ACTing in the Open Age

February 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

Connecting My Head With My Heart:

Last summer I attended a week-long course from Stanford’s GSB executive education program that has become an inflection point in my approach to life.  The course was called Interpersonal Dynamics for High Performance Executives.  It’s name didn’t do the class justice.  What transpired for me during the week was a reawakening helping me to begin reestablishing internal pathways connecting my head with my heart in a powerful combination.

I’ve known I’d been living “in my head” for quite some time.  It was convenient.  It was comfortable.  Being a CFO and a finance and operations professional for 20 years has made it too easy to over-rotate to a left brain, analytical approach to the world.  Driven by data, requirements, metrics, and complex models – I was in my element.   It was easy for me in Silicon Valley’s fast-paced competitive arena to get out of balance in the intellectual sport of economic king making.

In recent years, however, I found myself wanting more and deeply missing something both in business and in my personal life.  I had forgotten to, or rather gotten out of practice with, truly connecting with others on an authentic level and simply “keeping it real”.

From a historical perspective, I’ve always been a people person and knew nothing other than being real and keeping it real.  I grew up in small towns of Northern California (Tiburon until I was 11) and then the heartland of Ohio (Tiffin; 11-18) where families and friends always came first.  I received an engineering scholarship and attended USC,  joined a fraternity (Phi Delt), and easily connected with many friends.   My first job was in Silicon Valley and when I left Intuit in 1996, my close colleagues gave me a very expensive pen/pencil set inscribed with “It’s the People” – a motto I helped contribute to when we compiled and published Intuit’s now famous operating values.

At some point thereafter, I gradually became unbalanced in my approach to my business life which also began impacting my personal life and “connecting habits”.  Over the last several years, I’ve been finding my way back to a more balanced center thanks primarily to a renewed focus on friends and family as well as finding an amazing culture in Mozilla.  Mozilla has proven to be an amazing breeding ground for my personal learning with a primary focus on operating openly, leading with communities, and how transparency and trust are are required for influence and impact.

Since my powerful week at Stanford, I’ve been playing with many concepts and “trying them on”.

  1. Life (both personal and business) is based on RELATIONSHIPS
  2. Relationships are built on TRUST
  3. Trust requires being VULNERABLE (Open)

I’ve begun connecting some very important dots such as

  • Sensing (the five senses) = The Data Input
  • Thinking = the Head/Brain interpreting and trying to understand the data
  • Feeling = the Heart;  the Output; the true value of why we sense and think.

Most importantly, feelings and emotions are an “Importance Dashboard”.  The higher the emotions, the more important the subject must be.  Therefore, I’m learning to lean into and explore the highest emotional discomfort.  Data and Dashboards are things I’m naturally good at and now I have other tools to help me begin to connect.

Other learning from my Stanford week included an understandable and ever-present dynamic when two people attempt to communicate.

  • Intent (a person’s needs; motives; situation)
  • Behavior (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Impact (feelings, reactions, internal responses)

Two of these dynamics are mostly invisible and feeling based while Behavior is the only visible reality of any communication.   Interestingly, I learned that if I didn’t share what I was thinking and feeling concerning how I was being impacted by others behaviors, that these “others” would naturally fill in the blanks for me.  Worse, I realized I probably wasn’t being truly “seen” and/or I was losing control over how I was seen.   In this world of non-sharing, my best outcome would be that others assumptions would only be directionally accurate and in the worst outcomes completely wrong.  Ouch.

So, I’m course correcting and learning how to ACT better by being more Authentic, Connected, and Transparent.  I learned about Vulnerability (an extremely powerful concept – quite the opposite of showing weakness).  Ultimately I’m learning how to begin to establish better Trust and by doing so to be a better leader with much greater Influence.

I’m on a mission to re-connect my heart with my head in a powerful bridge and I hope to share this learning with others…starting with this post.

If any of this connects with you and you are interested in more, one of my favorite Ted Talks on authentically connecting is Brene Brown

Deep thanks go out to Stanford’s David Bradford, Carole Robin, and Tony Levitan, as well as my fellow group.   In addition, I thank Deb Cohen who pushed me to take this class and finally many deep friends at Mozilla who have helped be understand “open”, “transparent”, and the power of being “connected”.

Serendipity: As I was putting the finishing touches on this post,  @StanfordBiz Tweets to Ask:  “In 5 words or fewer, what does “power” mean to you?

I replied by  Tweeting:   ACTing OPENly; Authentic, Connected, Transparent.    And so my sharing journey begins….

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