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Mastering Our Stories

Find yourself in a conversation that somehow went awry? Feel like it’s not your fault? How to get back on track?

This happened with a client whom we’ll call Mike. Mike enlisted our help to develop more conversational “soft skills” in managing his team. Mike excelled at accomplishing the task, but his team was rebelling against his manner. Turnover was rampant and Mike knew something had to change.

Mike was committed to learning. His mastery of soft skills became extraordinary. He learned to listen. He learned to get curious and ask lots of open-ended questions, even though he felt he knew the answer already. He learned he could create safety and accountability in the same conversation. He learned how to find a way to say tough things so that they could be heard and something would be done about it.

But he feared that he would go back to old habits. Especially when things got tight on scheduling and deadlines missed.

True, old habits never really go away neurologically. These habits created long-worn tracks in our brains. But over them he created new habits and this is the track on which Mike wanted to ensure he stayed.

We began to look at the story he created that supported his old habits. It was a powerful one. It spoke to his worth as an effective manager. We looked at how it served him and where it might not. We looked at what his thought patterns were during conversations.

He began to discover that he could catch himself. He could stop himself and clarify – in the moment. He could circle back and ask what they heard him say.

And he could forgive himself.

Mastering stories are a life-long endeavor. Our stories are part of us. They surprise us at times. By catching ourselves going into old stories and habits that no longer serve us, as comfortable as they might be, we can begin to ask ourselves what relationships we would rather see. And how those relationships would better serve the whole team.

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