Louie was not having it. He planted all four paws on the floor and would not move an inch. His face let me know he was not pleased. At all.
“Louie,” I said sternly as I tried to squeeze his 40 pounds of muscle where it didn’t want to go. “This is only for two hours, if that. Surely you can oblige me.”
I sat back and stared at him, exasperated. For the last few Halloweens, I’ve donned a Cruella de Vil look and spent the evening with my grandchildren. This year I thought it would be fun to take Louie along in a Dalmatian outfit. Except there were no Dalmatian costumes for dogs. The closest thing I could find was a child’s costume for a spotted cow.
I had imagined how it would turn out. Louie might not share my enthusiasm for this creative costume. But he’d forget all about it when he set eyes on my granddaughters, Evi and Mea. He’d jump out of the car and happily trot with them along the street, greeting other children, trying to get a peek into their candy loot. I just knew Louie would have more fun than he could imagine if he could just push through wearing a silly cow outfit and look as much like a Dalmatian as he could.
I also imagined it would make a great blog lesson: all about pressing through uncomfortable situations to enjoy the outcome. Sounds good, right?
BEING SOMEONE WE’RE NOT
But none of that happened. Yes, Lou was happy to see Evi and Mea. He did enjoy it when other children came up to love on him. But he hated his costume and was mad at me the entire time. He wouldn’t even pose for a picture, and believe me, that’s not like him.
I finally took the costume off and let him be Louie.
Too often we find ourselves being something we don’t want to be. Maybe it’s of our own doing — because we think we need to fit in, and it requires being someone “different.” But often it’s because someone else expects us to be different than what we are.
Maybe it’s a negative thing: a boss requires us to be something based on their own insecurities. Or maybe it’s positive: a leader sees potential in us that we don’t see or can even imagine, and they want to coach us to be better.
No matter the reason, we resist because it is uncomfortable to be something we are not. We don’t want to don a costume and fake it.
CAN’T MAKE ANYONE CHANGE
It’s tough to balance being authentic and at the same time develop beyond mediocrity toward excellence. It can feel like donning a facade and “faking it till we make it.” What should leaders do to help folks grow?
If you’re in a position of leadership, you can suggest someone continue to develop. You can provide tools, mentoring, and ongoing training. But you can’t make them be something they don’t want to be. Each person is responsible for taking that first step to wanting to make significant changes in their lives.
Still, there are ways to influence those in whom you see potential. For example:
- Watch to see whether the person shows an eagerness to learn and grow, i.e., reading books and asking for help.
- Ask them where do they see themselves going? What is their end goal?
- Share with them what potential you see in them.
- Be sure your expectations align with their skillset and desires.
- If their end goal and desires outweigh their skillset, place them on a realistic development plan and be clear about expectations.
GREATER THAN THEY IMAGINE
When Louie and I arrived back home, he was one tired pup. He slinked upstairs to his little bed to lay down. His expression told me he was still traumatized by the costume. But as I knelt down to give him a kiss, I looked into his eyes and saw a little spark.
It was a look that said, “If you are trying to make me be something different than who I am, at least make me a lion!”
And with that, he tucked his head into the fold of his front paw and fell fast asleep. No doubt, that evening he dreamt of being a lion.