How to be messy AND bravely lead

Wallowing in the depths of self-doubt is common. It’s what you do when you realize you are there that makes the difference.

Here are some recent insights on how to be messy AND brave in your life.

I’ve been rolling around in the muck of self-doubt lately, trying to get balance and clarity on the positive change and impact I really want to have in the world, but mostly worrying whether the change I want to create is possible. Then the universe gave me a couple of gifts that helped me shift from messy to messy AND brave.

First, was a conversation with the talented and insightful Rick Tamlyn (if you need a coach to help you grow your impact in the world, check him out), who helped me embrace the mess that comes from taking a stand, showing up in the world and being courageous. It takes effort, energy and heart to do this day after day and sometimes you will get a little tired. Being a courageous leader and having brave, honest conversations isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s OK to need to step a way for a bit. Go with that feeling of wanting to retreat, sink into it for a bit, nurture your soul.

Then get back out there and go again, because how you show up, the impact you can have on and with others, the brave, honest conversations that need to be had — they are waiting for you.

That’s tip 1: When you are a mess, step into it. Be messy. Being brave isn’t possible without the days when you are messy. It’s like how joy isn’t joyful without the days when you are sad. They go together. No one is brave all the time.

I’ve been really reflecting on how I want to show up — what are the ways of being that serve me in bringing brave, honest conversations to the world? How do I help others have those tough conversations? How do we build change experiences where people yearn for more conversations where they emerge believing in possibility rather than weighed down by challenge? What happens when I am human and don’t show up as a brave leader in a tough moment? These are big questions that have been circling in my brain based on recent experiences. I’ve been in conversation with a colleague about creating an agreement for how we work together in the future. Some days I was open hearted and brave, leaning into possibility and co-creating new solutions. I was always responsive, committed and attentive. I had hopes and expectations of quick resolution and forward momentum. However, the longer the conversation went on, the more it dragged me under, and I frequently became frustrated, feeling trapped and held hostage. It’s not a good place to be. It’s like being a cage tiger. It’s tough to lead from that place, locked in a cage. I can’t say I led from my best self every day, but it was a beautiful and important lesson in recovery, over and over again.

Tip #2: Know where you stand. And know how to help yourself recover. How do you want to be? How do you want to show up? Take that stand, and if you falter, get up and recover and try again. You won’t get it right every time. In fact, you might mess it up frequently. When you do falter, acknowledge where you are in that moment, do the things that help you re-center, press re-set, and commit again.

This morning I was sitting down to write a blog and decided to check my email first. (FYI just an off topic tip — that is not a brilliant idea when you are sitting down to get creative, and can be full of distractions and generally allow you to procrastinate about writing for a bit longer. So don’t do what I do. Do what I say).In my email box was a delightful email from the inspiring and entertaining Marie Forleo (if you don’t follow her, you should). Her latest video is about self doubt, impact on others, and kindness. It brought me back to the WHY — WHY I do this work — because if I support 1 person to go home or to their office or community and have a brave, honest conversation that changes their world for the better, I’ve done what I set out to do. Just 1 person who lives brave, honest conversations, whose life is more possible because they can have tough conversations and solve problems….then its all worth it. That’s impact.

I’ve recently spent 3 weeks in New Brunswick, facilitating brave honest conversations with more than 500 internal staff inside an organization. I had a woman leave a session I facilitated and come back 10 minutes later to tell me that when she got the invitation to attend the conversation she was was frustrated, angry and defensive. She was sure it was going to be a negative experience full of conflict. She had to come back to tell me that even though that was where she started out, where she ended up was hopeful, optimistic and positive; that is was a powerful and affirming conversation to have been part of and her views are changed from where she started. That’s why I do this work. The shift.

That’s tip #3: When you are lost or struggling go back to your WHY. What is the impact you want to have? What change are you trying to create? What do you believe so passionately in it calls to you? That commitment to what matters most to you, it makes the doubt less important. Be committed to something more than your doubts or fears. It doesn’t make them go away, but it makes them less consuming.

And tip #4: To echo Marie…reach out with kindness. Practice gratitude. Tell people who have had an impact on your life that they have done that. We need a lot more kindness in the world, and you never know what your kindness or our courage will inspire in someone else.

Then take a deep breath and take a stand and show up again. Bravely lead, practice brave, honest conversations in your life, organization and community. Be the world you want to live in. Create positive change. And rest and recover once in a while too.