March 12, 2021

Conscious Leadership Takes Courage...and Forgiveness (for you)

Practicing what you preach isn't easy and you don't always feel awesome.

The other day I shared a piece of feedback with a leader on a team I coach. We have an agreement in this group to share feedback “publicly,” or in this case inside the senior team Slack channel. After reading No Rules Rules, this group increased its commitment to open feedback.

I did the “right” things. I noticed this thing was something I’d thought a number of times and not shared. I looked at all sides of my story. I asked if this person felt open to feedback in this setting today, and I waited for them to say yes. I mentioned how much I appreciate this person, how generous and kind they are, how much I value them, how little I actually know about the content and context of my story, and I owned my story as a story. Then I tapped “enter.” Good feedback hygiene.

And I felt horrible. My internal villain stepped in telling me how lousy it was for me to share this with such a kind person. How much I imagined this feedback might “hurt” them. I had so much fear and shame and anger with myself, and I confessed in this channel some of that and acknowledged how much a commitment to feedback is still a challenge for me.

This morning I notice this is still with me, despite an honest and open reception of my story by this person. I realized that I was still beating myself up. The image of gross-shower-mold-on-grout came into my mind. My brain oscillated between this extremely unsettling vision of myself and the positive view: “You practiced what you preached. You’re awesome.”

Then it hit me. I’m neither shower mold nor awesome. I am. I am imperfect. I try to honor practices I teach. I surrender to the hurt that might occur to others and that I cause myself. I trust that loving candor will help us all grow. But I have no idea if that’s true most of the time.

As my teachers taught me. I am still a toddler. Toddling. Standing up in moments and taking a few steps and then falling down, with a misstep that I cause and sometimes the damaging self talk I share with myself: “How can’t even WALK.”

I often say this Conscious Leadership work is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t. I think it’s difficult to actively practice without messing it up. And it’s still not easy for me to love myself for the messes.

So I wrote this. In an effort to stand up again.


Heads up: Kaley Klemp and I are running a second cohort of the Coaching Certification for Business Leaders Program starting in June. All remote. We have a few seats left, and I’d love to talk with you if you’re interested.

📷: Skyler King on Unsplash

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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