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Awareness Knowledge Practice


“Accelerate the changes you seek,” stated Lee Scott. It was one of the most compelling statements that drew me to building a career at Unleashing Leaders.

It really made me stop and reflect: What changes am I seeking? Am I being intentional about them?

All of us have things we wish were different in our lives. We experience this in the goals we strive for, and as pain and frustration, that we avoid. I have a long list that I care deeply about improving, both for myself and teams I work with. It takes more than good ideas and passion to achieve change; it takes intentional action.

I approach my work with three underlying principles that have come to me from different sources of origination. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, what our specific goal is, or even how we measure success. I have found these principles to be universally foundational to change.

The first comes from Dr. Daniel Siegel in the book he co-authored with Mary Hartzel, Parenting From the Inside Out. In it he writes “awareness creates the possibility of choice.”

The more awareness we have of different communication styles and preferences, different ways of negotiating conflict, and options for organizing and prioritizing workload, the more choices we have when we interact with my team. That makes it more likely to choose an option that will be the best fit for that particular situation. When we only have one way of communicating, that will work very well with some people, and terribly with others. And when it goes terribly, we don’t have any other options to choose from to improve the situation. The more we build awareness, the more choices we give ourselves for how to show up, the more likely we are to be successful in handling challenging situations and teams.

The second principle is applied knowledge is power. Many of us have heard that knowledge is power, but that isn’t quite true. It isn’t what we know, but what we do with what we know that creates change. Consider the idea of potential energy, it is the awareness that creates the possibility of choice. But is only that, possibility. Making the choice to apply what we know through courageous action is what empowers us as leaders and empowers those we lead.

So, we first need to build awareness of different ways of how to show up. Once we have that awareness, we need to do something with it, take action. That action at first can be clunky, awkward, and sometimes a flat-out failure. This can be where many people feel defeated and give up. This is what makes the final principle so critical.

Practice makes habits. How we show up over and over is how we are most likely to show up in the future. This makes sense to us when thinking about playing sports, or learning an instrument, but we don’t often think about practice in terms of communication.

Every conversation we engage in, we are practicing communication skills. We are either making the choice to apply new knowledge, and build new habits, or reinforce old habits. This is critical when stress increases and emotions become intense, we always revert back to the most deeply ingrained habits. If we don’t practice effective communication and conflict when stakes are low, we will never be able to apply those skills when it really matters. This is why we practice fire drills and emergency scenarios, because when situations become critical or at an emergency level and we need to act fast, we are relying on our habits. If we haven’t intentionally built those habits to withstand the pressure we know we will face, we are leaving ourselves open to unnecessary risk.

Those three principles become the foundation of continuous growth as a leader and an organization.

  1. Awareness creates the possibility of choice – intentionally seek new ideas and information.
  2. Applied knowledge is power – courageously take new action based on what you learn.
  3. Practice makes habits – find what works for you and practice, practice, practice!

I encourage you to become more aware in your practice.