By Lauren Burton, Managing Partner at Lea_p
A year ago I started training a group on a 9 month international talent program. One of the participants was a huge sceptic. He said to me many times, “Lauren, this is just coaching bullshit!”. I admired his honesty but I also saw his questioning, his curiosity on the transformations he was seeing going on around him and of course the connection to his own feelings. We coached for another 9 months.
During that time I had asked him many times to cultivate a daily practice. I ask this of most of my clients because within ourselves lie all our answers to heal. His and many clients answers are always the same - “I don’t have time.” This is an excuse, often a valid one but it is key to yourself development and when it becomes important enough you will find time.
COVID-19 hit and the time spent out with loved ones, socialising and travelling got taken away and my client finally had time to stop. The learning of the past year kicked in as he got silent and connected back to himself, to nature, to his purpose, to his passions.
He called a couple of weeks ago (almost a year to the day from when his journey began) and told me how for the first time as an adult he felt like he did when he was a child. He shared the amazing synchronicities that were happening in his life, how he felt peace and happiness for the first time in years. I was filled with joy. To witness this moment is a true blessing, and a serious perk of the job.
This is leadership development in its truth. He’s learnt many skills, he can communicate far better than a year ago and there is a noticeable impact on his work. But his evolution; the compassion he has created with all the people he touches, along with the understanding, creativity, resilience and a deep belief in oneself IS leadership. This will transform his life and the life of those he touches.
This is the real value and gift of leadership development. However, explaining the business benefit of leadership development to new clients is tricky because it is SO much more than developing skills.
From my own life changing journey to the same ones I see my clients take over and over again, I see these trends. Often a year or so after their development began, I hear; ‘Well that wasn’t what I thought it was going to be!’ or ‘Wow, you know more about me than my best friends” or “I am so connected to a part of me that I haven’t had for years” or “I’m connected to something greater than myself.”
What I might have told myself ten years ago, before I started my own leadership journey would be this (although I wouldn’t have signed up):
'Lauren, you are going to go on a journey so profound, so rich, so full of love, and so fucking hard that it is going to break you before it builds you back up. You are going to hit rock bottom more than once. You will re-evaluate your beliefs, your relationships and everything you were taught. You will have to take responsibility and face all the ways you fuck yourself up.
... And along this path you are going to feel more peace, more love, more joy, more compassion and more courage than you knew you had in you. You will feel it so viciously it will take you to your knees. You are going to be scared what everyone thinks about you, until you don’t care anymore. You are going to care fiercely about injustice-from politics, racism, women’s rights and animal rights. You are going to spends hours, days, weeks and years learning about how systems are made and work your ass off to try to undo these injustices, often to little avail. You will see the beauty in almost every person you come into contact with – especially when they are deemed ‘bad’. You will care more about the environment, the food you eat, the work you do than you could ever imagine. You will have a deep connection to the universe and yourself, you will pray and meditate, and even feel rare moments when you are one with a higher order. This won’t be a job it will be a way of life'
I would have said no thanks, I’m alright!
Hence why I don’t ever say that to my clients on day 1, or day 300, or sometimes ever, but at some point on some of their journeys they share their version of that. Imagine that conversation at an initial meeting in a board room when the purpose of the training is to decrease staff turnover and improve productivity. Yes the staff retention will increase as will productivity, but the real work is how much the staff are going to evolve and grow. From this place the possibilities are endless.
So why do I find this hard to articulate the value of leadership development?:
1) Because to truly know yourself you have to reach deep inside, question your beliefs and own the stuff that’s been weighing you down your whole life. And then take responsibility for changing it.
2) We are not just going to talk about how you are controlling at work, because for you to truly understand your controlling tendencies you have to know where they began and why that is ultimately a fear based belief system driving your actions.
3) Evolution first comes through learning and gaining knowledge and understanding, and then evolution becomes about your connection to you heart and soul, and to the heart and soul of others and the planet.
4) The journey of leadership development starts with you, then infiltrates the relationships you have with others, your community, systemic issues and the and the environment. - It’s exhausting! It’s is ever unfolding and its life’s work!
My work is to keep evolving myself, my clients and the companies I work with. I believe companies need to be more conscious so that we work for more than money and power at the expense of the entire planet. We have an opportunity as a race to start doing what is right and live in line with mother nature and each other, and we have a responsibility as the ‘top’ species on the planet to start fucking doing it.
My tool is leadership development and the value of it is priceless.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org