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Leadership is an Inside Job

Practical tips for merging the worlds of personal and professional development.

Throughout my career, I’ve had such exciting opportunities. But – it wasn’t always so glamorous. I want to share my experience with you and translate it into a few key points for you to consider. Whether you are a seasoned executive, or just getting started out in your career is completely irrelevant, let me tell you why.

Often times the ‘roles’ we hold at companies, the titles associated with those roles and how we ‘show up’ starts to feel like an identity.

The trouble with that model is that if anything changes, or the unexpected happens – you could be left feeling worthless, like everything you did was for nothing. Who am I without this role?

Today, I invite you to flip that script.

Merging the two worlds of personal and professional development, typically goes against the grain for most organizations. In fact, as leaders, managers, and people, we are often trained NOT to get personal. Now, let me tell you – boundaries within this space are extremely important – and I am not proposing that starting today you run to your teams and colleagues and dig into their personal situations. I simply invite you to sit with this concept:

If we don’t start seeing our employees (and ourselves) as WHOLE beings, they (we) will never give the FULL performance you are looking for.

One of my career mantras has always been, create the thing you wish existed.

This has served me well – for the following reasons:

  1. It forced me to stop making excuses or expecting someone else to swoop in like a magic bullet.

  2. Creation takes time, vision and patience.

  3. Filling in the void – with all of your energy, passion, and presence behind it – stands out.

  4. Challenging yourself outside of your comfort zone will result in the transformation and growth you are really seeking.

Fulfillment comes in many forms, and it’s different for everyone. However, without tuning in to what fulfillment looks and feels like for ourselves, and for members of our team – it can leave an organization spinning it's wheels.

Transformation of culture and brand is boiled down to each part of the whole. The individuals involved influencing an organization into a new direction, have varying levels of agenda.

It can be easy to stay motivated by tangible success, aligning an individual with their own personal standard of excellence is a critical component to growth. Breaking out of the cycle of 'how things have always been done' requires transformational energy for the people involved in the seeking of alternatives.

A book that was given to me early on in my career, is one that I recommend to everyone that I mentor. It’s called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Don Miguel Ruiz.

These agreements are:

1. Be Impeccable with your word

2. Don’t take anything personally

3. Don’t make assumptions

4. Always do your best

I found these agreements to be simple yet profound, and I will tell you why.

The easy route and one deeply connected to our human experience – is to get hung up on external motivators. Money, seeking approval, the next best title, a new car – you name it, all riddled with seasonings of success – but in my opinion, a deep false bottom.

The book and the concepts therein, forced me to look inward. I quickly learned that no one is responsible for my success. I am not entitled to anything, and I better be crystal clear on my personal standard.

That last one, I want to unpack a bit more.

Your personal standard becomes what you are known for. By putting that power in anyone else’s hands but your own – means you are working towards someone else’s definition of success and shifts the accountability outward.

I have found that the definition of personal standard can be seen in the little things. The things you do when no one is looking.

Looking good ‘on the surface’ is easy. But how about when no one is watching? Do you return the shopping cart? Do you hold the door for someone behind you? Do you let someone out in front of you in traffic, even if you are running late? Do you admit when you are wrong?

One might say, what the heck does any of that have to do with career success. For me? Everything. I’ve found that my integrity, and the actions that correspond with MY personal standard allow me to walk in my truth. Holding yourself to your own standard allows this whole ‘don’t take anything personal’ agreement to really take shape.

You might think that the intent there is more so if something happens negatively, inversely – it also means when things are going great and your name is being praised from the roof top. Rising and falling with these feedback loops can have a devastating impact on one’s feelings of self-worth.

So, don’t put your power there. Don’t seek approval as the reward.

If you hold yourself to a standard of excellence that is unmatched – you must be willing to own it. For better or worse.

You will know deep down if you gave it your all, or if you dropped the ball. Just own it. There is nothing more refreshing than when someone steps up to say – after reflecting on what happened, I own my piece in this and here is what I am prepared to do differently next time. And mean it, from a place of genuine accountability and integrity.

Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what you need to do.

On the flip side – when you are riding the rock-star wave, shift your frame of mind. Stay humble and centered. This is simply the result of alignment with your personal standard.

Let the fulfillment in that journey be the prize, not the praise.

Yes it feels good, but it’s typically short lived. Don’t let it be your only motivator or you will be sorely disappointed.

Communication is the key to any great relationship or desirable business impact. Stay curious. Ask questions, allow people in. Be equal parts ‘expert’ and ‘I don’t know’ – to allow space for others to co-create and inspire. It doesn’t matter what level you are at or what ‘success’ you’ve had, we are never done learning and growing.

Don’t let your mind and spirit get rigid. Stay open to flow, to new ideas – you never know where it will take you next.

Leadership is a way of life, not a title. Great leadership is empathic, open, direct and honest.

I invite you to merge ‘who you are’ in your personal life with who you are in your professional life in an effort to close the gap between the two in real, authentic ways.



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