Playing for High Stakes

The higher the stakes, the more preparation is required.  But then what? What is actually required in the moment? This was a topic for discussion with a client who is going for the big brass ring – the top job at a billion dollar conglomerate.  The preparation is becoming more and more clear, but in six months when it’s time to sit down with the current CEO, the Board and the Leadership Team; what then?

The question sends me back to my days as a theatre actress.  You rehearsed and rehearsed until opening night when the adrenaline pumping through your body would kill a horse.   All you can do at that point is hope like crazy that your preparation was good enough because now it’s too late.  And much as you would prefer to ‘check out’ and come back when it’s all over, you have to stay present because this is ‘live’ and your shoe could come off, your co-star could miss an entrance, a light could fail to come on.  You have to on your toes.

The thing that differentiates the wheat from the chaff is the ability to stay in your body and respond to what’s in the room in a centered and meaningful way, under extreme pressure, because of and ultimately despite your preparation.  So I shared something I have been using as a guide working with leaders since the book was published and it has never led me astray. It is from The Four Fold Way; Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary by Angeles Arrien, Harper Collins, 1993.

This is the result of the authors’ work with indigenous leaders all over the world from all kinds of different cultures.  She wanted to see what leaders or change agents all have in common.  It turns out that all good leaders do four distinct, seemingly simple steps:

  1. Show up and choose to be present
  2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning
  3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment (important to distinguish judgment as criticism vs. critical analysis)
  4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.

Really, these could be instructions for coaches, attorneys, parents, negotiators, anyone responsible and under duress.  I will be elaborating on each step in future postings.

2 thoughts on “Playing for High Stakes

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