Bare feet …. and slivers

I had the great opportunity to spend last week at our family cottage, as everyone headed back to work and school. My husband and I had a fabulous time - walking an empty beach, cycling along beside the water, even going to a movie with my aunt and uncle...making great memories!

I am a lover of "barefoot days" - much prefer that to shoes! So we did a lot of walking barefoot. My husband is not such a 'barefoot guy' and so has, what we call fondly, "tender tootsies"!! Twice in our time there he got slivers in these tender feet of his. The first was quite a thorn and without much convincing, popped out with tweezers, providing great relief in a timely way. The second was not so accommodating. We worked on this sliver for quite a while, thinking perhaps we got a bit of it, and then ended up leaving it. Two days later, my husband came to me and said there was still something in there. So, with a magnetic mirror, a small needle and tweezers, we went to work again. Finally, a sliver emerged, a small piece of the forest, that had been embedded deeply into the skin. 

This contrast between the freedom of bare feet and the cost of slivers has got me thinking. As we lead, sometimes we are in such a great space - our vision is clear, our community is engaged, and we are feeling the excitement that goes with that.

Other times though, there are 'slivers', things that while maybe not obvious to most, are impacting our behaviours ... an insecurity, a colleague who seems quite resistant, a boss who doesn't understand our reality. Often, with conversation and a bit of persistence, these slivers can be adjusted relatively quickly, and less painfully.

Other slivers - the thoughts we have in the quiet of the night when no one else is around - the worries not only about our job, but also our family, the feelings of anxiety or 'alone-ness' in leadership, the wondering if we are 'enough' to do what we have been tasked to do.... These thoughts are the deeper slivers, and may take some focus time to 'dig out'. Often, like we did, we tend to minimize the impact of these thoughts and feelings at first, doing a quick fix, and hoping we got it. However, we often need do more than that. Creating space for intentional reflection, alone or with a colleague or a coach, helps us begin to locate, identify, and create strategies to remove the sliver. But sometimes that's not enough. Our thought slivers are like well worn paths - in deep - and it may take real work to remove them. In their removal, they may not 'pop out' whole like some slivers, but rather, small piece by piece, as we closer and closer to the root. 

As people and as leaders we have great responsibility to know ourselves well and to do the internal work that allows us clarity and freedom from the niggling pain of 'slivers'. Give me barefoot leadership any day!