As a follow-up to my last post, “Are You Using the Right F Word?”, this blog focuses on noticing when you’re operating from an Undermining F (Fight, Flight, Freeze, Frenzy) and shifting with intention to an empowered Facilitate mindset.
Doing so requires different levels of awareness, as well as the commitment to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Here are some prompts to help you make this shift:
1 – SITUATIONAL AWARENESS – Notice the context, circumstances and/or people present when you get triggered and land in Fight, Flight, Freeze or Frenzy.
Common triggers include:
- Interactions with key stakeholders or engaging with people in positions of perceived power
- Holding a dissenting position from the consensus of the group when important decisions are at stake
- Facing and addressing conflict
- Being asked to participate in or lead an initiative outside your normal scope or experience
- Working alongside a colleague when the relationship is fractured or the dynamics feel competitive
- Navigating new or changing organizational politics
- Requesting a career planning conversation, a promotion or raise
- Delivering or receiving feedback
Hindsight is a powerful tool that provides fertile ground for growth. Revisit scenarios where you can now see you were probably caught in an Undermining F state of mind.
No “coulda, woulda, shoulda” wallowing, though! Simply identify the trigger(s) and note your reactions. We’re looking for patterns that can help determine where your growth edge might be.
And to be clear, this is not about blaming anyone or anything … because each of us is in control of how we operate.
History is brilliant for future action planning – use it to your advantage.
2 – INTERNAL AWARENESS – Getting acquainted with your internal reactions is critical to reigning in your Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Frenzy response.
Pay attention to what happens to you physically when you get triggered. Perhaps your hands sweat or your neck and shoulders tighten. Maybe your stomach does flip flops or your brow furrows. You might fidget.
Physical shifts can be a strong indication of preparing a reactive or defensive response … and potentially heading into an Undermining F mode. Think of this as your primal instinct for self-preservation. The earlier you notice these physical reactions, the more quickly you can adjust your mindset and manage your response.
3 – EXTERNAL AWARENESS – Identify your default behaviors. Once the physical reaction occurs, notice what you tend to think, say or do and how you are being (EX: aloof, angry, cautious, cynical).
Do you defend your position before hearing others out, criticize your colleagues’ flawed thinking, or lay blame (Fight)?
Do you avoid the person or situation, change the subject, or physically remove yourself – whether by leaving the room or turning off your video when on a conference call (Flight)?
Do you go silent, become passive, or experience a mental / physical “paralysis” until you can get away to think (Freeze)?
Do you jump into action, interrupt others or respond too quickly in order to “fix” things without adequately listening, considering options, and creating a plan (Frenzy)?
Over time, reactive patterns can form. They might not serve you, but they are familiar ways to respond in trigger situations.
Pinpoint yours. Pay attention to your behaviors in the moment. Self-awareness enables you to catch yourself before running down the same path again and puts you in a position to choose how you show up.
4 – INTENTIONAL ACTIONS TO FACILITATE LEADERSHIP – With fresh insights from the above reflections, you can determine where and how to change and refine your leadership behaviors.
Mindset and behavior are like muscles. The more we use and flex them, the stronger they grow. The stronger our muscles become, the less we consciously think about if or how we’re going to use them. They’re running on an unconscious level.
If our aim is to grow as leaders, though, we can’t be on auto-pilot. We have to operate consciously with intention and care. We have to be precise and clear in terms of how we intend to show up.
Consider what you intend to START / STOP / CHANGE in terms of your thinking, language, tone, participation, behavior, or relationships (to name a few).
It’s equally important to know what has worked effectively for you in other situations that you can CONTINUE / LIFT / RE-APPLY in areas that currently challenge you.
For example, the fear of looking incompetent is a common trigger – especially for high performers or those with aspirations to progress up the ladder. Responses might range from going silent to hijacking the conversation.
A specific shift to your trigger might be: “Acknowledge when I’m not familiar with a topic and ask questions. Invite others who have experience to share their knowledge and perspective.”
Instead of looking incompetent, you’ll be facilitating a productive conversation while conveying humility and earnestness. You’ll be the leader who creates space to share knowledge so everyone can learn and contribute to better solutions. This generates trust and engagement … some pretty important leadership attributes!
STICKING WITH IT – Intentions are only as good as the actions we consistently execute to bring them to life. You’ll be practicing new ways of thinking, speaking and comporting yourself. This might feel awkward … in the short term. As you continue to practice these adjustments, you’ll develop comfort and confidence. You’ll have the positive muscle memory required for high performance.
This approach enables you to facilitate your own development, as well as others’ growth and contribution. These four steps can help you unleash valuable leadership competencies that too many people hold within when afflicted by the Undermining F’s.
With awareness, intention and self-discipline, you can elevate your presence and enhance your contributions. And by owning what competencies you do and don’t possess, instead of trying to be perfect, you can invite honest discourse and the active participation of others to contribute to a larger, shared objective. By so doing, you facilitate collaboration and foster an environment where people feel valued for their unique abilities and are more likely to bring their best selves to the table.
If you’re interested in working through this process together, please contact me at Carol@McLysaght.com. I’d welcome the opportunity to help elevate your leadership!