Jessica Soroky Guest Post #10: Congratulations Instead of Judgment or Advice

There’s a pattern I have noticed in those who belong to The Leadership Gift™ Program. No matter if it is calling into Application Mastery calls, talks with my mentor, or engaging in a conference call with other leaders, when I state something I struggle with, I’m not faced with judgment, evaluation, or advice.

I’m told, “Congratulations.”

The first time this happened was on an Application Mastery call, and it completely threw me off my center. I had been struggling with a problem and built up the courage to send an email to ask if I could address my struggle on the next call.

I then spent the next week trying to deal with the anxiety I had about actually confronting this problem in front of this group of very responsible individuals. Would they think I was weak because I was still below the line? Would they judge me?

When the call happened and I confronted my problem and admitted where I was in The Responsibility Process™, Christopher said, “Congratulations.”

I didn’t realize it then, but I had built up an expectation for what kind of response I’d get, and when it didn’t happen, I was catalyzed to solve my own problem.

Most recently I was taking part in a conversation about presenting The Responsibility Process to a Leadership Community of Practice. Three of us were going to co-present, each talking about one of the mental states in The Responsibility Process for 60 seconds before passing it on to the next person to continue the talk.

When asked how I felt about doing the presentation, I admitted I was a little intimidated — not only was my mentor going to be in the room, but my parents as well.

I was asked if the intimidation was caused by the fear of being judged by these people.

I answered: “My fear doesn’t come from the possibility of judgment (instant denial), it comes from a self-inflicted belief that I need to live up to being just as good or successful as those I respect most. It just so happens that three of the people I respect most will all be there at the same time.”

Then it happened: I heard a simple yet elegant “Congratulations.”

It made me stop and brought back the same feeling I got on the mastery call when Christopher said “Congratulations.”

It was cathartic. No one was judging me, or evaluating, or trying to give me advice.

I realized it’s okay to be me and it’s even a beautiful thing to admit when I struggle with something. There is a huge sense of relief when this happens.

The heavy metal armor I had been wearing to protect myself falls away when I’m being congratulated to be where I am in the process, and my problem all of a sudden doesn’t seem like such a big problem.

I didn’t get the first time I heard it, but after being told “Congratulations” on numerous occasions, I’ve felt the power behind the word.

And the minute my armor is gone, my brain is much more open and clear to listen to what others have to say about what I’m going through.

The defenses I had built up kept me from really seeing myself, let alone anyone else seeing me. When I hid from myself, I was not addressing the problem in my head – instead I was only trying to treat the symptoms of the problem. And inevitably the problem would return.

We continued the conversation about feeling intimidated, and I was asked what would be different if instead of trying to live up to those I respected I tried to live up to what I expected from myself.

True, why do I only demand the best from myself because of those I respect? I deserve the best from myself no matter who’s in the room I want to impress.

This response, “Congratulations,” is an external trigger to remind me I’m not being judged, evaluated, or force-fed advice. It serves as a reminder to become aware of where I am in the process.

Instead of looking outside for help and creating the problem I’m trying to solve, I can be the cause of my own reality and seek internal resolution so the problem doesn’t return.

But how do I discipline myself to look inward? I decided to run an experiment and for the next week I’m going to say “Congratulations” to myself every time I encounter a problem or become aware of something I’m struggling with.

Congratulations for being aware of where I am, for being human, for pausing and reflecting instead of evaluating and judging.

I challenge you to do the same this week, when you become aware of being stuck – stop and say “Congratulations” before anything else and see if that results in a different response to your problem.

Jessica Soroky, CSM
Only 21 years old, Jessica is already a Certified Scrum Master with two years of practice in agile delivery and team leadership. She is also the youngest participant in The Leadership Gift™ Program and its growing worldwide community of leaders and coaches. After five years of non-profit development through Nellie’s Catwalk for Kids, Jessica continues her leadership journey in state government, not-for-profit, and private sector leadership studies.

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Posted in Leadership on 11/13/2013 08:53 am
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