Social media is littered with beautiful photos of happy people doing wonderful things. The pursuit of happiness has become a catchcry. Success is measured by popularity, beauty and material wealth. Thank goodness for the creation of selfie filters to tweak the imperfections!
The temptation in coaching follows a similar rhythm. Work out who you need to influence most, ensure you have the right corporate look, the outfit, the grooming, the physique. Create inspirational goals. Go on a values-driven journey to enable a happier, more successful life.…
What I see in all of this is one key theme: self-focused indulgence.
Too often I have seen leaders agonising over their values or those of their team and organisation with little attention to the intent or impact of living out those values.
Such conjured values are akin to the Snapchat share or Facebook photo that looks great on the surface, but tells us very little of what’s really going on.
We are constantly at risk of looking through the lens of how we think things should be or how we would prefer them to be rather than what they really need to be.
Upon completing a session with one of my senior leaders I asked how she felt. She ducked and weaved and then finally admitted she felt underwhelmed. Yet upon reflecting further, the conversation and commitments flowing from it were what needed to be done. Sometimes we just need to push through the mundane and get things done.
My client would have preferred to leave our session excited and inspired. Instead, she left determined and focused. Plenty of time for celebration and excitement once the hard slog had been embraced.
My suggestion is: the next time you are creating goals or exploring values, walk the hypothetical on the impact (where and who) and the consequences of such an impact.
For example, if your goal is to be a more authentic leader, ask yourself why and check-in where you intend to stay true to your authenticity, where it will be compromised and where you know you will fall short (in the real world).
There is little value in proclaiming to be an authentic leader when you know deep down your environment or circumstances won’t allow it. Better to admit, at least to yourself, that perhaps job security is the key driver and while you won’t always align to your authentic self (whatever that means!) you will aspire to do minimal harm along the way. Definitely not as attractive, but possibly a little closer to reality…
“We are constantly at risk /of looking through the lens of how we think things should be / how we would prefer things to be / rather than for what they really are / or what they really need to be.”
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