Do you know what’s happening?

Photo credit: Creative commons license

Photo credit: Creative commons license

This summer, I led an executive retreat with an extraordinary C-Suite team. These are leaders with intellect, courage, and commitment who are doing amazing things with their organization.

As I reflect on my learning from this experience, what keeps coming up is the importance of deeply sensing what is happening. The more deeply I can feel into what’s going on with the team, the more we can accomplish together. As leaders, we can use this sensing to make every interaction more powerful. In this post, I’m going to tease apart what I believe is involved in this sensing.

My experience suggests there are 3 essential components: 

  1. Preparation both for what we will do and for how I will be
  2. Embodied awareness of both my own state and others
  3. Listening with our whole self

These aren’t 3 separate “things” but rather 3 interrelated aspects of experience.

1.       Preparation

Read the briefing. Do the analysis. Yes, that’s necessary. And it’s not enough. We need to prepare ourselves to be in the encounter fully. Over time I prepare by being consistent with practices that build awareness and the capacity for centering (e.g. meditation, yoga, centering). In the retreat experience, I also prepare by centering with the team as we begin each session.

In our day-to-day work, sometimes preparation is a 30 second practice in the elevator as you head into a meeting. Other times you can invest more time to center more deeply. All of this helps us prepare for the being part of leadership just as we prepare for the doing part. (More on preparation

2.       Embodied Awareness

For many years, I was aware mostly of what went on in my head. I had very little awareness of what was happening in the rest of my being. That was a pretty limited experience – I had access only to a tiny slice of the available data about what was going on with me and with others. Yes, the cognitive channel has useful data. So do the channels of interoception, emotion, sensory perception and more. Embodied awareness means we have access to a multitude of channels and can be aware of both our own experience and the experience of other in this multifaceted way. (More on embodied awareness

3.       Listening

In a business setting, we often find ourselves listening closely to the context with our analytical mind. That’s useful. And to really “hear” what’s going on we need to listen with our whole self. If we have done our preparation and are fully present, we can open our hearts and minds – our whole soma – and really take in the information on a different level. We’re also listening both for what’s going on AND for what’s possible. My leadership is stronger when I listen with all of me. (More on deep listening

Leaving this recent retreat experience, I found myself reflecting on what made this experience different. Why was it so deeply rewarding for me and so impactful for the team? These 3 ingredients surfaced from my experience. I offer them to you in the spirit that more is possible in your leadership too and with the hope that my reflections serve you in unfolding your “more.”

If this strikes a chord with you, connect with me. Let’s talk about how you can strengthen your leadership from the inside out. Drop me a note or leave a comment below.