“That’s £5.22 please”
You are being asked to pay £5.22. But you know that what has just gone through the till should cost at least £14. Someone is offering you a gift on a plate and all you have to do is accept it. You need to make a quick decision. Rapidly your mind assesses the situation, deciding what your next move should be. “I am doing nothing wrong, I am paying exactly what they are asking me to pay” you find yourself talking to yourself inside your head “it is their mistake, not mine”. “The fact that they charge me the wrong amount is not my responsibility, I am doing nothing wrong” “it’s a surprise gift to brighten up my day – some lovely free socks”.
So why, then, are these justifications running through your head? If it is the right thing to do, why don’t you just take the £5.22 and go off happily? It’s because the action you are taking is not aligned to what your values are. If you have a value of integrity or honesty, then you might take the free gift, but your mind will automatically generate justifications to yourself. This is how you know you are doing something that a part of you does not believe you should do. You spend precious mental energy and time running over these justifications, justifying to yourself why you took the course of action you did, said what you said, did what you did, treated the person as you treated them. You have to justify these things because a part of you isn’t happy with what you did and it won’t just lie down and be quiet, it keeps pushing up into your conscience.
“If you want to see someone in real pain, watch someone who knows who he is and defaults on it on a regular basis” Pat Murray
If we are in real pain, we will not only justify it to ourselves, we feel the need to justify it to others. In an attempt to avoid the truth of what we know, we draw in other people, friends to collude in our own point of view. We tell our stories from our perspective and suck in the approval of the other. The other person too approves and I feel better, “If I don’t call you on yours (your gap between who you are and what you do, your possibility for your own version of who you can be in the world), don’t call me on mine” is the unspoken conversation here, and then we can both make each other feel better, briefly.
But it’s not enough for us, this collusion. I need to convince other people, more people, because I haven’t managed to put that nagging thought to bed inside of me. So I tell other people, “Hey wow, I got some socks for free!” “Brilliant! Good for you, why not? These big companies can afford it right? It’s just money for fat cats isn’t it?” Then my colluder gets to take the easy option next time round too. Some people need to persuade millions of people to believe in my cause because they are not at peace inside.
In these moments when we forget who we really are, we also forget that we are a leader. Someone who can inspire other people. We see the world from our own small limited perspective, that we are small and that we don’t make a difference. We forget how intimately connected we are and how what I do almost always has an impact on those around me.
“Sorry, I think you have undercharged me there”. Now, how does the world occur to this person who made the mistake and undercharged you? “The world is full of people who are generally honest and who will help me out when I make a mistake”, might run through the person’s mind. This might make him or her feel just a little bit better, just a little bit more at peace. When the next person comes to the till they might now look at them more like an honest, essentially good person, or at the very least I am fuller of a positive energy. They might smile a little more, be a little more connected to this person. This lifts the next person’s day just a little, they feel just slightly more positive and they carry that with them.
I don’t think we always see the world from this connected perspective, and we almost never get an insight into the impact we have on people and the difference that we make (this is why telling someone the positive impact they have on you can be such a powerful thing for all concerned). As a manager of a team of people, when you start to view yourself as a leader, you step into the full responsibility of who you are. Someone who every day has an impact on people, who makes a real difference to the quality of someone’s life, and to the quality of their friends and family’s life when they go home from work and carry whatever energy they have from their day at work. What you do and how you conduct yourself follows on from how you view yourself and what your role is in the world.
A couple of questions you may wish to consider:
- What kinds of conversations do you have with your friends and colleagues? Do they sympathise with you and agree with you, or do they challenge you to be bigger? And how does your behaviour with them drive the response that you get? Do you want to be challenged?
- What are your values and principles? Are there some there that you feel you could live more day-to-day?
- If you do consider yourself as an important leader, what would you do?