Monday, March 5, 2012

New Level… New Devil

Dealing with our fears of judgment + building a trusting Mentoring relationship
Co-authored by Greg Johnston and Chris Sherwood

I must admit that I have struggled with feelings of intimidation being around teachers, leaders, authority figures or anyone in a position of influence or power or who may have more knowledge than I.The main reason is that I have feared others’ judgment - judgment of my experiences; my successes, as well as my failures; my knowledge (or lack thereof); my clothes; the cars I have driven... pretty much any aspect of me as a person (or who I am not) or my character. It has taken me years – a lifetime, in fact – to overcome these fears… and at times I still have them.

And yet, with having my own fears of judgment, one might think that I would be sensitive to others who may consider me to be their teacher, leader or authority figure and who may struggle with the same fears. Sadly, I cannot make this claim. At times, it is I who has been the one to judge – something for which I am ashamed to have to admit and something that I find difficult to understand about myself.

Whether knowledge, power or influence actually exists in hierarchies or not, it is the perception that they do and that we may reside on a rung lower than another that is the impetus for such fears. Irrespective of whatever rung we may consider ourselves to be on (assuming that we do), it is the belief that there are rungs and that they do in fact exist in levels that drives our behaviours one way or another… hence the focus of this blog "New Level… New Devil".

What are your thoughts on power and authority? 
 Do you perceive yourself to be near the top of the ladder, and if so, how does it feel being there? Does it evoke feelings of superiority? Conversely, do you perceive yourself to be near the bottom and if so, do you struggle with feelings of inadequacy? Either way, have you ever stopped to think about where you are on your hierarchical ladder and the feelings that you have with being there? Perhaps it is more important to ask whether there is a ladder at all? For if there were no ladder, could we even be capable of generating feelings such as superiority or inadequacy?

Irrespective of where any one of us may be, do we not all need support from others and do we not all have responsibility to serve others who also need our support? If you just answered “no” to the preceding questions and you are not a plumber, perhaps you may answer them differently the next time your pipes are leaking water into your home. The bottom line is that none of us can get through life on our own – an axiom that is simply undeniable.

So that we can be more aware of our actions and the driving forces for them, it is important that we stop to reflect on what our individual experiences are regarding the various social hierarchies that exist around us and how we perceive ourselves to fit within them… if we do at all, perceive ourselves to fit within them, that is. It is also interesting to consider what the impact is on our society with respect to our collective experiences of both judging and being judged. If fears of judgment can hold us back individually, how might we be held back collectively by the same?

Personal Experience
Over the past few months I have had the privilege of meeting a number of individuals regarding The MENTOR+ project, many of whom are or have been Senior Directors within Fortune 500 companies. For people in these positions to succeed in growing their billion dollar businesses, they have to be able to lead large numbers of employees – in some cases hundreds or more. Simply put, these are people who define overachievement, so was little ol’ me intimidated to meet them? You betcha… I was petrified! Would they like my ideas or would they laugh at them and think them to be stupid? Before each meeting, I had to wrestle my fears of judgment to the ground and make the conscious choice to not give in to them. If I didn’t and chose to forgo the opportunity to meet, my fears would have gotten the better of me… and this MENTOR+ Project in which I believe so passionately may have gone nowhere. However, I have had to get to the point of asking myself "What's the worst thing they are going to say? NO?" So, what's there to worry about… in this case, nothing.

However, there are other cases where the answer to the question, “’What’s the worst thing they are going to say?’ isn’t just a simple ‘No!’” In some cases, as in some employment situations, one’s fears of judgment from asking this question may be realized in negative ways and thus, a cycle of intimidation is often perpetuated and at times opportunities for both employee and employer may be lost.

Judgment affects us all… it affects people at both the top of the so-called hierarchical ladder and also the bottom. With judgment comes fear of failure, but also fear of success. What is the solution? Mentoring relationships built on trust. Having these provides opportunities for us to deal with both our individual, but also our collective fears.

So, here are 4 things to consider:
  • With respect to the position(s) you hold, consider where you fit in the hierarchy and how it feels being in that spot. Do you feel powerful or powerless… or, depending on your circumstance, do you feel both? 
  • Reflect back to a time when you felt judged and how it felt to be so. Now consider whether you could be judging someone(s) else. 
  • Do you have any good ideas that you haven’t taken action to implement? If so, what is stopping you? Would sharing your ideas put your well-being at risk? If so, are there other options?
  • Are you in a role with decision-making authority for others? If so, how do you approach it? Do you consider the role a privilege or a right; an opportunity to serve, or an opportunity to be served? 

JUST ASK...because:
  • everyone has the capacity to be a mentor; and 
  • we were born with the inherent need for support (a.k.a. mentorship) from others; and
  • we often fear being open with our real thoughts and feelings; and
  • sometimes our fears are based on legitimate risks to our well being; and
  • none of us exist in isolation; and
  • we have access to information, but so often it is hard to know what is accurate and what is not; and
  • we live in a world where it can be difficult to know whether someone is truly qualified to provide the support we need; and 
  • even if we do know how to tell if someone were qualified, being able to access them could be impossible; and
  • all too often, people in positions of authority use their position to serve themselves and not others and so good ideas are often squelched before they ever have a chance to see the light of day; and
  • collectively, we all – and I mean ALL – suffer from peoples’ unrealized opportunities; and
  • there is a huge need for systems that can help to fill the huge gaps just identified… hence the MENTOR+ Project.

MENTOR+ Project Update
Searching for and pulling together individuals who would be willing to serve as advisors to The MENTOR+ project or as members of the inaugural Board of Directors has been somewhat of a challenging task, but we are making big strides. At first I thought I am never going to get the people I need to take this project to the next level, but as I met with people and discussed with them my passion for this project, many individuals said “YES!”...and of course some said “NO!” I am thankful to everyone who took time to meet with me and especially so to those who have agreed to be involved more formally to help move this project to the next stage of its development. I will be announcing very soon who these individuals are, so keep your eyes peeled.

Please sign up on the website at The MENTOR+ project so you can get updates on the status of our development and announcements on how we are doing. M+ will be a platform where people can be more open, more creative, more courageous, more supported, more helpful, more interconnected, more democratic… more… MENTOR+ more…

M+ will help individuals achieve their full potential and together it will help us all achieve our collective potential. Make the decision today to become a part of breaking down the barriers that hold you back and that hold us all back.

Don't worry about being judged just ASK and move forward!


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