I’m going on a rampage here so get ready. I am SICK of hearing EVERYONE say, “you have to be willing to sacrifice if you want to get ahead.” I hear lots of people in our organizations say, “We are looking for and rewarding those officers who are making the biggest sacrifices.” Well, I say, “That explains a lot.” If you are looking for mediocrity and status quo, asking for “sacrifice” is the surest way to get it. If, however, you are looking for motivated individuals who are ready to take on the toughest challenges for the long haul, what you really want is “Gift.” Here’s why:
Reason 1: “Sacrifice” assumes limited resources!
Sacrifice means giving from a place of limited resources. Therefore, by definition, at some point there will be nothing left to give. Whether you are considering the productivity of a team inside an organization, the emotional resilience of a family unit, or the physical stamina of an individual, at some point the entity will give out. The sacrifice has drained the reserves. There is nothing left to sacrifice.
Gift, on the other hand, assumes giving from a place of abundance, of overflow, of extra. By definition, the overflow does not get depleted. Every person has their own GIFTS, that collection of knowledge, skills, abilities, talents, desires, experiences and quirks that are unique to them. When each person uses their GIFTS, the supply is constantly renewed. It does not end.
Reason 2: “Sacrifice” hurts!
Sacrificing is painful, stressful, uncomfortable, and difficult. Therefore, people must be “convinced” to sacrifice. The perceived reward must be sufficient to warrant the discomfort and pain associated with the sacrifice. Unfortunately, no outside party can quantify the pain level of a given sacrifice so the “reward” is never enough. In short order, the one making the sacrifice begins to feel unappreciated, unrecognized, and resentful. They will certainly not entertain the notion of sacrificing a second time. “Find some other sucker!”
Giving does not hurt. In fact, it feels AMAZING! It’s like a drug. When a person uses his natural GIFTS, he does not need any outside reward. The reward comes in the true satisfaction and fulfillment of authentically being in service to the world. I once had an interview where I was asked, “Have you ever made any sacrifices in your life?” I thought for a long moment before I answered the question. What I said was, “Yes, I’m sure I did. But it didn’t feel like it at the time.” I realize now that I had NOT sacrificed. I had GIVEN freely and generously. And was eager to do so again.
Because sacrifice depletes resources, when the well is empty, it requires time to refill and recharge. The amount of time and resources required to refill the well varies depending on the nature of the sacrifice and how many times it has been drained dry in the past.
Given the challenges and responsibilities facing our public institutions today, THERE IS NO TIME to recharge. We must continue moving forward as fast as we can just to keep up.
Because giving does not deplete resources, it does not require recharging. The act of giving is inherently self-sustaining, as the reward comes in the act itself. Some people will read this statement and think, “Well, if we operate this way, no one will ever do the hard jobs or take the tough assignments.” What those people don’t realize is that the “hard job” is NOT HARD for the one ideally suited to fill it. For every assignment there is someone for whom the assignment is IDEAL. ALWAYS. Here is the key: Only the one GIFTed for the role knows that it is IDEAL for them. No other outside party can make that determination.
A Final consideration:
We’ve been conditioned to believe that the value of a contribution is directly related to the level of pain (sacrifice) involved in making the contribution. Viewed from the above perspective, the opposite is true. For one week, try shifting the mindset to: the value of a contribution is directly related to the level of satisfaction (gift) it provides both the giver and receiver. Notice what happens.
You don’t have to travel the world to learn lessons that will take your leadership to the next level…BUT it certainly helps. How many of these are you ready to take on?
The sum total of all your talents, skills, abilities, experiences, desires, quirks (or “flaws”), and physical attributes are what I call your “GIFTS.” Each of us has a different set of GIFTS and those GIFTS are what make us ideally suited to fill some role in the world.
Each of the women in this photograph is a successful leader in her field. Yet as you can see by the expressions on our faces, basket weaving is a real challenge for us. We worked for almost two hours on our little baskets and none of us managed to weave more than about half of a rough, bumpy, less-than-beautiful inch. Clearly basket weaving is not our GIFT. When we choose to recognize and work within the field that is our GIFT, we love what we do, we easily generate success, impact, and income, and therefore have more to share with the world.
Whatever you were or were not in your past does NOT have to determine what you will be in the future. The past will certainly influence your future. After all, those past experiences are part of what comprises your GIFTS. Nevertheless, you get to decide what the future looks like.
The mass grave shown in this photo represents what was true (civil war, disease, and poverty) in the past for the people of this village in Uganda. They decided it would NOT represent their future. The families of the village came together to focus on education, health, and self-sustainability to create a different future for themselves and their children. When they started they didn’t know “how” to accomplish their vision with no resources, they only knew “what” they wanted to accomplish. That is the first step. Once they committed to the “what” and focused their attention on it, the “how” began to show up.
I love this photo! Every face in this photo represents a role in creating a better world. If you look closely you will see a nun, a multiple 7-figure business owner, a dairy goat farmer, an HIV+ mother, a widow, a former Peace Corp volunteer, a JLMC foundation program director, a trainer, and a child. And if you look even more closely you will see that every face is clearly filled with JOY!
The individual monthly income for the adults on the bus ranges from less than USD $10/month to more than USD $50K/month. It can be easy to think, “I can’t make a difference. I’m just a _______. I don’t have anything to give.” Yet every face in this group is making a difference and is directly responsible for saving lives.
Because of all of them, villagers now have the education to generate income, the income to acquire HIV treatments, the HIV treatments to improve their health and physical well-being, and the physical well-being to provide education for someone else in the village. Because each person contributed their GIFTS, the process comes full circle.
True leadership is not about authority handed down in a position or a title. Nor is it about “getting everyone to like you” so they will do what you want. True leadership is about vision, purpose, commitment, and JOY.
Just Like My Child Foundation™ founder Vivian Glyck is adamant about this last lesson. When an individual or a community receives a blatant handout, they have “no skin in the game.” They are ill-equipped to capitalize on the handout and are then condemned to continue begging for handouts. By the same token, the donor feels that their offering was not appreciated and, over time, can begin to resent the very souls they intended to help. With a handout, there is no vision, no purpose, no commitment and certainly no JOY.
JLMC operates on a different premise. The community or individual is required to craft their own vision and the rough beginnings of a plan. With this vision in play, JLMC offers training in everything from “goal-setting” to “business-planning” with input from the local community so the “lessons” are truly applicable in the local context. Once the recipient has demonstrated that she is ready to receive assistance, JLMC provides the assistance and the support to insure that she not only has everything she needs to make her plan work, but also has the “wider vision” and long-term commitment to pay her success forward on purpose. The recipient becomes a Leader. The JOY of success? Well, that’s contagious!
AT JLMC it’s a HAND UP! Not a HAND OUT!
To see how you can support Just Like My Child, visit www.justlikemychild.org
For many agencies April signaled the start of harsh budget cuts across the board including cuts to pay and benefits. For many state and local level agencies, those harsh cuts began last year. Regardless of when the cuts began, many employees find themselves in an uncomfortable situation with more time on their hands than they had originally planned, whether through furlough, reduced hours or eliminated positions. At first blush, the situation sounds pretty dire and unsettling as employees consider the impact of these cuts on their personal financial situations.
If you are one of the employees in this situation, I respect the challenge that you are currently facing and recognize that it can be absolutely terrifying. And, what if you chose to view this situation as a Golden opportunity, a giant RESET button, where you design, create, and build the career you intended to have all along. What might be possible for you?
Many years ago, my uncle worked for Piedmont Airlines. He’d been with the airline for well over 30 years. Over the years, he had become quite accustomed to, and frustrated with, the bureaucracy and politics of the airline industry. AND, he had grown accustomed to receiving his regular paycheck. One day he walked in to work to learn that Piedmont had declared bankruptcy, and he had just been laid off. He had a stay-at-home wife, a son, a mortgage payment, and NO paycheck.
My uncle realized that he had a choice to make. He could choose to see the situation as a violation of trust, a betrayal, and a disaster, OR he could choose to see it as an opportunity that he didn’t quite understand yet. Taking a deep breath, he chose the opportunity. He began to identify what things mattered most to him. Then he invested in himself, even in the lean financial times, to hone skills that he never thought he’d need at work, and ultimately he started his own business. Within three years he had built a very successful business and repeatedly stated that getting laid off was the greatest gift he had ever received.
Now I’m not saying that you ought to trot off and start your own business. I am saying that the extra time you have on your hands offers a perfect opportunity to take stock of your career so far. Is it everything you always dreamed it would be? If not, use this opportunity to see what’s missing. If so, what one thing would make it even MORE of what you imagined? Use the time to invest in yourself. Whether you finally take control of your health by taking a nutrition class and learning to cook, or walking 3 miles a day like you said you would “when you have time,” or working with a coach that YOU hire for YOUR OWN personal development, now is the time.
Inside the walls of our respective bureaucracies, it is easy to fall into the trap of “if my organization wanted me to know X, they’d teach it to me.” While the programs offered to us are outstanding, they can only take you to a certain point in your personal and professional development. If you want more, you must become more. The most successful people in the world, including those in our own organizations, did not wait for someone else to provide them the class, the experience or the coach. They sought out the learning for themselves. As they invested in themselves to a greater level, their organizations also became willing to invest in them. Deciding to invest in yourself on a regular basis very quickly creates an upward spiral in all areas of your life, including your career.
Regardless of how sequestration shows up for you, you have the ability to decide what impact it will have. Are you ready to turn sequestration into your greatest opportunity? If so, I have a short quiz that will show you what areas need your attention most and also a monthly newsletter containing valuable leadership tips and strategies to get you on your way. To get your hands on these great resources, enter your name and email address at www.consciousleadershipblueprint.com
Brought to you by Martha Austin, Leadership Engineer and Personal Career Architect. Dedicated to inspiring prosperous service.
For those of you who are familiar with my work, you know that I focus on the idea that when you are doing the work that you are ideally suited to do, the work that takes advantage of your highest “gifts,” (skills, abilities, talents, experiences and desires) your unique natural leadership abilities will come out on their own to be gently tweaked and refined according to the needs of your role and your mission. Well, I confess, recently I was having a hard time believing what I teach. In one instance I’d worked for hours on a project only to have it completely ignored. When I approached my supervisor to ask if he had questions or concerns because he hadn’t moved it along, he simply said, “it isn’t on my priority list right now.” About the same time I learned that my organization had recently changed their policy on tour extensions (something they frequently do but usually provide some generous loopholes), and this time there would be no consideration for extensions and no opportunity for discussion. These highlights were cherries on top of a new unit chief who was “in the shorts” of the first line managers to the point that they were refusing to exercise any initiative without specific instruction for fear of being reprimanded or second-guessed. (Does this sound familiar to any of you, or am I the only one who ever experiences this?)
At the same time that I am feeling all of the frustration, disappointment, anger, physical fatigue, headache and muscle tension of working in that situation, I was also coaching clients. Specifically encouraging them to notice how they were feeling (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually) because those feelings were indicators of alignment and clues to their best next steps. Yet I couldn’t seem to do it for myself. I felt like a hypocrite, a liar, and a fraud. (Not a really good operating place for a leader, an employee, or a coach.)
That said, there are a few things I know without question:
- Life, especially the Conscious Leader’s life, is not a flat road. Frankly, it is a road through the Himalayas. There are awe-inspiring peaks and deep, dark, cold valleys. You can’t have one without the other.
- Every truly successful leader has a coach through whom the leader has committed to invest in himself. Sometimes the coach GUIDES the leader through the Himalayas, and sometimes the coach ALLOWS the leader to find her own way.
- Not every problem can or should be FIXED. Some problems, much like a virus, just need to run their course.
My coach was deliberately “allowing” me to find my own way through an unrelated problem when I suddenly realized that I had the solution to both problems. The solution was the one leadership tool that most leaders are scared…absolutely terrified…to use. The tool is called Stop Pushing. Just stop.
Throughout our careers we’ve been taught that influencing others and having an impact on the mission is the hallmark of our success. We go to classes to learn to set goals and develop action plans to achieve those goals. We then take additional classes to learn to manage our time and increase our productivity. In a different venue we learn that we should be happy and positive all the time so when we don’t feel that way, we push ourselves to “fix our attitude.” We learn to push and push and PUSH. The one thing that we don’t learn is WHEN TO STOP PUSHING! What is astounding is that when we strategically learn to STOP PUSHING and allow ourselves to be PULLED, potentially in a direction that we might have initially judged as inappropriate, we see opportunities that never existed before. Instead of resisting our efforts, exactly the right people become our partners, and everything that was impossible before becomes easy.
I should warn you that this is an advanced level tool. That’s why most leaders are too scared to use it. There is a big difference between abdicating your responsibility or “selling your soul to the devil” and strategically choosing to allow yourself to be pulled. The art comes in knowing exactly what that difference is and when to use the tool. These past few weeks were the reminder that I needed to take my own medicine and STOP PUSHING.
As I mentioned before, when I started going through the top 5 questions that I hear from government supervisors, I realized that the article was getting rather long. As promised, here are the remaining questions…plus one bonus question that is often in the back of supervisors’ minds and never spoken. If you missed the first three questions, you can find them here.
Question 4: As a supervisor, how do I maintain work/life balance?
I’m sorry to tell you there is no such thing as work/life balance. Your work is part of your life and your life is part of your work. You cannot cut yourself in two parts and leave one part in the office and one at home. When you try to do that, one part of you will eventually begin to die. When you wake up in the morning and are not excited about what you get to do that day, you do a disservice not only to yourself but also to the world because it means that you are not offering your best gifts. You are not using the sum total of your talents, skills, abilities, experiences, desires and quirks in a way that creates the impact you are uniquely suited to make. As we discussed in question 2, we can’t get those gifts from anyone else. They are yours and yours alone. And the way you know you are truly giving your best gifts is because YOU LOVE IT!! You don’t slog yourself through it out of some misplaced definition of “Duty.” You LOVE it! It makes your heart sing!
Question 5: How do I know what I am supposed to do? How do I know I’m making the right decision?
In the words of Janet Bray Attwood, one of my early mentors, “whenever you are faced with a choice, decision, or an opportunity, always choose in favor of those things that mean the most to you.” Those things that matter most are the clues that lead you to your greatest gifts and talents. In the bureaucracy that is government service, it can be easy to lose touch with those things that truly matter TO YOU. This is where your Internal Guidance System comes in. Each of us has one and it will tell you whether you are, in fact, choosing in favor of those things. Whenever you feel things we label as anger, frustration, confusion or physical pain, your Internal Guidance System is telling you something. Listen to it. As you become more skilled at using your internal guidance system, you will begin to recognize areas where you are not in alignment and make adjustments.(Note: Even someone with experience using the Internal Guidance System gets challenged sometimes. Have a look at this article to see my own recent struggle with it.)
The Unspoken Question: How do I know if I am the BBOOB?
If you are asking this question of yourself, you are taking the first step to make sure that you are not, in fact, the BBOOB (Body Badly Out Of Balance). The Conscious Leader recognizes the importance of maintaining balance in all aspects of life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. She learns to recognize when she is becoming a SLOB (Slightly Off Balance) and takes steps early to avoid becoming a BBOOB. The Conscious Leader will do whatever it takes to restore the alignment.
To discover if you might be turning into a SLOB, or have already become a BBOOB, visit www.freegiftfrommartha.com and take the quiz. Regardless, you are certain to pick up a few easy tips to engineer your own version of Conscious Leadership.
Throughout my years as a leadership development instructor inside my own organization, I’ve noticed the same questions coming up over and over. I thought I’d take a few minutes to address the top 5 here. Do they sound familiar to you?
Question 1: How do I motivate my employees when there are no “carrots” left?
The truth is…you don’t. You inspire them instead. And, being an inspiration starts with you, not with them. Take a good long look at yourself. Do you LOVE your job? Do you love it so much you’d do it for free? Are you excited about the people you get to spend time with while doing that job? If you cannot answer these questions with a resounding “YES” (“OK” is not sufficient here), then the first person you need to inspire is yourself. When you recognize that the happiness you experience at work is a direct indicator of the degree of alignment between your work and your highest and best talents or gifts, you will realize that you not only DESERVE to have a job that you love, you have a responsibility to.
Question 2: How can I influence the future of my organization from where I am?
The most important step to influencing your organization from where you are is to check your alignment. Each of us, whether by accident or design–depending on your belief system, is uniquely suited to do certain things. I call that specific collection of attributes, skills, desires, experiences, talents, and quirks (often referred to as flaws) your “gifts.” You are the only person in the world who can do those things like you do. Even if someone else had the same exact job, they would do it differently because their gifts are different from yours. When you are in a job that aligns with your highest gifts, you become powerful. You have the gifts needed for that job at that time. No one else has these gifts. People recognize your expertise. They feel your energy. And you have influence just by showing up. If you don’t have a job that aligns with your gifts, then your gifts don’t get given, and the rest of us lose out. The catch is this…you are the only one who can know what your gifts are. Furthermore, you are the only one who can know if the job you are doing is truly aligned. When you are a Body Badly Out Of Balance, (a BBOOB), others can tell. You can’t hide it. When you are only Slightly Out Of Balance (a SLOB) others may not know…but you will know…and you will NOT be able to make the difference you want to make.
Question 3: How do I get rid of a problem employee?
Again–and take a deep breath here, you don’t. And, if you are one of those people who came to government service because you want to make a difference in the world, you don’t want to. If you have an employee who seems to be causing problems in the office, odds are that employee is a Body Badly Out of Balance. If you throw this poor BBOOB out the door, they will still be a BBOOB and not able to give their highest and best gifts to the organization or to the world.
See, you aren’t the only one with gifts. We all have them. AND, we all got different ones. On top of that, each of us receives our gifts in different ways and at different times. Sometimes they show up when we don’t know it–sort of like the Tooth Fairy leaving money under your pillow. That BBOOB in your office could use some help looking under the pillow to find his own gifts and figure out what to do with them.
Let me be very clear. This does NOT mean that you should ignore dangerous or illegal behavior or a failure to meet mission objectives. It does mean that you can guide that employee to discover and align their own highest gifts in order to create balance. Whether this balance has the employee viewing their work differently or asking to be released from their commitment to find another position, you no longer have a BBOOB in your office. You have a talented individual who is perfectly prepared and positioned to give their gifts to the world…and thinks you are amazing.
I know I promised you the Top 5 Questions that I get from government supervisors. Yet as I started writing, I realized this article was getting rather long, and we all have work to do. Look for questions 4 and 5 next month. (Look for them on the first Monday of the month.) Until then, I’d love for you to post your comments and questions here so we can discuss them in a future article. For those who resonate with this message and are looking for tips on how to implement the concepts here, enter your name and email address at www.ConsciousLeadershipBlueprint.com
Mistake 1. Thinking that leadership is something you learn to do.
Leadership is not something you “do,” it is something you “be.” In other words, leadership is not a series of required actions you take, rather it is the essence of who you are, the impact you have on those around you. You don’t “learn” leadership. You grow into it. You grow into effective, positive leadership by deliberately and consciously choosing to develop the natural talents, gifts and abilities that you bring to the world. Whether at work or elsewhere, the good news and bad news is that each of us is a leader whether we want to be or not. The definition of leadership is “influencing those around you.” Whether intentional or not, each of us influences others every day in every moment just by being around them. Whether we choose to use our role as leaders positively or negatively, effectively or ineffectively, is a choice. That choice is the definition of Conscious Leadership.
Mistake 2. Thinking that work and personal lives should be completely independent of one another. “Check your personal life in the parking lot.”
Here’s the bad news: There is no such thing as work/life balance. Work is part of our lives and life is part of our work. We can’t cut ourselves in half and put part in one place and part in another…though a lot of us have tried that. In order for us to meet today’s challenges for the long haul, we need each person to fully integrate their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. We need the whole person to show up on purpose each day whether they are showing up at work, at home, at school, or somewhere else. Conscious Leadership focuses on authenticity and the higher purpose of the organization and each individual in it. At work the conscious leader recognizes the benefit of the employee who is in a job because they truly see that job as the ideal place for them to offer their best talents and gifts as opposed to the employee who goes through the motions for 8 hours a day just so they can leave the office and attempt to get their real fulfillment/joy/fun (choose the word that works best for you) elsewhere. At home the conscious leader recognizes that the parent who provides their service in a job they love and models that gift of service and abundance for their child is a far better parent than the one who is stressed out, burned out and exhausted just from getting through the day.
Mistake 3. Thinking that this Conscious Leadership stuff sounds nice and might work in the corporate world but would never work in government.
In the world of the government employee, the idea of aligning oneself with work that taps into the employee’s highest and best gifts and that feeds the greatest sense of fulfillment has never been more important. As benefits continue to decrease, promotions come farther apart, and even the job security previously associated with government service comes into question, embracing Conscious Leadership and encouraging each employee to truly BE their own authentic, unique, natural leader is the only way that our organizations are going to have the creative, innovative, unlimited resources required to meet the challenges ahead of them. NOTE: THIS IS NOT YOUR ORGANIZATION’S JOB! It’s yours. The key here is that Conscious Leadership is NOT something that is “built” into the organization by regulation or mandate. The only way to create and grow Conscious Leadership within your organization is to is to create and grow it within yourself. When you choose to become a conscious leader you will recognize your greatest ability to impact the future of your organization, get the stress out of your life, and put the fun back in your work.
For additional tips on being a conscious leader, visit www.consciousleadershipblueprint.com or check us out on Facebook at Conscious Leadership Blueprint. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What’s the biggest challenge you face in becoming a conscious leader?