Do you remember ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books? This was one of the most popular series of children’s books during the 1980s and 1990s, with the reader making choices that determine what happens. One book might have 20 possible endings!
As the reader, we made these choices consciously, and then turned to the appropriate page to continue the journey.
Has it occurred to you that even now, every day is a ‘choose your own adventure’ day? The choices are there – the trick is that now they aren’t so obvious and the ‘turn to the next page’ text is written in such small font we often miss it.
Here are two recent real examples from my clients. What choice would you make? How might the story end differently with another choice?
- Sara returned from parental leave to report to a new Executive Director. He asked her if she was sure she wanted to work full time. She believes that:
- He was patronizing and questioned her ability, and this triggered an immediate defense response in her. In the next two weeks she puts herself under immense pressure to prove she is across everything.
- He was immensely supportive. As a working parent himself, he obviously understands the challenges she faces, and wants to demonstrate care and concern. Sara feels safe and relaxes back into the role.
- Jason presented a proposal to his exec team colleagues. They couldn’t immediately see the merit in his plan and asked for more information. The CEO questioned whether the payoff was real, given the risk involved. Jason:
- Felt unsupported and under attack. His defensive response was stinging, implying that his colleagues were risk adverse. The discussion was strained and ended quickly with no decision made.
- Jason felt supported by his peers, knowing that through responding to their challenges he would either strengthen his case, or come to realise his initial plan wasn’t the best way forward. He left the meeting feeling supported by his peers, and with more work to do.
What choices would you make if you were Sara or Jason? What other possibilities do you see?
What choices are you making in your own adventure? What could you do to make other options more obvious? How does the dynamic in your team influence the options that you see and choose? What are you willing to do about that?