My dirty little secret

One of the reasons that I left my job was to finally break free from the deepest layer of low self-esteem that I hadn’t yet chipped away at.

This probably makes no sense at first blush.

Why would I need to quit my job to work on myself?

Here’s the thing, for years and years I was able to be one of the star performers on my team without dealing with any of my deeply buried self-worth issues.

Sure I had worked through many layers of my own self-doubt over the course of my life, but I knew there was more.

It was my dirty little secret.

My low self-esteem still lurked underneath the surface in certain interactions, assignments, and meetings… and boy did I know how to hide it well.

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The Archer: A Zen Parable About the Most Critical Leadership Skill

After winning several archery contests, a rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer.

The champion demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull’s eye on his first try, and then split the arrow with his second shot.

“There,” he said to the Zen master, “see if you can match that!”

Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the champion to follow him up the mountain.

Curious about the master’s intentions, the champion followed him high up into the mountains until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy log.

Calmly stepping out into the middle of the perilous bridge, the master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit.

“Now it is your turn,” he said, as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.

Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless abyss, the champion could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at the target.

“You have much skill with your bow,” the master said, sensing his challenger’s predicament, “but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot.” 

This little parable explains why I focus on helping leaders learn how to handle difficult situations better than I’ve ever been able to do so.

We all face countless challenges in the workplace every single day. People rub us the wrong way, workloads become overwhelming, stumbling blocks and delays test our patience… to name but a few.

The emotional brain records everything. When leaders handle difficult situations poorly, people remember and respond accordingly.

So let me ask you… when challenges arise in your workplace, how ready, willing, and able are you to calmly step into the middle of that perilous bridge and focus your mind so that you can make the shot?

This is the only way you’ll reach your goal of cultivating a high performing team with healthy interpersonal relationships… or whatever your particular end goal may be.

It takes discipline and practice to reach this level of self-mastery.

And that practice needs to happen when everything seems to be falling apart, not when things are easy.

So the next time that life at work goes haywire, ask yourself, “What is this situation providing me the opportunity to practice?”

And then practice that.

Because every fiber of my being believes that we all have a Zen master hidden within us… just waiting for the opportunity to emerge and light the way for others.

How Mindset Eats Strategy for Breakfast When It Comes to Dealing with Conflict

We often fear conflict in the workplace because we’ve experienced the negative impact of poorly handled difficult situations.

When not handled well, conflict can absolutely take a heavy toll on individuals, teams, organizations, and even on our friends and family outside of the workplace. And it can result in lost time and energy, damaged relationships, and decreased productivity.

But if we set aside our past experiences for just a moment and take a look at a definition of conflict, it’s actually quite neutral:

Conflict can be defined as a real or perceived difference between what is important to one person and what is important to someone else. 

At work and in our lives, we cannot help but encounter differences in priorities, approaches, perceptions, and beliefs every day. However, conflict itself is not inherently good or bad, it’s the way that it’s handled that makes all the difference.

When handled well, conflict can actually have some very positive benefits, such as the development of new and creative solutions, better communication, and healthier relationships.

The question then becomes, how can we maximize the benefits of conflict in the workplace and minimize its negative impacts?

Mindset Eats Strategy for Breakfast When It Comes to Conflict

The most important place to start is your own mindset. As the saying goes, whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.

If you believe that conflict is bad, then when a conflict occurs you’ll be more likely to react from a fear-based perspective – i.e., in fight, flight, or freeze-mode. And your reaction will have an impact on how others respond to you. In essence, “When you’re scared, you’re scary.” (Anonymous) This type of interaction will probably result in negative outcomes, which will then reinforce your belief that conflict is bad.

On the other hand, if you believe that conflict is normal and an opportunity for something positive to emerge, you’ll be more likely to respond in a way that opens up communication – i.e., through personal reflection and dialogue. And this response will have a different impact (a more positive one) on the other people involved. This will increase the chances of there being a positive outcome to the situation and will reinforce your belief that conflict is normal and an opportunity.

Whether we like it or not, conflict will occur in our lives. It’s kind of like death and taxes. So, given that it’s inevitable, it’s important for us to examine how we think of conflict so that we can view it in a way that will help create the outcomes we want.

Mindset is one of the first pieces that I work on with clients in my Coaching Program. Shifting out of those hard-wired fight, flight, and freeze reactions takes commitment, patience, and effort; however, once this piece starts to fall into place, the conflict resolution strategies that we cover in the program become exponentially more effective!

So take a moment and check your mindset.

  • How do you currently view conflict?
  • How would you like to think about conflict?
  • How can you get into this mindset the next time you encounter a difficult situation in the workplace?

Wishing you happy reflections 🙂

How to Balance Empathy and Assertiveness in the Workplace

This time you’re ready.

You know you need to deal with a workplace issue head-on.

Maybe you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with a project… or maybe it’s about that incomplete report your staff member wrote… or maybe you need to stick-handle a friendship and a working relationship with someone.

Does this sound familiar at all?

You’ve geared up and decided that enough is enough.

One way or another, this situation is getting resolved.

Than it happens… The never-ending parade of annoying thoughts that flash through your mind.

Maybe I’ll just call in sick for the next 2 weeks and not deal with the project… but then when I get back it’ll be even worse… Ugh! I’m stuck!

How do I tell him that they hated the recommendations in his report without crushing him… he worked so hard on it. 

What if she freaks out when I tell her that I can’t spend so much time talking to her at work anymore? 

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