For many years now, I’ve advocated for building your business and life on a leadership style that is about simplifying, letting go, and being, all without sacrificing ambition. In many ways I’ve Rebranded Leadership to ensure I remain true to being an authentic leader, focused, fulfilled and free. This is how I measure success for me and love doing the same for my clients. The how of this has not been linear and I rely heavily on my spiritual journey of leading a contemplative life to stay in action. What my clients and I do know, is we can use mindfulness as a centering place to slow down and define leadership success based on our own beliefs, values, etc.
It was not always this way …
I remain a high achiever, so typically in the past, I would jump into action and gravitate toward roles where trial by fire and the bottom line were expected! I believed there was little time for contemplation! The personal results were overwhelm, other physical manifestations, and eventually an undiagnosed eye disorder.
Over the past 10 years, I built my business by being focused and intentional, while coaching other women to approach their careers using a more mindful approach as well!
Yet, years ago, an organization offered a mindfulness course to me. I felt offended. I’ve often reflected on why! At the time, I felt vulnerable and thought they were offering a band aid approach to bigger system problems.
The system changes I desired could have started with me even sooner!
Yet, my younger self was witnessing business cultures (small and large) where being seen, heard or understood at deeper levels was not encouraged. I was unsure if slowing down was the answer. I continued to witness the disengagement and the unproductive results of these beliefs. The good news is my curiosity was piqued and eventually…
I recognized the gift in front of me!
I started a deeper journey to becoming self-aware enough to discover that changes needed to begin with me! The teacher opened a door, but I was not ready. We often carry our past and present traumas, sufferings, and other scars from unacceptable work environments. This is a lot for leaders to manage in themselves and others!
The good news…
Eventually this level of insight led to coaching on a personal, organizational, and cultural level.
It was a choice I made…
I could have chosen to stay on the high achieving performance treadmill to measure my success quite differently then how I do today. This was and still is not an easy journey, but the payoffs measured in ROE, return of expectations and ROI, return on investment, leads to unwavering engagement, dedication, and FOCUS to achieve vision, goals, and action steps.
What leader would not be open to this?
Many of us arrive from a biology or environment where we are wired to overachieve. Looking back, I was young, idealistic and desperate to escape my early childhood adversity! My why was strong! This drive was partly innate but emerged from a difficult environment. As a child I attended 11 different schools, experienced the effects of a welfare to work upbringing, worked 2 jobs through university and realized that I did all this with an undiagnosed visual disorder! I secured my first car loan and credit card by accepting a job where I believed that, “I will have both”! At that point, I did not! Instead, with a hopeful intention, I walked into the bank and told my emotional story to a young woman loans officer that I lacked a co-signer.
My vision was stronger than my fear! I hoped they would see my potential, trust my word, and grant a loan that would change the direction of my life. My first professional job and career path was at stake! I walked in with confidence, conviction and unwavering faith. We did not have money in our family but we grew up with courage that comes from focusing on a shared vision based on love! Now that’s a big why!
Later that day I secured a loan, my first credit card, and boarded a plane to Toronto to begin training as a Branch Manager for a recruiting company!
Successes and failures emerged since. It’s now surreal to look back and reflect on how my inside journey to leadership happened. Early in my leadership career, fear crept in and success became about meeting the bottom line, period. I would’ve moved mountains to do so! I expressed myself with a command and control style, yet when my authentic leadership style shone through, I was humorous, open, receptive, philosophical and collaborative. I rarely wasted time complaining about setbacks, instead I kept moving forward! I’m not advocating one style over another style of leadership, they all have their place, yet my biggest blind spot was self-awareness and many of the other emotional intelligence competencies.
I do not want this to happen to you!
Instead, my work ethic was strong and ingrained. Work hard and life will deliver! Without this motto I would not have survived my life up to that point! Yet what got me that far had to change…
After some extreme hard knocks, I welcomed the transformational life and leadership lessons that came my way. This time the student was ready! The key foundation to my life and leadership journey started with reading, practicing mindfulness, and other contemplative ways of living.
Many leadership books have contributed to my growth!
I still revisit the philosophy coined by Jon Kabat- Zinn’s book, Full Catastrophe Living, which offers mind-body approaches like meditation and yoga to combat stress and foster greater well-being. The goal is to improve your moment to moment mindfulness, which means paying attention more and simply being, rather than doing. After following this program, I noticed a huge difference in my ability to focus, create, and innovate. This also includes a huge reduction in stress and greater attention! I combined this teaching with professional coaching and truly knew there is a systematic way of developing very high levels of self-awareness in myself and others.
As Suzuki Roshi wrote, “In the beginners mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”
Living in the questions can trigger anxiety, but it is ultimately more satisfying than living in the answers.
Self-awareness is the most important leadership skill that positively affects every other leadership skill. It evokes questioning, in addition, there is a growing body of research in neuroscience suggesting that the practice of mindfulness and coaching together reshapes the brain in ways that allow you to be more self-aware and retrain your brain.
The result, you are showing up present, un-frazzled, productive and focused!
That’s the type of leadership presence I aim for!
The paradox is that this way of “leading” has been the very foundation that enables me to put my plans into action in life and work and help you do the same!
I hold a motto:
“Slow down to succeed,” recently this has evolved into
“Slow down to EMERGE STRONG“!
As I introduce my new brand today, I feel more present and in the moment than I ever have before.
I still have stress. I still have days when I wonder what the heck I am doing. I still doubt some of my actions. The list goes on! I am a laboratory, not a finished product, who is still struggling with perfectionism and learning to ask for help! But… I am open!
We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in… Ernest Hemmingway
I’ve learned there are voices in our heads that just love to say either grandiose, ego driven messages or downright nasty voices that if intently listened to would have me discard the writing of this blog completely and just give up! I call these the quacking ducks…
There it goes…
“Why are you bothering with this message, Shelley… no one cares!” You still don’t have the perfect message, it’s been said…”
Does this happen to you? I bet it does. Because we all have it… that inner critical voice… the quacking duck…
Yup, stop, right where you are… listen… is your quacking duck talking to you? Pause for a second and wait… “Ah it is!”
Don’t be shocked, it’s normal… maybe you’ve never even listened to it before, but it’s there.
You can choose to listen or not… it’s that simple…
You can also Practice, Practice, Practice becoming curious and observing what these voices are saying and then just as easily not buy into the message… That is the first step to a mindful coaching approach to leadership!
We are not alone, even if it feels we are!
The Coaching Nest encourages us to turn to one another in conversation, let go of our judgments, and take the risk to be curious! Who knows what will EMERGE!
Without being authentic, eventually the feeling of loneliness and vulnerability leaves many leaders in and out of organizations unfocused, overwhelmed, anxious, and even burning out!
So why change? Why bother? I cannot answer this…only you can! I can create the trusting space, the energy, the tools, resources, and partnership so that you can embrace that inner power within! I hold you capable!
Some changes look negative on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge” –