Playing To Your Strengths
Recently my husband was away for the weekend, and I was free to watch whatever caught my eye on Netflix. I stumbled upon a documentary about Queen touring with Adam Lambert as lead singer. I loved the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody. I have never seen Queen perform live and was excited to see concert footage of the band.
As I watched, a contrast struck me. Bohemian Rhapsody focused on Freddie Mercury, the flamboyant and visionary front-man. The documentary, however, picks up the story after Freddie's death. The remaining band members tell the story of various attempts to answer their fan's desires for concerts without an artist with Freddie's vocal breadth. In both, however, Brian May is portrayed as the influential collaborator and steadying voice that quietly propels Queen's success across the years.
Brian May is a talented musician in his own right. Select any of Queen's many hits, and you will witness his incredible gift as the band's lead guitarist. His guitar solos are poignant moments. He could have pursued other opportunities with other artists, and yet he chose Queen over and over. In the documentary, he describes the uniqueness of the band's synergy and recognizes that he can't assume that he can replicate that anywhere he wants. It is his commitment to honor and cultivate their synergy that has kept the music of Queen alive for so many decades.
As I reflected on my business a few days later, I realized that I prefer the Brian May role to the Freddie Mercury role. I have talent and expertise that I love to share with others. Just like Brian, I can enjoy a moment on stage in the spotlight where I get to shine, but I don't want to stay there. Instead, I like to be that consistent support whose impact is experienced as strongly behind the scenes as on the stage. I don't seek public praise and admiration, although I am firmly committed to the person's or team's success in every collaboration.
When I look around my industry, I see prominent personalities with international name recognition. They write books and run public seminars that sell out around the world. In the past, this has caused me to question whether I needed bigger aspirations. After seeing Brian May in the documentary, however, I realize that I am right where I want to be.
Not all of us want fame and fortune. We don't seek the tough trade-offs that come with celebrity. Not wanting these things does not diminish our talent or genius. Wanting to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and watching it nurture and grow has immense value. And, it is essential to acknowledge that value in ourselves and others.
I encourage you to take a few moments to reflect on the role you are choosing to play. Here are a few questions to contemplate.
ONE. Are you authentic to who you want to be? Have social media and advertisements to help you build a six-figure business created an internal crisis in which you question your definition of success?
TWO. Do you want to be a lead singer or are you happy being a valuable member of the band?
THREE. If you manage people, do you value those who want to be lead singers over those who don't? What would happen if you exclusively hired people who wanted to be lead singers?
FOUR. Do you know who the Brian May people are in your life? And, have you taken a moment to appreciate the value they bring to you and your business?
As with bands, in business, those with lead singer personalities are the most visible. However, their success is interdependent. Recognizing the quiet contributors and working on the group's cohesion is required to maintain peak collaboration and results. As the music of Queen shows, when synergy is present, magic happens that can transcend the decades.
Stand For Change
This week Louisville metro ceased no-knock actions by police. It is not justice for Breonna Taylor, but it's a step in the right direction to end violence from police discrimination. When we stand together, we cannot be ignored.
#blacklivesmatter #endthesilence #democracyinaction
I Can Do Better
My husband and I have lived in Louisville, Kentucky, for seventeen years. We've made this city our home where we are raising our girls. Although I spent several years living in the South, my recognition of racial injustice awakened when, as a mother, I heard the stories from black mothers about their ever-present fear of harm, especially to their sons, due to misunderstandings that lead to violent acts. Every wrongful death of an African American citizen at the hands of a police officer, who has sworn an oath to protect and serve, inflamed their concerns and sense of injustice.
Protestors took to my city streets this past week. A series of acts captured on video ignited citizens who saw the reality of racial injustice. My Facebook and LinkedIn feeds filled with posts of support for a community that deserves better. Like me, many white people ask questions about how to stand in solidarity and support in meaningful ways. If you are one of them, I have good news to share with you.
On Thursday, Digital Diversity Summit, hosted by Tawana Bain, convened a panel conversation called "EQUIPPING WHITE WOMEN TO SPEAK UP AGAINST RACISM." I've linked the recording and encourage you to watch.
I strongly believe that to be a part of the solution, I also need to learn about how I contribute to the problem. I want to honor the black community with support that is educated about when, where, and how to act (or not). I am working on my discomfort at owning my insensitivities and faux pas. I am interested in learning how to make space for and magnify the voices of my black friends. Owning and checking my privilege, and learning to become better at living the values I hold about ending racial injustice in America is uncomfortable. But I know that this feeling holds the most significant opportunity for learning.
I am not seeking to debate or convince anyone that I am right. However, I am interested in connecting with others who share my interest in learning more and doing better. Please share other positive forums of education and enlightenment that may be useful to my journey. I can do better, and I am committed to learning how and connecting with others on the same path.
This Change Just Got Harder
When I started my career, change management consulting was my primary work. There was a recession, and businesses focused on cutting expenses and improving operational efficiencies. I worked in several companies that mandated across the board cuts, leaving business leaders to determine how to accomplish more with fewer resources. I have depth and breadth of experience with personal, team, and organizational change.
We used this poignant visual to help explain what people were experiencing during change.
Your goal is to summit the hill in front of you. The catch is this. There is a rubber band looped around your waist and a large boulder at your starting point. The rubber band is very loose when you start, barely noticeable. As you climb, however, tension slowly builds so that each step forward also creates a backward pull. This resistance drains your energy while simultaneously requiring more effort. The pull to abandon your goal of the summit increases with each uncomfortable step forward. You begin to do the mental value equation of effort versus reward. Is the vista at the top that much better than the one you can already see? What do you gain from finishing this goal? How much does this matter to you?
I love my field, psychology, because it presents reason and rationality to our shared human condition. I am intrigued by why we behave in predictable ways, including our struggle to embrace change. Although there are exceptions, these are the generalities uncovered by psychological research into human behavior that explain the struggle we have with change.
ONE. We have an innate desire to protect our self-image. This is why we don't like to be corrected by others or told that we are wrong. This is why we are quick to rationalize our actions when others challenge them.
TWO. Our need to be right is so strong that our brains filter out facts and information contrary to our beliefs and understanding, giving preference to data supporting our formed conclusions [learn more].
THREE. Our preservation of self-identity extends to all areas of our lives. We seek security and predictability, which are enabled by routine. We prefer the known to the unknown. Even when our choices put us at risk, their entanglement with our identity causes us to self-sabotage.
Friday afternoon, we attended my daughter's graduation at a nearby drive-in theater. Families were required to stay in their vehicles. Strict enforcement of social distancing enabled the graduates to participate unmasked. This event was a small step forward from the #healthyathome restrictions in place since March. Hearing the students' speeches filled with gratitude for their classmates' camaraderie, added to my appreciation of their ability to gather for this right of passage. However, what caught me by surprise is my awakened desire to slip back into the ease of life before COVID-19. For the first time since this started, I'm finding myself resentful that I cannot freely move through my life without concern, planning, or precaution.
The unencumbered freedom of living is the boulder in this change story. When nations around the globe responded to this health crisis with shelter in place orders, we were at the bottom of the hill. As we began our climb, it was challenging, but our stamina for change was fresh, and our concern for the health and safety of our community was compelling. With each step toward some altered form of our prior freedoms, however, the rubber band's tension grows. Constantly changing information and seeds of distrust in public authority add to the internal pull to return to the stability of life as we knew it before COVID-19 disrupted everything.
I want you to know that if you are like me, and suddenly this feels harder than it did when we were quarantining in our homes, you are not alone. And this stage of preventing the spread of the Coronavirus may be the hardest. Continually adapting is mentally taxing and requires more effort. We just want to slip back into our old routines, and that tension on the rubber band makes each step forward harder. The unity of our early experience is harder to maintain because returning to life as we knew it is alluring. We are growing weary of pushing forward through uncertainty and instability. We are stuck in the messy middle of this change, looking for a miracle.
As we move forward, don't be surprised if your employees are distracted or less productive. You may see angry exchanges after weeks of compassionate discourse. You may hear frustration and intolerance when asking employees to change operational procedures. As a leader, emotional intelligence continues to be an essential skill.
Resist the temptation to avoid emotional situations. Suspend your judgment and turn on your curiosity. Let go of your need to fix situations, and appreciate that being present, intently listening, and giving your employees a safe space to express their emotional turmoil is what this stage of change demands. Being the coach who asks questions to increase clarity and discovery and assures confidence in your collective ability to get through the messy middle together will pay dividends well beyond this pandemic.