Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It

ARCHIVES
Thinkstock

So, let me say at the outset that I’m reasonably confident that this is the world’s first leadership development blog post that includes a story about roasted cauliflower. (I Googled “roasted cauliflower leadership” and the top result was this recipe from Northern Michigan’s News Leader.) Here’s my back story.

One day last week I was working from my home office and went into the kitchen to get some lunch. My amazing wife, Diane, had a baking sheet full of raw cauliflower out on the counter. I asked her what she was doing and she said, “Making some roasted cauliflower for lunch. Want some?” I think I made a face, semi-politely said no thanks and that she must be the only person in North America who was making cauliflower for lunch. She kindly reminded me that I’ve demonstrated over the past couple of years that I actually like cauliflower and noted the different occasions that proved that point.

That’s when I said, “I’m still working with my long held story that I hate cauliflower and I’m sticking to it.” So I went for a sandwich and missed out on tasty cauliflower with peas and Indian spices.

The lunch-time lesson got me thinking about that phrase we hear so often, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” It’s usually offered in a lighthearted kind of way but like most jokes there’s often a deeper truth that lies underneath.

Even when presented with recent and verifiable evidence to the contrary (e.g. I’d said on numerous occasions that I liked the cauliflower dishes Diane had made), we tend to stick to our long-held story. For real. Why do we do this?

I can think of three reasons. Here’s my take on their implications for leaders and what we can do about them.

  • Laziness. Let’s be real. It seems easier to do what we’ve always done or stick with what we’ve always thought. Changing behaviors and beliefs takes work. What can we do about that? One answer is to take some small steps in a different direction that are relatively easy to do and likely to make a difference (i.e. eat the cauliflower).
  • Mindlessness. Our stories can be so deeply held that we don’t even recognize the patterns and ruts they’ve created. Even when presented with an obvious and easy opportunity to disrupt the pattern we can continue mindlessly on the path we were on (i.e. I’m here to get a sandwich). What can we do about that? One answer is to recognize and question our assumptions.
  • Fearfulness. Old stories can make us afraid to try out new stories. When I was a kid, I hated cooked cauliflower. What’s the upside in challenging that fear of a bad taste as an adult? I’ve written here before that it’s easy to get your risk/reward ratio out of whack. It’s common to overestimate the risk and underestimate the reward of doing something different. What can we do about that? One answer is to take a few small steps (i.e. eat the cauliflower, damn it) to test the currently held risk/reward analysis.

What long-held story are you sticking to? What have you or your organization missed out on as a result of that? What are a few easy things you could do to shake up your story?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.