Once upon a time, there were a bunch of mice that lived in a wall. There was a cat that lived beyond the wall. The mice had a meeting and decided that their lives would be better (and safer!) if they knew when the cat was coming. If the cat wore a bell, they would know when it was nearby, and they could retreat to the safety of the wall. Everyone agreed that this was a great plan, but when the group was looking at each other to find the volunteer that would place the bell on the cat, everyone had an excuse for why they couldn’t do the thing.
An idea is good, but a feasible idea is better. Someone has to step up at personal risk in order to secure the safety of many.
I’ve been watching this (kind of) happen a lot lately.
This Guy: OMG! You know what we should totally do?
That Guy:Let’s do it!
This: OK, here’s how YOU should do it.
That: Oh, I thought you meant that *you* were going to do it.
And then the hot-potato death match to determine who has to do the thing.
I’ve been the person who bells the cat – and I’m often OK with that role. If others are unwilling to talk about something that is making them truly unhappy, and telling someone who has the agency to do something to remove that unhappiness (like, at work, say), I’m OK being the person who questions the process, or puts their hand up and says “I don’t think that means what you think it does”, or “Maybe your experience doesn’t apply here”. I’m not intimidated to speak up.
Still, yesterday, someone who I’ve known for 6 years, and I’m friends and colleagues with said “You know, when I first met you, I thought you were pushy”. I asked him what he thought of me now, and he laughed. So I guess that meant “Still pushy”. He qualified it with the fact that on my watch, my team has achieved a ton.
On the one hand, If someone has to push against shitty situations, or other flavours of bullshit, I’m OK with being labelled like that. But if someone thinks that I’m just pushing my own agenda, or being a bully, that’s a problem. Both in the sense that that is how I’m being perceived, and in the sense that my efforts are being mis-interpreted.
So what’s a girl to do?
Next week, we’re doing DiSC training at work. I’ve done it before, so there won’t likely be any surprises about the mysteries of my personality. But part of the training is how to communicate and interact well with the other 3 personalities. I’m a D. Which means I’m an achiever, and a persuader, and D for Dominant. I want to get the things done. And holy f*ck can we just make a decision and not waffle for months to decide something please?? But I’m also informed and willing to accept the crunchy challenges and I just want to get the results. I get how I’m a lot of personality coming at you like a blast ring. As my friend David says – pushy.
This Lent, may I be brave enough to dig in and defend when that’s what’s needed, and be the support my peers need to meet their goals, and may I be humble enough to shut the hell up when that’s what’s required. This Lent, may I know when it’s my turn to bell the cat.