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Name It!

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I enjoy telling true stories and usually avoid giving names because these stories are so real you might know who the story is about.  To that end, I will give you made-up names and fictitious businesses but the stories are very true and all end up in the power of ‘Naming It.’ If I do my job, you will start to see that sometimes it is the easiest things that really make the difference.

“It” is the issue, problem, concern, idea or simple feeling we have while we ramble, get emotional and spin into endless POP psychological or self-therapy. When someone does not succeed, the normal Emotional Intelligence defense force comes to the rescue to tell us that others, circumstances, and the constellations are in cahoots to seal our fate.  Now, that is pretty normal if you ask me.  I’ve done it and don’t know too many of you out there that have not experienced it firsthand.  The problem is that, if you linger just a little bit too long in this dark and out of your control place, it has a lasting effect.  First, you will start to believe you are a failure at some point and, second and even more importantly for your work, others will see you dodge and be sad for you or get seriously frustrated with you.  Over time your credibility will go down. 

Story of Bryant

Bryant is an aspiring senior manager who has been given an opportunity to be that senior manager that he aspires to be.  He has been given development opportunities, a mentor, time, and a team of other aspiring leaders who have a vested interest in his success.  Pretty neat, huh?  Very neat, and best of all, Bryant is willing to put in the work to win his success.  Everyone is rooting for Bryant.

Three month in, Bryant’s colleagues are all looking at developmental plans they have created and checking off the successes.  Meetings are taking place that will enable these aspiring seniors to off load delegated work so they can be more strategic, cross department communications are abundant, teams are pulling together in the interest of their aspiring senior manager and even more people are being identified for future opportunities.  Sounds pretty good, huh?  It is pretty good, but Bryant is not keeping up.

For some reason Bryant is struggling with the intangible items with leadership like motivating others, thinking around corners, building lasting relationships and managing his boss.  Bryant is smart.  No, Bryant is very smart and a pound for pound hard worker.  Feedback sessions come and go and Bryant and his mentor think they have it and yet Bryant returns to doing things himself, not anticipating business needs, and working more and more hours to take on this additional burden of this aspiration.  Discussions go on, meetings are held, time is going by and one day the mentor says that maybe this is not for Bryant and has “that” meeting.  A timeline is agreed upon for Bryant to decide if he wants to continue or stop.  Bryant calls me on the phone and wants to talk.

Bryant shows up at our meeting and probably expects that he will leave with another list of things he needs to do to “make it.”  Instead, we talk about how he is feeling, what his life is like, and how his family is reacting.  As if someone let the air out of a very big balloon, Bryant explains that he is feeling lousy and that is not getting better.  He is concerned about his health.  His spouse is furious at his employer and as he looks up at me with red rimmed eyes there is a look of desperation as he says, “I can’t do what they want me to do.” 

Bryant named it.  No blame, no guilt, no shame.  Just relief.  Questions now became easy and Bryant discussed his health, home life and hopes.  Our conversation was easy and we discussed his next meeting with his mentor and, knowing he had time, was going to go back and think.  To think, not about how he was going to “make it”, but how he was going to look at what others might consider his failure, how he would cope knowing that he couldn’t do what he thought he wanted to do. To think about if he should stay or leave the organization.  You see, he had “named it.”

So, if you are sitting out there reading this and feel like Bryant failed, allow me to respectfully disagree with you, kind reader.  In fact, Bryant succeeded in my mind by admitting that he was not the guy for this role and not allowing it to impact how he saw himself as a man.  All of you Bryants out there will be just fine.  I worry more about those who take spots in their job lives because they feel pressure to “succeed” and have a limited definition.  These are the folks whose health is suffering because of the stress they are under, and hate their jobs but make too much money to leave. These are people who miss life because they are chasing some carrot that, when they finally catch it, will be disappointing.  Not everyone can do everything and that has to be ok.

So what is the morale to my story?  Brene Brown first inspired me in a video when she said that we should “name things.”  Sounds simple but it has a much deeper meaning for me.  If you are like me, you have spent countless hours talking, listening, and watching people fight with their own brand of justification for why the things seemingly out of their control are impacting their lives. 

If you are too heavy and feel bad, you probably eat too much.

If you are tired and can’t seem to concentrate, you might not be getting enough sleep.

If you feel like you are not giving enough time to your children, say, “I need to do better” and then do it.

Ok, enough of that.  Please get out and enjoy spring in Maine and enjoy your families and friends. Live a lot, laugh a lot and please love a lot. Life is short.  There…I named it!!

5 (2)


Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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Always thought provoking. A great example of how to get to clarity for ourselves when things seem out of our control. "Naming it" works.


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