Yin and yang. Oil and water. Sweet and sour. Dealing with opposites is generally one of my joys. I work with so many different people with opposing philosophies, approaches to work, and actions. Figuring out the best way to collaborate and support them is fun, fascinating and rewarding.
Recently, though, I realized I met my match, when I worked with two dissimilar women within hours of each other. Call them Lucy and Jessie, which are not their real names.
Jessie is a natural leader. I’ve worked with her for years, but because we now live and work on opposite coasts, we don’t spend much time together. When we recently had an opportunity to be together, she prefaced many of her comments and opinions with the phrase, “When I’m the Queen….” She talked about how she would rule, what laws she’d introduce and enforce, and what standards of behavior she would expect from her subjects—whenever she became HRH (Her Royal Highness). All of this was very tongue in cheek. It also was a very effective communication technique. You knew what issues Jessie cared about. You also knew her point of view on them. Her directness was refreshing and illuminating.
Now compare Jessie to Lucy, who is a natural victim. In fact a former boss said Lucy’s title should be CVO, Chief Victim Officer. Lucy is one of the NoNos that John Kotter introduced in his fable Our Iceberg Is Melting about how to do well in an ever-changing world. In Kotter’s world, the corporate NoNos resist change by deflecting and undermining the people and plans around them. That’s Lucy. She has a habit of immediately disagreeing with every new idea or suggestion she hears. Even worse, she just won’t say “no.” She has to talk—almost ad nauseous—about how the new approach won’t work. She’s tried it before and it flopped. Her staff experimented with it for a nanosecond and they didn’t like it. She doesn’t want to adopt new and experimental things in her current environment. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Meanwhile, Lucy has lost credibility and trust with her internal clients because they view her as a major obstructionist. They are so fed up with what she and her team delivers that they don’t even bother to try to temper their irritation. Lucy hears their complaints, yet blames everyone but her and her team for the results of her work.
Who would you rather work with?
Personally, I’d rather be a subject in Jessie’s monarchy any day than a colleague in Lucy’s state of victimhood.
Being a victim is akin to being an energy vampire, draining the energy of those around you.
If you think you have tendencies to play the victim card, which granted may be tempting right now during our economic meltdown, keep in mind you’re primarily hurting yourself. To avoid that situation and to keep from dragging others down with you as well, consider these five tips:
- Experiment with saying “Yes, and …….” Or anything but “No, and …..” or “Yes, but…..”
- Find a mentor or pal who is more like Jessie than Lucy, and can coach—or even prod—you to start saying “yes” instead of “no” and to get the courage and confidence to try new things.
- Imagine the possibilities as much as possible on your own. Don’t immediately run to the dark side when you first hear about a new idea. Be open, not closed.
- Reflect on what you can do and can control. Don’t assume that your ZOR (zone of responsibility) will automatically keep you from trying something new.
- Try to embrace the philosophy “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” so you can get unstuck and start to take action. Sometimes any action is better than no action.
Who are you, Jessie or Lucy? And what suggestions do you have for working with victims and royalty?
Connect the dots plus dot the “i”s to be more intentional, inquisitive and inclusive
How well are you tapping into the skills and wisdom you need to lead in a BANI world?
All the old playbooks are out-of-date. Instead, you need to reach inside yourself, tap into your wisdom, and connect the dots for yourself and others.
To start, you can use these 5 tips to embrace your humanity and become a better leader.