This evening is Halloween; celebrated in many different ways.
Of the many best loved traditions in America, the donning of costumes is at the top of the list. Many, many years ago, in times past, adults began dressing in elaborate costumes for Halloween parties, also known as Masquerade parties, long before it became an annual event for children. Dressing up in Halloween costumes is a recent tradition that developed in the twentieth century. The first store bought Halloween costumes were not available before the 1930’s.
With the holiday being very loosely based on old Celtic legends about the closeness between the mundane world and that of the spirits at this time of year and the Catholic Church’s celebration of their saints, it is no wonder that Halloween costumes have taken on a rather macabre appearance.
Witches, blood thirsty vampires, moaning ghosts, zombies, vicious werewolves and many other frightening monsters became the popular choices of trick or theaters every where. Thus the American idea of a creepy Halloween was born. Dressing in costumes gives one the opportunity to “let their hair down” and be someone else for a while, all in good fun of course.
When you are in a leadership role, do you dress up for the occasion? Is there a mask you like to wear? Or perhaps there are several “costumes” you choose depending upon the circumstance.
In leadership it can be very easy to revert to alter-egos, whether good or bad. Let’s roll this altogether and call it wearing a mask.
Do you ever wear a mask at work? I don’t mean the silly kind you buy at a Halloween store. I mean the face we put on when things aren’t working as they should or you have been “found out”. Masking can be a convenient way to dodge ever having to fess up to something or admit a short coming.
Dealing With Feelings
On one hand, we are taught not to complain, right? If things aren’t going well, we need to show strength and courage. People ask “How are you doing?” and we respond “Fine, thank you.” Yet you’re NOT! Now, obviously, we don’t let the folks who report to us get inundated with our “stuff”, but there are times when being real with our team is more important than masking over it.
Taking off the mask with those around us allows us to build trust and credibility. Being real doesn’t mean you have to be like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, constantly looking at life like the glass is half empty. However, you can share honest reality of what may be going on.
Now, when the big boss is raining on your head, bringing heat and pressure to perform better, it is wise to NOT simply pass down the heat. Instead, you need to be the buffer for your team, fading the heat from above. You still need to distill the message so that your team understands the new expectations. You can do that without masking.
Fear and Doubt
Fear and doubt causes some to put on a mask. If you are suffering from any doubt about your ability to manage your team, you may expose yourself in various ways. There’s the nervous laugh when others get too close to the truth. Or the dodging of questions when you truly don’t know the answer.
Masking over fear and doubt only serves to perpetuate the problem. Instead, take a proactive approach. Identify the exact reasons you feel this doubt. If it is about knowledge, go get the training you need. Sometimes simply asking to be mentored by someone in your field, outside the company can fill the knowledge gap.
It’s Tiring to Pretend
Wearing masks at work is exhausting. Fake it ’til you make it can only last so long. Maintaining a false persona takes incredible energy; energy that could be spent on far more positive efforts. Give yourself a break and remove the mask.
Deal with any root causes of the need to have a mask. Masking is only a symptom of a much deeper cause. Fix that and eliminate the need to mask.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
Brian Tracy has been quoted as saying:
“No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.”
You need coaching and mentorship to grow. Many companies are providing leadership development programs for their rising stars. There are services available, provided by trained and certified coaches to help you grow your leadership skills. Go to the web and check out a workshop or lunch-and-learn near you.
What is your favorite mask to wear at work? Why not take it off permanently? Let your people see the real you. I promise you’ll be happier for it.