I felt I was receiving a lecture.. and I was not convinced.
I had come in for a BP reading and a blood test. The clinician told me that I was overweight––which I was––and at risk of heart disease or diabetes––which I was probably was. She told me to cut out various foods, and to change my diet and exercise. All this is grounded in good medical research. But it did not motivate me to change.
God bless her, this person was doing her best to help me. But my real barrier to being persuaded was that she gave me cognitive dissonance. This clinician did not model what she said. Quite apart from the crude Change or Die strategy, the problem was… well…she was clearly clinically obese and depressed.
What I am NOT saying…
Now, this is not a criticism of who she was as a person, but the person in the room did not match the message.
Nor am I saying a normal BMI should be mandatory of healthcare professionals. God knows, we need each and every one of them right now, and I’m thankful for them.
And I am not making a case about something as superficial as our physical appearance or weight. And I would not want to leave you thinking that I am that prejudiced against fat people! I myself was clinically obese for a number of years, as I was at that particular appointment…hence the lecture.
The Internal Journey
What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.Ralph Waldo Emerson
My point here is that when any of us seeks to influence others to action, then the job needs to start with ourselves.
We can have the right information, good methodology, superior research, but we are unlikely to influence those around us if we do not walk the talk.
Usually, when I have been presenting to a room of leaders, they are all invested on knowing how to lead their teams, their organisation, or their community better.
First, though, there needs to be an internal journey. Every leader needs to be authentic in leading themselves into that better future first.
The issue is often the person we bring into the room.
As adults, we have a highly-developed sense of discernment when engaging with other humans. What some call micro-tells, small pieces of evidence in the person before us, reveal whether they are a threat, or lying, or distressed. These micro-tells can be small eye movements, gestures, posture, as well as the pitch and tone of the voice.
When someone is trying to persuade us to change, to buy, to allow them to draw closer, they are communicating with us at a far deeper level than the content of what they say.
My worst moments
All my worst leadership moments were when I was over-stressed, hurried, depressed or angry. My most effective moments were when the future was the person I brought into the room in myself.
The uncomfortable truth for us is this: before we can lead others, we need to lead ourselves. Before we can expect our team to change, we must already be changing and show them in our own lives. Before the call, comes the example, the model in us.
Who is showing up?
It becomes vital, then, that we are self-aware enough to know whom we are bringing into the room. We need to become aware of the non-verbal messages we might be communicating. What is the best self we can bring to this engagement? And if we are too busy, stressed, driven or distressed, then maybe we need to postpone until we are ready.
Some will see this as an exercise in fakery.
We are not that stupid.
No, this is a call to personal authenticity.