“So Dad, if I bought some dumb bells and a swiss ball I could probably do most of the weights I need to, do you think?”. “That’s right Thomas, as I’ve said many times you might be taller but it’s winning the arm wrestle that counts!”. The race is on, I’ll just have to keep running so I’m not tested as I’m pretty sure the day will come…..
I keep thinking about story telling. When group members want stories from each other what always comes out are stories that are positive. I see that people have a desire to talk to their strengths and they take the positive experiences from what they have got from life. Not every part of every story is positive – there are tragedies and negative experiences on the way through – but (am I allowed to say But!) the building of leadership experiences is in this sort of forum based on strengths and positives.
Dad was contemplating with me today about how he could write up his childhood as two stories, both believable, both in part true.
His words of what made him today: “the love and protection of my parents, feeling secure, school days and the friends there, play time after school, making our own kites and the thrill of getting them to fly in the park, the kindly church people who took an interest in us boys, celebrating birthdays and Christmas, picnics, visiting Sumner beach by tram, going to the annual Industries Fair, etc. etc.“. He then said he could focus on the negative things – I’m sure sadness with his father dying while he was in his teens would feature, but would in the end be a source of strength. I notice that he didn’t give me any of this negative detail, and that’s common when people are asked for their stories in a growing and empowering environment.
I don’t subscribe to those pearly white teeth TV host type feel-good yeah yeah yeah, think positive and you WILL be bullshit. I do subscribe to strength-based reflection such as Marcus Buckingham promotes.
As leaders, bringing the best out in our teams is part and parcel of authentic leadership. And to do that authentically, how about a dosage of stories, the lessons of which are part of the strengths we bring to the table?
If negativity is setting in, having the courage to stop and say “well that’s not my experience” when it’s sounding like a downward spiral of experience that isn’t going to help anyone grow or learn is sometimes all it needs to get back on track.
I’ll be running (scared!) from now on, seeing as Thomas has my swiss ball and all those weights.
We all have our strengths and the stories will reveal them if we choose. Maybe an ultra-marathon one day.