Episode 33: What Does Your Disengagement Say About You? – Leadership Arts Associates

Episode 33: What Does Your Disengagement Say About You?

The Challenge

Complete the following Visualization Exercise – as mentioned in the episode, this is part one in a two part reflection. I will share part two in next week’s episode.

The Transcript

Hello. Welcome to Random Ramblings, the official Leadership Arts podcast where we provide you a random dose of inspiration to help you thrive personally and professionally in life. My name is Samm Smeltzer. I’m the founder of Leadership Arts Associates. I’m so excited to be your host for all of March. If you are new to what we have been covering this month, basically I am sharing lessons that help to inspire our work-love program that’s all about taking you from disengagement to engagement and talking about the entire spectrum and that’s actually directly related to our lesson today so I’ll get in more detail about that.

If you haven’t heard the other two shows that are out there, the first one talking about the collective we so knowing if you fall in this bucket of disengagement, or not even disengagement but who this work-love mentality movement was created for and who I hope this resonates with was the first show of the month. Then last week, I started going through these three lessons that revealed themselves when I really took the time to go back through my story and figure out why work-love was being manifested and why I felt this strong need and calling to create a program of this nature.

It’s more than a program. It’s actually an experience. It’s very hard to describe similar to a lot of things that we do at Leadership Arts. People always make jokes that  our services seem kind of magical because we create the environment, we create the logistical details around the experience to allow you to explore and discover on a different level. When that happens, it’s all you and it’s just amazing what happens when you tap into self-discovery at that level. Last week, the first lesson was what are your dreams really and I left you with a visualization exercise about inner child, inner joy which I really enjoyed recording so I hope you enjoyed listening too.

Today, our lesson is what does your disengagement say about you and then I’ll end it with a reflective exercise. I had planned on doing visualization, meditation exercises this entire time but now looking at the last two lessons, what really spoke to me that I thought would better serve you is doing some mini guided self-reflection exercises. We’ll still put some really soothing tracks and we’ll still be meditative in nature to ease you in there and make sure you got the most benefit out of that. This lesson is all about taking accountability and owning what you can own in disengagement cycle.

I kept talking about this whole concept in the first show when I talked about this idea of the lessons of disengagement or from disengaged to engaged is that we get trapped in the cycles that basically end with us disengaging in some capacity and that spectrum is all over the board. Sometimes it’s something very little that’s just a minor disagreement or something that just doesn’t sit too well with us and then that lowers our engagement level primarily professionally. It could also be personally. This happens in our relationships as well, in those interactions.

Then we always make a judgment call in regards to a reaction like is it worthwhile for us to invest and try to correct it or is it something that’s not that big of a deal and if it doesn’t bother them, then why should I really bring it to their attention that it bothers me. Either way, there is some kind of tally that happens unless we take the time to really understand what that end result or outcome of that cycle really meant for us. Naturally, we’re not given the time or the space to do that unless you’re engaging in therapy or counseling or working with a life coach of some sort or even like spiritual direction.

If you’re not putting yourself in a space where somebody is going to ask you as you talk about these things that are really impacting you or driving essentially like high emotional reactions and some capacity whether that’s sad, mad, happy. You’re not going to really get to fully explore what that experience means for you. The lessons that we can learn about ourselves in that moment are kind of lost. That’s a lot of what Leadership Arts is built on. It’s helping people go back to those moments and really get everything out of them that we should have as far as life lessons.

They add this incredible value to guide us personally and professionally. Honestly, on the professional side, I think that’s where … and this is a probably a whole another show and maybe this is a great idea for one that I’ll do and bring in a guest co-host, a couple maybe to debate this because I know it was a debate that I had in undergrad when I first was introduced to leadership development and the concept of leadership versus management. The debate of are leaders born or are they made.

As somebody in the leadership development profession and industry I want to say they are made because obviously, if it’s not possible to make a leader then why is leadership development around? That’s the big historical background for leadership development is that it was discovered that you could provide training, you could provide coaching and leaders could be made. It’s not just some naturally born talent. What I believe is that we’re all born with leadership skills or those of us that are going to inspire to lead others in a more formalized manner. We’re given that skill set when we’re born and then we’re given the experiences to basically get us to the caliber that we need to fulfill those roles and meet our capacity and our potential.

In order to do that, we have to be willing to learn from the experiences that life is giving us whether they’re personally or professionally. Like I said, most of us, majority of us don’t have that space. Up until three years ago, I did not have space and what you’ve been watching through Leadership Arts through this podcast, my gosh, if you go back to the first one and listen to me and how structured I am and then here where we’ve gotten to a place where I just put it out there. As a true random rambling, you’re seeing the difference between somebody who locked away a lot of stuff. If it was a horrible experience, it was a horrible experience and I don’t want to unpack it.

Now to a place where if it’s horrible, I want to go back to it and I want to explore it further. This weekend, I was doing some reflection in regards to some writing projects that I’m working on and I was going back to unpacking some things in high school that I never ever thought that I would unpack ever but it really took me down a different path and really digesting what those experiences said about me.

Because I think that when we’re talking about high level emotions or high impact situations which typically leave a high impact experience on you, one that is really hard for you to let go of, it’s because it generated some high level of emotion.

I think that those experiences really truly are a chance to reflect because they actually are a literal sense of a mirror. What makes you so mad about another individual is a lesson about yourself and how that materializes is what I want to explore about today. Obviously, I am focusing on the lessons of disengagement and I’m going to take it from professional aspect. I’m sure as I’m going through this you can see easily how it would parallel personally to some experiences that maybe you’ve been through.

For the purposes of today and because the purposes is that we’re focusing on work-love, I wanted to keep it professional and show you how that kind of manifests.

I came up with basically two stories, three stories. We’ll give you three stories today of times where I very clearly could see a cycle end and result in disengagement on some level professionally. It just so happens to parallel that through my career I’ve made basically about three huge pivotal moves before getting to leadership arts. I pulled one from each stage because I was growing, not at the level that I would have wanted to grow but I was still growing and I was still learning even if what I was learning was to shut off from the world.

Unfortunately, I feel like if we don’t unpack these kinds of situations, they turn into baggage and you carry those around from one employer to another employer. One of the things that I’m always been trying to work with leaders who hire me to coach or work with some other staff or their team or some of the mid-level supervisor reports to them is to help them understand that you don’t know where they came from. You don’t know the baggage that was there. We have this expectation that they came from this happy environments where people treated them accordingly, made them feel valued.

That might not be the fault of that individual because then once again, we’re banking it on that that individual have the opportunity to develop themselves and it’s just a huge chain effect. Two weeks ago, we did a focus group and I was advertising for this on social media so you may have seen it but bringing in men to talk about their growth and personal experiences. We had one individual that talked about how really having this perfect supervisor, this perfect leader and when I say perfect, this person that could provide the growth and development and pushing on the comfort zone that he needed coming right out of school that he was able to take on something that he probably thought he was not completely 100% qualified for as his next position.

Coincidentally, when he gets to that new role, that supervisor is not as supportive in that fashion. When I asked him if those roles were swapped and that was his first supervisor, he had agreed that he probably would not have ended up where he is now. He probably would have been set back. There’s huge differences when we talk about these ripple effects and not being able to give people space to process them and know what they are and really get what we need from them.

All right, enough of my rambling, let’s talk about these three experiences and I’ve kind of tweaked the stories a little bit because then I want to give away where they were at and keep them a little bit generic just for the sake of respectfulness for the individuals that were involved.

A lot of these is through my lens. There’s always three sides to every story, I can tell you how I experienced it and that’s all that I can share with you. I know that there’s always other perspectives. As somebody who is now been in HR for over a decade I have learned that there are definitely things that some people never see. Unfortunately, they don’t get these pieces of the puzzle so they don’t get to understand whether that’s do the investigations or they just don’t want to hear the information and receive it in a way that’s productive. I totally fully understand that.

These experiences are not so much so to share from a concept of like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe somebody would do that. It’s more so from a place of here are big pivotal experiences that happened to my life that generated some sort of really strong emotion in me. Because I either couldn’t get traction, I couldn’t change the way things were, they created some sort of disengagement within me. Yeah.

All right, we’re going to start with the first one and these are not in the order of my places of employment so if you try to go search back to figure out where they were at, you’re not going to be able because they’re all mixed up. The first one I was working and I was learning a brand new position. Part of this position, I had to be very dependent on another individual for some of my tasks but I did not directly supervise this individual. However, for me to do my job successfully, what he did directly impacted what I did. It was a very difficult kind of situation for me because when you can’t report to that, when that person does not report to you, it’s really difficult to set expectations and hold them accountable to it even if I were to say this is what I’m expecting.

I was always kind of lower priority because I was not technically his boss. There was a situation where I had to do facilitation for a training event. This individual had a piece of that training event, did not follow through to a level of detail that was expected by my employer. After the event was over, I was pulled into a conversation that basically told me it was my responsibility to make sure that that level of detail was met.

I asked how that is supposed to happen when I don’t have any authority to do so. When I had tried to ask for support, I didn’t feel like I was getting it.

The response was a very cold and basically told me that, at the end of the day, it’s my responsibility and if it happens again, I will be the one that’s held formally accountable to this level of detail not being met essentially. I can tell you that my reaction from that day on is that it definitely resulted in a level of disengagement. It also resulted in me feeling insecure in my job and I reacted by basically documenting almost everything that my employer was doing and having a file so that if I was ever pulled into a situation like that again, I would have more than just my word to say how I’ve tried.

I wanted to have actual facts in place to demonstrate that I was responsible and I was attempting to do the best that I can. If I was missing something, please tell me what I’m missing based of seeing the actual tangible actions I had taken. When you enter a place of fear which is really what my reaction was, they lost a big piece of who I was in that transition. There was a point of resolution that actually it came full circle and I shared how I felt which I was very proud of myself. I guess that’s a growth moment for me.

In the time between how long it took to getting to that point of resolution, I became very closed off, very intentional about what I said and what I didn’t say because I was doing this whole documenting process.

It’s funny because when we got to a point of resolution, nobody knew that I was doing that. Nobody was even aware of that. Looking back on that situation and looking at what it says about me, because it obviously resulted in a level of disengagement from me. The big lesson that came from that situation is knowing how important and how significant trust is to me. I take a lot of care in my interactions to establish trust with people and I expect to get that in return. Unless I have done something to break your trust, I feel like you should trust me especially if you hire me and you employ me and you’re making that commitment, I’m trusting you so it should be mutual.

If I’ve done something to break that trust, you really need to tell me. So much so, I spend a large amount of time on my coaching relationships talking about this relationship of about how the coaching relationships only impactful if you make it powerful as the coaching. Really, what that comes down to is the level of trust. If you don’t trust what I’m saying, if you think I have a hidden agenda, we can’t be productive and it’s not effective and it might even be hurtful or counterproductive to you because of this whole mistrust kind of thing.

I’ve had a couple of clients where I’ve felt like this has come up and I approach it. When I see disengagement, I call it out. Is there something that I’ve said or that I’ve done that you believe makes me not trustworthy or that this relationship is not to a level of trust that it could be productive. I know as someone who is human as well that this does not have to come down to literally something that I’ve done. It could be something that you perceive that I have done or misinterpreted something that I said.

Even on this podcast I am saying something and sharing it with you. You can’t ask clarifying questions to me. There’s a chance that your perception, it could rub you the wrong way. I have that same window of opportunity with coach clients anytime I’m talking with anyone or presenting or facilitating. I know that is there.

Going back a long, long, long, long, long, long way back, it all comes back to trust and just the significance of it for me. It took an interaction like that and putting me in a situation where I felt like I was in an environment that was not trustworthy where I felt like I had to protect myself and making it very clear to myself that I don’t want to be in an environment like that. That was something that slowly is embedded in all three of these stories that I start to learn. I don’t want to be in an environment like that.

The second story comes from a supervisor that I was doing some relocating for, a lot of travel for. I had made a request that if there was an opportunity for me to move closer to home that I would be given a right to basically explore that opportunity whatever that happened. I guess unfortunately, for this individual, the opportunity came sooner than later. I’m sure in her mind she was hoping that it would be maybe a year out and it hit maybe eight months out. When the opportunity presented itself, she did not make any initiation or contact with me. I initiated contact and asked the question, could I explore that opportunity? Could I possibly get the opportunity to move closer to home?

The response that I got back was that I could try and if I’m really going to make a big deal about it then the yes that they can make it happen. What I felt in that moment when they were sharing that with me was that they didn’t care about me and at this point in time, I had been with the organization for a pretty long time. I felt like I had been really loyal and I had made my intentions very clear that I didn’t want to go anywhere else, that I want to be here for the long term. When that interaction happened, it was almost a slap in the face that says whether I didn’t hear you or I chose not to listen to you when you expressed something that was actually very important to you, I don’t really care because it doesn’t work with what’s best in my plan.

I think this even goes back to, and I wish I would have done a better job of this at the time is asking for better clarity around the why it couldn’t happen at that moment. I had asked why and the response was pretty generic that it wasn’t what was best for the organization right now. There was no real feedback on how it impacted me or the thought that this individual who was my supervisor was thinking about me and my development and my growth and my long-term plans with the organization.

I know after that, at the end of that disengagement cycle, the end result was that I had decided that I was going to be moving on and finding another employer. It was so bad that I literally went into one of these moments where I was applying for every job possible that I was qualified for, even some that I was overqualified for. Because I remember my mom talking to me about why was I applying for these jobs but I just wanted out. I was very hurt to be with a company that I truly loved. To me, the leaders represent the company and when you’re promoting somebody up the ranks, it tells me that that is a person that is a reflection of your organization.

Moving up the ranks and then having someone higher basically tell me they don’t care about me because that’s how I heard it, really, really hurt. It was very painful. The lesson there is that no matter how much I want to say that my world is black and white, and this comes as an HR professional, there is a large amount of gray and in fact, this comes through every time I teach a class a motivation is that I’ve taught classes like HR101 and I say things like, if you have to make the world black and white, I’m going to tell you the best way to do it.

Then when we talk about motivation, what’s interesting about motivation is it brings back the human element and that’s the beauty of human resources is that we’re not dealing with widgets on a manufacturing line. We’re dealing with people. We’re dealing with humans who feel and see things differently and to add to that, we have diverse workforces because we wanted that. We know that the variety generates the innovation which generates our chance of being successful in this ever changing economic environment, work environment, industries, whichever place you want to put it at.

It adds this whole piece that we have to focus on and there’s a heart element to it. We have to care. We have to ask ourselves the question about how much we’re going to care. We also have to ask ourselves that if we’re going to completely eliminate that from our professional role, what impact that potentially can have on others. I have worked with leaders, that that is the choice that they have made. If they don’t want to have that heart element, that this is strictly professional and they could care less what direct reports think about them or think about it.

Then you also have to ask yourselves when you’re asking for a truly engaged individual, somebody is going to invest in the organization, invest in you and give you everything and be fully trusting in you. Can they do that if you are not going to allow heart anywhere in that scenario? That was number two. Then the last one was a unique scenario for me and it’s probably the one that has generated very strong passion in me for making sure that corporate environments teach ethics because I think before this, and I still run into this, there’s a big assumption that people just know what is ethically correct and not.

That is not the case. We all come from very different backgrounds and so rightfully so, my definition of right and wrong is going to be different than yours. That’s the way the world works. That’s a diverse workforce. We’re dealing with perceptions and the whole caboodle. Yeah.

My last one, it was an employee relational situation. If we were to just break it down, what actually happened is that we had a leader that we found out was having some issues managing anger. It was manifesting in ways that potentially could be a safety issue. They had not been up to that point but there was enough facts, there was enough events that had occurred that in me stirred something that said that there could be a safety issue here.

For me, I was the HR representative for the specific location that this leader worked in. It hit a nerve. I voiced my opinions very strongly but it was in that moment that I realized that maybe I was not fully aligned with whatever the values and whatever their ethical standards were for the organization. The other thing that I realized at the end of … because obviously, making that conclusion, it does result in disengagement. The other thing that I realized is that my job and my industry, yes, it’s making sure that the workplace is fair and equitable and that we hold people accountable but it’s also to server as the neutral party between employee and employer.

Whenever that relationship needs something to be the liaison, to have that happen and hope that the other party understands because you’re serving there as the neutral liaison that’s there. If that is employee’s rights in some circumstances or employer’s right in certain circumstances and you balance that between the two. After that event, I really found myself asking myself if I could work for an organization that was so strongly on the side of advocating for the leader rather than for the staff, the employees.

I found myself very honestly in a situation where I could no longer feel like I could support and be bought in to the organizational side and as a result. This event was one of the initial trigger events that started to lead down the path of ultimate disengagement and ultimately leaving an organization. I can say that about all three stories that were there is that some of these were probably very small to my supervisors or the people that I interacted with and they seemed like just day-to-day interactions. Internally, what was happening for me is that it caused me to disengage and basically put in a place where I had to ask some questions about who I was.

Even though I did it back then on a very minuscule level, this generates such high emotions in me that I had to process them. These are things that I would come home and talk to my husband about. These are things that I would call friends about. These are probably some of the events that I think I would talk about for weeks, maybe months at a time. There could be one that even would be rehashed at like a year’s point in time because that’s how strongly I felt about them.

They really taught me something about myself. They also taught me more so about what I was looking for and what I wanted in the long term. These three examples made me think even more so about what else have I experienced and what potential lessons can those teach me. I’m not taking the opportunity to explore them and that’s really what triggered a lot of personal and professional growth for me. That’s why I engaged in some other services like working with a coach and even doing some forms of counseling and spiritual direction that I talked about. Putting myself in that space so I can be challenged and explore these things and really get a full perspective on what those lessons mean.

What you’re hearing now from what I am reflecting on, these are really the tangible lessons that I learned about myself going back and what I processed it as, I didn’t have someone to fully do that with. Even talking to other individuals when you’re venting and just sharing that you’re hurt or you’re angry or you’re upset about what was happening, you don’t get to fully process it. One of the things that I really love about the work-love experience is that’s what I have designed in the activities is to allow you to come and fully process, fully explore moments like these and get the full lesson out of what they mean.

Those are my three stories today about the lessons of disengagement and these are examples of lessons that I’ve got from three very pivotal moments for me that resulted in disengagement. Like I said, they can be on the whole spectrum. For me, it was easier for me to isolate moments that I had really high intense feelings about because I can still remember them pretty vividly, at least my perception of them from years and years and years ago. Some of the little things that could happen today or tomorrow would be great to process now but I’m not going to be able to process those from years ago but they do happen.

I think those opportunities are everywhere and I think you could process everything if you wanted to and really ask yourself, “Wow, that even made me feel a hint of anger. It stirred something inside of me. What does that say about me?” A lot of my coaching clients when they come in and they have an experience that happens that’s so emotionally attached to them they can’t even let it go so we can work on the other stuff. I ask them, I’m like, “What does that say about you? Why does it bother you so much?”

This other person’s interactions, what does that say about you? What is the lesson that you can learn about yourself in this because we can’t control the other person. We can’t even change the circumstances in a lot of situations but we can learn from it. Learn from it and we will take that into the future and that might impact another situation.

All right, the exercise that I will be giving you this week is going to be twofold. If you do it this week, we’ll pick it up in the self-reflection exercise for next week as I close out the last lesson. My last … what do they call it? From engaged to dis … From ha ha ha, not from engage to disengage. From disengage to engage lessons that I’m giving you which is a little sneak peek of the behind what really cause the manifestation of the work-love experience which is coming to your PA on Thursday, March 30th at our offices in Leadership Arts Associates.

It’s going to be a small intimate event. We’re only selling 10 tickets so if you’re interested, please, please, please make sure you register early to make sure that you’re guaranteed your seat. We’ll be providing lunch. We’ll be providing parking. I know that we’re down town. You don’t have to worry about it. We will make sure that you can park in a garage and we will copy your ticket for you, validate it as they say. $75 for the entire day, you’ll get a t-shirt. You’ll get all kinds of goodies that we do because we give you all the materials for the entire experience. It’s a great day.

Like I said, we did it digitally and it was amazing. I cannot wait to have people in a space and watch them all through it live and doing a live facilitation because that’s my element. I’m so excited for that. If you’re interested in learning more about the work-love program, see down below. If you’re interested in the work-love program but you’re not local to your Pennsylvania area and you would like us to bring it to you, please email me and let me know. We’re always keeping track of that because if I do get a group that’s anywhere, my gosh, you could be in Chicago, you could be in Boston, you could be in Florida, you could be in California, maybe? I would be happy to come and bring that out there and we’ll totally make that happen once we get a group of people there.

If you have a group of 10 that you would love to take this through, I would like to share this with as many people as possible so please just reach out to me. My email address is Samm with two Ms, S-A-M-M @leadership-arts.org. Other than that, before I leave you so you can do the amazing guided reflection exercise, I want to make sure that I just share a few things with you. Number one, if you love what you’re hearing and you think that there’s someone out there who it could resonate with or you just want to share us, please do that using any of the social media buttons to the left hand side of the page, if you’re on our website at leadership-arts.org.

While you’re there, make sure that you also sign up for our mailing list down at the very bottom. You just have to enter your email and sign up and that will take care of that. You can also comment down below the episode. We always encourage you to share. We call TFWNs and I always throw in cues in there as well which are basically thoughts, feelings, wants, needs that you got after listening to this episode or any questions that you may have. Comment them down below, I’ll be watching that out and would love to engage a conversation with you, and always love to hear how this may have served you or resonated with you or what was your takeaway because that’s why I come and do this every week.

Then last but not least, if you want to help us get some traction on iTunes, the reviews is the way to go. If you do listen to us on iTunes, if you could take just a couple of minutes and just fill out a quick review about us and why you love listening to Random Ramblings. We would greatly appreciate it. Other than that, check out the work-love program. Don’t forget to do your guided reflection while we’re walking through processing, start process of one of your disengagement moments. Next week, we’re going to talk about how you get the actual lesson out of it.

Other than that, enjoy and have a great week. Bye.

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