Thoughts on leadership and the concept of “Already Always.”

I’ve just come back from a government Service Design Summit in Sydney. 

The topic of this conference was all about creating new service strategies.  The people attending were top leaders from Federal, State and Local government agencies, and they were sharing case study after case study on how they have, and how they plan to, build better and more contemporary service provision for their customers. 

It was fascinating and wonderful to witness that, in my opinion, we have some awesome forward thinking people in our government agencies who realise that the world is changing and that the service provision of the past 5 decades is no longer good enough. 

There were several common threads in all of the 20 or so presentations. 

The one that stuck out for me more than any other was the issue of culture.   These leaders all agreed that the culture inside the organisation was the most important factor for success in the implementation of new service design.  If the people were not on board – and living the values and maintaining a positive and productive culture, then the work would likely be for naught.

In all of the presentations, the leaders spoke about how leaders needed to show up for their people.   This reflected the content of my first session on “Being”.   In that session I introduced the Be/Do/Have model – and we addressed some of the ways of being that are critical for success in any organisation.

While we also agreed that there is a shared responsibility for all people to “be” in certain ways – it is also true that people will emulate the leader and others around them.

This triggered a memory about a very poignant learning that I had some years ago.

I learned about the concept of “Already Always.”   Already always is a perception that we have about ourselves – and it stems from our beliefs, our values, our upbringing, our past, our habits and our current situations.  For example, if I have a belief about myself that “I AM a Good Listener” – then I may show up in a state of “already always listening.” 

The problem with already always listening – is that the only thing or person that I am already always listening to is myself.  When I’m in a conversation with someone – my inner voice is likely to begin responding well before the other person is done speaking.  This negates true listening.   One possible result of this inner voice is that I may interrupt the other person.  That is a sign of already always listening.

If I am absolutely honest with myself – I would make statements like: 

I value the skill of great listening.

Great listening involves allowing the other person to truly speak, and be heard, and my role is to “be” there fully and not need to respond, not need to attend to my own thoughts, not need to have my voice heard quickly and loudly in response to the other person, not need to judge what is being said.

The truth of the matter is:  Sometimes I do great listening, and sometimes I really don’t!

Yesterday was a classic example of this.  I was on the phone to one of my team – and she patiently listened while I shared my experiences of the past several days.  I then asked her about her week – and about 30 seconds in, she said something that brought an interesting thought into my head.  Instead of holding that, and truly allowing her to share her experiences with me – I completely interrupted her.  She paused, and let me finish – then attempted to continue on again.  I interrupted her AGAIN!

This time I became aware of who I was being.  I became conscious of the behaviour and the damaging effect that I could be having on this wonderful person who is working so hard to build the business.

I was, in fact, already always listening.  My perception was not my reality!

This is one of the things that, as a leader, I am constantly working on.  How I am being will impact what I am doing.   What I do – will in turn – impact the results that I get.  How I show up will regularly influence how my team member show up.

Let me give you one more example of Already Always. . .

I value “working” in general.  My work is my passion – and I truly love what I do.  I would prefer to be working than just about any other activity.  As a result of this – I often work very early in the morning, very late at night – and on weekends.

One of my team members once said to me – Fran, because you are often sending emails at 1:00am – and on the weekends, I feel that you are expecting that we are always working, and that you expect us to put in all of the extra hours that you do.

It dawned on me that my connection to:  Be accountable, be productive, be available, Be prompt, and Be a Role Model – was showing up for my team in some negative ways.  Even though my intention was more about honouring my own passion and my own working style, my team members were taking this as an unrealistic expectation.  I now needed to Be a Better Open Communicator.   I realised that I was in a state of Already Always Communicating Well.  The remedy – have some regular conversations around expectations – and working styles.

I’m hoping that you had a look at the Be/Do/Have Questionnaire that was offered previously – and I’d like to invite you go back to that document.  There is a space for comments.  This is an opportunity for you to challenge you states of Already Always.  Challenge your perceptions versus reality.

Let’s take #11 for example.  Be Positive. 

What are the signs that you may be Already Always Positive?   Could it be that the reality is that sometimes I am positive and sometimes and I am negative and sometimes I am neutral?  When am I positive, When am I negative – and what are the causes of each of these states?  When does my team really need for me to be positive?  Are there times when a healthy dose of pessimism or scepticism is a good thing?  Do I ever show up as a “dream stealer” for any of my team members?  If so, what causes this?

Needless to say – the process that I am suggesting here is one of deep thought and introspection. 

The more I know myself – the more I am able to choose who I am being.  The more I choose who I need to be – the more control I will have over my behaviours from moment to moment.


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