Compartmentalizing, is it Good for Leadership Success?

In a previous blog entitled Yes! Health Can Help You Build Wealth, I mentioned the notion that as leaders we have this innate capability of “compartmentalizing” and this ability is one of the characteristics we attribute to our success.  However, compartmentalizing may not be such a good thing when it comes to ensuring success in the context of our performance as a leader, let me explain.

Compartmentalizing, What is it?

Ok, compartmentalizing is to separate into different compartments, we know that.  We have different compartments for all kinds of stuff, tools, clothing, shoes, files, medication and food.  Our homes are one huge compartment, made up of different compartments like the kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom and bathroom. We house people in other compartments called apartments or condos. In fact, aren’t towns, cities, countries and continents just compartments for people, their values and ideologies?  We just enjoy organization, our minds seem to need it and after all, it’ s just good Feng Shui, isn’t it?

In the context of leadership, I first came across the term during my training as a coach at Adler International Learning back in April of 2009.  At the time, I, like most business leaders, thought the ability to focus on work, my leadership skills and my physical fitness (I would get up each weekday morning at 4:00 am to go to the gym) while the rest of my life may or may not be in a great state was all I need to ensure success in business.

It didn’t matter if the business was profitable and we were busy or just getting by and experiencing a lull, I was going to stay focused on my work, leadership and physical fitness, everything else and everyone else was a lower priority.  I was proud of the fact that I was following my personal mantra that I learned during my youthful days playing sports “when things get tough, the tough get going.”  This was one mantra I kept close to my leadership psyche; I was a great compartmentalizer!

Why that may not be such a good thing?

At Adler, two of the Nine Guiding Principles of coaching human beings (which I was at the time) that specifically supports our development as leaders and our ability to relate to others states that a) we are an interrelated whole consisting of many different aspects: mind, body and spirit; thinking, feeling and imagination, and b) we are embedded in a multifaceted life, and we form part of many different systems and relationships. In other words, we need to integrate or incorporate our different compartments and be mindful that we are always part of a bigger system, that these so-called ‘compartments’ that we create in our minds do indeed interact with others whether they exist or not.

And another kick in the pants, apparently this is for the most part a “male thing” (which I was at the time, still am) and women do not have this idea prancing in their heads.  You could say it goes back to our hunter/gatherer roots when men needed to be focused on one thing “kill this moving, clever thing called dinner” and forget the nourishing fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables.  So, needless to say, my first week at coaching school began my transformation as a leader and more importantly, in understanding what being human was all about.  An eye-opening period of perpetuating self-examination where I began to question my trusted mantra and what it was making me into or just as importantly, what it wasn’t.

Simply put, my compartmentalizing was killing my spirit, I wasn’t much fun to be around and secondly; I had this sense of being separate from others and the world around me.  Looking back on it now, two of my strengths as a coach, my ability to relate and empathise were being choked off, nearly non-existent.  I can only imagine what it would have been like to have me as a leader, friend and most importantly, a life partner.

So you’re asking, if compartmentalizing is not good for leadership, then what strategy do you replace it with?  Good question!

To be continued!

Remember, I always invite your valued comments.

And to my friends south of the border, have a great 4th of July!

We become what we think about!

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