A Leadership Lesson from George
This is a story about culture, and about the barriers successful leaders break through to challenge what we know and become what we hadn’t dreamed possible. No, I am not giving you the cliff notes from my husband’s children’s book, The Ball That Did Not Like to Bounce here, but I do want us to think through the concept of the journey to be the unique you that is introduced in this book. I also want to ponder how culture, leadership, and unconscious norms make this journey even more challenging. Perhaps we can learn together and you can use these thoughts when you read the book to your kids or grandkids to share the lessons.
See, every day, we are told by someone that we should be something like them. As parents, it’s what we’re supposed to do: raise children who follow our rules, contribute to the community, and are like us. Our extended family, society, and organizational rules also indicate to us what is acceptable, expected, and "normal."
George is a rubber ball. He doesn’t like to bounce. He knows he's supposed to. We all think he should.
We follow the rules established to maintain order, societal norms, status quo. We expect everyone to follow those rules because, frankly, they should, right? It’s how we live. It’s what we do. We don’t think about it. It just is.
Many people aren’t ok with that. More and more, we are integrating cultures and expectations and skills. We are asking why we do things. We are embracing differences but only within our own boundaries. We are challenging the status quo more and more, but we continue to silently and without effort- unconsciously- encourage what we have always known; the status quo.
George should bounce. It’s tradition. It’s what his family has done for many years. It just IS.
People in Spain eat lunch at 2:00 PM. Spanish eat the meal that is like an American dinner at lunch. They eat apples or cheese slices for dinner. It's their tradition.
Americans work through lunch and eat pasta for dinner at 6 or 7 PM. It’s their tradition.
When we want to create a workforce that values differences, we have to take into account these every day traditions and determine if they are helping us or hindering logic and creativity.
George doesn’t like to bounce. He likes to roll and fly. He is compelled to be different.
We all are compelled to be different and unique. We are talented in a thousand different ways, each of us. We are what make families and teams and organizations amazing. Our unique thinking brings us to new levels.
George journeys to find his true George.
Smartly, we all have a journey that is unique to us. We don’t follow in our parents’ footsteps, we create our own paths. We make our talents work for us. We become the best gift of US to the world around us, but it’s not easy. It doesn’t happen without disappointment, anger, frustration, loneliness, and fear. It happens because of all of those things.
George finds those who welcome him in a bowling alley.
They aren’t like him. They don’t look like him – they aren’t rubber – but they understand him and celebrate him. He feels validated and encouraged to be HIM in all of his uniqueness.
George's journey has a sequel...not written yet, but we know this isn't the end of his journey. As adults, we know this isn’t a one-time-in-life journey. This is an experience for all of us that we build off of throughout life.
We seek those who celebrate us, who encourage our uniqueness and welcome our awesome talents. We seek those who make our differences valuable and look for opportunities to help us achieve our true potential.
George tells us about his life journey. As adults, we all know that this journey is ongoing, it shouldn’t end. We should always be exploring and celebrating our uniqueness and finding and loving others for theirs.
As leaders, we know our goal is to support, value, encourage, and empower people at every stage of their journey, even if we know their time with us is short-lived (as many young aspiring talent look to a variety of challenges and experiences and move swiftly through organizations). We help people to become their best, unique version of themselves, and when they aspire for greatness, we mentor them to be great. When they aspire for sameness, we mentor them to be great.
John Maxwell talks about the difference between a duck and an eagle. A duck is committed to how things are now. An eagle soars to make things different. Both are valued, and both need a leader’s understanding, direction and support.
So, help me think through this topic:
As you think about sharing this message with kids, what answers do you think you will need to have ready?
What questions will go unanswered or be tough?
What different questions will adults have?
Buy your own autographed copy of The Ball That Did Not Like to Bounce at www.brandonvreeman.com.