I think all good leaders deal with guilt on occasion in their leadership and life walk. It shows that they have at least a decent moral compass, and while carrying guilt certainly is not fun and can impede your long-term effectiveness if it lingers, working through guilt can be a positive leadership exercise.
Guilt from all directions
Guilt can come from all directions in your life. Friends, family, co-workers and even you yourself can be an area that you feel guilt around. Guilt, at its core, is a feeling of sadness or unhappiness. You feel sad about how you treated or interacted with someone. Maybe you are unhappy with yourself for not connecting with someone close to you for a long time. Some common areas for guilt to manifest are around
Prioritizing between work/academic life and your personal life
Saying something or acting in a way that is hurtful to others
A feeling of letting someone down
Acting in a way that is contrary to your moral compass
Failing to meet your own high standards
Moving past the guilt
Think about the times that you felt guilty and later resolved the situation. It’s likely that you felt a proverbial burden lift from your shoulders. The result is that you positively impacted your own well-being and likely had at least a slightly positive impact on someone else’s well-being too. Here are some steps to take to help you begin to move past your guilt.
1. Think about the origin of the guilt that you are feeling. Where is it coming from? Could it be from making a choice in competing priorities or somewhere else? Is the guilt based on reality or a story that you are telling yourself?
2. Hindsight can impact how you feel guilt based on information that you learned after the situation. Acknowledge that at the time, you made what you thought was the best decision or option.
3. Take ownership of how the decision or situation impacted others. Determine what you have ownership and control over to take action.
4. Connect with team members, family, or friends and sincerely apologize. This is a critical conversation as approaching the other party with authenticity and empathy can go a long way in the right direction while coming in confrontation or defensive will only set you back further.
5. Sometimes the other person will refuse to forgive you. This gives them quite a bit of power in the dynamic of the relationship….if you let it. Be ok with their position. You can only control how you act and react and have no control over the other person’s stance.
6. No matter how it turns out, be proud that you took steps in seeking reconciliation and that you learned from the situation.
Avoiding guilt should not be the goal
When I started to get back on track with my personal health, I began taking mindful cooldown exercises after a workout. At the end of one of those sessions, the instructor had us sit down and quiet our thoughts. He then had us think about the things that were occupying too much time in our minds that day. Once we did, we then mentally acknowledged it and then let the thought go.
It really stuck with me, as I thought about those situations that were taking up too much real estate in my head at the time. I pictured it almost like a train station. The thought comes pulling into the station, you wave at it, and then off it goes. It was a powerful exercise for me to gain awareness of just how much certain interactions and thoughts were holding me back.
The point is not to bother trying to avoid guilt. It’s inevitable. Instead recognize it in yourself, acknowledge it and move on. Guilt can actually be a good place to visit as you grow as a leader and person. It allows you to keep yourself accountable and learn from mistakes and circumstances. Living in guilt, on the other hand, is not healthy and can end up destroying your effectiveness as a leader and significantly impact your quality of life.
Most leaders are harder on themselves than others. Think through the topic or situation that involves the guilt that you carry. If someone else was in the same circumstance would you judge them the same way? Remember that it’s ok to feel guilt and learn from it but in order to be your most effective you have to learn from it, put the work in to resolve it to the best of your ability, and then let go of the rest.
This was Max Dickins asked himself as he thought about proposing to his girlfriend and realized that he didn’t have any close friends that she could ask to be his best man. Max considers himself to be an outgoing guy with decent manners, but as he began to go through his contacts he realized that he had plenty of colleagues, acquaintances, and work friends, but no close personal friends. He also realized that he was using his girlfriend’s social network as they all hung out together.
Maybe you are a little like Max. Your work is the main social connection and any connections to others in your personal are really due to other people’s friends. Perhaps you don’t have close friends that are truly your own.
Hope’s not lost! Today we continue with our tips to help fuel your friendships. (See part 1 here)
A good cadence of connection has always been my life raft when it comes to close friendships. All the other tips are easier to do when there is a good rhythm in place. I’ve also found that when that rhythm gets off, everything else is harder to do as well, action takes more action, time takes more time, etc.
What that cadence looks like is all up to you and your friend to decide. Mine have looked quite different depending on the person, the shared connection, and life stage. Some included
Meeting twice a month to train for a team adventure race
Attending a weekly Men’s Accountability group
Going on twice-weekly rucks with friends
Weekly band practice
Quarterly lunches together
Other activities that keep a good cadence:
Monthly outdoor activities
Fun group chats
There are so many ways to connect and ingrain a good cadence of connection with the other person.
What your friendship becomes is only limited by your imagination. Yes, they can make great accountability partners (EP 191 How an accountability partner can help you on your journey) But can your friendship be more? I know couples that are close friends with each other that go on vacation together and help raise all their children together. Another one gave a kidney to his friend. A different pair go speaking engagements together.
Sometimes we think of friendships as that ultimate cheerleader, cheering us on from the sidelines as we triumph and encouraging us when we struggle. Your imagination will keep you out of that dynamic and you are an active part of each other’s lives.
All the things before this one; Time, Situational Awareness, Action, Cadence, and imagination are all great…. but no one is perfect. You can’t live up to all of those expectations and nor will your friend.
Grace is a true gift that you should freely give to close friends. It may be easy to write off someone you don’t know very well when an interaction goes south. Your close friends shouldn’t be that dispensable. They are worth your forgiveness and grace. You can show them grace by:
Letting go of grudges, jealousy, and slights against you
Extend your hospitality to them and those close to them
Be flexible with each other and remember that sometimes the seasons in your life will dictate a change in the dynamic of the friendship. Be graceful with each other as your friendship flexes during those times.
The story about Max is what led him to do a lot of research specifically about Men and friendship, and wrote a book called: Billy No-Mates: How I realized Men Have a Friendship Problem. Max sums up his advice for growing friendships as, “Show up when you’re asked. Go first when you are not asked, and keep going even when it’s hard.” He ended up with two people in the best man role by the time his wedding came around.
Gain and nurture your close friendships. They’ll be there when you need someone the most.
Have you thought to yourself or said to someone else, “I just need to get out and do something?” I know I do at times! Micro-adventures are a great way to get away, reset, let go of some stress, and learn a little along the way.
While there is a lot of value in those big getaways and moments you’ve saved up for or have been working or training towards, micro-adventures are a great way to keep the benefits of going out and discovering new things a part of your regular schedule.
Small impact on your wallet
One of the great advantages of micro-adventures is that they can have a very minimal impact on your wallet. Sometimes we get hung up in creating these epic, memories-of-a-lifetime, adventures. Don’t get me wrong those are great and have their place as well. I’ll always remember my time going hang-gliding over the Appalachian mountains or scuba diving in the Georgia Aquarium, but we shouldn’t rely on those big tent pole moments and have boring lives in between.
Look for new adventures in your surrounding city that can be a good getaway for you and friends/family members. A few places to look to get you started may include:
Local parks, nature areas, and reserves
Low costs adventures like letterboxing and geocaching
Check your local community calendars for events
Visit area museums and historic places
One of the reasons that my wife and I fell in love with the city of Atlanta, is that we are regularly going on adventures to that explore the city’s culture. Some of my favorite adventures that we’ve been on this past year include a record store crawl, hitting all the major stores and many lesser known stores in a day. We visited a major outdoor art festival and purchased some local art. We’ve also attended many musical events. Our goal is to see a show at every established music venue in the city.
Get creative and find some new ways to go on a micro-adventure.
A great way to relieve stress
No doubt that your work/school life and personal life stack up. Sometimes stress builds up because of a large work project or deadlines and other times stress can build up due to drama or other factors in your personal life. What’s worse is when those seasons from both aspects of your life collide at the same time!
Micro-adventures are a great outlet to get out of your normal routine and give yourself some much-deserved stress relief. The key to helping these small adventures have an impact is in how you approach them. I typically leave all the junk that I am dealing with back at the proverbial door or parking lot. if you choose to bring your baggage with you, you’ll certainly not be as engaged or have as much fun on your outing and the stress relief benefit could very well go out the window.
Be mindful to be fully engaged in your adventure. Fully take in this new experience that you have gifted yourself with. Remember that you can always pick up the baggage once you are done, (or not) but it’s your choice whether it goes with you on not.
Micro-adventures can be a great learning opportunity
Sometimes intentional, and other times by happenstance, it seems like I’m always learning something new on my own micro-adventures. On a recent hike up a local mountain with my cub scout group (Which only cost me $5 to do), we had so many learning moments. My wife has a plant identifier app on her where we learned that grapes grew at the top of the mountain. We learned from our scouts what they had been doing over the recent school break and once we descended, we lucked out and got to experience a war re-enactment. The kids got a chance to ask questions about the time and how the area was different at the time of the battle.
I’ve heard people share great stories in record shops, learned about the history of the community in museums and festivals, and got a better understanding of my city during the many racing events that I’ve done.
Be on the lookout for those teachable moments as you go on your own adventures. Some will be obvious based on the experience that you choose, while others will be much more subtle. What looks interesting around you? Who looks interesting to you? Take your time and soak up the environment around you. There are likely many learning opportunities all around you just waiting to be noticed.
Micro-adventures can be that bright spot you have during those rough times, or something great to look forward to in the good times. Be intentional to set aside time to break out of your normal routine and explore your local area. You’ll be glad that you did and you may just pick up something along the way that makes you a better leader.
Being suddenly thrown under the proverbial bus is one of the worst feelings there is in a working relationship. It’s the sense of being betrayed by someone that you likely had some level of trust built with for their own gain. Perhaps you were blamed for something that you didn’t do, or they broke your confidence to share sensitive info, or perhaps they embarrassed you in front of others to make themselves look better. Whatever the reason, you’ve likely experienced it a time or two or you will most certainly experience it as you continue your professional journey.
You’ve been thrown under the bus, now what?
The thing about being thrown under the bus is that it always comes unexpectedly and suddenly. Perhaps you align with your work partner only for them to say that they totally disagree with your position after reading the room. That initial sting can send you swirling in many different mental directions at one time.
In the moment:
Let your EQ save you: This is another great work example where a strong EQ (EQ series starting at Ep 145) will swoop in and save you from any further damage. Do your best to instantly react, especially in a public setting. Let the emotions wash through you and then begin to react in a way that reflects well on you. In some situations, you may only have a few seconds while other times, you’ll have more than enough time.
Save face by taking the high road. It’s ok to say that whatever the other person said or did was a surprise to you and that you need some time to process and reflect. Offering the take the conversation offline in a meeting environment can take the heat off for now and keep the meeting moving forward as well.
After the incident:
Accept that this has happened and move forward: It can be hard to obsess about the incident… besides, you’ve likely been wronged and it can feel very personal as you continue to unpack in your mind how everything unfolded. At the end of the day, there is nothing that can be done to take the incident back. It happened. Mentally acknowledge that it happened, remind yourself that it does not lower the value that you see in yourself as a person, and begin to move to the next steps for closure and growth.
Get to the truth and root of the incident: Instead, of trying to find solace and validation with others, approach the other person who threw you under the bus after the incident and ask what happened. It’s fair for you to seek clarity and understanding of the reasoning behind their decision. Be mentally prepared because this conversation can go many different ways:
They may reveal their true colors and were never an ally to begin with
They may have acted impulsively and are regretful
They may not have the self-awareness to even realize what they did was wrong and hurtful
Don’t retaliate: It may be tempting to volley back resentment and anger or even worse, plot your revenge against the other person. Remember your values (EP 357 EP 358) and avoid this at all costs. You’ll have more productive ways to deal with the person based on the things that you learned from the experience.
Learn and grow from the experience
The shock of a break in trust can be difficult to overcome, in fact, it’s one of our highest searched subjects on the internet. Trust is certainly one of the lessons that I learn during the times that someone has thrown me under the bus – specifically how far my trust can go with the other person going forward. I would rarely fully write the person off, but I certainly reframed the relationship and became much more mindful of what I said or did around the person.
I’ve had others share with me that the lesson that they learned is that they trusted others too much. While I get where the person is coming from with this kind of statement, my experience has shown me that that kind of attitude and become the building block to a fundamental change in their leadership behavior in a negative way. You can’t stop trusting others because you’ve been burned.
Another way to gain insight from being thrown under the bus is to reflect back and understand some of the behaviors that may have been indicators that the person was capable of what they did. Some of those include:
Trying to take credit for things that they did not do
A lack of reciprocating information about themselves
A lack of showing vulnerability in their role
Statements like “It’s not personal”
Being thrown under the bus is never fun and can really hurt, especially if it comes from a friend or close colleague. Represent yourself well during the stinging moment, seek clarity, learn from the incident and move forward. You’ll build a character trait that will serve you well as you continue on your professional journey.
Storytelling is an art that a great leader and speaker know about. There’s a reason why you remember the illustrations that others share in their presentation and how you’ll often remember the stories and analogies from a minister’s sermon before you recall the points of the message itself. People love stories!
I certainly leverage the power of storytelling in my own leadership. Being a good storyteller helps you get your message across, become more memorable to others and raise your influence level across the team. We’ve previously talked about the types of stories (EP 124) that you should have at the ready. Today, we’ll look at 4 elements that make a great story.
Stories don’t have to be long and elaborate
I’ve certainly been known to dial in a little bit of exaggeration or emphasis in a story to drive a point home or to land a punchline. Stories don’t have to be incredibly long, in fact, shorter stories are typically more memorable. Here’s an example of a story that Mike talks about in our book recommendation shows:
Two friends started a computer company. One person was a brilliant engineer, and the other had a passion for marketing and design. Together, the two Steves created Apple in Steve Jobs’s garage where he lived with his parents. Together, they revolutionized the industry and made computers easy to use for the average person. Later, Jobs was kicked out of his own company after a failed boardroom coup. A decade later he came back to pull the organization back from the brink of bankruptcy and made it into the organization that many millions love today. In 2022, the brand founded by two guys in a dad’s garage became the first U.S. company to be valued at $3 trillion.
117 words are all it took to share the story of Apple and it includes all four elements of a great story.
It needs Structure
There are some great stories out there that have been buried by a meandering storyteller. Maybe you know a person like this; they just seem to go on-an-on with an illustration or example and the story never really ends. There is a great episode of The Office where their branch manager Micheal (ep 289) finally has a great story to share and he just kills it by dragging it on and on until people lose interest.
All great stories have one thing in common: they have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning sets the stage – It’s the backdrop of the situation and introduction to the characters. The middle shines a spotlight on the conflict or obstacles and the end resolves the conflict or shares what the outcome was.
Think about the stories that you want to share with others and visualize how the story plays out. Does it contain a definitive beginning middle and end? If so then you are already well on your way to a potentially memorable story.
It should have Characters
Speaking of The Office, one of the main reasons that people love that show (or really any show) is because of the characters. They are memorable and unique, and oftentimes we can see a little bit of ourselves in those characters that we love the most.
There are times when the concept of your story may be more abstract. Perhaps you are trying to capture your Mission, Vision, and Values. These abstract ideas can be embedded in your stories but the people or characters are the ones carrying the message. When I worked on a project where a company was relaunching its Values, we created videos where the executives came in and shared stories of what that particular Value meant to them or how they’ve seen it played out in the organization. We almost exclusively used the power of characters and stories to convey the message of the Values to those associates.
There needs to be Conflict
People love good conflict in stories. It’s what keeps people engaged as they wait to hear what is next. Remember conflict doesn’t always have to be physical or violent. Other areas to think about in conflict include:
Time – a natural enemy to all people!
A breakdown in resources or communications
An unexpected twist to a well-thought-out plan
Nature or other physical barriers
Society or government
There are conflicts going on around you on a daily basis and it’s very likely that the basis for your story may have more than one conflict. Choose and highlight the one that best accentuates the point that you are trying to make to keep people focused and engaged.
It needs Resolution
Every story needs to end. Give your story some closure. What was the point or lesson learned that you want to share? People enjoy hearing how someone overcame the odds or obstacles and to understand how the person or situation was transformed as a result.
In many business-related stories, the story simply wraps up with a solution to the problem or conflict at hand.
Craft great stories that include all the elements above. Practice and refine them with friends and family and then add them to your proverbial roll-a-dex to pull out at the right time in the future. There is quite a bit of power in storytelling as a communication tool and relationship builder. Tell a compelling story that pulls people in and inspires them.