≡ Menu

Lisa-Chandler,-Chandler-Coaches

My colleague Tim Edris and I have the privilege of coaching a senior leadership team through a year-long program called Leader to Leader™ to increase their individual and collective leadership effectiveness. We know empirically that even small increases in overall leadership effectiveness can have a significant positive impact on the business.

These Leaders are Willing to Put Their Identity on the Line if it Means They’ll Grow

Many leaders say they want to be more effective. This group means it. Not only are they investing a significant amount of money and time, they are putting their very identity on the line for the sake of leadership growth.

As developmental thought leader Robert Kegan puts it, “We spend a lot of our time (at work) doing a second full-time job that no one is paying us to do: keeping our identity and self-esteem intact”. As leaders, once we become aware of this, we can challenge ourselves to drop the job of protecting our identity so we can focus our full energy on growing our people and the business.

So what does this getting real actually look like in a Leader to Leader™ (L2L) program? Repeatedly pushing one’s self outside their comfort zone with a heavy dose of candid feedback from peers.

At our most recent session, one 20-year veteran of the business and a valued technical contributor, set the tone for the peer coaching session by admitting to the entire senior team that he lacked clarity in his role on the org chart with the accelerated growth of the company. He also told the group that he had a tendency toward being passive about his own career path. By sharing this, he challenged himself to take charge of his own leadership path. His admission cut through all the clutter and was grounded in a bedrock of honesty. His peers gained insight into his struggle and realized they also needed to be 100 percent responsible in helping him gain clarity and a defined role.

Another leader, newer to the team, had the group laughing when he shared that he had put a ton of energy into not being perceived as an egotistical ass when he had first joined the company and that sadly, the very thing he had tried to avoid happened anyway! His 360° feedback, while very strong in some areas, showed him that his drive, ambition and need to be right were impeding his effectiveness as a leader. Most leaders don’t like to reveal their foibles. This leader risked his safety in order to be authentic with his colleagues. He owned his failure to lead as effectively as he could and he opened himself to support from his colleagues going forward.

As you can see from these examples, leaders who want to grow:
a) reveal themselves honestly,
b) challenge themselves to take personal risks to create outcomes that matter, and
c) open themselves up to A LOT of feedback.

You can also see that we’re really proud of this group. This work is difficult after all (and life-long). One leader’s final comment went along the lines of “this is the most vulnerable I have felt in a very long time”. A living example of Pain + Reflection = Progress. More to come!

I have a love-hate relationship with math (probably because I am getting worse at it with each passing minute). I do love word formulas, though. They are nice and sticky, as in they are easy to remember and employ.

Here’s a favourite formula: Data + Feeling + Impact = Effective Feedback

Even my most conflict-averse clients have had success using this structure. Recently a client mustered up the courage to be candid with a leader whom everyone feared. In a private setting, she pushed through her own nervous feelings and spelled out the facts about his misbehaviour in a team meeting. At one point, she felt she herself might cry because it was so tough to confront this intimidating leader. His (unexpected) response was gratitude. No one else had the courage to give him this gift of honest feedback.  His behaviour in team meetings has improved significantly.

I’ve talked about the feedback formula so much it’s time to up our game. This one comes from a fantastic book called An Everyone Culture by Kegan and Lahey.

Pain + Reflection = Progress

An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization BOOK Robert KeganLisa Laskow LaheyMatthew L. MillerAndy FlemingAt first glance, you might not like this new math.  Few like pain. And many of us would prefer not to reflect because it means slowing down.  On the other hand, most of us love progress. We just prefer to achieve it without pain or reflection.

So the new formula needs a qualifier to entice us to even consider it.

Pain + Reflection (in a highly trustworthy environment) = Progress

A highly trustworthy environment is a space that lets us be ourselves. Trustworthy spaces, like hopefully our homes, enable us to reveal our true opinions, feelings and fears while having faith we’ll still be included and loved (and employed!).

I cannot think of a single company I’ve worked with whose initial culture purposely encouraged vulnerability in order to progress.  Rather, I’ve come across such companies through case studies I’ve read.  Take Bridgewater Associates for example. It is a highly successful financial firm with $160 billion worth of assets under management. It intentionally creates a workplace culture that encourages “well-held vulnerability.” At Bridgewater, they insist on truth and transparency AS THE PATH to exceptional company growth AND people growth.  This approach is not for everyone. And yet, the company has incredible financial results and employee retention.  Bridgewater people want to develop on the job every day while also doing exceptional work.

We don’t live in a case study textbook world.  Yet, I am thrilled to report that some leaders on our small and mighty Island are courageously embracing vulnerability to progress. This development is encouraging.  And we all know that when top leaders change, the entire company changes. We really like what we see.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

–Rumi

 

Rumi encourages us to open, with equanimity, to what comes to us, whether joy or sorrow.  As people and as leaders, we have two choices: to face our (sometimes brutal) reality or resist it and ramp up our delusions.

As I evolve my own consciousness as a woman, mother and leader, I want to be a guest house for present moment happenings and feelings, even when they are tough. Yet as much as I want to face reality, I find ways to distract myself. Sometimes I resist strenuously.

It’s easy to be in present moment awareness in good times; it is harder to stay present when “more difficult” emotions come up. Even boredom can cause us to want to escape the present. | Chandler Coaches

It’s easy to be in present moment awareness in good times; it is harder to stay present when “more difficult” emotions come up. Even boredom can cause us to want to escape the present.

There were many magical moments over the holidays where I noticed how grateful and peaceful I was feeling. Being present to these moments and feelings was easy. Sometimes, in the very next breath, I felt sad, angry or a bit despairing. These more difficult feelings would come up as I started ruminating over difficult past events or worrying about current global crises, business challenges or imagined future losses.

Dwelling on the past and projecting into the future are sure ways to come out of present moment awareness. And most of us have developed ways to numb to unpleasant present moment awareness and uncomfortable feelings. Some of us, ahem, fill our schedules to the brim and focus on productivity. Some of us turn overly to work, Facebook, Netflix, food, booze, smoking, or exercise, etc., to avoid them. Even involving ourselves too much in the lives of other people (like friends or kids) can be a way to avoid our reality or feel our feelings.

Full disclosure … through present moment awareness, I recognize I’ve been irritated the whole time I have been writing this post.  Despite a sunny window and a hot coffee at hand, I’ve been more focused on how this blog post felt like an unwanted guest taking up my mindshare over the holidays as a flip-flopped on a topic and my thoughts. I have made the whole thing a bad experience when really it is neither good nor bad, it just is.

And so, my commitment to myself on present moment awareness is to embark on Michael Brown’s The Presence Process for the next 10 weeks.  His book, which details his guided process, comes highly recommended by my Montreal coach friend and colleague, Monica Callon.  I suspect The Presence Process will be challenging for me. I often prefer to be in action (or distraction). Monica and I are taking a strategic time out in March to reflect on our coaching, our businesses, our lives and our leadership. The Laurentians will be our backdrop.

As I enter into 2017 with hopes and trepidations, I wonder who my guests will be? And I wonder how welcoming will I be in all the moments?

The present moment is now. How welcoming are you?

How $12,000 Turned Into $1,200,000

Leadership development is one of the highest levers a company has to improve business performance. There is a 38% probability that increasing leadership effectiveness will translate into higher business performance¹. Few other investments in companies can provide such lift potential. The following true story shows how one VP’s leadership development led directly to $1,200,000 in… Read the full post here

Got Commander’s Intent? A Key to Great Leadership

Ask any CEO if s/he recommends leading their company like a military general.  Most would say a resounding “No!’.  And yet, a well lead army is like a fine-tuned machine. Most of the companies we work with are not so finely tuned (yet). If a general tells a field commander precisely how to capture a… Read the full post here

Your (Life) Raft Could Sink You

A traveler was on an epic journey. The kind we have heard about in the writings of antiquity-- a hero’s journey of sorts. As he was traveling he encountered a river that was too deep and fast moving to cross without help. The dismayed traveler looked up and down the shore to find a bridge… Read the full post here

Leader: What’s Your Status?

I'm a rookie when it comes to improv theatre. Even as a rookie, though, I have already learned a ton. You might be surprised how much of it translates into how I coach and lead. I’ve written before about how the improvised leader is better than you think. In that post, I was focussed on… Read the full post here

Leadership Metrics – Game Changers for Improving Leadership/Business Effectiveness

What gets measured gets managed/done/improved. This business adage has been burned into the psyche of all business people worth their salt. There is a lot of truth to the saying. As business people, we are very comfortable measuring our performance in sales and production. We’re sophisticated enough to measure our return on investment (ROI) on… Read the full post here

Risking Your Identity to Grow

My colleague Tim Edris and I have the privilege of coaching a senior leadership team through a year-long program called Leader to Leader™ to increase their individual and collective leadership effectiveness. We know empirically that even small increases in overall leadership effectiveness can have a significant positive impact on the business. Many leaders say they… Read the full post here

Just Add Vulnerability

I have a love-hate relationship with math (probably because I am getting worse at it with each passing minute). I do love word formulas, though. They are nice and sticky, as in they are easy to remember and employ. Even my most conflict-averse clients have had success using this structure. Recently a client mustered up… Read the full post here

Feelings: Entertain Them All

The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.  A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest… Read the full post here

Three Cheers for Scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge (a well known character in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol--Summary here) was a miserable and miserly business owner who seemingly hated Christmas and people.  He’s known for his Bah! Humbug! response to his nephew’s Merry Christmas. In the novel, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited in his dreams by his deceased partner Jacob Marley.  Marley’s ghost… Read the full post here

Leaders: Step Into Your Truth

Fact: Many of the leaders I coach are scared to say what they really think to their people. They withhold facts¹: One of my direct reports is interviewing elsewhere. They withhold thoughts and opinions: I don’t support expanding into the US market right now. They withhold feelings: I feel anger that I was not consulted… Read the full post here