The Insiders Guide To The Dark Side

You’ve had those moments. So have I. You desperately want a leadership do-over, but it’s too late. It’s out there – your dark side in all it’s glory.

“Powerful you have become. The dark side I sense in you.”
~ Yoda

You hear yourself apologizing: “I just wasn’t myself.” Don’t be too sure. “I never act like that.” Yes, you just did. Your evil twin’s an excellent teacher.

Listen well to what your dark side has to say.

 A Lesson From My Dark Side

I like to think of myself as a caring leader, yoga woman, introspective, positive, working to develop others. So why was I screaming at this manager from another department? I’d completely lost it. That wasn’t really me. Or was it?

It was MY values that triggered the response. It was MY exhaustion that wore down my filters. Was the manager arrogant and closed minded? Oh yeah. Was I right in defending against the racial prejudice clearly at play? Yup. But I was the one swinging the figurative punches. He stayed calm. Dark side 1. Values 0. No cause advanced by my reaction.

I’ll never forget the incident that plunged me into a deeper understanding of my values and how I respond. Sure I regret my stupidity, but my fight against “bad leadership” now shines a bit clearer.

4 Lessons From Your Dark Side

Your dark side comes bearing gifts. Lean into your stupidity to understand your pain.

  1. Conflicting Internal Goals – When your dark side shocks you, look for signs of internal conflict. Distressed hearts yearn for deeper focus. Consider your competing priorities and options.
  2. Values – When your dark side takes wheel, check for squashed values in the rear view mirror. Look for patterns. Ugly reactions signal what you care about most deeply. Passion is good– even better when managed productively. Values don’t translate well through tantrums and other mishaps. Take time to understand your ugliest moments, and work to reframe them for good. Apologize and talk carefully about what drove the reaction. Dive deeper into the muck to find deeper meaning and connection.
  3. Triggers – Face it, sometimes your evil twin just overreacts. Know your triggers, and see them for what they are. Learn your patterns and ways to cope. Take a break. Walk away. Use your dark side to teach you patience, compassion, and understanding.
  4. Balance – Everyone’s looks and acts a bit uglier when exhausted. You can fake it for a while, but sooner or later tired and cranky brings out the dark side. Your inner witch may just be your body’s way of telling you it’s time to rest. Listen.

The Simplest Way To Hear The Best Stories

Everyday your team is doing great work. Sometimes you miss their stories. Some folks will go home and tell their stories around the dinner table. Others can’t, or simply won’t. Don’t let stories go unheard, or untold. Find ways for them to share impactful adventures.

Story Listening Made Easy

I lead a remote team, scattered across 3 time zones in 25 locations. It’s impossible for me to scratch the surface of all the good work going on. Once a month we carve out time to share stories.

Each of my directors nominates one or two team members who’ve been up to something great, along with a few notes, focusing on the behaviors that are leading to success. Those nominees then are invited to a “kudos with Karin” call. Just a dozen or so storytellers and me (we skip all the layers in between). No prep required.

I set the stage, and go down the list. I share the highlights of their story as I understand it; what they’ve contributed, and the positive behaviors that led to success. Then I turn the table, and ask the honoree to share “their side of the story.” What they’re most proud of. Why it worked. Best practices they would highlight.

Almost always, their story includes why it’s an OUR story, a group effort, and more names are thrown into the mix for follow-up. The storytelling blossoms with interactive energy. Their story becomes a FUTURE story of possibilities. Folks call one another off-line to learn more. We learn through collaboration.

I then ask, is there anything else exciting happening personally or professionally you would like to share with the group? More stories emerge: going back to school, babies, graduations, substantial weight loss. The energy lights up a notch and this remote group feels even more connected.

The Difference

Traditional recognition is vital. But it usually goes one way. We receive the nomination, share highlights, present the plaque, applaud and move on.

Try turning tables and be a story listener.

Respond. Cull out themes and common behaviors. Let the recognition emerge naturally from the storytelling. No fuss. No plaques. Just a great feeling on a Friday afternoon. And another story for them to share around the dinner table.

Why Connections Will Change Your Life

I raced for the airport parking shuttle, threw my bag on the rack and collapsed in the seat. The hectic schlep is too familiar. The stranger next to me smiled, “How’d it go?” Ugh, what’s this guy want? What ever he’s selling, I don’t need.

I’ve been on that shuttle many times texting, returning calls, trying to remember if there was anything in the fridge to cook for dinner. The last thing on my mind is connecting. But for some reason, I played along.

I opened my heart and shared:

“Actually, quite well. I work in the call center space, and connection and empathy is fundamental. I saw more of that on this trip. I think they’re getting it. I also write a leadership blog and more people are engaging. The momentum is exciting”

His connection energized my thinking. I suddenly felt better about the progress. I took a shot. “Did you make the sale?” He laughed and beamed, “sure did.” And then he went on, “but I’m worried.

I’m in healthcare and the entire landscape is changing. I’ve been in this field forever, but may need to change. I’m not sure how I’ll replicate the income and my kids are still small. It’s all I’ve known.”

I felt sudden compassion for this stranger. This fleeting connection mattered. The 7 1/2 minute conversation energized us both. No cards exchanged. No romantic intentions. No next steps. No asks. Just two tired strangers offering the gift of connection. Next week, I’ll take that shuttle again with connections on my mind.

Creating Powerful Connections

Connections aren’t just for the people we love or those we lead. You can influence small corners of the world through fleeting connections.

  • Look up
  • Open your heart
  • Trust more
  • Ask
  • Share
  • Respond

Where have you found joy in random connections? To whom can you offer that gift?