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Working your "Inner Game"

by Cheryl Lyon-Hislop

Wearing Yourself Out

I’ve just delivered a webinar to a leadership group with whom I’m working. I’m working through the questions we couldn’t get to answer in that group. So, my thinking is to widen this out to the readership of my blog. Hopefully the lessons shared will help others. And in this blog, I’ll share an activity I’ve used around self-care.


In the webinar, which I plan to rejig and offer as a sign-up in June, we talked about accountability and responsibility. Part of your accountability is to look after yourself. As a leader, the buck stops with you. It comes with the job. The stuff others find difficult to handle will get escalated to you. And, this diet of tough calls, problems and conflict can wear you out emotionally. That means you need to boost resilience and personal reserves by working on your inner game.

Inner Vs. Outer Game

First things first, let’s put a context around this notion of “Inner” and “Outer” Game. As leaders, we are always playing two games - an outer and inner game. The outer game of leadership consists of leadership competencies, such as developing the skills needed to accomplish results. Most efforts to develop mastery in leadership focus on the outer game of competence.

Your inner game, basically are the underlying beliefs and assumptions you’ve developed over time, or the way you, as a human, not just as a leader, makes sense of the world. It’s bringing this to a level of realisation. You can then manage the triggers to the hassles and challenges you face and be more competent at your outer game.

We keep ‘in the game’ by looking after ourselves. Often to keep doing this, we have to give ourselves permission to take care of our psychological well-being.

Work through the Questions

Try this exercise and allow at least fifteen minutes to work through the questions. Pair up with a colleague or friend if that helps. We did this in the webinar, with interesting reflections, and some actions to follow through on.

What are you driving at the moment?

What challenges are you facing as you move forwards?

What are your successes in looking after your well-being?

What tactics in managing this can you share to help others?

What permissions are you giving yourself to keep doing this?

Why do I Need to Self-Protect?

The game changers I’m working with find that days are long and the demands keep coming. With that comes a point where you may feel you are not ‘dealing’ with stress, or you feel ‘overloaded’ with competing demands. Your self-protection strategy is simple. You reconnect with what really matters, whether it is changing a culture, building strong teams that deliver the service their customers need.


Every personal challenge you encounter is meant to be. You will make mistakes, a sure sign you’re working at the limits and pushing boundaries.

The session I ran via the webinar has real 'teeth'.The challenges and solutions are workable, but only if you stop and assess the triggers and work on the priorities.

Weekly Challenge

Weekly Challenge: Find someone to talk to. What is draining or troubling you? What is taking up front-of-mind capacity? Talk it through and come up with a solution.

Work on developing an aspect of your inner proficiency. This can be a trigger to a person or situation, weighing up a risk, deciding if or when to act in a situation, or working through an ambiguous situation. Building better self-awareness will allow you to master the inner and outer worlds. Reflect, act or don’t act (you decide) and share your learnings with a peer.

At the end of next week, I’ll share my thoughts on ‘Working on Your Outer Game.'

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