helpgrowchange

Humility and change

I learnt humility last week. It hit me like a freight train. I am still thinking about it almost a week later. I wasn’t prepared for it. And it has forced me to rethink the way I go about my life.

Ok, not quite that bad, but the feedback I received last week was still pretty shitty – forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and exactly where I needed to be.

About seven months ago, I got the opportunity to lead a new team. I saw it as a challenge as I hadn’t worked with the team before, didn’t understand the tools they used, or technologies they worked with. I was unsure as to how they would accept someone without the relevant technical experience to lead them forward.

Over time I have strived to build strong relationships through mutual trust and respect, both as a team and with each of the individuals. One of the questions I am continuously asking is for honest feedback about me and how I am leading them.

This question often brings out an array of opinions ranging from ‘you are doing great’ to ‘maybe change the time of the team meeting’ or ‘there have been a few misses, but overall it’s great’. These responses are fairly minor, and I can work pretty quickly to adapt and grow. That is until last week.

The discussion I had then hit the core of what I strive to achieve with the team every single day. What I thought I was doing right, was being perceived in a completely different way – a way detrimental to the growth of this team.

I was stricken (in a leadership sort of way).

At first, I wanted to justify myself. I wanted to use all the excuses in the book to explain why this action was taken, how it benefits this person and the team. But then I put myself in their shoes and realised that they are different to me. They are perceiving the situation through their eyes. I realised I simply needed to listen.

After this person had finished, I didn’t retaliate. I didn’t try to justify myself. By then I had realised that in order to grow, one must receive and process all feedback. Because this feedback was core to my leadership style, I needed time to mull it over. I thanked them for being so honest with me. The whole situation made me realise one thing.

If you want honesty from someone, you need to build trust and respect first.

You won’t get honesty right off the bat. It doesn’t come overnight, nor is it easy. A strong relationship needs to be built first, then the true changes begin to happen. When we become comfortable with someone, we open ourselves to vulnerability. We open ourselves to honest criticism. We need to be open to this criticism.

Without being open, we cannot learn anything new. Without learning, there is no growth. Without growth, we can’t be better than yesterday.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes

I’m often questioning myself on the motives of other people. Why do some react to situations differently? Why do some have such a brash attitude or a quiet demeanour? I debate with myself as to why one person reacts one way, and another person differently. It makes my mind boggle how two people are in the same situation, but have such different reactions. Do you find that too?

Have you been in a bad situation recently? Something that either caused an argument or misunderstanding between you and another person. I’ll bet the resolution came down to one of two things; you understood the other person’s view, or the other person understood your view.

More often than not, any bad situation is due to the differing perception of the people involved. There is a whole science behind this, but simply put, everyone perceives a situation differently. Due to a mixture of emotional state, memories, and personal values, people will interpret and react to situations differently.

Quite often, you probably question why someone makes a certain decision or reacts a certain way. It’s not your way. Sometimes this might cause you irritation, frustration, or even anger. These other people may feel the same way about you for something you’ve done. You certainly didn’t mean to offend that person, but because of the frustration they feel, they take it out on you by attacking you in some way – through hurtful words, or undermining some good work you’ve done. This lack of understanding from both parties is a major cause in turning any situation into a nasty one.

How do we get out of these situations? How do we stop this endless cycle of resentment, frustration, and hatefulness?

One word: Empathy.

According to the dictionary, Empathy means ‘the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings‘.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. It is the first step to understanding anyone. What would you do in the same situation? Bear in mind that that person has traveled a much different path than you in life. They have loved, lost, and achieved different things. Try and think as to why they would do something a certain way.

This is very hard to do. I still struggle with it every day. For example, I am quite driven and always willing to learn and experience something at least once. It frustrates me to no end seeing someone willingly wallow and stagnant in the same rut most of their life.

But I take a deep breathe, I put myself in their shoes, try to think of how I would react (knowing what I know of their past), and I already feel more patience toward them. I understand them a little more – then I can try help them a little more.

Understanding someone else’s thought process (even a little) can go a long way in resolving situations, building trust, and living an easier life – both for you and the people around you.

Think of a situation you are stuck in at the moment where you are in conflict with someone else. Put yourself in their shoes.

Just imagine for a little while … and take your first step to greater understanding of the situation.

[Featured image: Pierre (Rennes)]

Learning to let go

I’ve been on holiday for just over a week now. Away from the office, away from home, away from the monotony of daily life. It’s been good so far. My family have seen some interesting attractions and have learnt to live together in a cramped holiday home. My wife and I have really come to appreciate what we have back home, but there is one area where I have struggled during this time away.

That is to let go.

Back at the office, there has been an extremely high volume of problems to resolve. Some critical decisions are being made about team utilisation. And it has been weighing heavily on me that I have not been there to partake in the decision making process. Plans I had in place might be smashed to pieces. People utilisation might thrown out of whack. The team will come crashing down.

But then I realise that I have worked hard to not build the team on a house of cards. They have been provided opportunities to grow, to perform above and beyond, and to climb outside of their comfort zone. I trust in the decisions they are making, and will back them all the way.

Learning to let go is hard. It’s a haze of ‘what if’s’ and ‘should haves’. The more you think of these, the more worked up you become. You worry about possible outcomes that will never happen. In other words, you worry about nothing.

For me, the best way to let go is I tell myself I did the best I could.

If you look back at the past leading up to this point telling yourself you did the best you could, your worrisome self will immediately reply with ‘you should’ve done that‘ or ‘what if you had gone that way’. But if you really think about it, would you have really done it differently – really really?

I doubt it.

You did the best you could with what was provided to you and what you knew at the time.

Be content with that statement. Accept it. It is the complete truth.

Once you accept that you have done the best you could, you will be able to trust in the outcomes of situations while you are away. You will accept changes in situations a lot more quickly. It is something I am still learning to do, but this has worked for me with amazing effectiveness.

Give it a try, it might just work for you too.

[Featured image: One of my holiday snaps of Lake Rotoiti]

Want something so bad, it hurts

Have you ever wanted to do something so bad that it hurts? That one thing that you think about every other minute of the day; when you wake up in the morning, while you day dream at the office, while you wait in the queue at the grocery store.

For me, that something is making a positive impact to the people in my life. Every day, I get up and think of the possibilities. How can I make my wife’s life easier? How can I create opportunities for the individuals in my team to grow? How can I increase the positive impact I am making?

Whenever I think and dream about this, a strange sensation sets in. A sense of excitement and determination all in one. Some sort of force that needs to get out somehow. All I ever want to do is solve the problems of the people around me. Help them change. Help them realise their own potential. Help them grow.

For you, this internal desire – this passion – might be something else entirely. It could be creating dolls, sailing on open water, or writing inspiring poetry. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as there is something that you want to do. Something that you need to do so badly, everything else can wait.

Who cares about the chores, or the missed TV shows, or the latest Facebook status update? When we’re filled with passion, nothing else will suffice. Bigger and better things await when we follow our passion. More fulfilment and enrichment in our lives. And a deeper sense of achievement when we do accomplish goals associated with the passion.

For example, the time I allowed my wife to follow her passion gave me happiness. Or the colleague that came to me for guidance, took the suggestion I made and is making progress in their career. That simply invigorates me to do more of the same. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to do these things again.

It may be the same for you – you’ve created that amazing doll, you sailed further than the day before, you wrote a truly meaningful piece of poetry from the heart.

I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have a passion. Living a mediocre life, having a ho-hum attitude to everything. Simply waking up, drifting along the day, and sleeping again. Wallowing through weeks, months, years of average achievements and no direction.

That is not living, a person living that life is already dead.

I offer you a challenge: Find that something that gives you a flutter of butterflies in your gut. Feel like playing a guitar? Find one and do it. What about mountain biking? Start off with a cheap bike and go for a ride. Always dreamed about dancing the Tango? Sign up to your nearest dance studio today.

Your passion won’t come to you. You have to find it for yourself. That means going on a journey of discovery. Only you can take the steps necessary.

The beauty of doing what you want to do, is that you will want to do more of it. You will enjoy it more, get better at it, and who knows where it might take you.

[Featured image: Daniel Ruskwick]

3 Ways to initiate change

I’ve written a number of articles trying to pass on the message that you can change your world. You can make your own changes in your life to better your job, your family, or simply… you.

You’ve been thinking about making a change. But you don’t know where to start. Do I start a new hobby? Should I try change my team structure? What will happen if I say no when asked to do something?

After re-reading some of the articles and some thoughtful feedback from my wingman (ie my wife), it has become evident that I often don’t mention how. Let me remedy that right now.

When you want to initiate change, there are 3 is simple rules to remember:

  1. DECIDE
  2. TRY
  3. LEARN

Decide

The first thing that needs to happen before any action happens is to make a decision to do it. We have to be willing to take that first step. We have to be willing to take a risk. We have to be open to the possibility that this might just fail. We might fall far short of what we dreamed and planned. In the same breath, we might surprise ourselves. We might far exceed our expectations. We might just make it happen.

Decide on a new hobby. Decide on a possible new team structure. Decide on whether you are going to say ‘no’.

We choose change by making decisions. The magic begins with the decision to at least give it a go. We have to try.

Try

Action must be taken on the decisions we make. We simply just don’t know what will happen when we try. Good or bad, the truth of the matter will only appear once we attempt to make the changes necessary. The attempts don’t have to be big either. I’m suggesting that you make small ones.

Like starting one little bit of your new hobby, or reviewing the team structure with peers or the team, or saying ‘no’ when you can’t take on a new task.

What happens next is just as important. Whatever the outcome of our actions from decisions, we must learn from them.

Learn

There is no point in trying out our decisions if we are not willing to learn from the outcomes. That is like hitting your head against the wall and hoping the next time won’t hurt.

Enjoyed the introduction to your hobby? Make the decision to explore some more. Didn’t enjoy it? Ditch it and make the decision to try something else.

The review of the team structure didn’t go so well? No problem, now you know what the team really wants.

What happened when you said ‘no’? The person maybe said ‘ok’, and carried on their path. Or they asked ‘why’, and a more fruitful conversation evolved about your workload.

I seem to have oversimplified how you can initiate change, but I fully believe it is as simple as this. Make the decision, try the decision, learn from the experience.

[Featured image: Sylwia Bartyzel]

Create something out of nothing

Are you an artist? Can you pick up a paint brush and whisk up a wonderful piece of work? Can you write up a song or story that will take our breath away? Don’t worry, neither can I. But you know what, you can create anything you want. It doesn’t matter how wonderful it is. It is something that you have taken out of your head and made it available for all to see.

What we tend to forget about ‘artists’, is that they live and breathe their art. Before the great works of art were created, they have practiced for years on end, moulding, sculpting, tweaking their skills to make them perfect. They worked endless hours making countless mistakes. Failed many times. Even now, they make mistakes and fail every time a new piece of work is created.

We are all naturally creative. Look around you. Who created your office workspace, who created your budget at home, who decides what paint colour to put on your child’s bedroom wall, who decides to lay out the lounge seating arrangement? It’s not all about a paintbrush or a song. It’s everything you do, every decision you make. You are injecting your own creativity, adding your own flair and imagination all the time.

Sure, it might not be the best, or look like something from a top designer. People might not buy it. But you know what? Who gives a crap? It’s yours. You created it. It came out of your fantastic mind. You created something out of nothing.

You took that thought, you acted on it, and you made it.

Creating your own stuff has a few side effects. Passion and Confidence. When you realise that you have actually created something, a sense of achievement can appear (at least for me, it does). The realisation that me – an average non-creative person – can create something from nothing. You feel inspired to do more, to test the limits of this new found creativity. You wake up each day excited to work on your project. Even once you’ve finished the project, you can’t wait to start on the next.

After a while you come to a further realisation that, actually, your creations are not actually that bad. You take the chance of sharing with a friend, and another, and another. Naturally, you become more confident as you practice. Confident to take on something bigger and better.

I pose a challenge to you.

I know for a fact that you enjoy doing something, everybody has something they have liked during their lifetime. Something that has piqued your interest. Explore that interest. Try something new. You might fail, you might discover that it’s not for you. The main point is that you tried. How do you know what your true creative outlet is until you actually try it? You might just be pleasantly surprised.

[Featured image: Jennifer Trovato]

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