This past weekend, Christy and I attended a marriage conference. We haven’t spoken since.
Those of you who read my blog regularly probably saw this coming. There is only so much dirty laundry I can air about our relationship and not have it come back to bite me, right?
Oh, the retreat was fine. It is hard not to feel connected to your spouse in this setting.
But getting closer to Christy this weekend proved to be an uphill battle. First, she was under the weather. It’s hard to practice listening with empathy when your partner is draining profusely out of her nose and eyes. I spent most of the weekend handing her a Kleenex. And the incessant coughing interrupted our “loving eyes” exercise before it ever got off the ground.
Second, the retreat advertised this room for our accommodations.
What we got was actually two beds made for people that lived in the 1800’s. Little Napoleon or maybe Martin Van Buren (5’ 4”) would have been fine. Christy slept in one. I slept in the other. I felt like Ward and June Cleaver every night. Secretly, I think Christy may have circled back behind me and selected this room online post-registration.
Even though it was a Christian retreat, Christy snuck a flask of NyQuil into the camp via her purse. At the conclusion of the night sessions, while the rest of us were praying for our spouse (every head bowed, every eye closed), Christy was double fistin’ so she could sleep.
The apex of the weekend was the Saturday afternoon free time, designed for couples to spend a few hours walking along the water or exploring nature trails while reflecting on the material. Christy drained her flask and napped.
Don’t let my sarcasm fool you. I’m not bitter. I am totally in favor of marriage retreats. Anything that holds together marriages, and thus our families, is well worth it.
Leaders should do the same. Not necessarily the marriage retreat part—although many could use this too—I’m referring to the attempt to better themselves.
Steven Covey called it sharpening the saw. Leaders who commit to personal growth and development experience three benefits of saw sharpening.
- Personal growth and development exposes the leader to ideas.
One of the ideas that Christy and I committed to was something called “20 on the Couch.” The purpose behind the exercise is to connect with each other on a regular basis by sitting on a couch and chatting for twenty minutes (preferably while rubbing the wife’s feet). They even provided the lotion!
I would have never thought of this on my own and now that Christy has experienced it, I am sure I will never forget it. The point is this: Leaders need exposure to new ideas to gain wisdom. Different perspectives spark discovery.
- Personal growth and development exposes the leader to people.
One observation at the retreat caught me off guard. There were some people with white hair in the room. I’m not talking the salt-n-pepper variety, I mean full heads of white hair! What could they possibly gain from this seminar that they hadn’t experienced already?
I watched them carefully and noticed a common behavior. As they mingled with the other couples, they laughed and encouraged their younger counterparts. Being around other marriages approaching the golden anniversary was inspiring. The greatest teacher truly is experience. Every leader should draw from a mentor and pour into a protégé to learn from a teacher and to teach a learner. It keeps a leader connected to the real reason he/she leads.
- Personal growth and development exposes the leader to values.
During the first year of our marriage, Christy and I had what has affectionately become known as the “Chicken In A Biscuit” fight. Without going into details (future blog), let’s just say that a box of crackers went flying across our living room and names were called that would have made us blush at the Christian marriage conference this weekend.
But here’s what came from that fight. We agreed that we would never do that again. We drew a line in the sand and defined our values on arguing. Have we kept our promise? Yes, although I have come close with a box of Ritz a few times.
This weekend reminded Christy and me that our values define our marriage behavior. The same holds true for leaders. Consistent growth and development helps to define what they hold true and sacred. That in turn dictates their leadership style.
What are you doing to sharpen your saw? Leaders should take a minimum of an hour per week to explore personal growth and development. Here are a couple of ideas to get your thoughts churning:
- Watch a TED talk in your area of expertise. (https://www.ted.com/talks)
- Subscribe to a great leadership blog. Fond of this one (kerryflowers.com/blog)
- Read about a discovery or innovation in an unrelated field.
- Call someone in a similar position in a different city.
- Strike up a conversation with one of your customers and ask for feedback.
By the way, the retreat WAS awesome. Hosted by our friends Matt and Chantal McGee, the weekend went way too fast! And in case you haven’t figured this out already, despite Christy’s sickness, we had a great time and we are still speaking.
At least until she reads today’s blog …