Many truly great leaders have a trigger that once tripped eradicates composure, reduces executive presence, and strips effectiveness as a behavior they don’t want to exhibit takes over.
That behavior could be getting emotional, lashing out defensively, crusading offensively, withdrawing in defeat and others. At this point you are off your game and people not in this fight-flight-freeze trap can manipulate you if their motivation serves them to do so.
Everyone has a trigger. It’s where we feel most vulnerable - most hurt, sad, angry, undervalued, small, at risk, ineffective. In a nut shell it’s where we feel most alone. It’s like being immediately thrust to the edge of a cliff with a herd of rhinoceroses charging you and nobody there to throw you a rope.
Great leaders lean in not out from this feeling. They sense it coming, get curious about what the vulnerability is trying to teach them, nurture it like a puppy, throw themselves a rope...
Every year at this time I ask my clients to designate one word for the year that will serve as a homing beacon for when life is confusing. This year I chose the world "ALLOW." I wrote the word in sand at our beach house, took a photo of it and put the image in a frame on my night stand where I look at it each evening before bed and each morning before I start my day. I've been doing this for years.
The word ALLOW served me well this year. I prevailed in my work on a $4.6 million capital campaign for an important project that serves under-resourced patients, supported my mother in an independent living facility, was executrix on my uncle's estate, overcame health challenges, celebrated a milestone birthday with the people I love - all while in the stress of a pandemic where people were sick and dying at the hospital where I am its Foundation's president.
I ALLOWED what was out of my control while focusing my energy on what was in my control. And for me a lot of that energy went...
I am struggling with what we’ve been seeing in the world - the blatant lack of respect for fellow human beings. I’ve read everything I can on it, talked with close friends, ordered books that I think will help make sense of it all. It wasn’t until I stopped “seeking” answers and turned inward that I found what I was looking for.
I got out my watercolors, sat down on my front porch and painted a favorite scene of Hilton Head Island from a photo I had taken recently. In the solace of this mindful activity clarity began to emerge.
The world is full of scarred souls - souls who don’t know how to love because they’ve never been loved or feel they don’t deserve love. Love is the very basic of all emotions. Everything emanates from there. So if we can’t love, we can’t connect, be open, grow, be happy, feel liked, love others etc. When we are void of fulfilling emotions and don't turn inward to work on what needs...
Two nights ago I didn’t recognize myself. I got home from a wonderful weekend at the beach to find that all the packages that had been delivered were left in the rain in my driveway instead of on the porch. Many of my Christmas card envelopes had gotten stuck together from the moisture and I had been shorted 25 of them.
As I sat there putting labels on envelopes and trying to pry apart envelopes without ruining them I heard myself say, “I hate doing this. I don’t even know why I send Christmas cards” followed by a few words I can’t even write down.
Now, this is not me. I think all year about the photos on my Christmas cards. It’s my way of sharing a joyous hello. I love opening the cards from friends.
Finally, my husband had to tell me, “OK, that’s enough now” to shake me awake from my funk.
Perfection. Holidays inspire perfection. And that inspires expectations. And that inspires unmet expectations....
As you head into the Thanksgiving holiday please remember to take care of yourself. We often set expectations for holidays that set us up for disappointment. Or we’re sad about who won’t be there. Or we tire ourselves striving for perfection making a meal that gets eaten in 30 minutes.
Thanksgiving is a time when we appreciate all that we already have and already are - a sweet kiss to a child that lives out of town, a laugh shared over a family memory, a favorite smell, the touch of a hand that says, “I’m here and I love you.”
Remember to see people as individuals and not part of a scene you’ve prescribed in your head. Don’t let the holiday go by where you’ve not been fully present for at least one individual precious moment with each and every loved one, including your pet. And sometimes just pause, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I am grateful to feel good!”
All of our six children will be home...
I really like this graphic because it illustrates how we have to move beyond fear before we can truly learn. We can read and study about what we need to do but nothing really changes until we deal with fear first. After conquering fear there is freedom.
Fear is generally mired in life messages to which we affix assumptions. “I’m not ______ enough.” Unraveling those messages is difficult no doubt. We have to face them first. Examine the discomfort. Define how we feel about it. Welcome it in so we can own it. Not turn away. We can release what we own. If we remain victims and don’t own our discomfort it just keeps chasing us down and we just keep running away. That’s paralyzing.
Wishing you freedom today.
If you are struggling with uncertaintly and feel exhasuted and ineffective watch my FREE Training on Three Ways to Move to the Next Level In Your Career Right Now to 1) identify the right role for you, 2) position your transferable...
The past year and a half has held a lot of transitions in my life. My father passed away. I moved my mother into a nursing home. I had to sell my childhood home, become power of attorney for my mom which then made me executor for her brother’s estate when he passed away. I am now trying to sell his home and handle both of their financial affairs in addition to my job as a CEO, executive coaching practice, and a family with six children.
I felt as if I was living a peaceful life and one thing after another compounded more responsibility on me than I never expected. Yet during all of this is when I started to knit and paint with watercolors. Yesterday my husband said that I’m ‘calmer’ than he’s ever known me to be. I attribute that to my mindful daily practices and simple goal setting that give me confidence, connection and calm.
I’m busy just like everyone else. I don’t have time for long journaling. Neither do my...
If you have ever been in an escalating conversation that is confrontational you know how hard it is to maintain composure when your heart starts racing and every nerve ending in your body is screaming “Danger!” With practice you can be the master of your own behavior in these high stakes moments, pacify yourself and be the respected colleague people notice has grace under fire.
When you’re first aware that a situation is getting combative that is the sign to switch tracks before you’re on the runaway train of freeze-fight-or-flight. This is when your reaction becomes physiological - your voice quivers, your palms get sweaty, and your heartrate elevates. Most people fear that this lack of physical control will show and undermine their effectiveness. It’s important to regain control of your body’s reaction by accepting what is going on with you and creating space for it to calm down. Turning away from the discomfort is not the...
Often clients ask me how to have executive presence - how to remain calm in the face of feeling stressed, threatened and judged.
Mindfulness is key. Being mindful is being a third party observer to feelings we’ve leaned away from so that we may lean into them without judgment or the feeling of being swallowed by them. We observe the thought in the context of right now instead of forever feeling flawed.
Think of a bird in the sky sometimes flying erratically especially when other birds are attacking. The bird is your thoughts or emotions. The other birds represent perceived threats. Yet the sky is constant. Undisturbed. When we identify with the sky instead of the bird we identify with our AWARENESS of all the thoughts and emotions instead of being consumed with the affects of thoughts and emotions. Here we can stay calm. We can mindfully stay in the moment without judgment and observe the situation from a detached perspective. In this safe place we can...
Below is a note I recently received from a client that although makes me sad, it carries great wisdom. This high performing executive leader was leaving an organization she loved and had relocated for with mixed feelings. As is often the case, she was leaving because of her boss.
Good morning Mary Lee,
I have one more week reporting to this woman that has made the last 14 months of my life incredibly difficult. The exit process has been even more difficult.
In 20 years in the workplace I have never experienced anything like this from someone at this woman's level.
Every leader has opportunity, but I do not believe there are many who behave as badly as what I have witnessed over the past year.
I am also amazed how her leaders look away, an ostrich to this woman's behavior. I am not personalizing this (thank you Mary Lee), I understand it is simply inconvenient to disrupt the status quo or face the difficult conversations or the admit that perhaps it was a mistake to...
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