Psychology Teaches a Valuable Lesson


Portrait of a mature businesswoman taken outsideI had concerns about improving my work relationships, influence and about working with a leadership coach. I decided to make an initial appointment, meet face to face and ask questions. I met with a potential coach and interviewed him. I just didn’t see any way around this.

One of the advantages – I have found – of working with a Psychologist who also coaches on leadership: Other individuals will want to have 1/2 a dozen individual sessions with their potential coach, to scrutinize their experience, before signing on for a year. This approach works with a Psychologist. The “feel” you get should be superior. They should be very easy to talk with, about the most challenging issues you can imagine. Your coach should be able to follow your logic, understand your perspectives, your train of thought, or your world view. However, don’t expect them to just agree with everything you say, your decisions and actions. If they are not comfortable challenging you, in a respectful manner, you have to ask yourself about their contribution, other than providing support. How will you get any benefit?

I understand that we are not all in a position of a Sr. leader or even preparing for this type of a role. You likely have more in common with me than you might realize, however. As you probably know, a Sr. leader must lead a team of pacesetters or VPs. Each one of these leaders is very strong-minded, focused, and believes that their way is not only best but right and often the only way to proceed. In brief, they offer a personal challenge to anyone who has an eye to influence them, but influence I must. Influencing others by example and through our communications are the purvue of leadership. In this regard, because each of us is always communicating and potentially affecting another, we are all leaders. Not only is communication and influence about leading, Psychological research indicates that expressing ourselves is a critical component to cultivating and remaining happy, being well-adjusted, and enjoying close personal relationships.

So we do have significant overlap of interests. I also desired a more proper understanding of different personalities. In this way, I reasoned, I would be better situated to be able to influence my team, their decisions, and actions. One thing I have had to deal with is that at times, a VP would say one thing and do another. It is not dishonest. The VP merely appeased me. I did not like it and didn’t think that it was a reliable or efficient practice. However, I am beginning to understand that it is something that occurs between people. In fact, with a leadership mindset, you will be continuously learning new ways of communicating, thinking, planning and relationship building with others.

It is our beliefs that sustain us. It is not a fact that the other VPs had the market cornered when it came to knowledge and experience. Since we are all growing, changing, evolving naturally, almost imperceptibly, one leverage point of influence is to make an effort to learn, understand and then engage with others on their particular level of maturity. The challenge is to know what categorically this means.

Without some disciplined practice, our leadership is destined to run aground with severe limitations. As has been said, before we can influence others, we must be able to influence ourselves.

Consider a continuum. It always has two ends. Often we talk about or utilize a continuum to symbolically represent a natural transition from one point to another. Movement along the continuum can start and stop between any two points, and movement can be in either direction. Psychology has taught me a valuable lesson that I like to share. I often encourage myself and others to use the continuum to accept themselves at point “A” and to practice moving toward point “B.” For example, I acknowledge my introverted nature and simultaneously put effort into learning and practicing more extroverted skills. One more example is to allow that people appease me at times, and simultaneously learn to understand and communicate in a delicately caring manner in response.

Communication and influencing others through our example is the purvue of leadership and therefore makes each one of us leaders at any given point in time. Interview others, and they will interview you. Seek to learn and, well, see what answers come up for you.

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