As I wrote here earlier this year, a word that’s working for me this year is the Sanskrit word sankalpa. As explained to me by one of my teachers, Sara Ivanhoe, sankalpa encourages us to focus less on what we’re going to do and more on how we’re going to be. Of course, those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. How we show up in any given situation has an enormous impact on what we actually accomplish.
A great example of how that works was cited recently by Tony Schwartz in one of his regular columns for the New York Times. Schwartz recently met and spent some time talking with Lynn Doughtie, the recently appointed chairman and CEO of the public accounting firm, KPMG. She is the first woman to hold both of those roles in one of the Big Four accounting firms. Obviously, you don’t end up in a position like Doughtie’s unless you have a stellar track record of getting big things done.
What struck Schwartz the most in his conversation with her was how present and connected Doughtie was with him. As great leaders do, she made him feel like she had nothing more important to do in those moments than talk with him. His conversation with Doughtie reminded Schwartz of recent research from Zenger Folkman, a pioneering firm in the field of leadership competencies. In an analysis of 360 degree assessments on 16,000 managers and executives -- two-thirds men and one-third women -- the firm found that the women leaders scored higher than the men in 12 of the 16 competencies.
I’ve said for years that leadership competencies can basically be broken down into two big categories -- the behaviors that drive results and the behaviors that build relationships. As Schwartz reports, the women in the Zenger-Folkman study scored highest in both broad categories. When you score high on both results and relationships, you get stuff done over the long run.
The good news (for the men reading this) is you don’t have to be a woman to show up this way. It really depends on making a choice to emphasize relationships as much as you do results. There are a lot of relatively easy things you could choose to do this week that would likely make a big difference in helping you show up as a well-rounded leader like Lynn Doughtie.
For instance, you could put your smartphone in airplane mode to keep you from being distracted in a conversation. You could count to five before jumping in with your opinion. (That might give someone else time to contribute or give you time to realize that what you were about to say wasn’t really that brilliant.) You could notice how hard a colleague is working and surprise them with a small gift that says you noticed. You could ask questions of others that help them reflect and generate new ideas rather than questions that put them on the defensive. That’s just a short list off the top of my head. I’m sure you can come up with a better one with a little bit of thought.
The really cool thing about sankalpa -- choosing how you want to be -- is that the ripple effect of doing it well is so huge. If you’re a leader, you control the weather. How you show up this week determines the climate for everyone around you. Why not choose to show up in a way that helps others be at their best?