January 13, 2020

Stop focussing on Doing and start Being the leader you need to be

By Kevin Watson

To continue our focus on Values-Based Leadership, let’s turn our attention to the difference between Doing & Being.

Is that just a philosophical question or would you act differently as a leader if you focus on being rather than doing? I know from my own experience of coaching leaders that this can be a meaningful journey of growing competence.

So, to explain the difference and its relevance to you as a leader, please welcome back guest blogger Kevin Watson. You may recall that Kevin is an experienced leadership coach. He has shared with us before on topics including Team Mission & Managing Virtual Teams.

Here’s Kevin…

Clarity on your Values & Beliefs

Being a leader is about more than simply ‘doing’. Be clear on your values and beliefs to be the leader you want to be.

I wrote an article a few years ago, for a great site called atd that offers a wealth of resources for talent development. In it, I suggest there is far more to coaching than simply a set of behaviours – the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of coaching

Of course, it’s possible for people to learn a bunch of coaching skills along with one of the many models out there. But, that doesn’t mean they will be good at it.

Turn Doing into Being

Beliefs & values play a critical part in anyone’s level of skill. An incongruence with what you consider to be important and true, and what you actually do will hold you back from achieving excellence.

This can be said for almost anything where you only have a relationship with ‘doing‘ rather than ‘being‘.

For example, in my experience of working with organisations seeking to improve customer service, most opt for a training programme. They end up spending vast amounts of money teaching their people what to do and how to do it.

You’ve only got to look at the UK high street, read a newspaper or watch the news to know this clearly doesn’t work!

These organisations repeatedly do the same thing every few years. Yet, they never seem to raise the level of service much higher than it was before they started.

Rarely have I come across leaders in these organisations that aim for a mindset alignment with customer service excellence.

Leadership is practised not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.

Harold S. Geneen

All of this puts me in mind of a story I heard when I was studying NLP a few years ago.

Modelling The Shaman

A group of NLPers were studying how a Shaman heals people, out on the west coast of the US. They asked the Shaman if he would heal a willing volunteer who’d been experiencing great discomfort whilst walking, for many years.

The Shaman looked the man straight into his eyes and shared his intent to heal, so the man could walk without pain. He then lay the man down and waved his hands in the air, chanted, threw dust up into the starry night above and generally dance around a lot. As Shamans do.

Whilst this was all happening, the group of practitioners frantically made notes. They hoped to see what the Shaman was doing that would make a difference so they, in turn, could model it.

After what seemed like a long time, the Shaman helped the man to his feet. Gingerly at first, the man took a few steps forward and then exclaimed: “there is no pain!

The Shaman was then bombarded by questions from the group of NLPers “Was it your hand movements?“, “was it the chanting?” and “was it when you actually blew the dust across his leg?” they asked.

The Shaman stood for a moment, in silence. After a moment he simply said “It was none of these. The healing happened when I set my intent at the very start…the rest was all ritual”.

His belief that he could heal, matched with the man’s belief that he could be healed, was strong enough in itself. The rest was simply ritual, a set of actions and behaviours that anyone could learn. But not everyone could heal.

“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.”

Warren Bennis

It’s Not What You Do…

Like coaching and customer service (and even shamanism) leadership isn’t simply about what you do and how you do it.

Being a leader is far more than this. It’s a belief system, a clear set of values and maybe even a way of life.

So, how could you change?

Thanks to Kevin for sharing his view and experience far outside my own. What do you make of his call to focus on how you do leadership, your way of being with others?

Do you have experience of focusing more on your being a leader, not just what you do? If so, please share your own experience of being led by your values, in the comment boxes below.