Bridging Lives Notes: November 2018

Courage to Lead
Connecting from a New Center of Gravity
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I hope this note finds you in good spirits and health. In case you were wondering…yes, for a year I’ve been silent with Bridging Lives Notes. This is my first message in 2018. I’m happy to renew, reenergize or simply continue our connection.

First, a quick update: I have moved. After 23 years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I relocated a year ago this month back to Santa Fe, NM. Since NM is my childhood home, living along what I call the “SF-SF axis” is familiar, but feeling into a new sense of rootedness, home and meaningful belonging has called me out in new ways.
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I’m here by choice. That's in contrast to so many who’ve been displaced, uprooted or bereft of home due to man-made crises or natural disasters (special prayers to fire victims now in CA!). Even by choice, a move of this magnitude is a lot to metabolize and I feel blessed by what I’m finding. While there’s plenty to share about the journey, I’ll just say I’m sensing my way into a new experience of “home” and the Trust Walk I began decades ago continues.

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Today I write to you in celebration of courage. Over this past year, you surely have had to source deeper within yourself to face into challenges that have stretched you thin. My clients definitely have. I certainly have.

Some of the challenges are of our own making. Like taking on a new role with responsibilities well outside your domain of expertise, starting over somewhere far from what feels like home, leading the implementation of your innovative ideas into the unknown, etc. Some of the challenges are in finding a life-affirming response to the “crazy,” broken or out-of-control confronting us. Some are invitations to dance with the unknown and delight in what emerges.

Whatever your version is, I join you in celebrating each instance of courage you offer your world. In today’s notes, I offer resources that affirm and support as you continue to step forward.

Cultivating Courage as You Lead
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Courageous authenticity is essential for effective and life-affirming leadership. It's also essential for anything "transformational." While there seems to be a generalized uptick in the use of the word “transformational” in connection with almost anything, that “bigness” can ring hollow in the absence of courageous authenticity. There’s an art to courageous authenticity. While “speaking your mind” may be necessary, it is not sufficient. Why?

How are you looking for and cultivating courageous authenticity where you are?

Let’s start with the words themselves.
Courage is rooted in and takes heart.
Authenticity has to do with being true, sincere and not pretending.

Heart holds our core of care, from which all commitments flow. The root of the word courage comes from coeur in French, meaning heart. We first listen and hear what has heart and meaning for ourselves and for the other(s). We then take committed action (in language or otherwise) rooted in that heart, despite the risk. Conversational Intelligence™ guides us to engage in challenging conversations in this sequence: Care – Courage – Candor.

Discoveries in neuroscience have revealed that our physiological heart is literally a center of intelligence. As the most basic of our “hard-wiring” as humans, our “heart brain” enables us to be in sync and connected, sensing the safety of “friend” or the threat of “foe,” a fundamental impulse for all we do. The Institute of HeartMath has discovered that core cells of the amygdala (a center for our “threat” response) synchronize to the heartbeat and that heart signals especially affect the brain centers involved in strategic thinking, reaction times and self-regulation. “Put your heart into it” and “listen to your heart” take on a whole new meaning!
“Our capacity to be daring leaders will never be greater than our capacity for vulnerability. … Basically, and perhaps ironically, we don’t have the courage for real talk about courage. But it’s time. And if you want to call these ‘soft skills’ after you’ve tried putting them into practice – go for it.
I dare you.” - Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown
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Courageous authenticity asks us to expand beyond our conditioning, risk something worthwhile, all the while fostering resilience in ourselves and with others. It is ultimately about who you are in conversation. Truthfully, we can all be better at this. Coaching clients experience real value by mining here for pay dirt. Navigating this territory can be a minefield, no matter how well intentioned you are.

Learning to lead is often understood as a toughening up. We learn early in life to take care of our core needs, often with armoring and masks. To what extent is your leadership an expression of your true self – not masked by organizational politics, looking good, winning approval, etc.? If being transparent and expressing vulnerability are central to being authentic, then how do we do that skillfully, without getting mauled or marginalized in the environments where we lead?

We can easily be seduced into thinking that courageous authenticity means “outing” others for where they’re off the mark. But can you recall a time when that has actually worked out as intended?

Leadership research and practice strongly suggest that primary qualities people look to in their leaders are candor and courageous authenticity. As measured by The Leadership Circle Profile®, low scores in authenticity suggest that your behavior may be interpreted as inconsistent, expedient, or – at the extreme – unprincipled. You might be afraid of offending others or you might be caught up in political maneuvering. You might value equilibrium and “keeping the peace” over constructive conflict. You might submit to authority even at the expense of group effectiveness or service. If you’re interfacing with an “avoidance culture,” your attempts at courageous authenticity might not be valued or could seem to be penalized. Now there’s a catch-22.
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There are real distinctions between what Brené Brown describes in Dare to Lead as Armored Leadership and Daring Leadership. Below is her list of the sixteen most common forms of self protection exercised in the workplace and the daring response to each.

  1. Driving perfectionism and fostering fear of failure —> Modeling and encouraging healthy striving, empathy and self-compassion
  2. Working from scarcity and squandering opportunities for joy and recognition —> Practicing gratitude and celebrating milestones and victories
  3. Numbing —> Setting Boundaries and finding real comfort
  4. Propagating the false dichotomy of victim or viking, crush or be crushed —> Practicing integration - strong back, soft front, wild heart
  5. Being a knower and being right —> Being a learner and getting it right
  6. Hiding behind cynicism —> Modeling clarity, kindness and hope
  7. Using criticism as self-protection —> Making contributions and taking risks
  8. Using power over —> Using power with, power to, and power within
  9. Hustling for your worth —> Knowing your value
  10. Leading for compliance and control —> Cultivating commitment and shared purpose
  11. Weaponizing fear and uncertainty —> Acknowledging, naming, and normalizing collective fear and uncertainty
  12. Rewarding exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worth —> Modeling and supporting rest, play, and recovery
  13. Tolerating discrimination, echo chambers, and a "fitting-in" culture —> Cultivating a culture of belonging, inclusivity, and diverse perspectives
  14. Collecting gold stars —> Giving gold stars
  15. Zigzagging and avoiding —> Talking straight and taking action
  16. Leading from hurt —> Leading from heart

Where do you find yourself?
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What could courageous authenticity look like in practice where you are? Here are some options to consider and add to.

Where can you be relied on to…
  • Take tough stands with clarity and compassion
  • Bring up risky issues that others avoid (un-discussibles) while having it ok to be with what’s true
  • Openly address relationship challenges with curiosity and care for what’s really needed
  • Inquire, disclose and take responsibility for how your behavior contributes to current ineffectiveness of your group/team
  • Share what has heart and meaning with vulnerability for you without needing to be right or make the other wrong?

When we are open in our humanity, putting ourselves at risk for what we believe, then we create environments where we can share nascent or controversial ideas, give and receive authentic feedback, risk and admit mistakes.

People will listen. They’ll take heart. They might even pivot off of resistance and engage with curiosity in a spirit of partnership. This is a source of great power because integrity and authenticity are what people trust most.
Resources for the Road
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Here are some RESOURCES for further exploring and practicing courageous authenticity as you lead.

Check the links for each (click on the title) to see a video, get the actual article or connect to the podcast. By the way, each image on this entire Bridging Lives Notes page is connected to a link. Have you checked them?

  • Dare to Lead. In her newest book, Brené Brown challenges everyone to dare greatly and rise strong at work. This book offers hard-won wisdom about brave leaders and courage cultures. Brown's no-BS, conversational style makes this material so accessible. Daring leadership in cultures defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty requires skill-building around traits that are deeply and uniquely human. Courage is contagious and can be learned. Could her message be more timely? I love this book and recommend it highly. This Dare to Lead link is to a video you'll surely appreciate.
  • Cultivating Everyday Courage. In his recent HBR article, “Cultivating Everyday Courage,” James Detert explores what makes people competently courageous at work. There’s competence to be cultivated in each step: (1) laying the groundwork, (2) choosing your battles, (3) persuading in the moment, and (4) following up.
  • Dear Diary - self-awareness in action. Listen to this “Dear Data Diary” segment from Note to Self podcast. It puts a delightful spin on paying attention to what you pay attention to. Self-awareness is an indispensable key to all effectiveness and transformation. What one or two things could you count with new attention? What difference could that make to your leadership?

Find additional articles on my Bridging Lives Facebook page.

TLC for Leaders™ - Now Enrolling
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Ready for some transformation of your own?

Here’s a time-sensitive INVITATION for an exceptional opportunity. My latest Transformational Leadership Circle™ (TLC) is enrolling now and will launch in early 2019. This TLC is for women leading in science.

Transformational Leadership Circles™ blend individual and group coaching with the power of structured peer mentorship for a uniquely pragmatic and uplifting professional development experience. We take on tough issues and get to the heart of what capable leaders struggle with. You grow in effectiveness, creative resourcefulness and well-being as a leader.

Thanks in advance for sharing this with anyone you think might be interested. …
Your sincere desire to grow and contribute what matters most to you are met and cultivated here.

You are the Bridge to "Better"
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I'll be delighted to hear from you in response to the notes offered here.

  • Let me know what resonates for you in these notes.
  • Ask about ways we can focus on growth for you.

We can work together from anywhere – whether as an individual or in a group. You are, of course, welcome to meet me in Santa Fe, NM, but the distance between us is easily bridged from wherever you are.

Over the last two decades my clients have tended to be business owners and accomplished professionals in (1) STEAM-driven businesses (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics), (2) entrepreneurial businesses dedicated to sustainable enterprise (especially with B-Corp leaders) and (3) personal transition, reorienting to create a new path or impact. Whether a coaching engagement is supported and encouraged by your organization or you choose to invest in a coach yourself (responsive to what extends beyond your current workplace), you have options. Reach out and let’s explore what’s possible together.

For the work that's yours to do, you are the bridge to "better." Thank you for the important work you do and the leader you're becoming while you do it. I'm here as your ally, partnering with you to thrive.

Be in touch...and stay tuned!
Lead. Collaborate. Grow. Thrive!
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