When I was young, I dreamt of being a singer. However, I told myself a story for years that when I sang, people left the room to escape my squeaky voice. Discouraged, I chose a very different path of study, engineering.
I eventually found my voice of expression through public speaking, my version of singing. I love it. I dabble in actual song only when I leave my close friends a rendition of Happy Birthday on their voicemail. Most of the time, my voice carries that tune just fine!
Yet, even with a radical shift in confidence, that story about my singing still impacts me. And, the longer I coach leaders and teams, I notice how each person’s past stories will influence their interpretation of a given event or circumstance. It’s quite surprising how vastly different those stories can be!
I believe these unspoken stories are what makes leadership and team development so complex. Those stories speak loudly even when nothing specific is said. Consider your story when you experience:
- A peculiar expression
- A one-word email
- Meeting invite with no subject
- A pause or odd gesture
- A colleague looking at his or her phone while you are speaking
- Whispering between colleagues
This is why being self-aware enough to check-out the validity of your present-day reactions is so important.
Those interpretations are often wrong!
While simple in concept, it’s not necessarily easy. Once in a while, I still get caught.
Recently I was singing at a memorial service, standing next to a close friend. Partway through the song, my friend nudged me, and I immediately assumed she was nudging me to be quiet. As my childhood story overtook my adult confidence, I sank inside.
A little while after the service, I Spiral Impacted. I got centered with the intention to engage rather than withdraw and get some input about my singing. If I am that bad of a singer, I want to know so I can then figure out how to improve or stop singing! So, I asked from a centered place, “I noticed you nudged me during the singing. Was my singing that bad?”
Startled, my friend said to me, “What do you mean? I nudged you because I felt awkward, and it seemed like nobody was singing. I didn’t hear you singing.”
How many times do we withdraw or attack because of some story that is likely fictional? Spiraling in to understand and potentially create a new, better, story opens up the possibility of deeper connection and personal freedom.
Remember, your team likely has many invisible stories slipping in from the past. Let them be the gateway for connection rather than a door that slams.
Enter Spiral Impact!
Let’s roll!! Karen