Are you a human being or a human doing?

Do you spend most of your waking hours wading through your to do lists and never feeling entirely satisfied that you have completed every task? Dr Alan Watkins‘ 4D Leadership can help

So many of us are busy doing all the time, it’s hardly surprising that we give little thought to the being and relating aspects of our lives, but they are all interlinked. How we are, our being, affects what we do and how we relate to others. Given how important our being is, it’s concerning that we spend so little time focused on it. 4D Leadership can help.

If you are being or showing up in the right way and putting yourself in the right emotional state for the situation you’re facing, then you will more than likely do the right things. The to do list isn’t irrelevant, but if you’re able to focus on you first and manage how you are being then you’re likely to do better.  

Our being affects our relationships too. In fact, the relating part of our lives is incredibly important. Creating and maintaining relationships, particularly with people we don’t really like, is one of the most challenging aspects of being human.  There it is again, being human. The being part is super important as it feeds the relating and doing. 

So, how can you develop who you are as a human being and, at the same time, become a better leader? Here are three critical steps:

1. Tune in.

Learning to tune is sometimes described as being present or bringing your awareness to the here and now. A good place to start being present and aware is to focus on your breath. Learning to breathe rhythmically (using a fixed ratio of in and out breaths) and evenly (smoothly) will help you become more aware of what you actually feel – not just what you think. Try that for 10 minutes every morning and 10 minutes every evening.

2. Sense and respond

To be able to choose how you respond to a situation, you need to start to become aware of what you are feeling. Do you feel a tension in your shoulders, is your stomach churning, are you breathing shallowly or is your heart rate higher? These feelings are just patterns of data in the body. Each pattern of data represents a feeling that we can sense. We might feel anxious or nervous, for example. This is not to be confused with being anxious. That would be defining our whole identity with this feeling. This really isn’t helpful! 

All feelings are signals of information. So if you are feeling anxious about a big presentation, using rhythmic breathing will help enormously. It will help you shift your emotional state from high energy negative (anxious) to high energy positive (excited). In fact, both feelings have similar energetic patterns. With that shift, you can present well using your higher energy in a helpful, productive and impactful way.

3. Spot the signal in the noise.

Are you aware of all the noise in your head? Even in meetings when you are physically present, you may not be mentally or emotionally present. Many people are multi-tasking. They’re checking emails while on a Zoom meeting, digesting the discussion they just had with their boss or projecting what they are doing later. They are not actually present.

Press pause on the washing machine of your mind and enter into the meeting room (your present) and really listen. Move your attention to your heart area and be conscious of your smooth, even breathing. Appreciate the speaker (whether you like them or not) and when they have finished, playback what you SENSED. Not what you heard verbatim but start the sentence with something like, “I get the sense that …” And then finish with, “Is that right?”

You can’t be wrong about what you sensed but you may not have fully understood. Asking whether you’ve understood correctly, and then listening again to the response will get you to a point when the other person says, “Yes, that’s what I mean”. At that moment, you achieve that magnificent moment of someone being really understood by another human being. It is almost unbelievable how this simple act can transform relationships and teams. 

How you are being makes a massive difference to the way that you will show up and ultimately determines whether people choose to follow you.

Take a moment to move beyond the doing, and decide how you are going to be today. For more on the many dimensions of leadership and how they can confer a competitive advantage, read Dr Alan Watkins’ book: 4D Leadership.

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