Your Why: Survey Your World

This week we suggest you play with naming your why. Write it down and live with it a while to see if it helps you make decisions that are more in alignment with what matters to you.

At the end of that post we asked that you consider your why. We received a number of questions about how to figure out your why, so this week and next week we’re sharing some things to consider to help you articulate it.

Many people struggle with articulating their why because they believe it has to be big and grand. Remember, it’s your why—why you do what you do in your life, why you get up in the morning, why you make the choices you do.

We’d like to help you name your why and own it!

This week, we encourage you to explore your why by using a series of questions as you survey your world. We created a PDF for you to easily fill in your answers. Click here to download.

Survey Your World

As you think about your why, start with the following questions. Do a quick survey of your world and what it has to teach you. Ask yourself:

  • When I’m the happiest at work:
    • What have I done?
    • What impact have I had?
    • What does my work contribute to?
    • Then consider, why do I do this work?
  • When I’m most content with my home life:
    • What have I been doing?
    • Who have I been with?
    • What impact have I had on my surroundings and the people in my world?
    • Then consider, why do I feel best under these circumstances?
  • When I am out in the world:
    • When do I feel engaged and involved?
    • Who do I most enjoy being around?
    • What am I doing when I’m most satisfied?
    • Then consider, why do I gravitate to these experiences?

Once you’ve answered questions about work, home, and world, see if you feel more confident in describing your why.

This week we suggest you play with naming your why. Write it down and live with it a while to see if it helps you make decisions that are more in alignment with what matters to you.

If you’d like support in exploring your why,
contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

Why?

Knowing your why will guide your decisions and actions and can help you create the life, the family, the community, and the organizations that truly matter to you.

At a recent presentation entitled, Why Mattering Matters, a woman asked us, “Why are you doing this work—people can be so challenging, don’t you get sick of it?”

After answering her, we realized that it might be helpful to share our answer with you so that you can get to know us a bit better.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve been supporting individuals in growing in their leadership, impact, and influence. We’ve been working with teams and organizations in creating cultures of leadership and engagement, and we’ve developed simple actionable tools and strategies for success.

Most recently, we’ve been helping people understand that mattering matters. And, as importantly, we’ve been sharing our best thinking here in the Monday Morning Business Coach for over 7 years reaching thousands of people around the globe.

So Why?
We want to change the world!

When we say we’re here to change the world, people often laugh at first; then they see that we’re not kidding. We’re committed.

Everything we do is done with the belief that we can change the world by supporting individuals, teams, and organizations in understanding that people matter.

We’ve discovered that mattering lies at the intersection of being cared about as a person and being valued for your unique gifts and talents. And, when you live at that intersection in your work and in your personal life, you’re healthier, happier, and have greater pride in yourself and your contributions.

We hope our WHY inspires you to consider your why.

Knowing your why will guide your decisions and actions and can help you create the life, the family, the community, and the organizations that truly matter to you.

If you’d like support in exploring your why,
contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the one day when we reflect as a nation on the sacrifices of the men and women who died while serving our country.

Today we’d like to share with you a post that we first wrote in 2014. As we were thinking about the meaning of this holiday, we found it helpful to remember its roots.

In the United States, today is Memorial Day. Over the years this has come to mean many different things—the beginning of summer, the running of the Indianapolis 500, and a day of countless sales—everything from makeup to lawn furniture. It can be hard to remember why we have this holiday at all.

Memorial Day is the one day
when we reflect as a nation
on the sacrifices of the men and women
who died while serving our country.

In 1862, it was established as Decoration Day, and was an apolitical event to commemorate the thousands of both Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War. Following World War II, Decoration Day was expanded to commemorate all of the men and women who died while serving the USA in the military.

In the 1970s it was renamed Memorial Day and moved to the last Monday in May, a decision that probably helped to dilute the meaning of the day by creating the coveted 3-day weekend it has become.

This year we hope you are enjoying the long weekend and we would like to encourage you to take a moment to remember the men and women who have given their lives protecting our country. The families of the fallen service men and women would deeply appreciate a moment of our time to remember their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.

Whether or not you agree with the policies of the United States military, there is no denying that military individuals and families have given much to our country. For their sacrifice, we say thank you.

Using Conflict to Increase Innovation

The more you motivate your team to challenge ideas the greater the likelihood that you will acquire innovative and creative ideas from your team.

Conflict is an important part of fostering innovation, yet many teams are unable to take advantage of this creative endeavor because they lack the skills to disagree respectfully while engaging in a spirited discussion.

Using conflict and difference to foster innovation
is an important skill that every leader, manager,
and director should know how to facilitate
.

As we’ve discussed in the last two posts, when left unmanaged, conflict is a deterrent to creativity. People shouldn’t be allowed to be disrespectful or mean to one another. Yet, often due to their own anxiety, leaders don’t interrupt negative conflict. When that happens it’s not safe to have constructive conflict.

With constructive conflict you can:
  • Explore interests and perspectives
  • Consider outcomes that are great for the organization
  • Develop options to consider, create criteria for deciding, or decide to decide later
  • Use objective criteria and a strategic vision to go beyond limitations set by “group think”

We worked with a director once who had heard that conflict was good for innovation. So, not being fully aware of the concept, he decided to incite arguments between his marketing team and sales team.

He thought if they really hated one another they would be creative. Unfortunately, this was disastrous for him and for the teams he was supposed to be leading. He needed to create opportunities for constructive conflict, not just create negative conflict.

So, let’s talk about how to create opportunities for constructive conflict:
  • Ask that people take the opposite view of what’s been shared. Say something like, “Now let’s play the devil’s advocate” or “Let’s find the weak seams in what’s just been said.”
  • Encourage questions that “poke holes” in ideas.
  • Insist that every good idea also has a reason why it’s a bad idea. An easy way to do this is to explore the benefits of an idea and then explore the concerns that people have about the idea. You can see the full framework here: Benefits, Concerns, Suggestions.
Remember, when someone says something that others react to negatively, don’t shut the conversation down. Instead, coach them through the moment by saying something like, “Interesting idea, it’s unconventional and that’s what I’m looking for. What other ideas do you have?”
  • Always interrupt negative conflict. Don’t tolerate snide comments or outbursts.
  • Always remind people to attack the problem, not the person speaking.

This takes practice, but the more you motivate your team to challenge ideas the greater the likelihood that you will acquire innovative and creative ideas from your team.

This week, look for opportunities to increase creativity and innovation through constructive conflict.

If you’d like to create more opportunities
for creative conflict and would like some
support in getting started, contact us today
about our Executive Coaching.

Managing Workplace Conflicts: Shifts in Behavior

You, your team, and your organization are not dysfunctional because you have conflict. Conflict is a part of being human!

Last week, in our post, Managing Workplace Conflicts: Shifts in Focus, we started with “Let’s be honest, if an organization has more than one person, it’s likely there will be conflict and tension.”

A number of you reached out to us to say that just that one sentence had been powerful as it reminded you that you, your team, and your organization are not dysfunctional because you have conflict. Conflict is a part of being human!

It’s so helpful to normalize just how messy all of us are. As we said, “As humans, we’re navigating the organizational agenda, our professional agenda, others’ professional agendas, our personal agenda, others’ personal agendas, etc.”

The shifts in focus we discussed last week can help people make the shift from conflict to problem solving.

This week, we’re sharing some shifts in behaviors that will help you individually, or you as a manager help others become more effective when tensions rise

Don’t take it personally. Yes, this is easier said than done!

  • It’s important to remember that most of the time you’re experiencing tension with someone else, it’s because they’re wrapped up in their own head about what’s going on. They’re afraid or worried about looking bad, and so you get caught up in that fear.
  • It’s important to take a moment and Pause.

Pause, and ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say or do in alignment with my goals?” Reacting is not helpful.

  • Pausing lets you respond with thoughtfulness and professionalism.
  • Pausing to get clear is critical in today’s fast-moving business world. We need time to collect our thoughts and ensure that we’re moving forward responsibly and not with reactivity.
  • To do that you need to Listen.

Listen deeply, stay curious, and ask for clarification. Your job is to try and understand what others are experiencing so that you can respond appropriately to them.

  • After you’ve listened fully and understand the perspective of the other person you can then share your experience.

Name and deal with feelings. It’s fine to describe your experience of anger and frustration, but acting that anger out by being mean, insulting or disrespectful is not.

  • Use I statements.
  • People feel what they feel, but in the workplace the expectation is that they learn from their feelings (and the data those feeling provide) and then move professionally forward together.

Be attentive and respectful in your non-verbal communication

  • People believe non-verbal cues more than verbal ones.
  • If your words are collaborative, but your arms are crossed and you’re scowling, you’re going to undo all you have done to defuse the conversation.

Focus on the future. Most people are conflict avoidant; so, like you, they want to move to a more comfortable and collaborative place.

  • Focusing on the future allows you to shift from current tension and think about what you can do together going forward.

We recently worked with a mid-level manager who was stressed out due to the amount of conflict in her team. Her stance (until now) had been to ignore it, which was only making it worse.

By tolerating the behaviors, she was inadvertently supporting them. So, we coached her to be more comfortable with intervening in the conflict.

She needed to distance herself from it so that she wasn’t taking it so personally, and then she needed to listen deeply to what was going on within her team.

By teaching her behaviors that she could utilize when she felt stuck in her own fear and anger, she was able to interrupt the cycle of unproductive conflict that was distracting her team from the real work at hand.

This week, take some time to familiarize yourself with the behaviors listed above and see if you can find opportunities to practice some of them so that they’re not foreign to you when you need them in a real conflict situation.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we’ll talk about how you can use conflict to increase innovation.

If you’d like support in putting these principles
into action to manage conflict at work,
contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

Thriving After A Layoff

You lost this job and that sucks. Now you have the opportunity to get more of what you want out of your next job!

We heard from many of you after our Surviving A Layoff post last week. Some of you mentioned that you were feeling stuck and unable to come up with a list of your top skills and strengths because you’re so drained from the experience of the layoff.

We get it. We’ve been there and we know it’s hard to think about the positive stuff when you’re in the midst of questioning whether you ever added value. And forget about possibility thinking, right?

So, we’d like to offer you a couple of small steps you can take this week to help you think about the skills you want to offer and the environment in which you’ll thrive.

We’ve seen that it can be easier to voice what you want by thinking about what you don’t want.

  • First, start with what you didn’t like about your job. Think about things like:
    • Skills used
    • Level of responsibility
    • Level of visibility
    • Level of stress
    • Pace of the work
    • Team dynamics
    • Projects
    • Processes
    • Commute
  • Now, if you’re able, think about what you did  like, using the above list as a prompt.

  • Finally, it can be powerfully helpful to reach out to colleagues, family (even young kids), and friends, and ask them, “What do I do well?”
    • This can feel awkward to do, so blame your coaches here at CSC . . . that can make it easier to ask.
    • You’ll likely start to see themes in the answers that people are giving you.

If you’ve sped through those steps and are wanting more, don’t forget about our recent Dream Job posts where we walk you through some additional ways to get clear about setting yourself up for success.

Remember, it’s important to be gentle with yourself if you’re struggling to move on. If you were talking to a dear friend, you wouldn’t say, “Just get over it!” You’d likely say, “I believe in you.” or “You can do this!”

Perhaps this experience will help to point you in the direction of where you’re supposed to go next. You lost this job and that sucks. Now you have the opportunity to get more of what you want out of your next job.

We believe in you!

Just a few sessions of Career Strategy Coaching
can help you get traction on identifying what’s next
and moving forward to make it happen.
Let us know if we can be helpful.

Surviving A Layoff

Keep moving forward – even if it’s just one small step.

Last week, we spent some time talking about how to prepare if you believe you may be laid off. This week, we want to speak to you about the normal response to a layoff and ways you can take care of yourself or support a friend or loved one who has been laid off.

If you’ve been laid off, you may find yourself wanting the feeling of trauma and disorientation to go away. It’s painful, uncomfortable, and demoralizing. And, it takes time and intentional focus to heal and move on.

After being laid off, you’ll likely experience many of the feelings and thoughts you’d associate with a death: feelings of grief, loss, helplessness, anger, rage, disorientation, depression, and anxiety. While unpleasant, these are all sane emotional responses to a layoff.

Because many of us get a sense of our identify and value from our jobs, we may feel that the world isn’t safe and then our confidence in ourselves becomes diminished.

Research about people who have been laid off show us that the pain in a layoff is also manifested physically. Research shows increased health issues after a layoff, from high blood pressure, insomnia, and cardiovascular problems, to nausea, stomach problems, and headaches.

If you or someone you care about has been laid off, this is the time to focus on self-care – all those things we know we need to do but don’t. Eating healthfully as often as you can, moving regularly, sleeping, and reaching out for support are all good self-care steps.

And, remember, you’re not alone!

We’d encourage you to reach out to some trusted friends and colleagues and talk about your experience. You may be surprised to find that there are people in your world who have also gone through (or are going through) a layoff.

It can help to lean on each other and keep each other motivated as you think about what’s next for you in your career.

If you’ve been laid off, here are some things
that can help you move forward.

  1. PAUSE. Take a moment to breathe and honor that this has been rocking.
  2. Allow yourself to have your emotions AND don’t let them overwhelm you. Consider talking with a trusted friend or family member, clergy member, therapist, or coach as you grieve and find your way to what is next.
  3. Find a person who can be a mirror to you to remind you that you’re a capable and successful person. Understanding your worth through other people’s eyes is truly inspiring.
  4. Keep moving forward – even if it’s just one small step.
  5. Use this time to reconnect with your life priorities and what brings you meaning and purpose.
    • Name the skills you love to offer to the world and the environment in which you thrive.
    • Then tell everyone you know, “I’m looking for an opportunity to bring these skills to an organization.” vs. “I’m looking for this job.”
      • If you name the job, that can stop the conversation with “I don’t know of any openings in that job.”
      • If, instead, you ask for help finding opportunities to bring your gifts and talents to an organization, they’ll often join you in considering who you might talk with about your interests.

You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can work on how you respond.

Treat yourself like you matter… because you do!

Been laid off? If you’d like to work together
on your career strategy, contact us today.
We’re here to support you in finding work you love
in an environment where you’ll thrive.

Preparing for a Layoff

We have incredible respect for people who are dealing with the possibility of a layoff. Facing the loss of a role that provides a great deal of your identity as well as the means for living, can be very challenging.

THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS YOU CAN DO
IN THE FACE OF A POSSIBLE LAYOFF

Get support for the fear so you can pivot to taking action.

  • It’s important that you’re able to acknowledge how stressful a potential layoff is and how anxious it can make you.
  • Be sure to reach out to people who will honor your feelings while also supporting you in the pivot to action.

Do a quick inventory about what you love about your job and what you would change if you had the opportunity. 

    • Create a resume that represents you well and then tailor it for the specific opportunities you discover.
    • Being clear about what you love and want to continue to do and what you aren’t as satisfied with can help you as you look around for other opportunities within and outside the company.

Within the company:

      • Explore what opportunities are available should you need to look.
      • Sometimes the opportunities aren’t very appealing, but if they let you stay in a company that you want to work for, they can be a stepping stone until you find a better fit.
      • Knowing the skills you love to offer and the environment in which you thrive can help you find a role that’s more in keeping with your current interests and skills and the threat of layoff may be a gift.

Outside the Company: 

    • Generally, it’s still easier to get a job when you have a job, so consider the threat of a layoff as an opportunity to take action before you’re unemployed.
    • In addition to looking at job boards, start to meet with people you know throughout your community and industry.
    • Let them know that you’re considering what’s next and that you’d love their thoughts about who you should talk with.
    • You’ll need to share, in about 3 minutes, what you’ve been doing, the skills you want to offer, the kind of environment that’s great for you, and a few different ideas you have had for ways you could use those skills so that you prime your contact on ways to look on your behalf.

Consider a frank conversation with your boss.

  • You know your organization and whether or not this is ok to do.
  • If you have a good relationship with your boss or with someone in HR, consider having a conversation about your sense that there are layoffs in the works and that you’re starting to look around to protect yourself should that happen.
  • In some cases, you may be able to negotiate a separation package that lets you leave with benefits that you might not have received if you were laid off.
  • In others, the organization may be clear and direct about your value and fight for you to stay.

Reflect on whether there are things you can do on the side that bring in income and could create a bridge if you’re laid off.

  • Anything that gives you confidence that you will be ok supports you having greater confidence through this difficult time.

The threat of being laid off can be extremely challenging and you may find yourself frozen for a bit. But if you can start to take action on your own behalf, you’ll be much more prepared no matter what happens.

Waiting and hoping, while tempting, is not in your best interest!

If you’re fearing a layoff at your company
and would like to work together
on your career strategy, contact us today.

More Powerful Questions for Powerful Leadership

We’ve witnessed the power that great questions have to create opportunities for innovation, problem solving, and higher levels of thinking.

Last week in Powerful Questions for Powerful Leadership, we offered you a series of questions that can help you invite higher levels of input and expand critical thinking.

We reminded you that, at Carpenter Smith Consulting, we define leadership as the willingness to influence your world and the willingness to be influenced by your world, which often means that you’ll need to invite influence.

One powerful way to create the dynamic where you’re influencing people and they’re influencing you, is to ask powerful questions. The tricky part is that questioning people without attention to the nuance of the situation can feel more like an interrogation than an invitation.

Asking questions to invite higher level thinking requires that you consider what’s right for the person(s), situation, and goals in that moment, and that you communicate verbally and non-verbally that you’re genuinely curious and want their thinking to influence your thinking.

The following questions can invite your teams and colleagues to explore what they can do to get the best out of their people and their teams.

QUESTIONS TO FOSTER ENGAGEMENT

Communication:
  • Do your people / teams know that they matter to you–that you care about them personally and that you value their contributions to the organization?
  • How will you know your team is aligned behind this vision? What would team success look like?
  • How can this team work together more effectively? How will we handle difference, conflict, and crises together?
  • What can I do to support you? What can I do that will support you without diminishing your credibility to our stakeholders?
  • What are you doing to increase your ability to have the impact that matters to you?
  • What needs to be said that you find yourself not saying?
Infrastructure:
  • Do we have the right people, with the right skills, and the right commitment at the right tables?
  • Why would great talent join or remain on your team?
  • Who are your high potential employees and what are you doing to grow them?
  • Who needs to take the lead on this and why?
  • Is the infrastructure in place to support the team? What needs our attention and resources?

We’ve witnessed the power that great questions have to create opportunities for innovation, problem solving, and higher levels of thinking.

We created a printable pdf so that you can access all of the powerful questions. Click here to download.

This week consider ways you can move from talking at people to engaging them in deeper conversations. Talking at people can seem efficient, and at times it may be, but asking questions brings people to greater ownership of success and engagement in the solutions.

If you’d like support in having
deeper engagement with your team,
contact us today about Executive Coaching.

Powerful Questions for Powerful Leadership

Today, we’re sharing some of the questions that we’ve found invite higher levels of input and expand critical thinking.

At Carpenter Smith Consulting, we define leadership as the willingness to influence your world and the willingness to be influenced by your world.

In practice, that often means that you’ll need to invite influence, and there’s no better way to do so than with a great question.

By great question, we’re talking about a question that’s right for the person(s), situation, and goals in that moment.

When possible, consider beforehand the questions you want to bring to a conversation, meeting, or presentation.

Today, we’re sharing some of the questions that we’ve found invite higher levels of input and expand critical thinking. Next week, we’ll share questions that invite an exploration of how to get the best out of individuals and teams.

Remember to pause after you ask a question and give people time to consider what you’ve asked. If you jump into the silence, you will teach them that they don’t have to answer if they can wait you out.

QUESTIONS TO FOSTER INPUT AND CRITICAL THINKING

Benefits/Concerns/Suggestions (one we use often!):
In response to a proposal, plan, or initiative, ask individuals or teams to consider these questions in this order:

  • What are the benefits of this idea? (It’s the norm to see the reasons not do something new and innovative. Getting them to think first about the idea’s benefits opens them to a more effective assessment.)
  • What concerns do you have?
  • What suggestions would you make?

Vision/Obstacles/Areas of Focus:

  • What are your hopes for the project, department, organization? What does success look like, feel like, live like?
  • What obstacles get in the way of success?
  • What can you do to get around the obstacles, and where do you need to focus your efforts to mitigate the obstacles?

Getting People to Move Beyond Initial (Often Flat) Response:

  • Tell me what went into your thinking? What’s your rationale for moving forward in this way?
  • Say more about that? or just Say more?

Predicting Impact:

  • Imagine describing your plan to the team/department/organization – what do you expect their response will be?
  • What do you anticipate will be the ripples of this decision across the organization?
  • How does this support our vision? Strategy? Success?

To Determine Risk:

  • What are the benefits of action? What are the costs of action?
  • Is this problem an event or a pattern?
  • If there were no risks, what would you do?

Resources/Rules:

  • If you had limitless resources, what would you do?
  • What rules do we need to follow? What rules should we be breaking?

This week, spend some time exploring whether you can attain higher levels of thinking, engagement, and ownership by asking questions that invite the wisdom and expertise of your colleagues and team.

If you’d like support in inviting higher levels
of input and critical thinking with your team,
contact us today about Executive Coaching.

Leading When Bad Things Happen

Last week, we talked about When Bad Things Happen to Good Companies. Sadly, it happens more often than you’d think; so it makes sense to be as prepared as possible to lead through it.

Leading through it requires communication, a commitment to transparency, and a plan of action that moves you forward. It requires that you step into The Leader in You.

The Leader in You is a transformative and practical framework for stepping into your leadership regardless of your role or title or industry.

Leadership, as we define it, is the willingness to influence your world and the willingness to be influenced by your world. It’s a way of being in the world that lets you effectively lead your life and lead in your life.

Our Leader in You framework has 3 steps to help you take back a sense of authority and control in the face of painful and difficult events.

These are extremely important in preventing and recovering from bad things!

1. Pause

Pause and ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to do or say in alignment with my goals and the organization’s goals?”

  • Take a moment before you react to consider the goals that need to guide your behavior.
  • Reacting is not leadership, but responding to the crisis at hand is.

2. Reflect

Ask yourself: “What am I afraid of in this situation? What do I do when I feel that? What would I do if I felt safe?”

  • It’s important that you know what you’re afraid of and what reaction that elicits. It’s also critical that you take action from the best of you.
  • What you would do if you felt safe?

Then ask yourself: “What are they (my team, all staff, my family, etc.) afraid of in this situation? What do they do when they feel that? What would they do if they felt safe? How do I help them feel safe?”

  • As a leader, you’ll want to try to understand and have empathy for all that your people are experiencing, and to help them feel safe enough to be at their best!

3. Act with POWER

  • Consider what’s Possible in the situation.
    • Great leadership includes trusting that there are always opportunities inherent in the obstacles and challenges you face.
  • Own that you’ll lead toward success and share why it matters to you.
    • People want to follow a human, not an idea.
    • For you to be clear that you’re committed to moving forward and through the crisis and sharing your passion for the company, builds alignment behind you.
  • Create some We-focused goals (goals that you can share with others).
    • Most of your team wants to be a part of the solution but don’t know how.
    • Last week we talked about communicate, communicate, communicate – not just to them but with them, so that they feel a part of the “we” that’s going to come out the other side.
  • Enable action forward.
    • Movement on the plan will help rebuild confidence, identify where you need to communicate more or differently, and will help you assess what you need to do to support resilience in your team and organization.
  • Review and Refine . . . and learn.
    • This isn’t a one and done process. Be sure to check in with the team regularly to make sure that they have what they need to move forward successfully.
    • Learning from and through challenge is powerful and empowering. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Then do it again!

To help you remember these steps, we’ve provided a link so that you can download our helpful action guide and pocket card. We hope that you’ll use them to embrace and develop the Leader in You.

Click to download the Leader in You Action Guide.

Click to download the Leader in You pocket card to support you day-to-day.

NOTE: This card will print at 3″ x 5” if you select “actual size” when printing. 

If the sh!t has hit the fan at your company and you’d like support in engaging with your team and creating a plan to move forward, contact us today about Executive Coaching.

Power and Humility

This year, our focus is to support you in mattering to yourself and in creating environments where people matter. Mattering to yourself is not about becoming narcissistic or thinking you matter above all others. It’s about honoring yourself so you know what matters to you and can then take action on behalf of the people and causes that you care about. So, today, we’re sharing some excerpts from an article about Humility that spoke to us. There’s a link to the full article at the end.

The Paradoxical Power of Humility: Why humility is under-rated and misunderstood Karl Albrecht Ph.D. – BrainSnacks

“Humility is widely under-rated in most Western cultures, it seems to me. It’s also widely misunderstood – maybe that’s why it’s under-rated. 

Our popular-media culture is saturated with themes of conflict, combat, and conquest. Popular films feature cops chasing crooks; the military fighting terrorists; the lone avenger pursuing the evil-doers. We say we love peace makers, but our heroes are warriors. As a society, we like our celebrities to be cheeky, self-important, and even a bit narcissistic. 

Little wonder that humble people seem a bit strange to us, as if they’re following some syncopated life rhythm that few people around them quite “get.” 

Having claimed that humility is misunderstood, I suppose it’s incumbent on me to offer a definition. 

What is humility? It’s a subtle concept, and I find myself having to frame it mostly in terms of what it is not. My conception of humility is what you have when you give up certain self-aggrandizing thought patterns, reflexes, and behaviors. I offer the proposition – and the value judgment – that humility is a kind of liberation, a paradoxical state of freedom from the culturally imposed norms of narcissistic “me-first” thinking. 

Practitioners of many spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism, would say that attaining such a state is a necessary part of the journey toward enlightenment. 

Humility is about emotional neutrality. It involves an experience of growth in which you no longer need to put yourself above others, but you don’t put yourself below them, either. Everyone is your peer – from the most “important” person to the least. You’re just as valuable as every other human being on the planet, no more and no less. It’s about behaving and reacting from purpose, not emotions. You learn to simply disconnect or de-program the competitive reflex in situations where it’s not productive. 

Humility is less a matter of self-restraint and more a matter of self-esteem. The greater your sense of self-worth, the easier it is to appreciate others, to praise them, and to encourage them. 

Does this mean that it’s wrong to try to win at bridge, or improve your tennis game, or compete to get ahead in your work place? Of course not – those are parts of a separate dimension of life. Your talents and abilities will speak for themselves. What we’re dealing with here is a matter of social intelligence, which involves inviting people to move with and toward you, instead of away and against you. 

A well-developed sense of humility shines through in your behavior toward others. They feel affirmed, appreciated, encouraged, validated, and psychically nourished. Most of us are powerfully drawn to people who treat us that way, like bees to flowers.”

This full article, posted in Psychology Today on January 8, can be found here.

In Carpenter Smith Consulting language, the deepest longing of all human beings is to matter.

When we matter to ourselves, and we treat others like they matter, amazing things happen.

If you’d like support in showing your team that they matter, our Executive Coaching could be for you. Contact us today to learn more.

– Heather @ Carpenter Smith Consulting

Your Dream Job

During some personally difficult times, clients and colleagues will often ask, “Why do you do this work?” They are puzzled that we would choose to put ourselves in the middle of the messiness and pain that people experience in their lives and work.

We do this work because we know that when people matter to themselves and believe that others matter, too, success is ensured.

This is true in organizations, on teams, and with individual contributors. Success increases when people matter. Often in life, and especially at work, we can start to believe that things matter; results matter, money matters, but people…they are in the way. 

Yet, the most powerful leaders we know understand that it’s the people that create the success and that when those people are treated with respect for their contributions, with interest in their wisdom and perspective, and honored for the challenges they must deal with every day, everyone thrives. 

A few days ago, we found an article by Peter Wehner in the New York Times called, The Uncommon Power of Grace: A revolutionary idea lies at its core: radical equality. In it, there was a paragraph that described how we treat ourselves and one another when we believe people matter – the author used the term grace. 

When I recently asked . . .  how, as a nonbeliever, he understood grace and why it inspires us when we see it in others, he told me that grace is “some combination of generosity and magnanimity, kindness and forgiveness, and empathy — all above the ordinary call of duty, and bestowed even (or especially?) when not particularly earned.” We see it demonstrated in heroic ways and in small, everyday contexts, he said. “But I guess, regardless of the context, it’s always at least a little unexpected and out of the ordinary.”     

When we matter to ourselves and when we believe others matter, we bring a combination of generositymagnanimity, kindness, forgiveness, and empathy to ourselves and to others in the face of our humanity and the messiness it brings. 

This year, our commitment to you is to support you in mattering to yourself and to creating environments where others matter, because this is the combination that creates unexpected and out of the ordinary success

We’re in this together!

If you’d like support in showing your team that they matter, our Executive Coaching could be for you. Contact us today to learn more.

– Heather @ Carpenter Smith Consulting