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Leaders: Think Before You Speak

Leaders - Think Before You Speak by Annette Segal of The Valiant GroupBefore you speak, do you clarify your intent? Whether the speaking is in written or verbal form, do you make conscious what you desire from the communication?

Perhaps it is connection you seek. Or attention. Perhaps you have a specific request, say for a solution to a problem or a suggestion or idea, or perhaps what you desire is support.

Perhaps what you most desire is simple banter – a joking, humorous way to connect without deeper meaning.

Sometimes what you may want from the communication is simply to be heard.

What seems important is be be clear rather than confused, to tune into yourself and your heart’s desire so that you turn it inside out, like a pocket and tune into the other, too.

I work with highly intelligent, resourceful leaders. Often the most important shift I support them with is clarifying the intention for their communication. When that is matched up with tuning into the intention of the other/s, real dialogue follows.

So much of the concern of “public speaking” rests on formulas – start with a joke or tell a story or…. and yet, all speech is public and all communication can be true, when we are true to ourselves.

Women: Don’t “Just” Yourself

Women Don't Just YourselfWomen are amazing – brilliant, creative, compassionate, kind. Yet often, when they step into positions of leadership, one of the hazards they face AND rarely notice are their speech habits – the ones that undermine them.

Women’s unique way of communicating tends to be collaborative, consensus-building and inviting – much needed attributes in conscious leadership. There’s no need to change that – it a gift to the team, the project, the organization and direct reports appreciate it too! Also, there’s no need to take on a style that’s inauthentic. Women DO NOT have to become man-like to lead!

However, it is time to put away the self-diminishing ways of speaking that stem from being afraid of your own power or from believing what your harsh inner critic has to say. Its time to stop offering up your brilliance in tentative, self-deprecating ways.

So how to begin? Start moving into authentic communication by being mindful.

  • “I’m just wondering…”
  • “I just think…”
  • “I just want to add…”
  • Drop the “just.”

“Just” demeans what you have to say. “Just” shrinks your power. Get rid of the “justs.”


First, increase your awareness of the unhelpful speech patterns you currently use by simply listening to yourself. Recordings give unbiased, useful feedback. Or ask a trusted colleague to monitor your speech for a day.

Check whether you speak the same way at home as you do at work, in the boardroom, when you’re presenting. Its important to notice whether stress shifts you into certain speech habits.

Then set an intention to work on your unhelpful habits one-by-one. Set in by staing it in the present tense. An example might be, “I speak without diminishing my thoughts and ideas.”

Drop the “just” (and the “you knows” and the ubiquitous “like)”.

A sentence that goes, “I just want to report a 3% increase in sales,” is more powerful as, “We’ve experienced a 3% increase in sales.” Here the shift is not only in removing the “I” and the “just” which leaks power, but gathering up the energy of the collective.

Unless you are reporting on something you take full responsibility for, watch out for the “I just” statements.

Speech habits are mostly unconscious. As you begin to surface them, you’ll be able to make the small but important changes that help you fully inhabit your leadership without diminishing your authenticity.

Stop undermining your power, so you can make things happen…brilliant things…the “right” things that move your organization or business forward.

Who’s Running the Show?

Your stomach is tied up in knots. You need to tell a colleague what you really think, but you can’t…fearful of the reaction.

Sweat breaks out on your palms. You need to say ‘No” to an unreasonable request, but a voice within tells you saying no isn’t acceptable.

Who’s running the show? You or your inner critic?

Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post said, “We may not be able to tune our inner critics out entirely, but we don’t have to let them run the show.”

So where did these inner critics come from? . Were inner critics always once outer critics? How did they get so powerful?

The popular thinking is that the outer critics were our primary caretakers. In order to have our safety, nourishment and connection needs met, we took on their priorities (and cut off parts of ourselves). Over time, their voices became our inner critic.

Now, in our day-to-day life we play out the tension between our (hopefully more) evolved, integrated  adult selves and the inner critic that arose in childhood. Yet, certain scenarios bring out the worst in us.

Is  there someone  at work who makes you hold back, too meek to speak?

Who is it you can see yourself wanting to give a quick kick to the groin? (Come on we all have these thoughts from time to time.) You don’t have to berate yourself for the thoughts. Berating yourself is a way of knowing you’re under attack by the inner critic.

You can do something useful about it.

Okay, go somewhere quiet. Now, imagine a recent situation and visualize your inner critic sitting across from you. Take a minute, two at the most and play the scene in your head where you say everything to this inner including, “F–K off”.

You may have to go back and re-do this scene several times. And you’ll have to defend against the next attack and the one after that. Your defense will come more automatically and will be shorter and shorter. How will you know you have tamed the inner critic?

Your body’s  intelligence will  become more familiar.  You’ll get to know   that place somewhere near your navel that will relax, not be so tied in “KNOTS” from the “NOTS” once you tell this annoying inner critic to back off.

And soon, without leaving the scene completely, your inner critic will learn that YOU are running the show.



Great Leaders Pay Attention

business people paying attentionYou’re a leader. And now, you want to move from good to great! What’s it going to take?

You’ve read, even studied the inner workings of emotional intelligence. You’re bringing it to light more and more in your daily routine. Now what’s all this about Focus?

What does Emotional Intelligence have to do with Focus? And why should you care?

Because you can’t reach your potential as a leader without it! Period!

The guru of emotional intelligence has written succinctly on both. There is a practical, meaningful link that will impact your leadership – whatever your style, wherever you are geographically and regardless of the type of organization you lead.

How has he answered the question about the connection between EQ (emotional intelligence) and Focus?

According to Goleman, emotional intelligence requires self-awareness—awareness of our own minds and emotions—as well as empathy, both of which can be cultivated by honing our skills of attention.

“When I set out to write this book, I knew I was going to explore the explosion of new important research about attention,” says Goleman. “But what I didn’t realize was that it was going to lead me back to emotional intelligence.”

Paying attention is critical. Goleman talks about focus on inner, other and outer.

Daniel Goleman: The fundamental thing to understand about inner focus is that we can be aware of our own awareness. There is such a thing as meta-awareness, meta-cognition, meta-emotion—the perspective we can take that allows us to monitor our inner world rather than just be swept away by it. That, in turn, gives us a point of leverage for handling that inner world better—without it, we’re lost.

For example, in Emotional Intelligence I looked at distressing emotions, which are generated by the brain’s amygdala and emotional threat. In order to manage the amygdala hijack, you have to be aware that it’s happening. Meta-awareness becomes the fulcrum from which you can handle emotions, handle your inner world, handle the thoughts which generate upsetting emotions or which help you, in a positive way, manage them for the better.

Great leaders pay attention – to people, strategy, arising situations. AND THEIR INNER WORLD. And they do so with focus.

So what about other focus?

Does that mean they don’t attach to the technological tools that often distract the rest of us? A resounding NO! is the answer.  Great leaders  are more strategic about their use of tools and time.

Goleman says that we are all “under siege” so concentrating on Focus is  particularly timely now.

And leaders lead other people – often in challenging situations.

He says: … “being able to focus on the other person rather than the text you just received has become the new fundamental requirement for having a relationship with that person. And I think this is another reason to develop a meta-awareness about where our attention has gone. I think we need to make more effort and cultivate more strength to detach [our attention] from that thing that is so tempting over there, and bring it back to the person in front of us.”

Finally , the third kind  of focus – is systems focus. Again Goleman says, “This is more elusive. We have dedicated [brain] circuitry for self-management, self-awareness. We have dedicated circuitry for empathy. The brain doesn’t have the equivalent of that dedicated circuitry for sensing, for instance, the ways in which humans systems of construction, energy, transportation, industry, and commerce are inexorably deteriorating global systems that support life. It’s too macro or too micro for sensory systems in the first place.”

We literally don’t perceive global warming directly in the way we see a person’s wince or wink, and register that immediately. We don’t have an alarm system for that like the way we hear a growl—a growl alerts the amygdala and springs the stress hormones into action. But when it comes to global warming, actually, the brain shrugs. It’s something we have to learn about and learn to care about and learn to detect indirectly, so it’s a bigger stretch. We care about the present far more than the distant future, which is invisible—we don’t notice it.

The neuroscience behind this?

For example, meditation is, from a cognitive science point of view, the retraining of attention—a bulking up of the neural circuitry that allows you to detach from where your mind has wandered, bring it back to the point of focus, and keep it there. That is the basic repetition of the mind in any kind of meditation. And that’s also what builds up the willpower to resist the pull of electronics and stay with the human world.

And meditation comes in many flavors. As a leader, you can choose anything from breathing exercises to martial arts, yoga to  mindfulness practice, Qigong to observing a candle flame and everything in between.

Again, Goleman – “From a neuroscience point of view, I think the standard way this has been approached is exactly the wrong way to get people to care and act about global warming. Mainly they either threaten us with destruction or guilt trip us. That activates centers in the brain for negativity, for distressing emotions. And when we feel distressing emotions, the brain wants us to turn them off—either tune them out or do one little thing [to make us feel better]. And I think that’s one of the main reasons why the environmental movement has had such a poor record of getting the general public to do much about the environmental crisis.”

There is a more clever way of getting people involved: Rather than looking at footprints, which is all the bad that we’re doing, look at hand prints, which is the sum total of all the good things we do to lower our footprint.

This is the brainchild of Gregory Norris, who is at the Harvard School of Public Health. The hand print approach means that you get points for every time you ride your bike to work or walk instead of ride, when you recycle, when you print on both sides of the paper, when you don’t print at all. All of those things that help can be counted, and the idea is to grow your hand print rather than your footprint. That is a goal we can work toward in small baby steps that are manageable and that we can feel good about. And that motivates the parts of the brain which keep us working toward our goals.

So great leaders need to MOTIVATE their peeps and do it in a way that leads their teams to care about, think about and work on systems ( the invisible  future) in the ways they care about the more immediate emotional and situational events arising now.

And while there is growing concern about young people’s ability to focus, Goleman is encouraging. He covers in the book, that focus is to a certain extent under our control—that it’s a skill we can build.

Goleman: … “we do have to work at building it. And for that reason I really advocate an intention-strengthening exercise as a kind of mental fitness that we practice daily, just as you might jog.”

Goleman, the former New York Times science journalist turned best-selling author, is perhaps still best known for his 1995 book Emotional Intelligence, which was followed by Social Intelligence more than a decade later. Like those earlier works, Focus synthesizes findings from years of research across the social, behavioral, and cognitive sciences—in this case, on the roots and importance of our attention skills.

So as a leader on the road to greatness, begin practicing focus – the art and science of paying attention. Like all practice, it requires a strong intention, and the self-compassion to overcome the inevitable hurdles that arise. Yet, paying attention pays off – big time. So what’s it going to be?  Choose a practice and get an accountability partner on your side. Hire a coach, join a Mastermind Group, but do something because its clear, great leaders pay attention!

What are some tips you use to focus?

Mindfulness is Not Enough

mindfulness-istock-prvSorry,  my friends, but mindfulness is not enough.

Why you ask? There’s so much evidence for the benefits – hardcore scientific evidence.

True, I say and I’m a proponent – don’t get me wrong.

I’m not saying mindfulness practices aren’t important – of course they are – essential even. I’m saying that alone, they aren’t enough. Here’s why.

Long before you were able to take up a mindfulness practice, you developed a personality.

And that personality, in the first let’s say 7 years of your life, was deeply impressed by what your caretakers, felt, thought, modeled, liked and disliked.

Did they approve of risk taking? Did they frown on assertiveness preferring “good manners”?

Did they reward savings and question spending? How did they handle clinginess or expressions of anger or desire or sibling rivalry?

Because as a very young person, you needed ( not just wanted, but needed) to feel safe and loved,  and you were so vulnerable, you developed traits and behaviors that were approved of. You  shunted other parts of yourself into “the shadow”. It was intelligent. It made you feel secure.

These disowned parts could be either “good” or “bad” – didn’t matter. Some got splintered off because having them triggered survival issues – fear of abandonment, fear of losing nourishment, support, safety, approval.

For example, if your parents got upset when you showed generosity and said something like, “You’ll be taken advantage of. You have to watch out for other people. Be very careful.” The quality of generosity in yourself may have gone underground only to live on in your shadow.

Maybe your parents  really approved of self-sufficiency and so you tried to be strong, responsible, take the initiative. You may have sent the part of you that needed support,  undercover.  And when it surfaces in your adult life now, like your generosity, you start feeling really uncomfortable, unsafe- as though your survival depends on staying strong though you know all people need support at one time or another.

The problem is your mind can’t make sense of the discomfort, anxiety, fear because they don’t live in the mind. They live in your body.

It makes sense to your mind that of course, everyone has needs, why not you?  Yet your body still connects to the young person’s sense of insecurity when you step away from the approval and love of your Mommy (or whoever cared for you).

And as you grow up, your culture adds to your shadow material. It too approves of some traits and behaviors and represses others. More suffering in twisting to “fit in” and ‘succeed” by the culture’s definition.

And because this shadow operates unconsciously, mindfulness isn’t enough. Mindfulness alone won’t surface your shadow material. You have to set out on the hero’s journey to uncovered and reclaim those parts of you that you lost along the way. The hero’s journey, after facing great obstacles is always a coming home to yourself…the true you, the whole you..

I call it a hero’s journey because as Robert Johnson said, “The process of civilization involves suppressing into our shadow side those traits and patterns that are not culturally acceptable. This sorting process is quite arbitrary. Individualism, for instance, is a great virtue in some societies and the greatest sin in others. But this sorting process is two-edged — some of the pure gold of our personalities is relegated to the shadow because it can find no place in the great leveling process that is culture. Curiously, people resist the noble aspects of their shadow more strenuously than they hide the dark sides.

It takes  a concerted effort, true courage  to live into your wholeness, fulfillment and authenticity and you can’t do it alone.

Come join with like-minded others in Transforming Your Shadow – a 3 week virtual event where thought leaders and masters provide wisdom, tools and support for this journey home to yourself.

At no charge, you can join in the conversation at www.transformingyourshadow.com

Week One: Money, Calling and Your Shadow

Wow! The first week of my Transforming Your Shadow telesummit just ended and what a week it was!  Now is the time to reflect!  What does it mean to live into a dream? Certainly not what I thought and yet so much more!  More complex – rich, yeasty, meaty and more.  Challenging – a stretch, an ache and a joy.

Transforming Your Shadow is a cheeky undertaking. Rather than offering quick fix solutions to all your problems or promises of  wealth, love and happiness in 3 easy steps, it invites us all into a deeper understanding, a greater awareness – a process that entails confronting our pain, our suffering. Only the courageous sign up for such an undertaking and I’m learning to accept, only the courageous offer it. There I’ve said it out loud. I am bringing out of the shadows an aspect of myself I’ve seldom acknowledged – my courage.

So what was it like, you ask, to pull off a feat with so many moving parts?

Front and center were extraordinary moments AND gripping fears. The fears showed up around money – which we learned from Mayuri Onerheim, author of Money, Spirituality and Consciousness, arise from old family structures unconsciously taken on which never hit awareness. (And the social shadows surrounding money.) I got to work with those as I waited for people to purchase what I felt was a fount of wisdom and guidance for a very affordable investment.

Extraordinary moments wove through some of the interviews when a guest shared an insight in blazingly clear language that rushed listeners into an an ”aha”. Or when they provided an action step that had the audience saying, “Yes, I’m doing that, today.” Sometimes, the sigh of recognition wafted loudly, as a shadow element was described.

Other extraordinary moments occurred when I noticed, I was doing something challenging and new – running a control panel, interviewing people I greatly admired – choreographing  the needs of the technology, the audience, the speaker and myself simultaneously for the first  time ever, and enjoying myself. Who would have thunk it? I could even bring poetry into it – a joy!

As Gregg Levoy shared insights about the suffering in ignoring your calling and how to tune into the body’s whispering, and Rita Hovakimian told listeners the 4 Money Mirror types each held in emotion, beliefs and behaviors, emails and texts flooded in thanking me for providing this opportunity.

Yet there is more to come. We’ll be tuning into the suffering around of meaningful work, intimacy, leadership and  parenting and bringing more consciousness to each in the coming week – and more after that.

I’m breathing deeply in appreciation and feel the enlivening energy flow as I contemplate what’s ahead. Yep, and I know that there are more lessons ahead, for me, my incredibly supportive team, the speakers and  you, he audience.

Come join in the conversation – profound, fascinating, human.

Join us at: www.transformingyourshadow.com.  You’ll have immediate access to the remaining live calls and…for an exceptionally small investment…have the replays of all of them in your personal transformation library. In addition, free gifts from the amazing speakers are yours too – gifts like preview chapters of books, mantras for love making,  coaching sessions, money archetype assessments and, more.

I look forward to sharing.

The Lowdown on Projection and Your Shadow

projection“You’re judging me again. I feel like you’re j always judging me,” Patti lamented to her close friend, Megan.

When Megan considered, she realized Patti’s lament was true. Megan had been harshly judging Patti as uncaring, selfish and completely incapable of generosity. And as a good lawyer, Megan found lots of supporting evidence.

But Megan was working with a talented coach – engaged in working deeply and transforming  her shadow (her “dark side”), so when she heard Patti’s accusation, she swallowed hard and knew she had work to do.

[Note: Any part of yourself that you disown becomes part of your shadow…and it wills out in strange and often terrible ways – ruining relationships, causing suffering until you transform it by bringing it into the light of our understanding. This means that what we keep unconscious whether socially considered good or bad, leaks out in behavior which often leaves you scratching your head or worse – especially if someone calls you out on it.

Megan had read in a paper by Dr. Prinzivalli that, “The fast track to consciousness is to see every judgment as a disowned part of the self and explore it until there is an honoring of how that quality comes to serve.”

So how were the harsh judgments she had about Patti going to serve her own shadow work? And how in the world to “honor” the qualities that seemed so awful?

Megan began by acknowledging that  there was something in herself that she wasn’t seeing. Thus she began the deep, psychological investigation that Jung claimed could reveal “ 90% of the gold.”

In Megan’s life, there was ancient history around “uncaring, selfish” behavior and the incapability of being generous. Her severely ill mother, who suffered from bouts of schizophrenia and was also bipolar, had often been incapable of caring for Megan or even acknowledging her presence. This emotional neglect had left Megan traumatized on many occasions.  Her tender child’s defense was to take a stand to be different, very different. From a child’s perspective, this was inherently intelligent.

So what was the problem? Megan had split off the normal, natural part of herself that would exhibit self-interest, self-care, a balanced approach to giving AND receiving from her consciousness . (She focused exclusively on the giving part.)

She had locked the balanced, self-interest part far from view and kept the key hidden – even from herself.  It took an enormous amount of energy…energy she could have better used to complete projects, explore new interests, rest and enjoy and ended in projecting onto others a severe  imbalance around generosity.

This made sense. As she developed into a young woman, Megan easily gave of her time, her energy, her resources and her attention to the people in her life- even strangers. She was known as a good friend, the person who always made time and room for guests, even giving a homeless couple a room where they proceeded to steal her young son’s allowance money.

Yet, this didn’t dissuade her or make her more cautious. Negative, even dangerous experiences didn’t teach her to check her behavior. Time and again, Megan

did “the generous” thing. And she formed harsh judgments of others who made different choices than the ones she believed appropriate. Patti was only one of many that Megan considered selfish.

At her coach’s request, Megan tallied up all the times her generosity was unreasonable or caused her children or herself pain or harm. The tally got very, very long as she worked through the list, It shocked her.

As Megan worked with this shadow (or hidden part) , she saw how “selfishness” wasn’t integrated in her belief system – how it had become massively unbalanced, how she couldn’t accept that it too had a place in t human response. And that she labeled healthy self-interest as selfishness. She had lost sight of the ability to understand when self-care called for limits on generosity, planning ahead, and saying “no”.

She further the suffering by harshly blaming herself whenever she was unable to do what her belief system labelled as “the generous” thing for others, creating even more suffering.

As Megan explored her past, she saw the many ways this inability to integrate her shadow had led to overcommitments, exhaustion and finally to serious illness.

Shadow work is  not for the feint of heart. It requires courage. It also requires a willingness to be uncomfortable, so isn’t for everyone. Yet our juiciest, yummiest vitality resides in these dark recesses!

One way  for you to begin to work with your shadow, is to begin to explore your judgments. Putting them under the microscope of your attention and seeking to see where these come from in your own history is a crucial first step in doing “shadow work”.

And there is a neurobiology to the shadow. As you build your neural networks with repeating thoughts, these thoughts fire up together like a string of lights, strengthening those the neural pathway by repetition (as in Megan’s case thoughts about how Patti “should” respond to a request) and ignoring whole areas of belief.

Shadow work is engaged in bringing these recurring thoughts which become “beliefs” to light; checking whether there may be more to consider; asking how and where they arose and determining if they are, in fact, of service in your life.

Jung said, “If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow…Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.”

“Psychology and Religion” (1938): Psychology and Religion: West and East.

So by looking at your own judgments and what you project onto others, you have a key to your own shadow.

If you want to become more conscious, to free up the energy of suppression and avoidance, and to take ownership of those splintered off parts of yourself, then you will ultimately have to take up this work.

For Megan, it began a healing process of her relationship with Patti but more importantly with herself.

And if you’re ready for real transformation, in your business and you life, so you can give up the old stories and patterns that keep you trapped – stories and patterns about sex money, love, career, and purpose – and instead transform your shadow into a force for abundance, wealth, love, joy and fulfillment.

Then check out the upcoming Transforming Your Shadow Telesummit where 14 thought leaders share their wisdom and guidance around parenting, intimacy, money, calling, health, creativity, entrepreneurship, and balance. Not only is there no charge, but all of the the speakers have gifts for you. Sign up now.




The Shadow of Anger

Anger“I showed him!” Alec, a client, stormed.

He was talking about an exchange with James, a colleague who had rejected his design proposal in a team meeting. As he shared, his face contorted and his voice strained. And then a wild-eyed expression crossed his features. Alec was frightened because he felt like he wanted to punch James in the face.

Anger is one aspect of the shadow that can come up when I am coaching executives, entrepreneurs, consultants, or other coaches.

(In case the term is unfamiliar, the shadow is the part of yourself that lurks, under the surface, in your unconscious. It doesn’t just hide the dark stuff – the jealousy, lust, greed and so on. It also, sadly, keeps your brilliance, generosity, and radiant intelligence in the dark. )

It is easy to spot how poorly other people handle anger, but it’s often difficult to spot in yourself.

Yet without a healthy ability to deal with anger, real connection and intimacy cannot grow.

Often, shadowed anger turns into abuse, and it takes on Medusa-like forms such as creating drama, making demands, long-term grudges, smoldering resentment  and even vengeance.

It is a sword that cuts you and other people, can destroy relationships, and can wreak havoc in your life…unless you “make friends” with your anger, and transform it.

True anger is assertive ( meaning you speak it in useful ways)  but not aggressive (rageful, insulting, blaming). It arises from displeasure at an injustice and is meant to be communicated, not wrapped in moody silence. Armed with true anger, you can take responsibility for your own feelings, seeing the other person as a catalyst, not a cause.

Anger releases your aliveness ( excitation, energy)   and leads to repose, if dealt with. And its aim is usually a deeper and more effective bond with the person on its receiving end.

And don’t be confused, anger coexists with other feelings. So love and anger are often mated-especially in long lasting relationships. In fact a hallmark of a healthy relationship is the ability for the partners to express all their emotions – anger included- in productive ways.

If you express it (rather than bottling it up), anger is brief, and you can let go of it with a sense of closure. But if you keep it in…watch out! Not only will you create suffering (for yourself and other people), but you are very likely to create real health issues like high blood pressure, heart attack, and cancer.

One way to recognize if you have a shadow element here is to notice whether you want to “get the rage out no matter who gets hurt” or has you plotting retaliation.

If you live with simmering resentments or if you go into hiding, that’s another clue.

If what’s written here has made you uncomfortable. you’ll want to pay attention. This IS something you can transform…with practice.

Begin by noticing what happens when you get angry. Keep a journal and jot notes on your thought pattern and actions. Bring compassion to this exploration or you’ll be angry with yourself – useless and ineffective.

Oh and what happened with Alec, you might be wondering?  Alec, during the last 4 months, has made a lot of progress in moving from healthy anger instead of revenge and his co-workers are liking him a lot more. More importantly, Alec is liking himself!

If you’d like to understand how you shadow is the cause of so much of your experience of emotions like pain, shame, regret, guilt, anger, fear, and doubt…

…and how it can cause negative behaviors like judgement (of yourself and/or others), greed, mistrust, abuse and addiction…

Then please join me and learn how to recognize and transform your shadow into a force for abundance, wealth, love, joy and fulfillment.

I’ll be speaking with more than a dozen thought leaders, teachers, masters and experts to get the best tools, resources, and insights…so you can make your life everything that you want.

The Skinny on Leadership and Conflict

You’ve read, talked and thought about conflict – experienced it – and if you’re like most humans, you hate it!

Yet, conflict, as I’ve stated in earlier blogs, gets a bad rap.

Why? Because it makes you confront your fears and doubts and often immobilizes you. At best, it confuses you. Yet it can be highly useful, a creative opportunity, if held as generative. Generative means having the power to originate or produce, bring forward something new. What gets in the way of using it this way? You do!

Great leaders have trained themselves to handle conflict. They’ve learned what gifts it brings and how to channel it for clear, informed and creative decision making. You can too.

Your (and everyone’s) self-image and sense of possibility show up through the physical structure and holding patterns in your body. Yes, that’s right.

You award your “mind” the trophy for directing your life, but the Oscar is going to the wrong contender.

Not about dress size or basketball playing height or conforming to cultural “norms” of beauty or strength, patterns – developed over years – tell you, and the world, who you take yourself to be. That speaks to what the future may hold for you.

In times of change or conflict, you get anxious and wound up. Trying to solve problems from this physical and mental spinout generates more confusion, poor results. No wonder things get worse rather than better.

In contrast, when you begin to shift these physical patterns, you gain new possibility for who you can be in the world. By settling down physically, you experience a sense of visceral calm and mental ease that removes you from the cyclone of messy thoughts.

It allows a fresh perspective on yourself and the situation. By changing your shape (how you hold your body) , you change how you think and feel about yourself so you can take new action. Isn’t that a much better place out of which to make decisions, to lead? Of course it is!

Sensing into your body which informs your mind and spirit, leads to transformation.

“So how can I make that change?” you ask.

You begin by learning to notice.

For starters, ask yourself:

What happens to my body during conflict or confusion?

(Hint: Contractions? Particularly in the pelvis or buttocks, rib cage or chest?

What goes on with my breathing?

(Hint: Does it move upwards into the higher reaches of the chest or the throat? Does it shorten?)

What happens to my vision?

(Hint: Does it narrow to a swath in front of you, maybe hiding the former periphery?)

By the way, these questions are most useful DURING the experience, not after. That separates the data from your interpretation. And once isn’t enough. You have to gather enough data, particularly the more elusive kind to begin to see your unique pattern.

Once you’ve established the pattern, you can begin to make the shift.

One of the most important openings comes by extending your exhale and gently bringing the inhale lower into the belly. Making an audible sound on the exhale, helps.

And as you continue to breathe this way, send your attention to the contracted places, softening and opening up in increments. (Sometimes it helps to imagine the breath actually going to those places and expanding them.)

Notice whether you can soften your eyes enough during this breathing practice to expand the cone of your vision without straining. Can you allow sights to come to you, rather than you “going out to get them?”

And can you do the same for sounds, letting them in rather than going on a mining expedition to gather them up?

As your attention begins to become more nuanced to the workings of your body, notice what happens to your fingers and hands. Can these relax?

You’ll want to practice when you can notice – and do it regularly. This will support the speed at which you can put the practice to work when most needed.

And practice means committing to at least 21 days – consecutively. It only takes a few minutes at a time, maybe 5. Want to make it most powerful?  Do it at the same time each day – as an anchor for the habit, maybe upon brushing your teeth or or just before bed.

As you learn to do this, what happens is that you configure a broad understanding of how to calm yourself down while including more (sight and sound). That allows you to have influence over a wider territory. (Yes, people will be included in that territory who will benefit by your calm and clarity.)

As you settle down your nervous system and shift to this new shape, the ease in your body extends to your thoughts. They join the party by becoming more porous, flexible and creative.

What a boost to your creative leadership skills!

And as your fear of conflict lessens its tight grip – your “mindful interest” (as Wendy Palmer calls it in Leadership Embodiment: How We Sit and Stand Can Change the Way We Think and Speak) grows, letting your wider perspective inform your conversations and actions.

Neuroscience has played a strong role in demonstrating the science of this practice. (See my blog on Change.) Yet you don’t have to study the brain for years to make the shift. As you begin to work with body and its patterns, you and everyone you deal with benefit.

Conflict is not the only challenge that executives, entrepreneurs, consultants and coaches deal with. And inside every challenge is the seed of opportunity. I invite you to join me for this high value, no cost strategy session where you learn the most effective ways to be productive, powerful and resourceful…ESPECIALLY during challenges…so you can rocket to the top of your game and enjoy the successes that you’ve achieved, in your business and in your life.

Conflicted Over Conflict? Stay Tuned In

You have a story about “conflict”, oh yes, you do. If you give me your definition of the word and some examples, your narrative about conflict  emerges.

Your story may include statements  like “She always battles my ideas!” or “He has to have things  his way or no way!” or “Our boss isn’t forward thinking -resting on past successes.” or hundreds of other reasons conflict arises in your life.

Your examples are unique. Yet, they share something with most people on the planet. Whatever examples you give, one of the chief causes of pain (call it anxiety, discomfort, anger, or other tough emotions to sit with) is caused by conflict as you currently define it.

And critical to note, your idea of conflict while conscious, is informed by your early experiences of conflict – emotional and physical experiences that have gone underground and may not be available to your consciousness.

For example, if as a toddler conflict (perhaps between parents or siblings) felt life threatening, you might have constricted your breathing, or tensed your small rib cage in panic. Perhaps you hid behind a large chair or under the bed until calm reigned again.

Today, when you encounter conflict, you “know” you life isn’t in danger, but your body resorts to the old pattern and you may want to run away or hide still.

Or perhaps you came out screaming at the adults in conflict, red faced, tear stained and furious.

That “puffing up” way of dealing is still there, only to be taken out when triggered.

Conflict still causes you pain – only more so because you worry about your reaction to it on top of worrying about the conflict itself.  Make sense?

And what do we humans generally do with pain? Avoid it –  at all costs. Avoidance comes in many flavors yet the result is that you never grow past an outworn way of dealing with conflict.

For leaders the cost of avoidance is higher than for most.

Awesome leaders, unlike the run of the mill type, don’t avoid conflict. They tune in to it because they have a definition that extends beyond  “pain”. They hold conflict as generative!

So, (take a deep breath here) what does that mean? And how does it work? And why should you care?

I’ll start with the last question first and work backwards.

Whether you lead a team, a non-profit, an entire corporation or a head a small business, you can be powerful and clear when the inevitable conflict arises and use it to move forward. That’s right, use conflict to move ahead with your vision. Conflict can be the impetus for great things – finely honed ideas, better strategic, streamlined  functionality, more inclusion, improved processes, better ways to serve your clients….

In the wind tunnel of your own mind, your ideas seem sound…and the fact that they are the only ones in there, supports that notion. Only when marched out into the light of other eyes and ears, can you evaluate your ideas –  and either modify, if that’s what’s called for, or stand tall behind them in the face of criticism or abandon them altogether and start over.

And when “The Idea” is being presented by some member of your organization, listening to the responses of others can often make a “good” idea – great!  The key is to get those others past reactivity – often the first impulse – to responsiveness.

Here’s how that works: You Must Model. Yes, you have to model a way of being with conflict that expands on your current definition! Model it again and again and people will notice. At first, in awe, then in curiosity and finally seeing the value. And you can incorporate this as a plank in the culture of your organization.

If you can find the value in conflict – what it offers – and stay out of your history with it – you can appreciate it and finally, welcome it. That process begins with unhooking the personal from the idea. They are not the same!

You, me and everyone we know are much more than the ideas we offer up. Holding conflict as generative means being able to separate the person from what they are saying, in the moment they are saying it. It sounds simple but it isn’t easy. It requires a shift – emotionally (staying out of the angry red zone) , intellectually (asking yurself ? what is the value of the what is being stated) and physically (how can you relax your nervous system and stay open). More to come on the specifics of this in the next blog.

Leaders make decisions. One way or another.

Great leaders have developed the capacity to handle opposing views, weigh the merits respectfully and then mobilize their forces behind a direction without excluding anyone. When a leader can do all this graciously, you can be sure she has learned to hold conflict as generative rather than as a problem. She has the ability to stay tuned in and grounded, open and curious and decisive.  Isn’t that the kind of leader you want to be?

If so,  return to your definition of conflict and expand upon it. Here’s how. Extract your painful history with conflict  from this moment. Look at only what is on the operating table now. Ask yourself:

[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”450px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#B3AC52″ ]

  • What do I need to stay open and curious?
  • What can I gain from hearing all points of view?
  • How can I appreciate different perspectives?
  • Once I’ve determined the path, how can I mobilize everyone to action?[/dropshadowbox]

Armed with these questions, your relationship to conflict can soften, open and expand. And while you may have relapses, holding the intention (somatically, emotionally and cognitively) to see conflict as generative will ultimately make you a stronger, wiser person and leader.