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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2016 Brian Remer
Updated Oct. 2016
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
The Day Squandered: Leadership through self-disclosure
Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.
One Saturday I noticed that my car was 10 days overdue for its annual safety inspection so I was trolling the streets in search of an auto mechanic. I finally found a shop that was open and scheduled an appointment for that afternoon. I returned for the fifteen minute inspection only to realize I was missing the insurance papers - an essential element of the process!
Rats! A whole Saturday wasted and nothing to show for it - except I've got a story to tell. Perhaps that's good enough to keep me on my toes for a while!
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
"My image of a leader is one who cuts an imposing figure, exudes strength, has the right answers, makes the big decisions, always knows what to do, and does not make mistakes."
Well, that's my image if I'm someone who enjoys being a follower!
If I like my follower role, I'm pleased to have this sort of certainty, assurance, familiarity, and security. As a follower, this view is often appealing and it can even be appropriate in instances where quick action is needed and the consequences of a decision are clear.
But often the options are too numerous, the evidence contradictory, and the consequences too uncertain. In most instances in our complex organizations and our interconnected global world, trusting in one strong person to carry the load of responsibility is unrealistic - not to mention potentially dangerous and disempowering for many.
In most cases, we need multi-angle leadership. Something where many people can throw their point of view into the mix, weigh multiple ideas, and let the best solutions rise to the surface. Like any style of leadership, this multifaceted, inclusive style can be practiced and learned. And the art of self-disclosure is one way to acquire this leadership capacity.
By self-disclosure I mean the practice of intentionally sharing personal information that provides insight about oneself. This is not the same as self-aggrandizement which is the sharing of boastful stories intended to elevate one's status or prowess in the eyes of others. Nor is it the same as sharing gossip with the goal of titillating or entertaining an audience. Self-disclosure helps listeners identify with the speaker on a person-to-person level. The listener thinks that could have happened to me.
For example, suppose a team leader shared the 99-Word Story above. The leader might end by saying, "Here I spent the whole weekend trying to get my car inspected and failed because of my own lack of focus. At least I gave myself a reminder that sometimes I can become sidetracked by my inner thoughts and worries. It made me realize how much I need everyone here to stay laser focused so we can discover the most strategic solutions because this is not a job that one person can do alone." Here the leader doesn't have to point the finger at anyone not doing their job or lecture about the importance of concentrating the team's efforts. The story, and the admission that even a leader can lack focus at times, carries the message.
Whether you are confessing to a mistake, sharing historical information about your past, or relating an incident that reveals your inner dialogue, self-disclosure has many advantages.
- Humility - Your ego will stay human-sized which is exactly the right size to be able to ask for assistance or forgiveness when you need it
- Modelling -- Demonstrate how to recover from setbacks and take the next step after a mistake
- Permission - "Authorize" other people to be human, make mistakes, apologize, and move on
- Humanness - People identify with you because they now know about your history, culture, or mindset
- Perspective - Shine a light on the words, actions, emotions, and values that are most important
- Closure - Put missteps and doubt to rest and move on to more weighty concerns
- Patience - Practice patience with yourself and learn to be more patient with others
- Learning - Glean some value from an incident that would otherwise be a total loss
This is not a pitch to bare your soul to your teammates on a regular basis. You should think carefully about what you share in a professional context, where, when, and how to deliver it thoughtfully, and whether it will help achieve your larger goals. But used with honesty and good intentions, self-disclosure can enable you to build positive relationships with others on a very human level.
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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