- Sheeja Shaju
THE A.C.C of Leadership
(I invite you to reflect on the question’s I have added in the article at the end of every piece)
In one of my coaching conversations, a coachee of mine who was also the Head HR of a large organization said she was facing some issues with her team. She said, ‘I am doing all it takes for my managers to be happy but I don’t feel the connection with them. They don’t express much and I also find them avoiding my presence. I feel they don’t trust me. I wish I knew how to handle this because this is affecting the results.’
The A.C.C. of Leadership is about 3 powerful words that have the potential of changing our lives. All that is required on our part is to understand them and implement them in our lives.
This brings us to the first one – A = Awareness
In my coachee’s world she was working very hard to have the team trust her. According to her she had ticked all the boxes for the results and yet she did not have it. This just means there was something missing; something she was not aware was happening; something she was blind to.
Remember, you can’t alter what you can’t see!
Imagine, putting a bull in a China shop (I know the thought itself is weird!) but hypothetically if we do, the Bull in all his blindness will cause destruction. Just by the swish of his tail there will be a lot of damage in the shop! He is just being who he is, he is just walking and maybe trying to get out of the shop!
Similarly, we as humans do a lot of damage in our lives by being blind and unaware.
There are many domains where we humans have blindnesses, let’s go deeper in one of them here.
In our trainings we often ask people, ‘Where do actions come from?’ and the usual answers we get is ‘Events’ or ‘Conversations with others(planning, brain-storming, strategies)’ .
Here’s what we claim happens –
When an event takes place, we quickly make a story in our minds, think that story to be the truth and based on that story we take actions in the world! So, between the event and the action is ‘our story’ that is, ‘our interpretation of the event’.
No wonder for the same event, different people take different actions.
The interesting thing about this is, we are blind that we make stories! We are also blind that we hold these stories to be the truth. We forget that we were the authors of these stories in the first place!
Relating back to the example of my coachee. She narrated one of the incidents which made her think her people distrusted her, ‘Last week when I entered the cafeteria, some of my staff who were seated there were speaking animatedly. As soon as they saw me they stopped talking and resumed their lunch without a word and as soon as I exited I heard them speaking and laughing again. I am sure they were speaking about me behind my back!’
My coachee with all her experience and understanding is relating the experience from what she felt is the truth. She did not realize that she created those stories based on her interpretations of the situation. If we were to speak to the team candidly, they may come up with completely different reasons for them keeping quiet when she entered.
My coachee had many similar experiences to share due to which she made herself believe that her team distrusted her. Because you don’t see something does not mean it does not exist! But we forget this and go about in our world’s thinking our stories to be the truth and take actions in it. My coachee here was just not seeing that there is a possibility of something else happening that she could not ‘see’.
Relate this to your life and think of the last time you were unhappy/upset/disempowered -
Become aware of the stories you made then
Get present to the action you took because of those stories
What results did that story set you up for?
Awareness gives you the choice to shift your stories and opens up possibilities for new actions and hence new results!
Let’s look at the next one, C = Choice
This one is actually a part of the Awareness bit, but the power of Choice needs more attention, hence I have created it as a separate piece.
Our stories determine our actions and thus our results. We are the authors of our stories but many of us are blind about it. We always have a choice in the stories we create!
Imagine this- As the events take place, you become aware that you are creating the stories. You see that if you change your story, what you will speak or do will change. You make a choice, you now see the power you have to change the future! You are not at the mercy of the situation anymore. You see you have choice and you are exercising that choice!
I am greatly inspired by Amanda Lindhout, author of ‘A House in the Sky’. She was a journalist. She and members of her entourage were kidnapped by Islamist insurgents in southern Somalia. She was released 15 months later. This book is about her experiences during that time. In this book she states that she was physically and mentally abused by her kidnappers and that ending her life would have been an easy choice. But instead she chose freedom. She was committed that she would one day go back to live a normal life. Which is exactly what she did! Today she travels the world and conducts talks about her experience.
What did Amanda do? She exercised her power of choice! She created stories that would help her stay focused on getting out of that place.
If she can do it then what is our excuse?
Here are some questions for you to reflect on-
1. What are your stories about your spouse / children /in-laws/customers/colleagues?
2. See that you are making a choice in creating these stories
3. Observe you have a choice in changing them
4. What new actions and results will the new stories give you?
Let’s move on the next one C = Care
We believe that humans are beings of ‘Care’. Simply put, we humans live to take care of what matters to us. All our actions and efforts are directed towards taking care of something. When we take care of what matters to us, we have value, satisfaction, meaning and empowerment in life.
But the interesting thing here is many of us don’t know what we care for! If we don’t know what we care for then we won’t know if we are taking care of matters to us! And when we go on taking actions without knowing our cares we can end up unsatisfied with the results!
A few years ago, we conducted a 9 month long program for a massive auto-component manufacturing organization and one of the participants who was the Regional Head of Sales then was particularly quiet and pensive. When provoked to share his thoughts he said, ‘My family is my care. I always thought I was taking care of them by providing them with a comfortable home and great quality of life in all senses. But now I see I have been missing out something very big.’ His eyes were moist at this part. He continued, ‘My family consists of my twins who are 3 years old and my wife. Every evening I go home and sit in front of the TV or read the newspaper or I am on my mobile or laptop. If my twins want to show my something or speak to me, I usually only nod my head and go back to my work. I now realize, I hardly speak to my wife too! Suddenly, I feel I have lost many years of my life.’
This man committed to take charge of his life and in 3 months when he came for his next session, he shared he was much more committed to his cares and was very satisfied about how he was taking care of them.
There are three very important questions you need to ask yourself-
1. What do you care about?
2. Are you taking care of what you care about?
3. If you are not taking care of what you care about then what are you doing?
Living a life of Awareness, Choice and Care will enable you to take full charge of your future and thus have results in your life that matter to you!
*I have learnt from Bob Dunham, Founder of Institute for Generative Leadership about the power of Care.
Sheeja Shaju has written this article for Indian Management Magazine and it was originally published there.