Category Archives: Leadership

A Plug for Relational Leadership

I hear lots of people, colleagues and business leaders, talking about a desire to be thought-leaders.

Have to admit, there was a time when it was an aspiration of mine.

However, I have shifted.  I’m not all that interested in thought leadership.  I am much more inspired and interested in relational leadership.

Even up at the Haven, over the years I know there’s been a desire to make Haven a thought leadership center.

Maybe that was the mission at one point of the founders, Ben Wong and Jock Mckeen.  Likely they were thought leaders.  But more than anything else I think they were relational leaders!

I actually believe at the core that is where The Haven shines!

I know when I arrived at The Haven I did not really have a clue what it meant to be relational.  I had spent most of my life defended and surviving.

Now I don’t want to be too harsh with myself about that.  I had come up with some pretty creative ways to make my way in the world through some rocky, challenging times.  I didn’t have a clue just how guarded and protected I had become.

My walls and armour started cracking during my first Come Alive.  I was in awe of what I witnessed.  The compassion, the vulnerability the curiosity that I saw offered to each person in our circle was truly moving.

I would say without judgement – but that’s not true.  What Haven offered as a path for opening was sharing the judgements.  Sharing the judging and the storymaking as a way of letting someone else know how I put the world together.  Judgements were not bad, judgements were simply stories worth checking out and using as a bridge to reveal how each of us put our reality together.

The key was a willingness to own my story-making and be curious in sharing with another to see if they agreed or disagreed.

That shift was hugh for me.  I could be curious and get feedback.  Sometimes I would and still do get feedback that I hurt myself.  However, I have realized the feedback is  like a location device.  Instead of taking it all so personally, I allow myself to take the information as though someone was telling me realtime where they were with me – liking, disliking, distant/close – warm or cold.  I also gst this is a path where I could also locate myself with them.

You see to me, this is relational leadership at it’s best.  Locating ourselves with each other – openly, honestly and with curiosity.

Over the years now I have come too discover that these relational tools are not thought -based,  these tools,  with breath, attention and awarenes,  are spiritual and embodied!

When I reveal where I really am in the world – my location- without having to prove me, defend me or fight to be me – that is incrediably vulnerable, real and very relational.

So that’s why I think thought-leadership is overrated – what we need today is more relational leadership.  Leading that is built around honesty, vulunability, curiosity  and compassion. Now that takes courage and frankly I believe a lot harder than just thinking of new ideas.

Truth is, leadership is all about relationships!

Want to discover how to be more of a relational leader in your life – take a Come Alive, read our book or sign up for Relationship Mojo!

Try on sharing your judgements as a path of vulnerability and location setting.  Get curious about how your inner story-telling comes to be.  Get curious about how someone’s else might be putting those pieces together very differently.

Get curious about really relating!

Reflections From Living Alive

I’m at the halfway point in the Living Alive Phase 1 program on Gabriola and enjoying a break.

This is always a great time to reflect on what I’ve be learning and discovering during this 26 day journey.

Probably for me, one of the biggest joys has been in witnessing a group of people with diverse backgrounds, ages and stories – come together and be so willing to embrace each experience and support each other along the way.

Sure there have been some moments when I have wondered if someone will hang in or come back when it’s been too much or something deep has been stirred. However, I haven’t found myself losing faith in the process or the more importantly the person!

I like that I haven’t found myself pushing or thinking – “They have to get this NOW!!”.

Somewhere along the road of my own journey, I have become less anxious when I don’t have control or the contact I might want with someone.

I have less need to get them on the path I think is best and so have more willingness to let someone do their own thing while I am simply maintaining my location.

I’m thinking a lot of my willingness to stay located inside myself and less focused on an agenda for others comes from my work with the horses.

I think watching and learning from the herd has helped me trust the connections even when there’s distance or differences that appear to be big. I settle knowing the best path through a storm is to maintain my own location and be a beacon, the mare – not pushing or pulling but present and aware.

So far I find myself being less concerned about making sure everyone ‘gets it’ – whatever ‘it’ is – and instead tracking my willingness to be open, curious and clear.

I’m not there all the time, but much more than in the past. As a result, I find myself much more joyful and open-hearted.

Who knows what will be stirring as we step into Part B.

I do love this program because it such a wonderful opportunity to settle in and discover. Discover patterns. Discover new choices. Become more comfortable in my own discomfort and/or uncertainty.

Some may wonder, as a leader shouldn’t I be more certain about what might come next.

I know enough to provide the playing field, the boundaries and a path. I also know enough now to let the each person’s journey unfold from there.

Leading and Following

The Movement Between

Sitting reflecting. I am a week into Living Alive Phase I, just after finishing The Haven Leadership Summit and I find myself reflecting on leading and following.

For some this may seem a bit to Haven focused. Bare with me, or better yet, apply to your own experiences with being deeply engaged in learning, work or some aspect of your life that has been very familiar and involves discovering that you as leader might need to grow and yet also stay in some ways the same!

During the Summit the idea of leadership and followership had come up and I was intrigued and reminded of how much my own journey as a leader has been about discovering the dance between leading and following. There is both an internal aspect and movement that occurs, as well as the external shift from being in a role as leader and as follower.

For me, as I have become more comfortable in my own skin, and to be clear this can be comfortable in discomfort, I find myself much more fluid in leading and following.

Of course there are moments when I am struck by my own strong agenda or vision for what I want to have happen. I like that about myself. I like having a vision and being willing to stand forth and offer a direction. It’s a bit like my belief about judgements. That I am judgemental, I like. I enjoy using my ability to imagine, assume and discern. I also enjoy meeting and ‘clashing’ with new information and someone else’s assumptions. I notice when I am okay in my beliefs, I am quite open to the bump of a new view and can integrate the new information. When I am not so okay with myself, I can tend to fight or flight in some attempt to stay right!. I am finding this is a similar dance in leading and following.

Over the years as a faculty member at The Haven, I have had strong views on what is important and foundational, what needs to stay the same and what seems ‘special’ about our way of approaching group dynamics, aliveness and energy. I recognize that I have at times been defended and quite unwilling to embrace something I judged to be outside of the playing field I called Haven.

I have shifted in more recent years. Some of the shift has come from my exploration of new ways of thinking and experiencing growth. Some of the shift, as been because I keep hearing that others want something different and as someone in a role of leadership I want to be open and receptive.

At the Summit, I noticed so many new faces, new voices speaking up about diversity, leadership, youth, eldership, training, counseling, educating and embodiment. I found myself integrating much of the input into my understanding of The Haven, filtering new theories or thoughts into ways of thinking and embodying that have been so useful to me over the years.

At times it was exciting and I could feel the expansion and inclusion happening both inside me and around me in the room and online. Other times, I noticed my own contraction and fear that there was too much desire for change or something new. At times I spoke of my resistance and at times I simply sat with myself and wondered.

Of course with the Living Alive Phase starting hours after stepping out of the Summit, I have had an opportunity to notice what am I including now as I lead and what might I have dropped.

In truth, I love the Living Alive Phase I format. I find both structure and freedom in what has been a core Haven program for well over thirty years. Yet, I also have moments of wanting to introduce something new or noticing someone is leading us into something new and I have that choice to follow or not.

I am aware of my tendency to get swallowed into my world of The Haven and lose contact with the much larger world around me. So on a day when I have some extra time, I enjoy pulling myself out of my Haven world of leading and following and checking to see what is happening in the world around me.

I would love to hear from you and what does leading and following mean in your world. Is leading a role? Is following a different one? Do you dance in your own life between the these concepts? Are there areas of your life that are working and could use some new and fresh ideas? How do you grow and keep what works?

I’d love to hear from you.

Learning About Leadership From Horses

I love watching a herd of horses. There is so much going on and yet it can all seem so subtle.


Today, I sat and watched a herd of geldings for thirty or forty minutes. There were 15 in the herd. Their space had recently been downsized due to a need to seed an area for future use.

Thirteen of the horses were gathered in relatively small area. Most were standing with their front legs locked and shifting the weight on their back legs. They almost seemed asleep, were it not for the flick of a ear, usually directed at me. Yes, they knew I was watching as soon as I had moved towards the pasture.

I settled and took in the larger scene. Two of the geldings were off from the herd, grazing. Their ears were also trained on my position. It is amazing how subtle and keenly perceptive horses are to any movement in their environment.

When I first started watching horses I would hardly notice the little movements. Now, I was getting much better at picking up when one of the horse would make a very small shift backwards, pushing the horse behind him ever so slightly. Today, I could see that the signal was not at all subtle to the horse receiving it.

Pretty much everything about the arrangement was an intricate communication network where there were clear lines of dominance and order. Where boundaries were being set with minuscule gestures and smaller connections were well established even if undetected by the my human eye.

I realized as I was watching, I was learning a great deal about leadership. I have often thought of leadership in terms of dominance, who had the loudest gestures or offered the loftiest vision. We as humans tend to think of leadership in those terms.

But really leadership has a lot more to do with who amongst us is really the calmest, clearest and most embodied. In a herd of horses, there may be a dominate horse but that has little to do with the leader. No the leader in a herd of horses, is the horse that is calmest, and most embodied. It may not always be the same horse, in today’s gathering there was one gelding that stood slightly away from larger group between the cluster and the two grazers. If any of the others, made a slight move in his direction, his tail would swish and the advancing horse would move back. Nothing big, nothing loud, just clear. This horse was in many ways the most settled and defined – not through dominance – but just presence and space. I knew he was the one who would pick up any signal that truly needed the herd’s attention and would ignore any other type of intrusion.

Leadership can seem almost boring when watching these horses until my eyes adjust and I begin to see just how incredibly advanced and intricate the interplay and communication has become.

In the world of horses, leadership is about safety and living well together. It’s about ensuring that each member has a place and contributes. It’s about each member being able to express needs, desires and getting clear signals about what works and what doesn’t. It’s about making sure that when one horse is resting, other’s are aware and watching.

We could learn so much about leadership through observing and watching how horses and other pack animals communicate and live together.

Yet, for the most part we don’t. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if leadership wasn’t about who is dominate – but instead about who is calmest, clearest and is able to notice when real danger is afoot. Imagine a leader like that. Wouldn’t that be great!

 

 

Putting Action Foreground At The Haven

onlineslide-words-jumpingJust wrapped up our in-person day with the ESG (Education Steering Group) at The Haven. Was a very productive day as usual.

As is often the case, we spent a good portion of our time looking at programs and educational direction. However, one piece that came up and I am really excited about working on going forward, is emphasizing putting action foreground in The Haven models.

So what do I mean?

Well we spend lots of time focusing on program content and what happens at the Haven. We got to talking this time about how could we start talking as much about what happens next! Meaning how do people take action with their learning and experiences at Haven.

Haven really isn’t just a center for personal development. It’s a center for self-responsible relational living and that has a lot more to do with how people live their learning than just how they get it!!

I know for myself. I love coming to The Haven and taking a program or connecting with friends. But really what I love and value most about The Haven is how I have transformed my life, my relationships and my world outside of The Haven as a result of engaging in the programs and living that learning when I left!!!

For me, I changed my relationship to my cancer and my relationship to the medical model. As my health changed, I focused on building relationships that were based in open, honest dialogue. This has lead me to leadership at The Haven but also out in the world with my work and life partner CrisMarie through thrive!

I transformed my relationship to my family, where for years we did not speak, Now we have deep connections based on who we each are as people. All of this came from learning about self-responsible relational living and taking action!!

I think sometimes I can forget to talk about just how important the action part of the Communication model and the Selves Model really is!

Sometimes in a program, I may not talk enough about what comes next. I know I do usually mention my favorite motto: It’s not what you do – but what you do next. For me that motto is immediate and intentional in regards to taking whatever I learn into what I do next!

When people ask me, what does the Haven offer. I often answer with information about the programs and that may be the intent in the question.

But really what Haven offers is so much more than the program.

Haven offered me a choice in how to live my life and face whatever came my way by responding – not just reacting. Now I don’t always do that! But I do get I have a choice! Sure I still make a choice to react, to blame, to self-hate …. the list goes on. However what The Haven offered me was the opportunity to fully own my choices and basically with that comes freedom.

My relationship to myself and to the world around me becomes something else entirely when I really get the meaning of that!!

Indeed the programs at The Haven are amazing but what is really even more amazing is what the people who have come through the Haven have done next! I do believe those stories are worth sharing. Those stories are about how Haven is changing the world.

Tell me – how did you take action with what you learned at The Haven! What did you do next!! How have you changed the world through self-responsible relational living!

I would love to know!!

Next Up At The Haven:

Living Alive Phase 1 – April 17, 2016 with Toby Macklin

Also check out my new Leadership Mojo Intensives – Equus Coaching in Montana!

 

Find Your Leadership Mojo (Magic Power)

me & zoey“I want to find my mojo, my magic power, my inner sense of much-ness, and take it back to Montana!”

That’s what I shared as my intention introducing myself to the circle of Koelle Institute of Equus coaches and coaches-in training at the practicum taking place at Apache Springs, AZ last weekend.

Most of those gathered were there to fill in their learning gaps and  get ready for their certification review.

Not me.

I am already certified and could be promoting and working as an Equus Coach right here in Montana.

But I am not.

Instead, I continue to practice, volunteer at other Equus coaches workshops, and see clients for free.

Why?

Well, I spook myself when it comes to saying – “I’m a good enough Equus Coach, and I would love to offer you a chance to discover the magic in learning more about yourself and leadership through engaging with horses.”

I tell myself, this is because of my fear of horses, but that was true two years ago, not today. Yes, I still can spook myself when I am out there demonstrating some of the possible ways to interact and play with a horse, or when I see someone not be sensitive when they move in too close behind the horse.

I tell myself, I need to get beyond my fears before I really launch my own Equus Coaching practice.

But let’s be completely frank, this spooking business is a well-worn habit of mine.

I remember, over twenty-fives years ago, stepping in to lead my first Come Alive at The Haven. I was scared – terrified – on the inside! No horses there – just me and my fear of stepping into leadership!

But I did it and have been doing it ever since.

Even with all that leading under-my-belt,  I can still at times feel that doubt and/or fear rise to the surface before the start of a Come Alive or Living Alive Phase Program. However, I have learned to acknowledge and work with my fear and self-doubt, not wait for the fear to be gone. No, my path is to acknowledge that place of self-doubt and lead anyway!

In many respects I actually like that place of vulnerability and uncertainty. I am more real and transparent when I work from that space.

Still, there are times when I wish I was always confident and had no doubts about leadership or what I have to offer as a person or as a coach. However, that would just be hubris and frankly not very effective.

Mastery is about riding the waves of my fluctuating self-confidence, having faith in both my own inner knowing and faith in not knowing and allowing the universe, my soul, to guide me.

I am best when I am transparent and acknowledge what I am really thinking and feeling – and sometimes that is the underlying fear and sometimes it is an inner sense of knowing and presence.  It’s in the willingness to acknowledge both that I often discover I am not alone. In other words, I connect deeply to the world around me.

When I come from a place of hubris or over-confidence that connection is not there, instead, I am relying on what I know – not tapping into the greater resources of the universe! The same is true when I deny my abilities or wisdom as a coach or leader.  Both ways I shut my connection to the energy from my soul, the universe.

But back to finding my mojo and bringing my work home to Montana.

Sure, I could wait until I become consistently comfortable and confident around horses. I could see if my confidence could rise and carry me out into the world as an expert coach and equine facilitator. However, that might take a little too long, and frankly, that’s all ego and has very little to do with what becomes possible when I don’t have to be perfect.

In fact, I just have to show up; vulnerable and real. The real me, a horse, and another person are quite enough for ensuring that transformation and magic can happen.

With that said, I am opening my Equus coaching practice here in Montana. I’d love to work with you. If you live here great, it will easy. If you don’t, well I am offering Leadership Mojo Intensives and those will involve horses and other ways of mastering your connection to yourself and the world around you.

If you aren’t too sure about me and horses – well come to Haven and join me for a Come Alive or Living Alive Phase Program.  I think you’ll be wanting more!

I’m ready. I’m may still have moments of fear and I have my mojo.

Come discover yours and even if you discover it’s not that perfect, confident version of leader you might like – just know that the real gold is in the soft spots – it’s where you discover the power in connection!

What you may not know, leading is never a solo experience!

Iron-Fisted Power Is Not Leadership

Many years ago my friend, Susa Holt, told me I had to meet CrisMarie Campbell, an Olympic rower.  I could hardly wait to hear first hand what it was like to be an Olympian!

Yet, when I asked CrisMarie about the Olympics, she almost bit my head off, saying “I don’t like to talk about that – I was a loser!”

I was a bit stunned.   I know all to well how our heroes are often the masters of self-hate!  Fortunately, I met her as she was just heading into a Come Alive, and I figured this was a ripe area for her to do some great work.

She did.  Over the years, I have been a witness to CrisMarie’s reclaiming her Olympian.

_I8P7019-EditShe now uses her rowing stories as great examples of the difference between simply a boat of champions, the 1988 Olympic boat,  and a Championship team, the 1987 World Champion silver medal boat.

Today is a new chapter.  Her collegiate and national team coach made the headlines this month.  His long tenure at the University of Washington ended when the current team of rowers challenged his leadership style.

Here is the link to the Seattle Times article:  Firing of UW Rowing Coach

CrisMarie caught the news and wanted to reach out to the rowers.  The headlines presented a story line that seemed to imply the biggest issue was “an age gap” between the coach and his rowers.  The paper even went so far as to imply may be the rowers were pampered.  Really?

Well, CrisMarie had a long history with Bob and wasn’t about to stay silent. She wrote an opinion letter to the sports editor of the Seattle Times. He opted not to publish it.

I like that CrisMarie spoke up.

I like that she reflected both the brilliance AND the iron-fisted misuse of power that is all to often called leadership.

Mostly I love that she challenged the real issue, Bob did not want feedback and that is simply not leadership.

Below is her opinion. It is one woman’s story and perspective.  Regular readers know, that I am a big believer that there is never one side to any story.

However, I also believe silence in the face of popularity and power are deadly in so many ways.

 CrisMarie’s Opinion Letter, December 11, 2015

I am compelled to speak because of the apparent prevailing opinion that Bob Ernst was an excellent coach who deserved a better send off. No doubt Bob made Washington rowing more successful; however, as a leader of people, he failed.

First let me speak to my own direct experience with Bob. I rowed at Washington from 1982-1986, won the ’84 and ‘85 National Championships, and was the ’85 stroke and Team Captain. I went on to a silver medal win at the 1987 World Championships and then to the 1988 Olympics – all with Bob as my coach. I was, by many people’s standards, a winning rower. I was strong, smart, disciplined and hard-working. I credit Bob with making me a successful rower.

Bob is brilliant and was a revolutionary rowing coach– but not because of his leadership style. While he advanced Washington and Women’s Rowing, both at the collegiate and national level, Bob was not an effective leader of people.

In my six years of rowing, I only lost two official competitive races, and yet I walked away feeling like a loser. Why is that? My experience with Bob was that I was only as good as my latest win on the water. His strategy included blaming rowers for losses, and when we did lose, treating us, I felt, as unworthy human beings. He also used ultimatums to drive compliance.

When I injured my back training for the Olympics I considered missing one practice of our regular “two-a-day” sessions.  Bob yelled: “either she’s in the boat every day or she’s not in the boat at all!” I got in the boat. While the choice to get in that boat was mine, it is important to underscore the power a coach has over team members to make them perform. And when we lost at the Olympics he blamed me for losing the race by getting in the boat with injuries. Really?

His pronouncement of blame was demoralizing in 1988, and I was shocked to hear him repeat it ten years later. When a coach or leader devalues the team his power becomes abusive and the coach ceases to lead.

As a result of my experience with Bob, I have dedicated my career to helping business leaders produce high performing teams that are both smart (“winning”) and healthy (people matter). Team success is often a result of the leader’s willingness to step out of the “command and control” style and get feedback from the team. This drives team engagement and better team results long-term.

In reading the details of what transpired with Bob and the team, he seemed unwilling to be either vulnerable or curious with the team. Bob could not find a way to use the conflict to create a better outcome both for the team and himself. It wasn’t the job of the UW Administrators to do that, it was his job as a leader.

Marlow Mizera, the coxswain who spoke up to Bob, is a hero of mine. She is a leader. She had the courage to stand up to the most powerful coach in Washington Rowing. These women wanted to give their coach feedback on the impact of his style; they wanted to work with him. Unfortunately, he was unwilling to lean in and hear the feedback, which is sad. They did something I wish I could have done 30 years ago.

This is not about an age gap between Bob and the new generation of rowers. This issue has gone on a long time – it’s about confusing iron-fisted power with leadership.

I do wonder if Bob had been willing to hang in, hear, and honor some honest feedback, whether he and the team could have turned this conflict into a win for both him and the Washington Women Rowers.

CrisMarie (aka Chris) Campbell  Co-founder of thrive! inc., works with leaders and their teams to transform conflict into innovative results. Her TEDx Talk is: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!