Sparring as a Leadership Tool? – Powerful Partnering, Part 1

My Shao-lin Kung Fu and Tai Chi classes at The Peaceful Dragon continue to reinforce the life leadership tools I share with my clients and use in my own life. Last week we had a very cool exercise—slow motion sparring. This practice provides many benefits including helping us to combine our single techniques for practical application, and more importantly to increase our self awareness.

Three life leadership lessons emerged at once:

  • Partnering
  • Neutralizing
  • Cultivating 2-way Growth

I’ll expand on Partnering today. In sparring, instead of calling the other student “opponent,” we call one another “partner.” As we partner with different students, we bow at the beginning of each round to greet our partner and at the end of each round to show gratitude and respect.   We are sparring for the growth and learning of both individuals, not necessarily to defeat our opponent.

In difficult or uneasy conversations, how often might you automatically see a person as an opponent?   Sometimes it’s a colleague, your spouse or your 12-going-on-20-year-old.

You’re in the weekly team meeting at the client and you share an idea—that brilliant idea that you’ve thought through for the last two weeks. Devil’s Advocate Dave opposes your idea or immediately voices skepticism and because he opposes your idea, you instantly see him (and treat him) as Opponent. You unconsciously square off with your body, give him the squint-eye and draw your sword for battle—ready to defend your brilliance. The conversation doesn’t go in the direction you intended and your idea is not received well, nor is it acted upon.   A Lose-Lose outcome.

How might it look differently if you were to shift your perspective to Partnering?

When Dave opposes the idea, instead of taking things personally, you could remain in a confident place of leadership. You could begin to see his skepticism as support for you to clarify and strengthen your idea or to communicate your idea more effectively going forward.   Maybe you would even show gratitude and respect? Okay, that might be pushing it at first.

Where have you helped to create resistance, strain and stress by seeing “opponents” in your relationships and interactions?

Who will you turn into a Partner?

Let me know how it goes!