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“It’s lonely at the top.” I have heard this phrase used numerous times to describe what leaders may experience as they sit in a leadership role atop an organization.

As leaders, it is crucial to have someone to interact with who can provide encouragement, direction and accountability. At North Group, our approach to leadership coaching and development is primarily focused on developing a trusting and honest relationship where, together, we identify areas of personal and professional growth. This serves as the cornerstone of our work together.

Through conversations, assessment tools, and identified goals, a path is developed for subsequent meetings where we focus on providing accountability to personal commitments and the development of leadership competencies and skills. Intentional conversations with practical application to the leader’s particular situation also play a key role in helping leaders grow into future possibilities and develop aspects of leadership that need improvement.

Life and leadership are real and ever-evolving. Creating regular and intentional space to focus on one’s personal growth and development is a significant gift that, as leaders, we give to ourselves and to those we lead.

Please let us know if we can be helpful in your development as a leader.

“They can’t see the forest for the trees.” This oft-quoted expression is used to describe someone who seems to have lost something or is not able to see what would be obvious to others. Focusing on what is right in front of them has limited their ability to see the big picture.

For some, they do so out of necessity. Whether an issue needs to be advanced, resolved, or handled, the tasks and routines that get us through the day need our attention. Often, these things feel immediate. It is easy to recognize that our lives (both personally and professionally) progress based on our ability to accomplish these tasks and move them forward. But does immediacy equal importance? Or, are we confusing importance with urgency?

For others, general reluctance – perhaps even an inability – to step back is natural. From not knowing what might be discovered to not knowing what to do with those results, the fear of these “unknowns” can be paralyzing. After all, what are we to do with the information and insights we gain?

To borrow another age-old phrase, reflection is not something you should “go at alone.” While finding time and space to quietly ask ourselves weightier questions is important, including trusted friends and advisors can also provide a clearer perspective.

For those of us who are leaders, these personal questions give birth to organizational questions. We would be honored to discuss the benefits of our Organizational Health & Performance Assessment with you. This process may help you to see the forest – and not just the trees.

In his book Margin, author Richard Swenson, M.D., talks about the need to protect and, where needed, expand our margins in life. Just as a printed page would be difficult, if not nearly impossible, to read without margins, our lives can become overloaded and ineffective without appropriate space “between our load and limits.”

While there are a number of areas in life that potentially fall victim to a lack of margin, our time is one area that I believe many individuals struggle with more consistently and pervasively than others. A common refrain that is often heard is, “I wish I had the time to…” For some, prioritizing and aligning their time around current activities and objectives is what is needed most. For others, there is a need to intentionally create margin by saying “no.”

Saying “no” to potential “opportunities” is an extremely difficult thing to do for many people. Perhaps we don’t want to feel left out. Or, maybe we are so focused on achieving an objective that we view “down-time” as a failure to capitalize on “open space.” The reality is that creating appropriate margin gives life by allowing for rest, reflection, relationships and potential opportunities that we may have never experienced without it.

As you think about your time, be intentional about creating enough margin to reflect on how much margin you have in your life. Then, develop foundational principles of margin that will serve as appropriate boundaries and guidelines in saying “yes” or “no” to requests for your time (either from others or yourself).

Enjoy your time!

There is a great quote from John Maxwell that states, “Experience is not the best teacher… EVALUATED experience is the best teacher.”  Or, as I heard a speaker say one time, “Experience makes us older, evaluated experience makes us wiser.”

As people, we are often changing or modifying our thinking, behaviors and habits – and as leaders, influencing personal change in others.  However, in doing so, we face the challenge of what psychologists refer to as “behavioral drift” – the tendency to go back to old behavioral patterns when we are making changes.   The start of behavioral drift is often so subtle that it is easy to excuse or to let go unnoticed.  The truth of the matter is that in reality it probably, in and of itself, is not really an issue.  However, the path that it puts you on may very well be.  The power is in the subtlety of the pull toward an end that you do not desire or plan for.

In the book Living Smart (a book about changing your health habits), authors Klapow and Pruitt identify 3 key ways to deal with behavioral drift:

  • Anticipate the causes of the drift
  • Have a plan to deal with the drift
  • Catch the drift in its earliest stages

As people and leaders, it’s important to take a few moments at the end of every day, every week, and every month to evaluate:

  • What have I learned or observed about myself?
  • Where am I relative to where I want to be?
  • Where am I beginning to drift?

Engaging in just a few moments of regular self-reflection and evaluation will be a significant step in our own personal development and in avoiding behavioral drift.

One of the most significant memories in my life was the time when an individual approached me wanting to apologize for an incident that took place in our relationship about 15 years ago.

For me, the initial incident, while disappointing, was not particularly negative. In fact, beyond the initial disappointment, I forgot about it and continued to interact with the individual as normal. So, it was quite surprising to me when, many years later, that individual genuinely wanted to apologize for their actions.

It wasn’t an “I’m sorry, if you were offended” type of apology. It was genuine. The individual had not been carrying around the burden of the behavior during those years, but something had prompted them to remember the incident and “make it right.”

That person took a risk and put our relationship above their own potential discomfort. And they resisted the temptation to justify why it may not be important to make it right.

In his book, “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There,” author Marshall Goldsmith states: “I regard apologizing as the most magical, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make.” He says the need for apology is the centerpiece of his work with executives who want to get better at what they do.

Genuine apologies build organizational and personal trust and help to make us legitimate leaders. As leaders, we would do well to learn the language of apology.

Some time ago my wife and I were returning home after enjoying dinner out with friends. We left the restaurant around 9:30 and were on the way to drop our friends off at their home.

At one point, we stopped at a traffic light behind a car we had been following. As the light turned, the car in front of us did not move. We sat through a second light change and the car remained in place. I was concerned that perhaps the individual may be having a mechanical issue or some type of physical problem so I decided to check in. As I approached the car, the driver put the window down, and I graciously inquired to see what the problem might be. In anger, the driver yelled at me, “Yes, I do have a problem, there is a dumb @#$%!& following me!” and sped away.

Shocked and dumbfounded, I went back to the car and told the others about the brief conversation. None of us could think of anything I had done to cause such a response.

My motives were genuine in wanting to help but I felt I was misunderstood. I wanted to clear things up but that was not possible.

Truth be known, when I believe my motives are right and then they are misunderstood or even rejected I have a tendency to want to pull back and wall myself off from that person or a similar situation. It is at those times I think of the encouragement found in the Paradoxical Commandments written by Dr. Kent Keith to “do it anyway”.

I will admit that ever since that evening, when there is an opportunity to provide assistance (especially to stranger), I think about my brief conversation with that driver and remind myself to “do it anyway”.

We often ask children: What do you want to be when you grow up? Their answers can range from fireman to nurse, from teacher to pilot or even to trash collector (depending on the child’s fascination at the time.)

Less frequently, we ask an even more important question….of children and of ourselves: What do you want to be like when you grow up?

A number of years ago, I heard someone say the best predictor of what we will be like when we get older is what we are like today. While not absolute, I believe that statement is generally true.

But what might change that predictability? Am I satisfied with who I am today? What does that promise about my future self?  Do I want to change my thinking and behavior? Develop traits that characterize a different type of person (or leader)?

If I say yes to change, I’ll need to get started. Intentional and honest self-reflection is a great first step. Identifying character traits that I want my life to reflect will help me progress. Declaring my intentions, and seeking feedback and accountability can help me stay on track.

My father passed away over five years ago. As his illness progressed, we worked with him to prepare his funeral service. We talked with him about how to describe who he had been. The theme he chose for his entire service was, “He lived, he laughed, he loved and he left.”  It was a fitting theme that captured so well what my father was like throughout his life. His daily choices reflected the man he wanted to become.

The best predictor of what I will be like when I get older is…


August 20, 2014

Lightening the Load by Daryl Leisey

Last week I attended a simulcast leadership seminar with several of my colleagues from North Group. Throughout the two-day event I had the opportunity to speak with a number of individuals I had not seen for some time. It was good to reconnect.

In those conversations, I found myself asking two questions:

  • What was your impression of the previous session’s speaker and content?
  • What prompted you to come to this leadership seminar?

A number of those conversations focused on the opportunity the event provided for them as leaders to just sit, listen, and be refreshed or encouraged. It struck me how often we talked of the weight of their leadership roles and the pressure they feel to always “be on.”

It’s unavoidable. The behaviors of leaders are always on display, whether we are in the office or out in public. People are watching.  So it is critical for leaders to make it a priority to find our own personal ways to rest, recharge and renew.

Of course we’ve heard that message many times before. I have a word of encouragement to those who serve under those leaders as well.  Ask yourself: What can I do (or stop doing) to lighten their load?

Consider the following:

  • Express appreciation for their leadership
  • Avoid engaging in unproductive conversations about them
  • Give them grace for not being perfect
  • Own your own “stuff”

It starts with me! If you’re reading this, Roger, I probably haven’t said it enough, but I sincerely appreciate your leadership!