workplace

Confessions of a Perfectionist

I haven’t written a blog post in over two months. I want to write something from my heart - something that will grab your attention and lead you to share this blog with all of your friends. If I’m honest, I want more than that. I want you and your friends to hire my team and I.

So it feels like I have to be authentic, relevant, and insightful. I’ve filled myself with a perfectionistic pressure, creating a level of expectation that I cannot meet. So, yes. It’s been two months. I hid behind busyness when I needed to just be vulnerable, real, and let you in.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is an attempt to control or manage ourselves, others, and others' perceptions of us - and it often thrives on intangible goals. In the workplace, perfectionism can be a chronic source of stress that actually leads to procrastination and a lack of productivity. When we are worried about accomplishing intangible goals, we tend to bypass or dismiss the attainable ones that lead to progress. In an attempt to be perceived as productive and successful, we then mask our procrastination with busyness. The hardest part of perfectionism is the drive to stay hidden instead of risk being vulnerable and seen.

The first goal, then, is to recognize the presence of perfectionism in our lives and become aware of its' impact on ourselves, our work, and our relationships.

  • As a leader, how often have you hid behind busyness instead of letting your team or others in?
  • How much have you let perfectionism get in the way of connection?

Next, we can choose to be vulnerable, let our flaws be seen, and let trusted people into our perfectionism and the fear that drives it.

  • What would happen if you let your team into the insecure places of your heart?
  • What if they joined you and felt a freedom to be real with you as well?

Finally, we can choose to see it as an opportunity for growth, shared human experience, and connection with our team.

  • What would it be like to see your team come alive, engage, and accept you right where you are?
  • What would it be like to become an agent for real change where your team knows they can be human at work?

No need for them to hide, manipulate or front that they have it together. No need to live in fear of being exposed. Every team member will know that they can be who they are and be accepted, wanted and pushed to be their best self.

Ultimately, cultivating authentic relationships is the key to building healthy teams and organizational cultures.

In authentic relationships, trust soars and people can easily see your strengths and know how to leverage them for the good of all. In teams that value authenticity, politics are at a minimum, engagement is high, turnover is low, people produce more and go about their work with far less confusion.

It feels risky to be real. Yet when someone in the room risks being real, the rest of us admire them and feel a pull to be real as well.

Someone has to start that. You as the leader are the best one to start.

Chew On This:

  • What step will you take to be real today?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company that supports leaders in developing in-demand high performing teams

 

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

 

How To Effectively Deal With Anxiety In 15 Minutes or Less

One of the top struggles for leaders is learning how to manage their anxiety. As a leader, you carry an incredible amount of responsibility. You have people counting on you. You want to continue to grow and excel, and you want to have an impact. Given the complexity of the obstacles before a leader, their anxiety can often go through the roof.  However, they know that they are being watched carefully, by those who report to them, peers, and those they themselves are accountable to.  Consequently, many try to stuff their anxiety. They “act as if” everything is okay, finding the silver lining in whatever it is they are going through, and waiting till no one is around to allow themselves to fully feel the anxiety that is just under the surface.

Studies have shown that some amount of anxiety can actually help performance.  However, many times anxiety can get so strong that it works against us.  We are not able to generate solutions. We may find ourselves unable to fall asleep, or we wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep. Or we may start stress-eating, or stress-fasting.  Perhaps we are not fully present in meetings, or are not hearing our direct reports when they really need us.  Anxiety can take different guises.

I want to offer a simple, tangible tool to decrease your anxiety in the workplace (and in your personal life!).

Do you want to deal effectively with your anxiety in 15 minutes or less?

Download this Excel spreadsheet and I will walk you through a way to do just that. Afterwards, I will give you an example of how I used it to overcome one of my worst recurring anxieties.

Looking at the worksheet, follow me along. You need to be detailed in columns B-F.  The more details, the more you should feel your anxiety being impacted as you go from column to column.

Column A: The date when you are doing this exercise for the anxiety you are currently facing (no details here :-)

Column B: Write in detail the absolute worst case scenario that could arise from the situation that is currently making you anxious.  Describe the factors that make this the worst case scenario, and write what you would feel if that scenario arose.  Do not hold back on details in this column.  You know you are doing a great job if your anxiety picks up, or you can clearly recognize that your anxiety would be horribly higher if that worst case scenario were to happen.  Once you feel that, immediately go to column C.

Column C: Write what good options can come if the absolute worst case scenario happened.  If you did a good job in column B, it should be hard to think of more than one good thing that could come from that worst case scenario.  This is where you have to break down the question by relating it to specific parts of life.  In other words, what good could come....

  • Vocationally
  • Relationally
  • Emotionally
  • Mentally
  • Financially
  • Spiritually
  • Physically
  • For each person directly impacted from the scenario
  • For loved ones
  • For your team
  • For your overall organization
  • Etc.

You know you can stop thinking of options when the edge has been taken off the anxiety and you are starting to feel hope.  You probably still feel anxious, but it has gone down a couple of notches and you can begin to see a way forward.  Then go to Column D.

Column D: Describe the actual scenario you find yourself in.  Once again, you want to state the facts of what you feel along with what you would feel about the facts.  You need to be detailed here.  Really describe it until you can taste it.

Column E: Generate options for what good things can come from Column D.  Since you have found options through the worst case scenario, you should see options for column E.  Literally, you can copy and paste many of the ones from Column C, but here you will get more specific about what you’re actually facing.  You need to keep generating options until you feel hope and your anxiety has gone down tremendously.

My Personal Success Story

Here is a template for what this exercise could look like.  It is a bit embarrassing for me to share this, but it proves how well this tool works.

I used to write business plans for a living and, with the exception of two years of my life, I have always run my own business.  I went to business school and studied business cycles.  So you would think that I would not get overly anxious about the down side of the business cycle in a calendar year.

Yet, despite all of the evidence that shows how predictable the down time is, and even more, the clear evidence that things pick up at about the same time every year, I used to get really anxious during the downtime of the business cycle.

My wife would always look at me and say, “It was like this last year” or “This year is not as bad as last year." And sure enough, things would start to turn around. But year after year, I lived with anxiety.

So if you have the What Good Could Come From This? spreadsheet up, let me walk you through what has put a permanent stop to this recurring anxiety.

A few years ago, I wrote the date in Column A.

Then in Column B, I wrote out the absolute worst case scenario that could come from the downtime in the business cycle.  Here is what I wrote:

During a down business cycle, not just 20-25% of clients drop, but all drop.  As much as I try to generate income for my family, we wind up losing all of our assets, including our house.  Then my wife, my kids, and my in-laws are forced to live under a bridge.  I would see them suffering and feel guilty, ashamed, desperate, isolated.  I would believe it was all my fault that this scenario happened and I would feel crushed by it.

When I got to Column C, I could hardly think of one good thing that could come from the worst case scenario.  So I focused on what good could come in different parts of my life.  Here is what I saw, and I wrote:

Any time I have gone through a career change, a better option has emerged. It could happen again in just the same way. My wife and I have always been tight during hard times - this one could be the same.  I could get more time with my kids.  My in-laws are incredibly gracious and resourceful.  They would help brainstorm ideas. I would be walking a lot more so I would be in better shape.  If I lost all my assets, then anything that gets added would be better financially.  I would have more time to think and get creative.  I could even get positive about this situation if I saw good things come.  It would teach me to be mentally resilient.  I could see people at my church help us in unexpected ways.  God and I could get tighter and I could see Him act in unexpected ways.  Those on my team could find other opportunities.  They are gifted and resourceful as well.  Or they would brainstorm options with me and our company could emerge better than ever.

At that point, I started to feel a little better and had a little hope, so I jumped to Column D.  I described the actual scenario as follows:

There are only two times of the year when the business cycle is lower.  Just as summer is starting there is a brief 10-15% drop. It lasts a couple of weeks and then picks up again, especially with more training gigs.  Then, a week before Thanksgiving through the second or third week in January, there is a 20-25% drop.  Although I get really anxious during this time, all that happens is that we eat out less and we dip into savings a little.  But I get really anxious and believe that it is going to dry up.  I get clouded, don't make the most of the time I have, stay down despite others noting that we experience this drop every year. The holidays help but I am still somewhat distracted.

Then when I got to Column E, it was much easier to generate options for what good could come from the actual scenario.  Here is what I wrote:

  • Vocationally - I have time to do what I don't get enough time to do (i.e. business development, train the team, get ahead on blogs, get trained on the things that will advance clients, take a longer vacation, etc.)
  • Relationally - I can take advantage of the situation and spend more time with my wife and kids.  It would be great to hang more with friends.
  • Emotionally - I can rest up more and do a better job at processing my own emotions.
  • Physically - I can work out more--go after more FitBit Workweek Hustles and beat top competitors.
  • Financially - I can review how my company and family spend money, and eliminate where we are wasting money or find better, more economical ways to accomplish what we want to accomplish.
  • Mentally - I can dream more, focus on gratitude more, do more brain games, even get unplugged more.
  • Spiritually - I can up the times I spend connecting to God in ways that have been meaningful.  My wife and I can take an extra weekend away right in the middle of the holiday rushes.  The kids and I can do more fun things.  The team and I could also do a fun holiday party.  Our company can volunteer and help others.

By the time I was done, I felt great.

I’ve found that in order to experience what I did, you have to give Columns B-E lots of detail, especially in the emotional description of what you could feel (if the worst case scenario happened) or what you are currently feeling (from the actual case scenario).  Then you have to generate lots of options in Column E.

You are going to feel so much hope if you do a good job of generating options.  Capture that hope in Column F.  So I wrote:

I feel hopeful and alive.  I feel free.

The very next year, not only did I not have fear going into the biggest drop in the cycle, but I was looking forward to all the things I would do that would move the needle forward.

Clients who have used this tool share that after they have used it a few times, when they face the next anxious moment and open up the spreadsheet, in the process of scrolling down to the next free row, they don’t even have to write anything because the reminder of how they felt hope when using this tool has led them to feel hope about the current situation.

Moreover, clients have shared that eventually, they begin to feel hope when they just see the spreadsheet in their Finder window.

What’s been freaky to hear is that some clients who were diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder and were being medicated for it, have had their meds reduced, and a few have even gotten off anxiety meds completely.

Genuinely hoping this tool pays as many dividends for you as it has for them and for me.

Chew On This:

  • What would remind you to use the What Good Could Come From This tool the next time you feel anxious?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company that equips leaders to develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

 

What Every Boss Wishes You Would Do When You Royally Mess Up

messup I was waiting in a client’s office.  She was running late from a meeting with her boss.

After walking in, closing the door behind her, and giving me one of those appropriate corporate hugs she said, “I am in big, big trouble.  I mean it is bad, Ryan.  I have really failed.”

Then she described how she screwed up.

It was bad.

Now mind you, she is at that level in a Fortune 500 company where you never have to guess about competency.  If you get to that level, you have gone through a tremendous vetting process.  So for her, there was a lot more fear involved as she struggled with how to rebuild credibility.

Moreover, her boss has a reputation for being completely insensitive, harsh, and lacking in grace.

She debated as to whether or not she could fix it before anyone knew.

But when she thought through the question of what she would want her direct reports to do if they were in her shoes, she decided she would want them to tell her.

Then she flipped back.

She wondered if her boss’s reputation did not warrant that she hide the error.

Later she realized that if he ever found out, she would probably be terminated because he would feel he could not trust her again.

How many of us have been in similar shoes?

In toxic work environments, there is a high level of manipulation, covering up, blame-shifting, office politics, positioning, and often backstabbing.  Toxic work environments are toxic because managers have not embraced their responsibility to create a culture where it is safe to risk for the greater good or to own our mistakes when they are made.

If you find yourself in a toxic environment, the plan that I present below will feel really uncomfortable.

I hate to say it, but if your work environment is toxic and there is no desire on the part of your superiors to move towards health, I really hope you can quickly find a place where your gifts are valued and the environment is healthy.

Fortunately for my client, despite her boss’s reputation, the overall work environment is fairly healthy.

Here is the plan that my client and I came up with.  It worked for her, and I hope it works for you:

1. Fully own your mess-up, with no “marketing” whatsoever.

The conversation can open with the following: “Bob, I made a real mistake.  I did X, and it cost Y. I apologize.”

Do not try to blame-shift, minimize, rationalize, or “market” what happened.  Be direct.  Be succinct.  Fully own it.  And don’t forget to apologize.

Make sure to let your boss know that you will also be owning it to whoever else is involved.

If you do not own it, know that if it is major, it will probably be discovered and your boss will be more likely to fire you because your deception has led to a breach of trust.  Toyota Chairman Katsuaki Watanabe explains it best in an interview with Harvard Business Review:

“Hidden problems are the ones that become serious threats eventually. If problems are revealed for everybody to see, I will feel reassured. Because once problems have been visualized, even if our people didn't notice them earlier, they will rack their brains to find solutions to them.”

2. Give alternatives for how you think it can be resolved.

“I have a few suggestions for how to resolve it….” This part of the sentence shows them that you are coming up with options, not just the problem.  It shows that you have fully owned it and that you own the ripple effect.

3. Ask them for input and collaborate to build a solid plan.

“...And I am looking for your insights to build a plan that will bring us to resolution.”  This second part of the sentence encourages your boss to partner with you to solve it.

Your boss may have an initial reaction that seems negative.  However, the higher up you go in a large company, the higher the emotional intelligence tends to be.  So don’t be surprised if they regulate their emotions and even move towards protecting you, and showing you grace.

4. As you and your boss work to develop the plan, pay close attention to why your boss is suggesting what they are suggesting.

Hopefully, you will begin to brainstorm together as to how to handle the situation.  Your boss will want to hear your options first, which will help him/her to see your heart better.

Then your boss will probably refine the option they think is best.

Seek to understand the reasons for the suggestions they are giving you.  The “why” will give you insights that you will be able to use throughout your career.

You will learn how they view an issue, how to protect corporate culture, and, hopefully, how to extend grace when those under you fail.

Be sure to share how you plan to prevent yourself from making such a mistake again.  Never just say, “It won’t happen again.”

Ask for their input. You can say, “In the future I will pay attention to the triggers that led me to lose my cool” (preventative), but then ask if they see things you could do that would encourage growth, like signing up for a course on how to build better work-relationships, for example.

5. Afterward, continue to prove that you’ve grown from your mess-up.

Fully commit to implementing the plan you discussed.

Execute with all you have.

Use the insights that you learned in the brainstorming session in multiple contexts.

People who have grown from mistakes don’t live in self-condemnation.  Instead, they forgive themselves and enjoy the restoration they have been given.  Be grateful for it.  Share your gratitude with your boss and even others on the team, if it is appropriate to do so.

You are still competent and valuable.  You just screwed up and proved you are human.  Don’t be surprised if your boss and others pull closer to you as they see you display the humility and gratitude that come from growing through a mess-up.

You will rebuild credibility faster by having multiple small wins than one big win.  So don’t look for the home run; focus instead on consistent base hits.

As an FYI, the next time I met with my client, she said her boss had done the unexpected.  He really jumped in to protect her.  He was completely gracious and even shared one of his own big failures.

Chew On This:

  • What are you hiding that needs to be owned?  What would be the consequence if it were discovered?

 

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

How I Learned to Grow by Reduction

How I Learned to Grow byWhen I first started off in counseling, I focused on just one thing: helping male porn addicts get real distance from their addiction.  I expected to focus on that for the rest of my career. As I began to work with male porn addicts, I realized a lot of them had wives, and those wives were really hurting.  So the guys would ask me to meet with them.

I eagerly said Yes.

I then spent time researching how to help the spouse of a porn addict.

I also had to learn how to do marriage counseling.

A friend of mine who was a marriage counselor gave me great tips and strategies for marriage counseling, and I dove right in.

As I continued to work with porn addicts and their wives, they began to share how their kids were being impacted by dad’s addiction.

They asked if I could see their kids.

So I eagerly said Yes.

Then I ran off and studied how to work with kids. I hired a mentor who could give me key pointers on facilitating family counseling.

I then began to work with families who were not dealing with a porn addiction.  So I added family counseling to my list of services.

This went on until eventually I was seeing clients:

  • Who were depressed
  • Who wanted to discover what they are called to do, and how they are designed to do it
  • Who were suicidal
  • Who were traumatized
  • Who were abused
  • Whose loved ones had died
  • Who were addicted to a drug or to alcohol
  • Who struggled with anxiety
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Then, my wife discovered an article on coaching and when she finished, she exclaimed, “Ryan read this!.... This is so you!.... You gotta read this!” I was dismissive of the idea of coaching.  However, after pooh-poohing it for awhile, I eventually read the article.

As usual, my wife was right.

So I called former counseling clients who were ideal for coaching, and many signed up.

In time, I saw the same progression in coaching as I had seen in counseling.  I expanded into life coaching, career coaching, couples coaching, executive coaching, business coaching, coaching on writing business plans, and more.

On the advice of a mentor, I created different sites to emphasize these different disciplines.  I also had multiple email addresses.

Soon, however, this became counter-productive.  I found myself getting mixed up, sending clients in one market a message intended for another market. Understandably, this created some brand confusion.

When it became popular to Google someone’s name before choosing to work with them, clients could see all of the different sites under my name, and brand confusion increased.

I wish I could say that I was consistently hitting home runs in all of these areas. Sadly, however, some were only base hits, and still others were misses.

I wanted to do my best to help them, so I undertook a lot of research, hired experts, and began a trial and error process.  I was putting so much effort in so many different directions that my head was starting to spin.  I did not know what to study next.

In essence, I was not running my practice.  My practice was running me.

The Price of Doing Everything

This took a toll on me emotionally. On a typical day, I went from grief counseling in the first session, to brainstorming on a major initiative with a division leader of a Fortune 500 company, to helping a small business owner learn how to use Google Calendar in the third, to confronting lies that an addict client was trying to sell me in the fourth, and then talking a client down from suicide in the fifth.

My hours got longer.

Yes, my practice was doing well financially, but the personal cost was great.  

I gained a lot of weight, saw my wife and kids less, saw my friends even less (increased isolation is not a good thing for an ENFJ).

Then my coach gave me the book Essentialism by McKeown.  This book teaches that we all need to discover our essential intent, and then we need to put all of our energy into that essential intent.  This leads to much higher productivity, true meaningful success, and fun, all while reducing the amount of decisions you have to make (aka stress).

So what is an essential intent?  “An essential intent, on the other hand, is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable.  Done right, an essential intent is one decision that settles one thousand later decisions. It’s like deciding you’re going to become a doctor instead of a lawyer.  One strategic choice eliminates a universe of other options and maps a course for the next five, ten, or even twenty years of your life.  Once the big decision is made, all subsequent decisions come into better focus (Essentialism).”

Discovering my Essential Intent

When I looked at all I did, and I looked at the themes that made the home runs the home runs, I realized what they all had in common:  I was using my gift for getting to the heart.  That is, I was able to help my clients get to the beliefs that fueled their issues.  Once the beliefs were nailed, we developed strategies and plans around those beliefs.  Coaching and counseling clients found true lasting change.  They experienced meaningful success with far fewer burdens than they had before.

To make sure that “getting to the heart” was truly my essential intent, I emailed clients who had experienced home runs through the work we did together, and I asked them, “What is the one thing I do that has been most helpful to you?”  The overwhelming response could be summarized as “getting to the heart." That was great confirmation.

Now that I know my essential intent is “getting to the heart,” my stress levels have come down tremendously.

I have learned graciously to say No to anything that bypasses first getting to the heart --usually by offering the name of someone who could help better than I can.

I have organized all that I do around the theme of getting to the heart, which also means that I am improving that skill.  I am developing a natural strength, and I can’t begin to tell you how cool it is to do what I do best, even better.

I am working fewer hours, accomplishing meaningful goals, making more profit, and beginning to feel like I am finally living.

My coaching clients (and counseling clients, for that matter) are reaching their goals faster than they used to.  They are executing better, in part because we are nailing the root better.

The same thing has happened with the speaking gigs.  When a client says they want to do a workshop on “team building,” I ask better questions, questions that help them get to the heart of what they mean when they say “team building.”  Then I design the workshop around the deepest part of their heart’s desired outcome.

This has led to creating workshops that sizzle now more than they ever have.

I teach my clients the concepts from McKeown's book, Essentialism, and watch them finally attain the work/life balance they’ve wanted. I’ve seen them achieve incredible goals, such as doubling the size of a Fortune 500 division in under four years, and achieving four significant promotions in four years.  Many are reporting to me that their teams are succeeding much better, and with fewer burdens.

How about you?

What is your essential intent?  Here are some questions that might help you discover it:

  • Look at the greatest successes you’ve had. What did they have in common?  What did you do in each of those successes that was similar?
  • What do you naturally do better than others?  How about across time?  What things have you naturally done better across your life?
  • Ask stakeholders, clients, vendors, peers, and others with whom you’ve had home runs:  “What is the one thing I do that has been most helpful to you?”

Chew On This:

  • What would life be like if you were living in your strike zone 80% of the time?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

MBTI Bite: 3 Tips for Working With Intuitives (N's on Myers-Briggs)

MBI TYPE_(1)You know us iNtuitives.... We are your big picture, forward-looking, imaginative members of the work team.  When a detail-oriented person (S on Myers-Briggs) is going through the facts of a situation, the N is disinterested and unimpressed. We will be among the first to pick up our phones to check for texts and emails. No, we don’t have ADD.  It is just that as we iNtuitives hear the facts, we search for the meaning behind them rather than focus on the facts themselves.  Then, when as little as 30% or so of the facts are out, we will see a pattern and “lock and load” on it.  

Intuitives are often described as theorists or dreamers.  We live in the future.  We love innovation and are drawn towards shiny new things (well, maybe we do have ADD.... just kidding).  

We also like fuzzy facts and guessing the meaning behind those fuzzy facts.  

You can spot us by the metaphors we use (see “lock and load” above).

Since iNtuitives make up only 27% of the population (vs. 73% for their opposite Sensor types), it would be easy to underutilize the gifts that iNtuitives bring to a meeting or project.

Here are three tips that can help you work more effectively with iNtuitives:

1. Ask them what possibilities or alternatives they see for resolving a problem.

In many meetings, alternatives are not discussed.  Those who have the bigger titles or are the most credible in the room tend to state their opinion, and the rest of the team agrees.

If you know you have a couple of iNtuitives in the meeting, why not ask them what possibilities and alternatives they might see before the big cheese in the room gives his opinion? This will broaden the discussion and help the team come to better decisions.

2. Realize that their instincts are reliable.

INtuitives get a hunch about things, and they are usually more right than not.  They may not be perfect, but their gut instinct should be taken seriously.  

Since iNtuitives live in the future, they will often describe future events as if they are happening in the present.  Don’t be thrown off by this.  They can just “see” it happening a certain way, and this gift can provide valuable insight for decision making.

This future sight” also means that iNtuitives can often spot a trend before the data emerges to support it.  

3. If you need to give a lot of details in a meeting....

        3a. Tie in the facts you are relating with what the iNtuitives are passionate about. 

In past meetings, you may have sensed that your iNtuitives start to get restless if the presentation is heavy with facts and details.  You need to let them know how these facts relate to something they are passionate about.  This will increase their staying power.

        3b. Ask them to spot any patterns they see.

Another way to keep them engaged is to ask them to jot down what patterns they see amongst all the facts.  If they can write them down as you (or the presenter) are talking, that will keep them interested and engaged.  

        3c. Ask them to spot any possibilities or future trends.

This is similar to 3b above.  If they are alert for possibilities or future trends among the facts they are hearing, it will be easier for them to pay attention.  Once again, ask them to write down their observations for discussion later.

Although iNtuitives make up only 27% of the population, we have gifts that can help Sensors shine.  The idea is to give iNtuitives space to do something different from what is typically done.  Let them discuss the trends, possibilities, alternative solutions, and future-ramifications of a situation. Then, if you are a Sensor, add these insights to your data to see if you come up with a better solution.

Chew On This:

  • How will you run your meetings differently, to incorporate the gifts of iNtuitives?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

Identifying Your Core Beliefs

IDENTIFYING YOUR CORE BELIEFS Have you ever seen a co-worker implode?  That is, really blow up their life?

How about the opposite?  Have you ever seen a co-worker push through difficulties and succeed in unexpected ways?

If you knew what led either to happen, you would know what drives them, and ultimately, you would discover what is at their very core.

How about yourself?  Do you know what led to your biggest failures and your biggest successes in the workplace and in life?

Although beliefs can be found at different levels, deep ones are called core beliefs.  There are very few of those--maybe just one or two--but they are responsible for most of the decisions you make.  You are just not aware of them because they are buried deep in the heart. Discovering our core beliefs can help us understand why we feel and behave the way that we do. It can also help us see our staff in a different light, recognizing that their behaviors are rooted in a deeper core belief that impacts the way they feel and behave, too.

How do you discover your core belief?  

You have to dive into a couple of areas:

  • Family-of-origin

If we got together the people you were raised with and asked a few questions, you will discover that there are belief themes that run through the family - even if each family member is very different.

How do you discover these?  Ask yourself what your family is about.  What matters most to them?  If they are threatened, do they jump into a state of alarm?  Let’s say a family seems to care a lot about what people think of them.  And let’s say we see some inordinately strong behaviors when their image is threatened. The next thing you want to ask yourself is, “What does their image represent to them?”  That’s where the belief is.  So it could be that they believe that if they look good to others then they will have:

  •     Security
  •     Love
  •     Acceptance
  •     Value
  •     Enjoyment
  •     Significance
  • Traumas/Milestones

The more emotionally intense a situation is, the more it impacts our beliefs.  When we go through an emotional trauma, we are so overwhelmed by the emotions running through our bodies that our brain can’t process it quickly enough.  While our brain may numb us out, or even in some cases knock us out, or form memory blocks, our heart seems to scream, “I will never face that pain again!”

The heart then sets up new “protective” beliefs to prevent us from getting into a scenario where we can face that kind of hurt again.  You can spot these protective beliefs because they often seem like an over-reaction.

For example, say a staff member is struggling with taking initiative on a project. If he has had experiences in the past where he has been rejected, shot down, or criticized for his assertiveness, his defense mechanism may be to passively accept others' suggestions. His “protective” belief looks like, “If I agree with others’ opinions, I will be accepted” and “If I take initiative, my team members will reject me.”

Belief changes are not always negative. I have seen others develop new beliefs when they push hard to accomplish a goal, and succeed. The “confidence” that results can be traced to a new belief that came through the experience of pushing themselves.

Once you have listed all the beliefs that you sense derive from your family, and the traumas/milestones in your experience,  then see if there is a belief that binds them all (cue the Lord of the Rings).  That could be the core belief.

Ultimately, recognizing our own core beliefs helps us better understand the way we operate in our workplace. As we explore the root of our core beliefs, we can identify areas where we primarily operate out of maladaptive beliefs. Is our need for approval rooted in a belief that we are never good enough? Is our superior attitude towards coworkers rooted in a belief that without power, we are worthless?

Not only does processing our beliefs help us better understand ourselves, it helps us better understand our staff, too. Recognizing that the behaviors we see are rooted in core beliefs that we cannot see helps us approach staff with grace and understanding. In the next blog, we will talk about how to deal with these core beliefs.

Chew On This:

  • If you wrote out your story and included your family of origin and traumas/milestones that you experienced, what would be the belief themes that come up for you?
  • How does becoming aware of your beliefs affect the way you view yourself and others in the workplace?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.