Your Questions Answered: Trust, Patience, Emotions, the Comfort Zone

Q: How can I trust others to help me?

I sometimes have trouble trusting others. I know that they are (generally) good people and mean well, but sometimes it just seems easier to do everything myself. But I know that part of my responsibility as a leader is to support, guide, and uplift others around me. To fulfill this responsibility, we need to give other people space to be involved, try, and make mistakes. Yes, we need to let them fail a little, but support and catch them before they cause real harm. If you can’t trust the people around you, then you might not have the right people on your team.

Q: How can I help other people understand my goals?

With so many competing interests and compelling things drawing our attention, it can be difficult to get other people to pay attention to, let alone understand, our goals. The first step is to make sure your goals are crystal clear. That means succinct, quantifiable, and easily digestible. Once your goals are clear, make sure you are able to articulate why this goal is important to you, your organization, your community, and various constituent groups. You can tell a great story by sharing why this goal is important to you, but don’t forget to put yourself in others’ shoes to try and see things from their perspective. You can also share your goals in an open way to provoke discussion. Perhaps other people can help you refine or expand your goals so that they are even better!

Q: How can I challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone?

As leaders, it is important for us to push ourselves and redefine our limits. We can do this in ways that are directly related to our work, like making a presentation to 100 people, or in ways that expand us as a human being. Both are valuable and make use more adaptable and resilient leaders. To take on this challenge, make a list of things that you would like to do, but they feel quite scary. Think exhilaration. For me, that would be making a sales call (something I really don’t like to do, but I would like to do it because it is valuable) or, for a personal example, joining a roller derby team (which I might just do). After you make your list, including both personal and professional things to do – and you can take a few days to make your list – pick one and commit to doing it within one month. Over time, you can expand your list, pick more activities, and set more ambitious goals. Have fun!

Q: How can reign in my passion to focus on my goals?

You may be asking the wrong person. I am pretty much all over the place, and it is because I am a passionate person with multiple interests. I find it hard to focus and just do one thing. That being said, having this disposition has forced me to develop some discipline over the years to keep me on track toward my goals. First of all, you may need to prioritize your goals because, if you’re anything like me, you probably have more that you want to do than you could ever realistically accomplish. So write down those goals and prioritize them. Determine what is most important to you. Now, get out your calendar and write down specific things, even little things, that you can do to progress toward your most important goals each week. Even just one thing. So, you have prioritized your goals and scheduled time to work on them every week. Now, how do you reign in your passion? I’m not sure that you need to. Your multiple passions are what make you an interesting person, and they probably contribute to your sense of pleasure and fulfillment. And don’t forget that you have an entire lifetime to explore your passions. You don’t need to do everything right now. Keep prioritizing and adjust to keep yourself focused on your current goals.

Q: How can I use technology for my presentation without distracting my audience?

Yes, you are right – technology can definitely be distracting. But it can also be really helpful to communicate our messages. Think of technology not as a must have, but as something that enhances your delivery. In other words, don’t rely on technology, use it to add value to what you are saying. I find it is helpful to keep text to a minimum and use pictures to keep people engaged. But then, sometimes people start to write down every word because they are afraid they will miss something important! If this is the case, you can prepare notes and let the group know that you will make them available after the presentation. That way, they can just sit back and relax. Don’t forget to test out all of your technology well in advance of your meeting. There is nothing worse than having to postpone a meeting because the projector won’t connect to the computer (learned that the hard way!).

Q: How can I control my emotions so that I do not come across like a “boss?”

This is a delicate balance. Women are (too often) expected to be demure and nurturing; we are judged harshly when we exert our authority. Yet, for me, I resist authoritarianism and actively choose to engage with others in an open, responsive way whenever possible (I actually tend to be more rigid naturally, so this take some effort). I do this not to meet society’s expectations, but to align with my values. I suspect that you are similar to me in this way. You might want to read up Daniel Goleman’s concept of “emotional intelligence.” He has written a lot about the benefits of controlling emotions at work. It may benefit you to close your eyes for a few moments and take some deep breaths before you engage with others at work – especially those that might bring out the boss in you. You can also keep a journal to help you explore your feelings – their source, what provokes them, how you express them, etc. This may help you to identify ways to adjust to present yourself as the leader you want to be.

Q: How can I be a more patient leader?

Leaders are often involved in provoking change, whether it is change in organizations or change in communities. And change takes time. People don’t like change; they resist it and resent it. But, for change to be sustainable – to really get people on board with our vision — we need to work through all of its messiness. As leaders, we also try to provoke change in other people, like the people we supervise. It can be frustrating when we share our years of experience and wisdom with other people over and over again only to be ignored. Remember that you are the teacher, the guide, the source of support for others. People are looking to you for answers and watching how you respond (or react) as things unfold. Appreciating our position as a role model can help us put things in perspective and transform our feeling and how we interact with others. Our patience can also develop over time through persistence. We need to integrate both our immediate needs and our long term vision into our perspective.