"We are all made of star stuff"

The Autumn night air is crisp and clear. I am far away from the glow of the city, in the mountains of New Hampshire and the universe has revealed itself with luminous constellations, the banner of the Milky Way, and the alignment of three planets. Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are suspended in a brilliant line across the expansive night sky. 

Constellations are complete pictures, representing stories. All of the stars in a given constellation are needed to show the complete picture, to tell the full story. The same is true for teams. Individual “stars” cannot shine and reach their full potential without the support of others. The story of what a high performing team can achieve is not in fact “written in the stars” but rather written by team members and leaders. 

Carl Sagan once wrote, “we are all made of star stuff.” His correlation was based on an atomic level. However, Constellation Leadership is about seeking the potential – the star stuff of each person. This star stuff emerges in teams and in leaders. Our purpose is to cultivate this luminous nature in our human interactions at work.

Leadership is about aligning people towards a compelling purpose; having a clear vision and mission towards that purpose; creating an environment where the full story or full potential of the team (and its individual members) can be met; and driving to star performance.

What is the constellation story of your team? How are you aligning your team members for star performance?

"Put Your Heart Into Their Heart": Leading With Empathy

My kindergarten-aged daughter has a new child in her classroom. We were talking about what it means to be a good friend - especially to a child who is starting school half-way through the year. We considered what he might be thinking and feeling, and discussed how to help him feel included in the friendships that already exist in the class. “Empathy,” I explained, “is when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to see the world from their perspective.”

My daughter replied, “isn’t it really that you are putting your heart into their heart?”

Well yes, that is really what empathy is about. We can all recall a time that someone put their heart into ours and the difference that made for us.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) researcher, Daniel Goleman says that of all the competencies (i.e. skills) related to EI, the most important one is empathy. Empathy builds trust and connection, the foundations of all relationships - at work and in our personal lives.

How do we practice the skills related to empathy? By truly listening to people and by having a deep curiosity for their perspectives. When we can suspend our own thoughts, judgements and ego and remain in a state of inquiry - especially in the midst of difficult conversations, we can begin to put our hearts into their hearts. When we practice listening with focus, staying present with the person, summarizing their ideas before we share our point of view, then again we are putting our hearts into theirs.