My first opportunity to consciously stand up for my professional and philosophical beliefs about Professional Intimacy occurred in 1994. In the last year of my Master’s program, my thesis involved research on the process of creating a successful business partnership.
Using Appreciative Inquiry, our process resulted in a model of a synergistic triangle consisting of three equally key ingredients, where 1 + 1 = 3 (I was never good at math, but this makes sense … read on):
In the early 1990′s the unspoken, unwritten rule in the business world was “Don’t Talk About Relationships, feelings or any of the soft, fluffy stuff humans were made of when delivering leadership or management training or when speaking to businesses, managers or executive leaders about improving productivity or performance. I was directed to leave that stuff at the door and talk about “real” skills. Don’t feel … just get to work!
I followed this advice for a while and felt my hands (and credibility) were tied behind my back.
Then I ignoring that advice. After 12 years in business, our design resulted in not only building our own successful business and partnership, but also served as a model for our clients to build sustainable partnerships.
Through the process of developing Professional Intimacy as defined in my thesis in 1994 and even to this day, I continued to learn and grow both intra-personally and inter-personally as a result.
The truth is this: We learn and grow in relationship, not in isolation. Following the old rule and disregarding the complex and dynamic relationship systems we create through all of our relationships, however brief, is ridiculous.
Here’s the point: My thesis was nominated for publication in the college journal … an honor, for sure. However, the committee stated it would only be considered for publication only if I changed the title.
They objected to the phrase I used to symbolize our design for a successful business partnership: Professional Intimacy.
Because sexual harassment in the workplace was such a touchy (pun intended) topic in the early 90′s, the committee frowned upon my use of the phrase in the title. I stood my ground on principle because even though the rule was “Don’t talk about RELATIONSHIPS and WORK in the same sentence.” I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) in good conscience back down. Besides, I have a strong oppositional reflex.
I ran across the dusty, bound thesis years later and wondered …
“Did I do the right thing in standing up for my values?”
“Would my career path have changed had I decided to belly up?”
“Would I have been able to help more people sooner?”
I suppose I’ll never know… What would you have done?
PS. Check out Chapter 19: “Professional Intimacy: The key to being a Sustainable Leader” in the book “The Character Based Leader: Instigating a leadership revolution one person at a time” on Amazon or your favorite bookseller.
Leaders are responsible for making quick yet “correct” decisions about critical issues and executing those decisions.
It is critical for leaders to be non-judgmental or neutral in evaluating, deciding and taking action. “Judgment” is often paired with a negative emotion (which our brain interprets as “pain”), which then closes doors to insight, awareness, empathy and solutions.
When we are mindful, or aware without judgment, we have a greater opportunity to evaluate our thoughts, feelings and beliefs without judgment. Being able to label or re-frame these “mindless” assertions, also allows us the opportunity to neutralize the negative charge that comes with the judgment associated with our reactions, painful feelings and “shoulds.”
At that point of awareness and reframing, we then have a choice, and thus an opportunity to execute that choice, try it out and see what happens, instead of being held hostage by the past. Labeling events and feelings, as well as an increased awareness at the levels of sensing, observation and knowing integrates and balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain (Badenoch, 2000).
Leaders can develop the skills to be intentionally mindful, sustainable leaders by developing the muscle of mindfulness in their brain. As a leadership coach who is an expert in the combination of relationships, communication and neuroscience, I have seen leaders whose peers and subordinates describe as “mindless” and “socially inept” be able to ramp up and learn the skills pretty quickly, and see a noticeable difference in their effectiveness at work, but also significantly lowering their stress level in the process.