I've been confronted more than once recently that I like to be in control. This really isn't new information. I've always know that I am good at running the show. And it has served me well over the years. How can you run programs across multi sectors and large geographical regions without being in control? When being the chair- person of a large conference planning committee, you better believe I was in control; organizing, planning, delegating and really, keeping it all together. Raising a family of four children, I've needed to be in control of household chores, schedules and commitments. Did I do all of this alone? Hell no! And being in control of what was going on helped me. What is new information for me, is the reality of the impact this has on others.
Being in control, means that I expect others to do it my way. My kids, husband and staff over the years will tell you that I like people to come to my side, to see my views and while I hear their opinions, listen to their arguments and appear to be working collaboratively, I am becoming really aware that it's not truly been that way. The impact is that people give in and often they resent giving in. While they may follow me, there is frustration, irritation and annoyance on their part.
To give up control might look like someone else driving the boat for a while. For me it will be hard to trust that others can make choices about mutual journeys and to believe that even though it may not be the path that I have planned, it will be ok. I am aware though that by allowing someone else to take me on a new path, I will have the amazing ability to see new things. Potentially things that I didn't even know where there some times. Places I didn't know existed and that I never would have found doing it all my way.
As great leaders, one of the most difficult things is realizing that leaders aren't always in the front. Some of the greatest leaders in history where never in the front, not controlling and not making all the decisions AND they took their teams to great places. Really it is not about me as a leader or anyone else having control. It's about leading a team, a family, or a community group to work together and make joint decisions. Decisions we can all align around together, fully commit to and to move forward from there.
I spilled wax on my dining room table this morning. Crap! I hope that doesn't damage it I say in my head. And yet, what if it does? We have a beautiful wood dining room table with matching chairs and china cabinet. We have had it for years. And for years, we covered it up. We protected it from the kids and well in light of my oops this morning, from us as parents too. More and more recently we've been leaving it uncovered. Eating on it, having tea at it, studying, reading the paper and my favourite, decorating it. I always have an array of plants, flowers, candles and now, smaller table runners instead of table clothes. It looks beautiful and inviting. It is a gathering place for our family.
This has made me think about all the beautiful things about ourselves that we cover up. The amazing things inside of us that we protect. We go out into the world with our table clothes on. And in my situation, layers. Three of them. You can all groan now as you think about the padding, table cloth, and then the dreaded plastic. Yes, layer after layer, we cover ourselves and protect ourselves from the outside world. And in that we hide our beauty.
What would it be like to laugh more at work? How much damage could we suffer if we shed a tear or two at the office? If I was to show compassion to another person standing in line at the grocery store, it might make me be late. To show someone how much we love them makes us vulnerable.
Yes, there are scratches and dents in my beautiful table now. Each one of them however has a story. I don't know about every story, but I do know that combined, they tell a story of how much our family loves each other. How a coffee cup set down a bit too hard might be because we are worried about what our kids are doing. A scratch might be a result of someone setting something excitedly on the table to show it off. And the tons of tiny little dents are from all the family dinners together tell about the connection we have. Uncovering the table has allowed it to hold and tell that story.
Imagine showing your beautiful self to the world. Yes, there may be some scratches and dents along the way. But you create an inviting place to draw people to. Employees might actually want to work for you, feeling more engaged and connected. Your boss might be more responsive to your requests for additional resources. You might get better service at the mechanics shop, grocery store or doctors office. Try taking the layers off and see what happens.
I lead a full life full of love, adventure and growth. Check out my latest thoughts here.
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