Hello SOTGC community,
Whether or not you call yourself a leader, you are always in a position to be one.
You can lead from any title, any position, in any context. Leaders, no matter where they are, work with their surroundings to create what they want.
The best way to measure whether or not you’re in leader mode is to ask yourself: in this moment, am I reacting or creating*?
Knowing whether you are in reaction mode or creation mode- and choosing to be in creation mode- will make you a better leader. It will also put you in charge of your life.
What’s the difference?
Well, see what you make of this example of planning a party.
In reaction mode, planning a party looks like this:
You suddenly remember you’ve got to plan this party, and the timing’s bad. This could be the task that puts you over the edge. So you buckle down and jump into the process, thinking, the sooner I start the better. You find the date, you shop for invitations, you roll your eyes at the cost, you check your phone as you realize you’re taking time away from other obligations. You try to make the process quick, but inevitably there’s an endless stream of emails and phone calls to work out the details of coordinating caterer, event site, and music. Some days you work through lunch to catch up. Or you forget to eat. When the event comes, you put on a dress and a smile, and you get through it. You may succeed, and your guests may leave impressed, but the ultimate impact on you is… exhaustion. And maybe even a little resentment. But hey, you survived.
(Notice how it feels just to read this scenario!)
Creation mode is like a parallel universe governed by a completely different set of laws. In creation mode…
When you remember you have to plan this party, you sit down with a blank sheet of paper and start to dream up ideas of what you want and take notes. Your first task is deciding what you want to create. You take the timing of this into consideration: one key outcome you want is limited stress put on you. You dream of an easy party to put on that makes everyone feel great. You realize you could use a mood boost, since it was a long winter, so you want the feel of the party to be bright, light, and gregarious.
Since you know it will be more fun—and easier—to do this with others, you immediately call a creative friend to help brainstorm. You and she talk, and the two of you laugh as you consider some pretty outrageous ideas. You settle on a couple components that will create joy: salsa dancin, and a dance instructor to lead some fun exercises. It’s a bit out of the box, but you go with it. You can’t help but talk about your fun idea over lunch with colleagues, and they naturally offer some resources. You take everyone up on every offer, knowing that the more help you’ll have, the less stress there will be on you.
Suddenly, you’ve got the music booked, the venue reserved, and already a good portion of your guests are getting ready to ham it up come party-time. You have a team of co-creators making this event a hit, and you’re feeling really fulfilled by how fun the process is….
And the outcome of the party? Just the emotional uplift you needed, and a bright, light, gregarious mood for your guests.
See the difference?
In reaction mode, we don’t see our freedom to choose.
We’ve actually convinced ourselves we have no control over the situation (or our response to it) but most likely we do. At any given moment, our actions shape what happens next. And how we choose that next action matters. A whole lot.
In reaction mode, circumstances outside of us run us. We may want to wait until we’re caught up to address our personal needs, but we will never catch up.
In creation mode, choice is front and center.
We realize that the way we approach what we need to do is up to us. In this mode, we stop to reflect early in the process—and frequently along the way—asking, “what do I want to happen?” or “what’s the best possible outcome?” and “what actions of mine would lead to what I want?”
In creation mode we stop to address tough decisions to commit to our priority, which is what we most desire. This creates decisive action.
Actually, in creation mode, we assume that anything we choose is possible. We accept that it is our job to creatively explore how it is possible.
How do I know if I’m in reaction mode or creation mode?
You’ll know you’re in reaction mode if:
- Your primary motivation is stress.
- You don’t feel in charge of your time or energy.
- You’re overwhelmed, maybe even resentful.
- Your brain sees things in black and white (“he’s always ___.” “I’ll never ___.”).
- You’re reactive in conversations.
- You feel like a victim of circumstance.
- You’re unaware of your resources.
- All you want is your control back.
Here are signs that you’re in creation mode:
-You’re enjoying yourself.
-You’re calm in the midst of chaos.
-You’re aware of your resources.
-You’re focused on possibilities.
-You’re drawing boundaries.
-You’re spending time in important conversations to nurture the outcome you want.
-You anticipate a positive outcome.
It is so easy to slip into reaction mode in everything we do. But notice the difference between when you’ve already sold yourself out to something you don’t want, and when you’re focused and acting on creating something you do want.
Here are some good guidelines to follow:
You decide what’s important.
You decide it’s possible.
You take responsibility for creating it.
You tap all the resources inside and around you that you can.
Don’t settle for a reality you don’t want. Don’t let anyone else define your limits. Set your eyes on creating something you do want, and consider what you can do to make it happen.
It doesn’t matter what position we’re in at work, or if anyone else sees us as a leader. We could be at the check-out line at the supermarket and be a leader, by creating the impact we want. We could be an intern focused on creating a positive experience for everyone inside the office walls. Or we could be CEO, deciding it’s time for our company culture to explode with innovation.
Whatever it is, we use creation mode to make it happen.
What can I do to get into creation mode if I’m in reaction mode?
It’s most important to choose creation mode when we’re tempted to react. That’s when choosing to switch perspectives will make the biggest impact. It’s your biggest opportunity to take charge, your moment to lead.
When that happens, do this:
- Take five to ten breaths exhaling longer than you inhale (this tricks your brain into thinking you’re safe, and will help you access more resources).
- Switch your mindset into focusing on what you want to happen. Dream about it for a moment.
- Let yourself feel desire, or joy, if it surfaces, and be honest about what you want. Then ask yourself: “What’s a creative way to make this possible?”
- Ask, “What’s the next step I can take to create what I want?”
- Start there.
Try this out right away. Apply it to a situation that’s currently nagging you. Then leave a comment—tell us what you notice when you change perspectives. Share your insights!
*Bob Anderson, Founder and CEO of The Leadership Circle, first wrote about reacting versus creating in his white paper Mastering Leadership. Click here to read: https://2y3l3p10hb5c1lkzte2wv2ks-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/08_Mastering_Leadership.pdf.