Boundaries and Bravery

Boundaries are healthy and important, but can the idea of a boundary give us an easy out and prevent us from being brave and stretching ourselves?

Years ago, in a family counselling session, parents were complaining that their 25-year-old son living in their basement wasn’t employed or contributing to the family in any way. The parents wanted me “talk to him to get him motivated.”
These parents eventually learned that this wasn’t a motivation problem. It was a boundary problem. Motivation eventually followed when they set clear boundaries. Reality is a great motivator.

Here are five principles for healthy boundaries:

  1. Boundaries keep us healthy. Just as the immune system says no to unwanted bacteria and viruses, saying no to unwanted demands on our time keeps us healthy. Caring about others while suppressing our own needs, contributes to illness.
  2. Boundaries are about self-care. There’s a difference between self-care and self-centeredness. Self-care says that we take care of ourselves so we can be strong and better take care of those we love and serve. Self-centeredness says we take care of ourselves so we can take care of ourselves. Boundaries remind us that we are responsible TO others, not FOR others.
  3. When we take care of ourselves, we ultimately take care of others. Rescuing people from the natural consequences of their behavior weakens them. Saying no may risk disappointing another, but in the long run it helps them make necessary changes to improve their life.
  4. Boundaries are not an excuse. Boundaries used as an excuse to take the easy road are not boundaries at all – they are excuses. Boundaries are firm but not rigid. It takes bravery to set clear boundaries, not brutality.
  5. All life, to be sustainable, requires boundaries. I grew up in an age when you had a phone on your office desk that was wired into the wall. When you were done work you went home. The boundary between work and home was clear. Then we were promised that computers would simplify this. Now in a 24/7 world, establishing boundaries has never been more of a challenge. But without boundaries you have no clear priorities or focus. Everything is important and nothing is important. We all need boundaried time for uninterrupted, focused work or play that requires our full attention to what matters.

How to Create a Growth Plan for 2023: EQ, Authenticity, and the Power of Self-Awareness

A great deal of research suggests that emotional intelligence (EQ) – the ability to identify and regulate one’s emotions and empathize with the emotions of others – is vital to success at work and in life. A high EQ helps you build healthy teams, reduce stress, increase engagement and motivation, achieve higher productivity, foster psychological safety, defuse conflict, and improve job satisfaction.
One of the four pillars of emotional intelligence is self-awareness – having a comprehensive grasp of who you are as a person and a leader, and how you show up in the world. The more you understand yourself, the better you can connect with others. Self-aware leaders know their strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots, and how to work with them. They are comfortable with themselves and genuine. They have a better understanding of emotions and how they affect behaviour and can recognise those emotions in others.
So… where does self-awareness come from? How do you develop it? Can you create a plan to become more self-aware?
The following suggestions will assist you in designing your own authentic leadership development plan for the new year by incorporating the five components of self-awareness.
  1. Purpose and Vision. Leadership is a consuming activity. A sense of purpose, along with a clearly articulated vision of what you want your life and your leadership to be like in the next five years, will enable to you to stay passionate so you can inspire those under your care.
  2. Insights. Learning is key to self-awareness and growth. What insights do you need this year to build your personal capacity toward your purpose and vision? What books will you read? What courses will you take? What teachers will you seek out?
  3. Self-Reflection. Connecting to others begins with listening to oneself. And listening to yourself requires a place where you can hear yourself think. When you spend so much of your life attending to the demands of others, you can lose yourself by failing to distinguish between your authentic voice and other voices that clamor for your attention.
  4. Feedback. While a habit of personal reflection can bring an element of growth and self-understanding, it will only take you so far. You ultimately can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created the problems. We all have blind spots. We need feedback from others to see what we can’t see.
  5. Employing a guide. Authenticity is a lonely journey, but it can’t be done alone. The lone-warrior model of leadership is, in the words of Ron Heifetz, “heroic suicide.” Guides – those who can take us into the unfamiliar territory of our own development, can come in the form of therapists, coaches, confidants, recovery programs, and peer-mentoring groups.
As you continue your authentic leadership journey into 2023, incorporating some strategies to increase your EQ will undoubtedly heighten the success of your growth plan. What strategies will you try?

Psychological Safety: It Starts With Self-Awareness

Your first and most important responsibility as a leader is to create a safe environment where people can bring their whole self to their work. So how do you know if people feel safe? How do you know whether people fully trust you? How do you know if people are secretly looking for a job somewhere else because of their relationship with you?

It starts with self-awareness. You simply don’t know what you don’t know. This is one of the driving forces behind the SAGE Forums. We want to help you become self-aware in a small community of like-minded, diverse individuals who will help reveal your blind spots, help hold you accountable for making the necessary changes, and give you the needed support to stay on track.

We’d love to have you be a part of our community. Remember: You aren’t alone. For information our SAGE Forums, check out our website: https://davidirvine.com/sage-forums/

 

The Secret Life: Getting To The Core Of Self Awareness And Great Leadership

The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, The Secret Garden, is the story of young girl whose parents die of cholera in India. She is sent to live with her uncle in a large British manor and when exploring the grounds of the estate, she discovers the entrance to a magical secret garden where anything is possible. Initially, the garden appears dead. But through her caring presence, she plants seeds, cultivates the soil, and eventually brings about a dramatic transformation of the entire garden within one season.

Stephen R. Covey used to say that we live three lives: public, private, and secret. In our public lives, we are seen and heard by the people around us. In our private lives, we interact more intimately with loved ones, family members, and close friends. The secret life is where our heart is and where our true motives and ultimate desires are revealed; it is where our authentic self resides.

Many leaders never visit the secret life. Their public and private lives are essentially scripted by everything around them and the pressures of their world. And so, they never find the key to the secret life: self-awareness. It takes courage to connect with our secret life. If we continually distract ourselves rather than seek the uncomfortable journey to the secret life, we distance ourselves from our true identity and the roots of meaning and purpose.

Leaders who attend our Authentic Leadership Academies have said, “This is the first time I’ve ever done any soul searching…” “This experience is the first time I’ve ever slowed down long enough to truly see myself…”

Most of us spend our busy days in our public and private lives, never pausing long enough to enter the secret life, the secret garden, where masterpieces are created, great truths are discovered, and every aspect of our existence is enhanced.

Knowing Your Authentic Self

At the conclusion of my book, The Other Everest: Navigating the Pathway to Authentic Leadership, I tell a Sufi story about a pregnant tigress who chases a flock of goats in search of a meal. As she pounces upon them, she brings on the birth of her baby as well as her own death.
After returning to their grazing place, the goats found the just-born tiger cub and his dead mother. They adopt the little guy and, surrounded by goats as his only models, he began to believe he was one. He learned to bleat and eat grass, even though the grass was very hard on his digestive system.
Months later a male tiger chased the flock, and as they scattered, only the young tiger was left to stand helplessly and bleat.
“What are you doing living with goats?” the tiger asked the young feline.
When the little tiger responded with, Maaaaa, and started nibbling grass, the big fellow was mortified and carried him to a pond. For the first time, the young tiger saw his face in the reflection. When the big fellow gave a roar, the young tiger could only bleat, and the elder tiger said, “No, you have to roar like a true tiger!”
After several attempts, the young fellow could roar fully with the sound of a tiger. That deep, loud roar is what the Sufis say is equal to one human being who discovers his true nature.
As authentic leaders, we must decide if we want to live a mistaken life or live the life we are destined for. The decision to live in alignment with our true nature means deepening our self-awareness.
A commitment to awareness – the will to understand – is a central pillar of authentic leadership. The 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council unanimously agreed that self-awareness is the most important capability for leaders to develop.
So, how is self-awareness developed? While attending presentations, reading or listening to books, and investing in leadership training is useful, self-awareness ultimately involves deep personal honesty and asking and regularly answering the hard questions. Self-awareness is like fitness – you don’t get there by going to the gym once a year. It’s a daily habit.
But unlike fitness, self-awareness can’t be done alone. While personal reflection is a component of self-awareness, it’s not sufficient. You can’t see what you can’t see. Your gifts and your blind spots are too close to you for you to be aware of them. You can’t see yourself accurately through your own lenses. A mirror – in the form of a guide, community, confidant, or mentor – is essential to see yourself.
And that’s why I’m excited to be launching the SAGE (Self Awareness Group Experience) Forums.
It consists of a group of ten to twelve like-minded leaders who meet in a virtual four-hour session each month and potentially once a year in a retreat. The group is facilitated by one of our trained and experienced leaders, designed to offer a safe and supportive community to discuss how to authentically navigate any of the issues and opportunities you face.
We sincerely hope you will consider applying for this life-changing program.

THE COURAGE OF VULNERABILITY: Inspiring a More Human Organization

The value of vulnerability and its role in inspiring trust, creating psychological safety, and fostering collaboration and engagement on your team has been underscored in recent years. But a naïve understanding of what it means to be vulnerable can impede your growth, limit your impact, and even blow up in your face.

When a senior VP in a manufacturing organization was promoted, his role substantially increased his accountability. He was nervous about making the leap. He had just learned about vulnerability and so bared his soul to his new team of leaders. In an opening address to his team, he said, “I want to do this job, but I’m scared and shaky and not quite sure I can come through for you. I’m going to need your help.” His candor backfired. He lost credibility and trust with the people who wanted and needed a confident leader to take charge. He was never able to regain the trust of his team and was soon removed from this position.

Let’s start with understanding what vulnerability isn’t. Vulnerability doesn’t mean being weak or submissive or indiscriminately exposing all your hidden fears and flaws. It’s not about falling apart when you need to be standing tall. It’s not about bringing all your insecurities, doubts, and worries to work with you. In short, it’s not about expecting your team to be your therapist.

Simply put, vulnerability is the courage to be yourself. It’s that simple, and it’s also that difficult. Vulnerability lies at the core of authentic leadership and understanding who you are as a person is at the core of vulnerability. Thus, the paradox of vulnerability. You must be real, and you must be stable.

Vulnerability is not a leadership technique or tool. It is a way of being in the world. Vulnerability means replacing “being professional by keeping a distance” with humanity, honesty, respect, and staying calm under pressure.

Vulnerability means:

1. Sharing your values, dreams, and intentions in your work as a leader. I remember a senior leader in the agriculture sector who began her opening speech to her team with slides of her parents farming in Saskatchewan and the values she learned about growing up on the farm. She then shared her vision for this division. Within five minutes she had inspired an entire team of leaders to be completely aligned with her.

2. Being curious and self-aware. Vulnerability means being comfortable with yourself, so you aren’t driven by approval ratings or a need to please. It means being open to learn about yourself and how your behavior impacts others. It means being open to seeing your blind spots, letting go of all blame, and being committed to grow as a leader and as a person. Being vulnerable means you don’t seek power as a way of proving your worth. You know that your worth and security come from within.

3. Having a good support system away from your work. The strength and clarity of vulnerability come from having a place away from work to bring your fears, doubts, and insecurities, so you are free to be human when you get to work. A good support system of confidants, coaches, or therapists provides perspective and a place to fall apart and get put back together again so you can return to your team with civility, compassion, and clarity.

4. Encouraging others. Because vulnerable leaders are comfortable with themselves, they are not threatened by the growth of others. They are open about their appreciation of others. They are humble enough to know they aren’t the smartest person in the room and are wise enough to extract the strength of the members of their team. They are committed to helping people become the best version of themselves.