How to discover the stars in your orginisation

5 April 2022

Aaron Eckhoff

Star in space

How to discover the stars in your organisation is a challenge that many leaders face. And by stars, we don’t just mean outstanding individuals, we mean each person that makes up the constellations within your organisation.

Just like many of you, the Compass For Life team enjoy reading anything we feel we can get value from; listen to anyone and anything that can make a positive impact on us; and also find ways to challenge our own ideas of what leadership is and looks like.

Recently, I lost myself in deep thought whilst listening to a podcast by Simon Sinek (A Bit of Optimism) where he interviewed an amazing leader named Matthew Barzun (former US ambassador to the UK). As Simon says in the podcast, “it is rare to meet someone who just thinks differently for all the right reasons.”

This blog post is inspired by this podcast and aims to make other leaders more aware of the concepts discussed in the podcast, as well as supporting you to discover the stars in your organisation.

Be an astronomer

A question that Matthew often asks leaders that he speaks to is:

‘The world is not black and white. What colour is it?’

Astonishingly, 9 out of 10 people that are asked the question say grey, which is fundamentally wrong. In fact, the answer to the question is that the world is multicoloured (and multi-faceted).

As such, leaders in organisations need to adopt this mindset. They need to look past the trodden path of top-down or bottom-up organisational models and start to embrace a whole new idea of how companies are built. Leaders should look to the stars and see the beautiful patterns that emerge called constellations and model their organisations in a similar way.

Discover the constellations

Constellations have many stars with infinite ways to spot and create patterns between them. However, if all we see is stars with no discernible patterns, then we cannot see the constellations that exist.

This has parallels to organisations who find themselves unable to progress. People see themselves as isolated stars with little connection to others and the leaders of these organisations perpetuate this. In these organisations, it’s all about winning and losing; not about playing.

It takes a brave leader, one with a strong Warrior spirit, to begin to see these patterns, teach others how to see the patterns; to play without worrying about winning or losing; to then develop the constellations in their organisations so that the connections between the stars are noticed and understood by everyone.

Share your knowledge

Do you remember the first time someone taught you about Orion’s Belt? Or the first time someone showed you how to identify Sagittarius in the stars? For me, it was a breath-taking experience and one that I continue to teach to others. This is no different for businesses or organisations.

As a leader in an organisation, it is vital to learn from those that see the organisation as constellations (sometimes external help is needed) so that they can then teach it to others. As this ripple continues, more and more people in the organisation begin to see what they couldn’t see before. That each star (person) in the company has a purpose, is inextricably connected to others, and without them, the constellation is incomplete. For this to work, leaders need to be able to listen, be able to teach, and be able to let go of control by putting trust in the other stars.

Once everyone understands that they are a star in the constellation, they can then be free to connect with other stars to create a pattern which is interconnected with all other stars in a unique way. Each requiring the other in equal measure. Thus, creating a beautiful sky with endless potential for further connection and possibility.

Let others shine brightly

An example of this kind of leadership was demonstrated at a low-key political fundraising event in Louisville, Kentucky for then presidential candidate, Barack Obama in 2006.

During the trip, Obama had an extra hour to kill so asked Matthew to organise a meeting between Obama and local republican politicians to discuss various things about local politics. During the meeting, Obama said very little. He listened nearly the whole hour apart from when he was asking questions.

After the meeting, those present spoke very highly of how the meeting went and how engaging it was, despite Obama saying very little. This story highlights very clearly the power of giving away power through listening, instead of pontificating.

Good leaders do not need to ‘own the room’ to be effective. The best leaders have an ability to walk into a room and make everyone present feel valued, connected, and heard. By sitting back and listening, leaders start to see people for what they are, stars within a constellation. Stars that are as vital to the constellation as every other star, including the brightest star and stars that you initially thought didn’t quite fit the pattern. The challenge for all leaders is to uncover the hidden connections and hidden stars to build a more connected constellation.

Discovering your Super North Star

In our 5-day Train the Trainer Compass For Life programme, we challenge our participants to think differently in a number of ways. The biggest barrier that we face when working with clients is the inability to escape what has always happened. We sometimes struggle to help people break the status quo of organisations that have been built under the pyramid style (top down or bottom up) of leadership.

The clients that achieve the most success following our programmes are those who look to embrace change, those who see through the management structures that can sometimes make us blind to the human potential that surrounds us. Those that make the most progress, see their organisations as constellations and leave our training with a Super North Star to ensure that the people they lead also see their organisations in this way.

So, the next time you look into the night sky, try to find new patterns. Find new constellations by asking someone to point some out to you. Then, show them to someone else so they too can see what you see. Finally, once you’ve done this with the stars in the sky, do the same exercise with the stars in your teams and in your organisations. Then, teach those in your teams how to see what you see and begin to discover the stars in your organisation.

Find out more about Compass For Life and discovering your Super North Star: