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  • Ian Gregory

METAPHORS: Words Are Important

Metaphors are the pictures we paint to describe how we think about things, so what words are you using to describe yours? If I said “how do you view life?”, would you say “Life’s a bitch and then you die”, “Life is a mystery”, or maybe “Life is a gift to be honored and treasured”. The words you use to paint those pictures are so very important because your brain will look for ways to prove your pictures correct and you will develop a belief system around your metaphors. Can you see how you might live differently, depending on how you viewed your life? Let’s take the metaphor to the workplace and ask how do you view your Job? Is your job your life, is it nose to the grindstone, boring and lifeless? Or is it a joy and a pleasure, a fulfilling challenge, a problem to be solved? Once again, your brain goes to work, trying desperately to prove you right and you become the kind of worker that befits the pictures you have painted and it’s all because the words you chose make a difference. It is why some people go to work eager and happy and wanting to make a difference, and why some literally have to drag themselves to work only hoping to make it through the week to get a paycheck. You know I was getting to leadership, so how do you view your employees? Do you think of them as lazy and unmotivated, rebels that try harder to get out of work than get to work, or how about idiots that have to be told how to do everything? What if you flipped the script and thought they were sponges just waiting to soak up your leadership lessons, or creative and intelligent beings that just need a little encouragement, or maybe (just maybe) geniuses that only need the box defined so they can stay within the rules and be great. Would your leadership change depending on your metaphor? Of course it would, so what is your choice? More importantly why is that your choice? Your expectations for your employees will depend on how you view them individually and as a group. Do you divide your employees into categories of gender, race, religion, age, etc and base your expectations on the biases you have formed? Do you take the time to find out their strengths and weaknesses and think about building your teams based on those assessments? Are your expectations different everyday according to your mood? It is important that you understand how your daily expectations make a huge impression on the workforce and daily activities, that simply by how you treat them, employees will give their all or give you next to nothing. Examine your metaphors for leadership. If you find that you’re comfortable with them and things are moving toward excellence, we salute you. But if you are struggling in areas, especially in areas where you are responsible for another person's growth, we suggest you change your metaphors. Take out your mental paintbrush (words) and paint yourself a different picture. We are all responsible for, and beholden to, those pictures, so paint or re-paint yourself a successful one.


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