Zen Leader Blog

Leadership Advice: Why I Should Never Have Become President

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Jun 10, 2013 10:39:00 AM

climbing the corporate ladderBack in the 90's, I joined a small company as a partner in the business. I was one of three. Our most senior partner and President was a natural born leader. People gravitated and got behind him no matter how difficult the circumstances - and believe me, we lived through several! His nickname became "Mr. Smooth" and he was the consummate role model of a leader under pressure. My second partner, Mr. Steady, had been there his whole career, working his way up through the ranks with his eye on the prize. I was the newcomer with industry experience, who brought fresh thinking to the table. Together, we were a pretty unbeatable combination.

When Mr. Smooth decided it was time to start stepping back, Mr. Steady became the new president. Following in his footsteps would have been a challenge for any new leader, but for Mr. Steady the contrast was far too jarring. He never lived up to the role for any of the employees, nor even for himself. He left a short time later in a downsizing round of layoffs and that's when I became the new President. I can't think of a worse way to get handed this position.

The Peter Principle plays out in organizations all the time - highly effective people who get promoted until they are beyond their level of ability. I wish I would have said "no" to the offer of President. I knew it wasn't the right position for me. I was a great number two. Task-oriented and driven, I could accomplish more in a normal work day than most people did in three. But I was lacking a very important attribute, maybe THE most important attribute, for someone at the helm - a clear future vision for the company. But the allure of the title was too enticing and there were no better options within our current staff, so I took the position... and it all slid downhill from there.

Looking back, our attempts at succession may not have killed our little company, as much as the changes going on within our industry, but it certainly helped speed things along. I didn't want to build something - I had my own dream of semi-retirement and wanted to start stepping back myself. Instead of a leader with a vision for the future, the company was stuck in my own near-sightedness. Yes, we cranked up performance and eliminated a lot of debt. But we all knew we were on a sinking ship, like rats racing to a higher deck. What could have been possible with another leader - someone who could see a different future for the company, believe in it and pull others into that shared vision?

In the book, The Zen Leader, there is a very good exercise that illustrates how attracting the future is really developing a shared vision - one that begins with you and expands to your employees. We think of time as a line going from past to present and beyond. But when we change our perspective to Now, we see all that is possible through us in the present. "Leaders who can attract great visions into the present create a new shared reality among a great many people. In organizational life, this shows up as a change in culture," states Ginny Whitelaw. If you'd like to try the timeline exercise on your own, you can get it here.

My take on this whole experience is this: execution without insight is pointless. "Attracting the future doesn't mean we forever stop using the Driver's push or the Organizer's plan; both are indispensable for getting stuff done. But they are infinitely more useful when they serve the insight and vision arising from the connected state, rather than blundering along blindly on their own," continues Ginny. Amen to that.

Our old company lawyer was a very smart man with his name on the door and a Vice President title. Even though he started the firm and added several associates over the years, he never once was its CEO. I asked him once why. "God, no," he said, "I don't want to be President!" There was a man who knew his strengths and built a thriving business never once taking over the reins. I thought it odd at the time, but I get it now.

Know who you are… know what your company needs… and don't get lured into the easy choice. That's my best advice from one who's been there:-)

Topics: leadership advice, the peter principle, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw, Organizer, Driver

Leadership Advice: What to do when you're out of ideas

Posted by Diane Chencharick

May 27, 2013 7:53:00 AM

ideasNobody really runs out of ideas, but sometimes it sure feels that way. Especially those times when you desperately want something miraculous to happen… a big increase in sales, a new client to boost your business, a big idea that suddenly changes everything. Nobody wants to feel like they're tapped out. Here are some thought starters I've used over the years to help stimulate the creative process.

Read something
Pick up a book, a magazine or some other reading related to your issue. Nothing stimulates your thinking like seeing what has worked and not worked for others. When I was an art director in advertising, I began every major project by flipping through a few issues of Communication Arts. Just seeing brilliant work done by others gets the brain excited about the possibilities of the project at hand. It not only puts you in a mode that says "I want to do stuff like THAT!" but it gives your mind creative bits and pieces to begin to play with. I might see a special way that the type was handled, or a photo combined with a chunk of color that could give me a starting point for something I'd never tried before. Ideas spawn other ideas. Let the work of others ignite that spark of inspiration in you.

Involve someone
We've all heard the phrase, "Two heads are better than one," but sometimes we feel like WE are the ones who have to solve something, prove something, or lead the way through messy waters. That's ego talking, not what makes sense from a broader perspective. We all have distorting filters that color our perceptions in different ways. As Ginny Whitelaw states, in The Zen Leader, "Our layers of distorting filters based on our human limitations, culture, family, gender, age, strengths, weaknesses, experiences, fears, position in life, and on and on, create our perceptions and the meaning we make of 'out there'." Get someone involved in helping you solve the problem. In fact, get several someones. You'll find the benefit in collaboration and may uncover a solution you wouldn't have come up with on your own.

Step back
If you're like me, when you're trying to fix something and it's not working, you do what you think is the logical thing - push harder. This rarely ever works, yet we continue to drive, thinking more effort will do the trick, when what we really need to do is stop.

One of the flips in The Zen Leader, From Driving Results To Attracting The Future, speaks to this beautifully: "The flip to attracting the future is simply connectedness applied to sense what future is possible and how to bring it into the present. I say 'simply' because it's not complicated, but it IS subtle. If we're driving results full steam ahead, and not getting where we want to go, or not wanting what we're getting, we have to slow down to even approach this state of connectedness in which acute sensitivity gives rise to insight. Better yet, stop."

Take a break, step back, and stop what you are doing. The energy of the situation needs to realign itself and it can't happen when you're pushing. Driver energy is only one of the 4 energy patterns that you have available to use, and the situation is begging for something else. If you'd like a handy desktop reminder of the other energies besides the pushy Driver, you can download a free FEBox (named after the FEBI that measures these energy patterns).

The creative process IS a process, much like gardening. We need to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, feed/water, and sit back and wait. And when we can involve others in the process, like planting more than one seed at a time, a garden of ideas awaits us.

What other idea-generating practices work for you?

Topics: leadership advice, inspiration, generating ideas, ideas, the creative process, energy management, the zen leader, flips, Ginny Whitelaw, energy

Leadership Advice: Listen For the Future

Posted by Diane Chencharick

May 15, 2013 5:50:00 AM

inspirationThis may seem like an odd concept to the make-it-happen mindset of most leaders. It sure was for me. I took great pride and experienced great satisfaction in ticking things off my list, reaching a goal, and striving for the next one. That's not to say that these qualities are bad. They come in quite handy when driving for an end result. But there are times when the desired "result" is not yet clear. I don't wake up every day with a clear vision of what the day will look like or have a need to make something happen. This is when I am most willing to slow down enough to listen. "In listening for the future, we suspend trying to make anything happen, and trust," states Ginny Whitelaw in The Zen Leader. This is what opens the door to inspiration.

Ask leaders where they get their best ideas, and you'll probably hear the winning answer heard 'round the world… "in the shower." Now, nobody gets in the shower to get a good idea or make something happen. But when the water hits our skin and we relax, our minds also open up. We enter a connected state. "It's what happens when we quit trying to make something happen," continues Ginny. "What I've noticed is that if I'm quiet enough to truly listen for what wants to happen, it's always there, always playing."

"In listening for the future, we are also listening to ourselves, because we and the future are not two different things. We are listening for our interests, passions, perhaps a sense of calling or the joy that comes with expressing our gifts. We are listening for what holds us back from the future we aspire to, what is too stuck, too small or too afraid to move forward. As our self awareness grows, the future we wish to attract naturally becomes a more realistic match to who we are."

This still may seem like a far-out concept, but you've more than likely already experienced this many times in your life. Have you ever had a thought suddenly pop into your head out of the blue? Once I was driving to work on a packed expressway when that little voice told me to get out of that lane. I listened - and not 10 seconds later a truck carrying a full load of steel pipe started fishtailing and began losing its load, right there in the lane I'd been in. This was a powerful lesson for me about listening to that inner voice. Another one of my favorite authors, Julia Cameron, refers to this experience as "synchronicity." Some believe it to be the voice of God. Call it what you will, we can all benefit from hearing it and responding when we do.

It can be a difficult path to simply trust when you are in leadership role. We are accustomed to making decisions that are based in solid fact. We like predicable outcomes based in knowledge and experience that follow a clear and defined path. Yet, brilliant ideas don't generate this way. Brilliance comes from those "aha" moments when we are opened up, trusting that the right thing will happen, the right solution will appear, a creative flash of inspiration will occur.

"To flip from driving results to attracting the future, we have to flip into this connected state, which also flips our relationship to time," writes Ginny. I invite you to experience this yourself by doing this powerful timeline exercise from The Zen Leader. It will help you see the connection between yourself and the future, as not a distant thing that's "out there", but as a part of you already.

I have also found that sitting meditation, done once a day for 15-20 minutes, has improved my awareness, thus my connectedness. If you are interested in beginning your own practice of meditation, there are many wonderful books to help you on this path, but here's a little "quick start" guide that can give you the basics.

Listening for the future is a skill that defines our greatest leaders. They know when it's time to push and when its time to slow down, listen and trust. Through constant listening, we connect with the larger forces at work and can use them to great effect. Think about your own experiences and the impact your inner voice or intuitive listening has had in shaping where you are today. Any you care to share?

Topics: awareness, leadership advice, the zen leaders, inspiration, leadership, Ginny Whitelaw

Leadership Advice: Simplification Changes Everything

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Apr 28, 2013 6:26:00 AM

simplicityI've been on a mission the last few years to simplify my life. It actually began out of necessity a few years earlier as I combined households with a man who was a more accomplished "collector" than I was. How did we ever get all this STUFF?! So, it began… an item by item triage that put everything in a category of keep, sell, gift/donate, or throw away. Little did I know that this lesson would carry over to other aspects of my life as well.

In this country, we've all become massive collectors. It goes way beyond the laughable "the person with the most toys wins." Some economist might call it consumerism, but we don't really consume it all. Most of the time it just sits there, taking up space. When you start running out of spaces to put things, we often move into bigger spaces. In 1973, the average square footage of a new construction home in the US was 1,525. By 2010, it had grown to 2,169.

Two years ago, we downsized again into a home roughly half the size. Some things went into storage, but for the most part, we simplified again - taking only what we really needed and loved. No clutter. Pretty soon simplification spilled over into other areas of our life. Our meals became smaller and a lot healthier. It was amazing how good all this felt - like I had more breathing room. And breathe I did.

I found myself drawn to meditation and yoga. The simple act of following my breath increased my awareness of all that is going on around me. I became more aware of all the mind chatter and began to recognize the voice of ego and the fears it works so hard to protect. "By doing less, we sense more," states Ginny Whitelaw in The Zen Leader. This act of simplification is at the very heart of the "flip," from Controlling to Connecting.

In leadership, "we can experience this flip when we do less ourselves and reach out to others more," continues Ginny. "When leaders have delegated away many of their everyday tasks to attend the programs I teach, I always caution them about how much they take back when they return on Monday morning. Who can help? Who can learn from this? Where else in the organization could we get support? The more we connect with people around us and their ideas, the more we scale beyond the capacity of being merely a 'one-man-band.' Not only does connection help leadership scale to greater levels, but it's even essential for the uptake of our individual efforts…It is the flip that gets people moving with us, not because they have to, but because our connectedness brings them along."

Connectedness rewards us in many ways. In its most complete state, we experience Samadhi - where "I" disappears and we reach total absorption in the moment. Athletes call it being "in the zone." But this is not something we can will, rather it is a natural state that arises on its own. We can nurture the conditions for Samadhi through meditation and breath. If you've never tried this, here are some basic exercises from The Zen Leader that are both relaxing and rejuvenating. I encourage you to give them a try.

Simplification has taught me many things. I have learned that I don't need half the things I once thought were important to own. Letting go of material things has allowed me to more easily let go of other things, like anger and disappointment. I also worry less because I spend more time in the moment rather than role-playing future scenarios that never play out. The greater "space" in my life allows me to connect more with people and activities I enjoy. Less is more - I get it now.

I invite you to do this simple experiment. Right now, focus on where you are. Take in your whole surroundings, the smell of the air, the posture of your body and the feeling of your clothes, the things around you. Pick one thing you see. Is it important to you? If it is, appreciate its function and place in your life. Is it something you really don't need? Then do what I did and sell it, gift it, or throw it away… and enjoy the freedom that begins to develop:-)

Topics: simplification, awareness, leadership advice, just enough, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw

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.


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

Leadership Advice On Building Connections

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Mar 4, 2013 6:51:00 AM

connections 180pxHas it ever seemed like the right person came into your life at exactly the right time? This has happened to me on many occasions. For example:
  • the man who introduced me to another man, whom I later married
  • the artist who unblocked me when I was feeling stuck in my work (this has happened to me twice)
  • the teacher who deepened my personal growth or showed me a new perspective to a problem I was struggling with (still counting!:-)
We are forever meeting new people and crossing paths with others, mostly on a casual basis. But, I pay closer attention now than I used to. You never know who may be that next person of influence… the one who will shake up your thought processes, help build your vision or lead you into an area of your life that is not yet revealed.

There is a television show called Touch, now in its second season, that speaks to this same idea. Keifer Sutherland plays Martin, the father of a challenged 12-year old mute son.  He discovers his son has the ability to perceive seemingly hidden patterns that connect every life on the planet. In each episode, Martin helps decipher these numbers and put the pieces together in order to help people all over the world whose lives touched one another – whether they knew it or not.

This whole idea doesn't seem so far-fetched to me anymore. In fact, I try to approach every introduction and encounter with a kind of watchful anticipation. I have stopped passing judgment on who is important and who isn't, and as a result, my life gets richer and more interesting all the time. Judgment, or "limiting beliefs,"  makes us smaller.

In the book, The Zen Leader, Ginny Whitelaw describes how we are our own worst enemies when it comes to limiting beliefs. "'I know' is possibly the most self-limiting phrase in any language," states Ginny, "for it stops our mind on an 'I' that is certain of conventional delusion. Not because we're stupid," she continues, "but because we are working with limited sensors, vaguely grasping a three-dimensional projection of an at-least-10-dimensional universe, through the biases of personality, culture, and so on, selecting what we notice and how we make meaning. In conventional matters, such as knowing the rules of the road or where we keep our toothbrush, conventional knowing works just fine, and we'd exhaust ourselves if we constantly questioned it. But in assumptions we make about the world, our customers, the future, the people closest to us, or the possibility of innovation, we can get huge mileage out of knowing less and learning more."

Are you aware of how your own filters play into the world you create for yourself? Here's an exercise you might enjoy from The Zen Leader that lets you play with these connections between "how you are" and your everyday world.

In this time of global connectivity, where information is now measured in millions of terabytes, our own influence is broader than we can possibly realize. Making connections, and using awareness to uncover the threads that each connection may offer, may seem like a painstaking process, but it's not. All we really need to do, as Ginny states, is "Suspend knowing."

Our future and the potential of our own lives on this planet may be entwined in the very next person we meet. Be aware that even a casual introduction might lead to an important piece to the puzzle.

Topics: leadership advice, building connections, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw

Leadership Advice: How To Expand Your Peripheral Vision

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Feb 17, 2013 5:59:00 AM

sphere of influenceHow many followers are in your camp? How many people do you influence? Have you ever stopped to think about the number? Probably not. It's more staggering than you could possibly imagine.

When we talk of leadership, we're usually referring to our direct reports and other employees within our company. We can also apply it to our customers and vendors. If we think about it, we might extend our view of leadership to our family, friends or even our community. But our leadership doesn't stop there. If we think of leadership broadly as authentically adding value, it can be active in every interaction we have, every day of our lives. There is no OFF switch when it comes to leadership… and no limit to whom we may influence, or how even the most remote individual may influence any given situation. Expanding our peripheral vision to include all these players is key. It will improve our imagination and promote better decision making.

This reminded me of a "flip" from The Zen Leader, from Local Self to Whole Self. Even when we think we are looking at the big picture, are we really seeing all of it? Here is an exercise that you can do from that chapter to show you just how wide your sphere of influence is in any given situation. When we change our field of view to see ALL the players and listen closely to their individual voices, we become aware of crucial perspectives that affect the whole. Our imagination has ground in which to operate and our actions become more tuned to the whole context. As Albert Einstein once said, " Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions." Care to see a glimpse?

I invite you to take this challenge:

Choose one issue that surrounds you and do this exercise, From Local Self to Whole Self. Don't be overwhelmed in the enormity of all the players in your situation, but relax into it and "let intuition operate with your good intentions," as Ginny Whitelaw suggests in The Zen Leader." Through this process of flipping to our whole self, our local self is changed. We are changed in what we notice, what we think, and how we act. Because we are changed, a new reality is possible in the Now. As we flip from local self to whole self, we manifest a whole new picture. And eventually, we don't have to imagine what if we were the whole picture. We can say with clarity, 'I am that'." As you explore these connections and imagine "what if…" see how your own interconnectivity provides boundless possibility.

In this spinning, face-paced world, our influence is more like a galaxy than a single solar system. We never know whom we may influence, or who may play an important role in future events.

It's also important to remember that one does not "become" a leader. It is a privilege given to us by others - and we have no control over its breadth.


Topics: leadership advice, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw, whole leadership

Leadership Advice for When You're Running on Empty

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Feb 6, 2013 10:12:00 AM

low energy


Topics: leadership advice, leaders, rhythm of the day, the zen leader, energy patterns, leadership, Ginny Whitelaw, energy, Driver

Leadership advice - When things don't go as you want them to

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Dec 11, 2012 9:47:00 AM

leadership disappointment Change is hard. It never happens as easily or as quickly as you want it to, especially when you are the one leading the charge. You put all the systems in place… you keep everybody in the loop on your progress… you might even hear little signs of encouragement along the way that lead you to the false conclusion that this important initiative will be a piece of cake. Then it all goes to pot and you ask yourself, "What the heck happened?"

If this sounds all too familiar, I empathize. Welcome to my present world. But this time, I am not taking it personally. I've developed a certain level of awareness over the past few years that is not letting this situation get its hooks in me. Because its NOT about me. So often we forget this and let emotions rule our follow up actions.

The Zen Leader talks a lot about this "flip" in consciousness in Chapter 9, From Local Self to Whole Self. It's a concept that can be difficult to understand, but when you make that flip, it's easy to see that there are a lot more factors in play than you may have initially realized. Here's the basic process:

WHO - Become aware of all the players
Become aware of the many people that are playing into the current situation. Make a mental note of each one, or even write them down. Who are all the immediate players in the situation? Who might be considered secondary players? I encourage you to expand your thinking to future people who may be impacted by this change.

WHAT - Consider the needs and fears
There is a reason, usually more than one, why people are resisting this change - and the reasons can vary widely by individual. Go back to your list of the players and do some role playing. What factor might be swaying them in another direction? What are they fearful of? What need is not being met by this change? This exercise allows you to "become the other person," as Ginny Whitelaw states in The Zen Leader. It might benefit you to write these down as well.

Now, look over your list. Get a sense of the WHOLE picture, not just your own perspective on this change. "The whole-self answers son't necessarily contradict those of the local self so much as add new dimensions, or broaden the approach. They may even reveal a better way to state the goal, or an overarching issue that has to be dealt with first," continues Ginny.

This has been a valuable exercise for me, and I hope can add benefit to you, too. If you would like a more detailed look at this flip, along with some good real-life examples, I encourage you to download the guide: Implementing Change - Understanding All The Players.


Topics: instituting change, managing change, awareness, leadership advice, leaders, the zen leader, leadership, change management, whole leadership. whole leadership development

Leadership Advice: When Your Strengths Are Not Enough

Posted by Diane Chencharick

Nov 13, 2012 6:56:00 AM

flexingThere's nothing wrong with using your strengths to propel initiatives forward. After all, those strengths more than likely got you into the leadership role you have today. But the strengths we know can also become derailers when used in excess. You may also have hidden strengths you're not conscious of.

Let's take a few moments and see what you know and don't know about your strengths, as taken from the book, The Zen Leader.

1) List 5 things that you know you're good at. These could be specific skills (like tennis or negotiations) or traits that have supported you throughout your career (like being good with people).

2) Describe a time when you were completely "in your game"  - totally engaged and able to bring out your best. What skills / attributes did you bring to that situation?

3) List one thing you often wished you were better at.

These traits will generally center on one of 4 basic energy patterns, that connect not only to the way you think, but to your emotions and behaviors as well.
- The power, speed and competitive edge of DRIVER
- The discipline and attention to details of ORGANIZER
- The sociability and resilience of COLLABORATOR
- The imagination, curiosity and risk-taking of VISIONARY

We are able to measure what patterns you favor using an assessment called the FEBI (Focus Energy Balance Indicator). To further your own knowledge, you can take a free mini version of it here.

Why is this important?
Our strengths can take us only so far. The fact is, we have access to all four patterns and to reach our full effectiveness, we need all the players on our inner team to jump in when the situation warrants it. Here's an example.

I was in a new business pitch once, where we had great ideas that were perfect for the prospect. We were in DRIVER mode all the way. But the harder we drove, the more the group began to pull back. Suddenly, things they told us earlier they really wanted were not so important anymore. They were finding problems with everything. So, we pushed even harder. One smart person on our team saw what was happening, quickly took the reins and immediately shifted gears. He jumped into the COLLABORATOR pattern and changed up our approach on the fly. "Maybe we misunderstood your needs. Let's talk again about what's important to you now and if we can't help you, I'm sure we can help you find someone who can." Arms uncrossed, people leaned forward again. A totally different conversation ensued (and we salvaged a very good portion of our work, BTW).

Step 1:  Awareness
We need to be able to access all four energy patterns in ourselves - not just one or two of our favorites. The earlier exercise (along with the mini FEBI if you took it) is the first step in discovering WHAT exactly are your strengths and what patterns are your weakest.

Step 2: Build Your Bench
Once you see the patterns functioning in you, you might also see a weaker one you'd like to cultivate. You can strengthen these players by building a practice around your hobbies, work habits or a number of otherway. Here's a complete list of pracitce suggestions for each pattern if you'd like some help. The more we build our bench, the more comfortable we become moving into any pattern at a moment's notice. In this way we are always fielding the best player for the situation.

Step 3: Field The Best Player
"If all we have is a hammer - as the saying goes - everything looks like a nail." As Ginny Whitelaw says in her book, The Zen Leader, "If all we normally do is push, every situation looks as though it can be handled by pushing. But once we have a well-rounded inner team of pattern players, we are more ready and able to read life situations for the best way to approach them."

Our agility as leaders comes from our deep understanding of ourselves, our desire to be the very best we can be, and our continuous expansion of our knowledge and expertise. Understanding the energy patterns that work within us, is an excellent tool for doing all of the above.

Topics: leadership advice, building your strengths, the zen leader, Ginny Whitelaw

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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