The Content Leader

The Content Leader

Contentment vs. Continuous Improvement

Of all the qualities we look for in leaders, contentment isn’t one of them. The very idea of contentment – and a content leader – seems to be an attack on our sacred standard of continuous improvement. We each know this basic truth: things can always be better (products, workflows, people) and there can always be more (revenue, customers, capabilities). As a leader, it’s your job to make things better and achieve more, to spark the flame of innovation and blaze a path toward endless progress… how could contentment possibly lead to either? If there is a place for contentment, it must be something for later – peaceful moments for those who have already achieved something. Or worse, it’s a consolation prize for people who are unable to achieve or those who have given up. If this is your definition of contentment, you may have it confused with satisfaction or complacency.

What Contentment Is Not

Satisfaction is passive. It’s an emotion that happens to you. Satisfaction refers to the way you feel about something, good, bad or anywhere in between. In terms of continuous improvement, satisfaction is the enemy of better because to be satisfied is to have no need for better.

On the other hand, complacency is a choice, not a feeling. It is the decision not to pursue improvement – the apathetic “good enough” that refuses action and stagnates growth.

The Practice of Contentment

Both satisfaction and complacency are often confused with contentment, but contentment is something far superior and fundamentally different. Unlike satisfaction and complacency that stand in the way of continuous improvement, contentment enables it. How? The answer lies in the action. Contentment is active. It is something you do, not something you are. Contentment is a practice that requires focused effort. Like humility or patience, it is a quality that must be continually exercised rather than something that can be completed. But what is there to be gained by practicing contentment? And how can it enable continuous improvement?

The lesson of contentment teaches simply this: “I am equipped for the present moment.” Practicing contentment means fully participating in the present moment, developing a mindset of resourcefulness that allows you to attend the issues and people within it. A leader who practices contentment recognizes they can only use what they have right now – from the knowledge, understanding and empathy they currently possess, to their natural strengths, the strengths of others and the resources available all around them. Leaders who practice contentment know that what is available now will be enough to navigate the present, regardless of circumstances. How would your leadership change if you knew you had absolutely everything you needed?

Seven Practices for Building a Mindset of Contentment

Grateful Expression

Contentment begins with gratitude. Gratitude breeds patience which creates room for understanding. Look for ways to express your gratitude daily.

Undiscovered Abundance

You have everything you need in the present moment so be curious about what unexplored opportunities surround you. Focus your daily work around questions and look for new answers in every moment.

Liberating Consistency

When common activities are completed in a predictable pattern, energy is preserved for innovation. Define a consistent way of doing everyday tasks and extend it across your life and your team. Make routines that preserve your freedom.

Decisive Vision

A clear vision removes distractions. Know what you’re doing and why. Create and protect your vision. Share it with your team regularly and map out how you’re going to achieve it together.

Attentive Generosity

You have everything you need… now understand what others need. Focus outwardly to understand what you can add, not what you could gain. Watch carefully for moments to give, then continually stretch the limits of your giving.

Selfless Connection

Nothing is accomplished alone. Provide other people the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Seek them out. Help them discover and use their strengths. Serve others and build them up. Act in a manner worthy of trust.

Calm Breathing

Meet the demands of the moment with your response, not your reaction. Step back regularly throughout the day to regain your focus and breathe. Review what you know, assess what you feel and understand what your gut is telling you.

The Content Leader

A content leader guides their team to see prospects and possibility in every circumstance. They are calm through challenge and confident through change. Their contentment practices are their buoyancy as they weather each storm. A content leader knows and values their team member’s strengths. They create environments with consistency and discover opportunities for others as they help their team avoid distractions and stay on course. Most importantly, a content leader develops meaningful and authentic relationships by serving others and giving without the expectation of return – because they already have everything they need.

As you practice contentment, you’ll inspire a confidence in others that extends beyond the here and now.

“Finding” Contentment

Look for the elements of contentment in your next meeting. Notice the difference when gratitude is expressed or when true curiosity is displayed. Watch and listen as consistency relieves the worried meeting participants. See if you can spot the moment when clear vision saves time and resources. Observe how quickly people connect when someone is generous or selfless in their approach, or when someone simply pauses to breathe before responding. You won’t find contentment listed as a necessary skill on a leader’s job description, but when you find the elements of contentment within a team, everything needed for success is present.

Join Us

Learn more about the seven practices of contentment and begin building your own “contentment ethic” on May 27th at 12:30pm with humanworks. Register here.