True North Groups: A Powerful Path to Personal and Leadership Development, by Bill George

True North Groups, by Bill George and Doug Baker

True North Groups, by Bill George and Doug Baker

“There is a paradox in our individualism. We are spending more time than ever before in organizations where we work, yet the organizations in which we participate are ever larger and more impersonal. Few of the relationships formed in these organizations provide opportunities for depth, openness, authenticity, or personal development.”

How many people do you have in your circle that you can turn to for advice when facing a hard time, a difficult decision, or a personal crisis? Do you have people around you who wish you well and have time to listen to and understand your problems?  Can you think of anyone who can offer intelligent counsel, insightful ideas and personal maturity to point out your weaknesses in a constructive manner, candidly and clearly? Can these people empathize with you by putting themselves in your shoes without being judgmental? If the answer is none, or very few, you might be interested in True North Groups, A Powerful Path to Personal and Leadership Development, a book co-authored by Bill George – management professor at Harvard Business School, former CEO of Medtronics, and author of several books on leadership – and Doug Baker – author, consultant and former human resources executive.

You Are Alone

When we come to think of it, most of us are alone. Being alone makes it substantially more challenging to deal with important situations, which may not seem so overwhelming if we have the company of the right people. The authors paint the picture very clearly.

Where do you go for advice and perspective when facing difficult decisions? Who can you count on to help you through the most challenging times? Who will be honest enough to point out your blind spots? Who would you talk to if you lost your job, your marriage were falling apart, or you faced a life-threatening illness?

Navigating life’s challenges on our own is risky. All of us have blind spots that prevent us from seeing ourselves as we are. Often we lack perspective on the questions we are facing. Left to ourselves, with no counsel or advice, we are prone to making bad decisions. Sometimes we cannot face our own reality. Instead of looking at ourselves in the mirror, we blame others for our difficulties. Without people we trust to point out our blind spots, we may be attempting to journey through life without recognizing our shortcomings or seeing ourselves as others see us.

What Is A True North Group?

True North Groups, the authors propose, can be a powerful solution to avoid walking alone. This is essentially a trustworthy forum that provides people with a conducive environment for reflection and objective advice on important matters.

What is a True North Group? It consists of six to eight people who meet on a regular basis to share their personal challenges and discuss important questions in their lives.

The trust of your group enables all members to be open and intimate, building on your shared commitment to maintain strict confidentiality.

Each person brings to the group a unique perspective on life, on beliefs and on human nature. In spite of significant differences in our faiths and beliefs, we have a common commitment to sharing our lives openly, respecting our differences, and discussing the challenges and difficulties we face.

True North Groups provide a safe place where we can explore the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy – love / belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. As people learn that material acquisitions alone cannot satisfy them, they are turning to small groups to address these needs and to understand the meaning of their lives.

In your True North Group, you learn how to give and receive feedback in nonjudgmental ways, without taking it personally.

Your True North Group can (…) help you sort out your values, your priorities, and your beliefs. It can give you insights about yourself that will enhance your self-awareness and enable you to live authentically.

Keys To Group’s Effectiveness

George and Baker provide a set of clear rules for the group to work effectively. The quality of its members, the frequency and duration of the meetings and the discussion topics stand out among the key factors for the groups’ success.

The effectiveness of your True North Group depends on the quality of its members. (…) It is essential that each member adds to the group’s strength and diversity (…)

We have learned that the most effective groups – those that build strong commitment and involvement – meet weekly or not less than every other week. Some groups feel their time only permits monthly meetings.

(…) meetings should last at least seventy-five minutes.

The key is to choose topics that engage participants at a personal level. If discussion becomes intellectual, there will be a tendency to avoid feelings and to stay away from personal experiences and beliefs. If this happens, the group will devolve into a think tank with its members just exchanging knowledge. This can be interesting, but it doesn’t lead to personal growth and leadership development.

True North Groups is a very simple, practical and useful book for anyone seeking innovative formulas for personal and leadership development.

If you are interested in hearing about some of the book’s highlights straight from the authors, you can watch the following five-minute long video.

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