One of the most exhilarating experiences when beginning something new is the open space it creates in our minds and within the depths of our beings. The level of curiosity that naturally balances with the output of creative ideas instills an energy that permeates through us and around our environments, raising up others and increasing human potential.
Our brain is uniquely designed to capture each vivid moment of starting a new journey in spectacular detail, leaving an amazing reservoir of potential to be drawn upon in meeting future conditions.
But often as we attend to our daily struggles and minor setbacks, we find our views becoming clouded by the set of circumstances facing us. Before long, these struggles can leave us feeling disappointed and decrease our drive to reach for a fresh perspective. Rather than redirecting our focus, we settle for the status quo.
Breaking Free to Rediscover Open Space
After years of working long and hard to climb through the ranks to vice president, operations, John helped his organization acquire a large competitor in its industry and achieve record-breaking results. However, in spite of his achievements, the impact of working for a verbally abusive boss over time began to undermine his self-confidence and sense of worth. Trying to protect his team while attempting to improve the relationship with his superior left John with emptiness, shame and low self-esteem.
Making a strategic decision, John left a six-figure salary and executive role to pursue a career where he could leverage his skills to influence the next generation of leaders. Today, as an educator, John strives to create the “open space” and a love of learning in his students.
In spite of John’s mistreatment, he learned to embrace the relevance of his executive experience. What we learn about ourselves during times of adversity often provides us a recommitment to our values and the fuel to drive our passions when life calls us in a new and unexpected direction.
John chose not to settle for the status quo, daring instead to press beyond the noise of uncertainty and reach for higher potential.
Questioning the status quo often makes us uncomfortable. But such questions, especially really good questions, can serve as a source of insight and the beginning of dynamic progress. Sometimes just the simple discussions we have in our workplaces about the future and the context in which we serve (our strengths, our weaknesses, our dreams) can be “open spaces” for renewal. As executives and workers with high potentials, how well do we discuss who we are and who we intend to be in the era ahead? What is our yardstick for identifying and measuring human potential?
Imagine asking your senior leaders, “What would grace enable us to be?” It’s a unique question, one that I’ve been relentlessly curious about after learning that a CEO for whom I have profound respect asked this of his senior executive team during performance reviews. The responses were amazing! How would grace enable your 21st Century Workplace to thrive? What kind of responses might your leaders provide?
Grace. It’s certainly hard to measure, but you know it when you see it, and it provides a framework for a future discussion on potential. If you’re reading this feeling uncomfortable with the status quo, you know that the real job of a 21st Century Leader is to increase understanding of what’s meaningful to your organization and your employees so that collaboratively you can find ways of measuring what genuinely matters. This isn’t work for the faint-hearted. It’s tough, but it’s critical in today’s global business environment. Responding to this question not only marks the beginning of a focus on human potential, but also the moment that we become faithful to our organizational mission and begin true transformation.
A Modern Day Miracle of Courage and Grace
May I invite you to consider the real depth of this question, “What would grace enable us to be?” and its potential impact on your organization. To illustrate, let me pass along an amazing photo recently shared with me that was taken during a recent TED Conference in Washington, D.C., by James Duncan Davidson:
Take a deep look at this photo of Phyllis Rodriguez , left, and Aicha El-Wafi. What do you see? Why does it matter?
Ms. Rodriguez’s son Greg was killed with 3,000 others during the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Ms. El-Wafi’s son, Zacarias Moussaoui, was charged with conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in the attack. Tragedy and grief brought them together; grace and forgiveness infused healing and friendship.
This magnificent photo reminds us that wherever our journey leads, we need the grace of others to release our burdens in order to reach our potential.
How do we measure grace? We don’t. We just know it when we see it. Through Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. El-Wafi’s losses, they have helped thousands of people sharing in this loss find grace and the courage to begin a new direction.
The American workplace has experienced significant losses over time, too. What if leaders in your organization dropped their swords and, instead of competing against each other, found the common bonds to forge a new direction of potential and achievement?
As your organization prepares for the future, how might grace provide “open space” within your culture? How will your organization turn around the disappointments of the past and recalibrate for the future? How will your workplace measure performance compared to a new plan? How will performance compare to your potential this year?
Remember this photo, and the lessons it contains:
* One infusion
* One gift of silence, one focus to listen
* One act of forgiving oneself for mistakes
* One gift of compassion to another
* Two lives that turned tragedy into hope for the world.
Life is an adventure. Dare to begin!
Thanks for sharing your time with us. It would be so meaningful to hear about your daring steps to begin in 2011. Please drop us a line!