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March 21, 2017

Allies Are Everywhere, Whether They Cheer for You or Sue You

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Two days ago a CEO client (let’s call him Juan) told me about a discrimination lawsuit a disgruntled employee had filed after she quit. Imagine yourself in Juan’s shoes. Would you likely feel attacked, like she, or circumstances were out to get you? Commitment 13 of the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership asks us to see how every person and every situation can be seen as an ally in support of our learning and growth.

I asked Juan if he could see how she was an ally. He thoughtfully responded that his former employee might be taking this action because she wants to make the organization a better place to work for everyone. That very well might be true and it would be an easy way to see her as an ally. But what if that’s not the truth? What if this ex-employee is deeply caught in victimhood, feels bitter and wants to create this drama as revenge? Can Juan still see this person as an ally?

Seeing someone as an ally does not necessarily mean you need to see something “positive” about the other person or their intention. Instead, this commitment asks that you focus on what you can learn from the person or situation that frankly, you’ve played some role in co-creating. Think of it like making lemonade from lemons. When you see a lemon, you’re disciplining yourself to see beyond it to the lemonade.

The person could be helping you learn how to make clear boundaries, feel emotions you avoid, clearly define what you stand for, or wake up to something you have been unwilling to face. You could also use the other person as a mirror, reflecting an unowned or unloved aspect of yourself. So if Juan is really curious and sees this person as an ally he could ask:

  • Is there anything for me to face about a lack of equality in my organization?

  • What are my core values related to this issue, and how can I clearly express them and ensure they’re reflected in our culture?

  • What emotions am I feeling regarding this issue? Am I fully feeling them and authentically expressing them to others?

  • How could I be more vulnerable about this issue?

  • Are there any boundaries this issue is asking me to draw?

  • How am I just like the person I’m judging who has initiated the lawsuit? Can I fully accept that aspect of myself and them? (Remember that you’re not looking for the same action or behavior, but the underlying feeling, belief, or thought pattern). For example, like the other person, I might be committed to proving I’m right and others are wrong.

  • What can I learn from this situation that I may not get to learn anywhere else?

  • How is this person “for me”, even if they have no positive intent?

One of the most important questions we can ever ask is, “Is the universe a friendly place.” Commitment 13 proposes that we can decide that the universe is friendly, and that the more you commit to seeing ALL people and circumstances as allies, the friendlier the world appears to be, and the more we get to learn and grow.

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