Why I Don’t Like Working With Me (and how it explains why others don’t either)

I notice patterns.

Good patterns, and bad ones.

Recently I noticed a pattern of how often I can frustrate others when we work together.

I noticed a pattern of people around me defaulting to doing things my way, or pausing before taking action to see how I want it done.

I also noticed a pattern of how often I interject how I want things done a certain way when they start to take action.

And there is another pattern.

I noticed a pattern in my solitary projects.

I noticed a pattern of demanding perfection in my own work.

I noticed a pattern of self-criticism for any mistakes.

The other day while running with a close friend we talked about these patterns.

“I’m not trying to create such a high standard for those around me. I want them to be able to do things their way.”

The run continued. The next question exposed the underlying pattern.

“What is it like for You to work with You?”

A brutal pattern.

A pattern of unrealistic demand for perfection with no grace.

I had never considered what it was like for Me to work with Me.

My mind scanned the various projects over the years.

I still see the flaws, the imperfections, and the issues.

I also saw the list of unfinished projects, and those projects never started.

Working with me was so daunting that I stopped various projects and there were others that I could not bring myself to start.

“Maybe you need to learn to be kind to yourself first.”

The last pattern.

The pattern of fooling myself.

The pattern of fooling myself into believing that I could hold myself to a standard of perfections, but I could show kindness, grace, and flexibility to others.

But they saw the pattern.

They saw how I treated myself.

They knew they would be treated the same way.

It was time to be honest.

I don’t like working with me.

I’m too harsh, too demanding, too intolerant of mistakes.

I’m the reason why others are frustrated, defaulting to my way, or not taking action.

Where do I go from here?

I need a new pattern.

A new pattern of being kind to myself.

A new pattern of allowing reasonable standards, grace for mistakes, and progress over perfection.

Isn’t it funny how often we assume the pattern is outside of us?

What is it like for You to work with You?

How could a little self-kindness change your patterns?

P.S. Thanks for your patience in this long blog post drought. I’m working on a new website, but working with me as been rough and getting in the way of making progress. More details soon, but thank you again for reading and sharing these posts.

 

 

Comparison, tribes, and the right standard

We are born into small tribes. Each tribe has its own rules, and its own standards. These standards shape the tribe, and set expectations of the members. These standards aren’t usually written down, but they shape who we are and who we become.

Tribes like it when we follow the standards. When we don’t follow, we are compared to those standards and found lacking. When we try to follow new, different, or better standards, the tribe reacts harshly by enforcing the old standards. The comparison continues, we feel “less than” and out-of-place.

But our original tribe is not the only tribe we have. We find and join other tribes as we progress through life and we develop relationships along the way. But these new tribes have standards as well.

The tribe comparison continues and there are more and more standards to be measured against.

But many times we are different. We don’t seem to fit exactly within the tribes, both the original one, and the new ones. We used to fit in the tribe, but something happens when we start to grow, make progress or improve. We start to move beyond the standards of the old tribe, and many tribes feel progress as a threat and they enforce the old standard.

Sometimes the standard enforcement comes as questions. But they are not really questions, they are an attempt to enforce the standards of the Tribe.

“Why are you different?”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Do you think you are better than us?”

“Why are you eating (or not eating) that?”

“Why are you not drinking?”

“Why are you considering college?”

“Why are you asking so many questions?”

“Why are you setting those goals?”

“Why aren’t you just happy with what you have?”

“Why would you go back to school?”

Your improvement can be seen a judgement or enforcing a standard on them, and that makes the tribe very insecure.

These tribes and standards also develop in our workplaces. There are standards to meet, and new-comers are expected to keep their head down, and follow along. Any lack of conformity is met with the standard tribe messaging.

“This is the way we have always done it.”

“We have tried that before.”

“Those new ideas won’t go anywhere.”

“Don’t make waves.”

But in our workplaces, we still want to achieve, to grow, and develop so we try new and creative approaches. That is when the tribe may go on the offensive to shut us down. Again our efforts invoke tribe insecurity.

“He is always changing things, it wastes our time.”

“She spends so much time on how it looks, it makes our stuff look bad.”

“He should just focus on his job, and stay in his lane.”

“She is an annoying perfectionist overachiever.”*

*Note: This was actually said yesterday in a meeting. Tribe insecurity and enforcement of standards is real and can be raw in its application and cause ripple effects in our organizations and cause harm to our most talented people. If you listen, you can hear the tribe standards being applied in meetings and conversations designed to shame and quell initiative and achievement.

(Take a minute and let that last one sink in. Imagine that you were in a group meeting in your organization, and just before you shared with the group, those words were used against you. How do you feel? How is your motivation? How is your creativity? How is your connection to the organization?)

It makes sense that the original tribe might act this way, but even these new tribes don’t like rebels. So the tribes begin to compare us to the standard, and we compare ourselves to that standard.

When we compare ourselves or others compare us to some standard that we are not meeting, we may assume there is something wrong with us, and we try harder to fit in.

But what if the tribe standard is wrong?

Tribes do not like it when you question the standard.

So the comparison against the tribe’s standard continues.

We feel like we are wrong-sized, that we don’t fit, and maybe there is something wrong with us.

But maybe the tribe we were born into, or the tribes we find ourselves in as just simply the wrong tribes for us. Maybe we are not the problem.

We need to find the tribes, filled with people who are more consistent with where we are and where we are going.

Too healthy? Not for the healthy tribes.

Too intellectual? Not for the intellectual tribes.

Too strong? Not for the strong tribes.

Too creative? Not for the creative tribes.

Too driven? Not for the driven tribes.

Too emotional? Not for the emotional tribes.

Maybe comparing ourselves to lessor things, lessor tribe standards, is what makes us feel inadequate or wrong-sized.

Maybe we are not wrong.

Maybe when we find the right tribes, we find the right standards and we can just be ourselves.

The Distorted Lens

It was almost the same day.

Three separate conversations.

Three inspiring people.

One common theme: the distorted lens.

The distorted lens is similar to the Hubble’s Mirror Problem that resulted in distorted and out of focus images, but in this case the distorted and out of focus images were how each of these people viewed themselves.

The distorted lens is subtle, because you can still see yourself. Like Hubble’s problem, the flaw is so slight and happens so early that it may go unnoticed. Unnoticed until someone else looks through the distorted lens. Images that were supposed to be accurate and clear are blurry and fuzzy. That is when we find the problem.

The distorted lens convinced one of these people that they were incompetent, instead of realizing that their prior job was just the wrong behavioral fit.

The distorted lens continually interferes with another’s ability to see themselves as inspiring to others despite their accomplishments and people gravitating towards them to be coached/trained.

The distorted lens downplays the impact that the third person is having on others in their workplace, and caused real surprise that they were voted MVP amongst their peers for the positive influence they have on others, both personally and professionally.

All three of these conversations illustrate how the distorted lens interferes with our ability to view the impact we have on others, and how others view us.

The distorted lens is flawed for a host of reasons, one of which is our own fears, insecurities, Our Narrator, and baggage. The distorted lens tries for force us to view today through our past failures, struggles, and pain as if those events disqualified us, instead of making us who we are today.

The bad news: the more I work with amazing and talented people, the more I realize the distorted lens is pretty universal.

The good news: like an optometrist who can measure your eye’s distortion and prescribe corrective lenses, we have a few tools to measure the distorted lens of your own self-view.

Measuring your “Sense of Self” is the first step. We can see if the distorted lens is slightly off, or requires more assistance. Since you have been viewing your life through the distorted lens for so long, you may not even notice how blurry and out of focus life has become.

If you need help with the distorted lens, reach out and contact us. We are happy to help fit you for some “corrective lenses” or at least help you understand the level of distortion.

If nothing else, remember that the distorted lens is out there, and the next time you are tempted to view yourself in a negative light, or discount your achievements, pause for a moment and ask yourself,

“What if my view is through the distorted lens?”

The Ownership Dilema

Commanding Driving Force

Ownership.

You hear the term in organizations.

We want people in our organizations to have more Ownership.

Ownership of their work, their deliverables, their customers.

We want Ownership of new initiatives, projects, and ideas.

Ownership means taking the responsibility and leadership to create something and move it forward.

But there is another side of Ownership.

Ownership can mean holding on so tightly that others are not allowed to participate.

Ownership can mean simple edits or suggestions cause an overreaction and are rejected.

Ownership can create narrowly crafted solutions that didn’t consider other needs and perspectives.

These two sides of Ownership create the Ownership Dilemma.

Ownership can stem from the need to control.

But Ownership will take control when needed and move the project forward.

Ownership can stem from the need for power, status, and recognition.

But Ownership is not afraid to step into positional authority and lead.

Ownership can be ego-centric, not letting others views or ideas into the mix.

But Ownership takes pride in their accomplishments and achievements.

The Ownership Dilemma can disrupt your organization, and we have a few tools that can help.

One way to measure Ownership is through an assessment of “driving forces” or what motivates us. One area measured is “Commanding.” This “Commanding” score can identify for you and your employees the healthy levels of Ownership, or if Ownership may become too overbearing and controlling. We can also learn where Ownership is under-developed and how your team can work to improve their Ownership of their work, projects, and customers.

Are you struggling with the Ownership Dilemma with your team? Are you wondering why your Ownership seems to manifest as control? Are you hiring and wrestling with getting the right fit and the right level of Ownership?

Understanding your own style, and your collective team styles can help you move past the Ownership Dilemma, to a healthy level of ownership. We are here to help, contact us today about how we can help you and your team better understand their styles, including their level of Ownership.

Why do we do these things we do?

We start businesses when we already have a job and a full plate.

We go back to school while juggling work, life, and home.

We write stories, and more stories, and sometimes books.

We get other certifications and trainings.

We side hustle on our side hustle.

We quit our jobs and become free agents.

We purchase a second business.

We leave the security of a familiar place to start fresh.

We move on to our second careers.

We move on to our third careers.

Why do we do these things we do? 

It would be so easy to stay comfortable.

It would be so easy to stay put.

It would be so easy to stay.

But, we don’t stay.

We move.

We move forward on our secret dreams.

We move forward on the next idea.

We move forward on that next goal.

Why do we do these things we do?

There is a small voice that says, “What if?”

There is something that keeps us moving.

There is something that reminds us to try.

Moving, leaving, starting, and trying seems to be part of us.

Why do we do these things we do?

I am not entirely sure, but let’s keep doing these things we do.

(Sorry for the hiatus, but we are on the move again.)

 

 

First Place

There is something special about being in First Place. You worked hard, put in the time and effort, made sacrifices, and you took the lead.

This First Place status may be with your customers, your employees, your team, your family, or your relationships. They appreciate the work it took to get into First Place, and you are proud of your accomplishments and they are proud to put you in First Place.

But there is something tempting about being in First Place. Once you arrive, the temptation is to rely on the good will you built along the way. Your First Place status is like a trophy put on a shelf and keep pointing at when interacting with those same customers, employees, teams, family, or relationships.

Your over-reliance on your past actions can lull you into almost feeling entitled to be in First Place regardless of our current effort or actions.

“Look at what I did for you.”

Pointing to the past becomes your mindset, and your language.

First Place is not a destination.

First Place is not a trophy to place on the shelf and continually reference.

You are not entitled to First Place.

First Place is more of a journey, a continual effort towards something great.

First Place is the culmination of your daily work, effort, conversations, and progress.

Instead of focusing on, always being in First Place, try focusing on each day’s actions and ask yourself a few questions.

Did I bring value today?

Did I help others?

Did I connect with those who matter?

Did I focus on the important things?

Did I make a difference?

When you answer “YES” to these on most days, your status with those around you should take care of itself.

P.S. Sorry for the long hiatus from writing, I have missed connecting with you through words.

 

A Hope-Filled Plan

We make plans all the time.

One of best parts of coaching is helping leaders, organizations, and people make and carry out plans.

Over the years, I have noticed two distinct types of plans.

Plan type one is the safe bet. Rooted in “reality” this plan type is achievable with a little stretch, but when you dig this plan is the result of future fears, doubts, and concerns.

“You gotta be careful, we are not sure what things will be like next year. What if the business takes a downturn? What if this doesn’t work?”

I nicknamed Plan type one, the Hopeless Plan.

The Hopeless Plan starts with a laundry list of what can go wrong and assumes that all prior time not completely focused on this direction has been a complete waste of time, and there may not be enough time to try anything new or risky.

“I am too old, and should have started this a long time ago if I really wanted to do this…”

The Hopeless Plan acts like a constricting funnel of all good, cool, and creative ideas, and severely limits what seems possible.

But we have to give The Hopeless Plan a little credit since it does result in small achievements or progress.

But there is another plan type.

Plan type two acknowledges the present reality, but does not allow the same limitation.

I nicknamed plan type two: A Hope-Filled Plan.

A Hope-Filled Plan acts like an amplifier taking the history, the experience, and current resources,  combining them into a vision of the future that seems larger, possible, and exciting.

A Hope-Filled Plan is risky, interesting, and requires you to keep moving.

A Hope-Filled Plan allows you to dream and see beyond the present circumstances.

Recent examples of A Hope-Filled Plan include:

  • A mid 40’s attorney who dreamed of being a foreign service officer taking the leap to give up a successful practice for uncertainty and overseas travel.
  • A late 30’s language professor who suddenly realized they wanted to become a doctor and is starting med-school.
  • A person in their 50’s packing up and moving to a new city, without a job or a home.
  • A person too old to get back into the military traversing the process and waivers to restart a career they miss and enjoyed in their youth.
  • A 70-year-old builder of organizations taking the lead to build another one (ironically in the same area that was intended to be a retirement destination).

Plans are good.

Plans help you achieve your goals.

But choose your plan type carefully.

A Hope-Filled Plan may be what you really need and deserve.

The Outsider Perspective

Sometimes we gravitate towards people who are similar to us, or have had similar experience.

They have “walked in our shoes” and we assume they understand us, our issues, and our struggles.

This gravitational pull becomes stronger during training or workshops when you ask people to break into small groups. The same industries, positions, and titles want to talk to others with similar positions in similar industries with similar titles.

To disrupt this tendency during a recent day-long workshop on Coaching, we encouraged each person to find someone radically different from their industry, position, or title. These pairs would practice coaching each other through a current struggle or challenge.

After a few awkward moments, the partners found each other and began to coach each other through the framework we provided. We emphasized that the right coaching framework allows you to help others despite not being a subject-matter expert in their field. (The beauty and the risk of interactive training is you get to see first-hand whether or not your ideas and concepts really work. Sometimes you brace yourself for potential failure.)

We were about to see this coaching concept tested with one particular pair that were so radically different (law enforcement and water treatment) that we paid close attention to their progress.

During the debrief, we heard from those being coached, and the practicing coaches.

We waited to hear from our radically different pair.

“You know, I was a little hesitant at first. I thought, how could they know anything about what I do? But it was the Outsider Perspective that made me look at this in a way I never considered.”

The Outsider Perspective isn’t immersed in our world, so they ask hard questions (they don’t know what they are not supposed to ask).

The Outsider Perspective isn’t bound by our perceived limitations, so they offer insight into potential solutions.

The Outsider Perspective is looking at your issue, problem or challenge with a fresh point of view.

The Outsider Perspective can challenge your assumptions and your bias.

The Outsider Perspective may be exactly what we need.

 

I Do It: The lesson from a 3-year old

Meeting new people is great. Meeting this particular group was great because they are new (so you can ask a ton of fun questions and hear new stories) and they are going to be connected with us moving forward.

As I reflect it was more like holding an interview for someone who already got the job. No pressure, just getting to know one another, because the outcome is already decided.

But one member of the group stood out.

The energetic 3-year old.

His grandfather describes him as a constant joy and ever-present “investigator” of his world.

As the father of four, I can appreciate an energetic “investigator.”

What I witnessed was someone who is bold and fearless.

When faced with something new (marking his name on the plastic glass, meeting new people, deciding what food to take from the buffet) he had one motto, one thing that helped him push through any perceived difficulty or lack of experience with this particular task.

He would loudly proclaim “I Do It!” and he would just go attempt whatever task was before him.

No fear or worry.

“I Do It!”

No reflection of whether or not he had the skills needed or the right training.

“I Do It!”

No calling a meeting or scheduling a call.

“I Do It!”

No panicked paralysis pondering if it was going to be perfect.

“I Do It!”

Although each attempt or task was not perfect (the permanent marker on a new shirt serves as proof), the motto and the persistence remained.

As I watched each interaction, each proclamation, and each action I found an interpretation.

“I Do It!” really means “Hey, I am new at some of these things but have ambition and I want to be given the chance to try, fail, try again, and succeed. I may not always get it right, but that is part of learning right? We are all just here trying out things, finding what works for us, and moving on to the next thing. Thanks for giving me some space to give it a shot. I am building confidence and mastery along the way.”

Thanks for the lesson.

When I get stuck, doubt myself, and wonder how to move forward, I will remember those words.

“I Do It!”

A Changed Mind

It started out like any other goal setting session. One person was a little late. When they arrived, there was instant credibility as they entered the room. They took their seat at the head of the table.

Head of the Table.

Introductions. Head of the Table had done just about everything. They were in their mid to late 80s, held prestigious positions, made a difference, and created things. Decades of life and success.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success.

The goal setting and strategic vision session began. Before too long, Head of the Table (before it was time) stated a clear and specific goal that set the stage. The goal was bold, big, and a little disruptive. You could see the goal pass through the group like a wave.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage.

The discussion keep moving and started to flow. There were other voices, other perspectives, other ideas. As the day progressed, there were more voices, more perspectives, more ideas.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage. Other Perspectives, other Ideas.

Then something happened. There was a shift. Head of the Table made another bold move, yet another surprise. Head of the Table announced that after hearing the other perspectives and the other viewpoints, their original idea was not as good, not as applicable, and not what the organization needed. They had a changed mind.

A Changed Mind.

The room energy got an immediate boost. Some of the more timid and less experienced participants (who had introduced the different ideas and perspectives) found their voice. Those voices began to participate with a new-found confidence as they felt able to share their vision of the new, the different, the better.

A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice.

As the day moved towards conclusion, the goals, the vision, and the plan started to take shape. Building a plan was not the exclusive thing built that day. Excitement was building for the new future and direction of the organization.

A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice. Building Excitement for the Future and Direction.

Thank you Head of the Table for leading the way, for staying engaged and active over so many decades, and for demonstrating to all of us the power, and impact of a Changed Mind.

Historian or Futurist?

 

We seem to like history, especially our own history.

Our history was created through a series of events. We get comfortable telling that story. We have told that story many times. We keep telling that story. We like telling that story.

The pain, the struggle, the successes, the joy.

But those things happened in the past, they are not currently happening.

We keep telling that story.

We are the historian. We gather the crowd around us, and take them on the tour. We rehearsed the lines, know when to pause, and draw them in.

But the crowd eventually fades. The story is old. Tickets are unsold.

But there is something else.

Something different and new.

We can become a futurist.

The futurist tells a new story.

The futurist is setting new goals.

The futurist is moving forward.

The futurist understands past events, but not through a distorted lens of over-emphasis or limits.

The futurist embraces today while envisioning something better.

The futurist is creating.

The futurist is risking.

The futurist is living.

We have a choice to make: remain the historian, or become a futurist.

 

 

 

The Spillover of Failure

It was a privilege last week to work with a group of people trying to launch big, scary & creative ideas into the world.

They have ideas.

They want to make a difference.

They brought their big, scary & creative ideas.

We discussed what can get in the way of ideas: their style, organizational resistance and culture, and fear.

We spent some time on fear.

“What are you afraid of?”

The group had many answers, most had to do with the fear of failure.

We pushed them a little more.

“What are you really afraid of? Go a little deeper.”

A new answer emerged, and was met with silence and affirming nods.

“It is not just the fear of failure that is bothering me. What I am really afraid of is the spillover of failure that may cause people to question all of the great things I am already doing through the lens of this failure.”

The spillover of failure.

One failure tainting all the other great things we are doing.

One failure causing others to question us or question our other great work.

How many times does the spillover of failure fear prevent us from launching new ideas?

What big, scary & creative ideas would you bring into this world if the spillover of failure wasn’t in play?

What does it take to create an environment where failure is celebrated instead of feared?

We need your big, scary & creative ideas.

Don’t let the spillover of failure stop you.

Below is a great TED talk with some great reasons why to celebrate failure.

P.S. This is post #299. I wonder what big, scary & creative idea #300 will bring?

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