#ShowingUp with Anese Cavanaugh

The answer is not over “there”… Blaming, laming and all sorts of other non-productive ways to navigate conflict

In my work with clients I notice trends. After all, we’re all human beings; we’re bound to have some similarities in how we navigate our lives, conflicts and leadership in general, right? The “trend” that’s on my mind this morning is twofold – the behavior of looking “outside” for answers and the trend of “blame.” And more specifically in my awareness today is the absolute waste of energy that comes from doing both. From an energy leadership perspective, they’re both unproductive and exhausting behaviors. I know this for myself personally, I witness it in others (as individuals and as teams), and I even see it in the grocery store. Exhausting. Not a joyful activity.

Here’s the thing (and something that intuitively we all know, but easily forget)…The answers are not “out there.” The answers are “in here.” They’re in ourselves. And when we focus externally for others to find them, fix them, or change…we’re giving away our seniority as leaders and as spiritual human beings. Energetically, we let the energy seep out in hopes that something external will “fill the void.” I don’t think this works so well. This is often where a “band aid” fix will do…for a bit perhaps…but it’s not sustainable... To create sustainable change, real change, that works we have to do more and it starts “here.”

When we blame external sources and people for our problems, we give away our power to fix them. Because if someone else created it, then someone else has the power to fix it. And if you’re pointing “out there”…that someone is likely not you. Sure other people do things that annoy or create problems/messes for us. Of course. And we’re a player in that game – the more we can address it head on and look for a productive solution and lead…the better off we’ll be and the better our resource state to deal with whatever’s come up. Ironically, the greatest gift here is that we are responsible for creating our own reality…as how we navigate through those situations is up to us. If I’m blaming everyone around me – that’s a lot of lost energy. This leaves my energy “lame.” My resource state “off.” So in trying to come up with a clever acronym for BLAME today – I could only come up with when I “blame” I “Be” “lame.” (I could also do “B” “L” and “Actively” “Muddling” “Engagement & Energy” – still working on the B and the L – chime in!)

All kidding aside, what I do know for sure is that you can’t fix “it” if you’re not willing to look inside and lead from the inside out. If we’re willing to consider where we may be a part of the problem, how we’ve helped create the situation at hand, and if we want to be an active part of creating a solution, then we’re onto something big, productive, and energy creating. It’s so easy to point point point...”His problem, her problem, their problem – not my problem…” so easy, so exhausting, so unproductive…and in the land of seeking joy and creating positive impact, blaming is incongruent.

So here’s the invitation if this feels like something that you’d like to step into more fully…Something not working for you or your team? Consider the following:

1. Do I want to “fix” it? Do I want it to be “better”, more productive, more joyful, more effective, more (fill in the blanks here)?
2. What’s the desired outcome? (aka – how would I like it to be? Really great if you can do this co-actively with someone else.)
3. Why? What’s important about fixing it? (It’s also useful to look through the 3 lenses of: a) what’s important for me? b) what’s important for “them”? c) what’s important about it in service or the system/the organization/the team?)
4. Am I willing to do the work?
5. Where may I be contributing to the problem? And how can I help things go right here? (even the smallest thing is a big step in the right direction.)

Being willing to look inside and see what we can do in service of creating positive change – no matter how dire or frustrating the circumstances or the people involved – is one of the first steps to making productive changes. When it boils down to it, it really doesn’t matter what “he said, she said, they said” or “who’s right, wrong, or messed up” – what matters is who we are on the path to making things go right and how we show up as leaders. And when all else fails and you find you really want to be right, you can always consider what my good friend Bruce used to say: “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?”

Finally, I leave you with this quote from Don Miguel Ruiz which I stumbled across this morning by accident (and there are no coincidences, right?) “Our main problem is with the main character of the story. If we don’t like our story, it’s because we don’t like what we believe about the main character. There is only one way to change our story, and that is by changing what we believe about ourselves.” And I’d add on, changing our own behaviors to help things move forward productively. Imagine if everyone on your team or in your organization took these words to heart and decided to shift their stories and beliefs from the inside out as opposed to looking externally and trying to fix those around them. I know I will be looking at this today in my life through a tighter lens. Enjoy!