I am not the same person I was six months much less nine years ago. The journey to releasing my own potential began decades ago but it accelerated rapidly when my business crashed hard nine years ago. None of the efforts to clarify message, marketing or move my ideas forward gained traction. Only when I talked like everyone else did, were the ideas given credence. Stick in the mainstream and you are golden. Deviate and you will find yourself on the perimeter. Sliding down the slippery slope of believing that if I worked harder I could save it, the inevitable was unavoidable. In fairness, it was a year when many businesses crashed so I was not alone. Still, it felt like I had been slammed to the ground largely because my home went with it.
It was a gift. With the fall and dismantling of structure is the opening for releasing human potential.
No mistakes made. No regrets subtract from lessons and wisdom well earned. It was all part of a constant shedding of limiting beliefs to allow innate power and potential to emerge. Experimentation with removing all barriers to self-expression especially when confronted by judgment provided better insight into the transformational process from personal to organizational to global. Emotional awareness and calibration continued to release the past and open for new adventures. Along the way the path I took showed how and where societal expectations and social norms created habitual holding patterns. As if the internal challenge were not enough, the external challenge of not thinking, living or acting my age created questions about where I belonged. I could not help but wonder whether the contribution I could make fit in the world or had any value.
Looking back to the starting point, I recognize that I had repressed my own human potential swimming around in assumptions about how the world worked. Once you realize you are the one holding yourself back, there is nothing to stop you from releasing your deeper potential. The first step is to stop controlling what you can’t control, and start controlling your inner responses to outer events and experiences, which is well within your control.
Moving Mindset from Control to Releasing Potential – Reducing Stress
Mindset is defined as a personal frame of reference through which one sees, filters, and interprets experience with reality. It embodies the set of assumptions, methods, intuitions that self-reinforces unless given a jolt by reality or by conscious choice. What drives conscious choice? An epiphany, a spark of insight; perhaps a destiny call to stretch into new territory.
The command and control style of management is responsible for disengagement and suppression of human potential. This is not new news. Business innovation change agents have witnessed the suppression for years. Traditional big consulting houses are now monetizing the idea as a service package; a clear sign that mindset matters. Since decision-making in companies is driven by mindset and therefore not rational, the switch from hanging on to command and control to inspired innovation has dragged on. What are the leading factors powering a switch?
Context: In the code hardwired into the business culture are beliefs and values about how the world works. In companies where the mental/intellectual focus ignores emotions and what lies at the heart of the matter, reflection has become a coffee break and not an essential practice for navigating uncertainty. Little notice is being given to what is driving decisions.
Reflection: What beliefs guide your decisions? What beliefs drive business decisions? Are they clear or running on autopilot?
Strategy: Separate beliefs from values. At minimum, know whether the beliefs are serving a limiting or inspirational purpose. No navel gazing is required. Simply look at what assumption drove the decision and it will be obvious.
Action: Use the insights gained from a decision retrospective to improve the decision-making process.
Tenaciously hanging on to controlling the outer world is a strategy bound to have a health impact sooner or later. Biology dictates that outcome. Making the switch from using controlling others to controlling how you respond centres on awareness that stress results when a belief collides with reality. For example, if the culture you work in subscribes to the belief that people matter but that the business process is more important – you add pressure on yourself and everyone around you. Over-riding well-being with driving process increases stress. People implode (depression, mental health) or explode (melt-downs or violence).
Reflection: Who do you become as a person through the career-defining decisions? Who do you become as a person when you know what you stand for? How has the adversity you have faced and overcome strengthened your character, your principles, or your ethos?
Strategy: Look back at the most difficult decisions you have ever made. What value did the experience bring to your life?
Action: Observe workplace dynamics. How would you describe the personality and character of the decision-making environment? Does it encourage or discourage risk-taking?
Most people value high quality relationships. Habits characteristic of a traditional control mindset involve finger-pointing and blame-finding. Little skill is required to point blame. Switching from blame to responsibility means increasing the quality of the conversation from divisive to unifying. For an example of what divisive conversations look like, the political environment in the US offers daily opportunity to watch the ripple effect of where attention goes. For unifying, observe places where progressive companies are serving to bring diverse communities together, where care is being given to the quality of life on the planet. Vulcan Inc, Virgin United, Virgin Pulse, and IKEA offer examples of value-based contributions. Difficult conversations can be held without making someone else wrong but it takes a more advanced skill set.
Reflection: How would you rate the quality of the conversations in your workplace? How about the ones you run in your mind? Empowering or repressing? How comfortable are you with conflict and with having difficult conversations? Can you rise above the need to be right? Can your company rise above the need for perfection and replace it with a more empowered stance?
Strategy: Take a high level view with your team to observe habitual patterns that are holding your workplace back from achieving more. Approach the conversation with a relaxed focus with no need to wrestle the task to the ground.
Action: Working with the inventory of habits, decide which habits are getting in the way of more effectively working together, and of having better quality conversations. Then accept responsibility for leading to select better habits.
What steps of courage will you take in the next 30 days to do things radically different?
[Originally published in the Huffington Post, October 27th, 2017]
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