Build Your Leaders

Archive for the ‘self awareness’ Category

Getting Goals Wright

May 6th, 2013

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright liked to share a story from his childhood that he said helped shape his philosophy of life. When he was nine years old, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his rigid, reserved uncle. When the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him and pointed out their tracks in the snow. The uncle’s were straight as a line while young Frank’s tracks meandered all over the field.

“Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle observed. “And see how mine aim directly at my goal.”

Years later Wright would say, with a twinkle in his eye, “I determined right then, not to miss most things in life as my uncle had.”

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The Power of Listening

April 1st, 2013

I often think how much easier my job would be if only clients followed my advice, yet I know better. I am more effective as a consultant and coach when I help clients find their own solutions.

When I share a problem with a friend and he or she says, “What you need to do…” I bristle. All I really want is for my friend to listen. Clients must feel the same way. Most need me to just listen while they find a solution on their own.

Al-Anon (a fellowship for friends and families of alcoholics) teaches not to tell others what to do, but instead to share “our own experience, strength, and hope.” Others may relate our story to their own and see a solution they had not seen before.

I once worked with a young man who was passed up for a promotion and was unsure on how to proceed. “What do you think you should do?” I asked. “Quit,” he too-quickly replied.

I then told him about one of my first jobs out of college; I was constantly making mistakes because I couldn’t handle multiple projects. Instead of facing an upcoming review, I quit. Months later, in a new job, I found myself in a similar situation. Only when I learned how to manage multiple details did my career advance.

My young client identified with my story and soon came up with a plan. He would ask his boss for feedback on his performance and ask what he needed to do in order to get promoted. He would then draft a development plan, review it with his boss, and seek his help. My client’s plan worked and within six months he was promoted.

As consultants, managers, and leaders we shouldn’t be in the business of just doling out answers; instead we should give others the encouragement they need to find their own solutions. Only then can real learning take place.

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How to Live Life with Purpose

February 3rd, 2013

In my work (and my book Engineer Your Career), I address four “Ps.” One of those “Ps” is Purpose. I’ve been thinking a lot about purpose. Identifying and  sharing my gifts–my special talents, skills, and attributes–is crucial if I want to live life on and with purpose. This summer, I found these two passages in Paul Ferrini’s book “Silence of the Heart.”

“You think the gift is ‘a doing,’ but it’s not. The gift is a ‘way of being’ that is effortless and exultant. It comes naturally to you. It immediately and palpably brings joy to others.”

“Whatever you do, you can express your gift. You don’t need a special role, a special platform.”

Over the past few months, I’ve been pondering how my life’s work can be more “a way of being” instead of “a doing.” I don’t have all the answers, but in Ferrini’s words I’ve got a direction.

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Become a Better Person: The 90/10 Rule

January 2nd, 2013

Nothing spotlights sagging self-esteem stronger than when people judge others. Growing up, I was the supreme judge. A fat kid (I had to wear “Husky” brand pants), I constantly put down others in an attempt to pull myself up.

Looking back, I had good teachers; my family members were masters in the art of judgment. Around the dinner table, we would take turns picking on and judging one another. It got so bad during one Sunday supper that my brother’s new bride fled the dining room; our cruelty had reduced her to tears.

Teachers used to preach, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.”   Even when I don’t verbalize judgments, I subtly communicate them and damage relationships.

I now know that judging serves me poorly. My judgments separate me from others, and above all I want connection in my life. I also know that self-esteem is an inside job; it must come from within, not by putting people down.

When judgments bubble up, they must be examined. Writers Carol Kurtz Walsh and Tom Walsh recommend applying “The 90/10 Rule.”  When judgment rears its serpent-like head and we experience a strong negative emotional reaction to another, assume that only 10 percent of our reaction is based upon the situation, leaving a whopping 90 percent that belongs to past.

When we consider the psychological principles of projection and transference, the Walshes’ counsel makes sense. A projection is something that we don’t want to accept about ourselves, so we bury it and then observe it someone else. Years ago, I was in a men’s support group in Atlanta. One man in the group drove me crazy. He was so emotional; he cried at the drop of a hat. Several years later when I began to experience my own shut-down emotions, I was able to reclaim my projection.

Transference occurs when we assign traits to someone that really belong to someone else, and nowhere is transference more apparent than in our primary relationships. I used to transfer negative traits belonging to my mother and father onto my romantic partners until I read the eye-opening imago work of Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. Hendrix’s research shows that we seek partners who have the predominant character traits of the people who raised us. He believes that we do this subconsciously in an attempt to heal old childhood wounds.

Old habits are hard to break. Although my self-esteem is much stronger than it once was, I still catch myself becoming judgmental toward a person or situation at times. When I do, I try to remember the 90/10 Rule and these wise words: “When you point your finger at someone else, there are four fingers pointing back at you.”

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