By Jon Michail
I like to think I practice what I preach. As a coach, my aim is to stretch people to become more than they’ve ever imagined for themselves. Sometimes this can lead to unexpected adventures…
In February, I shared a story Leap of Faith with you about working with an executive who decided to do something significant as a homage to an upcoming rather major birthday. He decided to do a tandem parachute jump.
Now, I’d toyed with the same idea once or twice over the years. The urge didn’t last long, needless to say, but when I heard the executive’s story, I was intrigued all over again.
As I said before, I like to think I practice what I preach. In my work, I coach with intent, to transform other people’s lives. Yes, truly transform to greater heights as opposed to shallow clichés. But what had I done about transforming myself?
Sure, I’ve done the things people do to progress through their lives, and I’ve managed most of them successfully and some not so well. I’ve talked and people have listened. But talk is sometimes cheap. We all do it. The really important thing is action – and then to be able to show evidence of that action.
SkyDive from Image Group on Vimeo.
Just recently I’ve lost several friends, all of them too young to die. It’s made me think more about what truly matters in life and how we must constantly remember to live it to its fullest. I realised I didn’t want to die thinking about what I could have done if only I’d had more time, or trust, or self-belief.
It’s an unusual thing for someone of my age to put ALL their trust into someone they barely know. I had no control and I had to relinquish everything that was normal.
That realisation nudged me even further into thinking that I too could take that leap of faith like my parachuting acquaintance. I’d do that tandem jump. I’d put myself in the hands of the experts and afterwards I could truly say I’d taken my own leap of faith.I was scared, no doubt about it. The thought of throwing oneself into space tends to have that effect. But the crew from the ground staff to the pilot and my tandem partner were awesome. Their explanations made me feel safe and I was more than happy to put all my trust in them. Because of their maturity and experience, I felt confident. It’s an unusual thing for someone of my age to put ALL their trust into someone they barely know. I had no control and I had to relinquish everything that was normal.
Am I glad I did it? Without doubt. I’m not ashamed to say I was fearful. Fear is normal, part of our body’s response to danger or the unexpected, and once the fear was conquered, I was proud of myself.
Would I do it again? Probably not. I don’t feel I need to. I could have undertaken any of a dozen similar journeys of self-discovery and ended up with the same conclusion: no one makes progress without risk.
Am I inciting you to your own bit of rebellion? What might be your personal jump?
Whether it’s boating down the Amazon, climbing Everest, bungee jumping into a rocky mountain gorge or working in an African orphanage for a year, your jump will change your life. No doubt about it. But if security and stability are what you long for, then start with smaller more manageable risks. Whether you’re negotiating with a future employer, starting a new career on your forties, or simply speaking up, keep doing it with intent and you’re liable to get what you’re looking for.
Remember, transformation and growth does not happen in the comfort zone.
In all walks of life, protection mode leaves you standing in the same place, day after day, year after year. Society doesn’t make progress without risk. (Ironically, it’s said that more discoveries and inventions are made in times of war, rather than in peace time.) Trust is also part of that growth. Life becomes diminished without it.
With no trust present you become smaller.
Your leap of faith can be personal or business related. Successful entrepreneurs and leaders like Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey have made more than one jump – not always successfully! – but overall, their progress has been spectacular and life-changing.
Yes, we all know that risk can also mean failure. The truth is that we take risks every day, often without being aware of it. But it’s the big risks, the giant leaps, the potentially momentous decisions that not only affect you but also others – that’s where the ultimate reward lies.
You have to know yourself and take responsibility for constructing your life, for the person you are and the person you want to be.
As a leader, you are the one who decides whether to take risks. Others have to decide whether to trust you, your abilities, and your judgement. But before you can lead others, you must lead yourself. If you can’t lead yourself, why would others take the risk of following you?
My dear friend and mentor Lloyd Roberts when he was CEO of SMS Management & Technology, (the largest Australian founded management firm in history) noted that staying true to yourself is crucial for a leader. You have to know yourself and take responsibility for constructing your life, for the person you are and the person you want to be. You also have to know your blind spots, those parts of your life where you constantly fail to see yourself and your situations realistically and accurately.
Ask yourself what your ultimate purpose is, and compare it to where you are today.
Ask yourself what your ultimate purpose is, and compare it to where you are today. This means taking an honest look at yourself, including your position or work title, your skills, capabilities and the type of work you do. While you’re there, why not also your income. Are you happy with your wealth creation strategies? Do you truly value yourself? Yes, including financially.
Now look at the distance between your present and desired positions. To conquer that distance, (or to jump out of a plane!), you have to plan and start working your way towards your goal, adjusting your actions as you progress.
The goal is to be authentic. This is all about self-management and self-leadership, and where you become the best person you can be.
Don’t forget that during your journey, you are going to have to ask yourself – more than once – who am I going to be? It means asking why you get out of bed every day to do what you do. If your answer is, “to pay my bills”, this is a great time to re-visit your ‘Why?’. This means your character, and how others perceive it.
Others will follow you if you’re the boss, possibly due to your position, but not so much if you’re making a poor job of it. The goal is to be authentic. This is all about self-management and self-leadership, and where you become the best person you can be.
Self awareness is incredibly important. So many leaders fall into the trap of starting to believe everything that’s said about them in introductions and interviews, or thinking that they know more than anyone else at a meeting. As well, we usually tend to see everyone else’s issues far more clearly than our own, and that’s liable to give us a false impression of who we are or what we can do, missing out possibilities.
The self aware leader knows and understands that their position is just a role they are currently performing
One adverse outcome of leadership or status is that people may tell the leader what they believe he or she wants to hear. Authentic, self aware leaders understand this because they know who they are and more importantly who they’re NOT. They have character, intelligence (including the emotional type) and sharp know-how, and they know how to make the best of those attributes.
The self aware leader knows and understands that their position is just a role they are currently performing. Just as the role was achieved, so it can quickly disappear. They know the difference between personal and positional power and which one is the most sustainable for a balanced life.
I mentioned blind spots earlier.
There are many of them, but we seldom recognise our own. That’s unfortunate, because they can often be the cause of leadership downfall.
These are some of the worst:
Having a lack of integrity.
Let’s keep this simple. Integrity means honouring your word, your promise. If you don’t have integrity, long-term you won’t make it. Trust is all-important, because you’ll want to take everyone with you when you make your jump into the unknown, whether physically or emotionally. To do this, you must be reliable and honourable in your ideals, actions, values and words. Your integrity is linked to your authenticity.
Get this, all human beings have insecurities, so it’s normal. However, insecurity limits you and your followers. You’ll probably never take that leap of faith because you don’t want to risk the position and influence you’ve already established for yourself. If you’re always worried about how others perceive you, you won’t even get off the ground.
Having a huge ego.
Do you believe you know it all, or that others are inferior to you? Do you believe no one else can do as good a job as you? Do you always put others down or blame others when things go wrong? All of these mean you have an inflated ego. Because of your closed mind, you are not in a position to take any sort of a risk. We all have egos and need an ego to excel. The trick is to balance ego with empathy. No empathy, and disaster will await down the track. Maybe your health? The big take home is to never believe your own bullshit.
Believing you’re always right.
This is also a sign of an over-inflated ego. When you want others to accede to your point of view all the time, you’re missing a lot of great opportunities you’d never have thought of yourself. One of those ideas could have been the catalyst for your next big thing. Other people have valuable experience and input you should be considering. My advice is you don’t always want to be the smartest person in the room. It’s exhausting!
If you are going to be a leader others want to follow or emulate, you must be transparent to everyone and known to stand by your values and principles. That means listening to your inner self in order to discover who you really are and what you are all about. To do that you have to set yourself free.
Take that leap of faith.
The first time is always the hardest, but the fear lessens when you have trust in others. Then you’ll wonder why you ever worried.
It doesn’t matter what the leap is. It can be as mighty as circumnavigating the globe in a one-person yacht, or running a marathon or starting the business you’ve dreamed of for a decade. As I said at the beginning, the really important thing is action – and then to be able to show evidence of that action. My promise to you – if you sincerely want to create possibilities in all aspects, being personal, career or business you can do it if you really want to. Even more powerful is to do it with intent.
Jon Michail and his team at Image Group International partners with their clients to achieve breakthrough results with contrarian and disruptive ways to grow and monetise their personal and business brands. A veteran coach with a Who’s Who clientele, Jon is the CEO and Founder of Image Group International, an Australian-based corporate and personal brand image advisory and coaching organisation that conducts transformational seminars, workshops and one-on-one coaching in over four continents. He is recognised as Australasia’s No. 1 Image Coach.