We want to thank all our listeners, readers, radio guests, guest bloggers and the team of people who engage with the Innovative Leadership Institute! We are committed to elevating the quality of leadership around the world and your involvement makes that possible. Whether large or small, each of us acts daily and those acts ripple through the world to make an impact.
As we enter the holiday season at the end of 2019, we are ending a decade and beginning the next. I invite everyone to consider what they have accomplished during this decade. Who and what are you most grateful for?
According to Psychology Today, we know that gratitude boosts our mental and physical health, boosts empathy, reduces aggression, improves sleep, improves self-esteem, and boosts mental health. The best part about gratitude is you can do it any place, any time, with no special training.
Beyond periodic moments of gratitude, I encourage my clients to develop a regular gratitude practice. This can take many forms ranging from setting a time to reflect, talking to others about what we are grateful for to writing a journal about what brings you joy, what you have overcome, or the small things you appreciate. The benefit of a practice is it becomes part of your routine or habit. It is the regular practice of gratitude that creates long lasting impact. Over time I have maintained a gratitude journal. It is a practice I have come to value greatly and with changing life circumstances, I ebb and flow in my commitment. With this post, I am recommitting to rekindle this practice starting the week of Thanksgiving 2019 by writing 1 journal entry per week. I am very fortunate to have a partner who has mastered the practice of gratitude and we communicate our gratitude for parts of our lives multiple times each day.
I subscribe to gratefulness.org. They send SHORT daily gratitude messages that take less than 30 seconds to read and for me, they serve as a nice reminder to reset. I am also building the mental habit of taking time to be grateful for what is working well when I run into challenges. It is easy to be grateful sitting at home while drinking a cup of hot coffee first thing in the morning. It can be much harder to be grateful after something goes wrong during the day. Yet, it is the difficult moments when we most benefit from shifting away from the problem to what is working. An important benefit of gratitude is that it releases hormones into the body that build resilience that serve as the antidote for the stress and anxiety that happen during the course of a normal day.
Robert Emmons, arguably the world’s leading expert on the science of gratitude, and an author of some of the seminal studies of gratitude journals, shared these research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from keeping a gratitude journal:
Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”
Maureen Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.
https://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/11-25-19-Metcalf-Thanksgiving-Web-Banner.png336888Susan Harperhttps://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.pngSusan Harper2019-11-25 15:55:442021-09-11 21:09:50Gratitude Improves Health and Resilience: A Time for Thanksgiving
Years ago, when preparing for an education in business leadership it was basically all based around things like hiring, firing, and how to make more money to name a few. Nowadays, any kind of business management education you get it will include some forms of psychology courses. Because when you are a leader, you have to deal with people. Your job is not to run the business, it is to lead the employees and that means taking care of your employees so they can be motivated to be productive and efficient. Therefore, it is important to keep your employees happy and working in a pleasant working environment.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your own emotions and recognize and respond to any kind of emotional distress in others. By understanding your own emotions, you are much more able to deal with other people’s emotional issues and when you are in leadership, you have to be able to deal with your employee’s emotional issues. Some of the best leaders are those who have been trained in several types of psychology courses and know how to recognize subtle changes in their employees that could be very important. Some of the skills you need include:
Understanding emotional triggers
Only give negative feedback in a positive way
Have excellent listening skills
Know how to ask questions that will help you recognize others’ strengths
Do not make automatic assumptions about employees’ behavior
Communicate without judgement
Encourage employees by boasting about their skills and achievements
Make time to connect with your employees
Appreciate your employees and make sure they know you appreciate them
Learning to Recognize Emotional Issues
As a leader you must be prepared to handle conflict and it is best for you to notice the subtle hints that something may be happening under the surface. Your employees are human and they have bad days of course, but if someone is acting different for more than a few days, have been avoiding others, isolating themselves, or just do not seem like themselves, you need to acknowledge that behavior and ask them what is going on and if you can help. A lot of times it can be handled by just communicating with the person. Maybe they have trouble at home, or they are anxious about money troubles or something else like that. Or it could be an issue at work where they are not getting along with someone. Whatever the reason, it is essential that you let them know that you care and that you will help if you can.
Communication is Key
Regardless of what the issue may be, when an employee has a mental or emotional problem, you need to talk to them and see what you can do to help them with whatever it is that is going on. There are programs through many businesses specifically to help your employees with mental health care and if you have one at your company, now is the time to suggest it. If you do not have a program at your work, tell your employee about other psychological services that can help them. For example, with online therapy from betterhelp.com, they can talk to a licensed professional online without needing an appointment. In fact, they do not even have to leave their house. Just make sure your employees know that they can come to you if needed and that it will not affect their job in any way.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
https://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/10-29-19-Marie-Miguel-Website-Banner.png336888Susan Harperhttps://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.pngSusan Harper2019-10-28 11:51:422021-09-11 21:03:03Why Mental Health Awareness is Important for Leadership
Through the work of billions of cells housed within our brains, humans are the most advanced form of life in the known universe. Highly intelligent animals like dolphins, elephants, whales may have bigger brains than people, but the evolution of the human mind is far greater.
Only now is science beginning to understand the complexities of the gray matter resting just above our shoulders. A mix of protein and fat that combine to create one of the most advanced individual systems known to humankind – organic or machine, earthbound or cosmic.
The Brain Makes Us Who We Are
While at first glance, the brain itself may appear to be a singular mass, it consists of a number of highly unique parts and separate regions that control practically every aspect of human existence.
Four of the most vital components include:
· The brain stem which aides with breathing and sleep.
· The basal ganglia that monitors the sending and receiving of messages between different areas of the brain.
· The cerebellum that keeps us upright – balanced and well-coordinated.
· The cerebral cortex which helps us to think and move, achieve greater reasoning and imaginative skills and is what provides human consciousness.
In addition, the four regions include:
· The frontal lobe that links to our motor skills and how we think, reason, and acquire knowledge.
· At the crown of the brain, the middle parietal lobe controls sensation – our sense of touch, taste, and manipulation of the physical world around us – as well as spatial awareness.
· Occupying the base of the brain, the temporal lobe is central to our ability to hear and helps us distinguish language and sound. Within the temporal lobe is the hippocampus – critical to our ability to learn, emote, and create memories.
· At the rear of the brain, you’ll find the occipital lobe, critical to our visual capabilities and processing of colors, words, or any other objects that we see.
Even with all of our current knowledge, it is a testament to the brain’s advanced and complicated design that researchers and scientists have yet to fully solve the puzzle of the human mind.
One area though where there has been much discovery, and where we continue to expand our expertise, is what stimulates the brain. Factors that are both helpful and harmful and what is required to maintain a healthy mind.
Why Brain Health is So Important
While the brain itself may still hold many secrets, there is little mystery to the need for us to keep our minds healthy and functioning at their highest possible level.
As we’ve shown, the brain is central to our survival – controlling our breathing and cognitive skills, our consciousness and perception, and our ability to think, feel, and remember.
However, all of the brain’s functions do not operate independently of one another – it’s the reason we can, in fact, walk and chew gum at the same time. If you neglect one aspect of your brain’s health, other areas suffer.
But we’re not just talking about a run of the mill headache brought on by stress.
There are numerous neurological disorders that prove debilitating to both the brain and an individual’s overall well-being.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), approximately 50 million Americans – that’s one out of every five – suffer from some form of brain-related disorder. The list of conditions is exhaustive and includes:
· Brain tumors
· Cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke-related conditions or vascular dementia
· Convulsive disorders like epilepsy
· Degenerative diseases of adult life which include Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
· Developmental disorders including cerebral palsy
· Infectious disease complications like AIDS-related dementia
· Metabolic syndromes including Gaucher’s disease
· Neurogenetic diseases such as Huntington’s disease or muscular dystrophy
· Trauma injuries that occur in the spinal cord or with a head injury (concussions)
These represent many of the major disorders. Far more common however are the conditions that fall under the broad (and sometimes misleading) category of mental illness.
For many years mental illness carried with it a stigma, resulting in people being mistreated or receiving none at all.
While the numbers for the latter still remain low, modern medicine has better shaped our understanding of more common psychological conditions, improving diagnosis and treatment.
Given the brain’s importance and complexity, how then do you give yourself the best chance for lasting brain health? You might be surprised by the most effective methods.
Maintaining Your Brain’s Health
While not every brain-related condition is treatable or avoidable due to factors such as age, heredity, genetics, or other non-lifestyle factors, there are plenty of ways to keep your mind sharp.
To assist with improving your brain’s health and function, as well as producing the happy side effect of giving you a far more positive outlook on life, consider the following methods to boosting your brainpower:
You already know what exercise means for your body. Proven time and again, regular exercise has lasting, positive effects on our well-being. The impact, though, is both physical and mental.
Exercise, through its stimulation of chemicals in the brain, promotes the growth and health of blood cells. Regular physical activity also helps to clear your mind, enabling you to think more clearly, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve memory and cognitive functions.
Lack of sleep impedes the brain’s ability to perform daily tasks vital to keeping it healthy – clearing out toxins, maintaining healthy neurological connections among the brain’s many pathways, and recharging your body so it can maintain its focus, create new memories and be alert and ready to take on the next day when you wake up.
Quality sleep also builds up your immune system, which helps to keep diseases and illnesses at bay. You will also avoid the common condition of brain fog by following a strict sleep routine – commit to at least seven hours of sleep and steering clear of blue-light emitting devices at least two to three hours before bedtime.
Eat the Right Foods
As with everything else health-related, there are specific foods that will support the development and performance of your brain.
Green vegetables, certain types of berries and nuts, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are cornerstones of a brain-boosting diet. Just remember to work these into a diet that aides to promote greater health for you overall – physically and mentally.
The Power of Positive Thinking
You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “the power of positive thinking” many times before. So much so, that’s it’s probably etched itself into your permanent memory.
That’s very much a good thing.
Studies show that a positive mindset is more than just a cliché – it can have a beneficial and lasting impact on your brains overall health and function.
Maintaining an optimistic mindset promotes better physical skills, social interaction, and creativity, all of which broaden your mind’s horizons and help you build skills and more comprehensive life-servicing resources.
More than a way to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life, meditation proves transformative in building up an individual’s positive emotions. Research also suggests that it has a lasting effect on your health – improving your mind and your sense of purpose and reducing the chances for illness.
Engage Your Brain in Activities You Enjoy
Do you like to read novels or biographies? Diary or write about experiences you’ve enjoyed? Or do you dream about just getting out, having fun, and spending time with individuals you care about?
Pick one, or all three, because making time to enjoy the people and endeavors that make you happy can stimulate your brain towards better health. There are even health benefits to finding work or a career that you genuinely enjoy versus something that you slog through day after day.
Yep, turn that frown upside down. Seriously.
Though it may be hard to believe, science actually shows that a simple smile, even if it’s initially a forced effort (or a side effect of a cosmetic procedure), can reduce stress, improve your mood, strengthen your immune system, and help add a few years to your life.
According to Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Torrance Memorial in Los Angeles, CA: “What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity. When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”
Which basically means the brain doesn’t care why you’re smiling – as evidenced by the botox research – it processes the benefits of the smile regardless of its purpose.
Practice Good Health to Get the Most from Your Mind
One of the most astonishing aspects of the brain is that in all of its complexity, preserving its health requires a basic, common-sense approach.
When it comes to getting the most from your mind, keep it simple – and positive. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and plenty of constructive, optimistic thoughts and activities will nourish your brain and ensure it functions at its highest possible level – and provide you one less worry to think about.
Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.
https://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Background-2-1200-x-600.png7681536Maureen Metcalfhttps://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.pngMaureen Metcalf2019-08-12 14:06:392022-02-02 16:44:14A Brain Is a Terrible Thing To Waste: Understanding the Inner Workings of Your Brain
This post is a guest blog by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D.,Ph.D. It is an excerpt from his book The Soulful Leader: Learning How Empathy, Compassion and Ethical Values Improve Well-Being and Creative Productivity. It is the companion to a Voice America Interview about the book.
Resume virtue vs. eulogy virtues
Our society emphasizes achievement, appearance, and possessions to the exclusion of developing character, integrity, and service to others. Research studies indicate that one out of every five leaders is toxic; some studies indicate it is closer to three out of every ten. The Workplace Bullying Institute indicates that 65.6 million U.S. workers were affected by bullying. Of those affected, 61% left their jobs. 75% of American workers have been affected by bullying either as bystanders or directly. Partly due to this environment many corporate leaders we have treated and consulted with have come to believe they need to make a choice between health, ethics, and success. It is a myth that wealth and success must exclude fine character and exceptional interpersonal skills. Love and achievement are not opposites. When we know how to love, how to express compassion and kindness we establish the most powerful foundation for achievement. We go into the work world with a neurochemical balance that makes us more resilient, more creative and more able to negotiate our way through conflict to resolution. A simple human interaction can change our brain chemistry for the better. When we know how to produce calming neurochemicals we automatically reduce stress in our lives while increasing happiness. Happy people, filled with the positive neurochemicals positive relating releases, perform better and more creatively. My goal is to teach personnel and clients to produce these positive brain changes naturally.
The Harvard Business school studies have indicated that EQ is three times more valuable than IQ for success in the business world. Other studies conducted at UC Berkeley found that compassion and empathy decrease as feelings of entitlement and self-absorption increase. Households that earned $50,000 to $75,000 gave 7.6% of their income; those who made $100,000 or more gave 4.2% to charity, in zip codes where more than 40% of people made $200,000 or more a year, the average rate of giving was a paltry 2.8%. (6 studies on how money affects the mind, 12/20/13, TEDBlog). Brain scans have shown that the wealthy consistently display less empathy; poor people are more attuned to the nuances of relationships out of necessity.
So if empathic leaders are most effective in the corporate world empathy should be correlated with wealth and more importantly empathy has also been proven to be correlated with good health. When we receive and give empathy we produce the near miracle neurochemical oxytocin, which reduces anxiety and the stress hormone cortisol. It also helps us live longer, aids in recovery from illness and injury, promotes a sense of calm and well-being, increases generosity and empathy, protects against heart disease, modulates inflammation, reduces cravings for addictive substances, creates bonding and an increase in trust of others (critical to establishing confidence with clients), decreases fear and creates a feeling of security and makes people open to give and receive love. The wealthy apparently are unaware of the physiological benefits of empathy or they just don’t value empathy or know how to develop and express this innate capacity.
Years ago empathy, compassion, and high-level interpersonal skills were viewed as soft skills not necessary for personal and professional success. If wealth alone made people happy I would be out of business as we encounter wealthy, unhappy, unhealthy individuals daily. In our consultations with corporations, we consistently encounter depleted personnel who are excelling financially but have little idea as to what is interfering with experiencing happiness and their ability to sustain intimacy in their marriages, with their children, and with friends. We often ask individuals to contemplate what people will say at their funeral and how those comments relate to what is stated in their resumes. Many accomplished, wealthy individuals can describe what they have done in their lives but when it comes to describing who they are, and what they have meant to other people the responses typically become more vague. Regardless of our societal emphasis on status and image in the end if we are not comfortable in our own skin, if we have not learned how to gain the respect of others, not just for what we provide but for who we are. we have failed in life. If we fail at love of self and others we fail at life.
Changing the Culture to Integrative Success
Cohen (2008) estimates the timeframe for changing a culture in an organization and “making it stick” to be 3 to 5 years of “relentless efforts”. “In order to achieve lasting integration of the change, leaders must model the new behavior themselves, and reward and recognize others who also demonstrate the new behavior” (Cohen, 2008). This requires an ongoing investment of the time of a key member of the executive.
Effective organizational change requires an inside out process. For instance, if the financial advisors in a wealth management company are increasing their interpersonal skills along with executives they will feel happier and more confident to establish relationships with a diverse group of clients. Clients will sense this change; our nervous systems talk to each other, we intuitively sense authenticity, which results in trust and faith in an ongoing relationship with a firm when present. FA’s will find it easier to create trusting relationships, and with our services they will be able to offer clients and their family’s unique opportunities to learn interpersonal skills that will enhance their lives in very significant ways. Clients will be more willing to participate when their advisors believe in the process, inward-outward change.
A study published this year examining the long-term stock performance of companies that had won the Corporate Health Achievement Award, an annual prize that the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has bestowed since 1996. In each case portfolios of winning companies substantially outperformed the returns of the S&P from 2001 to 2014—often by 200 percentage points or more.
Companies with very healthful cultures accumulated many quantifiable benefits as well. A significant amount of evidence gathered by professor John Quelch of the Harvard Business School suggests that they may have lower healthcare costs overall, less absenteeism, better employee retention, fewer workplace injuries, stronger growth, improved corporate reputations, and greater stock performance.
Lady Geek, a consulting company based in London rates companies across the globe for the degree of empathy present in their corporate culture. There is a clear correlation between empathy and financial success.
Interestingly U.S. banks are capitalizing on the benefits of empathy with their clients, scoring 50% higher than banks in the UK.
Research by the London group indicates that businesses are more productive and profitable when leaders act ethically and interact with staff and clients in considerate ways. The top 10 companies in the most recent Lady Geek Global Empathy Index 2015 increased their value more than twice as those companies rated in the bottom 10. They also generated 50% more earnings. The top 10 companies increased 6% this year, while the bottom 10 companies dropped 9%. Harvard Review, 11/27/15, Belinda Parmar“
The Soulful Leader
What makes up the soul? Soul, is that intangible, invisible part of every human being that yearns for attachment to something deeper and broader than ourselves. A person who is soulful lives with purpose and a desire to be of service. He or she is not primarily motivated by status or image but has a natural interest in teasing out the potential of a family, community, corporation, community and nation. Soulful people lead with great passion, they are intimately aware of the structure of their organization. They are interested in motivating from the bottom up, not from the top down. They know who cleans their office, who mows the lawn, who fixes their computers, who serves the food, who are the secretaries and the receptionists. They speak to everyone, no one person is seen as less valuable in the larger sphere than anyone else. Soulful people tend to lead balanced lives, they work with intensity, they play with intensity, but they know how to turn the dial down and enjoy life. They have an inherent love of young people, they love to educate, to witness the blossoming of young talent, whether it be their own children or the beginners in their businesses. They are the voice of reason in the face of conflict; they are not quick reactors but thoughtful contributors. They know how to listen as they are genuinely interested in understanding not only those like them but also those who on the surface seem different, they are known for finding the common ground.
They take in information from diverse sources. They expect to continue to gain information about themselves, their world and the human condition throughout life. They expect to revise theories and change perspectives as new learning takes place. They are not wedded to one way of thinking, one way of being or one way of leading. They realize and willingly accept that in order to live a healthy, high-achieving life they must adapt to change, as they will be constantly faced with new situations that require that they adjust and change.
They live their lives with an open heart and an open mind.
Authenticity, Wealth and Performance
As we|I mentioned earlier many in the corporate world have come to believe that they have to sacrifice ethics and integrity for wealth and status. However credible research has proven that when we live authentically we create an inner calm that is sensed by others, allowing us to actualize our potential by freeing up energy from the stress of pretending. Leaders who are authentic are attractive to others, they relax those who work for their and their clients as the need to be on guard lessens, freeing people up to make mistakes and participate without the worry of being graded punitively. Authentic leaders cause positive brain changes in themselves and others, creating a high spirited atmosphere that leads to higher production, more creative performance and revenues rise accordingly.
Authenticity relaxes clients as it breeds’ trust and lessens the idea that FA’s have ulterior motives and simply want to make money at their expense. Rather than anticipating a sales process, they experience a competent individual who is also humble and willing to listen to the needs and concerns of the clients before him or her.
The Inspired Actions of a Soulful Leader
A leader who thinks, acts and behaves in a soulful manner inspires others to do the same. Our nervous systems talk to each other, a simple human interaction changes brain chemistry, and several empathic interactions change the brain chemistry of an organization. We all remember how the negative of one parent could dominate the feelings of everyone in our homes. A leader has the attention of everyone; he or she is watched closely. As people sense arrogance, dismissal, poor interpersonal skills, lack of compassion, and most importantly lack of integrity the spirit of an organization suffers dramatically. Soulful act from the inside out, they touch a special within that exudes a purity of intention and genuine concern for the mission statement of the business they run.
When I have consulted to corporations I notice as leaders adopt this perspective, not only through understanding but through actions employees follow in suit. Why? Because all human feel better when we relate in compassionate, mindful ways. We change our brains, which makes us happier and more creative. Creativity as a part of successful strategizing increases as the behavior becomes more authentic and growth promoting. We become change agents, teasing out the potential of an entire group or organization.
Sustaining Soulful Leadership
What I am highlighting in this paper is not, as indicated by the research of Cohen, a short-term proposition. I propose that it will only become an integral part of an organization if there are qualified clinical psychologists in-house to provide on-going coaching of the highest caliber to engage corporate members in the process outlined. My goal is to develop an organization of soulful leaders. This could never be attained by periodic workshops or lectures. The change of the soul is an in-depth change, thus a long term strategy is essential for creating a genuine, lasting positive re-organization of the heart that will translate to increased contentment and financial success of the companies that employ these well-researched methods.
To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbookand Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizationsand adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and systems to create a regenerative, inclusive, and thriving organization that will have a positive impact on the world.
About the Author
Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, Ed.D., Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who has been treating clients for more than 35 years. He is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Massachusetts Psychological Association. Dr. Ciaramicoli is the co-director of Integrated Success Strategies, was formerly the Chief Medical Officer of Soundmindz.org and is also in private practice, Dr. Ciaramicoli has been on the faculty of Harvard Medical School for several years, lecturer for the American Cancer Society, Chief Psychologist at Metrowest Medical Center, and director of the Metrowest Counseling Center and of the Alternative Medicine division of Metrowest Wellness Center in Framingham, Massachusetts. In addition to treating patients, Dr. Ciaramicoli has lectured at Harvard Health Services, Boston College Counseling Center, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore as well as being a consultant to several major corporations in the Boston area.
https://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Metcalf-Who-They-Are-5-14-2019-1.png617822Maureen Metcalfhttps://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.pngMaureen Metcalf2019-05-15 08:44:402022-02-02 17:10:07The Soulful Leader: Learning How Empathy, Compassion and Ethical Values Improve Well-Being and Creative Productivity.
I have led in many ways in my life so far – as a people leader in multiple organizations and non-profits. Whether you are a teacher, a pastor or a business leader, you are bound to wonder if you are making a difference. We all want our work to leave a legacy we will be remembered for. I have sought leadership roles since 8th grade. Why?
I wanted to advance a cause and mission I believed in and rally people around it.
I wanted to be known for leaving things better than when I found them.
If not me, who?
I was fortunate to be able to see the Broadway musical, Hamilton recently. It is a brilliant retelling of the personal story of Alexander Hamilton – one of the founding fathers of the United States. An immigrant and orphan, he wanted so badly to become somebody. He wanted a legacy! His life, as presented on stage, was driven by the arrogance that comes with unbridled ambition, and, with passion for a cause. He stepped up to the challenge and lived his life fully. Not flawlessly. Fully. He made some serious mistakes he lived to regret. What struck me most was a theme that runs through the dialogue of the show, which is, as leaders we don’t get to write our story in the end. We contribute to it certainly, with our actions, values, and deeds. But in the end, we don’t write the story that sums up the whole of our life. Others do.
One of my biggest influences as a leader was my father, Clifford. He was a high school graduate and appliance repairman who, with his wife Mary Jane, raised three boys in the 50’s and 60’s. My father was a modest, quiet man. Kind, loving, gentle. But he had the grip of a python. From what I can tell, the legacy he wanted was one of respect to his parents, fidelity to his wife, good parent to his sons, kind to others. That’s it.
Dad was felled by a massive heart attack at about age 70. His funeral Mass was held at 2 pm on a Thursday. I expected a small crowd. When my brothers and I opened the door to the church, it was nearly full! I wondered “who are all of these people”? You see, I am the youngest of the three and there are ten years between me and my brother Rick, thirteen to Gary. There was a lot to my father’s life before I ever came along. During the receiving line following the service, my brothers and I heard story after story of how my father impacted people enough that they came to his funeral. We heard from a man who led a Boy Scouts troop with dad; a woman who dad transported to Church every Sunday following a surgery that left her unable to drive; neighbors he shoveled the snow for; second cousins he used to work on cars with; men he worked with for over thirty years – and their kids and grandkids. My father left a legacy of respect, fidelity, fatherhood, and kindness to all. “Love one another as I have loved you.” He was a simple man with no titles other than Service Man. How appropriate.
I have far more titles for my obit than Dad. In some senses, I accomplished much more. I have more ambition or ego. I want a positive legacy. But, like my dad, my story will be written by far more objective people than myself. All leaders do well to keep that in mind. Ultimately leadership is about service to others and not to self. In fact, when leadership becomes about self, the leader is already in failure mode.
As leaders, it is important to consider the following:
How do you picture an organization being better as a result of your having led? What is your personal sense of vision and values?
What story would you like your survivors to tell about you after you have passed about what you accomplished? How would you hope they describe the person, the family member, the parent, the neighbor and the leader you were?
Do your values inform HOW you live your life as well as what you want to accomplish? Will you be remembered for the arrogance of Hamilton or the loving kindness of my father?
Once you know what you would like your legacy to be, how will you check in to see if what you are doing each month and year is moving you closer to what you say you want?
As humans in this era, life is tough, and it is unlikely that we will consistently stay the path unless we have a clearly defined the path we want to leave behind for others.
Mark Matson, MLHR, SPHR, MDiv is a highly experienced executive leader and HR Professional. He is a proven professional with high integrity and self-awareness, broad professional experience, extensive community contributions, and notable professional recognition. He focuses on serving the people of a creative enterprise providing a valued service to the community.
We define resilience as the ability to remain flexible and focused in the face of ongoing change. To be an authentic leader, we need to attend to four key elements: our physical wellbeing, our thinking, our emotional intelligence and sense of purpose, and our connection to people who support us. We must be honest with ourselves and others about what allows us to be resilient.
The other day Maureen met with a client who, for the first time in his life, is struggling with health challenges. This man works for a large national nonprofit where leaders pride themselves on their stamina, persistence, and always achieving results beyond what others could deliver—which may be part of the root of the problem. At forty-one years old, he had been blessed with great health until back problems forced him to take a leave of absence from work. He was given surgical and non-surgical treatment options to address his back condition. The non-surgical choices involved managing his stress and lifestyle as well as a daily routine of exercise and stretching. While the non-surgical option may sound easier than the surgical option, his underlying dilemma is facing the fact that he cannot live up to his own expectations of himself. He is young and suffering stress-related physical problems that, if he does not get under control, will likely result in chronic pain for years to come.
Now he must rethink who he can authentically be and face the reality of his physical limitations. Although we all will face this at some point in our lives and careers, most of us never really think about it until a dramatic event forces us to reassess the choices we make and how we’re living.
When we read about authentic leadership it seems so simple: be true to yourself. For this client, a primary condition of his authenticity is facing his physical limitations and being authentic with others about what he can and is willing to do to balance his work schedule with his personal health needs.
In coming to terms with his humanness, the client needs to figure out what it even means to be true to himself. Does he retain his stressful job in a field he loves, implementing a mission which he believes is his life’s work? What other avenue does he have to pursue his passion and make an impact on the world?
How you can put resilience to work for you to become more authentic?
Here are seven questions to consider as indicators of your resilience as a leader:
Am I taking the actions I need to take to remain physically healthy over the longer term?
Do I manage my thinking throughout the day, every day (minimize negative self-talk; be gentle and kind in how I think about myself; express gratitude regularly; have reasonable expectations of myself and others, etc.)?
Do I demonstrate strong emotional self-awareness and self-management?
Do I have a sense of life purpose that inspires me daily and helps keep the less important annoyances in perspective?
Do I have a spiritual practice that supports my well-being?
Do I have a support system that supports and encourages me during good times and bad?
If you’ve answered no to any of the six questions on the list consider: what changes you can you make in the short term to authentically and honestly commit to and move toward greater resilience?
As a resilient leader, you are more able to respond to the ongoing challenges of your role with clear thinking and presence. This, in turn, allows you to continue to be authentic with yourself and others around you. It also allows you to promote resilience in your workgroup so you can ensure others are also able to perform at their highest capacity.
Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet—thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing—consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.
This post is written by guest blogger Samar Habib. It is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future with Jon Wortman focusing on How the Brain Impacts Leadership Resilience. We also encourage you to take our free online resilience assessment. I am posting this blog because of the anxiety many people are facing with the combination of economic uncertainty, political uncertainty and geopolitical uncertainty to name a few. There are many different approaches to work with anxiety. An element that helps us navigate the anxiety and build our resilience is understanding how our brains and body respond to stress so we can counterbalance our physiology.
I’m on the balcony playing with pegs. Not quite two years old. Out of nowhere a bomb drops from the sky and explodes nearby. It’s a huge shock to my little heart. I scream. My sympathetic nervous system injects me with adrenaline and cortisol, propelling me like a rocket into my father’s arms.
I grow up in a war zone. Living in war is like being in a relationship with an emotionally volatile person. You spend years walking on eggshells, not knowing when they’re going to blow up next.
I’ve experienced both. Growing up in war and being in a relationship with a volatile person. Gradually, and without my awareness, I lose my sense of safety. Even long after I leave the war zone and that relationship ends, my anxiety remains. Just like a piece of toilet paper that gets stuck to your shoe long after you’ve left the restroom, anxiety follows me around.
And even though the world shows me everyday that it is a gentle and safe place that’s full of love, my body still expects everything to go to hell without warning.
When I look back on my life I can see how this stuck-fear turns me into a tiny Anxiety Mouse. As an Anxiety Mouse I’m afraid to leave a job that doesn’t utilize my full potential because I don’t know what will happen if I do. As an Anxiety Mouse, I’m afraid to ask the woman I like if she’s interested too, because I fear the sting of ridicule or rejection. As an Anxiety Mouse I abort many potential friendships because I don’t trust people’s intentions. And so when I finally become aware of how my fear oppresses me, or how I oppress myself with my fear, I set out to transform it. And in coping with anxiety, these are the lessons I learn.
Love Anxiety Mouse (with all your heart)
It takes me many years to even realize that I am afraid. Scientists say that when your body is used to being in a state of alert for so long, you stop noticing that it is on edge; it becomes your new normal.
In Life Unlocked,Srinivassan Pillay writes that certain brain regions involved in fear can be active without our conscious awareness. We can be afraid and just not know it. I first notice my subliminal fear in the backseat of a coworker’s car. I’m in my mid 30s. She’s very nice and invites me to spend time with her and a friend. But for some reason my chest constricts and I want nothing more than to get out of there. Instead of berating myself for this social failure, I turn toward my fear with curiosity and unconditional self-love.
When I get home, I do a meditation prescribed for people coping with axniety by Christopher Hansard in his book The Tibetan Art of Living. I lie on my back and close my eyes. I imagine that my breath is flowing in and out of my navel. And with every breath I feel warmer and more energized. I place my attention on my heart and I feel the anxious glow that emanates from it. It’s an icy cold, electric heat. I then imagine a miniature me lying in the center of my heart, just as Hansard instructs. She is perfectly safe and perfectly at peace. Nothing can harm her. And I sit with this perfect peace, together with my fear, for some time.
I learn from Hansard’s book that this peace is actually my inner wisdom and it is always there, accessible in the space between moments. For the ancient Tibetans, he tells me, this inner wisdom is the healer of the body and mind. In knowing how to contact this inner horizon, as he calls it, lies our ultimate healing. I now direct the image of my safe-self out of my heart and into the world. I color it with a bright, powerful light and allow it to radiate like a white sun. I let its rays permeate every aspect of my life.
Rest and let yourself receive the good feelings that come to you from doing this, Hansard writes. And I do.
I have just communicated with my sympathetic nervous system with guided imagery. I’ve brought the fear response under my sway. When I am not meditating I blast Anxiety Mouse with light and love every chance I get. Every time I notice her. Remembering the not-yet-two-year-old girl on that balcony, who was terrorized within an inch of her life, I wrap my now strong arms around the afraid parts of me and love the hell out of them. Wherever the fear is nesting in my body, I direct love with all my heart at it. Ultimately, it’s not our technology or our medicine but our love that heals. That’s what neurosurgeon James Doty writes in his book Into the Magic Shop, and that’s a neurosurgeon talking!
In the past I thought these ancient visualization techniques were archaic wishful thinking, now I realize they are truly medicine.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
I’m sitting in the back seat of a taxi. Next to me sits the object of my affection. I’d really like to ask her out for dinner but I just can’t. I’m so tense, if I was a guitar string I would snap. I’ve already read a dozen books on body language and nonverbal communication and I can tell I’m giving her all the wrong signals. You’re supposed to lightly touch your love interests here and there: on the arm, a little slap on the knee, maybe even a light touch on the small of the back if you’re ushering them through a doorway. If you have hair, flick it. And you’re supposed to make meaningful and non-invasive eye contact when they speak. Ask a lot of questions. Dress to impress. Connect emotionally. Yeah, I get it. All of it. But I just can’t bring myself to put my hand on a woman I’m attracted to.
What if she feels violated? What if I come across as sleazy? What if she’s straight and I misrepresent all gay women as predatory sex fiends for all time?
So you see, I just sit there, awkward and uncomfortable. Stewing in my closed off stance, my body turned away from her. She’s talking but I’m so caught up in my own nervousness, I have no idea what she just said. Seconds later she’s out of the taxi. Gone. I just missed my chance. I go home and I’m really tempted to hate myself. What a coward. I keep replaying our time together in my head, looking for clues. Does she like me? It never occurs to me that I could have just asked.
The fastest way to deal with anxiety is to do the thing that scares you. Once you’ve done what you’re afraid of, it can’t scare you anymore. That’s because anxiety is only possible when you think about the future and about what could happen. So feel the fear and do it anyway. This is literally the title of a best selling book by Susan Jeffers. Jeffers teaches me to say I’ll handle it, every time I catch myself worrying about the consequences of doing something. I just keep saying it over and over again, every time Anxiety Mouse rears her fragile little head inside me. If I keep giving all my money away, I’m going to end up homeless myself: that’s fine, I’ll handle it. If I quit this job I’m really not cut out for, I might never be able to find something better: I’ll handle it. What if America turns fascist and they start rounding up immigrants: I’ll handle it. What if I go on vacation and come back to find that my startup doesn’t exist anymore: I’ll handle it. Whatever you fear is going to happen that you’re theoretically worrying about right now, just tell yourself, I’ll handle it. And if the worst case scenario eventuates (it almost never does), Jeffers says in another book, tell yourself I can learn from this. I’ve just blown my last chance with this incredibly amazing woman by not asking her out. I can learn from this. I’ve just blown the entire fuse box fixing the electrics on my motorcycle. I can learn from this.
After I finally overcome my fear of losing money and start investing in the stock market, it crashes! I can learn from this.
I do learn a tonne from that last one, actually. I realize how ridiculous money is; how easily it can be made and lost. My fear of not having enough is transformed into my knowledge that material security is an illusion. It doesn’t make sense to continue being afraid of losing something (material security) that no one can ultimately have, does it?
Put Fear in a Larger Historical Context
My heart rate can go from 60 to 100 BPM instantly for no seemingly good reason. The first time this happens to me, I’m in high school. I see two police officers walking towards me and I feel the fear. I do a mental check of my school uniform. It’s a crazy thought to think that police officers are going to cite you for not having your shirt tucked in, isn’t it? They pass me without incident of course and I’m left wondering what the hell my reaction was all about. The same thing still happens to me sometimes when I see Border Patrol officers in foreign airports. And during the 2014 Ferguson protests I break into a cold sweat when a police helicopter hovers over my house for over an hour. I’ve been in war zones, why should a police helicopter make me feel like it’s coming for me? None of this makes sense to my logical mind. The physiological reactions happen in spite of my logic. In search for self-understanding, I come across the concept of epigenetics. Epigenetics teaches us that we can inherit the traumatic experiences of our predecessors even up to the moment of our conception.
What this means is that what happened during the lives of my parents and their parents lives inside me too. And so it all starts to make sense. My grandparents had to flee their family homes, they and my parents were persecuted. They lived in constant terror, hiding from genocidal militias for decades. Now that context is gone, but thanks to epigenetics my brain is still vigilant against those non-existent threats. I soon realize that Anxiety Mouse wants to make sure I survive in a world that no longer exists. I take a moment to honor the experiences of my parents and their parents before them. I close my eyes and I bless the souls of the living, and the souls of those whom we have lost. My eyes well up with tears as the fear that sits inside me takes on a new meaning. This fear is not an enemy but a precious relic from my family’s history that is asking to be acknowledged and healed.
I imagine that as I am healing my own trauma, I am also healing the trauma of my entire lineage. I feel the spirits of my grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins who were murdered in the war and to each one of them I acknowledge the pain and terror they must have faced. I take a moment to imagine what they would say to me and I listen for their messages. May you be happy, may you be at peace. Thank you for your sacrifice. I promise to live the life I am given to its fullest potential. I bless the living spirits of my mother and father. My heart radiates tremendous love and the electric ice-cold fear transforms into a tender aching, like the pain of a fresh wound. I feel my heart opening to the unhealed traumas of my predecessors and I ask that they be released now and for all time.
Bert Hellinger, a German psychologist who invented a therapeutic methodology known as Family Constellation Work, claims that we can inherit the traumas of our predecessors and live out similar fates to them if these experiences are not brought to consciousness and resolved. He calls this phenomenon systemic entanglement. We might even harbor a sense of unconscious loyalty to our fallen loved ones and end up steering ourselves toward similar fates in solidarity with them. Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, a hungarian psychologist who founded family therapy, refers to this phenomenon as invisible loyalty.
My body, without my conscious awareness, makes me live out the same psychosocial distress as my predecessors. My body is motivated by unconscious love and deep family ties that live in the cells of my body. As I become aware of this dynamic the healing begins and I set out to write a new destiny for my life. One based on optimism and trust.
Take a moment to expand your awareness of that steel-cold existential fear that doesn’t seem to leave you alone. What aspects are based on your direct experience and what aspects could you have inherited?
Take a moment to acknowledge the pains and losses of your loved ones. The ones you know and the ones you don’t. Ask that they be acknowledged and healed. Surrender the pain to the greater love that governs and corrects all things.
Subliminal Fear Lives in the Unconscious Mind
I post on an online forum about a rare motorcycle part I need to repair my bike. The following day, I receive an email from a man named Steve telling me has has the part and to call him on a given number. My first thought isn’t oh, great! My first thought is is this a scam? I put the phone number into Google and sure enough, Steve is calling from a motorcycle salvage yard in Southern California.
Someone else wouldn’t have had that thought. But that kind of thought is my default mode. It’s the first thing I think in most situations. Is there a threat? How can I make sure there isn’t a threat? How can I keep myself safe?
I’ve lived with this way of thinking for so long I barely even notice it, but now that I can see my subliminal fear in action, I can also see how it’s interfering in all aspects of my life. For one thing, I don’t trust my friends. This means I can never rely on them. And because I don’t give people the chance to be there for me, I’ve ended up with a lot of superficial relationships. Unintentionally, I have been isolating myself from others in this way for years.
Another example is that I never trust that things will work out for me, or that I might just get lucky. This means I don’t take risks and it also means that undesirable circumstances in my life are slow to change. I realize that for drastic changes to occur in my life I need to create momentum by taking bold action. But since I’m subliminally afraid all the time, I haven’t dared to quit that stupid job. I recognize that I need to go deep into my unconscious mind to fix this. And I quit that stupid job.
Releasing Stuck Energy
The unconscious mind is that part of ourselves that carries out the bodily functions we don’t have to think about. Things like a beating heart, breathing, digestion and life-saving reflexes. My unconscious mind is the one that’s running my fear factory because it still thinks I need it to survive. I need to find a way to tell it that there is no threat. I need to find a way to tell it all is good. The war (at least for me) is over, if I run out of money I’ll handle it, and there’s really no one out to get me. And if there were, I’ll handle that too. I’m sitting in my bedroom after a long day of reading and writing on my desk. I have no reason to be afraid and yet there is a knot in my stomach. Above that, in the center of my torso and radiating all the way up to my heart, I also feel a stuck energy. I am not thinking anxious thoughts, I am simply observing the sensations we would normally call fear as they manifest in my body. My Sympathetic Nervous System is on alert, it’s ready to respond to threat. Except there is no threat and I know this, but my body doesn’t. How do I tell my body everything is ok?
I soon realize that the sensations of anxiety that I am feeling in my body are located in what Eastern mystics call chakras. Chakras are energy centers in the body. For a long time I thought they were just make belief. But I can definitely feel this excess energy in the places where the second, third and fourth chakras are supposed to be.
In his book Becoming Supernatural Joe Dispenza puts the idea in my head that these energy centers can experience blockages because of past traumatic experiences. Sometimes an energy center can move away from its alignment with the spine.
The idea makes sense because the sensation I feel in what’s supposed to be my second chakra is not in alignment with my spine, it juts out slightly to the left. After his meditation technique, Dispenza says, practitioners notice a realignment of those energy centers with the spine and the energy flows freely again.
I’m willing to have an open mind about this. If these energy centers are real and my unresolved emotional experiences of being threatened are actually stuck in my body, then if I do this meditation, I should be able to feel the difference.
I close my eyes and prepare myself for the breathing exercise he prescribes. I squeeze the muscles of my pelvic floor as well as the muscles of my lower and upper abdomen in tandem with inhaling a deep breath. At the same time, I imagine that I am using my core muscles to move the energy in my lower chakras up my spine, into my brain and all the way out of the top of my head. Once I get to the top of my head, I focus my attention there and hold my breath for a few seconds. As I exhale, I relax my muscles and prepare to repeat the breathing cycle all over again. After several minutes of doing this I return to breathing normally. I focus my awareness on each chakra in turn, beginning with the first one at the base of my spine, making my way up to the 7th, blessing each with love and gratitude as I go. Finally I rest my awareness on an energy center that is supposedly a few inches above my skull. That’s supposed to be the 8th chakra. When I finish blessing each center, I place my awareness on my entire body all at once, which now feels like a massive, pulsating field of energy. I feel bigger and lighter. To my surprise I don’t feel the symptoms of anxiety return for several days. Could it have worked or was it just a coincidence?
Teach Your Body to Trust Again
After I quit my job, I realize that other areas of my life have to change. I sit down at my desk and I make an inventory of all the times I suspected people of ill intentions and turned out to be wrong. I make a second list of all the times I was afraid something bad was going to happen and it didn’t. Looking at the lists I can see the absurdity of some of those thoughts! And I remember just how plausible the scenarios seemed when I imagined them. For example, when one of my clients gave me a mechanical keyboard as a present, I wondered if it was possible for someone to install spyware on your computer through an external keyboard. I even asked a software engineer about it. Why did my mind take this kind and generous gesture from my client and turn it into a possible episode of espionage? And what subtle effects does this have on my ability to connect meaningfully with people?
At its core this is a trust issue. I have to teach my body to trust again.
I pick up Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning. She explains that the feel-good brain chemicals are released when we form trust bonds. Breuning teaches me how I can increase these brain chemicals by offering my trust to others. I don’t have to trust everybody, that’s actually not such a great idea, she writes. Steve from the motorcycle salvage yard could have been a scammer after all! But even if people go on to break our trust it’s better to assume trust initially. The joy we gain is in the act of offering our trust, not the outcome. We will feel much better for trusting people rather than living with mistrust all the time.In other words: look for people you think you can trust, initiate a situation where you’re offering your trust, and reap the brain chemical reward right there and then, regardless of whether they go on to honor or betray that trust.
Take for example the time a business owner contacts me about working with him on expanding his business. When we meet, some of his comments seem really off-kilter and abrasive to me. I feel immediate alarm bells in the usual energy centers of my body. I decide to feel the fear and offer my trust anyway. I agree to meet with him several more times. After a few encounters though, I can see that my initial assessment is correct. He is rude and abrasive, even if he isn’t aware of it, and I don’t have to spend any more time in his line of fire. I respectfully end our relationship and move on to the next business opportunity. By placing my satisfaction in my trust-offer rather than the outcome, I’m able to confidently end our relationship without feeling hurt or stupid for trusting him in the first place. And I feel good that I felt the fear and did it anyway.
7 Get Curious
Fear is an automated physiological response over which we have no control. But we can consciously maneuver our brain activity away from the automated fear response, toward other regions in the brain. We can do that by getting curious.
When my body initiates a fear response, I
Assess the situation by asking myself am I in immediate danger? The answer is almost always no
Breathe in deeply and direct self-compassion to the areas in my body where I feel the fear
Accept the fear as a sensation completely and utterly, without judgment
Investigate the sponsoring thought behind my fear. And the sponsoring thought is nearly always a fear for my survival (which isn’t being threatened)
Ask myself if there is an action I can take to alleviate my concern and if there is, I take it. I don’t react or overreact, I simply act if needed
Let me give you an example:
I receive an offer to work on a very interesting project. My client and I draw up an agreement and I sign it. I start working but she doesn’t send me the countersigned copy. This triggers my fear response. My mind plays out a number of worst case scenarios. Is this a scam? Why hasn’t she signed the agreement? I notice my heart rate go through the roof and that’s when I decide to get curious about the situation. I ask myself am I in immediate danger? Obviously not, the worst thing that could happen is that I’d work for free for a few weeks. That’s literally the worst thing that can possibly happen in this situation. I accept my absurd thoughts, take a deep breath and send love to the areas in my body where I can feel the sensations of fear. At the same time I ask myself what is it that I am really afraid of?
The answer is nearly always the same for this question: the fear is for my ultimate survival. I’m not afraid of losing out on money owed in wages, the fear is much more primal than that. The fear is of having nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. This was a reality for many members of my family decades earlier, but it is not the case for me: an able-bodied, legal resident of a country with a thriving economy. What action can I take to turn off the fear response? Send an email asking about the countersigned agreement. I do and moments later my client responds with an apology for having forgotten to return it until now. I add this to my inventory of incidents where I suspect people of having ill intentions and I turn out to be wrong.
What Are You Exactly Afraid Of?
The limbic system is the oldest part of our brain and the most primitive. It doesn’t think, it reacts. The purpose of it is to keep us alive. My fear of not having enough is ultimately a primordial fear of death. But our brains have evolved so much and are now capable of thinking. And with my thinking brain (that’s the prefrontal cortex: the area of the brain behind the forehead), I can entertain philosophical and existential ideas. One idea in particular resonates with me. The Thai buddhist monk, Ajahn Chah, teaches me that I’m going to die eventually. In fact, that’s literally the one thing we can all be sure of. We are all going to die. Eventually. And so I realize that there’s no point of living in fear of the only inevitable and certain thing. I’m not saying let’s all hold hands and run to our deaths, I’m saying that existentially it is a little absurd to live a life in fear of the inevitable.
I decide to do a meditation on fear. I begin with my first memory of fear. That’s my memory on the balcony. After that I remember being afraid of my father’s angry voice and of my teachers as they’re deciding how to punish me. I remember my fear of mean girls at school as a teenager and my fear of asking a woman out as an adult. I remember my fear of police and border patrol officers and even my fear of police helicopters. Then I get to death. And strangely everything goes quiet. I realize that I have no fear of death. Astonished, I ask myself how is it that I can be afraid of a girl making fun of me for liking her and not be afraid to die? In my lack of fear of death I realize that I can be fearless to anything I meet in life. I realize that what I possess is the ultimate bravery of all. I realize that everything I am afraid of is really nothing. I am afraid of nothing. I break into laughter at the misunderstanding that I have been living with all my life.
I Turn My Fear Into A Spiritual Path
To self-identify according to your spiritual rather than material reality is enlightenment. Marianne Williamson, Law of Divine Compensation. I’m sitting in a classroom listening to a Kabbala teacher talk about waking up and feeling uneasy, or thinking negative thoughts for no reason. And he says that whenever his teacher feels those negative emotions he says to himself what a pleasure! It turns out that for the Kabbalists this psychological tension that comes out of nowhere is a sign that you are on the edge of a spiritual breakthrough. A seasoned Kabbalist gets really excited when they get anxious for no reason.And so my first thought is this guy is nuts. But actually he isn’t. It turns out that people who are just about to have a spiritual experience first have an overload of activity in the areas of their brain traditionally associated with fear and negative emotions.
To get to a spiritual experience you first feel a lot of distress. Sorta like the story of Jesus in the desert getting taunted by the devil, and the Buddha by Mara, sorta like that. Both have their spiritual breakthroughs on the other side of their respective freak outs. For this reason I can’t call Anxiety Mouse by that name any more. Sure I still have the physiological symptoms of fear every now and then but my thoughts about those feelings are not the same. Physical sensations are just physical sensations. We assign meanings to them and why should my feeling that we call anxiety be seen as such a bad thing? How do I know it’s bad? How do I know it’s not even awesome? What if it’s like a stargate into another dimension?
Pain Does Not Equal Harm
I am on an exhilarating spiritual path. I’m exploring the influence I can have on my body and my world with my conscious mind. Realizing this, I come to see that anxiety isn’t really anxiety, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to explore what I can and can’t do with my mind to influence my body. Every anxious moment is the perfect opportunity to master the skill of this subtle influence of mind on the body. I know we’re led to believe that we shouldn’t feel this way and if we do then something is wrong, but this feeling is not harmful. I can learn so much from this! And I do. Every day.
https://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/10-878x1024.jpeg1024878Maureen Metcalfhttps://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.pngMaureen Metcalf2019-02-26 17:31:362022-02-02 16:50:02Building Resilience – Lessons for Coping with Anxiety
This blog is an excerpt from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers as a companion to the Voice America show aired on November 20, 2018, Love at Work: The Essential Guide to a Life of Inspired Purpose. This show was a conversation with Olivia Parr-Rud with host Maureen Metcalf talking about their aspirations and visions as successful leaders.
If you plan annual goals, this blog will serve as a helpful foundation. It spells out the exercise to define your personal vision and gives an example of Demetrius as he completed the exercise.
It is important to note that many people will complete this exercise and still not have a clearly articulated vision—this is because defining personal vision requires a great deal of introspection for most people. While some people grow up knowing what they want to do for a living, others find that identifying a vision is a process of gradual exploration and will take more time and energy than completing a single workbook exercise. You will likely refine your vision as you progress through blog posts based on the information you learn about yourself. Because the visioning process is iterative in nature—a process of self-discovery—these exercises in this book will serve as the foundation for a longer process that may take considerably more time to complete. It will likely change as you gain experience and as your introspective process matures.
Define Personal Vision
Follow the steps defined below:
Step 1: Create a picture of your future. Imagine yourself at the end of your life. You are looking back and imagining what you have done and the results you have created.
What is the thing of which you are most proud?
If you had a family, what would they say about you?
What did you accomplish professionally?
What would your friends say about you?
For the rest of this exercise, let that future person speak to you and help you set a path that will enable you to look back with pride and say things like, “I feel fulfilled and at peace. I lived my life well.”
Step 2: Write a story. Now that you have that image of what you will accomplish, write a brief story about your successful life. Include details about the questions above. Make it a story of what you went through to accomplish each of the results for the questions you answered. What you are trying to create is a roadmap for your journey that gives you more insight into what you would want if you had the option to design your perfect life.
Who helped you along the way?
What did you enjoy about your daily life?
Who was closest to you?
What feelings did you have as you accomplished each milestone along the way?
How did you mentor others and contribute to the success of others?
What did you do to maintain your health?
What role did spirituality or religion play in your journey?
What job did you have?
What role did material success play in your life?
What type of person were you (kind, caring, driven, gracious)
Step 3: Describe your personal vision. Given the story you have written and the qualities you demonstrated as a person, write a two to five sentence life-purpose statement—a statement that talks about your highest priorities in life and your aspirations. This statement should capture the essence of how you want to live your life and project yourself.
An example – My vision is to develop myself to my greatest capacity and help others develop and thrive in all aspects of their lives. I will live consciously and courageously, relate to others with love and compassion, and leave this world better for my contribution.
Step 4: Expand and clarify your vision. If you are like most people, the choices you wrote are a mixture of selfless and self-centered elements. People sometimes ask, “Is it all right to want to be covered in jewels, or to own a luxury car?” Part of the purpose of this exercise is to suspend your judgment about what is “worth” desiring, and to ask instead which aspect of these visions is closest to your deepest desire. To find out, ask yourself the following questions about each element before going on to the next one: If I could have it now, would I take it?
Some elements of your vision don’t make it past this question. Others pass the test conditionally: “Yes, I want it, but only if…” Others pass, but are later clarified and distilled in the process. As you complete this exercise, refine your vision to reflect any changes you want to make.
Example: Demetrius’ Vision Development Process
When I look into the future I want to be proud of the person I have become and the life that I have lived. In particular, I want to ensure that my wife and I have raised a beautiful family in which our children think independently and are able to articulate their own personal visions. I would like for my children to be able to say I have been there for them every step of the way, and allowing them to experience life while guiding them away from danger when possible. For me, family and family interactions are highly valued, so the closest people to me are my wife and our children. However, I don’t discount the close friends I have known since high school and those I’ve met along the journey since college.
Professionally, I want to create an organization whose culture represents my personality: relaxed and laid back, yet focused and driven. I want to create a work environment in which people are excited about their work and where they can accomplish their professional goals. Finally, my organization must take into account our community and to find ways to give back every chance we get.
My vision is to develop myself to my greatest capacity and create a healthy and loving environment in which my family will thrive. I strive to be a friend who can be counted on in every way. I will create a business that delivers value to our clients and community and has a culture where people can thrive and grow personally.
https://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Metcalf-Vision-2-12-2019.png720960Maureen Metcalfhttps://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.pngMaureen Metcalf2019-02-13 07:35:252021-09-01 10:30:14What is Your Leadership Vision 2019
You don’t need to be a Star Wars devotee to recognize the franchise’s most iconic characters and moments. They’re so well-known that they became memes long before the internet was a thing. Talk about staying power!
While intergalactic adventures might not be for everyone, the themes and messages that creator and director George Lucas instilled in every leap to hyperdrive are. They’re particularly important for leaders of all stripes to take to heart, even if they’re more Team Trekkie than gaga over one Leia Organa.
Ready to soak up some knowledge straight from the stars? Read on for our favorite leadership lessons from Star Wars.
Know When to Ask for Help
One of the hallmarks of a great leader isn’t that they have all the answers; it’s that they know what they don’t know and they’re not afraid to ask for help. Case in point: Leia, princess of Alderaan and general in the Resistance.
Our introduction to Leia as a character is through her holographic SOS call to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. While she seems like a damsel in distress, that illusion is quickly destroyed. Instead, Leia is revealed to be a fierce leader who can and does join the fight. Still, she knows she won’t win without assistance—and neither will you. Go ahead, raise your hand and make the ask, already!
Put Your Plans into Action – Remember, Real Leadership is More Experimentation than Certainty
The most effective Leaders know that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Sound familiar? It’s Murphy’s Law, and 99 percent of the time, it’s right on the money. Just because you’re worried about your next great idea taking a nosedive, though, it doesn’t mean you should stay in perpetual planning mode. At some point, you need to leap. You need to do.
When leaders take the on the “mindset of a scientist” they don’t expect to be right. They will be directionally correct and take action that is scaled appropriately for an experiment or proof of concept before they take big action that could increase the organizational risk profile.
Leadership is about the right balance between thinking, preparing and. This iconic Yoda moment says it all: Do or do not. There is no try.
A leader doesn’t pussyfoot around an issue. Leaders minimize risk—that’s where the preparation comes in. When they’re reasonably sure they have a handle on a situation (good at developing experiments), they go for it, knowing that the results won’t be perfect. There will be course corrections. There will be mistakes. There will be starts and stops and learning along the way. But if you don’t start—if you don’t push that big red button—you’re never going to move forward. And, as a leader, that’s your job.
Trust Your Instincts and Verify
Our instincts have evolved over 200,000 years to become highly accurate sensors for risky situations. That gut instinct we talk about is valuable because it tells you instantly when something is a no-go and when you should proceed with caution. Whether you live in the Star Wars universe or your feet are firmly planted on planet Earth, this sort of heads-up system is essential to making good choices for the future.
Of the original trio of Star Wars characters, Luke is the most emotional. He’s the most in touch with his feelings and his instincts, which makes sense, given his natural talent for channeling the Force. And, goodness knows, he needs it! From the moment Luke Skywalker encounters R2D2 and C3PO, his life is a wild ride packed with death traps, rescue missions, and daredevil stunts. He relies on his instincts the way any leader or future leader should: to let him know when he should proceed and to decide if he needs more preparation. The best leaders balance the ability to trust their instincts with a highly developed ability to analyze situations and get input from others. Luke looked to Yoda and others as he honed this ability. By balancing inner wisdom (the force) with strong reliance on data and trusted others who will see your blind spots, you will be well prepared to act and learn.
Give Prompt Feedback
Saving up all your dos and don’ts for an end-of-year review isn’t an effective management strategy. To get the most out of your team, you should offer in-the-moment feedback when it’s most useful—and when they can apply your corrections and make changes on the fly. Sitting on your complaints and stewing over pet peeves isn’t good for anyone, and it won’t result in a top-notch project.
Feedback can and should take the form of learning from your action/experiments in the form of “after action analysis” for the team and project. It should also include personal learning – what was each individual’s role in the success and contribution to the short falls? Having the courage as a leader and as a participant to build on strengths and correct mistakes and short falls is necessary. This also assumes you as the leader have created a culture where mistakes are the fuel of learning not torture. Think of the many hours Jedi’s trained with Yoda. With each success and each failure, they took the feedback as an opportunity to build skills. If Yoda was not brutally honest, the Jedi would die in battle. Withholding honest feedback reflects weakness in the leader. Yes, it is hard and required to create a world class organization.
To be clear: Do not Force-choke or otherwise torture, assault, or threaten your employees. Whether you have thousands of followers awaiting your command or not, it’s better to lead by respect rather than fear like Darth Vader. Still, we appreciate that he … ahem … nips problems in the bud instead of lets them fester.
Always Look for Silver Linings – Positivity is Contagious
Cynicism and snark might be popular, but they won’t do you any good when you’re leading a group of people. Hope inspires. Optimism motivates. Purpose inspires. Results inspire. Opportunities for growth inspire.
You don’t have to go around like a modern-day Pollyanna but do try to keep one eye on the good in every situation, even while you take stock of the bad. As we build a culture of action and experimentation, each action will have successes and failures. It is the leader and the organization that can honestly learn and grow that will win. This is only possible by finding the success along with the course correction. Everyone’s favorite bad boy does it, so can you!
It always seems a little incongruous that someone so rough-around-the-edges and practical as Han is also so positive when the Rebels, and, later, the Resistance, are fighting a seemingly unwinnable war against the Dark Side. The hope he has is what keeps him pushing forward, and that’s something we could all do with a little more of.
At the end of every Star Wars movie, the prevailing lesson is that a win doesn’t come straight from the top. While leadership is essential, it’s a team exercise—and that’s a lesson George Lucas and his cast of characters never let us forget.
https://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Metcalf-Yoda-12-17-2018.jpg720960Maureen Metcalfhttps://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.pngMaureen Metcalf2019-01-07 13:05:212022-02-02 13:36:59Leadership Lessons from Star Wars
During that episode, we explored ways that aspiration affects outcomes – particularly as it relates to people in their careers. What people believe is possible in their lives has a huge impact on what they end up getting accomplished. Our dreams/vision statements/goals (pick your word) initiate the creative tension in us that drives us forward until we achieve. In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
As a follow on to this discussion, I wanted to illustrate using my own life as an example. In May of 2016, I left a highly compensated job at a Fortune 100 company. Over the ensuing months, I did some consulting, began working with a fledgling startup and did the normal headhunter thing. I ended up picking 2 companies to interview with and received C level offers from both, the lower of which was a 30% raise from what I’d been making in my last job. I ended up turning down both job offers and taking a 90% pay cut from what I could’ve been making to join the fledgling startup. This seems like an odd move for a 51-year-old at the peak of his earning curve. So why did I do it?
Aspiration, of course!
How can taking a pay cut and giving up all my resources as a C level exec be aspirational? Seriously, I went from having 2,000 people on my team (my team was large enough that I had a group that did nothing but report the operational data from my shop) to being one of the people that regularly take the trash out at a startup.
For me, it is all about learning and growing. As I evaluated my future back in the summer of 2016, I realized that going back into a corporate role was not going to teach me anything – in fact the reason I got the offers is because I knew the answers to all the questions the CEO’s threw at me. I found I was experiencing a strong allergic reaction to re-entering the corporate world with little hope of growth.
What excited me about the startup, now known as Wiretap, was the chance to not only work on a worthy product with a small group of people I trusted and shared values with, but also the chance to learn and grow. I was energized by the challenge of re-inventing myself as a professional who knew how to start a company and build a value chain from scratch. I was energized by the challenge of completely re-booting my professional network from a bunch of corporate staffers and the people that sold stuff to them to the people who fund and grow companies. I honestly knew nothing meaningful about that world.
The key to this was finding both courage and humility. The courage was about believing – aspiring to successfully launch a company. The humility is about accepting the reality that any prior success or power/resources tied to my past positions and success were almost completely irrelevant in this new context. On top of that, I had to re-create all my mental models about risk, leadership, capital deployment, etc.
So, how’s it going? IT.HAS.BEEN.AWESOME! …not because I’ve achieved some big pay day (that is not my goal – I would consider this pivot a staggering success if I broke even on my corporate career), but rather because I found once again the joy and power of aspiration when you don’t know the answers or even the destination. The power of not knowing the answers but believing you can find them. Feeling compelled to work hard to find the answers – not because they seem impossible (though sometimes they do), but because you believe in your soul that they are possible. Embracing the pressure of knowing that if you don’t solve the problems you face, then a lot of people you are on this journey with won’t get to experience the high of doing something that very few people truly get to do. We are giving life to a new organization – a community that has a unique culture and a set of differentiated capabilities that has never existed in the world before!
I’ll pause there with this story, because there are many chapters to write and I must get back to work! If you are still unclear of the message, go back and re-read the Goethe quote 3 times. Cheers to a 2019 filled with aspiration in your life!
Greg Moran is a C-level digital, strategy and change leadership executive with extensive global operations experience. He is the COO of Wiretap in Columbus and sits on the board of Koios Medical in NYC. He led corporate strategy for Ford and designed the plan that Alan Mullaly used to turn around the company. Greg held C-level IT positions in app dev, infrastructure and core banking applications at Ford, Nationwide Insurance and Bank One/JPMC, respectively. He began his career in consulting with Arthur Andersen/Accenture, working across industries with ~100 companies over the course of a decade. He is passionate about leadership and culture and teaches part time on the topic at Ohio University.
https://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.png00Maureen Metcalfhttps://www.innovativeleadershipinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ILI-Anniversary-Logo.pngMaureen Metcalf2019-01-03 21:45:392022-02-02 17:10:10Aspiration – Making the Pivot