Meet the “wildcard”

I recently went to a series of professional networking events, sporting my new bright turquoise hair colo(u)r (with some initial trepidation). The situation being an embodiment of 2 of my top 5 values: “Success” and what I call the “Wildcard”. Initially “wildcard” was meant as a placeholder for adding your own values in an exercise I did, for me, it became an expression of something bigger, something in its own right.

The Wildcard is an umbrella concept for some very key aspects of who I am and what I do. The out-of-the-box stuff, creativity, pushing boundaries, breaking patterns. The role of the court jester, saying it how it is while just about avoiding any impending “off with the head” scenarios. Key ingredient and driver for innovation. “Wildcard” is not seeking power for its own sake, just enjoys using it to increase the wiggle room for all, to shift mindsets and to bring on change where needed, playful and without an excuse for an easier, more conventional way out.

The last part of course being some of the downsides, every strongly played aspect has them. The never-settling. The not-being-quiet-when-it-is-healthier-to-shut-up. The perpetual “oh but what if” that can drive people absolutely bonkers. The sweet seduction of what might be next, compared to what is and what was. That is why it is good to have a balance, and that is where other aspects have to come in.

What drives you to innovate, to push the boundaries? What kind of environment do you need to allow yourself to show up that way? Please share!


Commitment and action (2)

Too many commitments weighing you down? Focus is the older sister of commitment, the one with the overview to sometimes pry the younger one off her target when she has gone on autopilot. Focus determines where commitment is worth keeping, dissolving – or worth recommitting (and properly this time). That bridge in Paris with all these love locks had to recently be cleared of all of them to preserve its structural integrity. That is a massive bridge. Each lock is tiny, but there were gazillions of them and it just got too much.

This involves saying no, this involves trade-offs and this involves conversations with other people. Think about the commitments you entered. The ones you think you entered, and possibly the ones others think you entered (hint: If you feel people keep badgering you about a lot of things on an ongoing basis, there might be a misalignment or you might just be bad on delivery but that’s another topic).

Then, think about the big long-term things you want to reach. Which commitments serve you in reaching this? Which ones don’t? This might require some conversations with other people. Sharing goals and values can be a useful first step to set the baseline for this.

How do you notice when you have overcommitted? Where do key things fall through the cracks in the overall frenzy? What works for you to best untangle this (without burning bridges)? Please share!

Commitment and action (1)

How do make your plans and goals reality? Commitment to action. Don’t flinch, I’m serious. Commitment is the more practical younger sister of focus. It’s about doing specific things (regularly) and NOT doing a lot of other things. The sustained ongoing attention that will not waver (at least not for long, and not in a way that breaks the commitment or compromises your values).

So, how do you commit? First, you have to take a stand in front of yourself. Look yourself in the eyes as you do it. Then you make plans that make this commitment real, e.g. make space in your calendar for new things that need happening. That is likely going to require managing some trade-offs, and saying no to other things. This is also the time to take it public. Commitment is stronger when it is shared by the people involved, when it is made public and when it involves a ritual of some sort.

What do you do when you commit? How do people around you recognize you are committed? Would they recognize what you are committed to? Enrol them for help!



Slippery slopes

That feeling of discomfort the next day, that unease after the conversation… Ever had a “values hangover”? Knowing things were maybe not completely off track, but probably not really OK anymore? Life is messy, and often situations are not as perfectly clear-cut as our noble values suggest. Of course we would defend our values if they get violated, but how do we actually know that happened? Often, it is not the big blow-up, things slip in instalments until you notice they are off, and then things are already pretty unstable.

For me, keeping tabs on this has something to do with how values are represented in my body. Where and how I am feeling them on a good day, and how this changes in difficult situations. A tightness in the throat, a knot in the stomach, things like that. They give me an indication when things start slipping – provided I actually take the time and space to check in with myself. This is very much a learning process, and often I catch things late, but I’d like to think as I practice, I catch them quicker. 

What is your strategy for this? What are examples where your values were challenged? What are warning signs you have identified when things are slipping? How did you start the conversations?

The lighthouse in the fog – on orientation

Let’s face it, life can be pretty complex to navigate, and the pace can be relentless. And that lighthouse you were relying on last time for navigation is now firmly hidden behind a big fat layer of fog. It’s still there but you are at the moment not able to see it. And the fog won’t budge just because you happen to need a bit of navigation help right now.

Where do you get your guidance from? From the outside? From the inside? Both? Which one is your default? For me, it is typically somewhat of a mix. Can’t do it without feedback from the outside and context information, and wouldn’t want to live with decisions that are not connected to my internal satnav (purpose, values etc).  How foggy is it where you are right now? Can you afford to wait until it clears before you make a move? How close are you to your “internal satnav”? What does it look like for you?

One way that helps me to connect both is slowing down (not a bad idea during fog anyway…). If your preferred way of orienting yourself doesn’t work for the moment, what other ways do you have available? Share examples! 


Roping others into your goals (2)

How often do you have conversations about values at work? Is that a common practice in your teams? In my time on the corporate side, I occasionally heard the values of the company stated. Usually when they were violated and an example needed to be made. A lot less frequent have I experienced teams where values are openly talked about and shared in conversations as a base for working together.

Doing this implicitly is a good start (your values as a leader will always shine through anyway). Even better if you can invite open conversations. “What is it we want to create?” “Why?” “How do we want to go about this together?” “If X is one of our key values, what does that mean for the decision about Y”.

Things will still go wrong from time to time, there will be misunderstandings, wrong decisions and things derailing. But conversations about values help create a stable trust base. Let your values guide the way (success and integrity are two of mine  that I had conversations around). In times when the going gets rough, you are going to be glad you initiated these. 

What is your experience to have these kind of conversations in your teams? Did it make a difference? What would have helped you breach the subject?
Share examples what worked for you.

Roping others into your goals (1)

Some goals are so big and so near-impossible to reach that it is impossible for one lone individual to pull it off. If you want to create some big massive impact out there, the kind that touches lots of people, you are likely going to need to build some alliances. You need more pairs of hands (no matter which tools you are using).

While for the most part the jury is still out how these magnificent stone circles were actually built and why; we are pretty sure it was the work of more than one person. That group of people would have needed quite a bit of alignment, pep talks, brains and brawn. Creativity in overcoming obstacles. Pulling your weight (and that of that massive rock). As the famous quote goes, those extra hands come with a mind and heart attached.

Shared values can greatly help with creating that alignment. Values are what make you YOU, but it can also be a very useful shortcut to creating connections with other people that go deeper than just a shared “to do” list. When I meet someone who has similar values, I feel the person “gets me”, is part of “my tribe” and that puts the relationship on a completely different level.

How did shared values help you form deeper connections? What difference did it make? Share examples!