Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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On leadership and letting go

As I prepare to transition out of this role of Interim Executive Director at the family homeless shelter where I work, I am excited by the possibilities and the mystery of being ‘me’ in a space that is undefined, fluid, open. It’s a space where I carry:

No formal title.

No 9 to 5 schedule.

No expectation of having to turn up anywhere but where I choose.

Today is my last day in this role. I’ve learned and grown a great deal over the past 8 months, both personally and as a leader. I have been blessed and gifted with this opportunity to stretch and grow. Some of my learnings on leadership are:

 1.  Build a team you trust. 

Leadership is not a walk in the park, It’s a constant race to get it all done. Inevitably, there’s never enough time in a day to get it all done and that’s okay. Being able to prioritize is vital. Having a team you can count on, and that you trust, is essential.

2.  There is no such thing as ‘perfection’.

The need for perfection kills creativity, innovation and passion, in yourself and your team.

Expectations of being or getting it ‘perfect’ are self-imposed limitations you set on yourself to avoid turning up authentically in every situation. They are founded in insecurities and act as a smokescreen that interferes with your capacity to assess, evaluate and determine next best steps without fearing you’re going to get it wrong. Sometimes, you will get it wrong. It’s okay, as long as you create an environment where people do not fear making your mistakes. And when you do, it’s vital you own your mis-steps and create opportunities for those around you to grow through them with you.

3.  People will give you a chance if you consistently speak the truth and treat them with respect.

People want to believe in their leaders. They want to trust them. Being consistent in who you are and how you are is essential to build an environment founded on trust. A space where people feel they can believe what you are saying and doing because they trust that you are always coming from a place of authenticity.

We all have a natural ‘sceptic’ within us. We all have stories of times where people betrayed our trust. For a team to truly trust their leader they must see that no matter the circumstance, no matter how challenging the times, the leader does not sway from their values and principles. They do not compromise on the truth and will inevitablly choose to ‘do the right thing’  — which means, if you are known as someone who is constantly getting angry, flying off the handle, making rash decisions, being unpredictable, you are constantly undermining trust.

4. Trusting and believing in yourself is vital. 

It’s human to have moments of self-doubt but it’s not effective nor reassuring for staff to see you constantly doubting yourself and your capacity to lead. In a study of what makes good leaders, it was determined that a willingness to ‘be vulnerable’ is essential. However, that vulnerability is about your shared human condition, not your weaknesses as a leader.

Self-doubt undermines trust. You may not always get every decision right from the get-go, but you can get addressing mistakes with honesty and forthrightness right every time when you trust yourself enough to turn up, pay attention, speak the truth and stay unattached to the outcome.

5.  Learn first. Do second.

It’s easy to convince yourself you need to know it all, right from the beginning. That’s just not realistic nor possible.

It’s vital to learn first, do second. Too often we get it backwards. We do and then learn from our mistakes. While mistakes are inevitable, avoiding some is possible when you take the time to ask lots of questions, listen deeply and strive to understand situations from all perspectives. It’s vital to ask questions, lots of them, before making any judgements, decisions or course changes.

6.  Communication is key. 

How you communicate is as important as what you communicate.

There are many paths that lead to achieving what you set out to do. Knowing that your decision is ‘the right one’ is different than believing it’s ‘the only one’. Providing people enough information to understand the thinking behind the decision goes a long way to helping them cope with the change that every decision brings. Even a decision to maintain ‘status quo’ comes with change, particularly when the decision is based on investigating the options before making the status quo decision.

7.  Create space for greatness to appear.

Being a leader isn’t about being great at everything you do, it’s about creating space for greatness to appear in everyone around you so that great things can happen. It means sharing the glow of achievement with those who did the work because when they shine, you shine too.

And finally, my key learning over these past few weeks of transition is:  It’s okay to let go. Because, knowing when it’s time to let go is as important as holding on. For me, it’s time to stop holding on to what I was doing to create space for what I can do when I let go of needing to hold on.

I am.

Letting go.

Releasing.

Breathing.

Namaste


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It’s never to late to begin again to start your day

This morning, I awoke with the clear intention of beginning my day in centered calmness.

Instead, I sat down at my computer and before sinking into the silence, decided to open my work emails. Ooops. My inbox had several issues that needed addressing. Instead of centering myself in calmness, I immersed myself in work.

And so I create a start to my day that is not what I intended, not what supports me best.

No one else chose to open my work emails but me.

And I smile at myself.

I am 100% accountable for what I do and for what I bring into my life.

This morning, rather than choosing to do what is most affirming and supportive of me, I chose to let myself become side-tracked by work.

Had I followed my intention, whatever was waiting in my emails would have still been waiting, and I would have addressed it from feeling full, balanced and able to maintain a level of calm attention to whatever needed addressing.

Instead, I am now feeling frustrated, anxious, less centered in my approach to the day.

Because that’s the thing. When I circumvent my own self-care, I veer off into the arena of addictive, unhealthy practices — such as reading emails ‘just because’, immersing myself in work when what I need is to immerse myself in good self-care.

I am feeling frustrated.

Not by the emails or work, but by my actions.

Work always has its frustrating aspects, its crises, its situations that need immediate attention along with its invitations to create and explore opportunities.

When I let go of good self-care, I move out of the space where I am open to creative thinking and problem-solving into that space where my focus is on the tactical not the strategic. Caught in the list of ‘to do’s’, I lose sight of the possibilities.

Time to ‘begin again’.

To take time out for me before I enter ‘work mode’.

While I may be entering my morning backwards, it is never too late to begin again. Never too late to start my day in self-care.

One nice thing about meditating and savouring the silence now is I won’t be distracted by thoughts of ‘I wonder what’s waiting for my attention in my emails?’ (and yes, I’m smiling at myself when I write that. I recognize the contradictions of my thinking.)

I breathe and settle myself into the silence.

I begin again to begin my day with centered calmness.

I begin again to fill myself up with peace and thoughtful balance so that I am well-nourished from the heart out to experience my day in loving kindness, my spirit buoyed up by creative energy flowing freely and my heart full of compassion and Love.

 


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Doing our best has to be enough

Decisions. Choices.

We make them many times, every day.

Big or small, we inevitably spend some time asking ourselves; Is this the right choice? Can I do better?

In the end, no matter how much thinking I put into a problem, or how many angles and perspectives I consider when attempting to resolve a situation, I can’t avoid the decision. I have to make the best choice I can with the information I have.

It is something I am learning as a leader.

It’s vital to gather as much information as possible to support making a decision. Timing, as they say, is everything. Gathering information cannot override making a decision. Decisions must be made.

To make sound decisions, I must be open to listening, hearing, asking, seeing as many sides of the issue as possible. And in that process, I must trust that whatever the decision, I am doing my best.

The challenge is, whatever the decision it will probably not sit well with some. I must choose for the well-being of the many.

And that can be hard for a veteran people-pleaser.

I want to believe that whatever I’m doing, people will buy into it. They will see I am acting with good intent. That it is a decision not made lightly, or without thought of all the consequences.

But sometimes, people can’t see that. They can only see from their perspective. Through their lens, which is filtered through their feelings, experiences, beliefs, history.

When I first stepped into this role of being Interim Executive Director at the family homeless shelter where I work, a very dear friend said to me, “It’s lonely at the top. No matter what the situation, the final decision is yours.”  He went on to add, “You won’t be able to please all of the people all of the time. You have to become comfortable with that.”

My friend was right.

Awhile ago, there was an incident that required very difficult decisions. No matter what I chose, lives would be impacted.

I had to choose the best thing for the many, which though difficult to see for the one most impacted, was the right thing for all.

We cannot see what we do not know and what we know is always grounded in what we see as true.

When we are in pain, when fear is riding roughshod over our state of mind, it is hard to see alternatives and possibilities from where we stand mired in fear.

With our brains contracted by thoughts of all that can go wrong, of all that has gone wrong, of all that is wrong in whatever the situation, we focus on the darkness creating worst case stories that block our view of the possibilities that exist, even in the darkness. Seeing only catastrophe, we, leave ourselves with few options other than to stand still, run away, fight back or give in.

There is a fifth dimension.

When we acknowledge our lizard brain, or critter as I like to call him, is limiting our view, we create space for our higher thinking to step in.

When we breathe through our fear of whatever’s going on, of making a wrong move or upsetting everyone with our choices, we create space for all of our higher thinking to turn up. In that space, we are free to engage with our brain’s higher functioning capabilities, awakening our capacity for whole-brain thinking, judgement and thoughtful action to take hold. No longer fearing we are enough, or are ‘wrong’, we see the possibilities to create better. We see pathways we’ve never seen before and options we’ve never considered.

In that place, we are able to make choices based on possibility not fear, to see opportunity not dead-ends and to embrace hope not hopelessness. In that place, we are able to make the best decisions we can without fearing our decisions are wrong, because we know it’s not about right and wrong, it’s about trusting in ourselves.

In that place we can act compassionately, with integrity, even in the midst of pain and fear.

I am learning to let go of my fear of making decisions that impact other people’s lives. It’s an essential part of becoming a leader.

it’s been a beautiful, challenging and growth-filled journey, not without its ups and downs. Always with its possibilities because what I’ve learn is key to living my life with integrity, compassion and joy. What I’ve learn is: doing my best has to be enough.

 

 

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Friday Musings on Leadership and Other Random Thoughts

It’s a simple concept. To be good for one it must be good for all.

It’s also a challenge. How do you ensure that whatever you’re doing is not going to create worse for someone else? Can you?

I remember the first time I had to let a staff go. I was sick. How could I impact a person’s life that way?

Turns out, it was a good thing for that individual. They didn’t like the work. They wanted to go back to school and this gave them the opportunity to do so.

Changing their work status created an opportunity for them to change their lives – it also created better within the organization.

I couldn’t have foreseen that at the time. I just knew that, even though it was uncomfortable, our paths had to part.

Change by its very nature is not static. Change one thing, someone else is impacted which creates more change.

As I settle into a new leadership role, I am thinking about change a lot. Everything I do has an impact.

What kind of impact do I want to make?

At the end of the day yesterday, I sat with a former co-worker who has just taken on an ED role at another organization. We chatted about change and leadership and how to create better while holding space for applause and criticism without being attached to either.

“It’s lonely at the top,” my friend said. “Because no matter the situation, you have to make the final decision. There will be people who like it. People who don’t. Doesn’t matter. You have to make it anyway.”

My friend is right. I can hear all the opinions, see through many lenses, shift through many perspectives, but in the end, the decision rests with me. In the end, I have to be okay with whatever I decide.

My friend went on to say that often, there’s no right or wrong decision, there’s just the one you choose.

Isn’t that the crux of it?  Whatever decision we make, we have to be comfortable with what we’ve chosen and then, live into the choice.

As a leader, it’s imperative to not continually second guess, vacillate or keep changing your mind. It’s important to commit.

It’s okay to pause and consider the options before committing to a course of action. It’s not okay to decide to not decide.

I’m musing on leadership these days. Thinking about what kind of leader I want to be. What is my impact? How do I get comfortable turning up, paying attention, making decisions and staying unattached to the outcome?

It’s an interesting space. I’m leaning into growing and learning and staying grounded in what I believe as I move deeper into the role. —  We all start out the day with the intention to do and give our best. My role is to create space for everyone to bring their best forward so that their brilliance will inspire others to shine so that together, we can light up the world and make it a better place for everyone.

Namaste.