Write November – 30 days of writing…

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November 7 – Leadership doesn’t need to shout

I’m working my way through what Leadership means for me and I’ve come to realise that leadership does not need to shout.  It isn’t about needing to be ‘The Boss’.  But is about me needing to take a stand and find my voice.  And still, I truly know that it does not mean that I need to shout.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t shout. Ask my kids. But it does mean that outside of my home, I am finding my way to lead in a different manner.

I lead by acting in service of others.  I lead by showing the direction of travel and by making it easy for others to join me on the journey. Or not. I know the path I tread is not for everyone. And that’s ok too. it doesn’t make me any less of a leader.

I know that to lead I need to spend the majority of my time and effort listening. And asking questions. Rather than just talking.  I know that being able to be there for others is one of the most important capacities I can offer as a leader.

I know that leadership is about honest communication – because part-truths don’t get us anywhere/

I know that leadership is about others knowing what is happening (back to that honesty thing again!) – because gossip and speculation and lack of engagement are fuelled by lack of communication.

And I know that leadership, for me, is about data. And for me this is intrinsically linked to honesty and transparency.  You cannot lead by keeping secrets. Secrets cannot be managed.  But data… honest data can set you free!  If you know where you are, you can find a way forwards.

And leadership is about values.  The importance of working out what really matters – and then sticking to it.  Because if you’re willing to violate your values – for a quick buck, for a deal, to be liked, whatever – then why should you be trusted.

What you say matters.

What you then do matters even more.

So, to lead I do not need to shout.  I need to know what really matters – and then stick to the plan and the process.  Firmly. Resolutely. With care and compassion for those who follow.

From there, I can lead anyone.

From there, I am true to myself.

And from experience, I know, that quietly starting out from there can be wildly inspirational.

November 5 – On why it’s okay to ‘fail’

I really wanted to write for at least 30 minutes every day, I love writing.  I get to think, I get to clear my head. And really, I mean, 30 minutes.  I must be able to find 30 minutes in my day.


If I’m honest, I failed before I even started.  I live in Shanghai, so by the time I received the challenge from my friend on the West Coast, it was already November 2.

Ah well, better late than never…

I got my 30 minutes in that day while watching (or not) my middlest in his swimming lesson.  The time flew. I loved it.  But I’m not sure I did much in the way of cheering my boy on as he valiantly tried to swim in a straight line down the 25m pool.

But there have been worse parenting fails.  And there will be again…

And anyway. I saw the epic bellyflop / dive that he did right at the end that he was so keen to tell me about when he got out of the pool – so I didn’t have to pretend too much in the post-swim analysis session on the way home.

The next day’s writing got squeezed in by allowing (encouraging?) the kids to go to soft-play with our long-suffering ayi after homework was completed.  Another parenting fail in many eyes I’m sure. But I hate the soft play. It makes me grumpy.

Instead, I got to write and they came home happy & exhausted.  Plus the new dog & I had enjoyed a little quiet time for us both to recharge batteries before the end of week / end of day bathtime showdown.

Finishing off posting the piece online was done once the kids were down and the hubby home.  So a split shift in actually getting it written, but it provided a nice closure to the end of my week and reminded me of the sense of achievement I always feel when I get to hit ‘publish’.

And then yesterday… Well, I just forgot.

Challenge – fail.

Writing habit – fail.

And in previous times that would have been more than enough of a sign to give up.

But not now.

As I sit here now, Sunday night, 1130pm, writing, waiting for my midnight weekly course call, I’ve taken the opportunity to reframe all this.

Who gets to tell me I’ve failed? I get to write the rules of this life.

Who is judging me? Other than me?

So, I’ve decided that none of this is a fail.  I’m taking these all as opportunities to learn.  About my life and what makes me happy.  To do something I love, when I can, and see what happens.  To take what I can, what I want from the challenge and see what releases in me – whenever I do find the time to put pen to paper.

Whatever does happen, I know my head feels lighter at the end of it.

And that’s never a fail.

November 3 – The choice and fear of honesty

Honesty is a choice. For me, it sits neatly with integrity & authenticity and… whilst I have thought about it often, and I set out to try my best to be honest as a matter of course, it took a friend’s comment the other night for the choice aspect of it to really hit home.

What if i actually made a conscious effort to be honest with all the really small things?

Like the answer to “How are you?” or the response to “Do you have 10 minutes to help me out now?”

What if I stopped trying to answer it the way I assumed the person wanted it answered (“Fine, thanks, you“…”Sure, of course I do“) and instead took a moment and chose to answer it honestly, rather than by default. How might that feel? (“I’m really good thanks, I’ve had a really great morning working and I’m looking forward to having lunch with an old friend, how about you?“…”Thanks for asking.  I’m in a rush right now to get to a client call, but I’m free at 11.  Can I help you out then?“)

What I notice immediately is that the conversations would take longer!

I also know that I would feel fearful of sharing the truth here – but that fear is based on assumptions that might be false.

I assume the person just wants the generic, socially acceptable answer to the “how are you?” question – but maybe they really do want to make a connection at that moment.  Maybe they really want to talk.  Maybe not.  But my assumption limits the opportunity and it means I am not being honest with myself and my word.

With the request for help, I assume that ‘yes’ is the only acceptable answer – but if it’s going to inconvenience me & then cause stress and resentment then it’s of no service to either party.

And it’s not about trampling on others, or only having regard for myself.

I can be honest & polite. Honest & compassionate.  Honest & helpful – but only when I step beyond the fear of my assumptions.

Starting a truly honest conversation can cause me to feel so nervous, so anxious, that I can truly feel it in my body.  Heart pounding, breath shortening.  And yet I also know that the release from that anxiety – when I choose to be honest and deal with whatever comes next, rather than overly worrying about the consequences – the release is exhilarating.

I am able to be seen, to be heard.  And I know that I am choosing what really matters to me.

And if I can make it a habit with the ‘small stuff’, it can only help to ease the fear that will come when the stakes are higher.

And yet again, I return to Rilke…

“I learn by going where I have to go”

(Waking – Rilke)

November 2 – So, how do I show up?

It’s become an ongoing question for me  – triggered by the leadership program I’m in and challenging me daily, both in a personal and professional manner.

How do I show up in honour of my values – the things that really matter to me?

How do I show up in service of the people in my world – my tribe, my connections?

Do I play small and quiet? Try to present the ‘best’ version of me appropriate to the situation?

Or do I show up whole hearted? Fully present – as open and vulnerable as I can be?

To honour my values I need to be brave. I need to be courageous. I need to remember that perseverance is key to getting the important stuff done.

I need to show up and listen deeply. I need to create a space for others to be truly heard.

And then I need to act with integrity. To question my motives. And to use my voice where and when I can – because my playing small serves nobody.

In the leadership program, there’s a phrase we use “on deck, on radio, on type.” It means to show up in the fullest sense: physically, emotionally and authentically.

When I remember this – when I remind myself to show up in this manner, I offer up the truest ‘best’ of myself.

I am actively engaged in whatever I am doing.

I am actively choosing – my words, my actions, my intention.

And it directs me to challenge myself. To be bold and brave in service of that what really matters.

And when I act from this space, it resonates. The effects ripple around me and I can feel the impact that I have on my surroundings.

And I’ve come to understand that this is not about ego. This is not about me ‘proving’ myself to anyone other than myself. This is about me showing up in the most positive manner possible. Leading myself along the path that I am creating, one step at a time.

And the most important lesson from choosing how to show up?

“I learn by going where I have to go”

(Waking – Rilke)