How to align your inner and outer worlds

Have you ever found yourself acting contrary to your core convictions? When we’re at base camp it can be easy to draft out an organisation’s ethos. But when we’re approaching high altitude – and the wind feels like it’s going to blow us off the mountain – it can be easy to dig into old habits and slip into survival techniques that ignore our personal or corporate vision.     

Do any of these feel familiar?

  • We seize up – retreating into our minds, analysing the situation while our team wonders what on earth is going on.
  • We take control – making sudden decisions without valuing the perspectives of others.
  • We blame others – telling our team to fix things without empowering them to do so.
  • We abdicate – taking our hands off the wheel and hoping everything will work out.

Fear looks different in different leaders. Sometimes it disguises itself as competency until close inspection reveals the effect it has on the wider team. Chances are we didn’t write these harmful tendencies into our manifestos. So how can we begin to live according to what we said we believed?

Create space

“If you don’t start the journey of learning how to decouple from your context and the immediate response it provokes, you’ll find it harder and harder to be open to new ideas.”

– Sam Bourton and Tiffany Vogel, Leading With Inner Agility

When a serious problem arises, panic can make our internal gears spin at 1000 rpm. Fight-or-flight endorphins are preparing us to deal with wolves in the forest, but we are actually dealing with an unexpected drop in sales.

Learning to slow down your internal world is essential. This might mean a 10-minute walk, a 10-second deep breath, or returning with fresh perspective tomorrow. Creating space is not an excuse to procrastinate or overthink an issue. But it can be an opportunity to become aware of the fear driving us. Once we see how it misaligns with our vision, we can act differently.

Reduce the pressure

“None of us have a real understanding of where we are heading.” – Andy Grove

The problem is not the situation. The problem is the pressure we have put on ourselves to be in control of it. If we stop pretending to have all the answers, we won’t be so disarmed by the unknown. The myth of invulnerability doesn’t bring creative solutions, and it funnels us into all the old habits we are trying to lose.

We don’t have to solve this alone. Invite the perspectives of others and be open about what you don’t know. Good ideas can come from anywhere. When we trust, we share out an internal pressure that was never meant to be carried by one person.

“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” – Peter Drucker

Create a strong identity

What’s precious, and what’s expendable? Which values are so important that to compromise them is to lose our identity as an individual or organisation? If we don’t make them clear, our targets may trample our convictions in a difficult moment.

We can avoid this by emphasising direction over destination. If our conversations are focused around an end goal, we can create a culture of compromise that – when push comes to shove – will abandon a core value to avoid disappointing the target setters.

When direction takes place over destination, we have a stronger corporate identity. Then if something sends a spanner into the gears of our organisation, we are more likely to ask, “How do our core values determine how we respond?” Instead of “How do we ensure nothing goes wrong?” The second question can send our inner worlds into a spiral. But the first can result in creative solutions that ring true to who we set out to be.

“It is precisely by acting on our intentions and staying true to our values that we change the world.” — Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc.

Want more insight on how to move forward? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help.


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