A New Confidence
A dictionary of choice will refer to confidence as something similar to a belief in your own abilities. If that is where we leave it, we may find ourselves at arrogant self-sufficiency. Stalling at the level of a belief in one’s own abilities can rob one of the joys of leading.
A consistent, shallow wade among surface behaviors can prove dangerous when one is suddenly in the depths. A behavior shift at the surface level only is not permanent. When met with enough resistance we will easily shift to the old, comfortable behavior, regardless of what is best for us, or those we lead. The need to control will keep one in the shallows if one even enters the stream at all.
Control in leadership is an illusion. It is selfish and present in the immature manager. We steal away our own joy when we make the interactions of leading all about ourselves. Control is false confidence. The stream is in control. This struggle for control is part of the old confidence.
The old confidence is ineffective in the 21st Century. Followers will force honesty and authenticity. A commitment to
consistently wade the stream will teach us to bless the flow. At the forefront of keeping this commitment is an understanding of the old confidence.
The Old Confidence
We must shake a bad habit of the 20th Century that has followed some into the 21st; handing out the title of leader too freely. 21st Century followers are disappointed when we make leadership too easy and base it on title, position, political authority, etc. This superficial assignment perpetuates the old confidence.
The old confidence is tricky. The old confidence is an avatar of the ego. A leader victimized by the superficial assignment is someone who is not conscious of her own values. There is the need for approval from others. Respect is conditional on meeting selfish standards. Life happens to this person. There is a fear of failure.
The ego is being fed; there is a desperate need to control. It is all about me—a focus on others is contingent on what I want. Fear keeps the mind focused on the future. Confidence is seen only as a power within too easily tying action to misguided and misunderstood feelings. Maybe, most tragically, she judges others as harshly as she judges herself.
An old confidence cannot feel the pull of desire or hear the voice of a larger purpose. The voice of a larger purpose speaks to us through our core where our deepest of values live. If, due to the grip of an ego-driven old confidence, we are not conscious of these purpose-giving values, we are deaf to the call of a new confidence.
The Stream as Treacherous
Even in the best of weather, the mountain stream is to be respected. I began fly-fishing many years ago in the Deep South in ponds and small lakes. When I did wade I did so very carefully as I could rarely see the bottom. This wasn’t too scary, as the water was not flowing. Mostly I had to remain wary of the hole or sudden slope of the bottom. I much prefer to wade the beautiful clear mountain stream. Even in perfect clarity I proceed cautiously.
A gallon of water weighs 8.33 lbs. and a cubic foot of water contains 7.48 gallons and weighs 62.31 lbs. Put that in motion and you have something that demands respect.
I have to be careful to not allow clarity to build false confidence. Even though I can see the bottom, I have to consider what I see—rocks. There are lots of rocks of varying sizes all worn smooth in the flow of the ages. In some streams there are long, smooth rocks that can slip you into the water like a greased slide at a sunken playground. I know this firsthand.
As you might imagine, and you would be correct, I don’t even consider wading the stream if I can’t see the bottom. The stream is often left cloudy, and even torrential, by a rainstorm—but if you patiently give it time it will soon return to clarity.
Confidence of experience allows me to wade the stream when clear. Respect, and just plain common sense, keeps me out of it when the bottom disappears. Love of the stream sustains me while I wait for it to clear.
From Old to New
Jim and I were having a serious conversation over lunch about the development of leaders in his organization. Jim said, “Our managers are still mostly just looking for what they can find wrong.” If you were to ask me to make a short list of kind and attentive people, this executive would be near the top; then why this concern in his organization?
One issue may be the managers are just that—managers. They are not making the conscious, behavior-changing distinction that you manage systems and you lead people. They are still trying to manage people along with the systems and corresponding processes. People do not want to be managed, they want to be led.
Experience tells me that these managers are not bad individuals. They are simply unconsciously performing a management role in the manner they have learned. Their effectiveness is limited due to the perceived judgmental fashion in which they manage.
When there is disconnect with the core of who you are, all sorts of doubts and disempowering questions will invade your core. This can destroy your confidence and therefore sabotage your behavior. It becomes all too easy to find even the smallest of things wrong in what others are doing. This will push followers away rather than pull them along. This is managing people from a context of fear versus leading people from a foundation of confidence.
The new confidence brings you into the present. A mind obsessively operating in the future will proportionately sabotage that future. We need to build this new confidence in the leaders of the 21st Century. We need present leaders focused on today who have envisioned a better tomorrow, and from that vision know what actions must look like in the present.
The 21st Century leader is modeling for us a new confidence; a presence that is both selfless and powerful. Focusing her leadership in the present, the 21st Century leader ensures that we put our attention to the right priorities; thus building fulfillment in our present work and assuring the rewards of tomorrow.
For any change we desire to make, there are always basics important to discover. For a long while I have admired improvisational comedians. I was thrilled when one day I providentially learned one of their basics: Whatever happens to your character is okay.
In an improvisational routine the first comic starts with his character and the few initial instructions he may have been given. As he begins to take on the character a second comic enters with the additional character and takes the act in a different direction. Each character begins to absorb what is happening in the interchange and together form the events into a masterful dance toward the desired outcome of humor that is improvised.
This put a vivid picture in my mind of how to describe an individual’s transition from managing people to leading people. I saw an individual who no longer takes things personally, but rather sees objectively no matter what the emotions of those around her. I saw a person connected to her own authenticity, so much so that she easily relies on the faith that she will be okay as her energy is intently focused on listening in each situation. I saw someone transition from managing people to leading people as she caringly creates accountability in each individual.
The new confidence is freeing. The new confidence declares independence from the ego. A leader of people is someone conscious of her own values. This is an individual who first finds approval in her own core. Respect for others is founded on a healthy respect for self. She is a willing participant in the flow, seeing all experience as learning opportunities.
The ego is being starved; in relinquishing the need to control she is opening up to a more full experience. It is all about others. Her focus on others is pure because of the faith she has that she will be okay. The active value of courage keeps her attention active in the present. Confidence is accepted as a validating outcome of a present moment focus. Feelings are honored and decisions are made on the facts. Most powerfully, she does not judge others because she does not judge herself.
The new confidence is powerful not because it focuses on others, but because of why it focuses on others. A leader in this new confidence is able to effectively focus on others because of the assurance this improvisational leader has in her foundational authenticity.
Being consciously authentic means you have an unashamed acceptance of who you are combined with commitment to live from your core. As you embrace the power of commitment you continually learn about the naturalness of how one experience builds on another.
Living in a new confidence you wade into each experience conscious of your purpose and respecting the potential and power of self and others. As a present leader you realize your desire, set free of judgment, invests you in a flowing, productive present. Setting your desire free places you in the stream focused, present and open to experience.
Committed to a new confidence you respectfully prepare for your wading experience. This commitment is freeing. In freeing yourself like this you give your voice to blessing both treachery and flow—freeing yourself to wade while being secure in a new confidence.
The stream is to be respected.
One year into my first job after graduating from the university, my boss and I were working together on a project that had taken us into human resources to gather some needed data. At the end of a particular conversation with Bob the HR Director, he looked at both my boss and me and asked, “Do you know any good cost accountants for an opening I have?” Before I knew it I had answered, “Yes. Me.” Realizing my own surprise I used my eyes to defer to my boss. Back in my office my boss appeared. He said that Bob had called and wanted to know if I was seriously interested in the position that was a move and a promotion. I was, I accepted, and we moved.
Backing up a bit to the discussion that ensued with Bob about the position, I expressed a concern. I had just completed my first year doing a job I really enjoyed and where I had made connections and achieved good results. I expressed to Bob my concern about losing this experience. All these years later I have not forgotten his words that he so caringly said to me, “You’ve got a year of good experience under your belt and no one can take that away from you.”
Simple but powerful have been Bob’s words for over thirty years. That was the beginning of my understanding of the real meaning of experience. I began to realize the naturalness of one thing building on another. I would find myself leaning on this unfolding discovery often.
We have to establish a healthy respect for the power of experience. It is one experience folding in on the other that authors the unfolding story that is our individual, unique life.
The wader is a willing participant in the story. Even with consideration to the power of the flow, there is inherent risk. We are wading in the stream with its predictable yet moody reactions to naturally inclement circumstances. When risk is combined with attention there is equal or greater reward.
The Values Thread
In the early development of my coaching model I focused each coachee on strengths as part of the program’s foundation. For about two years I thought this piece of my approach was good and I believed it to be effective. Then I interviewed my coachees months after we had completed the process of development planning that had included a strengths conversation.
Consistently I heard praise for the goal-setting process I taught and the power of being more focused through a personal brand. Consistently I would not hear any feedback in relation to the strengths portion of our work. I would inquire about this in each interview by asking simply, “And what about strengths?” Once again with amazing consistency I would hear the reply, “What were my strengths?” While, because of my notes, I could answer this question, there was something inherently wrong in my process if an individual could not remain effectively aware of their own strengths.
During those beginning days of my official coach status I had become a fan of Marcus Buckingham, the foremost expert in the focus on strengths. He was clearly making headway building a credible process to help us in knowing our individual strengths and learning how to leverage them for our own growth and development. The interviews had bluntly communicated to me that I had yet to build such a process.
A little over three months into my private practice, a friend from Chicago called and talked me into joining him in some certification training in North Carolina about two hours from my new home. The training would certify us in a particular set of tools to measure the cultural values of organizations while comparing these to perceived values in the particular environment.
Though I haven’t used the tools as trained, the experience made me think deeply about the importance of being individually aware of values. What could an individual do differently if he was acutely aware of his personal values? How might this impact an awareness of strengths—and the resulting application of those strengths? Was there something in these answers to help me build the process for which I longed?
Over the next three years, believing there was indeed something in these answers, I developed my process for assisting an individual in both identifying and defining core values. Through experiential learning with each individual client I have continually honed the process. Once again I interviewed every coaching client I could; having prepared seven questions seeking answers to what I had done for each person through my coaching model. Wanting to learn their language for what I had done, I typed every word they said and pored over them for hours.
This time the answers were significantly different and more powerful. Once again there was consistency. Each person spoke about the impact and experience of becoming conscious of their core values. To this day many clients tell me they print the values we identified and defined and carry them in a portfolio or post them in their office.
It is important to note that I did nothing to contribute to any individual’s values. The only role I have is to bring into present view what is already there inside the individual. What I have discovered is that I meet very few who can readily talk about their values and no one who can define them without some significant conversation. The process that continues to unfold for me is about assisting an individual in identifying core values and defining them from their own authentic language.
Becoming conscious is the point of my process. Becoming conscious brings you into the present with what is so important to you and why it is vital to give yourself permission to live among these values with purpose.
What are values?
Understand that in light of a discussion of individual values, I take the stand that values should not be generalized; only personalized. The personalization process means values are identified and defined without the limitation of false fear. Your system of values is the mechanism by which you make your decisions and choices regardless of whether you are readily conscious of those values. Values are developed singularly and collectively; meaning some are formed around and for you and some are formed around and for others.
Think of your value system as a book and each value as an important chapter in the flowing story. There must be a balance formed by the connection of the chapters as the main character draws you into the unfolding narrative. Each value plays a part in speaking to what you hold close because each value is desirable and has an intrinsic worth in your personal estimation. While many values are formed early in life, they are also continuing to form and evolve as we move through life, and there are values that began as part of our wiring.
A value is akin to your real nature. The intrinsic worth of each value is not dependent on the approval of others or any external circumstance. They are what they are and that is good. As a coach I am interested in the back-story of someone’s values, but I am more concerned with how becoming conscious of one’s values invests that individual into the flow of the present. Your values are a strong thread through your story.
Kim and I had just completed our work of identifying and defining her core values. She had seen them in the Values Cycle™ and was beginning to grasp how her values interact. Thinking it was time for us to transition to the goal-setting process, I explained the next step and how I would assist her in recording her story of success in light of all that we had done thus far. As this occurred less than twenty-four hours prior to my writing these words, I am still struggling with her response; “I don’t have a story.”
By the end of the session we had recorded a story of success. It is yet to be seen if it is the best form for her story, and I do trust we will get to the best outline for her success narrative. In the meantime it pains my heart to think of someone not believing they have a story. Kim doesn’t believe she has any story of inspiration to tell from her own life—not like those she believes she has experienced as a story listener. Convincing her otherwise is my task, and I will succeed.
Knowing I will succeed is fed by the experiences I have had in seeing individual leaders consciously leverage focused attention on their core values. Consciousness of your values, when blended with attention to story, is encouragement to see all things as purposeful as you move along with purpose.
Your story is a narrative of meaning that is always present. It waits for you to embrace it in order to express the unfolding of experience. This is what I desire for Kim, and for you.
Just as you make a commitment by stating your Desire & Intent for those you lead, influence, and serve, so too it is with becoming conscious of your core values. Conscious presence with your values assures reward from commitments made and kept. Commitment is a generator to the flow.
We were fly-fishing the Watauga River. Randal, our son-in-law, was wading in the main flow and I had moved out of his sight to the other side of an island. The water level was perfect for wading the entire width of the river at this section. I had listened to the TVA recording that morning and knew there would be generators running at Wilbur Dam. But when the water would rise we were not exactly sure. We did estimate it would be after we fished this section for a while.
When I know the generators are active, and that it is within the possible hour of impact, I position myself by a spot where small rocks are slightly breaking the flow. When this breaking suddenly goes silent I know it is time to exit. On the other side of that island I suddenly realized that moment had come. The rocks went silent at the very moment I heard the cry, “Dad!” I quickly moved into Randal’s sight to assure him I knew the water was rising. But I now had to wade across the flow of the rising, moving water in this wide expanse. I had bitten off a little too much risk that day. I was fortunate as I made it to a point down from the high banks where Randal waited for our exit.
Consciousness of your values gives you strength in the wade as you face risk and creates a respect for the power of experience. Even with respect in play there is inherent risk in the power of the flow. Risk—when combined with conscious observation in the present—yields greater reward.
Confidence of experience allows me to wade the stream when clear.
Does this mean I’m giving in to fear when it is not clear? Yes, and this is healthy. More accurately, I’m using my knowledge of the character of the stream to assume accountability for a wade that is as positive as possible.
Confidence is the result of allowing your core to flow without judgment. While there is a version of fear that can help keep us safe, there is a level of fear that can hold us back. The tragedy in the story is when we never move beyond this level of fear.
In his book The Heart Aroused: Poetry and Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, David Whyte poetically performs a heart-gripping alignment of organizational life with the epic struggle of Beowulf. In essence David tells us it is not the thing we fear, it is the mother of the thing we fear that must be slain.
In a very critical life juncture, I was forced to face the mother of the thing I feared. I was surprised to find her identity—judgment. This is not judgment as in being judged by others; that was the thing I feared. This is the mother of the thing I feared—self-judgment.
In my work, and life-flow observations, I’ve found nothing more destructive than self-judgment. Dr. Shenna Hankin in Complete Confidence: A Handbook says that those with self-esteem judge themselves positively and those with confidence do not judge themselves at all. The condemning pressure of self-judgment crushes our spirit at our core. This inhibiting, concentrated form of judgment blinds us to the invaluable specifics of our uniqueness—our values, our strengths, and our voice. Hamstrung in the game of life, we are not even left with the minimum joy of a spectator. We are meant to play in the game and we have a position—a purpose.
The core of your purpose is to flow. It is true that you have to work hard on your purpose, understanding what it is and why it is so important to you. The core of your purpose is you—who you really are. The core (who you are) of your purpose (leveraging who you are) is to flow.
Your confidence in the flow is found in who you really are.
A Trusted Guide
Confidence is a bounty sought by many a rover in the stream. Keep your eyes fixed on the flow unfolding before you. Do not be bothered by these narcissistic fishers. They come ill equipped to the stream, stand on the largest rocks, and cast disingenuous ideas into the flow.
Your confidence is the result of allowing your core to flow without judgment. The source of your confidence is deep within who you are—your wiring. Values identified and defined help bring language to your core to articulate who you are in a conscious expression of authenticity. You wade the stream employing skills congruent with the language spoken from your core. You express authenticity because you have unashamedly accepted who you are.
Because you have purposed to participate in the flow, you acquire knowledge and skills that prepare you to wade with accountability. As you honored desire with your attention, you became conscious of need. Your diligent consideration of need put you on the path to purpose through intent. You have begun to make conscious commitments in light of the authentic self.
These commitments are an outcome of attention fixed on core values. Attention and understanding given to each of your core values allows these values to move together in a balanced cycle. Your balanced attentiveness is your guide on an otherwise treacherous wade.
One of the best demonstrations of confidence is when we take action simply because we know it is the right thing to do.
Realize that it is not how you feel that determines how you act; rather it is how you act that determines how you feel.
–William James (1842-1910)
We must understand confidence is often exhilaration given us by the elixir of our uniqueness blended with a judgment-free practice.
Everything you need to be confidently in the flow is found in who you are.
Clarity – The Wader’s Intent
As I wade I have to be careful to not allow clarity to build a false confidence. A false confidence is formed when we fail to connect the past to the present—making decisions unconscious of the unfolding experience.
Doug is one of the most intelligent individuals with whom I’ve had the privilege to work with as a coach. Doug’s personality preferences and values have worked together to form in him a great desire for clarity. His intent is to lead in a way that exhibits a self-understanding that does not produce judgment for self or others, and this is clarity.
Doug wades into each experience conscious of his purpose and respecting the potential and power of the experience. Once again, this is clarity. It is this clarity combined with the confidence of his unfolding experience that protects Doug from the treachery associated with false confidence.
The stream is not always clear and the flow not always safe. An impatient wade in these conditions is fraught with treachery. If we are true waders, then our love for the stream sustains us as we wait for it to clear. There is always risk as we wade the stream, but if we combine the wisdom of past learning with conscious observation and openness to the unfolding moments, we mitigate the ultimate risk of missing the experience altogether when clarity presents itself.
Wading is intentional; the wader has goals. The wader is also open to discovery. As a wader, the confidence from your core allows you to be present in the unfolding experience. When something unanticipated presents itself, you shift goals—your attention—and with clarity continue wading. You wade in a way that exhibits a self-understanding that does not produce judgment for self or others, and this is clarity—the wader’s intent.
Wade with a New Confidence
Becoming conscious of your core values means that you understand and honor each one as you listen to what each has to say both about you and what is right for you. This conscious process forms the courage needed to wade with accountability.
Accountability means you wade into each experience conscious of your purpose. To mitigate the risks, wading is intentional and planned in the guiding light of purpose. A values consciousness has assisted you in embracing the values that best represent who you are.
You have been an active participant in clearing the path to a new confidence. Your new confidence is protection as you wade the flow. The new confidence is played out with clarity as you honor the unfolding experience.
As a wader you have goals. While commitment planted its roots in your Desire & Intent, your goals bring each commitment to a tangible reality as you connect with specific action. You take a larger commitment and begin to break it into smaller commitments freeing them to build upon one another as you open yourself to providential movement on your behalf—and on behalf of others through your leadership, influence, and service.