Part 3: Listening To Ourselves
Listening is such an important skill in leadership of the self and others: we have to listen at so many different levels. We constantly have to make sure we are listening to individuals, but we also must keep our ear on the ground, ensuring that we know what the mood is in our department, organization, team, group of friends... Finally, we constantly have to listen to ourselves, ensuring we are still in tune with our core values, that we are not bring too self-absorbed, or that our energy is going in the right direction.
Here is part 3 of the series! Daniel Goleman talks about leaders who are "attuned to their inner signals, recognizing how their feelings affect them and their job performance. They integrate their guiding values into their work. They can deduce the best course of action. They see the big picture and they’re genuine.” Click here to read the full post.
These are the leaders who listen to themselves and will be able to remain calm and stable for others. These leaders offer consistency as well as a reliable and safe source of guidance. The question is, when you have a million things to do, emails to read, people to support, how do you stay attuned? How do you listen to yourself?
Fortunately, there are ways and they are simple. They do require us to make a conscious effort to be in sync with our body and mind, and the effort is more than worth it! Here are some ideas that have proved successful for me. If you have other ideas, please add them in the comments, the more ideas, the merrier!
1) Connect or reconnect to your own core values. Can you identify them? If you were to tell us now what your core values are, what would you say? When you take stock at the end of the day, or the week, have you acted with your values in mind? Do you feel that you made the "right" decisions, according to what you believe is the ethical, appropriate course of action for yourself and others? Our team knows when we are conflicted and team members will inevitably feel unstable if their leader is not acting in agreement with his/her own values.
2) Go inwards regularly: take the time to be alone. This can be tough when you have a family, a job, a dog… but it is not a luxury, as many seem to think. It is a necessity. You don’t have to meditate or do anything (although, it’s nice to meditate! hehe!) but be with yourself. Escape for a few minutes at work, take a walk, alone and just... be. I often ask myself whether I am in the right place. If something feels a little off, can I put my finger on it? Do I need to make more time for myself and dig a little deeper? I do my best to act on the answers I find.
3) Learn to let things go… this sounds like a beast, I know! But it really isn’t. Think of all the things we hold on to… Did you get annoyed when driving, or getting on the subway this morning? How long did the feeling linger for? Was it helpful? You cheeky monkey, you know it wasn’t! There are so many things we hold on to, not simply feelings: situations, beliefs, old wiring that no longer serves us and fo me, a huge thing I tend to hold on to is outcomes. I am so guilty of this! I set out to get a certain result and I do everything to make it happen. Only sometimes, I realize that the outcome I expected is not helpful… and yet I stick to it. I am learning to let go and be OK with changing or even not having expectations. And so, I know it's not easy, but what are you holding on to that doesn’t serve you? And what could be your first step towards letting it go?
Here is a bonus idea… You knew it was coming, and you were right! Find a meditation or yoga practice that suits you. For some, it’s going to a class, for others, it’s an app or videos… Whatever it is, make it happen. Schedule it for yourself and stick to it. I won’t go over all the benefits of these practices, they have been described extensively.
How does yoga help?
Yogic philosophy: One of yoga’s Niyamas (please see “Yoga and Leadership" on my website for more information on the Niyamas), Svadhyaya, translates as self-study. Svadhyaya is about understanding who you truly are by peeling away all the layers that make you forget who you are. It encourages you to consider your beliefs and their origins, the role of the ego, your conditioning through belonging to various communities (family, religion, neighborhood etc.). Svadhyaya is about listening to who you are from the inside, taking away external influences. It's a little scary, but scary good!
Physically: Sometimes, we just need to go inwards. If you are a yoga practitioner, consider focusing on forward bends. Child’s pose is a wonderful way to go in. If you are going about your day and cannot collapse into Child's pose, but need a little time in, you can simply bow your head, look towards yourself rather than the world.
Finally, since this is the last part of this series of three on listening (click for part 1 and part 2), I want to go back to leadership and the fact that as in all things in life, balance is key. Listening to individuals, to our environment and to ourselves are all linked. We cannot practice one without the other. Yoga-wise, one of the reasons I so love sun salutations is that they offer this perfect balance of openness, stability and going inwards. How can you bring that off the mat? Into your work? Into your day? Can you create balance and listen to all three? Let me know in the comments.
Stay tuned for the next series of posts!