Ordinary Joe and Parallel Stories
I’ve become obsessed after only two episodes of the new NBC show Ordinary Joe.
In it, the main character Joe has three choices in front of him on his college graduation day: spend the day with Amy, a girl he just met; spend it with Jenny, a girl he’s known for a while; or spend it with his family. Then his life is depicted in three parallel stories of what might have happened had he chosen each of the three options.
Essentially Joe gets to live out the ‘what ifs’ of the decisions he could have made on that one day in his life.
It’s thought-provoking to watch the good/the bad/the ugly of each scenario, and the story lines reinforce an important idea: every day, without fail, we are met with decisions to make, options from which we get to choose, and the positive and negative consequences of said decisions.
Effective decision making goes hand in hand with effective leadership, and while leaders make multiple decisions in the course of a day, many, if not all, of us collide face first into the ‘What if I had…’ doubts when those decisions don’t result in smooth outcomes.
Such was the case for my client Suzanne. A challenge she shared in one of our coaching sessions reminded me of Ordinary Joe and those parallel stories the episodes depict. (Names in this scenario have been changed for the privacy of those involved.)
The Back Story
Suzanne had owned her business for five years, and she enjoyed incremental increases in client acquisition and revenue each year. Then, as a result of some improvements she put in place, her business took off, and she found herself on the Rapid Growth Roller Coaster.
After some sleepless nights and constant worrying about how she’d keep up with the growth, Suzanne relaxed and focused on hiring the right people; systematizing processes; and continuing to exceed client expectations.
Her team of four employees expanded to twenty over just a few months. And Suzanne got to flex her decision-making muscle every single day.
One day Jack, an employee who had been with the company since the very beginning, walked into Suzanne’s office with a resignation letter in hand.
Suzanne listened as Jack described his frustration with Candace, a member of his team who had been with the company for several months.
Jack shared that Candace had begun frequently arriving late to work; she didn’t accept constructive feedback well; and she wasn’t helpful with newer employees who were still learning the intricacies of the job. His attempts to coach, guide, and lead her were falling flat, and he’d had enough.
His frustration didn’t end with Candace, though. Jack felt overworked, overwhelmed, and undervalued.
Suzanne realized she’d been trying so hard to keep everything afloat, she hadn’t been the leader she wanted to be.
She found herself in an Ordinary Joe kind of position and knew there were many options for how this scenario could play out.
Jack could finish his final two weeks and move on to his next opportunity, thus leaving an open management position to fill.
Candace could also leave the company either by choice or request.
Suzanne could increase the frequency and improve the format of the one-to-one manager meetings she’d begun at the start of the Rapid Growth Roller Coaster ride.
Jack could be offered leadership coaching to assist him with managing his team members, his workload, and his stress level.
The company could begin a mentoring program where seasoned employees are paired with those who are newer for guidance, training, and camaraderie.
The What Ifs
The five possible options shared above were not Suzanne’s only ideas. In fact, she emailed me the day after our coaching session with several more she’d created.
She also noticed that with every idea she created her brain took her to the land of ‘what ifs’:
- What if Jack leaves, and we don’t find an exceptional replacement for him and the expertise he brings to his work?
- What if he stays and doesn’t enjoy his role?
- What if I’m just not meant to lead a company that’s grown so much?
- What if Candace leaves the company and bashes us online?
- What if she stays and her troubling behaviors continue?
- What if the mentoring program flops and employees rush to leave the company and our clients no longer want to do business with us?
- What if…
- What if…
- What if…
The ‘what ifs’ came as quickly as the creative options Suzanne generated.
Of course they did.
Your brain will always be happy to deliver the ‘what ifs’.
Just like Joe in Ordinary Joe, you’ll wonder how you might be better off if you’d have chosen option B over option A.
The good news is the leader inside of you gets to override those ‘what if’ doubts.
You get to strengthen your decision-making muscle every single day and then follow up your decisions with belief that you’re moving forward in the best possible manner.
For Suzanne, what she realized—her big takeaway—in all of this was that she had become a strong, innovative, relentless decision maker who didn’t let leadership obstacles take her down.
She knew they’d continue to show up. She knew she’d make decisions for those obstacles. She knew the ‘what if’ doubts would pop up sometime after her decisions had been made.
And she knew her business would continue to succeed and grow when she didn’t allow those ‘what ifs’ to take her down.
- What decisions have you made in your role as a leader that bring up ‘what if’ doubts for you?
- How can you commit to those decisions with full belief that they will help you achieve the results you most want?
- Why is it important to you to override the ‘what if’ doubts you have?