Episode: Why Your Story Should Shape the Way You Lead
Megan Hyatt Miller: Hi, I’m Megan Hyatt Miller, and this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. As a reminder, my dad is out on his first ever three-month-long sabbatical as part of our succession plan, and he’ll be back on the podcast early this fall. We’ll talk all about it when he’s back. I can’t wait. In the meantime, I get to host a series of exciting conversations with special guests I’ve handpicked from inside our company.
Today, I’m joined by my friend and our chief coaching officer Michele Cushatt. For those of you guys who’ve been around a while, you probably recognize her name, and you’re definitely going to recognize her voice, because she was the cohost of our earlier podcast with my dad, This Is Your Life. Michele is responsible for all aspects of the development and management of our executive coaching and corporate training programs, where we now serve around 700 business owners and executives.
Since some of you are going to ask, if you want more information about our executive coaching, you can find out more about it at leadto.win/coaching. Michele has enabled us to build a phenomenal program for our clients thanks to her skills as a tremendous visionary and a masterful builder of systems and people, which is a really unique combination. So, Michele, I’m so glad you’re back with me today for a second podcast. Woo-hoo!
Michele Cushatt: Woo-hoo! Yay! I was so self-controlled in the last one. I make no guarantees today. Today, all bets are off.
Megan: Okay. You’re just taking the girdle off, and whatever happens, happens.
Michele: Oh, I love that you used the word girdle on this podcast. Everybody who is under the age of 40 has no idea what you’re talking about.
Megan: It’s like old-school Spanx. Okay? So, just think about what happens. We won’t go any further than that. Okay. We have to wind that or it’s going to become unprofessional very quickly.
Michele: I’m totally biting my tongue, exercising all my maturity and self-restraint.
Megan: Well, clearly, you guys can imagine how much fun this podcast is going to be and how much fun we had on the last podcast. If you missed that one with Michele, make sure to go back and listen to it. It was all about encouragement. It was awesome. Today, Michele, I’m kind of going to turn the tables, because I am going to let you lead this conversation. I’m a little terrified but also excited. This topic is near and dear to your heart, seriously. So, let’s go ahead and dive in.
Michele: You got it. Today we’re talking about why and how your story should shape the way you lead. This is, for some of you, going to be a highly uncomfortable conversation, because your preference is to keep your personal life very compartmentalized and separate from your professional life. I’m going to challenge all your sense of what those boundaries should look like as we talk about integrating your story into how you lead and why it matters. Let’s start by saying this. First of all, I’m a big believer that leadership requires wholeheartedness. I would probably say you feel the same. Do you agree?
Megan: I do feel the same. This has been challenging for me. I’ve been pretty open on the podcast about parts of my story. In particular, some family challenges we’ve had as adoptive parents and how that has intersected with my professional journey and the passion we have around the double win, winning at work and succeeding at life, here at Michael Hyatt & Company. Where the rubber met the road for me was actually with you, Michele. It’s funny. I didn’t think about this until we just started talking.
When you were coaching me before you joined our team, when I was way back giving my first keynote… It feels like way back now. It has been maybe four years ago or something, I think. I was terrified. There’s a podcast about this. I think we can link to it in the show notes. Anyway, it was a whole big drama. It’s worth listening to. Michele held my hand through the drama and got me to the other side, among other people.
One of the things you really challenged me to do, and have challenged me a number of times since then as we’ve worked through other speeches, is to include vulnerable stories. It always makes me a little uncomfortable. I mean, it always makes me think, “Well, what if people don’t respect me? What if they think that makes me not that serious?” or whatever. There’s always a list of “what ifs” in my head.
What I know from my own experience, as a listener to other people presenting or to other leaders, is that I don’t feel connected to people if I don’t have a sense of their story and their whole heart. I will do things for someone who I know with that kind of intimacy that I would never do for someone who’s just kind of a talking head, so to speak, with no heart.
I can’t think of anybody better to lead us in this conversation than you, because not only have you professionally guided many, many people in your work as a speech coach prior to your work with us in this, but I also think you’ve lived it out. I mean, you have had many aspects of your own story that have been very difficult that you’ve shared about publicly in your work as an author, in particular, and as a speaker that I think have only endeared you to people and empowered your leadership. So, I’m really excited about this conversation today.
Michele: It’s an important conversation, because if we really want to achieve our full potential as leaders, we’re going to have to bring our whole selves. That includes the story that has shaped us and made us who we are. The only other option to that is to be a compartmentalized leader. Like, your whole self is in a bento box, and you only open a certain square according to the person you’re with. We have all known leaders like that. We’ve probably all been leaders like that at different times. That kind of compartmentalized leader leaves part of him or herself behind.
Megan: Their power and effectiveness.
Michele: Their effectiveness, their power…all of that. Let me give you an analogy. This is kind of a way I help to think through it. I live in Colorado. I’m actually getting ready to go on PTO, and my PTO is going to involve me hiking the Colorado Rocky Mountains by myself…with my dog. I cannot wait.
Megan: Wow! What about the grizzly bears, Michele? What are you doing about that?
Michele: I’m like, “Bring it on.” I’m just looking for somebody to take down. Come on.
Megan: Oh my gosh. Okay. I’ll send somebody to look for you if we need to.
Michele: Yeah. If you don’t hear from me, send help and snacks. So, let’s say leadership is like being a mountain-climbing guide. Let’s say you’re someone who helps people get to the top of a mountain, which, honestly, as a leader, often feels like what we’re doing. Right? We have a whole team of people. Our job is to get our team to the top of a mountain.
By the way, Colorado, for those who aren’t familiar… We have mountains that are over 14,000 feet, so the big accomplishment is to climb a fourteener. A fourteener is a big deal, and it usually requires a whole day of hiking. So, let’s say we’re at the base of a fourteener, and my job is to get my whole team to the top without dying and then to get them back home. It’s going to require my very best. It’s going to require my physical strength, my intellectual ability, my emotional stamina, and probably some spiritual praying, as well, to get to the top.
On top of that, I’m going to have a whole backpack filled with supplies, everything from food and water and first aid supplies and whatever else we might need on this hike. If we’re going to do this and if I’m going to get everybody to the top, I’m going to need all of that. I’m going to need to have access to all of those different aspects of myself, as well as the backpack we’re carrying, because I know it’s going to require my history, my experience, my education…all of those things…to get us to the top. Only then will we have a shot of accomplishing that.
Now, this is what compartmentalized leadership looks like. Let’s say you don’t want to lose some of the things that are in your backpack. You need to protect them, so you decide to leave your backpack at the bottom of the mountain. There was too big of a risk that maybe you would lose it along the way. Or let’s say you decide you could live without a leg or an arm, so you’re just going to cut that thing off, and you should be fine. Right? It starts to get more and more ludicrous. Let’s just decide you leave your brain behind. You don’t have to think. You’re just going to wing it. Well, that wouldn’t work. I mean, we could just keep building this out.
Obviously, all of us would look at that leader and say, “You’re ridiculous. There’s no way you’re going to get you and your team to the top if you leave a leg and your backpack and your brain behind. It’s not possible. If you are going to do this, you are going to need everything at your access.” Yet the irony is, as leaders, we try to basically cut off parts of our story that we want to self-protect or that we think might make people think less of us, so we’re going to cut it off and leave it behind. Actually, the opposite is true.
Let me give you an example before we dive into the content. For those of you who are not familiar with me… I have written about it, so I won’t go into all of it, but I was a public speaker. I was on Michael’s podcast, as Megan has already mentioned. I was traveling around the United States on tours, speaking in large arenas of 10,000 to 12,000 people. In the middle of all of that (by the way, this was kind of what I thought was the height of my career), I was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue three times.
The most recent time was so severe and significant it required me to have a nine-hour surgery where they removed two-thirds of my tongue. I had multiple different skin grafts. Basically, my body was cut up and put back together, and then I went through a long series of chemotherapy and radiation that left me with burn scars on the inside and outside. My vocal cords were so burned I couldn’t talk for more than a month. Then it took me about two years to physically recover enough that I could function in everyday life.
On the back side of that, I was left as a woman, who used to be a professional communicator, who talks with a very obvious lisp. I talk with a lisp. I spit when I speak. I struggle to eat and drink and swallow and have normal, everyday communication. My assumption was this was such a traumatic part of my story that either I needed to not be a professional in my field anymore or I somehow needed to hide or minimize or cover up this part of my story that I was embarrassed about.
So, as I started to reenter the professional workspace as a communicator and a coach and a speaker and a speaking coach, I felt the temptation to compartmentalize, to either try to pretend that this wasn’t an issue, to hide it, to shut down that part of me, or to just not do it at all. I had to choose, “Am I going to be a compartmentalized leader or am I going to be a whole leader who brings all of myself, all of my story to what I do?”
Eventually, as you know, since I’m sitting here with you, Megan, I made the choice that I wanted to be a wholehearted leader. Now, that said, I had to also have some wisdom about what that looked like in the leadership space. I know why it matters. I know I need to bring my whole self and not try to have bits and pieces, but how do I do that in a way that doesn’t make me a victim instead of a leader?
Megan: Yep. I think that’s a tricky thing to discern, but I am so grateful you dug in and that you did discern how to do it, because having known you before all of that and knowing you now, your capacity as a leader is…no question in my mind…greater because of what you’ve gone through. The suffering, the lessons…all of that…has made you who you are. Your capacity for empathy… I mean, you were already an incredibly empathetic person, but having gone through this, your ability to connect with people…
All of these things, not to mention just the power of your communication, are so much greater than the physical limitations you have that it would be really sad to not have the gifts of those shared with not only the people you’re leading but, in your case, the public. There are so many gifts of this. I think that’s part of what’s at stake. Not only may we be less effective as leaders, but there are actually gifts here that we’re withholding from people when we don’t tell our story.
Someone may not have been through exactly your situation, but they may look at what you have been through and think, “Man! If she can do it, there’s hope for me. There’s a place for me. There’s a contribution I have that matters that is not predicated on perfection or a lack of suffering or having it all together. And look at what she’s doing.” I’m so glad you have made this choice with courage and decided to lean into your story. I think, as you get into some of the practical aspects of this, y’all are going to love hearing this and feel emboldened for how to integrate your story into your leadership.
Michele: One thing we have to continuously remember is when we self-protect and shut down parts of us that we want to hide or minimize, we inadvertently tell our teammates it’s not safe for them to bring their whole selves. We might think we’re doing everybody a favor by hiding it, but we are creating an unsafe environment for people to be whole people. Once we start doing that, if we’re compartmentalized and our people are compartmentalized, then nobody is operating at their full potential. Nobody is able to accomplish what we could accomplish if we could bring our whole selves to work.
Megan: You know, Michele, I just was thinking of something as you were talking about that. One of the most profound realizations I’ve had as a leader in my time leading Michael Hyatt & Company has been just the breadth of crises I have encountered with the people I’m leading and had the privilege of walking with and through. I mean, everything from the death of children to the loss of marriages, you know, divorce, to health crises…all kinds of things…accidents, whatever. That’s just humanity. That is what you will encounter as a leader, so the question is…When those things happen in the lives of people you’re leading, how will you show up, and what is going to enable you to show up?
I think one of the things we learned from 2020 is that this line between personal and professional was kind of fake to begin with. That was a construct that didn’t actually exist anywhere except in our minds. All of a sudden, with all this remote work and the kids being home, and all the things, and our health being so vulnerable in the pandemic, these things are really together. These events in the lives of the people you have the opportunity to serve and lead will come crashing in, and how are you going to show up? So, I think that’s another important component of this.
Michele: What you’re saying, basically, is that compartmentalization is not healthy, but wisdom is. Being wholehearted doesn’t mean you are a regular “diarrhea of the mouth” dumping story all the time. We have now said girdle and diarrhea on this podcast. Sorry about that.
Megan: I know. Will anybody come back next week? That’s the question.
Michele: Don’t know. You can edit that out if needed. But all that to say, we can be wholehearted and wise at the same time, and that’s what we’re looking for. How do we show up as wholehearted people in a way that makes all of us better? Someone who’s a dumper, a victim, a constant dumping victim, does not make the team better. It’s about them. It’s not about the overall whole. But when we show up as wholehearted people, it makes the overall whole better, the whole team better.
Megan: That’s an important caution, because it can be professionally inappropriate if you’re trying to get a certain type of support, for example, from your team, from your direct reports, that would be, because of the power differential, very inappropriate to expect of them or to put them in the position of needing to rise to that. So, that’s just something to keep in mind.
Okay. I’m really excited to dig into how we do this. This seems sort of like a black box on the outside. Like, how do we integrate our story into our leadership in a way that is healthy and good and productive and effective? Michele, you have talked to me about the fact that every leader can use their story to shape their leadership in a powerful way by asking four questions you’ve come up with. I think this is going to be very powerful for you listening to operationalize this in a way that becomes really practical.
Michele: We want all of you, every one of you as leaders, to be able to use your story to shape your leadership and to empower your team, to lead in a powerful way, and you can do so by asking yourself four questions. We’re going to keep this very, very simple: Why? When? Who? How? Four questions. We’ll start with…Why? This is the first question. I simply ask myself, “Why am I sharing this? Am I sharing this part of my story in this context, am I bringing my story to bear in this leadership environment for a specific purpose, and what is that purpose?”
I’m going to get on somebody’s toes today. This is going to require rigorous self-awareness. We all have a multitude of subconscious reasons we might share our stories. We may not do it intentionally, but we have all kinds of subconscious factors at place when it comes to sharing our stories. We might want to impress. We might want to deflect or distract from a conversation that’s happening or even some negative feedback we’re receiving.
We might want to garner sympathy or get attention or to manipulate a situation or to vent or unload. Those are all subconscious reasons we might feel compelled to share our story, but that’s not purposeful, wholehearted leadership. So, asking yourself, “Why am I sharing? What is my purpose here?” can help be a good gut check to know.
Megan: I agree with this. I think self-awareness is one of the most critical disciplines of leadership. All of the mistakes I’ve made in leadership pretty much go back to a failure of self-awareness. I mean, I wish it were more complicated than that. It’s just not. I didn’t take the time. I didn’t listen to my intuition. I didn’t slow down to reflect on something. I just reacted. I wasn’t conscious of how I was coming across. I wasn’t conscious of my motivations.
One of the things that will happen to you, as a leader, is you will find that you are triggered by the people you’re leading. This is, again, just like being a parent. You get triggered by your kids. It’s the same thing. You have to be aware that’s not the problem of the person you’re leading; that’s your problem. I think having this self-awareness is so critical.
I remember once listening to a podcast, or maybe it was in a book that Brené Brown wrote. She was talking about how to share stories, and she said something that was like, “If you’re unresolved in the story…” Like, if it’s still ongoing… I think the context was sharing it in a speech or some kind of really public way. Less relational, more in a public expression. If you’re in the middle of a crisis, that may not be the best time…
If you need something from the audience to make that situation okay, that’s not appropriate. You need to have that situation done and concluded emotionally and be on the other side of it yourself before you share. I don’t think that applies, necessarily, in all cases. I think there are contexts where you don’t need to be at that level, but I do think, as a general rule of thumb, if you’re going into it, to your point here, where you have some kind of need, like to vent or to get attention or garner sympathy, that’s asking something inappropriate of the listener in a way we shouldn’t do.
Michele: I would say that’s true in most cases. If we’re wholehearted people…that means we’re taking ownership of our own emotional health and our own choices…then we don’t do these kinds of somewhat, whether we are conscious or not, manipulative behaviors to get something back. We ask for what we need overtly, not backhandedly.
Megan: Yes. That’s such a lesson.
Michele: I know. It’s so hard to learn and to be conscious. That’s why simply asking yourself, “Why am I sharing this right now? Why do I feel I need to share this right now?” So, that’s the first question. It’s so very critical. If you haven’t done your homework privately to get to a place of healing, then it’s not appropriate yet for you to share it.
Megan: Sometimes you need a therapist. That’s the right person. Or a pastor or somebody who’s in that particular role. That’s appropriate, not the people on your team.
Michele: The second question is…When? Ask yourself, “When is an appropriate time? Does it fit the current situation and people or would a different time be better? Would it be helpful or distracting right now?” Remember, your words have impact. Words are not neutral. So, thinking through, “I’m sharing right now. It’s not going to be neutral. Is this going to help the situation or distract from the outcome I’m aiming for?”
Again, just because you feel a compulsion doesn’t mean the right time is now. We could talk about marriage here. How many of us have felt compelled to say something to our spouse in the moment and then kicked ourselves later because the timing was terrible? Sidenote: letting your husband know you’re upset with him at 10:00 at night as you’re crawling to bed is not the appropriate time.
Megan: We might know that from personal experience. Just saying.
Michele: Maybe. Theoretically. But thinking through our timing, thinking through, “When would be the appropriate time, and is this the appropriate audience?” Learn to discern between compulsion and wisdom.
Megan: We kind of go back to the first question with “Why?” and the importance of rigorous self-awareness. I think that applies absolutely to this question of “When?” Really, in some ways, this idea of integrating your story into your leadership is a pro move. If you’re just starting to develop self-awareness, I feel like this might be something to think on really carefully before you do it. It requires a level of maturity and self-awareness to do this skillfully without hurting people, and that’s what we’re talking about. How do we not unintentionally abuse our power or put people in an awkward situation or hurt them?
We’ve all been in situations, to this idea of when the appropriate time is to share your story, where someone has hijacked a conversation in an inappropriate way, like at a dinner party. I can think of being at dinner parties where this has happened, where they maybe had a little bit too much to drink, or something, and they dominated the conversation with some big, dramatic story. You feel like you’re held hostage, and you can’t leave, and you don’t know what to say, and it’s awkward for everybody. We’ve all been there. That’s exactly the opposite of what we want to happen.
Michele: I’ve been there, and I’ve probably done that on occasion, and then I’ve had to regret later, going, “What was I thinking?” So, catching yourself and stopping and asking these questions is so important. What you’re talking about is even asking yourself, “Am I getting ready to share this because it serves me in some way or because it serves the situation in some way?” Too many times, those kinds of hijacked conversations are serving the individual but not serving the collective.
Megan: Yep. If we just keep in mind what the best thing is for the audience, whether that’s one person or a thousand, that’ll keep us out of a lot of trouble.
Michele: Okay. The third is…Who? Who is your audience? Is it a team member? Is it a direct report? Is it a client? Is it a vendor? Your audience should inform what you share and how much you share it and the way you say it. So, think in terms of the other person. Again, if you’re still early in your own process of self-awareness and healing…
By nature, pain makes us very self-focused. If we’re still in the throes of pretty significant pain related to our stories, basically, it puts blinders on. We have tunnel vision. We’re not very aware of seeing other people. So, have the courage to be able to see that and acknowledge it. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. It just means you’re still in the early stages of processing and healing from whatever that part of your story is.
But you must ask yourself, “Who is my audience here? Who am I really talking to? Would it be appropriate in this environment? Is it appropriate to this person?” Even thinking in terms of “Does this person have the capacity to even listen to this right now?” For example, let’s say one of your teammates, heaven forbid, loses a family member. That’s not the moment for you to unload your story of losing a family member. They’re not in the place of even having the capacity to receive your story. So, just thinking in terms of “Who is my audience here, and what makes the most sense for them?”
Megan: This reminds me of a conversation I had with Ian Cron, who is a good friend of my dad and myself and author of The Road Back to You about the Enneagram. He does a lot of work around leadership in a professional context. He has shared with me and with others on many occasions the imperative of doing your own work as a leader.
If you are going to effectively share your story and have that be beneficial to the recipient of your story, again, whether that’s one person or 1,000 people or 20,000 people, then you really have to do that work privately. We’re talking about your whole story here, not necessarily just one incident. But go to therapy if you need to. You and I are both big believers in that.
Michele: Massive believers.
Megan: I’ve spent years and years and years in therapy. It’s something that, while I don’t regularly right now go to therapy (I might go every few months as things happen, or whatever), it’s always a resource for me, because I know that’s the appropriate place for me to work things out before they are ready to be lessons or things I can share with others.
I think because there’s a power differential, again, as leaders, the impact of not doing our work is so much greater, because the people we’re leading don’t feel like they can say, “Hey, that’s not appropriate” or “That makes me feel kind of manipulated.” They may be just going along with it, and if you’re not self-aware, you may not catch that. This is why doing this work in the appropriate place is so critical.
Michele: I have to remind myself of this, and this is an important reminder for all of us. It’s not my team’s or my colleagues’ job to make me feel better. It’s not my husband’s job, it’s not my kids’ job, it’s not my employees’ job to make me feel better. That is all within the context of my responsibility, and if I need to find resources to do that, I will.
In fact, just to add to your comment about believing in therapy, yesterday I set up three more appointments through the rest of the year. I don’t go very often either, but I scheduled my appointments through December with my therapist, because I thought, “Hey, there are some things I want to process through.” She’s the one who can help me do that. But it is not my colleagues’ or my team’s job to make me feel better. That’s my ownership. When you get that very, very clear, it changes how you deliver and when you deliver and to whom you deliver your story.
Megan: That’s right, because sometimes the who, the answer to that question, is your therapist first. You need to do that first, and then at some later point you move on to a different audience when that is resolved in a way that makes it appropriate.
Michele: This was probably a month ago, back in June. We were on-site for our quarterly BusinessAccelerator intensive. We had a bunch going on. I had had several days of meetings and talking. For those of you listening, one of the ongoing challenges I have related to my health journey is that I deal with chronic pain every day. Because it’s all centered around my mouth and my neck and my throat, my esophagus and trachea, talking, eating, drinking, swallowing, those things we do every single day, cause pain.
After being on-site with my team for several days, my pain level was really high. The funny thing is I don’t always know my pain level is high because I don’t pay attention to it until it’s too late. I was sitting with my team in a meeting, and all of a sudden, I was a 10 out of 10, and it was the first time it was on my radar. Now, I knew I needed to take care of myself, so I started packing up my stuff and needed to leave. Well, in that context, just splitting without giving my team context… They would have been afraid something was wrong.
Megan: Right. Like, “What happened?”
Michele: So this is what I did. I’m like, “Okay. What would be appropriate?” I said, “Y’all, there’s nothing you need to do. Nobody needs to fix this. I have it under control. I just need you to know I’m going to need to leave and work in my hotel room because my pain levels are somewhat unmanageable right now. I’m fine. Nobody needs to take care of it, but I need to respect these limits and go work.”
That was a way to bring my whole self. That is a reality of my environment, but that was not putting it on them to fix it or solve it. It also, hopefully, communicated to them that this is an environment, as humans, where we acknowledge that we have limits, and if we need to do things to care for ourselves, that’s okay.
Megan: That’s such a great example of this. Just to continue that, you might have said, additionally, at a later point to your peers on the executive team, “Guys, I need your input” or “I need your prayers. I’m really struggling, because chronic pain when I’m in town and doing all this stuff in person is really hard. I’m struggling with figuring out how to find the balance between doing this.” Now that would have been a burden to your team to share that part, but not with your peers, you know, or me, for example, who’s your supervisor. That would be okay. So, those are some of the nuances.
I feel like it’s helpful to play this out in a real-world situation, because you can see how that works. With the executive team, your peers, that would have connected you to them. They would have also seen, “Gosh! When I’m struggling with something…one of my kids is having a hard time or maybe something is going on in my marriage or I’m in the middle of a major move or something like that…I can show up and be human and ask for help, and that’s okay.” That would be a different outcome in a different context that would also be positive.
Michele: Which leads us to our final question, which is…How? We’ve talked about why, when, and who. Now we’re talking about how. When you share your story or incorporate pieces of your story into your leadership, it’s important to remember that it’s your story. You own it. You cannot delegate ownership of that story to somebody else simply because you’re weary of carrying it. Remember, it’s part of you. You own it.
That’s one thing I have to be so careful of. My story (and I’ve only shared a tiny, tiny piece of it) is very dramatic, and it can easily evoke a lot of emotion in the people I share it to. It’s heavy. It’s hard. Sidenote: because I’ve had cancer three times, I have no guarantee of a long life. I’ve been cancer-free for six years now, which is fantastic, but I’ll never be free of a doctor’s care. So, this is the cloud I live under at all times. It’s an awareness of my mortality and how it can change on a dime.
The truth of that can really, really be heavy on the people around me if I don’t consistently remind them, “It’s okay. This is my story. I’m carrying it. It’s my backpack. It’s not your job to carry it. It’s my story to carry.” That said, I think it can help all of us live better. Let me tell you, there are times where I’m able to use that context and reality to encourage my team to embrace what we’re doing, that we have such a unique opportunity to serve people well right now. All we have is today, so let’s do it really well.
That context, I think, helps us to do the best coaching on the planet, but the only way my team doesn’t feel weighed down by it is how I deliver it and when I deliver it and give that context. I fully own that. They don’t have to carry it. They don’t have to fix me. They don’t have to pick me up and carry me. They don’t have to do any of that. It’s mine, and I’m good. Then it becomes a means to empower all of us.
Megan: Wow. Michele, that’s so helpful. One of the things I love most about you, both as a friend and as a leader, is just your maturity. I think I said that to you when you came to work with us.
Michele: I like to think you just think I’m old, but, yeah, that’s okay.
Megan: I don’t mean old. We all know people who are actually old and not mature, so that is unfortunately no guarantee. No, you have made good use of the experiences you have been through, in all seriousness, and really learned those lessons. I should say, by the way, you’re one of the most mature people I know; you’re also one of the funniest people I know. I truly believe, and I think you share this belief, that people who have suffered the most are often the funniest. A little dark humor. You have to be game for that, which I always am, but I love that about you.
The thing I keep coming back to as I’m considering these questions, thinking about the conversation we’ve had today, is that there’s so much maturity and wisdom that is necessary to steward our stories well and to use them on behalf of others in a way that is life-giving, that’s encouraging, that’s empowering, particularly as leaders. That’s a unique responsibility. It’s a unique burden, and wisdom and maturity are the prerequisites for doing that well, and self-awareness, obviously, like we talked about, which I think is right in there.
So, thank you for this. I have a new passion for integrating my story into the work I’m doing and to the way I’m leading. We’re hiring a ton of people right now, many people who don’t know my story, and I’m reminded of the fact that that was really easy when we had fewer team members, and I need to be intentional about doing that so that I’m a real person to the people I’m leading and I make sure to continue to set the tone for the culture I want to create here, one of felt safety and belonging and wholeheartedness, like you can bring your whole self to work. So, thank you for this. Do you have any final thoughts? Anything we didn’t cover? Anything you want to say?
Michele: I think I’ve covered a lot, but the one final thought is I just want to set this appropriate expectation. Bringing your whole self to any relationship, but especially your leadership, is messy. It’s not easy. It’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to require an extraordinary amount of both courage and wisdom. However, when you do it well, it gives your team courage and permission to show up as their full selves too.
Back to that initial analogy. When everybody comes fully prepared to scale the mountain with their whole selves, when everybody has their full physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual resources, their history, their experiences and maturity, then all of you together can scale that mountain, and then, let me tell you, there is nothing better than seeing your whole team bringing their whole selves and accomplishing that kind of work together.
Megan: Absolutely. There’s nothing more rewarding. It’s amazing. Well, I hope you feel inspired to figure out how to integrate your story into your leadership. It’s worth the effort. We look forward to hearing the stories of how that has gone for you and what the benefits and challenges have been. Certainly, there will be both, but, again, I think it’s worth the effort. So, thank you for joining us today. I can’t wait to be back with you next week. Until then, lead to win.