SAY IT! Be Courageous and Move Beyond Communications 101

My Skype phone rings for my August ‘6 questions performance management’ meeting with one of my bosses, Nic.  My nervous energy about what may be said evaporates as we go through a pleasant back and forth dialogue of my successes, needs and goals for the next year.

Part of being a better leader includes asking for and providing feedback.  There is power to be gained in the simple question of “What I could do differently?” We all want to improve and knowing where others perceive our blind spots can be a great way to learn, grow and realize the impact current behaviours may have on others – it can lead to a greater chance of positive change.

In response to the constructive feedback part of the performance management process, Nic, in his eloquent, caring and insightful way, shared with me what his intuition was telling him about some of the challenges I was facing.  My eyes opened wider and what ensued after the phone call, changed my life.

Let’s first rewind a bit.  A number of years ago, my son, who I had 50% custody with, decided to live with his mom 100% for reasons that still perplex me.  My underlying belief was that I was the best dad ever and this news rocked my world [not in a good way].

I need to fix this!  I am the type of person who – throughout my life – has tried to control and fix everything around me in order to mitigate risk.  This behaviour has impacted how I lead, facilitate, communicate and work with others.  In this case, my need to fix was in overdrive; for the next three years and to this day, I am trying to analyze and figure out: Why, and how can I connect with him?

The trauma of losing my relationship with my child and not seeing or speaking to him has been the toughest thing I have ever dealt with.  It’s been beyond depressing.  The impact of any trauma like this should never be ignored or brushed under the carpet as it has an impact on your behaviours, whether consciously or unconsciously.

My own behaviours did shift during this time due to my excessive analysis, negative inner dialogue and sadness – which I was conscious of.

Now back to my conversation with Nic.  He said “Glen, it seems maybe you don’t always care about others as much as you should.”  Pause.  Sink in.  Whoa!

There was more to it, of course, and after my run to the gym I realized he was right.  What opened up for me after our conversation was greater awareness to my unconscious behaviours and their impact.  These include that I can be highly disconnected in conversations at times, forgetful due to lack of focus and not really always caring to be around others.  I was just feeling bad about myself and stuck in my own world.

I realize now that my inner suffering and analysis – trying to fix things – created a victim and me-oriented mentality that only does one thing: keep the trauma and suffering alive.  Knowing what I know now – which was a blind spot to me – I see how my trauma impacted my communication at times, including forgetfulness with my wife and a greater need for introversion time.

Now I have a choice to make: Continue as I have been or focus on other aspects of my life which are also important, allowing me to be more present in conversations which will lead to more genuine, open and caring dialogue.  I choose the latter as that will change my life.

We all have our stuff that we endure throughout life – that is life.  We may or may not know the impact of trauma on ourselves, the resulting inner monologue or how it shows up with others.  Only in knowing, can we do something about it which will lead to a more happy, connected and fulfilling life.

One person who is brave enough to share what needs to be said can make a meaningful difference in another’s life, whether personal and/or work-related. We’ve all seen the ‘top tips of communicating effectively’, but oftentimes it can be a simple matter of having the courage to say what needs to be said.

Is there someone who could benefit from the power of you saying something you’ve been holding back on?  I say, just SAY IT!

Kwela’s Leading Self workshop helps participants connect with conscious and unconscious behaviours through deeper self-awareness work.  In identifying what may be working or not working in our leadership behaviours, we can build an understanding of why we do them, how they came about and then realize there is a reason we have these habits.  Through acknowledgement, we are in a far better position to risk and try new behaviours that may be uncomfortable and may lead to a far more positive impact.

Glen Sollors, Partner