Last week my wife Debbie and I hosted a dinner. Twelve members and the President of a board she has served on for the past six years joined us to mark the end of her tenure.
This board does not deal with anything related to consciousness, leadership, or mission-driven non-profits. Most of our dinner guests don’t practice mindfulness or meditation; they don’t know anything about conscious leadership.
Early on, Debbie and I began the evening’s many toasts. We chose to speak and model the key components of appreciation:
Dan and his partners run a successful technology startup. They've been growing quickly for several years, but now the bloom is off the rose: growth is slowing; the work is not as fun as it used to be; Dan is getting restive.
Being smart business leaders, Dan and his partners came up with a plan to reboot the business by developing a new line of products aimed at larger enterprise clients with complex problems that Dan and his team are uniquely positioned to solve. More clients, money, more interesting work — a brilliant solution.
And then nothing happened.
Mark called me for support in addressing infighting at his startup. Though Steve, his head of sales, was generating a rapid influx of new business, he was not a team player. He was often late to meetings or skipped them all together, raised his voice with colleagues who he felt were not meeting his customer’s needs, and complained regularly about his lack of compensation to whomever would listen.
Morale was low organization-wide. After interviewing the various teams it was clear that Steve was a catalyst for a lot of drama in their workplace. As CEO, Mark chose to invest in Steve by having us coach him to address his behaviors that were negatively affecting others.
Fred Muller is one of the best golf club professionals in the world. Fred has been the head pro at Crystal Downs Country Club, one of the best golf courses in the world, for 39 years. He lives in his genius as much as anyone I know. He is a pro’s pro and he’s my pro.
Last night I wandered into one of my favorite local restaurants in Frankfort, Michigan where my wife, Debbie and I spend our summer. To my surprise and delight Fred was sitting at the counter having a glass of wine. Fred introduced me to his friends who were joining him for dinner. I took my seat at the counter to enjoy an evening’s meal and a little reading.
Recently a client—let’s call him “George”—complained to me that his boss had not appreciated him in years. George was resentful.
I asked George how many people he’d bad-mouthed his boss to over the years. “A lot,” he replied.
“Have you ever shared your feelings and thoughts about not being appreciated with your boss?” I asked. “No,” George answered.
Gossiping is a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility for our life’s circumstances. If we point the finger over there, we don’t have to own the results we’re creating from over here.
Gossip. We’ve all been a part of it one way or another. Maybe we were
the person who had the big secret to share (by far the best role in any
gossip situation) or we were the one who participated in it with wild
abandon by agreeing with every word that was said and adding in our own
judgments for good measure. At minimum, we were the one who “only”
listened. There are lots of reasons that we participate in gossip, but
the one big theme that seems to occur in all gossip situations is
“comparison.” That’s right, good ‘ole fashioned comparison.
There are two types of comparisons that we typically make. One is the “downward social comparison,” the other the “upward social comparison.” When we use a downward social comparison, we dismiss the “other” as not as good as we are. This is easy to do.
you ever had the experience of an issue that keeps recycling? A recycling issue is one that keeps coming up
over and over. It could be the trust issue between marketing and legal or the
drama between your CFO and the EVP of Operations. It could also be specific issues like the
quality of one particular product that never meets expectations or one customer
that never seems satisfied.
Recycling issues are not just a professional problem; they’re personal as well. You and your wife talk over and over about her mother and every time you do an argument erupts. Your 10 year old just won’t do their homework no matter what you do. You keep recycling your own issue around exercise and weight loss.
I’ve taught leaders about candor for many years and I’ve noticed that there are levels of candor mastery just like levels of martial arts. A white belt and a fifth degree black belt are both practicing Karate but with very different levels of proficiency.
Everyone who speaks candidly practices the three key components of candor: honesty, openness and awareness. But not everyone practices at the same commitment and skill level.
I used to be a really busy guy. Two phones, back-to-back meetings, no time to pee. The only solution I could think of was sleeping less.
And I wasn’t alone. This recent story in the New York Times, documenting the rise in use and abuse of stimulants like Ritalin among professional adults, shows how crazy things have gotten in the executive ranks.
The pressure to be on 24/7 is so intense that one recent study found the few executives who do work reasonable schedules are careful no one at work finds out.
I finally stepped off the high-speed treadmill when I realized the 24/7 work style was not only counter-productive, but was also huge cover-up for my dissatisfaction, fear and loneliness.
I did it again. Last Sunday evening, my son came in the room to tell his dad and me that his first choice college—the last one he was waiting to hear from—didn’t accept him. I noticed that there was some emotion on his face, but chose to ignore it. Instead, I enthusiastically said, “But the good news is that you still got into UCLA which is such a great accomplishment.”
My husband wisely interrupted me and asked that I not skip over my son’s feelings. We both paused in silence for a moment. Then my husband asked our son how he was feeling about the news.
Investment banks are not
exactly bastions of touchy feely sentimentalism. They are no nonsense, hard
driving, competitive and bottom line focused. The people who live in these
worlds are some of the highest IQ people on the planet.
So why did they invite me talk to a group of their high potential, next generation leaders about (pause for suspense) FEELINGS?
Why? Because they are part of an ever-growing group of leaders who know that IQ will only get you so far, and that EQ (emotional intelligence) can take you even farther. The EQ body of research has been around for several decades. Thanks to pioneers like Dan Goleman, the research has shown that EQ trumps IQ as a predictor of long-term success in a leader’s career.
Most of us are good at fooling ourselves into believing that we are more curious than we really are. This is why we need to enlist others to give us feedback as to how curious we really are.
One of the signal strengths of successful leaders is their commitment to curiosity
-- their ability to look at every situation and see it not in terms of right and wrong, or us vs. them, but to ask, "What can I learn from this?" It's a quality that allows them to adapt to changing conditions, to learn from adversity and turn adversaries into teachers. In the conscious leadership forums we hold across the country, we ask people to locate themselves as above or below the line as they discuss a specific issue in their lives. So far we have discovered that 80% of the time when people think they are above the line, their team or community says otherwise.
Many leaders aren’t conscious, even a lot of the famous ones who get results. A conscious leader is one who is “here now in a non-reactive non-triggered way and therefore able to access greater IQ, EQ and BQ”. What a mouthful that is. The first key is being here now. Dr. Ellen Langer of Stanford University says that most of us aren’t here now, and we’re not here now enough to know we’re not here now. This is really true of leaders.
Instead of being here now they are in the future or the past. Instead of listening to the person right in front of them, they’re checking email or texting a client. Being here now is a cornerstone of conscious leadership. When leaders ARE here now they are often triggered and reactive. Being triggered and reactive actually gets them to be present. But they’re present in an ineffective way.
The other day I asked a team of twenty, “Who is withholding thoughts or feelings from someone else on the team?” Every person’s hand went up. This is a typical response from most teams I work with. Companies rarely offer models to effectively clear up conflicts, resulting in a lack of willingness to bring up issues in the first place.Continue Reading
In a recent executive coaching survey conducted by Navalent and co-sponsored by Stanford Graduate School of Business, Center for Leadership Development and Research 203 CEO’s, senior executives and directors said their greatest area of coaching need was conflict management. Specifically, when serving multiple constituencies, how do you navigate conflicting agendas and the relational conflict that ensues?
In our experience the need for conflict management skill is something all leaders encounter, including CEO’s. It is a master skill of all conscious leaders (and conscious people). We offer five keys to help navigating conflict if you want to be a transformational leader who moves themself and their team to a whole new level of effectiveness.
For Richard, life as director of the most important department in his global organization was an endless series of goals to meet, bureaucratic battles to win, and requests to fulfill. He was good at it, and was a major reason his organization was seen as a leader in its field.
But the years were taking their toll, and when we first started working together Richard said he was tired, felt stale and wasn’t sure he was having the impact that he wanted. Richard was looking for a fresh start.
At the Conscious Leadership Group we specialize in supporting leaders as they learn to shift out of drama and into leading from presence. We believe this shift in consciousness changes the entire game, both personally and professionally.
But we also believe there is value to living in drama, or what we call “Below the Line.” What are those benefits?
If you asked a stranger to follow you around for a month and then asked them, “What am I really committed to?” what would they say?
Don’t ask them to report what you say you’re committed to but what you’re actually committed to as evidenced by the results. Many leaders tell themselves they’re committed to one thing when the truth is they’re committed to something entirely different according to the results.
I worked at NBC News for 17 years. For much of that time I was high on the intoxicating cocktail of truth-telling to a massive audience, collaboration with some of the smartest people on the planet, self-importance and adrenaline.
It was exciting and important work that I allowed to envelope me – I didn’t just work for NBC, I felt I was NBC 24/7, whether I was at home or on vacation or flying off on assignment.
A true story from the CLG front lines
A CEO of 15 years called me a few weeks ago after being notified by the board that he was being suspended. This powerful and ambitious man was shocked and angry. He revealed to me all of the critical thoughts he was having about the others involved, and acknowledged that he was plotting out his various revenge scenarios in his mind.
I reminded him that his seeing the other partners as adversaries and treating them as such was one of the reasons he was in this situation. The bully he thought he was staring down was actually living within. I asked if he would be willing to focus on our commitment #13:
I commit to seeing all people and circumstances as allies that are perfectly suited to help me learn the most important things for my growth.
What does it mean when the White House has to issue a directive to the entire government to make federal employee engagement a top priority?
On the one hand it means the federal government is in pretty much the same place as America’s private sector employers: A 2012 Gallup survey found that just 30 percent of American workers are “engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.”
Daphne Scott, Director of Leadership Development and Clinical Outcomes at Athletico Physical Therapy, explains how The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership have been instrumental in shifting Athletico from a culture of blaming and complaining to a culture marked by high levels of creativity, engagement and collaboration. Spearheaded with the support of CEO Mark Kauffman, senior leadership engaged with the commitments for years, and were then able to bring what they’d learned throughout the organization. Atletico was voted the #1 place to work in Chicago in 2013, an honor they attribute in large part to their work with The Conscious Leadership Group.Watch Video
I live in Boulder and have the privilege of being surrounded by an incredibly vibrant business ecosystem – mainly populated by early and mid-stage companies, as opposed to the Fortune 500. This means that both my “work” and social environments involve a good deal of conversation about how to (a) become a more advanced leader tracking with company growth; and (b) build out a team and various skill sets within that team to grow in all the right areas.
People seem to be searching for steps and formulas, and there is no question that the book The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership contains 15 very solid recommendations. For me, however, the “system” is fairly straightforward.
While “The Interview” may or may not be worth seeing, the hacking attack against its maker, Sony Pictures Entertainment, has certainly proved entertaining. Not only did the hackers release personal information about Sony studio employees, including their salaries and medical information, they also released details of upcoming movies, company financial information and other critical details.
The release of emails from studio executives garnered the most attention. That’s because they were full of catty Hollywood gossip – nasty words about Angelina Jolie, ill-considered comments about President Obama and lots of other snark that was never meant to see the light of day.
Today is Jan 5th. By now most people who made New Year’s resolutions are already at risk of breaking them.
Most of us know that New Year’s resolutions are problematic on many fronts, but few of us look beyond the obvious reasons for our failure to maintain our resolve. We can all blame ourselves for not being disciplined enough, or blame “time” for being scarce, or blame the pressures of the real world for limiting our freedom to do what it is we say we want to do.
So what are Diana and Jim up to as 2014 comes to a close and 2015 peeks its head around the corner? We’re up to the same thing we’re up to every year during this final calendar week. Our ritual is completing.
For us completing is a way of living in integrity with our values, agreements and preferences – by completing, we strip away all that is not aligned with the way we want to live and tie up loose ends to bring what remains into alignment.
Part of living a life in a state of completion is to take the final days of every year to move through all the nooks and crannies of our physical, emotional and spiritual lives and see if anything is incomplete.
I support my clients—many are workaholics—to create more balanced and fulfilling lives. Recently, it took more than one reminder by the same fine gentleman in blue for me to realize that I’d joined my clients’ workaholic ranks.
This year I revved up my pace to launch a book, website and consulting firm. I worked longer hours, stayed up later, checked my devices more, created lengthier to-do lists, researched all sorts of topics, and filled my days with meetings. I simultaneously watched as interest in other areas of my life waned.
Seduced by the excitement of creative activity, my mind didn’t seem to slow down anymore.
Thanksgiving is a holiday built on a commitment to appreciation. Perhaps we need a special day for this because we appreciate so little. One of the defining features of the unconscious leadership I’ve seen (and embodied myself) is an us-against-them attitude that blinds leaders to the good things their critics do for them.
The latest company to fall prey to this is Uber, the revolutionary ride hailing service that seems to be at war with the world these days. I like Uber for how it has made moving around easier and faster for me, and I wonder how appreciation and other conscious commitments could transform it from pariah to paragon.
The other day the top 40 leaders from one of the premier oil refining companies in the world met to talk about feelings. How bizarre is that. By and large these are hard-core engineers … facts and figures, data driven, head type folks. They spent a day learning about feelings because they believe that the leadership styles that have gotten them to where they are (wildly successful) won’t get them where they want to go (continued wild success).
They realize their decision making, problem solving, innovation techniques aren’t good enough. Tried and true as they are they don’t match up to the speed and complexity of the world as it is. In addition to what they have they know they need something more.
Their answer: FEELINGS.
Seems like a good place to start. A greeting. Our first blog is a bit like a first date, a chance to meet and get to know one another.
Unlike most our idea of a first date is to dive right in, to tell you who we are at the deepest level and see if we fit, to see if another conversation is worth having.
So here’s what we’re up to, and what matters most to us at the Conscious Leadership Group (CLG). We call it our mission statement, but that’s just fancy language for what we are doing in the world.