someone smarter, better looking and more creative in the virtual world).
So what to do? Here are 6 tips I’ve found to dim the clamor and relieve the tension in my shoulders:
1. If you work from home, keep your work email and social media feeds free from on-line shopping carts – after all, if you work in an office for a company you wouldn’t go shopping on work hours (I hope)
2. If you do work for someone else, leave your personal iPhone, or Android safely in the bottom drawer of your desk with the ringer and buzzer off
3. Schedule time once or twice a day to check your social media if you must; otherwise wait till evening – it’ll all still be there
4. Choose to follow only your top 7 on-line mentors – the people that you continually get value from and unsubscribe to everyone else
5. If you do subscribe to a new business/website to get their free opt-in or make a purchase, immediately unsubscribe afterwards. If you think they’ll give you ongoing value with amazing information, keep the subscription BUT drop another website/business off your list that isn’t giving you real value
6. And finally, be mindful of those who follow you and make it worth their while every time you tweet, write a blog, or email – make it your goal to be on their top 7 list!
I’m so glad I got afraid of the noise. It made me realize I only want a community around me who share ideas, believe in the idea of reciprocity, have something relevant to say and most of all, who I can give value to.
Now how about telling me how you manage the noise?