Tell (yourself) fewer stories: here’s why.
My post a few weeks ago encouraged us to tell more stories. This time round I want to encourage you to do the opposite. Tell fewer stories. But don’t worry I haven’t had a change of heart.
I’m not talking about inspirational leadership stories that help engage others in what you are up to. I’m talking about the corrosive internal stories we tell ourselves about our limitations, shortcomings and weaknesses.
I surprised myself a few years ago when, in a meeting with two more senior colleagues whom I greatly respected and admired, I suddenly found myself admitting that I couldn’t quite believe that I kept getting away with it – by which I meant securing bigger roles which I believed needed a far more diligent, talented and capable professional than me to do them. I finished by saying “I just try and get to the end of each day without being found out”. My honesty shocked, but not as much as their reply. They both looked at me and said “What, you too? I thought that was just me!”. Superficially, the exchange was light hearted but in that moment we all recognised we were revealing a deeply held, darkly feared truth about ourselves.
I didn’t have the language of FED at the time, but I see now that the stories we were telling ourselves had us consistently playing to avoid losing – to not get ‘found out’. I’ve worked hard since at not listening to that internal story and instead concentrated on playing to win and trusting that, regardless of what the internal voice might say, that turning up at my best will be good enough…and if it’s not? Well if it didn’t work out when I turned up at my best, it definitely wouldn’t have worked out if I didn’t!
Leadership nudge: what stories are you telling yourself that have you play small, avoid certain people or tasks or shy away from certain situations? What if you tell yourself a different story – that your best is good enough – and all you need to do is bring it?
By Martin Carter, Head of Engineering Academy, E.ON UK
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