This Rocked My Leadership World

Are you watching for critical inflection points in your leadership life?

I can certainly tell you that in my own life this last week I had two distinct events cause independent revelations that have come together to wake me up and help me to realize that I need to make a change in how I lead.

And I need to make the change NOW!

Story #1

The first event happened as I listened to a presentation by best selling author Stephen Arterburn. Stephen was a guest lecturer at Concordia University Irvine, one of the schools I adjunct faculty with. The presentation was about the creation of a marriage love plan and how to keep your marriage relationship vibrant, exciting, and alive. 

Here are the notes from the outline I made from mine and my student Jared Moorad's notes, as well as my reaction to each of them as it relates to my own marriage: 

  1.  Play and Have Fun together-Kim and I have a ball together. The other night our power went out and we lost our internet, TV, air conditioning, and lights. Kim said, “Hey, let's play a game." So we sat on the couch and used her iPad to play Quirkel. For those of you who care about performance, she kicked my tail, and it was still fun. CHECK! Stephen, we do this one.
  2.  Enjoy laughter and humor in the relationship. This to me means that I can laugh at her and she can laugh at me and we can laugh at ourselves. Those of you who know me know I am a pretty easy target to laugh at. CHECK! Got this one too.
  3. Savor food together. I am headed home tonight and we will go to one of our local favorite eating places. I think many couples do this, but the point here isn’t to eat out, but to really savor the food. Allow the meal to become part of the conversation. Notice the flavors and talk about the feelings and notice the joy you get when this happens. CHECK! OK, Stephen, I am feeling a little cocky here….
  4. Enjoy beauty together (art galleries, nature, and creation). While we are not big art gallery people, we do enjoy going to the more famous ones when in places like NYC, Chicago, Paris, or Madrid. We love God’s creation and spending time just walking through the woods or sitting on our back porch drinking coffee and looking at the nature preserve behind our house. So Yeah, Stephen, CHECK, perhaps one that could use a little more intentionality, but CHECK none the less!
  5. Intentionally create a lifestyle that leads to longevity. Look, tomorrow is never promised. But if I get a tomorrow I want to share it with Kim. My brother and I have had conversations about this over the years. The woman I have is the one I want to grow old with. This means that we eat healthily and exercise together. CHECK!
  6. Create beauty and adventure together. Do it on purpose. Okay, so this one challenged me a bit with the "beauty" piece, but Kim and I certainly adventure together. In October we are running our first back to back half-marathons. On the second Saturday in October we will run the Grand Canyon half and then the following Saturday we will run the Lake Powell half-marathon. I think this counts as an adventure, so CHECK!
  7. Experience the sexual and the sacred. Okay, so this one is none of your business. But Stephen put it in, so I thought I would at least add it to the list and let your mind wander in your own relationship.

As I went through this list I thought, Dude, you are 7 for 7. Nice work at creating a marriage love plan. You are amazing! You are doing something the world renowned author Stephen Arterburn says you should be doing…..

Then it hit me. This was my evaluation of my “performance” at executing my marriage love plan.  I wonder what Kim would say….

Then it hit me again a little harder and with a little more sting: What if she doesn’t feel the same way? Do I have the wrong plan? Am I really doing as good as I think I am doing? 

All of this fear and negativity just started to creep in. The good feeling I had about the marriage love plan execution went right out the window and the negative self talk started: Maybe your not doing as good as you think you are. Maybe Kim feels different.  Should I ask her or just pretend she feels the same and keep living whatever fantasy world I want to live in?

Story #2

I was sitting with a coaching client recently who received feedback through a tool we use called Emotional Intelligence 360 Feedback. Using this tool, my client's supervisor, peers, direct reports and family provide input as to how they see this person behave across 15 distinct competencies. This data can then be compared to what the client thinks of his own behavior looks like and if he wants to make a change then he can put a plan together to make that desired change.  In the coaching world, pretty basic stuff.

Overall, the client was really pleased with the results, but one area stood out to him as having a big difference between how he saw himself and how others saw him. 

The EI trait called Optimism needs development in his life. Optimism is equivalent to resilience. It is how we respond to setbacks in life. It is our ability to remain hopeful in the face of adversity.  

He thought he was really, really good at this. The people giving him feedback thought differently. There was a huge gap between his self-perception and others' perception of the way he handles adversity. 

Talking about it, he said to me, “You know, I thought I was pretty good at this. I thought I had this thing together, but maybe I don’t."

Then the negative self-talk started, “Maybe I am not as good as I think I am." “These people who really know me think a lot differently than I do.” “I can’t ignore this but I really don’t know what to do….”

The Inflection Point

Well, I think you can probably see the inflection point.  All of a sudden I am sitting and coaching my client and I really feel like I am coaching myself. The thing I am being paid to help him see is exactly the same thing I am experiencing in my own life.

Does this ever happen to you? It is just a reminder to me that we are all on this journey of life together. The more we share and seek to understand each other the more human we feel. And the more human we feel, the more we realize none of us are perfect and we all need to take some time and laugh a little at each other.

I can tell you this, the meal Kim and I savor tonight will have at least 7 questions for us to ponder together...

Bon Appetite!