Inner Journeys: bottom-line we need to raise the bottom-line.

“In order to be successful in the outside world, a leader has to take an inner journey.”
— Sucheta Jain, co-founder of Farragut

“We want to create a company that’s win-win. It’s not just me: ‘I’m the leader.’ It’s we, together.”
— Sucheta Jain, co-founder of Farragut

“In order to be successful in the outside world, a leader has to take an inner journey,” Sucheta Jain, co-founder at Farragut says. Leaders must know people, really understand them, and how can they do that if they don’t understand themselves?

“Leadership is a lot more than leading other people,” says Sucheta. When we think of leadership, we typically think of a single individual acting in the world, on the world, moving people and organizations. But the leadership journey taking place at Farragut paints a different and counter-intuitive picture.

Farragut was in an oscillating pattern for a few years. “We were not happy about it,” Sucheta says. “We wanted to bring the company back on a path where it is growing, employees are growing, and customers are getting what they want.

Bob Anderson’s Leadership Circle predicts this oscillation pattern and sees it as a symptom of “Reactivity.” [1] This is when leaders are constantly in survival mode, playing not to lose, reacting to one crisis only to await the next. In “Creativity,” on the other hand, leaders are self-aware and emotionally intelligent. They operate from a platform of vision and purpose to see the next crisis as if it were only a foothill on the great landscape of the company’s future.

In collaboration with leadership consultant Vinay Kumar,[2] Sucheta draws on this model, as well as her own coaching practice, to help guide Farragut’s leaders towards Creativity

Inner journeys and self-awareness
According to Sucheta, we spend a lot of energy pushing down emotions, but “once you say, ‘I’m afraid and this is why,’ it’s like untying a knot and releasing that energy. Now you can spend that energy more wisely.” The more self-aware we are, the more we see that seemingly contradictory emotions like excitement and fear of failure can co-exist.

In the Extended Leadership Team (ELT) meetings, one of Sucheta’s initiatives was to create a safe space for people to do the inner work necessary to pursue more productive leadership strategies.

“Centering” played an important role. As we all know, we live in an age of distracted multitasking. The centering practice lasts only 10 minutes, but it’s critical to help ELT members to stop, breathe, focus, and be present. “It gets us connected to ourselves and to the group,” Sucheta says, “and makes the ELT a safe container, where we can focus on what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Common in a yoga studio, but not in business—Farragut demonstrates just how different it is. Members take off their shoes, feel the ground beneath their feet, close their eyes, and focus on their breath. Emotions and feelings will “bubble up,” Sucheta says, “but let them be bubbles, let them float away.”

After centering, ELT members took a few minutes to check in with each other and share whatever was on their minds: business-related or personal. Not everyone is comfortable sharing in a group setting though, so Sucheta introduced the Talking Stick. This Native American practice dictates that everyone must listen to the person with the Talking Stick. And everyone participates.

Because these practices encourage people to share whatever they feel open and without fear of judgment, over time they build bonds and group cohesion. Indeed, “we feel that the bonds between ELT members have grown tremendously,” Sucheta says. For example, one ELT member shared that his proposal to a prospect did not make the final cut, and “instead of being brave and stuffing down his feelings, he told us how that just broke his heart. To be able to share failure in a business context and not have to sugarcoat it.… Those are the most powerful conversations we have in the ELT meetings. It makes us human and is the foundation of a strong team.”

Moving from “Me” to “We”,
These practices, and others, lay the foundation for ELT members to safely develop and nurture self-awareness—one of the fundamental elements of Anderson’s leadership model. When we’re in a reactive state, we’re closed, defensive, and committed to being right. In contrast, in a creative state, we’re open, curious, and committed to learning.

“The point is not to always be in the creative state,” Sucheta says. “It’s about knowing which state you’re in.” If you’re responding to a person reactively, with defense and fear, then why? And how can you work with that person to shift out? The point is self-awareness.

So, by shifting into the creative space, leaders construct an open, communicative, and collaborative workplace. “We want to create a company that’s win-win,” says Sucheta. “It’s not just me: ‘I’m the leader.’ It’s we, together.” This is what leadership consultant Vinay Kumar calls “the movement from ‘me’ to ‘we.’”

In this sense, there are two counter-intuitive and powerful elements to the leadership work at Farragut. First, leadership becomes a collaboration rather than one individual’s pursuit of glory. Second, leaders must do the inner work necessary to transform themselves first. As Sucheta says: “If we do the inner work, then the outer world changes.”

And this change has produced not only the personal results we’ve seen but also results in the company’s bottom line. In 2018, after years of being stuck in oscillation, Farragut’s revenue finally surpassed the $7 million mark. In 2019, it broke $8 million. And we believe that breaking $9 million this year is a realistic goal.

[1] This term is central to the philosophy of Bob Anderson’s Leadership Circle which provides the model for the leadership development taking place at Farragut.
[2] Vinay is certified by Anderson’s Leadership Circle. He’s been working with Farragut since 2017.

Sucheta Jain
Chief Culture Officer

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