We all have a lot of stuff floating around in our heads about who we are, how we relate to the world, how important we are, what we could do better, etc. Pay attention, because the stories you tell yourself about yourself are the clay that molds how you show up as a leader.
These stories may not be flattering. Or, they may be the substance of legends. Either way, they are OUR stories, and they don`t always mesh with what we want or how others may see us. But they are important for one big reason: we need to know if they are worth keeping or if they must be changed. For now, I`d like to address the stories that may prevent us from realizing our full potential as leaders.
When I hear clients say “I can`t do this or that” or “that`s just the way I am”, I know there is a story behind those statements. It might be a belief that change is not possible. It might be that there is no desire to change. When I ask about that story, it starts a conversation that will stick and help my clients to become more aware of what they are telling themselves ?€“ about themselves.
When we illuminate (literally, “to make lucid or clear; to enlighten, as with knowledge”) the stories we tell ourselves, a window opens that allows us to make a decision to continue to believe the story or to change it to something more powerful. These stories are the beliefs that shape us as leaders and as individuals.
There are ways to become aware of the essence of these stories. Some are able to observe themselves in real time. If that isn`t possible for you, any or all of these ways of illumination will assist:
- 360?° Feedback: obtaining confidential feedback using an assessment that compares your responses with those from your employees, boss, clients, or peers can be very helpful in comparing how you see yourself (your stories) with how others see you.
- Ask: asking people you trust to give you the straight scoop on what they observe is always helpful. Ask specific questions about what they observe ?€“ “Did I appear confident in that presentation?”. “What did you observe about how I dealt with that employee?”.
- Journal/write: generally, writing will appeal to introverts. But this doesn`t have to be a big deal if you are intimidated by writing. A few minutes each day asking yourself “What is the story I told myself today?” with bullet point answers will suffice.
- Self-Assessments: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC, the Enneagram ?€“ there are thousands of these. They all provide a catalyst for thought about the stories we tell ourselves. Spend time with your report results and see what surprises you (surprises might illuminate your stories).
Illuminating ?€“ becoming aware ?€“ of our stories is the first step in deciding if we want to keep them or change them. Part II of this series about the Stories We Tell Ourselves ?€“ Deciding, will follow. In the meantime ?€“ your thoughts on how you become aware of your own stories are welcome!