How do you react to this? By trying to justify and show tangible results of the projects you lead, and the work you do? You can try, but the reality is that you will inevitably end up wearing the cone of shame around your neck for the next year or so as your leadership is brought into doubt by someone who happens to have the power to send out the ripple effect of this far and wide.
Do you react by arguing and trying to change the outcome? By walking away from the situation you feel you have no control over? It’s a damned hard place to be in, and one most of us encounter at one time or another in our long leadership journey.
When we were out on a hike one balmy mosquito filled summer day, Ben, our big black lab, did the Olympic time winning sprint to the lake, dove in, and cut his foot on a piece of glass some moron had thrown in the water. It didn't slow him down because if you know labs, the only thing that slows them down is a big dose of anesthetic and even that is temporary.
We wrapped his foot and he proudly tore off the wrapping and brought it to us; we put big Band-Aids on it and he danced a crazy hilarious dance until he chewed them off and promptly swallowed them. So, it was back to the city and to the vet. A few stitches and we were good to go. Except for the cone. The vet said most dogs don't mind it and it will allow the wound to heal properly. Oh yeah. We got home and it was like a tornado banging through the house. Doorways are ample width to allow a cone wearing dog through, but he managed to literally bounce off doorways and walls. Small tables were sacrificed and bowled over like ten pins.
Ah, the cone of shame. We can take note from Ben. He shows us how to proudly wear the cone and some handy little tricks. Like the skill of standing on your shiny black tip toe nails, balancing the cone on the toilet seat and stretching, really stretching your neck to get a good drink of fresh flushed toilet water. Oh yeah, rocking it out with the cone.
Chew off the bandages of the wounds from encounters you have no control over. Tear off the wrappings of hearing opinions you cannot change and have to live with. Bounce the cone around your neck hitting the walls of meetings, of projects and conversations. Then move into the acceptance (with some grief) stage. This does not mean to acquiesce and accept what is ever wrong, or unfair criticism, but to move on past it and acknowledge what you simply will never be able to change. The very hard part, but it is an essential part of being a leader for your teams being able to move forward and realize that sometimes you just need to eat the Brussels sprouts even when you hate them, and file the letters and conversations away.
It’s not so bad. In fact, stretch and see how you can balance your cone on the edges of the corporate toilet seats in order to get the fresh water. Might be some marks on the walls where you test your cone and that’s part of the process. Pay close attention to the tricks you can learn and the motivation you can find even while wearing the cone of shame. It’s there. Remember, the cone is temporary and is prescribed as part of the healing process.