We welcome InnerWill Board Member, Guy Clumpner, as a contributor to our weekly blog.
“People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas and they are deeply self-confident. Paradoxical? Only for those who do not see the journey is the reward”
– Kevin Cashman
“Leadership from the Inside Out”
Here’s a question that I often pose to individuals and groups in my leadership facilitation work: “When was the last time you asked your spouse, significant other, friend, son, daughter, professional colleague or boss this question: “How can I become more effective?”
In no particular order, that inquiry is typically met with overbearing silence, quiet smiles, looks of confusion, shaking heads – or body language which suggests that I have asked them to describe quantum physics in 20 words or less.
“What kind of question is that?” Apparently, it’s one that doesn’t receive much focus. It’s also a question one that merits contemplation and acceptance if you acknowledge the notion the high performers crave feedback.
The human condition compels us to “tell vs ask”, through non-stop commentary, feedback, observations, judgement, and advice. We are telling machines.
In his groundbreaking work, author Stephen Covey encourages empathetic listening as he reminds us reminds us that we are constantly “projecting our own home movies on other people’s behavior… We are prescribing our own glasses for everyone we interact with”.
The human condition also supplies each of us with an inner voice. Too often, that voice deceives us with messages of unworthiness, inhibitions, inadequacy, insufficiency and disillusionment. Too often, when we see the world around us, we are prone to comparing our current state of being with what we perceive as something better. “If only I was that… ” The result is that we hesitate to demonstrate the courage to become better at “who we are” versus “what we’re achieving.”(That observation in no way diminishes the critical importance or value of getting things accomplished.)
The journey inward is about embracing feedback, tempering your inner voice and growing to a level where inputs and outputs become more balanced. It requires careful evaluation of what you might stop doing, start doing, or do differently. In the absence of credible feedback, how do you know where to start?
Are you a truly empathetic listener? Do you exhibit patience, attentiveness and body language that suggests your willingness to connect with others authentically? Do you make frequent trips beyond your comfort zone, or are you walled in on all sides?
If our thoughts and feelings about ourselves work against us, consider the role of language? Words frame our thoughts and shape our emotions. They matter. How often do we talk and make observations about being busy? We give too much credibility and currency to “busyness” in our culture. For a variety of reasons, if we can manage to stay busy, we somehow validate the ways we spend our time and energy. Finally, there’s this: Who asks, “Are you staying effective”? No! I’m too busy to consider being effective. (If that sounds a little awkward and funny … well, it should).The brave journey inward takes a lifetime and more.
Grinding down the less effective beliefs and behaviors and replacing them building more effective ones is the hardest -and most rewarding – work you will ever achieve as a leader. Your expertise (“What” you know) is important. Your ability to execute (“What” you achieve) is critical. However, in the absence of effective engagement (“Who” you are and “How” you show up) you are adrift.
Making improvement is challenging. Achieving mastery is daunting, but it’s where world class leaders go and thrive. Effective leaders are never finished learning: They are comfortable with nuance, experimentation, creativity and abandonment of what no longer works for them. They refuse to live in a fixed world, with a fixed perspective.
Embarking on the brave journey inward should be regarded like any other worthwhile and enduring effort: It requires focus, support, resources, encouragement, checking-in, feedback, and a sense of direction. It also requires courage and ability to love yourself every step of the way.Take the first step… and don’t look back.