How to Courageously Connect to Improve Your Leadership Performance

How to Courageously Connect to Improve Your Leadership Performance

We’ve been garnering leadership performance insights from my daughter’s Kilimanjaro climbing adventures.

“I never thought I would climb a mountain. And here I am, surrounded by my friends, on the way to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. What am I doing??!!”

Our leader, my co-worker, has climbed this mountain many times before. Like me, there are three other colleagues with no mountaineering experience. And then there is Elizabeth, my dear friend from America, who said she’ll come to visit me in Tanzania on condition that we climb Kilimanjaro.”

Danae’s research finds that many climbers don’t reach the summit because they choose the wrong guide. Why? The guide takes them on the wrong path or at the wrong pace. The climbers start out strong, yet stall out, during the most difficult part of the journey. They never reach the summit. They don’t have the collaborative support they need. They forgot that the right guide is part of a mountaineering toolkit. For leaders today collaborating with a trusted guide is just as crucial.

That’s the third leadership strategy lesson we learn from Danae’s research and experience:

Foster Courageous Connection with Others

Many climbers don’t have the support they need. A trusted, experienced, and skilled guide is a must in the “mountaineering kit” of all adventurers.

Danae’s story shines a light on this principle. Here’s what Danae says:

  • On the final day of our hike, my headlamp goes out. The guide sees this, and without a word, hands me his. 
  • During the final hours of our climb, there are times when we get separated. One of the guides stays behind with some of the members to allow them to rest some more. 
  • Our guide keeps on assuring us that we will make it. He is encouraging us not to stop. 
  • We keep moving step by step for another hour. Our guide is feeding us bits of chocolate to keep us going. 

Without a guide stepping in at critical moments, the journey to the top is doomed.

The same truth applies to all leadership development journeys, including yours.

What tougher-than-usual leadership mountains are you facing? 

3 Leadership Performance Steps for Courageous Connection

There are times when all leaders benefit from working with a trusted, third-party mentor to enhance their leadership skills.  Collaborating with a guide or a coach requires a special brand of courage. In fact, I call it Sisu Courage.

What makes it so difficult to partner with a guide or a coach?

First, we have to admit that we’re not infallible and that we don’t have all the answers. For many successful leaders, that’s a disturbing thought.  (OK, that might be a personal confession 😊)

So, I’m inviting you on my journey of building the courage to collaborate with a guide. I use three leadership performance steps on this journey:

  • Gain Awareness
  • Find the Right Guide
  • Spotlight Strengths
Leadership Performance Improvement Step #1: Gain Awareness

I recently started working through Smart Leadership in Action by Mark Miller.  In Mark’s companion 100-day journal/workbook for leaders, he opens Day 1 with:

“How are you…really? Are you living your best life? Are you realizing your full potential? Most leaders I know, including myself, would say there is always something more – more impact, more influence, more opportunity. If that’s how you feel, fantastic! This journal should help.”

Those are great questions, aren’t they?

How are you…really?

Are you living your best life?

Are you realizing your full potential?

Miller then asks the reader to jot down the things that they struggle with on a regular basis.

I confess I was shocked at what I wrote: A lack of vision and the strategies to achieve my goals!

Now, let’s be real, that’s a sobering admission for any leader who’s been successful before. A vision-less and strategy-less leader!

I know I’m pretty hard on myself. Yet, I wrote it. So, I need to own it and deal with it.

I’m wrestling with Exponential Progress, Digital Disruption, and Cancel Culture, and, I could add more to this list! It sometimes feels like an onslaught of change. The disruption and rapid shifts in our culture are taking their toll – even on me!

What about you? Are you feeling the toll on yourself:

    • spiritually or motivationally?
    • relationally?
    • physically?
    • mentally?
    • financially?

What holds you back from enlisting external expertise to support you through this part of your leadership development journey? For many, outdated paradigms still apply. Asking for help is seen as a weakness. Counter-cultural thinking invites us to change our perspective and embrace the leadership benefits of working with a trusted guide.

Consider the leadership strategy you’ve applied before. In the past, you engaged consultants and coaches to refine your company vision. You consulted experts to upgrade your strategic plan. Or to streamline operations. You took these wise steps to grow yourself, your staff, and your business or organization.

It’s no different to work with a guide or a coach to deal with the turmoil in your internal world. It’s not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a huge, courageous step that’s part of your Leadership Toolkit.

Connecting with others makes you stronger. In Leadership Shift, I talk about this – “The strongest leaders, the ones who stand the test of time, depend on the wisdom, insight, and inspiration of those around them. In turn, they share their own resources with those they lead.”

In Chapter 9 of Millennials Matter, (Proactive Self-Care and Leadership) I talk about personal battles that challenge us to prioritize the need for self-reflection and re-calibration. To live more intentionally, listen more deeply and strategically to yourself on all levels, i.e. spiritually/motivationally, relationally, physically, intellectually, and financially. I invite you to read this chapter to strengthen your resolve to take proactive care of your inner world.

What is your leadership experience? What are you facing?

Leadership Performance Improvement Step #2: Find the Right Guide 

Working through Mark Miller’s workbook awakened the awareness I needed to admit what is going on in my inner world. I decide that I want a trusted guide or coach who can challenge me to think about this season of life with fresh insight.

I’ve learned the hard way that finding the right guide isn’t always easy. A guide, or a coach, might be a right fit for one season, but not for another – for one issue, but not for another. It requires discernment to figure it out. And, when you’re dealing with deeply private issues, you want a guide or coach you can trust. Questions abound:

    • How do you know when you need a guide or a coach?
    • What might lead you to a guide, instead of a book, a seminar, or your leadership roundtable?
    • How might you find the right guide or coach for this section of your leadership journey?

Check out my video: How to Fine-Tune Your Leadership Strategy During Difficult Times

In Millennials Matter (Chapter 7 – Trustworthiness: Leading with Compelling Integrity) I feature my go-to trust expert, David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line.  I believe the following Trust Guidelines, based on the 8 Trust Pillars, increase your ability to find the guide that is right for your unique leadership mountain.

Find a guide who displays these traits:

      • Clarity about their vision, values, and virtues.
      • Compassion – having your best interest in mind at all times.
      • Character-based with a reputation of doing what is right over what is easy.
      • Competent and skilled, yet always seeking fresh, innovative ideas and new insights.
      • Committed to standing with you, no matter how difficult your leadership mountain is.
      • Connected to others and willing to be collaborative.
      • Contributing positive action to your journey.
      • Consistent in attitude, behavior, and approach.

When you find a guide that ticks all these boxes, you are on the right track! If you don’t know a guide like this, consider reaching out to someone you trust for advice or a referral. One such guide is Tom. I met Tom several years ago and respect his work. I have several clients, friends, and colleagues who find Tom to display the 8 Pillars of Trust.

Plus, I’m a huge fan of the Five Capitals framework  (More about Tom and his excellent programs in the next action step.)

Leadership Performance Improvement Step #3: Spotlight Strengths 

Reflecting on how I’m using my strengths, I’m at a point where I wonder if I’m off track.  Am I losing sight of where and how to focus my natural strengths? I get pulls from many directions. Sometimes I say yes to projects out of duty, versus out of calling.

Are you like me? I often take on projects I can do, but it might not be part of my core calling. That’s when the “good” becomes the enemy of the “great.”

What about you?

How often do you take a break from your hectic schedule to think about maximizing the use of your gifts and calling?

That’s when you might come to the realization that you’re off-track. You lack both vision and strategy for fulfilling your life’s purpose.

In situations like these, it’s time to pull out the Leadership Toolkit. Working with a guide or a coach might be needed to get your leadership performance back on track. A skilled guide asks insightful questions. This helps you become even more intentional and strategic in your leadership journey.

I decide to reach out to Tom Blaylock, the coach I mentioned in Step #2.

When I talk with Tom, he tells me about The Leader Intensive Program. It’s an assessment-based coaching encounter that assists leaders in charting a path to personal and professional growth.

This program, designed for executive leaders like you, enables you to…

      • Get unstuck
      • Grow your Emotional Intelligence
      • Discover and intentionally address blind spots
      • Clarify where you want to go and how you’ll get there.

There are several assessment tools that Tom integrates into The Leader Intensive Program. You may have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test for personality types. There’s also the Enneagram test. I took both in 2009, then again in 2018. I gained new leadership performance insights both times.

I realized that I want an even deeper level of understanding of the results. I’m hungry to know how to live out my natural giftedness in this new season of life; with the new set of priorities, I’m dealing with. I want to:

      • Get even more clarity about my own gifts and talents during this season of life.
      • Be intentional about identifying gifts and talents and how to maximize them and leverage them even further.
      • Increase resilience. As I gain insight into how I act and react under stress, I wish to improve my interaction with others.

You know that when you use your talents to serve others, they become strengths that benefit everyone. At certain times in your leadership development journey, you may need a guide to regain clarity on what those strengths are. And, how they might be maximized for this purpose.

To learn more about the Leader Intensive Experience contact me at for an introduction. Or, you can contact Tom Blaylock directly at referring to this article. Tom serves as the Director of Coaching for Five Capitals, holds ACC credentials from the International Coaching Federation, and is an MBTI© Certified Practitioner.

Courageous Connection with a Trusted Guide Gets you to the Top

Toward the end of the journey, Danae and her friend, Elizabeth, are exhausted. Their guide keeps them moving forward. He motivates and encourages them by assuring them they will make it.

Without a guide stepping in at critical moments, they might never have made it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro!

Connection with a wise guide is of paramount importance to mountaineers! It’s also a crucial part of your Leadership Toolkit.

Courageous Connection – A trusted, experienced, and skilled guide coach is needed in every Leadership Toolkit! Especially during challenging times.

On this journey, you make insightful discoveries about what you need to do to get to the summit of your Kilimanjaro. Fresh insights and a courageous mindset are important tools in your leadership mountaineering kit.

Your leadership matters, NOW, more than ever.

You can read all the articles in the Sisu Courage Series by clicking on the links below:

How do You Confront Fear to Strengthen Your Leadership Development?

Leadership Strategy Insights from Courageously Taking on Mount Kilimanjaro

A Courageous Character Keeps Your Leadership Development Journey on Track

Gratitude Builds Courage to Confidently Turn Scary Times into Leadership Development

How to Courageously Connect to Improve Your Leadership Performance

Leadership Performance Lesson: Your guide’s experience and wisdom will motivate you to expand your leadership influence.

Leadership Performance Question: What benefits might you gain from working with a trusted guide?

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