Have you ever said, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!” Were you trying to convince yourself of something that happened or trying to convince someone else? Has anyone said it to you? How did it make you feel?
Sometimes, as leaders, we believe we lead in a certain way. We feel certain that we are the leaders we want to be. We are convinced we are transparent, authentic, kind, open to feedback, willing to change, open to new ideas, and empowering to those who follow. If we are told differently, do we accept the conflicting information? Are you convinced that you are a specific kind of leader? Is it your story and you’re sticking to it?
I have worked with many different types of leaders. I have various leadership stories of my own – both personally and professionally.
I will always remember when my son told me, “Mom, when you talk to that business associate, I feel unimportant. Sometimes you talk about business. Sometimes you talk about other stuff. If I need you, you blow me off.” That hurt. I thought that I had my children as my top priority. I thought that I listened when they actually needed me.
Yes, when I’m doing work, they needed to know when I could be interrupted. No, it’s not OK to interrupt a phone call arbitrarily. There are times, however, when interruptions are warranted.
I didn’t realize that I was blowing him off. It was hard for me to hear. I had told myself the story that when they needed me, I was available. I was sticking to that story. I was wrong. I am grateful that he had the courage to tell me how he felt.
Because of his courage and forthright approach, he and I worked together to create a system of knowing how if I could be interrupted.
- Lifting only my index finger means this is a high priority business call that can only be interrupted for a true emergency.
- Lifting two fingers means I just need to finish this statement or sentence and then I can be interrupted briefly.
- Lifting three fingers means I can interrupt immediately. It gives us quick check-in so that I know he needs me and he knows how responsive I can be.
I once worked with a supervisor who thought she was completely transparent in all her conversations and procedures. She was certain that she communicated openly, clearly, and regularly. When she got feedback from several people who said that they felt she didn’t share well, didn’t listen well, and didn’t accept recommendations well, it jarred her. She had told herself a story and was sticking to it. She truly wanted to improve and it caused her some serious soul-searching. She then started working to change reality to match her story.
Changing a person’s reality or an organization’s practices is not always easy. It can hurt. Change often meets resistance – even from those who believe they like change. If an individual or an organization truly wants to improve, the person or the organization must be willing to make sure the story shown matches the story the person or organization wants told. “I cannot hear what you say because who you are screams so loudly in my ears.”
I want to help you and your organization make your story, your goals, and what others see match. Call me at 509-730-5506 or e-mail me at email@example.com to determine how we can work together to make the story you’re telling match the story you’re showing.