One of the things that fascinates me is listening to people talk about small towns. In Texas, we have our fair share of small towns. But here’s the tricky thing: not everyone shares the definition of a “small town.”
Don’t believe me, try it. If I were to walk up to people in my current town of 23,000 and ask if they think we are living in a small town, I think many would say yes.
If you ask me, my answer would be different. This is actually the second largest town I’ve ever lived in, and I grew up in a town of 500. And no, that’s not a typo–there are only two zeroes after that five.
So, which is right? Is 500 a small town, or is 23,000 a small town? Can they both be small towns? At 500 are you supposed to change it from town to village? Is 23,000 a small city? Is it a large town?
Here lies one of the biggest struggles I see in leadership time and again – a lack of shared definitions. We get in a room with a group of people and start talking about a subject, presuming agreement on basic terms, and realize (or sometimes don’t) we are talking apples and oranges.
Have you ever asked a group of people what “deep” means? Chances are in a group of five people, you’ll get six different answers (how’s that for deep?).
Or, how about the way you express emotions. I would say I’m more reserved and intense, but to some people that comes across as detached and angry. I have had times where I thought I was having a wonderful discussion with someone only to find out later our relationship was negatively affected because of our lack of shared definitions.
Learning to navigate the tricky waters of varied definitions provides a very difficult challenge for leadership. But until we get people on the same page, you will find very often the battles you face find their roots in this principle.
What struggles or battles are you facing because of a lack of shared definitions? What adjustments can you make to get on the same page moving forward? Are you willing to do it?