Gratitude: It's about human connection

Gratitude is a buzz word at the moment. I see and hear it in the workplaces I visit… gratitude walls, support-staff acknowledgements, meetings that open with acknowledgements.

These are lovely ways of bringing awareness to others.

AND…

My question is “Are these actions actually creating a culture of deep connection?”

I ask this because what I also see and hear are people being excluded from acknowledgements, people being acknowledged when they aren’t even in the room, and gratitude timetabled into meeting agendas turning it into a per-functionary task.

Whilst I acknowledge that we need to begin somewhere, I wonder if these approaches are creating a superficial culture within our organisations.

Gratitude is about human connection: heart to heart; wairua to wairua.

As leaders we are the people who can be culture-cultivators. We can begin by modelling deep connection and gratitude.

Gratitude can be shown in different ways.

We can show gratitude of character:

I want to acknowledge the courage you showed when you took on that new task. You stepped into it with such a positive attitude and also kept persevering when it got tough. You also asked for help when you needed it, and that showed vulnerability. Through your actions, I have also learnt a lot about myself. Thank you.

We can also show gratitude of personality:

One of the things I admire about you is that you are  always optimistic. I sometimes get discouraged but when I  talk with you, I always go away with a more positive  perspective. I appreciate that. Thank you.

And we can also appreciate people for their actions:

Thank you so much for helping me with that report. I was going round in circles with it, and having a second pair of eyes over it gave me clarity. Thank you.

And personally, we also need to stop and show gratitude to ourselves.

Wow I stepped-up then and challenged the status quo. Go me!

My call to you this week is to take the time to make a deep connection with people through gratitude. Remember too that a culture-shift won’t occur unless we model it ourselves.

Gratitude begins with you.

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Let's put the people back into the process.

Over the past six months I have experienced a situation where I was referred from one person to another, told that something would happen in a timeframe…yet it didn’t, laughed at when I explained my situation and treated like a fly to be swotted by process-driven personnel.

I felt powerless, disrespected and hugely frustrated.

Thankfully, I can say this issue has now been resolved. :-)

Despite this, I also truely believe that in every difficult situation there is a learning.

One question (of many) that has arisen for me is:

“When might we be placing process over people?”

Within every system there are processes; some clearer than others. What I noticed from my experience was that no-one was willing to connect on a human level. Instead I was told “That’s not my department”, or “That’s the process”, or “That’s just the way it is”. It seemed that everyone hid behind process within a very complex system. It also seemed to be a case of the tail wagging the dog, not the dog wagging the tail. That is, process took precedence over people on all accounts.


As leaders we both create and operate-within complex systems. My questions for your consideration this week are:

  • Where might you use a process as an excuse for inaction?

  • When might you think or say “That’s not my problem?”

  • How might we create a culture where people feel empowered, rather than powerless?

  • When do you stand-up for the person over the process?

  • Where in your organisation might the tail be wagging the dog?

Look deeply, consider truthfully because the culture of your organisation depends on it.


Go well this week :-)

Ngā mihi Mary-Anne

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The challenge of 'the mirror'.

mirror.jpeg

Do you remember the fairytale of Snow White when she asks the mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all?

The response she received was “Snow White”.

For the rest of us, taking a long hard look in the mirror means standing in front of our true selves and taking time-out for self-reflection.

As leaders we are often there for others, but we also need to turn our gaze inward; to turn the mirror on ourselves.

This introspection can be both heartening and scary. It is a time to celebrate achievements and personal growth. It is also a time for reflection around what we could’ve done better, the learnings from this and new ways moving forward.

Sometimes having a trusted mentor to support your self-reflection can be helpful. As a past principal, I personally paid for a coach/mentor (and I still continue to do so).

My request was for them to push me outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to be both encouraged and guided to look into the windows of my world I had been avoiding shining a light on. I asked them to challenge my thinking, and support me to become both a better person and leader.

As you look into the mirror, here are a few helpful questions to guide your self-reflection…

  1. In what ways did I live my values today?

  2. When did I lean into challenge?

  3. What did I do well? What were the elements of this that I can use again?

  4. What could I have done better? How might that look? What support might I need?

  5. How did I show self-love today?

  6. What personal boundaries have I re-affirmed today?

  7. How have I stepped into my brilliance today?

Sometimes the mirror can be a challenging place to look into. When we choose to do so however, we open windows to our world that foster both personal and professional growth.

So take some time for introspection; to look into the mirror.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to chat around how I might support you on this journey.

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What brings you and your team joy?

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I passed this baby Buddha in a shop, admired it… then thought better of purchasing it.

It stayed in my mind for a week, the bliss-filled face resonating … until I couldn’t resist. I went back to the shop thinking “If it is still there, it is meant to be”. The rest is history.

Let me tell you why this brings me joy.

First of all, it is the bliss-filled face, the cute dimples and the uninhibited sense of peace, aroha and connectedness I get from the smiling face. It reminds me of the of my own children (now adults) and the children I have taught over the years. From a traditional Māori perspective, not only is the child endowed with spiritual potential or a divine spirit, but the world the child is born into is also endowed with spiritual influences. This sits with my belief in human potential.

Secondly it is the openness and open arms that spoke of just ‘being. This resonated because it is a state I often find myself-in when travelling. Having back-packed solo through many countries over the past few years, I know that when I go with aroha, that is exactly what I get back. This is to say I am not careful, but when I go with a heart-space of ‘connection’ I have met the most amazing people, and have had incredible experiences. This is a heart-space I try to emulate in my life.

For me the open arms also symbolise trust. They say “I’m all good in my ‘hood’, and I trust you in my space”. To me they say my inner ‘pou’ is strong and the external world and it’s ebbs and flows cannot alter my inner core. There is a sense of self assuredness in this stance. I consider this a lifelong work-on.

The prayer beads also represent connection. For me, they symbolise mindful practice that calls-upon the minimising of ego and maximisation of presence, and the belief that we are both significant yet a small part of this thing we call our universe and beyond.

Finally, the tears in the clothes symbolise humility. They symbolise that joy does not come from material things. A few years back having experienced the ‘loss’ of my home, years of toil vanished and future security dissolved, and at the same time supporting my mother who was dying, I was brought to my knees. There is humility in asking for help, there is humility in saying ‘things are a bit tough at the moment’. It is through embracing humility that we grow stronger, and learn from our experiences. For me, the tears in the clothes represent the tears-shed, and the reminder to remain humble as I move forward.

Joy is also an integral part of my mahi when working alongside others. This includes:

  • holding ideas lightly and with curiosity, rather than firmly and with rigidity,

  • having a giggle or a belly laugh along the journey, rather than being overly serious,

  • celebrating the strengths of the group and acknowledging when we have leaned-into areas of challenge

  • leaning into vulnerability and authenticity

  • regularly looking back at the journey taken with gratitude and appreciation

  • looking forward at the journey to be taken with hope, intent and excitement

These acts give us a ‘happy hit’. They can trigger the release of dopamine, giving us a sense of success, which in-turn can increase our personal and collective wellbeing. As leaders, how are we supporting our teams to notice and celebrate their successes in an on-going manner?

These behaviours can also increase our levels of oxytocin, which heightens our sense of connection. If we are wanting to foster trust, collaboration and ‘teaming’, how are we providing opportunities for meaningful connection? One example may include an off-site team meeting or activity that everyone can take part in.

When we seek, support and sustain joy, we also nurture our own and collective wellbeing, and I reckon our world needs more of this.

So what brings you joy?

How do you as a leader also foster joy within your teams?

How are you joy-ful and also joy-filling?

I’d love to hear your stories.

Go well this coming week amazing people.

MA :-)

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Leaning into difference with compassion and gratitude.

Over the past few weeks I have been partied to conversations around difference. Specifically tensions between people who aren’t aware of their impact on others and those who seek difference over similarity.

Firstly leadership begins with self-leadership; our ability to understand our impact on others, to be grounded and in-control of our emotions, and to be self-compassionate.

Clinical Psychologist and Co-founder of Roche Martin, Martyn Newman states;

When your mind is peaceful your mood lifts, you take in information effectively and your mind becomes agile and creative. A consistently positive mood also enables you to foster positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need – the perfect recipe for career success. 

I get it, we all get stressed at times, but if we are able to lean-into this with a lens of compassion and gratitude, we can shift the energy within and around us. How might we do this?

Practicing kindness, compassion and other virtues lifts your stocks of emotional capital” says Newman.

Start with self-compassion and gratitude. Take time to look for the positive things within and around you; the autumnal colours, that first sip of coffee in the morning or a smile from a stranger.

When we begin to change our own vibration, we ‘attract’ a different energy from those around us.

Where attention goes, energy flows.

Compassion and gratitude starts with ourself.

Secondly, the opposite of ‘difference’ is ‘similarity’.
Having grown up immersed in a predominately Māori community, I learned that seeking connection is a vital part of being with others. When we ask:

“Where are you from?”,

Nō hea koe?

we are looking for a connection. We are peeling back the layers of our-selves to find a common thread. Once found (and believe me, they always are!), our connections then branch out like connecting neurons, until we realise we have much in common. So rather than seeking difference, let’s lean-into finding common-ground.


So as we step forward into this week, let’s seek gratitude and compassion.

Arohanui
Mary-Anne :-)



Ego and collaboration: finding the sweet-spot

Ego: a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance.

Dictionary online

Because of its phantom nature, and despite elaborate defence mechanisms, the ego is very vulnerable and insecure, and it sees itself as constantly under threat. This, by the way, is the case even if the ego is outwardly very confident.

Eckhart Tolle


Leadership is not a popularity contest; it's about leaving your ego at the door. The name of the game is to lead without a title.

Robin S. Sharma

We all have one; the voice inside our head that can make us feel vulnerable, unwanted, not-good-enough, power-filled, righteous or the ‘all-knowing’ … otherwise known as “Ego”.

Sometimes this voice can become our master; loud and obnoxious, guiding our every interaction, causing us to seek external affirmation, become uncertain, or undermine others just to make ourselves look important or valued.

At other times it is the quiet voice on our shoulder, sewing seeds of self-doubt, second-guessing or paranoia at becoming ‘obsolete’.

And sometimes it is dulled, silenced, and we are present, still and receptive.

Too much ego can have a detrimental effect on collaboration. It can send people into their ‘shell’, take-up all the space (and air) in the room, and undermine others and the strengths they bring. It is also (I believe) the antithesis of collaboration.

Let me explain why I make this statement…

As leaders, it is vitally important we optimise the strengths of others to support their development. It is not about us; if we collaborate, and draw-upon people who are able to 'fill-the-gaps’, it brings depth and expansion to the whole.

This however takes courage and vulnerability. It requires us to separate ego from self.

  • It requires us to ‘let-go’… to surrender.

  • It also requires us to understand that we are not the ‘font of all knowledge’.

  • … It requires collaboration.

Conversely, a lowered ego can cause uncertainty around trusting our judgement, and cause us to operate from a place of lack, or neediness. This can also have a detrimental effect on collaboration. It can cause confusion and slow-things-down.

Just as lowering the voice of ego can be a challenge, so too can raising it. It also takes courage, it requires us to step into a mindset of more certainty. It calls us to consider both our head, heart and our intuitive ‘knowing’ so our decisions are more aligned and confident.

So this week become more aware of how your ego likes to ‘play’ you.

  • Notice how it operates in your thinking and behaviour.

  • How might you create more collaborative approaches by lessening, or amplifying the voice of ‘ego’.

  • And know that this is a journey we are all on, so be kind to yourself along the way. ;-)

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Growing emotionally strong youth.

This week I am super excited to share some mahi I am doing alongside the wonderful Leamington School, based in Cambridge.

This is a first for NZ and the world and takes a deep, planned and measured approach to developing Emotional Intelligence in our tamariki.

Click here to read all about it.

Or, click here to listen to an interview with the lovely Camille and Stu on The Breeze radio station.


Contact me directly to discuss how you might use these tools and approaches within your school.

contact@mary-annemurphy.com
021888597

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Reframing our thinking

Our brains are 'hard-wired' to seek potential danger or the negative in situations. Also known as it's 'negative bias'.

From the dawn of human history, our very survival depended on our skill at dodging danger. The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice danger and thus, hopefully, respond to it.

Whilst this is extremely helpful in certain situations, if unchecked can cause us to become very negative in our thinking, both towards ourselves and others.

Recent horrific events on our soils have shown how people can, through conscious decision-making and effort, reframe their thinking from potential retaliation or anger to love and possibility. They/We have been able to "Flip the script", both internally and outwardly.

Our actions need not stop there. By reframing our thoughts we can turn the tide on negativity and use of destructive language and labelling.

One way we can do this is using an approach I learned called “Flipped Negatives”.

  1. Begin in the left column, recording the negative trait you either have had associated to yourself or have associated to others.

  2. Now move to the right column and state the positive opposite of the negative trait.

  3. Finally, seek the positive intent/trait within the negative trait and record this in the middle column.

When we seek the positive intent within previously negatively labelled behaviours, we change our mindset from one of judgement to one of possibility and positivity. This then supports us to see people in a different light.

As you go forward this coming week consider the ‘labels’ you wear, and those you place on others.

Start to change them one at a time and watch to see how this small action can spread ripples of positive change around you.

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Leading with Love

There are just no words to describe emotions after the events of this past week.

Instead I wish to provide a montage of images that I think capture ‘Leading with Love’.

Go with love.

Mary-Anne







When might a strength become your achilles heel?

Strength: 
  • The quality or state of being strong.
  • A good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing.

Optimising our strengths is something we are encouraged to do. In fact many workplaces are exploring these in detail at both an individual employee and team level. The purpose for this development is to ascertain how to get the ‘best’ from people, as well as improve work engagement.

As an example, if a team member is strong in analytical thinking, yet another team member has strengths in social-intelligence, and a project requires detailed, analytical thinking, as well as conveyance of results and recommendations, it would be wise to optimise their combined strengths so each person takes the lead during different stages of the project. 

The thing is, that if over-extended, our strengths can also become our achilles heel or weakness. As an example, someone with the strength of being able to debate, if over-extended, can be seen as arguing for the sake of an argument. Furthermore, someone who has a character strength of kindness, if overplayed, they can become a ‘door-mat’ or rescuer. Also, the person who is both capable and kind can end up taking everything-on for others.

We can liken it to the Goldilocks story. The ‘temperature’ of our strengths shouldn’t be cold/under-played, nor too hot/over-extended, but just-right/in-flow.

goldilocks-bowls-porridge.jpg

So what are your strengths, both in what you do and who you are as a person?

Where might you be over-extending them?

What impact is this having on yourself and those you lead?

What will you do differently?

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