What Storyworth Told me About Leadership

by Linda Bodnar, Ph.D., PCC

In my blog last year, I mentioned that so often it is “reframing” or “mindset shifts” that allow us to reach the growth we want to achieve in our leadership development.  Rather than sharing an example from a coaching engagement, I’d like to share one of my own recent experiences where I called upon a mindset shift.

You may have heard of Storyworth, where you get a question each week to answer (e.g., “What was your mom like when you were a child, “Describe one of your most memorable birthdays,” “How did you decide to get married”).   You share your responses by email with select people (in my case, my two adult children) and at the end of the year, you create a book containing all the stories.  Storyworth’s website mentions several goals, including feeling connected to loved ones and preserving your memories for future generations.  My son gave this to me as one of my Christmas gifts.

My immediate reaction was “Oh, no, no way.  This will be awful.  And so much work.  I remember one of my friends doing this about three years ago and sharing it with a group of us, and everyone was oohing and ahhing about how touching, profound, impactful, etc., it was.  There’s no way I can do that.”  I was so worried about not living up to those kind of lofty expectations.  Instead of reacting, declining, or stressing, I surprised myself by pushing away those thoughts and just letting it sit with me for a few days.  I then started asking myself some questions like:

  • Who is setting these expectations – is my son really holding me to those? He knows me, so probably not…
  • Why did he give this to me? What is he hoping to get out of it?  Probably curiosity and a surprising interest in my memories…
  • What would change this from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this” and “I want to do this”? My answer to this one went unanswered for a bit…
  • What expectations could I set for myself that I could be comfortable with? I came up with a few, such as:  share some stories they either haven’t heard before or haven’t remembered, have some fun with the stories myself by calling back up some memories I haven’t thought of for a long time, not worry about judgement or the quality or depth and just do it….   

In hindsight, I believe that what I was doing was reframing the task and taking on a new mindset.  Once I set these new expectations, and answered the first few weeks of questions, I found that I had successfully morphed into “I want to do this” and even to “I am actually enjoying this.”

As I think about how this applies to leadership, I recall how I and many of my colleagues and coaching clients have been faced with a “gift” of a new responsibility and our immediate reaction is “Oh, no, not that.”  Sometimes that is actually the right reaction and we should push back if we can’t see a link to our values and goals and it will put us over the edge on workload.  But often, if we: (1) take the time to ask ourselves questions such as those above (or others that you might think of that would be even more helpful for you), (2) take on a growth mindset of believing that success comes from the consistent effort of working through challenges, and (3) employ a mindset shift, we can come across with positive leadership presence, show initiative and strategic thinking, and position ourselves for future opportunity.

Elevate your Leadership Potential

To learn more about leadership and executive coaching, reach out to Linda for a consultation.