I used to do a lot of interviewing as part of my work as a Consultant. I would speak to management and staff to get a good understanding of what was going on and what they wanted to happen, prior to running a workshop in which they could plan it all out.
There were a lot of good people I spoke to – they told me so – and most of the time they were right.
But one young woman I spoke to illustrated her points almost as much with her errors as she did with her successes. She mentioned more ‘mistakes’ than the rest of her colleagues put together. And yet she seemed the most intelligent and self-confident of all. And when I spoke to her people, they loved her, they thought she was the best manager they had ever had. She was great.
She knew fundamentally that she was of value, and that her value was defined by more than whether she was right all the time.
As in Kipling’s poem, you got the impression that she really could “meet with triumph or disaster, and treat those two imposters both the same”. As a result, she could truly be herself and not simply a sanitised version – she had the confidence to be truly authentic – and that is what her people could see in her. The real deal.
Her colleagues could have been the same, but they did not choose to be that confident – they did not take the risk.
The reality is that most people are good people – if you let them see the real you, they will respect you for it, and begin to let you see the real them. And as a result your meetings will be immensely more efficient and powerful.
If you struggle to reconcile this with the picture you may have of successful powerful leaders, I urge you to read Jim Collins well researched HBR paper: Level 5 leadership, the triumph of humility and fierce resolve.
Track your progress to ensure the efficacy of this strategy.