Leadership Balance: The See-Saw Effect

When you were a kid, did you ever stand in the middle of the see-saw?  While your friends were moving a long way up and down on either end, you were able to balance quite easily in the middle with a just slight flex of your knees and ankles. You could be in the middle of a “raging storm” and keep your balance with the greatest of ease.

This is a great metaphor for the mind-set and “being-ness” of leaders who are able to create an inner place of what Buddha would call Equanimity.

A few months ago, I found myself on a 10-day Vipassana meditation course.  The course leader shared the original teachings of Buddha that encourages us to let go of our cravings and aversions.  The more that we can let go of our cravings and aversions, the more balanced our minds become and the more suffering will decrease.

What on earth does any of this have to do with leadership?

Self-Focus vs Others-Focus

The business applications and leadership results of keeping balance within a turbulent time can be amazing. The results of maintaining peace while leading can reach your bottom line quickly. This usually occurs when people on your staff are experiencing stress or problems and you step in with a proper mindset to help.

I remember one time I was talking to Mike, a friend who was managing a health studio.  Mike found himself on “one end of that business see-saw” and felt sick to his stomach. Jane, one of his top instructors was considering leaving and he was obviously highly stressed about the meeting he was about to have with her. I could see the fearpain and confusion in his eyes.  He asked me what he could say that would make her stay.

In looking to help him, I knew that I had to get his focus reset from that of himself, to that of Jane. He was focusing on his potential loss, so consequently, his desperation brought on by his self-focus was showing on his face. I knew that Jane would see what I was seeing and that could help push her out the door rather than keep her there on staff.

So, rather than feeding his cravings for words that would help him, I suggested another possible path. Rather than starting the meeting being so attached to her staying with the club, I suggested that he might like to approach the meeting with a different outcome in mind that gave her hope and optimism. An outcome exclusively focused on what Jane values, not on what Mike values.

Recipe for Success :: Showing up as a Giver

I told him this: Firstly, accept that if she wanted to leave, she would leave (release the attachment).  Secondly, go into the meeting to explore what was best for Jane.

I told him:

  • To prove that he cared more about her concerns than his own.
  • To show real empathycompassion, and care for her needsdesires and hopes.
  • That if he really wants the best for his business, that he will keep it staffed with people who really want to be there performing their best.

I added that when someone works for you, be sure to deal with them on terms that make sense to them; that this is the fundamental difference between leadership and management. I said that when you do this, then is when she can begin to see what might be important to you and perhaps Jane might change her mind about leaving. Modeling care to others teaches them how to care about you.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” ~Dr. John C. Maxwell

Wake up and Smell the Leadership

When I told this to Mike, the fear left his eyes and he started to smile.  He simply let go of his craving for his business success and put his focus on the needs of Jane. He was now in a place of equanimity, able to balance easily in the middle of the see-saw rather than being thrown about at the end.  He went into his meeting as a leader, not a manager.

I did not stay for their meeting, but I do know that Jane stayed on board with Mike!

Tip O’ the Day

Next time you go into a meeting feeling stressed or anxious about the outcome, ask yourself this;

1) What cravings (attachments) or aversions am I holding that are making me feel so bad?  Acknowledge them and if you can, let them go. (If you can’t let them go now, just naming them and being aware that they are there will be a great first step toward better outcomes in the future.)

2) What is the best outcome for all concerned? How do I demonstrate that with my words, actions, and leadership?

By the way, please don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is fun to be riding at the end of the see-saw; when you choose to be there and can enjoy the ride.

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Phil Clothier is CEO of Barrett Values Centre
He can be contacted at phil@valuescentre.com

Image Source: image.tutorvista.com, freemybrain.com, berchman.com

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2 responses to “Leadership Balance: The See-Saw Effect

  1. Excellent views on servant leadership and leading from a space of inner calm – I can feel it from here!

    The metaphor also reminds me of a workshop a while back with Mike Harris (Egg, First Direct, T-Mobile…now Garlik) where he spoke of the right balance between managerial and visionary leadership. Tip too far into managerial and you get bogged down in the detail and the doing; tip too far into visionary and risk being deluded!

    To me, getting the right balance, standing in the middle, is the strategic leader who rides that centrepoint that connects the two.

    Thanks for the insights Phil.


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