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This is the best thing I learned all year

It was hard to get to sleep last night. Not that I was uncomfortable, it was precisely the opposite: I felt comfy and warm and absolutely delighted to be in my bed. But my stomach was churning, in part due to the fact I am doing a five-day fasting mimicking diet. If you wonder who diets before Christmas, that would be me.

To be fair, it's something I do quarterly and despite my regularity with it, it's hard nonetheless.

Right, the second reason I didn’t drift off quickly is that I started writing this message to you in my head.

So, what can I offer that sums up 2021? What can I share that can really make a mark or inspire you before the start of 2022?

Then I thought: how about I tell you about the best thing I have learned all year? I’m glad to say that I’ve managed to identify it.

I feel like it's taken me a lifetime to understand - not that it's a hard concept to grasp - but having finally experienced it now, I can finally put into words this “a-ha” gem of a gift.

And it is this. Are you ready?


That's it? Yes, that's it!

Where did I get this from? How did I get to this conclusion?

Well, through the compounding effects of active learning and working at the same time.

I signed up for a big, intense workshop in April to learn how to teach online. Nothing to do with consulting, you may think, but since we’re all on Zoom, stil, there were tons of very transferable skills that I pulled out from that training.

At the same time I was doing my coaching training and one of my “a-ha” moments came when someone else, in our teaching group, asked our mentor a question. To tell you the truth, it’s not that she asked a brilliant question that had us all dazzled. No, she was vague and we could tell she was finding it very hard to even articulate it herself. But she followed a hunch there was something important she was missing, which she wanted clarified.

Later on, I was surprised to see that I was struggling with something very similar to what my friend had inquired about. However I hadn’t managed to identify my issue sufficiently enough to raise my hand, (let alone attempt to put it into words). Her question was the opening I needed, and of course the subsequent answer from our master coach wrapped this up in a big bow for both of us.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how often I would have asked questions in the past, particularly when I was truly not grasping a concept. Too self aware, you know? A bit shy, Most likely I would have tried to get to the answer myself, in a work environment that is.

That day, I learned how important it was to ask questions, even when you may sound unclear or, frankly, even if you sound stupid. My friend had modelled a brave stance for me; not ashamed to be peddling in the dark, so to speak, and going after what she needed, seeking light, seeking clarity.

While I was learning to be a teacher in the MMTCP training, we were also invited to consider how we could engage people to share, in the sangha or group, not just so that everyone is able to participate, or express themselves, but also so we could invite a variety of experiences in the room (or virtual space).

Often, we think we may be the only one in XYZ situation, whether good, bad, or neutral. Giving voice, creating team engagement, safe participation, are all ways to put us all in that experience together. In that space, I believe we can find true collaboration.

Perhaps I’ve finally understood what vulnerability can really look like in a leader: it’s admitting that regardless of how much we know, we are all learning, all the time. And to dare to ask questions in front of subordinates or superiors, even when we may sound very unclear, is one of the ways to display this skill.

I wouldn't name it, though. Vulnerability is a soft-sounding word to many, and if execs nearby aren’t official Brené Brown aficionados, I suggest you hold back.

So, this year I’ve finally learned to engage more. It’s been a lifetime coming.

First, I was skulking at the back of the Zoom room, camera off, in the bigger group meets of 100 and more, leaving the podium to the louder people, the extroverts, the ‘experts'.

Only this time I noticed that only a certain kind of voice was speaking. Not a gender gap, per se, although there were fewer women interjecting in that particular course, just a different kind of voice. And I knew this was good, because after I dared put my hand up, whether to put forward a question or an opinion, and expressed myself, I received immediate feedback (in the chat) from others who were sharing their appreciation.

I certainly didn’t expect that, and it made me feel very seen. It also was probably a stepping stone towards greater confidence in myself and my voice. I hope I can also support others when they dare do the same.

So remember, we learn from each other.

If you fail to use the opportunities given to you to express yourself, put your ideas forward, share your views, or most importantly to ask questions, you are also possibly failing to provide an example for someone else, someone else who feels like you do.

We can all strive to notice which voices aren’t present in a room and remember to invite them to speak so we can all benefit from the group wisdom which is sure to emerge.

And then, perhaps, we will all have the opportunity to learn, continuously, from each other.

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Essential reading on the future of work, storytelling & wellbeing

Join us weekly with the Mettā View

Essential reading on the future of work, storytelling & wellbeing