Everyday I see it with my clients, colleagues, friends and in myself—there is “something” in our lives that we want, that we are not getting and it doesn’t feel good. It always has to do with a relationship, it may be a boss that doesn’t pay us what we feel we deserve, it may be a partner that doesn’t engage with us in the way we want or a service provider that doesn’t do the job we expected. In each of these cases, we struggle because we have a need that isn’t being met, we (falsely) believe these situations are unchangeable, we accept our “fate” and learn to deny our true feelings—that is, until something tugs at the bandage on the sore spot and all heck breaks loose.
In 20 years of working with people to own their leadership talents andpower to change the world—the most difficult concept for people to internalize is their inherent right to be happy, fulfilled and to have their needs met. The next most difficult concept is the idea that each person already has the power to ensure that it happens. As these two revelations are digested the third, and most empowering, thought begins to surface: “if I deserve to have my needs met and I have the power to ensure it, why am I not doing anything about it?” Good question!
The truth of the matter lies in each person’s ability to control themselves and their lives—and that is the only place of control. While it is far easier to blame one’s boss for a poor salary or failing to fully value your talents, how much are you valuing your worth by staying in a job where people don’t appreciate you? This is the point in the conversation where protests start to hit a fevered pitch: “I can’t quit my job . . . I have bills to pay . . . there is a recession . . . how will I ever find anything else?” I am not suggesting that every person unhappy with their supervisor quit; I am asking people to reframe the experience to understand the role they are playing and how they can take action to redefine it.
Continuing with this example, can you clearly define what you need in your work environment? What exactly is it that you want your boss to do differently? Can you clearly articulate your talents, passion and contribution to the team? Are you willing to walk your leadership each day in a way that stays true to your value while reaching out to others to ensure that your needs are met? (This is the point where clients grow very quiet.) The greatest truism about struggle is this: we cannot expect others to do for us that which we are unwilling to do for ourselves. How is your boss going to value your talents and skills if you don’t know what they are? How is he supposed to know what you need if you don’t communicate it? And how is he going to respond if you are not showing up each day, leading to your highest and best capabilities?
As I remind myself daily, when we experience struggle it is because we are throwing a temper tantrum about someone else not doing what we want. If we turn the cart around and decide that we have the choice and the capacity to shift the situation through our conduct—it will, because we have taken control in the only place it exists, within ourselves.
As each person who decides to live the Leadership Choice, shifts their interactions with the people around them, one of two things will happen: either those around you who have not been meeting your needs, for whatever reasons, will decide for themselves that they want to meet them; or, they will decide that they can’t or won’t. In both scenarios, you are better off because you will either have your needs met or you will know the other person is not going to meet them; and if you know that, you can then make well informed choices in future decisions.
In sum, the choice not to lead differently in our lives is rooted in the inertia around change—for it far easier to accept things as they are then to dare to think about what may come by changing. As James Balasco and Ralph Stayer say, “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” So if you are struggling with something, ask yourself, “What do I need?” Then have the courage to ask for it and the belief that it will lead you out of the struggle and onto something much greater.
I like the idea that we are all responsible for doing our very best in any situation. However I disagree that anyone has an inherent right to be satisfied or happy in life. First, happiness is a choice that we make. It is not something that others give us. Second, my personal belief is that there is a G-d who can either bless us or curse us. We can try to accept that reality is reality and strive to overcome the obstacles that face us – but that still doesn’t guarantee happiness.
Also, I think part of the problem with society today is that we expect to be pleased, happy and comfortable all the time. This is not only impossible but sets our relationships and jobs up for failure.
I still like the post, these are just some thoughts sparked by your thinking.
Happiness isn’t always peaceful or painless. It might be painful to admit that you made a mistake in calculating what you really needed from others in order to be happy (often making you reluctant to tell them that you need more from them to meet your needs). Nonetheless, it happens and we have to go through the pain of admitting our miscalculation, put our tail between our legs, and ask for more…or face continued struggle, and indecision in life because our needs are not being met. I think you are spot on in saying
How about everyone needs to have their needs met…by themselves. As a leader (or even as a human being) I only have X time, on staff competency, staff time, calendar time. I cannot give everyone (or more accurately employee A, customer B, or friend C as much time as they want) and still produce results (or have time to do all that I need and want to.)
Have you found it true that its ALWAYS A, B and C who need your time, when D-Q only make reasonable requests?
Very interesting question Carol . . . first, it is clear that those around you value your input as you seem to have many people who seek your guidance. In meeting people’s needs YOU are the first person who deserves to have her needs met. As you gain greater clarity as to what is necessary for you, it will help you support others around you to do the same. For example, your friend may enjoy having someone to dump all her frustrations on so that she can “feel better” by passing it along to another. You may say to her, I only have a few minutes today, is there something specific that I can be supportive of in your life right now? By clearly stating your needs, she will have the gift of perhaps gaining some clarity of hers and shifting her behavior in a positive way.
For your employees, by clearly identifying what they need and developing strategies for addressing it, you will most likely find solutions that will require less and less of you time because YOU are not doing it FOR them. For some employees it may be knowing that they can have 15 minutes of your attention once a week that will provide them the comfort to stop popping into your office twice a day or perhaps sharing a few additional details with some at the onset of a project will be all they need to feel empowered to do their work independently.
By you taking the leadership step to meet your own needs for balance, you will bring it to all those you touch. That’s the magic of Living the Leadership Choice!
Good message, Kathleen! It’s easier but less constructive to paint ourselves as victims. Your challenge reminds me of the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.