Questions about friendship, parenting, and anxiety [new post]

Last week, I shared questions I’ve been wrestling/playing with as I coach executives, consult to organizations, and consider my impact on the larger world.

This week, I share questions I’m exploring in three other domains: friendship, parenting, and anxiety.

Friendship. What makes a friendship worth pursuing, and how can I recognize the presence or absence of these conditions?

Life offers a big spectrum of relationships. Between casual acquaintances on one end and best friends on the other is a wide variety of ways of relating. Since I was a kid, I’ve had at least one best friend and a variety of buddies. These friendships have offered me companionship, joy, learning, and solace—and occasionally disappointment and pain. In recent years, I’ve been noticing what makes a friendship worth pursuing or sustaining and how to recognize when these conditions are present or missing.

With this clarity has come greater boldness. I’ve started speaking up about what I need in friendship and to a lesser extent what I can offer. I’ve thanked some friends for what I appreciate about our friendship and told others what is lacking. These are hard things to describe, and society provides few teachings or role models, so I stumble along. I tend to overestimate others’ awareness of my needs and underestimate the level of specificity I need to give them. For each friend who has appreciated my candor and vulnerability is another who’s felt confused or hurt. All of these friends are men, so that adds another wrinkle. For many men, friendship is something you do after you’ve finished everything else, if at all. We are stumbling along together.

Parenting. What nourishments do my children need right now, and what can I do to provide them?

My five-year-old son, because of his stage of development, needs loving touch, a safe environment for sensory exploration, and a sense of rightful place. He is a snuggly little guy, so the loving touch comes easily. Due to his temperament and Montessori education, he’s good at playing on his own and with others, and takes delight in kinesthetic explorations.

Rightful place is a bit harder to provide. What boundaries, created with love and held with power, will help him feel like he is right where he belongs? How can I be “the mountain” for him, equal parts compassionate and firm?  Asking these questions matters most at the very moments I’m least likely to consider them: when he’s complaining I’ve made his oatmeal the wrong way, clamoring to go outside when it’s time for bed, or angry at his brother, my wife, or me.

My first instinct at these times is to do whatever most quickly quells the disturbance and pacifies the belligerent. These quick fixes may or may not create a short-term solution, but they are unlikely to foster his long-term development. So I catch myself, take a breath, and ask: what does he need right now?

Anxiety. Who am I when I’m not having anxious thoughts?

It’s no secret that my peers and I have our own “stuff.” Even the most mature leadership coaches have blind spots that, if unilluminated, can erode their clients’ trust in them and their ability to grow.  Even the most seasoned consultants have idiosyncrasies that, if unattended, can thwart their best designed interventions.

Earlier in my career, I assumed that if I hid my flaws from clients, they would trust me more. Needless to say, that didn’t work out well. It’s hard to trust someone who is hiding themselves from you, especially in a field like leadership development.

These days, I don’t spend a lot of time with leaders talking about myself, but I also don’t avoid it. One thing that I’ve begun speaking about is my own anxiety. No, I don’t tell long stories about my childhood or give detailed descriptions of how my mind catastrophizes. But I do mention, particularly when helping people understand themselves through the Enneagram, that my mind reflexively imagines worst case scenarios (Type Six), and that it takes presence and practice to tame this habit. On rarer occasions I reveal that I take medicine for anxiety; I do this to destigmatize mental illness.

My psychiatrist told me last year that of all of his patients, I’m the one he worries about the least. So he only needs to see me once a year. I told him that of all of his patients, I’m the one I worry about the most.

That’s the thing about anxiety—or any other condition or quality that can trip us up. When it is a subject of our awareness, when we cannot see it, it literally holds us in its grasp. Thus, we can see only what it lets us see, both about others and about ourselves. Nothing else.

What happens when anxiety becomes an object of my awareness, when I can recognize its presence, shape, and form? Instead of it holding me, I hold it. Who is this “I” that is big enough to hold anxiety?

That’s one heck of a fascinating question. I would tell you my latest answers, but I fear what you would think of them. 😉

 

Episode 68: Timeless Wisdom For Men With Sean LeClaire [The Amiel Show]

Men, this episode is for you.

Executive coach and author Sean Casey LeClaire joins me to describe his remarkable journey from a rough-and-tumble working poor hometown through flirtation with a professional sports career toward early success as an advertising executive and then discovery of what he calls “timeless wisdom.” This interview is filled with heartfelt stories about aspiration, loss, anger, challenge, and the still, graceful space within each of us.

Sean’s autobiographical tale provides the emotional core of my emerging series on Men in Leadership. It joins past conversations with Robert Augustus Masters about true masculine power, Janet Crawford on being a good guy and breaking with the bro code, and Keith Witt on men’s sexual shadow at work, as well as a Jedi Leadership Trick I call The Manly Apology.

Listen in, and send me an email to tell me which story resonated with you the most.

Highlights

  • 9:00 Growing up with sports, violence, and poetry
  • 14:00 Putting on a mask to stay alive
  • 16:00 Rick, Jim, and the power of a gentle challenge
  • 24:00 Anger and archetypal gestures
  • 27:30 The story of hugging an angry man
  • 34:30 A friend’s suicide and discovering yoga
  • 37:00 Sean reads his poem “If I stopped”
  • 45:30 When people think Sean is crazy or arrogant
  • 49:00 When coaches get co-opted by sickness in corporations
  • 53:30 Sean reads his poem “Parts”
  • 58:00 Sean’s son champions him through the frustrating construction of a Darth Vader scooter

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Episode 66: Men’s Sexual Shadow At Work With Keith Witt [The Amiel Show]

Dr Keith Witt

Men who are conscious of their sexual shadows at work are better leaders. They are less likely to do stupid things like sexually harass women or have illicit affairs. By spending less energy fighting their shadows, they can use their human superpowers to do good things like build great teams and guide them toward a better future.

People don’t talk a lot about this. Not in day to day work. And not even in classes about diversity and inclusion—or women in leadership.

That’s why I was so excited to talk with this week’s guest, Keith Witt, about his new book Shadow Light: Illuminations At the Edge Of Darkness.

His book and our conversation are about everyone (not just men) and all types of shadow (not just the sexual one). Still, the part I found most valuable was about straight guys who still haven’t gotten over their teenage crush on Suzie next door. Yes, we actually riff on this for 15 minutes!

Keith and I previously spoke about creating a marital love affair. You might say that this time we talk about loving your shadow.

For integral folks, we also talk about your personal moral system. How does this system change as we grow? What happens to our bodies when we violate it?

As if that weren’t enough, we also look at how healthy and unhealthy nationalism differ. Hint: it has to do with the collective shadow!

Highlights

  • The shame of violating your moral system
  • Constructive versus destructive shadow
  • Human superpowers
  • The roots of sexual harassment
  • Evaluating potential employees for their willingness to be influenced
  • Healthy and unhealthy nationalism

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Episode 60: Being A Good Guy, Breaking With The Bro Code With Janet Crawford [The Amiel Show]

Janet-Crawford

Are you a man who wants to support women and under-represented minorities in your organization?

In short, would you like to be a good guy?

If so, then you may wonder How exactly can I be a good guy?

The answer may surprise you.

It is not enough to track numbers or avoid discrimination and other offensive behaviors—much less sexual assault, which many of us are now discussing due to the U.S. presidential race. (Here is my take on the election.)

There are a series of positive steps you can take that go well beyond avoiding harm.

Some actions won’t pose risks for your public identity or career. Others require breaking from the Bro Code.

This week, Janet Crawford is back on the podcast to share her insights and practical tips for everyone who wants to be a good guy.

Janet is helping lead this conversation in Silicon Valley. Among all the executive coaches I know, she is the most knowledgeable about how the brain works and why this matters for leadership and unconscious bias. In episode 1 of this podcast, she talked about leaders’ brains, emotional literacy, and power.

Janet is unique because she not only works with organizations but also stays up to date on the latest brain and social science research. In fact, in just the past two years, she has updated her own views. For example, if a man sees a woman apologizing when it seems unwarranted, what can he do that will be helpful? Janet’s thoughts have changed—and, after listening to her, so have mine.

I can’t think of a more timely topic. If you find this conversation to be useful, please share it with colleagues and friends. That will help a lot.

Highlights:

  • 10:00 Biologically, the experiences of women and under-represented minorities is very different
  • 19:00 African American women are better prepared for bias than Caucasian women
  • 24:30 CEO of AT&T sets a model for candidly sharing vulnerable stories
  • 29:00 Proactive steps to make it safe to take risks and innovate
  • 35:00 Sponsorship is very different from mentorship
  • 39:00 New research on how the power hierarchy influences behavior
  • 46:00 The leader sets a norm for civil behavior
  • 51:00 What is the Bro Code?
  • 57:00 A woman’s brain changes when a man stands up for her
  • 1:04:00 Breaking from the Bro Code is courageous
  • 1:09:00 It’s not about infantilizing women

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There is an overt Bro Code and a subtle form.

–Janet Crawford  Tweet this quote

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Episode 51: The Manly Apology, A Jedi Leadership Trick [The Amiel Show]

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Women apologize too often. Men apologize too little. Not just at home, but in the workplace. Maybe even more so in the workplace.

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In this episode, I challenge men to give more apologies, to do it in a real way, and to stop making lame excuses for not apologizing. I also weave in clips from my interview last year with Robert Augustus Masters, author of To Be A Man: A Guide to True Masculine Power. Robert spoke movingly and compassionately about the power of apologies, and how apologizing requires power. I riff off of his comments.

This is a Jedi Leadership Trick, so you’ll also get the Five Steps to a Manly Apology.

This episode is 15 minutes long.

Highlights

  • 5:30  Five lame excuses for not apologizing
  • 10:20 Five steps to a manly apology: Get Clear, Get Still, Get In Touch, Get Real, Get It Done

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“I’m sorry if this made you angry” is not an apology. It’s the opposite of an apology.

–Amiel Handelsman  Tweet this quote

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Episode 31: Hilary Bradbury On Women, Men, Power, And Eros [The Amiel Show]

Ready for a candid and edgy conversation about power relationships between women and men in the workplace?

Then you’ll want to download this episode and listen on your next car ride, walk, or flight.

Hilary Bradbury joins me to discuss her provocative and inspiring new book, Eros/Power: Love In The Spirit of Inquiry, which you can purchase here.  In this book, Hilary and her coauthor, Bill Torbert, a previous guest on the podcast, use their own autobiographical stories to reveal important yet often hidden dynamics that trip up leaders at work and in the rest of life.

Join me as I talk with this trailblazing leadership coach, organizational consultant, and professor.

Hilary-Bradbury

Highlights

  • First, second, and third person conversations (7:55)
  • The day Hilary got fired, then met Bill Torbert (18:00)
  • The “odd duality” women have about telling the truth (22:00)
  • Being an “eros bomb”, evoking confusion in Bill, and not realizing it (26:30)
  • Having crushes at work is different from acting them out (32:30)
  • Hilary and Bill’s most painful conflict with each other (38:50)
  • How Hilary’s Enneagram type–The Challenger–shows up in her work (48:30)
  • Bill’s great advice for Hilary on handling sexual harassment from a senior colleague of hers (55:10)
  • Hilary’s heartfelt apology and Bill’s graceful response (1:01.00)
  • Hilary’s angrily tells her life partner “I’m not your junior partner” (1:05.00)
  • Hilary and her partner’s weekly relationship-enhancing practice (1:11.00)

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“It’s a tricky thing when women & men try to do this power dance with integrity”

—Hilary Bradbury   Tweet this quote

Buy Hilary and Bill Torbert’s New Book

To purchase and/or review a copy of Eros/Power, click here.

To learn more about the book, read a sample, register for a related workshop, click here.

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