As humans, we’re always evolving, regenerating, and rebirthing new parts of ourselves. Pieces of our intersectional identities shift as our relationships, circumstances, location, and time shift. We can feel like moving targets–because we are–especially if and when we decide to deliberately raise our consciousness and live in alignment with our dynamic values.
As leaders, it’s particularly difficult at times to lead and manage in ways that continue to motivate, inspire, and support others when those we lead are constantly changing, making new requests, setting new boundaries, and requiring different resources. Just when we get in a state of flow, confusion or conflict arises, and then we’re recalibrating again. It can feel at times like treading water. And if that resonates, I’m here to offer a new meaning to this cycle…
When disruption happens, it’s an invitation to look inward, trust yourself, and then trust your people.
Traditional leadership training may have prepared some of us to jump into “fix” mode first when our staff members hit a rough patch, miss opportunities, or make a significant mistake. When we intend to fix something or a situation, the presumption is that something outside of ourselves is broken. When you mix this mindset with a false sense of urgency and an unconscious commitment to perfectionism, our staff members likely feel like we’re trying to fix them and can’t possibly feel like we trust them to navigate the disruption.
When I came back to work after my surgery, there were more obstacles and problems to solve than usual. As my team brought me up to speed, I could feel my breath get more shallow and tension start to build in my shoulders. I listened intently, asked clarifying and curious questions, and made the choice not to share my initial thoughts about how to proceed. I thanked them for their leadership while I was away and said I’d follow up with each of them in our O3’s (weekly one-on-one meetings). This gave me time to take a short walk, take some deep breaths, and process the magnitude of each obstacle.
In those O3’s, I deliberately took a coaching stance by asking more open-ended questions and offered my direct observations and feedback when needed. Together, we came up with specific next steps and each staff member walked away knowing what to do next. Pretty shortly after, we were back in flow.
Years ago, I would have reacted by taking back some of their responsibilities to “fix it” myself. While it may have been the more efficient response in the moment, it wasn’t an effective way to grow capacity in others, communicate the trust I have in them, or cultivate a liberatory workplace culture. I’ve learned to prioritize our value of growth:
We believe in the malleability of all people. Leadership and personal development take commitment. We commit to the long-term growth and development of our leaders and ourselves. We constantly seek and find the necessary resources to support mutual, sustained growth and results.
The word ‘constant’ in our definition is especially grounding for me because it reminds me that change is constant. My first job is to adopt rituals and practices like breathing and pausing to calm my initial reactions to the changes or disruptions that we experience. Then, I view any resulting obstacles as opportunities for our collective growth remembering that none of us need fixing—we need room to show up as we are, resources to support our efforts, and trust in ourselves and each other. Change may be a constant but flow can be too.