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Professional Intimacy: The Secret of Sustainable Leaders

3 Keys to Becoming a Leader Who Will Last for the Long Haul

cbl christinas quote

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):

  • An Understanding and appreciation of self, as in intra-personal or emotional intelligence;
  • An Understanding and appreciation of other, as in interpersonal or social intelligence;
  • The resulting relationship system then gets created and continually loops around, offering each person the opportunity to develop as individuals and therefore re-contribute, thus co-create, a dynamic, complex system that becomes the unique, dynamic business partnership.

Leave your feelings at the door

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.

Professional Intimacy was born

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.

 

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Leaders: Do you have the courage to jump?

(Originally written and published for the LeadChange Blog)

Leaders: How are your people skills?  The better question is “How would your team describe your people skills?”  While you may be able to acknowledge this is an area you could use some improvement, setting “soft skill” goals may feel like trying to grab a handful of jello.

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If you were my client and I asked, “Do you have your goals to be a better leader (or communicator) clearly defined, written down and measurable?” I will probably hear your eyes roll into the back of their head. Perhaps you may have set goals in the past and not achieved lasting change. Not because you lacked understanding or even desire to change, but because of failure to follow Steps #2 and #3 of the change process. (Click here to read Step #1 and #2 and #3 in the previous post on Leadership, Frogs & Goals).

Change is simple, but not always easy, unless you follow all three steps. And repeat.

Step #3: ACT

Understanding alone is overrated. We’ve all decided taking action is a good idea. But we are still sitting on the log. Change requires ACTION. Understanding or having the awareness of why your sarcastic tone is caustic , or why you should quit smoking, drinking too much is a necessary first step, after you announce your intention to change to others, you must now jump off the log.

The key to making lasting behavioral change is simple: small actions over a period of time result in SIGNIFICANT LONG TERM CHANGE. You’re not perfect; you are going to slip up. When you do, ACKNOWLEDGE IT OUT LOUD and MOVE FORWARD.

Here’s how:

#1. Small change counts more than you think. While you may think you have a problem finishing something, I will propose you may actually have a STARTING problem instead. Here’s your challenge: Can you do anything for 5 minutes? Sure you can, so start there.

Here are a few idea starters: Walk, ride a bike, stretch, meditate, breathe, listen deeply, play with your kids, hang out with your partner with your cell phone off, plan a goal or project with paper and pencil, organize your desk. Try doing whatever “it” is for 5 minutes (because if you can’t do something for 5 minutes, trust me, you have bigger problems).

Make an appointment with yourself and put it in the calendar to do one or two times a week for the first week and build slowly. Exercise, quitting smoking, practice being a better listener all lend themselves to the “Do it for 5 minutes” strategy. Preparing your taxes is another. Yes, you have a few months, but what difference will it make if you start now with 5 minutes a week? April 14th might just be a more relaxing day! Like shampoo: Rinse, lather, repeat.

Then, repeat Step #1: Ask. Ask again by following up with the family, friends (and if you really want to be transparent include your staff) and ask “How am I doing?” Then LISTEN. Say “Thank you” in response to their answers. As Marshall Goldsmith says, we can’t go wrong if we respond with a genuine “Thank you” to any information, negative or positive, someone offers us.

Why should I ask again? Two reasons. Ask others with the intention of to simply gather information, as if you are on your own personal recognizance mission. Because you will use what you hear people say to accomplish two things:

#1. To adjust course. Like a pilot in an airplane getting feedback from the instrument panel who is flying from New York to Los Angeles, simply adjust what you are doing, a little to the left, a little to the right, toward your destination. Just view it as information, not right or wrong, good or bad, no big deal. Adjust course as needed.

#2. To build trust. Remember how I said this step is critical? Here’s why … by announcing publically your are human and are working on improving yourself and by following up and asking “How am I doing with ______?” and really listening to their response, you will build trust by showing you really care. That is as long as you do really care, because when you are genuine it is FELT. If you don’t really care, well, that’s palpable, too. If you really don’t care, don’t ask.

AAA: The key to becoming a Sustainable Leader and exceeding your personal development goals.

If you truly desire to be an exceptional leader of people, you will earn more trust by following up with this step exactly as written, than with anything else you ever have the guts to do, which is be human.

So if two frogs were sitting on a log, and you were one of the frogs, and you decide to jump off, what’s the answer now?

Leader’s Survey: The 5 Fail Points in Leadership Training

Center for Creative Leadership, Colorado Sprin...

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Do you wonder why leadership training programs fail to prepare leaders of today for tomorrow’s challenges?  The survey says …. “Avoid 5 Fail Points in Leadership TrainingDownload or listen now to the webinar on how to avoid wasting time and money on your personal or company’s leadership training and three key strategies to make your coaching or leadership development program truly pay off for the leader, for constituents and for the entire organization.

The bottom line is developing Sustainable Leaders:  Developing authentic leaders happens from the inside out and from the outside in … for more information go to Sustainable Leadership, Inc.

Leaders: 3 Keys to Effective Leadership Development Programs

The motivation behind my original post “What are the fail points in leadership training/development and Sustainable Leader’s Survey* were three-fold:

1. To identify the strengths and fail points in Leadership Development initiatives, with a special interest in identifying the challenges faced by newly promoted Senior Leaders (recent research states over 40% of newly promoted executives quit or get fired within the first 18 months in their new position).

2. To begin to identify practical solutions for the fail points in Leadership Development programs or initiatives for today’s leaders, especially newly promoted executives and senior leaders.

3. To use the responses to develop a value-filled, evidence-based Sustainable Leaders Development & Mastermind group for Senior Leaders who are highly motivated to drive positive change in themselves, others and in the organization by learning practical, effective and sustainable interpersonal and communication skills, and develop themselves as a leader from the inside out.

SUMMARY SO FAR: While the number of survey responses is not (yet) statistically significant, it appears there are definitely “themes” or gap areas emerging, that when filled, will allow a leader to full fill his or her responsibilities more easily, feel more satisfied in their role and harness the power of their own potential as well as others, to facilitate organizational change, to continue to develop inter-personally as well as intra-personally to achieve ongoing growth and sustainability in self and others.

(At Least) 3 Fail Points in Leadership Training:

1. Please Understand Me – One fail point reflects a need for leaders to master a significantly higher level of interpersonal and communication skills (i.e., Emotional Intelligence) and the skills to better and more deeply understand people’s motivators and drivers to gain cooperation and support to get the job done quickly and easily. Not to mention understanding one’s own beliefs, motivators/drivers and the infinite ways we will attempt to avoid pain (our behavior is a result of our feelings which is a result of B.S. – which is a topic of a whole other thread, I’m sure).

2. Leaders don’t exist in a vacuum – Another fail point is “training” the individual in a one day workshop (yes, I’m being sarcastic, but this is a HUGE waste of time, money and resources) and sending him back to the office to effect change inevitably fails. Minimally, this strategy fails to take into consideration the homeostasis of the system (i.e. culture) as well as the basic dynamics of the “rules of engagement” in human relationships and communication.

3. Lonely at the the top – The survey also indicated a significant desire for leaders do network and exchange solutions and ideas in conversations with other like-minded senior leaders. “It’s a great tool, but how do I use it in real life?” I use a “What? So What? Now What?” approach which has been a very helpful framework for my clients to use to go from knowing something, to doing it to being it AND transferring the learning for lasting change. “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” I love it.

To take the brief 8 question survey and participate in the tele-forum to discuss the results and begin to identify solutions for the fail points in developing leaders today, go to Sustainable Leader’s Survey

Thank you and keep posting your insights, resources and questions!

Leaders: Avoid 5 Fail Points in Leadership Development

The results are in:  Sustainable Leader’s Survey … but first, where has you leadership training or professional development failed you?  What would you change and why?

It’s about time leaders ask: Who Am I?

It is refreshing to see how the definition of leadership is transforming from “skills” CEO’s “use” to get the job done, to leadership about bringing who we are as leaders into what we do to as leaders, and the ongoing definition of ourselves and our purpose, and as such the positive change we have the responsibility for making in our organization.

Exceptional leaders begin by answering the question “Who am I?”  Sustainable leaders are built to last, who invest in developing others and recognize the effect of who they are on the people who surround them … and beyond.

Sustainable leaders recognize the “ripple effect” of their actions.  When you throw a rock into a pond … the ripples go across the top of the water, down to the bottom and reverberate back to continually define that leader going forward.

Sustainable, effective leaders take responsibility for how they show up and the ripples they create.

Is executive coaching just a passing fad?

Is the use of coaching to develop leaders or high potential managers into leadership roles just a passing fad or here to stay?  If it’s here to stay, wouldn’t it be more effective for coaches to teach managers and leaders how to coach or to develop a coaching style of management and leadership than for a coach to “coach one leader or manager at a time?”  Developing a sustainable leader would include “teaching him to fish” rather than “fishing for him” in my opinion.  What are your thoughts on the topic of the efficacy of leadership coaching in organizations?