Years ago, while working as a middle manager for a large corporation, we went through a collaborative process involving a series of meetings intended to develop our “best practices.” Prior to and during the ongoing meetings, I had been encouraged off to the side that I should not be afraid to stand my ground on certain practices. Things had been going pretty well for me and there were certain practices that I exhibited that upper management wanted to incorporate more broadly. They wanted to do so with buy in from the others that were collaborating to avoid the perception and/or need for a directive.
So as these meetings unfolded, I worked from certain convictions based on experience, results and the encouragement I was getting to “go there.” Some of these convictions were not widely held among the team and the managers that were pushing me out front couldn’t stand beside me or it would skew the results. The net impact was that it was a lonely and frustrating series of meetings for me.
At one point in the process, I went into our VP”s office and said to him, “I can’t do this.”
“Do what,” he asked?
“Work in corporate America. This whole things just has me wound too tight and I’d like to just cut through all of the crap and get to the bottom line. I’m just not wired for this.”
“Yeah, me neither,” he answered. “I have the same experience when dealing with home office and feel the exact same way. You’re doing great; keep going.”
Wow. This guy was several rungs on the ladder ahead of me and he struggles with the process, system, relationships, etc., too? Yet, he is having great success.
I can’t overstate how affirming that was. He was, in effect, telling me “You are normal.” That was incredibly reassuring and encouraging. I needed to feel like I was OK as I was feeling anything but OK. His empathy bought me courage to press forward.
- We need to know we are normal – When we are frustrated, emotional, defeated and doubtful, it’s a need more than a want to be assured that the working out of our flaws and insecurities is part of the process but we are on track.
- We need to hear about the struggles of those ahead of us – When those that have gone ahead of us are open about their struggles, it gives us courage to continue forward. If they did it, maybe we can too.
- We need a safe place to give voice to the struggle – the dark stuff inside of us needs a place to be brought into the light. A leader that operates in the transparency of #2 will create the necessary environment for #3.
Walking out a life of faith is challenging and full of doubts, fears and insecurities. It’s part of the process of transformation, which we are all invited into. Struggling in the middle of the transformative process isn’t a problem; failing to engage in it is.