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  • Tara Rethore

We've All Got Stuff

Beautiful weather and a bit of downtime following a busy week drew me outside. In fact, I often head outdoors when my brain gets caught in overdrive or the multitude of “stuff” threatens to overwhelm. I seek physical space as a counter to the chaos around or within me. On this particular day, I played a little tennis and then headed home to tackle the chaos I could: my yard. Allowing my mind to wander, I reflected on recent conversations with clients.


Moving beyond the crisis mentality that has dominated the last two years, both John and Susan were refreshing their strategies to capitalize on new opportunities. For John, pursuing the opportunity meant letting go of a legacy initiative and belief. Susan’s opportunity required dramatically shifting mindset and culture. Meanwhile, Shania talked about setting a new direction for herself and the impact of this decision on her team and the business.


All of these executives play key roles in mid-sized organizations. Not surprisingly, then, I noted several themes among them – a desire to grow, commitment to their purpose, and concern for their people.


Because the conversations stemmed from mutual trust and respect, we also swapped personal stories. Listening to their stories – and sharing my own – it occurred to me: We’ve all got stuff.


The proverbial tip of the iceberg.


As leaders (and advisors), we see only a part of our people – the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The rest lies well beneath the surface, forming a foundation for who they are, how they think, and how they behave. Typically, we see only what the other person shows us or wants us to see. Yet understanding more of what lies beneath creates an advantage. It deepens connection and makes it easier to support people. For the business, it builds trust and improves the flow of information and thus, the quality and timeliness of our decisions. We communicate more effectively, because we know what’s important to the listener.


What else?


Each of the conversations revealed a little more of the iceberg – and strengthened the relationship. Upon reflection, it became apparent that each of us repeatedly asked the question: “What else?” Those two little words, both said and unsaid, revealed new insights. (See my related article here.) The answers helped to make sense of the situation and generated additional ideas about how to move forward.


Working in the yard, preparing it for the change of seasons was cathartic. It was satisfying to transform the chaos into something less wild and more appealing. The task also gave me the space and perspective I sought. As I worked, I thought about my own story and the things beneath the surface right now. Even while making difficult decisions, leaders have the opportunity to afford themselves and others a measure of grace.


Because we all have stuff.