The Spy and the Duchess

Two pieces of pop culture media have really influenced me this weekend. One was a Hollywood movie and the other was an interview with the Duchess of Sussex.

First, the movie – ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’, starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon. Released in 2018, you can currently catch it on ‘Stan’. It’s hardly Oscar worthy, a bit of silly with a dollop of comedy. The storyline focuses on two friends with unexciting lives who accidentally find themselves embroiled in international espionage and danger. As you’d expect, they always seem to find a way through the tough spots. Mila Kunis was the main draw-card, but it was Kate McKinnon’s character, ‘Morgan’, who resonated with me.

A key element of Morgan’s character is that she is eccentric with a touch of crazy. Her quirkiness and unusual level of self-confidence to give even the strangest things a go makes her funny and enjoyable to watch. There is a scene when Morgan is talking to someone and he tells her she is “too much”. The way he delivers the line, and her seemingly lack of reaction to it, is like a sucker punch to the gut. The silence that lingers afterwards is awkward and almost painful for the audience. Those two words carry so much judgement and hurtfulness. Morgan retells the story to her friend with a mask of nonchalance, declaring it didn’t matter and she is fine, although you can see clearly she was affected by the words he callously threw to her.

Second, the interview – a short clip of an interview with the Duchess of Sussex where she is asked by the interviewer about how the recent negative press about her has affected her. She replies, saying how vulnerable pregnant women, new mothers, newlyweds can be when they are in a process of change and it would be challenging for all. But the interviewer presses on, reminding Meghan she didn’t answer the question, and asks again if she is struggling mentally. Close to tears, she replies ‘Yes’. Like her or not, Meghan is a constant target of a barrage of criticisms for the silliest of things – her clothes, her weight, holding her husband’s hand in public, her nail polish, her father, her nationality, her heritage….

The connection between these two pieces of media for me is the impact we have on others – sometimes without realising it, yet other times with intent. As leaders of teams, we know have a direct impact on the work related actions of others through team conferences, work plans, 1:1 feedback meetings etc. We need to also be conscious of the potential impact we have on the personal thoughts, self-confidence, esteem and worth of others too. A throw away statement right here can have a large impact over there. A small comment about something miniature can begin to spiral into feeling a lack of self-worth and confidence later.

Now let’s add in that most incident management teams come together last minute, in areas they are not familiar with, most often having never met each other before. Phew… It’s a lot to juggle.

There’s no need to walk on egg shells though, or overthink every tiny thing you say – it’s counterproductive to over-analyse yourself to that extent. Rather, scaffold the vulnerableness of your team with unstructured, constructive and encouraging words about their strengths. Keep it simple and make a point to stop next to someone on the way from the tea room to your desk and give them compliment. Send an email on Friday afternoon to someone in your team thanking them for something they did or contributed to that week. Let’s be actively conscious that praise and positive reinforcement is the best salve for a hidden wound.

The MindShift Foundation has some great resources to support employers and leaders foster self-worth in their teams. You can read their tips at:

Click to access 19-Self-Worth-For-Employers.pdf

What’s the best or worst comment/piece of feedback you’ve ever received that still resonates with you today?

Image: Wallpaper Abyss

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