Tag Archive for: Caring

Simple Living in a Complex World: Transitions, Aristotle, and Coming Home

Selling a house can be an emotional undertaking, a journey of self-discovery. It is a bittersweet experience as we downsize to simplify our lives.

Our peaceful home and the soothing nature reserve alongside it has been a haven to me and our family for almost two decades. It’s a place where I connected with my soul on walks in the forest, where I have meditated in the stillness and beauty of the valley, where our family appreciated the beauty of nature.

However, I’m coming to realize that a large part of my motivation to acquire this property was my need to prove myself and it has consumed much of my energy. That my worth has been tied to this place came, in part, from my early upbringing, driven by the voice of my mother who lived through poverty in the depression and who defined herself by her belongings as a result. This drive for status acquired from material possessions became part of my personal identity and has been a weight on my shoulders.

Like all patterns we create, this pattern has both a good side and a destructive one. I still love an aesthetic home that feeds my soul and am proud that we created that space for myself and loved ones. However, I know that the source of the drive to sustain it was not good for my wellbeing. In the words of the Quaker theorist of the simple life, John Woodman, I “necessitated to labour too hard.”

This struggle brings to mind Aristotle’s challenge to an external-oriented life which is as relevant today as it was twenty-three hundred years ago. He identified “external goods” as wealth, property, power, and reputation. These still create the standard vision of success in our modern times. Aristotle contrasted these external goods with elements of character or the “good of the soul”: fortitude, temperance, justice, and wisdom. When we consider what we truly want for ourselves and our children, are we overly concerned about being wealthy and successful? Or is success a means to the higher goal of being a good human being?

This transition to downsizing has inspired me to reconnect with my deepest self. Letting go is agonizing, yet it is leading me to a deeper homecoming to my authenticity.

I am looking forward to living more simply in this complex world, with less pressure and more focus on work that matters to me and the activities in life that I truly value. It’s never too late to start anew. And a huge reminder of this is that my new granddaughter, Juno, has just arrived! I look forward to spending more time with her.

Here are three lessons from my experience that I hope will be useful on your path to a simpler life:

  1. Practice making decisions based on sustainable values, not emotions. Decisions motivated by appearances, impressions, and impulses most often lead to a financial burden that you don’t need to carry.
  2. The good life is not one of consumption or size or external appearance, but of the flourishing of our deepest selves. It’s ultimately about the expression of love, giving of ourselves, and developing strong character.
  3. True belonging and worth ultimately don’t come from a physical place. They come from within.

Get the relationships right

As I help CEOs and senior executives develop strategy and execute that strategy with a good accountability process, I have come to realize that if we don’t get the relationships right, none of this matters.

John Maxwell said, “People buy into the leader, then the vision.” But many people have this all backwards. They believe that if the cause is good enough, people will automatically buy into it. But that’s not how leadership works. You have to get the relationships right. It’s good to inspire people with a worthy vision, but you have to care about the people you need to realize that vision at least as much as you care about the cause. Otherwise they feel used and will eventually shut down, disengage, resist, or quit.

Three things I know about relationships:

  1. Care. If people know you care they’ll get behind you and cut you a lot of slack. If they know you don’t, it won’t end well. You might get compliance as a boss, but it takes a true leader to get commitment. And you won’t get commitment if people don’t genuinely know you’re in their corner and have their back.
  2. Listen with humility. Notice your ask/tell ratio. It’s good to spend at least twice as much time listening than talking. People will open up and provide input if you know you are aren’t the smartest person in the room and that everyone has something to teach you. And empathic listening becomes easier and builds trust if you sincerely care about the answers you get.
  3. Authenticity breeds connection. When it comes to leadership, ability matters. But inner qualities matter more. To bring these inner qualities out you need to get comfortable with yourself and past the gimmicks, fads, and flavours of the month and be real with each other.

Twelve Indicators Of Authenticity

For seven decades, leadership scholars have conducted thousands of studies to determine the traits of great leaders. Thankfully, none have constructed a clear profile of an ideal leader. There’s no single leadership style or approach to leadership you can imitate to become a great leader. We can certainly learn from others, but we all have to find our unique authentic self.

Being an authentic leader comes from being more fully who you are. It’s that simple and it’s that complex.

Here are twelve indicators of being authentic:

  1. A sense of purpose. Authentic people have a sense of purpose that gives them a reason to get up in the morning and keep walking through the hard times.
  2. They resist conformity. Authentic people don’t need others to validate their worth. They can express their opinions openly when needed. Not to be compliant or defiant, but simply to be honest.
  3. Deep-seated curiosity. Authentic people are life-long learners and actively pursue feedback from others.
  4. The courage to be vulnerable. They have a close community where they share their struggles, fears, values, self-doubts, dreams, uncertainties, grief, and deepest joy – so they are comfortable bringing the full spectrum of their humanity to the world.
  5. They care about others. They are present and engaged, taking time to listen, tune in, and sincerely value others.
  6. They own their mistakes. Authentic people take responsibility for their actions, including their mistakes. and can admit when they are wrong.
  7. Humility. They know they are never the smartest person in the room and shine the light on others.
  8. They know their values, set good boundaries, and can say no.
  9. They work for the greater good. They are committed to service over self-interest.
  10. They respect others. Authentic people value of diversity, and are not threatened by, but welcome and celebrate differences. They seek to understand as many alternative work views as deeply as they can.
  11. They are accountable. They show up. You can count on authentic people.
  12. Authentic people are self-accepting. They know they can’t always exhibit some of these traits and somehow find a way to be okay with their imperfect humanity.

Tag a leader in your life that demonstrates these traits.

How to Demonstrate Caring in the Workplace

I care a lot about caring. So much so I wrote about it: Caring Is Everything: Getting To The Heart Of Humanity, Leadership, and Life. When people feel cared for, appreciated and valued, the workplace becomes a happier and more productive place. Here are five ways to help your team feel cared for:

  1. Look in the mirror. Honestly ask, “Do I care about the people on my team and what matters to them? Do I care about their success? Am I truly serving them or am I expecting them to serve me?” You can’t fake caring. People will see right through you. People will grant you a lot of grace if they know you care, but won’t give you much if they know you don’t. If you truly don’t care, do yourself and your organization a favor and get out of management.
  2. Listen. Listen. Listen. Take an honest inventory of the amount of time you spend listening to your people versus the amount of time you spend talking. Ideally, it’s good to spend at least twice as much time listening as talking. Listen to what matters to them. Get their input on how to make the workplace better. Get feedback on your leadership. It may start with complaints, then move to problem solving, but what matters is to keep the conversations going.
  3. Get to know – and respond to – people’s appreciation language. Gary Chapman and Paul White’s book, “The Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” explains that everyone has a unique way of feeling appreciated. Some need words of affirmation while others respond best to tangible gifts. Some need quality time and may not need praise and recognition. Others intrinsically enjoy working and seeing tasks completed. Some need to be left alone while others need hugs and handshakes. Care enough to get to know their unique nature and preferences and how to best respond to people uniquely. Don’t assume that your style is what everyone needs.
  4. Practice flexibility. Caring leadership is not the same as pleasing leadership. Leading doesn’t mean trying to make people happy. Caring means a commitment to serve, to help people get the resources they need to get their job done, not necessarily what they want. One thing the pandemic taught us is the importance of flexibility. While some positions require being in the office, others can be done remotely. To care about people, you need to be flexible in negotiating a win-win relationship.
  5. Be honest. Tell people what you know; tell them what you don’t know; and tell them why sometimes you need to withhold some information for the greater good. Set high standards. No one takes pride in doing something easy. While support statements need to accompany expectations, let people know when they aren’t meeting your expectations. Have a process for ongoing honest and mutual developmental feedback. Don’t be a “seagull manager,” where you fly around and crap on people.

RAISING ACCOUNTABLE KIDS: It’s About Principles, Not Perfection

You can observe a lot by watching. – Yogi Berra
When grandparenting you aren’t in the thick of the responsibilities that come with raising kids, so you have a bit of time to observe. So, as a grandparent, here’s three observations I have about the state of child raising these days:
  • There’s no more important leadership responsibility than within the walls of our home. The greatest success lies in building strong character in our young people that will enable them to be contributing citizens of the world.
  • We’ve never been more aware of the needs of our children because we have access to extensive information on child development, the impacts of trauma on brain functioning, mental health, the importance of attachment, emotional regulation, and self-esteem and well-being.
  • We are now extremely anxious about how we’re doing as a parent and how our kids are going to turn out. And all the anxiety is spilling over onto our children. Paradoxically, the more we worry about our kids, the more anxious they become. Anxious parents raise anxious kids. They have enough of their own anxiety without us contributing to it.
For those who have assumed the vital and arduous work of leading young people, here are four strategies to consider:
  1. Don’t make life too easy for your kids. On the wall of my daughter’s high school English class was a quote by Van Jones, the political commentator: I don’t want you to be safe, ideologically. I don’t want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. I’m not going to take all the weights out of the gym; that’s the whole point of the gym. This is the gym. In other words, making the space within the walls of our homes and our schools safe doesn’t mean rescuing our children from the challenges of life. Just as the struggle to break through the cocoon builds the strength of the butterfly’s wings, if we want our children to fly one day, they must struggle and develop strong wings. Don’t raise your children to be happy. Raise your children to be strong. Strength comes when our kids know they are not alone. We are right beside them, in their corner. Loving without rescuing. Being there without doing for them what they can do for themselves. With strength, happiness will follow.
  2. Don’t be afraid to parent. Saying no is not abuse. Our children do not need us to be their friend. Their friends are their peer group. What our children need is a parent. There’s a big difference between pleasing your kids and loving your kids. Pleasing is about giving them what they want so they will be happy and like you. Pleasing comes from insecurity. Loving them is giving them what they need – and what they need may very well be different than what they think they need or what their friends have. Children are not born with accountability – the ability to be counted on; they have to learn it. And they learn it, in part, when they can count on the caregivers in their life. If you are a parent, your kids are counting on you to be one. Let’s work at being secure enough with ourselves that we don’t depend on our kids for our self-worth. It’s not their job.
  3. Set clear boundaries around digital media. Digital media was originally developed for two reasons: information and communication. When it exceeds its function and is used, like any product or substance, to meet our emotional needs or to escape from our life it becomes addictive. Monitoring our own use and consciously and carefully supervising the use of devices with our kids is now an integral part of parenting. You can’t leave it to chance.
  4. Relax. You don’t have to get it perfectly. I remember a time when our youngest daughter wanted to change her curfew to go to a friend’s party. The easy road would have been a quick “yes” or a quick “no.” Instead, we spent the better part of a week negotiating with her and struggling to do the right thing. I don’t know, to this day, if we did the right thing. What I do know is that my daughter knows she was loved. She knows she was loved because she knows that we invested in the relationship. As parents and caregivers of children, we never really know what “right” is. There’s no formula. The goal is not necessarily to be a better parent. The goal is to find joy on the journey. And finding the joy will make us a better parent.
In Blackfoot culture, turtles are considered to be a symbol of creation and motherhood and embody the concept that is similar to “Mother Earth” in English. To the Blackfoot, the turtle is patient, wise, knowledgeable, and long-lived. The Blackfoot saying Iikakimat mookakiit means be wise and preserve and can be used to describe the turtle’s characteristics. And these characteristics fit well into my own approach and philosophy of raising accountable kids: be patient, wise, a good role model and the kids will be alright.

The Authentic Leadership Academy

The Authentic Leadership Academy is just a month away, and we are so happy to be back in person for this transformational event!!

Whether you are looking to level up your own leadership or develop the leadership of those in your care, the Authentic Leadership Academy promises to deliver an experience that will inject new power, purpose, and passion into each attendee.

The Academy will be hosted at the University of Calgary, May 30th – June 2nd.
You can find full details here: https://lnkd.in/gMi2euzp

Here is what participants had to say about our last academy.