My eyes closed ever so gently as I prepared to enter into my daily meditation. I stretched my spine upwards and breathed in deeply. My mind began to wander.
I’m a leader, and I pride myself on my ability to make things happen. To address my concerns about improving work relationships, influence and about working with a leadership coach, I decided to make an initial appointment, meet face to face and ask questions. We met – my potential coach and myself – and I interviewed him. I just didn’t see any way around this.
One of the advantages – I found – of working with a Psychologist who also coached on leadership: Other individuals may want to have 1/2 a dozen individual sessions with their potential coach, for reconnaissance, before signing up for 6-months or more. This approach works with a Psychologist. The “feel” you get should be comforting. They should be very easy to talk with, about the most challenging issues you can imagine, and not merely push you aggressively to set goals and achieve.
Your coach should be able to follow your logic, understand your perspectives, your train of thought, or your worldview. 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? You should sense an element of “getting something extra.”
I understand that we are not all in the position of a Sr. leader or even preparing for this type of 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 purview 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. My Leadership Coach provides me with scientifically validated psychological assessments that enhance understanding, my ability to influence and lead others.
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 coach, you will be continuously learning new mental models, creating new mindsets and fresh ways of communicating, thinking, planning and relationship building with others.
It is our beliefs, expectations, and assumptions that sustain us. But they can also hold us back too. It is not a fact that the other VPs had the market cornered when it came to knowledge and experience, but dialogue characterized by mutual respect will lead us toward new innovative ideas.
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. Could it have to do with being more responsible, more sensitive toward others? We could search aimlessly for answers or allow ourselves to be guided by a uniquely creative psychological assessment. Understanding others is essential, but impulsive decision making will push us off-track.
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. I like to recommend practices like mindfulness meditation to help us find our zone of best performance.
A continuum always has two ends. Not two choices. Right or wrong. Good or bad. Calm or agitated. We talk about or utilize a continuum to symbolically represent a natural transition from one point to another. Begin with where we’re at and end up in a more desirable position.
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 a point of desire, point “B.” We are never at a fixed point forever, always transitioning back and forth between.
For example, I acknowledge my introverted nature and simultaneously put effort into learning and practicing more extroverted skills. This does not change who I am. It can be very enjoyable to exhibit high energy, and it is also very effective to be able to regulate our high energy levels downward, especially in situations involving conflict. One final example is to allow that people appease me at times, and simultaneously learn to understand and communicate in a transparent and delicately caring manner in response.
Communication and influencing others through our example is the purview of leadership and therefore makes each one of us leaders at any given point in time. The question for us to ponder isn’t about whether we are influencing others or not, but about the quality of our influence. Stressed out people, those who are frenetic have high energy but are at risk of being aggressive and sending out bad vibes. They don’t instill cooperation as much as they do fear.
Interview others, and they will interview you in kind. Focus your efforts on controlling them and watch them squirm, until it is their turn to reciprocate. Seek to learn about them, what’s meaningful and motivational for them and, well, see what response that generates for you. The tiniest touches or the smallest changes can move us in a very favorable direction. Consider.