Taking heart in the rippling impact of our care

Taking heart in the rippling impact of our care

Famously, after setting up a school for girls in South Africa and brimming with pride about the legacy she would leave because of it, the very Oprah Winfrey was challenged by Maya Angelou:

 

You have no idea what your legacy will be.

Your legacy is what you do every day.

Your legacy is every life you’ve touched,

Every person whose life was either moved or not.

It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped.

That’s your legacy.

 

We all stand on the shoulders of giants, the ordinary people with no name to speak of, who built our homes, made our cars and designed the funky fridge that cools the milk and keeps strawberries fresh. Others educated our kids, helped us with the taxes, buried our dead and wrote the poems we read at night. They all hoped to help with something, just as we try our hand at elevating or improving the work that comes our way. It is not so much the quest for perfection I am talking about here, but the desire to make things better so that they are better, for us, for the people we care about and the society and culture at large.

 

Our world faces problems that require the effort and attention of many lives, many hearts and many hands on deck. It hurts to care and so we hold back investing our time and attention without a clear end, guarantee or impact in sight. It is understandable that we want to see the outcomes of our actions but there are projects worth starting even though we won’t be able to see them through till the end. Most of us will participate in a relay race without clear start and finish lines. Few of us will live to tell the tale of the impact we have created. We will plant the acorns for the oaks whose shade the grandkids of our kids will enjoy. Our legacy is the ripples that will be felt without us knowing that we were the pebble that created them.

 

 

For Susan, whose mission is to make school funding fairer.

Photo by Linus Nylund,  Upsplash

How to talk to the men in your life about their mental health

How to talk to the men in your life about their mental health

Plus how to identify the key signs that someone might be struggling.

When it comes to mental health and men, the facts and stats make for a difficult reading. We’ve all seen the headlines, we’ve watched the campaigns and, chances are, we all know at least one man who has been impacted by mental health challenges at some point in their life.

And yet, despite the growing awareness, suicide remains the single biggest killer among men aged under 45 in the UK. In fact, according to the mental health charity Ben, British men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women.

Whether it’s due to a desire to appear strong, the pressure to ‘man up’, or simply not being able to find the words to describe how they feel, many men are still choosing to remain silent and not seek help.

Sometimes, because men and women are impacted by different influencing factors, women – girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers and friends – can find it hard to understand or can be dismissive of why men can become negatively impacted by certain events in their lives. For example, men’s triggers often stem from societal expectations and traditional gender roles, which may lead men to think that they must:

  • be the breadwinner and have to provide for the family no matter what
  • display traditional “masculine” traits, such as strength, fearlessness, decisiveness and being in control
  • be self-sufficient and not seek help from others
  • display emotional stoicism at all times
  • have their identity fused with their work and professional status

Being defined by these beliefs can negatively impact men’s mental health and prevent them from reaching out to others or accessing support. However, this doesn’t mean we should give up on trying to start a conversation with the men we care about.

What to look out for in men who may be struggling:

  • Men often channel their pain as anger and aggression (also known as the anger iceberg – where anger is actually the result of something else below the surface)
  • Excessive use of alcohol or using drugs to self-soothe and self-medicate
  • Reckless behaviour or taking unnecessary risks – a fake kind of bravado can cover up insecurity and feeling out of place
  • Poor sleep, changes in appetite, looking unkempt
  • Changes in daily habits or routines that negatively impact their social or work life that don’t appear to raise concerns of the individual in question
  • Withdrawing from people or activities, appearing numb or feeling flat, and a disinterest in activities that used to bring them enjoyment
  • Complaining of physical symptoms without a clear cause
  • Dropping comments about things appearing hopeless or pointless, or expressing thoughts that the world would be better off without them
  • Always being the life and soul of the party and never ever appearing to be struggling or have a concern (the pressure to be ‘the happy one’ can become a trap or a role difficult to get out of)
  • A major change in circumstances e.g. loss of job, breakdown of marriage, retirement, failed exams.

 

How to talk to men about their mental health:

1. Find the right space

Opening up about mental health is no mean feat, especially when it’s for the very first time. Face-to-face, ‘intervention’ style conversations can often feel intense and intimidating. If you want to encourage a loved one to open up to you, try and do it in an environment that’s slightly more relaxed. Going for a walk or car journey is good because it means you don’t have to sit directly in front of each other and maintain eye contact. Try talking while doing something together – go fishing, clean up the garage, watch a movie together. If he’s inviting you to go for a drink one-on-one, he might want to have a proper chat, so go and look out for the hint. When the opportunity comes, sit on your hands and listen.

2. Make sure you’re the right person they need to talk to

It may feel counterintuitive, but trust and connection requires boundaries. Sharing is not always caring. When we are under-equipped to be with a man who is in serious struggle, we may resort to comforting and rescuing rather than listening, making them feel even more isolated and inadequate.

 

3. Notice ‘toxic’ masculinity

Know when to end the banter, the egging each other on, the fake bravado. We all like a bit of that from time to time, but it’s also easy to spot when someone’s not in the mood or they want to be serious. If you notice something is different about your friend, or your jokes aren’t going down so well, ask how they are doing – and ask twice!

4. Ask twice

And a third, forth or fifth time if you need to. If your intuition is telling you that someone you care about is struggling, don’t give up just because they brush you off with ‘I’m fine’. Men often feel they shouldn’t have to ask for help and don’t want to burden someone else with their problems – but by continuing to ask, you are showing that you care and you are giving them permission to talk.

5. Stop asking men about their feelings and ask about the meaning

What does it mean to you to lose this contract? What did this do to you to not get that job? Where does it leave you to lose your children? Asking about meaning may seem less touchy-feely and therefore more accessible. Men tend to be more direct and straight to-the-point; the softly-softly approach can actually be more off-putting and awkward.

6. Share your experience

Lots of men brush off questions about their mental health because it’s a difficult and uncomfortable subject that they’re probably not used to talking about. In fact, research has shown that when asked, 78 per cent of people say that they are fine even if they are struggling with their mental health. So instead of probing someone with questions, try sharing an experience of your own that they might be able to relate to. Firstly, this shows that they are not alone, and secondly, it creates a two-way dialogue where you are both able to express your vulnerabilities in a safe and supportive way.

7. Accept you might not have all the answers

When talking to a male loved one about their challenges, there will almost certainly be things you don’t understand or know how to address properly – and that’s okay. You don’t have to have all the answers and sometimes, one of the best things you can do for someone you care about is encourage them to seek professional help.

8. Don’t panic if your husband, partner or a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts

Don’t panic and don’t comfort straight away, hear them out – why they want to do it, how they want to do it, when they want to do it. Those who talk about doing it, are less likely to go through with it. Suicide is a taboo, it thrives on secrecy, silence and judgement. Listen first, then seek professional help through a GP, the Samaritans or another charity that helps with men’s issues like CALM.

9. And finally, when men start talking, let them talk

There’s a perception that men don’t talk about their problems or feelings, but the reality is that men will talk to those who listen to them. Well-wishing spouses or girlfriends can sometimes find it hard to see a man in struggle; it’s counter-cultural and the truth is we are sometimes dismayed or shocked by vulnerability in men. Many of us rush to men’s defence – “You’re not a failure!” – and stop the conversation in its tracks. Let men vent about the crisis of meaning, their wounded identity or about feeling like a coward, without trying to make it better for them. Disappointments need space to breathe. Don’t become another person they need to defend themselves against because you can’t be with their struggle or vulnerability.

Teal blue background with white writing. In lower right corner is a painted image of Agnieszka Walczuk

Article originally published in Harpers Bazaar on 6 October 2021

Top Photo by Stefan Spassov, Unsplash

Endings, Leavings & New Beginnings

Endings, Leavings & New Beginnings

Endings, Leavings & New Beginnings

“Endings have the longest tail and are rarely attended to with due care.

– John Whittington, Constellations Teacher & Facilitator


Reflections from Agnieszka [following her resignation from Sanctus]

So, I was told to write this part of the Newsreel this month. I did not volunteer. It’s so personal, why do it? Bleed on the page…

A few weeks ago, I resigned from my role as a Sanctus Head Coach. Hrisi’s eyes got moist and so did mine. We talked for 3 hours that night. And then some. The reasons are not complicated, nor is it a hate crime. I had felt a split, a painful ambivalence for some time but after the deed was done, I was at peace. I believe my role as a Head Coach is done.

It’s ironic because I ran a 360-feedback for myself at Sanctus just last December, to be a better HC, a better human, and a colleague. It was a re-take of the same assessment I did 5 years ago and I was hungry again, I wanted to learn, I was feeling edgy, a touch radical. And as it sometimes happens, a couple of comments just whispered at me “it’s time, hun, it’s time.” Ugh. They say, the truth will set you free but first it will piss you off. They are right. Every time. The scary truth is that I was longing to step up, and to create something that’s mine, and that’s LeaderKind, my private practice. It has been playing second fiddle lately and for far too long.

I find we don’t often talk about the painful part of making choices. Especially when we decide to let the beloved out of sight, and over time, out of mind. For me, letting the Sanctus option go, was like putting a baby in a basket and sending it down the river. People are excited for me and I am grateful. Grateful to have come, grateful to have received life’s lessons. I am irreverent by design and collaboration, albeit beautiful, is hard for me, it’s confronting. I can get angry with people or bored; I sometimes feel hurt and abandoned. I am too direct, I hunt elephants in the room. And that’s ok, in fact, if I don’t get to these, I don’t think I am actually doing it right. But here, with this crowd, I also had moments of such intense connection, honesty and love, forgiveness, healing and kindness, I am starting to think notice periods were invented to serve as a torture chamber. Frankly, I am feeling a little bit mental. Resigning was the easy part, now I am facing the protracted leaving extravaganza. “Endings have the longest tail and are rarely attended to with due care” is my favourite John Whittington’s quote. I quite like to offer it to my clients, perhaps because myself, I don’t do endings very well. I don’t do them at all. Knowing me, I am likely to fall out with everybody by the time my HC tenure is done. Just to make a point, that it was the right thing to do. Find the strength to push away. Make it easier to turn my back on them. This bunch of Snowflakes.

Why do we come, why do we go? A thousand different narratives, a new intention every day, forgotten half way through the afternoon. I am stunned by the emotions filling me these days. I feel a sense of vitality, confidence and clarity about myself, who I am and my unique shape in the world. And as every day gets a little closer for the bygones to be bygones, when I think of the people, my people I am leaving behind, I feel raw and tender and a little broken-hearted. They say, there’s more room in a broken heart. And they are right. Every time.

 

18 March 2022

 

(I was) Not Allowed

(I was) Not Allowed

(I was) Not Allowed
I was not allowed
To eat
When I ate
When hungry
When full
To be hungry
And the fridge
Was full of promise
That bitch.
I was not allowed
To curse
Like I did
Then slam the door
In my mother’s face
Cause good girls,
don’t.
Therefore, they won’t.
I was not allowed
To fear
Or feel
Need or want
Cry hot tears
Be in love
Dream the dreams
Because
Average people like us,
Don’t.
I was not allowed
To keep things private
Cause why would
Someone
Be allowed
What I hide
From their
Grabby fingers
Greedy eyes
Jealous hearts.
I was not allowed
To be wicked
Deny Jesus
Stand up straight
Sing my tune
Have my way
Cause my way
Was a stubborn way.
Now that I am allowed
I still won’t
Cause I haven’t learnt
How to want
What I want.
Agnieszka Walczuk
19 March 2020
Are you a Boss or a Leader? – the power and insights of the Leadership Circle

Are you a Boss or a Leader? – the power and insights of the Leadership Circle

“Effective leaders outperform ineffective leaders every time” (Bill Adams, CEO of the Leadership Circle Group), and leadership effectiveness is responsible for as much as 40% of overall business performance.

The Leadership Circle is the core methodology I use at LeaderKind to develop truly outstanding leaders.

 

Why the Leadership Circle?

If we want to develop more mature leaders, we need a comprehensive approach to leadership development. Bob Anderson of the Leadership Circle Profile (LCP) took a fragmented collection of theories and practices in the field of psychology, business and leadership development developed in the last half century, and wove them all into the first unified theory of leadership development to arise in the field.

The Leadership Circle is truly the Gold Standard in Leadership Development and has been recognised and adopted by global organisations such as Roche,  Pixar Animation Studios, American Express, Google, Honda, many others,

 

 

You have a choice of 4 assessments:

  • Free Leadership Circle Self-Assessment available via the Leadership Circle website (click the icon above) – a powerful first dive for those who are curious about the model. There is more to it than meets the eye though, well worth a one-off debrief of the results. Let us know if we can help.
  • Leadership Circle 360 Feedback & Assessment for Executive Leaders used for 1:1 coaching programmes (suitable for corporate programmes)
  • Leadership Circle 360 Feedback & Assessment (Manager Edition) for Managers & Team Leaders used for 1:1 coaching programmes (suitable for corporate programmes)
  • Collective Leadership Assessment used to measure collective effectiveness of leadership teams.

The Leadership Circle gives powerful and provocative insights about the perception and experience of the leader’s impact on others in the culture in which the leader operates at a given time.

 

“Despite tremendous amount of research, Leadership still feels more like art than science and a having a map proves helpful.” (Bob Anderson) The Leadership Circle Profile, with its profound and elegant architecture, is the most faithful companion on the journey to Leadership Mastery. It lingers in our mind’s eye guiding our thoughts, inviting adjustments and pointing us to our growth edges time and time again. Due to its developmental nature, it does not only show us what’s going on, it goes deeper into why it’s going on and then it is the only tool that actually answers the questions: so what? and now what? The Leadership Circle is a map and a compass in one.

 

Leadership Circle is a strengths based, 3-dimensional approach that tells us about:

  1. What is happening – strengths, overused strengths, blind spots and de-railers
  2. Why it is happening – core beliefs about self-worth and identity what prevent us from stepping fully into powerful and inspiring leadership
  3. Pathways for positive change – developmental tensions and what we can do about them

The combination of the Creative Leadership Competences and the inner maturation and developmental path through the Adult Stages of Development: Egocentric, Reactive, Creative, Integral and beyond, offer a truly multidimensional lens to our growth. As a developmental tool, it may and should be repeated to assess the leader’s evolution and progress.

***

“Sitting in front of my Leadership Circle Profile and having a debrief of my results felt like I was being shown around a room in my house I never knew existed. By no means was I a newbie to Leadership but the impact of the profile took my breath away. For the first time in my life I really understood the difference between being a Boss and being a Leader.”  – to date this is the most powerful endorsement of the LCP by a client a mine during their debrief.

***

Finally… this…

Me with Bob Anderson during his Scaling Leadership tour around Europe in the summer of 2018. Such a humble and noble man.

The more excited I get, the goofier the face becomes, I can’t help it. I am deeply grateful to be a part of this amazing Community of Visionaries and Change Makers.

 

Please check the Leadership Circle *website* for a full and comprehensive overview of the model.

***

If you want to learn more about the vertical leadership development, keep an eye out for my next Blog “I have been lost and now I am found – Adult Development and why they should teach this at school”…

If you would like to explore your Leadership map, take the Free Self-Assessment and contact me for a debrief.

“To Cry or Not to Cry” – What Are Your T&C’s of Psychological Safety?

“To Cry or Not to Cry” – What Are Your T&C’s of Psychological Safety?

I’ve been thinking about psychological safety recently.

 

It’s talked about loads in HR & business forums but to me it reads a little dry. How about this as a personal example?

I recently re-connected with a colleague to collaborate on a new venture. He is SUPER smart & BIG-hearted and I want to do something together. 

    • Why me? – says he.
    • Because if things go to shit, I know I’ll be able to cry in front of you without shame. – says me.
    • That’s a lovely definition of psychological safety. – says my super smart, big-hearted friend. 

That’s it for me. No matter how smart people are, if they one-up me, I shut down. If they judge me for saying something stupid when I think and ideate out loud, I shut down. If I try something new and it fails and they tell me I should’ve thought it through, I shut down. 

Daniel Goleman (the author of all things Emotional Intelligence related) offers this: 

“Psychological and emotional safety is the understanding that being honest and open is okay and won’t have negative repercussions. When we feel safe, we’re able to shut down the brain’s hardwiring for defensiveness. This, in turn, fosters healthy risk taking & innovation, etc.”

Turns out, in order to take risks, we need to feel safe. These days, when someone says they want to challenge me, I respond:

– Don’t challenge me. Help me.

Photo: Matthew Henry, Unsplash