How we scale leaders to grow sustainable technology organizations

Making waves in the tech industry? We know even the best and brightest organization can be no more effective than the sum of its leadership. The level of your leaders’ consciousness and capability is what ripples across your entire organization—and it directly controls your business’s cohesion and capacity to excel.

Why Conscious Leadership matters in today’s world

Once leaders are conscious, self-aware and intentional? They make waves. 

  • Their leadership capacity and impact increases. 
  • They can give employees and organizations what they deserve. 
  • They can intentionally create more engaged and productive workplaces. 

Agile, high-performing teams provide for fast product and service releases and opportunities for innovation and continuous improvement; however, those factors shouldn’t end with the product. Employee and leader burnout is all too real and it’s up to us to create a future of work that’s both scalable and sustainable. 

At ORCA HR Solutions, we focus on creating conscious leaders so they can grow organizations as a whole. 

Proprietary method of Conscious Leadership

At ORCA, we know the true key theme to leadership success: Conscious Leadership. And we’ve created our own proprietary framework that is needed more now than ever. 

ORCA’s Conscious Leadership 4As Framework is a framework to deepen self-awareness and help leaders realize their full potential—as well as the potential of their teams. 

It is about understanding and embracing their whole self with total awareness that a leader’s inner game creates their external results — their leadership impact. 

Leading by our values

We seek data and insights and drive our programs using world-leading tools and assessments, but our application and approach is always heart-centered. 

We never forget that our data has a human heartbeat and we never lose sight of the person behind the numbers. We go further than analysis and base our practices around emotional intelligence, creativity, motivations, experiences and empathy. 

We use data and insight to help leaders create a heightened awareness of self and others, enabling meaningful and effective communication. 

By combining our human-centered approach with rigorous methodology, our leadership development programs develop companies by developing the people who drive them. 

Scaling leaders through holistic leadership development

Leaders are whole people. Therefore, programs to develop these leaders need to be holistic, using multiple tools and ways of learning and growing. 

Our Leadership and Management Programs integrate insights, capabilities, support structures, and real learning on the job. We create holistic programs that integrate assessments, coaching, workshops, and on-the-job practice. 

The outcome is heart-centered, effective leaders that create a culture of bringing their whole self to work. These work environments are kind, supportive, and motivating where people feel like they belong. 

We unequivocally understand all different stages of growth, complexities and challenges tech organizations and startups face and come not only armed with our expertise in human development, but our critical knowledge of the intricate and unique environment, too. 

Our coaches have worked within Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Slack, Facebook, Google, DocuSign, Expedia, LinkedIn, Zillow Group, Avalara, Micron and more. 

Proven approaches for your unique goals and challenges

Sometimes leaders need 1:1 guidance for an even more personalized experience. We onboard the best coaches in the business, so we have the right person, with the right background, and right expertise to help your organization break through barriers and accelerate towards the future of work. 

We provide executive coaching, workshops, and personalized experiences for the most important challenges organizations face. 

Activating Leadership Through 10 Self-Awareness Activities

Is one of your goals this year to become a more impactful leader? Awareness is the gateway to more effective, conscious leadership. In fact it’s the first step in ORCA’s Four A’s of Conscious Leadership.

Yet many of our clients ask, “Where do I begin?”

We’ve put together a list of 10 activities to do to increase your self-awareness every day. Remember, awareness is a continual process of learning. Our team at ORCA uses these techniques to further grow and develop. 

1. Meditate and practice mindfulness.

One company’s study showed consistent employee meditation increased productivity by 120%. With meditation rising to the same level of popularity as yoga in the U.S. alone, it’s easy to find resources to help with this critical tool for self-awareness and success.  

  • Set a timer for 5 minutes, close your eyes and notice what comes up.
  • Headspace and Calm are great tools to use for guided meditations.
  • These mindfulness tips may seem easy enough, but in practice self-awareness is a process of constant learning. Therefore, ORCA and WithPause have put together a detailed guidebook that you can use throughout your day for self-inquiry: 7 Daily Micro-Practices to Shift Your Experience. 

2. Learn something new.

From a physiological perspective, learning something new is good for you. When you learn something new, you are exercising your brain—helping to improve cognitive functions such as concentration, attention to detail, memory recall and problem solving.

  • Find an interest that you enjoy, ideally something that brings you joy and gets you out of your comfort zone. Through trying something new, you’ll gain greater self-awareness and confidence. 

3. Use self-assessment instruments.

Understanding behavioral style and preferences to environmental factors impact how you lead and work as a team. 

  • These can include assessments such as DISC and EQ to learn more about yourself and increase your awareness. Get your free DISC Engagement Report here.
  • You can also use CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) to dive deeper into what are your strengths and how to capitalize on them. Contact us to learn more. 

4. Journal.

Journaling is one of the most accessible tools available to increase your self-awareness—especially as patterns in thought can appear when you journal over a span of time. All you need is a pen and paper (or blank document on your laptop). 

  • Consistency is key here. Notice what thoughts you have when you first wake up and write them down. Use the prompts below to guide your journal entries.

5. Create a personal values statement.

A personal values statement shows you what’s most important, which is incredibly effective in prioritizing your time and goals. 

  • What is important to you? What guides your actions?

6. Challenge your fixed mindset.

A growth mindset thrives on challenge, unlike a fixed mindset, which assumes we can’t change in a meaningful way. 

  • Example: Instead of “I need to control.” (a fixed quality that feels unchangeable) try “I am learning how to let go be a better listener and allow others to take the lead.” (this creates a path forward)
  • Kristin Neff’s 5-minute Self Compassion Break is a great tool to guide you forward when you feel stuck in your fixed mindset.

7. Identify the sensations in your body in connection with your emotion.

Recognizing how our mind and body react to situations and emotions—whether in tandem or separately—can illuminate areas we want to alleviate tension. 

  • Notice what situations or stimuli trigger you and cause you to have certain reactions or feelings. Example: What is happening in your body when you feel angry? 
  • Set a reminder on your phone that says “Name 3 emotions you are experiencing right now.” Set it to repeat at a specific time every day. 

8. Examine and poke holes in your own level of thinking.

As leaders, we know that making assumptions isn’t the best practice. Your own thinking is no different. 

  • Play your own devil’s advocate.
  • Be open to asking those around you what I am missing in my thinking about this problem.

9. Know your strengths and weaknesses/growth edge.

SWOT analysis may be second nature for your business, but knowing your own strengths, weaknesses, and growth edge present an opportunity for greater self-awareness and direction. 

  • In what areas would you like to improve? What things come naturally and easily to you? What is something you would like to do, but are afraid to try?

10. Pay attention to your intuition.

Paying attention to your intuition—and trusting where it leads—can bring self-recognition and information you can then act on. 

  • Where do you feel naturally inclined to go? Be curious and listen beyond what your rational mind might be telling you. 

Looking Back to Look Ahead: An End of Year Letter from CEO Paul O’Beirne

This time of year can fly by with more events than usual; it’s normal to feel the pressure to celebrate and soak in every last moment as the year comes to a close. It’s also a time for reflection and looking to the future with intentionality. It’s important to look back so we can see how we would like to move forward. As I reflect back on my Conscious Leadership journey this year, I encourage you to do the same. 

Vulnerability is an essential part of the Conscious Leadership Journey

This year, I stepped in front of the camera and shared more of myself with you. I’ll tell you, making my first video was both a weird and anxious experience. It felt like I was talking to myself. I had a thought of “are you staring at a screen or really talking to people?” It felt vulnerable and challenging, pushing me even further as a leader and I shared more of my own journey than ever before. Over time I was able to become a little more comfortable making videos. 

I believe what we have to say is important, especially in these times when most of us are being challenged by everything. The world is shifting and we are entering a new era of work. My mission and our mission at ORCA is to help people become more conscious and take ownership of things that are going to help them be more effective in navigating change. This mission is more important than any fear I have of being in front of the camera. 

I didn’t have any expectations about what might happen, but I gained so much from the experience. New connections, deeper connections with my network and more confidence in myself. I felt really vulnerable sharing my journey publicly and ultimately had to trust that my sharing could help someone. In the end, it resonated with some, and I had people reach out to me to thank me for sharing and some even shared how it helped them in their own journey. 

The challenge of leading a company through uncertainty

In the beginning of the year, lots of projects were still on hold as clients didn’t know what to expect in the coming months. As the year progressed, things started picking up and there was more predictability around how we would move forward. Everything wasn’t completely worked out, but we had a general direction. In 2020 we really had to get comfortable moving everything to the virtual space, and this year we were able to go back to having some in-person meetings. 

The biggest challenge we faced was the uncertainty that comes with growing and sustaining a business. Figuring out how to keep generating revenue, maintaining profitability, controlling costs and overhead, and figuring out cash flow. 

Personally, I was challenged to work on my business versus in my business and really embody the role of CEO. (You might remember my balcony and the dance floor video.) It was important to look at how to scale a business beyond just me and the relationships. I needed to personally spend more time on the balcony. 

Defining what success means at ORCA

It’s important to know your “why.” It’s crucial to how you measure your success as a leader. When I think about ORCA’s success, I ask myself two key questions:

  1. Have we assisted our customers in having a transformational experience? 
  2. Have the individuals and teams with whom we work taken away something that makes them and those around them better? 

This year I really tried to prioritize sharing our wins. I adopted a habit of doing this every week in what I called “our wins and priorities.”  We are still a work in progress, but are continuing to get clear on where we can add the most value and focusing on developing our niche. Currently we are transitioning to a more holistic approach and integrating the different assets we have to bring greater value while focusing on where we have the most experience, which is working with technology organizations. 

Looking to the future

As another year comes to a close, I’m going to continue to use connection as my roadmap. My goal is to continue to establish and build long-term sustainable relationships with our clients and partners. It’s not about selling a product or a new lifestyle. It’s about raising awareness and encouraging people to continue to grow and transform and for you to do the same for your people; in this way, we propel to new levels of success. 

We are working on integrated offerings that can be customized to different clients based on their needs. The Four A’s of Conscious Leadership will continue to be a focus, and we’re excited to dive deeper into that framework with you in 2022. 

We are so grateful for our clients, our partners, and our community at large. I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday and a wonderful end to 2021, and we look forward to connecting with you next year. 

If you would like to stay updated on what’s happening at ORCA, subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news sent straight to your inbox. 



The most impactful books on my Conscious Leadership journey: 5 Book Recommendations for Conscious Leaders

I’ve always sought to learn and grow on my Conscious Leadership journey, whether it be from mentors, peers, my job, or on my own. Reading growth-oriented books is something that has helped me tremendously, and today I’m excited to share some of my favorite Conscious Leadership books with you. 

I met with Marvin during my time working at Microsoft. I really liked the work and research he did on empowering people in the workforce. He empowered people by moving responsibility to where the job is at, meaning as a leader he believed it was crucial to enable people to solve their own problems. He inspired the idea that everyone can create their own desirable future. 

This book is great for someone who is interested in organization change, or looking to feel more empowered in their workplace. 

Kevin Cashman takes a holistic approach to leadership: grow the whole person to grow the whole leader. His book offers stories, exercises, and practices to help readers develop mastery in eight areas. This is the book that started to help me think about the inner and outer game, although I didn’t call it that at the time.

This book is for anyone who wants to cultivate more awareness, and grow on their Conscious Leadership journey. 

In his book, Otto Scharmer integrates heart-centered leadership and focuses on where leadership comes from instead of how someone does leadership. This had the biggest influence on my capstone project: The Being of Leadership. 

He talks about full presence listening and how the power of listening is both being able to connect to yourself and others. He describes three presences: co-sensing, co-presenting, co-creating that coming together to create a full experience. 

I recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for something comprehensive and wants to learn about an interesting model. 

My first copy of this book was given to me in 1983. I re-read it in 1985 when I lost my dad and my job. This book is all about believing in yourself and not getting in your own way. I remember when I had no job, and I said I have no doubts and that I am going to be successful and won’t worry about money. A leader from Microsoft was supposed to meet with seven of us. No one else could make it, so I met with him one on one. After that meeting, he offered me a job, and I moved to the U.S. 

I’ve learned that when you get out of your own way, really ridiculous and crazy things can happen for you. If you’re wondering what the three magic words are, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. 

I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something really impactful. This is a book that I often buy copies of to gift to people.

In this book, Ron Heifetz gives a structure and framework for dealing with complexity and understanding the whole organizational system and your relationship with that system. This is where “the balcony and the dance floor” came from. 

“Knowing how the environment is pulling your strings and playing you is critical to making responsive rather than reactive moves.” – Ron Heifetz

He talks about observation, interpretation, and intervention. How do you do these things in that system? You have more control of the complexity itself when you understand that it’s the relationship to the complexity that matters rather than the complexity itself. 

“Your silence creates a vacuum for others to fill. The key is to stay present and keep listening. The silence of holding steady is different from the silence of holding back.” – Ron Heifetz 

It can be difficult when change requires you to challenge people’s familiar reality. Many will feel threatened as you push through major changes, but as a leader you will have to find a way to make it work. 

I would recommend this book to someone who is going through a transition, or who is looking to make big changes in their life. This book will have a huge impact on how you see and understand your environment. 

There are so many other great resources out there, but these are the top books that have had the greatest impact on me and my journey. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions, or want to share what you’ve learned from these books. You can get in touch by going to ORCA’s Contact page or reaching out to me on LinkedIn

Learn more about Conscious Leadership here. If you’re ready for help on your Conscious Leadership journey, you can learn more about working with us here

Diving Into Conscious Leadership

What you need to know as a leader, and how you can accelerate your growth.

We are passionate about supporting leaders at ORCA. It is our mission to raise the consciousness of the leaders we work with in order to create more productive and effective organizations. We measure our success by the impact we have on the leaders we work with. The following videos discuss my own journey to conscious leadership after leaving Microsoft, the trends we are seeing for the future of leadership, and the struggles that leaders go through in their careers.

Paul's Journey to Conscious Leadership

Before we dive into the work we do, I want to share with you some of my leadership story. My journey started when I left Microsoft. I felt I was no longer giving or getting my best and decided it was time to figure out what was next. 

It was challenging to leave. When you work at an organization for a long time, you have structure. After I left, I felt lost. I was expecting people to reach out, to feel needed, and that’s not what happened. I had to go through a grieving process during this time.

What I learned is that you can’t have new beginnings until you have an ending. It’s important to celebrate this ending, and it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to feel lost. Remember that you are not alone in this journey. If you can accept that the way you’re feeling is normal, you give yourself space to grow.

That’s why I developed our 4 A’s of Conscious Leadership Framework, to help you navigate through transitions and shift your mindset. This is more important than ever as the future of leadership continues to shift. 

The Future of Leadership

As a leader, it’s important to understand what’s going on in the workforce.

Employee’s expectations of their leaders are shifting, and the changes we saw during COVID only accelerated this shift. Younger workers are moving around to opportunities that are the best fit for them and want to find organizations that care about them and their growth. With the increase of remote work, people are now having to bring their whole selves to the workplace. We are in our houses and juggling it all. Employees want their managers and leaders to understand this.

As a leader, it’s important to think about these changes, and how you are leading. At ORCA we talk about a leader’s inner game and outer game. The inner game is composed of the thoughts and feelings you’re having, the stories you tell yourself that impact the way you lead. Your outer game is how this all manifests in the workplace and how you are executing on your leadership competencies. We’ve developed a holistic approach to Conscious Leadership, because we understand that it’s important for leaders to know about their inner game and outer game.

Leadership is a Journey

We love to help leaders scale to the next level but to do so we must understand and acknowledge that all leaders struggle. Presidents, CEO’s, COO’s, and Senior leaders at large organizations, like Microsoft, all go through difficult periods where they need support.

It’s the leaders who are most aware and who are willing to ask for help who get through the struggles more quickly.

Leadership is a journey. Asking for help is a great way to accelerate your own leadership journey, and is an important part of the process. Coaching is a great way to scale up your leadership and have support along the way.

We’d love to support you on your leadership journey.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch or subscribe to our monthly newsletter to get all the latest updates and Conscious Leadership tips sent straight to your inbox.

The Great Turnover Tsunami: What is the manager’s role in the tidal wave of employee turnovers?

There are a lot of articles being written about the great turnover. Experts call it “The Great Turnover Tsunami,” a tidal wave of employee turnovers due to pandemic burnout, among other factors. Employees are taking the time to reassess what is important to them, and spoiler alert, it’s not going back to the office.

I’ve spent the last few weeks speaking with some of my clients who are considering leaving their current roles. When I asked them why, they mentioned two main reasons. 

  1. They want to create more balance in their lives.
  2. They do not feel valued or cared for by their managers. 

The consensus among these clients was that they felt their managers had not shown up for them when they were going through personal challenges during the pandemic and before. 

Compensation is no longer the only motivating factor

My clients expressed to me that they were all willing to sacrifice compensation in order to find a role and an environment where they felt more supported and valued. 

The Global Gallup Engagement survey states that only 34% of employees in the U.S. feel engaged.The pandemic has seen that number fluctuate even lower. There is room for improvement here, and it is up to managers and leaders to make these changes a reality. Leaders and managers need to create an environment where employees feel engaged and fully supported in their role. This is even more important during times of anxiety and uncertainty. 

Of the 12 Gallup survey questions, the most important one is the following: 

Does your supervisor or someone at work seem to care about you as a person? 

Research shows that employees leave leaders and managers. One of the key reasons is how their manager sees and values them. 

Employees want to feel heard. They want their manager to engage in empathetic and compassionate conversations. They want to know their managers care about them as a person.  

People are looking for more than just compensation and benefits. They want to work in an environment, and with a manager, that motivates and supports them so they can do their best work.

Conscious Leadership can bridge the gap between managers and employees.

Leaders don’t wish to create an unmotivating or unsupportive environment. Most leaders aren’t aware of how their own behaviors impact those around them. They are unknowingly (or knowingly) blind to how their actions affect others. Yet, it’s this lack of focus and awareness that contributes to an unsupportive work environment.

One of the reasons for this is that many leaders are not appropriately invested in the management part of their role. In many cases, companies don’t focus enough on investing or rewarding the people manager component of the leadership role. If leaders want to stop the Great Turnover Tsunami, they must invest time and energy into becoming aware of how they show up. This will help them become more conscious leaders and model behaviors like emotional intelligence and empathy that make an environment more supportive and motivating. 

As an executive coach, this is my passion and is what I have dedicated my career to. At ORCA, we’ve developed what I like to call the 4A’s of Conscious Leadership. These steps are an iterative process that help leaders become more aware and implement meaningful change in their organizations.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to reach out with compassion and empathy

When was the last time you had a truly empathetic conversation with an employee? A conversation where you ask about what is going well or not going well for them as a person and not their tasks. When have you shown that you really care about them as a person?

It’s time to have a caring conversation with your employees. If you don’t, you risk losing them. 

Consider the following seven steps to help you gain insight into what your teams are feeling and experiencing.  

7 steps to ignite caring conversations

  1. Set up an individual call or meeting with each employee with the goal of listening with empathy. Do not go into the call with recommendations or action items. This is about listening.
  2. Ask what is going on in their lives at this moment and how you can provide support. 
  3. Ask what transitions they are going through personally. Some people will be feeling a sense of grief from intense change or the impact of the pandemic and continued uncertainty.
  4. Ask what they need to feel empowered and trusted to take care of their work and schedules.
  5. Ask how you can create  the space for them to be innovative and creative. 
  6. Ask how you can help them move forward through uncertainty. 
  7. Create time to have engaging conversations with your employees during your one-on-one meetings or set-up a monthly check-in.
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I challenge you to put time on your calendar to check-in with each person on your team and see how they are really doing. You have the power to lessen the Great Turnover Tsunami and have a profound impact on your teams using compassion, empathy and conscious leadership. 

If you are struggling with how to navigate this time of turnover and uncertainty, please reach out to us.  Our coaches are trained to help you become a caring manager, especially during uncertain times. Also check out the resources in our previous articles

Adaptation: The fourth step in Conscious Leadership

Our environment is constantly changing, so we need to continually adapt​

As humans, we naturally resist change. It’s part of our instincts. If we are naturally built to resist change, how can we possibly learn to thrive in a world that is constantly changing? This is where adaptation comes in

What is Adaptation? ​

The definition of adaptation is “a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment.” Our environment is always changing, so we need to learn how to continually adapt. This is a continuous process. As we become more aware, acknowledge where we’re at and take action, it is critical that we monitor our progress and make adjustments. Adaptation is noticing our progress and the environment around us and then reacting accordingly. 

This is important if we are to move from Conscious Competence (I know something, but I have to think about it as I do it)  to Unconscious Competence (I know something so well I don’t have to think about it.)

In our last article, we discussed needing to continuously seek feedback and monitor the outcome of our actions. This can be a complex process, which requires us to become more attentive to our verbal, behavioral and effective cues while we are relating to others, ourselves and our environment. This process can be seen as a series of experiments of learning and growth. 
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Case Study: Self-reflection and increased awareness is the key to adapting​

Liz was a coaching client who was working on a plan to be more aware of her triggered reactions when she felt people were not moving at the right pace. She was doing well until her boss asked her to take on some new projects. 

She wanted to take on the extra work, but also felt her stress level increase with the added pressure to deliver more. 

Instead of jumping directly into action, it was important for her to take some time for self-reflection and to diagnose her new situation. 
 
I encouraged her to become aware of what might be going on with this new change and to spend some time observing what was happening as a result. 

She worked through some of the exercises to help her reduce stress, such as taking time to exercise, setting boundaries around work and getting enough rest. She also reflected on how she could shift her perspective and see the situation differently.

Liz asked herself how she could shift some of the responsibilities of her team to get everything done instead of how she is personally going to take on new responsibilities.

She was able to think more clearly because of her increased awareness, reduced stress and with this new perspective she felt ready to take on the new responsibilities. Liz was adapting to the changes in her environment.

Adaptive leadership is about the change that enables the capacity for us to thrive.​

Ron Heifetz’s Adaptive Leadership model is all about experimenting, discovering new knowledge, and making numerous adjustments throughout.” Adaptive problems require individuals throughout an organization to continually make adjustments to their environments. Adaptive leaders are open minded, willing to self correct and examine challenges from new perspectives.

Our Conscious Leadership framework can support you in this process. This is not a linear journey and requires continual adaptation to the evolving environment and to recognize that our relationship to this environment is constantly changing. The process of moving from Awareness to Adaptation is not a straight line, but rather a spiral where we are continuously adapting to the world around us at each stage.

New environments and new dreams demand new strategies and abilities, and they require the leadership to mobilize them. My friend and colleague, Sesil Pir, said in her book Human Centered Leadership, “ A leader changes shape, color and quality day by day until, one day, they find people are drawn to them without any further effort. Here are 5 steps that can help guide you through this process. 

5 steps of effective adaptation

  1. Try different approaches and see what the impact is. Adaptation takes place through repeated awareness, acknowledgment and action through experimentation. 
  2. Take time to observe yourself. Be curious about what you feel and how you react  as the situation around you changes.
  3. Slow down. Remember that it takes repetition, trial and error to learn something new.
  4. Recognize that leadership is a continuously adaptive process. In order to become skilled, it requires continual learning and the knowing that the environment around you and your relationship with it will continuously change. This struggle is part of the leadership journey.
  5. Use the system you’re in to support your growth by developing an accountability circle of trusted advisors who can give you feedback. Ask the feedforward question, “what is one thing I can do that will make me more effective in working with you.” 
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By taking time to observe yourself and experiment with different approaches, you will start to better understand your relationship with your environment. Remind yourself that adaptation is a continuous process and that situations and environments are constantly changing. As you go through our Conscious Leadership Framework, you will not only gain insights, but you will also strengthen your ability to adapt to any situation or environment and become a more effective leader.

Do you want to get all the latest information and updates on Conscious leadership? Subscribe to our mailing list.

Read more articles in our Conscious Leadership Series here.

Action: The third step in Conscious Leadership

Tiny gains turn into big wins

What comes to mind when you think about taking action in your life? Is it fear, or maybe a desire for a huge shift or a grand gesture? These might not be the most effective steps forward when you are looking to make changes in your life. What we’re learning through neuroscience is that it’s the small moves or tiny gains that propel us forward and help rewire our brains. Before we dive into how we make effective changes, let’s talk about what action truly means.

What is an Action?

When you take action, you are moving from “conscious incompetence” to “conscious competence,” meaning you are moving from a place of I know that I don’t know something” to “I know something, but I have to think about it as I do it.” When you take action, you are committing to integrating new practices into your work and life. This impacts the people around you, your team, your organization, your family and friends. It impacts your whole self. It is important to keep this in mind and understand that the best action to take first might be slowing down, taking a step back and reflecting.

 

We are learning through neuroscience that our brain can change when we focus on what we want to change. This is called neuroplasticity, also known as the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. The brain creates new neural pathways from new habits. In his book Mindsight, Daniel Siegal indicates that consciously focusing attention on the changes you’re making will reinforce the new neural connections. The more specific we are about the changes we would like to make, the better the instructions we are giving to our brain.  

Case Study: How do you take action when you feel stuck?

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A client made this comment to me when we were working together. “I have this feeling I am driving a car down the highway at a very fast speed, but I am finding it hard to get anywhere.” He had some big deliverables that he was excited about, but was feeling stuck in moving some of the simple tasks forward. 

 

In order to help him move forward, I asked him to slow down and engage in some self awareness exercises with curiosity and without judgement. We uncovered some of the underlying issues preventing him from moving forward in the way he desired. One feeling that came up was his fear of failure. 

 

I asked him to see this from a different perspective. In this process, I asked him to observe his feelings in a way where he could see he was not those feelings, rather he was observing those feelings in a specific context.

 

He was able to break the large task into smaller pieces and focused on the next thing he could do to move the task forward. He could then connect the feeling he attached to success when he executed on the deliverables. By slowing down, he was able to see what was holding him back and then take the necessary steps to move forward.

The Power of Tiny Gains- taking small steps over time help us rewire our neural pathways.

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The key to change is to be very specific about the change we desire and break it down into smaller steps. Those smaller steps might look like learning a new routine or behavior that is performed regularly. When we do this, we are rewiring our neural pathways to bring these new habits from a state of “conscious competence” to “unconscious competence.”

If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done.

In the beginning, making a choice or change that is 1% better might not seem significant. As time goes on, those small changes and improvements compound and suddenly you will find a large gap between where you started and where you are. Focusing on making small changes and improvements every day will add up to something significant over time. Here are 5 steps you can use to implement small changes into your life. 

5 Steps of Effective Action

  1. Set a goal for yourself. Create a goal that is achievable and short-term focused.
  2. Break your goal down into smaller steps. Focus on the one or two most important things that will move you toward that goal.
  3. Be present. Focus in the moment on what habit you are working on.
  4. Visualize the benefits of achieving your goal. Think about how you will feel once you accomplish your goal. What benefits will it bring? Connect to these feelings and feel them in the present moment.
  5. Visualize the obstacle without judgement. Name the obstacles you are facing. What can you do to address those obstacles? Can you detach yourself from them and remind yourself that you are not those obstacles? They are merely a temporary experience.

By implementing small changes into your life, you start to see a larger shift over time. Taking time to slow down, reflect and be specific about the changes you desire will help your brain effectively rewire your neural pathways. It’s never too late to change as long as we are focused on the desired outcome and trust in the power of the tiny gain.

 

Are you feeling stuck and unsure about the changes you would like to make? We’d love to help! 

Reach out to us to get started with a consultation. 

 

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Acknowledgement: The second step in Conscious Leadership

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Are you ready to take the leap and shift your mindset into one of a continual learner? 

Are you ready to accept thoughts and beliefs that are holding you back?

 


Moving from Awareness to Acknowledgement in the Conscious Leadership Framework is not a linear process.

The Four A’s of Conscious Leadership work together to deepen our understanding of how our experiences impact our perceptions and show up in the world. 

Awareness  is the shift from “I don’t know that I don’t know something” to “I know that I don’t know something,” thus creating an opportunity for choice to ACKNOWLEDGE.

 In Noel Burch’s the four stages of competence this is moving to conscious incompetence (click on the graphic to see more). This step may seem insignificant, but it is a crucial and often the most difficult part of the process. 

It requires  deep vulnerability as well as an acceptance of discomfort.

The key to success in Acknowledgment is shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

The first step in Acknowledgement is admitting that you don’t know everything, and you desire to learn more. 

We call this a growth mindset. 

A growth mindset embraces the challenge of learning and change. 

People who have a growth mindset know they don’t have all the answers and acknowledge they never will. 

They hold themselves with humility and know there’s always more to learn or what is called a beginner’s mind.

When we learn new skills and new ways of coping the stress and challenges of life, new possibilities arise.

We are able to see life from new angles and approach problems with more humility, experience and innovation. 

In his research with Richard Boyatzis, Daniel Goleman established the primary role of leadership as emotional in nature. He used the term “attunement” to intentionally establish the non-linear nature of applied emotional intelligence. 

Attunement aims to maintain the quality of relational health among members of a team or group. It is important for the leader to acknowledge and take ownership of how his/her mindset, expectations and emotional state is going to have an impact on the interactions even if there was nothing said. 

It is important for a leader to acknowledge this and take ownership of this. 

This pursuit of deeper understanding of the group requires the leader to understand how their mindset might impact their perspective of how the team functions.

A case study: a senior leader acknowledges and take ownership of his "internal operating system"

In the previous article written on Awareness, I spoke about my experience coaching a senior leader who learned to become aware of how his direct communication style was hindering his team’s productivity. 

The Leadership Circle Assessment was used to show him how his mindset or “internal operating system” was driving his leadership actions. After the assessment, it became clear that he needed to acknowledge and take ownership of his impact on the overall effectiveness of the team. 

Time and time again, I see many leaders wanting to dive straight into action, without truly accepting themselves and their actions. 

Therefore, I asked him to slow down, take a step back and reflect. Through this reflection period, he became more curious about his communication style, what situations triggered him and why he believed he had to be the go-to person to solve problems. 

He was then able to take ownership of his beliefs and acknowledge how he might be hindering his team’s productivity.

How to introduce Acknowledgement into your day through reflection and exploration

Moving from Awareness to Acknowledgement is not linear, but iterative in nature. 

We acknowledge through exploration, inquiry and ownership which then helps to increase our awareness. 

There are a few key ways I’ve learned to bring more Acknowledgment into my life.

Acknowledgment Tip #1

Acknowledge your strengths AND your weaknesses. It’s important to celebrate who we are holistically, the things we are proud of and the things we want to improve upon. Looking at one, and not the other, provides a skewed sense of self. Download our 7 Mindfulness Practices to bring more awareness and acknowledgement into your daily life.

Acknowledgment Tip #2

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Know that becoming aware and acknowledging your behaviors and characteristics can be difficult. What allows people to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable is the acknowledgment that the only thing we can guarantee is that change is inevitable.  By changing our relationship to the unknown and getting curious around any underlying story that may accompany the discomfort helps us become more comfortable.

Acknowledgment Tip #3

Practice self-compassion. Self compassion is the act of being kind toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or punishing ourselves with self-criticism. The 5 minute Self Compassion Break by Kristin Neff is a great tool to implement self-compassion daily. 

Acknowledgment Tip #4

Engage a coach or mentor to support you on your growth journey. Coaches are committed to your development personally and professionally and function as a mirror to reflect back your own perceptions, stories, strengths and weaknesses. They can support you in maximizing your  personal and professional potential. 

Discomfort is part of growth. Know that you are not alone in this journey.

Are you ready to Acknowledge and take ownership in pursuit of more effective leadership?

Our assessments can help you better understand how your mindset and behaviors are impacting your leadership.

Stay tuned for the next part of our Conscious Leadership series which covers the third step of the 4 A’s of Conscious Leadership: Action. ‘

If you want to keep up to date, join our newsletter for a monthly dose of conscious leadership.

Awareness: The First Step in Conscious Leadership

Learning about ourselves and how we relate to others

Imagine being able to share your thoughts regardless of who you’re speaking with or your expertise in a field. Imagine being able to empower your team to do the same. Is it possible for a workplace to openly communicate regardless of title or hierarchy? How do you get to the root of how your team is feeling and empower them to share openly and honestly with you? This is where Conscious Leadership comes in.

A Conscious Leader embraces their whole self with total awareness of their leadership impact.

They are able to listen and understand how they relate to others in a way which allows them to continue to grow, adapt and lead their team more effectively.  In order to become a more Conscious Leader, one must make a shift into a more conscious mindset. Effective leadership begins with Awareness and is the first step in the Four A’s of Conscious Leadership.

What is awareness and why is it important?

Awareness is defined as the “quality or state of being aware.” You might be wondering “what does this truly mean” or “how does this relate to leadership?” 

 

Daniel Goleman, who popularized Emotional Intelligence, considers self-awareness to be the most crucial competency associated with workplace emotional intelligence. His studies suggest that people who are aware of their emotions are more effective in their jobs. They recognize and understand their moods, emotions and needs and are able to perceive and anticipate how their actions affect other people. 

 

They are also open to feedback from others on how to continuously improve and make sound decisions despite uncertainties and pressures. As a result, they are more trusted leaders and create more productive workplaces.

When we learn to tune-in to ourselves, we create choices of how we move forward and engage.

Self-awareness is about being “in-tune” with yourself in relation to others. It plays a critical role in:

  1. How we understand ourselves
  2. How we relate to others 
  3. How we connect to the world around us

When we tune-in, we can learn about our inner resources, abilities and limits. We begin to understand our strengths and weaknesses and become open to receiving candid feedback. This allows us to see new perspectives and continue down our path of learning and self-development. 

What are the blind spots?

“I don’t know that I don’t know something.”

The challenge in self-awareness is we all have blind spots. 

 

Blind spots: (noun) Things we may not be aware of about ourselves or in relation to others. 

Blind spots are created due to either a  lack of a skill or competency or the inability to see  how our stories, beliefs, mindset, feelings or past experiences impact our behaviors. This is called unconscious incompetence, simply put

I don’t know that I don’t know something. Below are the steps that people go through learning new skills as outlined in a model that was developed by Noel Burch in 1970, called the four stages of competence. The model highlights two factors that affect our thinking as we learn a new skill: consciousness (awareness) and skill level (competence). 

Our blind spots have control over us and our actions. Yet, when we understand the underlying unconscious mechanism that drives our thinking and actions, we have the ability to choose our next steps.

We can use awareness to move to the next step on the ladder, from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. This is the act of moving from “I don’t know that I don’t know something” to “I know that I don’t know something.” Once we are aware of what we don’t know, we have choices available to us. 

A case study: building awareness in a senior leader

In my work with senior leaders, increasing awareness is one of the first areas I work on. One of my favorite examples is a client who was completely unaware of the impact his communication style had on others. As a senior leader he was a strong problem solver and was driven to achieve results in a very timely manner. However, his approach was not getting the best out of the people around him. This was his unconscious incompetence.  


After completing Leadership Circle 360 Assessment, he received feedback on how others perceived him. They saw him as driven, but his direct style was perceived as not collaborative. As a result people did not feel motivated to work with him. At meetings, he dominated conversations and didn’t give space for others. In reviewing his results, he went from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. This information gave him the choice
to then  acknowledge his behavior and move into action, the next steps in the conscious leadership framework. 

Increase our awareness through feedback from others

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One of the best ways to become more self-aware is through asking for feedback from others. 

Self-Awareness Tip #1: I often suggest that leaders find people who they trust to tell them one thing they can do going forward to be a more effective leader. This is what Marshall Goldsmith refers to as Feedforward as a way to focus on the future and not the past. 

 

Self-Awareness Tip #2: I also advise that leaders listen to feedback with curiosity and without attaching to the feelings that come up. There are also more formal instruments available to seek feedback from others such as the 360 assessment or 360 interviews. Both are valuable methods to increase awareness through feedback from others. 

Increase our awareness through self-inquiry

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Equally important, is becoming more aware through self-inquiry. This means questioning, exploring, examining and investigating anything regarding oneself.

 Self-Awareness Tip #3: Psychometric instruments such as DISC and EQ provides a lens to better examine our individual attributes. These assessments help us better understand ourselves and the impact we have on others. 

 

Self-Awareness Tip #4: Self-inquiry also requires reflection about what emotional stimuli or events have impacted you. It is important to maintain daily practices to assist in this journey. Remember, you are not your thoughts and feelings. You are merely observing your responses and reactions in order to better understand who you are and how you impact those around you.

These self-awareness tips may seem easy enough, but in practice self-awareness is a process of constant learning. Therefore, ORCA and WithPause have put together a detailed guidebook that you can use throughout your day for self-inquiry: 7 Daily Micro-Practices to Shift Your Experience.

Awareness is the first step to Conscious Leadership...

Awareness is about our ability to be fully present in the moment and to choose our next steps in an informed and conscious way. Once we are able to increase our awareness, we can move forward to the next phases of acknowledgment, action and adaptation. 

 

Do you need advice or support in your journey to increase awareness for you or your team? Download our resource 7 Daily Micro-Practices to Shift Your Experience.

 

Stay tuned for the next part of our Conscious Leadership series which covers the second step of the 4 A’s of Conscious Leadership: Acknowledgement. If you want to keep up to date, join our newsletter for a monthly dose of conscious leadership.