I coach executives and consult with companies to elevate the performance of their leaders and teams. My business has exploded and I work all over the world, but it wasn’t always this way. I had to go from a career path that was draining me to find my passion and meaningful work. And, just as important, I had to find and develop the competence to make and fulfill bigger and bigger promises to my clients and myself.
This journey started around 2004 when it actually looked like I had already achieved personal success as the CEO of a successful small company. Prior to that, I had grown a career step by step in several organizations and took on the CEO role because the company mission resonated with me. I struggled to find myself in the role and found that while I had my theories of leadership, I was still missing some hands-on skills.
As part of my search, I decided to explore Generative Leadership starting in 2007, and it enabled me to address my two biggest issues: how to help my organization perform and how to address my underlying search for finding my own place in my work and world. I learned that a leader can’t impose behavior or commitment, but can engage with others so that they bring their own commitment and ownership. I learned that the essential ingredient to the value and meaning that drives authentic commitment is care and taking care of what matters most. If you aren’t doing that, you can’t commit at a level deeper beyond obligation and routine.
Care, connected to commitment, has become the foundation of my work and way of life. Care as the foundation of meaning and value is what drives clients, leaders, team members, people, and relationships. It is how I now see and act in my work, my life, and my relationships. It’s the generative core for successful action and results.
The generative leadership discipline showed me how commitment and care shape the coordination of action that is fundamental to teamwork, leadership, and being a professional. I was able to make bigger promises and make a greater, positive impact. I learned to get on the same page with my team, to clarify where we were headed and what each of our roles was on the team, and to produce outcomes beyond what we could do before. We learned to work with less waste, better focus and ended up creating more value. We went from expectations of each other to clear agreements and shared a commitment with the team.
The generative path also asked me to deeply face the question of what I really cared about now, and whether I was taking care of it. This exploration took me to an unexpected answer – that what I most wanted was to run my own organization and help executives and teams with the challenges that I had journeyed through. To do this, I had to face my fear, fear of letting go of my role, fear of striking out in new directions. I had to face the question of whether I could actually choose what I wanted to do and be successful at taking care of what mattered most. I had to overcome my self-doubt. I had to enter deep conversations with myself of what I really wanted to do in my life and who I wanted to be.
I was able to apply the conversational competency that my generative learning gave me – that I can always have the next conversation and create something new. Even when it may feel like it, we are never actually stuck. There is always the possibility of having another conversation. I knew that missing action or commitment was a manifestation of a missing conversation. And I knew that I didn’t have to already know the missing conversation, that I could invent it. It’s what leadership and living a life of choice is all about.
What I’m taking care of today is lessening the suffering that all-too-often happens in organizational life. I help my clients discover well-being and satisfaction at work while still being committed to the outcomes of the organization. I support them to achieve seemingly impossible goals by helping them get out of their own way (which I know from personal experience). I have also found myself particularly drawn to the challenges that face women in developing their leadership, both the systemic challenges and the internal challenges that can stop or paralyze us and have us play a smaller game.
I have found that Generative Leadership is a foundational discipline that opens and enables human beings to create valuable futures together. It’s where I learned that we can’t just learn “about” leadership, but have to learn to be a different leader. We must go beyond theories and concepts to create our future and we have to move out of our old drift of habits and blind spots.
I’m inspired by the practice to make and help others to make big commitments that are valuable to themselves, to others, and to the world. I ask myself and others, “What would life look like if you stopped resisting?” I am grateful that I have found my path. I encourage each of you to find yours.
Note: In spite of her full client schedule, Terrie supports Generative Leadership learning in the world as a program coach in the IGL Generative Leadership Program (GLP).