The Roles We Perform.
We each play many roles – employee, parent, manager, partner, colleague, volunteer, and others. We often play multiple roles throughout any given day, and during this pandemic, in which our work, relationships and home life fuse chaotically together, we may play various roles within the same minute.
How do we define what success looks like in each role? We carry preset notions around how a good performer should act, then correspondingly display selected parts of our personality while dampening or silencing other parts. We often cater to concepts around how we should act, aligning our performances with how we believe success should look.
In my early 20s, I was constantly trying to figure out how to act. As the only woman investment banker on our team, I pondered how I should project myself to be taken most seriously. Do I stride in using excessively large steps, trying unheroically to enlarge my 5’3” frame in order to appear confident? I sometimes worked 100 hours a week so I was always seen in the office because I thought that was what a good employee was supposed to do. Eventually, I became stressed and exhausted from trying to put on a phenomenal daily performance.
Performing to who we think we are supposed to be causes anxiety and can lead to burnout. When I first became a CEO, I had a pre-formed idea of how a good CEO should be, including thinking one always has the answers, knows every subject matter cold, and hilariously, can see how things will turn out.
When I became less concerned with playing the role, and migrated to being me, I was able to approach our company culture differently. As I grew more open and vulnerable, the more my capable and talented team was able to drive, and the more successful we became.
Instead of defining what a good performance looks like and acting it out, maybe it makes sense to start at the other end by being a ‘good you’ first. Throw out a vision and invite others to improve upon it. Get comfortable with being wrong as it will happen often. We feel less anxiety and burnout when we stop trying to perform according to how we assume we are supposed to look. We may even learn to appreciate ourselves and each other more, and what is better than that?
Deana is the former CEO of Torn Ranch, a specialty foods company serving the hospitality market. She lives in the Bay Area with her two spirited young children and two large fluffy dogs. And, she’s coming to MEA Baja as a student this fall.