You have to collect the dots before you connect the dots.
Miles Adcox said this on an IG Story I watched recently. He was talking about it in the context of mental health and living a healthy narrative of your future. As I understand it, Miles was making the point that we make sense of our place and purpose in the context of acceptance, love and belonging.
Because at some level everyone I know wants to be better and do better at life and leadership. This can have a shadow side and lead us to be driven, demanding, unforgiving and critical of ourselves and others. If that’s your world stop right now and seek professional help. Everyone will appreciate you for it. What I’m talking about is that deep part of our humanity that wants life to go well for themselves and others. That wants to be healthy and well and would love to be able to self lead and become who they are supposed to become.
And paradoxically I’ve also observed it’s a task we can fulfil on our own. You may be introverted but you are not designed to do life and leadership solo. I’d suggest that you and I are unable to reach our full potential. To be the VERY BEST version of ourselves unless we are in a tribe and community with others. You might be extroverted and I am not advocating full community with the fences taken down either.
We have the privilege of both creating and being part of an environment where people can ‘collect the dots’ as well as connect the dots. Environments where people can flourish inside the beauty of belonging as well as be inspired by challenges that demand more from us that we have in and of ourselves.
Every leader I know wants to have the following three things characterise their leadership:
Relationships with Depth = Acceptance + Belonging
Acceptance is judgement free validation and belonging is connecting through similarities. What you are seeking here is the answer to the question “Can these be my people?” There’s something profound about validation and generally, myself included, we are terrible at slowing down long enough to be present to someone and focus entirely on them and validate who they are, what they are saying and what they are bringing to the community.
Belonging is looking for points of convergence and not points of divergence. If we are anything as a species, we are diverse right? There’s no shortage of what’s different between us. The key is looking for the place where we can connect, engage, find synergy and momentum.
What results is a depth and breadth of relationship that at the core of ‘collecting the dots’ we all both want and need. Incredible people to do magnificent things and a trust and commitment that will demand we give our best. That’s robust. That’s healthy. That’s inspiring. It’s also intimidating at the same time. And with the challenge.
Affirmation that Inspires = Belonging + Contribution
Belonging is connecting through similarities and contribution is serving with your superpower. With all the work I do with clients I ask this question, “What’s your superpower?” For too long we have failed to create a culture where we have failed to call up and name what people are ‘best on ground’ for. Especially here in my country. It seems acceptable NOT to be amazing and magnificent unless of course you’re under seven! Then all bets are off right 🙂
Truth? You are world class at some things. What is it? You are ok at some things and dare I say it, you are terrible at some things as well. We all are. The key isn’t that statement. The key is knowing what is under each of those headings.
When we know, we have a point of connectedness and who we are and what we bring can make a difference in this tribe, we can lean in to our people. This is magical because as you deepen and mature in this environment, your strengths become more obvious (as do your weaknesses) but you get to participate in a tribe that will call you up to your best life. A tribe that will champion your strengths, have high expectations of you and love and accept you when you don’t live up to the bar you’ve set. That’s inspiration with meaning.
Work that matters = Acceptance + Contribution
Work that matters really matters. That sense of knowing what you are getting up to do day in and day out has a deep and profound impact on people’s health and well being. In Australia alone a staggering 57% say that their work is the number one contributor to stress in their life and that over 70% would be happier at work if they felt values and were making an impact.
On one level work that matters is a personal issue. Jim Rohn says, “If you don’t like your life, change it; you’re not a tree.” With personal responsibility being a high value that resonates with me. On the other hand who is showing your team what’s possible? Who is showing them that they can look forward to meaningful and enjoyable work? That’s part of our roles as leaders. Show people what’s possible and the delight that exists in their future. Work that matters must matter to those with whom we work.
We all need to be in a place where we can collect the dots of acceptance, belonging and contribution and in doing so we can connect the dots of deep relationships, inspirational affirmation and meaningful work. What a privilege to get for ourselves and create for others.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.