Sometimes we need to just get real. And, by “real” I mean Velveteen Rabbit real. Too often we’re ready to throw out the people and ideas that have built a company for the latest, newest trend. And I think we’re going to pay the price.
Companies are filled with real people who have real desires and real lives. New leaders come into those companies and expect their new ideas and change initiatives to be immediately adapted. But, as we learned from the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit:
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I think a lot of new leaders don’t understand the importance of staying real. They just see something (or someone) who’s been around fighting the battles and offering solutions, and they think it’s time to bring in something shiny at the expense of those who have valuable wisdom. As Car says in The Velveteen Rabbit:
“I’m the most expensive gift he got. That makes me numero uno!”
I realize that sometimes change requires letting go of the past, but it mostly requires building on the past so that valuable lessons aren’t lost.
I wish more leaders would spend time asking:
I share a story in my new book, Real People, Real Change about a technology team where the “Old Guard” and the “New Hires” were battling each other. My job was to bring them together. I began by teaching them to value each other, and to be real.
Remember, you lead real people. Be a real leader.