Zen Leader Blog

Leadership Advice: Why "Experiencing" is better than "Showing"

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Apr 13, 2013 7:18:00 AM

laughingAs leaders, we are often in teaching mode - communicating our vision, letting others learn from our experience, and correcting and adjusting our course to accommodate the winds of change. But there are times when it's best to sit back and let others experience the situation rather than be led through it, in other words, to lead from behind.

This was one of the hardest lesson for me to learn. Maybe it's the mom in me. I was forever in "teaching" mode and it became very easy to carry this through to my managerial style. But there are many things better learned firsthand, by really feeling it. Here's a few I'd like to share.

Not everybody wins
Learning to lose graciously - now there's a good life lesson! You gave it your all, it was darn good stuff, you pitched it flawlessly and they went with somebody else. Having spent many years as a creative director in advertising, I can tell you, this scenario plays out all the time. But for every winning team, there is at least one losing team. You can't lose sleep over it. After a defeat, the faster you can get your team to "acceptance" the better off you'll all be. At your "post-mortem meeting," do a thorough review of what worked and didn't. Get everything out in the open, including time to vent. I encouraged everyone to keep a file drawer with "great work that didn't sell." You never know if it may find life in some other variation somewhere down the road. It also helps us remember that doing great work still matters, whether it wins the day or not. Just keep doing great work, and the rest will take care of itself.

In the book, The Zen Leader, by Ginny Whitelaw, she talks a lot about this letting go and not taking things personally in the "flip" From It's All About Me to I'm All About It.  If we peel back the layers of frustration when our work doesn't have the desired outcome, we'll usually find a fear underneath about not being good enough, secure enough, appreciated enough or something enough.  When we quit "requiring" that our work somehow lead to personal sucess or admiration, we can put it out there more clearly, more cleanly in service of others.  "When we are that leader who is "all about it," "it" manifests more completely through us in the Now, without the footprints of self-doubt or self-glorification," states Ginny.

Take me there with you
I've seen hundreds of pitches with all the best visual aids you can imagine, but those pitches generally didn't work when people just told or showed me their solution without letting me experience it or arrive there with them.  Sometimes I'd find myself thinking, "I know this is your baby and you've been living with it for weeks now, but I'm seeing it for the first time, so don't just spring it on me and expect me to be as enthusiastic as you are." If you want others to be enthusiastic about your idea, put yourself in their "beginner minds," and take them on a journey to experience that enthusiasm for themselves. This is a "flip" from "show" (or tell) to "experience," from thinking from your own perspective using empathy to craft a story. Set the stage with a protagonist - maybe you or a client or customer - and the key issue or challenge that must be overcome.  You might share your thought process, or the other things you thought of and rejected, and the "aha" moment when suddenly something clicked.  As you tell your story, it gives a chance for others to experience what you experienced, to feel the passion you feel, and for your passion to show as well. Become a storyteller when making your presentation and you'll have more winners than losers.

Actively engage me
I was fortunate to attend a leadership program at The Institute For Zen Leadership that took this lesson to heart. During the course of this 3-day workshop, our group was physically involved at every step - from the quietness of sitting to active movement in the 4 energy patterns, where we immersed ourselves the experience of each pattern from inside out. Now, maybe it's not practical to get people on their feet during a meeting, but there are plenty of ways to actively engage an audience. I always encouraged groups to interject any thoughts/comments when I was presenting. Some might view this as an interruption, but I never did. Getting conversations going during your presentation does two things: 1) it allows you to become the listener, giving you good feedback that you may be able to use/refer back to later in the presentation. 2) it begins to create ownership with the people you are presenting to.  Some of my best presentations were when this happened and it forced me to "go off script." I remember one in particular, where by the end of the meeting, the whole room was engaged in conversations on how they were going to roll this out internally. It doesn't get any better than that.

What this all boils down to is that people want to feel an emotional attachment to you, your ideas, and your company. This can't be done if you're in coping mode, which defends or distances itself. This is probably why From Coping To Transforming is the very first chapter and flip in The Zen Leader, as it's the starting point of real leadership. "This is one empowering flip," states Ginny. "It reframes everything from a focus on the self-having-a-problem to the creative agent who learns from what's going on and often changes the game...it get's your engergy going in the right direction, which is from the inside out – adding the best value you have to offer." I've included a link to that chapter above. Give it a read. It may change the way you think about transformative power that unfolds rather than pushes.

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Topics: leadership, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw, energy patterns, leadership advice, leaders, Dr. Whitelaw, making presentations, Institute for zen leadership

The easiest way to meditate - EVER!

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Nov 28, 2012 4:45:00 AM

meditating Not sure if my teachers will roll their eyes or applaud me, but I've finally hit on a time and place for meditation that seems to work well for me. Thought I'd share my experience in the hope of helping others of similar mind.

Establishing a meditation practice has been hard for me. Like most people, the demands on my time, not to mention the "importance" factor I like to put on other things, has been my biggest hurdle to overcome. I've dabbled in it for years, but after reading the book, The Zen Leader, I enrolled in a weekend program with its author, Ginny Whitelaw, at the Institute For Zen Leadership (IZL) hoping to kick start my practice. We were on the mats at 6:00 every morning. Wow - what a great experience! So I returned home, all energetic, and quickly watched my sitting, once again, dwindle over time. But persistence runs deep within my DNA, and I was determined to find a way to make this as routine as brushing my teeth. Here's how I finally made it stick:

Make it the first thing you do
I'm an early riser, with plenty of time in the AM for coffee and emails before I "officially" start my day. Deciding to sit, before I did anything else, was the time slot I needed - just like when we were at the dojo at IZL. The mind is a lot quieter in the morning, which helps to reduce all the chatter. But more importantly, there's nothing yet on my plate when I first wake up to distract me. And I am SO easily distracted!

Sit in bed
Speaking of distractions, just the simple act of walking to another room can get my mind starting to churn around the upcoming day's events. So I decided to sit right where I was - in bed (OK… maybe there was a comfort factor in play here as well:-) I take one of my many extra pillows and fold it under my bottom to give me the perfect cross-legged triangle. My mattress instantly becomes a gigantic sitting cushion. I can even toss some covers over my legs to keep my feet warm! "This is awesome!" I say to myself the first time I tried this. Why didn't I think of this before?

Do it for 20 minutes
Don't try and over do it - you'll discourage yourself. Twenty minutes is plenty of time each day to start reaping the benefits of meditation. If you count each breath up to 20, with a long, slow, exaggerated exhale for each one, you can do about 3-3.5 sets of these in 20 minutes. Since you ARE in bed, I suppose you could set your alarm. LOL But it won't take long for your body to automatically know when 20 minutes has passed.

Do yoga as a supplement to your sitting
Meditation is not just a few minutes of your day where you quiet the mind. It's a practice that helps you cut through the clutter, see a bigger picture and make decisions fearlessly. Doing yoga is great supplement to sitting, as it is another breath practice with similar benefits, plus an added one - it's good for your body. Yoga increases flexibility, strength and balance. It integrates the body into a mindful practice that sitting alone doesn't do for me. The incredible thing is that yoga changes me mentally, too. I eat better and take better care of myself when I am doing it on a regular basis. Yoga is a great example of how the body can change the mind.

There are many books that can teach you how to meditate, but where they often fail is in showing you how to establish a practice that is suitable for a chaotic life outside a monastery. This is how I did it. You may also download a free mediation guide to help you get started. I'll be thinking about how many others are joining me on their own pillow-top cushion tomorrow morning. Strike that - I'll think about it AFTER I sit:-)

Gassho and Namaste!
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Topics: meditation, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw, Institute for zen leadership, easiest way to meditate, mindful practice, meditation practice

Do you "walk the talk"… or just take a few steps?

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Oct 29, 2012 7:24:00 PM

walking As leaders, we all make a conscious effort to walk the talk, especially when it comes to implementing change. Showing others that we follow through on our thinking with our own action sets the pace for others to follow.  But sometimes this turns into a very short walk. We can lose momentum, get sidetracked, run into obstacles, or even get frustrated and turn back. Walking the talk is not an easy stroll in the park.

I am in the middle of such a walk right now. Last month I attended a program at the Institute for Zen Leadership (IZL). This was a 4-day immersion in how to make difficult "flips" that can greatly enhance my leadership skills, along with an introduction to zen meditation. I've read enough about the benefits of meditation to know that this could help me immensely, so I went. For the 4 mornings that I was there, sitting on my cushion with the other small group of leaders who had come for the same purpose, I wasn't just doing it, I was enjoying it. I liked how clear my mind became, how refreshed and energized I felt, and I was determined to make this a real practice in my life.

Then I returned home.

I don't need to tell you how quickly this "practice" fell off. Time became my biggest excuse, aided by a dose of procrastination. What struck me is how difficult it is to walk the talk. As agents of change, we are expected to lead the march without faltering. How can I expect others to keep taking those steps if I don't keep moving forward at a sustained pace myself? So, I've put together a few suggestions that have helped me walk the talk, or continue the journey down a difficult path.

Push through the pain and just DO IT!
I know this seems like I'm stating the obvious, but take a lesson from our greatest athletes and push through whatever resistance gets in your way - including yourself. As Ginny Whitelaw (author of The Zen Leader and director of the IZL program I attended) would say, "Get out of your own way!" This might be a "flip" in consciousness, like getting out of coping mode… or a fierce desire to see it through. Find your resolve and determination that came with the original idea and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Don't think about it and just DO IT!
This may seem equally obvious, but recognize that your thoughts can be the greatest procrastinators. Move beyond the question of whether you're going to do it or not do it - similar to brushing your teeth in the morning. Once you shut down the internal debate and simply do what you said you were going to do, you'll find it's much easier than thinking about it. 

Make small rewards along the way
If it's hard for you to keep the momentum going, imagine how hard it is for others who are now in pace behind you? Define some milestones that are quickly attainable and reward them (and yourself) once they get there. This is no different than breaking down an insurmountable task into bite-size pieces. Keep your eye on the end goal, but make it a series of walks, not just one long marathon… and celebrate the little victories along the way.

Keep smiling
A positive attitude works. Don't have it today? Fake it… and keep faking until it comes naturally again. People are looking to you for inspiration. When they see you smiling in the face of adversity, they find hope for themselves and will push through the hard times. Don't ever underestimate the power of a smile in changing the energy around a situation.

Today I am hitting the cushion again and will be doing it tomorrow, too. In writing this, I find a new confidence… one that will carry me through those rough patches of indifference. To walk the talk. To do what I said I was going to because I know this change WILL make a difference.

And I'm going to do it with a little buddha smile:-)

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Topics: energy, zen leadership, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw, leadership advice, walk the talk, walking the talk, leaders, Institute for zen leadership, instituting change

Welcome to the Zen Leader Blog

A blog that transforms:

This blog is dedicated to the concepts described in the book The Zen Leader by Ginny Whitelaw.  In this blog we discuss how these concepts are applied to a variety of current situations and applications, helping us all unleash the Zen Leader within us!

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