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What are the voices in your head telling you?

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As part of the Ferocious Warmth leadership writing I have been undertaking lately, I've been digging deep into the two things that send us out of balance as leaders. 
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When UNMET NEED is driving the bus, we can head to behaviours that lack a conscious focus on either results or relationships. One goes by the wayside. We become victim to the voices in our head telling us that we need more control, more action, better standards, that people's work is not got enough! Or that it's not our fault, that people won't like us if we tell them the truth, or don't do what they want. These inner voices keep us small and have us unconsciously acting in ways that are either unhealthy, or don’t get the best outcomes for a strong culture. These voices are also habitual, stepping in when we are stressed, tired, anxious or simply unaware of their power. We head towards the extremes of leadership - Fearsome (far too ferocious) or Enmeshed (far too warm).

Here’s an example: We have a report due which I have found to contain errors. My unmet need for perfection and having control over the quality of work I am associated with sends me into less than useful behaviours. I slam out an email to others in the team, liberally peppering my email with fault finding, blaming and shaming. No winners there. I lurch into too much ferocity.
Another: We have a big event coming up. Instead of letting my team get on with the work, my inner voice is hyper-alert to all the dangers that could ruin it and so I micro-manage everything, getting very picky over the smallest things, and frustrated. This is to the detriment of the quality of the output and enjoyment of all involved.
As I have been exploring these UNMET NEEDS, I was introduced to the work of Shirzad Chamine, author and Stanford lecturer. Shirzad wrote the book Positive Intelligence and it is a beauty. His Saboteur test has been taken by over 500,000 people worldwide.

Our mind is busy with our SABOTEURS, according to Chamine. The Saboteurs are a universal phenomenon, formed in our early childhood. They start off as our guardians to help us survive the real and imagined threats to our physical and emotional safety. But as we get older, and don’t need them as much, our habitual ways of thinking keep them in employment.
His approach is to invoke The Sage. The Sage is the wise thinker, able to reframe our less than useful beliefs. The challenge as always is about being aware of them in the first place! I call The Sage my Ninja.

Our inner Saboteurs can come from a number of these types:

Judge - constantly finding fault with self, others, circumstances, conditions. Chamine calls the Judge the Master Saboteur - we all have it.

The ‘Accomplice’ Saboteurs:

Pleaser - wants us to try gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing etc etc! Our real needs become secondary and then we become resentful.
Controller - wants us to take charge, get others to do what we want, and then gets highly anxious and impatient when that doesn’t happen.
Hyper-Achiever - must perform, must achieve, must be the best. Workaholic tendencies and a disconnection from deeper emotions and relationship needs.
Avoider - avoids unpleasant and difficult tasks by being positive and pleasant in an extreme way. Procrastinates, puts things off until things fester or explode.
Hyper-Vigilant - highly anxious that things around us could go wrong and the danger we may be in. Wears us down and blows things out of proportion.
Restless - continuously on the look out for greater excitement. Always busy. Highly distractible.
Stickler - needs perfection, order, and high levels of organisation. Causes anxiety and stress for ourselves and those around us.
Victim - wants us to feel emotional and termperamental as a way of getting attention and affection. A big focus on internal feelings. Martyr behaviours can come up.
Hyper-Rational - wants us to process everything from a rational viewpoint, including relationships. Causes us to be impatient with other people's emotions.

I find this explains many of those voices! And, of course, from a Ferocious Warmth perspective, some are more attached to the Ferocious extreme (Hyper-Achiever; Hyper-Rational; Controller) and others to the Warmth extreme (Pleaser, Victim; Avoider). Others can apply easily to either end.
When I coach and mentor leaders and teams, we will often investigate the beliefs that are sitting underneath our thinking. I know I’ll be employing the Saboteur approach as well - it is a rich and useful framework to help explore the unmet needs and behaviour drivers. The Sage or Ninja approach is one of the best ways to centre back into the Ferocious Warmth leader. I also love this approach as it also draws heavily from neuroscience, and the areas of the brain that our saboteurs and safe come from.

In these weird days, having deep self-awareness of where we are at is vital for our wellbeing, not to mention our effectiveness as leaders.

Is your SAGE driving the bus, or your SABOTEURS?

If you are interested in finding out what your Saboteurs are, go to and take the Saboteurs Assessment - it’s enlightening! The book Positive Intelligence is full of great ways to bring your Sage into the picture, when you feel your Saboteur winning.

Shirzad Chamine's 2013 TedX Stanford Talk Know Your Inner Saboteurs is here
For more information on Ferocious Warmth, the whitepaper link is below. The book is coming!
A big thanks to Barb Watterson and Jane Kise for leading me to Shirzad Chamine.