Coaching Blog – The Leader’s Lifeline: Healthy Companionship

(A Special 2023 Note: This year is going to be very special as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the return of the US POWs, most of whom had spent more than five years incarcerated in the “Hanoi Hilton” and related POW camps in North Vietnam. This was possible because the Paris Peace Accords were signed resulting in the United States ending of its role in the Vietnam war.

As you can imagine, resilience was critical to our survival through that long and difficult experience, and the same can be said for the wives and families back home. Each month this year, I’m going to share some resilience stories and lessons learned through that experience that you can apply in your day-to-day life and work.)


While the Cupid’s arrow of love and romance are reminiscent of Valentine’s Day this month, it’s the perfect time to emphasize a deeper level of intimacy called companionship.  

This important idea of companionship—specifically from a professional standpoint—hovers at the front of my mind, because we just finished a new book on the true romance stories of POWs called Captured by Love which will be out in May 2023.

Then recently, I also came across and read two separate pieces of research from the Gallup organization and the US Surgeon General’s “2022 Report on Mental Health and Wellbeing” where they both highlight the importance of being connected with others to be happy, successful, and resilient.

Results Overshadowing Companionship

In the last couple of centuries, there has been an ongoing drive in our western, industrial society to get results—and get them faster and faster. It’s a good leadership strategy when you’re in combat or facing a crucial deadline that must be met. We must get results and accomplish the mission, but over the long haul, there is a decline in performance and results if you keep “whipping the horse” to get things done.


“The obvious reality is that people are not machines—we are all humans and have a need to be accepted, valued, and believed in.” [Tweet This]


These relational attributes are a big part of companionship which I’ve coined as “connecting with the heart” in my writing, coaching, and training (they could also be called beams of love, but that sounds a bit soft for some folks in my generation).

In this month’s 6-minute Leading with Honor Coaching clip, I describe the idea more in-depth. Please watch and then continue reading the blog below –

Companionship in the Workplace

My first thought about companionship in the workplace goes back to my younger days when I was an Air Force fighter pilot. We always flew in groups with at least one wingman, because your wingman is your companion who sees what you don’t see and protects your rear (so you don’t get shot down) while you are looking forward. After every flight, we debriefed with our companions; and if it was at the end of the day, we might sit back and have a beer to just chat and socialize.

Companionship as a Key to Survival

In the Vietnam POW camps, companionship was key to our resistance to the enemy and survival. Knowing the power of companionship, our enemy tried to isolate us as much as possible and even punish us for connecting with others. Staying connected was so critical in those years that we would risk painful torture and isolation in order to stay connected with each other. Upon our return home, we realized that companionship was the protective remedy that allowed us to return with a very low rate of mental illness and PTSD.

The Battle in the Workplace

As a workplace leader (or teammate), are you being intentional about connecting with the hearts of your people? The research mentioned earlier shares the importance of connection and community to give others social support and a feeling of belonging.

If you’re truly serious about getting results and keeping the most talented people on your team, let me encourage you to be intentional about the idea of companionship. Here are four ways to practice it –


  1. Spend some intentional social time with your people to get to know them and discover what’s on their mind. Engage them and ask them some simple questions about their work and life. Just listen and don’t try to tell them how to “fix it.”
  2. Identify some of their talents and encourage their use of them.
  3. Pause to reflect on how you can make this person feel special and then do it. Remember even the small things noticed and mentioned can mean a lot.
  4. Remember to smile when you see them. Smiles are simple yet powerful rays of love and acceptance that lift the emotions of others.


“The reality is that companionship is a powerful tool to build positive energy and emotional health in leadership and teamwork.” [Tweet This]


You know, these principles of companionship also work at home. What I realized in writing the Captured by Love book is how the 20 couples in the book became resilient companions to not only survive our difficult POW experience but remain together for 40-60 years of marriage.

Don’t be a lone ranger. Embrace the idea of companionship for yourself and others to raise the bar of excellence on your life and leadership.

LE [Tweet this Article]


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