Business gurus ain’t my thing. The very mention of insta-presto, silver bullet salvation peddlers sends me into paroxysms of eye-rolling cynicism. Charismatic business wise men and women may indeed be wise, but the results of their tutelage has always seemed ephemeral to me. While I do believe there is much to be gleaned from such folk (gurus), and I have picked up useful things here and there over the years, I have not experienced or observed real life-changing, long-term transformation.
Well hush my mouth. I do believe I have found a program that is overthrowing my years of looking askance at such stuff. That program is Tracy Goss’ Executive Reinvention Program.
I recently spent two weeks studying under Goss and her colleague Ed Gurowitz along with 20 other corporate executives and business owners. Goss is very well-known and respected for her 20 years of leading what she calls the Executive Re-invention Program (ERP) for the leadership of such companies as IBM, Chase, Paramount Pictures, Owens-Corning, Monsanto, Ciba-Geigy, and many others. Her philosophy is limned in her best selling book The Last Word On Power (Doubleday, 1996).
Let me see if I can simply give you a sense of Goss’ work without being totally superficial.
For me, her key concept in the executive reinvention process concerns defeating what she calls your “winning strategy.” To wildly oversimplify her thesis, her core insight is that what makes you a successful entrepreneur or corporate leader—your winning strategy–is exactly what will prevent you from growing into your full realization and greatness. In other words, to move into your true center and power you must jettison the very successful strategies and qualities that you are admired for, that have seemingly been the bedrock of your success. To become a fully realized transformational business leader requires you to step into an abyss as a new thinker and a person free of commitment to ingrained and successful qualities.
The power that brought you to your current position of prominence and responsibility as a leader–the power that is the source of your success in the past–is now preventing you from making the impossible happen in your life and in your work….The pathway to new power is to completely and intentionally “re-invent” yourself: to put at risk the success you’ve become for the power of making the impossible happen.
This is scary stuff. Goss asks her executives to radically change their way of being. She notes that change is usually a function of altering what you are doing well—that is, doing it “better, different, or more.” What she demands is that you change your whole manner of existence to create something that is not currently possible in your reality. This she calls Transformation and is the stuff of dynamic leadership.
Goss’ message particularly resonates for me as a former addict of several sorts. When I was a full-blown addict my addiction served a function. That function was dulling existential pain and deep feelings of personal inadequacy. Addiction worked as that for me. It helped me survive. Part of recovery for the addict is simply realizing that the addictive survival strategy no longer works at some point and is rather an encumbrance to a real life.
While most executives are not addicts, I absolutely believe the principle is the same for creative leadership. While I have just begun to plumb its depths, Goss’ Executive Re-invention Program is simply a practical way to break through your “success” logjams into unimagined realms of potential achievement and centered meaning.
Her program is a knock out. I highly recommend if if you are feeling in any way stuck as a leader or a human being. It offers a unique and powerful structured methodology for seminal, long-term growth. (One caveat: Goss’ ERP is not for emotional sissies. It is bloody exhausting and not inexpensive.)
In a large sense Tracy Goss’ work is about overcoming and defying your own success. Here is what Victor Frankl says about success in Man’s Search For Meaning.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
Thank you, Victor.