I am all about results, excellence, and effectiveness. As a highly driven, successful, goal oriented individual, I despise mediocrity. I don’t like it in myself or in my clients. Lukewarm is sickening. Top leaders and coaches are not OK with just being OK. They are in a constant pursuit of excellence from themselves and others.
If you classify yourself as such a person, I am talking to you. You want the best from yourself and those you lead. I am convinced that to get the best, we must learn to come from a place of OK. We must learn to embrace, accept and love what is. I need to be OK with imperfect people that fall short and make mistakes. This seems counterintuitive. If you are like most leaders that I have helped, you will resist this concept until you really sit with it and consider it carefully.
Think about it. When you are NOT OK with someone, it severely diminishes your influence in their life. People shrink and drawback from criticism. Human beings become defensive and closed when they perceive threat. This presents a dilemma. If you tell a weak team member that he is OK, you feel like you are communicating permission to be mediocre. This concern is based on a faulty assumption that you can change another person. The fact is that you can’t create lasting change in other people. You really can’t force them to be better, try harder, work more, or strive for excellence. Those values and virtues must come from within them. That means the most effective role for you is one of inspiration, not motivation. The motivation must come from within them. All that you can do is provide a context of acceptance and encouragement. Positive change germinates and thrives in a garden of positive support, not criticism and negativity. You don’t want to wrestle with your team and try to beat them into obedience and change. If you are the motivation, when you let up, they let down. You don’t want to be their master and driver. Rather, you want to inspire and serve them by encouraging them to be the best they can be. Your role is to call to their inner champion to rise up and meet the challenge. You want to help them see their true gifts and strengths and help them realize that they are enough. Think about it. Think about yourself. What environment inspires and motivates you to take action and go for it? Is it an environment of positive encouragement, or an environment of criticism? Are you most moved into action by people who accept and appreciate you, or by those who focus on your failures, shortcomings, and mistakes?
I AM NOT saying that people can’t learn and benefit from criticism, negative feedback, and even attacks from other people. What I AM saying is that criticism is not the MOST EFFECTIVE leadership tool to inspire positive change. I am challenging you to consider that the MOST EFFECTIVE leaders and coaches encourage, support, accept, and are OK with people. This acceptance is not permission to be mediocre, but rather an encouragement to foster healthy growth. People feed off positive energy and thrive when they have someone who believes in them. They shrink and struggle amid criticism and someone trying to fix them.
I am NOT saying that there is never an appropriate time for admonishment, correction, challenge, and creating discomfort. But the best leaders do this in a context of deep understanding, caring, acceptance and support. I have a great coach. She believes in me. She believes in my ambitions and dreams, and she respects me and accepts me as OK. And she has accepted me from our first day of coaching. As a result, I welcome anything she says to me, because I know she has my best interest and success at the center of all her coaching. I know that she comes from a place of OK and accept me 100%, just as I am. This is powerful fuel that helps me change! I don’t HAVE to change (out of fear or trying to win her approval and pleasing her). I CHOOSE to change, because I WANT TO CHANGE, and I know that she will support me and uphold me as I go for whatever I want.
A final note; the most effective way to motivate yourself to change is to begin from a place of OK. When you beat yourself up, it de-energizes you. If you are currently struggling with thoughts of not being OK, first accept the obvious fact and truth that you are who you are, and that you are not perfect. In that acceptance of yourself as you are, you can choose to change whatever you don’t like. Self pity hinders and derails positive change. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, and criticizing yourself, choose to be OK with who you are. You will be energized to take action to move to a more effective place – not because you HAVE TO, but because you WANT TO.
Are you OK? Is your team OK? If you choose OK, you will be empowered to help yourself and others grow and change and become the best they can be.