A remarkable CEO and member of my Vistage CEO group who announced to his peers, “I feel stuck!” incited my last post. Being stuck relates to a pattern and this feels like a faint inner sense that there must be more. In other words he was saying, “The way I’m thinking and behaving isn’t serving me as well as I’d like it to and I want your help.”
For leaders, primary patterns show up in the way they think and behave around others. Scientists have described the brain as a pattern-matching machine so in a sense we are each a series of patterns and feel most comfortable when we instinctively channel our energy into patterns that produce the results we like. Feeling carefree might best describe this state of being.
While dynamism is the quality of having vigorous activity and progress, energy manifested as remarkable forward movement, being stuck is usually more prevalent as a very low-grade longer-term kind of background suffering. A recent study by Stanford Business School found that nearly two thirds of CEOs don’t receive executive coaching or leadership development while nearly 100% said they would like to receive coaching to enhance their development. So why does nearly every CEO want help but nearly two thirds do nothing?
Over the years, I’ve received many requests to coach CEOs and executives on a one to one basis and after much experimentation; I decided it’s not my cup of tea. In my experience, individual coaching is usually a remedial action designed to correct a deficiency in someone. It requires the person being coached to start by saying, “I’m broke, fix me.” Leadership development on the other hand starts by saying, “I want to further develop my capacities.”
A friend sent me this helpful quote from Bill O’Brien, the former CEO of Hannover Insurance:
“The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener. Our effectiveness as leaders depends not only on what we do and how we do it, but also on the inner place from where we operate, both individually and collectively. The need to pay attention to this inner place has largely been a blind spot in leadership research and is the single most important theme that has emerged from this investigation to date.”
Leaders observe and upgrade the patterns of their organization to optimize its ability to deliver a great customer experience. In other words, leaders do interventions to change organizational patterns. It’s one thing to intervene and change the external world to meet your expectations but it’s a horse of a completely different color to intervene in your own interior condition as a precursor to initiate change.
So how can leaders learn to apply this to their own leadership? Many companies including Google are investing in cohorts that support personal awareness and development to accomplish this. Nearly 300 CEOs in the Seattle area alone are members of peer groups through Vistage.
In the words of Douglas LaBier, “Successful leadership requires astuteness about others; their emotional and strategic drivers; their self-interests, overt and covert, and these relationship competencies rest on a foundation of self-knowledge and self-awareness.
When my CEO member declared that he wanted to grow, he did so within a peer group structure designed to help him. This bold choice manifested as dynamism. He created value for himself by breaking through his old pattern and inviting others to help. As a result, he unlocked and demonstrated a new level of personal awareness that sponsored this same capacity in his group members. What an amazing return on investment! I’d love to know your thoughts. Jim@peer-place.com