What is the Impact of Stories on Participating with a Purpose? (part 1/3)

You may not realize it, yet you tell yourself hundreds of stories per day. I don’t mean bedtime stories with princes, princesses, dragons, and castles. I don’t mean stories that you share with others about what happened to you when you were a toddler, in college, or at the mall last week. I am referring to the dozens of stories that you tell yourself everyday to explain why something bad happened or why another person is behaving poorly. These are the stories that solidify your mindset in ways that do not help you raise your visibility in your organization and industry.

Unfortunately, in your organization, situations frequently occur that impact you in a negative way and colleagues often do not do what you expect them to do. To rationalize why these situations or behaviors occur, you create and tell yourself stories to help you explain the inexplicable. You may be telling yourself a story about a less-than-positive interaction you just had with your boss. You are likely getting all “storied-up” to explain why a colleague you just passed in the hallway ignored your greeting of “Hi!” You might remember a recent lunch where a colleague explained her version as to why a significant change in organizational structure was abruptly announced. “Well, if you ask me…” Sound familiar? Where do these stories which you and your colleagues tell yourselves (and sometimes others) come from?

Generally speaking, your stories come from two places – your ego and your inner critic. Your ego exists primarily in the external world and acts like a shield to protect your need for status, self-worth, and contribution. Your inner critic exists in your internal world and works to erode your self-confidence. Watch for parts 2 and 3 of the blog in the coming weeks for more helpful information on ego and inner critic.

Are You Too Busy?

You are being asked to do more, faster, and with too few resources. You feel as though you are doing the jobs of three people. Your Outlook calendar is triple-booked. Recurring acquisitions add new responsibilities with no additional resources. Consolidations and downsizing shift the jobs previously handled by your colleagues to you. You wish a magic wand existed to take away all of the urgent emails, last minute requests, and unexpected phone calls that are created by your colleagues.

You could establish agreements with colleagues on how to interact with one another in productive ways. This is a best practice used in project management when teams are about to embark on a new project. However, in day-to-day relationships that exist in fast-paced organizations, your role and responsibilities change often and agreements disappear faster than a rabbit in a hat.

Without a magic wand, it is difficult to control the behaviors of others. I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” You can spend all your time and expend all of your energy attempting to change the behaviors of others, without any likelihood of success. Plus, there are a lot more of them than you. Just as you think you may have made progress on modifying the disruptive behavior of a colleague, your colleague gets promoted! The best place to start is you – you and the stories you tell yourself about why you cannot participate.