Last week I attended a Dallas Business Journal networking and promotional event. It was held in Frisco—an outreach town a good drive north of Dallas, especially at rush hour—and it was the first event of its kind that I’d ever attended. The group had an energetic vibe, and a number of editors and journalists were present. At the far end of the room, I noticed a man towering over the crowd. He was young—in his thirties, I guessed. His open face and relaxed demeanor captured the essence of leadership.
I had many conversations before being introduced to this man, whose name was John. Upon meeting, he and I quickly discovered that we shared a passion for coaching and leader development. John was a business developer, newly hired by a publicly traded financial consulting firm. Perhaps because he was new, or perhaps because of his own interest in the coaching industry, he asked me lots of questions about who I coached and how. We riffed off one another's thoughts and insights about living in Dallas, and I invited him to experience the early stages of a curriculum development project I'd been working on. Laughing, I said he could be a “willing guinea pig” for an evolving program, and after coining this term, I even wrote it on his business card. Our mutual humor made it a memorable exchange.
About a week later, John emailed me, and we decided to meet at Dunn Brothers Coffee in Addison. The last time I’d been there, I’d watched members of a local tango meet-up glide to the smoky rhythms of the Argentinian tango. This was a dance I had longed to learn, so I asked one of the owners, who was from South Africa, if the group still met there. To my disappointment, I learned that the group’s leader had passed on, but my memory of the dance and its energy prepared me for the interchange that followed.
John arrived minutes after my trip down memory lane, and we landed in a couple of leather chairs by the window. I learned John was recently married, recently relocated, and hungry to express his purpose in the world. He shared his experiences inside his new company, as well as his hope that the company was moving toward a more advisory, collaborative leadership approach to doing business. He was afraid, though, that things were moving too slowly and that the drive to meet quarterly earnings reports would drown the company’s collective resolve.
This is where things got interesting. I began to brainstorm with John about ways in which he could be a thought leader within the company. We explored possible blog posting topics. We identified potential champions to the undeclared cause. We discussed ways John could put himself in front of the company’s chief influencers and gently catalyze a deeper commitment to, and embodied action on, the company’s already-expressed vision.
"Whenever I let go of my attachment to how things need to look, a magic arises."
From there our conversation jumped to beliefs and faith, whereupon John expressed how he really wanted to make a difference in the world. His faith, it seemed, propelled all of his actions. Having recently experienced transformative leadership training, John reaffirmed his commitment to his new company. His plan was to get his feet firmly anchored on the ground so that soon, he could turn toward matters of the heart and expand his impact.
At this point, John circled back to the invitation I had made at the Dallas Business Journal event. He was interested in working with me, and he wanted to learn more about what I did and didn't do. As we explored what was possible, I remembered an idea I’d had that John could absolutely help to make a reality. In our discussions, we’d talked about Millennials’ aversion to the labels frequently attached to their generation; John disagreed with some of these labels, but saw the reasoning behind others. We spoke about how the traits of these younger people help and hinder them when it comes to being business leaders. We agreed that together, we could bring our respective skills and gifts to the table and build a community of support that would help develop the next generation of business leaders. We agreed that we could mutually benefit from wherever this conversation went next, so—buoyed by this conversation—John made a commitment to discuss this opportunity with his wife and get back to me.
I see this connection as part of some larger fabric that is emerging in my life. Perhaps when I met John at the coffee shop, I entered a kind of tango after all. Whenever I let go of my attachment to how things need to look, a magic arises. Every moment, we just take one more step and glide across the floor.
Part II to come…