In my previous column I asked my community to share what’s working to navigate today’s business and social climate. What struck me immediately was that while we all may be in this together, each organization is unique in its circumstances, capacity and progression. One must honestly assess what’s happening for one’s business, and put oneself, in as much as possible, in the driver’s seat while simultaneously letting go of that which one does not have control.
There can be no more going through the motions. This chapter requires our authentic, courageous selves. It requires us to be transparent and of service to those in our care. In fact, it is the most powerful and impactful way to lead. This recalibration can be both enticing and exhausting, energizing and dizzyingly frenetic. It’s less about getting through it and more about finding purpose and meaning.
A call to evolve
Societally, our appetite for change is high. We can leverage that for meaningful shifts internally and in our organizations. Many leaders are ramping up their commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, anchoring these principles into their day-to-day reality. Celebrating diversity requires cultivating a keen sense of curiosity, commitment to collaboration, and bold new levels of authenticity in the workplace. With this openness and vulnerability come the rewards of freedom – freedom to own our strengths and our mistakes, and to connect more deeply to our work, colleagues, customers and community.
Any call to evolve will provoke some level of resistance. It is our egos’ modus operandi to protect, so much so that it often equates change with threat. No doubt, there exist legitimate stressors in our world. However, our resistance to change often agitates our situation, sometimes to the point of inertia. We may discover our resistance is less about the change itself, and more about our discomfort in the transition. We reduce the power of resistance not by resisting it further, but by addressing it directly and compassionately. Change comes with less turmoil when we embrace it and shed old ways that no longer serve us so that we may make room for what is next.
Surrendering to resistance is not about giving up. It’s neither pretending fear isn’t there, nor shoring up a false, shaky confidence with unsubstantiated bravado. It’s about being thoughtful in where to focus one’s energy. There is a natural tension between effort and surrender. Learn to differentiate between stressors that are real and need attention, and those that are fabricated and restrain. Playing small is playing it safe. There is tremendous value in creating an environment that fosters experimentation and risk-taking. There is a call now more than ever for leadership; step into that space. Our growth, capacity and confidence require it.
Value learning and connection
The existence of resistance is usually some element of fear of something, such as making a mistake and looking foolish. Yet if we resist taking action, our inaction can be its own mistake. And if we make mistakes in the actions we take, we can simply look at how to fix them and learn from them. I’m currently working with a client to codify its core values, and upon interviewing a cross section of key personnel, it became evident that the culture supported an ethos of “better to err and learn than not to take action at all.” It affords people efficiency, trust and agility.
If we look closer, that fear of making a mistake is often deeply rooted in the fear of rejection, of not being connected, and of a sense of shame, real or perceived. Ironically, true camaraderie requires bringing our true selves to the experience.
I find it strangely liberating that there is not a specific playbook for the combination of a pandemic, social unrest or our economic woes. This gives us the freedom and responsibility to embrace new paradigms while honoring the very real struggles. By leaning into this discomfort, we nurture our courage.
Decision-making through the lens of “yes”
How we spend our days reflects what we have chosen to prioritize. Our actions are visible affirmations of our choices. Consider a day in your life – are you living it in accordance with what you say is important? Or have you slipped into “shoulds,” overcommitments or old, comfortable patterns? How we show up, what we do, and with whom, all speak to our priorities. By giving an unequivocal “yes” to intentional choices, we can harness the energy to cultivate an aligned way of living. Organizationally speaking, what are you and your teams saying yes to? Mindsets and behaviors that integrate priorities in the daily vernacular and processes yield far more satisfying results.
Take the K Challenge:
Recently, a new client expressed that success is a combination of luck, skill and timing. She believed that now is the time to move forward with the clarity and conviction of one’s purpose and vision. Leadership in this space means the ability to embed one’s vision into daily practices and cultural norms. Leverage this time to mature and solidify what is important in the hearts and minds of your people. Give people a purpose and something to say yes to – an opportunity to contribute, create meaning and create community – and you will be using this time judiciously.
In the heart of chaos, we crave control. Don’t seek control to return to the way that it was; instead make room for change. Seek to shape your culture to what it could be. Seize this moment as an opportunity to practice letting go of fear and standing for what generates enthusiasm, passion and possibility.
What needs to change? What are you drawn to? What are you resisting? Is it an intuitive nudge – guiding your decision-making? Or is it fear-based, keeping you small and presumably safe yet unsatisfied? Choose your way – make your yeses meaningful and a pathway for evolving.
Karen Natzel is a business therapist who helps leaders create healthy, vibrant and high-performing organizations.