Idea of the Week Archives

Check back often for Weekly Tips and Advice from the Coaches at Resilient Leadership.

Your Past is Not Your Present!

  • Fact: All of us have default tendencies – those reactions that we instinctively do without thinking when under pressure. Some of these can be helpful (like hitting the brakes to avoid an accident) while others can hinder us (like becoming defensive any time someone criticizes our team). What can be less obvious is how our reactive tendencies have been shaped by our past, and in particular by our early experiences in our families of origin.
  • Action: Reflect on some of your reactive behaviors that have gotten you into trouble – those things you do automatically without thinking when you feel irritated, pressured or threatened. For each reactive tendency that you can identify, ask yourself this question: What happened in my past (including in my family growing up) that makes me especially sensitive to this trigger? If you can link some of your current reactive patterns to situations you faced a long time ago – and see how the situations you face today are not identical to those of the past – it can help to reduce the strength of your reactivity and give you more choice in the moment about how best to respond.

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

To find out how resilient you are click here for your free or full assessment.

Want to get off the Over/Under Function Seesaw? Just stop!

  • Fact: Both overfunctioning and underfunctioning are reciprocal phenomena. That means you can’t have one without the other. Whenever you are overfunctioning, that pattern is connected to underfunctioning somewhere else in the system. This is one of the “iron laws” of emotional systems, even when the connection is difficult or nearly impossible to spot.
  • Action: Think systems, and trust that if you stop your part in this reciprocal seesaw, the other(s) will eventually course-correct and move towards a more balanced pattern. Anticipate initial push-back as you adjust your behaviors. But if you persist in your commitment to a more balanced way of functioning, in the end the other(s) will adjust their functioning as well

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

To find out how resilient you are click here for your free or full assessment.

Reacting to Mixed Messages

  • Fact: All families, companies, and organizations send mixed messages from time to time. In fact, the majority of leaders we work with think they are communicating more clearly and consistently than they are. Most often the lack of clarity or inconsistency in messaging is unintentional, yet the impact on employees is palpable. Mixed messages create confusion, lower trust and in general provoke reactivity in the emotional system. Some employees “resign in place” as a result of the contradictions they see, while others might fight the system or engage in sabotage.
  • Action: If you are a leader, ask yourself where you might be sending mixed messages inadvertently and work to be as consistent and as clear as you can. If you are on the receiving end of mixed messages from your boss or other senior leaders, reflect on how you instinctively react to these perceived contradictions. Do you “resign in place?” or try to “fight the system?” or engage in some other form of reactivity? If so, resolve to respond in a more deliberate and thoughtful way – a way that enables you to still do your best work, while seeking the clarity you need.

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

To find out how resilient you are click here for your free or full assessment.

Avoid the Empathy Trap

  • Fact: The 80-20 rule is a well-researched phenomenon that applies across a significant number of areas that claim the time, attention and energy of leaders. One widely reported statistic is that leaders routinely spend 80% of their time dealing with “problem people” (who are almost always among the lowest performing members of the organization) and only 20% on their high-performers. The Appreciative Inquiry movement has amassed an impressive body of research indicating that what an organization focuses on tends to grow larger; what it neglects, tends to shrink. This goes a long way toward explaining why a leader who is constantly spending valuable time on the “problem people” rarely has much of the creative energy needed to foster a healthy corporate culture.
  • Action: Chapter 8 of our recent book, Resilient Leadership 2.0, is entitled “Avoid the Empathy Trap” and suggests a better way of exercising leadership—a way that can help a leader avoid time wasted offering comfort when what is most needed is challenge. If the 80-20 rule is something that rings true for you, read Chapter 8 (pp. 131-46) and determine which of the Core Practices suggested there will most help you escape the empathy trap.

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

Resilient Leadership Self-Assessment

To find out how resilient you are click here for your free or full assessment.

Up Your Game! Are you ready to work on “self” at a deep (and transformative) level?

  • Fact: Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) has many decades of research and clinical practice behind its assertion that self-differentiation is the key to higher functioning across nearly every dimension of life. Higher levels of self-differentiation are the product of a greater capacity for self-awareness, more clarity around self-definition, and an enhanced ability in the area of self-regulation. BFST research has also demonstrated that growth in self-differentiation is possible when an individual makes a long-term commitment to work on these foundational life skills.
  • Action: Take the online self-assessment on the Resilient Leadership web site and use your scores to help you think about where you would like to focus your growth as a leader in your family or work life. Use the resources suggested to lay out a self-improvement plan that you feel strongly motivated to follow…and that is realistic!

Arlington Coaches Certification Program

Are You A Leader Seeking More Calm, Clarity, and Focus?

Learn more about our Resilient Leadership Certified Coaching Programs

You can make a difference!

  • Fact: Politicians of every stripe—left, right, middle and waaaaay out there—are masters of pushing people’s buttons and raising anxiety over the terrible consequences if their opponents are elected. Their expertise at stoking fears is matched if not surpassed by today’s media, whose breathless announcements of “breaking news” hype even the most mundane stories as if they were of ultimate (and dire) consequence. In a culture bombarded by such anxiety-raising ploys, little wonder that reactive behaviors of all sorts (road rage, mass shootings, etc.) are on the rise.
  • Action: History is replete with examples of the difference that a single individual can make, even in the most troubled situations. Resolve each day to take one simple action in which you will “show up” as a step-down transformer of the anxiety and reactivity swirling around you. It’s ultimately about the power of your calm presence, but the action can be as simple as declining to join in a polarizing conversation or expressing the opinion that the latest political or media hype is exaggerated, distorts reality, and is just about raising fears. Refusing to take the bait, sidestepping the anxiety-hook, will exert a powerful influence on those around you.

Arlington Coaches Certification Program

Are You A Leader Seeking More Calm, Clarity, and Focus?

Learn more about our Resilient Leadership Certified Coaching Programs

Under stress do you naturally draw near to others or distance yourself from others as a way to tone down your anxiety?

  • Fact: We all do it automatically. When under stress we instinctively off-load the built-up anxiety by “talking things over” with someone who will listen; or, in the opposite direction, we take the “I’m out of here” approach to stress reduction. When we do either of these too frequently, we easily lose a healthy balance and become rigid and one-dimensional in our relationships with coworkers, friends or family members.
  • Action: Think about the last few stressful encounters you have had with coworkers, family or friends. Select one individual with whom you want to strike a more balanced relationship. Make an improvement plan; take action; see what happens.

Arlington Coaches Certification Program

Are You A Leader Seeking More Calm, Clarity, and Focus?

Learn more about our Resilient Leadership Certified Coaching Programs

Anxious Times… Here to Stay

  • Fact: In these fast-paced, anxious times many situations, topics and conversations easily devolve into taking a side, taking a stand. “Win-Lose” seems to be everywhere these days. Many of us find we are taking a hard stand for our position, while others of us are quietly withdrawing from the fray.
  • Action: Here is the paradigm shift embedded in Resilient Leadership: Focus on your own functioning, not on attempting to change or persuade others. Stay calm, stay connected and also stay convicted. Practice the basic and powerful three-step process of “SEEING, THINKING and LEADING. Thoughtfully listen to the viewpoints of others, seeking clarity (SEEING). Objectively consider the merits of all points of view, seeking a deeper understanding (THINKING). Speak and/or act in a way that is well-informed and well-considered, seeking consistency with your core values and vision (LEADING).

Arlington Coaches Certification Program

Are You A Leader Seeking More Calm, Clarity, and Focus?

Learn more about our Resilient Leadership Certified Coaching Programs

EQ + RL = Standing on the Shoulders of a Giant!

  • Fact: An impressive accumulation of research data has shown that leaders with higher levels of Emotional Intelligence have a clear edge on a variety of success indicators over those with lower levels of EQ. Resilient Leadership also helps leaders develop their strengths in the critical areas identified by EQ (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship management). But RL adds an important skill set not present in the EQ tool kit: A focus on emotional systems + training in how to “think systems”. Leaders with well-developed EQ have testified that RL has given them an additional, invaluable competency and made them even stronger and more effective leaders.
  • Action: Take the “Are You a Systems Thinker” inventory on pp. 158-59 of Resilient Leadership 2.0 and then read the story of Marvin on pages 9-13. The two Core Practices on page 19 provide accessible steps you can take to strengthen your skills as a systems thinker as you work to become a more resilient leader.

You can get Resilient Leadership 2.0 on Amazon.com

Under stress do you naturally draw nearer to others or distance yourself from others as a way to tone down your anxiety?

  • Fact: We all do it automatically. When under stress we instinctively off-load the built-up anxiety by “talking things over” with someone who will listen; or, in the opposite direction, we take the “I’m out of here” approach to stress reduction. When we do either of these too frequently, we easily lose a healthy balance and become rigid and one-dimensional in our relationships with coworkers, friends or family members.
  • Action: Think about the last few stressful encounters you have had with coworkers, family or friends. Select one individual with whom you want to strike a more balanced relationship. Make an improvement plan; take action; see what happens.

Burnout: Too much or too little? Or, is it something much deeper?

  • Fact: The cause of burnout has been researched from countless social science perspectives, and the resulting data is a thicket of overlapping and sometimes contradictory explanations, most often focusing on such things as too many hours worked, trying to juggle too many demands, getting too little sleep, or having too few supportive resources. The research underlying Resilient Leadership, on the other hand, focuses on a framework that is qualitative rather than quantitative. RL identifies an internal dynamic—high levels of chronic anxiety—as the driver of overfunctioning/burnout, not “too much” or “too little” of any external factors.
  • Action: Identify one situation or relationship where you recognize you often anxiously overfunction. Try to dig deeper and identify the anxiety-laden assumptions, the narrative, underneath your behavior. Try to be as objective and factual as you can, and test the extent to which your anxious fears are realistic, and how you might be overstating the risks you face should you stop overfunctioning. Then take a test drive. Face your anxious fears, take a few “new and risky” first steps. See what happens. Try again. And Again.

Overfunctioning? Can you spot the underfunctioning? It’s there, for sure!

  • Fact: Overfunctioning is to think, feel or act for another in a way that erodes another’s capacity for ownership or thoughtful action. The way an emotional system works guarantees that overfunctioning is always a reciprocal phenomenon. This means that whenever there is overfunctioning somewhere in an emotional system, there is inevitably a re-balancing (underfunctioning) that is taking place somewhere else in the system—perhaps in another dimension of the overfunctioner’s life, perhaps in how another person is functioning, or perhaps in an entirely separate part of the organization. It can be very difficult to spot exactly where/how the reciprocal dynamic is playing out; but even if it is impossible to recognize, you can be certain that it is taking place!
  • Action: Pick a situation in your home or work system that is clearly a form of overfunctioning. (It’s usually easier to see in others than in oneself.) Get up on the balcony to observe the larger system, and try to recognize where some reciprocal underfunctioning may be happening. It’s often not easy to spot the reciprocal pattern, so make a list of the places/ways that you suspect might be evidence of underfunctioning. Use this exercise as a way to practice the important RL skill of “thinking systems”.