As coaches, business owners, managers, teachers—you name it, we sometimes limit our ability to connect with and, ultimately, work more effectively with others in our roles as leaders when we forget one very simple truth—everyone, and I mean everyone, has a story. I’ve just returned from Australia where I was presenting the keynote address to a group of national team, university, club and high school rowing coaches. One of the things that I enjoy so much about having the opportunity to share my story with so many is that, invariably, when given the chance certain individuals from the audience will share their story with me. The same was true in Sydney. After my presentation, and for the two days following at the conference, individuals approached me one-on-one and began to share some significant events from their own lives. Quite often, the result of their very personal and sometimes heart-wrenching stories is that they choke-up and cry. I’ve been told that the reason people feel safe to do so is because I felt safe to share my story with them—inherent trust I don’t take for granted. Every time this happens, what strikes me is the consistency of the stories; they all have a similar theme—personal loss and shame. Almost everyone who has ever told me their story has fallen short in his or her attempt at winning or achieving something notable, and the shame they felt on that day remains alive and well within them. There’s nothing more moving than a teary-eyed 50-something year old man telling me about the time his coach called him a loser in front of the entire team and how that made him feel as a young teenager. Not surprisingly, we don’t forget those events easily.
Similarly, our loss in Seoul contributed to a dramatic shift in my self-worth. For the longest time, finishing 6th in that Olympic final defined who I was. It was how I saw myself, and perhaps more importantly and limiting, it was how I thought others saw me—it was how I showed up to the world. Today, fortunately, I’ve moved on and learned as devastating as that loss was, it’s not who I am. It has contributed to how I now see the world, but it’s no longer my identity. When others struggle, they too have moments of insecurity and questioning that limits their own ability to function and perform optimally.
“We do the best that we can everyday with what we know.” Not only one of my favourite expressions, but also the perfect reminder that everyone we meet and interact with have a unique perspective of the world according to their own story—what they’ve learned. For example, when someone learns they’re a loser as a young child, it quite often becomes the filter with which they experience their life. Therefore, when we work together in teams, if we are able to remind ourselves that not everyone has the same story that we do, the better we are able to not only understand and connect with one another, but also work with them.
As leaders, when we’re able to recognize when and why certain individuals see their world the way that they do, we increase our chances of connecting with that individual.
Jason Dorland is a High-Perfomance Coach who believes the most undervalued and underutilized components of reaching our goals are the mental and emotional areas of our lives. With your commitment, Jason can help you make a positive difference in how you approach your life’s dreams and goals. Guaranteed! To find out how, contact Jason today for a free no obligation consultation. He looks forward to meeting with you and getting started soon!