Most of us have one or more scripts that plays over and over in our head. These scripts shape our lives and our leadership. They motivate us, paralyze us, shape our reactions and responses to authority figures, employees and colleagues, and even propel us to success or derail us as leaders.
One particular script I received from my dad was his constant reminder to me that “You could tear up a steel ball!” When he said this, I knew I had disappointed him. The message left an indelible imprint on me reminding me of my own inability to get things done to his standards. Maybe that is one of the reasons that I work so hard to ensure that I never hear that message from any of my clients.
I once worked for a person whose script was that no one would ever out perform her; that she would do what ever was necessary to have the top spot. She once shared with a group of us how this script had almost derailed her from her high school basketball team because she couldn’t play well with others. While she thought she had licked this problem, it was obvious from everyone who worked with and for her that that script was still screaming inside her head. That may be the reason she kept on losing great talent and that her department had an annual turnover rate of over 50%. It is certainly the reason I chose to leave her employment.
A senior executive once revealed to me that one of his scripts came from a time he had once disappointed his mother by revealing a surprise that he was told to keep secret. That message resulted in this person being intensely risk-averse and to second-guess his decisions, to the point that it was impacting his ability to lead his team effectively.
Another executive revealed to me that his script was that it was safer to sit quiet, to be seen and not heard, and maybe not even to be seen very much. As a result he is quite the introvert, does not want to be the center of attention, keeps quiet when he would do well to speak up, and does not communicate with others as well as expected. He said that this script is having a considerable impact on his capacity to lead well.
A highly qualified professional informed me that his script began when he received a bad mark on a paper when he was in grade school. His script resulted in his determination to never receive another bad mark ever again, leading him to be somewhat of a perfectionist. The up side is that this has driven him to the highest achievements in his profession. The downside is that he doesn’t deal very well with mistakes or failures that are common to the human condition or to his profession. As hard as he works to do things right, when something goes wrong, he quickly becomes overstressed.
These scripts drive behavior, some good and some, not so good. The challenge is rewriting the script to ensure that the “not so good” behavior does not dominate your leadership. I have come to realize that being able to “tear up a steel ball” is quite a feat that only a few people can do single handedly, and that accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks are well within my capability.
What are you doing to reframe or rewrite the script
that’s getting in your way?