A good friend of mine shared a quote from CS Lewis with me recently that very much applies to leadership, coaching, and parenting:
“The gospel will not be heard. It must be overheard.”
We know this to be true for ourselves. We would much rather test advice given to a friend than follow the directive that is meant solely for us. Afterall, that places us in a position of weakness, of following and obeying. We’re too proud to just simply take orders. Often we would simply rather continue down the wrong path than be corrected directly.
However, if we hear good advice meant for another, we are much more likely to act on that for one simple reason: we maintain control. Rather than being subordinate, we are now choosing to follow this new advice. We can take the time to consider it, without the pressure of an order. This consideration goes a long way in not only accepting the idea, but continuing it in the future.
Why Should We Care?
As a parent, we are probably more aware of this reality. How many times have we watched a toddler mimic exactly what a parent or sibling has done? No one told them to do it, they just ‘overheard’ it and acted on it.
This occurs in the workplace far more than we would like to admit. The struggle for us, of course, is that what is overheard is often counter to our leadership efforts. Maybe we are complaining or defending a decision we made or maybe we’re attempting to justify a bold move we took that others are questioning. Regardless, the conversations others overhear are not typically beneficial to our leadership impact.
To be clear, I’m referring to ‘overheard’ as something we do with our ears and our eyes. The things we have watched other leaders do when they didn’t know we were watching are some of the most important leadership lessons we have ever learned. I ‘overheard’ my dad get up for work everyday - sick, hurt, sad - didn’t matter. He got up and went to work. He didn’t complain. That was significant in shaping my life and me into the person I want to be. He never told me how important it was to be on time and dependable, he just did it. I ‘overheard’ his actions. That was more valuable to me than one hundred lectures on the subject.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
Here are a few areas to consider when reflecting on what those that overhear you are hearing.
So, what do people overhear you saying? What do they see you doing? If we truly value our impact we will pay much more attention to what others ‘overhear’ us saying and doing with the understanding that this may be the most impactful aspect of our leadership footprint.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.