This is the second post in a four-part series on uncovering the narratives we tell ourselves in business. If you missed the first post, be sure to click here to read it first!
Last week, we started to explore the topic of narratives – or stories – we tell ourselves in business. We talked all about how it’s easier to fuel that narrative and look for information that supports it, rather than uncover the truth of the situation we’re in and work on a new, more positive narrative.
This week, we’re going to take a deeper look our leadership narratives.
We’ll talk about some of the most common narratives, why and how these can be damaging, and ways you can crush these narratives and step into your truth.
Common Damaging Narratives
First, let’s take a look some common damaging narratives we tell ourselves as leaders. These are all examples of narratives I’ve heard from leaders and clients throughout the years:
- I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a leader.
- I should just hire someone else to manage my team.
- I’m not good at dealing with conflict.
- I have a hard time teaching others how to do what I do.
- If I want [insert any task here] done right, I should just do it myself.
- I have trouble letting go and trusting someone else.
- My team needs a lot of hand-holding or nothing gets done.
- I struggle with feeling confident enough to lead my lead.
Have you ever thought or said anything similar?
If you have, keep reading to learn more about why these narratives can be damaging to you and your business and how to overcome them.
Why Narratives Can Be Damaging
The more we tell ourselves these types of negative narratives, the more we believe them. And the more we believe them, the more we find other bits of information to support them as “facts.”
As I mentioned in the first post of this series, this is something called confirmation bias, which simply means we look for information that supports something we already believe.
This can become damaging because when we tell ourselves these types of narratives, we have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills.
Take this scenario for example:
A new team member misses a minor task in a big project. When you learn of it, you immediately get frustrated and think, “If I had just done this myself this wouldn’t have happened. Ugh! I knew hiring help wasn’t going to be worth it.”
By responding this way, you’re using the information (aka situation) to confirm your previously held beliefs that “hiring isn’t worth it,” and “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
But let’s be real honest for a minute, okay? You can’t tell me that you’ve never ever missed a step or had something fall through the cracks or made a mistake at least once in your career.
We’re human. We make mistakes. We miss things. If we’re new to a job or a project, sometimes we don’t what we don’t know.
So blowing up a simple mistake into a big ordeal to support your negative narrative doesn’t do you, your team, or your business any good.
In fact, looking for ways to support these narratives can do a lot of harm.
They keep us from reaching our goals and chasing down our dreams. They can put a halt on the momentum we’ve created in our businesses and our lives and leave us stalled on a plateau.
Why We Tell Ourselves Narratives
So why do we tell ourselves these narratives?
Because we’re scared and unsure and just trying to figure things out as we go.
We fear feelings of inadequacy or being judged by others or even letting down our future team.
It’s overwhelming to learn something new in the midst of all the other things we have going on and responsibilities we have.
Everything we do in our businesses is a risk and opens us up for failure. And that’s not a small thing to bat an eyelash at, right? I’m right there with you. It can be downright terrifying some days!
Hiring and leading a team of people is something a lot of us can avoid or put off for far longer than other things we’re kind of forced into by simply being small business owners.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, my friend.
Crushing the Narratives
If we don’t crush these negative narratives, they’ll certainly crush us. But how do you do it?
Whenever you realize you’re telling yourself a narrative about your ability (or inability) to lead, take these three steps:
- Pause – Now that you’re aware that these negative narratives exist, I bet you’ll notice them more often. We all have them! So when you do, pause and take a deep breath.
- Reflect – Take a few minutes to think about where this narrative came from. Was it something you heard at home when you were growing up? Or maybe one of your first bosses or mentors used to say similar things. Figure out where this story came from.
- Ask – Why do I believe this? Is it true? If not, what are some ways I can turn this negative narrative into a positive one?
Let’s look at a quick example of someone who has created positive narratives in his mind rather than negative ones:
Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, didn’t just wake up one day in 2000 and say, “Hmm, the Olympics are taking place in Sydney this year. I think I’ll try out for the Olympic team and win a bunch of gold medals.”
And he certainly doesn’t sit around thinking, “I’ll never win a race. I’m a terrible swimmer and I’m just not good at the butterfly stroke.”
The reality is that he has spent years and years practicing and honing his craft and cultivating the mindset of a champion through the narratives he’s told himself every day and before every competition.
Michael has an entire visualization routine he goes through each time he competes.
Every single detail is visualized from the moment he steps up to the starting platform and the race begins, to each stroke he’ll take and where the walls of the pool are in relation to where he’s at in the water. He visualizes the turns he’ll need to make and even the final moment when he emerges from the water victorious.
He even visualizes pitfalls that may come up – like if his goggles fill with water or his swim cap comes off – so he can be prepared.
But he focuses on winning and how he’s going to win – not on negative self-talk and untrue stories about his abilities.
In the same way that swimming is an athletic endeavor one must learn and practice daily, so is leadership.
I don’t buy into the idea that leaders are born. Sure, it may be true for some, but not for the majority. Even those who were born with natural leadership qualities know the importance of continuing to learn and grow and hone their skill set.
If you think you’re not cut out to be a leader, I challenge you to think again. It might just be a new skill for you to learn and practice.
What damaging narratives are you telling yourself about becoming or being a leader in your business – and what truth are you actually living in?
Are you really someone who can’t handle conflict, has a hard time letting go, or can’t teach someone else how to do what you do?
Or have you just not learned and practiced the skills you need to successfully do so?
My bet would be on the latter. 😉
The more we tell ourselves we CAN do something, the more likely it will be to happen. So let’s crush those negative narratives, so you can step into your leadership potential and keep reaching for those big dreams and goals.
Next week, we’re going to dive into the narratives we tell our teams. And I promise it’s gonna be so good you won’t want to miss it!