Exercising your Non-Preferences

I've been doing a lot of leadership coaching lately. It's one of my favorite things--important conversations with influential people, helping them inspire vision, lead change, or solve problems with their staff and organizations. 

I always begin my work my leaders with an assessment, usually by interviewing those who work with and for them. I get the privilege of hearing about strengths and higlights, and I also get to hear about growth areas. I'm always struck by how all of us are strong in some things and weaker in others. The leader who's a strategy whiz might need help being approachable or personable with staff. The leader who has familiar, warm relationships with everyone might not be the best strategist.

Can we be all things to all people? Absolutely not. What's powerful is when leaders are aware of their preferences non-preferences are. The challenge, then, is to begin exercising their non-preferences, noticing those moments and situations that call them to stretch. For the externally-focused CEO, this might mean she clears some time to take staff out to lunch or have unstructured office hours. For the chatty socialite, this might mean he spends time (and maybe gets some help) to focus on strategy.

I think of it as exercising those muscles that don't get much attention normally. On the rare occasion I make it to a yoga class, I'm aware of my muscles in ways I never was before! And reminded of all the amazing ways my body can flex and stretch when I'm intentional.

Leading well means staying fit and pushing yourself, sometimes till it hurts.