• Thrive Inc.

Be a Lighthouse: As a Company, a Leader, and Person

Every time we talk about business or team, we talk about what we think of as the ‘me’, the ‘we’, and the ‘business’. Today we’re talking about that in the context of a lighthouse.

When a leader operates as a lighthouse, they look left, right, up, and down at all team members and ensure that every team member can soar. People will give so much more when they believe in the thrust of a company, so lighthouse leadership is essential to your organization.

Join us this week and discover what it means to be a lighthouse and learn to shine your light brightly from the inside out. We discuss what happens when leaders aren’t working as a lighthouse and the effect that this has upon the rest of the team, and share some tips to help you think like a lighthouse in any area of your life.

If you find the concept of being a lighthouse intriguing and want to learn to shine your light, Susan is running an affordable invite-only program at the beginning of March. Email Susan for more details.

If you’d like us to speak at your organization about conflict, stress, team-building, or leadership, work with your team virtually, or coach you or leaders on your team, reach out to us!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • How to be a lighthouse leader.

  • The importance of being your own lighthouse.

  • How to attract the type of people you want to your organization.

  • Why you must be willing to take risks and be uncomfortable.

  • Why fear stops people from being a lighthouse.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

Susan: We are starting 2021 with a series based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Teams. We’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team work more effectively especially in this remote and virtual environment. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode and this series with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

Susan: Well, welcome, this is Susan and we are here continuing our series on the Beauty of Conflict for Teams which is based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Teams: Harnessing Your Team’s Competitive Advantage. And this week, well, in general every time we talk about a team or a business we talk about what we think of as the me, the we and the business. And today we’re going to talk about that in the context of what we also think of as a lighthouse. And so CrisMarie is going to dive into this and this kind of starts off in chapter 23. So go ahead, CrisMarie.

CrisMarie: Yes, thank you Susan. So this is our fabulous book that we think you should buy right now. But we’re going to tell you about chapter 23 which is the start of the business section which is Why Are Some Companies so Successful? And we believe it’s based on their why. And Simon Sinek put out a TED Talk, Start with WHY.

Even the authors, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the authors of Built to Last found that successful companies really had a clear sense of their core purpose which means their core purpose beyond making money. Why we exist beyond making money.

Recognizing that all businesses want to make money, that’s a given. But you really want an inspirational, aspirational purpose that’s driving the hearts and minds of everyone, aligning the hearts and minds of everyone in the company. And it’s not a marketing message, it’s something that really maybe may never even be attainable but is really a thrust forward. I mean some of the companies that we use when we work with teams, because when we’re working at the executive level we help them align this core purpose.

And it’s really, they’re usually short, like 3M, not that we worked with them, but 3M, their core purpose is solving unsolvable problems. There is Microsoft’s old one was put a computer on every desk. Nike was experience the joy of crushing the competition.

Susan: I just love that one because you think of Nike and that can sound kind of harsh, crushing. But Nike is like that, if you look at their ads, if you look at some of the things. So they really have put something that the people that work there and often the athletes that are on their merchandising, they are about crushing the competition. They’re not looking at collective sports and things like that necessarily.

CrisMarie: Now, if you work at Nike and that doesn’t fit for you, you contact us and then put us straight because we want to know. Because we just use these as examples and signpost to help other companies figure out what is our thrust. I mean we have a core purpose and we’re a little tiny company.

Susan: We started off, our core purpose was to change the way corporate America communicates. And that is still a very passionate lens that we work with. And we added to it because we realized that really at the heart of it…

CrisMarie: Well, my personal core purpose is to really help people bring all of who they are to everything they do as a way of bringing more of themselves to the business, whatever they’re doing. But their relationship, their business and really when people show up more real it does change the way corporate America communicates.

Susan: What happens sometimes though is that a company, you can always tell, some companies have – we’ve worked in boardrooms like this, have a kind of what seems like an aspirational goal. But then we’re in there with the top of the organization and what we are talking about is how they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to sell the company.

CrisMarie: Yeah. We’re trying to actually get them to a core purpose, an inspirational core purpose and they have a marketing version of it. But you can tell it’s kind of hollow because really we’re looking for bidders. We’re looking for people who are going to buy us. And that’s really disheartening if you’re trying to do something different.

Susan: I do think that can be very challenging, especially if it is – you might have the top of the org maybe all aligned up. But people down in it are feeling like where are we going? What are we doing? Why is it?

CrisMarie: That’s exactly, yeah, because we have seen that. They’re like, “Well, why doesn’t the executive team give us our new goals?” And they’re so busy trying to find a buyer that the rest of the organization is like, “What?”

Susan: So again, and we have worked with companies where within their goal it does seem like they really are all about making money. But if they can align that in a way that drives people, that can still work. We try not to get moralistic about it.

CrisMarie: I think, yeah, I think we tend to be more transparent. And you can’t always be transparent if you’re selling the company. But the idea, let’s go back to really people are going to be inspired and it’s that magic ingredient. They will give so much more if they actually believe in the trust of the company and what the company is trying to do. And there is a company why. But then there’s also how do you align the personal why, my personal values, what’s important to me?

Ours line up for change the way corporate America communicates and brings me of who you are to everything you do. But everybody that joins your company you want them to be able to fit. I mean I was coaching a woman who was interviewing for different jobs. And one company that she was interviewing was Amazon who was very clear about their leadership principles. They’ve got 14 leadership principles. She was looking at them and she asked the interviewer, she said, “Well, who would fail at this company, at Amazon?”

Susan: I love that question. I think that was just a great question to ask. She was being a lighthouse in my mind. She was looking for some great feedback. But we’ll get there next.

CrisMarie: And the guy said, “Well, you know those 14 principles, if you read all of them and you go, “You know what? That’s me, I’m with it”, then you’re going to succeed. If you read them and you go, “There’s a few of them I don’t really quite like”, then you’re going to come to the company and you’re going to want to change those and you’re going to be disappointed and those are the people that don’t succeed and they eventually leave.”

Susan: So I loved it because I do believe this person, I remember you talking about it at one point, really took the time to do that and figured out, no, it wasn’t a good fit because of that, which I love. That’s a lighthouse.

CrisMarie: That is clarity. She was being a lighthouse. They were being a lighthouse and you know. And there’s no shame in that. There’s not a fit here. You want that level of clarity so people self-sort. So you’re bringing the types of people you want in the organization.

Susan: Yes. So it might be time to kind of talk about our next layer which one of the things that can happen in a company is – we talk about this concept of when a company gets into trouble because they start to create silos. Now, if you think about anyone who knows what a silo is, it’s that big round thing goes up and down, holds corn or something.

CrisMarie: Grain, yeah.

Susan: Grain of some sort, but there’s no great big light on it. So a silo is often when leaders get just focused on their part of the business, they’re a silo, they’re not a lighthouse. And you really want your leaders to be lighthouses. And what we mean by that is you want them to be aware. You want them to have that channel of clarity for their team and their department or whatever it is.

But you also want them to be looking right to left, 360, shining a light in the organization from their letting the organization know what their team is doing, getting the information from above, and below, and around, that’s the lighthouse part.

CrisMarie: I know we were working with one organization, this was a couple of years ago and they realized, they were one team a part of a larger organization. And they realized they weren’t being a lighthouse because they weren’t broadcasting, “Hey, this is what we do and how we interact with all you other departments.” And so nobody knew, so they weren’t utilizing them, they weren’t linking them in when they needed to.

So it’s that shining out, broadcasting within the organization. And also looking left to right, maybe I could actually work better with my peers, the team because sometimes when the upper leader isn’t shining as a lighthouse, making clear about what our direction is. What tends to happen is people focus on what they know which is their own area and that’s how silos are created.

Susan: I wanted to mention, yeah, so there was another executive that I was coaching and they were really struggling. And they got feedback that they were not looking left to right. And I remember in our coaching session that that was a big thing because they were like, “I don’t really get it.”

CrisMarie: What do you mean?

Susan: And well, one thing, I was like, “When you got that feedback did you ask?” Because that’s also an important part, when somebody above you gives you feedback like, “You’re not doing this.” To be willing to ask the question, “I don’t really get it.” And so many times leaders don’t. So in our session we began to kind of break that down. What does that really look like going left to right? It means you really have to be paying attention to other parts of this business even though you don’t have time, even though it might be uncomfortable.

And recognizing that that’s going to be critical, more critical really for your success, your people below you are going to be much happier if you’re doing that than if you don’t.

CrisMarie: We talk about this even at any level of leadership. Most people focus on the team they lead. And really for an organization to cascade and create alignment all the way through it’s really the team you’re a member of that you want to be lockstep with your peers even though they’re in different areas.

Because it’s kind of like for the people down below you, whatever level you’re at, if you’re not in lockstep it’s like you’re – let’s say you line up your team, the team you’re a member of and you have this big light behind you. And if you’re not shoulder to shoulder with your teammates, that light is going to blind everybody. They’re not going to see you. They’re going to just see the light. But if you actually cinch up closer, go shoulder to shoulder, you block out that light and you’re surrounded by the light, they see you.

And that’s the metaphor for being in alignment really helps because then you folks are working together, you’re saying the same things. So everybody below in your peers’ department, in your department is hearing the same thing. And that, oh my gosh, that solves so many problems at an organizational level.

Susan: So when you’re leading your team your job in the organization is to be a lighthouse looking left to right with your peers, looking up, looking down. Not just focused in on your own team.

CrisMarie: And I just have to put in this fable here, I’m sure you’ve heard it. But it still is, because we haven’t talked about what a lighthouse is.

So there’s a US ship and they see a light out there and they say, “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.” And there’s a Canadian reply that says, “Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.” The US ships says, “This is the captain of a US navy ship, I say again divert your course.” The Canadian reply, “No, I say again you divert your course.”

It escalates a little higher, “This is the aircraft carrier, USS Coral Sea, we are a large warship of the US navy, divert your course now.” The Canadian reply, “This is a lighthouse, your call.”

Susan: I do love that and of course you listening folks, somebody I’m sure is going to tell us, “You know that’s a myth.” But it’s like a fable in my mind. It’s some very important information. And I think sometimes people try to be aggressive and loud and a warship. And sometimes to get their point across, I am doing what I am doing. And people sometimes in an organization can feel like they’re getting bowled over by things. That’s not the really the lighthouse approach, that’s just kind of bullying.

CrisMarie: That was one of our other episodes you can listen to, earlier.

Susan: But when you’re really clear, and this is what’s cool about a lighthouse, it’s not running around trying to bully people or save people. It’s just shining on an island, it’s just shining.

CrisMarie: I just have this visual of this lighthouse on an island running around trying – it doesn’t do that, it stays in one place and it shines its light.

Susan: And you know what’s interesting is that not only is this relevant within companies. But it’s so relevant for you personally to kind of look at and consider your own lighthouse because you actually want people in your company to be lighthouses. And when something is off, if you’re really the leader of an organization you want to pay attention when someone is being a lighthouse and giving you a signal that hey, something isn’t right and hear it out.

CrisMarie: Because I think so often people when I start to coach with them they’re like, “Well, I can’t disagree. It’s just I have to do it their way, it’s just no use to say anything.” And their light has dimmed. And so you have to be careful because that’s when people start to – it could be an ethical line that they start to cross. It could be they’re just not bringing their A game to the job anymore because they feel so beaten down that nobody really cares what I do, I’m just going to kind of get by here and that’s easy. So you want to recognize and support people being a lighthouse.

Susan: I was thinking, I mean I have talked to leaders before when they realize, well, I didn’t realize how numb I had gotten. And the equivalent of that to me in a lighthouse analogy is it’s like there’s been a fog and you’ve been drifting in the fog of information without paying attention to lights that might be trying to tell you something isn’t right here. And you kind of keep letting that fog dip and you’re down. And hopefully you can start to be that lighthouse and give feedback because even a big organization, I don’t think it’s helpful, it’s kind of like the Titanic.

You don’t want to be the Titanic even, and you know, that was a great ship but it went down.

CrisMarie: And so I mean this is true whether you’re an individual in an organization, you’re in a relationship or you’re even in a medical situation and you’re dealing with all these smart doctors. Whatever you’re facing, it is important to recognize hey, your opinion, what’s going on for you, how you feel actually matters, it’s very important. And so many people have talked themselves into, no, it’s not, I just have to do it their way. This is what my doctor’s telling me. This is what my spouse is telling me. This is what my boss is telling me.

Susan: I mean I think one of the saddest things – I am very passionate about working with people, especially who are in medical situations where they – and I hear it all the time, “My doctors don’t listen to me.” I also have worked with physicians who were telling me, “I don’t know how to listen.” I have worked with doctors and I get that they have a hard pressed job. They’re being asked to see people for 15 minutes. So I get there is an issue there, there is a reason.

But boy when I hear about somebody who’s being treated for cancer or dealing with something that is really hard and their medical team is like, “No, that’s a dumb idea, don’t do it. No, I’m not going to look into that.”

CrisMarie: Well, Susan, didn’t that happen for you?

Susan: Yeah.

CrisMarie: So just tell the listeners about that.

Susan: I always think of this is because I was young. But I was young and I had made a decision because they had told me I had six months to live and because they didn’t have a treatment that really was an option for a longer life. It was more sort of a pain free life and a short one at that. And so I had started exploring everything. And at one point one of the programs I really wanted to take was this program up in Canada. But I was on a wait list for three months and i