On July 13, 1978, Lee Iacocca, the President of Ford was fired. He was 54. He had joined Ford as an Engineer in 1946 and had risen to the post of the President. The year following his dismissal from Ford, he was offered the position of the CEO of the then severely bankrupt Chrysler. Lee took it up. With the help of financial aid from the federal government Iacocca streamlined the company’s operations, focused on producing more fuel-efficient cars and pursued an aggressive marketing strategy based on his own powerful personality. In a span of 5 years he not only pulled the dying corporate giant out of bankruptcy but also started soaring it up into the profit earning bracket.
When Lee was fired, he could have easily decided to take his life easy and retired. But when another opportunity knocked at his door, which was seemingly not too appealing at that time, given the fact that Chrysler was not doing too well, he did not stop. He took it up headlong and dived into it with commitment.
We are all intrinsically driven by the conversations we have with ourselves. When an event occurs, we as humans naturally make up a story about it in our minds and this story then guides us to take actions that we do. Our work, at The Institute for Generative Leadership, involves us meeting many people from various organizations and from various sectors and strata of the society. One question that we frequently ask people and our participants is “What stops you?”. The answers that we commonly receive are “The fear of failure”, “The fear of the unknown”, “society”, “inhibitions”, “uncertainty” and so on.
If you go deeper within these answers and introspect further, the underlying base will always be “Internal Conversations”.The conversations you have with yourself are the ones that decide your future actions.
Jay is the General Manager at a multinational organization. He said he had been wanting to bring about a culture change in the organization and had very powerful and detailed plans and ideas that if implemented could bring about significant change in terms of turnover and the environment of the company. He said he had this going within him for 3 years. When asked, what was stopping him from proposing his thoughts to the senior management, the one thing he said was “I have a fear that they may ridicule me. This plan of mine will move the very basis of the organization and I think they may not want to even consider it.
Jay had a brilliant plan, he was doing very well in his career but was being stifled by the culture he saw around him. Every day on various occasions this thought about his plans and ideas crossed his mind but he always stopped himself. He was indirectly restricting his own growth. And all this because of the ‘internal conversations’ he was having with himself. These internal conversations were stopping him from his own expansion.
Ravi, is the production manager in his organization. He says ‘If some jobs crop up in the last minute that could hamper our deadlines, I do not ask anyone, I just go ahead, get hands on and do it myself’ When asked ‘What stopped him from asking his juniors to pitch in’ he replied ‘I think, I will be troubling them and overburdening them with extra work’. Ravi here is putting himself in a tight spot and discomfort too because of the internal conversations he is having with himself. These very conversations are stopping him from making effective requests to his subordinates who probably don’t have an inkling about the extra work that comes up in the last minute.
Amit has written stories but is unsure about publishing them. To see them in print is his dream. His justification is “What will people think if they read them. These are my thoughts, and I will be exposed to the world”. Amit is stopping himself from giving the world an opportunity to read his writings only because of these very internal conversations he has been having with himself for more than 4 years! More importantly, he is stopping himself from an opportunity to grow in the realm of the writing world because of these very thoughts that he has been indulging in and has also being justifying his stance to himself for not taking that one step of publishing his stories.
If Lee Iacocca’s internal conversations with himself had been thus ‘I have been fired from one job and this new company that has offered me a job is already going down a dwindling spiral, I should not take this risk in this age. I’d rather retire and travel the world now that I have all the time and money anyways’ then he would not have been in a position to credit himself for a future that he created for Chrylser and for himself!
Take a moment, sit back and think, “Where am I stopping myself?”
You have a choice, you can either be your biggest barrier or you can be unstoppable!
What would you rather choose?
Sheeja Shaju, Leadership Coach, Institute for Generative Leadership, India.