I saw The King’s Speech on New Year’s Day. You’ll probably see the movie (about the efforts by King George VI, informally known as Bertie, to overcome a stutter around the time he ascended the throne following the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, who left to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson) described as one about stuttering, about royalty, about friendship, about conflicting and social status. It’s all of that and, to this Anglophile, more besides — a must-see that’s apparently the front runner for multiple Oscars.
But beneath all of that, deeper lessons become apparent. Here are the top three that struck me.
Masks tend to reveal as much as they cover. In other words, if you pretend to be that which you aren’t, cracks will show. Perhaps the real you won’t leak through the cracks, but fault lines will reveal all that is not as it appears to be. Bertie’s speech therapist Lionel Logue opined that no child is born with a stutter and that a left-handed child forced to write with his right hand will never find that motion to be natural.
From the business angle… so what? I’ve had the opportunity to coach professionals who feel they must wear a mask to work with colleagues or to attract clients. The “lucky” ones are unsuccessful, which prompts then to re-evaluate; lucky and unlucky alike are miserable.
Who are you in your business, or in your practice? As Bob Burg has written, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” People are sensitive to hints of in-authenticity and tend not to trust those who wear masks. So, really, it’s often your choice: would you prefer to lose some business because people sense you are not the person you’re pretending to be, or would you prefer to lose some business because you are who you are, knowing full well that others will be drawn to you because you are that person?
Breaking the rules may be precisely the thing that propels you forward. In The King’s Speech, one of Bertie’s breakthroughs comes with the freedom granted when Logue urges him to curse. Bertie, a straight-laced royal, soon lets the expletives rip. I won’t spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it, but letting loose plays a role later in the movie in an amusing way.
Some rules must not be broken – but those who are successful often find certain rules that don’t work for them, and shattering those restrictions also shatters the glass ceiling. What rules are holding you back? Are they truly non-negotiable? If you could break them, how would you do it? And, most importantly, for the sake of what? Don’t go breaking rules just to break them.
Opportunities may arise in the form of problems or defeat. Take them anyway. Bertie was never supposed to be king. His wife (the woman most of us knew as the Queen Mother) never wanted to be queen. And yet, when King Edward VIII abdicated, Bertie and Queen Elizabeth stepped up at a crucial time in British history. Bertie found his voice because he had to work for it. England would likely have come through World War II and the Blitz regardless, but to hear English citizens of those years talk, the leadership shown by the “shouldn’t-have-been-royals” shaped the courage and determination of a generation. Bertie did what was necessary to stand as a leader; his country modeled what he did.
What opportunities are in front of you? Which have come in the guise of defeat? Perhaps you made a proposal to a potential client and lost. What will you do? One of my clients asked why, received valuable feedback, and proceeded to convert the prospect into a client within a matter of days for a parallel project created solely because the prospect wanted to work with her. Perhaps you launched a program or a product and no one bought. What opportunity can you spy when you take your eye off the failure?