When I was a young Store Manager with Walgreens, I vented to my District Manager about a challenge I was having with a team member. He let me share, and then stated, “Nathan, our jobs would be easy if we didn’t have to work with people.” And that’s all he said. He then walked my store, three-foot by three-foot section, and he ripped me apart. I think I had ten pages of notes by the time we were done walking my ten aisles.
Later that evening, I thought about his simple, yet powerful statement. I felt ashamed. Essentially, he was telling me drama and workplace issues are a part of life. Was I mature enough to handle them? Should I have gotten promoted in the first place? Maybe I wasn’t cut out to manage and lead a store that employed fifty people. Self-doubt began to creep in.
I was recently reminded of this when a friend and mentor talked with me about the importance of going to the source. Even as the Store Manager at that time, my tendency was to vent to my direct supervisor rather than going to the source, hoping he would serve as a conduit for me and my situation. As I’ve shared with you, he was far from that. At the end of the day, I just ended up looking incompetent and creating a lot more work for myself and my team.
I wish I could sit here as I write this and tell you this is the only time I made this mistake. Far from it! As I grew with the organization and developed close relationships with those around me, there were times when I went to them rather than to the source. Sure, I felt validated, but it never resolved the issue. If anything, it made them worse.
I guess you could say that my avoidance was a coping mechanism. In that instance, I didn’t want to have the awkward conversation with my team member. Instead, I had a lousy store visit. The choice was up to me, and I chose poorly.
Marlene Chism, the author of the book, Stop Workplace Drama, says, “We falsely assume that the real problem is drama when, in fact, the problem is the avoidance of addressing the drama square on. We see the elephant, but no one is willing to acknowledge it.”(1)
You may assume this had a lot to do with my character. In reality, it had a lot more to do with my lack of self-awareness at the time. So, let’s think about the following questions.
When it comes to “going to the source…”
- What’s your natural tendency?
- Where have you got it wrong before?
- Who may you need to go to the source with now?
“One of the easiest ways to keep your mouth, ears, and reputation clean – Keep gossip out of them.” – Ty Howard
When you consider your own leadership, have you reached out to others in an effort to validate your own feelings rather than going to the source to resolve an issue? Did it offer resolution? What might have happened if you went to the source of your frustration directly? Please comment below. I look forward to your insights and interacting with you on this topic.
Nathan R Mitchell is America’s Leading Empowerment Coach. In 2010, in an effort to fulfill his purpose of empowering leaders to reach their potential, he founded the leadership development company, Clutch Consulting. Nathan is also a Certified Speaker, Trainer, and Coach with The John Maxwell Team. Originally from Springfield Missouri, he earned his B.S. Degree in Management and an MBA from Missouri State University. He lives near Tulsa Oklahoma with his wife and children.
(1) Chism, Marlene. “How Drama Can Accelerate Your Leadership Growth.” Marlene Chism, 20 Sept. 2018, marlenechism.com/blog/drama-can-accelerate-leadership-growth/.