How to keep your lights on when you lead
This type of leaderships is characterized by clarity, vision and the ability to adjust and adapt on your feet
Have you ever started your morning with the best intentions to connect, relate and positively influence the people entrusted to your care?
You carry this intention effortlessly into your day until “shazam!” you cross paths with a human being who knocks your lights out…metaphorically speaking.
All of the sudden you find yourself mucking around in frustration as you replay the undesirable encounter over and over in your head? Perhaps you implode, explode or a combination of the two.
Learning how to keep your lights on in the midst of those dense foggy days, when you feel you can’t see straight, let alone positively influence those you lead, is an art that requires high noticing and a dedication to accountability along with a willingness to shift. Shift from a “lights-off” perspective to a “lights-on” perspective.
A 2011 Harvard study concluded that only 25% of job success was related to IQ, 75% was related to optimism levels along with the ability, in the moment, to see stress as a challenge (a situation that requires your attention for solution), rather than a threat.
Stress is the power you give to outside circumstances to define what you believe you are capable of handling successfully. Perhaps this is why the famous quote from Henry Ford has been passed along for so many years: “Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right.”
Simply put, when you are leading with your “lights-on,” you experience clarity, vision, the ability to adjust and adapt on your feet. Overall, you are solution focused. When you are “lights-off,” you only have three choices of reactive response: fight, flight or freeze. Overall, you are problem-focused.
Neuroscience has found that your brain has the ability to change its structure and function in response to input—this process is called neuroplasticity.
Perhaps you have heard of the ancient Aramaic statement: “Abracadabra.” It means: “I create as I speak.”
When you intentionally create and speak positive thoughts, you create and imprint a positive speech habit which flip your mental lights on toward solution-focused thinking versus “lights-off” problem-focused thinking (For more on imprinting positive speech habits explore: Words Can Change Your Brain by Mark R. Waldman).
So what does this mean for you as a leader? This is a game changer when it comes to what kind of leader you choose to be.
As you become increasingly mindful of the powerful connection between the thoughts you think, the words you speak and the direct impact that has on people you wake up the choice point available to you: Lights-On Leadership (Solution-Focused) or Lights-Off Leadership (Problem-Focused).
Thought by thought and word by word your choice will make all the difference in the outcomes you experience. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Imagine knowing you have the ability to think positive thoughts and take positive actions every day. Imagine you have the power to recognize when you are stuck in negative thoughts and can quickly shift to effective thoughts. When you are renewable, you can give out energy to the world around you without depleting the source, the source being you.
Energy is your capacity for action. Behavior that flows from negative thoughts such as defiance, self-pity, doubt, anxiety and fear all travel with a very low frequency (energy signature). You know this to be true because when you talk about what is not working out for you over an extended period of time you walk away feeling discouraged and unmotivated (Lights-Off: problem-focused).
Behavior flowing from the positive thoughts of dedication, gratitude, high-noticing, curiosity, playfulness and trust are easily felt as high-energy, clear vision and focus (Lights-On: solution-focused). Think about the last time you felt engaged, focused and energized. What thoughts fueled that positive energy? Perhaps they sounded like this: “I am grateful for my position, I am collaborative, creative and enthusiastic about what I am doing.”
The following five questions were developed by the founders of SHIFT Lights-On Leadership and Clarity International, Cathy and Gary Hawk. These questions are specifically created to help shift your thoughts from Lights-Off (problem-focused) to Lights On (solution-focused).
In order for your brain to source the answer for each of the following questions, it must be in the frontal cortex. The front part of your brain known for executive thinking (solution-focused).
Bookend your day for 1 week using these questions and notice any shift in your ability to keep your Lights-On (solution-focused) more today than yesterday:
- What do you notice to be different? This question brings you into high-noticing in the present moment. For example: “I notice the room is warmer and the sun is shining in on my desk. I notice my breathing is calm.” There is no moment of life that occurs outside the present moment.
- What worked? What didn’t work? This is your performance only; never anyone else’s. It’s like reviewing a movie clip of your life. It reinforces personal accountability. What didn’t work can also be phrased: what could I have done differently to be more effective? You learn from your observations made around what didn’t work out for you, “mistake” as long as it is in an environment of positivity. Clap your hands for both. This creates a mental space of objective self-appreciation for your ability to oberve and reflect on how you are showing up in life. For example: What worked: I remained open and objective when presenting my angle of the situation, knowing there were other perspectives in the meeting (CLAP). What didn’t work: I raised my voice at my direct report for not responding to my email sooner (CLAP). The fact that you are observing your behavior will increase the chances that you will keep you Lights-On rather than Off in future situations.
- Your personal energy field is the arm’s-length space around you, like an invisible energy bubble. It contains your mind and your thoughts, your body, your health, your spirit and your creativity. It’s primarily your thoughts. In this question tune into the state of your spirit, mind and body. Ask: what is the state of my spirit? My mind? My body? For example: My mind is clear, focused and alert. My body is hurting, I have a headache. My spirit is creative and present. This question helps you live in distinction rather than giving your entire focus to your body (headache). In spite of your headache, you can still be creative and alert.
- What are you grateful for? Gratitude produces positive thoughts and energy. The more gratitude you express throughout each day, the more you expand your capacity for action. Gratitude and energy walk hand in hand.
- What is your intention over the next 24 hours? What is the energetic impact you want to make? The energetic, visceral connection you want to make with another person or activity? Then state the action you will commit to in order to make that happen.
Leaders, your number one job is to keep your Lights-On. You cannot give out to the world around you what you have not mastered yourself. Your number two job is to create the space and support for the people entrusted to your care without getting in the weeds.
The greatest leaders and teachers in this world are those who guide others back to themselves and their own abilities to champion their fullest potential. Be that one high tide that lifts all ships (JFK).
As Certified Shift Faculty for Clarity International, I have facilitated the Lights-On Leadership Program for several years and have witnessed powerful shifts that have positively impacted the way individuals lead and perform.
Lauren E Miller has a Masters in Adult Education with a Certification in Human Resources Development. She has personally conquered two of life’s top stressors at the same time, advanced cancer and divorce. Now Google’s #1 Stress Relief Expert, Award Winning Author, HRD Trainer and Certified Sherpa Executive Coach, Lauren provides process driven programs and custom trainings with structure, guidance, support and accountability designed to create positive change in behavior resulting in positive impact on business (IOB) and life purpose. Explore More: http://LaurenEMiller.com