In the lead up to the holiday season, my weekends have been unusually filled to the brim with events. A variety of events with different people, different places and different occasions. Take the weekend I spent the morning with my best friend and her family during the auction of their family home that I grew up next door to, then went straight to my niece’s 2nd birthday, followed by a local family fun run on the Sunday and a kid's birthday party in the afternoon. It was a great weekend, full of love and laughter. An interesting reflection, however, was to think about which ‘me’ turned up to each of those events and most importantly, why?
The 3 elements of successful relationships
In any relationship, there are 3 core elements: you, the other person (or people) and the situation. All 3 of these things contribute to the success of the relationship and the interactions in any given moment. When we are proactive in our relationships, and we strive for ‘success’ we consider the following 3 questions:
1. ‘what is the situation?’,
2. ‘what’s going on in the other person’s world?’, and
3. ‘what am I hoping to achieve?’
Once we have the answers to these 3 questions, we can answer the final question of, ‘which ‘me’ needs to show up?’.
The armour of authenticity
I know a lot of you will be thinking, huh? That makes no sense, because I’m all about being 'my authentic self’. In fact, you could be writing me off as a fraud as we speak. But hear me out. I’m not saying be fake. I’m simply saying don’t let your quest for ‘authenticity’ serve as an excuse - a coat of armour - that protects you from having to demonstrate empathy to a situation. So often people say, 'that’s just me. I can’t change that’. And then they’re disappointed because the consequences don’t favour them.
All they’re demonstrating is that they don’t have enough respect for the person or situation, or they don’t care enough about the outcome, to adapt and stack the decks in their favour by making the choice to show up in a particular way.
Be a chameleon
In all countries, with the exception of, say, Scandinavian countries and perhaps the UK, I am mistaken as a ‘local girl’. In Hawaii, I’m Hawaiian, in Bali, I’m Balinese, in Mexico, I’m Mexican, in Australia, I’m Indian, Sri Lankan, Samoan, you name it. (Ironically, in Tonga - my actual cultural background - I am usually referred to as ‘a palangi’ (white person).) What it means, is that when I travel the first phrase I need to learn is ‘I don’t speak [insert language].’
Having said that, there is benefit to looking like a local girl. You’re treated in a different way - like a friend, sometimes even family. The connection instantly feels more intimate. When they hear I’m not actually local, it sparks up a delightful conversation about how I could be etc etc….The point is, being a chameleon has its benefits. It can help you get what you want.
It’s not actually about you
So how do you maintain your ‘authentic self’ whilst paying respect to the other person and situation? By remembering that truly being in service is never about you - it’s about how you need to show up to make the situation a success. We are all beautifully multi-faceted and so have the ability to leverage all of the different facets when needed. As Dr Stephen Covey said in habit 1 of 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People', our ability to respond is our responsibility. If we choose not to use this ability, then we must live with the consequences: transactional relationships which lead to default performance at work and ultimately unfulfilled goals. Marshall Goldsmith puts it best in 'What Got You Here Won’t Get You There': ‘Less Me. More Them. Equals Success’.
Make the choice for success.
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About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on firstname.lastname@example.org