We expect leaders, including ourselves, to have the answers. If we don’t have the answer to a leadership challenge, we may feel inadequate. These feelings, like inadequacy, may also include feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability. None of these feelings feel good to us, nor areallowed in the workplace, or so we’ve been taught.Really? Are we really supposed to never experience uncertainty as a leader? We are human beings, “hard-wired for struggle” as researcher, Brene‘ Brown states. We are not the Hollywood version of leaders —we are human. And with our humanness, we are sometimes—make that many times, uncertain.What do we do with this uncertainty? Well, we bury it of course. This strategy may work for us for a while, that is until it shows up again as illness, ulcers, or worse. Why do you think we are so stressed, obese, and addicted? It is because we bury and numb our feelings. We’ve become comfortably numb.The interesting thing about numbing is that when we numb our “bad” feelings such as uncertainty, vulnerability, doubt, and fear, we are also numbing our “good” feelings of joy, peace, and gratitude. Another important aspect to know about uncertainty and vulnerability is that this state is where creativity, joy, and beauty are found. This is the place where great art is created.Walking through the door of uncertainty and vulnerability is full of endless possibilities because this is the location of our true, authentic self.How do we work with uncertainty and vulnerability without going crazy?Follow these five steps to support you during the uncertain times:1. Embrace uncertainty and vulnerability. Reach into it and pull up and out all of the fear, anxiety, and doubt. Burying and numbing will only allow it to surface again, so lean in, feel those feelings, and then release.2. Stay present. Don’t worry about the future or live in the past. The only moment you have is the present one, so why waste it?3. Stay in your own lane. When we start to compare ourselves to others, we set ourselves up for failure, not because we can’t be as successful as someone else, but because we can’t BE anyone else. What I can be is the best version of me, and what you can be is the best, highest self you can be.4. Practice gratitude. Nothing else will bring you into the present faster than gratitude.5. Be loving and truthful with yourself and with others. Remember that uncertainty and vulnerability is the birthplace of truth, authenticity, creativity, and beauty.I would love to hear from you. When was a time you were uncertain and did it anyway? Let’s celebrate you!
For many, intention is defined as a motivation, a drive, or an ambition to succeed. It can be a demonstration of force, determination, or your immutable will to attain or accomplish something indicates that you have a firm intention.These are examples of our Western mental models of intention. A deeper understanding of the power of intention, described by Carlos Castaneda, suggests, “In the universe there is an immeasurable, indescribable force which shamans call intent, and absolutely everything that exists in the entire cosmos is attached to intent by a connecting link”. Similar in description to how Wallace Wattles describes this intention in his book, “The Science of Getting Rich”. Wattles wrote: “There is a thinking stuff which all things are made, and which in its original state, permeates, penetrates, and fills the interspaces of the universe. A thought in this substance, produces the thing that is imaged by the thought. Man can form things in his thought, and by impressing his thought upon formless substance, can cause the thing he thinks about to be created.”This is not a model of perseverance or a mindset where only the fit (determined) survive, but a realization, again, of the connection to each other and Spirit. What this model of intention describes for us, as leaders, is that we are not alone in this organization, community, country, or even universe: but we are together, linked to the energetic force of intention.Why is intention crucial to our leadership? It is the purpose, the why we are here, our belief in something greater than we are. Intention is how we derive meaning. In order to create a vision for our companies, or even our lives, we must first ask, “why?” Tapping into the power of intention requires clearing space in our minds and allowing and trusting our intuitive insights to flow.Here are some strategies we can use to ensure that we are leading with intention:1. Knowing our values helps bring clarity to what is meaningful to us. Identify ten important values. Narrow the list down to your top five and write a sentence or two explaining what the values mean to you and why they are important.2. Look at your calendar and review how you spend your time. Do the activities on your calendar align with your values? If not, why not?3. Create a mind map on a clean sheet of paper, and in the center of the paper write, “My purpose for living this life is…” and circle it. Now draw lines out from this circle with as many ideas that flow into your head and heart and draw circles around each one of those words or statements, always connecting the circles with lines to the center circle of your purpose.4. Using the above information you have developed, write a purpose statement, including the activities involved in achieving that purpose, people necessary to support you, and the value you provide to others.Enjoy the process and see what you discover!I would love to hear from you. What is your purpose statement? Let’s share those and celebrate our clear intentions together.
I saw this statement the other day: “I let go of anything and everything that could delay my good in any way.” -Louise Hay Hmmm… Of course, as I so often do, I contemplated how this might apply to leadership.Leadership is the action that motivates people toward a vision. Therefore, if the vision is the “good” in this statement, we need to ask ourselves, “What gets in the way that could cause delay of achieving my vision?” In other words, what no longer serves us? I discuss this topic a lot with my clients. It is a great exercise to stop and check-in with yourself regularly, asking, “what no longer serves me?”Some possible delays to our good or vision may include:• Underlying beliefs that no longer serve us• Ego• Clutter (literal and physical)• The need to be right• Noise (literal and physical)• Fear• Poor health• Lack of sleep• Lack of knowledge• Lack of anything…• Toxic relationshipsOnce you've identified what gets in your way of achieving your good or your vision, it is time to let it or them go. Time to move into action, ridding yourself of anything and everything that gets in your way. Brian Tracy, in his book, “Eat That Frog!” offers some great suggestions for getting out of the procrastination habit. Mark Twain was the inspiration for the book title and overall premise of getting procrastination out of the way.Mark Twain said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you go to through you day with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that would happen to you all day long. So eat your frog and know that it is the time to start exercising your backbone instead of your wishbone.>>>You are the architect of your life, the author of your book. This is not a dress rehearsal.<<<If you don’t like what you see…change it!I would love to hear from you. What are some of the strategies you use to work through delays and detours? How do you eat your frog?Let’s continue our discussion after the episode. With Love,Maria
I write and speak a lot about fear versus love. Fear is easy to identify. We definitely know when fear starts to creep in: our body becomes tense, blood pressure starts to rise, and feelings of anxiety emerge. Fear is not a good feeling! Why would we continue to go there repeatedly? Where love and spirit are internal to us, fear and ego are external. Turning to others for approval or acceptance, points us in the direction of ego, external to ourselves. When we live in the past, we live in the ego.It’s the same old song.Reliving those events, involving externally generated relationships, can cause tremendous pain or hurt. Each time we choose – yes, it is a choice –to live in the space of fear, we give away our power. We give it away to people or circumstance – again, an external event. When we retain our power, we are empowered, living in a place of love and spirit.Fear paralyzes us. True, fear can be a motivator, but it is not sustainable. We cannot be motivated and live in fear for long periods without paying the physical, emotional, and spiritual costs of fear and stress. Fear, again, holds us back from achieving so much. We’re afraid to show that we care, afraid to open our hearts, and afraid that we may appear vulnerable. The irony in this is that when we really care about the individuals we lead, love multiplies. When people know, see, and feel that you care—they do the same. Love really does keep on giving.Moving away from fear is one thing, but how do we actively develop love and ultimately integrate it with our leadership?In my book, “Love-Based Leadership: Transform Your Life with Meaning and Abundance”, I outline eight steps to develop love of self, love of source, and love of others:1. Develop and harness your intuition.2. Honor yourself with truth.3. Recognize your ability to make choices.4. Listen to and honor your body.5. Nurture your soul.6. Practice meditation or prayer regularly to connect with your source.7. Just the like term, Namaste, honor the spirit of others.8. Practice forgiveness.When we align ourselves with love and spirit, abundance and joy flow into our lives.I would love to hear from you. What other steps would you add to develop love in your leadership and your life?
Everything!Why is integrating love so important into our leadership? The answer is simple: because fear is not working and love is a much more powerful force.Here’s a list of reasons to lead with love:• We have organizations full of over-worked, over-stressed employees who find little or no meaning in the work they do for eight to ten hours each day.• We have become paralyzed and/or complacent in the workplace, stifled by fear running rampant in today’s organizations.• Without meaning, we lack purpose and engagement. Love is the conduit to meaning.• Fear can be motivating for a while, but it is not sustaining. Love nurtures, expands, and grows.• Love honors, cares for, values, respects, and trusts others.• Love creates an organizational culture that is conducive to knowledge creation. If we don’t create, we go away.• We reap what we sow, and if we plant seeds of fear, we will reap more fear. If we plant seed of love, we will harvest a love-filled culture. Successful organizations such as Southwest Airlines, SEMCO, Tom’s Shoes, Starbucks, Life is Good, and Zappos are built on love and are reaping the benefits because of it.That’s what love has to do with it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!I would love to hear from you. What benefits do you see by infusing love into the workplace?
We have so much we want to do and accomplish as leaders. We dream, create, plan, review, plan some more, and tweak, tweak, tweak. Is this perfectionism or is this fear; and really, aren’t they both the same? Sometimes, we stand behind all of these activities to stay legitimately busy. However, these activities keep us behind the computer.There comes a time (probably now) that we need to step out from behind the computer and into the world of personal interaction. When we step out, then, we can really leave impressions teaching, helping, and leading with those we met. Breaking out of our comfort zones may be different strategies for different people. For some of us we may need to just jump in the water, or we may dive into the deep end, and for some of us, we may just put one toe at a time into the water.The key is to have some movement toward your goal. Success, transformation, and the magic is just outside of our comfort zone. Our movement outside of our comfort zone can start small. One of my clients began this move out of her comfort zone just by taking a different route to work and sitting in a different chair each time she met in the conference room. Here are some strategies to break through your comfort zone barrier:
- Try something new (food, book topic, or music)
- Attend a lecture or presentation on a topic you know nothing about (I did this recently and was fascinated with the learning)
- Identify your habits and look at those habitual behaviors with fresh eyes to uncover the expiration date
- Find a buddy or accountability partner – maybe even take on this project together for support
- Be honest, loving, and patient with yourself as you embark on this journey
OK, here is the challenge:Challenge yourself to commit to one activity outside your comfort zone each day for 21 days and watch your world change, and open before you. I would love to hear from you.Please share your wins of moving outside your comfort zone so we can celebrate!
It is important for us to reflect on our stories.
You know these stories; they are well-crafted and visited repeatedly for years and sometimes decades. These are the stories we tell ourselves, building beliefs and behaviors based on these tales. As Plato reminded us, perception is reality. Our thoughts create our perceptions and our perceptions influence our emotional, psychological, and physical responses.
I read Marianne Williamson’s book, “The Law of Divine Compensation” and was struck by her discussion about how negative thoughts deactivate the divine law, which falls into three major categories:
1. Negative sense of self2. Anger3. Guilt
Wow – the big three!
This got me thinking how the big three derail other aspects of our life, including how we love others and how we lead others. As we reflect on a negative sense of self, anger, and guilt, let’s explore the following questions:
- Why do we hold onto these beliefs? Is it habit, unawareness, or true to you?
- Is it really true?
- Who would you be if it weren't true?
- With what loving thought can you replace the negative thought?
Our stories are sometimes on auto pilot. We need to just flip off the auto pilot switch and create a new story! Close the chapter on the old one and start writing a new story.
Think about this:When is the best time to plant an oak tree?Twenty years ago.When is the second best time to plant the tree?Now.
When we step into awareness about our stories and thoughts, we come to realize that we can change those thoughts, and ultimately change our lives.
I would love to hear from you. What’s stopping you?With love,Maria
I have to share this quote with you by Robert Muller, “To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
Forgiveness is a challenging concept for many leaders. While we understand the idea and we know forgiveness when it happens, the vagueness surrounding forgiveness is illusive. The ambiguity enfolding forgiveness stems from our questions of how to bring about forgiveness/understanding, and from where it actually originated.
How did we even get here—the need or desire to forgive?
We look to practice forgiveness when we are angry, wronged, or hurt. Oftentimes we hold on to anger as a form of power. We feel in control and ultimately powerful when we hold onto our anger, justified in our feelings and hoping that the person we believe hurt us may feel guilty or remorseful for what we perceive they have done to us.
Avoiding forgiveness allows us to fuel our anger, feeling justified and entitled in our anger or pain as victims. Avoiding forgiveness is avoiding responsibility. We are victims because we believe we have no power. Playing the victim role deepens the feelings of pain and anger justification.
Because forgiveness is a state of being, action is required to move into that place or that state. Like so many other lessons, avoiding forgiveness is not static. Anger leads to judgment. Judgment leads to blame, and blame leads to resentment.
Resentment is really unresolved anger and resentment hurts us, manifesting in stress-related illness, anxiety, or depression. Resentment hardens our hearts paving a path of vengeance. We can lose ourselves in judgment, condemnation, and conflict, all the while wondering why we are not happy or content.
Forgiveness is a choice. We take responsibility for our peace of mind and happiness when we choose to forgive. And forgiveness starts with ourselves. To make this choice, we experience a miracle.
The process of experiencing the miracle of forgiveness is perception shifting. The change in attitude comes to us through grace. Cultivating a practice of forgiveness first begins with self-forgiveness. Dr. Robin Casarjian describes six steps to practice self-forgiveness in her book, Forgiveness:
Acknowledge the truth.
Take responsibility for what you have done.
Learn from the experience by acknowledging the deeper feelings that motivated the behaviors and thoughts for which you now feel guilty and hold yourself in judgment.
Open your heart to yourself and compassionately listen to the fears and calls for help and acknowledgment deep within.
Heal emotional wounds by heeding the calls in healthy, loving, and responsible ways.
Align with your Self and affirm your fundamental innocence.
By practicing self-forgiveness, always remember to be gentle with yourself, suspending judgment, allowing and receiving miracles in this holy space. The miracle and shift in perception and attitude gives us insight about others and ourselves.
I would love to hear from you. What is the first step you are willing to commit to today to move you into self-forgiveness?
Ask any successful leader or business owner what one of the most critical factors is for success today, and you will hear: creativity. Now, more than ever, innovation and creativity are sought-after skills in organizations for their leaders. Old models steeped in scientific management and mechanistic thinking no longer serves our needs today. As Einstein and Susan Powter so eloquently remind us, we must and look toward new models and creative ways of leading people and doing business.
For decades, our American culture has devoted most curriculum and teaching models to developing the left-hemisphere of the brain. This is the part of the brain for logic, linear and sequential thought processes. This style of learning and development continued into colleges and universities where the mechanistic model of managing business remained a primary focus. Perhaps a nod to the “soft skills” of leadership appeared in the curriculum, but not until quite recently are we actually teaching leadership skills to future leaders.
Many organizations now focus on teaching the soft skills in their leadership development programs because they realized a profound need for their leaders to have these skill sets. The soft skills to which I am referring are connecting with people, motivating teams, inspiring followers, creative thinking, innovation, quick decision-making and big-picture vision. Each one of these skill sets requires right-brain thinking.
The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, is simultaneous, specializes in context, and synthesizes the big picture. Clearly, the ability to think quickly in today’s fast-paced world requires right hemisphere functions.
I am not advocating tossing aside the value of the left-brain—our entire brain is a gift. I am simply seeking to focus on development of our right-brain functions. At this point, most of us have fairly well developed left hemispheres. After all, we have spent most of our lifetime educated and trained to use our left-brains. What we now need as leaders is to develop and reconnect with the processes of our right brains.
Lateral thinking is perception thinking, looking for creative and innovative ways of viewing the world. This process is not constricted by boundaries and limited beliefs; it challenges us to move into expansiveness, unlimited possibilities, and abundance thinking.
Are you ready for the shift?
I would love to hear from you. What activities do you do that develops your right brain thinking? How do you get your creative on?
Someone asked me, “How can you develop a thick-skin at work?” My initial response was “Develop a strong heart.”
Growing up, I was often teased because of my over-bite. Called many names at school, I came home frequently collapsing into a pile of tears. My mother would tell me to ignore the bully’s hurtful comments and eventually they would stop. I did experience some truth in this, but what was even more impactful were her words, “Maria, you are beautiful, they just don’t see it.” Of course, she was referring to my inner beauty. I knew my outer beauty would catch up once I got braces!
Why is it that as adults we still feel the need to toughen up and not let other people’s words hurt us? Could it be that we forgot our inner beauty?
If so, don’t worry. Reclaiming our inner beauty and strengthening our hearts is easy to do. Developing a strong heart begins with self-love.
Practice these ten steps and in no time, you will not need a thick skin because you will have a strong heart:
- List your strengths. Next to each one, identify how you may leverage your strong points.
- Create an action plan for personal and professional growth.
- Reconnect with your intuition.
- Do something creative every day.
- Spend time in stillness each day.
- Get enough sleep. Six to eight hours are recommended for optimum health.
- Move your body every day. Some days it may only be walking to the mailbox.
- Eat foods that nourish your body in healthy ways.
- List at least five things each day for which you are grateful.
- Find ways to help others see their greatness.
I would love to hear from you. How do you strengthen your heart?
Early on in my corporate career, colleagues advised me to learn golf, which they claimed as a great way to network, bond with clients, and create deals. I learned the sport, but I did not enjoy the game as much as other people did.At one of our corporate retreats, my boss and colleagues could not wait to get out on the course with some of the top executive staff. I was a bit confused by this because I knew my boss didn’t really like or get along with this group of people. I asked him about it and he said that on the golf course, unless you are a pro, there is no pretense; all are on equal footing and all are hitting poorly. The golf experience allowed them to bring down their guards and share the misery of their poor shots. Like golf, laughter allows us to connect with one another, letting our guards down…without the misery of poor golf shots.Laughter enhances communication by letting our shields down and showing that we are human. The model of professionalism for too long has instructed us to be super-human. We have also learned to check our emotions at the door. We are still human; we still have emotions. To deny that fact is insanity. This is certainly a healthy approach to emotions, which is very different from the professional corporate model we learned.Here are seven strategies for infusing laughter and lightness in your leadership and life:
- Start developing your practice of laughter with consciously smiling today. See how many people you can touch and shift their energy with your smile.
- Begin your meetings on a light note. I have the E*Trade babies’ videos on my favorites list and would start meetings with one or two of those commercials. The more I watch them, the funnier they are to me.
- Watch a funny movie, making note of the elements that tickle your funny bone.
- Listen to a comedy recording on the way to work, setting the tone for the day.
- Laugh for 3–5 minutes every day. Faith it ‘til you make it!
- Commit to do one silly thing a day to cultivate your playfulness.
- Start collecting stories from work that are funny; invite everyone to participate and present these stories at the annual holiday party.
I would love to hear from you. What do you do to infuse laughter into your life?With Love,Maria
Why would grace be a lesson on leadership? How can it not? Grace is the state many wise leaders seek: grace under fire. The state of grace, however, is not just essential under fire; grace serves leaders all of the time. During times of stress, confusion, joy, and peace, grace is always at its best. Many leadership books talk about policies, procedures, and processes. The extreme challenge in today’s organizations is that we value policies and procedures more than we value and honor people. Grace is a word and concept ripe with different mental models for people. Most definitions and constructs have common elements such as beauty, elegance, dignified manner, generosity of spirit, and a gift from God. The ability to see beauty in anything is a gift of grace. Mother Teresa saw beauty in the poorest of the poor, when she said, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”Grace is elegance personified. Many of my female executive clients work with me to reclaim their femininity in their high-level leadership positions. Through the process of reconnecting with their feminine energy, they discover elegance and grace. Elegance is a calm, quiet knowledge of self-efficacy that you can handle anything that comes your way with dignity. Grace through elegance is a powerful leadership example. Remember the 3 Cs as outward manifestations of inward grace:care, compassion, and confidence. Confidence is one of the elements that draw followers to great leaders. But remember: confidence is not arrogance. Care and compassion are grace manifested in outward behaviors toward others, demonstrated through acts of sincere kindness to each other. I would love to hear from you. What are some of the ways you demonstrate grace in your leadership and in your life? With Love,Maria
I love the phrase, “An Attitude of Gratitude”. What exactly is an attitude of gratitude? In basic terms, gratitude is thankfulness.We usually remember to give thanks when we feel great. However, living in a state of gratitude is a way of being. Gratitude may be an activity, but you will live a much fuller life, and lead others more effectively, if it becomes your natural state and not just an occasional activity.In addition to the health benefits of gratitude, it is also an abundance magnet. The power of attraction applies; abundance creates more abundance. Many of us have found ourselves to be in the scarcity cycle. Scarcity thinking is focusing on lacking such things as finances, health, relationships, opportunities, etc.It is important to remember that whatever we focus our thoughts and attention on becomes our intention; you become what you think about.Sometimes scarcity thinking shows up in the form of accumulation and greed. People who hoard are deeply immersed in this mental model. If we hold on to anything too tightly, our hands cannot be open to what may be coming.#1. Keep a gratitude journal. Several years ago and I committed to keeping a gratitude journal. Each day I listed at least five things for which I was grateful, big, or small. Some days the list was a dozen, other days I struggled to come up with five! Then something happened…I soon realized that I was receiving more of whatever it was that I was grateful! Blessings surrounded me in my life, and continue to today.#2. Decide to live in a state of gratitude. Be conscious of your thoughts, always shifting from fear to love, scarcity to abundance. Soon enough, gratitude will become your standard operating procedure!#3. Move your thoughts into action. Tell those employees, family members, and friends that you are grateful for their presence in your life, and why.I would love to hear from you. What are some of the ways you cultivate gratitude in your life? How do you demonstrate gratitude?With Love,Maria
The secrets of leadership include awareness, mindfulness, intuition, power listening, and perception shifting. These five skills are innate, although they become buried for many of us based on our cultural upbringing. The great news is that they never go away! Reconnecting with and developing these five leadership essentials are key to successful leadership. These skills help leaders know themselves better, enabling them to understand and influence others. Let’s face it: leadership is about influence. We cannot influence others in an authentic and effective manner without first understanding ourselves as well as those whom we lead.The challenges that leaders face take on many forms. When we peel back the layers of challenges or problems, we find that in most cases the same root cause affects everything – fear. Manifesting itself in many forms, fear shows up as ego, micro-management, misunderstandings, and reactionary behaviors. When we learn to recognize the underlying cause (fear), we then will know how to rectify the real problem instead of just putting on a band-aid or superficial fix. When we only treat the problems superficially, we experience the same issues repeatedly.What is your biggest challenge with leadership and what secret solution do you have? As always, I love hearing your insight.With love,MariaDr. Maria Church, CPC, is a leadership coach, speaker, and author of Love-Based Leadership: Transform Your Life with Meaning and Abundance and her upcoming book, A Course in Leadership: 21 Spiritual Lessons on Leadership, Love, and Life. Maria holds a doctorate of management in organizational leadership, teaches at several universities, and is CEO of Dr. Maria Church International LLC, a leadership coaching, development, and training firm. For more information, visit www.DrMariaChurch.com.
While some of us demonstrate leadership skills naturally, I do not believe that leadership skills cannot be learned. I have seen many leaders who innately have great leadership potential, but do not use it; and I have seen leaders who choose to learn to be great leaders. I believe the combination of our authentic innate skills and characteristics (whatever those may be) along with proper education and training, and coupled with heart-based thinking, will produce fabulous, irresistible leadership.
The secrets of leadership include awareness, mindfulness, intuition, power listening, and perception shifting. These five skills are innate, although they become buried for many of us based on our cultural upbringing. The great news is that they never go away! Reconnecting with and developing these five leadership essentials are key to successful leadership. These skills help leaders know themselves better, enabling them to understand and influence others. Let’s face it: leadership is about influence. We cannot influence others in an authentic and effective manner without first understanding ourselves as well as those whom we lead.
Dr. Maria Church, CPC, is a leadership coach, speaker, and author of Love-Based Leadership: Transform Your Life with Meaning and Abundance and her upcoming book, A Course in Leadership: 21 Spiritual Lessons on Leadership, Love, and Life. Maria holds a doctorate of management in organizational leadership, teaches at several universities, and is CEO of Dr. Maria Church International LLC, a leadership coaching, development, and training firm. For more information, visit www.DrMariaChurch.com.