We live in a world of ground rules. These are those unspoken codes of conduct that help determine how we’re going to interact with one another. They are often stronger than any stated agreements we have with each other.
I work with one organization which has an institutionalized, unspoken ground rule for meetings: Be fifteen minutes late. It doesn’t matter how often agendas are published with “official” starting times, everyone knows there’s no sense in getting there on time, because the real groun drule is be fifteen minutes late. Those who ignore that ground rule quickly learn they should bring fifteen minutes worth of things to do while they wait for the others to arrive. In this organization, there’s Pacific Standard Time, and there’s Our Organization Standard Time, which runs fifteen minutes late.
For leaders, there are two ground rules which can have a dramatic impact on their performance: Be here now, and Lean into your discomfort.
Be here now.
I call this the zen groundrule. It means staying focused on what’s happening right in front of you at this moment of time, rather than dwelling on things that are happening outside this moment. It means when you’re in a meeting, you stay focused on the meeting, not on thinking about the emails and voice mails that may be piling up awaiting your return. It means turning OFF your cell phone (or putting it on vibrate, should you need to be available for an emergency). There’s an old zen koan which goes something like, “When you’re washing the dishes, wash the dishes.” Be here, now.
Are you spending too much time imagining what might happen in the future or dwelling on what happened in the past? If so, you’re robbing yourself (and others) of the power and possibilities of the present.
Lean into your discomfort.
Acts of leadership are often accompanied by discomfort. Whether it’s voicing an unpopular opinion, or staying quiet and really listening to the other person, whether it’s taking a risk and trusting your judgment, whether it’s accepting responsibility for a mistake or forcing yourself to ask for help, if you’re going to lead, you’re need to be willing to lean into your discomfort. A testament to your strength as a leader is your willingness to put yourself out there.
When have you leaned into your discomfort lately and made a difference?