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28 March 2024

The Value of Having Growth Partners

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Many leaders I know have a rich and complex interior life. That is to say, much more goes on in their minds, hearts, and souls than what’s on their job descriptions and OKRs. 

The contents of our interior life can seem irrelevant to the life we live out at work, with family, in social interactions, and so on. As such, some of us rarely speak of it to anyone. And we have various reasons for that. Many of those reasons are legitimate. We wonder: will people think I’m too “woowoo”? Will people stop taking me seriously? Will I lose my position or job if I share this experience with others? Yet, the contents of our inner life and our reflection on them are a part of who we are. They also hold within them opportunities for our growth. 

So, what if we could share and explore this part of ourselves with others while still being and growing as an effective leader?

Here is an example of what I mean.

“I discovered a man sitting in my consciousness.” That was the subject line of an email I wrote to my coach and mentor almost 10 years ago.

The email went like this:

Hi Susann,

I so want to share a discovery with you that happened on the Camino.

I was walking along a route that placed me in a deep meditative state. There were trees to one side, and a golden wheat field to the other side. Ahead of us were the beautiful blue sky with cotton puffs for clouds and the path that stretched all the way our eyes could see. It was most peaceful. And beautiful.

While walking, I decided to engage with a practice that you recommended: I was observing myself, observing myself, observing myself, and so on. 

Suddenly, I saw a man in my consciousness. He had a bald head. He was of dark complexion. He wore a white robe. He sat in the lotus position. I knew he was old. Not old, ancient because he did not have wrinkles, etc that would indicate age. I could see him there as clear as day. And my eyes were still open.

The next day, we talked. Well, he did not talk. He communicated to me. Saying what he transmits is more accurate/precise. He knew that I was wondering if he was some kind of Divine Being. He communicated: “You need not concern yourself with who I am. I am not God, or a Spirit. Consider me to be your highest, most wise, most connected self. You and I are the same. We are one. I do have the Divine flowing through me. Principle, as you have come to refer to God, flows through me uninhibited. I am his vessel.” 

Since that day, we have “talked” about a lot of things. He has shown me a lot of things. He never forces anything on me. He never demands anything. He seems to be incredibly patient with me, making suggestions based on my understanding. Even now, he is supporting me with being clear in this email to you. I have been calling him Higher Pete, or HP for short. He doesn’t seem to mind this.

He seems to know what path I ought to take, in terms of a purpose. While Old Pete (OP) is on the right path, it is incomplete and fuzzy. It is coming into deeper focus. For example, HP showed me where to go with the Braveheart Men’s Retreat in 3 weeks. He gave me a model and a journey to take the men through. It is beautiful. I’ll share it with you one day.

Susann, I did not share this discovery with you in our last conversation because a part of me (an identity I am becoming more familiar with) was concerned that I was going crazy. However, there is so much about this experience/journey that I need your support with. HP also thinks that it is a good idea that we talk soon and maintain/deepen our relationship. I now know that meeting you at the time that I did was no coincidence. Thank you for saying yes to mentoring me/us. Thank you for journeying with us, making the path clearer. 

Could you make some time to talk with us this week? 

Thank you, Susann.

Love & Blessings,

Here is Susann’s response to me:

Wow! A true spiritual teacher can be far away or right within your soul. If you like I can share a bit about my own journey and experience with teachers and why I see what you describe as legitimate and beautiful. Your wellbeing is my deepest wish. 

At the time, and now still, the part of her message that stood out to me was: Your wellbeing is my deepest wish.

I recall reading that line and sobbing so much I could barely move. Your wellbeing is my deepest wish. Can you sense the intention behind those words? What happens inside of you as you read and sit with these words? Your wellbeing is my deepest wish.

This was during a time in my life when I feared I was experiencing a mental breakdown. I had not shared this experience with anyone else up until that point because, well, what if they confirmed that something was wrong with me? The last time I took that risk at being vulnerable, things didn’t turn out so well. I was 14-years-old. I was crossing the street on my way to school and I experienced what to me was an out-of-body experience. My family took me to a number of doctors, including a neurologist, who diagnosed me with epilepsy, prescribed 400 mg of Tegretol, and advised me to take it for the rest of my life. 

It felt risky to share the happenings of my interiority with anyone. Sharing it and getting Susann’s response materialized a more solid ground beneath my feet. Without the fear that something was wrong with me, I could stand. I could move a little from my interior world to the rest of the world out there.

I consider Susann to be more than a mentor now. She is a friend. And even more than a friend, she is a growth partner. I think of a growth partner as someone who has and acts on an intention of the highest and best for someone else. This is what Susann demonstrated to me. 

What does it mean to have an intention like this for others? We must first see them as the possibility of their highest potential. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is credited for recommending, “If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” Seeing others like this is about loving them. Deeply. Even if we don’t like them sometimes, or like some of the things they do. Love is what powers this intention of supporting the highest and best in others. 

It also helps to understand the patterns of how people grow and develop. The field of adult development helps with this. Adult development attempts to explain why we are the way we are and how we change over time. Throughout our adult life, we may transform the ways we see and understand ourselves, the worlds we live in, and the people we interact with. Development is what happens as we increase our capacity to understand and differentiate between ourselves as subjects, our objective world, and our interactions with it. Through our understanding of how adults develop, we can see and support the unfolding of human potential towards deeper understanding, wisdom, and effectiveness in the world. The intentions and related actions of a growth partner helps facilitate these movements and experiences. 

Take a moment to reflect on:

  • Who has been a growth partner to you? 
  • How have they been with you that convinces you that they are a growth partner? 
  • Who have you been a growth partner for? 
  • How do you express your commitment to their growth?

There are likely many ways to be a growth partner to others. For those of us who are coaches, educators, psychologists, parents, facilitators, gardeners, spiritual leaders/healers, and so on know a thing or two about standing for growth. 

And this standing for growth is something all of us know and often do. That’s because growth partnership starts within the individual. There comes a time (or many times for some of us) when we sense a nudge inside ourselves and it often comes in the form of questions: Who am I, really? What am I doing here? Where am I going? Should I change my job? Where should I live now? What is home for me? Is this relationship still serving everyone involved? Is it time to go bald? In the midst of these questions, we stand as growth partners to ourselves. What if some deeper, bigger, wiser part of ourselves wants us to grow and is nudging us to partner with this part of ourselves? I have a sense this is the case. And in exploring answers to these questions, including choosing to work with a coach, a spiritual healer, a therapist, a shaman, a yoga teacher, etc, we have become partners to our own growth and evolution.

Pay attention to the questions that emerge from within your own being. Reflect on them. Engage them. Explore them. Perhaps, like the poet Rilke suggests, also live them. And while paying attention to the questions, be present to the part of you that is engaging and attempting to answer them.

In retrospect, I realize that these things were happening inside of me. They led me to reach out to Susann and ask for help. So, before she became a growth partner to me, I was already that to myself. And then we both became partners and I grew up a little. I am still growing up.

Can you remember moments when you were a partner to your own self, to your own growth? How did it go? What shifted in you, if anything? What are you learning now from reflecting on your growth partnership to yourself?

Perhaps it is happening now. If so, please share.

And for those of you who are like, “I need some practical tips, please, for how to be a good growth partner to myself.” 

  • Pause and check in with yourself now
  • Reflect on: What am I most needing from myself right now?
  • Make a note of those things
  • Decide if or what you would like to do about them

There you have it – being a growth partner to yourself. And no eye-rolling now.
Reach out to us at Cultivating Leadership if you are ready or are considering working with a growth partner. This is our work and we are very committed to and good at it.

One thought on “The Value of Having Growth Partners”

  1. Zafer ACHI says:

    I love your blog. I totally recognize the experience, but have found it ineffable until today. I could name some of the states (e.g., awareness, attentive silence, etc.) but I could not describe the tissue that connects them. Here, you give me language for the unfolding. Thank you!

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