Reality…What A Concept
There are many stories in and around the workplace, but none are arguably more frustrating to the new leader than inheriting the narratives of all your teammates. Cy Wakeman, author of “Reality-Based Leadership” argues that drama is emotionally expensive for all concerned. As both leader and a peer within your own team, you will find yourself with two choices to make (which your level of self-awareness will dictate how well you pick up on this). You will have a choice to determine to what degree you are going to invest yourself in the drama of your direct reports. And, you will also have a choice as to the degree of drama you yourself will indulge in as a teammate and peer of your fellow leaders.
In choice one, you will constantly be presented with opportunities to make that first decision. “I do more around here than anyone. The other teams aren’t pulling their weight. I didn’t get promoted because I didn’t have political connections. I am underpaid for the value I add.” All of these self-constructed narratives have one thing in common, and one likely outcome. They represent a victim mode of thinking that ultimately drives down productivity, cohesiveness, cooperation, and efficiency. As Thomas Bergen notes in his review of Wakeman’s latest book, “Reality-Based Rules Of The Workplace”, the most common stories people make up star themselves as victim.
As for choice two, regardless of whether you are one of many leaders, or THE leader, being a leader does not make you any less susceptible to constructing your own movie, starring you. Understand that it is the human condition to create a narrative. It makes us feel safe, even if we are miserable, because in the end, we can take little or no accountability for the situation. This “learned helplessness” is particularly frustrating to deal with when one of your prime responsibilities is to grow and develop your team. As Bergen notes, the “anti-dote to the victim mindset is accountability”.
Wakeman’s work encourages everyone to quit arguing with reality and understand that there is an equation to their value to the organization. It consists of their performance, their potential, and their emotional expense – the toll their attitudes take on those around them. This is not the math on which to get on the negative side of the ledger.
Two particular strategies for “ditching the drama”, are to do a reality check and stop believing your own “stories” – Get the facts, give others the benefit of the doubt, and ask yourself, “what is the next right action I can take that would add the most value to the situation”. The other is to model the role you would like to see others play.
Be the change you wish to see in the world. – Gandhi
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