This week I was a guest speaker for an OMERS event that brought together their Global Leaders Program. There were 25 participants, each highly influential executives from Toronto, New York and the U.K.
After a day and a half with the group, their Chief Investment Officer Blake Hutcheson, asked me what my impressions were of their executive team.
I paused to think the question over.
What I Knew
Before I arrived I knew this was an exceptional group of people. Not only highly intelligent but, I assume, most had a competitive side that pushed them to achieve increasingly higher levels of excellence.
Over several meals and events, I presented, observed and participated in a broad range of discussions on anything from Artificial intelligence to Bitcoin to HR feedback structures. I was beginning to develop an opinion. Still, I had to think more broadly to formulate an answer to Blake’s question.
I noted the intensity in which every individual listened to the guest speakers as well as each other. These are conscious listeners. By that, I mean they consistently tapped into their critical thinking skills while listening, as naturally as they would breath.
Yes, I see the irony in that metaphor, since breathing is a largely unconscious act. However, I used it to show how attentive you have to be in order to consciously listen since consciously breathing, such a simple act, is so difficult to sustain.
Have you ever tried to keep a singular focus on your breath during a yoga practice or walk? How long do you last before the mind wanders towards your ‘To Do’ list? If you’re anything like me….not long.
It’s challenging to remain present, and this group was highly effective at it.
With a wealth of knowledge behind these individuals, and life experiences I can only begin to imagine, they remained thirsty for information, for insight, and for something to catch them in a way that made them consider things from a different perspective.
They wanted to be coached in the same way a world class athlete does. They didn’t need to have their hands held, or to be told how to do the technical aspects of their jobs. They’re already experts in their fields. However, like any World Class athlete, they can still improve and expand their skill set.
What I saw in them is what I saw in myself in the later parts of my athletic career. They needed sounding boards, open ended discussions, and inspiration to help them tap into another level of passion, focus, and performance. That is what a coach does when working with high level talent - they facilitate.
These executives didn’t need a spotlight to illuminate an issue, they needing back lighting to help them see it from another angle.
Still, I didn’t yet have my answer. I had to quickly define what intelligence means to me.
Often, I see intelligence defined as an ability to retain and regurgitate information (memory) and conviction of ideals. However, I have always, and continue to see the most intelligent people I meet be the most open to growth and change. Thoughts are meant to be moulded, surprised, and nurtured; that’s the brain (and arguably the souls) fuel.
Lateral and creative thinkings, with a willingness to evolve: to me, that is intelligence.
After thinking this through, I realized what struck me most, and that I had my answer to Blake’s question.
This highly intelligent group of conscious listeners were surprisingly open to being moulded.
They were open to change, to have their opinions shaped and swayed. In my opinion, that showed not only incredible intellect, but confidence.
That isn’t to say they were easily swayed or shaped, but they wanted to be challenged. The thought of new information, new stimulus, seemed to excite them; like giving a dog a bone.
This openness and thirst for stimulus had an energy to it, and it not only surprised me but inspired me.