Where do you take yourself out of the game?

effective leaders roll the dice

We all have our tipping points:  We decide whether to “pass” or roll the dice depending on the risk we assign to the next move.

While we know intellectually that growth and change rarely happen without some level of discomfort, most of us are not inclined to put ourselves in harm’s way.  We’d much prefer to remain safe and dodge the prickly emotions that arise if our actions don’t yield the desired results. 

I’ve not met a person yet who enjoys the shame, embarrassment or insecurity that results from a less than effective decision.  Some leaders choose not to act for fear of being “found out,” i.e. “maybe I’m not as brilliant as they think I am.”  At the same time, an effective leader pushes past those vulnerabilities to play full on.

In the event that you are shaking your head, thinking that you play every game with gusto, consider whether any of these examples sound a bit familiar:

  • I can’t ask for a raise so soon after the RIF (even though my responsibility and workload has increased ShalaneFlanaganQuoteCallOutsubstantially).
  • I know that I won’t find the right words when speaking up in a large group. I much prefer small groups.
  • I hate conflict, so I’d rather implement a decision I don’t agree with than push back.
  • Even if I disagree, I stay clear of him. I know of his tendency to lash out at dissenters.
  • I’m OK with not being asked for my opinion, even though I’ve analyzed all the data. No one expects me to formulate decisions based on it.

Becoming conscious of the instances and circumstances that bring you the most discomfort is job one to identifying where you hold yourself back.

Whether some of the above examples resonate for you or you have your own set of “rules” that keep you safe, consider some of the following ways to stay in the game:

  • Use inquiry to invite consideration of a new idea or decision alternative. Open-ended questions, in particular, can be a powerful way to engage without necessarily subjecting you to the possibility of the dreaded “rejection” or judgment that sometimes comes with asserting an idea. Ask at least one question at each meeting and see what happens.
  • If you shy away from owning a high profile initiative because of the perceived risk, time commitment or expertise, consider sharing the load. Partnering with someone whose style or expertise is complementary minimizes the risk that your vulnerabilities will be exposed. For instance, if you tend to be more strategic in your approach, partner with a taskmaster who will ensure all the “t’s” are crossed and “i’s” dotted.  Or, if your style is that of a driver, partner with someone who enjoys building rapport and brainstorming her way through a problem.
  • When all else fails, role-playing and/or visioning can be an effective way to practice skills you find most uncomfortable. Run through those difficult decisions or situations while driving, showering or taking a walk outdoors. Or pull in a trusted advisor, friend or family member to role-play the person with whom you need to engage to take that next step.

Knowing where you take yourself out of the game is key to devising strategies to play full out.  Here’s to rolling the dice to change it up and lead confidently.


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  1. Such a relatable post. Thank you for the strategies to keep myself in the game. I’m partial to the partnering one — both for the reasons you mentioned about complementary skills, and also for the accountability. With crazy lists of to-do’s, a partner helps us to keep the important (and not just urgent) items in their appropriate place — at the top of the list.

    • So glad it resonated, Nancy. Focusing on our strengths, and what we enjoy most, also minimizes the stress that comes with attempting to be all things to all people. Thanks for reading!

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