It isn’t external distractions that keep us from moving on our mission of clarity and building an awesome community. It’s the internal distractions are the real root that we want to deal with.
I want to talk about a universal internal distraction, why that’s there, and what to do about it. A lot of people have had at least one experience—I know I have, and I bet you have, too—where we’ve been in an environment, a community, a group of people, where we wondered if we really fit in. That can be your family. That can be a place that you felt like you belonged, and then one day you wake up and make some changes and you don’t feel like you belong. Or you wake up to the fact to maybe you really never did belong.
You can go study systems theory, but here is my way of wording it. They would say it this way: “We need you to fulfill a certain label so we can all feel whole as a group.” Now we can talk about that as a family or as an organization. You know families do this all the time--you’re the tough one, you’re the funny one, you’re the nice one …. So the idea is as if something’s stressing the family, the funny one cracks some jokes to help everybody relax. Cause they, the funny one, fills an internal angst, about what’s happening at the moment, and they just want to help everything to calm down, they don’t want anything to fracture.
People do this all the time, they label people, and in families the way it works is you get labeled. And the idea is we can only feel whole as a family if you stay within your label. Teams at work can do the same thing, companies do the same thing. You know that this is who you are and we don’t allow people to be dynamic and change and try on different identities, roles, and ways of being. And the reality is dynamic people are growing and changing and trying on different ways of being.
I remember one group I was a part of when I started making some changes to the way that I presented to the group and spoke and taught and lead, and there were some people that didn’t like that. They liked the old me, they didn’t like the new me and who I was becoming. So people would just get up and walk out when I would get up to speak, it was really, really crazy. So I know what it’s like to be in big systems and organizations and make changes and to wonder, “How do I fit into this?”
Now the reason that happens at a fundamental level is because the company, the team, the family, whatever it is, if it’s not a healthy community then they can’t allow people to be dynamic. And they say, “This is who you are, this is the role you’re going to fill, so stay here, run in this lane, don’t leave your lane.”
This is why organizations, teams, and families lose their way. Because you have to allow people to embrace change and become who they want to become.
So I look at this when I study organizations, when I jump in with people and help them rebuild or turn something around or get something going. The first thing that we’re looking at is what’s the motive of the leader or leaders? It’s very easy for an unaware leader to have a mixed motivation and to make the moment about them, not the mission or not the empowerment and betterment of others.
And so all of a sudden, now it’s all about how much they can take home, it's about how you make them feel about the job that they’re doing. The way that the family or team is organized can lose a lot of their symbolic meaning. When you were walking into work this morning, did you notice all the Microsoft Windows stickers on cars? I bet not, because I have never seen a Microsoft sticker on a car. I’m sure they’re some out there; I have seen a lot of Apple stickers on a car. And it will be a different sticker for some tech device 10 years from now.
Because symbols lose meaning, so do families, or teams, or communities organized around a mission and a symbol. If they are not dynamic and open to change, they get locked in and so then everything starts to lose its edge.
Systems, organizations, families they not only lose their edge, they lose their flexibility. They don’t understand the difference between the spirit of the law versus the letter. Rules and hoops become things that you have to jump through, and rather than the systems serving the people, the people serve the systems.
Politics come into play as things begin to degrade more, then you have more systems set up. And people aren’t holding themselves accountable for results or moving their individualities, or growing, because they’re afraid of losing some kind of power. They’re not worried about developing others; they’re worried about getting the spotlight.
Over and over, as a team or an organization or a family has degraded or loses its way, the collateral damage happens. The greatest price is the people. The people get forgotten. And that’s really the third distraction I want to talk to you about today.
When you feel forgotten, why do you feel forgotten? Because of all of what I just went through. They never had a vision to help people. Or they lost their way, or that family was dysfunctional from the beginning, whatever it is. And they basically were saying to all the people involved, “you’re an object, stay in your lane, be this kind of person, we just need you to do this.” And then you either started making some changes, you start leading differently, or it was an unhealthy environment and you were just never noticed for who you are.
I can get kind of weird about when I run into people at the grocery store. Sometimes if I see people and I feel like my energy is kind of low, because I’m kind of an extrovert-introvert mix. I will actually duck into an isle and avoid having a conversation. Just because I feel bad just giving a, “Hey, how’s it going?” I want to invest a lot of energy into people.
To duck into an isle hide like that … I grew up in the south, that’s a big no-no, you’re supposed to say, “Hi” to people, always. And that’s a bit too syrupy for me. So I don't judge New Yorkers, I get it. When you’re boxed in with a lot of people, you have to save your energy, and not always making eye contact helps you do that.
But here’s the thing: if you’re a part of a team that I’m leading, an organization I'm building, or a family that I’m growing, I will seek you out and I will give you energy. Why? Because I don't want people to feel forgotten. At the end of the day, remember that people are looking for a home, they want to belong. And the foundation of the team is a group of people who feel that they belong as they rally around a shared mission.
If you're in a space where you feel forgotten, it will block up your ability to move at your mission and to build the community that you want to build. Because you'll be worried about how you're being noticed. And when you can learn within yourself to know that, no external group can fully say to you,” I see you, I hear you, and I feel you.” So you know that you belong internally, and with your internal then you can create external belonging for others. Then you can fulfill one of your main responsibilities as a team leader, as a builder of others.
You can communicate your body language, your tone, your speech or facial mannerisms, your leadership diligence in preparation, “I’m glad you're here.” It will feel awkward. When you're unlearning years of avoiding people at the grocery store, it feels a little weird sometimes to celebrate others. But I promise you this: when you know how it feels to be celebrated, you will want to give it to others.
Are there people that overdo it? Absolutely! Are there syrupy grouse people? Yes! We’re not talking about doing that, but we are talking about doing whatever you got to do, so that you can learn to help people feel like they belong.
I’ll go first: I felt that way about you. If you're here reading this, I'm glad you’re here. I want you to know it.
But why don’t more leaders do a better job celebrating others? Because they’re distracted--their own need to be known has them internally distracted. They’re suffocating, they fear that they are forgotten, and so they can’t give what they don’t have. They can’t celebrate others until they learn to celebrate themselves.
So today, give yourself the gift of being known. Fully see, hear, and feel your current reality. Talk to yourself about it if you need to, in a kind gentle way, then give that gift others, try it. Give one of these to one person today: “I see you, I hear you, I feel you.”
Learn to listen to how they’re describing their life or their situation and in matching that language. This is taught in other methods, it's called building rapport. If you hear somebody describing something and they’re saying, “Hey, do you see what I’m saying?” just say, “Yes, I see what you’re saying.” If they’re saying, “Do you feel me?” say, “Yes I feel you.” Use the language that they are using and them help feel known. You’re not forgotten; let others know they’re not forgotten. Have an awesome rest of the day. Peace.
Listen to the above in audio here.