We deserve what we tolerate*, an idea that started life in a technical research around leadership in a hospital setting, has gained wide popularity with colleagues in the coaching profession. What we mean is that there is self talk, chatter in our heads, that says we are only deserving of a certain standard or type of behaviour.
I have used, as an excuse, my cultural heritage as an Englishman. I will say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ as the threat of my Mother’s scorn looms ever present. I will blanch at arrogance and shy clear of claiming anything for myself. No matter what else, politeness is necessary. Generally, this serves me well and is even charming, but part of it is the same internal, self talk, that chatters away and sometimes undermines me, does not serve me at all. There are domains of my life where I am certainly good enough, plenty even. As far as leading a technology team is concerned, I can just step into the space. There is nothing for me to say please or thank you for because I am good enough to be here, plenty, and after the focus and thought I have put into being an expert I fully deserve to be in take the lead.
It has been a struggle. For example, a family member asks me to change my plans to accommodate their wishes, I might chose to “suck it up”. Even though I might clearly see that this is a poor choice or position, even a situation that is dangerous for my mental health, I understand it is only what we deserve (as a poor example of a son or brother - my self assessment).
We spend a lot of time telling ourselves and our friends that of course we are good enough, we are plenty, more than enough, but we are only papering over the cracks with these affirmations. A deep rooted sense of enough will never get established before we understand exactly what it is that we deserve.
What can be observed is a confidence that never quite strikes home or carries through to fullest potential. Some self limiting behaviours will pop up, sabotaging a great result, pulling it back to what we believe we deserve.
You can say all your mantras, you can visualize your epic win, but if you fail to figure out what you deserve you will choke, you will pull back at a decisive moment and snatch defeat from the jaws of success.
Clients talk to me in terms of not being sure if this is it? Thinking they had done everything they hoped for, but somehow feel unfulfilled? If you recognize yourself, then ask your coach to work with you on what you deserve.
A fun way to work on this is to make a list of the key areas, domains, of your life. A list that looks like this (each person’s list is personal to them, I’m giving you a loose template here):
And write down some assessments of yourself today. Then go down the list again, this time noting what you deserve, plus or minus where you are. As you read through you will notice a change in your emotion as you dig deeper, perhaps you will sense tension in your shoulders, or in your gut, and pay great attention to what these tell you. Is there a gap? How wide is it? How does asking what you deserve make you feel and what would you like to explore further?
I hope this is a useful platform for you to do some work on what you deserve, and how that is playing out for you. In terms of leadership, you will never get results greater than those you expect. If you expect great things, when you know your team deserve great things, leadership can step forward and have an astonishing influence.
* “You deserve what you tolerate.” – The thought here is that leaders need to proactively manage their processes to get the results they are expecting (and desiring). Far too often, I see news reports where something bad happens in a hospital (like the Quaid twins getting the wrong medication) and a C-level executive says, “Procedures were not followed and there’s no excuse for that.” - Mark Graban
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