Every day, whether we realize it or not, we are showing up in life and “sending a message” that is picked up by those around us. That message can fluctuate depending on a various number of factors, such as mood, stress, happiness, environment, media, almost anything that is either an internal circumstance or an external circumstance. The reality is that we believe we do not often have influence over the external circumstances and often believe they are the reason for our internal condition. However, we have much more influence than we realize, and it is our awareness, attitude and intention that can help us avoid being hijacked and being subject to the effect of situations and problems vs. contributing to a solution.
Whether you are leading your own career, a team, an organization, a family or an association, the following three tips can prove beneficial toward the impact you provide and the message you send.
1. Attitude is everything.
I recently read the description of an “attitude indicator,” which intrigued me since I believe attitude is fully in our power to address and adjust. The definition that caught my interest is in relationship to flight dynamics, and basically is “the orientation of an aircraft’s axes in relation to its direction of motion.” With respect to people, the definition is “the way a person views something or tends to behave towards it, often in an evaluative way; a position of the body indicating mood or emotion.” Thus, I began playing with the idea of a Human Attitude Indicator to look at how we show up in daily life.
If we look at how we respond or react to circumstances outside of our control, we start the evaluative process to determine if the attitude we hold is beneficial or detrimental. So, how do we do that? Stop the blame game. There are always going to be outside conditions that are out of our immediate control. But we have control over our response to the situation. We can become apathetic or be angry, but neither approach is going to (1) boost our mood; (2) contribute to a solution that can create positive change; or (3) give us the opportunity to shine, give our best from our authentic selves utilizing our strengths and talents.
In the evaluative process, it is important to recognize our negative beliefs (biases, both conscious and unconscious) about others, ourselves and the circumstance. Negativity is like a vicious cycle that feeds on itself; and while it may fuel energy, it is negative energy and ultimately takes its toll. Once we are aware of the thought process that is driving our attitude, we can choose how we want to show up. If we choose a more positive, impactful approach, and determine what resources we can contribute to a situation to effect change; then, we can identify the resources we need, which includes people. The bottom line here is to “take action” to have a positive influence. Blaming is not action, and it is not positive.
2. Be open to other perspectives and ideas.
When we are not open to really hearing and understanding someone else’s perspective, it shows and the message is loud and clear. Being empathic, which is “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation” is an important leadership trait. Too often, we see the world through our own filters based on our experiences, what we have been taught and our biases that are known and unknown. The fact is, we don’t know what we don’t know, and being open and empathic is the most important way we can build trust, understanding and relationships. Paying attention to our openness is important to check our Human Attitude Indicator. This one action shows up every day in multiple circumstances. Notice it at home when a family member is sharing their perspective. This is challenging because we want to get our point across, and often, we want our opinion and stance to be accepted and often adopted. Are you with me on this? I confess this is an area that necessitates focus for me at home. It requires paying attention and having an intention and commitment to listen, understand, re-evaluate and deepen relationships. In business, the ability to be truly open and interested is one of the best ways any leader can encourage the best from others because it promotes a sense of being valued and part of the team.
Being open to other perspectives and ideas allows authenticity to emerge, rather than trying to mold someone to “fit.” There are cultural norms that every organization has that are important to its operation; however, those need to be periodically revisited to ensure effectiveness and whether the expectations are in line with the organizational goals. And, if one of the goals is to hire the best and brightest, allowing someone to be authentic builds and supports engagement and innovation. To be able to bring one’s whole self to work allows someone to be invested in the organization and fully participate. If someone does not believe they can share ideas or speak up at all, it is stifling and unproductive and creativity is lost, as is possibly the best solution. So, leaders need to look at their beliefs and determine whether they stifle unique talents and skills or they inspire the best talent to contribute, accelerate and grow. Employees are unique, and skipping over that uniqueness creates a risk that some of the most talented individuals may eventually go somewhere else because they did not feel valued or supported in contributing their best.
3. Leave the Ego at the door.
In my book, Conscious Leadership in the Workplace: A Guidebook to Making a Difference One Person at a Time, and in a previous blog, I wrote about what it means to show up with a healthy ego vs. an unhealthy ego (little ego). Understanding this concept is essential to be effective at utilizing the previous two tips. Self-awareness is, in my opinion, the most important skill we can have in any aspect of life. The capability to be self-aware is within everyone’s reach and it can be learned, practiced and enhanced. Being aware of whether we are approaching a situation from a healthy ego or an unhealthy ego is necessary to check our Human Attitude Indicator.
A brief recap to distinguish between these two “egos”- “Healthy egos” inspire and motivate ourselves and others. It is the driving force behind giving our best and wanting to continually improve; it is open and self-aware. “Unhealthy egos” are driven by fear and see the world from a dualistic view point of “either/or” (my way or no way) and only create more fear in others and in ourselves. This is not healthy and it does not build trust, and, it is far from being open to other perspectives.
When we live from the unhealthy ego, our performance is impacted. When we lead from this approach, the performance of others is compromised. The diagram below illustrates what happens to confidence and performance when we are driven by fear.
Challenging the unhealthy ego requires action:
- Getting out of our comfort zones;
- Being aware of self and others;
- Being open and empathic; and
- Checking our attitude.
The ability to take these actions enhances leadership. Leadership happens everywhere, whether we know it or not. The question is, how effectively do we lead in our organizations, communities, families and the world? Incorporate the concepts of checking your Human Attitude Indicator. It will influence the message you broadcast.