Daring Leadership Requires Self-Leadership (with Megan Warren) Featured Image

Daring Leadership Requires Self-Leadership (with Megan Warren)

In this episode, Tim is joined by Megan Warren, an Executive Leadership Coach specializing in emotional resilience and self-leadership. Listen as they dive deep into the topics of self-leadership, becoming a daring leader, and how to stop leading from a place of fear and start leading from a place of love.

Interview Highlights

  • Megan is an emotional resilience coach. Recently, she’s been focusing a lot on clients who are struggling with overwhelm and burnout. [1:39]
  • Megan is from the US, but she currently lives in Switzerland and she’s been there for 12 years. She’s doing a lot of work with different UN agencies and individual clients as well. [2:45]
  • For Megan, being a leader is about creating connection. Anybody can learn a lot of the skill set that they need to be ahead of an organization, but to be able to walk into a room with presence and set a tone and inspire people, that’s a whole other ball game. And to do that, you have to be confident and content within yourself. [3:18]

Leadership is a lot about leading from within.”
— Megan Warren

  • Not every leader can walk in and connect with people, because people are your assets. They’re the heart of the business. If you can create a connection with them and you inspire them, you transform your business. And to do that, you have to create a connection within yourself as well. [3:50]
  • When hearing the phrase “build a better world of work”, the first thing that comes to Megan’s mind is ‘lifestyle’. It’s tapping into and touching people’s humanity. You can do that again through connection, through really listening to people, through hearing them. [4:45]
  • There are many struggles that we are facing in the workplace and to navigate through those struggles, we have to be aware of the struggle itself. [6:58]

The more aware you can become, the better off you are, because that’s where you’re able to begin to emotionally regulate, which is one of the key pieces that you need for leadership.”
— Megan Warren

  • If we are aware of what’s going on, it gives us the power to then shift and change how we’re showing up. Where you can take a pause, take a breath and reset, you’ve changed your outcome. You’ve saved yourself a lot of time and energy. [9:47]
  • Megan shared a personal story of her supervising a team of 20. Based on her experience, it is so important to take a pause because as a leader, you have to up your energy and up your game to create that same sense of collaboration, camaraderie, the inspiration, the excitement. It really is an incredible gift, not only to people that you work with and staff, but to yourself because the outcome, the ideas generated in a meeting where people feel excited is going to be very different than when people feel flat and bored and they just want to get out of there. [12:09]
  • For Megan, self-leadership is about self-management. It is understanding from the beginning the basic observance and awareness through the stages of being able to emotionally regulate yourself and shift how you show up to being able to do that with others. [16:31]
  • According to Megan, the components of self-leadership to start becoming a daring leader are internal self-awareness and emotional regulation. [19:49]

Relationships are always an equation. You’re a variable, the other person is a variable, and you get an outcome. So to change the outcome, you change your own variable, because you have no control over the other person.”
— Megan Warren

  • In terms of leadership and becoming a daring leader, having the internal awareness, and then being able to ‘in the moment’ regulate yourself emotionally, which is either asking for time or practicing mindfulness techniques and you can do it even when you’re face-to-face with someone. [24:01]
  • If you’re in a situation where you’re doing a lot of work and you’re feeling like it’s not being recognized, one of the things to do is to measure your worth by your progress. Don’t measure your worth by your to-do list, by your task list. [28:29]
  • If you’re being a really daring leader, you want to create an environment where your staff thrive. And to do that, you have to look down at the progress that you’ve made when your team member comes in and you’re going to assign them a new project. [29:44]
  • Learning to lead from within can have an impact on your bottom line. And when you lead with love, you create that space where your team can respond with love. So you get a different outcome, even if they’re still full of fear. [40:20]
  • When you’re thinking of how well you lead, how well you check in with yourself, how well you regulate your emotions and respond rather than react – give yourself grace, because nobody’s perfect. [41:24]
  • One thing you can do today to start becoming a daring leader is to check in with yourself once today and just see what’s your sense about yourself. Are you tense or are your shoulders up? If so, why? And then think through how that affects everything you do on that day, and take a pause and take a breath. [43:40]

Meet Our Guest

An iPEC certified coach, with specialties in Energy Leadership and COR.E Dynamics – Transitions, Megan Warren has more than 15 years of international experience in partnerships, business development, and multi-country project management. Having worked in both the public and private sectors, Megan has deep experience with people and change management. In 2019, Megan launched her coaching company, Megan Warren Coaching, and began working with individual and corporate clients, as well as hosting workshops on specific topics.

Daring Leadership Requires Self-Leadership (with Megan Warren) Featured Image

At the heart of great leadership is connection. Connection first to yourself, and then connection with others.”
— Megan Warren

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Read the Transcript:

We’re trying out transcribing our podcasts using a software program. Please forgive any typos as the bot isn’t correct 100% of the time.

Megan Warren

In terms of leadership and becoming a daring leader, I think having the internal awareness, being aware that this is a trigger for you, and then being able to ‘in the moment’, regulate yourself emotionally which is either ask for time or as practicing mindfulness techniques. And you can do it even when you’re face-to-face with someone.

Tim Reitsma

Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. We’re on a mission to build a better world of work and to help you build happy, productive workplaces. I’m your host, Tim Reitsma, and today on our show, I have the pleasure of being joined by Megan Warren — a resilience coach helping clients find their confidence to develop a healthy work-life balance by learning how to lead from within. 

Now, question for you — have you ever just lost it at work? I mean, just lost it or showed up completely flattered of energy? Well, I know I have, and unfortunately, to both of those questions. But in this episode, you will learn the importance of taking a pause, getting grounded, and showing up with the energy you need to lead.

Hi Megan, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the People Managing People podcast. It’s been a bit of a journey to get us here, but I’m so looking forward to our conversation today. So, welcome. 

Related Read: Build Resilience Using The 3 Rs Technique

Megan Warren

Well, it’s a joy to be here. Thanks very much for having me. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. Before we get into it, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and about what you’re up to?

Megan Warren

Sure. So I am an emotional resilience coach. And most recently I’ve been focusing a lot on clients who are struggling with overwhelm and burnout. And I think, you know, a lot of us are seeing that the system is really set up in kind of an inverse quantity over quality, almost where you go to work and you are faced with this task lists that you’re not going to get through. 

And so you walk in feeling like a failure. You walk out feeling like a failure because you’re measuring, you know, your worth based on how far you got through that task list. And it’s impossible because with the mountain of work we have, a lot of those organizations are just not properly resourced for one reason or another.

And so even the best and the brightest are walking out and waking up in the morning, wishing that it would be different. And so I work with folks to kind of, how do you handle that and how do you get through it? So that’s a little bit about my business. 

I’m currently, I’m from the US but I currently live in Switzerland and I am I’ve been here about 12 years and I’ve been doing a lot of work with different UN agencies and individual clients as well. 

Related Read: What Is Task Management Software And How Can It Help You?

Tim Reitsma

So we’re going to have a great conversation today about leadership, all things leadership — daring leadership, self-leadership. But before we get into that vein of the conversation, there’s a question, two questions I want to ask. 

One is, what does it mean to be a leader?

Megan Warren

Well, that’s actually a great question. I would say at the heart of great leadership is connection first to yourself, and then connection with others, because a lot of people can set up a business, whether it’s a small business, whether it’s scaled, you know, whether it’s thousands of employees and it takes a certain skill set that you can go to school and learn, you know, forecasting, analyzing, and you can get that all setup.

But not every leader can walk in and connect with people because people are your assets. They’re the heart of the business. And so if you can create a connection with them, you inspire them, you transform your business. It’s incredible. And to do that, I very much believe that you have to create a connection within yourself as well.

Related Read: Ready For 2022? Here Are 3 Tips To Help You Stand Out As A Leader

Tim Reitsma

It starts with self. Absolutely. And I heard a saying recently on a webinar, it says if we belong, we stay. If we don’t, we leave. And I think that really embodies the essence of connection. Part of connection is feeling that sense of belonging. 

So, sure we’re going to touch on that a little bit more, but the second question that I always like to ask, it’s always on top of my mind is — when you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?

Megan Warren

I think two things come to mind. The first thing that comes to mind is ‘lifestyle’. We spend so much of our lives at work, that I think it kind of ought to be a place where we want to be. Right? And so how do you do that? Well, it’s tapping into and touching people’s humanity. And I think you do that again through connection, through really listening to people, through hearing them.

And to do that, I go back to my original point, which is you have to be connected to yourself. But I think where we can develop relationships that go beyond the nine to five at work, and really connect to the humanity to understand that I’m a mother, you’re a father, and see those other pieces because we walk into work and a lot of times we’re flat.

And so to be able to see that 360-degree view of a person and understand all the different pieces that make them up, well then I think when the conflicts come up at work, it’s much easier to work through them. So I would say because we spend our lives there, let’s change the way that we connect at work and make it a place where we want to engage and we want to bring our energy and show up and we’re excited to walk in those doors in the morning. 

Related Read: 10 Best 360 Degree Feedback Software For Employee Reviews In 2022

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, whether it’s a physical doors or virtual doors, it still has to be a place where we want to show up, where we were excited to get out of bed every morning and show up. And so this just kind of really leads into kind of the conversation about daring leadership and self-leadership. And I think that’s where we’re going to spend some time, but there’s a lot of struggles that we’re facing right now.

You know, we talk about this place that we want to show up and, you know, there may be some struggles that we’re feeling now, like lack of motivation, you know, coping with an unbearable workload, complaints, and negative work culture. Man, we could spend a whole hour talking about that. So how do we, you know, how do we navigate through these struggles?

Megan Warren

Well, I mean, I think there’s several different things that you can do to navigate through those struggles. And it, I think the tough thing is to be aware of the struggle itself. So in other words, when you walk into work, a lot of us almost shut off in many ways, right? You turn one part of your brain off, you turn the work brain on, and then you go in and you just start your activities.

And a lot of people are on total autopilot when they go and they get the coffee and then they sit down at their desk. Now that’s changed. You go in your kitchen, you get your coffee, and you sit down and, but the same thing until you’ve done that and you’re in that thing, you’re on autopilot. And then you turn your work brain on and you don’t actually, you’re not aware of what’s going on.

So maybe you had a fight with your partner that morning, or maybe you know, your child’s sick and you’re worried about them. There could be a myriad of things that happen and when you walk in that door, virtual or real, you turn on that screen, you enter that world of work, you don’t leave those things behind.

They come to work with you and they influence every single thing you do at work, even though you might not be aware of it. And so the more aware you can become, the better off you are, because that’s where you’re able to begin to emotionally regulate, which is one of the key pieces that you need for leadership.

Related Podcast: Unlearning Leadership: How To Lead In The New World Of Work (with Bev Attfield from Within People)

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, emotional regulation. That’s, maybe we should have recorded this yesterday because I could have used that. Where, you know, there was an incident, not an incident. It was just a conversation where, you know, I’d let my emotions get the better of me. 

And I woke up this morning and I message this person and said, Hey, we need to have a conversation and I need to apologize for letting my emotions get the best of me. And I did some reflection and realized it was late in the afternoon, I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I was just little, just maybe overwhelmed with what was going on, but that emotional regulation is so, so important. 

Megan Warren

I read an article recently in Forbes and I’ll have to look it up, ’cause I don’t remember the study that they cited, but the study indicated that we spend more than four hours a day regulating our emotions, putting all of that energy in. And that’s if we don’t have any major conflicts that day. That’s just in your average day-to-day. And you think about the amount of time and energy we put into that.

If you could learn to do that kind of automatically and become good at it, then you save yourself a lot of time and energy and you get that back to put into other areas of your life. But it, it really is amazing that if you are aware of what’s going on, it gives you the power to then shift and change how you’re showing up.

So if you were aware, you know, in the interaction that you just had, that something was going on and you simply could have said, I need a pause. I need to walk away for a minute, or this is hitting me wrong. It’s hitting me wrong because of X. You know, you’re aware of what’s happening, then you can reposition yourself and say, I’m going to get a different outcome because where you know, you have the knee-jerk reaction.

Well, then it’s really tricky because you end up saying something or saying in a tone and that sets the other person off. And so you get a bad reaction back and then it just escalates. It snowballs. So where we can take a pause, take a breath and reset you’ve changed your outcome. You’ve saved yourself a lot of time and energy. It’s worth doing. 

Related Read: Four Leadership Lessons From The Early Days Of Abebooks

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. As you’re talking, I’m thinking about different scenarios even throughout my career where I first became a leader, had an opportunity to lead a team. Man, I should have, I wish I met you years ago, ’cause that advice right there is gold. So if you’re listening to this podcast right there, just even a practice that if you feel your face getting flushed or your emotion kicking up a notch or you’re getting into an uncomfortable situation. 

Just the power of taking that pause and saying, Hey, I just need a pause. I’m, can I digest this and get back to you? And it’s powerful. I’ve used that recently in the last couple months where I felt like I was getting feedback and going, ah, this is really, not hitting me well, so I’m just going to take a pause. And do you mind if I just set up a meeting tomorrow and we can revisit this? 

And super powerful. And so we’re diving right into just the components of self-leadership, but let’s back that up a minute and talk about how lack of self-leadership makes the situation worse?

Like we’ve, I’ve just given an example, very vulnerable example of how they’re situation worse, but you know, what are some things that you’ve seen in your, in your coaching and consulting practice? 

Megan Warren

Well, I’ll tell you a personal story about my own experience before I dive into what I’ve seen with a couple of clients. And, you know, just like you, this is something that I wish I knew a few years ago because I used to supervise a team of 20. And so when you come in and you’re just having an off morning, you didn’t sleep well, you had a fight with somebody, you’re worried about finances, whatever it happens to be, or you’ve started a new project, and you’re worried about how that’s going to go or the next step in your minds on that. 

And then all of a sudden you show up and you walk into a room full of 20 people and you’re supposed to inspire them. You’re supposed to, you know, instill confidence. So your energy walks in the door with you. And so if you didn’t take that pause to reset, then that meeting, the outcome of that meeting is very different.

And so the reason I say that is because I’ve actually experienced doing that. So I’ve walked in flat and the meeting flat line itself, right? And then the next time, I took a pause, I took a breath. I actually listened to, you’re going to laugh about this, John Cougar. I took a pause. I took a breath. I needed to get my energy up.

So I listened to John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good”. She looked around my office, door closed. That was back when we were in the office and went into the meeting. It was a very different place. And I think today, folks are doing the same thing because you know, you’re in your home office, right? But you’ve got 20 people online, they’re all looking at you. 

And the onus is on you to actually, you have to up your energy, up your game to create that same sense of collaboration, camaraderie, the inspiration, the excitement. You have to bring that double-time online that you do in the actual office. So, where you can take that pause, take a breath, you know, let go, release.

And that’s actually a later stage in this process. And so we’ll talk about that in a minute, but it really is an incredible gift. Not only to people that you work with and staff, but to yourself because the outcome, the ideas generated in a meeting where people feel excited is going to be very different than when people feel flat and bored and they just want to get out of there.

It’s the same thing. If you, even if, for example, I had a client who was negotiating a package at work and it was very, sort of, felt very defensive about it. And the organization itself had a lot of this culture of needing to prove your worth. And so it wasn’t a culture of trust and we think you’re doing your best and inspiration.

It was very much, you demonstrated every step. And so when you’re asking for a title change or a raise, it’s very, in this particular organization, it was tricky. And so he was very nervous about that. And we talked about some of the assumptions that he would make to get himself into this space. 

And so we talked about right before we went in, he could take a pause, he could take a breath, he could reduce his nervousness before going in, and just that would put him in a different energy to make the ask. So pausing is huge. 

Related Read: Skip-Level Meetings: A Powerful Leadership Tool

Tim Reitsma

Taking that pause, yeah. And there’s so many different examples of how the lack of self-leadership can make a situation worse, but let’s, maybe we can just take a second — define what self-leadership is. 

So we’ve talked about what leadership is, but what is self-leadership? So I need to lead myself and as you’re talking, I’m just keep playing over scenarios of going, yes I need to take a pause and yes, as a leader, I need to bring energy in and how can I do that and how to make sure that I can regulate my energy throughout the day?

And so what does self-leadership mean to you? 

Megan Warren

So I think at the heart of itself, leadership is being, it’s self-management. It is understanding from the beginning of kind of basic observance and awareness through the stages of being able to emotionally regulate your shit self and shift how you show up to being able to, to do that with others. 

That would be the third and final stage and it’s the hardest one I think, to do. To be able to read other people in the same way that you read yourself to be aware of them, to be able to shift to them or in train them higher as well. 

But that first piece it’s, at the heart of it, its interoception. You, so let me put it this way. You know the movie Spider-Man? A lot of people talk about a spidey-sense. Well, in, and it’s hyper-aware and hyper-alert. So you basically want to have your in-utero sense, let’s call it, your in-utero sense for yourself. You want to understand what your sensations mean.

So the fact that your heart’s beating fast, the fact that you’re sweating a little bit, the fact that, you know, you find your shoulders tensing up, you notice those things about yourself. In the most basic sense, it’s literally just an awareness of what’s going on inside your body and what that means for you.

It also means kind of what story you’re putting on those interpretations because what’s so interesting, is that in the lab when they hook you up to all the different machines, they cannot tell the difference between fear and excitement. They generate the same body response. It’s arousal, essentially.

So you sweat a little, your eyes dilate, your muscles tense, et cetera, they can’t tell. So the only difference is the interpretation that you put on that. So the package of self-awareness is that you are in tune with your body. You understand what the sensations are coming. You understand that sensations are coming up and you’re aware of them.

And then you’re aware of what interpretation you’re applying to that. Because again, if you’re applying excitement, instead of fear, that leads to a very different outcome. You walk into a meeting fearful, you walk into a meeting excited. It’s a different ball game. 

Tim Reitsma

A very different ball game, right? It’s, it is about how, you know, we often, it’s just, it’s how we show up.

Are we showing up as leaders and using words that might be triggering to people or we’re using it in a tone that just puts people up, you know, backs up against the wall. And there’s a number of components in self-leadership. And that that you’ve defined and I’d love to start, I’d love to walk through those and this, you know, I’ve got my pen ready.

And for those who are listening, you know, well maybe for listening in the car, you might want to pull over if, but there’s going to be some good mental notes to be had here because there are components of self-leadership to start becoming a daring leader. And Megan let’s dive into those.

What are the components?

Megan Warren

So there are several different components. First one I already touched on was sort of that internal self-awareness. Another component is emotional regulation. And so within that, there are several different pieces. In terms of the internal awareness, it’s at the core sensations. You’re aware of what’s going on.

Then, secondly, it’s those thinking patterns or the thinking style that you put on those sensations. And then it’s being able to take that information and it’s a whole different, like, you can be aware, that’s the first stage, you can be aware that you’re upset. You can be aware of where it came from and why.

So let’s say you get triggered when somebody walks into your office and just, you mentioned tone of voice and the way that they present things. They come in and they say to you, well, you did a great job. You get all these done, but you miss this. And you’re, they’re focused, not on the 20 things that you did.

They’re focused on the one thing that you missed or that you haven’t done because you were there until 10 o’clock last night. And there’s no, Hey, thanks for working late. We really appreciate that you know. It’s for those who are salaried, I think it’s just taking kind of for granted that the job is the job and the hours are not really something we focus on.

So, I think being able to take a breath in that moment, that pause that we said, either ask for time is your best friend. You ask for time if you need it, or if you’re able to take the breath and it actually calms your fight or flight. And that will probably in that moment, say, fight, a response, then you’re if you’re able to engage at that moment, great. 

So then what you want to do is realize that their tone of voice and the fact that they’re seeing only the one thing you missed, well, that’s going to trigger you. That’s going to be a big it’s been something that you’ve been struggling with, let’s say for a while where you don’t feel appreciated, where you feel like things are taken for granted, where you feel like the amount of what you’ve accomplished isn’t, you don’t get credit for it.

It’s well this is part and parcel of your job. It’s your duty to do. And so you’re going to be aware that is an issue for you. And then you’re going to be able to respond with that knowledge in mind. And that’s where the emotional regulation comes in. So maybe you do some different breathing techniques and there’s some different things that I can talk through there, but breathing is one of those key things that will really help turn off that fight or flight response.

And turn on the kind of curious side of the brain, the empathetic side that creates those connections with people. And so, you know, once you kind of do that and you respond that way, you’re getting a very different outcome. You can say, Hey, you’ve come in here. And you’re telling me all this stuff, and I really appreciate that you’ve spotted that. I would really like some acknowledgment of what I’ve worked on. You know, but when you ask it in a nice way, instead of snapping off the handle about whatever it is, you know, whatever response you would have to that, then essentially you’re, you’re changing the game. 

Related Read: Chasing Change, Pursuing The Possibilities

And when you show up differently, because relationships are always an equation, right? You’re a variable, the other person is a variable and you get an outcome. So to change the outcome, you change your own variable, because you have no control over the other person. So, but when you show up softer, different, patient, the other person feels the change in the space and tank change in the energy, and then they show up different and you get a very different outcome.

So in terms of leadership and becoming a daring leader, I think having the internal awareness, being aware that this is a trigger for you, and then being able to in the moment, regulate yourself emotionally which is either asked for time or is practicing mindfulness techniques and you can do it even when you’re face-to-face with someone.

So let’s say you walk in my office, you’re going to you’ve got a new project to dump on my team and I, I am already feeling like, you know, up to my neck with work and I don’t know exactly how I’m going to resource this amongst my team. And I know I’m gonna get pushback, you know, for those middle-level managers, that’s a lot of what they’re facing is frustration from both sides sometimes, and they’re stuck in the middle.

So if you’re in that situation, you put your feet on the ground and you focus, literally, focus just on your feet and how they feel, you notice how your feet feel inside your socks or your tights. Whatever it happens to be that you’re wearing. If you’re at home, maybe you’re barefoot, right? So how does the carpet feel under your feet?

And you focus both on how your feet are pushing into the surface of the floor, but also how the floor is pushing back up against your foot. And that juxtaposition or that contrast is important because your mind has to focus more on that contrast or that conflict there. And so it takes you out just for that minute, that two minutes, that’s all you need to help yourself reset in that moment.

And that is the first piece of emotional regulation. So it is a, I will say it’s an ongoing journey. So…

Related Read: People Management Tips For New And Experienced Managers

Tim Reitsma

Yeah, as you were talking, you know, I’ve actually straightened my feet out, you know, underneath my chair and was thinking about this, because I don’t know about you or our listeners today, but I often catch myself just doing even just shallow breaths. And then I feel a heightened sense of anxiety and I just kind of do a little bit of quick self-reflection and go, I haven’t taken actual deep breath, like a big belly breath in a long time. 

Maybe it’s hours. Maybe I’m just breathing like really shallow. And even that, just that, taking that deep breath, taking that pause like you said, time is our friends, and using that as an opportunity to self-regulate, to reset, to check in with yourself.

You don’t need two hours to check-in. Maybe you do, but often I think people we’ve come across or people I’ve come across, it’s just that 30 seconds, couple minutes, just that quick reset and decide, Okay, do I have the mental capacity, energy to engage in this conversation right now? Or do we need to take a pause?

And as you said you gave the example about you know, somebody who’s fixating on that feedback or that, you know, maybe that one thing that didn’t get done and you said, well, I’d like to acknowledge the 20 things that I did get done. That just made me, you know, put my shoulders off and went, Oh, I don’t know about that.

And so how do you coach somebody through that? I know we’re kind of picking on that one piece, but I’m sure that this resonates with so many people listening is we have these giant task lists. They’re overwhelming and we’re working our way through it. And it’s just that one thing that didn’t get done or didn’t get done well that always gets picked on.

So how, how do we how can we practice this with, within our teams? Even as me as a leader, I’m like, Oh, do I do that with my team? Or, yeah, what are some, what are some ways that you’ve coached people through this? 

Megan Warren

Okay. So I’m going to take this question from a couple of different viewpoints, like from, let’s say a team viewpoint from a middle management and from an executive management viewpoint.

So, starting with the team viewpoint. If you’re in a situation where you’re doing a lot of work and you’re feeling like it’s not being recognized, I think one of the things to do is to be, that’s really important and this will work, this works at every level — is to measure your worth by your progress. Right? Don’t measure your worth by your to-do list, by your task list. 

You will be forever looking up that mountain and you sometimes have no control over how big that mountain is getting, because you know, you walk in and you’re, you’ve got the energy, you’re ready to go. You’re going to work. And yet all of a sudden you’ve got seven meetings.

How do you get any work done when you’ve got seven meetings on your agenda? And beyond that, other people are giving work, right? And you go walk out of each meeting with more to-dos. And so by the end of the day, your list was longer than when you started. And so you walk home feeling like a failure. One thing will be — look backwards, always look backwards. Look down to see how far you are up the mountain because the mountain of work that is under your feet is amazing. And it’s really cool. 

I think from a middle management point of view, it’s to do that same process for yourself. You actually is a middle manager, are really stuck in between a rock and a hard place because you’ve got staff who you may want to support, right? If you’re being a really daring leader, you want to create an environment where your staff thrive. And to do that gargantuan workload, that’s a tricky balance because you’ve also got executive management and the organization and the board, and then whatever shareholders who, who want these things done.

And so, from that point of view, you need to do that for yourself. Look down at the progress that you’ve made when your team member comes in and you’re going to assign them a new project. And you know that they’re not going to love it because they’ve got too much on their plate and/or they didn’t do this one thing.

And it was a big thing, right? Sometimes that happens where they did do 20 things, but they didn’t do the one thing that really counted, somehow the pre-order priority got mixed up. And I think it’s very much structuring how you deliver it, right? Because you want to create a situation where your staff are going to be able to give their best. And to do that, you can either lead by praise and encouragement, or you can lead by fear.

And a lot of folks lead by fear because they think if they don’t scare the crap out of somebody, they’re not going to get it done on time. But that’s not necessarily true. In fact, that fear sparks a stress response in your employee, in your staff. So that if for any reason, their executive function was having trouble with prioritizing, you haven’t sat them down and helped them.

You haven’t mentored them. And I do very much realize that is a huge weight on a manager because you’re, you’ve got a job to do. You’ve also got maybe 20 other people to manage. And then you’ve got this one staff person who, when you hired them, you thought they already knew how to prioritize. But you never taken the time to sit down and understand what happened in the moment.

It’s very important. So you go in you recognize, you give thanks for all the work that they did because you are thankful, right? And that little amount of gratitude goes so far. And then you’ve started to create that situation of security for them. You’re, their stress response is not turned off and they’re the brain that, that helps them learn, that helps them engage.

Well, that’s open, it’s active. Their parasympathetic nervous system is on. That’s what they’re leading with. So when you go in and you say, Hey, this was an issue. They’re not going to be blocked. When your stress response is on, you sometimes block things out. So for example, they have measured in labs that people’s vision is 180 degrees or peripheral vision, 180 degrees, but under stress, it narrows significantly.

So you get a lot of those courtroom dramas, where it’s the, somebody didn’t see somebody, et cetera. And how could that even happen? But it actually physically can happen. And so I think one of the things to do is to make sure that system doesn’t turn on and you do that by creating a safe space.

So you could ask yourself, how would I want someone to help me understand that this was a priority and I didn’t do the one thing that really influenced, there, or there was a cascade of things that happened. And, so you create that safe space and you do that before you address the one thing that they needed to do and you need to help them understand, well, you need to understand actually first why they didn’t prioritize it.

And maybe it was because they had an incredible amount of stress somewhere. Somebody got COVID and they were worried about that and they just lost focus. And so, you know, that’s a one-off. How you address a one-off is going to be very different than how you address something that happens a lot over time.

Something that’s happening a lot over time may also have an easy fix rather than, but if you come down hard on them, you turn that stress response on what you’re done. They’re probably headed down to performance review and then out the door in a few years, and you’ve actually lost somebody who was a good part of the team.

So you really want to be careful with how you handle that and where you regulate your own emotions and you realize that they didn’t do their job. I just got railed on because we didn’t get these four projects done because they didn’t get that in on time because it’s all connected, right? Again, everything is connection.

You take a minute, you breathe, because you know, your stress level going into the meeting might be high anyway. But I can’t underestimate in that, looking at your progress, for yourself, looking at their progress and giving gratitude for that, sets a very different stage for this discussion, then, you know, the fear and the non-recognition. And it creates a space where your staff will thrive.

In terms of executive leadership, you’re looking down the chain and you’ve got, I mean, that’s the top-down view can be the scariest, I think because you realize how things are connected and they’re so fragile, right? And each piece is interdependent on another. And if one piece isn’t working, the whole house of cards kind of tumbles.

And so I think again, leading by inspiration is the way to go. And how do you do that? You walking in. You don’t lead by fear. But to do that, you’ve got to get right with yourself. You have to understand that your reaction right now is so big you don’t want to address this. You might fly it with your employee and say, This was a major issue.

I can’t discuss this right now, because I’m, I need a moment. You asked for time is your best friend. And I guarantee your employee who, if you’re a middle manager and you’re asking for it, your staff might be rolling their eyes as they walk out the door. She’s asking for time again? He always needs a pause before he talks to me, what’s that about?

But they, time is also their best friend, because they are very much going to appreciate your reaction after you’ve had the pause versus your reaction before. So the same thing with executive leadership, you walk in whether you’re addressing a group or whether you’re addressing a single employee. You get right with yourself.

You realize that actually you care so much about this organization. You want to see it excel. You’ve got plans and you know, if this isn’t working, that you’re not going to be able to get the company to that next stage, that it needs to be on time, in the time do, you know, do the thing. And so essentially that fear, it makes your response, your reaction to this balloon. 

And that fear is not productive. That fear doesn’t help anyone. And so it’s taken a deep breath and it’s handling, it’s managing the fear before you walk into that meeting and you can, I mean, I don’t think it’s asking to accept justifications. I don’t think it’s asking to accept excuses or to change the outcome that you need.

It’s just changing how you work with your staff because you’ll get a very different outcome if you go and using empathy, the active listening, the connecting with them, and their humanity to create a culture where people thrive. And man, when you do that, you build loyalty like nothing else. You don’t have the revolving door staff turnover reduces.

It’s really an incredible gift if you can do that. So learning to lead from within can have an impact on your bottom line. 

Tim Reitsma

Fundamentally. Thanks for sharing so much wisdom. I’ve taken myself a lot of notes that I need to go back and reflect on, but it does tie right back to one of my first questions — is building a better world to work.

And we think of that often it’s, Oh, it’s, here’s an external thing that we need to be doing. But to build a better world to work, let’s just turn the magnifying glass on ourselves. How are we leading? Like you said, creating a place where people can thrive. And that might mean different things to different industries and companies.

But ultimately when I think of a place that I can thrive, it’s a place where I’m not afraid to bring my whole self. You know, where I’m not afraid to say, You know what? I’ve done my emotional regulation, but I’m still feeling low. So maybe we should cancel this meeting today. Or asking for that little bit of time or asking for that feedback or asking for that recognition where it’s needed.

Yeah, because if we’re leading from that place of fear, it just has such a detrimental impact on our organizations. So as a daring leader, maybe you’re being led by somebody who is leading with fear. It doesn’t mean that you need to lead with fear. So it’s these micro-changes that can cause these macro changes.

So if you’re being led with fear I encourage you to counter that. Lead with love and see what happens. And so, yeah. 

Megan Warren

And when you lead with love, you create that space where they can then respond with love. So you get a different outcome, even if they’re still full of fear.

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. Even if that’s the shoulders are up, the back is against the wall or your chair, wherever, if you’re in person or virtual.

But leading from a different place will have a different outcome. Simple as that. If you want to lead from a place of fear, your outcome is going to be, I’m only going to give you as minimal time as possible, and that’s it. If you’re going to lead from a place of love it’s yeah, I’m still going to give you the certain amount of time that I have in my day to a lot to work, but I’m going to show up. I’m going to give it my all.

And I’m going to look back and say, Wow, I’m proud of what I did today. So it’s being able to celebrate that. And I love that internal self-awareness, it’s so important. And as daring leaders as leaders, as self leaders leading ourself, we have to start there. We have to take that introspective look. We have to look at how am I showing up today? 

Megan Warren

And I think one thing I would recommend is when you’re thinking how well do I lead, how well do I check in with myself, how well do I regulate my emotions and, you know, react rather or respond rather than react, I think the one thing I would say is give yourself grace because nobody’s perfect. 

And I know an awful lot of top executives are overachievers. That’s how they got to where they are, but they get stuck in that perfectionism and it’s a process addiction. Right? And so you transmit that to your staff. So you transmit whatever you have actually to your staff.

So where you’re giving yourself grace, they’ll give themselves grace. And that creates, I think a culture where they feel like it’s okay to make a mistake, and then they’ll throw their big ideas out there. And maybe one of those ideas is big and it goes viral and it’s huge. But if you’ve got a culture of fear, well, then it stays small. They don’t throw it out there and you never get to capitalize on that. 

Tim Reitsma

Yeah. It’s when we look at the teams that we have the privilege of leading or being part of, there are so many great ideas that are just being, you know, kind of squashed down because of fear, because of, you know, being afraid to speak up and saying, Hey, well, what if we try to go left or right, or up or down, whatever that direction is.

And, and it starts, yeah, from that culture of leadership. So ask yourself this question, whoever’s listening, whether you’re leading a team or maybe leading at work or sports or whatever it is, but how well do you lead? You know, what is that leadership style? Are you coming from that place of fear, that place of love? Are you coming from that place of grace and trust or are you coming from a place of three strikes you’re out? And it’s an important self-reflection. 

So as we look to wrap up Megan, as somebody who is listening to this, what is one thing that they can do today to start with on how to how to become a daring leader?

Megan Warren

So I would say, check-in with yourself. Check-in with yourself once today, and just see what’s your sense about yourself. Are you tense or shoulders up? If so, why? And then think through how that affects everything you do in that day. And take a pause and take a breath.

Tim Reitsma

It’s powerful. Take a pause, take a breath.

Before you click on that next online video meeting or open up that meeting room door, take a pause, take a breath. And it’s okay to be 30 seconds late if that’s what you need to do is put your feet on the ground and ground yourself. 

And so I thank you so much, Megan, for sharing your insights, your wisdom. I know I have a lot of reflection to do myself, and I’ve got a lot of takeaways from our conversation today. So, I thank you for coming on. 

Megan Warren

It was great to be here. I really appreciated it. And I am a big proponent of changing some of our cultures within the world of work because it’s just whenever I see executive leaders who are outstanding, overachievers coming, and they feel like failures and they’re so full of fear and they’re worried, it’s just because they care so deeply. So where we can get them, their staff, and the whole organization, understanding that they care so deeply and they’re working so hard because they’re loyal and dedicated. That’s a different space. 

Tim Reitsma

It is, for sure.

Thanks for that, Megan. 

And for those who are listening, we’re, we’ll include how to get ahold of Megan in the show notes and also on our social media. And so I encourage you to follow Megan on social channels and she’s full of great insight and yeah, again, thanks for coming on.

And so also for those who are listening, we also love your feedback on our podcasts. So if you have some feedback, let us know. That helps us grow as a, as an organization and helps me as a host, but check us out on all your listening platforms and we hope you have a great day. Thank you!