Thursday, June 23, 2016

When People Talk About You

Being in a leadership position, by its very nature, means living under a very large microscope.  As Urban Meyer, renowned head football coach at the Ohio State University, writes in his leadership book titled Above the Line, "When you are a leader, your followers are watching everything you do."

It's something that's difficult to get used to, at first.

If you're a new principal, you can bet that there will be people talking about you in classrooms, in hallways, in the staff lounge, at community events.  In the back of the room at school assemblies, in the deli line at the grocery store, at the local pizza joint.

It can be pretty unnerving.

It's not always bad, of course.  In fact, most of the time, it's fantastic.  There will be people who will love you and your leadership style; they will sing your praises, loudly and enthusiastically.   And that feels good.  Super good.

But there are also times that you'll have to make a tough decision and you won't be so supported.  It won't happen a lot, but it will happen.  It's inevitable.  Some people won't like you.  Not one little bit.  They'll want to talk to everyone—everyone!— about how crappy you are.  That's a lot harder to be okay with.

Last week, I was discussing this with my friend Cathy.  She asked how I handle the constant under-the-microscope living.  I told her I've come to peace about it; I've done this long enough to have grown some pretty thick skin.  I've got calluses in the soft parts.

"There are always exceptions, though," I told her.  "I still get hurt, especially if I hear someone has said something unfair, uninformed, or untrue about me.  Those are the tough ones."

"And it happens when you least expect it," she said.  "Friends and family, too."

"Yes.  It does."

"Well, just look at it this way," she said.  "If they're talking about you, they're leaving someone else alone."

I thought about that for a few moments.

"Thank you," I said to her, feeling that there-are-no-words kind of grateful.  "I'm so glad you shared that with me.  I love that perspective."

I really do.  It's a great way to think about it. If someone is grumbling about something I've said or done, I can take it—because it means someone else ... is being left alone.

1 comment:

  1. Jen,
    I'm glad you found this helpful. It seems we want so much to make everyone happy, and life just doesn't always work like that. People are very different --- and it is this very diversity we treasure when we get down to the bones of this challenge. My mom would give this advice often as I was growing up....and her mom had given it to her. It doesn't fix anything, but it can make me feel a little better during tough times.

    I'm going to have to pass this along to her so she can read it.

    I'm thinking we all learned a lot on that drive,


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