How do you make holy water? You boil the hell out of it!
I’m Tim, a product marketing manager at an enterprise software company with an open source development model. I’ve been selected to participate in a 1 to 2 year leadership development program in the APAC region. A year passes both quickly and slowly; this show is a way to both share what I’m learning and see how far I’ve come.
This episode is all about finding or creating enough new plot points to change your story.
Self awareness in leadership
One of the themes that kept coming up for me over the course of the last year was “self awareness”, especially in the context of leadership.
Whether it was from the coaches I worked with, or the personality profiles and assessments I did, discussions I had with my project team, or even the questions that led to my pay it forward project; it became more and more obvious that knowing my thoughts, my feelings and their origins, and the way I’ve been showing up in my world all contribute to feeling like and being perceived as a leader.
It’s also become clearer that, unfortunately, self awareness (at least for me) isn’t a state that you can reach; it is an ongoing exercise in introspection, empathy, and willingness to be uncomfortable
It was during a leadership event that I supported in Boston that I got a look in the mirror that made many of the lessons I’ve been trying to learn come together.
Sudden changes in circumstances
In the last year of my life at work there has been a lot of change:
- I’ve gone through at least two departments and four managers in one year
- I’ve seen many of the people I’ve worked with over the last 7 years have their circumstances suddenly change,
- More I’ve recently seen my company’s mission joined up with that of a much bigger, older organization.
I realized and acknowledged that part of my reaction to all these changes has been to take actions I thought could protect me from future change or position me better to thrive from it.
I don’t think for quite a while that I understood the physical and emotional consequences of all that.
I also didn’t realize that by acting and reacting from that place, I was missing opportunities. I might have been a smaller target, but that came at the cost of shrinking my outlook
Protecting myself from future pain or stress meant in someways cutting myself off from new connections and the ability to easily celebrate the humanity of my colleagues.
An aha moment
My aha moment came in two parts at the leadership event I supported in Boston.
The first part was given to me by one of the 4 managers I’ve had in the past year who shared her approach to quiet leadership and illustrated it by telling the story of her grandma and what they’ve learned together.
The second part came in the closing remarks of the event that were delivered by a respected figure with our culture who has had a big impact on the company. He shared his nervousness and desire to be liked; and then called out the anxiousness that he saw and sensed in the gathering of 300 of our leaders. He challenged us to acknowledge it rather than pretending it wasn’t there, and proposed that one of the best ways to deal with it together was to choose to trust one another.
An open secret
By putting it on the table that none of us were alone in feeling anxious he made it something we could live with. By emphasizing the choices we could make about it he was emphasizing the agency we all have to continue working together to make our company and world better for our colleagues and ourselves.
Both presentations reminded me why my colleagues are worth trusting to begin with; by being vulnerable they demonstrated humanity and strength and reminded me that the way we tell our stories can shape how we interact with and feel about the world around us.
Peace at last?
The combination of being aware of my own thoughts and feelings and their origins and being able to place them within a larger story helped me have a sense of peace.
A challenge I’d set for future Tim would be to find ways to counterbalance tension with trust and a better story.