You could hear his frustration and disappointment.
It came from a combination of examining the team performance, insane results in the market, and questioning his leadership style.
As I listened to this CEO share his concerns in our executive coaching session I replied, “you must extend grace.” He wrote it down. Then he asked me to explain exactly what I meant by that.
I explained that “grace” is usually associated with words including poise, elegance, forgiveness, and even politeness—I’d suggest maybe we need to add kindness.
You see, in these crazy times we are all navigating new routines, returning to offices, and reentering society in all forms, not to mention just reading the news some days. And that is hard, and stressful—and there’s a lot of uncertainty. Reminding my client (and if I’m being truthful… myself too) that right now people are beyond burned out, they are more than overwhelmed, and barely holding it together.
As busy leaders there is more pressure on us—we feel like we have to keep it all together for our team, we have to continue to dig deep into our mental and emotional reservoirs, and we have to find ways to help stay focused and inspire those we lead. All the while dealing with some of, if not all of, the things our colleagues are dealing with as well.
We have a phrase in my team (that should really be a warning label). If I declare: “I am one conversation away from a meltdown”, beware.
Have you ever felt like that? Someone used to remind me to “be kind and gentle with yourself,” and it would infuriate me because I didn’t understand the advice. I’d like to rephrase it to EXTEND GRACE. Extending grace to others often seems easier than extending it to ourselves.
If you are struggling to name what you are feeling right now, that’s OK. Most people are. You are not alone. So, how can we extend grace to not only people around us, but, to ourselves?
To extend grace to the people around you:
Be Kind—regardless of what someone has done (or said) to you, remember my wise mum’s advice, “kill them with kindness.” I often remind myself I don’t know what is happening in the lives of the people I chat with so, defaulting to kindness is always the best answer.
Be Present—stay fully focused on this moment. Don’t focus on the past, determine the best way to respond right now, and choose the path for future conversations and interactions. This one is harder than it sounds.
Be Understanding—we are all just trying to keep it together and many juggle little ones, aged parents, illness, stress, commuting, creating new routines and systems, and just trying to reinvent the lifestyle we want after several years of forced hibernation. I like to believe no one means to be foul, or act out, or be a jerk—I often repeat to myself ‘extend grace, you don’t know they are going through”.
To extend grace to yourself:
Realize everyone makes mistakes—that includes you! Even if we hate to admit it, the quicker we realize, apologize and move on, the sooner we can free up the real estate in our beautiful brains and focus on something else.
Eliminate the need to be perfect—I am not a perfectionist, but I am competitive with myself (no one else) and that means I hold myself to different standards than others, do you do that? If so, set that free, it may not be helping you achieve your goals.
Be real and realistic—this is something my bestie reminds me of it all.the.time! She will tell you my strategic brain jumps to the biggest idea possible (and often it’s totally unrealistic she tells me “stop empire building)—we all need a friend like that.
Do something that makes you proud—when you aren’t feeling great about what has happened, or a conversation you had, or a mistake you made, take a moment to do something that makes you proud. That might include helping someone you love, crushing a workout, going for a run, serving in your community, and acing a test. Whatever it is, remind yourself you are good at what you do and you deserve grace on even your worst days.
Not everyone will extend grace to you. Some people won’t forgive, and others won’t forget. That’s OK, that’s their issue, not yours.
Extending grace to yourself and others makes you a better leader, a better friend, and partner, and a better human.
But how do you demonstrate grace under pressure?
I’ll never forget sitting in a ballroom and witnessing a brilliant example of grace under pressure when the professional speaker who was supposed to interview a media legend that didn’t show up! A few things I noticed were his elegance and eloquence—he was able to change direction quickly, find someone the audience would admire, and interview him instead! We laughed and sat in awe of his demonstration of grace, compassion, and professionalism. It was the talk of the conference.
As leaders, we have a responsibility to role model grace under pressure because in our current changing world, with so many influences and impacts, our team wants direction and stability.
How can you extend grace to others today … and maybe even to yourself? I’d love to know!