Monday, June 29, 2009

The View from Down Under

In coaching we invite you to "step outside of yourself" and take a detached viewpoint on your life. It's usually an effective way to gain clarity on what's really going on.

Flying halfway around the planet is another way to step out. The view from 7,500 miles looking back on my world is quite different than when I am living in it. I saw a billboard that says... "No leave. No life." So, perhaps this is what "leave"... or vacation... is about: stepping out and giving space to become an observer of my own life.

So, what am I seeing?

Well, it's a mixed bag. I see lots of gratitude, and some sadness. Gratitude for the opportunity to travel, to engage with friends in different cultures, to be alive and able to play and enjoy life. And, sadness... that life hasn't turned out according to the script that was written many years ago... looking at the ways "playing it safe" has trumped exposing a vulnerability or deeper truth. I see a guy with a strong inner critical voice that says "quit feeling so much and just live..." I see a guy that wants to connect in meaningful ways.

So, step out, friends. What would an observer see in your life?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

G'Day Mate

It's true that I can be a surly traveller. First to put on headsets and open a book when I sit down on an airplane. Don't get me wrong here... I'm appropriately polite to all service staff... flight attendants, desk clerks and the like... but don't expect to see me chattin up the folks in the bar.

So, I'm in Australia and everyone knows that Australian's are nice. So, I've decided to try something different. Being nice. Hmm. It works out okay. A friendly chat with an old local and a kid from Jersey (a sovereign island in the English Channel.. who knew?)in the bar last night. Friendly banter in the water surfing this morning.

I'm wondering if we were told that the French were nice would we be nicer when in Paris? I'm wondering how the world would be different if we were just pleasant with one another... less concerned with how someone might talk my ear off on an airplane, or challenge me with differing thoughts or perspectives, or?

What will choosing authentic pleasantness look like today?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Who has the power here?

Like many others, I sometimes “give away power” in my life. I give away the power to approve me, to validate or affirm my skills, ambitions, desires, dreams. I give away the power to define who I am and what it is that I will do with this life.

Over the years, I have cast different players into the power position. Who they are is less important to me than recognizing that they exist. So, the question for me is often, “who has the power here?”

When I am holding the power, I live in a place of self-definition, of being true to who I was created and wired to be, to the gifts and talents I’ve been given and that have been nurtured through years of success and challenge. When I give away the power, my gaze is on someone else, some other person that I have granted an extraordinary power to define me. Hmm.

The other day, I was speaking with a person I respect about an opportunity that is in front of me. My radar was on high alert because the conversation was invariably going to open up an old wound and remind me of a season in my life where I gave away much of the power to define myself. I asked the guy if he thought the events of that time would preclude me from consideration in this new opportunity. His response puzzled me.

“Well, that’s up to you,” he said.

I didn’t challenge him in the moment, but I listened carefully to his words. “It’s up to me?” It didn't make sense. Hmm.

After a couple days of reflection I began to understand. You see, the deal with giving away power is that it’s all going on inside of me. Not those I’ve given the power to. So, taking back the power to stand and live in the truth of being me is simply a choice that I alone can make. “It’s up to you” makes all the sense in the world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Act 2 Scene 42: VP from Corporate

The characters: Business unit executive with direct reports and the VP from corporate…

The scene: VP requests meeting with detailed progress reports from executive and the individual team members. At the meeting, VP is holding a report that no members of the team have seen, asking pointed and specific questions about data that the team was not prepared to answer. One team member admits that they have not focused on the area that the VP is drilling on. Meeting ends silently.

How might they have handled the situation differently?

In the debrief, we laid out the data above plus the story and emotions. The Team sensed that the VP was on a hunt and they were trapped. It was apparent that the VP was acting out of his own stress behaviors… someone had apparently hammered on him about an unrealistic new revenue target to which he had committed, and he was hammering on the team. Fear and anger were rising. Team members were fearful of where it was headed as other layoffs have occurred. Executive was angry that the team was blindsided. The meeting ended with unresolved direction and high tension.

"Huh. Isn’t that interesting?” So, when the group noticed their own emotions coming up… both fear and anger… they might have said…

“I notice that you seem to be focusing on an area that we are unprepared for, and that you don’t really want to talk about the prepared progress reports. What is it that you really want to talk about? What is it that you really want?"

By refocusing the discussion on what it is the VP really wanted, the team may have been able to give the VP a win without losing much. The win would have been getting him the space to clearly state what he wanted and to be heard by the team. My guess is the “real want” in this was some assurances around an unrealistic target. In the process, he may have owned his own fear or anger and gotten to the truth of his own concern that the unrealistic revenue target was indeed unrealistic.

What do you think?

Am I Listening?

A while back, someone said to me, “Wow, Vince, you’re such a good listener!”  It made me wonder what it’s like to be a bad listener!  So, I ...