Tall tales of big ambitions and small parcels
I seem to always hear tales of woe. From ambitious people who jumped from company to company, from start-up to bank, from bank to start-up, from country to country or team to team expecting a bigger break, a bigger opportunity, a greater chance to shine. And for whatever reason didn’t quite find it there, waiting for them, ready to be claimed and worn like a crown.
Not sure if the world is full of discontents or there is something about my face that says, “ye shall find understanding here”. Because if there is, it is misleading.
I don’t understand. I don’t sympathise.
Nothing is ever perfect.
Nothing ever lives up to its own promise. Not entirely on its own.
You always have to meet things more than halfway to get them to work out for you.
So I ask. When I hear tall tales of frustrated ambition and inadequate leadership. Opportunities missed and conditions that failed to deliver the goods.
Did you bring with you what it takes to succeed?
Did you notice what else was there? Who else was there?
Or was it just about you?
Did you roll up your sleeves, or did you hold out your hands?
Gender-agnostic mean girls and false prophets
For an inclusive authentic love-in of an industry, there is a lot of low-level venom sloshing about in our space and you know it. So and so is not talking to so and so. Folks falling out and making up. People having pointless twitter spats and sharing entirely unnecessary remarks about other folks with third parties making high school feel like it never ended.
But more to the point.
We are a chattering industry.
And when talking about our work, our achievements, our ambitions, be it influencers, startup founders or big corporate spokespeople, three things become ubiquitous:
- it’s nothing but success, all the time;
- although nobody says I, the team is almost always invisible (not so everywhere and, to be fair, the polyphony and visibility of the wider team was one of the reasons I joined the 11:FS gang, but mostly the industry is made up of infallible lone heroes);
- and the ambition is huge. Everyone’s. Always. Mission to Mars levels of huge.
Nobody ever wants to just survive or learn. Live to fight another day. Oh no. They are there to take on dragons and rewrite history.
And then issue a smart bond to great fanfare and buy it themselves and hope nobody notices.
We noticed. (Too soon?)
Why don’t we tell the real story? The full story.
Why don’t we share the podium? With the team.
Why don’t we speak of ambition in its actual size? Complete with fears and competing priorities? Small enough to be digested, big enough to confuse and scare. It doesn’t always take much.
I know the answer. I know why we don’t. And so do you.
We do it partly because the world is listening and corporate comms have given very clear instructions on what can and can’t be said, where and by whom. Stick to the script and make it sound genuine. Approved spokespeople, approved story lines, appropriate scales. Things need to be vague, big and positive.
We do it because we think it works. We think it translates to influencer currency. We do it because we believe someone believes.
But what if the world has moved on and those types of corporate missives sound hollow and fake? And what if the market is thirsty to hear from the doers, not their slick front man. And what if the world would rather see “genuine” in the place of “big” when it comes to ambition?
I would say the world is ready.
It’s the discourse that isn’t there yet.
Mostly because, even though these public platforms are meant to be for companies and products they are mostly used by individuals.
Ambitious, hungry individuals building a reputation, preparing their next jump. Failures are not mentioned because this is an ad campaign, not an ecosystem forum. The team are not visible, because this is a placement, not a celebration. And the ambition they served has to sound big because, hey, that may be what sizes their next job. And they want that to be big.
Those who get too wrapped up in themselves make for small parcels
I read that somewhere recently and it is so damn true.
There is nothing wrong with accelerating your career. With using your success to build and grow not just your business but also your own future. Nothing wrong with that. But as always, the how matters.
Here’s a crazy idea.
Give insight and advice.
Don’t just share incredible stories of unqualified success, share challenges and mistakes, errors and failures. Why you missed them, what you learned from them. What you didn’t learn. What you did about that.
Here’s another crazy idea.
Get your team to tell part of the story. Give them a platform, in front of customers, the market or the management. It will be good for your product, it will be good for their career and it will be good for you. Just not in a linear manner. And no, sending them to that panel you couldn’t make when you were on holiday doesn’t count. Nice try though.
Here’s a final crazy idea.
You want to project greatness, largesse in dream and ability. But all you end up projecting is ego and short-sightedness. The more wrapped up you are in yourself and the tight control of the message you land, the smaller that message is, the smaller the package that is you.
So when stepping in front of a client, in front of a future employer, senior management or an industry audience, try telling them a story that is not just about you. Try talking about what it takes to make things work. And how some times things don’t work despite all the effort and all the conditions being right.
Next time you get to tell a story, make it not about you. Make it not about perfection.
Make it authentic, make it true to what you know and and what you know your client or management or audience are trying to work out. Make it helpful rather than perfect. And watch the universe expand. And take you with it.
By Leda Glyptis
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption as CEO of 11:FS Foundry.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!