In this series, we're focusing on nourishing a culture of leadership by applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this episode, we're exploring cleanse. Cleansing is needed, individually and in organizations for the purpose of allowing the individual or organization to operate as it was originally intended.
Leadership Development Focus: Cleanse
In an organization, to think about what needs to be cleansed is a challenging subject. It can be so easily misinterpreted. When people think of ‘cleanse’ in relation to an organization, their bodies usually experience tension, tightening up. It is assumed that cleanse means layoffs and similar undertakings. That is not our meaning as we head into this topic of cleanse.
Cleansing is needed, individually and in organizations for the purpose of allowing the individual or organization to operate as it was originally intended. Cleansing is needed to remove contaminants…whatever is getting in the way of the original intention, of the life force. If we use an example of an engine, it is easy to agree that over time it develops a buildup of contaminants, of gunk. If it is not taken care of and kept clean with an occasional deep cleaning, it does not work at its peak performance. It does not work at the performance that was originally possible or intended. This is not about getting rid of the engine or its parts…it is about getting rid of the gunk that is getting in the way of its performance. People and organizations of people require the same care to remove any gunk that has built up and is getting in the way of that life force that drives peak performance.
How willing are you to cleanse what is no longer working for you personally, what is no longer serving you to lead the life you want to have? If you have barriers or contaminants in your life that are no longer serving you, it is not possible for you to engage in your peak performance.
A good starting place to determine your willingness to work with cleanse for yourself is to ask yourself ‘am I at my own personal peak performance emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically? If I am not, are there barriers or contaminants getting in the way?’ If you decide that you are not at your personal peak performance and there are barriers or contaminants, the next introspection requires you to be honest with yourself about whether you have the will to do something about those barriers and contaminants. You don’t need to know how to remove them at this point. This introspection is about your will to do something.
Note that willingness is not an all-or-nothing willingness. You might be willing right now to cleanse some things that are physically happening in your world, but you might not be willing at the same time to cleanse the emotional, spiritual, and mental contaminants. This latter group might need to wait until another time. As you decide about your willingness, even being willing to take a few steps now is still willing.
How willing are you to cleanse what is no longer working for your organization, what is no longer in alignment with reaching the desired outcomes? Note that this includes yourself and your actions too! If you have barriers or contaminants in your organization that are no longer working for your organization, it is not possible for your organization to operate at peak performance.
Generally speaking, people in leadership have some awareness of what is not working, of what needs to be cleansed. It is helpful to take some time to bring this to greater awareness and then make a choice if the willingness is there to take some action. As with your personal introspection, remember that this is simply about willingness for cleansing, not about having the answers of how to make it happen
Remember as you think about this that the task is guided by looking at what is no longer in alignment with accomplishing the desired outcomes and goal of the organization. You might feel uncomfortable about something for whatever reason that is not actually a barrier to accomplishing the desired outcomes. This then, according to this guidance, is not a candidate for what needs to be cleansed. It may be something that you don’t like, for whatever reason, and yet it is not getting in the way of performance. It may have something to do with you, more than to do with the organization.
On the other hand, you might feel uncomfortable about something that is getting in the way of the desired outcomes. Is this then something that needs to be cleansed? Remember the example of the car engine…this is not about getting rid of the engine or its parts, but about cleansing the gunk away.
Developing Leadership Skillfulness in Working with Cleanse
We believe that the best way to develop leadership skillfulness in working with cleansing is to first work with this process for you as an individual. Once you feel you have some skillfulness in this for yourself, it becomes easier to work with cleansing within your organization.
Step One: Meeting
Take some time out to have a meeting with yourself. Set up two chairs facing each other and sit in one of them. Imagine someone sitting in the other chair. Now tell that imaginary person what you believe to be true about what needs to be cleansed for you as a person.
Step Two: Reflection & Commitment
Reflect about what you have said, how you feel about what you said. Choose no more than three contaminants that you are willing to take action on. Write down a commitment to yourself to act on them. A small number here is essential so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Pick the three that stand out for you right now.
Step Three: Action
Act on your commitment to yourself. Remember that it takes almost a month of daily attention to strengthen a new habit sufficiently for it to become sustainable.
Celebrate accomplishments along the way. Build your sense of success by celebrating even little accomplishments.
Step Four: Wash, Rinse, Repeat
Continue the cleansing process, not taking on more than three items at a time. This is a continuous life long process so that we are at our personal peak performance throughout life. This can be summarized as ‘wash, rinse, repeat’.
Step Five: Cleansing in the Organization
Journal what you learned in the process of cleansing yourself so that you can be at your peak performance.
Note the actual steps you went through. Note when you felt yourself succeeding. What conditions were present for you to succeed?
Now it is possible to think about what you can do to engage in cleansing in the organization. You can draw parallels between what you learned about engaging in cleansing yourself, and what could be helpful in the organization. There is no better way to develop your plan for engaging in cleansing in the organization than to rely on your lived experience of what it took to do so personally. The personal experience provides you with guidance on how to go work with cleansing, at what pace, and that it is an ongoing process, not a destination.
It is possible that the cleansing process in the organization will be clear to you and you will feel confident in leading this process. It is also possible that this cleansing process may be a little unclear. You may wish to engage a leadership coach to support you in developing a plan you can lead yourself, or a leadership consultant who can support you in designing and implementing the initial process to then support you in building this capacity into the organization.
Strengthening Your Leadership Skillfulness in Working with Cleanse
Working with cleansing cannot and should not be approached from a goal setting perspective such as ‘our goal this quarter is to cleanse what needs to be cleansed’. As an ongoing process, it is an essential element for lifelong peak performance. There can be an overall goal of having an ongoing process for cleansing to achieve and sustain peak performance. ‘Cleanse’ is not a destination. It is a process that feels manageable if it is taken on in by taking a few steps at a time. They may be small steps, sometimes larger steps are needed.
For example, steps along the way in working with cleanse personally might be to replace all of your personal care products that have harmful chemicals in them with products that are natural, organic, dye and perfume free…maybe relying on essential oils for any scent. A larger step would be to put a water filter in your home to filter out harmful chemicals in typical drinking water such as chlorine and fluoride.
Steps along the way in your organization might be to reduce unnecessary rules/policies that are getting in the way of people doing their work. It is common in organizations to add rules and policies, often in a reactionary way…without also purging/cleansing rules and policies from the manuals that are no longer relevant. A larger step might be to remove unnecessary structure and format from your meetings creating some space for important conversations and contributions. It is common for agendas to be full of items that a simple memo would have covered without taking up the time when people are gathered together…and then having ‘any new business’ at the end of a meeting with little time left for those important discussions and contributions.
Basically, to strengthen your work with cleanse, accept that it is a process that will continue and requires your attention. Don’t take on too much at once. Celebrate what is accomplished. And always focus on ‘what is getting in the way of me or my organization from working at our peak performance? What barriers or contaminants exist that are in the way of fulfilling our purpose?’ These guiding questions are fundamental to your process.
If it feels right, add your intentions for becoming skillful in working with cleanse into your personal leadership development plan.
About the Developing Leadership Series
We work the Genuine Contact way, nourishing a culture of leadership, applying timeless principles of life to the art of leadership. In this learning series, Birgitt Williams and Rachel Bolton are sharing our own wisdom and insights about the art of leadership. We'll be inviting you to consider your own experiences in life and business so far, and how you want to further your leadership development with this theme.
In this series, our intention is to offer you unique opportunities to continually develop your leadership. By developing your leadership you expand your potential. Your life changes and you gain greater insights and capacity for leading your life. Your leadership of your team, organization, congregation, and even your family brings about possibility thinking, transcending ordinary thinking and ordinary results.
In each episode, we will be exploring one key principle. You will hear our own experiences and understanding of each of these timeless principles. We'll suggest simple activities you can do to develop your own leadership by working with these principles too. Subscribe to receive future episodes by email.