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Issue 2: Dancing with discomfort
Strategy is uncomfortable. Lean into it.
Strategy and discomfort go hand in hand. Case in point: I’ve delayed writing this newsletter because of my discomfort at putting my ideas out there. Are they smart enough? Interesting enough? Good enough?
To embark on a strategy process is to dance on the edge of possibility and fear. It’s scary to think about the future. It’s uncomfortable to admit you don’t have the answer. You are not the all-seeing and all-knowing one. Things might be a bit of a mess, in your head or in reality.
The first thing to do with discomfort is to acknowledge that you’re uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable writing a newsletter because I don’t think my ideas are sharp enough. Then again, I’ve worked with some brilliant business people, who seem like they’ve got their shit together, and I can tell you that they very much do not. No one knows what they’re doing.
I invite you to lean into the discomfort. Play with it. What’s making you uncomfortable? And is it a reality, or an assumption?
When I DM (lead) D&D sessions for new players or groups, there is a level of discomfort. People often drink, sometimes a lot, to relax enough to play. They’re so curious about the hobby, but because of social conditioning, it’s a guilty pleasure. ‘I shouldn’t be doing this because it makes me a weirdo and I might sound like a bit of a twat.’
Maybe you will. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s the perfect space to relax, be a bit weird and sound like a twat. Maybe that’s healthy. Lean in.
It’s the same with business leaders, startup founders, pretty much anyone who’s got themselves in a tight spot and needs facilitation to think their way out of it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s hard to admit that there’s a mess, either real or imagined, and you don’t know how to clean it up. But it’s also pretty normal. Business is hard. Trading conditions are difficult. The financial forecast is all over the place. You don’t need to have the answer all the time. Lean in. Embrace the not-knowing. That’s when the real adventure starts.
Something I’m learning as I go (making up as I go) are tools for managing that discomfort. Acknowledging it as an inherent part of the strategy process. Giving it space. Helping clients move through it.
A couple of thoughtstarters I invite you to consider:
No one cares. That’s a great thing.
This thought always liberates my writing. I don’t need to be the all-seeing, all-knowing brain because no one cares what I write. They might enjoy it but they fundamentally aren’t bothered about it. I can do what I like. So can you. Chop and change what you do, try things, get stuff wrong, experiment, fail. The honest truth is that few people will notice. I invite you to view that as a liberation. Try a thing. See what happens. Lean in.
Hold it lightly
We are often uncomfortable because we’re holding onto a lot of assumptions. I am holding onto the assumption you’re expecting god-tier strategic revelations from my clearly magnificent brain every month and I will not deliver them, so I shouldn't write anything at all. In fact I should crawl into the nearest bin and give up. No one can deliver those - that’s okay. Hold it lightly.
Acknowledge the assumption that’s making you uncomfortable - often an assumption about yourself, how people see you, what you perceive you should be doing or feeling. It’s okay to have that aspiration for yourself. It’s also okay to not meet it 100% of the time. You’re human. Lean into it.
The car park
I have recently learned this from the brilliant Emma Jefferys, a coach I’m collaborating with on a project, and it’s the most genius workshop technique. Point of order: her brain is magnificent. In workshops, it’s very common for clients to go off on tangents. Talking about things directly is uncomfortable. It brings up the need to justify, explain, talk around, blame, anything but get to the point. That’s what the car park is for.
We lovingly acknowledge the thought, we give it space, we park it in the car park and we continue on with the discussion. This can be as simple as popping it on a post it and sticking it on a piece of paper with a carpark symbol on it. Nothing fancy. Acknowledge the tangents. Make space for disruptive thoughts. But don’t drown in them. Lean into the discomfort. Move through it.
The most engaged D&D players can be the ones who feel most uncomfortable at first. It’s a brilliant moment when they let go of their fear of looking silly, and do something really *out there*. The same comes for business leaders. Breakthroughs happen when people let go of assumptions and start thinking about possibilities. When they lean in, and go there.
I invite you to do something you find uncomfortable this month, but hold it lightly. Lean into it. Dare I say, enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing this. Dance with your discomfort. Let me know how it goes.
Next time nerds!
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