Reality is a funny thing. We know we should live in it. When you are leading sometimes, reality is not something that you really want to see or hear. The story is always better. Given a choice between reality and our version of it, I bet we are more inclined to choose the later. Sharing a story – I was a new leader to a team of folks, that were partners of mine before. My perception of this team was not good. They were difficult to work with, rarely got stuff done on-time and frankly I did not look forward to any dealings I had with them. As part of a rotation, I was now their leader (careful what you wish for). What do you do? Below I will share my experience on what I did.
So what does this sound like? Have you ever heard any of these?
- “I shouldn’t have to do this – it’s not part of my job description.”
- “Our department is always having to clean up after others’ mistakes (messes).”
- “The boss just doesn’t get it.”
- “Management only cares about the bottom-line.”
When you hear those – you are arguing with reality. Judging your situation in terms of right or wrong instead of confronting what is. Time to respond to facts. Always easier said then done. Think what is woven into the story; ego, insecurities and identity. The story makes us look and feel better. Most stories have someone or something that is not quite good enough (not always placing blame, but enough to point to it). This insures that the criticism is setting us apart from others (which in turn does not help them).
When you start judging, you stop leading. Judging is in the land of the story… How do you make sure that you get back?
- Step back and really getting the facts. Do you have all the information or are you judging what you think you know?
- Focus on actions for success. Too many times I hear – I was right. Are you trying to prove yourself right?
- Trust others. Not to worry about what motives are driving a team or individual, but how can you help them achieve success.
- Clear and solid expectations. Those expectations have to be of your team and yourself. We all have challenging goals to achieve. Work with your team to best figure out the right approach for success.
Back to the story.. That horribly negative group that I know am the leader of… I took it upon myself to say, I am the biggest obstacle in making this work. It was my judging of the team that needed to change first. Respond to reality.. The phone rings – I pick it up. Email comes in – I answer it right away. Team asks a question – I answer it or teach them to fish. Team discusses how things worked in the past – I listen and learn – then lead them toward the future. Engaging with them all the way. I started to see changes in the team. I mostly started to see changes in myself. With every experience comes some key learning’s – if you want to learn.
I wonder, if you think back to a situation – where you telling yourself a story? Were you doing any judging of individuals or departments? Was it reality? Did you lead in that situation?