How “story” makes you interesting and gives life and meaning to your leadership.
After cooking and cleaning up dinner my daily routine is to head into the next room, plop down into my evening chair, turn on The Big Bang Theory and watch reruns for longer than I would like to admit. It’s what I do. It’s a habit. Nothing interesting, just a little down time when I can sit back, chuckle a little, and not think about … anything.
A commercial aired one night that caught my attention; The Most Interesting Man in the World (Dos Equis.) “He can speak French, in Russian. His blood smells like cologne. He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels.” After a laugh it kind of sunk in, I had settled. Not only into my chair, but as a leader. My thoughts circled around and I realized, I probably wasn’t very interesting either.
Leaders often settle. We fall out of focus and into a routine making it our comfort zone. We don’t say much for fear a conversation will be too long. We find it easier to complete group projects ourselves. (Why bother anyone when it can be finished in half the time?) We’re not very ambitious to do anything extra or willing to go the extra mile to reconcile a conflict. Nah, we just nudge our way into cozy corner and pray the day is clear of confrontations until we punch out.
Over ten years in sales — pushing numbers, pushing people, and standing on my head in order to lighten the mood all to be the number one team, I began to settle. Over my career I studied hundreds of leadership books and to each author’s credit I rose from number 17 in the company to number three, but that’s when I hit a plateau. The number one position continued to be out of my team’s reach and quite frankly, after three years of trying to bump my way up, my energy was zapped. So, I thought, Hey, I gave it a good run, and I settled. Even planned to retire.
A few months later a divine flash triggered the idea to host a retreat for my team leaders. A little down time, a little training, and a little celebration was in order for all their hard work. The structure of the retreat was another intuitive insight, but I couldn’t appreciate its extreme impact until the weekend was over.
The most enlightening element was the exercise defining our personal purpose. The real magic, however, happened when the Founder (a surprise guest) dove into the purpose of the business. She had us from hello. As she told us her story our eyes grew wide over what she envisioned; her story came to life. Conversations grew, individual ideals merged and explosions of aha moments filled the room. Within minutes there was a radical shift in our perception from being independent leaders to an interconnected team. An outline flowed from our pens and into a plan on how to help the organization grow.
It was that simple, and that profound.
When leaders have clarity to why their company was born — what purpose it serves — their roles are stimulated and their energy is focused. They have a foundation and a mission to follow. Until that point, leaders simply keep people in line and hope for decent production. But when leaders know the inside scoop-the real story of the owners vision- they can keep people engaged, keep people aligned with the initial dream, and keep people motivated with attainable goals that include recognitions and awards. THEN the game becomes interesting.
This was the biggest lesson of my leadership career. Knowing the story and knowing why gives life and meaning to my job. After the retreat my team soared into the #1 position, so I didn’t rush to retire.
Leaders, I encourage you to dig a little. Find out why your organization started. Do everything you can to capture a conversation with the owner or current CEO. Get a story and grab onto it because that fuels your energy and it will carry your team to the next level and beyond. Just like the “most interesting man” in the commercial, it’s story that makes you interesting.
Don’t settle. Stay thirsty, my friends!