How you Be is what you give

I'm in a profession where how I'm being in any given moment or interaction is what matters most. More even than what I say. What tools I bring. What ideas or strategies. The way I show up - the energy and intention - is much more important. Who I am is what I give. It's less important to give things away to add value. It's much more important to be the space that invites others generously and genuinely into the fullness of their own experience. It's not always easy to remember this. Everyone gets triggered and thrust into reaction now and then. So it's a daily practice of coming back to choice and presence. 

My last name - Douglas - means dark water. Like a river that acts as a dark canvas reflecting what is around it (as opposed to a clear ocean that shows the sandy beach below). We make the picture whole together - by inviting contribution and honouring what is shared. Sure, this image is actually of the 'Devil's Bridge' ;) but the devil is in the details. What I mean by that is that when we get too caught up in the details of what we are giving, we miss the beauty and honour of being - and all the things we can see, know, understand from there.  It's an ebb and flow. As I do this work, I come to appreciate more fully each day that the gift we all give others is the gift of space and reflection. Being the mirror for someone else to acknowledge and honour themselves. Being witnessed in that truth of who they are beyond the stories they tell themselves, the identities or roles others ascribe to them (that they take on to varying degrees). There is such grace in being a loving mirror for someone. Such privilege in honouring the truth of what someone is going through - without making it wrong, judging it, reacting to it, advising on how to 'deal' with it - just allowing. 

At this early point of spring where the processing of winter release winds down and new buds of possibility begin to poke through, allowing is the chief state for us all to embody. It's all we can do sometimes. And I'm here to remind us all that that is actually A LOT. Being is doing a lot. Living from the heart is even faster and truer than living from the mind. There are seasons to life and to every relationship - a time to inhabit mind or heart more than the other. This is my invitation to honour yourself and others right now with the gift of conscious, intentional, loving presence. 

I did not remember to do this today. In a conversation this morning with a loved one about something that really mattered to them, I forgot myself because I forgot them and actually focused more on what I wanted to express and share and give. When focusing too much on what we're giving, trying to add value, we can squeeze out what others want to give. It's a balance. It's a flow. It's a daily practice. It's a choice about how we want to be with each other. About the impact we want to have in relationships, yes, but also about the experience we want to offer, the way we want to do life. Remembering who we are is remembering we are not threatened or less than anyone else when we worry less about what we can give and just let them share and express. Sometimes it's highly healing to simply hold space and invite contribution from the other. To reflect the bridge so it can see itself. And stepping back, the combination creates a greater whole and a new universe previously unseen and inaccessible to either the bridge or the water around it. 

So I guess what I'm saying is - be the water, and in so doing, be the bridge. 

Can't get through to someone? Grow your C-IQ!

Is it human nature to disagree? It is inevitable to get stuck there? We can actually be neurochemically addicted to being right - even when we're wrong. But now - thanks to advances in the neuroscience of trust - we're learning how to shift this stuck state, connect better, and create more innovative solutions for moving forward together than ever before. We're all actually equipped to communicate far better than we do on average. Now there's something concrete we can do to fix that, thanks to the paradigm shifting work being done by Dr. Judith Glaser (CreatingWE Institute). 

 

The science of building trust, breaking through blindspots, and bettering our business is here. Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ) is rocking my world these days because it will shape ours in the years to come! 

 GROW THROUGH CONSCIOUS COMMUNICATION. While we seem separate, we are connected on often invisible levels (like tree roots or branches in the same breeze). 

GROW THROUGH CONSCIOUS COMMUNICATION. While we seem separate, we are connected on often invisible levels (like tree roots or branches in the same breeze). 

Make the invisible, visible. Heal relationships, teams, organizations with C-IQ.

It's been six months since I completed my certification as a Conversational Intelligence® coach and I'm more jazzed every day by the power of this emerging and incredible work. Dynamic, rapidly growing, and hugely powerful - this is a paradigm shifting approach to how we get along and get things done. The neuroscience of connection in terms we can all understand and apply. 

We've all had conversations where we feel we can't get through to someone, can't move forward. Frustrating as all hell. Sometimes it's with colleagues or family members or friends that we need to impact and co-create with - and can't. Turns out we can be neurochemically addicted to being right - even when we're wrong! We can be inadvertently triggering someone else into fight/flight/freeze/appease, thereby blocking their ability to connect and collaborate with us. Our brains are always experiencing cortisol (stress hormone) and oxytocin (bonding collaboration hormone) in varying amounts. It turns out we can learn how to regulate these two powerful neurochemicals in order to facilitate our very best collaboration. The result is being able to activate the part of our brains that make strategy, creativity, innovation, empathy, intuition, and collaboration possible (prefrontal cortex or 'executive brain'). It all comes down to learning ways to engage our C-IQ (conversational intelligence). It's something we all possess (there's even a gene for it!). It's a matter of learning how to self-regulate so we can become aware of - and manage - our own neurochemical state for better communication and collaboration. 

In conversation, we share so much more than the words expressed. We share energy. We share emotion. We can sense the energy of another human being within ten feet. We start to calibrate or react to it. Imagine if we could attune consciously and engage in conscious communication to intentionally enhance our interactions with one another? Get more out of each conversation.

Managing our intention when we communicate (choose an intention to connect and co-create rather than persuade or control or send info one way), as well as the number and type of questions we ask (focus on ones we don't know the answer to), and even the words we use all make up our C-IQ. We can have deeper level conversations that actually enhance our perceived possibilities (and even our visual field!) by activating and developing our C-IQ. 

How we communicate shapes our experience - at work and at home. If we can learn to channel our conversational intelligence properly, we can truly open up powerful new, healthier, more positive possibilities for what we can create. 

"Words create worlds." - Dr. Judith Glaser

For professional communicators and anyone who interacts with others in their work - this is game changing. As global business creates challenges that seem too big for traditional solutions, the ability to unlock yet untapped creative and strategic leadership potential is a true competitive advantage. Or as I like to think of it - collaborative advantage.

Bringing together traditionally disparate fields is a passion of mine so this approach is music to my ears. It combines strategy, practicality, psychology, neuroscience and even spirituality for a healthier, more profound way of communicating. 

This June I get to share C-IQ concepts with global communications leaders at the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference. I'm so inspired by this content. It's truly game changing.

Stay tuned for more details about what C-IQ is, how to use it to improve your relationships and experiences at work and at home, and how it is changing our world for the better!

WHO WILL YOU BE?

Next week is Halloween. Who will you be?

Don’t do it to fit in. Don’t do it to stand out. Do it because it’s fun!

Sometimes wearing a costume is fun! It may feel silly. It can also be freeing! -– being someone else for a moment. Kids know this, that’s part of the allure behind Halloween. Trying on a new persona. Especially if you wear a uniform to work (and most all of us wear a uniform, whether we know it or not). But somewhere along the line we grow out of this. We decide to put on a serious costume and wear that one daily. Boring. Then we wonder why we feel the way we do.

Doing something because you think it’s right, (or wrong), is being in reaction to it. That’s giving the 'should' more importance and power than you. What if you did something just because it was fun? What if you could put on a new costume that made your job feel fun? Your home life feel fun? Where did FUN go anyway?! What if it’s somewhere in the back of your (metaphorical) closet…

The great news? You don’t have to put on an actual costume – but try on a different way of being! Try leaving the way you usually show up behind for a day and try being somebody else. Try it. The alter ego you never tell anybody about. The fantasy you. The bigger you, the grander you, the louder you, the quieter you, the you that doesn’t fit into the everyday you. Be that! You play a role every day - now trying playing a new (less serious) one. Without explaining why. Like the little boy who wants to dress up as Elsa from Frozen just because. Or Mitchell from Modern Family excited to dress up as Spiderman!

But don't stop there! Don't get scared because the people around you aren't dressed up too (agh, Mitchell). They actually are. Their costumes just aren't as fun. And that's a choice they're making. Every day that we wake up, we decide what to put on. And who to be. And how to feel about it. Our way of being is something we put on. What if we woke up on Halloween and decided to be someone new for fun? What if we gave ourselves a day of realizing we are more than the costumes we wear – so we can wear many?

Give yourself an opportunity to try on a new version of you (without actually squeezing into a spandex Spiderman outfit).

Forget next week. Who will you be TODAY? 

The Born Identity: 11 Tips for Nurturing Any Life Change

Creating change? Parent your new life. Give it what it needs to keep growing. 

Creating change can be invigorating; integrating it can be a new kind of difficult. Much like giving birth is one thing and parenting is another. A shift in thinking is required. As a leadership coach, I partner with people creating change every day (like making the professional more personal, or the business of being oneself). My son's birth this summer has reminded me of the critical importance of the "fourth trimester" of any change: the integration phase. 

We spend so much time getting ready to make a change (like give birth) but the real work happens once we have. When you’ve started a new job, moved to a new city, or the consultants have gone and your restructured team must make it work. The greatest opportunity for leadership lies in steadily nurturing. Yet, it often doesn’t feel in our nature to nurture our own newness.  Change alters your identity, causing discomfort and doubt which can make you want to revert back. Support for change integration can make all the difference. 

Whether you have children or not, any life change requires of us - boldness, grit, wisdom, choice - as it teaches us. Who you are becoming matters. Cherish your change the way you'd love a new baby: with patience, care, and most of all, commitment. 

Growing change in your life? Keep in mind some lessons from pregnancy, birth and beyond:

  1. Change will come. Daily. Be available to it. You’re never as stuck as you think you are.

  2. In fact, you’re a naturally dynamic creative force. You are always in some stage of change. The first trimester is personal and internal. You may want to barf. That’s ok! It means you’re doing more than just thinking about change (though that’s where it all starts). Destabilizing as it may be, remind yourself that as long as you’re aware, you are safe. You can do this. Embrace your ability to create, reinvent, be flexible, and grow.

  3. Every goal or vision, like every birth story and baby, is unique and right. Find things to love about your situation, experience, path, passion. Find the humour in it. There is no best way. Many will have “advice”. You don't have to be the same kind of parent (or employee, or person) your parents were or peers are. Research, but choose what feels true for you. Choose how you want to be with your new life. 

  4. Let go and trust yourself. Notice what you’re expecting – it’s the key to empowerment. You don’t need to know exactly how everything will unfold (surprises happen), but try trusting that it will go well. Be clear about what you want while being open to whatever comes. As your new life grows, your energy will build and your confidence will deepen. When you choose something new, something old may go away. Let it go.

  5. Be grateful for what shows up. Let yourself learn. A key to healthily integrating change is meeting it thankfully, openly, and consciously. Savour where you are. Let yourself feel gratitude in each phase. Empower yourself to choose, adjust, repeat. The second trimester - when your change becomes obvious to others - is when you’ll likely start feeling you can really do this (because you are!). 

  6. Be present. Be aware of how you’re choosing to think, behave, feel, and be with this new life of yours. Unconscious reaction and resistance can create issues. Honour your mind and your senses to best integrate change. Borrowing from the Bourne Identity - use your central intelligence and agency to discover who you are.

  7. Change is not one big moment but daily small ones. It may feel as though not much is happening and then you’ll look back a few weeks from now and realize you’re somewhere quite new. Your new life will become more important to you every day.

  8. Get the help you need. Trust yourself to know the help you need and be brave enough to ask for and receive it. Being vulnerable is key for connection, growth, and greatness but you need not be alone. Consider a coach. Like a midwife for change, a coach is a source of knowledgeable, caring support for capable people growing new life. Coaches aren't supposed to have all the answers but they can help you find them yourself as you grow what matters most to you.

  9. Handle with care. How are you holding your new life? With care and attention? That’s what babies – and lasting personal and professional change – require. Carry your new life until it can walk on its own. Help it grow and let it grow you.

  10. Don’t give up or check out. Keep going. Especially when it’s hard. Resilience is the name of the growth game, whether at work or in your personal life. Laugh along the way. Even if you feel like giving up today, give in to trying again tomorrow.

  11. Be gentle with your new life and yourself. Show your new life some love. Be patient. Recognize change infancy for what it is and celebrate it. Cherish the fragility of newness rather than rushing towards a falsely fixed finish line. The best part? When your new life smiles back at you.

 

Grow from the Ground Up: A Lesson in Living Work from the First Org. Chart

Organizations are living systems! With life in them! That's something we knew way back when. The first organizational chart (click on the title of this blog to pull up the picture of it) was drawn as a tree, where leadership is not at the top but rather at the roots and the team are tall, elegant branches that grow out of the leadership foundation. It was made for a railroad - one of the earliest modern forms of connecting human beings to each other, and to where they want to go. How we think about structure impacts how we think about, and go about, growth. When did organizational charts start looking so mechanistic when they started as ... botanical? When did we literally turn this conception upside down? (and put leadership at the top instead of the roots from which the organization grows)?

What should next level org charts look like? Organizational design impacts work approach, outcomes, and employee experience. That's why organizations are evaluating their structures and processes to ensure they support next generation talent management and innovation. Considering the earliest org. chart is an interesting place to start. There's something exciting about designing an organization as a complex living ecosystem. Check out the links below and let me know what you think. How does your garden grow? 

Think about that. We started out knowing what organizations could be. Then we made them machines. Then we made the people in them machines. So we represented them with boxes. And we keep people in those boxes. We keep organizations in boxes. Not much life in a box. Not much growth in a box - not organic anyway. And we got obsessed with flat organizations with the illusion of equality and sameness (when hierarchies still exist). A lot of discontent comes from being fed an illusion that you know doesn't feel true.These days we talk about the wisdom and prudence of organic growth as opposed to rampant acquisition. And yet it's difficult to attain. Could that have something to do with the way we conceive of work? Of the system and the people doing it? (much like the language you speak shapes your understanding of the world? but that's another blog post...).

Trees and plants operate with more precision and elegant design than a lot of machines. But we are not plants. We are living organisms with somewhat mechanistic minds. Input / output minds. So our mindset matters. What is possible for ourselves and the organizations we create depends on our mental models as much as it does our connectedness to what keeps us alive - the heart. There are neural cells in the heart. It is like a second brain. 

What would it be to connect the two and lead from there? Lead ourselves and our organizations in a dynamic balance of head and heart? It's a bit like leading from the soil between the roots and the trunk and branches. Changing work from the ground up.

What's between the mind and the heart? The throat. The place from which we speak. Breathe. Communicate. How do we establish a connection between the rational, mechanistic, pragmatic programmable and the feeling, sensing, natural and dynamic? How do we create the connection and then - most importantly - how do we communicate it?

That's my life work. Find common ground and lead from it. Deeper learning, higher leadership, healthier results. Communicate, connect, create. Next generation leadership uses full resourcefulness. It is more than what we've experienced before. It is integrative and co-created. It is grounding and uplifting at the same time. It is transformative. 

Lessons from a cry baby

Is something crying out in you? In your workplace?

Don't take it lying down. Pick it up and do something about it! 

It's likely one of three things: 

1) Feed it - give yourself more of what you need that you're now aware you're lacking

2) Get rid of it - (diaper duty!) let go of what you no longer need, clean up the mess and start again

3) Entertain it - boredom can be just as psychologically damaging as stress! Keep yourself interested (all of you) by paying attention when you're not and trying something different. After all, play is how we learn. Laughter means it's likely working.

Empowered Leadership: Nuance, Noticing, and What Will it Take

A counterintuitive empowerment and leadership tip that works? Pay attention to nuance. Spend time simply noticing. Then, if something is out of alignment, not firing on all cylinders, not feeling good (even if it's aligned with strategy or development), ask what it would take to change it. Ask your team. Ask yourself quietly. Then listen. Create possibilities and make them real by focusing on what it would take to get there. It's a simple but powerful question, what would it take.

Most often, we create possibilities from the box we're already in. This can feel limited, closed, and make us shut down or feel too stuck to move forward. We get stuck in stories about why we can't do x, y, z. Creating possibility requires playing a bit. It requires a what if. Constantly asking what if can sometimes leave us feeling perpetually unsatisfied in personal relationships so this is not to be used indiscriminately. But sometimes change is called for. And making a change requires thinking of something that doesn't current seem to exist and then finding ways to take the idea of change and ground the change in in real things.

What do you want to change or create? What would it take to get there?

The answers you and your team come up with might surprise you. Try it!

Evolution of Work

(First published on my original site amydouglascoaching.com January 2015). 

Work has evolved. Now what? Do you know how to thrive here?

Creating and experiencing next level work: that's our opportunity. That's my goal.

 

So where are we now? What is the new world of work? An illustrator colleague of mine created the attached image to help explore this. We've moved from the mechanistic industrial era of tools, factories, and vast income inequality, through the 1950s/60s of relative properity. There, single family incomes with working fathers were bolstered by the proliferation of the office and early hierarchical office management practices. Through to the 1980s and the emergence of women in the workplace (in a big way) and communicative technology tools. Then came the dot com era of more flexible work, personalized technology designed for us, and growth coming from creative and technology industries.

 

The surprise, though, is that while organizational structures and demographics in the workplace (gender, race and otherwise) have changed over time, the underlying management assumptions, processes, and design structures governing the flow of knowledge and access to power, have maintained parts of all the systems that came before. Remnants of the mechanistic industrial era where employees were treated as appendages to machines. Elements of the early management era that relied heavily on controlling hierarchical structures with concentrated power and top down decision making. Work has evolved, but systems and assumptions from days gone by persist. When we resist replacing what no longer works, we find pain points (decreased engagement, productivity drops, increased turnover, decreased innovation and market success). Today, we are relatively safe. Or we no longer expect to be. It's the organizational equivalent of Carpe Diem.

 

We are at a critical turning point. Evidence that we've outgrown historical work systems is everywhere. The psychological contract of work has evolved and both employer and employee expect different things. Purpose, meaning and development become key drivers of work (instead of security and predictability). Diversity becomes a resource to be leveraged for the kind of creativity and innovation required to solve modern day problems and generate growth. But diversity produces a challenge when we're used to mechanistic, controlled environments with predictable inputs.

 

Expectations of work have evolved as multiple generations come together with different mental models, training, and experience in a context of speed, competition and interconnectedness. Employee engagement is at a record low worldwide. Trust has eroded. All this makes coming together in change challenging. Our issues may be familiar but our sense of how to approach them has changed. What used to work no longer does. That's the exciting part. We are now at a place of transformative creative opportunity for leaders at every level.

 

This is a full ecosystem evolution. Everyone must shift their thinking and behaviour to create what comes ahead, own the new system and ultimately, get more out of it. There is a lot of work to be done. It all starts with having more honest conversations about what works and what doesn't - from a truly equal and non-judgmental perspective. Good ideas come from anywhere. Possibilities are opening up. Career paths are broadening. There is no 'one best way' anymore. There are many. 

 

So what's ahead? 

 

Co-created, flatter organizational ecosystems created by all those within them. Cultures that mine the differences in groups to innovate at every level. Candid conversations that are more honest - about expectations and length of time you will work somewhere - and for what purpose or goals. Work that honours the individual and the organization. Next level leadership is balanced, creative, and dynamic.

 

Dr. Marla Gottschalk has helped lead the conversation on the changes that have taken place at work - outlining ways to meet the changes.  It's time to start doing things differently.

 

This is the biological evolutionary equivalent of the moment man stood fully upright. It's time to stand up for the work we want. To create it. To own it. To integrate practical needs with deeper psychological needs,  rational and emotional; to be more than we have before at work and in life. This is big. Work is different. It's full of opportunity. Stand up, walk forward, and do something about it.