A few days ago I received a message from my little sister. She heard I was about to release a new eBook and she wanted to know why I hadn’t told her about it myself.
Just this past weekend, Teresa and I went out for a glass of wine after the little kids went to bed. I shared with her some of the different projects that I’m currently working on and why I was so excited about them. It hit me that I had had many of these conversations with coworkers weeks before.
Unfortunately, both of these are par for the course. I’m simply not the communicator at home that I am in the office.
Communication is essential to professional success. All leaders are taught to communicate “7 times in 7 different ways.” Yet, no matter how deliberate we are about communicating our corporate strategy, these best practices don’t always seem to take root in the rest of lives.
If communication is so essential for corporate wellbeing, shouldn’t we assume that it’s at least as critical for optimizing our familial relationships?
As I’ve examined my own motivations, I’ve discovered four obstacles to personal communication that I need to overcome. Hopefully, my sharing them will help you see similar struggles in your life and give you the motivation to strive to overcome them.
At work, what I’m working on impacts the team. At home, what I’m working on is all about me.
Those that lead with humble confidence rarely communicate to the team in order to build up themselves. In fact, many of us are a bit self-deprecating. As leaders we tend to give the credit but take the bullet. We share information to lead and inspire. We seek alignment and we passionately communicate in order to empower others and for the sake of the team.
With my family, it’s easy to feel as though my communication about work is all about me. Frankly, while I’m passionate about my work, I don’t like talking about myself. Somehow, sharing what I’m working on seems too self-centered.
At work, I want to be respected as a leader. At home, I want to be loved for who I am.
I’m fairly intentional about living in a manner consistent with who I am. I strive to be the same person regardless of whether I’m at the office or the ballpark. I am who I am, and living with integrity means being true to myself. I try to do what I say and say what I do – consistently, in all aspects of my life.
But just because I’m the same person doesn’t mean that people don’t perceive me in different ways. There are many perspectives of the same object. The farmer sees the cornfield in a wildly different manner than the airline pilot flying overhead. The farmer sees corn stalks, soil, and yield. The pilot sees landmarks, patterns, and grids. It’s the same cornfield, but a different perspective.
At work, I want to be seen as a respected leader. I want people to know who I am, see where we’re going, and understand that there’s a plan. At home, I just want to be David; I just want to be Dad.
At work, I need to be always on. At home, I need permission to turn off.
Passion drives me. While I am a logical thinker, I’m an emotional leader. I make the majority of my decisions by investigating the facts and applying logic. I communicate these decisions with genuine enthusiasm and deeply held conviction.
It’s nearly impossible to be “on” all the time. Dr. Bill Thierfelder, an Olympic athlete and world-renowned sports psychologist who has worked with numerous professional athletes, talks about the need to “turn it off.” He explains that the levels of focus and intensity required to perform at your absolute highest levels is simply unsustainable. You will literally kill yourself if you stay that hyped all the time, which is why athletes learn to turn it on and turn it off “between the white lines.”
I’m the same way. When I’m on, I’m all the way on. But I’ve also learned to shut down and recharge my batteries. While I find it exhilarating to share a vision at the office, I find it exhausting to share it when I’m at home. When I’m with my family, I simply think differently. I want to relax and enjoy their presence.
At work, I engage. At home, I process.
I’ve learned to engage with people and fool a lot of people into thinking that I’m an extrovert. I’m not. To the contrary, I’m actually a pretty strong introvert. In fact, I often get lost in my own thoughts, sometimes even in the middle of a conversation and often even while I’m sleeping. My wheels simply don’t stop spinning and I need time to let them go.
I need time to process, think, and ponder. Having time to think through challenges, strategize, and find solutions is essential to my well-being. I find that the best times to let my mind fly are when I don’t have to be “always on.” I’ve developed a habit, for better or for worse, of forcing myself to show extroverted tendencies when I’m in a professional setting and allowing my mind to fly when I’m at home.
In other words, it often doesn’t cross my mind to communicate when I’m with family. I simply get lost in my own head. I’m deep in thought.
How good are you at communicating your professional life to your family and friends? Do you struggle to be deliberate in communicating to your family about your professional life? Have you found techniques that might help me overcome these challenges?