Success requires focused attention and effort. However, sometimes we work as hard as we can, and yet we fail to achieve. When we are in the middle of this rollercoaster experience, it is nearly impossible to see what is getting in our way. One of the most common reasons business owners hire me to be their CEO coach is to lend perspective and insight with this exact issue. In this series, I am sharing my approach to recognizing the barriers to success and the essential elements for building your success engine. [view series overview here]
Before we begin, let me set some clear expectations. This series is not full of new ideas. At one point, the working title was "Back to Basics." I am asking you to take a page out of the professional athlete playbook and perfect the basics.
Evolving and sharpening foundational skills get you to the top of the game and keep you there, so let's begin!
Every good business coach will tell you that language is a powerful window of insight. When I talk to clients, I pay attention to the words people use, their body language, the way they frame situations, what they are not saying, and so much more. Language is the most powerful tool in our leadership arsenal because THINKING shapes our ACTIONS, and language expresses our THINKING.
Here are some examples to help you unpack this idea.
One path to creating different results is to reverse engineer this process. Deconstructing language allows us to deconstruct our autopilot thinking, opening the door to adopt new ways of thinking that create positive results. Here's a personal example.
After my first child was born, I was overwhelmed. As beautiful as having a child in your life is, no one can prepare you for having a human depend upon you 24/7. My husband is an amazing and involved father, and yet there were times when I wanted him to step in and take over the baths, diaper changes, or baby comforting to give me a break. At first, I stayed silent, but this grew into resentment. I found myself thinking of passive-aggressive lobs to throw at him like, "Don't you think I've changed enough diapers today; maybe it's your turn?" Thankfully, I stopped myself and recognized the error in my thinking. It was unfair for me to expect him to read my mind. If I wanted more help, I needed to own it. I owed him the respect of stating my needs clearly and asking for his help - "Hey, I need some time to myself in the evening. Could you help me by taking on more baby care between dinner and bedtime?" By switching my energy from expressing my frustration to taking ownership for expressing my request, I shared my why in a productive way that my husband could hear without feeling defensive and accept without negative baggage.
Social psychology teaches us that language also gives insight into our beliefs. Experiences shape our beliefs. Our beliefs form our bias, an automatic way of viewing the world and responding, which seems entirely rational to us. When our bias activates, the ability to process new information and gain insight eludes us. It is also a time when our behavioral response is automatic. The speed between thought and action is almost instantaneous. Unfortunately, the design of the human brain facilitates the creation of these super-efficient pathways. Deliberate effort to recognize and break these thought patterns is the only way to change them. For more information, I recommend "What Really Drives Your Life? Thoughts, Feeling... Or Wisdom" by Michael Mamas. Here is one of my favorite quotes from this Huffington Post article.
"Wisdom is a process—the process of sorting all this out so that our thoughts and feelings are consistent with our true nature. Wisdom then, is the process of filtering out biases and distortions that arise through conditioning."
Language is more than the words we write or speak out loud. Often the longest-running dialogue in our lives occurs inside our head. Building the skills to recognize when that voice is negative or limiting and pivoting to questions that open possibility is an essential step in building your success engine.
If you live in Louisville and want to learn more about harnessing the power of language, here are a couple of upcoming learning events that may interest you.