#ShowingUp with Anese Cavanaugh

Do "they" live in your organization? Mastering the mysterious "They"

I was having dinner with a client last week when we got to talking about change, and more specifically, what gets in the way of people creating what they want in their lives. What makes people STOP when they get close to what they want, and in some cases, way before then? Words like "comfort zones", "fear", and "ecology" were flowing...Now of course, in the spirit of total transparency, in addition to some of the issues he was seeing with his own team and organization, he was also challenging me to do something that kind of...scares. the. pants. off. of. me...My client was holding MY feet to the fire. (Fancy that...I'd be lying if I said it wasn't...delicious.)

Where the conversation started, and where it ended, is not as necessarily as important as what happened in the middle...

We outed the mysterious "they."

Who is this mysterious "they"? Now before I go further, I don't know if any of you have this guy in your family, but when I was growing up, we had a 7th member of our family named "nobody." "Nobody" was the one who left the milk out, the bathroom a mess, the chores undone, my sisters' hair pulled..."nobody" was a strong force in our home. (Oddly, now as a parent, "nobody" has somehow found his way into our home as well.) "Nobody's" job was to keep us safe, to be our scape goat, to prevent accountability. In retrospect, I actually see that in many ways, "nobody" kept us from growing. He got a lot of our many great life lessons.

Anyhow...I'm fairly certain that "nobody" is a very close cousin to "they". And "they" is now getting all the "good stuff."

Here's how I notice it plays out...

  • "I want to grow in my career or craft, but they won't support it."
  • "I want to shine brighter, I want to create a larger platform, but they will be offended/threatened."
  • "They think this...they think that...they'll say this...they said that..."
  • "They'll be disappointed, angry...they'll never go for it."
  • "They won't like me, they'll think my work sucks, they won't understand, they'll....laugh...."

Ummm...who's "they"? I'm curious about this "they." Here's what I notice: Sometimes the "they" is a valid entity. And there's impact to be considered. Conversations to be had. Productive feedback to be obtained. But all too often, "they" is a figment of our imaginations we make up to keep us safe. "They" is the guy that keeps us from reaching into our selves, pulling up courage, stepping into something bigger, saying something scarier, living a bigger life, creating a bigger impact, getting our craft out there in a bigger way, taking full ownership for our lives and success.

"They" keeps us on the couch, on the sidelines, in the shadows. Small.

"They" saves us from our big-ness...

We've all gotta little bit of "they" in us. I know my "they" is quite mysterious, very stealthy...I actually don't often find him in the mix until I'm deep in "it"; holding back, churning, being really squirrely...My cue? Something feels off; struggle is at hand; my thinking gets crooked (and oh-so-justified). Life gets hard. Situations seem complicated, maybe even hopeless. But...as soon as I spot this guy, with a bit of correction and truth-telling, I'm back in the drivers seat. I'm back to myself. And now I can partner with him. I can look him in the eye and see what's really going on. What am I afraid of? Where am I hiding out? What do I care SO much about, that is so important to me, that I've had "they" step in and run the show for me? And that is where expansion, magic, and progress happens. There's is much growth in the "they" - either he gets it the growth, or I get it, and on my better days, I choose me.

Check it out for yourself...what's true for you?

If your "they" is truly a valid entity, I'll offer you this: First, specifically identify your "they" so you can create some connection and see the human being on the other side of your hesitation. Then, explore. What do you need to do to bridge the gap with "they"? What's the conversation you need to have? Where do you need to stand stronger? What information needs to be unearthed? What do you want to say, but "can't"? These are all great places to look.

And if "they" is a mysterious and elusive entity, as I so often find "they" to be, you have a beautiful world that's just opened up to you. Because without the elusive "they", the noise and excuses are out. Self-ownership and leadership are in. And you're off to the races if you so choose.

By the way...if you find you absolutely must engage with your "they", you might consciously choose to partner with another breed of "they"; the "they" that loves what you do, will support what you're up to, will champion you to the ends of the earth, and who will cheer you on. The "they" who has your back. When you lead from there, the real positive supportive and even collaborative "theys" will come a calling.

What's the scoop on your "they"? Do you have that special someone in your life? What does "they" do for you? Where does "they" hold you back? Where would you be without "they"? Chime in. Here's to creating a conversation with the "theys" that serve and support us in solving really big problems, making really great things - and really happy people - happen in the world.

(End note: I will in fact be doing that "thing" as mentioned in the beginning of this entry. Stay tuned. I'm rallying all my supportive "they" troops together - physically and mentally - as I write.)