Can You Be Bought?

In a world where success is so often defined by the external and expedient; where fear trumps love and a mindset of survival often trumps integrity,

Can you be bought? Are your values for sale to the highest bidder?

Living in alignment with our core values need not be a high drama proposition, but a series of small choices we make every day.

I’m curious to know…

When it comes to honoring your core values, in what ways have you been tempted to compromise, settle or sell out? Do you pursue endeavors to feed false pride or to pursue deep purpose? What small step can you take today to begin to walk your talk in a more authentic way?

ForSale_Red

 

 

George the Cabbie: A Tale of Customer Service

Every now and then, a stranger crosses our path, sometimes just for a mere moment, and we catch a glimpse of greatness.  We catch a glimpse of what it means to serve others with a glad heart, a lively spirit, and personal integrity.  We catch someone ‘getting it right’ and we want to share their story.  So it is with George the cabbie.

I met George last weekend in Orlando, while standing in line outside my hotel, waiting to catch the bus that ran between the hotel and convention center.  Buses ran every thirty minutes, and all of us standing in line were anxious to arrive in time to hear the morning keynote speaker, Marcus Buckingham.  The bus came, picked up five people, then announced it was full, pulling away and leaving the rest of us waiting in earnest for another bus.  Impatiently, I turned to my new friend, Lorin, and asked if she wanted to grab a taxi instead.  She agreed and within seconds, we were joined by Peter from Japan and Jan from Belgium.

Quickly we piled into the nearby town car, my leg still hanging slightly out the door on the verge of doing a slight split, when the driver, George, started to pull away.  We were nonetheless greeted with a smile when George jokingly assured me he had insurance, just in case I needed it.  We were off, and in the span of a less-than-five-minute drive, we had all managed to introduce ourselves and pass out cards, including George.  Without being pushy, George also managed to pass around a spiral notebook in which he asked us to write our name, number, and when our departure flight was.

At this point, I had been collecting cabbie cards throughout the previous few days, including one from Samuel, who shared stories of his hurricane-wrecked home, Haiti, various relief efforts, and his perception of the Americans who have extended a hand to help rebuild.  “Who” he asked, “comes and serves others so selflessly, and with such love and generosity?  People don’t do that much anymore, but your people do.”  I liked Samuel, and though George was courteous and entertaining, I wasn’t ready to commit my transportation needs to him.  Instead, I politely filled in my name and number, telling George that while I was leaving the next day, I wasn’t prepared to make firm plans.

Departure day:

Eating an early breakfast with my girlfriend, I remembered that I had not yet made taxi arrangements, though I was scheduled to fly out just before noon.  I quickly retrieved Samuel’s card and dialed his number, to no avail.   Hmmm.  What other cards had I saved?  Before I could even look for another number, my phone rang.  It was George.  “Good morning, Ms. Reed.  I remembered you were flying home today and wondered if you have already made transportation arrangements, and if not, if I could be of service to you?”  “Absolutely,” I exclaimed, and proceeded to give him instructions for picking me up outside of the convention center at 9:45 a.m.  He reconfirmed the time and promised to call me at 9:40 a.m. to let me know he was five minutes out.

9:40 a.m.

My phone rings, though I missed the call because I still had my phone on silent.  I listen to the message.  It’s George.  “Hi, Ms. Reed.  It’s George.  I apologize, but I am running five minutes late.  I realize that there is a line of cabs outside of the convention center, but I’m asking if you will please wait for me.  I have confirmed with the airport that the lines are short and the traffic is light.  I promise you will get there in plenty of time.”  I called him back and agreed to wait for him.  He recommended that I wait inside where it was cool, and promised to call when he was within one minute of arriving.  And so he did.

He told me on the way to the airport that most people would not have waited for him, and he greatly appreciated my willingness to do so.  I admit that I took a chance, and for a brief moment while I was waiting for him to arrive, I wondered to myself:  should I trust his word?  If I’m wrong, I will miss my flight and it will cost me hundreds of dollars and a great deal of wasted time.  But if he’s being honest, then I want to deliver on my end of the deal.  I won’t sell him out to someone who hasn’t earned the business.  Sometimes, amazing things can happen when you take a leap of faith.  Even on the little things.  Like a cab ride to the airport.  As he pulled up to the airport, he reminded me to stay safe, gave me a big hug and bid me a pleasant farewell.

End of the story?  Not quite…

True to his word, the lines were short and I had plenty of time before my flight took off.  Feet sore from three days of walking endlessly around in high heels, I got to my gate, dropped my bags, took off my shoes, and breathed a sigh of exhaustion.   Just then, my phone buzzed, indicating a text had arrived.  From George.  “Hi!  This is George.  I just wanted to wish you a safe trip home.”

A chance encounter.  A random cab.  An unknown driver.  Four initial passengers.  At least two repeat passengers (and loyal passengers for life).  One referral passenger.   As I picked up the last text from George, I smiled deeply and thought to myself, “George gets it.”  Life is so much more than just an exchange of goods and services.  At it’s heart, life is about people.  It’s about connections.  It’s about service.  It’s about living, leading and serving from the heart.

Postscript:

For those of you who took the time to read the tale of George the cabbie, I
thank you. To my surprise, it proved to be the most popular post I have written
to this blog. Perhaps it’s because it was a post celebrating another – catching someone doing something right. Perhaps it’s because customer service, like personal accountibility, is eroding in a world where people have become commodities, bought and sold to the highest bidder (or to the next cabbie in line). Perhaps it’s because in this age
of technology, people still crave personal connection and want to believe in the
word of another. At the end of the day, we all need affirmation that doing what
is right is…well…right.

If you read closely, you saw that the tale of George was more than
just a tale of excellent customer service. It was also a tale of personal
integrity. George could have made different choices. He could have chosen not to
call me to tell me he was running late, afraid that I might catch a different
cab instead, disregarding my schedule and how I might feel about having been
kept waiting. He could have been selling me a line about the light traffic and
lines at the airport, willing to say whatever might create the sale, though he
proved to be telling me the truth. Likewise, I could have chosen not to trust
George’s word and/or hung George out to dry and caught one of the cabs outside
when I first learned he was running late. No one would have blamed either one of
us, and many would call me naive for trusting my flight to the word of a cabbie.
Still, it is the everyday little choices we make – to trust or not, to tell the
truth or not, to do what’s right or not, that add up and ultimately shape one’s
character.

Standing Up to Dumbing Down

If life is less about what happens to us than how we respond, the same holds true for our children who bear witness to our lives, values, choices and attitudes, day in and day out. They absorb the good and bad, the fair and unfair, forming opinions about the world that have the power to influence and shape the very course of their lives. As a mother, I am acutely aware of this, ever mindful that I am my daughter’s first and most important role model for what it means to be female in this world — at home, at work, and in life at-large.

With that in mind, I share the following story:

A few weeks ago, I received disappointing news regarding a job opportunity that was well aligned with my strengths and experience, in an environment well-suited to my temperament, values and drive for achievement. After multiple rounds of discussion and review, it was determined that I was overqualified and would not be further considered for this particular position. The merits of the decision aside, I tried to handle the news with as much grace and good sportsmanship as I could muster up in the moment.

overqualified

I was admittedly disappointed on multiple fronts and for various reasons, though far more significant than the disappointment itself, was my ten-year-old daughter’s response:

“But mom…” she earnestly asked, “can’t you just make yourself less smart? Just forget things. You know… Tell them that you don’t know as much as they think you do. Isn’t there some kind of test you could take? If you could, it might be easier for you to find a job.”

“Maybe she’s right,” an associate remarked early the following week. “Have you ever considered just not including all of your experience on your resume? You know, Sharon, people don’t want to hire someone who might one day want a bigger role. It’s too threatening… It’s the whole hierarchy thing.” (In my book, it’s also called fear.)

Privately incensed, I thought back to similar messages I received in recent years since my accelerated, albeit bumpy rebound and re-entry into the workforce; advice I was determined to ignore: “Stay in your lane” (though I think in circles). “Practice being underwhelming” (what exactly does that mean?). “Pretend to be a beta” (which by all accounts I am not). I’ve resisted the advice because pretending to be someone you’re not is not sustainable and betrays both the self and ultimately, others. I’ve resisted because authenticity is foundational to building trust with others and influencing lasting change. I’ve resisted, because these messages contrast sharply with past advice that had heretofore served me well in the early years of my career: “Have a succession plan Sharon, and seek to grow others beneath you.” “Always surround yourself with people smarter than you so that you can continue to learn, grow and move up.” “Don’t be afraid to step up, take risks and speak out.” So I did and here I was, at a once unimaginable and seemingly unnavigable crossroad in my career.

Publicly incensed, I thought about the challenges and complexities of raising children as a single mother and why as mothers, we sometimes choose to step out or step back in our careers, perhaps pursuing new endeavors or those that we might well be over-qualified for, not from a mindset of ‘settling’ for less than we are capable of, but from the satisfaction of knowing we can leverage our experience to create and add value for others while choosing honor the needs of our families.

As I listened to my daughter’s words, filled with love and eager to help, I was deeply touched. For a moment my heart melted, before it gave way to a deep ache and later anger, as I contemplated the implications of her reply. She had only been trying to help, but perplexed by my reaction, she told me she felt guilty, afraid she had said something wrong, wishing she had said nothing at all.

That’s when I began to worry…

What message do we send to our daughters when (for women) ambition, achievement and self-determination are potentially viewed as liabilities instead of the assets they are? How can we encourage our daughters to rise up and lean in, when far too often, the world’s message back to us is to dumb it down, blend in, and play small? Most significantly for mothers, if we choose to step up, how do we navigate and balance leaning into our leadership with the complexity of raising a family? If we step out or step back for our families, how do we overcome barriers to re-entry or the challenge of over-qualification?  

In the aftermath of her reply, I told her I couldn’t… no… I wouldn’t dumb myself down, try to forget things or choose to stay small. I would not deny, diminish or discount what I’ve worked hard to achieve, acknowledging that my achievements have been tempered with an equal dose of humility along the way. I would not succumb to the notion that I’m somehow threatening to others when the foundation of my success has been built on the principles of team, collaboration, transparency, and trust. No, I would not do these things — not just because I’m stubborn, but because true leadership is rooted in authenticity; because personal integrity is non-negotiable; because while being sensitive, situationally aware of others and making tweaks and adjustments accordingly is often necessary, appropriate and good, subjugating your strengths, minimizing your experience, and pretending to be less than you are is not.

That day I made a choice for my daughter, as much as for myself. I couldn’t change what had happened, but I could choose how to wisely respond. I couldn’t change her response, but I could guide her to a better solution. I could choose to seek understanding, fight for myself, and in the process, begin to build a better dream. In doing so, I chose to honor the truth of who I am and the potential of all that she might become.

Postscript: This post is less about the outcome of an interview than it is about my daughter’s response.  Principally, this post is about the power of influence and how our choices, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, particularly as mothers, have the potential to shape the course of our children’s lives by what we model every day.  

Nevertheless, while the outcome of my interview was unrelated to gender, the notion of ‘dumbing down’ is.  As I have shared this story with others, I’ve been stirred by the number of accomplished women — leaders in their own right, who’ve admitted to ‘dumbing down’ or modifying resumes to avoid gender bias, age discrimination or the challenge of over-qualification.  I’ve also heard from women who have made choices to ‘dumb down’ in other ways, too — all circumstances that raise the delicate issue of standing on principle vs. dumbing down in the face of individual and/or familial economic need and/or social and relational acceptance.  

As I’ve sat with this post, editing and re-editing as if different words might somehow change these truths, I’ve struggled.  Even as I write this, moments of self-doubt and deep reflection have challenged me to think about the implications of my own choices — not just for myself, but for my family and others, too.  What needs do I have in the present?  What legacy do I want to leave for my children?  How can I balance the two, while serving as a model for positive change?

What roles do gender, authenticity, integrity, courage, fear, ego, and ambition play in your own decisions, both  professionally and personally?  In an age of social media, digital recruiting and personal branding, how do we navigate the challenges of transparency, which have the potential to screen out as much as screen in?  How do we courageously stand up for ourselves, that we might model and teach our daughters how to do the same for themselves?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post!  Please leave a comment and let’s continue the conversation.

Standing Up to Dumbing Down

If life is less about what happens to us than how we respond, the same holds true for our children who bear witness to our lives, values, choices and attitudes, day in and day out. They absorb the good and bad, the fair and unfair, forming opinions about the world that have the power to influence and shape the very course of their lives. As a mother, I am acutely aware of this, ever mindful that I am my daughter’s first and most important role model for what it means to be female in this world — at home, at work, and in life at-large.

With that in mind, I share the following story:

A few weeks ago, I received disappointing news regarding a job opportunity that was well aligned with my strengths and experience, in an environment well-suited to my temperament, values and drive for achievement. After multiple rounds of discussion and review, it was determined that I was overqualified and would not be further considered for this particular position. The merits of the decision aside, I tried to handle the news with as much grace and good sportsmanship as I could muster up in the moment.

overqualified

I was admittedly disappointed on multiple fronts and for various reasons, though far more significant than the disappointment itself, was my ten-year-old daughter’s response:

“But mom…” she earnestly asked, “can’t you just make yourself less smart? Just forget things. You know… Tell them that you don’t know as much as they think you do. Isn’t there some kind of test you could take? If you could, it might be easier for you to find a job.”

“Maybe she’s right,” an associate remarked early the following week. “Have you ever considered just not including all of your experience on your resume? You know, Sharon, people don’t want to hire someone who might one day want a bigger role. It’s too threatening… It’s the whole hierarchy thing.” (In my book, it’s also called fear.)

Privately incensed, I thought back to similar messages I received in recent years since my accelerated, albeit bumpy rebound and re-entry into the workforce; advice I was determined to ignore: “Stay in your lane” (though I think in circles). “Practice being underwhelming” (what exactly does that mean?). “Pretend to be a beta” (which by all accounts I am not). I’ve resisted the advice because pretending to be someone you’re not is not sustainable and betrays both the self and ultimately, others. I’ve resisted because authenticity is foundational to building trust with others and influencing lasting change. I’ve resisted, because these messages contrast sharply with past advice that had heretofore served me well in the early years of my career: “Have a succession plan Sharon, and seek to grow others beneath you.” “Always surround yourself with people smarter than you so that you can continue to learn, grow and move up.” “Don’t be afraid to step up, take risks and speak out.” So I did and here I was, at a once unimaginable and seemingly unnavigable crossroad in my career.

Publicly incensed, I thought about the challenges and complexities of raising children as a single mother and why as mothers, we sometimes choose to step out or step back in our careers, perhaps pursuing new endeavors or those that we might well be over-qualified for, not from a mindset of ‘settling’ for less than we are capable of, but from the satisfaction of knowing we can leverage our experience to create and add value for others while choosing to honor the needs of our families.

As I listened to my daughter’s words, filled with love and eager to help, I was deeply touched. For a moment my heart melted, before it gave way to a deep ache and later anger, as I contemplated the implications of her reply. She had only been trying to help, but perplexed by my reaction, she told me she felt guilty, afraid she had said something wrong, wishing she had said nothing at all.

That’s when I began to worry…

What message do we send to our daughters when (for women), ambition, achievement and self-determination are potentially viewed as liabilities instead of the assets they are? How can we encourage our daughters to rise up and lean in, when far too often, the world’s message back to us is to dumb it down, blend in, and play small? Most significantly for mothers, if we choose to step up, how do we navigate and balance leaning into our leadership with the complexity of raising a family? If we step out or step back for our families, how do we overcome barriers to re-entry or the challenge of over-qualification?  

In the aftermath of her reply, I told her I couldn’t… no… I wouldn’t dumb myself down, try to forget things or choose to stay small. I would not deny, diminish or discount what I’ve worked hard to achieve, acknowledging that my achievements have been tempered with an equal dose of humility along the way. I would not succumb to the notion that I’m somehow threatening to others when the foundation of my success has been built on the principles of team, collaboration, transparency, and trust. No, I would not do these things — not just because I’m stubborn, but because true leadership is rooted in authenticity; because personal integrity is non-negotiable; because while being sensitive, situationally aware of others and making tweaks and adjustments accordingly is often necessary, appropriate and good, subjugating your strengths, minimizing your experience, and pretending to be less than you are is not.

That day I made a choice for my daughter, as much as for myself. I couldn’t change what had happened, but I could choose how to wisely respond. I couldn’t change her response, but I could guide her to a better solution. I could choose to seek understanding, fight for myself, and in the process, begin to build a better dream. In doing so, I chose to honor the truth of who I am and the potential of all that she might become.

Postscript: This post is less about the outcome of an interview than it is about my daughter’s response.  Principally, this post is about the power of influence and how our choices, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, particularly as mothers, have the potential to shape the course of our children’s lives by what we model every day.  

Nevertheless, while the outcome of my interview was unrelated to gender, the notion of ‘dumbing down’ is.  As I have shared this story with others, I’ve been stirred by the number of accomplished women — leaders in their own right, who’ve admitted to ‘dumbing down’ or modifying resumes to avoid gender bias, age discrimination or the challenge of over-qualification.  I’ve also heard from women who have made choices to ‘dumb down’ in other ways, too — all circumstances that raise the delicate issue of standing on principle vs. dumbing down in the face of individual and/or familial economic need and/or social and relational acceptance.  

As I’ve sat with this post, editing and re-editing as if different words might somehow change these truths, I’ve struggled.  Even as I write this, moments of self-doubt and deep reflection have challenged me to think about the implications of my own choices — not just for myself, but for my family and others, too.  What needs do I have in the present?  What legacy do I want to leave for my children?  How can I balance the two, while serving as a model for positive change?

What roles do gender, authenticity, integrity, courage, fear, ego, and ambition play in your own decisions, both  professionally and personally?  In an age of social media, digital recruiting and personal branding, how do we navigate the challenges of transparency, which have the potential to screen out as much as screen in?  How do we courageously stand up for ourselves, that we might model and teach our daughters how to do the same for themselves?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post!  Please leave a comment and let’s continue the conversation.

Living an Undivided Life

cropped-cropped-cropped-heart_multi9.jpgRecent years have fill filled with unearthing, rebirthing, and giving life to my own voice and dreams. Left brain (re)united with the right, it’s been a season of learning to live an undivided life — not just privately within my own heart and mind, but professionally, too — allowing others to see and connect with my whole self, not just the piece(s) defined by past roles or opportunity.

It’s been challenging and scary.  Layers of pride and fear dismantled as pieces of my wall have been broken down and discarded to reveal a hidden self. The public persona courageously united with the private; head aligned firmly with the heart.

But these steps are necessary to reach the places I have chosen to go.  Necessary, for when we live a divided life, we often end up losing the very essence of who we are.  We become restless, unsettled, and deeply compartmentalized.  We become more about ‘fitting in’ than being our true selves. Living our lives as square pegs in round holes, we often end up abandoning our own dreams and short-changing others in the process.  We create boxes and labels of limitations, then wonder why we feel trapped.  We lose integrity…the wholeness of who we are, while fracture lines form, threatening to undermine the foundational stability of our lives.

One of my favorite books is Parker J. Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life. In it he writes, “As we move closer to the truth that lives within us — aware that in the end what will matter most is knowing that we stayed true to ourselves — institutions start losing their sway over our lives.  This does not mean that we must abandon institutions.  In fact, when we live by the soul’s imperatives, we gain the courage to serve institutions more faithfully.”

These ‘institutions’ may represent our work, personal and/or spiritual lives, though the message remains the same — as we begin to reunite with our most authentic selves, we are better able to live, serve and lead others — from a place of humility, acceptance, respect and love. We become more equipped to commit to others, too, as we more deeply commit to ourselves and our own personal truths.

In the undivided life, we begin to know peace. We begin to experience joy. We begin to define success, not by the standards of world, but by the unconditional acceptance of our selves and our ability to live our truth out loud.

I’m curious…have you ever found yourself living a divided life?  Have you ever allowed labels and the expectations of others to define you or your opportunities?  What steps have you taken to live an undivided life?  What challenges have you encountered along the way?  How has living an undivided life altered your perception about the world and your role in it?

Postscript:  We are all evolving, and as we continue to grow, sometimes we change, too.  Sometimes what was important to us in the past, takes a backseat to new dreams, developed gifts, and clarity of purpose.  This evolution is not separate and divided from the whole, but an extension of our selves reframed.

On the Question of Trust, Sharks, Users and Takers

SharkWeekFeature1So often I am reminded of a conversation I had with a long-term mentor of mine almost two years ago.  “How do you discern who you can trust?” he asked.  How indeed, I thought silently to myself.

My answer then, as it remains, was that it was less important to know where others are coming from than to live and lead from a place of solid centeredness and confidence in our own values.  Still, as I continue to learn and grow, I am increasingly aware that there are those who cannot be trusted in our interactions, no matter how worthy our own intentions, motivations and actions.  Regardless of why, there are those who routinely undermine others – without regard for consequence, without provocation, and often without warning.  Sharks, users, takers, and players.  The world is filled with them, just as it is filled with those who work to lead and live from a spirit of humility, service and love.

Admittedly, I used to plague myself with trying to understand why some people behave badly, as if understanding alone would change the outcome or somehow justify their behavior. (I would also spend a great deal of energy complaining or feeling victimized by the person’s behavior, too.) But let’s get real.  Whatever the ‘whys’; whatever wrongs may have been done to them in the past by others that now lead them to act in a similar fashion; whatever their sense of entitlement or justification; bad behavior is still bad behavior, and questionable character rarely changes.

So I’ve quit asking and I’ve quit wondering.  Not only have I found that exercise to be completely futile, I’ve also learned that when we spin our wheels trying to understand, change and/or fight against those who have wronged us or others, we rob ourselves of precious time and energy that can be applied toward more productive ends – towards building trust and relationship with those who uplift, encourage and support instead of those who break down; and towards those paths and projects that align with our values and serve our life dreams.

It’s not a running away from problems or difficult people we’d rather not deal with, so much as it is a matter of re-prioritizing where, how and with whom we want to spend our energy.  It’s a matter of re-wiring our thinking, too.  We can feel victimized by others’ behaviors, or we can do something about it.  We can give our power over to them or we can empower ourselves.  While we may not be able to change others, we can surely change our response to them and how we choose to move forward – moving from a mindset of fear-based survival to a place of loving self-respect.

I’m curious…Have you ever allowed others’ behaviors to sabotage your own journey?  If so, how did you disentangle yourself from the situation?  What boundaries, tricks & tools do you employ when faced with those who routinely undermine, betray and breakdown?  Have you ever been caught of guard by their behavior?  Whether as leaders or followers, how do you navigate those inevitable times when the spirit of collaboration and team are undermined by the self-serving interests of others?  

Trust & Intentions, Part Deux

I keep thinking back to my conversation a couple of months ago with my long-time mentor and friend – the one who inspired the original post, Trust & Intentions.

The words lingering in my mind long past their prime, I have continued to reflect on his central questions, “How do you know who and what you can trust; how do you know when people are really being open with you?” In doing so, my thoughts have shifted from literal answers to the broader issue of transparency in the context of trust.

I am transparent.

Completely. Fully. Perhaps annoyingly so. At times, provocatively so.

Increasingly, I really do say what I mean and mean what I say. Having largely shed the once constant need for external approval (and with it the chamaleon-like behavior), I am rebelliously transparent, my commitment to my own personal integrity and authenticity running at an all-time high.  Remember my reference to playing ‘the (corporate) game’ in my earlier post, Square Pegs and Round Holes? I don’t play it, both because I’m not good at it and because I choose not to.

In that space of transparency, I am also trusting. Sometimes too much so. I trust others because I am trustworthy myself.  That’s an important point, because authentic transparency requires an intense and on-going commitment to integrity, of self and others.  I have also assumed this risk of vulnerable transparency, because the reward of genuine connection, when it happens, far and away exceeds the risk of being hurt. Still, I’ve been warned, “Be careful, Sharon. Not everything is as it seems. ”

It’s true.

Not everything is as it seems.

People have agendas, often hidden, sometimes deceptive, and occasionally downright rotten. I know. I’ve met them. And I’m pretty sure you have, too.

Master manipulators, whether in thought, word or deed, these same people often operate from a place of fear. Relentless fear. Suffocating, life-sucking, energy-draining fear. If you’ve ever studied fear, you know that it multiplies rapidly. It eats flesh. It stifles our thoughts. It breaks our hearts.

Having once fearfully defined my life and worth by those things, people, and accomplishments external to myself, I gave up fear when I embarked on this journey within. It’s not that I’m impervious to fear.  I’m not.  But in making the shift, I have learned to meet fear head on instead of running away, and in doing so, the same fear that once engulfed me has begun to loosen its vice-like grip.  Increasingly, fear has given way to love, and love has paved the way to authentic transparency.

I’ve been testing my theories lately, taking immense risks both personally and professionally, to be fully and completely transparent.  Living and leading from the heart; exchanging fear for an unwavering commitment to my values and dreams. Whatever notions I once had of ‘playing it safe’, I’ve thrown out the window. This is my life after all, and I’m tired of playing a defensive game. It’s all the chips in, win or lose.

So, for those of you who are curious, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

The risk

1. Transparency is risky, it’s true. When we extend ourselves from the heart, fully and openly, we risk others’ rejection. We risk their condemnation. We risk their manipulation. We risk loss. All pretty scary stuff, I admit.

2. When we lead and love from a transparent and authentic place, we risk misinterpretation of our intentions, too. There are those jaded souls and/or seasoned sharks swimming around in this world who do not recognize or trust transparency when they actually encounter it, and as a result, will attempt to sabotage you at every turn. Sadly, there are also those so hungry for love and connection that they mistake transparency for instant emotional intimacy. You know the kind…the “I thought there was something special between us (even though I only met you five minutes ago)?” If there is indeed a mutual connection, great! Wonderful, actually. But when it’s a case of one-sided misinterpretation, the leech-like behavior is usually about fear and control.

3. You can’t always control the outcome or other people’s intentions, it’s true (but it takes far more energy to conceal than to reveal).

Not very encouraging, is it? But read on…

The reward

1. When we fully love and respect ourselves first; when we are aligned and committed to our core values, the potential for rejection or misalignment does not have to be our undoing. This is not only true in our personal relationships, but in our professional lives, too. If the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s not the end of the world…you can decide to continue to walk around with painful blisters, or you can choose to find a new pair to try on for size. The choice is yours alone to make.

2. When combined with a strong core, a heady dose of courage, and firmly aligned values, there is not only tremendous power in transparency, but the propensity for hurt I’ve been cautioned about has actually decreased as transparency has increased, not the other way around.

3. As transparency increases, so too, does respect. People may not agree with every decision you make, but when you live and lead from within, as Lolly Daskal would say, people’s respect for you increases 1,000-fold. An added bonus? Your self-respect blossoms, too.

3. Transparency paves the way for authentic connection with others. Isn’t that really what life’s about, anyway?

4. Sometimes, if the conditions are right; if we’re willing to embrace the risks to fully walk our talk, transparency might just plant a seed for positive and lasting change in others, too; and that, my friend, is what real leadership is all about.

I’m curious…

How to you live, lead and connect with others? Do you operate from a place of open transparency, or have you mastered the art of concealed agenda? Have you found a healthy balance between the two? What price(s) have you paid for risking transparency? What reward(s) have you gained from being authentic? At your core, do you live and lead from a place of fear, or from a place of love?