You are exceptional.
I have a friend.
She is exceptional.
Exceptional in how she lives her life in everyday moments.
Exceptional in how she bounces back from challenges.
Exceptional in how she is a solid as a rock mamma to her full of character children.
Exceptional in how, when told 'no you can't' only motivates her to find other ways.
Exceptional at reframing.
Exceptional in how she rises above the day to day surface level grit of corporate life to create opportunities for herself and, in doing that, supports others to do the same.
Exceptional at creating opportunities for the whole business.
Exceptional at noticing her patterns and limiting beliefs.
Exceptional at taking steps to lean into these patterns and to learn new ways.
Exceptional at knowing when enough is enough, when relationships are no longer serving her and no longer in line with who she is becoming.
However. The performance management system in my friends company does not allow for my exceptional friend to be rated as exceptional. On this sliding scale rating system, she would have to 'pull rabbits out of hats' in order to prove her magically exceptional superpowers. To be rated as exceptional is only for the exceptional few. The exceptionally exceptional in having exceptional goals and blasting those goals into outer space.
And I get angry about this. We're placing people into smaller and smaller boxes. And then arguing amongst our peers as to whose team member should be placed into an even smaller box in favour of someone else's rise to exceptional. It's a lose:win scenario. We're wondering why engagement is on a 'shuggly peg'. Why people seem happy on the surface, but, when handed an anonymous survey, they rant and rave like Marcellus in Hamlet claiming;
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark".
Let's shed our rotten boxes and seek new ways beyond measuring people by the number of golden eggs they lay (See Superchicken metaphor below!).
And that's stifling.
We're blowing out the candle of creativity until innovation, discretionary effort, passion, excitement and curiosity die.
As a client testimonial said;
"Embrace what's different about Eimear."
It's in our differences that our exceptional qualities shine. We must create the space, trust, authenticity and vulnerability for people to feel safe to shine. That's exceptional.
However, I fear that we're continuing to create a culture of Superchickens - The Superchicken Model, according to Margaret Heffernan (that's for another blog). We're encouraging people to fight for the big shiny prize at the end of the year. Because that prize means big shiny stars. That prize means more money (sometimes). Promotion (sometimes). That star is a badge of honour to be worn to prove your exceptionalness. And then we raise the bar. We raise the key performance indicators. We raise the stakes. And on it goes, round and round on the hamster wheel of work life.
Until we reach a tipping point. Either the employee becomes ill; or leaves the company; or becomes very present in their disillusionment towards 'the system', towards 'the company' or begins to believe that they are merely 'adequate' or 'good' or 'strong'. Because that's what we are telling our people.
We're wondering how to make things better for our people. How to raise ourselves out of this gritty place.
So how about we change the record. Let's ruffle some feathers. Let's put the rating system to one side for a moment and imagine. Imagine how you can motivate, inspire, teach, coach, mentor and lead your people, without attaching numbers or ratings or stars to what they do. Imagine how productive, motivated, free and engaged you and your people can be when we are all exceptional. And we know we're exceptional not by an externally referenced rating system, but by how we feel inside of ourselves. We know by the exceptional relationship that we have with ourselves and we shine exceptionally bright like a beacon for others to follow.
You are exceptional.
My friend is exceptional.
You just might be hiding behind what you believe others think of you.
You just might be hiding behind a system that isn't appreciating the whole you with all your quirks, flaws, weird and wonderful gifts.
Bring your whole self to work - well I will if you will!
Perfectly imperfect exceptional you.
Before I left my Corporate job, I rated myself exceptional - I became "Six Stars Eimear". High five became high six in my arena. Because I must practise what I preach right? I was also being provocative, testing the system with a twinkle in my eye! This created a 'provocative in-joke' between me, my boss, my colleagues at the time. I was in my happy place. Yes you can be exceptional, but we must downgrade you, because that's the way the system worked. My bosses hands were tied. I understood. I understand. However, by downgrading my score, I felt like I too was being downgraded. And I didn't want to be downgraded by myself or the system any longer. That bushel (see Blog on #Day4) was no longer serving me.
And yet, there is a happy ending to this play. I hope you're still reading with me! This short client testimonial demonstrates how there is a shift happening. How forward thinking leaders want to be exceptionally good. My client says;
"We are dealing with people's wellbeing and livelihoods here. We need the business to support the people who deliver to our customers."
"Eimear enables that. Eimear has been key to that."
"What Eimear has delivered in her [Leadership] training has been the differentiator between ourselves and similar organisations in our industry."
"The training drew that out so that the Leadership Team is the whole team. Leadership is about taking everybody forward together. Eimear instilled that in the organisation."
And I did that by taking risks. By stepping out of my comfort zone. By showing up as me, learning as I go along. By having the support of my boss and colleagues to join me in pioneering new tools and techniques.
I believe we can create a shift towards new ways of working. Using simple, but not simplistic ways in doing that. Methods that draw our focus back into ourselves to help us all realise that we are and can be exceptional.
Please get in touch when you would like to learn more.
I'm happy to come to your office to discuss bespoke needs for you and your teams - to co-create a leadership programme for your exceptional people.