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Attachment and Success

Last week I discussed how to raise a securely attached child while working full time and building your own business. I believe it is clear to the reader the benefits of being securely attached. What may not be clear is how your own attachment style actually affects your work style. Usually attachment is discussed in terms of relationships and child rearing, but these very thought patterns or “schemas” that you develop invade every part of your life, including work.

In an ideal world we all would have been raised with loving, intuitive parents who validated our every thought and emotion. Of course that is not the reality and we may be the mixture of one validating parent and one emotionally aloof or even absent parent. We may be the product of two emotionally unavailable parents. We may believe people are there for us, people are sometimes there for us, or people are never there for us. We may believe that if we goof up we will be abandoned as acceptance is based on performance, black and white, no gray area. You may believe nothing ever lasts so why get too comfortable?

You can see how when translated to the work arena these beliefs can be problematic.

Your attachment system or schema is activated when you are faced with conflict, anxiety, discomfort or uncertainty.  You then kick in your coping strategies to seek protection or support with your difficulty. If your attachment style or your coping strategies are not clearly understood by you, they may be doing you more harm than good.

Employees or business owners with a secure attachment style are able to live in the present unimpaired by troubles from the past or worries about the future.

Employees or business owners with an insecure attachment style are unable to bring themselves fully into the workplace. They allow the past to affect their thinking and actions.  They may avoid altogether acknowledging the importance of workplace engagement.

All that being said, here are the five areas most likely to be affected by your attachment style:

  1. Leadership-your ability to lead depends on your ability to be flexible, trust others, explore new territories for the business and introduce change if necessary. Secure individuals approach these duties with the belief that whatever is occurring, they have the capacity to understand, adapt and do what is necessary to support the organization.

If you are insecurely or anxiously attached, your defensive strategies may actually be causing you to be inflexible to new learning or change, undermining your own success. Understanding that this particular fear comes from your attachment style allows you to make room for correction.

  1. Communication is another area where your attachment style will create problems for you if you aren’t careful. Securely attached people are able to communicate openly without fear of ridicule or disagreement. If they come upon opposition they are able to discuss and handle it, whether in personal relationships or with employees. Their overall belief is that anything can be handled if discussed openly.

Insecurely attached individuals are typically guarded and fearful of sharing their thoughts. This stunts growth, creativity and overall success. They will typically run from a problem with the thought that everything is going to crap anyway.

  1. Trust is a critical topic in the attachment world. At some point in your career you have to trust somebody. We all need help at some time, we need to share company secrets in order to grow, we need to delegate tasks to increase our own productivity, and we have to trust that our employees are doing what they are supposed to do until we have evidence to the contrary.

On another level, we have to trust that we have what it takes to be successful. We have to trust in ourselves. Believe it or not, securely attached people have no problem with these concepts. Insecurely attached individuals struggle horribly with them. They tend to approach things with mistrust in all of the above arenas. When you are consumed with mistrust, your energies are not available to be very productive. You will not advance at the same rate as a securely attached individual until you recognize and deal with this issue.

Being securely attached doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get burned at some point by someone, it just means you don’t waste time thinking about it before it happens. You don’t run your life as if betrayal is imminent.

  1. Empowerment is essential within a business, for yourself as well as for your employees. Securely attached individuals empower themselves with the belief they can handle problems. Securely attached bosses share credit and can empower others as they have the confidence that the employee will rise to the occasion. Good leaders do this effortlessly.

Insecure bosses don’t empower as they fear the other person will appear smarter or better somehow. They believe the employee will seek to take over or undermine them.

Not that this can’t happen if you are securely attached, but just like with trust, the difference is you don’t spend time on or constantly make decisions based on this belief.

  1. Commitment-your attachment thinking style affects this most of all. How much of you do you make available to your workplace? If you are of an insecure attachment style you may be unconsciously using defensive strategies designed to protect you from actually becoming more engaged. Engagement can equal rejection or hurt and this is exactly what an insecurely attached person seeks to avoid.

Secure individuals are not afraid to commit, believing that things can last a lifetime or as long as you want them to. Making long range plans, goals and growth decisions come easily.

Insecurely attached individuals tend to see things as short term and therefore tend to get more caught up in short term goals, hindering their own growth. This can apply to business plans, employees and financial commitments. To them a year can seem like a lifetime whereas a securely attached person sees a year in business as a small blip on the screen. They believe they are going to be around for a while.

Understanding where you stand in these areas and where you may need to improve is critical to the health of your business. If one or more are difficult issues for you you may want to delve further into the root of the problem. Don’t be discouraged if you feel challenged in more than one of these areas, they often occur together because the root cause is the same, that of insecure or anxious attachment. Working through that and learning to adopt the mindset of a securely attached individual will take care of things. It can be done.

Here are two great resources I use with clients all the time to begin the work related to attachment issues.

Attached, The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-And Keep-Love by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

Attachments: Why You Love, Feel and Act The Way You Do by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy.

Come by Psychskills new site next week for more resources and tools.