About a year ago I wrote a blog about our Saboteur/Inner Critic and the importance of owning mistakes and yet not feeding the animal. This post speaks on a similar theme.
I was co-leading a workshop recently for a global company and the leaders attending were coming from across a large business unit in the U.S. Some were there because they had put their hand up for this experience. Others were there because they were told it was important. A few were there because they were told it was required. So, as you can imagine, a mixed level of personal interest and willingness to take on the experience. The content of the workshop is robust, experiential and full-on. Without full buy-in, the success of the endeavor is truly tested.
On the final day of the event, we were taking the group into a new experience that is often seen as unconventional and uncomfortable in organizational settings. The group for the most part had played hard, challenged and been open to what we had to offer. Despite the success, this day had me nervous and wondering if they’d “buy” what was coming. It requires peers to acknowledge areas of growth in front of a group and then lead an exercise from this place of development. Further, this was the first occasion where one of the key account leaders was not one of the workshop leaders (in 6.5 years of the account), and this workshop was an important step in the enterprise-wide client relationship. So, lots at stake!
In preparing for the day, my co-leader and I, along with our program sponsors, engaged in a conscious preparation practice to stake the outcomes we desired, and who we needed to BE in order to affect that result. I let my co-leader know that I had concern and unease on the day. Hearing these, she offered that we start by declaring all the outcomes we wanted for the day as if they were ALREADY true. So imagine declaring a future state as if you were already there and the outcomes you most wanted had come true. It went something like this:
“I’m so excited that the participants in this workshop found this stretch exercise engaging, insightful and powerful as they consider their future as a leader.” And,
“I’m so thankful there was clarity, ease and some good laughs as we rolled this out.”
“I’m amazed and inspired that, despite the complexity and confusion of all the issues we faced this morning, the group has landed on some clear ideas and ways to move this important work forward.”
So to really make this point, we made these declarations at 8:30AM in advance of events that would roll out between that time and 4:30PM. Sound crazy? I get it if it does. And for me, the choice I saw was this option, or start leading the day’s activities from the place of concern and which would like result in me hoping and trying to control them to “just get it!”
And pause for a moment. How often do you go into meetings, presentations or conversations where some of your primary thoughts have a flavor of concern, anxiety, frustration, disinterest etc.? How do you suppose having that thinking or perspective impacts your behaviour and presence? In my experience, working with leaders, this is very often something we work on deliberately – choosing the best mindset for the impact you want to have.
Speaking of impact, what was the effect of our conscious preparation on me that day? Entering the room I noticed more enthusiasm, trust and eagerness I had with my co-leader, the participants and the day at hand. As we moved through the exercises, I began to notice that the participants were engaging with enthusiasm and trust. I became more attentive and grateful for moments of clarity, laughter, ease and enthusiasm. And with each of these moments, my belief and faith in our desired outcomes being achieved grew. As I acknowledged and owned the experience more fully, so did the experience seem to reveal more of those qualities over time.
Quick pause for a neuroscience moment – the Reticular Activating System (RAS). In short, our RAS ensures that what we are most attentive to, we see. For example, you buy a new red Toyota Prius and all of a sudden you’re aware of all the red Prius’ on the road. Workshop parallel – when I point myself towards moments of enthusiasm, ease, etc. I notice them. And what I focus on gets my energy and grows as a result. In the absence of this positive focus, if my “stress brain” takes over (resources on Emotional Intelligence and Positive Intelligence have great info on our stress brain) and I focus unconsciously on what’s going sideways, I start to create more of that. I get tight, try to control, and that has more things go wrong!
So the bottom line? Whatever we intend and are attentive to are the conditions or experiences we co-create with others. And in EVERY situation, we always have our attention on some aspect of the experience. Usually we’re unconscious to what that is, but know that whatever you’re attuned to, you’re creating more of it! By carefully choosing our desired outcomes, speaking them and holding our attention on the experience, we create more of what we want. Is it perfect? No. In the workshop, we were behind time in moments, having to shift our focus and even pieces of content to have it all fit. And with holding our focus on our intention and outcome, the net results were still achieved.
How to apply all this? Here are a few steps to take:
- In advance of a meeting, presentation, conversation, etc. imagine the impact and outcomes you want to emerge from the event. What do people leave with, experience or say about you/the interaction?
- Then take the qualities of the impact you want to create and speak or write them down as being true in the present tense. For example, “recipients of this presentation are engaged, inspired, informed and wanting to know more. “ Or, “they’ve chosen this project as a top 5 priority.” Express gratitude for the fact that this impact has happened. Gratitude has been shown to put us into creative, relaxed and open state that helps us be more responsive and nimble moment-to-moment.
- As you move through the experience, note when those moments show up and acknowledge them. This helps you create more of what you’re wanting.
- Reflect at the end and express gratitude towards yourself and those who co-created the experience with you for helping you get there.
Oh, and I final note. As both my co-leader and I had a short window to get from the venue to the airport for early flights home, we also set the intention of “we are so grateful that we completed the workshop in a timely way and with ease arrive at the airport by 5PM.” Looking at it purely logistically at 8:30AM with the possible complexities on content, timing and traffic, that seemed unlikely.
Time of arrival at the airport with all the other qualities being true……4:56PM on our rented Jeep Wrangler.
As a mentor of mine, Rick Tamlyn says, “our lives go in the direction of the words we use.” This goes for where and how we place our intentions and attention. Choose wisely. You’re the only one who gets to choose for you.