Thomas Kuhn says that what people hold to be true is often a reflection of convenience, self-esteem, and familiarity… as much as “relevance”.

This is very important to understand as a team leader AND a team member. We do not see things as they are, but as we are (Anais Ninn). Whenever we speak about someone negatively (usually behind their backs because we lack bravery and respect) the story is often more a reflection of our emotions than of the events themselves (the events are essentially supporting our emotions). We of course deceive ourselves and others into thinking we are being objective and simply defining pure and unadulterated events. Our listeners often buy what we are saying because it also tends to be convenient to them – as well.

It is always convenient for someone ELSE to be talked about negatively, because for those few moments we are safe and can make it seem like we would have never done that. When we are outside the arena (onlookers, or those who do not have to make the decisions, often from a couch or a desk), we always think we are smarter and stronger in some way; then combine that with hindsight 20/20 – where you gently tell your ego that you ‘knew that that wasn’t a good decision’ or could ‘sense that it wouldn’t work’, often with a sudden flare of self-confidence granted by hindsight.

Brene Brown says that many people lead (at whichever level) from a place of hurt and smallness, and ‘they use their position of [relative] power to try to fill that self-worth gap’. She says that we tend to work our ‘shit out on other people’. In some ways this is true, your mood and sense of self plays enormously on how you treat and think about people around you. Humans project their feelings and attitudes on other people all day long. We take something that was done (an event) – which we observed, let’s say this is the “what”, then we start telling stories of “the event” and fill-in (using the magic of presumption) the intentionality for our listeners. But an act is meaningless without the intent(s). And only the actor really knows the intention of their act. But regardless, we tell stories about events and then invent the intentionality based on our own convictions, emotions, and especially conveniences.

Any actor (a team leader or a team member) being spoken of was in the arena and made decisions based on limited information and a whole series of thoughts, feelings, gut-feeling assessments, historical precedence, fears, anxieties, perhaps even traumas, moral or religious conviction, etc. All these things combined uniquely to create a very complex intentionality. This is why, in conclusion, one must always engage as much as possible directly with the actor and seek to understand intensions.

Two females gossiping in office

Why is a thousand times more important than what in comprehension. This is why the historian Richardson says, ‘to condemn much, is to understand little’ and ‘to understand all, is to forgive all’. Always try to remember these last two proverbs when you hear yourself and others speak about things with no access to intentionality or the actor’s true context (actor = the one being spoken about).

We often look at our history with the same enormous condescension – from outside the arena, not feeling the wind, the rain, the exhaustion, the fear, the confusion, the adrenaline, the thousands thoughts and feelings, with access to limited and specific information bouncing off a complex and fallibly human assessment process… in a given time and space unique to all time and space before and after).

This FFT is a longwinded way of disarming the power of storytelling and hearsay in organizations. As a team leader or team member, have the bravery and respect to speak directly to those being spoken about. Everyone goes to bed at times justifying their actions with intentionality – not actually thinking that they are evil, unintelligent, and or incapable human beings. The story-teller always seems to be the smart one, the vigilant one, the moral one… how convenient… and how small.