"Written on these walls are the stories that I can't explain..."
Do these words sound familiar? No, I am not about to break into the One Direction song, Story of My Life. But those lyrics, and the meaning of the song, were the topic of Beth Flores, Founder, Groove Leadership Lab breakout session at the NextGen Training Summit. Groove Leadership Lab provides "coaching and consulting services to individuals and organizations that will change the world." They are focused on self-discovery, and helping people find their narrative, to improve how they work and live their lives.
As Flores said, "stories are what drive us to commit to doing something more. They are the push we need." And we all have a unique story to share and live by. At work, it's easy to get bogged down in mundane tasks and to become frustrated with co-workers, inefficient processes and red tape. The "why" we do something is often lost. The "how this makes me feel" or "how this is connected to my personal life" is almost always lost. However, as Flores suggested, who we are can be what we do -- we just need to find our narrative.
To do this, Flores had the audience close their eyes and recall a time they felt truly alive and happy. She used an example of her trip to Italy -- but it could be anything. Then one audience member shared her story (it was not work related). After, the other audience members were tasked with listing descriptive words about the storyteller. People said confident, nurturing, proud etc. Not a single person said "you did the assignment well" as it was all personal compliments.
Flores said of the exercise that what makes it special is everyone says positive words about the person's character. These words get at who we really are. However, at work we are rarely complimented as "confident and proud." It's mostly that you did a task well. But who you are and what you do should not be two distinct things.
Understanding what you are passionate about, what makes you wake up every day, and remembering your story is important for your career, especially in government when it is easy to get discouraged. And that is what NextGen is all about. NextGen is focused on educating and inspring young government leaders. Government employees have the opportunity to affect a large number of people and create a lot of positive change, but there are a lot of hurdles. To do this requires a strong character and "an intrinsic sense of direction that sustains your energy."
Flores' session had a lot of great quotes (so many I could not fit them). But the one that resonated most was "Leadership is taking responsibility for creating what does not yet exist in the world that must." To become a better leader and to have an impact, you first have to understand your story.