Give Up your Need to be Right All the Time

Through the Fulfilled Self Program that we launched this year for Chinese women in partnership with UEnjoy Club, we’ve seen the first cohort of women open up, give and receive feedback, and take meaningful action in their lives. One of the six sessions of the peer coaching program focuses on managing, assessing and growing personal and professional relationships. One topic we discussed in depth in the women-only peer groups was about the need to be right all the time, and how detrimental that can be to having healthy relationships.

Take the following example:

Karen was going on a business trip with three of her colleagues from Shanghai to Beijing. In the planning of the trip, Karen suggested that they take the speed train instead of a plane due to frequent flight delays caused from foggy weather and air traffic control. Her colleagues disagreed – the price of flying and taking the train was about the same, but they argued two hours was far better than the six-hour speed train ride. They met at the airport, and the flight was delayed indefinitely. “Haha!” Karen shouted “I knew it would happen!” They waited and waited, the whole time Karen was reminding others that had they taken the train they would have arrived already. Eventually the plane was cancelled and they had to reschedule for the following day. Karen refused to call the client to relay the message – “It’s your fault” she told her colleagues, “You do it.”

In this case, Karen was certainly “right” about the situation they were in. She had the benefit of feeling proud about being right. But that’s the only true benefit she had. And there are costs: not only did she make the time spent at the airport miserable for her colleagues (and herself), she damaged the relationship with them. On top of that she’ll have even less ability to influence them in future discussions.

Our brains subconsciously find evidence to support the theories and ideas we have.  However, just like the example above, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s always helpful or constructive. We get so caught up in finding evidence to support our position that we can often miss the bigger picture. Of course there are many situations where speaking up and defending your point of view are important. But we need to ask ourselves – am Ibringing this up just to enjoy the feeling of being  right or is there a genuine opportunity to make constructive change?

Think about a situation where you’ve been “right.” It could have been about an incident where – “I knew that was going to happen” (like above), or it could also have been about a person where -  “I knew he would make a mistake .”  Think about the situation and assess the outcome.  What was the specific cost?

People who have to be right all the time inadvertently push others away. Catch yourself next time by asking what the benefit and cost will be to the situation and to the relationship.   You may find that many times, it’s much better to be kind than to be right.

In addition to becoming more aware about the cost of letting others know that you’re right, the women in the Fulfilled Self program are taking steps to manage, assess and grow relationships in other key ways as well by:

Being present with people- That doesn’t just mean being in the company of others, it means being 100% focused on the person you’re talking to. We’ve all had interactions with people who have seem distracted – they’re looking around, they’re on their phones, looking down, they’re physically there but they are not mentally engaging with you. Being present for even 15 minutes a day with the important people in your life can have incredible results in the quality of relationships. Being present makes people feel heard, feel important, and feel loved.

Cutting out the added drama in life – We all make movie dramas in our heads that are rife with all kinds of emotions and our imaginations running wild. Women in the program learn to challenge their assumptions in relationships and to get out of the movies in their heads and back into real life where they can look at situations from different perspectives and make decisions that support the kind of relationships and lifestyles they want.

Being surrounded by positive people– This is a simple recipe to a happier, healthier life. Positive energy is contagious. Positive people see possibility, look for opportunities to lead engaging lives,  and fuel themselves and others with positive energy . People with positivity in their lives live up to 10 years longer than others. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true – negative energy is contagious. Thousands of studies have shown that negative emotions are highly destructive to the mind and body. Surround yourself with positive people, life is too short! 

Posted on May 15, 2015 .

Adopt A Growth Mindset

Through the Fulfilled Self Program that we launched this year for Chinese women in partnership with UEnjoy Club, we’ve seen the first cohort of women open up, give and receive feedback, and take meaningful action in their lives. One of the six sessions of the peer coaching program focuses on maximizing confidence and self esteem. Drawing from the incredible work on mindsets, from Dr. Carol Dweck (Stanford University) and Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson (Columbia University), we look at how adopting a growth mindset in key areas of our lives can change the way we see ourselves, how we set goals, and how much satisfaction we derive from our activities.

In a growth or “get better” mindset, the focus is to develop ability, to learn, to improve.  This is in stark contrast to a fixed or “be good” mindset, where the goal is to indicate an ability to perform and to simply deliver. Of course there are situations that will naturally call for one mindset or the other, but it is incredible how often we get stuck in a fixed mindset when we are better served by adopting a growth mindset.

The Fixed or “Be Good” Mindset

Let’s say you’re being considered for a promotion against three other people on your team. Your performance on an upcoming client pitch will determine whether you’ll get the role. You prepare extensively and are extremely focused on demonstrating your skills, on performing at your best, and at proving to your superiors that you have what it takes. If the client pitch goes well, and you get the role, you’ll feel smart, competent, even elated. But if it doesn’t, and you don’t, you’ll feel worthless, undeserving, even depressed. You’ll feel you don’t have what it takes, that you failed. This is the fixed mindset.

The Growth or “Get Better” Mindset

Let’s consider another scenario where you’re expanding your business in to a new vertical. You’ve got an upcoming client pitch that will be a great chance to better understand the specific needs of this vertical industry. While seeking out as many opportunities to learn throughout the process, you’ll embrace the newfound challenges you face along the way, and you’ll grow your skills. Measuring success will not be solely on whether or not you win the client, but also on how you’ll apply the key learnings to further win over other industry clientele in the future. If the pitch goes well, you’ll look at what worked, and find ways to replicate it. But if it doesn’t, it becomes an opportunity to learn. This is the growth mindset.

Moving Past the Need to Validate Your Worth

China’s economy is one of the fiercest competitive landscapes in the world. High achievers in China are highly adapted to performing and delivering results.  Consequently, a fixed mindset is deeply embedded in the goals set and the motivations derived from getting results. It is important to remember that when you’re delivering and performing, you’re not necessarily learning. When we look at how to derive fulfillment and satisfaction in the different aspects of our lives, it’s about finding ways to enjoy the journey, and not just the rewards. Shifting away from being motivated to prove our intelligence, our expertise and our worth and rather shifting toward learning, growing and contributing can be a healthy, life-changing experience.

Next Steps

By adopting a growth mindset, challenges and surprises become exciting opportunities instead of frustrating setbacks. The world “failure” doesn’t exist; it’s just another experience to add value to the next endeavor. In a growth mindset, people are far more willing to take risks, step out of their comfort zone, and embrace change.

The women in the Fulfilled Self program are taking steps to adopt a growth mindset in appropriate areas of their lives by:

Giving up the need to be perfect – Realizing that they already are whole, competent, and bright women just as they are, they no longer need to go through life proving how perfect they are. It’s having this awareness to separate our achievements from our self-worth that is the first step.

Comparing yourself only to yourself - Learning to compare themselves to themselves and not to others, they are paying attention to how they have improved on a skill over a period of time instead of holding themselves to the performance of others.

Focusing on the journey – Finding ways to enjoy the journey and not just the results. This is hands down the most critical shift that will lead to increases in fulfillment and satisfaction in our day to day lives. Learning new things, embracing challenges, and watching as you and the others around you grow, all can confer immense value. 

Posted on April 15, 2015 .

A Successful Launch of the Fulfilled Self

In a partnership with the UEnjoyClub, we’ve successfully kicked off the first cohort of a 3-month program designed for bright, motivated women committed to having impact in their lives. The UEnjoy Club is a not-for-profit organization for professional women in the U. S. and China who strive to succeed in business while maintaining a healthy and fulfilling personal and family life.

This program has come directly from a strong and persistent demand from professional women who don’t work at companies that would be likely candidates for the work LEAP is doing (the company I run that partners with companies to empower women within their organization), but who are looking to go deeper than women’s event-based and networking platforms can go. In our first information session to let people know about the program, we expected ~30 people and had over 150 inquiries. Over 30 women applied for our first cohort. Every applicant was interviewed to ensure we selected women who are willing to share, open to feedback, eager to learn and willing to take action in their lives. In the end we selected 13 fabulous women (we planned to have 12 but were so delighted with 13 candidates that we decided to make an exception)!

 A different experience

In a society where rote learning and memorization are key pillars of the education system, we can see that this program is very different.  While there are key topics, resources and tools, there is no lecture, and certainly no one way to interpret the materials and no one way to take action in your life.

Some will think that in a low trust and high context culture like China– this kind of program will have a limited impact as it cannot be expected that people will actively share their real feelings and vulnerabilities. But that is absolutely not what we’re observing. We’re seeing women share about their biggest insecurities, some major challenges they have faced, and starting to celebrate very honestly what they truly love about themselves. And that’s awesome.

Over six sessions, while focusing on different key topic areas that are all important in finding fulfillment in your life, it is peer coaching that makes this program particularly unique. For each topic and both at in between each session, women share experiences, both successes and challenges, get questions they have on the table, and support each other in achieving action plans – to make change.

For many of the women in this program, this is the very first time they are exposed to an experiential, supportive and learner driven learning environment. As a facilitator, I am there to provide the frame, set the context and share practical tools around the topic of the day, but the real magic happens in the peer coaching, where participants are learning from each other and supporting each other to bring the tools into fruition in their lives.

Here is what some of the women are saying:

“It’s great to see something so effective to inspire and help promising Chinese women realize their growth potential.”

 

 “I have had an extraordinary experience.   I feel empowered to reshape my future life path with clearer life goals, confidence and courage. “

 

“I have been searching for something like this after my life had a big change. I’ve started the journey and know I am on the way. So far I feel a lot more trust in myself that I can make the most out of my life.”

 

“The peer coaching is really something new. It not only is comforting but also inspiring to find out that others are facing similar issues as I am, and came out with different and brilliant solutions.”

 

“I have changed my mindset. I am able to face up to more challenges, not discouraged by setbacks but taking them as opportunities to learn and progress."

Posted on March 1, 2015 .

On Humility

I remember one of the first dialogues I encountered when I started studying Chinese. In response to a compliment from a peer, a student replied, “哪里,哪里,你过奖了。Nǎlǐ, nǎlǐ, nǐ guòjiǎngle.” or “No, no , you flatter me.”

It struck me at the time because it was quite different than a standard response in a Western context to a simple compliment, where“thank you” would be the most appropriate.  While my teacher did say that this particular phrase is used less and less among peers in informal conversations today, (where “xie xie” is considered acceptable), it sparked my curiosity about the cultural value of humility, and how it plays out in a global business environment. 

Let’s see humility in action through Barbara, a youngwoman working as a junior manager in a global company in Shanghai. After leading a high performing team to exceed targets, when commended for the great results, she quickly reverted to a “哪里,哪里” approach. She explained it was not her, but a combined effort of her exceptional team. She continued by describing in detail how each member contributed constructively.

Genuinely sharing credit with her team makes her humble, and empowers her colleagues to do their best.  

For the next project, the two team members she highly commended were provided with an opportunity to take on something new. In turn, they were shared among different departments, made new contacts, learned new skills, and moved onwards and upwards in the organization as a result.  New team members joined Barbara’s team. The same thing happened. Fast forward three years, and a notable number of people from Barbara’s team have received promotions.

Lao Tzu said it well , “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

I have learned a lot from working with Chinese professionals on how to be humble and I have come to value humility on a much deeper level than I ever had before. There is a lot the West can learn here, and with an emergence of discussion on the topic among Western thought leaders in recent years, the opportunity is there.

Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, Barbara has not received a promotion in the past three years.

For Barbara, like many women, she is very uncomfortable to accept recognition. But without it, she may continued to be overlooked for opportunities.

It has been an important distinction for her to understand the delineation between being genuinely humble and being committed to her own growth and development. Because they can (and should) co-exist.

 

Actively seeking feedback on her skills from her superiors, becoming more clear on what her strengths are, and being willing to volunteer for things that interest her within the organization have been some of the strategies we’ve started using together.

 

But by all means, Barbara, as well as many of the other great Chinese professionals I’m working with, should continue to model humility in a global business context. I do suggest to have a happy balance so that you can be sure to seize opportunities and progress your career – that balance makes for a healthier, happier environment for everyone.

Posted on June 18, 2014 .