You’ve got buttons, and sometimes they’ll get pushed

You know that feeling when someone wrongs you, and you’re absolutely certain they’re wrong and should atone for their mistake?

You almost certainly know the feeling I’m talking about, because it’s an essential aspect of the human experience.

And given that developing yourself as a leader is ultimately about developing yourself and your potential as a human, it’s also an inexorable part of developing yourself as a leader.

When your buttons are pushed, you have two options.

Two options and a single choice that you can make in that moment.

You make this choice each and every day, moment by moment.


Contracting is the more common choice.

It’s the option that most people choose, most of the time.

Contracting sounds bad, but it feels great.

More than that, it feels right.

The decision to contract is based out of a single principle:

The thing or person pushing your buttons is wrong.

If the person or thing pushing your buttons is wrong, then you have a couple of options:

  • Squash that thing or person so that it is silenced and no longer pushing your buttons
  • Move away from that thing. Take steps to create distance between yourself and that person (Eg, get a new job, fire them, etc.)
  • Correct the person that is wrong in the hopes that they will change their wrong behaviour — and thereby stop acting that way
  • Etc.

Notice that all of these solutions are aimed at managing or dealing with a problem that lies outside of yourself.

The majority of the time, people take action to remove the thing pushing their buttons, and prevent those things from entering their life again.

This approach is based around continually contracting and removing things from your life/work/relationships/organization that push your buttons.

Every time you find a new way to eliminate one of these things from your life, you contract and shrink your life. You reduce the amount that you can be present to.

The four-hour workweek is often misused under this model.

Leaders that struggle to play with high-stakes and maintain balance in their life instead remove the stakes (by delegating them to other people, removing themselves from work, creating a well-oiled machine that doesn’t need their presence,etc.) and create a life where their overwork-button is no longer pushed.

There’s another path.


Expansion is the more challenging choice.

If you’re going to expand, it means you have to start with the proposition that that thing pushing your buttons isn’t wrong at all. In fact, it’s totally fine.

The problem lies with you.

That thing or person might be pushing your buttons, but they didn’t install them.

Every time your buttons get pushed, you get to look for the opportunity to do your own work.

Your work begins when you stop making that thing wrong, and start looking for what is getting triggered within you.

What is it about this thing/person pushing your buttons that you cannot be with? If this person was actually a mirror, what is being reflected back to you?

This kind of work is hard.

It’s the work that divides the 20% of coaches that are successful from the 80% of the field that are simply borrowing the title until they find something else to do.

It’s the work that divides people that are actually being leaders from those that are doing leadership.

This work is humbling.

It requires that you acknowledge that there’s nothing wrong over there, and all of your reaction is really about yourself.

We don’t want to let go of someone else being wrong.

When someone else is wrong, it’s good news for us. It affirms that we’re on the right path (because we’re not on the wrong one).

The truth is, coaches and leaders don’t regularly choose this path either — because we’re human.

The pull to righteousness is strong.

That’s why we work with coaches ourselves — to overcome our desire to choose the simpler route, and continue to choose in to our own evolution.

It’s all Leadership

When we speak on the topic of leadership to groups, we’re often asked the question “How does this relate to leadership?”

It relates because everything is related to leadership.

Every moment you’re triggered is a moment to expand your capacity as a human (and thereby expand your range as a leader).

An opportunity to grow as a leader happens at every single decision point you make, right at the crossroads of choosing between contraction and expansion.

Next time you feel yourself arguing why this statement is incorrect, and this thing — this person triggering you — really is, absolutely, without a doubt, wrong, you’ll know you’re facing down an opportunity to develop your own leadership.

Which way are you going to choose?