“I’m trying to focus more on ‘being’, rather than ‘doing’, she said.
“Tell me more about that,” I queried.
“I’ve always tried to ‘do’ everything; to be the best at my job, to accomplish my to-do list every day, to make sure that everyone on my team was motivated and committed, to show the other departments what a great group we have…you know, I think I was trying to please everyone. Even to the extent that I would pick up behind some people and do their jobs just to make sure it all got done."
“But I was working sixty to eighty hours a week, and I was getting less happy with my job, and with myself. I was starting to resent being the cheerleader all the time, and my team members seemed to be okay with the idea that ‘it’s just a job’, and I felt uninspired…burnt out…and, well, you remember our last coaching session.”
I did remember.
Sitting across the table from me today was a person very different from the one I had seen a month before; with tearful anger, she had told me she was looking for a new job. She needed inspiration, and a team that valued her commitment and wanted to be part of her high-performance machine. She felt undervalued and unappreciated, not to mention undercompensated.
Today she was even more different from the person I had seen two years earlier who was working endless hours, driven to perfection and achievement as a new manager. Filled with enthusiasm and “change the world” energy, she had believed that if she kept working harder, “doing” more, she could somehow prove her worth and others would notice and ultimately value and appreciate her contributions.
“I think I just wanted other people to approve of me. To ‘like’ me.”
(To be “liked” as a female leader! Well, that’s another topic for another post.)
“So what are you doing differently?” I asked.
The best part of my job is getting to hear other people’s insights and watch their change over time. It’s a little selfish, really—that I get to grow along with my coaching clients, and be inspired by their newfound wisdom and approaches to personal change.
“You’ve probably heard of a gratitude journal,” she began. “And while I think that’s a good idea, that’s not what I’m doing. At least right now.”
“What I’m doing is keeping a journal of what I value in myself. Every day, I write down at least three things that I value about the way I am, the way I work, the way I responded to a situation, or maybe even the way I look.”
“This is where the line between ‘doing’ and ‘being’ gets drawn,” she continued. “It goes like this: If I accomplish what I set out to do in a day, then I write down that I value my ability to work hard and get things done. If I have a rough day and get stuck in my own frustration, I write that I value my persistence and resilience.”
I was intrigued, and began to think of all the exercises earlier in my career that I had led with the instruction: “Write down ten things you like about yourself.”
This was very different, and clearly much more effective at getting to the heart of what often holds us back and zaps our confidence. We are naturally self-critical, and when asked to describe what we like about ourselves, the first emotional response we often get is resistance.
The difference between “I like my brown eyes” and “I value my ability to stay calm under pressure” produces a very different deep emotional response. Affirming and valuing our core strengths and abilities allows us to focus on developing the internal capabilities of authentic leadership, rather than just the external—or visible—package.
This is not to say that what we do is not important. Who we are as leaders precedes what we do, as behavior always rolls out of our beliefs, values and thinking. The truth is, we can never “do” it all; there is always more to do. Chasing achievement and accomplishment alone will always result in another to-do list tomorrow, a higher peak to climb beyond the mountain we have just summited, and more problems to be solved in the next job or next company.
“Being” a leader, on the other hand, allows us to achieve and accomplish with the bigger picture in mind. Valuing our “being-ness” builds our authentic strengths and gives us the chance to be kinder and gentler with our own self-evaluation, thus creating the space for insight and change if it is needed.
Try it. Keep your own “What I Value in Myself” journal for just one week, and then two weeks, and maybe even thirty days. See what happens. Share your insights and shifts with us here. I started the practice that very day, and even though I haven’t hit every day, the routine has begun to shift my awareness and my own “being-ness” in a powerful way.
(And here’s an unintended benefit I have discovered: By valuing my own “being-ness”, it’s becoming easier for me to value others as “be-ers”, rather than just “do-ers”, as well.)