Team Relationships

The You in Me, A Look At Projection

everything that irritates

To be a truly exceptional leader necessitates that I become vigilantly aware of myself in the moment. In the moment when I am facilitating a team meeting to figure out how to get a project back on track. In the moment when a co-worker enters my office for our weekly 1-on-1 conversation. In the moment of quiet reflection during an annual offsite.

In the video below, I overview a common, often unconscious, phenomenon occurring during these ordinary leadership moments, called projection. Projection raises my awareness to a certain behavior or quality, typically through a negative experience of this quality in someone else. Rather than simply being annoyed or frustrated by this negative experience, projection invites me to consider a deeper purpose. The quality or behavior that has captured my attention mirrors a part of me that is ready to step into the light and be seen clearly. Our projections, if we’re willing to acknowledge them as such, provide a pathway for our continuous growth and evolution.

Any given moment of my day has the power to become transformational as I courageously and honestly look:

  • at my silent opinions of others
  • at my judgments and criticisms of myself
  • at my assumptions
  • at the meaning I am attaching to a situation or circumstance

Watch the video below to learn more. Use the questions that follow to help you look courageously and honestly at the growth opportunities projection may be inviting you into today.

The Invitation: Owning Our Projections

  1. Call to mind the meetings, conversations, interactions you’ve been a part of today. Recall any person who may have caught your attention, whether positively or negatively.
  2. What were your thoughts or feelings about this person? Write these down.
  3. Take a look at what you’ve written. Could any or all of these thoughts and feelings be projections? Keep this list with you and commit to noticing yourself – becoming an observer of yourself in your daily interactions. Always asking, what was I thinking about him/her during that encounter?
  4. Remembering the purpose of projection is to call our attention to a part of ourselves which is ready to be seen more clearly, spend a few quiet minutes each day wondering what within you is wanting some attention.
    • Is it time for you to own a positive attribute that you’ve been denying in yourself (like in my example, my ability to keep myself calm and focused during difficult interactions)?
    • Is it time to own up to an undesirable attribute and take greater responsibility for your thoughts or behaviors?

Doing the honest work of taking back our projections can feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar. We’re entering uncharted territory! Precisely where we need to be if growth and transformation are what we desire. But you don’t have to go in alone. Want a trusted partner for your journey? I’ve got my galoshes on and we can muck through it together! Give me a call.

Let’s BE the Change

Be the change

“We must Be the change we wish to see.” We hear this quote so often. Recently, I wondered if I really understand what it means. Or if I know how to actually go about “being the change.”

I often think about what I want more of in my home, reflecting on what I’d like to see different or better within our family environment. Let me share a story that illustrates one way I “became the change I wished to see.”

My daughter, Abigail, had a tough school year in 5th grade. Math, in particular, was not much fun. Frequently, Abigail would lay in bed at night and tell me that she was worried about a particular class, a particular teacher, or afraid she would forget all the state capitals she’d just named earlier in the evening. Knowing what was happening in her heart and in her mind, I wanted for her to have more self-confidence; a stronger belief in herself and her capabilities. I also desired for our home environment to provide more affirmation for one another.

So I made it a point to regularly let her know that I believe in her. That I know, whatever she is faced with on any given day, she’s going to handle it. I set an intention to provide the confidence for her that she was unable to provide for herself at that time.

This awareness and intention setting on my part helped her inner dialogue change from “I can’t,” I’m afraid,” “What if…” to something much more affirming and reassuring. And her inner shift was made possible through conscious action on my part to BE those very qualities I wanted to see more of in my world.

How about a workplace example.

I was coaching a team the other day. After a couple of activities that surfaced undesirable aspects of the team’s dynamic, someone said, “They just need to stop talking and do more listening.” This was followed by a few more comments of what “they” need to do. I asked if anyone was familiar with Gandhi’s wisdom of “being the change” and what did they make of it. We used the opportunity to, individually, write down the 1 or 2 qualities that we each most wish to see more of in our “world.” And to come up with 1 or 2 specific ways in which we could BE that which we most wish for.

For example, qualities desired included: positive, empathetic, non-judgmental, and curious about others. Specific actions identified included: be vigilant in my self-awareness to surface my own negative thoughts and criticisms of others, and to look for opportunities everyday to positively acknowledge a teammate.

This is the opportunity we have each day. To contribute to the desired environment in our relationships, our homes, our workplaces – not by simply wishing for others to change – but by BEING the change ourselves. By taking initiative to create what we want, rather than complaining about what we don’t want.

I want my household to be a more peaceful place, I start by being peaceful.

I want my team environment to be free of blame and judgment, I pay attention to my own blame or judgments (even when they’re unspoken), and I work to release them.

I set intention to let go of what’s undesired and step more fully into what IS desired. When I bump up my level of intention and engagement, I become an active force for the desired change. Rather than remaining a passive force for tolerating the status quo.

We, each one of us, have the ability to impact positive change. Our family, our team, our community, will become the desired family, team, community when each member embodies and personifies the desired change. So let’s – you and I – go first.

What is the change that you want to see in your world? More love? Gratitude? Trust? Forgiveness? Joy?

Let it begin with you.

What If It’s Me and Not You?

everything that irritates

“My co-worker really made me mad yesterday. He was so insensitive to my concerns! You should’ve heard what he said. The way he blew me off was just plain wrong and really has me upset and angry.”

For many of us, our knee-jerk reaction to disagreements or conflict situations is to look at the other person. To cast blame ‘over there’. Away from me. I can clearly see what “his problem is” yet am blind to my own contributions and shrug off any suggestion that I might be part of the problem too.

In my work with tons of organizations and teams, I’ve rarely encountered the person who easily or automatically starts by looking for his or her part in creating a conflict. After all, self-preservation is hardwired into our brains!

Yet, blame, finger-pointing, stonewalling, triangulating, or avoiding, never serve any of us.

What if I did contribute to the frustration I experienced yesterday? What if I began by looking inward…

Read more →

Isolated in Community


Isolated in Community


A few weeks back, I wrote about talking to strangers. In addition to talking to “strangers,” I’ve also been experimenting with accepting their acknowledgements and assistance when offered to me. How many times has someone asked, “Do you need a hand”, or “Can I help you with that,” to which my immediate response is, “No thanks, I’ve got it”.

Even when those statements are true – and let’s be honest, there have been plenty of times when I politely denied help that I really did need – why not accept the help? Why deny that individual the opportunity to lend his or her kindness and generosity to another human being? And why deny myself the opportunity to be on the RECEIVING end of kindness and generosity?

We do not live or work in isolation. Yet, we often behave as though we do. As if we are “in it alone” and must bear life’s burdens, big and small, without help or companionship. The truth is we live in a society. A community of fellow men and women. Each dealing with his or her own version of life’s challenges, joys, hopes, and setbacks.  The belief of isolation is a lie (part of the “Lie of Scarcity” which I’ll write more about soon).

Isolation has become such an ingrained and accepted lie that we align our behavior accordingly. Not wanting to share many details of our lives, our default behavior is often to deny ourselves and others the opportunity for connection. Which leads us to feel separate from one another and disconnected, living right into the lie of isolation. This is a common experience in our workplaces too.

The truth is we are always interconnected; even when we don’t feel as though we are. I need you. You need me. What if we lived from the truth of interconnectedness, community, & camaraderie, rather than from the lie of isolation? How do we do that? I wrote a few thoughts in previous articles (links below). And if you’re ready to dig into the how of shifting your own personal beliefs about isolation and scarcity, the best place to do that is in a 1-on-1 coaching relationship. Give me a call or an email. Let’s get started!

Previous related articles:

What was Gandhi Talking About Anyway

Rediscovering Magnificence

Chinwag No More!



The Art of Blanking Out

When I work with a team to define Shared Values or Guiding Principles, ‘open-mindedness’ shows up in the conversation every time. We all want it. We often feel frustrated or angry in its absence. We believe we’re doing it well, and we’re wishing others were better at it. What makes open-mindedness elusive? I postulate that we’re asking for the wrong thing. Perhaps it’s actually something else we want, not open-mindedness. Stay with me; let’s break this apart.

Definition: Open-minded – ready to entertain new ideas; receptive to new ideas; not closed or shut
Synonyms include: fair-minded, tolerant, objective, impartial, available
i.e.: I’m receptive to hearing your opinion.
i.e.: I’ll tolerate your views.

What I believe we’re wanting when we ask for ‘open-mindedness’ is:
to be listened to
to be heard
to be understood
to not be judged or criticized
to be free to see things in our individual way
to be validated

Working or living with someone who is ‘open-minded’ does not meet the above desires, though it is a good start. What people really want and need from one another is a deeper level of presence and attentiveness. I’ve been wondering how our conversations would shift if we were BLANK-minded?

Definition: Blank – Devoid of thought or impression, Containing no information, Empty, nothing filled in.

Blank-mindedness implies a complete emptying. My mind is not only open to receive YOUR viewpoint, it is also empty of MY viewpoint. Detached from personal biases, opinions, and evaluations. Having no personal agenda or pre-determined outcomes. The level of listening and conversation flowing from a blank mind cultivates fertile ground for shared understanding, growth, innovation, connection and trust.

Blank-mindedness is not an easily accessed state for many of us. And yet, with intention and practice, blanking out becomes easier and easier. A side benefit of being blank-minded is the authenticity and connection that we experience when fully present with another human being. We listen more deeply. We hear and understand more readily. Offering this quality of presence to another creates strong connection and is at the very heart of trust in relationships.

I present the three steps below as a starting place for experimenting with being blank-minded. In a follow-up post, I’ll write about how to shift our listening to a deeper level to further enable the blanking out process.

4 Steps for “Blanking Out” (who knew it could be a good thing?!)

    1. Be present. Going blank is putting your full focus and attention on only the person and conversation right in front of you. Forget what’s come before. Reel in the thoughts of what might happen next. Philosopher Martin Buber said: “In spite of all similarities, every living situation has, like a newborn child, a new face, that has never been before and will never come again. It demands of you a reaction that cannot be prepared beforehand. It demands nothing of what is past. It demands presence, responsibility; it demands you”.
    2. Listen without evaluating. Stay attentive to your inner dialogue during conversations. Notice when you find yourself evaluating the other’s words or ideas, such as “He seldom follows through on that” or “That won’t be as easy as she thinks.” This is a form of judgment, which is often based in assumption and can lead us to premature conclusions – essentially the opposite of blank-mindedness.
    3. Call on your curiosity. Curiosity is open, inviting, spacious – unattached to any outcome. Curiosity cannot co-exist where there is judgment and assumptions. One clue that we’ve shifted out of curiosity and into judgment is when we find ourselves “knowing”, as in: “I know where he’s going with this…” “I know how she feels…” “I know the way this is going to turn out…” Release your “I know” thoughts. ‘Blank’ your mind to what you know, and expect to learn something new.
    4. That leads us to the fourth step: Believe. Believe in new possibilities. Believe that there is something new for you to learn or experience in any particular conversation. I heard a scientist once talk about the limitless nature of all there is to discover in one lifetime. We could explore, seek, inquire, observe for an entire lifetime, and not come close to “knowing” a fraction of all there is to know about our world and one another. That’s what makes life a magical adventure. Look for the newness, the magic, around you – even in familiar places – and expect to be surprised.

 Print out my reminder card How to Blank Out 1-18-13   or printable picture for your desk!   Be Present Be Curious Be Authentic

All I Need to Know… reflections on what’s important via Robert Fulghum

This resonated for me the first time I read it years ago and still does today. Enjoy an oldie-but-goodie from Robert Fulghum:

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.

Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.


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