David E. White - Consultant, Synergy Solutions Group
In Part 1 of this series, I illustrated how the state of being over- whelmed paralyzes our will for change. Overwhelm is a state where we simply don’t know what to do to improve our situ- ation. If, as leaders, we are willing to engage coaching to bring perspective, we can renew hope and our will for change can return.
In Part 2 of this series, I illustrated how our behaviours can stem from addictions and attachments, many of which form our understanding of who we are and what is normal in our world. We may understand the logic or benefit of change, but we are unable to truly possess a will for it, as it challenges our own self-image.
In this final part of the series, I will discuss the role of fear. Fear can keep us from being open to change and often has us reacting rather than responding to stimulus in our environment. If we pause instead of instantly reacting, we enable ourselves to respond more appropriately. To be able to pause and respond, we need to access grace.
A continuation of the story of my overwhelming sailing experience may serve to illustrate the impact of grace.
As I returned my boat to the dock, I was feeling embar- rassed and inadequate. I had been soundly defeated by a wind that those with more experience would have handled easily. I had a vision of being a masterful sailor and sharing my new pastime with my family and friends, but my feelings of inade- quacy could have led me to give up. This is the point at which grace is most powerful. Grace allows pause. It suspends judg- ment and provides space to consider change.
I suspended my self-criticism and let myself become curious as to what I might need to learn to do better next time. I did some research online about my boat and bought an incli- nometer to help me understand the limits and optimal operat- ing angles (heeling) for my boat. What I found out could have embarrassed me even more, but instead it made me chuckle. Apparently my boat is designed to heel from 0 to 20 degrees quite quickly and runs at 30 degrees for optimal speed. My overwhelming winds didn’t come close to capsizing the boat; it hadn’t even achieved its optimal angle.
Grace is the free and safe space essential for change to occur, affording us the opportunity to be objective. In this space, we suspend the stories (the internal tapes that we have rehearsed about ourselves and the assumptions that we are making about the motives of others) and their correlating judgments, to explore deeper understanding with curiosity.
I was recently involved in a meeting with a client’s employees to discuss accountability and discipline. I presented the
philosophy of 100 per cent accountability and explained that if protocols and practices were not held at 100 per cent accountability, they have no value at all. I assured them that I knew that perfection would be impossible for them to achieve; 100 per cent accountability can only exist when grace is present. Grace allows people to be held 100 per cent accountable without fear. All an employee needs to do is to own their accountability and be open to making it right – to reconcile the breach in protocol or practice and to return to adherence.
I was pleasantly surprised by the response employees gave to this “discipline” session: applause. Several employees com- mented that it was refreshing for a leader to hold him/herself accountable to the same 100 per cent standard and to hear accountability spoken of in terms of grace.
It takes courage to allow others to hold us accountable as leaders. We don’t like to be seen as incompetent or to be mak- ing mistakes, as it makes us feel vulnerable. This vulnerabil- ity often generates fear. When we hold ourselves in grace, we rob fear of its power and model ownership of accountability for others.
Research professor Brene Brown states that “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change,” and fur- ther, that “connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Grace is the space that enables vulnerability.
We can practice grace in a manner that is as natural as breathing: inhale to pause and push back from the situation to become objective. Exhale to take our appropriate action and the space in between is our opportunity to reflect and enter grace. It is always there for us to choose. When we make mis- takes, we need simply to own them and get back on track. In this way, we enable all to embrace change and to grow beyond where we are as individuals and to move forward in our col- lective process. Grace neutralizes fear, overwhelm, addictions and attachments. Grace is the key to the discovery of an unin- hibited will for change.
David E. White is a consultant with Synergy Solutions Group.
Questions and comments can be directed to him at email@example.com.