Here’s a question for you.

Should you be the hero of your own story?

When you describe your career, your job, your function, do you talk about it in a way that makes you the focus of that story? Imagine yourself in an interview. Are you imagining yourself talking about what YOU did? Are you telling the story in a way in which people would walk away knowing YOU were the hero? Does your story clearly paint you as the prime mover – the cause of success? It proabably does. That’s what we expect in interviews. Blow your own horn right?

But maybe that is the opposite of what we should be looking for when we want to hire someone to drive greater outputs and greater engagement. Maybe being the hero of our own story is the opposite of what we want as a leader.iron man

I asked the question because in my mind a great manager is somebody who cares about their employees to the point that they are almost totally focused on their employees’ success and not their own. In my career as a manager I have always experienced the best results from and for my team, and for my company, by focusing on THEIR goals not mine. By focusing on being the hero in our own success story – are we training employees to focus so much on what they do and how they have impact, that we are actually hurting their long-term success as a leader?

As an example if an interviewer were to ask me about a time where I had made a difference in an organization I wouldn’t talk about sales goals achieved, honors earned, etc. I would probably talk about how I took a team of individuals who felt put upon and marginalized by the organization and helped them find their reason for being, helped them find new careers help them drive better client outcomes. I’d talk about how that team then became the elite team in the department. That may sound like I’m making myself the hero of the story, but in fact what I’m trying to communicate is the team was the hero. The individuals on the team were the heros of the story. I think it shows more focus on what they were doing and not so much on me being a catalyst for getting there.

Some may say that that that’s a distinction without a difference. But I think there’s a huge difference in telling a story about how your team achieve a goal because you were helpful, versus telling the interviewer how you personally turned around the department and made your team more valuable to the organization.

I think you get further, especially in employee engagement space, by making sure that everybody else becomes the hero of the story and that you take second chair.

I’m curious if the last time you interviewed somebody were you more impressed with people who spoke about what they said they did personally, or were you more impressed with people who talked about the team and how they enabled and enhanced the team in pursuit of company objectives?

Ultimately I want to tell the story of my career so that there are 100 heroes in the story, the least of which would be me.

Others, want their story to be a list of 100 things they accomplished alone.

I like my version better. I think most companies would too.

What about you? Are you working on a story of 100 heroes or a single one?