Jane’s frustration at ‘not knowing the story of what I’m doing‘ in a new role introduced Part 1.

She identified the inner messages she tells herself that get in the way of her effectiveness:  ‘People move me around. I need to grow up a bit, I can’t just keep bouncing around.’ She identified that to shift these inner messages she needed to challenge strong family and cultural beliefs about tradition, leadership, hierarchy and power. Those messages are reflected in her self-description as being ‘afraid of having so much responsibility’.  It’s not that she doesn’t have the skills, it’s that she doesn’t give herself permission to exercise her own authority to its fullest extent. In the words of her boss, she ‘doesn’t claim her strength’.

Having identified 1. The thoughts that were preventing change, 2. Taken herself off the hook, and 3. Experimented with different perspectives, Jane was able to move on to crafting a new story more consistent with the leader she wanted to be.

4. Craft a new story

Jane’s now working on authorizing herself to be more decisive and authoritative. And to help her do that, she’s crafting a new narrative for herself as decisive and authoritative, both to get her story clear, and to be able to share it clearly with others.

The clarity and focus that comes from deliberately and explicitly re-evaluating and adjusting the narrative of who you are as a leader, what you stand for, your dreams, values and expectations, then rehearsing and using it, helps speed change. Actors speak of the process of ‘dropping in’, the moment they move from playing a role, to the moment of authenticity where they become the role. Crafting a leadership narrative and practicing it helps to achieve this authentic dropping in of the transformed self.

5. Create room for the new

Attention is the currency of leadership’ is one of my favourite Heifetzisms.  What are you paying attention to as a leader? What kind of attention do you attract? How aligned are these two?

Mindfulness practices are a great way to train your attention in order to increase your own leadership currency.  Practicing small moments of mindfulness helps to disrupt habitual responses and create room for new ones, and for creating opportunities to introduce the new leadership story.

The value of these micro-moments is firstly that they are micro. Actually, it’s mostly that they are micro. Brief mindful pauses, focusing on the breath and body scanning, can be done quickly without anyone else noticing. Which means they can be used at any time, including in meetings when things get difficult, and between meetings to re-focus.

Antoinette experimented with being more mindful by rearranging her diary, reducing every meeting by five to ten minutes. During this new free time, she paused mindfully. She focused on her breath for a couple of minutes, then reviewed her new leadership narrative. In so doing, she was able to achieve clearer alignment of her own attention to her purpose during her next meeting, and engaged the attention of others more effectively.

6. Reflect daily on progress

Chunking goals and new moves down to the specific behaviours that can be practiced each day seems to be the most effective way to embed change. And noticing ‘small wins’ is powerful in keeping the motivation for change present.

How to do this effectively for the time-poor executive? By a daily reflection process that asks three to four questions that takes a few minutes at the end (or beginning) of the day:

  • What did I do today to achieve progress on my goals?
  • What got in the way?
  • Who do I need support from?
  • What do I need to pay attention to tomorrow to make progress?

Each day as Samantha packed up her desk and shut down her laptop, she reminded herself of these questions. She sat back down for three minutes and focused her attention on each in turn. She kept a small separate book as her journal to record these daily reflections, partly to help discipline herself to take these moments, and also to help her notice the change she was making through her record of her daily small wins, forming a tangible representation of her progress over time. After the challenges of the work in the steps above, her reflective journal crystallized just how much progress she had been able to make.

As she reflected back on her inner doubts and criticisms, and noticed the shift in her leadership satisfaction and perspective, she was able to recognize the degree of transformation she had achieved.

And Jane is growing daily into her new, bigger leadership self. Her success working with key stakeholders in a politically charged, complex environment has increased, as she can now more flexibly hold her own position while appreciating their various perspectives, allowing the contradictions to stimulate new possibilities rather than anxiety. She uses her consciously crafted narrative to mindfully keep her course, while also providing clarity to others. And she is becoming an ever more powerful leader who claims her strength with increasing ease.

Photo credit ‘typewriter of capricorn’ emdot Flickr CC

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