Last week I wrote the first in a series of short blogs about John Scherer’s Five Powerful Questions that can transform your life and your leadership, focussing specifically on Q#1: What CONFRONTS you? You can access that blog here. In this blog, I will address Q#2: What am I BRINGING? and Q#3: What RUNS me? These questions relate to the ‘tigers’ in our life that we choose to either turn and run away from or face with courage. Questions #2 and #3 lead us into a discovery process about what makes the tiger a tiger for us.
Turning and facing a ‘tiger’ requires a certain kind of curiosity about oneself as well as courage. We start by reflecting on the particular ‘tiger’ situation that confronts us and ask ourselves, ‘what am I BRINGING to this situation?’ Allow me to share a personal example:
A recent ‘tiger’ situation that I faced was that of promoting my work, and thus by definition, promoting myself. Although, this is a necessity if I wanted to get my work out into the world and to grow and develop my Leadership & OD consulting business, the thought of self-promotion of any sort filled me with dread. Writing this series of blogs is, of course, one example of such self-promotion. When faced with a tiger – a situation we’d do anything to avoid – it helps to explore what lies behind our wish/need to turn and run and to ask ourselves, 'what am I bringing to the situation that makes it a tiger for me? What are my hopes, my fears and my history with this? My hope is that in promoting my work I am to able to convey the significance of the meaning of something for me that will resonate with others - enough for them to want to work or collaborate with me. At the same time, however, I fear, that what I promote may be quickly dismissed as a form of shameless self-promotion and deemed irrelevant. This is an example of the kind of internal conversation that I would all too easily have with myself. Many of us know this ‘inner critic’ all too well.
As I reflected on Q# 3: what’s been RUNNING me in relation to this particular tiger, an interesting memory from my early adolescence came to mind. When I was about twelve years old I joined a Latin American dance class, which I attended twice weekly and regularly participated in dance competitions. I was not ‘naturally talented’. I had to work hard. I watched all the winning dancing couples to see what I could learn from them. I noticed something about the way they carried themselves; their confidence and cockiness, particularly the way they moved their heads as they danced the rumba, samba, and cha cha cha. If you’ve watched ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ or some other similar dance competition programme, then perhaps you can imagine what I’m talking about? I thought this was key to their success and so I started copying them in my dance routines with my dancing partner. I’d shake my head this way and that, as I danced around the ballroom floor. It seemed to get me noticed and it wasn’t too long till we won our first bronze medal! I was feeling chuffed with myself. However, on returning to my dance class one week after a competition, my dance teacher remarked, in front of the class, “If you shake that head of yours any harder, it will come off your body!” I immediately felt embarrassed and my fragile confidence crushed. Looking back on it with the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think his intention was to embarrass me. Perhaps he was trying to prevent me from making a fool of myself? Sure, he could have handled it better, but previously I had only felt encouraged by him. However, put his 'feedback' in the context of the culture of a working class, West of Scotland, where it was not okay to get ‘too big for your boots’, or ‘show off’, then the message that I internalised - that any form of self promotion is shameful and is to be avoided - begins to make sense to me. I could now better understand what makes this a tiger for me and that understanding helps create new and different possibilities for me.
Why does this matter? In 'Half a Shade Braver: the foundations of conversational leadership', poet and author, David Whyte, asserts that 'leadership is about being seen'. If I/we want to create something in the world, or to make a difference in our work, relationships and life, we need to bring all of our leadership to the pursuit of what matters to us and that means allowing ourselves to be seen.
In my final blog in this series I will address Q#4: What CALLS you? and Q#5 What will UNLEASH you.
If you're interested to find out more about these Five Questions or the Leadership Development Intensive get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org