Bridging Lives Notes: January 2019

Succeeding Together
Power …Your Choice
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Tell me about "power" where you are.

Reflect for a moment and consider what power means to you - your capacity to lead, your capacity to co-create, your capacity to take on the tough problems and face into tough conversations. Your power to be fully and brilliantly you, at your best.

To many, "power" and "leadership" bring up a reflexive response of "that's not me." How often have you encountered people who lead but don't see - or don't want to see - themselves as leaders or powerful? Or on the flip side, how do you relate to people who inhabit positions of leadership but wield power in ways that disempower those around them? We talk about the "power hungry" and those who abuse power. But what about our desire to feel "empowered" and to grow in our power to create what is life-affirming together?

Earlier this month I offered Succeeding Together: Conversations for Moving from Blocked Brilliant to community members of the Santa Fe Business Incubator for their Building a Business Different series. What might be there for you?

Here's where we start 2019…

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Cultivating your identity and mastery as a leader includes diversifying how you perceive and interact with power. As a leader, this might be your "legitimate" power or "decision-process" power. It can be formal or informal, explicit or implicit. If "power" is essentially the energy to get something done, then let's look at what the source of that power is, how you use it, and what you use it for.

Let's start with "power over." If you have an "allergy" to power, then this is likely what you're reacting to. Where does "power over" come from? When you can control, override or overrule someone else's will, choice, or better judgment and cause what you want to happen, where did that power come from? How aware, discerning, and skillful are you when you use "power over?" When and with whom do you have the intended impact and when does your use of this power result in some kind of a mess?

Coming to terms with "power over" can be critical to your effectiveness as a leader. "Power over" brings up realities of hierarchy, domination, and victimization. It's the "realpolitik" of our professional and personal lives. The coercion of "power over" may be by design, as in declaring and upholding healthy boundaries or as in rules and requirements with damaging consequences for non-compliance. A “power over” type of authority also arises when someone possesses a special skill or knowledge that is useful to others.

When is "power over" necessary and a positive expression of who you are? What does "power over" have to do with agency and choice? When is "power over" the best or worst way to get something done, all things considered? How do you use "power over" so it's "right use of power?" When considering these questions, keep both intention and impact in focus. Where there are gaps there are opportunities for growth.

What happens when we bring self-awareness to any type of power?

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"Power to" might be the place where we make the greatest difference. Each one of us has some power in any situation. I mention this with particular empathy for leaders I work with who have reached their ever-loving limit about something; they temporarily feel at a loss or powerless to make the difference that matters to them.

We all get to that place somewhere along the line. It's where we've forgotten who we really are. Maybe it comes when we've taken on a challenge and feel out of our depth. Maybe it comes in the wake of what feels like a colossal failure. Maybe it comes as part of a major life change where what worked before no longer works as expected. It can come as we shed a version of ourselves, find ourselves unmasked, and have yet to inhabit the self who is emerging. In any event, re-membering oneself and re-sourcing your innate and inalienable "power to" makes a world of difference.

Cultivating our agency and our potential, we cultivate our "power to." Agency is the ability to choose and take effective action on that choice. We have to power to choose who we are being, where and how we direct our energy and attention, how we interpret and give meaning to anything, and how we respond to the invitations and challenges that life offers. This is the power of the human spirit to aspire, reflect, resist, persist, and prevail. We have the power to face back into a situation or relationship, regroup and give our "best" one more time. As the saying goes, "fall down seven times, get up eight."

"Power within" fuels and informs our "power to." "Power within" is surely where mastery comes from. This is the power of self-awareness, mindfulness, and practice rooted in connection to a greater sense of self, connection to the larger whole, and commitment to standing for the higher good. We see "power within," for example, in a person's ability to be curious, vulnerable, and courageous. Developing healthy, grounded, and resilient self-worth we cultivate "power within." We call on our "power within" when we challenge assumptions and beliefs with the courage to face into what's true now as well as what must be.

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"Power with" is arguably our greatest challenge and victory as leaders. Where have you experienced this as the skillful default mode of a leader? It is the power that arises when people connect and combine—their energy, ideas, talents, resources, labor, etc. Increasingly, leaders are moving from a reliance on rank ("power over") to a cultivation of links ("power with") to produce results. It can be painful and costly to insist on a "power over" approach when navigating complex situations; that's precisely where leaders are best served by engaging the "wisdom of the group" to open pathways for improvement. “Power with” refers to joining together and is related to the concept and experience of synergy. In connotes interrelated gain. Win/Win becomes an actual experience, not just a slogan.

Even when we value "power with" for the collective strength and common ground we gain, it can be hard to put into practice. We are wired for paradox. On the one hand, our primarily social nature predisposes us for survival and creativity rooted in connection, compassion and collaboration and - on the other hand - we're wired for individuation, competition, conflict. and self preservation, too. Especially when we're under pressure, our conditioning for and often unconscious reliance on "power over" can take charge. What behavior puts you on guard when working with someone who claims to be "highly collaborative" but, in your experience, isn't?

There's a dynamic interaction of the ME within the WE for "power with."

The secret sauce for "power with" is how it elicits trust and a willingness to experiment, discover, and create something better together. "Power with" elicits and multiplies individual perspectives, talents, knowledge and resources to make a different kind of impact. In practicing "power with" we have the opportunity to take care of our own core needs for safety, belonging, and dignity while also honoring those needs in others. "Power with" is rooted mutuality, open presence, and coordinated action for what is life-affirming for the "one" that is all of us.

Leading with Powerful Conversations
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What conversations are missing - or missing the mark - where you are?

Succeeding together is premised on powerful conversations. We learn and evolve what "success" means and coordinate action to achieve it through conversation. We create practically everything through conversation.

Research and experience show us again and again that leadership thrives on powerful conversations. For example, in her recent runaway best seller, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, and Whole Hearts, Brené Brown singles out the high cost of avoiding tough conversations. According to her research, that is the most prevalent and problematic behavioral and cultural issue that gets in the way of brave leadership and succeeding together.

Have you seen LinkedIn's 2019 report of Global Talent Trends? The overriding message of this report is that "soft skills" are essential for succeeding together: 91% of companies cited "soft skills" as an issue; 80% of companies are struggling to find better "soft skills" in the market.

Josh Bersin summarizes the report like this:
"The bottom line is this: we are working in a more dynamic, contingent, people-oriented world. While technology is getting more pervasive, it's the human skills that matter. Take the next year to focus on culture and building everlasting skills and relationships at work; it will pay off for you, your organization, and your customers."

The good news is: you have the power to change your conversations. As your conversations change, so does your power to engage and bring out the best in yourself and others. Especially under pressure. Especially when it counts. Your conversational intelligence® changes the game and how you succeed…together.

If you're aiming to achieve extraordinary results this year, let's talk soon.

TLC for Leaders™ - Now Enrolling
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My next Transformational Leadership Circle™ (TLC) is enrolling now. If you are a woman scientist eager to advance as a more empowered and powerful leader, you are invited to join us for a TLC designed especially for you.

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.

Your sincere desire to grow and contribute what matters most to you are met and cultivated here.

Thanks in advance for sharing this with anyone you think might be interested. …

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. 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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