No prophet is accepted in his hometown
“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” – Luke 4:24
As humans, we tend to discount the people we spend time with the most, and not see them like others do. It happens with our parents, children, spouses, friends, family and employees.
If your boss is a luminary in their industry, yet you see them forget their car keys… your entire view of him/her is unlike those who see them present in a conference.
Thus, the more time we spend with our employees and family, the more chances they have to see our entire life. That causes a dilution of the message, and distorts the real expertise a person has in a certain field/s.
Thus, if you were good buddies with Jesus when he was alive, you may not think of him as a prophet, but mostly as the guy you hang out with, or a friend from the neighborhood.
Leaders should factor this into their strategy, as the very team working with them, may not see over time what outsiders see.
With venture-backed companies, the founder/s are starting with a vision they have. One definition of vision by Jonathan Swift is: “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”
This dichotomy can be problematic. On one hand, you want to recruit people who see you as a visionary. Before they work with you, they might be seeing your public talks – which are condensed and concentrated. There is little fluff in it, and it focuses on your field of expertise. What your talk does not include, is the fact that you may forget to finish your HR online training habitually. That part is only seen, but those closest to you.
There in lies the rub. You are suppose to have a vision, which may not be seen by others. You are suppose to recruit people to help you make this vision come to life. Yet all along, you are exposing them to your daily life – which may dilute the total experience they have with you.
It may end up where they question if you are truly great. If you are truly a visionary. If you even have or had a vision.
While there is no cure for this, you should be cognizant of it, and know that it is only natural. The more someone is with you, the more chances they have to see you in more situations. In marriage, what you experience in the courting phase, and the dating phase – will be blended over time with the doldrums of daily life, of being married.
Thus, marriage gets a bad wrap – yet if you simply dated the person for a long enough time, the same “cracks” will appear more visible to you.
So, what should a leader do about it?
First be aware of it, and help those who have been with you “too long”, to find a new path to go and fall in love with another mission, another vision, another leader. Know, that perfection does not exist, and that those who seek perfection, will find that the grass is not greener, no matter where they go. It looks green from the outside, yet it is just as green, after you give it enough time to blend the experiences, dilute them, and not see just the brilliance.
Second, you should weigh carefully what you share, and with whom – as not everyone is ready and capable to hear the real ups and downs of the startup journey.
May say they are ready, many want to believe they are ready – but there is a problem. Its called the Illusory Superiority effect. When you ask 100 people “do you think you drive better than the average driver?” what do you think most people answer?
94% of us say we are above average. Let that sink in. While only 50% can actually be better than the the average, most of us think we are in that upper half.
So, even if your direct reports tells you “we can handle it, tell us what is going on” – you should know better. Any mistake, or even perceived mistake they hear, can and will be used against you, in the blending of your abilities. So, careful what you share, as it will be used against you.
Lastly, let’s examine what Christopher Columbus did, on his first voyage.
Was he a visionary? Yes
Did he have a vision? Yes
Did he recruit a team who wished to join him? Yes
At the end of the first day of the journey, everyone was happy, excited, and filled with euphoria – “we can do this!”
Yet, as the days and weeks went by, and all you could see is blue waters around… did the crew still feel they are following a visionary? Still feel they are following someone with a vision?
There were attempts to turn around, to stage a mutiny and to let fear take over.
What Columbus did, to quell this, was to keep two sets of record books. The logs of the actual distance they traveled, and the logs of what he told the crew…
“In order to mollify his crew’s apprehensions, Columbus kept two sets of logs: one showing the true distance traveled each day and one showing a lesser distance. The first log was kept secret. The latter log quieted the crew’s anxiety by under-reporting the true distance they had traveled from their homeland.”
The lesson here is, that if you share too much with your team, you may cause anxiety, even if they tell you that “they can handle the truth.” On the other hand, if you share too little, you will let the rumor-mill do its thing, which will swirl truths, half-truths and complete fiction and lies. So you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
My personal advice is, tell the truth, only the truth, and pick who you tell it to. Otherwise, your own self-confidence may deteriorate, as over time your team may get to close to you, and thus, will not see you for who you are.
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