The day this article posts on the website will be January 19th, 2016. I just have one quick question, where are you on your new year’s resolutions? Unless they have turned into habits, they are most likely over with. Maybe you know yourself well enough and have read enough personal growth and development books to know that for the most part they do not work. Maybe, you didn’t make any because you knew you would just let yourself down again. Whether you made one or not on January 1, chances are in 2016 you will make some promises to yourself that you will most likely not keep. The truth is that no one lets us down more than we do. No one lies to us more than we lie to ourselves, and no one is as critical to us as we are to ourselves. These facts of human nature can give us great insights into being better leaders and creating better work environments.
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have let myself down. I have done the wrong thing more times than I care to admit even when I told myself I would not do it. There is no reason to drift into the why of that statement, although there is much research available there, let’s dive into the impact of that statement. When I tell myself I will not do something, then do it, I let myself down. Since there is no one in this world I talk to or interact with more than myself, just by sheer statistics, it will be impossible for someone else to disappoint me more than me; it is actually true for all of us. Lying to myself and being critical of myself are synonyms really for disappointing myself so let’s just group them together. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any sad state of depression, I am an upbeat encourager, sometimes over the top enthusiast for getting the most out of life. But that doesn’t mean I am not critical of myself. Having this level of insight into myself has paid off hugely as it relates to my ability to lead.
It took a few learning lessons but it hit me when a staff member came to me six weeks later and asked if they were getting better. They said they have been thinking about it and working on it and wanted to ask if I noticed anything. I had to be honest, I had no idea what they were talking about. They told me that I made mention of a particular communication issue they were having. They went and researched, worked on it, told some others, they really were sensitive to what I said and I don’t even remember it. After we talked for a while I realized how hard this person had been on themselves. They must have relived that moment and my statement 100 times. Then it hit me, I related to how critical this person was of himself. I remembered my leaders saying something to me and how I thought about it to the point of nausea.
As a leader we are given the opportunity to influence others lives. We get to speak into other people’s life with both truth and love. Speaking in truth means that we don’t shy away from difficult conversation about behaviors and attitudes. Speaking in love means that we don’t tie those difficult conversations to their identity. When someone leaves any time spent with me, I want them to feel encouraged and empowered, even if I just told them they were the worst presenter I ever heard.
Since we now have this insight into how hard we are on ourselves, let’s try to remember that the next time we have to have that difficult conversation with someone else. They too will be harder on themselves than we would be on them. When they leave that conversation, even if it’s a termination, imagine them leaving feeling great about what lies ahead for them and not depressed about how they let you and themselves down yet again.