I've been hanging out with a business coach since January. Philip is a former executive, one of the original posse that started Leadership Metro Richmond (when the idea that black and white Richmonders needed to have real conversations was powerful, important and counter-intuitive) and a cornerstone of Chrysalis Institute. His game is mindfulness.
When I started looking for a business coach, I thought I was looking for someone to help me juggle faster, and better. When I met Philip, I realized (mostly in my gut) that I wasn't.
He spends a fair amount of time inviting me to be more mindful, intentional and focused. I am learning, ever so slowly, to listen in our conversations. And to remember the wisdom of another coach in my life, who continues to tell me that it's what I do before I do what I do that will make the difference in my leadership, my work and my life.
Being Mindful Works
So, I like some of the advice doled out in Philip Bregman's book, 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. (Speaking of distractions, I might be on the verge of being convinced that the Serial Comma is good.) Farnam Street Blog helpfully digests the book's three simple steps for us: your morning minutes, an hourly refocus, and your evening minutes. Lather, rinse, repeat these 18 minutes for a month or so and you've got a whole new game. Being intentional about your day isn't a new idea for me, but I don't spend enough consistent time (5 minutes in the evening, Bregman suggests) reflecting on how things went. Here are his questions to ask at the end of the day:
How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges did I endure? What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do—differently or the same— tomorrow? Whom did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question of? Share feedback with?
Know What Matters
ot too different is a blog post from CleverKate. Reading her bio reminds me of Larkin Garbee, who runs 804RVA and 12,000 other miscellaneous, cool things around town. Busy! Her most popular post -- "Why My Life Doesn't Suck" -- dives into her secret to being happy and getting way too much stuff done. (Her secret? Self-awareness.) She started a list of things she loved -- people, ideas, essentially two months of verbal interesting -- and two months later, she boiled them down into six themes, or personal values. Her results?
Once established, I thought it would be a good idea to fill my life with only things that fed these values until I felt like I had mastered them. The best part: the results are clearly seen in my parenting, my work, my relationships, my posts, my connectedness every day. What could be better than that? It drives everything I do, and is wholly who I am.
Finally, we arrive at self-confrontation. You may have heard it phrased as "looking in the mirror". A great book -- seriously great, and the topic of an upcoming workshop I'm facilitating with a team from Virginia Commonwealth University next month -- is "Leadership and Self-Deception". Self-deception is the Mirror Universe Spock to self-confontation. (That means it is it's evil twin, with a Fu Manchu beard.)
This particular lesson on self-confrontation comes from Dan Oestreich's blog, Unfolding Leadership. The heart of reflective leadership, he suggests, is the capacity for self-confrontation.
It is not really a skill. It is more of a "psychological move," a mental and emotional re-positioning to look very honestly at oneself and one's situation.
A few key takeaways from his too-brief post:
- "It's easier to believe in self-confrontation when talking about other people. If only they would be honest with themselves, things would get better."
- "We can be absolutely certain of our experience of others only to discover, too late, how wrong we were."
- "Self-confrontation only really works when it is wrapped in love."
I'm particularly drawn to that last point. I'm not sure I could count on two hands the number of leaders I've worked with in recent years who demonstrate a significant and consistent capacity for love as part of their leadership. Not mushy, idealized love, but leading from a place of honest, non-patronizing and genuine care for themselves and those around them. Hard stuff!