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Idiot Compassion

Idiot compassion
refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion.
In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling.
It’s the general tendency to give people what they want
because you can’t bear to see them suffering.
Basically, you’re not giving them what they need.
You’re trying to get away from your feeling of
I can’t bear to see them suffering.
In other words, you’re doing it for yourself.
You’re not really doing it for them.

Pema Chodron

In my work, I've learned that leaders who show up with wise compassion – that is with presence, deep listening skills, and appropriate boundaries – have richer connections and are better able to inspire their teams, manage their schedules, delegate tasks, provide valuable feedback, and mentor their colleagues – which leads to better business results.

What is Wise Compassion?

Wise compassion includes empathy (the ability to listen deeply to, understand, and experience what another person is feeling) plus the desire to help the other person who is suffering. What makes wise compassion a skill is that it requires our willingness and ability to tolerate our own uncomfortable feelings in order to take the action that truly helps the other person while being true to ourselves in terms of values, self-respect, and appropriate boundaries.

What is Idiot Compassion?

Idiot compassion occurs when we convince ourselves that we are helping the other person but what we are really doing is taking or not taking the right action to avoid feeling our own emotional discomfort. This approach can inhibit the other person's growth and lead to overwhelm or resentment for us.

Examples of how Idiot Compassion Shows Up at Home and Work

  • Offering advice versus being present with and listening to the other person and trusting them to find a solution. This shows up at when we try to “fix” a situation for someone versus trusting in the other person’s potential by being present, asking open ended questions to help them figure out what they want to do, and trust that even if they makes a mistake, they will learn and grow from the situation.
     
  • Not providing honest, constructive feedback because of fear of hurting the receiver’s feelings. Providing direct, honest, and constructive feedback takes courage and, if delivered with a generosity of spirit, can be life changing (and a relief!) for the receiver.

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How to Know if You’re Making Progress in Your Meditation Practice!

Worried about your meditation practice? Are you making progress? And is it worth it?

Assess your practice by asking yourself the following questions by Joseph Goldstein:

  1. Are you less immediately reactive in difficult or stressful situations, both in meditation and in life?
     
  2. Overtime, are you generally becoming aware of the wandering mind, more quickly in the sittings?
     
  3. In daily life, the feeling of rushing is a good feedback that we’re ahead of ourselves not beings settled back in our bodies, do you find that your rushing less often or becoming aware of it, more quickly?
     
  4. Is there more awareness with your speech, perhaps refraining a little more frequently from angry or judgmental speech?
     
  5. Is there a little more openness in being with other people, more willing to listen?
     
  6. Are you becoming a little more familiar with the qualities of calm and concentration in the practice?
     
  7. Are you using the tool of mental noting, is it becoming a little more continuous, at least for periods of time? Is the tone of the note becoming softer?
     
  8. Is there a little more ease in being with whatever arises in your meditation practice, simply noting it for what it is?
     
  9. Is it a little easier to sit longer?
     
  10. Are you becoming somewhat more aware of the changing nature of all experience and holding onto things a little less?

Source: As told by Dan Harris in his Ten Percent Happier Podcast #184, click here for more information. 

The Science Behind Gratitude

Our family has a Thanksgiving tradition where each person shares around the dinner table what they are grateful for and why.

If you don't have this tradition, you might consider it because research suggests gratitude activates our parasympathetic (rest and digest) system and positively impacts our brains:

  • Improving general well-being,
  • Increasing resilience,
  • Strengthening social relationships,
  • Facilitating more efficient sleep, and
  • Reducing stress and depression.

Shawn Achor, a Harvard educated happiness researcher who works with Fortune 100 companies, suggests the following tips for cultivating gratitude.

  • Journal – Each day, journal about one meaningful experience by writing down three specific details about it. It's called the doubler because the brain doubles the experience, and you get to relive the experience. And, according to Achor, you only need one positive memory to judge the overall day as meaningful!
     
  • Express Gratitude – Each day find three new things you are grateful for and why. Achor calls this the 45–second disrupter, claiming the practice of spending 45–seconds (about the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth) on what you are grateful for and why, three times a day, has the power to transform someone from being a low level pessimist to low level optimist in just 21 days! The key is to find new things (which retrains your brain to scan the environment for positive experiences) and the why (which attaches positive meaning to everyday experiences that could be overlooked or taken for granted).
     
  • Write a Two Minute Note – Each day praise, recognize, or thank someone by writing them a short email note or text. Achor claims this is the most powerful habit.

For more information, I recommend listening to The 10% Happier Podcast #156: The Science Behind Gratitude with Shawn Achor and Dan Harris.

Tough Conversations

Being able to have tough conversations is an important part of being an effective leader – whether at work, in our communities, or at home with family members. Most people shy away from engaging in difficult conversations because it often feels uncomfortable and/or like they are being unkind. But to quote Brene' Brown: clear is kind and unclear is unkind.

The key to being able to have tough conversations is being clear about what you want to say and how you are want to say it, and having a set of thoughtful questions makes the process more effective and easier – and will help manage anxiety around having the conversation. 

Recently, a client struggled with one of his direct reports who was gaining a reputation for taking over meetings, not listening to other colleagues, and shutting down discussions. As a result, team members did not feel like their opinions were heard or valued, not committed to final decisions and not fully engaged in their work.

My client decided to provide the tough feedback to his direct report – he wanted to see if he could help her shift her behavior from thinking she always knew the best solution on her own to one where she was being more collaborative through active listening, asking questions, and engaging others for their point of view.

My client used the following framework to prepare himself for having the tough conversation with his direct report (see below for his process). This framework was developed over a series of workshops I led for an organization on having critical conversations. Personally, I have used this framework successfully whether at work, at home, and in the school system with teachers as I've advocated for my son and daughter.

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Aimless Love by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Boundaries and Trust

Setting boundaries and establishing trust are a challenging and important part of being an effective leader – whether at work, in the community, or in our families.

An executive client recently found these video clips by Brene' Brown inspiring and helpful, so I’m sharing in this month’s blog. In case you don't know her, Brene' Brown, PhD LMSW, is a research professor at the University of Houston and an author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead.

Setting Boundaries
Brown shares why boundaries matter and how research suggests that the most compassionate people have the best boundaries. Brown defines boundaries as what’s okay versus what’s not okay. And that boundaries enable us to be loving and generous versus being resentful and hateful. Click here to learn more and watch Boundaries by Brene' Brown (six minute video clip).

The Anatomy of Trust and Braving Connection
Brown defines trust as choosing to make something that is important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else and that trust is built in very small moments throughout our lives.

Read more >

Consider The Generosity Of The One-Year-Old

Consider The Generosity Of The One-Year-Old

who has no words to exchange with you yet
and instead offers up her favorite drooled-on blanket,
her green rhinoceros as big as she is,
her cloth doll with the long blond pigtails,
her battered cardboard books, swung open on their soggy pages.

If you were outdoors she would hand you a dead beetle,
a fistful of grass, a pebble,
by way of introduction or just because.
And if, a moment later, she wanted it back,
it would be for the joy of the game
that makes of every simple object an offering:
This is me. Here is who I am.

Read more >

Listening as a Radical Act

               

Active listening is something that everyone struggles with and most executives include as part of their leadership coaching plan.

In the age of iPhones, email, texts, constant notifications, and Twitter “shouting contests,” truly listening can be a tremendous a gift, both for the speaker and listener.

I think listening starts with desire to be a better listener and also includes an ability to turn down our internal chatter so we are able to be present, engaged, and focused on what the other person is trying to communicate. Not a simple task.

Yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise are excellent ways to settle and calm our minds, show up more present, and ultimately listen better.

Tools to Become a Better Listener

  • Click here to hear Jon Kabat-Zinn talk about Listening as a Radical Act of Love (six minutes). JKZ, a PhD in molecular biologist from MIT, is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher who is known for bringing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) into the mainstream of medicine and society.
     
  • Click here to watch a short clip by Simon Sinek on Why Effective Leaders Speak Last, especially in the boardroom (< two minutes)
     
  • Click here to read A Simple and Powerful Technique for Better Listening

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