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Learning How to Control Your Actions and Reactions is Up to You

Learning How to Control Your Actions and Reactions is Up to You

Each of us has strengths and vulnerabilities that we bring to bear in our role as leaders. Some strengths and vulnerabilities develop as we move through life’s experiences, and others are inherited from our family, most immediately the family we grew up in, but also in a real way from the…

Learning How to Control Your Actions and Reactions is Up to You

We arrive at adulthood carrying within us deep scripting from our family of origin. That family includes our immediate circle (mom, dad, siblings), our more extended circle (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins), and our ancestors from many previous generations.

Learning How to Control Your Actions and Reactions is Up to You

This scripting creates a “way of being” and a “way of acting/reacting” that is largely instinctual and automatic.  Our everyday actions and reactions are driven by forces which exist below the level of our conscious awareness. Because it is so deeply ingrained, this genetic scripting is extremely powerful and has a major impact on every aspect of our daily lives. Our functioning arises from two distinct yet intermingled dimensions— a rational or thinking system, and an emotional or feeling system. Every interaction we have is a composite of what we think and how we feel at the moment. When we think someone is trustworthy, we tend to be more open and receptive to that individual. When we feel threatened by someone, even in subtle ways, we instinctively shift into classic defensive modes. We fight, flight, freeze in order to protect ourselves. The stronger our feelings of being threatened, the more likely our emotional self will overwhelm and eclipse our thinking self.

Learning to be a more mature “self” is a lifelong process of trying to keep these two dimensions integrated and in a healthy balance. This process occurs gradually across our lifespan and involves both greater self-awareness and better self-management skills. The more frequently we are able to recognize the interaction between our thinking and feeling selves, and how often they automatically drive our ways of being and acting, the more we are able to have choices in how we respond to the unfolding events of our day.  The result, over a lifetime, is that we develop more “self.” We become less and less anxious in the face of threats, we become less reactive, more grounded, more thoughtful, more resilient, and finally, more at peace.

Action:

Becoming more of a “self”

  • Spend as much time as possible being present to unfolding moments of your life. Learn to watch your own mental processes.  Minimize time spent on past regrets and future concerns and devote more and more of your thinking and feeling with attention on the present.  Relax. Focus. Be in the Moment.
  • Peace of mind is not achieved by working to avoid conflict in life, but rather by learning to deal with life’s conflicts with calm and composure. Peace of mind starts with fully engaging the situations we face daily, making the best of those situations, and then accepting and being present to our current reality.
  • Appreciate each day as a miraculous gift.  Recognize that whatever happens, the moments of each and every day only come once in your life.  Learn to welcome those moments and recognize each of them as the precious gift of life itself. Embrace the days of your life without longing for something else to be true.  Accept each day, learn from it, grow from it.  Move forward.

Try It:

Where to begin?

  • Throughout the day consider:
    • What part am I playing in this situation?
    • What is the responsible thing for me to do?
  • Then take the steps that your deepest self is urging you to take.
Getting to the Core of Self-Differentiation

Getting to the Core of Self-Differentiation

The growing complexity of an evolving brain suddenly reached a tipping point that made us capable not only of consciousness—the ability to sense and interact with our environment—but of self-consciousness.

Getting to the Core of Self-Differentiation

Getting to the Core of Self-Differentiation

Our species—the human animal—shares a great deal in common with our evolutionary ancestors. But somewhere along the line, a shift occurred that has set us apart—decisively—from every other species that has inhabited this planet from the origins of life itself. The growing complexity of an evolving brain suddenly reached a tipping point that made us capable not only of consciousness—the ability to sense and interact with our environment—but of self-consciousness.

The ancient myth of Narcissus points out the inherent danger of this new-found ability: our self-awareness can breed a fatal fascination with gazing on our own image. But we also know the risk of Narcissus is far outstripped by the potential reward of gaining a better grasp of the nature of our own humanity. We are curious creatures with a restless quest for understanding more and more about ourselves as well as the world around us.

Our understanding of human nature has been like a flowing river, a stream of growing wisdom accumulated across many millennia. Modern science in the 19th and 20th centuries added in significant ways to that body of knowledge, first with Darwin’s focus on our evolutionary origins, and then with Freud’s revelation and exploration of the hidden dynamics of the unconscious. In the second half of the 20th century a Freudian-trained psychiatrist by the name of Murray Bowen introduced a new perspective on human nature by recognizing universal laws at work in the functioning of every natural system, from swarms of bees to multi-generational families to human organizations of every scale. A disciple of Bowen, Edwin Friedman (d. 1996), focused on how the emotional systems of leaders impacted their capacity for effective leadership. In the 21st century, various followers of Bowen and Friedman have applied and integrated their insights in fields as diverse as executive coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology, mindfulness, organizational development and other allied disciplines.

Resilient Leadership LLC, in particular, has recognized the richness of Bowen’s notion of “self-differentiation” (SD) as a key to effective leadership. Bowen Theory defines SD as “an individual’s capacity for independent thought and action (self-definition) while maintaining a balanced connection to significant others (self-regulation)”. The premise of the leadership development initiatives provided by Resilient Leadership LLC is that the higher is one’s level of SD, the greater is that person’s capacity for effective leadership.

The expression “emotional maturity” has sometimes been used in place of SD, but it is important not to equate this with “emotional intelligence”. The significance of emotional intelligence (EQ) for leadership success has been well researched, and there now exists abundant evidence that all things being equal, leaders with higher EQ tend to be more successful than those with lower scores. Many of the skills associated with EQ are certainly also part of SD, but Bowen’s understanding of emotional maturity is a broader and deeper concept.

SD has to do with one’s ability to maintain a healthy balance between two polarities that are foundational to our human functioning. The first polarity is between the rational and emotional dimensions, our capacity for thinking and feeling. The human animal is unique in its capacity for rational thought. Contemporary neuroscience has deployed an impressive array of technologies to explore this most evolved part of the human brain, the neocortex, which is the seat of rational thought. It has likewise advanced our understanding of the parts of our brain where our instinctive and emotional dimensions reside. A narrow focus on either one of these can contribute to a compartmentalization, as if the thinking-feeling polarity was between two completely separate entities. The truth is that the connections between both parts of our brain are vast, and the interplay is constant. The push-pull of reciprocal thinking-feeling forces that we might conceptualize as separate is an ongoing dynamic as our whole brain seeks moment by moment to achieve a healthy equilibrium in light of the external (and internal) stimuli we are encountering and managing.

The second polarity is between two primal needs that we share in common with all life forms on this planet: autonomy and intimacy, the need to be a separate individual, and the need to be in relationship with others. This separate-together/distant-close polarity is an ongoing balancing act that is often described as the “dance of life” as it is played out in the give-and-take of our every relationship.

What, then, does emotional maturity look like in a leader who does a better-than-average job at self-definition and self-regulation (aka SD)? These would be a few of the behavioral manifestations:

  • Capacity to get outside the emotional climate of the day
  • Willing to be exposed and vulnerable: a prudent risk-taker
  • Has a clarity of vision, values, guiding principles
  • Acts in accord with vision, values, guiding principles regardless of challenges
  • Able to offer and ask for help in a balanced and self-aware manner
  • Takes full responsibility for own actions and functioning
  • Sets and reinforces boundaries for self
  • Respects others' boundaries
  • Is as concerned about the success of others as self
  • Able to respect the opinions of others, even those who disagree
  • When challenged is neither dogmatic nor angry
  • Keeps focus on self rather than trying to change others

Unlike adult development models that describe a sequence of stages that one achieves one after the other, SD is a lifelong process of striving to keep one’s being in healthy balance. Emotional maturity is a way of being in the world of relationships, challenges, mishaps and recovery with greater calm, clarity and conviction. Leaders who are present in this way to the individuals and organizations they lead are not guaranteed smooth sailing in their life’s journey. But regardless of the turbulence they encounter, such leaders will experience a higher rate of success than would otherwise be the case; and they will enable others to show up with their “best self” more often and with better-than-expected results. Resilient Leadership LLC has proven resources to support leaders who wish to strengthen and grow their current level of SD. For more information, contact Jim Moyer jimm@resilientleadershipdevelopment.com.

Bridgette Theurer Discusses Over-functioning

Over Functioning – To think, feel or act for another person in a way that erodes that person’s capacity for ownership or effective action. Watch this short video of Bridgette Theurer as she shares important insights about Over Functioning and learn more about how you can avoid this trap in your life.

Bridgette Theurer Discusses Over-functioning

Over Functioning - To think, feel or act for another person in a way that erodes that person’s capacity for ownership or effective action.

  • How to avoid Over Functioning – A 3 Step Process
    • Step 1: Observe the tendency to Over Functioning in yourself.
    • Step 2: Hit the pause button next time you are triggered by anxiety to “save” someone. Then stop and ask yourself the key question: “How can I be a resource to this person without taking away their initiative and willingness to take action?” Then take action as appropriate.
    • Step 3: Practice Steps 1 and 2 a lot. Over time your capability to spot your tendency to Over Functioning and ask yourself the key question will become second nature. When this happens, you will have a dramatic positive impact on your leadership, on your life and on your relationships.
Understanding the Emotional Systems in Schools

Understanding the Emotional Systems in Schools

There is a hidden dynamic in society that is potent, pervasive, and impacts all aspects of a functionality. This is especially prevalent in our schools. Revealing this hidden world and understanding its impact is key to moving schools forward.

Understanding the Emotional Systems in Schools

Understanding the Emotional Systems in Schools

A Case Study of effective, real-time change in an Ohio High School

There is a hidden dynamic in society that is potent, pervasive, and impacts all aspects of a functionality. This is especially prevalent in our schools. Revealing this hidden world and understanding its impact is key to moving schools forward. What follows are examples of how our school used a conceptual framework known as Resilient Leadership, based on Bowen Family Systems Theory, to help our team better understand this hidden world as we moved forward. Our school needed a framework to help everyone navigate the emotional tumult that inevitability occurs through the process of improvement.

Principal, Jeffrey Hartmann of Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools, in Ohio describes the change his schools underwent under the guidance from Resilient Leadership Development.

According to Hartmann, “Teachers need expressions of personal regard and support as much as anyone else does, it is the intersection of the technical aspects and the emotional systems that is the focal point of Resilient Leadership.”

Resilient Leadership examines the recursive nature of emotional systems response to rational, technical, processes. Much of the literature related to change leadership seem to focus on the technical work of improving organizations through structures, processes, strategies, or vision creation. Other work approaches change as a culture-building enterprise, creating feelings of momentum, celebrating small victories, and embracing positivity and resiliency throughout the firm.

When the school opened 1987, it instantly became the largest high school in our county. There was never a high school-specific, school-wide focus to improve that applied to everyone. The organizational inertia was strong. Hartmann continued, “Our teachers expected to be left alone and teamwork was an anathema.”

“When we ask people to change or improve, we are, in essence, asking them to break their loyalty to the person or place that bestowed that belief set in the first place. Understanding this deep emotional connection was very important for me as a new school principal trying to move a building forward that had not ever experienced change. Collectively and individually, we lacked the skill sets to successfully navigate the emotional tumult associated with change.”

The conceptual models within Resilient Leadership were applied by many with the help of their Resident Leadership coach, who became a crucial guide on their improvement journey. Resilient Leadership is a framework established by Bob Duggan, Jim Moyer, and Bridgette Theurer in their books Resilient Leadership (2010), and Resilient Leadership 2.0 (2017). The goal of Resilient Leadership is to improve a person’s or a system’s emotional differentiation. A basic definition of emotional differentiation is an individual’s ability to separate thinking from feeling.

Hartmann went on to describe some of the key critical elements identified by Resilient Leadership in order to support improvement. “We focused on: the concepts of the rational system and the emotional system, over and under-functioning, being a step-down transformer, and relationship triangles.” With the help of coach John Moyer, “our work began during professional development sessions for our school district.”

John then started to hold book studies and then branched into individual leadership development sessions for other teachers in building. Soon, the district leadership asked John to provide his services district-wide to any interested teacher or administrator. The Resilient Leadership 2.0 book joined other supporting texts to form the “canon” of our school improvement program.

“In so doing, it reduced anxiety because the staff was better able to identify what they were feeling and why.”

Emotional and Rational Systems

Hartmann exclaimed, that, “One of the first instructive experiences I had was understanding that there was a whole world that was invisible but reacted directly with the tangible world in front of me. We term these two worlds as the ‘emotional system’ and ‘rational system,’ respectively Rational world changes include, but are certainly not limited to, policies, procedures, evaluation frameworks, shifting priorities, and the like. These rational world changes often have a direct emotional system reaction both within an individual and within a group.”

The entire Resilient Leadership framework aims to grow the capacity of individuals to reduce their emotional responses, reducing system anxiety regardless of the stressor. The Resilient Leadership authors explain that the internal feeling of being off-balance is considered a form of reactivity. Being able to be thoughtful amid heightened anxiety is known as emotional differentiation. Essentially, emotional differentiation suggests that individuals have more than one method of coping with change, thus keeping their chronic anxiety in a state of balance. Emotionally differentiated individuals can stop, think, and respond in a thoughtful way to a change. Individuals with less emotional differentiation, however, provide an automatic, immediate and less thoughtful, reaction to a change.

Teacher anxiety and stress rates are well-researched, international phenomenon. The multiple, ever-changing policy and practice expectations that educators face take a heavy emotional toll and contribute to high amounts of anxiety and eventual teacher burnout.

We see the deleterious effects of stress with productivity decline and job satisfaction trending downward, resulting in otherwise good teachers feeling forced to leave the field. Conversely, teachers who can regulate emotions and, by extension anxiety, display a higher job satisfaction and positive affect. “Teachers who are calm, positive, and content are likely to be better equipped to treat students warmly and sensitively, even when students behave in challenging ways”. The conceptual frameworks presented in Resilient Leadership assist educators in understanding these multiple stressors and should be given the same priority as pedagogical theory in teacher preparation programs.

Over-and-Under Functioning

Over-functioning is generally regarded as the reciprocal relationship where one person or group is overly responsible while another person or group is irresponsible. “At a meeting with union representatives one afternoon, they provided a list of chronic areas of improvement. The topics had titles like ‘morale is low,’ ‘communication is poor,’ and ‘leadership visibility.’ When I asked for more specifics, the representatives were not able to share anything further. I then asked the representatives to come to the meeting with a few proposed solutions so that, as a team, they could work together to solve problems.”

Hartmann said that it was, “an uncomfortable meeting because the representatives were waiting for me to offer solutions, as had been custom for previous administrators. I declined to provide answers, however.” A few days later, he spoke with some of the members individually and was able to unpack the key elements of the situation. “These impromptu meetings assisted in my understanding of the block to offering solutions.” He continued, “For the better part of a decade, the union vice president worked closely with the building administration, and building representatives were mostly ceremonial. When a changeover in the union vice president position occurred, an elementary-level teacher filled the position. As a result, the high school administration had to work with building representatives who never had to exercise leadership before.” The Resilient Leadership coach orchestrated one-on-one sessions helping build their capacity as leaders so that the roles of the team equalized, and effective collaboration could take place.

To level out the functioning of individuals, we need to engage in new learning experiences to build capacity. This build is not linear, not rapid, and has a significant amount of emotional processing involved. To encourage an under-functioning individual or group to move beyond their current parameters requires a challenge which disrupts the emotional system mentioned earlier.

Step-Down Transfer

During times of organizational stress, interactions among people and groups can become tense as they search for resolutions or determine where to place blame or both. Resilient Leadership speaks of leaders as “step-down transformers,” an analogy to the role of these devices play as part of our power grid. Members of any social network have the power to increase or decrease the anxiety within that social network. When others engage in gossip, raise voices, shout, or display hostile body language, they are adding anxiety to the system. In effect, they are acting as a step-up transformer. Step-down transformers remain calm amid stress, provide thoughtful responses, and ask thoughtful questions.

Hartmann continued, “one morning, one of my leadership colleagues attended a department meeting regarding the emotionally charged topic of final assessments. The department was comprised teachers with a high degree of reactivity amongst the group. During the meeting, teachers lobbed question after question to her while she responded in a thoughtful and calm tone. Internally, her anxiety was rising, but she knew that if she reacted with an equal level of emotion, she could have increased the negative momentum within that network.” The leadership colleague stayed connected by listening and weathered the storm. “Regardless of how much of an emotional crescendo that was taking place, she was determined to explain her thinking calmly, in order to show others how to respond constructively, and not add to the negative momentum.” Understanding one’s emotional state and whether one can act as a step-down transformer is a vital element of self- awareness and a critical skill for all members of a system to exercise.

Triangles

Triangles exist everywhere, and when the system or network is calm, they remain invisible. When under stress, however, triangles are more clearly seen. In his book, Failure of Nerve, Ed Friedman expands on the idea of emotional triangles that form between three individuals or between two individuals and an issue.

Triangles form most often when organizational stress increases, and schools are no exception to that phenomenon.
“One afternoon, one of my assistant principals was working in her office,” Hartman describes, “when a teacher stopped by and out of nowhere, started talking about the person recently placed on administrative leave. She soon realized that the teacher on administrative leave had many friends in the building who were speaking on his behalf and advancing his cause for reinstatement. Being “triangled” is now part of our school-wide lexicon.” We have all been caught in triangles and often realize it after the fact. Having this awareness during the act of “triangling” better guides comments and actions during the conversation.

The Resilient Leadership framework has supported our change initiatives since 2015, bringing people together, focusing our efforts, and guiding us through a hidden world that often thwarts school improvement.

Ohio’s schools are not alone as they face a constant set of changing parameters that impact their work with kids.
American education has become a political football, and American educators unfortunate actors in a constant back-and-forth between the left and right elements of the political spectrum. We see a national reduction of people wanting to enter the field of teaching, with 54% of parents saying they would not want their child to enter the field of education.

Summarizing the effective initiative, Hartmann said, “in our small corner of the country, in suburban Ohio, I believe that the introduction of the Resilient Leadership framework has helped us understand and emotionally process the world around us, while also moving our practice forward, seemingly despite all odds. Change is risky for leaders and terrifying for everyone else.”

When asked about the impact of the Resilient Leadership experience, Hartmann said, “We have found that our use of Resilient Leadership has reduced our fears and provided valuable insight into the hidden world of emotional systems. When asked about the impact of the experience with Resilient Leadership, Hartmann said, “It has helped many of our educators, leaders, and students, and I hope that you also find equal amounts of insight and guidance.”

Here are some resources to help you understand some of these concepts better:

Step Down Transformers (PDF)
Triangles (PDF)
Understanding Reactivity (PDF)
For more information, email JimM@resilientleadershipdevelopment.com

About Jim Moyer...

Jim Moyer

Jim is a founding member of Resilient Leadership, LLC, and is the co-author with Bob Duggan of the book Resilient Leadership. Jim is an Executive Coach and strategic planning and organizational development consultant with over 30 years experience in for-profit, not-for-profit, and government organizations.

Jim has successfully grown his consulting and coaching practice since 1998. Before he began his consulting practice Jim worked for 25 years at Marriott International as a manager, director, and senior executive in Strategy, Organizational Development, Human Resources, Quality and Loss Prevention.

Our Strengths and Vulnerabilities Come Packaged with our Family Ties

Our Strengths and Vulnerabilities Come Packaged with our Family Ties

Each of us has strengths and vulnerabilities that we bring to bear in our role as leaders. Some strengths and vulnerabilities develop as we move through life’s experiences, and others are inherited from our family, most immediately the family we grew up in, but also in a real way from the…

Our Strengths and Vulnerabilities Come Packaged with our Family Ties

Our Strengths and Vulnerabilities Come Packaged with our Family Ties

Fact:

Each of us has strengths and vulnerabilities that we bring to bear in our role as leaders.

Some strengths and vulnerabilities develop as we move through life’s experiences, and others are inherited from our family, most immediately the family we grew up in, but also in a real way from the generations that came before our family of origin. They’re part of the “package” of who we are!

Most of the strengths and vulnerabilities that we inherit are so deeply ingrained in us that they operate beneath our conscious awareness. And because we generally are not consciously aware of them, these ingrained strengths and vulnerabilities drive behaviors that are “automatic”. They just “show up” without our needing to think about them at all! Another characteristic of these automatic patterns is that under stress they tend to show up more vividly and in more extreme forms.

Here are examples of each:

  • Strength: “I am (…) and under stress I am even more (…)”
    • Confident
    • Decisive
    • Adventuresome
  • Vulnerability: “I am (…) and under stress I am even more (…)”
    • Defensive
    • Argumentative
    • Conflict-avoidant

Action:

Be curious about the reactive behaviors within yourself, in others, and in the emotional systems of which you Because our inherited strengths and vulnerabilities are so much a part of who we are, they shape our outlook on life as well as guide our actions. Sometimes our innate strengths act as a wonderful resource we can call upon whenever needed. But other times our vulnerabilities can land us in needless trouble, especially under stress when they tend to push us, unaware, toward extreme behaviors. Becoming more self-aware of both has real benefits. Knowing what we are good at allows us to deploy a strength in a more deliberate and strategic manner. And being aware of a vulnerability can help us to be more thoughtful and less “automatic” when our tendency is toward a risky or even misplaced behavior, especially in stressful situations.

Try It:

 

Observe, Reflect on, and Manage Your Inherited Strengths

  • Ask yourself, “When stressed…”
    • What strengths am I able to call upon in this situation?
    • How can I be very intentional about using these strengths for success?

Observe, Reflect on, and Manage Your Inherited Vulnerabilities

  • Ask yourself, “When stressed…”
    • What vulnerability is most easily triggered?
    • How can I minimize the reactive behaviors that typically surface as part of this vulnerability?

Leaders Hold the Vision with 3 Simple Imperatives

Leaders Hold the Vision with 3 Simple Imperatives

The challenges we are facing across the globe, here in the US, and right in our backyards are more complex, more intense and more immediate than in any recent time.
We need a clear pathway forward, and we need to come together.

Leaders Hold the Vision with 3 Simple Imperatives

Leaders Hold the Vision with 3 Simple Imperatives

Fact:

The challenges we are facing across the globe, here in the US, and right in our backyards are more complex, more intense and more immediate than in any recent time.

We need a clear pathway forward, and we need to come together if we are to move along that pathway successfully.

All of us are leaders.  We lead organizations and teams in industry, in government, in non-profits and in our communities.  We are leaders in our families. We often take the lead in relationships with others, and most especially, every day, we lead ourselves.

Our fundamental job as leaders, in fact, our first priority as leaders, is to “Hold the Vision.” Holding the Vision requires of us a strong commitment to a set of core principles and values as well as clarity regarding the mission to which we are dedicated. Effective leaders Hold the Vision by a sustained observance of three fundamental imperatives. They work to: (1) Stay Calm, (2) Stay Connected and (3) Stay the Course.

Action:

  1. Stay Calm: Be curious about the reactive behaviors within yourself, in others, and in the emotional systems of which you are a part. Find ways to be less anxious than those you lead. But remember that staying calm does not mean staying quiet.
  2. Stay Connected: Maintain a healthy balance in your leadership presence. Work to remain close enough to influence others, yet distant enough to lead them. Remember that maintaining a healthy close-distant relationship with those you lead is an ongoing balancing act. Building and sustaining healthy relationships is the work of a lifetime.
  3. Stay the Course: Act Boldly in the Face of Increased Complexity and Escalating Change. Be brave. Learn how to stand apart and even when to stand alone. In order to Hold the Vision, you must be courageous, determined, and persistent.

Try It:

The challenges that leaders encounter in 2021 will continue to be daunting. Leaders at every level and in every situation will have an opportunity to set and Hold the Vision for something that really matters to them.  The list of opportunities, causes and needs is great.

What will you select that you judge to be worthy of your time and energy?

  • Decide
  • Remember the three imperatives
  • Hold the Vision
  • Lead

 

How to Break the Cycle of Living in a VUCA World

How to Break the Cycle of the Damaging Effects of a VUCA World

In early 2020 we entered the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world big time. These four words, which are borrowed from the description of the world at the end of the Cold War by the US military, certainly apply to today’s highly anxious 24/7 COVID world as well.

How to Break the Cycle of the Damaging Effects of a VUCA World

How to Break the Cycle of Living in a VUCA World

In early 2020 we entered the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world big time. These four words, which are borrowed from the description of the world at the end of the Cold War by the US military, certainly apply to today’s highly anxious 24/7 COVID world as well.

Let’s take a closer look at how we may be perceiving the situation today.

In early 2020 we entered the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) world big time. These four words, which are borrowed from the description of the world at the end of the Cold War by the US military, certainly apply to today’s highly anxious 24/7 COVID world as well.

Let’s take a closer look at how we may be perceiving the situation today.

In the research and 2009 published works by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey — Immunity to Change, the concept of the Worry Box is introduced as an image of a foreboding “big assumption” that people often make when confronted with a challenge. Their research revealed the tendency people have to conjure up a terrible scenario when faced with a big challenge where the stakes are high, and outcomes are not assured. The envisioned calamity, which is often a false narrative, arises out of fear initially and without objective thinking can spiral down to the point of irrational behavior driven by both actual and perceived threats. As a person spirals down, they often begin to over-function or under-function.

In our Resilient Leadership (RL) training and coaching programs, we offer a number of resources and tools to help leaders recognize and manage their reactivity. Related to over/under functioning, here are three helpful ideas which help RL practitioners cope by seeing, thinking and leading from a more thoughtful place:

1. SEE: Observe the role that reactivity plays in your own over/under functioning. How you are thinking, feeling or acting in a way that limits the responsible action of others?

2. THINK: Recognize the reciprocal nature of over and under functioning. Who is either under functioning or over functioning as a counterbalance to your own over or under functioning?

3. ACT: Take action to break the cycle of by focusing on your own over or under functioning. What steps can you take to eliminate your own over or under functioning to interrupt the cycle that has been created?

For more information about our full range of Resilient Leadership Training and Coaching course contact JimM@resilientleadershipdevelopment.com

About Jim Moyer...

Jim Moyer

Jim is a founding member of Resilient Leadership, LLC, and is the co-author with Bob Duggan of the book Resilient Leadership. Jim is an Executive Coach and strategic planning and organizational development consultant with over 30 years experience in for-profit, not-for-profit, and government organizations.

Jim has successfully grown his consulting and coaching practice since 1998. Before he began his consulting practice Jim worked for 25 years at Marriott International as a manager, director, and senior executive in Strategy, Organizational Development, Human Resources, Quality and Loss Prevention.

Need a cure for feeling tense? Get Curious!

Need a Cure for Feeling Tense? Get Curious!

Practice of the Month

Need a Cure for Feeling Tense?
Get Curious!

Need a cure for feeling tense? Get Curious!

Fact:

It has been suggested that the human brain is perhaps the most complex structure in the universe. Neuroscience has progressed dramatically in recent decades, especially with emerging technologies that have allowed us to “peek inside” and observe the hidden workings of our brain in real time. As scientists have started to observe and track a tiny portion of the billions of neurons and hundreds of trillions of interactions among them that take place in our brain minute by minute, day in and day out, we are coming to a fuller realization of just how accurate that claim is. The complexity is staggering.

But despite being at the very primitive beginning of a new science, our understanding of the brain’s inner workings is progressing steadily and is gaining both breadth and depth. One insight that neuroscience has provided us is how difficult (perhaps even impossible) it is for our brain to be both curious and highly anxious at the same time. Our brain performs an incalculable number of tasks simultaneously, but it seems that the circuitry involved in being curious and the circuitry involved in being anxious work to defeat one another’s ability to dominate our mood/consciousness at any given moment.

  • Key Take Away: Simply put, the more curious we are, the less psychic room there is for us to be anxious, and vice versa. Consciously choosing to be curious counteracts anxiety the moment it arises and helps us to see possibilities, not just threats.

Action:

Another insight that neuroscience has given us is what is called “neuroplasticity”, which one dictionary defines as “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience”. It appears that from birth to death, our brain is constantly laying down new neural pathways, making new connections based on previous learning and ongoing experience. Research has proven that focused attention and persistent practice are two keys to this capacity of the brain to “rewire” itself to build new knowledge, skills and behaviors.

  • Key Take Away: The more we deliberately work at strengthening our brain’s curiosity muscle, it appears, the better we get at calming our anxious selves.

The opportunities to put this insight into practice are numerous. For example, the next time you are leading or participating in a meeting where emotions and tensions are running high, and you realize that you are starting to pick up and feel the stress of the group escalating within you, press your inner pause button.

  • Key Take Away: Bring a curious mindset to the anxious moment of life and ask yourself a set of thoughtful questions as suggested below.

Try It:

Come prepared. In your notebook or on your electronic device, have a set of curious, thoughtful questions already formulated that you can turn to and ask yourself. You will want to formulate your own, but here are some suggestions of the kind of questions that are calculated to help you adopt a curious perspective in the midst of a rising tide of anxiety:

  • What was it that first shifted this discussion from a more thoughtful to a more anxious one?
  • What first triggered my own anxiety?
  • How might I best describe the roadblock the group is experiencing at the moment?
  • Is there a goal, a value, an assumption that everyone here can agree on right now?
  • What new direction might we take in this conversation to move us forward together?

Staying Resilient in a Time of Uncertainty

Staying Resilient in a Time of Uncertainty

Bridgette Theurer Presents "Staying Resilient in a Time of Uncertainty"

Resilient Leadership Partner, Bridgette Theurer, recently made a presentation to a group of members at the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica (HRMAJ). The online conference held in November, 2020 focused on, "Staying Resilient in a Time of Uncertainty."  The content of the presentation is summarized below. Please contact us with any questions.

Resilience has been a popular buzz word for years and a heavily researched topic. In the midst of a global pandemic, resilience is more relevant than ever as we continue to face unprecedented levels of uncertainty and anxiety. In this interactive webinar, we will explore a model of leadership that is based on a systems perspective, one that allows leaders and business owners to cultivate a more thoughtful, less reactive workplace and to sustain their leadership efforts over time.

Some of the lively discussion included:

  • A unique definition of what it means to lead with resilience
  • The three principles of being a Resilient Leader that will help your organization to be more creative and innovative
  • How to avoid Over-functioning, which is the chief cause of burnout
  • Practical ideas for managing anxiety, dealing with uncertainty and sustaining yourself over time

About Bridgette Theurer...

Bridgette Theurer

Bridgette Theurer has over 25 years of experience coaching and training individuals and teams around the world. Her clients have included senior executives, managers, and emerging leaders from a wide variety of organizations including the Marriott Corporation, The Food and Safety Administration, Booz Allen and The University of Maryland, as well as numerous small businesses and startups. In addition to her experience as an executive coach, she has worked extensively in human resources and organizational development, both as a corporate trainer and an independent management consultant. Bridgette has also designed a 6-month Resilient Leadership Development Program for the FDA, and has certified over 100 coaches in this unique model of leadership.

In 2015 she co-authored and published her first book, titled: Missing Conversations: 9 Questions All Leaders Should Ask Themselves. Her newest book, Resilient Leadership 2.0: Leading with Calm, Clarity and Conviction in Anxious Times, was published in January of 2018. She is a partner in Resilient Leadership, LLC and founder of ClearCompass, a corporate coaching business dedicated to helping leaders at all levels to become more inspired, effective and successful.

How to Lead in These VUCA Times? First, Learn to See

How to Lead in These VUCA Times? First, Learn to See.

Practice of the Month

How to Lead in These VUCA Times? First, Learn to See.

How to Lead in These VUCA Times? First, Learn to See

Fact:

Almost everywhere across the globe people are faced with challenges that seem insurmountable in their scope. There are complex and interconnected challenges to our governing institutions, our economic stability, public health on a global scale, and even our personal well-being. To state the obvious, we are dealing with an awfully lot as we head into 2021.  Some refer to these as VUCA days. These are days when the challenges we face are best described as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

Given this reality, how then are we to SEE our way forward?

Science reminds us that the ability to SEE is located in our brains, not just in the two orbs that peer out at the world. Emerging neuroscience has broadened our understanding of perception as an extremely sophisticated phenomenon that goes well beyond the mechanics of literal eyesight. Perception is shaped in decisive ways by a host of emotional factors that both filter and highlight what and how we “SEE” the world around us.

Action:

In the midst of a VUCA world, practice Resilient Leadership’s “New Way of SEEING” by committing to a regular practice of observing how the emotional dynamics of our nation, our communities, your work or home systems are playing out.

Try It:

Choose a time and place when you can “get on the balcony” and simply observe without judgement. Step away from being so heavily involved in the drama around you that you lose your focus. Watch how your children interact at play or observe the shifting roles that co-workers play in routine meetings. You might even take notes on such things as the subtle reactivity you observe around anxious conversations, the reciprocal patterns that characterize work or home triangles, the Over and Underfunctioning on the part of certain individuals and others with whom they are connected.

It’s always easiest to observe the flow of emotions in others—but don’t fail to include a healthy measure of self-awareness as you grow your observational skills. Regular practice, for 15 or even 5 minutes daily, will strengthen your ability to SEE the workings of the emotional systems to which you belong.

You’ll soon discover that the heightened perception you bring to situations will result in greater clarity as you seek to envision the way forward in a VUCA world.